Displaying items by tag: The 144,000

1 And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads.

 

PART 1

 

*** God’s Team ***: In Revelation 13, we learned how the enemy strategized and waged his attacks on God’s people. The dragon called his agents and moved on to deceive people to move away from the things God had taught about worship. We learned that at the end-time, the enemy will mark his team, and will promote the persecution of all who refuse to receive his mark. Revelation 13 started with John in vision, describing a scene at the beach, where the dragon stands with the ones who answered his call: the two beasts. In contrast, Revelation 14 starts with John in vision, describing a scene at a mount, where he sees the Lamb and those who answered His call: the 144,000.

 

We first see the description of the 2 sides of this spiritual war being described in terms of an army in Revelation 7 and then Revelation 9 (please see studies #46, #47, and #62). God’s army is described as the 144,000 (Revelation 7:4) and the enemy army is numbered as 200 million (Revelation 9:16). All of these chapters, as well as Revelation 13 and 14, bring a highly symbolic language. It is important that we compare all these chapters and understand the big picture of what is going on.

 

*** The 144,000 are sealed ***: Just as the enemy’s army was marked with the mark of the beast (Revelation 13), God’s army was also marked with a seal (see study #46). Paul encourages the church in Ephesus, a church of mainly non-Jewish people converted to Christianity, by saying we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit: “In whom you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after you believed, you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13). This means that anyone who believes can be part of the sealed people of God. As we’ve seen in study #47, the 144,000 aren’t just Christians of Jewish ascent living during the end-times. The emphasis in Revelation 7 is actually in the fact they are organized for battle since they are described in groups of thousands, like the ancient Israel army.

 

Once again, the Seal of God is explained in Revelation 14:1: it’s God’s name written on their foreheads. God has established this covenant with His people in the Old Testament. Those who truly belong to Him can be identified because they choose to listen to God’s instructions. The forehead is a symbol for the mind and one’s freedom to choose which path they want to follow: to obey the beast’s decrees or to obey God. In Revelation 3:12, we see Jesus’ promise to the one who overcomes: “He that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.” The 144,000 are the ones who overcame. They are the citizens of Heaven.

 

*** Mount Zion ***: Looking at the big picture, we can now see that the 144,000 described in Revelation 14:1 are being identified as those who refused to worship the image of the beast. They made their stand by the Lamb, the One at mount Zion. Note that in this symbolic language, their stance at the mount doesn’t mean the sealed people were already removed from the Earth and are pictured in Heaven. It means that they have chosen to worship only God. Let’s look at a few verses in the Bible that mention mount Zion. 

 

- Hebrews 12:14-24: Paul is talking to the Christians there about how they ought to present themselves before Jesus, who “is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Paul told those people that by having accepted the salvation offered by Christ, they had already come to the mount: “But you are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels” (Hebrews 12:22). Was Paul using symbolic language? Yes. Those people in Paul’s time were still on Earth and yet had come unto mount Zion. Hebrews 12:22 also gives another important piece of information about Mount Zion. It says that it has to do with the “city of the living God”. Bringing this back to the book of Revelation, we now not only see the contrast of the two armies, but also of the two cities. The enemy’s city, as we saw in study #95 to #97, is symbolized by Babylon. God’s army also has a city as their headquarters: the heavenly Jerusalem.

 

- Psalms 2:6: God is telling us, through the psalm, that He has set His king on the mount: “Yet I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion”. Mount Zion represents the place from where God reigns over the Earth (see also Psalm 48:1-2; Isaiah 24:23, Micah 4:7).

 

- Joel 2:32: Deliverance for the “remnant whom the LORD shall call” comes from mount Zion. God will be calling His people, and those who hear Him will be saved. (See also Isaiah 59:20; Obadiah 1:17).

 

Mount Zion is the place of victory of God, a place that means deliverance to those who believe in Him. His people passed through hard trials and were not deceived by the enemy lies.

 

*** Overview ***: Just as the dragon and the beasts were not literally standing by the ocean, the 144,000 aren’t literally standing on mount Zion. The people who received the mark of the beast decided to be ruled by the beast power and the 144,000 decided to be ruled by the Lamb standing on Mount Zion. When John describes the scene, the proximity of God’s army to Christ indicates that they are under the Lamb’s protection. Jesus is with His people the entire time. They are seen together because nothing can stand between God and His people. This certainty is reassured to us in Psalm 125: "They that trust in the LORD shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abides forever. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from this time forth even forever. For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity. Do good, O LORD, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts. As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the LORD shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: but peace shall be upon Israel.”

