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The Christian Counter

     
THE TWO WITNESSES
Lesson 16
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Review

The purpose of the trumpets has been examined.  Jesus will awaken and arouse the entire world with spectacular events to draw attention to the gospel story so that it can go to every nation, kindred and tongue in a short period of time.  Notice the words of Jesus, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and the end will come.”  Matthew 24:14

The phrase, “as a testimony to all nations” in the NIV is translated “for a witness unto all nations” in the KJV.  The point is that the gospel is a witness or a testimony that either saves or condemns!  Think about this.  The preaching of the gospel offers salvation to those who receive it and condemns those who reject it.  Jesus told Nicodemus, “Whoever believes in him (the Son) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  This is the verdict:  Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”  John 3:18,19

The gospel of Jesus is polemical.  The word polemical means “opposite” or “poles apart.”

Jesus said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  Matthew 10:34 The power and clarity of the gospel during the time period of the trumpets will be greater than anything the world has ever witnessed.  John says the entire world will be enlightened with the full gospel message.  This message exposes the false or fallen teachings of Babylon.  John saw a messenger from heaven bearing a powerful message.  He says, “After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven.  He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor.  With a mighty voice he shouted: Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!”  Revelation 18:1,2

A trumpet in one ear, the gospel in the other

Who is worthy to give the full gospel message during the trumpets?  This is a very important question.  The answer, like most answers from Revelation, requires some background information.  Revelation identifies a very special group of people that presents the plan of salvation to every nation, kindred, tongue and people during earth’s final hours.

Wonderment about the 144,000 has occurred ever since John wrote about them.  Who are the 144,000?  What do they do?  Why are they so special in Revelation’s story?  Some denominations believe the 144,000 are the only ones saved at the second coming.  Others believe the 144,000 are converted Jews that proclaim the gospel to the entire world during the tribulation before Jesus comes.  Some people believe the 144,000 is symbolic and therefore, not a literal count or number of people but actually includes all people that will be redeemed.

The Bible answers all these questions after some investigation.  From Revelation we learn seven important aspects concerning the 144,000.  They are:

Point 1.

The 144,000 are selected and sealed prior to the sounding of the seven trumpets and the opening of the fourth seal. “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. {2} 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 sea:  {3} ‘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.’  {4} The I heard the number of those who were sealed:  144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.”  Revelation 7:2-4 The four winds that are held back are the four terrible judgments contained in the fourth seal; sword, famine, plague and wild beasts.  In other words, Jesus delays the opening of the fourth seal until the development and selection of the 144,000 is completed.  Then the angels having the seven trumpets begin their work.  Notice that the first four angels affect physical elements.  Specifically, the first two angels have the power to harm the land, trees and sea!  See Revelation 8:7,8

Point 2.

The 144,000 come from each of the 12 tribes of Israel.  Are these tribes from literal Israel?  This author says, No.  We have already concluded that literal Israel failed at the end of the 490-year probationary period and the gospel was given to the Christians.  Even more, the gospel was taken from the Christian faith and given to the Protestants. (Lessons 7-9)  We also know that a true remnant of Israel remains that is true Israel belongs to Christ.  Paul wrote, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”  Galatians 3:29

The origin and identity of the 144,000 has caused much discussion through the years. Some religious groups are certain the 144,000 come from their denomination since they claim to possess all of God’s “truth.”  A compelling point might be understood here by drawing a comparison from the book of Numbers.  When Israel was about to cross over to the Promised Land, a census was taken of men twenty years and older and the tribes totaled approximately 603,000 men.  (See Numbers 2.)  Israel failed to enter the Promised Land at that time due to the failure of the spies to give an encouraging report, so thirty-eight years later, when Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, a census was taken again.  This time the number of men twenty years and older came to approximately 624,000.  This count included the Levites who were not counted in the earlier census. (See Numbers 26.)

In Revelation’s story, a definite parallel exists.  Before the people of God enter the heavenly Promises Land, God assures the saints that 12,000 from each tribe will be selected as first fruits or choice specimens!  The beauty of this process is found in the fact that when the Israel of God is redeemed, it will be a great multitude!  See Revelation 7:9

The number of people that make up spiritual Israel will be like the sands of the sea.

So, who constitutes the true Israel that shall be saved?  The apostle Paul says, “A man is a Jew if he is one inwardly…for it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Roman’s 2:29 Paul’s identity of who God’s “chosen people” are clearly harmonizes with John’s remarks on the identity of the saints.  He says, “they have the testimony of Jesus and obey the commandments of God”, and “the saints remain faithful to Jesus.” See Revelation 12:17; 14:12.

The word “Jew” is normally interpreted today as meaning a race or nation of people. The actual origin and meaning of the word refers to “those chosen or selected.” James the author of the New Testament book bearing his name understood the literal meaning of “those chosen or selected.”  His book is expressly addressed to early Christians suffering from persecution by saying, “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” James 1:1

He was not referring to the Jewish race, but to those early Christians who had fled because of persecution.

