Segment IX
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The 144,000 and the Numberless Multitude

                 “Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”   - Joel 2:29, italics mine


Who Are They?

Ever since John pinned the book of revelation in A.D. 95, Bible students have debated and discussed questions about the 144,000. Who are they? What is their purpose? When will they appear? How will they be recognized? Where will they appear? Why are they numbered? Why is their Jewish lineage important? Before we examine these and other questions, carefully review the first eight verses of Revelation 7:


“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 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 twelve thousand.

Of the tribe of Rueben were twelve thousand sealed.

Of the tribe of Gad were twelve thousand sealed.

Of the tribe of Aser were twelve thousand sealed.

Of the tribe of Nephthalim were twelve thousand sealed.

Of the tribe of Manasses were twelve thousand sealed.

Of the tribe of Simeon were twelve thousand sealed.

Of the tribe of Levi were twelve thousand sealed.

Of the tribe of Issachar were twelve thousand sealed.

Of the tribe of Zebulon were twelve thousand sealed.

Of the tribe of Joseph were twelve thousand sealed.

Of the tribe of Benjamin were twelve thousand sealed.

(Revelation 7:1-8, KJV)


You may notice, after reviewing the twelve tribes listed in Revelation 7:5-8, that the tribe of Dan is missing and the tribe of Ephraim is renamed. (The tribe of Joseph is another name for the tribe of Ephraim.) These nuances reflect certain developments that occurred during the history of ancient Israel.


Israel (also known as Jacob) and his family moved into Egypt because of the famine in Canaan (Genesis 46). He happily reunited with his “long lost son,” Joseph, and he adopted Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, as his own. (Genesis 48:5) This adoption elevated the two grandsons of Israel to a position that was equal with their eleven uncles. Eventually, Ephraim and Manasseh became leaders of the tribes bearing their names. (Joshua 14:4; Numbers 1 and 26.) This development explains why, at the time of the Exodus, the actual number of tribes that departed Egypt totaled thirteen, but they were formally counted as twelve. (Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 33)


When Moses ascended Mount Sinai to meet with God for forty days, many Israelites fell into idolatry while Moses was gone by worshiping the golden calf that Aaron built. When Moses returned to camp, he called for volunteers to kill the defiant idolaters. The Levites immediately stepped forward and they killed about 3,000 of their kinfolk. When the Lord saw the Levites were willing to kill their kindred to honor His covenant, He exalted the Levites above the other tribes by making them His priests. (Exodus 32:25-29; Deuteronomy 33:8-11) This may sound strange, but when God exalted the Levites as priests, He eliminated their inheritance. The Levites were not given a share of the promised land. Instead, God gave the Levites a portion of the bounty from the land – tithes and offerings that would be forthcoming. (Numbers 18:20-24)


Points to Ponder

The tribe of Dan is not included in the list of tribes in Revelation 7. Evidently, this tribe was destroyed. Although the Bible does not explain the disappearance of the tribe of Dan, certainly, the 144,000 will come from all the tribes of Israel. “Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.” (Italics mine) Since Dan is not listed, we have to conclude that Dan became extinct. Dan occupied the northern part of Canaan that was the “wild frontier” in those days. (Joshua 19:40-47) Because Dan would have been the first to encounter hostile armies coming down from the north, the exposure may have contributed to the tribe’s demise. Dan’s geographical position in the Promised Land became a colloquialism. The northern and southern boundaries of Israel were frequently described with the words “from Dan to Beersheba.” (Judges 20:1; 1 Samuel 3:20; 1 Kings 4:25)


The inclusion of the tribes of Levi in Revelation 7 is significant for two reasons. First, this is the only place in the Bible where the Levites are numbered as one of the twelve tribes after the death of Moses. (Deuteronomy 33) Second, even though the tribe of Levi was exalted above the other tribes in ancient times, they are not exalted above the other tribes when it comes to the sealing of the 144,000. There will be as many Benjamites as Levites. The apostle Paul in Hebrews 7 explains the demotion of the Levites when he explains that God abolished the Levitical priesthood due to the implantation of a new covenant.


