The Mystery of the 144 000 of Revelation 7 and 14
by Dr. Henderson Ward 9/15/2013 / Christian Living
The mystery of the 144 000 of Revelation 7 and 14 is no great mystery to the well informed; it's a mystery to befuddled minds not understanding the biblical context and it would help if we can begin by stating a profound truth. We might wrestle with each other over some point of truth, we may argue about doctrine and semantics but in truth it all means zilch to God since He NEVER alters reality to suit our fanciful assumptions. This valid point is so often lost when we debate spiritual matters about God and eternity. God does not alter things to suit our perceptions; no matter how sincere may be those perceptions.
Also we must be very careful when examining scripture and when examining the teachings of others, that we do so by upholding sound Christian principles. There is a vast difference between trying to assist and edify believers, to analyse, clarify and apply the word of God in an honest and sincere way (and encourage the unconverted to commit to Jesus Christ) and on the other hand trying in a mean-spirited and censorious manner to disparage others over simple disagreements about minor doctrinal issues.
This writer remains committed to the defence of all major doctrines of the Bible but see little profit in being overly contentious over non-essential issues. It does not matter what your views are about the mystery of the 144 000 of Revelation 7 and 14, for your salvation is not affected one way or the other, but some people are obsessed with understanding every minutiae of the mystery to the extent that it affects their own peace of mind.
That needed to be said because we deceive ourselves when we think we have answers, when the Bible, and hence God, has provided none. In many instances things about which we are curious the Bible remains silent and it's a truism that the Bible does pander to our absurd curiosities. You can read into a passage of scripture anything you like, and some people do so perhaps for self-entertainment, but if you are serious about truth your attitude should be, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." (Psalm 119:18)
When the Bible is silent on a subject, i.e. it gives no details or clarification, then it is wise to remember this mantra, "The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law." (Deuteronomy 29:29)
We sometimes take our presumptions and conjectures for a fact, as if God has opened a secret chamber and showed us things that he has not shown anyone else, and in truth that is naked pride bordering on arrogance. While there will always be room for fresh revelation and new insights, (the Holy Spirit is still active in today's world), God has revealed all we NEED TO KNOW in the Holy Scriptures; things we need to understand to acquire salvation and to live life pleasing to the Almighty God that leads to eternal life.
We put ourselves under God's severest judgments when we add or subtract from God's Holy Word as we are reminded as regards the book of Revelation:
"For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." (Revelation 22:18-19)
Our attitude should always be to check the Bible to see if the things that are being said are true. This was the commendable attitude of the Bereans as they took nothing for granted, not even from the Apostle Paul, "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." (Acts 17:11)
It is unwise to base truth on presumption, and turn it into dogma, for to do so lead many into serious error.
In the Late Middle Ages many people, with the clergy at the forefront, presumed that the earth was at the centre of the universe and therefore all planets, including the sun, must revolve around the earth. This was conjecture based on observations. This notion was taught in books and was normal, conventional, scientific knowledge until Galileo proved otherwise. Galileo's findings attracted the attention of the tribunal for judging heretics (The Inquisition) and he was found guilty of heresy, forbidden to publish, and sentenced to house arrest for life. Galileo was fortunate because in 1600, a philosopher named Giordano Bruno had been burned at the stake for espousing the same ideas. As we know now they all presumed wrong and Galileo was fully exonerated.
That happened because powerful people made presumptions and then turned around and judged the world based on those presumptions.
Let us take a couple examples of this foolish trend of basing truth on presumptions and see how it leads to error:
Take Genesis 4:16-17. "And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch."
The Bible never told us whom Cain married and many presumed, wrongly, that his wife was a monkey because there were no women living in the land of Nod at the time.
Take another example: Genesis 3:5, "For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."
The foolish believe that man can become God, a primitive belief that came from the unenlightened minds of illiterates and were bolstered by the philosophical minds of degenerates peddling Greek myths. Some people even now still believe that we can become gods.
One of the earliest dilemmas facing Paul was his confrontation with the Gnostics who believed that man could elevate himself through knowledge to the realm of God and become eternal. They saw no need for Christ and salvation, just the determined pursuit of knowledge and its transforming power. For this concept Paul told the Colossians, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." (Colossians 2:8-9)
A lot of the confusion surrounding the 144, 000 of Revelation 7 and 14, due in part to the teachings of Jehovah Witnesses, is a lack of understanding what Heaven is all about. So let us state some important truths consistent with a right understanding of Scripture regarding Heaven.
Heaven is a place not a concept or condition - "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name." (Matthew 6:9)
Jesus Christ came from there - "The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven." (1 Corinthians 15:47)
Jesus Christ is there now - "But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." (Acts 7:55-56)
Jesus Christ will come again from there - "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first" (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
St. Paul visited Heaven for a short time during an out-of-body experience following a brutal stoning at Lystra - "And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead." (Acts 14:19) "I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (2 Corinthians 12:2-4)
Paradise (where the righteous dead went) that was believed to be in the bowels of the earth is now in Heaven - "Finally the beggar died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham in the place of the righteous dead. The rich man also died and was buried." (Luke 16:20 Living Bible) "Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive [He took the righteous dead/Paradise with him], and gave gifts unto men." (Ephesians 4:8)
Because Paradise is now in Heaven Paul could say this, "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better..." (Philippians 1:23)
People, human beings, believers will go to Heaven - "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." (John 14:2) Even if some people think that John 14:2 applies to the Apostles only then this next scripture should lay that serious error to rest, "And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 8:11-12)
So what about the 144 000 of Revelation 7 and 14?
The 144 000 of Revelation 7 and 14 is either a literal or symbolic representation of Jews and you can believe which one you wish. I go along with the view that the 144 000 is purely symbolic for two reasons.
First the book of Revelation was written by St. John to assure the seven churches in Asia that they would survive the brutal Roman oppression. The seven churches in Asia had Jewish majorities and the Romans, being Gentiles, the fear was that the Jewish Christians would be wiped out. John was in fact telling them that a great number of them would be saved and he saw the saved ones occupying the portals of heaven along with all the other saints. It was simply a message of assurance and comfort.
The second reason for believing that the 144 000 is purely symbolic is because they are all MEN. It is beyond foolish to think that no Jewish women will be in Heaven. How do I know that they are all men?
The 144 000 is mentioned again in Revelation 14 like this, "And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads." (Revelation 14:1)
Referring to these same people here is what is said, "These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb." (Revelation 14:4)
The symbolism in these verses is crystal clear; the Lamb is not a young sheep but a symbol of Christ, virgins is a symbol of purity (2 Corinthians 11:2) and the 144,000 a symbol of saved Jews. If any of this is taken literally it would mean that married men, like the Apostle Peter, Moses and Abraham would be excluded from Heaven - a very absurd notion.
Finally if all saved Jews will reside in Heaven then what about non-Jews. Remember what Jesus Christ said in Matthew 8:11-12 and here is how John saw the representation of that same group, "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; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." (Revelation 7:8-9)
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013