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The Revelation - Book 5

A study of Revelation 13-15. This is book 5 of an 8 part book series.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 8

The 144,000

Revelation 13 gave us a broad sketch of prophetic history. The first beast covered 42 prophetic months (1,260 years), primarily from 529-1789 A.D. The second beast overthrew the first beast, but then used it as a religious front in order to hide its true power and influence in the background. This beast has also used many other organizations (such as Freemasonry) as fronts to hide its intentions. While the first beast is primarily the religious beast of Rome, the second beast is the secular beast primarily led by high-level banking families, visibly led by the Rothschilds.

Since the earth beast is the last power to rule the earth prior to the time when the saints are given the Dominion Mandate, Revelation 13 takes us to the present time and to the manifestation of the overcomers. It is this event that will fully destroy the Babylonian world system.

Revelation 13 brings us to the end of the beast systems insofar as prophetic history is concerned. After this, in Revelation 14-19, John speaks primarily of the overthrow of the beast systems and their spiritual city, “Babylon,” along with the rise of the overcomers. So this marks the end of the main historical section of the book of Revelation.

Who are the 144,000?

The overcomers are called to bring a world-wide teaching that will spark a tremendous move of the Holy Spirit among the nations. It will be a grass-roots movement and will begin from the bottom, working its way up. It will not begin as a conversion of world leaders, where those leaders then force Christ upon those under their authority.

Revelation 14:1 begins with a vision of the overcomers:

1 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.

These are the overcomers, not the Church in general. In fact, keeping in mind that John wrote this without separating his book into chapters, we can see that “the Lamb” in Rev. 14:1 stands in contrast to the earth beast which has “two horns like a lamb” (Rev. 13:11). The true Lamb (arnion) replacing the counterfeit is not only Jesus Christ (the Head) but also includes His body of overcomers.

As for which tribe of Israel each person is, there is hardly a way today that anyone can tell by natural means. Revelation 7 tells us that there are 12,000 from each tribe. It is often assumed that the only way to be a member of a tribe of Israel is to be a genealogical descendant of one of the 12 patriarchs of Israel. However, this is not the case, because when God cast Israel out of the land in 721 B.C., He stripped them of the right to the name Israel, because the people did not live up to that name. To be an Israelite requires faith.

God divorced the House of Israel and sent her out of the house, according to the law in Deut. 24:1-5. The only way for any ex-Israelite to be remarried and to regain “chosen” status is through the New Covenant. Even this is a two-step process, first through Judah and then through Israel.

Paul tells us in Rom. 2:28, 29 that “he is not a Jew who is one outwardly,” and, conversely, “he is a Jew who is one inwardly.” Paul was speaking legally, not genealogically. It may also be said that Paul was speaking spiritually, because “the law is spiritual” (Rom. 7:14). That which is truly spiritual is not distinct from the law, but in fact is bound to the law. In the sight of God there is no such thing as lawless spirituality. It is only when men misunderstand the law that their practice becomes legalistic. True spirituality is lawful.

The law always trumps genealogy. There were genuine tribal members of the House of Israel who could be expelled from Israel if they committed certain sins and remained unrepentant. The law says such a man was to be “cut off from among his people” (Lev. 17:4). On the other hand, foreigners always had the option of coming under Israel’s covenant and becoming citizens of Israel (Isaiah 56:6-8).

Step One is to become a “Jew,” that is, a part of Judah, by faith in its true King and by declaring loyalty to Him alone. The ceremony of Baptism essentially is the oath of citizenship. Their vow expresses faith and loyalty, giving them citizenship in the tribe of Judah. Those who do this are generally known as “the church.”

Step Two is to become an Israelite, and this title is given to those who carry its testimony. Israel means “God rules.” In The Companion Bible Dr. Bullinger tells us in his notes for Gen. 32:28,

Israel—‘God commands, orders, or rules.’ Man attempts it but always, in the end, fails. Out of some forty Hebrew names compounded with ‘El’ or ‘Jah’, God is always the doer of what the verb means (cp. Dani-el, God judges).

