And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel. (Rev. 7:4)

Many sincere Bible-believing Christians would understand the 144,000 like this: The church is raptured prior to the great tribulation. During the time when the church is gone, a remnant of 144,000 ethnic Jews is converted (12,000 from each tribe). These Jewish converts, in turn, evangelize the Gentiles who make up the great multitude in white robes in v. 9. That’s one understanding of Revelation 7.  A lot of godly people hold that understanding. Let me explain why I understand the 144,000 differently.

The 144,000 are not an ethnic Jewish remnant, and certainly not an Anointed Class of saints who became Jehovah’s Witnesses before 1935. The 144,000 represent the entire community of the redeemed. Let me give you several reasons for making this claim.

First, in chapter 13 we read that Satan seals all of his followers, so it makes sense that God would seal all of his people, not just the Jewish ones.

Second, the image of sealing comes from Ezekiel 9 where the seal on the forehead marks out two groups of people: idolaters and non-idolaters. It would seem that the sealing of the 144,000 makes a similar distinction based on who worships God not who among the Jewish remnant worships God.

Third, the 144,000 are called the servants of our God (Rev. 7:3). There is no reason to make the 144,000 any more restricted than that. If you are a servant of the living God, you are one of the 144,000 mentioned here. In Revelation, the phrase “servants of God” always refers to all of God’s redeemed people, not just an ethnic Jewish remnant (see 1:1; 2:20; 19:2; 19:5; 22:3).

Fourth, the 144,000 mentioned later in chapter 14 are those who have been “redeemed from the earth” and those who were “purchased from among men.” This is generic everybody kind of language. The 144,000 is a symbolic number of redeemed drawn from all peoples, not simply the Jews. Besides, if the number is not symbolic then what do we do with Revelation 14:4 which describes the 144,000 as those “who have not defiled themselves with women”? Are we to think that the 144,000 refers to a chosen group of celibate Jewish men? It makes more sense to realize that 144,000 is a symbolic number that is described as celibate men to highlight the group’s moral purity and set-apartness for spiritual battle.

Fifth, the last reason for thinking that the 144,000 is the entire community of the redeemed is because of the highly stylized list of tribes in verses 5-8. The number itself is stylized. It’s not to be taken literally. It’s 12 x 12 x 1000—12 being the number of completion for God’s people (representing the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles of the Lamb) and 1000 being a generic number suggesting a great multitude. So 144,000 is a way of saying all of God’s people under the old and new covenant.

And then look at the list of the tribes. There are over a dozen different arrangements of the twelve tribes in the Bible. This one is unique among all of those. Judah is listed first because Jesus was from there as a lion of the tribe of Judah. All twelve of Jacob’s sons are listed—including Levi who usually wasn’t because he didn’t inherit any land-except for one. Manasseh, Joseph’s son (Jacob’s grandson), is listed in place of Dan. So why not Dan? Dan was left out in order to point to the purity of the redeemed church. From early in Israel’s history, Dan was the center of idolatry for the kingdom (Judges 18:30-31). During the days of the divided kingdom, Dan was one of two centers for idolatry (1 Kings 12:28-30). And there is recorded in some non-Biblical Jewish writings that the Jews thought the anti-Christ would come out of Dan based on Genesis 49:17. The bottom line is that the number and the list and the order of the tribes are all stylized to depict the totality of God’s pure and perfectly redeemed servants from all time over all the earth. That’s what Revelation means by the 144,000.

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80 thoughts on “Who Are the 144,000 in Revelation?”

  1. Rob says:

    If I had to read the Bible in the way Kevin suggests — a way that takes the plain meaning of words and sentences, and reinterprets them dramatically beyond their plain meaning, then I may as well be honest and give up the Bible as a divine book and return to my former atheism.

    Richard Dawkins can write books in which he says what he means in language that is understandable. And yes, he uses allegory and metaphors and so on. Is God unable to do the same? Is the communication and Word of God so confusing that we have to jump thru allegorical or other hoops to understand it?

    To be quite honest, as I have encountered more and more of this allegorizing of the Bible, I have become less and less interested in reading it. Why? Because whatever I read in the Bible now requires another interpretative layer in order to understand it. I just cannot take what it says at face value.

