THE BOOK OF REVELATION
THE CHURCH'S TRIUMPH THROUGH CHRIST
Sermon #30 - The Sixth Seal - The 144,000 - Revelation 7:1-8
INTRODUCTION - The book of Revelation was written for the church during a time of great turmoil and change for the people of God. Christ was coming to judge the Jewish nation in 70 AD. As the city and temple of Jerusalem are destroyed, the church of Jesus Christ is established as the true people of God. Our starting point for this judgment of Jerusalem begins in Revelation 6 where Christ breaks the seals of the New Covenant, bringing forth blessing to those who believe and curses upon those who reject Him. Yet even though all is ready for judgment, there is one last thing which must be done before Jerusalem falls - the people of God, the true Israel, must be sealed. Thus we have seen in Revelation 7 how the angels of destruction are held back while the church is marked with the seal of God. This tribulation is not for them. This wrath of Christ is not sent upon them. They will be spared, just as in the days of Ezekiel, the true remnant of God were spared the judgment of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 9). This morning we shall continue our study of the 144,000, endeavoring to understand from Scripture who they truly represent. Last week we saw that Revelation 7 tells us that they are servants of God, Christians, being separated from apostate Israel. They are protected from the judgment of Christ against fallen Israel. Like an Old Testament army, they are chosen in units of one thousand, set apart for the Lord Jesus Christ. Now we shall turn to two more passages which will reveal even further the identity of this group and what they represent.
1) THE 144,000 IN REVELATION 14:1-5 - Once again this group appears in Revelation, giving us added insight into who they are.
A) THE SEAL OF THE 144,000 - In Revelation 7 we were only told that they were sealed on their foreheads, but now we are told what the seal actually is. It is the name of God the Father. The church is the property of God, sealed with the very name of God. In Revelation 3:12, Christ has told the church that they are sealed with the name of the Father, with the name of the Holy City, and with the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. So it is with us today. We, the church of Jesus Christ, have been sealed by our Lord. We are owned and protected by God Himself. This again would bring great relief to the church of the first century as they considered their position in the turbulent world. The seal of the 144,000 is the seal of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
B) THE LOCATION OF THE 144,000 - Here we are told that the 144,000 are always with the Lamb of God, and they follow the Lamb wherever He goes. In particular, they are seen on Mount Zion with the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the place of Christ's exaltation and ascension, showing that He has been exalted as King of kings and Lord of lords over the universe (Psalm 2:6). Thus, the people of God, the church of Christ, is pictured in victory, standing next to their triumphant Lord. Wherever this Lord goes, the church follows in attendance. It is the great comfort of God's people to know that their King is always present.
C) THE PURITY OF THE 144,000 - John does not literally mean that the 144,000 were never married, rather he is speaking of their purity and holiness before the Lamb of God. The people of God are often called "virgins" in the Old Testament, and the theme continues into the New Testament (II Corinthians 11:2). This is in reference to the church's blameless and spotless presence before Christ. We are the bride of Christ, betrothed to Him, spotless in His sight.
D) THE 144,000 AS THE REDEEMED AND FIRSTFRUITS OF GOD AND CHRIST - In Revelation 14:4, John uses phrases describing the 144,000 which can only apply to the church. They are the redeemed, the firstfruits of God and Christ. In James 1:18 we are told that the church is the firstfruit of the Lord.
The phrases used in Revelation 14 to describe the 144,000 lead us to one conclusion - they certainly represent the Church of Jesus Christ. The 144,000 are a figurative group, a figurative number of completeness, representing all the people of God. Let us turn to another passage which deals with the numbering we have seen in Revelation 7.
2) THE 144,000 IN REVELATION 21 - Though not mentioned specifically in Revelation 21, the numbers found in this chapter certainly match that which we have been studying in Revelation 7. In Revelation 21:9, the Apostle John is being told that he is going to be shown the church, the bride of Christ. Yet instead of being shown people, the City of God descends from heaven. This too is the bride of Christ, and so we see the church represented in another form. What is fascinating are the numbers that are used in this chapter to describe the church. There are twelve gates with the tribes of Israel written on them and twelve foundations with the twelve apostles written on them. The church is, therefore, God's people throughout all of time, from both Old and New Testaments. When the city is measured (Revelation 21:15-17) we find that the wall is one hundred and forty-four cubits. All of these numbers bring us back to Revelation 7 and the numbers John uses in that chapter. In Revelation 21, John is describing the church. In Revelation 7 he is doing the same thing with the picture and number of the 144,000.
3) THE LISTING OF THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL IN REVELATION 7 - Revelation 7 has its own peculiar way of listing the sons of Jacob. First, we see that Judah is listed first, though Judah was not the firstborn. This brings this tribe to the forefront, reminding us that the Lord Jesus Christ descended from this tribe. It is the most important tribe, for it was the line of kings and the line of Christ. Then, as we read through the list, we note that Dan is missing, Joseph is mentioned, and Ephraim is omitted. Joseph is the father of Ephraim and Manasseh. We can explain the omission of Ephraim by saying that Joseph represents and replaces his firstborn son. How are we to explain the exclusion of Dan? Actually, even back in I Chronicles, the tribe of Dan was falling into obscurity. The tribe became extremely idolatrous, losing favor with God, and not even being mentioned in a listing of I Chronicles. Thus, John is basically following Old Testament listing, omitting Dan as an idolatrous people. None of the true people of God will come from him.