The 144,000, part 2 (final)
Jun 10, 2016
The number 288 is associated in the Bible with the overcomers in various ways. In Leviticus 19:20, the Hebrew word charaph (“betrothed”) has a numeric value of 288. This suggests that the number has to do with those called to be the bride of Christ.
In Genesis 1:2 the Spirit of God “moved” (rachaph) upon the face of the waters. Rachaph has a numeric value of 288. This word is of interest because it has to do with the action of the Holy Spirit over creation. The same word is used in Deuteronomy 32:11, where God is pictured as an eagle, “As an eagle stirreth up [rachaph] her nest.”
In the New Testament, we have these examples:
1. 2 Timothy 1:9, “a holy calling” is 288.
2. Matthew 25:21, “the joy of the Lord” is 2880.
3. Revelation 21:9, “the Bride, the Lamb’s wife” is 2880.
In addition to these, Genesis 24:22 speaks of the two bracelets that Eleazar gave to Rachel when he went to find a bride for Isaac. The Hebrew word for “bracelet” is tsamid, which has a numeric value of 144. He gave her TWO bracelets, which suggests the number 144 x 2, or 288.
Rachel is a type and shadow of “the Bride, the Lamb’s wife,” even as Isaac, who was placed on the altar of sacrifice on Mount Moriah, represents Christ. Abraham sent Eleazar to find a bride for Isaac. Eleazar means “God helps,” and speaks of the Holy Spirit, who is our Helper, the Advocate, or “Comforter” (John14:16).
In fact, Eleazar is the Hebrew form of the Greek name Lazarus (John 11). Lazarus, the resurrected one, has a numeric value of 144.
There are many interesting things that can be seen in biblical mathematics, which help us to understand the meaning of the text itself. The number 288 is associated with the action of the Holy Spirit that prepares the Bride for her holy calling as the Lamb’s wife.
But also, the prominence of the number 288 in David’s kingdom as well as in biblical mathematics shows us that there are two groups of 144,000 for a total of 288,000. Whether the number is to be understood literally or to be viewed as purely symbolic, we should understand that there are two manifestations of overcomers.
The Male and Female Theme
As we noted earlier in our study of Revelation 7, the first group of 144,000 were associated with the military and with the seal of God on their foreheads. In those days women did not enter military service, and so this was a “male” theme. But in Revelation 14, we see that the overcomers are portrayed in “female” terms. Verse 4 says (KJV),
4 These are they which were not defiled with [meta, “among, or amidst”] women, for they are virgins….
Take note that this verse does NOT tell us that these are men who have not been defiled BY women. There have been some small sects in the past who used this verse to teach against marriage, as if to say that if you want to be an overcomer, you cannot marry. Their teaching was based largely upon a misunderstanding of the Greek word, meta, used in Revelation 14:4. Those sects, of course, died out within a generation.
Women are not defiling. God sanctified marriage at the beginning, and there is nothing wrong with having sexual relations within the bonds of lawful marriage. Meta does not mean “with” in the sense of “by,” as if women cause defilement. Rather “with” is in the sense of “among or amidst.”
For example, Matthew 1:23 says, “God with us,” that is, among us or in our midst—or even IN us. It does not mean God BY us in any causal sense. In Matthew 2:3, Herod “was troubled, and all Jerusalem with [meta] him.” It does not mean to say Jerusalem was troubled BY Herod, but rather, along with Him. If we remove the words added to the text in the translation, a more literal rendering of Revelation 14:3, 4 is:
3 … no one was able to learn the song except the 144,000—those having been bought from the earth, those among women not defiled; for they are virgins.
I obtained this data from Wilson’s The Emphatic Diaglott, which is a good literal translation of the New Testament. So if I may paraphrase this, it says that these are the ones redeemed, or bought from the earth among women who have not been defiled, for they are virgins. In the Bible, the term “virgin” is never applied to men. It is the virgin women who are not defiled in this verse.
It is unfortunate that men have translated this verse to make it say that men are defiled by marrying women. Scripture does not say this.
The overcomers are portrayed here as virgin women. The rest of verse 4 says,
4 These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.
The idea of “following the Lamb” indicates a female theme as well, since in those days it was customary for the women to follow behind their husband as they walked, even as disciples followed their leaders while traveling. In this case, we are all part of the Bride of Christ, whether we are men or women in the natural. And as overcomers, we “follow the Lamb wherever He goes.”
It seems to me that if the number 144,000 were to be taken as a literal number, then this indicates that there will be 144,000 men and 144,000 women who are overcomers, for a total of 288,000.
If the number is not literal, then at the very least it shows that both men and women are overcomers, and that we all have both spiritual roles to play in different ways. That is, whether we are men or women, we are all part of the Bride of Christ in that we are called to bring the Manchild to birth. Yet we are also called to rule with Christ in His throne as part of His Body. In that role, we are all male, whether we are men or women physically.
Hence, relative to Christ (the Head), we are female, because we follow His lead. But relative to the rest of creation, we are male, because the overcomers are their leaders, called to rule the Kingdom. In regard to spiritual matters, Paul says in Galatians 3:28 that we are neither male nor female. We transcend gender in the spirit, because, actually, we are both.
