Revelation, chapter 7, mentions 144,000 people of the tribes of Israel who are sealed in their foreheads and a great multitude of people who come out of tribulation. Then, in chapter 14, there are another 144,000 mentioned who have the name of the Lamb and the Father written on their foreheads. Who are the two groups of 144,000 and the great multitude of people?
THE 144,000 OF CHAPTER SEVEN
The first group of 144,000 are mentioned after the opening of the sixth seal of God's wrath upon the earth, which portrays the violent collapse of the old order of things and seems to follow the general order in which the earth was made fit for humanity's habitation ( e.g., the earth, sun, moon, stars, sky, land and sea).
"And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, even as a fig tree casts her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who will be able to stand?" (Rev.6: 12-17 KJV).
At this point in time, many of those who will have heard the gospel message proclaimed will come to the realization that what they have heard about the wrath of God being poured out upon those who refuse to repent is absolutely true and that their days are numbered. Therefore, in great terror, they will try to hide from the punishment that they know is coming.
Between the Sixth and Seventh Seals
"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, or on the sea, or on any tree" (Rev.7:1 KJV).
Four angelic beings hold back the four winds. The English word winds is translated from the Greek word anemos, which means winds and also pertains to the four cardinal points from which the winds blow, but not necessarily the physical wind itself. It is also highly possible that the four winds described as anemos are in fact the four winds (spirit-beings) of Zechariah 6:5 who are described as the winds of heaven.
After the four angelic beings hold back the four winds, another spirit-being will come from the east, which is traditionally the direction from where divine manifestations come (Isa.41:1-2; Ezk.43:2-3; Mal.4: 1-2). This spirit-being will instruct the four powerful spirit-beings not to proceed with their destruction of the earth, the sea, and the unrepentant wicked of earth's population. This spirit-being has with him the seal of the living God with which he and those who are with him are to seal the servants of God. This is noted in verse 3:
"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, or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads" (Rev.7:2-3 KJV).
"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" (Rev.7:4 KJV).
In verses 6-8 of chapter 7, there are 12,000 Israelites noted as being sealed from each tribe of Israel except for the tribe of Dan, which seems to be replaced by the half tribe of Manasseh. Either the tribe of Dan is included in one of the other tribes or it is left out of the 144,000 for reasons that only God knows.
Sealed for Their Protection
Notice the sealing of the 144,000 occurs before God begins executing the events contained in the seventh seal, which is the seven trumpet plagues. The seventh seal is also known as the Day of the Lord (Rev.6: 17) and the great tribulation.
It is clear that these people who have been sealed are found worthy to escape the horrors of the coming plagues that are to be poured out on the earth. And because the only ones who are clearly promised protection from this hour of trouble are those of the Philadelphia church noted in Revelation 3:7-13, there seems to be only two possibilities to the identity of this group of 144,000: They are either part of the Philadelphia group of God's elect who are sealed against his wrath because of their faithfulness to him and his ways, or they are the elect of God who have heeded the warnings given to the churches in Revelation, chapters 2 and 3. Because they have repented of their wrong attitudes and behaviors, they are found worthy to escape God's wrath.
More than likely, these 144,000 are a combination of the seven church groupings noted in Revelation, chapters 2 and 3 who are all descendants of the tribes of Israel. How God reckons bloodlines is not totally understood, but we do know that he knows who both physical and spiritual Israelites are. It is interesting to note that, in Christ's own lineage, there are Gentiles (Rahab of Jericho and Ruth of Moab), yet Christ and his bloodline is considered to be Israelitish of the tribe of Judah.
The Angel With the Inkhorn and Seal
The prophet Ezekiel was also given a vision in which he saw many of God's elect who inhabit Jerusalem sealed against God's wrath in the end of the age.
God's patience toward national Israel will come to an end and he will no longer sit quietly by while the houses of Israel and Judah and their civil and religious leaders commit their abominations and idolatry before him. He will punish them without mercy for their rebellion and wickedness.
"Then he said to me, Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? For they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose [part of pagan worship system]. Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them" (Ezk.8:17-18 KJV).
Ezekiel 9:1-11 KJV
"He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city [Jerusalem] to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand. And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lies toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer’s inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brazen altar" (vs.1-2).
Verses 1 and 2 show Christ's avenging army being gathered to begin a great slaughter among humanity. Notice that, among these six men, there is another man who has a writer's inkhorn.
"And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side; And the Lord said to him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof" (vs.3-4).
Jesus Christ calls to the one with the inkhorn and instructs him to go to those in Jerusalem and mark the servants of God who are heart-broken because of the evil that they see. From the description of what the one with the inkhorn does, it is possible that those who are sealed are a part of the 144,000 spoken of in Revelation 7:3-8.
"Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house. And he said to them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go you forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city" (vs.6-7).
The other five who are standing by are told to follow the one with the inkhorn and begin the slaughter among the inhabitants of Jerusalem who have not been marked for survival by the one with the inkhorn.
"And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord God! will you destroy all the residue of Israel in your pouring out of your fury upon Jerusalem? Then said he to me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The Lord has forsaken the earth, and the Lord sees not. And as for me also, mine eye will not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their way upon their head" (vs.8-10).
