Revelation 7:1-4 most accurately describes the time in which we live. God is waiting for the sealing of the 144,000 to be completed before the events described in Daniel and Revelation can begin.
”And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel” (Revelation 7:1-4, emphasis added).
The four angels are told by the angel ascending from the east, “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads” (Revelation 7:2-3). These “four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth” are preventing “the wind” from blowing “on the earth, . . . on the sea, . . . on any tree.” They are preventing, not causing, the damage that will come on these three things, even though verse 2 reads, “He cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea.” It is given them “to hurt the earth and the sea” simply by releasing their hold on those four winds, but they will not be the cause of the “hurt” nor doing the hurting. This is important to remember as we look at Revelation 8 because in that chapter those three things - earth, sea, and trees - are being “hurt.”
God’s plan for bringing an end to sin, sorrow, and suffering cannot go forward until the 144,000 are sealed, as we shall discover in the upcoming chapters. The 144,000 will be fulfilling a very important role during the last days, and we are in a holding pattern until the sealing of the 144,000 has been accomplished.
For many, the books of Daniel and Revelation seem to be filled with symbolism, but is it a possibility that there is much less symbolism than assumed by many? If one considers the wording as mostly literal and not always symbolic, then Daniel and Revelation become more easily understood.
Who are the 144,000? Some say the number is symbolic; if so, where do we get the correct interpretation of that number; from the Scriptures? And if there is no place in the Scriptures that states the 144,000 is something other than what it says, are we safe in saying that 144,000 means 144,000? Yes, we are safe! “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20). Scripture must interpret Scripture. We are not allowed to put our own personal interpretation on what it is saying. The reason there are so many varying views of Daniel and Revelation is because everyone puts their own personal interpretation on what they think it is saying, rather than letting the Bible interpret itself or let it just speak for itself in the language given.
And if that number were symbolic, are the twelve thousand from each tribe also symbolic (Revelation 7:5-8)? Should we not be able to come to a consensus of what that number is from the Bible? If Revelation is intended to be a mystery filled with symbolism, then the very name is a contradiction; a “revelation” should reveal, not hide. Do you see why so many get frustrated in their attempts to discover the truth contained in Revelation?
There are some that say the number, 144,000, is literal. John, the beloved apostle and author of Revelation, wrote, “I heard the number of them which were sealed” (Revelation 7:4, emphasis added). Why would he say that, if the number was not literal? If it was symbolic, why would God have given us such a precise number if He meant it to mean something different? The Scriptures state very clearly “and I heard the number of them which were sealed” and is simple enough for even a child to understand. Have we risen above the simplicity of the language of the Scriptures and cannot accept it for what it says? The God I have come to know and love does not play games with us; He says what He means and means what He says.
It is Satan who is playing games with us and twisting the plain meaning of Scripture, and we fall for his devices all too often. When Adam and Eve fell for Satan’s temptation, the Devil questioned and contradicted what God had told them. Are we similarly questioning what God has told us in this verse and maybe in much of Revelation? Can the Devil still be attempting to lead us astray as when he led a third of the angels of heaven into deception? Do you think we humans are any less susceptible to Satan’s beguiling seductions than they were? Revelation 12:9 tells us, “Satan, which deceives the whole world.” We are repeatedly warned not to let any man deceive us (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Let us heed the warning and be on our guard.
In our study on Daniel 9, we learned that after AD 70, the “nation of Israel” has no part in God’s plan (Daniel 9:24-27; Matthew 21:33-46). Revelation 7:4 tells us that the 144,000 are from “all the tribes of the children of Israel.” If we are going to look at what is said in Revelation as being literal, should we do so here also? Does one have to be a descendant of the Jewish people in order to be considered for a roll in the 144,000? If we are going to take what is written in the Bible literally, then the answer is yes. The 144,000 are from the twelve “tribes of the children of Israel” listed in Revelation 7. The odds that one is of Hebrew descent are far greater than one would imagine. When one considers that God dispersed the nations of Israel and Judah into all the nations of the earth, and they then mingled with the inhabitants of those nations the chances of being of Hebrew descent is very great.