  2. Robert says:

    I think Kevin is spot on with this interpretation although I have come across some interesting insight into why they tribes are listed as they are. Bill Salus, a dispensationalist outlines it this way:

    A standard starting point of exploration is to discern the meaning of the names to see if they are message-formatted. This method finds application in the case of the 144,000 witnesses.

    The Meaning of the Names:

    Judah: “Praise God”;
    Reuben: “behold a son”;
    Gad: “good fortune”;
    Asher: “happiness”;
    Naphtali: “my wrestling or struggle”;
    Manasseh: “God has caused me to forget”;
    Simeon: “hearing”;
    Levi: “joining or grafting in”;
    Issachar: “God hath given me my hire, or has reinstated me”;
    Zebulun: “elevated or elevated position”;
    Joseph: “adding or increasing”;
    Benjamin: “son of the right hand”.

    The Message of the Names:

    Praise God! Behold a Son of good fortune and happiness. My struggle, God has caused me to forget. Hearing of our grafting in, God has reinstated me into an elevated position, increased by the Son of the right hand.

    The Mission Statement:

    Inherent in these oddly ordered names, appears to be the ministerial message of the 144,000 witnesses. Their “Mission Statement” could perhaps read as follows:

    Praise God for the gospel of Christ, a Son of good fortune and happiness. My struggle with sin and the Mosaic Law, God has caused me to forget. Hearing of the mystery of our grafting in with the Gentiles, God has reinstated me into an elevated position of ministry once again, and is increasing those being saved through Christ, the Son of the right hand.

  3. Emmanuel Amey Azameti says:

    It is interestingly sad the way some people try to impose their thoughts on God by trying to reinstate the plain words of scripture. The subject of the 144000 has received too much bashing from those into whose mouth God has put no words. In their zeal they end up discouraging more people from relying on the Holy Bible.

  4. Clyde Smith says:

    Wrong, so wrong.Keep digging.

  5. I tried to comb through all these comments to make sure nobody had pointed something out that you all have seemed to miss. The 144,000 are not all Jews. In case you have forgotten, 10 of those tribes we assimilated into Gentiles nations after the Assyrian captivity. Only the tribe of Judah and Benjamin (which a few Levites thrown in as they were in both Israel and Judah) are Jews. Judah – Jews. The vast majority of this group are of Israelite heritage but may not even realize they are at this point and they will be coming out of the nations. This group is sealed for the purpose of making it through the Trumpet judgment #5, Rev. 9:4 “And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.” They will be on earth.

    The other multitude on the other hand is in heaven on the sea of glass being the Christian martyrs that come out of the Tribulation. They are the martyrs whom the martyrs under the altar in the 5th seal were told to expect to join them. Totally different groups with different purposes. And nothing indicates that they are evangelists, no matter what people teach. That is adding to God’s Word.

    As for taking Revelation literally or spiritually, when it comes to prophecy we have been instructed in 2 Peter 1:20 “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” The only way to avoid private interpretation is to keep to the literal whenever possible. Now about those visions that seem so unreal. I have discovered that God has from Genesis on, explained terms or objects that He wants us to understand in a spiritual way so that by the time you get to Revelation He expected you should understand the symbolism when it wasn’t explained, and in the other places where it was new, He explained it. And if neither, no matter how unreal it may seem, it may be very literal. I have studied Revelation for decades in great depth, and keeping to a literal interpretation in practically all cases, when you have all the information needed to understand it by having studied the Laws and Prophets, it is not that hard to understand and in fact very orderly and logical. People think all that stuff in there is symbolic. Trust me it is not. Those horrible creatures described in Rev. 9 are quite real. They are demons or fallen angels. Both are quite real. The beast is more of a real beast that you realize for he is a demonic spirit which comes out of the abyss to inhabit and possess a person called the antichrist. He has also inhabited the other seven “heads” that he has. God tells us that these heads are seven mountains (which in the O.T. you learn stands symbolically for a kingdom) and that they also stand for seven kings (verifying the kingdom interpretation) – the seven heads of state that he has possessed through the ages. See God explains his symbolism? Remember the statue Nebuchadnezzar saw? Those were some of the heads. (Again where God explained His symbolism) The spiritual world is very real and very horrific on the Satanic side of things. Take a good look at how the cherubim around God’s throne or in Ezekiel are described. And these are the good guys. Not really pretty by our standards, so this beast may actually look like this, as he is an evil spirit. It may not be as symbolic as you think.

