The answer to the puzzle of the 144,000 in the Book of Revelation
This is a brief divergence from the question of the leopard and one that I can answer today. Apostle John wrote In Revelation 7 and 14 about 144, 000 Jews who he saw in heaven. It is commonly assumed that only 144, 000 Jews will be saved, but this cannot be true since the number of Messianic believers in the earth certainly exceeds that number. Furthermore, God’s intention was to save the Jews who were lost (the Olive Branch), then to graft in the Gentiles into the church (Romans 11):
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 in their foreheads.
4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. (Revelation 7: 1 – 4).
Revelation teaches us that the 144, 000 Jews are the firstfruits to enter the Church of Jesus Christ
Revelation 14: 4 teaches that the 144. 000 “… were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.” We need to review the Old Testament scriptures in order to understand the doctrine of the firstfruits. God commanded the Jews to give firstfruits of the harvest as offerings to the Lord. The firstfruits were:
- gathered in at the end of the harvest
- the first of the harvest (not the most abundant of the harvest)
- Jews had two firstfruit celebrations:
feast of weeks – the firstfruits of the wheat harvest = feast of Pentecost – celebrated on the 50th day after the Passover.
feast of ingathering at the year end – at the end of the Harvest season = feast of Tabernacles
- the firstfruit offerings were offered to the Lord in different ways
given as a wave offering = praise and worship with hands lifted to the Lord. – Lev 23: 10 – 12.
The firstfruit represented the:
- best – Numbers 18: 12.
- a sample of the harvest.
What is the sealing?
Sphragizō (G4972) is the Greek word used for sealed in Revelation 7: 3:
Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
The usage of the word in reference to people shows that it refers to those:
- who have everlasting life – John 6: 27.
- those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the recognition symbol – 2 Corinthians 1: 22; Ephesians 4: 30.
Only those who were sealed entered heaven’s eternal rest. In other words, they believed on the Lord Jesus and were indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The sealing with the Holy Spirit and not works or religion was their certification for entry into eternal life.
Why were they sealed in their foreheads? This will be answered at another time, but meantime cross reference with Ezekiel 9.
A great multitude of believers from every nation appeared in heaven AFTER The firstfruits were sealed in their foreheads
Apostle John then saw another scene of a great, innumerable multitude in heaven AFTER the firstfruits were sealed. This great multitude represents those who were subsequently harvested and brought into the Kingdom of God and His Christ by the work and ministry of the first Jewish believers, who God refers to as firstfruits or forerunners.
The principle of the firstfruits as forerunners is therefore taught in these scriptures. Just as the nation of Israel represents the firstfruits or forerunners of the nations to serve God, even so, the 144, 000 were the forerunners of the saints to be saved. This principle is revealed in :
Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the firstfruits of his increase… (Jeremiah 2: 3).
And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body – Romans 8: 23.
Salute my well-beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ – Romans 16: 15.
Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. – 1 Corinthians 15: 23.
The great multitude was dressed in white robes and an Elder told Apostle John that the white robes meant that the saints had come out of great tribulation. Note that the Elder did not say THE TRIBULATION, as in a specific time period::
9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, 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 which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshiped God,
12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7: 9 – 14).
Tribulation in Revelation 7: 14 is NOT preceded by the word THE
First of all, we need to note that the Elder told Apostle John that the innumerable company had come out of “Great Tribulation.” The Elder did not say that the saints had come out of THE “Great Tribulation:”
If the Elder had told John that the saints had come out of THE GREAT TRIBULATION, he would have been speaking about a specific tribulation or tribulations that had come upon the earth.
This is confirmed by the literary usage of the word THE. According to Collins English Dictionary, THE is a word that is
- used with a qualifying word or phrase to indicate a particular person, object, etc, as distinct from others.
- used preceding a unit of time in phrases or titles indicating an outstanding person, event, etc. For example, match of the day, player of the year
Therefore, we need to reread the context in order to fully understand the meaning of the Elder’s reply to Apostle John. First of all, we note that the Elder spoke about an innumerable number of people from all nations, kindreds, people and languages who stood in front of the Throne of God in worship:
- First, the Elder did not identify a specific tribulation with the qualifying word THE. He spoke only about tribulation in a general sense.
- Secondly, the Elder asked John about the identity of the nations, kindreds, people or languages that worshiped in front of the Throne of God. He answered his own question by telling Apostle John that this innumerable crowd of worshipers had come out of “GREAT TRIBULATION, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
- Therefore we know at this time that the Elder spoke about saints who were saved by the blood of Jesus, and not people whose righteousness took them into heaven.