Does every person know what their ancestry is? There are websites available for a fee for one to use in order to find one’s ancestry, but they only can go back so far and may not go back far enough to show whether one is of Hebrew descent. I understand that blood tests to determine one’s ancestry are pretty accurate and will tell a person if there is Hebrew DNA in your bloodline, but I am not sure how reliable that method is? It appears from what is written in Revelation 7:4, the 144,000 come from the twelve tribes of Israel listed in verses 5-8, and 12,000 are from each of the tribes mentioned. The tribes of Ephraim and Dan are not included in the listing. Joseph appears to replace Ephraim, and we are told in Hosea 4:17, “Ephraim is joined to his idols: let him alone.” This may be the reason why Ephraim is not listed among the twelve tribes listed in Revelation 7.
The “nation of Israel” has no role in the scenes of the book of Revelation. None! Only 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes mentioned in Revelation 7:5-8 have a part in the final work of God in the last days of earth’s history, and it is a very important role that the 144,000 have a part in. So if the actual nation of Israel has no part to play in the last days, where do the 144,000 come from in terms of geographical location?
When God made His covenant with the nation of Israel, He told them the following would happen to them if they went “aside from any of the words which I [God]” commanded them to do (Deuteronomy 28:14). “The LORD shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth” (emphasis added). “And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from one end of the earth even unto the other” (Deuteronomy 28:25, 64, emphasis added). If they failed to keep His covenant, God told the nation of Israel that He would do all those things He said He would do to them as given in Deuteronomy 28:15-68 and so it was done.
In recent years, there have been books written which speculate how certain countries and people are of possible Jewish origin because they supposedly have been traced through time and certain things bare a resemblance to what the Jews practiced and believed. But God never said that He would make of them a new nation or people, but that He would “scatter thee among all the people, from one end of earth unto the other” (emphasis added). This was previously told the nation of Israel in Deuteronomy 4:27. “And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you” (emphasis added). The following passages of Scripture, given nearly 800 to 1,000 years later, repeated what God had told them initially when they left Egypt. Jeremiah 15:4, 16:15, 24:9, 29:14, 18; Ezekiel 12:15; Hosea 9:17; Joel 3:2; Amos 9:9; Zechariah 7:14; and Daniel 9:7.
When the “time of trouble” begins which is foretold in Daniel 12:1, the 144,000 will be scattered among all the nations. It is my thought that most of the 144,000 will not even know that they are of Jewish descent or can prove it. The knowledge of their ancestry and heritage may have been lost during the preceding 2,600 years since the nation of Israel first began to be dispersed throughout the world which began when the northern kingdom of Israel was removed from the Promised Land. Many who had been captive in Babylon when the kingdom of Judah was exiled from the Promised Land refused to go back to the land of Judah when the seventy years of captivity came to an end. We know from reading in the book of Esther that the Jews were in every province; 127 provinces in all of the Medo-Persian Empire (Esther 8:9). When the apostles and disciples, who were Jewish, and the Jewish converts to Christ fled the Promised Land in AD 70 they went everywhere preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God (Acts 8:4). Scattered like jewels, waiting for the call to become a part of the 144,000, their descendants are to be found in every nation of the earth.
But just belonging to one of the twelve tribes mentioned in Revelation 7 does not automatically qualify you for a place among the 144,000. In 1 John 5:12, we read, “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” This was written by John who also authored Revelation. If a descendant of the Jewish people has not accepted Jesus as the Christ or Messiah, and never experienced having been “born again,” or having gone through the process of sanctification they are not going to be among the 144,000. The 144,000 are sealed in their foreheads, and one is sealed by the Spirit of God (Ephesians 1:13). All religious systems whether Jewish, Christian, Moslem, Shinto, Pagan, and so on will not suffice for the salvation of mankind, as we shall see. Salvation is a matter of a personal acceptance and connection with the Son of God; not a matter of being born into the right religion or converting to the right denomination. I believe God has His true and faithful children in every denomination and religion in the world and who will one day respond to the call to “Come out of her [Babylon], My people” (Revelation 18:4). “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation [and religion] he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him” (Acts 10:34-35).
The 144,000 which are of Jewish descent must be “born again” (John 3:3). Jesus made it clear. “I am the Vine and you are the branches” (John 15:5). In order to be a part of the 144,000, one will have to be of Jewish ancestry, and probably not even know it, and will have been “born again.” They must have a personal, vital, continuous connection with the Son of God. So the Hebrew descendants of these particular tribes which will compose the 144,000 must have accepted Christ as their Savior at some point in their lives and have reached the state of maturity talked about later in this chapter and in Revelation 14:4-5, in order to be sealed.
