God Will Soon Speak –
Through the 144,000
by Larry Wilson
During 1998, I plan to focus my Day Star articles on
prophetic topics from the books of Daniel and Revelation. Last month, prophetic
topics were addressed in a set of colorful prophetic charts called
"Roadmaps for the End-Time." I hope you will treasure these
"maps" and more important, that they prove to be a valuable tool in
your personal Bible study as you try to understand God’s forthcoming actions.
From time to time in articles, I will refer to the maps because "a picture
can be worth a thousand words." (If you would like to obtain a copy of the
"Roadmaps," call the Wake Up America office at 1-800-475-0876.) I also
hope that you will purchase additional copies to share with your friends and
perhaps, even start your own Bible study group. I believe these charts will
facilitate a good discussion!
This month, we will examine the subject of the 144,000
servants, so to familiarize yourself with this subject, please review the
"Roadmaps" chart titled "The Two Witnesses" (Chart 5).
Especially notice panel #8 because the time-period granted to the Two Witnesses
is the same time-period granted to the 144,000. Also notice that The Two
Witnesses and the 144,000 are inseparably linked.
Some topics are presented more effectively if the conclusions
are given first. The problem with this approach, however, is that the reader
might fail to gain any benefit from the study if that individual cannot
"get past" a concluding point with which he or she disagrees. For
example, a few years ago a man justified his rejection of my prophetic teachings
by saying, "I do not have to drink an entire gallon of sour milk to know
that the jug is bad." Unfortunately, this is the way most of us make
decisions – we "taste" a small sample and if that sample
is agreeable, we favor the "whole jug" based on that sample;
otherwise, we tend to reject the "whole jug" if that small sample was
bad. I suppose this is one of the frailties of human nature. I would rather
consider the example of the dozen eggs. Just because one egg of the dozen is
cracked and has gone bad does not mean that the other eleven eggs are bad. In
spite of the human tendency to reject conclusions based on a small sample, I
will present some of my conclusions on the topic of the 144,000 first. I hope
you will study the entire article, and then determine for yourself if the
"sample" is actually good or bad!
1. The number, 144,000, as in any census is a literal
number. The Bible never indicates that a number is anything other than
literal. God required a census of the Israelites before they entered the
Promised Land and He will carefully number all of the redeemed (in addition to
the 144,000) before they enter His Kingdom, even though it will be a number
beyond human ability to count.
2. The 144,000 will be God’s "servants, the
prophets." These servants will be anointed and appointed to speak on God’s
behalf during the Great Tribulation.
3. The 144,000 will be composed of men and women coming
from every nation, kindred, tongue and people.
4. The 144,000 will not originate from one particular
church or denomination.
5. The 144,000 are selected from the twelve tribes of
Israel just before the Great Tribulation commences. The twelve tribes of Israel
are not the biological offspring from Abraham. Since the end of the 70th week
(which I believe occurred in A.D. 34), the twelve tribes of Israel have been
reckoned as believers in Jesus.
6. The 144,000 will begin their work at the same time.
7. The 144,000 will not, for the most part, know each
other, and yet, their unique message and ministry will be the same around the
8. The 144,000 will be distributed throughout the world
according to population. Nations with large populations will be blessed with a
larger number of the 144,000.
9. The 144,000 have not yet appeared.
10. The 144,000 will be sealed just before the Great
11. As "first fruits" of the numberless harvest
who will live during the Great Tribulation, the 144,000 will be sealed first.
This sealing will be a final and permanent transformation of their human nature.
God will continue to seal all believers during the 1,260 days of the Two
Witnesses. The sealing is a transformation of man’s nature from "a
propensity for sin" to "a propensity for righteousness."
12. Many, if not all, of the 144,000 will perish during
the Great Tribulation.
13. The 144,000 will perform many miracles, similar to
Moses and Elijah. Their miracles will testify that they are God’s
spokespersons. Of course, the devil’s prophets will also produce many
miracles, signs and wonders during this time-period. Fortunately, the devil’s
prophets will perform miracles which are inferior to the ones the prophets of
14. The 144,000 will suffer much rejection and torture
for their clear, straightforward and truthful testimony.
15. Many different personality types will make up the
144,000. Most of them will not have a professional clerical background.
Membership in this group is by divine appointment. In other words, no one can
appoint or qualify himself to be a part of this group.
