What about the 144,000
Courtesy of MM Outreach Inc.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE 144,000
Many Christians are puzzled when the familiar door-knockers, the Jehovah's Witnesses, tell them they don't want to go to heaven-- they intend to live right here on earth, and furthermore, only 144,000 can go to heaven.
What about this Biblical number of 144,000--where is it found, and what does it mean? Do only 144,000 go to heaven? Let's let the Bible interpret itself.
THE REVELATION SCRIPTURES IN CONTEXT
This number of 144,000 is found in only two places in Scripture, in Revelation 7:4, and Revelation 14:3. Let's turn first to Revelation, Chapter 7, and establish the context or setting. Revelation chapter five introduces a book with seven seals. The Lamb is found worthy to open the seals, and a time of worship follows. Revelation chapter six begins with the opening of the first seal, revealing a conqueror on a white horse. The second seal is war, the third, famine, the fourth, death, and the fifth, a scene of the martyrs in heaven. The sixth seal is terror. Now we come to an interlude before the opening of the seventh seal.
In this interlude before the opening of the seventh seal, we find four angels refraining from destroying the earth and sea until the bond-servants of God are sealed. We are now ready to read the first portion of Scripture dealing with the 144,000. We must now all make a decision before we read.
LITERAL OR FIGURATIVE?
How are we going to apply this portion of Scripture? Shall we believe it literally, that is shall we accept it exactly as written? That is our first choice.
Our second choice is this--shall we believe it figuratively--that is, it says one thing, but it really means another. It is symbolic.
We must make one choice or the other, and then follow through ALL THE VERSES the same way. We are not good Bible students if we try to divide verses between literal and figurative to suit our preconceived doctrines. Let's read Revelation 7:4,
"And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel."
Now, either there are really 144,000 individuals here who are really flesh-and-blood Jews, that being the LITERAL translation, OR there are a large number of individuals here, as represented by the number 144,000 who are "spiritual" or "figurative" Jews. In this interpretation, BOTH the number 144,000 and the phrase "sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel" are to be understood figuratively. We must make a choice on one interpretation or the other.
KEEP THE CONTEXT!
What is completely in error is to say that the number 144,000 is literal, but that the very next phrase is figurative. This is what Jehovah's Witnesses do--they would have us believe that the number 144,000 means exactly 144,000 people (LITERAL), but the phrase "sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel" means spiritual Jews, or to be more exact, special members of their organization headquartered in Brooklyn, N.Y. (FIGURATIVE).
This group is not alone in wrestling the Scriptures on the 144,000 since almost every cult group claims to be the 144,000 so-called "spiritual Jews". One gets a mental picture of an overloaded Mount Zion, with the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons (Latter Day Saints), Seventh-Day Adventists, followers of the late Herbert W. Armstrong , and others all jostling for position! I am reminded of the Scripture in Revelation 2:9 which refers to the blasphemy by those who,
" say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan."
ARE THE TWELVE TRIBES OF REVELATION SEVEN LITERAL?
Christians prefer to believe the Bible, first of all literally, if that is possible. "But wait!" the cults say, "the list that follows the number 144,000 is NOT a literal list of the twelve tribes of Israel. It was pointed out to me by a Jewish Rabbi that the lists of the twelve tribes of Israel differ throughout Scripture. Sometimes the original twelve names found in Genesis 49 are not used, but descendants further down the line are used in place of an original name.
For example, we will look at the tribe of Joseph. You will recall that Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt, married, and had two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. When he was reunited with his father, Jacob (Israel), his father claimed these two sons as his own, and thereafter we usually find the tribe of Joseph not mentioned, but the two sons mentioned in his place. This would bring the total of the tribes of Israel to thirteen, not twelve. To keep the number at twelve, the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe, is generally omitted in some Scriptural and historical lists.
The listing of the twelve tribes of Israel found in Revelation, chapter seven, is interesting in that it lists Joseph, the father, in place of one of his sons Ephraim, but goes on to list the other son, Manasseh as a tribe. Levi, who is sometimes omitted, is found in Revelation 7:7, and the tribe of Dan is omitted. The number of the tribes remains at twelve. This, however, is a LITERAL list of the twelve tribes of Israel and is just as correct as the other literal lists in the Bible.
WHY ARE EPHRAIM AND DAN MISSING?
There are various speculations as to why Ephriam and Dan are not mentioned here. It is interesting that both tribes were guilty of idolatry, namely the setting up of calf worship, and causing division in the ten-tribe revolt. Judas Iscariot was from the tribe of Dan, and some believe that the Anti-Christ will come from the tribe of Dan.
