In this article we are going to look at one of the most encouraging passages in the book of Revelation. I am going to explain to you the great blessing promised in Revelation 7 of the 144,000 servants of God. Their ministry and mission will cause a great harvest of souls to occur. I believe that millions upon millions will be saved during the Tribulation period.
There are many people who misunderstand the intent and purpose of God’s plan at the end of this age. As the read the prophetic passages that talk about crisis after crisis coming on the earth, it is easy for those who do not really understand the heart of God to begin to view God as a God that does not really love mankind. They think of God as cruel taskmaster, taking it out on those who don’t make the grade, sending judgment after judgment. Of course, that kind of thinking completely leaves out the gospel of Jesus Christ. That gospel is a gospel of love and grace. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” This verse shows the heart of God for humanity. He does not want anyone to perish. He loves humanity.
I have been raised in a Pentecostal home and have been around many Spirit filled believers for years. All my life I have heard a great deal of teaching and preaching and prayers that one day there is going to come a powerful move of God and a revival that will cause many to be ushered into the kingdom of God. Don’t misunderstand me. We should pray for revival. We should believe for souls to be rescued. It is my hope that many people would become spiritually aware of their situation and turn be a great return to the things of God. But the more I understand scripture, the more I see that the bible actually predicts that there will come a falling away from the faith before end time events take place. I think we are seeing that now.
However, that does not negate that a revival will not come. The great harvest of souls will indeed take place at the beginning of the Tribulation period. In fact, Revelation 7:1-17 shows us how this will all take place. John has just seen the opening of six of the seven seals by the Lamb. The four horsemen of the apocalypse have come bringing mans inhumanity to man. The antichrist who is the rider on the first horse has set out to conquer the entire world by diplomacy. When diplomacy fails the second horseman brings war, the third horseman brings famine, and the fourth horseman brings death. The fifth seal shows many souls under the altar, people who have been saved and came out of Tribulation. The sixth seal shows catastrophe on the earth. And so having seen this it is as though God gives further revelation as to the timing of all of these events.
God of course has at his disposal an innumerable company of angels that do his bidding. We see as Revelation 7 opens that some of these angels are sent to hold back certain catastrophes. Revelation 7:1 “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.” These four angels have power over the wind of the earth. They are restraining that force of wind so that they only blow when God Says.
And then, we see another angel. Revelation 7:2-3, “Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: “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.”
This angel is going to seal the 144,000 servants of God. These servants of God are going to be sealed with a seal in their foreheads, they are going to be empowered by the Holy Spirit, and they are going to go throughout all of the earth proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. It will be as a result of these servants and their ministry that a worldwide harvest of souls will happen.
As we study this, it makes sense that these 144,000 are going to be sealed by God in the beginning of the Tribulation. That is the only way this makes any logical sense. While the horsemen are riding out into the world bringing man’s inhumanity to man, God has prepared this special band of preachers to take the good news into the world. This is God’s grace. God wants people to be saved. We have already seen that by the breaking of the fifth seal that there are souls under the altar that have been slain and are crying out for justice. I believe these souls are those who have accepted Christ during the first twenty one months of the Tribulation period because of the 144,000 and have already been martyred for the cause of Christ.
It is only after this soul harvest, that the sixth seal is opened and catastrophe comes to the earth. In all of this, we must see his grace, his love, and his desire for all to be saved.
WHO ARE THE 144,000 SERVANTS OF GOD?
Let’s read the scripture:
Revelation 7:4-8 “Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
5 From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed,
from the tribe of Reuben 12,000,
from the tribe of Gad 12,000,
6 from the tribe of Asher 12,000,
from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000,
from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000,
7 from the tribe of Simeon 12,000,
from the tribe of Levi 12,000,
from the tribe of Issachar 12,000,
8 from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000,
from the tribe of Joseph 12,000,
from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.
Unfortunately, there is a whole lot of misinformation about this in history and among various types of groups. The Seventh Day Adventist apply this to the faithful of their group, those who will be found observing the Jewish Sabbath. The Jehovah Witnesses first stated that their whole group was the 144,000, then when they grew beyond the 144,000 it became only the “overcomers” in their group. If you meet somebody and they start telling you that they are a part of the 144,000, the first question you should ask them is which tribe are you from? Because if they are not Jewish, they are not a part of this group. There is not a Gentile among them at all.