  6. R.C. says:

    The 144000 are orginal tribe decendants that mixed with gentiles througout the years since jesus,and are scattered throughout the world by the will of God.They were chosen for the task by God to deliver the final warning to all on earth.It is not man giving the warning ,but theLord God(marked in their foreheads),as in the day of pentecost.When God speaks through them ,most knees will bend and will be saved.This happens mid -trib after the abomination of desolation committed by the antichrist.

  7. For fresh insight on the identity of Revelation’s 144,000 visit: http://www.TheProverbs120Column.com

    Don’t wait to repent for the appearance of perfect Jewish men to appear on the world scene. The 144,000 have come and gone. They are already with the Lamb in heaven.

  8. Dennis says:

    Mary A LaClair what kind of Bible are you reading? Tednewell -Metaphoriacal? RC – Mid-Trib???. Endtimesteacher – I agree with you. MR Deyoung – If you paid for your education please ask for a reimbursement, look in your heart there may be something written there that can be understood with guidence of Gods spirit, its called His Law.

  9. Wow, Dennis, your comment is just dripping with Christian love… not! Glad I’m not in your circle of friends, or church for that matter.

  10. Dennis says:

    Mary, we all need to develop a little thicker skin when it comes to the word of God. We need to understand His word. My question to you concerning your original comment is “what Bible are you reading” and how did you come to that conclusion- “Don’t wait to repent for the appearance of perfect Jewish men to appear on the world scene. The 144,000 have come and gone. They are already with the Lamb in heaven.” I do not see that in my Bible. 1) only 1/12 of the 144,000 will be (Jews) from the tribe of Judah. The other 11 tribes excluding the tribe of Benjamin which was part of the southern kingdom are the 10 northern tribes that God divorced, but he also made a promise to. Please take the time to search this out for yourself, be like a berean. I will help in any way I can but do not take my word for it – search the scriptures and see if what you have been told or taught is correct.

  11. please read VIP says:

    The true outpouring of the Holy Spirit of truth happens before the 5th shofar and 5th vial is poured. Revelation 7:3-4,13-14 Revelation 9:4! Joel 2:28-29-this happens in the homes of God’s people and their family members (read Isaiah 26:20-21)! the people of God flee all man made churches, anything of the identical jesus christ movement. then Joel 2:30 which shows the aftermath of the sixth and fifth shofar sounds and fifth and sixth vial poured. then Joel 2:31-32 happens…

    must watch and hear video on youtube titled, “Christ testimony of the churches -around the world.” there are two identical Jesus Christ revelation 17:8. most of revelation is happening in the spirit world. that’s why Jesus said it would be like the days of Noah and Lot. the abomination of desolation is happening in the spirit realm inside all these man made buildings set up for worship. the Christians and catholics, etc are not aware of what’s happening to them and around them in these places, (churches -any four wall building representing God to gather believers of Christ). these churches around the world are all connected to “The Great City” Revelation 11, which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt and Mystery of iniquity. Church leaders around the world are searching of the earthly signs. this will not happen until the very last day and hour. God will not allow man to destroy the earth with nuclear bombs. read matthew 3:12 and Revelation 20:9. God sends his son to the earth with the fire behind him consuming all his enemies which are left from the resurrection of the dead and those that are alive. the body of Christ is gathered as the son of man appears at last sound of shofar, he is coming while the wheat are gathered and the tares are left as the chaff and earth is consumed by the fire of God.

  12. Ezekiel Lamb says:

    i submit they {144,000} are the little flock of Luke 12v32, little in terms of world population and truly separated from the world. I do not believe many Christians today could sell all they possess and gives alms to the poor.for both reasons of Faith and ethics {they have families to support etc}.This separation must therefore occur over time,guided by the Holy Spirit and be possibly be not known by the recipient at least until the end.

  13. James Freda says:

    If the person who wrote this article were correct in their belief, this would mean *any* person who has ever been married and had children, therefore someone who is not a virgin, will go to hell. This is simply false teaching. The beginning of what the article states is the truth though it is denied. It is Jewish saints as far as the 144,000. There will be *way* more than 144,000 in Heaven above but the 144,000 will be the holiest of the holy for what they must and will endure without taking the mark of the beast.