In Matthew 7:23, we read, “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me” (emphasis added). In the Old Testament, when the term “knew you” would be used, it referred to the most intimate relationship known to mankind; between and a man and his wife. The ones who are told to “depart from Me” in Matthew 7:23 have never had an intimate relationship with God when it was their privilege to have this wonderful experience. They were content to have a surface knowledge of God, and may even practice certain rites and customs but did not become intimately acquainted with Him. They only had an outward form of religion and a surface knowledge of the Scriptures. God told the nation of Israel, “I am married unto you” (Jeremiah 3:14), but they were always accused by God of playing the harlot (Jeremiah 3:1, 6, 8). They were to have no other gods before Him (Exodus 20:3). Have we learned from the lessons of the past, or are we destined to repeat them?
“For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter” (Romans 2:28-29). The 144,000 must not only be a Jew outwardly (through ancestry), but they must be a Jew inwardly. Their spirit needs to be submitted and brought in tune with God’s Spirit (“circumcision is that of the heart”).
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28-29). Even though they may be of Abraham’s seed, they need to be more importantly “one in Christ Jesus” also. And it appears that among the 144,000 will be “females” and not just men. As we shall see in later chapters, the 144,000 will be prophesying. In Joel 2:28, we read, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit [the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit (Isaiah 63:10, 11, 14)] upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out My Spirit” (emphasis added).
In addition to being sealed by the Spirit of God, the 144,000 will be in unity. “Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion” (Isaiah 52:8, emphasis added). No one likes to listen to singing where there is not harmony. When people see “eye to eye,” it means they are in agreement. “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and there be no divisions among you; together ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10, emphasis added). “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13, emphasis added).
When one considers all the divisions over the Word of God and how many different denominations and independent churches there are in the world today each professing various views on the Word of God, how can this possibly come about? In Jeremiah 32:27, God asks this question after telling us Who He is, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for Me?” (emphasis added). Jeremiah had already given what man’s response should be, found in Jeremiah 32:17: “Ah LORD God! Behold, Thou hast made the heaven and the earth by Thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for Thee” (emphasis added). The LORD has shown us, as witnessed throughout the Bible, that “there is nothing too hard for” Him! “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). And when this state of unity among the 144,000 is attained, and “they were all with one accord” (Acts 2:1) as was attained prior to the day of Pentecost, the fulfillment of Joel 2:23 and “the latter rain in the first month” will be poured out upon the 144,000 and the time of trouble spoken of in Daniel 12:1 will begin.
“Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, not the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads” (Revelation 7:3). What is the sealing, and how will the 144,000 be sealed? We are sealed by the Holy Spirit of God. “In Whom [Jesus] ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in Whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of Promise” (Ephesians 1:13). The frontal lobe of our brain is where our characters are formed.
Those who plan to can fruit and vegetables look for “blemish-free, ripe produce.” They heat the fruit or vegetables in sterilized jars for a certain period of time under a certain amount of pressure. The jars are then allowed to cool and become “sealed” because of the vacuum created in them by the heat which forces out the excess air and thereby preserves the contents. The product inside the jar is preserved in a state of “perfection.” It is now ready for future use! It is sealed!
The process by which humanity ripens (matures) and becomes blemish-free is called sanctification in the Bible. People ripen just as the tomato ripens; from the inside out. Many work on their behavior thinking that if they can just do what they are told to do in the Bible they are righteous. They never come to the realization that the nature of man must be changed and not just our behavior. “You must be born again” (John 3:7). When the tomato is red on the outside, it is ripe all the way through and not just on the surface because it ripens from the inside out just like we must if we are to have eternal life. It is a mystery how God can take lives that are wrecks and salvage them and change them into His Own likeness by the work of His Spirit dwelling in those lives. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory [character] of the Lord, are changed into the same image [instead of retaining Adam’s likeness and image (Genesis 5:3)] from glory unto glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). When His work in the lives of the 144,000 is brought to this point of perfection, the 144,000 will be sealed, and they will be ready for their mission.
The Bible has this to say about the 144,000. “These [144,000] are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb [Jesus]. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God” (Revelation 14:4-5, emphasis added). This is God’s testimony of the characters of the 144,000. “They are without fault.” God does not gloss over any of their faults, for they have none. They have not only been forgiven their sins, but they have been cleansed “from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
“If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the body” (James 3:2). In commenting about Jesus, Peter wrote, “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth” (1 Peter 1:22).
