Who Are the 144,000 of Revelation?
Twice in the book of Revelation, John writes about a group of individuals totaling 144,000.
His first mention is found in Revelation 7.
“And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed:” (verse 4)
The second mention is in chapter 14.
“Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” (verse 1)
Do both references of 144,000 represent the same group of individuals? Is it possible the 144,000 could be two separate groups? Are the 144,000 human beings or spirit beings?
Identifying the 144,000 requires understanding the timing of events John is writing about.
144,000 of Revelation 7
John clearly states in Revelation 7:4 who this group of 144,000 represents.
“One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of [out from] the children of Israel were sealed.”
These people are descendants from the 12 tribes of Israel, 12,000 from each tribe. (verses 5-8)
God seals or protects this group from harm the four angels are ready to bring on the earth. (verses 2-3) These four angels represent trumpets 1-4 found in Revelation 8:7-13. They sound along with trumpets 5 and 6 toward the end of Great Tribulation, not during the Day of the Lord. (Matt. 24:29-31, Mark 13:24-27)
These protected Israelites go into Great Tribulation as punishment for their sins. (Jer. 30:4-7a, 15) They will receive protection during the final months of Great Tribulation for their repentance. (Rev. 7:14) God will make His Holy Spirit available to them, along with “a great multitude” shortly after Christ’s reign on earth begins. (Joel 2:28-29; Rev.7:15-17)
144,000 of Revelation 14
Again, John clearly identifies who this group represents.
“These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.”
The term “firstfruits” is used to describe this group.
Who does the Bible identify as “firstfruits”?
“Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures [creation].” (Jam. 1:18)
“But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” (I Cor. 15:23)
The 144,000 firstfruits are those God has called out of this world and proven faithful to His Truth during their human lives. (Matt. 24:13) This group spans 6,000 years, from righteous Abel to those alive at the sound of the 7th trumpet. (Heb. 11:39-40, I Cor. 15:52) These individuals will assemble together in the air above Jerusalem (Rev. 11:8, 11-12) following three and half years of Great Tribulation. (Matt. 24:29-31)
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (I Thes. 4:16-17)
Revelation 14 pictures Christ with 144,000 resurrected and changed saints standing before the throne of God the Father. (Rev. 14:3) The timing of this event occurs during the Day of the Lord. This comes once the 7th trumpet has sounded and the 7 last plagues have been poured out, (Rev. 15:8), but before Christ and the 144,000 firstfruits return to earth to subdue the world’s armies at Jerusalem. (Rev. 19:11, 14, 20-21; Zech. 14:3-4)
Two Groups of 144,000
The 144,000 are two distinctly different groups of individuals.
One is composed of human beings who come from the twelve tribes of Israel. These individuals will repent in Great Tribulation, receive protection from the trumpet plagues and afterwards receive God’s Spirit. (Ezek. 36:22-27)
The other is “firstfruits”, resurrected or changed at the 7th trumpet. (Rev. 20:6) This group represents the ruling family of God. They have qualified and are ready to rule under the leadership of Jesus Christ in establishing God’s Kingdom on the earth. (Rev. 5:10)