One final point in this section should be noticed. Revelation 7:5-8 indicates that when the sealing of the 144,000 occurs, each tribe is larger than 12,000 people are. For example, the Bible says, “Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand.” The existence of each tribe will prove to be interesting later in this study because, currently, no one knows the identity or whereabouts of the twelve tribes. Fire destroyed the genealogical records of Israel in A.D. 70 when the Roman general Titus, destroyed Jerusalem. In light of the language used in Revelation 7, the absence of genealogical records is interesting because only God knows the identity of the twelve tribes at the present time. Of course, the twelve tribes have to exist at the time of the end because 12,000 will be selected and sealed from each tribe. 


God’s wisdom is both elegant and astonishing. By giving the Levites the tithes and offerings, the Lord made the Levites dependant on Israel’s faithfulness to Him. If the Levites stayed close to God and were faithful to their high calling of teaching and nurturing His people in the way they should go, the nation of Israel would prosper and there would be sufficient tithes and offerings to care for the whole tribe of Levi! On the other hand, if the Levites failed to “nurture the body of Christ” in word and deed, idolatry and rebellion would follow and the end result was that the Levites would be the first to suffer from national apostasy. (Deuteronomy 28)


Who Are the 144,000?

Because the book of Daniel has been unsealed, we have four valid rules of interpretation. Because we have the rules, the identity, mission and timing of the 144,000 can be determined. Since Rule Two of apocalyptic prophecy requires that all specifications be met in order to produce a fulfillment, please review the following specifications concerning the 144,000. A discussion about each specification will follow:


  1. John calls the 144,000, “servants,” “servants the prophets,” and “servants of God” back in the book of Revelation. (Revelation 6:11, 7:3, 10:7, 19:2)
  1. The four angels do not hurt earth until the 144,000 are sealed. (Revelation 7:3)
  1. The 144,000 will be the first to receive the seal of God. (Revelation 7:3) They will be presented to God as the first fruits of the Great Tribulation. They will not be defiled with women and they will travel with Jesus wherever He goes. (Revelation 14:4)
  1. Unlike the numberless multitude that will come out of the Great Tribulation, the 144,00 will be numbered. (Revelation 7: 5-8,9, 14)
  1. The 144,000 will experience and endure the sufferings of Christ. They will be honored above the rest of the redeemed. No one else will be able to sing their song. (Revelation 14:1-3)
  1. No lie or falsehood will be found in their mouths of the 144,000. (Revelation 14:5)
  1. The 144,000 will visibly wear the names of the Father and Son on their foreheads throughout eternity. (Revelation 14:1; Revelation 22:3,4)
  1. The 144,000 will be Jews, descendants of Abraham. (Revelation 7:5-8)


Now that these eight specifications have been summarized, a few remarks about each one may prove to be helpful.

Specification #1 – Are the 144,000 “Servants the Prophets?”

John calls the 144,000, “servants,” “servants the prophets,” and “servants of God” in the book of Revelation. (Revelation 6:11, 7:3, 10:7, 19:2) Observe John’s use of language in the following texts (For the sake of clarity, I have inserted a few words in these verses and enclosed them in brackets, but especially notice the words I have emphasized with bold print.):


  1. Fifth Seal: Revelation 6:11 “Then each of them [the martyrs] was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who wee to be killed as they had been was completed.”
  1. The Delay: Revelation 7:3,4 “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.”
  1. The Seventh Trumpet: Revelation 10:7, 11:15,18 “But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets… The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in Heaven, which said: The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever…’ The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging [avenging the blood of] the dead [martyrs], and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great – and for destroying those who destroy the Earth.”
  1. The Third Bowl: Revelation 16:4-6 ‘The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say: “You are just in these judgments, you who are and who were, the Holy One, because you have so judged; for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets [the martyrs], and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.’”

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