The Mysterious 144,000|
Who are the 144,000 in Revelation and what is their purpose?
Dr. David R. Reagan
There is probably no part of Revelation that has been
more abused than the first half of chapter 7 which tells
about 144,000 Jews being "sealed" as "bond-servants" of
God. The Jehovah's Witnesses claim that a group of their
founders and pioneers constitute this group. Other cults
claim they are the 144,000. Most mainline Christian
commentators argue that this group is symbolic of the
How 144,000 Jews could be symbolic of the Church is
beyond my comprehension. This interpretation is a good
example of the fanciful ideas that people seem to
delight in pulling out of Revelation. What would God
have to do to convince us that He is speaking about
144,000 Jews? He says they are Jews. Specifically, He
calls them, "the sons of Israel" (Revelation 7:4). He
even enumerates them by their tribes, stating that
12,000 will come from each tribe. Does He need to put a
flashing neon sign in the sky that says, "I'm talking
Why are some Jewish tribes excluded from the
This is an intriguing question. The list of tribes is
certainly unusual. The original twelve tribes included
both Levi and Joseph. But normally, when the twelve
tribes are listed in the Bible, Levi - the priestly
tribe - is not mentioned because its inheritance was the
Lord Himself (Deuteronomy 10:9). And Joseph's name is
usually dropped and then replaced by his two sons,
Ephraim and Manasseh who were adopted by Jacob (Genesis
48:8-22). So, Levi and Joseph are usually replaced by
Ephraim and Manasseh, keeping the list at twelve.
In the listing in Revelation 7, the tribes of Dan and
Ephraim are dropped and replaced by Levi and Joseph to
keep the list at twelve. Why? Well, no one knows for
sure. My guess is that Dan and Ephraim were dropped
because they were the ones that led the children of
Israel into idolatry (Deuteronomy 29:18-21 and 1 Kings
12:25ff). It thus appears that the two tribes
responsible for luring others into idolatry will not be
entrusted with sharing the Gospel with others during the
But God's grace in this matter is reflected at the
end of Revelation when the description of the new
Jerusalem is given. Revelation 21:12 says the city will
have twelve gates and that each gate will be named after
one of 'the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel." In
Ezekiel 48:30-34 we are told which tribes will be
included in this significant recognition. They are the
original twelve, including Levi and Joseph. That means
one of the gates will be named for the errant tribe of
Dan, and both Manessah and Ephraim will be included
under Joseph's name.
Are the 144,000 of Revelation 7 the same
144,000 portrayed in Revelation 14?
I believe they are. Why would the book introduce us
to a totally different group of 144,000 people without
telling us so?
In his book, Revelation Illustrated and
Made Plain, Tim LaHaye argues that the 144,000 in
Revelation 14 are a group of Gentile Christians who have
been converted during the Tribulation and who have
served the Lord with distinction before experiencing
martyrdom. He admits that this is interpretation puts
him "in the minority among commentators."
The scene in Revelation 14 portrays 144,000 men
standing on Mt. Zion with Jesus. LaHaye contends that
since this scene takes place in the middle of the
Tribulation, and since Jesus would not be standing on
Mt. Zion in Jerusalem at that time, the reference to Mt.
Zion must be a symbolic reference to Heaven. So, he
concludes that these are Gentiles who have died for
their faith and who are now in Heaven with Jesus.
I don't think so. The first point I would make is
that this scene is not in the middle of the Tribulation.
All of chapter 14 is a flash forward to the end of the
Tribulation, giving the reader a preview of what lies
ahead, assuring him that Jesus will ultimately triumph.
The second point I would make is that the group is not
in Heaven. They are on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem where Jesus
has returned to reign as King of kings. He has preserved
them through the Tribulation, and He is celebrating His
victory with them. They are singing a song heard from
Heaven, a song which only they can sing (Revelation
14:2-3). Again, if this were a different 144,000 from
the 144,000 Jews mentioned in Revelation 7, I think the
text would tell us so.
What is the Purpose of the 144,000?
What is the role of these 144,000 Jews during the
Tribulation? What is their purpose? All the text says is
that they will be "bond-servants of God" (Revelation
But the context indicates that they will serve the
Lord as evangelists. I say this because their
description is followed immediately by the description
of "a great multitude which no one can count, from every
nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues"
(Revelation 7:9). John sees this great host of people in
Heaven standing before the throne of God, and he asks
"Who are they, and from where have they come?"
(Revelation 7:13). He is told that they are people who
have come out of the Great Tribulation who "have washed
their robes and made them white in the blood of the
Lamb" (Revelation 7:14).
In other words, this multitude of Gentiles are those
who accept Jesus after the Rapture and who are martyred
for their faith during the Tribulation.
Because they are placed adjacent to the 144,000
believing Jews, the implication is that they are
converted by the Jews during the Tribulation.
I once called Zola Levitt and asked his opinion on
this matter. Zola is a Messianic Jew who has a Bible
prophecy ministry. When I asked if he believed that the
144,000 Jews of Revelation 7 would serve as evangelists
trying to convert the world to Jesus, he said, "Of
course! Why do you think the Lord has given us the kind
of personality that we have?"
I wasn't about to touch that question with a ten foot
pole, so I played dumb. "What are you talking about?" I
"Haven't you ever noticed," asked Zola, "that Jews
are very pushy people?"
"Well yes," I responded, "now that you mention it, I
must say that I have."
"Well," said Zola, "God has given us that kind of
personality so that we can be the world's greatest
salesmen. And one day, during the Tribulation, 144,000
believing Jews are going to use those skills to convert
a great host of Gentiles to Jesus. We are going to push
people up against the wall and hold them by the throat
until they say, 'Jesus!' Before the Tribulation is over,
we are going to convert more people to Jesus than you
Gentiles have done in the past 2,000 years."
All I could say was, "I hope you are right."
Original article: Lamb & Lion Ministries
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