During the time of Jesus’ first coming the 12 apostles were a type of “Special Forces”. After three and a half years of intensive personal training with Jesus, the disciples were used by God to achieve great victories.They penetrated Satan’s dominion to spearhead a great revival and expansion of the Christian faith.
But the book of Revelation tells us of another Special Forces unit, a vast army of144,000. They have a special relationship with the Lamb and they are sealed with a special name. They also sing a special song. Why are the 144,000 so important? Because they are commissioned with the greatest mission in the last days: to prepare the world for Jesus ‘return.
Yet many are bewildered by this group – and a lot of confusion in the church exists. So what exactly is this holy army and who will fill its ranks.
We are told this distinctive group is comprised of 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, which are Judah, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh,Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin. It should be noted that this listing of tribes is unique, as it is the only time that the catalogue of tribes appears in this particular order (more on that later).
Though there are diverse ideas about this group, we see they play a crucial role in the last days.
People wonder if the 144,000 are literally 12,000 of each of the 12tribes. Even though this belief is common in some circles, after a close look, it becomes obvious that this is unlikely. A careful study in the Old Testament reveals and important clue. Because the 10northern tribes gave themselves completely over to idolatry, God allowed the Assyrian to carry them away in 722BC. “In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria” (2 Kings 17:6).
When the tribes of Judah and Benjamin were later carried off to Babylon, after spending70 years in captivity, thousands returned. But with the 10 tribes,history never records any mass exodus from Assyria back to Israel.Instead, the king of Assyria transplanted and assortment of people from pagan nations in the land of Israel in the region of Samaria.“Then the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava,Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities” (2 Kings 17:24).
The king did send one Hebrew priest back from Assyria to teach these transplanted pagans about the God of Israel, but not from the exiled 10 tribes (2Kings 17:27). They eventually became known as the Samaritans. As is evident in the New Testament, the Jews detested this group. Why? They were no longer pure Israelites in blood or religion. Long before the time of Jesus, the 10 exiled tribes intermarried with the Assyrians,losing their distinct identity. Today a genealogist would be hard pressed to find even one vaguely pure descendant from these tribes –much less 12,000! The tribes were so thoroughly scattered,assimilated, and absorbed around the world by their host nations, It is entirely possible that you have a trace of Abraham in your
Again, at first glance one might think that 144,000 are literal Jews. But from the time of Jesus most of the prophecies speaking of Israel are focused on the children of faith – or spiritual Israel – regardless of whether they were Jew or Gentile by blood.
Here is a small sample of the many texts that establish this truth.“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). The Lord told the Israelites, “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). In the New Testament, the apostle Peter applies this title to the Christian church: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). Romans 2:28,29, says, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly,nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter .”
The apostle James gives us one of the most convincing Scriptures showing that the apostle viewed these tribes is a spiritual sense. “James, a bondservant of God … To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (James 1:1). James letter is addressed to Christians, yet he refers to them as spiritual Jews from twelve spiritual tribes.
So why did God name the 12 tribes when listing the 144,000? This is one of the most compelling clues that there must be a spiritual meaning to the tribes listed in Revelation 7. Let me introduce this point by explain that this is the only time in the Bible that the tribes are arranged in this order. Also Joseph and Levi are included while Ephraim and Dan are left out. Why?
When Jews named their babies, the names nearly always had some meaning the depicted a characteristic of the child or the event connected with the birth.Notice how the wives of Jacob, Rachel and Leah, proclaimed the meanings of their son’s names as they were born. As you continue reading the narrative in Genesis 29 of each of these births, Rachel and Leah also made prophetic statements of all 12 of their sons regarding the meanings of their names.
Here is the names of the tribes listed for the 144,000, in the order in which Revelation 7 lists them, and their corresponding meaning as found in Scripture:
Judah means “I will praise the Lord”
Reuben means “He has looked on me”
Gad means “Given good fortune”
Asher means “Happy am I”
Naphtali means “My wrestling”
Manasseh means “Making me to forget”
Simeon means “God hears me”
Levi means “joined tome”
Issachar means “Purchased me”
Zebulun means “Dwellling”
Joseph means “Will add to me”
Benjamin means “Son of my right hand.”
Now here is the amazing part. Notice what happens when you line up these meaning according to the order in which they appear in Revelation 7. It forms a very remarkable statement declaring how God saves the church as His bride!
“I will praise the Lord for he has looked on me (and) granted good fortune. I am happy (because of) my wrestling. God is making me to forget. God hears me and is joined to me. He has purchased me a dwelling and will add to me, the Son of His right hand.” (The connecting words in Italics are supplied for flow of thought).
These names in this order describe a brief story summarising the church’s struggle,redemption, victory, and ultimate marriage to the Lamb. It seem evident that this is a special message of encourage for those who are in the church, believers in Christ, and not just Jews.
At Jesus’ first coming He chose 12 men to reach Israel. “These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew12:5, 6). Then with the outpouring of the former rain, the 12apostles reaches thousands during the Pentecost revival. At first,they well all Jews (see Acts 2:5).
At the time of Jesus’ second coming,from the outpouring of the latter rain (the Holy Spirit), 12 times12,000 which reach a great multitude around the world. The great multitude is converted under the influence and preaching of the144,000!
Keep in mind that the 144,000 are not the only ones who Jesus is using to preach in the last days – just as the 12 apostles were only part of the 120 in the upper room who lead out in the Pentecost revival (Acts 1:15). Not only did Jesus send out 12 to preach in Israel, but another time He sent out a team of 70 (Luke 10:1). The 144.000 are spiritual leaders in this revival,not the only ones preaching.
Just before the Lord pours out the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, something interesting happens in Acts 1. After Jesus ascended to heaven, the disciples pray and put aside their differences in the upper room (verse 13). One of the 12 apostles,Judas, was dead and needed to be replaced to restore the number to 12(verse 26). As soon as the number was complete, the Holy Spirit was poured out.
Jesus blessed, trained, and filled with the Spirit 12 people to lead His followers in reaching the house of Israel for His first coming. He will next choose 12 times 12,000 to lead His church in reaching the world for His second coming. There will be a great multitude converted as a result of their ministry.
FOR FURTHER STUDY
Revelation 14:1-5; Revelation 4:4; Matthew 19:28; Exodus 39:14; Genesis 48:5; Numbers 1:49; Romans 11:1; Genesis 49:17; Hosea 4:17; Genesis 29:31-35; Revelation 12:1; 1 Chronicles 27:1-15