TEXT: Revelation 7:1-8
1 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.
2 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,
3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
4 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.
5 Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.
6 Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nephthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand.
7 Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.
8 Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
Israel in the End Times: The 144,000 Witnesses (Part 1)
Over the previous ten messages, we have been looking at Israel in the end times, and specifically God’s promise that “all Israel will be saved.” Well, that was just the first part of this series. As I mentioned in the first message, there are two other aspects regarding what will happen to Israel in the last days that are spoken of in the Bible. As a reminder, here are all three:
1. The national conversion of Israel to Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
2. The conversion of Gentiles who are living during the Tribulation through the witness of the Jews.
3. The fulfillment of the Davidic covenant through the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom.
Today, we are going to begin looking at the second part of God’s three-fold plan for the children of Israel in the end times. The primary passage regarding the Jewish witnesses whom God will use to convert many Gentiles to Christ during the last days, is found in Revelation chapter 7. We will be looking at this entire passage as well as Revelation chapter 14. Revelation 7 shows the calling of the witnesses as well as the result of their work on the earth. Revelation 14 shows us what happens to these witnesses after their work on earth is complete. We are going to start out by looking at the first 8 verses of Revelation chapter 7 as we answer the questions: Where do these witnesses come from? Who are they? And how are they called?
So where do the 144,000 witnesses come from? The Bible states, “After these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.” When John says, “after these things,” what is he referring to? John is relating to us his visions of the time known as the Great Tribulation which will occur after the Rapture of the Church. In Revelation 6, he shared the first six seal judgments which depict things that will happen on earth at the beginning of the Tribulation period: (1) the arrival of the Antichrist, (2) war, (3) famine, (4) death, (5) the martyrdom of believers, (6) a worldwide earthquake. Now, before he goes on with the seventh seal, which will usher in the seven trumpet judgments, John tells us that he sees something else happening on the earth.
He sees four angels standing on the “four corners of the earth” temporarily preventing further destruction from taking place. The term “four corners of the earth” is a metaphorical expression for the entire world indicating that the ‘servants of God’ will come from all over the planet. Another angel ‘ascends from the east’, carrying the seal of God and telling the four angels, “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.”
What is the significance of the seal? In ancient times, a seal was used for certification, concealment, and protection. When a king or an important official sent a letter, they would stamp their seal on it so the recipient would know that it truly came from them. The seal would also let the recipient know whether or not the letter had been opened or tampered with in any way. When Jesus’ body was put in the tomb, the large stone that was rolled across the opening was stamped with a seal in order to show the Roman government’s authority. The seal said, ‘No one can open this tomb without explicit permission from the one who placed the seal on the stone.’
The Bible Exposition Commentary states that the seal carried by the angel in this passage “indicates ownership and protection. The 144,000 will receive the Father’s name as their seal, in contrast to the ‘mark of the beast’ that the Antichrist will give those who follow him. This seal will protect them from the judgments that will ‘hurt the earth and the sea.’ Protected from these awful judgments, the 144,000 will be able to do their work and glorify the Lord.” Time and time again in Scripture, we have seen that God has a way of protecting those who are faithful to Him. He protected Noah from the Flood, Israel from the plagues of Egypt, Elijah from Jezebel’s wrath, and Lot from the judgment of Sodom.
By placing His seal on the 144,000, God marks them as His own: He will protect them from severe judgment and use them for a special purpose during the remainder of the Tribulation. Who are these servants who are marked with God’s seal? John tells us, “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.”
Now, down through the years, there has been a good deal of controversy over who exactly these 144,000 people are. The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that these are all of the people who will go to Heaven to be with God. That is a very depressing interpretation which has no basis in Scripture. A more formidable interpretation has been the view that this number is simply a symbolic number indicating all Christians. Proponents of this view teach that the phrase ‘all the tribes of the children of Israel’ is referring to the church. This view is faulty for several reasons.
1. At this point in the timeline of Revelation, the church has already been raptured to Heaven to be with the Lord. The church is not on earth so they cannot be sealed.
2. As Dr. Robert Thomas states, “No clear-cut example of the church being called ‘Israel’ exists in the New Testament, or in ancient church writings’.
