Unravelling the mystery of the 144 000 (Part 2)

Last week, we posed the four questions most laymen would ask about the strange and limited number that appears in Revelation 7:4-8 – why only exactly 144 00 people from the twelve tribes of Israel will be, or have been, “sealed with the name of God on their foreheads” and will surely inhabit the New Jerusalem that will “descend from heaven” after the trials and tribulations of the “End of Days.”

Firstly, why is the number limited to the tribes of Israel? Secondly, why is it exact and apportioned equally between them? Thirdly, why is it limited to men only since, in Revelation 14:4, they are described as “those who have not defiled themselves with women, and are chaste men?’’ Most worryingly, if “sealed” is interpreted to mean “saved” (i.e. those who will not be cast into the “Lake of Fire”), will only 12 000 from each tribe be saved? We did not directly answer these questions in the last article. Instead, we focused on where this curious number appears to emanate from, and what it means.

Is the number, in any case, literal or is it another of John’s symbols? Actually, those that worry that they might not have a place in heaven due to limited numbers need not fret. In the very next verse (v. 9), John marvels at “a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, tribe and peoples and tongues, clothed in white robes…who shall hunger or thirst no more…for the Lamb…shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to the springs of the water of life, and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes.” Clearly, the strange number of 144 000 does not shut out many.

Editor's Comment
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