Saturday, September 3, 2016

Who Are 144,000 in Revelation 7?

Revelation 7

7 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. 2 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: 3 “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.” 4 Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.

Of all the verses in the book of Revelation, these are often the most misinterpreted. Many people have interpreted the 144,000 who are sealed, as a literal number of those who will escape the tribulation of the sixth seal. Others see it as symbolic of the full number of Jews who will come to faith in Jesus and be saved. That they are Jews is hard to deny from the text.

In addition to the number of Jews who are elected, John sees this vision,

Before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

Later when the elders ask where these people came from, John says they are the once who have escaped from the tribulation, and have had their robes washed in the blood of the lamb.

So clearly there are two groups of people here. One who has been marked with a seal to be protected from the fury of the sixth seal, the 144,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel. Second, there are those who have escaped the tribulation and are already worshipping the Lamb (Jesus) before his throne. He has wiped their every tear and as their Shepherd leads them to the springs of living water.

From these presuppositions here is one way to interpret the meaning of chapter 7 and the 144,000.

The 144,000 could be related to a final dispensation of God's dealing with the Jewish people, who He made His original covenant with in Genesis 12. He promised to bless them and make them a blessing to many nations. Paul devotes all of Romans 9-11 to describe the plight of his fellow Israelites. In chapter 11 he concludes,

All Israel Will Be Saved
"25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, 26 and in this way[e] all Israel will be saved. As it is written:

“The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
27 And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”
28 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. 32 For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all."

Since God's promises are irrevocable, we know that His desire is for all people to be saved. To choose an arbitrary number of 144,000, even if does represent the 12 tribes Israel, I believe is symbolic only in nature. 12 is the number of completeness, and 12,000 is a large multiply of completeness. When multiplied together, you can see the symbolism of the full number of Jews who experience God's salvation. Regardless of the number it will be the number of people who have responded to God's offer of salvation through faith in Christ.

In heaven there will Jews and Gentiles from every tribe and tongue. Whoever calls on the name of the Lord why lol be saved.

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