Our Bible is replete with numbers, adding numerical precision to God’s counsel. Incidentally, we can tend to focus on parts of the Bible that do not have specific numbers and ignore those other parts that have precise numbers given to us for a reason. Unless otherwise specified—as in the 70 weeks of Daniel—we should always take biblical numbers literally.
So, what are we to make of God’s description of the 144,000 men from Israel in the book of Revelation? Keeping with the context in Revelation 7:1-8, they will be comprised of 12,000 Jewish men from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. They will not be Jehovah’s Witnesses, nor will they be from any other group. There is no reason to believe that they are spiritual Israel either.
Some have argued that the Jewish people’s tribal backgrounds cannot be identified because—with the exception of the Levites, who carry their tribal identity in their names, like Cohen or Levy—all records kept inside the temple in Jerusalem were lost when that very temple was destroyed in AD 70. So, today, the vast majority of the Jewish people do not know their tribal origins, and have no means of finding out that information. However, while their identities have been lost to men, they have not been lost to our omniscient God. Because He will personally select the 144,000 men who will become world evangelists during the tribulation, we ought not to worry about who they are.
Instead, we ought to rejoice and be very grateful that even during such a time of turmoil on planet Earth, God will provide people with a way out of eternal damnation through the powerful evangelistic ministry of these 144,000 preachers of the Word. The future destiny of some of our loved ones left behind could very well be affected by the witness of these evangelists.
In Revelation 14:1-5, we read again about the 144,000—this time, toward the end of the great tribulation. Here, we learn several things about these men:
Revelation 14:1—“…having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.”
This tells us they will receive a special seal on their foreheads from the Lamb and the Father, for they will be set apart for a very special ministry. That seal will protect them from harm during the great tribulation, also known as the “time of Jacob’s trouble,” which will focus primarily, but not exclusively, on the Jewish people.
Revelation 14:3—“…the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth.”
This tells us they have been purchased. Yeshua paid the price for these men with His own blood, so they belong to Him.
Revelation 14:4—“These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste.”
These 144,000 Jewish men will be pure, having not defiled themselves with women. There is no reason to read this allegorically. This speaks of virgin men set aside for celibacy and service to God.
Revelation 14:4—“These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.”
These men will be obedient to the call they received from the Lamb. They will be persistent and consistent against all odds.
The 144,000 will be Jewish men left behind as unbelievers after the pretribulational, premillennial rapture of the church. They will become believers after the rapture, and they will turn out to be the greatest evangelists the world has ever known. Because the Jewish people have been scattered all over the globe for centuries by the diaspora, many of them are able to speak at least two languages, and often more. What a great asset this will be to their evangelistic endeavors during the tribulation! They will be unstoppable, and through their ministry, many people will come to a saving knowledge of Yeshua the Messiah.
Now, one thing we cannot do as believers is determine the date of the rapture. Yeshua Himself warned us about that. Nobody knows the day nor the hour, and we shouldn’t try to figure it out (Matthew 24:36; Acts 1:7). And yet, there is something that we should do and be very excited about doing.
When we look around us, no matter what country we live in, we can see that most people get the impression that we truly are in the last hour of the end days. It is surprising to see that Yeshua hasn’t already returned to snatch the saints up to heaven and allow for the tribulation to start. But God doesn’t wish for anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9), and while many will never accept Yeshua as the Son of God, Savior of the world, and Messiah of Israel, He is longsuffering and is giving people more time to come to Him.
Considering the times we live in, it might not be an exaggeration to believe that some of the Jewish males we encounter and share the gospel with will become part of the 144,000 during the tribulation.
This should be an encouragement to all of us as believers. Today, whenever we share the gospel with a Jewish man, we could be planting a gospel seed in the heart of one of the future 144,000 evangelists. In doing so, we would be investing in future kingdom work that will bear fruit way beyond the rapture. Along those lines, we also ought to start praying for the 144,000 and their ministry.
So, aside from seeking to bless the Jewish people and, in return, be blessed by the God of Israel (Genesis 12:3), we truly have 144,000 reasons to share the gospel with Jewish people today. We truly live in exciting times!
Olivier Melnick was raised in a secular Jewish family in Paris. After meeting Ellen, his future wife, and reading a book on prophecy that she had given him, Olivier began a search, which led him to believe in Yeshua (Jesus) as his Savior. Olivier and Ellen then married, settled in the US, and have since been involved in reaching Jewish people for Yeshua. Olivier has a BA in Jewish studies from Moody Bible Institute and an MA in Bible and theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books and is the southwest regional director for Chosen People Ministries.