16. The 144,000 will be highly dedicated and loyal to the
service of God.
17. The 144,000 will sing a song of experience and
victory that others cannot sing.
18. The 144,000 will not fail to accomplish the plans of
19. The 144,000 will be taken to Heaven just before the
seven last plagues begin.
20. As they ascend to Heaven, the 144,000 will become
Jesus’ "servants in waiting" – they will be His personal aides
21. The 144,000 will victoriously return with Jesus when
He comes for His righteous people at the Second Coming.
22. The 144,000 will wear the names of Jesus and the
Father on their foreheads throughout eternity.
23. The 144,000 will be empowered by the Two
Witnesses for a limited time – 1,260 days.
24. The 144,000 will accomplish in this short amount of
time what denominations have failed to do during the past 2,000 years.
25. The prophets of the Antichrist will greatly outnumber
The 144,000 will accomplish, through the enabling power of
God, something that mere men and women cannot do. Empowered by the Holy Spirit,
the 144,000 will proclaim the everlasting gospel to every living person on Earth
in less than 1,260 days! The result will be an international harvest of people
that will be numberless. Consider for a moment the significance of preaching the
everlasting gospel. What is the everlasting gospel? The everlasting gospel is
the truth about God and the terms and conditions of His salvation. The 144,000
will proclaim THE TRUTH and this truth will expose the false teachings of every
religious system on Earth! This is an amazing point: God will not use an
existing denomination as a vehicle to proclaim the everlasting gospel during the
end-time. If this startles you, consider this point: The book of Revelation does
not identify a "true denomination" at the end of time. Instead,
Revelation identifies a "true gospel" and identifies the people who
cling to it as "the remnant of the woman." (Rev 12:17; 14:12)
Why does God "leapfrog" the great religious
organizations that exist during the end-time and use a mere 144,000 ordinary
people? If we consider the vast resources that some religious organizations have
and then say that God will not use the great religions of the world to speak for
Him during the end-time, we seem foolish! Nevertheless, here are six reasons why
I believe God cannot use them:
1. The glory of doing the impossible,
proclaiming the gospel to the whole world in 1,260 days, belongs to God and
not to man.
2. The seven religious systems of the world are corrupt
and therefore, cannot and do not speak for God. Consequently, they can neither
correctly explain the everlasting gospel nor properly explain the plans and
purposes of God for the Great Tribulation.
3. Most people will agree that God does not save people
because of a church affiliation. Salvation is not gained through membership in
an Earthly organization. In fact, if God used a religious organization to
proclaim the everlasting gospel during the end-time, church affiliation would
be an insurmountable problem for many people. Prejudice is a human frailty.
Some people would rather die and go to hell than to join another church or
even worse, the church of someone who has offended them. Consider the
following example: Let us suppose that God looks down on Earth and decides to
use a particular sect within the Moslem faith to give the truth for the
end-time. How many Catholics, Jews or Christians do you think would join
"that church" to be saved? Now turn the table around and ask
yourself how many Catholics, Jews, Protestants or Moslems would join your
particular church to be saved?
4. God does not save a person because his biological
great-grandfather was Abraham or Daniel. The Lord has made it clear in the
book of Ezekiel that one’s ancestry has nothing to do with salvation!
(Ezekiel 14:18; 18:4-28; Matthew 3:9)
5. One man cannot prove the superiority of his religion
over that of another man. If history proves anything, this point has been
proven true beyond question. Not even Elijah could prove that his God was
superior to the god of Baal without the physical proof of fire falling from
Heaven? Therefore, it will be impossible for any religious group to argue
their superiority (e.g., it alone speaks for God) over another religious group
without physical manifestations. But remember, the devil and his minions will
be using physical manifestations to deceive "even the elect" if
possible. Ultimately, what makes one view of God superior over another? Is it
because one God is more powerful than another and able to do great signs and
miracles? Is it only because God has the power to save you? Or is it because
His ways are righteous, pure and true? Why do you serve your God? In the end,
every knee will bow confessing that He is the only true God and the only One
that deserves our worship. Not because of His power, but because everyone will
realize His grace, mercy, justice and perfect love warrant it.
