Saturday, 07 January 2017 20:47

47. The 144,000 * Revelation 7:1-8, PART 2

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1 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.

2 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,

3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.

4 And I heard the number of them who were sealed: and there were sealed a hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.

5 Of the tribe of Judah were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.

6 Of the tribe of Asher were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Naphtali were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasseh were sealed twelve thousand.

7 Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.

8 Of the tribe of Zebulun were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.

 

Part 2 - Revelation 7:4-8

 

*** John heard a number ***: In Revelation 5:5-6, John heard someone say the Lion of the tribe of Judah had arrived, but when he turned around to look, he saw a lamb that had been slain. We see a similar thing In Revelation 7:4,9, and in Revelation 9:16-17. In Revelation 7:4, John heard the number of God’s people who had been sealed, but then, when he looked, he saw a great multitude that he could not count (Revelation 7:9). In Revelation 9:16, he heard the number of the enemies of God. The first question that comes to mind about the number of the sealed people is: is this number literal or symbolic? As we analyze the number itself, and the remaining verses, the answer to this question will be more clear. But before we do that, let’s briefly check the number of the enemies of God, and see in what context that number was given. The enemies in Revelation 9:16-17 were portrayed as an army of horsemen. The horses had heads of lions; fire, smoke and brimstone were coming out of their mouths; and they had tails like that of a serpent (Revelation 9:17,19). The army of 200,000,000 in Revelation 9 is clearly a symbolic representation of a group of people engaged in a battle against worshiping the true God. The enemy army fights against God’s truth. Since the sealed people of God is immune to the attacks against the truth, and can’t be deceived with false teachings, spiritual fatalities occur only on the side of those who do not have the Seal of God on their foreheads. The enemy army did not repent from worshiping demons and idols, or from living a life of sin (Revelation 9:20-21). The pattern seen in these verses is: John heard the number of the enemy army, and then described their army using symbolic language.

*** 144,000 ***: This was the number of the people who were sealed with the Holy Spirit. They were all from the tribes of Israel. Revelation 7:5-8 mentions a total of 12 tribes, and each tribe had 12,000 sealed people. In order for us to visualize the number 144,000 a little better, lets write down a mathematical representation of this number: 12 x 12,000 = 144,000. But we can break it down even further, and represent the number 12,000 as 12 x 1000. And so, our mathematical equation could now read as 12 x 12 x 1000 = 144,000. This way, we can more easily see the emphasis given to the numbers 12 and 1000.

- 12: The number 12 is a number that shows up both in the Old and New Testaments, and it is always linked to the people of God. The Bible mentions 12 patriarchs from Seth to Noah, then 12 patriarchs from Shem to Jacob, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 spies sent to find the promised land, 12 judges (from Othniel to Samuel), 12 disciples, 12 gates in the New Jerusalem that are named after the 12 tribes, and its 12 foundations which have the names of the 12 apostles. Ephesians 2:20 also mentions that the church is built on the foundation of the 12 apostles and the prophets, with Christ as the cornerstone. With this in mind, we can see that the number 12 represents the church. And so, we can understand the mathematical expression 12 x 12 as the representation of God’s people throughout history, from Old Testament through the New Testament, and all the way to the end of times.

- 1000: Numbers 31:1-6 gives a very important background for the understanding of the scenario described in Revelation. Israel should go into battle, organized in groups of 1000 from each tribe, for a total of 12,000. This formation was known as the thousands of Israel (Numbers 1:16; Numbers 10:4; Joshua 22:14,21; 1 Samuel 8:12; 1 Samuel 10:19; 1 Samuel 18:13; 1 Samuel 23:23; Micah 5:2). The 'thousands of Israel' was the term used to refer to their army. This military reference matches the pattern seen of the enemy army in Revelation 9:16. John heard the number of the sealed people (Revelation 7:4), and then described, in symbolic language, the army of God as a battalion ready for war (Revelation 7:5-8).