Whatever the reasons, the omissions of Dan and Ephraim from the list in Revelation, chapter seven, does not constitute a reason for claiming the list is not literal and correct. When the prophet Ezekiel lists the tribes living in the Kingdom Age, we again find Dan and Ephraim with their portion. Most recognized Bible scholars agree that the number 144,000 and the listing of the twelve tribes of Israel, are literal and are to be understood as written.
144,000 WITH THE LAMB
With this literal understanding in mind, let's turn over to Revelation, chapter 14, and read about the Lamb and the 144,000 on Mount Zion. This is a heavenly scene.
"And I looked and behold the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps.
And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty- four thousand who had been purchased from the earth."
Verse 4 of Revelation 14 now goes on to identify these 144,000 who had been purchased from the earth.
WHO ARE THE 144,000?
"These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste."
Believing this literally, we must look for 144,000 male virgins who are Israelites by birth. Verse 4 continues,
"These are the ones who follow the Lamb where ever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb."
Again, literally, we must look for men who closely follow the Lamb, not only in the matter of being chaste, as was Jesus, but really giving a true witness of the Lamb.
It's interesting that most of the cult groups who claim to encompass the 144,000 do anything BUT give a true witness of Jesus Christ. Jehovah's Witnesses claim Jesus is Michael the Archangel. The young "Elders" of the Mormon Church claim Jesus Christ is the offspring of an exalted man from a distant planet, and that Lucifer is Christ's spirit brother. Truly, we could hardly expect to find the 144,000 among any of the cult groups misrepresenting Christ.
THE 144,000 ARE NOT LIARS
Revelation 14:5 makes this plain statement concerning the 144,000 Jewish men, "And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless" It is a simple matter to take this statement and see if it applies to the groups claiming to be the 144,000 or a "remnant" thereof. The Watch Tower Society of Jehovah's Witnesses has missed the date for the second coming of Christ in 1874, 1914, 1918, 1925, 1941, and 1975. We could safely say that not only was a lie to be found in their mouths, but they fail miserably the Bible test for a prophet. The Mormons, headquartered in Salt Lake City, also missed the date for the second coming of Christ in 1891. The personal conduct of some of the other cult leaders claiming to be the 144,000 leave no doubt as to their inability to meet the requirements of being "chaste" or virtuous.
THE NATURAL JEWS
Apparently God is not finished with the natural Jews yet. There are many prophecies that are partly fulfilled on the literal nation of Israel, and we await their total fulfillment, not figuratively, but literally.
The Bible foretells the literal coming of Christ again, and we should all be aware of the events that will happen literally to this earth and its peoples. There is security in the coming tribulation, and if you are not sure of your place of safety, please write to us for further discussion.
THE 144,000 AND THE GREAT CROWD OR MULTITUDE
After dealing with the 144,000 in Revelation, chapter seven, the account continues in Verses 9 and 10,
"After these things I looked, and behold a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb".
WHO ARE THE GREAT MULTITUDE?
Who are these people who comprise the great multitude? We see from the Scriptures just cited that they are out of every nation and they have salvation.
According to the Jehovah's Witnesses, these are the persons who will survive the Battle of Armageddon and live on the earth, namely them only. They will receive their salvation by being members of their organization and faithfully selling their various publications. This, they believe will entitle them to be an earthly member of this great multitude. A Watchtower magazine invited all to "Come to Jehovah's Organization for Salvation".
WHERE IS THE GREAT MULTITUDE?
The actual location of the great multitude is of prime importance. Are they on earth, as the J.W.'s teach, or are they in heaven?
Let's look in Scripture for the location of this great crowd. Revelation 7:9 says that the great crowd are standing "BEFORE THE THRONE" and "BEFORE THE LAMB". Is this an earthly location or a heavenly one? Well, we know the Lamb is in heaven, and Revelation chapter seven is a heavenly scene from verses nine through seventeen. The great crowd are before the throne of God and the Lamb. In exactly the same scene, verse 11 continues, "and" (please notice little words like "and", as they indicate a continuation of the same description),
"and all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces BEFORE THE THRONE and worshipped God".
Now, either the angels, elders, and four living creatures, and the throne of God are on earth with the great crowd, OR, more reasonably, the great crowd is in HEAVEN, where the angels, elders, four living creatures, and the throne of God are located.
ALL ARE "BEFORE THE THRONE"
There is never any argument over the location of the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation, chapters seven and fourteen. All cult groups readily admit that THEY are in heaven. This being the case, let's look at a Bible description of the location of the 144,000. Revelation, chapter 14 verse 3, says the 144,000 are "BEFORE THE THRONE". Remember the location of the great crowd just considered? They are also "BEFORE THE THRONE".
