The 144,000

By Merrill Olson

Who are the 144,000 in Revelation 7:1-8? There are many views as to their identity that has been expounded over the centuries. For instance, certain groups such as the Seventh-Day-Adventists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that they have a part in this number. There are others who deem this figure as symbolic of the church. Therefore, the 144,000 have been the subject of much speculation, a mysterious group that has been the focus of a great deal of controversy.

Nevertheless, all guesswork needs to be rejected when the biblical text is examined literally as God intends it to be. God’s Word distinctly states that they are “one hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel” (v. 4). The next four verses names each of these tribes. As a result, the members of each one are Jewish. It does not take a Rocket Scientist to understand this.

This scriptural understanding throws out the belief that they are Seventh-Day Adventists who are faithfully observing the Sabbath when the Lord returns and are taken to glory. If this is the teaching of the text, then every Adventist would have to be Jewish.

Neither are they Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the beginning of this religious cult, the leaders claimed that all members of their group were part of the 144,000. Consequently, when the membership grew beyond this number in 1935, the door was closed and this assertion had to be revised. The Jehovah’s Witnesses now believe that 144,000 make up the “Anointed Class” that goes to heaven. This, too, is a total distortion of the textual passage because it has nothing to do with this strange interpretation or any reference to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Instead, it involves Israel by listing the twelve tribes making up that nation.

Another twist of this passage of Scripture is to make it symbolic of the church. However, the 144,000 do not have any connection with the church. God’s Word is explicitly referring to those who are racially descendants of Israel, or Jacob. In addition, it also does not include the great host of Gentiles in Revelation 7:9-18 as some claim it to be. As a result, any teaching that relates the 144,000 to the church is false and must be counted as such.

Who are they? They are 144,000 Jewish men who are saved in Christ and “sealed” by God during the Tribulation. They will carry out their ministry of witnessing and teaching throughout this terrible period. They appear again in Revelation 14:1-5 as they meet Christ on Mount Zion (Jerusalem) at His Second Coming.

Therefore, God preserves them and keeps them safe through all the judgments and persecutions. Not even the Antichrist will be able to harm them. They will be young Israelite men, not married, who maintain sexual purity throughout their ministry (v. 4).

When we are redeemed in Christ, God’s Word says that we are also “sealed” and this is “for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). What a wonderful assurance for the future!

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