The 144 Thousand of the Bible
“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.
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 an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.”
Who are the 144,000?
1. John calls the 144,000, “servants,” “servants the prophets,” and “servants of God” in the book of Revelation. Revelation 6:11; 7:3; 10:7; 19:2
2. The four angels do not hurt earth until the 144,000 are sealed. Revelation 7:3
3. The 144,000 will be the first to receive the seal of God. (Revelation 7:3) They will be presented to God as the firstfruits of the Great Tribulation. They will not be defiled with women and they will travel with Jesus wherever He goes. Revelation 14:4
4. Unlike the numberless multitude who will come out of the Great Tribulation, the 144,000 will be numbered. Revelation 7:5-8,9,14
5. The 144,000 will experience and endure the sufferings of Christ. They will be honored above the rest of the redeemed. No one else will be able to sing their song. Revelation 14:1,3
6. No lie or falsehood will be found in the mouths of the 144,000. Revelation 14:5
7. The 144,000 will visibly wear the names of the Father and Son on their foreheads throughout eternity. Revelation 14:1; Revelation 22:3,4
Are the 144,000 “Servants the Prophets?”
John calls the 144,000, “servants,” “servants the prophets,” and “servants of God” in the book of Revelation. (Revelation 6:11, 7:3, 10:7, 19:2) Observe John’s use of language in the following texts. For the sake of clarity, I have inserted a few words in these verses and enclosed them in brackets, but especially notice the words I have emphasized with bold print:
1. Fifth Seal: Revelation 6:11, “Then each of them [the martyrs] was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.”
2. The Delay: Revelation 7:3,4, “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God. Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.”
3. The Seventh Trumpet: Revelation 10:7; 11:15,18, “But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as He announced to His servants the prophets . . . The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in Heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever . . .’ The nations were angry; and Your wrath has come . . .’ and for rewarding Your servants the prophets and Your saints and those who reverence Your name, both small and great – and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”
4. The Third Bowl: Revelation 16:4-6, “The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say: ‘You are just in these judgments, You who are and who were, the Holy One, because You have so judged; for they have shed the blood of Your saints and prophets [the martyrs], and You have given them blood to drink as they deserve.’ ”
John Distinguishes between Prophets and Saints
If we compare these four passages to one another, we find that John consistently distinguishes between God’s servants and God’s saints. For example, in the first text, Revelation 6:11, John distinguishes between “servants” and “brothers”. Since the fifth seal occurs during the latter part of the Great Tribulation we have to ask, “What ‘servants’ of God will be slain during the Great Tribulation? Could the “servants” in Revelation 6:11 be the 144,000 “servants” mentioned in Revelation 7:3? Yes! Here is why:
In the fourth text, Revelation 16:4-6, John distinguishes between “saints” and “prophets.” This particular text forces a distinctive wedge between a group of people called “saints” and a group of people called “prophets” because of timing. We know that the third bowl will be poured out in the final days of the Great Tribulation [during the seven last plagues]. The Bible says the third bowl will be specifically directed to those who shed the blood of “saints” and “prophets.” The book of Revelation identifies the prophets who are killed by the people who receive the third plague. The 144,000 “servants” in Revelation 7:3 are the “prophets” slain in Revelation 16:4-6. Notice how this connection is made.
The third text says that just before the seventh trumpet sounds, “The mystery of God will be accomplished just as He announced to His servants the prophets.” What prophets will be informed about “the mystery of God” prior to the sounding of the seventh trumpet? Could the servants the prophets in Revelation 10:7 be the 144,000 servants mentioned in Revelation 7:3? The internal harmony within Revelation says, “Yes!” The 144,000 will be a distinct group of people who are separate and distinct from the numberless multitude who come out of the Great Tribulation.
Look again at the third text. When the seventh trumpet sounds in Revelation 11:18, loud voices in Heaven will urgently proclaim that the time has arrived for Jesus to avenge the killing of His “prophets” and “saints”. Once again John distinguishes between a group of people called prophets and a group of people called saints, and he indicates that people in both groups will suffer death during the Great Tribulation.
– When we consider John’s repetitive distinction between saints and prophets . . .
– When we consider the 144,000 will be called God’s “servants”. . .
