Who are the 144,000? The joke is that’s how many people have differing ideas about who they are!
I remember the first time I heard about the 144,000, it was by a church who had about 8 million adherents around the world! Later when the church I believed had the truth about the 144,000 actually looked like it would soon have about that many men, women and children, before I could get worried, it was pruned down to about 25,000.
Back in the ‘70s, I thought I knew everything about the 144,000. Today I just hold onto exactly what the Bible says and assume no more than that until more is revealed, which God says He will do for His servants when the time is right (Amos 3:7).
Because Revelation 7 and 14 each mention the 144,000, some think there are 288,000!
Revelation 7 talks about 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel—except Dan, which appears to be bad news for those from Ireland and Denmark. This 144,000 is sealed in Chapter 7, which some see as an important detail since Christians have already been sealed by the Holy Spirit when they receive it after baptism and the laying on of hands (Ephesians 1:13-14).
Some see this 144,000 as involving the 12 tribes of Israel that will be regathered to the Holy Land at Christ’s return—the Second Exodus that will make everyone forget the first one in comparison—to become the model for the Gentiles that they were intended to be.
So while the 144,000 of Revelation 7 talks about nationality, the 144,000 of Revelation 14 clearly talks about spirituality. These are not defiled spiritually. They follow Christ wherever He goes. And they are “the first fruits.”
Those who observe God’s Holy Day of Pentecost know that God is only calling a small harvest of “first fruits” from Abel to the return of His Son. First fruits of 144,000 would be a very small harvest of the perhaps 50 billion people who have ever lived. Those billions will have their chance at salvation in the Millennium but primarily in the Great White Throne Judgment.
So 288,000? More likely is that “the 144,000” of both chapters is the same group rather than “this 144,000 and that 144,000.”
Josephus knew where the “lost tribes of Israel” were in the first century, Hebrews was addressed to them, Church of God groups know where they have migrated and settled, and God knows the heritage of Christians He has called.
But then, what tribe was Abel? Noah? Abraham and Sarah?
Some believe the 12 tribes of 12,000 each in Revelation 7 is symbolic—12 being the Bible number of organization. Otherwise, why would tiny Issachar (Finland) have the same number of people as the United States and Great Britain (Joseph)? Some think all true Christians down through time would be way more than 144,000 so the number must be symbolic.
Others counter that “God Who knows the number of hairs on a head can surely count! If He says there are 144,000, then I believe Him!”
What’s important is that “the first fruits” have the hope of being the Bride of Christ! The Bible says the first resurrection is “a better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35). The firstborn is given double portion (Deuteronomy 21:15-17). Apparently those converted in the Millennium and Great White Throne Judgment will be sons and daughters of the union of Christ and the Bride. They don’t face Satan until he is released at the end of the Millennium. They won’t face a society seeped in Satan’s way.
So here’s the most important number in “the 144,000”: the 1.
You! Me! God help us to respond to His calling to be one of the first fruits who are no longer defiled spiritually and who follow Christ wherever He goes including down the altar!