Jacob did not become an Israelite until he was about 98 years old. Up to that time, he had certainly been a believer in the God of his fathers, but he still did not understand the sovereignty of God. For this reason, he attempted to help God fulfill the prophecy given before he was born (Gen. 25:23) by deceiving his father (Gen. 27:19, 24). By his wits Jacob overcame his father, his brother, and his uncle Laban. Then he wrestled with an angel, and when he lost the match, he overcame. He won by losing, or rather, he won by coming to the realization that in all of his striving up to that point, he had been fighting God without knowing it. He finally realized that God did not need his carnal help to fulfill His promises. That is true faith, and it is what made him an overcomer.

Jacob, then, was a type of the church; Israel was a type of overcomer. Not all Jacobites are Israelites. Most Christians have insufficient faith to be an overcomer, and for this reason they still strive, not knowing how to enter God’s rest (Heb. 4:9-11). There are also other characteristics of an overcomer, which I discussed in my book, How to be an Overcomer.

We conclude, then, that the 144,000 overcomers are not exclusively genealogical Israelites, but include people of every nation that qualify as overcomers. It is certainly NOT the case that these are 144,000 people whom men today call “Jews.” The popular idea is absurd that “gentiles” will be raptured out of the earth, leaving 144,000 Jewish evangelists to preach the Gospel to those who (they say) cannot be converted anyway because the Holy Spirit has been removed from the earth.

No, this chapter on the 144,000 comes naturally at the close of the earth beast’s dominion. We know from Dan. 7:21, 22 that the little horn “was waging war with the saints and overpowering them until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom.” These saints who are given the Dominion Mandate are the 144,000 in Revelation 14, who arise after the end of the time of the little horn in Revelation 13.

His Name on Their Foreheads

Rev. 14:1 tells us that the overcomers have “His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.” God has put His name in many places throughout history. We see His name first on the tabernacle at the Ephraimite town of Shiloh (Josh. 18:1) Later, because of corruption, God removed His name from that place and moved it to Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem (Psalm 78:60-68).

A few centuries later, God removed His name from Jerusalem, like He had done earlier with Shiloh (Jer. 7:12-15; 26:6; Ezekiel 10, 11). God then hired the king of Babylon to destroy that temple. Seventy years later, when the second temple was built in the days of Ezra and Zerubbabel, the glory did not fill that temple. God did not place His name there, nor could He, because He had forsaken that place “like Shiloh.” He never returned to Shiloh, but pronounced “Ichabod” over it, for the glory had departed.

He did not glorify the second temple, because He was waiting for a better temple made of living stones. He filled this new temple on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. From that time on, His name was written on our foreheads, not upon any external temple made of wood and stone. Rev. 3:12 says,

12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it any more; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.

God no longer writes His name upon houses made of wood and stone. He has finally purchased His dream house—the overcomers—for He has always longed to indwell human flesh and to glorify Himself in us. So Rev. 22:4 says,

4 and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.

This is not a temporary situation. This will not end with the building of a third (physical) temple in Jerusalem. Christ does not intend to vacate His dream house and go back to a mundane building at the place that was defiled in the days of Jeremiah. Men may build a structure there, but no one can force God to live there. He will do as He has said in His word.

The 144,000 Harpers

Revelation 14:2, 3 says,

2 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. 3 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.

This description of the overcomers is quite different from the one back in Revelation 7, which described them in military terms. There the 144,000 were “sealed” in their foreheads. In ancient times a general would review the troops after a battle and place a mark on the forehead of each one who came through the battle unscathed. It signified that this one was divinely protected.

But here in Revelation 14 we see a different picture of the overcomers. They are pictured as musicians playing harps and singing “a new song.” Are these the same overcomers as the ones in Rev. 7? Yes, but. . .

The best way to understand the New Testament is to understand the Old Testament. They confirm each other and explain each other. In most cases, the Old Testament has dark sayings that are written as types and shadows, and they need a New Testament understanding. But sometimes the New Testament is unclear without knowing the types and shadows of the Old Testament.