– When we consider that many [if not all] of God’s prophets will die because of the Word of God and the testimony they maintain [martyrdom during the fifth seal] . . .
– When we consider that God’s mystery [announced to His servants the prophets) will be finished just before the seventh trumpet sounds] . . .
– When we consider that God will avenge the death of His saints and prophets by giving blood thirsty murderers blood to drink during the time of the third bowl . . .
– When we combine these points, our understanding of 144,000 “servants” expands into 144,000 “servants the prophets.”
Before the Great Tribulation begins, God will select, empower, and seal 144,000 servants who will serve Him as prophets during the Great Tribulation. These people will speak for God. Because of religious arrogance and gross ignorance, most of these servants of God will suffer the fate of prophets in ages past. Matthew 23:37
How do you know if you are one of the 144 000
Perhaps a larger selection of Bible texts will clarify why John differentiates between saints and prophets. The 144,000 are called “servants” in Revelation 7:3 because this word expresses their calling. The word “prophet” denotes their mission. When the two terms “servants – the prophets” are brought together, the term becomes a job title. Please review the following texts [many more texts are in the Bible] and notice how the title, “servants” and “servants the prophets” is applied [I have emphasized certain words by putting them in bold text]:
2 Kings 17:22,23, “The Israelites persisted in all the sins of Jeroboam and did not turn away from them until the Lord removed them from His presence, as He had warned through all His servants the prophets. So the people of Israel were taken from their homeland into exile in Assyria, and they are still there.”
Jeremiah 7:25,26, “From the time your forefathers left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you My servants the prophets. But they did not listen to Me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their forefathers.”
Ezekiel 38:16,17, “. . . .In days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me when I show Myself holy through you before their eyes. This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Are you not the one I spoke of in former days by My servants the prophets of Israel?’ ”
Daniel 9:6,10, “[Oh Lord,] We have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. . . . we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws He gave us through His servants the prophets.”
Joel 2:28,29, “And afterward, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on My servants, both men and women, I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”
The Bible uses the title, “servants the prophets” nineteen times and in every case this title identifies special individuals whom God selected to speak on His behalf. Of course, the word “servants” can be used in a broader sense to mean subjects, slaves, employees and believers. Genesis 24:34; 1 Corinthians 4:1
But the context in Revelation 7 indicates the 144,000 servants of God will not be ordinary servants. When we realize that God has delayed destroying the earth until 144,000 servants are sealed, we know they will not be ordinary people!
These verses pointed forward from Joel’s day to “the great and dreadful day of the Lord” that would have occurred after the expiration of the seventy weeks under “Plan A.” Because Israel rejected Christ, “Plan A” was abandoned and “Plan B” was implemented. Peter did not know that “Plan A” had been abandoned, so when the Holy Spirit was manifested at the Feast of Pentecost, he naturally thought the “last days” predicted by Joel had arrived and this is why he quoted from Joel 2. [See his remarks in Acts 2:15-21]
Because Revelation 9 through 11 (Plan B) parallels Joel 2 (Plan A), we can be sure the Lord will pour out His Spirit on all people [all flesh, KJV] during the Great Tribulation. Furthermore, we can be sure that God will generously pour out His Spirit “even on my servants, both men and women.”
Joel’s distinction between “all people” and God’s servants is important. In Revelation 7, John distinguished between a numbered group of servants and a numberless group of people. The phrase in Joel 2, “even on my servants,” emphasizes that God will not only pour out His Spirit on all people during the last days, but He will also elevate His servants even higher by giving them a greater measure of Holy Spirit power than His “servants” characteristically have had in ages past.
Even though there is no way to determine who the twelve tribes of Israel are, we know the twelve tribes of Israel exist because God will select and seal 12,000 from each tribe before the four angels hurt earth. As faithful servants of Jesus Christ, they will do everything their Master commands. As prophets of Jesus, they will deliver “the testimony of Jesus” during the Great Tribulation. (Revelation 1:9; 12:17; 19:10) The 144,000 will suffer enormously because of their words. Many, if not all, of the 144,000 will perish “because of the Word of God and the testimony they maintain.” (Revelation 6:9)
John often distinguishes between God’s “servants the prophets” and ordinary saints because they are separate groups of people.