*** The tribes of Israel ***: Verses 5-8 give a list of the tribes that is unique. It differs from the lists found in the Old Testament. Let’s compare those lists:

Genesis 49:1-28

Numbers 1:5-15

Ezekiel 48:1-29

Revelation 7:5-8

Reuben

Reuben

Dan

Judah

Simeon

Simeon

Asher

Reuben

Levi

Judah

Naphtali

Gad

Judah

Issachar

Manasseh

Asher

Zebulun

Zebulun

Ephraim

Naphtali

Issachar

Ephraim

Reuben

Manasseh

Dan

Manasseh

Judah

Simeon

Gad

Benjamin

Benjamin

Levi

Asher

Dan

Simeon

Issachar

Naphtali

Asher

Issachar

Zebulun

Joseph

Gad

Zebulun

Joseph

Benjamin

Naphtali

Gad

Benjamin

 

- In Genesis: we see the list of the sons of Jacob, in the order of their birth.

- In Numbers: this list shows the 12 tribes as they were in the time of Moses, while traveling in the desert. The tribe of Levi is not included, because the Levites had the priesthood role. In that sense, they were the 13th tribe, just as Christ was the 13th person with the disciples. The Levites were not to receive a territory inheritance (Deuteronomy 10:8, 9; 18:1), or to be numbered among the Israelites (Numbers 1:49). This list also omits the tribe of Joseph, but includes his 2 sons instead (Manasseh and Ephraim). As the favorite son, Joseph got a double portion in the inheritance through his sons, when Jacob adopted Joseph’s sons as his own (Genesis 48:5).

- In Ezekiel: the list shows how they were to divide the land among the tribes. The list is the same as the one given in Numbers, and the only difference is the order in which the names appear.

- In Revelation: the list brings back the tribe of Joseph and the tribe of Levi. It removed one of the tribes named after Joseph’s sons (Ephraim), and removed the tribe of Dan. Joseph still has its double portion, since it includes Joseph’s name and the name of his son Manasseh. It also lists the tribe of Judah first, likely because that is the tribe in Jesus’ lineage. Jesus is referred to as the Lion of the tribe of Judah in Revelation 5:5. Ephraim and Dan were removed from the list in Revelation likely because they were apostate tribes. Since the number 144,000 is a representation of the people who had not defiled themselves with other false religious teachings (Revelation 14:4), the list given there could not include those two names. The tribe of Dan set up graven image (Judges 18:30), and became a center of idolatry (1 Kings 12:29-31; 2 Kings 10:29, Jeremiah 8:4-17). Jacob himself referred to Dan as a serpent (Genesis 49:17). The tribe of Ephraim also became a symbol of the people’s idolatry and apostasy (Hosea 4:17; Hosea 8:9-11; Hosea12:1). In Psalm 78:9-10, we read about how Ephraim did not keep the covenant of God. They ultimately sided with His enemies (Isaiah 7:2-9).

*** Literal or symbolic? ***: As we look at the lists of the 12 tribes, we can see that the one in Revelation does not follow the birth order of the sons of Jacob, or the Israelite tribal order in Moses’ time. It only includes the tribes that the Old Testament does not report as being against God’s Word in a permanent way. It left out the apostate tribes of Dan and Ephraim. Right from the beginning of the list given in Revelation, we can see that it is not a literal representation of the original tribes, otherwise it would have started with Reuben, the first born. Another thing to consider, is that with the Assyrian conquest, most tribes disappeared. Ten tribes made up the Northern Israel, but with the Assyrian attacts, they were destroyed or assimilated into other cultures around the 8th century BC (2 Kings 17:5-23). Their descendants were the Samaritans, who were despised by the Jews because they were no longer pure Israelites. They had intermarried with other nations so much that it was no longer possible to determine a defined tribal blood line. By John’s time, the 12 tribes did not exist anymore in the same way they once did in the time of Moses. Apostle Paul wrote about how the followers of Christ are the spiritual Israel (Romans 2:28-29; Romans 9:6-8; Galatians 3:29; Galatians 6:16; James 1:1), and how they will receive all the promises made to the literal Israel.

