What does the bible say about the 144,000?
Who are the 144000? Are they Jehovah Witnesses? Are they converted Jews? Is it a literal number? What does the Bible say about them? Let’s take a look at what we can find out.
“The problem with the number is that it is clearly symbolic, but the question is, symbolic of what? Three major scholarly options have been given. The first is that this figure is symbolic of a group of Jews whom God will redeem at the end of the age. The second is that this is symbolic of a group of martyrs whom God preserves for martyrdom. The third is that this number is symbolic of the whole of the church, which God will protect through the tribulation at the end of the age.”
(from Hard Sayings of the Bible copyright (C) 1996 by Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Peter H. Davids, F.F. Bruce, Manfred T. Brauch, published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)
Which interpretation is correct? Let us look at what the Bible says first:
“After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: "Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God." Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed,
from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, 7 from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000, from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.”
“Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.”
John’s descriptions are based on the Old and New Testament imagery.
1. The imagery of Passover: Ex 12:12-13: "On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn--both men and animals--and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The context here is of judgment. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” Just like the blood on the doorframes would protect the Israelites from the calamity at hand, it seems that God’s seal, His Holy Spirit will be a protection of the calamities that will fall upon our earth.
2. The imagery of Ezekiel and the ink horn (see Ezek 9). Again the context here is of judgment and of divine protection around those who are faithful to God. A man who had a writing kit on his side, goes through the city and marks a Hebrew taw on the foreheads of all those who are faithful to God.
3. Third: Paul’s imagery of the seal being God’s Holy Spirit:
In these verses, those belonging to God are sealed with His Holy Spirit. The image is of security, not protection.
In Rev. 7 those who are faithful to God are sealed on the forehead, just as in Ezekiel, before calamities are lashed out on earth, indicating protection from God Himself. This theme is picked up again in Rev 9:4: “They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.”
In other words, the sealed ones are protected from any of the calamities fallen on earth.
Concerning Rev. 14: “. . .144,000 are ‘the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.’ They are described as celibate virgins, which in Revelation means that they have not been seduced by the forces of evil nor made a compromise with idolatry. They are also totally truthful.” (from Hard Sayings of the Bible copyright (C) 1996 by Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Peter H. Davids, F.F. Bruce, Manfred T. Brauch, published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)
The 144,000 are faithful only to God! They are also offered as the firstfruits to God and Jesus. What does this mean? Let us look in the Bible for answers:
James 1:18: “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”
The firstfruits here are the Christians in relation to the world.
Rom 11:16: “If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.”
The firstfuits here are the Gentile believers in relation to the full repentance of Israel.
Who are the 144,000 then?
“The theory that they are the martyrs of the last days is attractive, but in the end unconvincing because nothing is said in these passages of their being martyrs. Instead it appears that all of the "servants of God" are sealed. These "servants" are part of a larger group that is not serving God. That many of these folk might become martyrs is reasonable, given the persecution described in Rev 13, but John says nothing to make us think that they are exclusively martyrs.
“The theory that they are the Jewish believers of the end time is also attractive since the tribes of Israel are named. However, there are also problems here. Both the order of the tribal list and the names included are unusual. For example, both Manasseh and his father, Joseph, are included (Joseph apparently standing for Ephraim). Dan is missing, although he is present in Ezekiel's end-time list (Ezek 48). Thus John appears to indicate that the list stands for something other than any known form of Israel. Yet another problem is that most of "Israel" is not saved (that is, is not in the 144,000), while Paul's expectation (Rom 11:26) is that "all Israel will be saved."
If both John and Paul have versions of Christian expectation about the Jews, there must have been two competing expectations in the early church. Finally, in Rev 7 these folk are called simply the "servants of God," which is not a term unique to Jewish believers. Likewise the description of them in Rev 14 could fit any believer who is faithful to God and does not compromise with the "beast" and the "false prophet." In Rev 9 all who are not sealed are tormented. Does this mean that Gentile believers are tormented while Jewish ones are not? And doesn't a Jew-Gentile distinction within the church run counter to all of Paul's arguments about God's breaking down the walls between the races? These reasons persuade me that this cannot be the correct explanation.” (from Hard Sayings of the Bible copyright (C) 1996 by Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Peter H. Davids, F.F. Bruce, Manfred T. Brauch, published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)
Who are the 144,000 then? I can’t say it better than this:
“The 144,000, then, stand for God's faithful people, Jew or Gentile. They are, just as the text says, ‘the servants of our God.’ The image of Israel is probably drawn from the picture in Ezek 9. Just as all of the tribes of Israel present in Jerusalem (the last stand of Judaism before the exile) were included then, so all of the tribes of humanity will be included in the end. The 12 x 12 x 1000 stresses the completeness of this number; all of God's servants from all of humanity are sealed. The purpose of their sealing is to protect them not from temptation or martyrdom, but from the judgment of God.
