144,000: Who are they? When will they appear?
Biblical Research Monthly — by Dr. David L. Cooper
In the Book of Revelation we read of 144,000 Jews, twelve thousand from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. We wish to learn who they are and when they will appear in the role there set forth. Moreover, we are eager to learn what they will do and what is the significance of their special labors.
We read of these 144,000 Hebrews in Revelation 7, for John stated specifically that they are from the twelve tribes of Israel. This being true, we must first learn who are the Israelites — or Jews. This investigation becomes necessary in view of the great confusion regarding the Jew that is in the world today. Jacob was first called Israel by the angel of Jehovah who wrestled with him. His original name meant supplanter. After he met God face to face at the fords of the Jabbok on this memorable occasion, and the Lord conquered him, he was given the name of Israel, which means “God has conquered” or “a prince with God.” Jacob had twelve sons. From them sprang twelve tribes who in the Old Testament are called the “twelve tribes of Israel.”
Upon the death of Solomon the nation of Israel was divided into the resultant kingdoms of Judah in the south and Israel in the north. From that time forward for 263 years these two governments were rivals. Finally, in the year of 3406 A.H. (the year of man), the northern kingdom was overthrown by Assyria. For 114 years the kingdom of Judah stood alone. Finally, it was completely overthrown in 3539 A.H. by the Babylonians.
After the fall of the northern kingdom, the terms Judah and Israel were used synonymously to refer to the descendants of the twelve tribes of Jacob. From the days of Ahaz onward these same people were called Jews. In the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah the terms Jew and Israel are used interchangeably. In the New Testament we see the same usage. Thus the terms, Hebrews, Israelites, and Jews refer to the same people who are now scattered all over the world. They are the ones to whom God promised the Land of Palestine, and who will eventually get control of it by virtue of their holding the title deed.
The 144,000 Israelites mentioned in Revelation 7 are from the twelve tribes of Israel, the Jews of today. They are scattered throughout all civilized lands. According to estimates which I have heard, there are 100,000 of them in Los Angeles. There will be 12,000 of these evangelists from each of the twelve tribes.
We also read of 144,000 who are seen upon Mount Zion with the Lamb and who accompany Him. Who are these people? Various answers are suggested. Of this group of people we read in Revelation 14:1-5. We are informed that they have “been purchased out of the earth.” Again, we are told that they are “purchased from among men.” Once more, we are told that they are undefiled, “for they are virgins.” These statements seem to indicate that these men are from all nations and that they have lived pure, clean, exemplary lives. Because of their being consecrated to the Lord throughout their lives, they are granted special privileges in association with the Lamb during the millennial reign of our Lord. These most definitely, therefore, are not to be confused with the 144,000, of whom we read in chapter 7. This latter group consists of Jews only; the former are of the Gentiles.
When will the 144,000 Jews of Revelation 7 appear? It is quite likely that they are alive today. My reason for this assertion is that the signs of the times indicate that we are in the very end of the age and that the Tribulation is close at hand. These 144,000 Jews are evangelists who will engage in a mighty soul saving campaign during the first half of the Tribulation. In order to see this teaching we must know the general structure and development of the Book of Revelation. It falls into the following divisions: “the things which thou sawest” (chapter 1); “the things which are,” the church and the Church Age (chapters 2 and 3); and “the things which shall be hereafter” (chapter 4 to the close). Chapters 4 and 5 give us a vision of heaven immediately prior to the pouring out of the wrath of God upon the world in the Tribulation. There are three series of Judgments set forth in Revelation, which will fall upon the earth at that time. The seal judgments, chapter 6, cover what approximately is the first quarter of the Tribulation. Chapters 8 and 9 describe the plagues of the second quarter, whereas the sixteenth chapter tells of the bowls of the wrath of God that will be poured out upon the world during the latter half of that period of judgment. Revelation 7, where we read of the 144,000 Israelites, is a vision coming between the seal and the bowl judgments. It tells of the spiritual activity that will be carried on during the first half of the Tribulation. After having given a description of the seal judgments, John stops and gives us this bright vision of the work of God in the midst of the trials and the difficulties of that time. When he finishes this discussion, he continues speaking of these judgments in chapters 8 and 9. We therefore know that they will appear in the first half of the Tribulation.
Do we know what these will do? If we will study the seventh chapter of Revelation, we shall see that they are called servants of God and are sealed as such, so that nothing can in any wise injure them. Immediately after we see the first vision of this chapter, another one appears which shows a mighty world wide revival — one that sweeps around the world and brings countless multitudes to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
We hear much about revival these days. When may we expect this mighty spiritual awakening which will girdle the earth? Certainly not in the closing scenes of this age, for the apostles tell us that it ends in apostasy. No inspired writer holds out any hope for a world wide revival now, but John in Revelation 7 informs us that this mighty awakening, for which our hearts yearn, will occur in the first half of the Tribulation. The Old Testament prophets likewise saw it, and they associated it with the Tribulation. For instance see Isaiah 24:14-16. When this chapter is studied in its proper setting, it becomes evident that this mighty revival occurs in the Tribulation.
Since we are given a vision of the 144,000 Jewish servants of God, and since that vision is followed by the world’s mightiest revival and since according to Old Testament predictions God is going to bless all nations through Abraham and his seed, we naturally come to the conclusion that these 144,000 Jewish servants are that many Jewish “Pauls” who will be honored with the task of conducting the world wide revival in the Tribulation.
Countless multitudes will be won to the Lord by their efforts. These hosts will wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. When God’s judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants thereof learn righteousness (Isaiah 26:9).
The Jews as a nation do not have the truth today. It is therefore obligatory upon us who have it to give it to them. May God stir our hearts to the realization of the importance of evangelizing Israel now. The Lord bless and keep each of us.