Either the Bible is wrong, or the cult is wrong. The 144,000 and the great crowd are in EXACTLY THE SAME LOCATION. I prefer to believe the clear word of the Lord through His beloved Apostle John, rather than some self-appointed false prophet.
Reading on in Revelation, chapter seven, to get the entire picture, rather than isolating texts to put our own interpretation on them, we find both the great crowd and the 144,000 joining the angels, elders, and living creatures in a great scene of heavenly worship. Verse 12 records all of them saying,
"Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen."
THEY COME OUT OF TRIBULATION
The Bible continues to answer our questions regarding the great crowd. Verse 13 of Revelation 7 records,
"And one of the elders answered saying to me, "Those who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and from where have they come?" And I said to him, "My lord, you know". And he said to me "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb".
Let's stop here and consider for a moment the context.
GREAT CROWD BLOOD-WASHED
The great crowd are made up of persons who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. They are blood- washed Christians, no doubt about that! In the cult groups the emphasis for salvation is on their particular organization, and not on Jesus Christ. Jehovah's Witnesses claiming to be of the great crowd class cannot even use Jesus Christ as their mediator. They must go through the "remnant of the 144,000" as Jesus, it is claimed, is a mediator only for this elite class! How sad.
REFUSING TO BE BLOOD-WASHED
Jehovah's Witnesses making up this "earthly" great crowd class not only work hard, striving to achieve salvation by their works for their organization, but they are refused communion by their taskmasters. Once a year they pass the bread and wine in their meetings, called the "Lord's Evening Meal", but no one professing to be a member of the great crowd is allowed to partake of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ as He commanded. (1 Cor. 10 : 23 - 26).
They are, in fact, refused the benefits of the shed blood of Christ. By this action, Jehovah's Witnesses show that they are not members of the Body of Christ, His true Church. They are also disqualifying themselves as members of the great crowd of Revelation! How dangerous and tragic it is when we do not read scripture for ourselves, but blindly accept the twisted interpretations of some leader!
THE TABERNACLE OF GOD
Verse 15 of Revelation, chapter 7, goes on to say of this blood- washed great crowd,
"For this reason they are BEFORE THE THRONE of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them".
Again the great crowd are "before the throne", the same location exactly as the 144,000. Notice that the great crowd are serving God day and night in his temple, and that God spreads his TABERNACLE or TENT over them. Again we ask the question, WHERE is this happening? In heaven, or on earth? Where is the location of God's TABERNACLE or tent? Watchtower headquarters would tell its people that the location is earth, but what does the Bible say?
Revelation, chapter 13, tells of the beast speaking. Verse 6 says,
"And he (the beast) opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His TABERNACLE, that is, THOSE WHO DWELL IN HEAVEN".
Yes there is no mistaking the clear truth of Scripture, the tabernacle of God is in heaven, not on earth.
WILL YOU BE PART OF THE GREAT CROWD?
If you want to be a part of the great crowd, then you must be a blood-washed Christian and you must be prepared to live in heaven before the throne of God and of the Lamb. There will be no great crowd on earth, for that is NOT the Biblical location for the great crowd. Trust the word of God rather than an organization.
WORDS OF COMFORT
Revelation 7:16 continues with the promises for the great crowd in heaven with these comforting words,
"They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore, neither shall the sun beat down on them nor any heat, for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes."
The Watchtower organization makes these promises for their so- called earthly crowd, but the Bible makes these promises for the heavenly great crowd. Believe the word of God and live.
LOCATION OF THE LAMB
Another important truth taught in this Scripture is the location of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. He is found in various locations throughout Revelation, sometimes at the right hand of God, but here it says that the Lamb is in the "center of the throne". He could not be in the center of the throne unless He is truly God. Regardless of what the cults say, Jesus Christ is plainly called "God" in Scripture, and is the object of heavenly worship. If you refuse to worship Jesus while you are on earth, you can hardly expect to be part of the great crowd in heaven actively engaged in the worship of the Lamb in the center of the throne.
BE GUIDED TO THE WATERS OF LIFE
Notice also that verse 17 says that Jesus Christ, the Lamb, is the shepherd who will guide the great crowd to the waters of life. Who is guiding you? Is it some organization claiming to be the faithful and discreet slave? If so, it is not their place to be telling you how to get the waters of life. That is the job of the shepherd, Jesus Christ, who said of Himself,
"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life". (John 14:6).
Do you call the teachings of your organization "the truth"? If so, you are giving them a title that belongs only to Jesus Christ. Let's look to Jesus Christ alone, be washed in His blood, be a member of His body, and be part of the great crowd in heaven.
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