In this case, the book of Revelation is portraying aspects of the emerging Kingdom of God in the earth. In the Old Testament this is pictured in the kingdom of David, especially as we contrast it with the Kingdom of Saul. In David’s kingdom we find that he had both an army and a choir, and these were types and shadows of the overcomers pictured in Revelation 7 and 14. In 1 Chron. 27:1 we read,

1 Now this is the enumeration of the sons of Israel, the heads of fathers’ households, the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and their officers who served the king in all the affairs of the divisions which came in and went out month by month throughout all the months of the year, each division numbering 24,000.

The rest of the chapter explains how each tribe was responsible for one month out of the year to supply 24,000 men for military service. The troops rotated every month for 12 months. This means that David had an army of 288,000 men. (24,000 x 12 = 288,000)

Strangely enough, this is double 144,000. But this coincidence is still more striking when we read about David’s choir in 1 Chron. 25:7,

7 And their number who were trained in singing to the Lord, with their relatives, all who were skillful, was 288.

So David had a choir of 288, and a military of 288,000. Can this be just a coincidence? Why is the number doubled from 144 and 144,000? I believe that it indicates two groups of overcomers, each with 144,000 in them. I realize that the number may simply be purely symbolic, rather than literal. But since these are the numbers given to us, we will speak as though these are literal numbers of people.

The Meaning of 288

The number 288 is associated in the Bible with the overcomers in various ways. In Lev. 19:20, the Hebrew word charaph (“betrothed”) has a numeric value of 288. This suggests that the number has to do with those called to be the bride of Christ.

In Gen. 1:2 the Spirit of God “moved” (rachaph) upon the face of the waters. Rachaph has a numeric value of 288. This word is of interest because it has to do with the action of the Holy Spirit over creation. The same word is used in Deut. 32:11, where God is pictured as an eagle, “As an eagle stirreth up [rachaph] her nest.”

In the New Testament, we have these examples:

1. 2 Timothy 1:9, “a holy calling” = 288.

2. Matthew 25:21, “the joy of the Lord” = 2880.

3. Revelation 21:9, “the Bride, the Lamb’s wife” = 2880.

In addition to these, Gen. 24:22 speaks of the two bracelets that Eleazar gave to Rebekah when he went to find a bride for Isaac. The Hebrew word for “bracelet” is tsamid, which has a numeric value of 144. He gave her TWO bracelets, which suggests the number 144 x 2, or 288.

Rebekah is a type and shadow of “the Bride, the Lamb’s wife,” even as Isaac, who was placed on the altar of sacrifice on Mount Moriah, represents Christ. Abraham sent Eleazar to find a bride for Isaac. Eleazar means “God helps,” and speaks of the Holy Spirit, who is our Helper, the Advocate, or “Comforter” (John14:16).

In fact, Eleazar is the Hebrew form of the Greek name Lazarus (John 11). Lazarus, the resurrected one, has a numeric value of 144.

There are many interesting things that can be seen in biblical mathematics, which help us to understand the meaning of the text itself. The number 288 is associated with the action of the Holy Spirit that prepares the Bride for her holy calling as the Lamb’s wife.

But also, the prominence of the number 288 in David’s kingdom as well as in biblical mathematics shows us that there are two groups of 144,000 for a total of 288,000. Whether the number is to be understood literally or to be viewed as purely symbolic, we should understand that there are two manifestations of overcomers.

The Male and Female Theme

As we noted earlier in our study of Revelation 7, the first group of 144,000 were associated with the military and with the seal of God on their foreheads. In those days women did not enter military service, and so this was a “male” theme. But in Revelation 14, we see that the overcomers are portrayed in “female” terms. Verse 4 says (KJV),

4 These are they which were not defiled with [meta, “among, or amidst”] women, for they are virgins….

Take note that this verse does NOT tell us that these are men who have not been defiled BY women. There have been some small sects in the past who used this verse to teach against marriage, as if to say that if you want to be an overcomer, you cannot marry. Their teaching was based largely upon a misunderstanding of the Greek word, meta, used in Rev. 14:4. Those sects, of course, died out within a generation.