Jesus Christ in the Prophetic Law
The law prophesies of Christ. Nowhere is this more evident than in the laws of sacrifice. Jesus came to die on the cross as the final Sacrifice prophesied by all of the previous sacrifices. The law tells us that sacrifices on behalf of the congregation (the bride of Christ) were to be made with a female goat, while sacrifices done on behalf of the leaders were to be made with a male goat.
Of leaders, Leviticus 4:22-24 says,
22 When a leader sins… 23 … he shall bring for his offering a goat, a male without defect.
Of the congregation, Leviticus 4:27, 28 says,
27 Now if anyone of the common people sins… 28 … he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without defect.
Jesus fulfilled all of the sacrifices, both male and female. Jesus Himself came as a male, of course, and let no man accuse Him of being transgender. Paul says “the law is spiritual,” and that there is no gender as such in the spiritual realm. As the sacrifice for sin, Jesus fulfilled in one act all of the types and shadows set forth in the law, because He was to be the sacrifice for the congregation and the leaders alike.
The Passover lamb was to be “an unblemished male” (Exodus 12:5), and this festival set the appointed time for Christ to die on the cross. However, the location of the cross on the Mount of Olives, was set by the red heifer—a female burnt offering (Numbers 19:2). So Jesus was crucified “outside the camp” (Numbers 19:3; Hebrews 13:11, 12, 13) at the place where the ashes of the red heifer were kept.
Hence, the law made provision for both male and female, each having an important purpose, role, and revelation. When this is applied to the two groups of 144,000, we see that Revelation 7 describes the overcomers in male (i.e., military) terms, whereas Revelation 14 describes the overcomers in female terms as they sing the new song and follow the Lamb.
This indicates first that both men and women can be and will be overcomers. Secondly, it shows that all overcomers play a dual role in spiritual matters, even as Jesus did in fulfilling the laws regarding male and female sacrifice. Thirdly, if these numbers should prove to be not only symbolic but also literal, it would suggest 144,000 men and 144,000 women who are overcomers.
The New Song
Revelation 14:3 says,
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.
Only the overcomers “could learn the song.” The song is a revelation, perhaps a specific truth or set of truths that are ingrained within the hearts of the overcomers. If these were mere words of a song, then most people would be able to learn the song. But it is obviously not so simple as that. This is no mere performance. It is the song of one’s life, one’s heart, one’s experience with God. Even as the prophetic word is an expression of the heart of God and reveals who He is, so also is this new prophetic song an expression of the heart of the overcomers.
The metaphor itself portrayed the practice of having singers in the temple, Levites trained in music, who sang various psalms on appropriate occasions. As we said earlier, David had 288 musicians in his temple choir. After Solomon built the temple, these musicians sang on the steps of the temple “before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders.”
In Revelation 15:3, 4 we are told that “they sang the song of Moses the bondservant of God and the song of the Lamb.” The theme of this song (or songs) has to do with the works of God and the ultimate response from all nations. “All the nations will come and worship before Thee.” This is a reference to the great scene in Revelation 5:13,
13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”
Hence, the song is about universal reconciliation, where all nations worship God as a response to His “great and marvelous” works and His “righteous acts.” In other words, this song is bound up in the New Covenant, which is God’s oath to save all nations, all mankind, and all of creation. This great oath is seen clearly in many places, including the second covenant in Deuteronomy 29:10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. Here God told all the people to gather together, men, women, children, aliens, in order that they might enter “His oath which the Lord your God is making with you today.”
Deuteronomy 29:14, 15 says that this oath was not limited to those present, but included all “those who are not with us here today.” Thus, the psalms later foretold the gathering of all nations to worship Christ, and the New Testament says that Christ has reconciled all of creation to Himself (Hebrews 2:8). These are the righteous acts of God in fulfillment of His oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deuteronomy 29:13), and this is the main thrust of the “new song.”
First Fruits to God
Revelation 14:4 also says that these overcomers are “first fruits to God and to the Lamb.” The law of first fruits says that the harvest cannot begin until the first fruits have been given to God (Leviticus 23:14). Likewise, the first fruits sanctify the harvest, “for if the first fruit be holy, the lump is also holy” (Romans11:16).
The overcomers are first fruits, a cross section of the harvest. During inspection, if the first fruits are found worthy, the whole harvest is sanctified. In other words, when the overcomers are presented to God and pronounced “holy,” it matters not how unholy the rest of the world is at the time, because the holiness of the first fruits sanctify the entire harvest according to the law.
We will see later that after the overcomers are manifested, the angels go forth with the gospel to all the nations.
3 And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.
An overcomer is honest. He does not have delusions of grandeur, but fulfills the word in Romans 12:3,
3 For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
Conversely, an overcomer does not underestimate himself, but is bold in the knowledge of his or her position in Christ. In fact, Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12 (above) is his introduction to a discussion about the use of one’s spiritual gifts and callings. To fulfill one’s calling requires a realistic view of one’s self, seeing himself as God sees him. It does not mean that he or she now believes only correct doctrine—except, no doubt, after the glorification of the body has taken place. But an overcomer is contrasted to “all liars” (Revelation 21:8) who will be judged in the “lake of fire” to purify their hearts of all lies.
In Revelation 22:15 we read that outside the New Jerusalem is “everyone who loves and practices lying.” Such lying is deliberate to the point where it is done unconsciously, and the person has come to believe his own lie.
This is part 107 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Revelation." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones