Sealing of the 144,000 on Earth: Part 3 of 4 (series: Lessons on Revelations)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

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.

God always lays claim to His own. When Abimelech tampered with Abraham’s affairs, God warned, “Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee . . .” (Genesis 20:7). To Elijah He said, “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal” (1 Kings 19:18). God lays claim to His own, but this does not mean they necessarily escape the common disasters of earth. It means that God watches over them and takes careful note of their affairs. There are two very different companies of people in this section. One company is Jewish; the other is Gentile. One passes unscathed through the fiery furnace of the Tribulation; the other is martyred to the very last man.

There are those who are “sealed” to defy the totality of Satan’s secular dominion. They are drawn from the various “tribes” of Israel. John says, “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.” There were 12,000 from the “tribes” of Judah, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Nepthalim, Manasseh, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulum, Joseph, and Benjamin. Dan and Ephraim are missing from the list. In Old Testament history, both these “tribes” were notorious for their connection with idolatry. Perhaps in a coming day they will take the lead in hailing the beast as Messiah. Israel’s tribal divisions are no longer known. But God knows them and, in a coming day, He will see to it that each of the appropriate “tribes” is equally represented in the sealing. Joseph provides us with an illustration. He could seat his brethren in proper order around the festive table and select his full brother, Benjamin, for a worthy portion. It was no problem to him, although it greatly astonished them (Genesis 43:33-34). The Lord knows what Israel’s tribal divisions are.

Those “sealed” will go unscathed through the great tribulation. They will be a perpetual thorn in the side of the beast and a constant reminder to the devil that, while millions may bow to his will, God still has him on a leash and says to him, “thus far and no farther.” Consequently, this sealing acts as a phylactery{1], or supernatural protection, against the series of plagues which are to devastate the world, in conformity with the promise in 3:10. As an additional feature, it may serve to guard the faithful against the demonic forces (9:4), particularly during the reign of the Antichrist, which is to come.

“The number of them which were sealed were a hundred and forty and four thousand” (144,000). This does not mean that only 144,000 of those people alive on the earth at that time will be saved. Most expositors believe that this refers specifically to Jews—that there will be a great revival among the Jews and that many will be saved. Some say that there will be exactly 144,000 Jews saved—perhaps to be evangelists for the rest of the great multitude— “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” (Revelation 7:9).

Many interpreters of Revelation hold that the 144,000 people represent Israel (I agree). Keep in mind though, that John is sending this letter to disbursed Christians, not all of whom are Jewish. Also keep in mind that John has made statements elsewhere that can be interpreted to mean that God’s chosen people are no longer determined by heritage or ancestry, but by faith. In light of this, others interpret this 144,000 as the faithful of the Christian church.

I am convinced that the 144,000 will receive the same gifts received by the 120 on the day of Pentecost. I believe the 144,000 missionaries out of Israel will have the gift of tongues and will speak in every language and dialect on the face of the earth. There are thousands of dialects and languages that have not been reduced to writing, but these missionaries, “sealed” by God and sent by God, will announce the coming Kingdom to every tribe and every kindred on the face of the earth who have never heard the Gospel of the Grace of God. Those who hear the message and receive it will make up the “number” in revelation 7:9 and following . . . “the great multitude that no man can number.”

Those who refuse to believe the message of the 144,000 and to follow the Antichrist instead, will receive the mark of the Beast and will be damned (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). The unpardonable sin after the Rapture will be the mark of the Beast. (Today the unpardonable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.) The preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom will continue throughout the seven-year period . . . the reign of the Antichrist. At the close of the Tribulation, the battle of Armageddon will be fought. After the battle of Armageddon, the glorious Kingdom will be ushered in, Jesus will set on the throne in Jerusalem in the temple, and will reign for 1000 years. We, the born again, will reign with Him (Revelation 20:1-6).

The 144,000 “sealed” missionaries out of Israel are special messengers of God to fulfill a mission during a specific time—there will not be one Gentile in the group, not one. They are especially called, commissioned, ordained, sent and “sealed.” They will be delivered from the devil and from the enemies of God. They will be protected. The devil cannot destroy them. These “sealed” ones are literal Israelites. This group cannot be the Church because the Church is in Heaven with her Lord—in the New Jerusalem. Moreover, the Church is neither Jewish nor Gentile. The Lord Jesus Christ said that He was going to prepare a place for those who were His and now that He has taken them off the earth, they are with Him. That city will come down from God a little later on in the Revelation, and we will get a look at it.

There are groups on earth today who claim to be the 144,000, but they are NOT. The Bible is clear on that subject. Some of these cults will be forced to revise their figures, because they have overshot the 144,000 “number.”

Where the lost 10 “tribes” are I do not know—nor does any other man on the face of the earth know. Their identity is lost. But God knows where they are, scattered among the nations today. When God is ready for them, He can find them. We need not worry about the lost 10 “tribes.” We need to be concerned about lost sinners, and go after them with the Gospel of the marvelous Grace of God.

5 Of the tribe of Juda 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 Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nephthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses 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 Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.

Verses 5-8 provide a list of the tribes of Israel. These lists are based on the sons of Jacob (whose name was later changed to Israel). While the tribes are usually listed in order of the age of the sons, in this case Judah is listed first, though Judah was not the oldest son. This is significant in that Jesus is from the “tribe of Judah.” This may have been intentional on John’s part, though it is difficult to find and intentional meaning in the order of the rest of the list. A tribe is missing from this list—Dan. Some say this is because of the idolatry engaged in by that tribe. Most likely, this listing of the twelve tribes is symbolic of all of God’s true followers—the “true Israel,” which is the church (Romans 2:29; 9:6; Galatians 3:29; 6:16; 1 Peter 2:9).

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