Women are not defiling to men. God sanctified marriage at the beginning, and there is nothing wrong with having sexual relations within the bonds of lawful marriage. Meta does not mean “with” in the sense of “by,” as if women cause defilement. Rather “with” is in the sense of “among or amidst.” Hence, these “virgins” are women.

For example, Matt. 1:23 says, “God with us,” that is, among us or in our midst—or even IN us. It does not mean God BY us in any causal sense. In Matt. 2:3, Herod “was troubled, and all Jerusalem with [meta] him.” It does not mean to say Jerusalem was troubled BY Herod, but rather, along with Him. If we remove the words added to the text by the translators, a more literal rendering of Rev. 14:3, 4 is:

3 … no one was able to learn the song except the 144,000—those having been bought from the earth, those among women not defiled; for they are virgins.

I obtained this data from Wilson’s The Emphatic Diaglott, which is a good literal translation of the New Testament. So if I may paraphrase this, it says that these are the ones redeemed, or bought from the earth among women who have not been defiled, for they are virgins. In the Bible, the term “virgin” is never applied to men. It is the virgin women who are undefiled in this verse.

It is unfortunate that men have translated this verse to make it say that men are defiled by marrying women. Scripture does not say this.

The overcomers are portrayed here as virgin women. The rest of verse 4 says,

4 These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.

The idea of “following the Lamb” indicates a female theme as well, since in those days it was customary for the women to follow behind their husband as they walked, even as disciples followed their master while traveling. In this case, we are all part of the Bride of Christ, whether we are men or women in the natural. And as overcomers, we “follow the Lamb wherever He goes.”

It seems to me that if the number 144,000 were to be taken as a literal number, then this would suggest that there will be 144,000 men and 144,000 women who are overcomers, for a total of 288,000.

If the number is not literal, then at the very least it shows that both men and women are overcomers, and that we all have both spiritual roles to play in different ways. It may even suggest an equal number of men and women who are overcomers. Whether we are men or women, we are all part of the Bride of Christ in that we are called to bring the Manchild to birth. Yet we are also called to rule with Christ in His throne as part of His Body. In that role, we are all male, whether we are men or women physically.

Hence, relative to Christ (the Head), we are female, because we follow His lead. But relative to the rest of creation, we are male, because the overcomers are their leaders, called to rule the Kingdom. In regard to spiritual matters, Paul says in Gal. 3:28 that we are neither male nor female. We transcend gender in the spirit, because, actually, we are both.

Jesus Christ in the Prophetic Law

The law prophesies of Christ. Nowhere is this more evident than in the laws of sacrifice. Jesus came to die on the cross as the final Sacrifice prophesied by all of the previous sacrifices. The law tells us that sacrifices on behalf of the congregation (the bride of Christ) were to be made with a female goat, while sacrifices done on behalf of the leaders were to be made with a male goat.

Of leaders, Lev. 4:22-24 says,

22 When a leader sins… 23 … he shall bring for his offering a goat, a male without defect.

Of the congregation, Lev. 4:27, 28 says,

27 Now if anyone of the common people sins… 28 … he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without defect.

Jesus fulfilled all of the sacrifices, both male and female. Jesus Himself came as a male, of course, and let no man accuse Him of being transgender. Paul says “the law is spiritual,” and that there is no gender as such in the spiritual realm. As the sacrifice for sin, Jesus fulfilled in one act all of the types and shadows set forth in the law, because He was to be the sacrifice for the congregation and the leaders alike.

The Passover lamb was to be “an unblemished male” (Exodus 12:5), and this festival set the appointed time for Christ to die on the cross. However, the location of the cross on the Mount of Olives, was set by the law of the red heifer—a female burnt offering (Num. 19:2). So Jesus was crucified “outside the camp” (Num. 19:3; Heb. 13:11-13) at the place where the ashes of the red heifer were kept.

