The 144,000 dressed in white
The identity of the 144,000 has always been hotly debated but it is usually agreed that these are the favoured few, resurrected early to go into the New Jerusalem and reign with Christ for 1000 years. But why are there be only 144,000? Surely there must be more faithful and deserving servants of Jesus than this?
But have they actually been resurrected? If not, who are they?
The prophecy starts in Revelation 14
Then I looked, and lo, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads.
For “written on their foreheads” one could read “written on the front of their helmets”. “His name and his Father's name” could be the person’s own name and the number of his squadron, for instance. John wouldn’t really know. He has previously confessed to not being able to understand the language!
2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpers playing on their harps, 3 and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders.
No one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the earth.
No one else could learn the song because, for John, it was being sung in a foreign language.
4 It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are chaste; it is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes; these have been redeemed from mankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb, 5 and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are spotless.
As usual, John is adding his own interpretation to what he sees! He has his own ideas as to what qualifies these people, the 144,000, to be the first to be resurrected! Indeed, he assumes that these people have actually been resurrected, when in fact there is no evidence to suggest that they have been.
Whatever the reason for their having apparently been chosen, they are certainly going to travel in The New Jerusalem and “reign with him” for 1000 years on the journey, because they are said to be going to be his priests, which means they will help to run things there.
So who are these people, the 144,000 dressed in white robes?
The first clue might be that they are dressed in white. Today we tend to think of white robes as long, flowing garments which would have been standard clothing in Israel 2000 years ago. But this is not necessarily what John is describing because these people were not of that area or time. He previously said in Revelation 4v4, when lifted through the “Door into Heaven” that:
24 “elders” were seated round and about, clothed in white raiment and on their heads were gold crowns” (helmets?). In another description they are said to be girded with gold bands. (belts)
So the description of the 144,000 appears to be the same as the “crew” of the “ship’s control room” Are we seeing here 144,000 crew members? A large ship such as this would need a lot of crew to operate it and look after the passengers. But does anything else corroborate this assumption?
These 144,000 are said to be:
a) Those who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. In other words, wherever the ship travels, they go with it! They are not freshly recruited resurrectees who have been believers in Christ all their lives, but those who have been with the captain of this ship on all its journeys!
b) They are going to rule in the New Jerusalem with him for 1000 years as “priests of God” In other words as his management team. Why would they recruit a new team at this stage? There must have been a crew on the outward journey, even if they weren’t all needed!
c) It also says in Rev 20v6: Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: "on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."
This still incorrectly assumes that the 144,000 have been resurrected but even if they haven’t, as we are claiming here, it is obvious to whom the passage is referring because of the reference to their being priests and reigning with God for 1000 years. The second death will have no power over these people because they are not going to be judged as are the inhabitants of earth.
(6) Then I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and tongue and people;
7 and he said with a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come; and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the fountains of water."
Interestingly, it seems that this isn’t just a message for the Jews or Christians, but for everyone on Earth.
8 Another angel, a second, followed, saying, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of her impure passion."
This dates the vision to a time after 9/11
9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If any one worships the beast and its image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also shall drink the wine of God's wrath, poured unmixed into the cup of his anger, and he shall be tormented with fire and sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
11 And the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever; and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name."
This seems to condemn the Arab Nations but it contradicts the previous proclamation that this message is for all nationalities and beliefs and so one must say something has become distorted somewhere in the translation.
(13) And I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth. Blessed indeed," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!"
This appears to say that those who die from now on, will not be resurrected again immediately but will be allowed to “rest a while”, presumably to be resurrected at the end of the 1000 years with everyone else.
Why is this? Is it the case that there is no mechanism for resurrecting the dead before reaching the destination planet, rather than not wanting to resurrect everyone immediately because there isn’t room on the New Jerusalem?
But now an interesting addition to the story about the 144,000 continues in
And after these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth holding the four winds of the earth that they should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea nor on any tree.
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 a hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
It appears that the four angels are not to be released to “hurt the earth and the sea” until the 144,000 have been “sealed”. Angels are usually associated with flying objects and missiles of some kind would fit the description so far, although how or why they would be “holding back the wind so that it didn’t blow on the earth” is difficult to understand.
(9) After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!"
11 And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen."
This great multitude was being seen on the screen in the ship, because it says: they “stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures,” which confirms the vision is in the control room and there would obviously not be room for them to be present physically!
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?"
14 I said to him, "Sir, you know."
And he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night within his temple; and he who sits upon the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
These then, are the survivorsof “The Great Tribulation” or the worldwide disaster which has just occurred. They will all go into the “Temple of God” or “The New Jerusalem” with the 144,000 crew members, where no natural light falls on them and no sunlight exists to burn them. They will no longer be hungry or thirsty because they will be looked after and fed.
We cannot be sure what the disaster will be which wipes out a large proportion of the inhabitants of the earth but from the next chapter we can see that a comet collision is the most likely.
The question is: what is the relevance of the four angels at the four corners of the earth? Can we make some sense of this and will it help to throw more light on this situation?
Four angels would normally mean “messengers” derived in the translation from the Greek “angeles” or perhaps the flying machines in which they usually travelled. It might even mean something inanimate which flies. In this case, as we have already said, the four angels sound initially as if they might be four missiles, which could easily hurt the grass and the sea.
But these cannot be missiles, because they are under the control of “The Living God”, who commands them not to hurt anyone until the “chosen ones” have been “sealed”.
I don’t think “God” would be threatening the earth with nuclear missiles when his professed mission is to save the survivors of The Tribulation and take them to a place of safety.
More than that, these angels appear to be protecting 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”. Nuclear missiles don’t hold things back or “protect” anything. But what does?
These four angels could be four “cornerstones” of some kind of force field, standing at the edges of the area, which are temporarily holding back something harmful, perhaps radiation or some other bi-product of the Tribulation. This field is to be kept in operation until the survivors have been “sealed”.
Sealing can mean at least two things and the one John immediately thinks of is the one where a physical mark is placed on the object being sealed, as in placing a seal on a letter. He proclaims “till we have sealed the servants of our God “in their foreheads”
What would be the point of that! Would they have their names printed on their foreheads so that they didn’t have to introduce themselves to the rest of the travellers in The New Jerusalem? Is it a sort of identification to be inspected by the guards at the gates of The New Jerusalem? Let’s be serious now!
Can you think of any valid reason to be physically marked? Having your name tattooed on your forehead makes as much sense as having the Number of the Beast tattooed on your hand. It isn’t going to happen! So what other meaning could “sealed” have?
“Sealed” can also means wrapping something up to protect it, like sealing up a packet which has been opened, before putting it back in the fridge. It protects the object against infection or deterioration.
What if “sealing the chosen ones” means protecting them in some way? They wouldn’t be sealed in polythene, of course, but what about inoculating them against new viruses, which they may not have encountered previously and might catch from the new guests being invited aboard? Does this make more sense?
Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have inoculated the servants of our God. And I heard the number of them which were inoculated: and there were inoculated one hundred and forty four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel - before they re-boarded the New Jerusalem.
I think it does! Once they were innoculated they could go into the ship and lift off. Only then, could the force fields be switched off. Whatever they were holding back, no longer needed to be restrained.