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Who are the 144,000?


Who are the 144.000, and what are their qualificat

Steve Answers:

Your question has sparked enthusiasm, inquiry, debate, and conflict for years. In the entire Bible you’ll find this number only three times, and all of these references are in Revelation. They are:

"Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel" (Revelation 7:4).

"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" (Revelation 14:1).

"And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders" (verse 3).

I’ve heard people who seem fixated on whether the number 144,000 is a literal number of people or a symbolic number. When I was a teenager, I knew it was 144,000 people because my academy Bible teacher said so. If he said it, that was good enough for me.

He also told me that it was the number of people who’d be alive and taken to heaven when Jesus returns. Of course there would be others who’d died and were resurrected, but the 144,000 would be the ones who had "lived through it all to the very end."

I felt challenged to be part of the 144,000 by being faithful to Jesus no matter what. I wanted to be alive when Jesus returned. Then I wondered if there were actually 144,000 righteous people on the earth, and what if there were already 144,000, and I’d be left out because the number had already been filled?

Since my teen years I’ve studied the book of Revelation some more. Most people easily recognize that much of the book of Revelation is full of symbolism. But when you read the number 144,000, it’s only natural to think of it as a literal number. But look back at the three verses in Revelation and make them literal:

Revelation 7:4–It’s for the tribes of the children of Israel. I’m not Jewish, so I guess I’m out.

Revelation 14:1–There’s a lamb out there on the mountain. Is that a tattoo on people’s foreheads, or a headband, or a name tag, or what?

Revelation 14:3–Is this new song a rap? Or are the words kept secret so nobody can learn the song except the 144,000?

Then I discovered that the number 12 represents God’s kingdom, and the number 10 represents completeness. Following a symbolic meaning, the number 144,000 factors into 12 x 12 plus 10 x 10 x 10. It’s the kingdom number squared and God’s complete number to the third–the number three symbolizing unity.

So what do you think about the number 144,000?

The second part of your question asked about this group’s qualifications. If the meaning is literal, they’re Jewish people who have marks on their heads and stand next to a lamb on a mountain, singing a song that nobody else knows. Revelation 14:1-5 gives some more characteristics, such as virgins, lamb-followers (but not shepherds), redeemed, and firstfruits (whatever that means). Their mouths have been cleaned out, and they stand faultless before God’s throne. Wow!

If it’s symbolic, these are people God has chosen, and they have chosen God both in their thoughts and their actions. They have a unique experience and are faithful to God. They are right at home with God.

I want to be part of the 144,000–I want to be at home with God. The same author of Revelation quoted Jesus as saying, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (John 14:23). When Jesus and His Father make their home with me, I’m sure I’ll be comfy in their home, too. 

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