6. God knows that Earthly religion has more to do with
social structure than with a personal love for TRUTH. (Statistics show that
95% of people remain loyal to the religious system into which they were born
and raised in – even if they fail to practice their religion.) Since
properties of religion are so influential within the human race, God must test
humankind. Because social relationships can be more important than loving
truth, God must test people. A significant distinction exists between serving
God and serving the church, and God must test humankind to see if we love
Him and His truth above everything else. The test will be simple and
applied without partiality. God will require everyone to leave his or
her church for the sake of truth! Only then will the object of our deepest
affection be revealed. At that time, some people will discover they loved
their church more than they loved God! What a sad thought! Only when a contest
exists between God and a person’s church can humans detect the distinction
that exists between serving God and serving the church. Until this test is
applied, most people cannot understand this distinction or problem. Remember,
in Jesus’ day, the Pharisees could not discern how they were as blind as
Jesus claimed! However, the day is coming when the same test given the Jewish
nation will be applied to everyone, and each of us will be forced to make a
choice – God or religion. Unfortunately, many people cannot separate
themselves from their church of birth, even when presented with the plainest
So, to help people make up their minds, God will allow the
devil to appear on Earth. The devil (embodied as the Antichrist) will dissolve
all religions and forcibly create a new global church. This event alone
will help motivate some people to move beyond their denominations and leave
their church for truth’s sake. On the other hand, all of the cowardly will
prostitute their faith and join the Antichrist’s newly created church. The
devil will make it difficult to refuse to join his church. He will set up
stringent laws, and if you choose to disobey and are caught, you will be put to
death. Remember that God considers cowardice as great a sin as murder and sexual
immorality. "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers,
the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars
-- their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second
death." (Revelation 21:8)
To make the religious playing field level for everyone during
the end-time, God will choose 144,000 loyal men and women from all religions of
the world to proclaim His truth. Just as Jesus gave Ezekiel and John little
books to eat in their day, Jesus will give the 144,000 the words to speak in our
day. Because all religious systems or denominations of the world are corrupt,
they will be aligned against God’s truth. The line of demarcation will be very
clear. People who love God will leave Babylon and step across the line to God’s
side. Conversely, people who refuse to surrender to the truth will have no other
option but to join with the devil. In choosing his church people will receive
his mark, which will allow them (through buying and selling) to obtain the
necessities of life. The mark of the beast (a tatoo showing either the literal
number 666 or the name of the devil) will indicate church membership in the
devil’s church. Consider the outcome: If people side with God, they will
experience the devil’s wrath. If people side with the devil, they will
experience God’s wrath. Surely, this will be a time of wrath for everyone!
Before leaving this section, one question needs to be asked.
Why does God use a literal number of 144,000 people to proclaim the everlasting
gospel during the end-time? Since nearly six billion people now live on Earth,
why did He choose 144,000 – why not one million or 10 million to accomplish
His task? Answer: The 144,000, like Gideon’s army, are too few to accomplish
the task humanly. By choosing such a tiny number of people, God will again
demonstrate that He is not dependant upon man.
Why does God mention the twelve tribes in Revelation’s
story? The 144,000 are mentioned in conjunction with the twelve tribes because
of God’s original plan to proclaim the everlasting gospel through the twelve
sons of Jacob. The history of the twelve tribes is as follows:
After the flood, God chose Abraham and his descendants as
trustees of the gospel. Later, God renewed the trusteeship of His covenant with
the thirteen descendants of Jacob. (Remember that Joseph had two sons, Manasseh
and Ephraim. They were counted at the Exodus as two tribes; thus the nation of
Israel was reckoned as thirteen tribes until the tribe of Dan disappeared.) As
trustees of the gospel, the twelve tribes were appointed to be "the light
of the world." (Matthew 5:14; Acts 13:47) When the twelve tribes of Jacob
failed to let the light of God’s truth shine, Jesus modified His covenant with
Israel and basically put a constitutional amendment into effect. This amendment
offers gospel trusteeship to the disciples of Christ. (Matthew 28:18-20) Under
the provisions of the amendment, anyone and everyone who receives Christ as
Savior becomes an heir of Abraham and a member of Israel. (Galatians 3:28,29;
Ephesians 2; Romans 10 & 11) Paul wrote, "If you belong to Christ,
then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."