  14. John says:

    144,000 are the one’s who repopulate the Earth after the Wrath of God in Rev. 16. They are the one’s that meet the Lord in the air to come back down, the Church calls it the Rapture but its more like a transfiguration. There can only be one firstfruit of a kind so they are not the firstfruit of the died, Christ is that, so they must be from the living.
    First the Killed Saints will resurrect, Isaiah 26: 21, Rev 20:1-6, to rule with Christ until 1000yr over. These will full fill the 5th seal and give us the great multitude in white robes, as well as fit Rev. 20:5, 1 Cor. 15 and 1 Thess. 4:13-17
    The 144,000 will live and die in the Millennial Kingdom and be resurrected at the end of 1000yr at the white throne judgement Rev. 20:11-15 or Matt. 25:31-46. This will complete Old Testament prophets to Israel in Ezekiel 40-48 and Zechariah 14.
    The killed saints are the little one’s or the lest one with Christ at the Judgement, Matt. 25:31-46, Matt. 10:17-39 teach us who are the in Christ believers. Matt.10: 39 Whoever finds life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
    At the end of Millennial Kingdom all people will be resurrected Christian and none Christian to end death and to enter the New Heaven and New Earth or the lake of fire, Job 14:12 so man lies down and does not rise; till the heavens are no more, men will not awake or be roused from their sleep. 13 If only you would hide me in the grave and conceal me till your anger has passed! If only you would set me a time and then remember me!
    When is Heaven and Earth destroyed? Rev. 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.
    Rev. 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new Earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. Job 12:11 As water disappears from the sea or a riverbed becomes parched and dry,
    Also Matt 5:17-20 is also complete because death is cast in the Lake of fire and there is no need for Law.

  15. Adam says:

    If the 144,000 are not Jewish, then why does it say that they were 12,000 from each of the 12 different tribes. Rev. 7:4-8

    4 Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.

    5 From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed,

    from the tribe of Reuben 12,000,

    from the tribe of Gad 12,000,

    6 from the tribe of Asher 12,000,

    from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000,

    from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000,

    7 from the tribe of Simeon 12,000,

    from the tribe of Levi 12,000,

    from the tribe of Issachar 12,000,

    8 from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000,

    from the tribe of Joseph 12,000,

    from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.

  16. michael keever says:

    And he forces everyone, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark, in their right hand, or in their foreheads!

  17. David Cutler says:

    Hi all, after reading the latest comments on this blog, I have to wonder if anyone knows the truth. I am still open to different theories but I do know that most (not all) don’t have any ideal who Israel is. It’s not surprising since most of us rely on a teacher or Pastor to tell us what to believe instead of being led by the Spirit in our studies. Who is Israel is the key. After all, We serve the God of Israel, don’t we? OK, If you want to know the plan of God you have to know who the players are. Let me put it this way; To fully understand a football game you have to know what the goal of the game is, what the rules are and who the players are and what they can and can not do.

    God is the God of Israel; the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob (Israel). The Bible is a book about God and the plan He has for the descendants of Abraham. That’s the short of it. Now we are to discover our history (yes I said our history) and understand our future through bible prophecy.

    Here’s the problem, many have know idea of bible history so it becomes impossible to understand prophecy. The key, as I said, is who is Israel.

    Israel (Jacob) had 12 sons; these are the 12 tribes. Then the kingdom of Israel (12 tribes) divided. Judah, Benjamin, are the southern kingdom known as Judah, House of Judah and later as Jews.(Jews are not all twelve tribes)The other tribes are the northern kingdom known as the House of Israel or Ephraim. Every body else on the planet are referred to as the nations.

    Are you with me so far? So there are two houses; the house of Judah and the house of Israel. They have two different purposes. Judah’s job is to keep the law of God from passing away and Israel’s Job is to take the seed of Abraham into every nation. This was accomplished by God when he scattered the 10 tribes of the northern kingdom into every nation. When this happened they lost their identity and became part of the nations; Israel not knowing who they are.

    Fast forward 700 years to the time of Christ. Judah; the Jews, have set up their own style of keeping the Law with the order of the Pharisee’s. The house of Israel were lost in the nation without a covenant and separated from God. The southern kingdom of Judah; the Jews needed reform in the form of a Messiah and the northern kingdom of Israel, who only God could identify needed a new covenant. (can you see where this is going?)

