What about the 144,000 ?

Who are the 144,000 and what is their role in the last days?

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. 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 the sea: "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. From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed,

  2. from the tribe of Reuben 12,000,

  3. from the tribe of Gad 12,000,

  4. from the tribe of Asher 12,000,

  5. from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000,

  6. from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000,

  7. from the tribe of Simeon 12,000,

  8. from the tribe of Levi 12,000,

  9. from the tribe of Issachar 12,000,

  10. from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000,

  11. from the tribe of Joseph 12,000,

  12. from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000 (Revelation 7:1-8).

Who are these servants of God, who are sealed? Are they the Church (spiritual Israel - all believers Jewish and non-Jewish) or the remnant of national Israel?

In order to correctly interpret this passage we need to understand the new covenant made by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross of Calvary.  In the opening chapters of Revelation, John contrasted national Jews with spiritual Jews - the Body of Christ:

I know your afflictions and your poverty-- yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan (Revelation 2:9).

I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars-- I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you (Revelation 3:9).

These passages contrast national Israel and with the Church (spiritual Israel).  The Lord revealed through the apostles, that the new covenant made by His sacrifice is with His people, spiritual Israel - Jewish and non-Jewish alike. These next passages make this truth abundantly clear.

... a man is a [spiritual] Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code (Romans 2:29).

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:6).

For it is we [the Church] who are the circumcision [Israel], we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh - (Philippians 3:3)

Since, spiritual Israel is made up of all those who believe in Jesus Christ, the 144,000 servants of God likely represent spiritual Israel, the completeness of the tribes of Israel, the Church. 

We find additional support for this idea below in Revelation 14, when John says the 144,000 are with Christ on Mount Zion.  When Christ is on Mount Zion the Kingdom of God has come on earth.  We also know that when Christ sets up His Kingdom, all believers will be with Him. Therefore, the 144,000 with Christ on Mount Zion are most likely the same as the 144,000 that were sealed which symbolizes the Church.

Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 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 firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless (Revelation 14:1-5).

Compare the characteristics of the 144,000 above with characteristics of the Church as described in the epistles.

Paul and James use the same characteristics in describing the Church. Paul says the Church is a pure virgin bride who will be presented to Christ. James tells us that the Church is a kind of firstfruits of all God has created.

I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you [the Church] as a pure virgin to him (2 Corinthians 11:2).

He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we [the Church] might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created (James 1:18).

Therefore, the 144,000 servants of God represent the Church. For the Church is spiritual Israel, pure and undefiled a kind of firstfruits of all He created.

Richard H Perry