(Galatians 3:29) This is why Paul says, "For there is no difference
between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all
who call on him." (Romans 10:12) And again Paul said, "There is
neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in
Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)
What is a Tribe?
During the end-time, God will take 12,000 people from each
tribe to produce the 144,000. A "tribe" is a group or family of people
having a certain distinction. (Those living in multiracial communities often
speak of this phenomenon.) Notice three things about the twelve tribes: First,
the twelve tribes must exist at the end-
time since God takes 12,000 from each tribe as
"first-fruits." Second, very few people on Earth today can trace their
biological ancestry back to Jacob, and since biological heritage means nothing
when it comes to salvation (Ezekiel 14:12-21), I believe God groups all people
on Earth according to twelve personality types. This idea is supported by the
fact that each of Jacob’s twelve sons was identified by unique personality
characteristics that were passed down to their offspring and Jacob blessed the
sons accordingly. (See Genesis 49 and 1 Chronicles 4:21,23 for an example of a
unique characteristic.) From this I deduce that the twelve tribes at the
end-time are grouped according to personality traits or gifts similar to the
sons of Jacob. God will use ordinary people to accomplish all that needs to be
done. Jacob’s sons had very diverse personality traits and so will the
144,000. Third, God will choose 12,000 from each personality type as a practical
matter. By dividing the population of the world into 144,000 segments, each
prophet will have a "parish" of less than 40,000 people to serve
during the end-time. If we divide 40,000 people by 1,260 days, each
servant-prophet will only need to speak to about 32 people per day to get the
Note: Some people insist that the original twelve tribes
of Israel still exist. The evidence they purport is widely disputed and lacks
the historical and scientific authority to back up their claim. In A.D. 70,
Jerusalem was destroyed and the genealogical records were destroyed with it.
Jewish ancestral tracing ended. Even if the original 13 tribes still exist, the
divine amendment to the covenant allows anyone who receives Christ to be an heir
of Abraham. (Galatians 3:28,29)
When are the 144,000 Sealed?
The 144,000 are selected and sealed just prior to the
commencement of the Great Tribulation. "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." (Revelation 7:1-4) The four winds held back until the 144,000
are prepared for their work are the four terrible judgments contained in the
fourth seal; sword, famine, plague and wild beasts. Jesus delays the opening of
the fourth seal until the development and selection of the 144,000 is completed.
Then, when the fourth seal is opened, the seven angels that have the seven
trumpets commence their destructive work. I believe the seven angels were given
the seven trumpets in March 1994 – at the termination of the 70th Jubilee
cycle. Since then, these seven angels await the sealing of the 144,000. When the
144,000 are sealed, the first four angels of the seven trumpets will begin to
harm the Earth. Specifically, the first two angels of the seven trumpets will
harm the land, trees and sea – the very elements protected until the 144,000
are sealed. (Revelation 7:1-4; 8:7,8)
Importance of Character
John not only tells us the number of servant-prophets, but he
also describes the characters of the 144,000. "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 to the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are
blameless." (Revelation 14:4,5)
Comments on Purity
What an interesting statement about ordinary people! "They
kept themselves pure . . . No lie was found in their mouths; they are
blameless." In the past, some popular TV evangelists in the USA have
brought embarrassment upon Christians due to impropriety with women and money.
Men claiming to be "servants of God" have been exposed as slaves of
Satan. Perhaps the greatest sin in such cases is that these men did not come
forward to confess their sins until "caught." Reading the story of
Achan (Joshua 7) one could wonder how sincere a confession can be after being
"caught in the act." God rightfully expects those "talking the
talk to be walking the walk." John says of the 144,000, "they are
not defiled with women." This does not mean they remain unmarried, for
the marriage relationship is holy and ordained by God. This statement simply
indicates that these people are morally pure and fully committed to Jesus. Some
people insist the 144,000 are not defiled with false doctrines that come from
the daughters of the harlot (false religions) mentioned in Revelation 17 –
insinuating that there is one true religion on Earth today. I do not believe a
true religion on Earth exists today. I believe there is one God and one truth.
It is the privilege of human beings to enjoy greater fellowship with God the
closer they come to Him so they understand and practice His truth. However, the
statement about "not being defiled with women" refers to dedication to
God. The time will come when our allegiance to God will become more important
than Earthly ties! (See Nehemiah 13 for a parallel study on the purity required
of the Levites to serve God.)
