The 144,000, part 1
Jun 09, 2016
Revelation 13 gave us a broad sketch of prophetic history. The first beast covered 42 prophetic months (1,260 years), primarily from 529-1789 A.D. Then the second beast overthrew the first beast, but then used it as a religious front in order to hide its true power in the background. This beast has also used many other organizations (such as Freemasonry) as fronts to hide its intentions. While the first beast is primarily the religious beast of Rome, the second beast is the secular beast primarily led by high-level banking families, visibly led by the Rothschilds.
Since the earth beast is the last power to rule the earth prior to the time when the saints are given the Dominion Mandate, Revelation 13 takes us to the present time and to the manifestation of the overcomers. It is this event that will destroy the Babylonian world system. The overcomers are called to bring a world-wide teaching that will spark a tremendous move of the Holy Spirit among the nations. It will be a grass-roots movement and will begin from the bottom, working its way up. It will not begin as a conversion of world leaders, where those leaders then force Christ upon those under their authority.
Who are the 144,000?
Revelation 14:1 begins with a vision of the overcomers:
1 And I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.
These are the overcomers, not the Church in general. In fact, keeping in mind that John wrote this without separating his book into chapters, we can see that “the Lamb” in Revelation 14:1 stands in contrast to the earth beast which has “two horns like a lamb” (Revelation 13:11). The true Lamb (arnion) replacing the counterfeit is not only Jesus Christ (the Head) but also includes His body of overcomers.
As for which tribe of Israel each person is, there is hardly a way today that anyone can tell by natural means. Revelation 7 tells us that there are 12,000 from each tribe. It is often assumed that the only way to be a member of a tribe of Israel is to be a genealogical descendant of one of the 12 patriarchs of Israel. However, this is not the case, because when God cast Israel out of the land in 721 B.C., He stripped them of the right to the name Israel, because the people did not live up to that name.
God divorced the House of Israel sent her out of the house, according to the law in Deuteronomy 24:1-5. The only way for any ex-Israelite to be remarried and to regain “chosen” status was through the New Covenant. Even this was a two-step process, first through Judah and then through Israel.
Paul tells us in Romans 2:28, 29 that “he is not a Jew who is one outwardly,” and, conversely, “he is a Jew who is one inwardly.” Paul was speaking legally, not genealogically. It may also be said that Paul was speaking spiritually, because “the law is spiritual” (Romans 7:14). That which is truly spiritual is not distinct from the law, but in fact is bound to the law. In the sight of God there is no such thing as lawless spirituality. It is only when men misunderstand the law that their practice becomes legalistic. True spirituality is lawful.
The law always trumps genealogy. There were genuine tribal members of the House of Israel who could be expelled from Israel if they committed certain sins and remained unrepentant. The law says such a man was to be “cut off from among his people” (Leviticus 17:4). On the other hand, foreigners always had the option of coming under Israel’s covenant and becoming citizens of Israel (Isaiah 56:6-8).
Step One is to become a “Jew,” that is a part of Judah, by faith in its true King and by declaring loyalty to Him alone. The ceremony of Baptism essentially is the occasion where people’s open testimony or vow expresses faith and loyalty, giving them citizenship in the tribe of Judah. Those who do this are generally known as “the church.”
Step Two is to become an Israelite, and this title is given to those who carry its testimony. Israel means “God rules.” In The Companion Bible Dr. Bullinger tells us in his notes for Genesis 32:28,
“Israel—‘God commands, orders, or rules.’ Man attempts it but always, in the end, fails. Out of some forty Hebrew names compounded with ‘El’ or ‘Jah’, God is always the doer of what the verb means (cp. Dani-el, God judges).
Jacob did not become an Israelite until he was about 98 years old. Up to that time, he had certainly been a believer in the God of his fathers, but he still did not understand the sovereignty of God. For this reason, he attempted to help God fulfill the prophecy given before he was born (Genesis 25:23) by deceiving his father (Genesis 27:19, 24). By his wits Jacob overcame his father, his brother, and his uncle Laban. Then he wrestled with an angel, and when he lost the match, he overcame. He won by losing, or rather, he won by coming to the realization that in all of his striving up to that point, he had been fighting God without knowing it. He finally realized that God did not need his carnal help to fulfill His promises. That is true faith, and it is what made him an overcomer.
Jacob, then, was a type of the church; Israel was a type of overcomer. Not all Jacobites are Israelites. Most Christians have insufficient faith to be an overcomer, and for this reason they still strive, not knowing how to enter God’s rest (Hebrews 4:9-11). There are other characteristics of an overcomer, which I discussed in my book, How to be an Overcomer.