If we are going to understand the Word of God, we must allow for the role of proper hermeneutics. That word hermeneutics simply means the art and science of Bible interpretation. Here is the first rule: We must let the plain sense of scripture speak out. If the bible says, these are Jews, then they are Jews. Revelation 7:4 “Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.”
Seven things stand out:
- They are going to be Jews! One of the great mistakes that some make is called Replacement Theology. It is when you replace Israel with the “spiritual church”. This makes all of the promises of God to Israel null and void, and in this type of thinking the spiritual church receives all the promises given to Israel. This leads to a great many errors. So we can be assured that any Gentile organization claiming to be the 144,000 are wrong.
- There will be 12,000 from each tribe. Revelation 7:5-8 gives us this information. And when the Word says 12,000 from each tribe, it means exactly 12,000. No one questions whether there was 7000 in Elijah’s day who did not bow their knee to the Baals. Nor should we question this. Accept Gods word at face value. Will they organize themselves first? I don’t know. All I know is that God’s word says that their will be 12,000 from each tribe.
- They will be servants of God. This is from the Greek word doulos which is the same word Paul used to describe himself. You remember that Paul of described himself as a Servant of God. The chief function will be to communicate the gospel of grace. They are going to have fantastic results as is seen in Revelation 7:9 when it speaks of “a great multitude that no one could count.” This multitude represents believers. Another aspect of their ministry is that they will understand the book of Revelation. Revelation 1:1 “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.” Imagine the chaos the world will be in. The Antichrist is pushing his worldwide agenda. The rapture has occurred and the world is wondering what happened to millions of Christians. The Antichrist has signed a seven-year agreement with Israel. The temple has been or is being rebuilt. They will take all of that information and preach the gospel.
- Billions could be saved. Revelation 7:9 “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” This is the ultimate result of the ministry of these who go around the world and serve God in the preaching of the Gospel.
- God’s seal will be upon their foreheads. Revelation 7:3 “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.” We do not know of what the seal will consist of, but the text suggest is will be visible. They are being sealed by God. During this same period of time the antichrist is launching a campaign to have everyone on earth to have a seal on their forehead or right hand in order to participate in the new economic system. The Antichrist is also doing counterfeit signs and miracles through the False Prophet. What the Bible teaches is that people are being forced to choose. Either you heed the message of the Servants of God with God’s seal in their forehead, or you take the mark of the beast. Fortunately, many will chose to heed the words of the 144,000 and accept Christ, even though it means they will be martyred.
- The 144,000 will operate under the power of the Holy Spirit. There has been a false teaching that has been widespread for many years. That is the idea that the Holy Spirit will no longer be on earth during the Tribulation. This is an impossible thing. First of all, the Holy Spirit is omnipresent, so how could He not be here? Secondly, people will be saved, and that requires the convincing work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will be present on earth during the tribulation. The Prophet Joel foresaw this ministry on the Spirit of God in Joel 2:28-32:
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.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
30 I will show wonders in the heavens
and on the earth,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
31 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
32 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
there will be deliverance,
as the Lord has said,
among the survivors
whom the Lord calls.”
While Peter referred to this verse on the Day of Pentecost, a thorough reading of the passage shows that it was not completely fulfilled during the early churches time. The following verses speak clearly of the Tribulation Period: Joel 2:30-32 “I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”
- These 144,000 Jews will come from all over the world. Today Jews are scattered throughout the leading cities of the world. When things begin to happen they will be sealed, leave all depending upon God and go and preach the gospel. They will not need to learn languages or raise funds.
GOD HAS A PLAN TO REDEEM MILLIONS DURING THE TRIBULATION:
God understands exactly what needs to happen in order for men and women to turn to the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Let me give you some elements of His plan:
The effects of the Rapture on the world.