One thing is certain about these 144,000 servants of God –
they are blameless before God. Even the Old Testament prophet Zephaniah says of
the remnant, "The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak
lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth . . . "
According to John, the Father’s name and the name of Jesus
will be written in the foreheads of the 144,000. (Revelation 14:1) The placement
of the names serves to indicate their exceedingly high rank in Heaven’s
administration. The phrase "blameless before God" means that these men
and women walk humbly in uprightness before God, just like Noah, Abraham
and others. They speak truth, live truth and from living by faith, reflect the
loving character of Jesus. Through Jesus’ enabling, these individuals have
come to love Jesus more than their besetting sins. The key to being selected as
one of the 144,000 is perseverance to "overcome." Review the promises
Jesus made to each of the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3. Jesus said to
the church in Laodicea, "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to
sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his
throne." (Revelation 3:21)
John also says the 144,000 are "offered as first fruits
to God and to the Lamb." What does this mean? "Firstfruits" is a
term describing a special offering presented to the Lord at various feasts. At
the feast of Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles, which was the
final feast of the religious year, an offering of first fruits was presented.
The "firstfruits" became the property of the high priest after they
had been presented at a sacred service. The term "firstfruits" refers
to the first fruits of the coming harvest. If a man grew peaches, then his
"first fruits" would be the first peaches to ripen.
Old Testament feasts are shadows or patterns of the Heavenly
Temple. From them, we learn that Jesus, our High Priest, will receive the first
fruits of the coming harvest shortly before the great harvest takes
place. He will receive the 144,000 as "first fruits" of Earth’s
harvest and the 144,000 will become His special property. This elite group will
form a special entourage that will accompany Jesus at the Second Coming and
later, throughout the eternal universe! John says, "They follow the Lamb
wherever He goes." (Revelation 14:4) Think of the privilege that
belongs to this group of people – being a personal attendant of Jesus!
The Holy City, new Jerusalem, has twelve gates and twelve
foundations. Each gate bears the name of a tribe and each foundation, the name
of an apostle. (Revelation 21:12,14) This should be an important point for those
who think that God is going to use the twelve original tribes of Israel. The
twelve foundations of the Holy City bear the names of the twelve apostles, not
the twelve tribes! Perhaps the saints will enter the Holy City through the gate
corresponding to their personality type. If so, a group of 12,000 servants of
God will lead their kinsmen through their gate! Everyone will belong to a tribe!
Everyone will have a family! Think about the generosity of God. There will be an
elite group from each character-type of the human family to help the newcomers
as they move into their new homes. Even more interesting, God finds perfection
in twelve different character types! No, He did not create the members of the
human race to be identical.
What is the Sealing?
A few additional words are needed regarding the special
sealing that the 144,000 will receive. Remember, the 144,000 are first fruits
and they are sealed first. This means the rest of the harvest will eventually
receive the same special sealing. What is this sealing? What does God do to His
people before closing the door to salvation? After passing the test of
faith, He transforms their nature. Notice, God does not propose to change our
character, the development of character is our responsibility as we walk daily
with God. However, when the end-time arrives, God will test the faith of every
person on Earth. Those who pass the test will be permanently transformed. No
longer will sin be attractive to them. God’s children will be sealed with a
nature like Adam and Eve before they fell. Attraction for sin will be gone –
free from the influence of sin at last! This is why Jesus declares at the close
of mercy (seventh trumpet): "Let him who does wrong continue to do
wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue
to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy." (Revelation
22:11) Here are a few texts to confirm this point: Hebrews 8:10-12; 1 John
2:28-3:2; Zechariah 3:1-7; Revelation 11:12. In this last text (Rev. 11:12), God
takes the 144,000 to Heaven before the Second Coming. Their ascension as
"first fruits" proves their natures are transformed before the Second
Coming; in fact, they were sealed before the Great Tribulation began!
The 144,000 will sing a new song in Heaven which no one else
can learn. What does this mean? After leaving Egypt, Israel faced an
excruciating moment on the shore of the Red Sea. Today’s vernacular would
read, "Israel was between the devil and the deep blue sea" as Pharaoh’s
army rushed to capture the fugitives. On one side Israel faced impassable
mountains and on the other side, open desert. Before them was the Red Sea and
behind them was Pharaoh’s advancing calvary of 600 chariots. What a
predicament! What a moment of extremity!