 

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13  And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, Who are these who are arrayed in white robes? and from where did they come?

14  And I said unto him, Sir, you know. And he said to me, These are they who came out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15  Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sits on the throne shall dwell among them.

16  They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun strike them, nor any heat.

17  For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

 

*** Who are they? ***: In the vision, when John looked to see who the 144,000 were, he saw a great multitude. A group that no man could number. No one could number them because it was up to God to make that determination, not up to men. He saw that they were all dressed in white (Revelation 7:9). John was approached by one of the elders, who asked two questions. John had not fully comprehended all he was seeing in a way that he could give them an answer. Who is the great multitude? And where did they come from? (Revelation 7:13). The elder provided a clear answer: “These are they who came out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14). An important expression here in this phrase is “came out of the great tribulation”. In Greek, the expression is erchomenoi ek. Erchomenoi means “come, go”. Ek means “from out, out from among, from, suggesting from the interior outwards”. While the 144,000 were ready to go into battle, the great multitude is coming out of the great tribulation. The vision seems to be portraying the same group of people in different points of the spiritual journey leading to victory over sin. Verses 14-17 tell us 7 important things about the great multitude:

1 - They are the ones who came out of the great tribulation (verse 14)
2 - They have washed their robes in the blood of Jesus, which is what makes their robes white (verse 14)
3 - They serve God in His temple, day and night (verse 15)
4 - God dwells among them (verse 15)
5 - They will have no more tribulation (verse 16)
6 - The Lamb will feed them and give them living water (verse 17)
7 - God will wipe away their tears (verse 17)

The identification of the great multitude is the ultimate answer to the question raised by the saints under the altar, who had to wait until their number was made complete (Revelation 6:11/Fifth Seal/study #42). Just like the saints under the altar, the great multitude received white robes. The people in the great multitude were “their fellow servants also and their brethren”, who were made complete.

*** The great tribulation ***: The elder told John that the great multitude are the saved people who are coming out of the great tribulation. The concept of 'the great tribulation' was not new to the Jewish people, and it is not just found in the New Testament. We can read about this time in the Old Testament as well, in Daniel 12:1: “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.” At the time of the end, the faithful people will have to go through a very difficult period. Jesus had promised the Philadelphians that He would keep them from going through such hour (Revelation 3:10). Jesus also talked about the great tribulation before His second coming, and said it would be a time “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” (Matthew 24:21-22). We can read more about this difficult time in Revelation 13:11-17 and Revelation 15-18. Very similarly to the story of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel’s 3 friends (Daniel 3), the end time world powers will force people to make a decision about who they want to serve: those who chose not to worship the image of the beast should be killed. But the people who decide to worship the image will make themselves vulnerable to the Seven Last Plagues. The final conflict has cosmic repercussion. This conflict is the tribulation John’s vision shows the great multitude coming out of. We must not miss the main point of this text, which is not the great tribulation itself, or how terrible it will be. The main point is that those on God’s side will come out of it. They will be victorious They will win not because of their own efforts, or their own strength. Victory comes because Jesus will lead them to it, through His divine and redeeming power.

*** Washing the robes in the Blood makes them white ***: The second characteristic of this group of people is that they have washed their garments in the blood of Jesus. His blood is what makes their robes white. Jesus had promised the few faithful people in Sardis, those who had not defiled their garments: that they would walk with Him dressed in white (Revelation 3:4). In study #23, we talked about how God has been clothing people throughout history since Adam and Eve. From the moment they disconnected from the Trinity, Adam and Eve lost the special outfit God had made them, out of the eternal fabric of His glory. A person's character reflects where their heart is, and what things are actually important to them. The blameless character we develop while on Earth is the only thing we will be able to take with us after we are physically transformed in the blink of an eye when Jesus comes (1 Corinthians 15:53-54; Matthew 6:19-21). That blameless character is our outfit. As Revelation 7:14 suggests, it is not the efforts we put into the act of washing, scrubbing and wringing that makes the outfit white. We are not capable of making our own garments white, no matter how hard we work at it. We are only called to bring our robe to the vessel containing the solution that can permanently remove sin stains and make it blameless: the blood of Jesus. The blood of the lamb displayed at the door frame right before the exodus, is what saved those who believed in God’s instructions. Belief, obedience and trust, expressed by that blood on the door, saved the literal Israel from the last plague, and allowed the people to be delivered from the Egyptians. For the end-time Israel, Christ’s sacrifice is the only way to salvation (Romans 5:9-10). He replaces our shortcomings with His perfection, and that perfection is what He presents to His Father.

