What Does the Bible Say About..The 144,000?
Who are the 144,000 that are mentioned in Revelations?
The book of the Revelation (it is one revelation, not several revelations) mentions one or two groups of 144,000 people. The first is in Revelation 7:2-4. "And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. 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." The passage goes on to list the twelve tribes of Israel and say that 12,000 were sealed from each of the twelve tribes. The second mention of the number is in Revelation 14:1-5. "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. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. 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. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God." These may be the same as the ones in Revelation 7.
But who are they. The passages say they are from the tribes of Israel and that they were the first converts to Christianity. Since the book of the Revelation is a book of symbols, we can tell a couple of things about them. As Jews who were the first converted, they clearly symbolize the church. The number 144,000 is symbolic of a vast number. Almost any time a prophecy speaks of thousands, it should be given this meaning, rather than taking it literally. Since there were twelve tribes and twelve apostles, then 144,000 would probably represent a large number of Jews taught by Jesus followers and converted to belief in Jesus as Messiah. Since they were "firstfruits" they are clearly the first ones converted. Since the Revelation reveals things that are, at John's time, "soon to come to pass" (Revelation 1:1), then these must represent the church that then existed, which are about to resist the power of the Roman Empire.