    Jesus came as the Messiah and with a New Covenant. The Jews didn’t need a new covenant because the messiah’s reform is part of the original covenant, only the lost tribes needed a new covenant as a way back to God. The Israelite that accepted this new covenant (death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and the forgiveness of sin) became Christians; us,you. Christians are Israelite , physical descendants of Abraham.

    In conclusion; to answer the question who are the 144000, what have we learned?

    The 144000 are 12000 from 12 tribes. The Jews are 2 tribes and the Christians are 10 tribes. So the prophecies of the regathering and the reuniting of the 12 tribes of Israel being fulfilled will result in a select group of Israelite sealed for God’s purpose; 24000 Jews and 120000 Christians.

    Simple, right? not so much.

  18. David Cutler says:

    Hi all, me again. Hey, I am feeling a need to help those who God is identifying as Israelite to learn what all that means. If you have the Spirit tugging on your heart that you have something to do with Israel, give me a shout at dmcutler55@gmail.com. Time is getting short.

  19. fanice says:

    Rapture will occur on the day of Melchizedek then the prophet will go to Israel to open their eyes about Messiah Jesus, they will believe and by their blood save themselves after trib. Christians will be in heaven the ones raptured who at present believed Jesus. Shalom Jerusalem

  20. David Cutler says:

    Hi fanice, there is no rapture. Sorry

  21. fanice says:

    What! You are joking right? Do you really want to live in this world without ever returning to God in a land without temptations. I wouldn’t. Read Thesalonians and check what Paul said. If the is no rapture then the devil will not have to be destroyed as in revelation. I really long for the Lord Jesus Christ’s return. This world is a mess.

  22. David Cutler says:

    Your wants don’t matter.

    1 Thes. 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.
    HERE WE SEE GOD BRINGING THE DEAD IN CHRIST WITH HIM. GOD COMES TO EARTH AFTER THE MILLENNIUM WITH THE NEW JERUSALEM FOR THE JUDGEMENT. THIS IS TALKING ABOUT RESURRECTION NOT RAPTURE.

    15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.
    THIS VERSE REFERS TO THOSE WHO ARE ALIVE WHEN JESUS RETURNS, AT THE END OF THE TRIBULATION.

    16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.
    17 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.
    18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
    THESE VERSES ARE ABOUT THE DEAD RISING; RESURRECTION. ALTHOUGH PAUL SEEMS TO BE MIXING THEM WITH THE REAPING AT THE RETURN OF CHRIST. MATTHEW 24 AND REVELATION 14.

    There is no rapture only the reaping and the resurrection.

  23. fanice says:

    “Although” Paul seems to be mixing……is he right or wrong, this servant of God? Rising to meet Jesus in the air then us who are alive join then, i guess we won’t fly by our strength but be snatched up with God’s power that is rapture meaning to be caught up. And will happen anytime soon. Judgment will happen 7yrs after rapture. Let the spirit of the bride say “even so come Lord Jesus” if u don’t say that u r not the bride of Christ.

  24. David Cutler says:

    If you want to call the reaping, which is also referred to by Paul as the gathering in 2 Thes. 2 the rapture, then the question is when. According to Yeshua (Jesus) it comes immediately after the tribulation, which is at the end of the 7 years Mat. 24:29-31. Paul says it will not happen until after the Antichrist sits in the temple, which happens anytime after the middle of the 7 years. 2 Thes 2 :1-4.

    Finally, Rev. 20 talks about two resurrections. The first is the saints that have been beheaded during the tribulation. It takes place at the beginning of the 1000 year reign, after the tribulation. The second is after the 1000 years called the white throne judgement.

    These are the only two resurrections mentioned in the bible. Paul makes it clear that the saints being caught up in the air are after those resurrected. So it probably happens after the tribulation and before the 1000 year reign of Christ.

    If you want to create a secret rapture at the beginning of the 7 years you have to do it outside of the Bible. That’s why I say there is no rapture. (only the reaping and the resurrection)

  25. David Cutler says:

    Hey fanice, I was just thinking, since this article is about the 144000 and I believe they are the 2 witnesses, Rev. 11 says they are killed and lay dead in the street and are resurrected and caught up into heaven, maybe that’s the rapture. Just saying.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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