The question that Ezekiel asked and the answer that he received tells us that, although the inhabitants of Jerusalem are the primary focus of these angels of death, the rest of the house of Israel and Judah who are scattered among the nations are also slaughtered by the death angels. It is also clear that this slaughter upon the house of Israel and Judah will not stop until all those who are to be killed are killed.
"And, behold, the man clothed with linen, which had the inkhorn by his side, reported the matter, saying, I have done as you have commanded me" (v.11).
The time setting of both Revelation 7:1-8 and Ezekiel 9:1-11 is right before the Day of the Lord, which is the time period called The Great Tribulation in which God will pour out his wrath upon all humanity. From this point in time until Christ's return, the faithful servants of God will be separated from the rest of humanity and will be protected from the wrath of God. However, the elect who have not been faithful will suffer along with the rest of humanity as God's wrath is poured out upon the earth, the sea, and the wicked in order to complete the preparation of the earth for the invasion of Christ and his army of spirit-beings.
In Revelation 7:1-8 we see that at least 144,000 of the elect of God from the tribes of Israel will be protected from the final wrath of God that will be poured out upon unrepentant humanity and some of the elect who have not repented of their sinful attitudes and behaviors.
With the sealing of the 144,000 servants of God, it is highly likely that the gospel age of salvation will end and the full fury of God's wrath will be poured out upon the earth and will not cease until Christ and his army of spirit-beings conquer the Beast power and the earth.
THE 144,000 OF CHAPTER FOURTEEN
"Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads" (Rev.14:1 NIV).
Notice that these 144,000 have both the name of the Lamb (Jesus Christ) and God the Father written on their foreheads, which indicates that these are the elect of God who have participated in the first resurrection and have been given eternal and immortal life in the Family and Kingdom of God.
"And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they [the 144,000] sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth" (Rev.14:2-3 NIV).
These 144,000 apparently have an extremely high position in the Family and Kingdom of God, because they are shown to be at the throne of God where the four living creatures and the elders are in attendance.
There is no mention of this 144,000 being descended from the tribes of Israel. What is noted is that they have been redeemed from the earth, which seems to indicate that they are both Israelites and non-Israelites that remained undefiled from other religions by being faithful to God:
"These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. These follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been purchased from among men and offered as first-fruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless" (Rev.14:4-5 NIV).
Notice that these people who take part in the first resurrection were not defiled with women (false religion); they are pure virgins (spiritually pure and undefiled). These people were redeemed from among men. The only way a person can be redeemed is through the blood of Christ.
Throughout history, many have been called to participate in the first resurrection; however, the scriptures show that only a few out of this vast number are found worthy of eternal and immortal life. Among those who have been found worthy, there seem to be even fewer who have remained pure and undefiled from the influence of Satan's religions. Whether they are of Israelitish descent or not, what is clear is that they are indeed a very special group of people who have earned a very high reward and position in the Family and Kingdom of God.
In Revelation 14:1-5, we see 144,000 who, because of their faithfulness to God the Father and Jesus Christ, have obtained eternal and immortal life and accompany Christ as he arrives at Mount Zion to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
From the information that is given about the 144,000 that are mentioned in Revelation, chapters 7 and 14, it is clear that these people are the elect of God who have received special favor because of their faithfulness to God the Father and Jesus Christ.
THE GREAT MULTITUDE
"After these things I saw, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could number, out of every nation, and tribes, and peoples, and languages, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, having been clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And they cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb" (Rev.7:9-10 Para.).
After John sees the 144,000 sealed for their protection from the wrath of God, he sees a great multitude of people standing before the thrones of God the Father and Jesus Christ. This event clearly takes place after the return of Christ and the first resurrection. Therefore, it seems that these people are the elect of all ages who have participated in the first resurrection and have been given eternal and immortal life in the Family and Kingdom of God.
"And one of the elders answered, saying to me, These having been clothed in the white robes, who are they? And from where did they come? And I said to him, Sir, you know. And he said to me, These are those who have come out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev.7:13-14 Para.).
Many have assumed that whenever the term 'great tribulation' appears that it automatically means 'The Great Tribulation' at the end of the age. However, this may or may not be the meaning of this term in verse 9, because many have suffered great persecution and tribulation throughout the centuries for their belief in the true God and Jesus Christ. What is clear is that this great multitude who are drawn from among the nations of the earth have come through great trials and were found worthy to be granted salvation.
"Because of this they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple. And he who sets on the throne will spread his tabernacle over them. And they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. Because the Lamb which is in the throne will shepherd them, and will lead them to the fountains of living waters: and God will wipe away all tears from their eyes" (Rev.7:15-17 Para.).
In Revelation 7:9-17, we see a vast multitude of people from various national origins who have overcome great adversity and who will be comforted by God and serve him day and night in his temple.
The two groups of 144,000 and the great multitude noted in the Book of Revelation seem to be mentioned in order to clearly show that what each individual does and the attitudes and behaviors that one has during the time just before Christ's return will dramatically impact their safety. These same attitudes and behaviors will also determine, for some individuals, the rewards and positions that people will be given in the Family and Kingdom of God.
By B.L. Cocherell and Charles E. Barrett b2w18