When we think of 144,000 we naturally think of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) who claim that they have among their number elite members who have been selected by God to immortality since 1918. They claim the number was almost complete by 1935. In 1988 they stated that the remnant of the 144000 called “the John class” numbering less that 9,000, were yet to complete their course. I can recall having a visit from a man who claimed to be one of this elite company in Sydney about 1963.
How the JWs discovered this information is a mystery but it implies that God somehow told them and that they are getting updates from God as to the progress of this selection process. Any new JWs have very little chance of immortality if only 9,000 vacancies existed in 1988. The whole theory is absurd.
The Seventh Day Adventists consider the 144000 to be a symbolic number representing a company of elite believers who will exist just before Jesus comes again and they say, “let’s strive to be among the 144,000 saints who will live to witness the return of Jesus Christ.” Another absurd theory.
The fact of the matter is that the 144000 are all Jewish men; 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel (Revelation 7:1-8) and they are the “firstfruits” of Israel (Revelation 14:4) that will turn to Christ immediately after the Rapture of the Church. There are no grounds at all for taking the number as symbolic or spiritualizing the tribes of Israel.
The Great Tribulation is a period of seven years comprised of two parts, each 1,260 days, and is the 70th “week” of Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 9:27). The entire Tribulation period described from Revelation 6 to 18 is Jewish and centres on Jerusalem, the Tribulation Temple, and Antichrist setting up his idol image in the rebuilt Temple.
So what does the Bible tell us about the 144000? It tells us that after the “departure” of the Church (2 Thessalonians 2:3) “the man of sin” will be revealed and 144000 Jewish men will preach the Gospel of the Kingdom “in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come”.
There are about 15 to 20 million Jews in the world today and many Jews are fully aware of the Biblical teaching of the last days, the Rapture, and the Tribulation.
Jesus said that the Rapture would be the great sign to Israel that the “end of the age” had come (Matthew 24:3). He said,
Then two shall be in the field; the one shall be taken and the other left… (Matthew 24:40).
The global disappearance of the born-again believers will speak volumes to the Jews who have been complaining about Christians telling them that they must pass through another holocaust in order for them to acknowledge Jesus Christ as their Messiah. The Rapture will be an alarm bell heard loud and clear to many Jews and two Jews will instantly seek the Lord and prophecy at Jerusalem and promote the rebuilding of the Temple. They will witness for 1,260 days (Revelation 11:3). They die at the mid-point of the seven-years Tribulation so they must be converted immediately after the Rapture!
The 144,000 also are seen around the throne in heaven half-way through the Tribulation and the two witnesses may well be two of the 144000.
When are the 144000 Sealed?
In chapter 7 of the Revelation we read that four angels who are about to sound the first four Trumpet judgments which “hurt the earth and the sea” (Revelation 7:2), are restrained “UNTIL we have sealed the servants of our God in their forheads” (Revelation 7:3).
The Revelation is strictly chronological and this sealing occurs AFTER the 6th Seal Judgment. The seventh Seal announces the seven Trumpet Judgments. So clearly the sealing of the 144000 is NOT immediately after the Rapture but probably a couple of years into the Tribulation.
The purpose of the sealing of the 144000 is obviously for protection from the judgments of the Trumpets which begin with four environmental judgments that “hurt the earth and sea”. These judgments are extensive covering one-third of the earth and the testimony of the 144000 is in “all the world” and to “all nations”. When the bottomless pit is opened at the 5th Trumpet, the demons can only attack “those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads” (Revelation 9:4) so the protection extends beyond the environmental judgments to all the Trumpet judgments to enable them in the short time available to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom. Jesus said: “Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come” (Matthew 10:23).
Some Bible expositors have mistakenly thought that the sealing of the 144000 refers to their conversion and sealing with the Holy Spirit but that cannot be the case. When the 144000 are sealed they are already “the servants of our God” and it is the presence of this mark in their forehead that distinguishes them when the demons are released and torment men five months. Just as God put a mark in Cain’s forehead “lest any finding him should kill him” (Genesis 4:13), so He will protect His servants in the Tribulation until their ministry is finished.
The conversion of the 144000 must take place soon after the Rapture for we read of the souls of the martyrs “under the altar” (Revelation 6:9) in heaven during the 5th Seal Judgment. Presumably they have heard the Gospel preached by the 144000 BEFORE the 144000 are sealed and before all Israel is saved at the Russian/ Islamic invasion.
The Firstfruits of Israel
The conversion of “all Israel” about which Paul speaks in Romans 11:26 takes place at the time of the Russian/Islamic invasion of Israel. Ezekiel states:
So the house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day and forward (Ezekiel 39:22).
The Russian invasion will be accompanied by a global earthquake and disturbances in the heavens resulting in meteorites showering the earth (Ezekiel 38:19-20) as described in the 6th Seal Judgment (Revelation 6:12) and since the 144000 are “firstfruits” unto God it is reasonable to suggest that they are saved BEFORE “all Israel shall be saved”. Jesus said they would be persecuted by their own nation and scourged “in their synagogues” (Matthew 10:17). It follows that all Israel can’t be saved when the 144000 BEGIN their ministry but later when two-thirds of Israel perish at the Russian/Islamic invasion. The remnant third will respond to the Gospel of the Kingdom preached by the 144000 servants of our (Israel’s) God.