- it is commonly taught that this company in front of the Throne will come out of the Great Tribulation that will come on earth after the Rapture. I beg to differ. We see that these saints appeared in heaven AFTER the firstfruits were sealed, meaning that they had entered the Kingdom in the harvest of saints.
- Jews were the first members and reapers in the Kingdom of Christ = the 144, 000.
The meaning of tribulation in scripture – did this innumerable crowd of saints come of of “THE” GREAT TRIBULATION?
I believe that this innumerable company of worshipers represent converted Jews and Gentiles of all time who would enter into great tribulation for their faith in Christ from the inception of His Church. I support this belief by the preceding arguments and also by the meaning of “tribulation” in scripture. Let us therefore explore the meaning of the Elder’s words “these are they which came out of GREAT TRIBULATION/Thlipsis/G2347, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Thlipsis is the Greek word used for tribulation in the text of Revelation. Cross reference in the scriptures show that Thlipsis refers to tribulation or persecution that come upon believers because of the Word of God. Lord Jesus Himself prophesied that believers would be hated by nations for His name and would be delivered up to be afflicted and killed as a result.
History tells us that believers in the Lord Jesus suffered great tribulation for His name’s sake, with the first martyr being Stephen. The Scribes, Pharisees and Saducees were the first persecutors of the saints, and were actively supported by Apostle Paul who persecuted the saints from city to city, hauling them into prison. Later, the Anti – Christ government of Rome joined the persecution.
When we examine cross references on tribulation/Thlipsis/G2347 as used in Revelation 7: 14, we see that it refers to Synonyms for tribulation (thlipsis/G2347) include trouble, persecution, affliction, death, hardship and imprisonment because of the gospel:
when tribulation G2347 or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended – Matthew 13: 21.
Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, G2347 and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake – Matthew 24: 9.
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: G2347 but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world – John 16: 33.
Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution G2347 that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only- Acts 11: 19.
Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation G2347 enter into the kingdom of God – Acts 14: 22.
Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions G2347 abide me – Acts 20: 23.
I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, G2347 and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ – Revelation 1: 9
Scriptures show that tribulation or “great affliction,” in the following context, can be accompanied by famine, as in the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob:
Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: G2347 and our fathers found no sustenance – Acts 7: 11.
We are therefore obligated to conclude that all the saints who underwent any kind of hardship, persecution etc in the earth from the time of the early church experienced GREAT TRIBULATION. History and modern day events speak to the tribulation of the saints in many nations.
I could not find a reference to THE GREAT TRIBULATION in scripture
It would shock you to know that the scriptures never spoke of THE GREAT TRIBULATION. I could not find that pesky word THE in reference to tribulation. The scriptures rather refer to seasons and times of tribulation.
Not even Jesus spoke of THE GREAT TRIBULATION, but He rather prophesied about a great tribulation or specific period of tribulation which would come on the Jewish nation, this being fulfilled in AD 66 with the siege under General Titus and ending in the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple in AD 70:
- When thou art in tribulation – Deuteronomy 4: 32.
- The time of your tribulation – Judges 10: 14.
- let him deliver me out of all tribulation – 1 Samuel 26: 24.
- for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word – Matthew 13: 21.
- then shall be great tribulation – Matthew 24: 21.
- Immediately after the tribulation of those days – Matthew 24: 28.
- But in those days, after that tribulation – Matthew 13: 24.
- In the world ye shall have tribulation – John 16: 33.
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Tribulation is a past, present and future result of the curse
When Jesus prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem, He referred to it as a period of GREAT TRIBULATION:
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be – Matthew 24: 21.
THe Lord instructed us in His words that tribulation is past, present and future:
- past – has occurred “since the beginning of the world.”
- present – occurred In His era – “to this time.”
- And will take place in the future – “nor ever shall be.“
We see that tribulation in a generic sense, while not the tribulation of Revelation 7: 14, can result from catastrophic events, wars, invasions etc.
Scriptures do not teach about THE GREAT TRIBULATION. According to Revelation 7: 14, there is an innumerable company of saints who will enter heaven because they were martyred for the sake of Christ. They will undergo persecution, affliction and suffering for the gospel. Millions of Saints in communist, Islamic and other nations have this experience. According to Revelation 7: 16, they experienced hunger, thirst and physical exposure for the sake of the gospel. Their special reward is that they will serve Christ in His temple and He will dwell with them.