*** They serve God continuously ***: To the church in Philadelphia, Jesus promised He would make the one who overcomes “a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out” (Revelation 3:12). A pillar is a structural permanent fixture. In a similar way, the great multitude will serve God in His temple, day and night. That seems only natural, since the people of God are made priests and kingdoms (Exodus 19:5-6; 1 Peter 2:9; Ephesians 2:19; Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:6). God’s people will have a purpose, not only after the tribulation, but also throughout eternity. They will perform priestly and royal duties, as they work very closely with God. We may not know exactly what the specifics for this work are, but we can be sure the work will be very important. God is the center and reference point for all creation throughout the universe, and the redeemed will be serving there, in the temple of God, continuously.

*** God will dwell among the redeemed ***: The Greek word for “dwell” is skēnōsei, which means to live or pitch in a tent, to dwell in an intimate communion with God, to spread His tabernacle. Here we see a parallel with the ancient Israel. While they were in the wilderness, the presence of God was made known as a cloud by day and column of fire by night (Exodus 13:21). God promised to be the shelter for His people. He would be their God, and they would be His people (Ezekiel 37:27). God’s Tabernacle was a place sanctified by His glory, where He would come to talk to His people (Exodus 29:42-43). He promised the Israelites: “And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the LORD their God.” (Exodus 29:45-46). The promise made to ancient Israel continues and is reinforced to the spiritual Israel.

*** No more tribulation ***: Revelation 7:16 has 3 main elements of suffering: hunger, thirst, and scorching heat. The text is clear about the temporary nature of this tribulation. The ones who overcome, and come out of the tribulation, will no longer have to go through it again. Literal and spiritual hunger, thirst, and heat will cease. The words of the prophet Isaiah about the restoration of Israel come to mind: “They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun strike them: for he that has mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.” (Isaiah 49:10). In the words of the psalmist: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not lack. He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23).

*** Living water and bread ***: Psalm 23 is a good segway to Revelation 7:17. It said God would “prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”, and that He would lead “me beside the still waters”. To the Church of Ephesus, Jesus promised the overcomer would eat from the Tree of Life (Revelation 2:7). One time, Jesus said to a woman at a well: “But whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14). Jesus also said to some Jewish men who were not understanding the divine nature of Christ: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51).

*** No more tears ***: Once again, a text from Isaiah matches this section of Revelation: “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD has spoken it.” (Isaiah 25:8). Also, this is exactly what Revelation 21:3-4 says: “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” The fact that God is now dwelling with His people, is the guarantee that His protection over the great multitude is eternal. They will no longer have to experience pain, sorrow, or death. God Himself will wipe away the tears from their eyes. All suffering will end.

*** Overview ***: The great multitude are the people of God who came out of the battle against evil. This battle has been in place since it started in Heaven (Revelation 12:7-9), and has been going on in this planet since Adam and Eve listened to the Serpent instead of obeying God’s commands. In the end, all those who have fought this battle, and kept their hearts open to the Savior, will stand victorious before the throne of God. They will continue to serve God, just as they did before, but now, they will wear white robes of blameless character and will be powered by the glory and righteousness of God. They are God’s people, and God is everything to them. He is their spiritual food and shelter. The time of trouble will be over when Christ comes to rescue His people. And pain, suffering, and death will be a thing of the past. God’s touch is personal, to the point that He will take time to remove the last bit of sadness from the face of His children. With all this in mind, we must not focus on how hard the tribulation will be, but on God, who will save us from it.

Saturday, 14 January 2017 19:09

48. The great multitude * Revelation 7:9-12

9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and tribes, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;

10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God who sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.

11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four living creatures, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshiped God,

12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God forever and ever. Amen.

 

*** And after these things, John looked ***: We see a literary pattern going on in the way John describes what is happening around him in the visions. He first hears things, then he turns around to see them, he describes them in a different way.