This is God's church of the end times, when God's judgment is coming to a peak. Since they are faithful, there is no reason for judgment to fall upon them. In Rev 7 the image of the 144,000 protected on earth is coupled with a parallel image of the church in heaven, an encouragement to persevere. In Rev 14 the 144,000 are in heaven, for in the same chapter is the harvest of the earth. The final judgments, which will destroy everything and everyone in their path, are about to begin.” (from Hard Sayings of the Bible copyright (C) 1996 by Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Peter H. Davids, F.F. Bruce, Manfred T. Brauch, published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)
The 144,000 thus are a symbolic number of all those who at the end times will stand for Jesus and follow only His Word, the Bible. No compromises are made to satisfy the evil forces of this world. Only Jesus counts. He is our leader. One is counted in that number, if he or she does not compromise his or her faith. What does the Bible say? Is it according the Scriptures? No lies are accepted. Only the truth is important.
What is the truth? It is not a church, it is not a doctrine. The truth is a person.
John 14:6: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
Will you follow only Jesus in your life? Or do you prefer to make compromises? The choice in yours. Don’t base your faith on a human person or on any institution. Base it on Jesus. Only him can set you free
John 8:32: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Will you accept him now completely in your life?
I definitely think that the 144,00 you are referring to has to lead back to particular tribe of Israel, or the number of an enemy tribe.
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. Of the tribe of Judah were sealed 12,000. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed 12,000. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed 12,000. Of the tribe of Aser were sealed 12,000. Of the tribe of Naphthalim were sealed 12,000. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed 12,000. Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed 12,000. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed 12,000. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed 12,000. Of the tribe of Zabulun were sealed 12,000. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed 12,000. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed 12,000."
In Revelation 14:1-5 we find this group mentioned again:
"And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and
with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his
Father’s name written in their foreheads. And I heard a
voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the
voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers
harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new
song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the
elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and
forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
These are they which were not defiled with women: for they
are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb
whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men,
being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb."
That is the number that must be saved (Jews) that precedes Jesus' return.
THE Jehovah's Witnesses believe only 144,000 people are in the New Covenant.
In Galatians 4:22-31 it mentions how Abraham had two sons, one by Hagar the bond woman and another by Sarah the free woman (the sons being Ishmael and Isaac respectively).
Verse 24 clearly states that these two women "stand as a symbolic drama, for these women mean TWO COVENANTS." (New World Translation) Verses 24 and 25 further tell us that Hagar symbolises the Old Law Covenant from mount Sinai, while in verses 26 and 27, (Sarah) stands for the New Covenant and the Jerusalem above (i.e. the Christians mother).
In verse 27 Paul quotes from Isaiah 54:1, where Jehovah God is married to the Nation of Israel via the Law Covenant. Compare also Jeremiah 3:14 and 31:32.
Thus the barren woman, the desolate woman (the New Covenant) has many more children (NKJV) or more numerous (NWT), than the woman who has the husband (the Law Covenant between Israel and Jehovah).
So it is clear that the Law Covenant brought forth MILLIONS of children from the time of Moses to John the Baptist, Matthew 11:13 (a fact even the JWs wouldn't deny).
Hence the New Covenant would bring forth MANY MORE than this, yes they would be MORE NUMEROUS as the NWT puts it.
This is because the New Covenant would comprise of Jews and Gentiles without any distinction (Romans 3:22).
Thus it can be easily and Scripturally demonstrated that the New Covenant is made with MILLIONS of persons and not just the 144,000 as is taught by the Watch Tower Society.
When I was a Jehovah's Witness, I recall using this argument with the Witness elders of my congregation, and no one could refute it. I have never seen this argument used in any polemic literature on the Watch Tower Society, nor used by Christians in debating this issue with the Witness caller.
I thus present the case here, as I find it easily demolishes the Watch Tower's argument that the New Covenant is made only between Christ and 144,000 members of the Church.
So Christians, let's use this effective and simple argument of Scripture with JW callers and pray the Lord will open their heart to receive these things (Acts 16:14b).
Bailey Gertrude E NSSC <BaileyGE@NAVSEA.NAVY.MIL>
Then I saw the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him were 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. (Rev 14:1) And no one could learn this song except those 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. For they are spiritually undefiled, pure as virgins, following the Lamb wherever He goes. Rev 14:3-4 NLT. But I also thought there was verses that said that they would set in judgment and rule over the remaining faithful, or something like that, But I could not find it .
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