We cannot underestimate the power that the Rapture will have on this planet. Millions will be missing all across the globe. I am sure their will be a lot of strange explanations. We have been invaded by aliens. This was the work of some other world beings. But when it is found out that the common denominator is that they are all Christians. There will be a revival of interest in prophetic studies as many look to God’s word to find out what the scripture says. Those who mocked and laughed at Christianity will then turn to the Bible looking for answers.
The 144,000 Servants of God.
The Apostle Paul was a man who was fully dedicated to Christ. No other thing held him in sway. Imagine when 144.000 men filled with the Holy Spirit, are unleashed to preach the gospel. They will go to every home, business, city, town and will preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. These men will be on fire for God and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ! The entire world will have opportunity to accept Jesus. This is the pure love of God giving men and women opportunity to be a part of the kingdom of heaven.
A Return of the Day of Pentecost
If you study the prophecy in the book of Joel and see that it has Tribulation overtones, then the day of Pentecost was really a precursor to the real thing! The Holy Spirt will not just empower those who are sealed with the seal of God. But just as the early church was filled with boldness when they were threatened, even so, many of these new converts, will receive a supernatural empowerment of the Holy Spirit and they also will preach the good news. They will share with friends and family of their decision, many fully knowing that the Antichrist and his forces will soon be hunting them and that refusing the mark will cause their death.
Chaotic World Conditions
The main purpose of the Tribulation is to produce conditions that will be conducive in bringing every person into a decision about Jesus Christ. While the majority will accept the mark of the beast, in the Tribulation Periods early days many will decide to follow Jesus Christ. The sixth seal judgment contains the description of conditions that will cause people to lose their sense of security. God in his goodness has created a world that has been for millennia stable and secure. But when earthquakes, and volcanoes, and tidal waves are wreaking havoc, and major buildings and structures are falling. Men will begin to lose confidence in their self-sufficient ideas and ways. When stars fall from heaven and mountains and islands are moved out of their place, many terrified people will call on God for help.
Most people are acquainted with the effects of today’s population explosion. Think of this
From creation to 1830 population increased to 1 billion
From 1830 to 1930 population increased to 2 billion
From 1930 to 1960 population increased to 3 billion
From 1960 to 1975 population increased to 4 billion
From 1975 to 1995 population increased to 5 billion
From 1995 to 2000 population increased to 6 billion
Today population increate to almost 8 billion
Is it possible that more people can be saved during the Tribulation than all the rest of human history combined? I believe that Revelation 7:9-10 teaches us just that! “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
The fact that this multitude is dressed in white robes shows that they are the redeemed ones from the earth. The palm branches refer back to Christ triumphal entry signifying that they are conquerors and victorious. The song they sing indicates that they are recipients of personal salvation.
ALL OF HEAVEN WILL REJOICE
Revelation 7:11-12 “ All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Angels often rejoice when sinners come to God! Luke 15:7 “The angels of heaven rejoice when one sinner comes to repentance.” If heaven throws a party for one, what will happen when this many millions come to Christ?
THE EXACT IDENTITY OF THE MULTITUDE IS SPELLED OUT!
John doesn’t recognize them. John is a member of the Jews of the Old Testament and the Church. These are those redeemed out of the Tribulation! We have called them Tribulation Saints. While separate and distinct from the church, they are definitely saved and part of God’s eternal kingdom.
13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes —who are they, and where did they come from?”
14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “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,
“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
16 Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Look at the rewards given to this group. Even though they may have initially rejected Christ before the rapture, and even though they suffered immensely after the Tribulation begins. God in his mercy rewards them.
- “They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple.”
Obviously, they have died, but their position before the throne indicates that they are just as much a part of the kingdom of God as those from other periods.
- “He will…spread his tent over them.” In other words, they will forever be with the Lord, they are included and protected under the covenant of the blood of Jesus.
- “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. the sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.” They will no longer suffer. These verses show the terrible suffering that the Tribulation Saints will endure. Many will undoubtably suffer greatly as the Antichrist and his forces literally scour the earth to try to rid the earth of all who believe in Jesus Christ.
- “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
This is a wonderful promise not just to the Tribulation Saints but to all who believe in Christ. This promise is repeated in Revelation 21:4.
What a blessing it will be to for those who are a part of the 144,000 servants of God.