What John Hears

What John Sees

Verses

Loud voice like a trumpet

Jesus walking in the middle of the lampstands

Revelation 1:10-13

Lion from the tribe of Judah

Lamb as having been slain

Revelation 5:5-6

The number of those who were sealed was 144,000

A great multitude, which no man could number

Revelation 7:4,9

The great prostitute sitting on many waters

A woman named Babylon, sitting on a scarlet beast

Revelation 17:1-5

The bride, the wife of the Lamb

The holy city Jerusalem

Revelation 21:9-12

In Revelation 5:5-6, John heard about the Lion of the tribe of Judah, but when he turned to look, he saw a lamb that had been slain. In Revelation 7:4, John hears the number of the sealed people of God, 144,000, but when he looks (verse 9), he sees a group he cannot even count. At a first glance, we may think that the 144,000 and the great multitude are different groups of people. One is from the tribes of Israel, and the other is from every nation in the world. But when we study them closely, we will see that they are actually the same group of people, being described in a different timeframe. The great multitude is being described in some point in time “after these things” (verse 9). This means that the period “after these things” happens after he hears the number 144,000, after they were sealed, and after the people were organized in a military formation for the spiritual battle. After John heard these things, he looked and saw what was happening after all that had taken place.

*** All nations, tribes, people’s, and tongues ***: In Revelation 7:4, John heard that the group of sealed people were from “all the tribes of the children of Israel". But when he looks, in verse 9, he sees that they are actually from "all nations, and tribes, and people, and tongues". This underlines the symbolic nature of the 144,000, as the spiritual Israel the apostles talked about (Galatians 3:29). The Bible could not be any more clear about who will be saved. Salvation is available to everyone. During the last days, cultural labels will not be what divides the faithful people. Their belief in God's truths, their obedience to His Commandments, and their faith of Jesus are what will unite and describe them (Revelation 14:12). We can further identify this great multitude by reading the song in Revelation 5:9-10. It talks about the redeemed people, who came from "out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation", and were made kings and priests to God.

*** Standing before the throne and the Lamb, dressed in white ***: This part of verse 9 tells us where the saved people will be after they are sealed, and are able to see Christ's return. After the battle is over, the army of God will no longer be in a military formation, but united as a multitude, standing before the throne, and before Jesus. The need for an army no longer exists. They stand before God with the white outfit He had promised to the overcomer in Revelation 3:5. We can see the verses describing the path of the overcomer through time. The ones who believed will be saved through all the chaos on Earth, described in the beginning of the sixth seal. Their reward will be spending precious time with Jesus.

*** Palm branches in their hands ***: In John 12:13, we read about the multitude in Jerusalem celebrating Jesus' arrival into the city. They had palm branches in their hands. During the Feast of Tabernacles, the people were to “rejoice before the Lord” with branches of palm trees (Leviticus 23:40). Like the white robes, the palm branches are a symbol of victory and celebration. The large crowd before the throne cannot keep themselves from praising God. The battle is over. Once again, we see the natural behavior people display when standing in the presence of God. They praise Him.

***Salvation to our God***: John describes the redeemed. They are celebrating their victory over the decade evil. But they do not take any credit for their accomplishment. Christ was the one who delivered them, through His blood. And just as we saw the heavenly beings do during Christ’s enthronement (Revelation 4 and 5) the redeemed also sing with a large voice, praising God. The redeemed are not the only ones worshiping God. Revelation 7:11 describes a familiar scene. Just like John did in the begging of the book, the heavenly beings fall at Jesus’ feet in worship. Their song seems to be the same one sung in Revelation 5:9-14: "Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God forever and ever. Amen.” (Apocalipse 7:12).

*** Overview ***: The sealed people of God are numbered, but not in a human way. To God, the symbolic 144,000 is a total that “no man could number” (Revelation 7:9). It is up to God to know when all the people have made up their minds, and chosen to be or not to be on God’s side. When that “number” is reached, the two groups will be defined. The faithful people are described in a different way than they were in the beginning of the chapter. They are no longer described in a military formation. They are wearing the robes of victory, celebrating, praising and worshiping before the throne of God. The great multitude of saved people and the angels are all worshiping God, in the same way the heavenly beings did when Christ returned to Heaven after His resurrection (Revelation 4 and 5). All the honor and glory, all the merits for the victory over evil go to the One sitting on the throne and unto the Lamb. It is because of God’s everlasting glory, power and might that the redeemed are able to endure to the end. The saved standing before the throne are there because they have trusted God with their lives.

Saturday, 07 January 2017 20:47

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

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 attacks, 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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