Hence, the law made provision for both male and female, each having an important purpose, role, and revelation. When this is applied to the two groups of 144,000, we see that Revelation 7 describes the overcomers in male (i.e., military) terms, whereas Revelation 14 describes the overcomers in female terms as they sing the new song and follow the Lamb.

This indicates first that both men and women can be and will be overcomers. Secondly, it shows that all overcomers play a dual role in spiritual matters, even as Jesus did in fulfilling the laws regarding male and female sacrifice. Thirdly, if these numbers should prove to be not only symbolic but also literal, it would suggest 144,000 men and 144,000 women who are overcomers.

The New Song

Revelation 14:3 says,

3 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.

Only the overcomers “could learn the song.” The song is a revelation—perhaps a specific truth or set of truths that are ingrained within the hearts of the overcomers. If these were mere words of a song, then most people would be able to learn the song. But it is obviously not so simple as that. This is no mere performance. It is the song of one’s life, one’s heart, one’s experience with God. Even as the prophetic word is an expression of the heart of God and reveals who He is, so also is this new prophetic song an expression of the heart of the overcomers.

The metaphor itself portrayed the practice of having singers in the temple, Levites trained in music, who sang various psalms on appropriate occasions. As we said earlier, David had 288 musicians in his temple choir. After Solomon built the temple, these musicians sang on the steps of the temple “before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders” (Rev. 14:3).

In Rev. 15:3, 4 we are told that “they sang the song of Moses the bondservant of God and the song of the Lamb.” The theme of this song (or songs) has to do with the works of God and the ultimate response from all nations. “All the nations will come and worship before Thee.” This is a reference to the great scene in Rev. 5:13,

13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”

Hence, the song is about universal reconciliation, where all nations worship God as a response to His “great and marvelous” works and His “righteous acts.” In other words, this song is bound up in the New Covenant, which is God’s oath to save all nations, all mankind, and all of creation. This great oath is seen clearly in many places, including the second covenant in Deut. 29:10-15. Here God told all the people to gather together, men, women, children, aliens, in order that they might enter “His oath which the Lord your God is making with you today.”

Deut. 29:14, 15 says that this oath was not limited to those present, but included all “those who are not with us here today.” Thus, the psalms later foretold the gathering of all nations to worship Christ, and the New Testament says that Christ has reconciled all of creation to Himself (Heb. 2:8). These are the righteous acts of God in fulfillment of His oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deut. 29:13), and this is the main thrust of the “new song.”

First Fruits to God

Rev. 14:4 also says that these overcomers are “first fruits to God and to the Lamb.” The law of first fruits says that the harvest cannot begin until the first fruits have been given to God (Lev. 23:14). Likewise, the first fruits sanctify the harvest, “for if the first fruit be holy, the lump is also holy” (Rom.11:16).

The overcomers are first fruits, a cross section of the harvest. During inspection, if the first fruits are found worthy (ripe), the whole harvest is sanctified. In other words, when the overcomers are presented to God and pronounced “holy,” it matters not how unholy the rest of the world is at the time, because the holiness of the first fruits sanctify the entire harvest according to the law.

The Gospel of Truth

We will see later that after the overcomers are manifested, the angels go forth with the gospel to all the nations. Rev. 14:5 continues,

5 And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.

This means that an overcomer is honest. He does not have delusions of grandeur, but fulfills the word in Rom. 12:3,

3 For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

Conversely, an overcomer does not underestimate himself, but is bold in the knowledge of his or her position in Christ. In fact, Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12 (above) is his introduction to a discussion about the use of one’s spiritual gifts and callings.

To fulfill one’s calling requires a realistic view of one’s self, seeing himself as God sees him. It does not mean that he or she now knows the complete truth or believes only correct doctrine—except, no doubt, after the glorification of the body has taken place. But an overcomer is contrasted to “all liars” (Rev. 21:8) who will be judged in the “lake of fire” to purify their hearts of all lies.

In Rev. 22:15 we read that outside the New Jerusalem is “everyone who loves and practices lying.” Such lying is deliberate to the point where it is done unconsciously, and the person has come to believe his own lies.