Our path through Revelation continues in the Lectionary this Monday morning with a reading from the 14th Chapter in Revelation. It tells us there are 144,000 standing on Mount Zion before the lamb, with the father’s name written on their forehead. I’ve always wondered will only 144,000 make it into heaven? Will only 144,000 be saved from the coming tribulation? Why the number 144,000?
There are many answers you could put forward to answer who these people are and if it is a literal number. Jehovah’s witnesses seem to think the number is literal, that only 144,000 people will make it into heaven. Currently, in the world there are 7.5 billion people that would mean if you only counted the people living today, that would be about 1 in every 50K people would make it to heaven. This doesn’t include the billions of people who have passed away from the time of Jesus. Jehovah’s witnesses suggest that the rest of us who aren’t a part of the 144,000 will be resurrected to a new earth. There are many issues with this theology, but I will not get into them.
A more likely answer is the number is not literal but rather symbolic. What does the number symbolize? There is a lot of debate on the meaning but looking at a simple math problem we can actually have a pretty good idea what John was symbolizing.
12*12*1000 = 144,000
For the Jews numbers were symbolic, 12 represented the tribes of Israel. Why would John use this number twice? To represent the tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles. 1000 represents completeness. If you look back at Revelation 7:5-8 the twelve tribes are listed in Israel each with 12,000 sealed. I will look at this more in another blog post soon to follow this one.
Making this as simple as I can the 140,000 is symbolic of the completeness of the Church. That means all of us who have been baptized are a part of the 144,000.
Are the 144,000 the same in Chapter 7 and Chapter 14?
What you will not hear in today’s reading is verse 4a, interestingly enough they skip this passage. I believe this is a pastoral decision as the Church will remove passages that may not be the best for your ears.
These are they who were not defiled with women; they are virgins
The Church is represented by the 144,000, and I believe that symbolism still applies here; however, I think this may go past a symbol of the Church. Outside of Christ’s words himself (C.F. Matthew 19:12), this is one of the few biblical suggestions that ministerial priests remained celibate from the time of Christ, with exceptions. This is for another blog post, and it is a controversial issue even in our Church today.
For us I believe we can look at the 144,000 and be thankful to God that he has counted us in this number! As Revelation 7 tells us that no harm should come to the earth before the 144,000 are sealed who are called the servants of God. It is likely the seal is a symbol for Baptism, only those who do not have the seal on their forehead can be harmed (Revelation 9:4). God promises to protect us and bring us to salvation, revelation reminds us of this!