*** Meaning of the symbolic Israel ***: Galatians 3:29 says: “And if you are Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s descendants, and heirs according to the promise.” In other words, those who belong to Christ are Israelites, not by birth, but by re-birth. The re-birth in the faith of Jesus Christ as Savior gives us a new lineage. We receive a new record. We receive Christ’s record. God changed the name of Jacob to Israel after Jacob wrestled with God (Genesis 32:22-32). His name went from Jacob to Israel. The name Israel means: for as a prince have you power with God and with men, and have prevailed (genesis 32:28). In a sense, the name Israel correlates with the ‘overcomer’ we have been studying about since the Seven Churches. Back in Biblical times, names had very important meanings. And it is no different in the list of tribe names given in Revelation. Evangelist Doug Batchelor, in his studies of Revelation, suggest that the order of the names, make a lot of sense when taking into consideration all their meanings.

1. Judah = “I will praise the Lord" (Genesis 29:35)
2. Reuben = “Surely the LORD has looked upon my affliction” (Genesis 29:32)
3. Gad = “Good fortune” (Genesis 30:11)
4. Asher = “Happy am I" (Genesis 30:13)
5. Naphtali = “With great wrestlings have I wrestled" (Genesis 30:8)
6. Manasseh = “God has made me forget all my toil" (Genesis 41:51)
7. Simeon = “the LORD has heard that I was hated" (Genesis 29:33)
8. Levi = “my husband will be joined to me” (Genesis 29:34)
9. Issachar = “God has given me my reward" (Genesis 30:18)
10. Zebulun = “Dwelling" (Genesis 30:20)
11. Joseph = “The LORD shall add to me" (Genesis 30:24)
12. Benjamin = “Son of right hand side“ - From the Hebrew Binyamin. “Bin” means ‘Son’ and “Yamin” means ‘right hand side’ (Jacob changed Benjamins name after his birth, Genesis 35:18).

Batchelor suggests that the list in Revelation describes the condition of the 144,000. This list tells the story of salvation as experienced by the church, Christ’s bride: “I will praise the Lord for Surely the LORD has looked upon my affliction. With good fortune and Happy am I. With great wrestlings have I wrestled, but God has made me forget all my toil. The LORD has heard that I was hated. My husband will be joined to me. God has given me my reward. The LORD shall add to me the Son of His right hand side.

*** More about the 144,000 ***: The text in Revelation 14:1-5 gives us some more details about the 144,000 that compliment what we’ve learned so far. It says that they are “redeemed from the Earth” (Revelation 14:3). Here we have a clear confirmation of where this group is found. They are on the Earth, not in Heaven. As we continue to read the verses in Revelation 14:4-5, we see that: “These are they who were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.” In Bible analogies, both in the Old and the New Testaments, the concept of women is used to refer to the church (see study #20). The section about “defiled themselves with women; for they are virgins” can be understood by keeping in mind Jesus’ own analogies of His Coming as being a wedding party, where His bride (the church) is adorned and ready to be joined forever with her Groom. The 144,000 is the pure church that has not been deceived with false teachings, and they have the pure message of God. This does not mean that this group has never sinned before. Like the ancient Israel, all tribes transgressed God’s law at some point, and were considered unfaithful. But God never stopped working with them, and got to call them faithful and a pure woman when they were obedient to His commands (Isaiah 54:5-6; Ezekiel 16:8-14; Hosea 2:14-23; Amos 5:2).

*** Overview ***: The 144,000 are an actual group of people. They are the followers of Christ (Revelation 14:4). But the literal counting of the people does not seem to be the main point of the passage, because John can't really count how many people were actually among the saved (Revelation 7:9). The number 144,000 functions more like a job description of the faithful people. But are they the ones who will be alive in the end times? Are the 144,000 the faithful from other times in history? The answer is yes, to both questions. God has always had His army in place, in all phases of Hunan history. Just as the enemies of God are described as being an army, the people of God is also described as the thousands of Israel, organized in a military formation. They are, and have been, fighting a spiritual war. This is the battle involving the choice people have to make about who they want to worship. This is still the same war that had started in Heaven and then moved to this Earth when the serpent raised false accusations against God. Adam and Eve decided to believe those lies. But God offered them a solution to this problem. The 144,000 are those who believe in God's solution: they believe in the one God sent, the Redeemer Jesus Christ.

   
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