Note:  Following the ascension of Jesus, the Jews and Romans severely persecuted the Christians. (Historians believe eight of the twelve apostles were either crucified or beaten to death.)  This persecution lasted several decades for the Jews intensely hated the Christians.  Christians preached a doctrine based on Jesus instead of Moses.  The Romans also hated the Christians, because they refused to worship the Emperor.  As a result of persecution, Christians were scattered from Jerusalem.  When James penned his epistle, he clearly addressed his companions in suffering as “twelve tribes.”

Point 3.

Then what is the “Christian” significance of the twelve tribes?  As Jacob’s 12 sons were different and unique, each of the 12 tribes represents a unique character and experience in knowing, loving and serving God.  See Genesis 49.  Jesus has apparently created twelve varieties of people and He appreciates the unique nature of each type of person.  It is reasonable to say that upon receiving Jesus as our Personal Savior, we individually “become part” of one of the 12 tribes of true Israel based on our personally type and experience.

Point 4.

John describes the characters of the 144,000. “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 first fruits to God and to the Lamb.  No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.” Revelation 14:4,5

Comments on purity

What a statement!  “They kept themselves pure…No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.”  In the past, some popular TV evangelists have caused distress among Christians due to impropriety with women.  Men claiming to be “servants of God” have been caught in slavery to Satan.  Perhaps the greatest sin in these cases is that these men did not come forward to confess their sins until “caught.”  One wonders how sincere a confession can be after being “caught in the act.”  Even further, the world rightfully expects those “talking the talk should be walking the walk.”  John says of the 144,000, “they are not defiled with women.”  This doesn’t mean they are unmarried for the marriage relationship is holy, ordained by God.  This statement indicates that these people are morally pure. The pure in heart shall represent God!

One thing is certain about these 144,000 servants of God.  They are blameless before God.  Even the Old Testament prophet Zephaniah says of the remnant, “The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth.”  Zephaniah 3:13

According to John, the Father’s name is written in their foreheads.  See Revelation 14:1.  The Father’s stamp of approval was represented to John as a stamp on their forehead.  This is a stamp approving what is going on inside the forehead!  According to the Apostle Paul, those filled with the Holy Spirit possess the mind of Christ.  See 1 Corinthians 2:16

The phrase “blameless before God” means that these men and women walk humbly in uprightness before God like Noah, Abraham and others.  They speak truth, live truth and as a result of living by faith, they fully reflect the loving character of Jesus.  They are sinners who have overcome besetting sins.  The key to their being selected as the 144,000 is their perseverance for “overcoming.”  Review the promises Jesus made to each of the 7 churches in lesson 12.  Jesus said to the church in Laodicea, “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.”  Revelation 3:21

John also says there are “offered as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.”  What does this mean?  First fruits are a term describing a special offering presented to the Lord at the Feast of Tabernacles.  Remember, the Feast of Trumpets began on the first day of the seventh month announcing the coming Day of Atonement.  On the tenth day of the seventh month, the Day of Atonement occurred.  Five days after the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles took place.  This final feast of the religious year was a feast of thanksgiving to God for the crops had been harvested and the choice or best fruits were offered to the Lord at this time.  These best or “first fruits” does not mean fruit presented first.  Rather, it means the best or “choice” fruits.  For example, the wife of our president is called the “first lady.”  This doesn’t mean she is the first lady in America; rather, she is the most exalted lady in our land!

The sanctuary sequence on earth follows the pattern of the heavenly sequence.  So, after the seven trumpets and the close of probation, Jesus comes to receive His harvest.  The 144,000 are the “first fruits” or choice fruits of earth’s harvest and they become the special property of Jesus, our High Priest.  This elite group will form a special entourage accompanying Jesus throughout the eternal universe!  John says, “They follow the Lamb wherever He goes.”  Revelation 14: 4 Think of the privilege that belongs to this group of people – being an attendant to Jesus himself!

The Holy City, New Jerusalem, has 12 gates and 12 foundations.  Each gate bears the name of a tribe and each foundation, the name of an apostle.  See Revelation 21:12,14.

Apparently the saints will enter through the gate corresponding to their tribe or experience in the Lord!  A group of 12,000 elite servants of God from each tribe leads the way through each gate!

Think about the generosity of God.  There will be an elite group from each character-type of the human family.  Even more, God finds perfection in differing character types!

Point 5.

The 144,000 sing a new song in heaven that no one else can learn.  What does this mean?

Upon leaving Egypt, Israel faced an excruciating moment on the shore of the Red sea.  Said in today’s vernacular, “Israel was between the devil and the deep blue sea” as Pharaoh’s advancing cavalry of 600 chariots. What a predicament! What a moment of extremity!

The anguish of the moment was so great that the Hebrews cried out in terror for deliverance!  The Lord looked upon His children and delivered them!  God parted the water of the Red sea and the children of Israel walked through on dry ground. When Pharaoh’s army pursued the Israelites, God relaxed the parted waters and swallowed Pharaoh’s best solders, thus terminating Israel’s worry with Egypt. “Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: ‘I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.  The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation…Pharaoh’s chariots and its army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea. The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone.’” Exodus 15:1-5 This song of deliverance relates to a specific experience.  Only those who went through this experience can spontaneously sing the words!

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