Let’s read Revelation 7:1-3: “After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree. Then 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 granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads’” (NKJV). The scene before us takes place in the upcoming 7-year Tribulation Period when God’s judgments upon this Christ-rejecting world will fall. At this point in time there have already been six “seal judgments” (see Revelation chapter 6), but before the seventh seal is opened, which will introduce the “Great Tribulation” God seals His servants who will be His witnesses to the world of the coming kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. The “seal on their foreheads” marks them out as belonging to God and it also guarantees their preservation throughout the rest of the Tribulation.

Now let’s read verses 4-8: “And I heard the number of those who were sealed. ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY FOUR THOUSAND of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed: of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed.”

Here we learn, in clear and simple language, that God will seal 144,000 Jews, 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes that make up the nation of Israel. Some have given these verses a symbolic meaning, saying that we shouldn’t take this number literally, but that it simply represents a large number of Jews who will be chosen by God to serve Him. Others go even further in their symbolism and state that the “12 tribes” are not speaking of Jews, but that they symbolize “the church” (even though the church is not mentioned again after Revelation chapter 3). I learned a long time ago to “take Scripture literally unless the context demands a symbolic meaning.” In this case, there is nothing to prevent us from taking every word LITERALLY. So, what we are learning here is that after the Rapture of the church, God will resume His dealings with Israel and that He will choose exactly 12,000 Jews from each of the 12 tribes to be His faithful witnesses to the nations. They will preach the “gospel of the kingdom” and their message will be received by countless Gentiles, as seen in verses 9-10: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’.

We mentioned that the seal in the forehead of God’s servants guaranteed them protection through the Tribulation, both from the judgments that will fall and from those who would seek to kill them. In Revelation 14:1 this “Divine Protection” is verified, for we read: “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” We know this is the end of the Tribulation because it speaks of the “Lamb standing on Mount Zion,” which will be the fulfillment of Zechariah 14:4. That verse declares, “And in that day (the day the Lord Jesus returns to establish His kingdom) His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east.” It will also fulfill Acts 1:11, for after Jesus’ disciples saw Him ascend to heaven from the Mount of Olives two angels told them, “Men of Galilee, who do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Before closing, I feel compelled to mention that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have claimed these portions exclusively for themselves, teaching that the 144,000 sealed servants represent Jehovah’s Witnesses who will be with the Lamb in heaven because of their faithfulness. They are wrong on two counts. First of all, we have seen that THESE ARE JEWS, not Gentiles. I often ask them when they say they are one of the 144,000: “So, what tribe of Israel are you from?” This is usually met with silence, or else they say that those verses are to be spiritualized and not to be taken literally. Secondly, the 144,000 who are standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion ARE ON EARTH, not in heaven. They will enter the Millennial Kingdom with Christ on earth, along with the saved Gentiles that they witnessed to (see Matthew 25:31-40, especially verse 34). (261.3) (DO)