The anguish of the moment was so great that the Hebrews cried
out in terror for deliverance! The Lord heard the cries of His children and
delivered them! God divided the water and the children of Israel walked through
the Red Sea on dry ground. When Pharaoh’s army pursued the Israelites, God
allowed the divided waters to come together again and it swallowed Pharaoh’s
best soldiers. Israel’s worry with Egypt was over. Their rejoicing knew no
bounds and they sang this song to the Lord: "Then Moses and the
Israelites sang this song to the Lord: `I will sing to the Lord, for he is
highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea. The Lord is
my strength and my song; he has become my salvation . . . Pharaoh’s chariots
and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are
drowned in the Red Sea. The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the
depths like a stone.’ " (Exodus 15:1-5) This specific song of
deliverance relates to a specific experience. Only the people who went through
this experience could spontaneously sing the words in unison! In Heaven, a song
is a personal testimony.
The 144,000 servants of God experience the most extreme
circumstances on Earth. Because they are designated and anointed as special
servants of God, Satan’s wrath will be extremely fierce against them. However,
John saw them as more than conquerors! These "true prophets" will be
victorious over the "false prophet," Satan, although a large number of
the 144,000 will die. John saw them victorious – singing a new song that no
one else could sing. No one else can sing this song because no one else goes
through their experience. No one else can join in because no one else can sing
Glory to God
The 144,000 accomplish a very great feat! They proclaim the
everlasting gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people during the
time-period of the seven trumpets. They walk with God, just as Enoch did and
they reach a level of spiritual maturity that pleases God. Even though they will
be allowed to experience the sufferings and burdens of Christ, they will receive
the highest honor God can bestow upon a Christian – to enter into Christ’s
suffering. (2 Corinthians 6:3-10, Mark 10:38,39)
What does spiritual maturity involve? The 144,000 will know
what it means to live by faith, just as Jesus lived by faith. These people
understand what it means to submit to the will of God completely and lovingly.
They would rather die than willfully commit a sin. These people carry the
responsibility of the gospel during the judgment hour to a reeling world – a
compelling burden that most people cannot grasp or understand. These people are
serious about following God and they are the first recipients of the latter rain
or outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Their lives are both a demonstration and
proclamation of the character of Jesus. The 144,000 are the choicest fruits of
When does this maturity occur? "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." (Revelation 7:3) Since these people have not appeared yet,
and obviously, the first trumpet has not sounded yet, it is my conviction that
the sealing of the 144,000 is taking place right now! Jesus says, "My
eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he whose
walk is blameless will minister to me." (Psalm 101:6)
Stephanos Means Victory
In Revelation 12, the story of a great conflict between the
"true church" (represented by a pregnant woman) and a violent dragon
is told. The woman wears a crown of twelve stars on her head. From the Greek
language, we learn that these stars are set in a stephanos or crown of
victory. Stars symbolize messengers or angels and by applying the words of
Daniel 12:3 to this portion of Revelation’s symbolism we find a very beautiful
fit. "Those who are wise (or teachers) will shine like the brightness of
the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness like the stars for ever
and ever." In other words, the crown of victory worn by the woman is
set with twelve stars that represent the glorious triumph of the twelve tribes.
The 144,000 will be her "stars" in every sense of the word!
Is 144,000 a literal number? If the number is symbolic and
does not represent a literal number of people, then the Scripture should reveal
the meaning of the symbol (according to the rules of interpretation). Since no
such explanation exists for the number 144,000 or for that matter, any number in
Revelation, we can freely conclude that this number is literal. What value is
there in treating numbers as symbolic? For example, in Revelation 17, John saw a
beast having seven heads and ten horns. The heads and horns are symbolic — not
the numbers! The number 144,000 is a literal number. The term "servants of
God" suggests that these people will powerfully lead out in proclaiming the
everlasting gospel. In fact, in Revelation 10:7 the servants are called
prophets! So, the work of the 144,000 will be to gather God’s remnant
together. Jesus said, "I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen
[Israel]. I must bring them also [into my kingdom]. They too will listen to my
voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd [when I claim all that has
been given to me]." (John 10:16) [Words in brackets are supplied.]