We conclude, then, that the 144,000 overcomers are not exclusively genealogical Israelites, but include people of every nation that qualify as overcomers. It is certainly NOT the case that these are 144,000 people whom men today call “Jews.” The popular idea is absurd that “gentiles” will be raptured out of the earth, leaving 144,000 Jewish evangelists to preach the Gospel to those who cannot be converted anyway because the Holy Spirit has been removed from the earth.
No, this chapter on the 144,000 comes naturally at the close of the earth beast’s dominion. We know from Daniel 7:21, 22 that the little horn “was waging war with the saints and overpowering them until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom.” These saints who are given the Dominion Mandate are the 144,000 in Revelation 14, who arise after the end of the time of the little horn in Revelation 13.
His Name on Their Foreheads
Revelation 14:1 tells us that the overcomers have “His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.” God has put His name in many places throughout history. We see His name first on the tabernacle at the Ephraimite town of Shiloh (Joshua 18:1) Later, because of corruption, God removed His name from that place and moved it to Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem (Psalm 78:60-68).
A few centuries later, God removed His name from Jerusalem, like He had done earlier with Shiloh (Jeremiah 7:12-15; 26:6; Ezekiel 10, 11). God then hired the king of Babylon to destroy that temple. Seventy years later, when the second temple was built in the days of Ezra and Zerubbabel, the glory did not fill that temple, for God did not place His name there, nor could He, because He had forsaken that place "like Shiloh." He never returned to Shiloh, but pronounced “Ichabod” over it, for the glory had departed. He was waiting for a better temple made of living stones. He filled this new temple on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. From that time on, His name was written on our foreheads, not upon any external temple made of wood and stone. Revelation 3:12 says,
12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it any more; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.
God no longer writes His name upon houses made of wood and stone. He has finally purchased His dream house—the overcomers—for He has always longed to indwell human flesh and to glorify Himself in us. So Revelation 22:4 says,
4 and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.
This is not a temporary situation. This will not end with the building of a third temple in Jerusalem. Christ does not intend to vacate His dream house and go back to a mundane building at the place that was defiled in the days of Jeremiah. Men may build a structure there, but no one can force God to live there. He will do as He has said in His word.
The 144,000 Harpers
Revelation 14:2, 3 says,
2 And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. 3 And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth.
This description is quite different from the one back in Revelation 7, which describes the overcomers in military terms. There the 144,000 are “sealed” in their foreheads. In ancient times a general would review the troops after a battle and place a mark on the forehead of each one who came through the battle unscathed. It signified that this one was divinely protected.
But here in Revelation 14 we see a different picture of the overcomers. They are pictured as musicians playing harps and singing “a new song.” Are these the same overcomers as the ones in Revelation 7? Yes, but. . .
The best way to understand the New Testament is to understand the Old Testament. They confirm each other and explain each other. In most cases, the Old Testament has dark sayings that are written as types and shadows, and they need a New Testament understanding. But sometimes the New Testament is unclear without knowing the types and shadows of the Old Testament.
In this case, the book of Revelation is portraying aspects of the emerging Kingdom of God in the earth. In the Old Testament this is pictured in the kingdom of David, especially as we contrast it with the Kingdom of Saul. In David’s kingdom we find that he had both an army and a choir, and these were types and shadows of the overcomers pictured in Revelation 7 and 14. In 1 Chronicles 27:1 we read,
1 Now this is the enumeration of the sons of Israel, the heads of fathers’ households, the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and their officers who served the king in all the affairs of the divisions which came in and went out month by month throughout all the months of the year, each division numbering 24,000.
The rest of the chapter explains how each tribe was responsible for one month out of the year to supply 24,000 men for military service. The troops rotated every month for 12 months. This means that David had an army of 288,000 men (24,000 x 12 = 288,000).
Strangely enough, this is double 144,000. But this coincidence is still more striking when we read about David’s choir in 1 Chronicles 25:7,
7 And their number who were trained in singing to the Lord, with their relatives, all who were skillful, was 288.
So David had a choir of 288, and a military of 288,000. Can this be just a coincidence? Why is the number doubled from 144 or 144,000? I believe that it indicates two groups of overcomers, each with 144,000 in them. I realize that the number may simply be purely symbolic, rather than literal. But since these are the numbers given to us, we will speak as though these are literal numbers of people.
To be continued….
This is part 106 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Revelation." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones