The story of the 144,000 has always been difficult for commentators. This small and special group of saints from out of the 12 tribes of Israel is something of a puzzle. This group of people and their destiny are still unexplained. They are described as servants of God and they are sealed on their foreheads. (Rev.7:3-4)Revelation 7Most of them, (120,000) come from the lost ten tribes whose identity is still shrouded in mystery. 12,000 of them are Jews from the tribe of Judah. Judah is the quintessential Jewish tribe and the tribe. Judah holds the scepter of royal kingdom rule with the land right to the holy land. (Gen 49:10). The coming Messiah, our Lord Jesus/Yeshua, the Messiah, is from the royal House of David, the Lion of the (Jewish) tribe of Judah.
1 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. 2 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, 3 saying, "Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads." 4 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: 5 of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed; 6 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; 7 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; 8 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. 9 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, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" 11 All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen."
None of the 144,000 are from the tribe of Dan. (Rev.7:5-8) Why not? Dan means "judge". It seems that there is no place for judgment in the destiny and purpose of the 144,000. Their ministry is to the Lamb. As we can see, this is a subject of some mystery. It involves issues that we are only just beginning to piece together.
The 144,000 are apparently sealed inside the 70th week. They are sealed against the ravages of the vial judgments that will come at the very end of the age. John sees them standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion. They have His Father's name written on their foreheads. They sing a 'new song'. Apparently this company alone out of all mortals can sing this song. They are redeemed from the earth. They are described as virgin young men. We have every reason to take this literally. We may assume that they have not ever consummated human romance, nor ever will. They are called "first fruits to God and to the Lamb".(Rev.14:4). It seems that they have come into a level of devotion and joy in God where their orientation, role, and destiny is to personally minister to God before His throne.
So here is our question.
Just how will this company arise, with such an extraordinary level of devotion and purity?
And just how will this devotion be achieved in the tribulation period, of all times?Revelation 14The fact that there is a contest between our love of God and the yearnings of our carnal nature is undisputed. A quiet chat with a priest, a nun, or a Christian young person today will reveal this great inner conflict. Better still, if we are older, would be a walk down our own memory lane. Who is our first love? If there is to be prioritizing between our callings into the divine love and the desires of human love which one is pre-eminent?
14:1 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.
14:2 And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters,
and like the voice of loud thunder.
And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps.
14:3 They sang as it were a new song before the throne,
before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song
except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.
14:4 These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins.
These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
These were redeemed from among men, being first-fruits to God and to the Lamb.
14:5 And in their mouth was found no deceit,
for they are without fault before the throne of God.
Who is our first love? As we journey on we may actually come to understand why Uriah the Hittite, in spite of his love for his wife, the beautiful Bathsheba, did not leave the army of Israel to go home to sleep with her. Why didn't he? Was it because God made him aware that he was being spotlighted in holy history at that time?-2Sam.chs. 11&12 Uriah is given special mention in the genealogy of Jesus. We are destined to move on in our understanding of the pre-eminence of God. With that will come a deeper devotion to Him than we have ever known. Those of us who have been married and consummated physical love with our spouse know by experience that Eros/romantic/sexual love is a deeper love than "philos" friendship or the love of a child for his or her mother. The time comes in the life of a person growing out of their childhood when the former devotion to mother is fulfilled and transcended by an entry into another higher love, the love of a man for a woman. The Greeks called this form of love "eros". But at the end of the journey in "agape" (love of God) the pilgrim finds himself or herself at a place where the human romances, including eros love and the mother-child love are transcended by a higher "agape" love. They are actually wooed on into the divine romance by God Himself. This dynamic tension between the various loves and devotions sets the stage for high drama that will be seen in the final acts of the play of the ages. It will be played out at the ultimate and deepest possible level in the 'love and war' drama of the 70th week.
For most of us, just loving God as our first love and abstaining from a dominant preoccupation with human romance is still beyond our present level of devotion. We may walk in obedience but the yearnings are still there. This is apparently not so for the those special future saints, these 144,000. They are destined to arrive at a point of total and exclusive devotion to God. How can this happen?
As we study the 144,000 it seems that in the 70th week they will be awakened into God and Him alone. It would seem that they go straight into the divine romance and "agape" God-love without seeing, experiencing or sexually consummating any human romance here below whatsoever. For the rest of us it is sufficient for us to put our love of God first and love of our spouse second. But for the 144,000 they go beyond that. For them there is only one love. It is love for God and no one else. They are the first-fruits from this earth of those who are given to Agape love alone. They are totally devoted to God and their orientation is toward Him and Him alone. For the future 144,000 there is no falling in love with a young woman or even a desire for physical union with a human wife. In their future destiny this small company follow the Lamb wherever He goes. They are destined to serve God at His throne. Not many of us can even come close to that level of devotion today, particularly here in the decadent west. This would seem to indicate that the future 70th week in which the 144,000 springs up will see a level of commitment the like of which has never yet been seen in human history.
How will this be possible? How will tribulation people like these elite 144,000 come into such unprecedented levels of holiness to God and such unshakable devotion? Where will the power come from? Here is a possible answer. The apostle Peter in quoting Joel specifically indicates that the peak of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is in the "last days".Acts 2
17. 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.
18. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy.
19. I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath:
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.
2:21 And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the Lord
Shall be saved.' (Acts 2:17-21).
Peter saw the beginnings of that Holy Spirit outpouring on that epic Day of Pentecost. The 120 in the upper room were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues. This extraordinary day opened up in the month of Sivan back in the summer of 32.A.D.. The the Apostle Peter realized the significance of what they were seeing. Peter proclaimed the connection between what the early church was seeing and the epic climactic peak of the Holy Spirit outpouring that would come amidst the cosmic signs of the sun turning to darkness and the moon to blood. (Joel 2:28-32) He knew that this was the beginning of the Holy Spirits great work which Joel said would power up to peak as prophesied in the last days late in the 70th week. According to Joel, this climactic final end-time Holy Spirit outpouring, is destined to explode into world history very late in the age. It will be rather like that grand finale seen in the classic fireworks festival. Our Messiah will return in a blaze of glory at the very end of this age. The peak of this outpouring of the Holy Spirit over His people, and indeed upon all flesh, will be seen in association with the cosmic disturbances of the 6th seal. At this point in time the sun will turn to darkness, the moon to blood, and the stars will fall from heaven with a meteor shower of unprecedented magnitude.
This fixes the time. We can pin the peak of the Holy Spirit outpouring at the end of the 70th week of Daniel. It will be in the closeout of the 70th Week of Daniel, the final days of the final 7 years of this present age. This awesome spectacle was seen by the prophet Joel. He saw it in association with the 6th seal cosmic signs of a darkened sun and a bloody moon. (Joel 2:28-32) The stars will be seen falling from heaven as early first-ripe figs being blown down in a mighty wind. At that time the angelic rulers, the principalities and power which hold sway in this world right now will be cast down. (Rev.6:12-17)
Jesus spoke of this time in the Olivet Discourse. He spoke of a time when the "powers of the heavens would be shaken". This is in verses 29 to 31 of Matthew chapter 24.
For most of us in the western church today our relationship with the Beloved has not gone far beyond the legalities of our salvation. These legal issues are foundational and critically important. And evangelistic believers we do well to emphasize them. However, even with the passage of decades as Christian believers most of us have not matured into a sound grasp of the Holy Scriptures and at least a thumbnail sketch of God's plan for this age and the age to come. Nor have we come to know Our Redeemer at a heart level and in a personal way. We still do not have an understanding of His cross or the true meaning of His cup. The fact of the matter is that we don't want to. The cup of Christ is the cup and the fellowship of His sufferings. We have allowed worldly churchmen to convince us otherwise. Popular religious opinion at this time is that the 'cup of Christ' and the 'Way of the cross' are both "negative". Popular well-heeled churchmen say we do better to concentrate on doing more "Positive, Possibility, and Purpose driven thinking". They make it their business to present "positive" messages of "victory", 'dominion' and the "wealth and prosperity gospel".
And so Christian believers in the western church today are m not inclined to enter into any deeper walk with God through a strait gate. And it is now fashionable to shun the narrow way. Modern Christians in the West baulk at the paradise road and refuse to step into the holy paths that Jesus walked. The Way of the cross is what actually brings us into this victory. But few understand this and enter in by the strait gate. We prefer the Broadway.
Chinese Christians, (who now outnumber American Christians), do understand this. They understand what 'blood covenant Christianity' is all about. We don't.
Evangelicals are happy to buy a "ticket to heaven". We hold onto it tightly as a matter of religious legality. And so we may know of Christ theologically. But for most of us we do not "know Him" personally in the depths of the divine romance. For this reason we are not receiving what God is telling us in His Word about the end time drama. We do not have a clear understanding of our glorious role of witness in the last days. So as strange as it may seem, the coming Great Tribulation, may thrust this history upon us. We may find ourselves announcing the Gospel of the Kingdom, even as we cry out to God for His covering.
This may involve elements of "good grief". But there is a serendipity and some hidden glories here. Because through it all the saints of the latter days will enter into a level of commitment and holiness never before been seen in human history. And God's anointing will come in the flowing wave that Joel saw, in unprecedented measure. So there is some good news here. There will be an End Time Revival that will break forth, even in the midst of a Great Tribulation.
Very few dare to speak of these things. It seem that the Holy Spirit will be our covering in the days to come. He will not depart from us during the future 70th week as some irresponsible Bible teachers are teaching. The Holy Spirit is in the Godhead. He is omnipresent and omnipotent. (Ps.139) So He can't leave this planet in rebellion any more than He can depart from any part of the cosmos. And the prophecy of Joel's climactic outpouring which we know peaks during the cosmic signs of the 6th seal is crystal clear. When all is said and done the Holy Spirit will NOT be taking a hike and deserting the saints as they bring in the end-time witness. And as the drama of this age comes to its appointed climax the Holy Spirit will be very present with us. In fact His glory will be all over us.
We have not seen this yet. But we shall.
Because the God of Israel has promised that He would "fill His house with glory". (Hag.2:6-7)
2:6 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;
2:7 And I will shake all nations, and the Desire of all Nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts. (Hag.2:6-7)
Very few Bible teachers can share these things. Who will listen? They are too "heavy" for the carnal Christians and the crowds at large. Nevertheless, in the coming times, we as western Christian believers are destined to be changed from our present state of lukewarm commitment. We shall be spewed out, into a place of exile. There we shall be nurtured, enlightened, inspired, and brought into the divine romance. (Rev.12:6 & 12:14) We in the western church are members of the end-time Church of Laodicea. We shall be thrown into a grand adventure. In this we shall enter deeper into the heart of the Shepherd than we have ever known. Hosea saw his wife Gomer, the wayward bride of YHVH. She was hedged in by thorns. But in the midst of this there was some wonderful news. After a dark night of the soul, a night of darkness, of fear, and of wrestlings, there is joy in the morning. God will find His Bride. He said He would
"......give her her vineyards (with the wine of cheer)
and the Valley of Achor (tribulation) as a door of hope:
And she shall sing there as in the days of her youth,
as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt". -Hos.2:14-15
Paul said that the relationship between Christ and the ecclesia/congregation of God is a mystery.-Eph.5:32 He also alluded to unspeakable things that it is not lawful for human beings to recount.-2Cor:12:4 But he did say this much. That the relationship between Christ and His beloved would be as a husband relates to his wife. Such things are hard to convey in words. These things are to be experienced. We are in an information war. Like a treasure hidden in a field (Mat.13:44) the secret things of God are kept hidden from the profane and the prying eyes of the crowds in the street.
So as we journey on with God we discover that our relationship in Him can go far deeper than any human romance or human relationship could. Of course we know theoretically and doctrinally that Agape love is more wonderful than Eros love. It is just that we haven't experienced this yet. The God of history has not called His western saints into this experience yet. Unlike our Chinese brothers and sisters we currently enjoy political protection and freedom. Western Christians are still substantially untested. Our walk with God is shallow. But as Madame Guyon discovered, the depths of Jesus Christ are unspeakably glorious. She made this discovery as a serendipity centuries ago amidst the deadly persecutions conducted against the Huguenots in France. The blood covenant in Christ is often experienced as a 'baptism of fire'. Only those initiated into these things will ever know of these realities in God. They cannot be read about in the seminary library. They can only be known by personal experience in God. Words fail to describe these experiences which can sometimes draw His people into ecstasies in God.
Who is our first love? This is not an unimportant question. Our true priorities may be revisited in the coming days. Perhaps we should be thankful to God that difficult times will come. He will give us a chance to readjust our attitudes and enter into true Agape love, joy, and peace. The sorting out of our priorities and our discovery of the divine romance may actually be the key to our heart. We may find the Source of that true happiness we have been seeking all along.
A time of testing in the western church must surely come. Whom shall we serve? Will it be the Prince of Israel, our Lord Jesus Christ/Yeshua Hamashiach? Or will it be that other prince? Whom shall we serve? This is the critical question. The one to whom we give our first allegiance will be the one who determines our future and our destiny. As we come on stage in the end time drama of the ages just how shall we respond when we come into the 'hour of trial' and find ourselves confronted by the cup of Christ? The angelic cloud of witnesses will be watching. History will be in the making. What will they see as we go up to witness? (Heb.12:1)
Is Jesus Christ our Beloved?
If not then we are on the road to find Him. Quite possibly the road ahead will lead us into the divine romance. Shall we drink His cup? Shall we partake of the wine of the New Covenant with Him?
Can we trust Him in this?
And more particularly, can He trust us?
Let us open our hearts and lives to Him.
Let us surrender ourselves to His will.
May we all grow to know Him ever more deeply in Spirit and in Truth.
Grace and peace to all who love His appearing.