The 144,000 Notified
"How will the 144,000 be notified of their
appointment?" This is a question often asked. Of course, the only way to
answer this question is to consider the relevant texts and look at a biblical
parallel. In Revelation 10, John is given an open book and told to eat it. The
book is sweet in his mouth and bitter in his stomach. Then, John is told to
prophesy again before kings, nations, etc. Within the context of Revelation 10,
John is representing the experience of the 144,000. The book represents God’s
message to Earth. The 144,000 will be given the words to speak. The final
proclamation of the gospel is not a matter of human prowess. God will give the
words and the Holy Spirit will provide the power. (Matthew 10:19)
A fine parallel of Revelation 10 is found in Ezekiel 2:8-3:4.
From these verses we learn three things: First, Ezekiel was given a book to eat
that was sweet in his mouth. The book represents an understanding of God’s
will. Second, Ezekiel is told to speak to the people, whether they listen or
not. Having to speak the words of God which creates so much personal offense is
the bitter part of the equation. (This is why the life-span of prophets is
usually short.) Last, the enabling power within Ezekiel was the Spirit of God.
In other words, the Holy Spirit enabled Ezekiel to say (and do) things that were
beyond mere human capability.
When we combine the context of Revelation 10 with the
parallel in Ezekiel 2 & 3, we can conclude the following: The 144,000 will
be fully informed of their appointment by a direct and powerful confrontation
with God. Their appointment will not come prematurely. In other words, until God
speaks, the identity and selection of the 144,000 remains unknown.
How will the 144,000 be Recognized?
The 144,000 will be recognized in three ways: First, by the
conformity of their message with Scripture. Remember, the 144,000 will operate
during the Great Tribulation. They will proclaim and explain the everlasting
gospel. Second, the 144,000 will be recognized by the power (simplicity and
clarity) of their message. Remember John the Baptist? People walked out into the
wilderness area of the Jordan to hear this man because he spoke with power and
authority that comes from the Holy Spirit! (Luke 7:24-26) People also marveled
at Jesus because of the authority with which He spoke. (Mark 1:22) Last, the
144,000 will be recognized as prophets because their predictions come to pass.
Their ability to perform signs and miracles will verify their appointment.
However, this manifestation of power proves little in those days because the
servants of the devil will also be doing "miracles." (Matthew 7:20-22)
The point here is simple: During the Great Tribulation, many will find it easier
to put faith in "miracle workers" than to yield to the "faith
testing" terms and conditions of salvation. If some "prophet" can
perform a miracle upon demand, many will use the testimony of the miracle worker
to justify rebellion against God. If God cannot reach mankind with a clear and
penetrating presentation of truth, then a miracle won’t do much either.
(Remember Moses in Pharaoh’s court.) This is why I say signs and wonders will
not prove very much.
The purpose for the 144,000 servant-prophets will be to proclaim the
everlasting gospel. God knows many people on Earth in all religions love Him and
serve Him to the best of their ability. To gather these people into His sheep
pen, He must first separate the sheep from the goats. God has revealed in
Revelation the process of how He intends to separate the sheep from the goats.
First, He will empower the 144,000. Joel 2:28-30 says, "And afterward, I
will pour out my Spirit on all [types of] people. Your sons and daughters will
prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even
on my [144,000] servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those
days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and
billows of smoke [as the Great Tribulation commences]." [Words in
brackets supplied.] Next, to gain the whole world’s attention, God will cause
the seven trumpet events to occur. The resulting calamities will sharply awaken
the inhabitants of Earth to the enormity of their sins. Then, while still in
this frame of mind, God will have His servants speak. What will they say? They
will present the everlasting gospel with power and authority. (Revelation
14:6-10) Individuals who take to heart the message presented by the 144,000 will
be saved. Those who have ears, but refuse to hear will be destroyed. Actually,
when you look at the big picture, the story is quite simple and depends on a
very tiny number of human beings. Personally, I believe the 144,000 could appear
any day. When God reveals who they are, they will not show up on TV and they
will not receive a round of applause or glittering rewards. The 144,000 will not
ride in limousines or have world fame. However, when they begin to proclaim God’s
message, you will know God has taken control of the events on Earth and the end
has come. No wonder Paul wrote, "But God chose the foolish things of the
world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the
strong." (1 Corinthians 1:27)
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