3. John gives a specific number of witnesses in this passage; the number 144,000 is not given any symbolic significance anywhere else in the Bible.
4. As Dr. Thomas also states, those who wish to interpret these 144,000 servants of God as the Gentile church have to go through “ridiculous” interpretive gymnastics in order to squeeze the vast number of Gentile saints into the twelve divisions which John gives beginning in verse 5.
The best way to view this passage is to view it as simply and straightforwardly as it is written — that the 144,000 servants of God who are sealed during the Tribulation are made up of 12,000 Jews from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. In fact, John goes on to tell us specifically that 12,000 Jews from the following tribes are sealed: Juda, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Nephthalim, Manasses, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zabulon, Joseph, and Benjamin. Some have noted that the tribe of Dan is missing from this list and replaced with Levi. The prevalent view is that this tribe was cut off because it was the first to go into idolatry, however we cannot know this for sure. As Dr. Wiersbe states, ‘We must permit God to know ‘the secret things,’ and not allow our ignorance of them to hinder us from understanding and obeying what we do know.’
Another difficulty that some have raised regarding this passage is the idea that no one knows for sure where these twelve tribes are today or how many of each tribe is still in existence. The ten northern tribes of Israel were carried off by Assyria decades before Judah and Benjamin were carried off by Babylon. The ten northern tribes are sometimes referred to as the “lost tribes”. Even today, it is said that no Jewish person can actually trace their lineage back to one of the twelve tribes. Once again, we must leave what we cannot understand to God. As one commentator said, “Even the fact that ten of the tribes were taken by the Assyrians and ‘lost’ is no problem to God. He knows His people and their whereabouts.”
Although the time of the Tribulation will be a period of great persecution for the Jewish people as Satan seeks to destroy God’s people once and for all, the Tribulation period will also be a time when the Jews will fulfill the original mission that God had in mind for them. The 144,000 Jewish witnesses will be a testimony of God’s grace and goodness to the Gentiles around them, many of whom will give in to the devil’s influence and choose to take the mark of the beast and worship the antichrist.
What can the church today take away from this prophetic message? First, we should understand that we, too, are sealed — not by a physical seal on our heads, but by the witness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:13 that after we believed the Gospel, we “were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” We belong to God; we are saved and safe, and one day, He will take us to Heaven to be with Him. In the meantime, while we are on this earth, we ought to make it our business to be the best witnesses for Him that we can be. The devil will stop at nothing to deceive masses of people into following him to death and hell, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can ‘turn many from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God.’
If you are with us today, and you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, allow me to share with you how you can trust Him for salvation so that you can be ready for His return.
First, accept the fact that you are a sinner, and that you have broken God’s law. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Second, accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”
Third, accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Also, the Bible states in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Now that is bad news, but here’s the good news. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can live eternally with Him. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will.
Romans 10:9 & 13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved… For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. I am sorry for my sins, and today I choose to turn from my sins. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. I trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and I choose to follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.
If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door.” Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.
Daniel Whyte III has spoken in meetings across the United States and in over twenty-five foreign countries. He is the author of over forty books. He is also the president of Gospel Light Society International, a worldwide evangelistic ministry that reaches thousands with the Gospel each week, as well as president of Torch Ministries International, a Christian literature ministry which publishes a monthly magazine called The Torch Leader. He is heard by thousands each week on his radio broadcasts/podcasts, which include: The Prayer Motivator Devotional, The Prayer Motivator Minute, as well as Gospel Light Minute X, the Gospel Light Minute, the Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message, the Prophet Daniel’s Report, the Second Coming Watch Update and the Soul-Winning Motivator, among others. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology from Bethany Divinity College, a Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Texas Wesleyan University, a Master’s degree in Religion, a Master of Divinity degree, and a Master of Theology degree from Liberty University School of Divinity. He has been married to the former Meriqua Althea Dixon, of Christiana, Jamaica for over twenty-seven years. God has blessed their union with seven children. Find out more at www.danielwhyte3.com. Follow Daniel Whyte III on Twitter @prophetdaniel3 or on Facebook.