We will see in a later chapter how God is being judged through the lives of His children. Can God do what He has promised to do for, in, and through them? Can He through His imparted Spirit keep His children free from sinning (Jude 24)? The testimony of the lives of His children at the end of time will be proof sufficient for the dismissal of all charges Satan has brought against the LORD! We will see in our study of Revelation 14 that God is being judged.
Everyone who will be saved at the return of Jesus will have been sealed during the last days. Some (144,000) will be sealed before others. Revelation 9:1-11 talks about those who have not been sealed at that time and what will happen to them as a result. There are consequences for putting things off. Some will never be sealed and will be lost.
In Revelation 14, the 144,000 are referred to as “the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb” (Revelation 14:4). When something is referred to as the first-fruit, it means it is the first to ripen. In each cluster of strawberries, one berry ripens before the others and is often referred to as the first-fruit or king berry. It is simply the first to ripen. Reread Revelation 7 with this first-fruit concept in mind. Revelation 7:9-17 talks of the “great multitude, which no man could number.” The 144,000 ripen first and after that there is a “great multitude” pictured who “have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14). The following table compares the 144,000 and the great multitude.
I heard the number
They come from the tribes of the children of Israel
Which no man could number
Of all nations, kindreds, and people, and tongues
We seem to be looking at two distinct groups of people coming from two entirely, different groups of people. One group comes from the “all the tribes of the children of Israel.” The other group comes from “all nations, kindreds, and people and tongues.”
“And ye shall be gathered one by one [the first-fruit], O ye children of Israel [‘of all the tribes of the children of Israel’ (Revelation 7:4)]. And it shall come to pass, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and outcasts in the land of Egypt [‘a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues’ (Revelation 7:9)], and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount of Jerusalem” (Isaiah 27:12-13).
The timing and location of that worship will be a significant factor at the end of time. One group at the time of the end will be worshipping Satan who will be impersonating Jesus and is the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) in Jerusalem on earth, and the other group will be worshipping God in the New Jerusalem in heaven. This is the great deception for which Satan is setting up the world!
As it is portrayed in Isaiah 27:12; it is also seen in strawberry picking. The first-fruits are gathered one by one from each cluster, and it seems that once the first-fruits of each cluster have been plucked, the remaining berries ripen rapidly and can be gathered in bunches instead of one by one.
God never gives a promise without a reason. In speaking of the “great multitude,” we read, “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Revelation 7:16-17, emphasis added).
This is an indication of what this great multitude will go through during the last days and encourages them to face bravely what they will endure. Many of the “great multitude” will go through the seven last plagues and remain alive until the return of Jesus, for the fourth-last plague is the sun that will “scorch men with fire” (Revelation 16:8, emphasis added).
Where does the “great multitude” come from? That is the question an elder asked John. John turned the question back on the elder for the answer because he did not know. “And one of the elders answered, saying unto me [John], What are these which are arrayed in white robes [Revelation 7:9]? And whence [from where] came they? And I [John] said unto him [the elder], Sir, thou knowest, And he said unto me, These are they which came out of great tribulation [‘time of trouble’ (Daniel 12:1)], and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:13-14, emphasis added).
Why ask a question of John, who had no way of knowing the answer, except to draw our attention to the matter? The answer given to John will become apparent to us as we continue studying the books of Daniel and Revelation.
Over the years, much attention has been given to discovering the identity of the 144,000. But the elder’s question to John should serve to direct our attention to the “great multitude;” who they are and where they come from? The fact that the elder answered his own question indicates this, for he knew the answer before he asked it. After all, “therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sits on the throne shall dwell among them” (Revelation 7:15). Eventually, it sounds like they will have important places in the kingdom of
Men have been unwearied in their attempts to change the plain, simple meaning of the Scriptures, which were written by mostly common, uneducated men in the schools of theology but who were enabled under the inspiration of the Spirit of God (2 Peter 1:21) to write the things they did. The Scriptures can be understood by us under the tutorship of that same Spirit of God today. God gives us His Spirit to guide us in our study of the truth (John 16:13).
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God . . . But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:12-14, emphasis added). We must have God’s Spirit guiding and leading us into all the truth as we search God’s Word if we are going to understand what it is saying correctly. No man can do this for us even if he/she is a teacher or a preacher!
1. From where do the 144,000 come from?
2. From where does the great multitude come from?
3. What could not be harmed until the 144,000 are sealed in their foreheads?