Sun, May 14, 2000

144,000 Jewish Witnesses: Revelation 7:1-8

Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
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144,000 JEWISH WITNESSES

REVELATION 7:1-8

In ancient Corinth there used to be staged the Isthmian Games, the fore-runner of the modern Olympics. There were many events, but the one which received the most attention was the relay race. The competitors lined up side by side at the starting line, each bearing a torch. In the distance waited still another line of men, and still farther on other lines.

When the signal was given, the men started to run, bearing their lighted torches. When a runner reached his partner in the next line he would pass on his light, and so on from man to man until the finish line was reached. With the famous relay race in mind, the Greeks coined a phrase: "Let those who have the light pass it on."

That is what we are going to see here this morning as God raises up 144,000 JW’s, not Jehovah Witnesses, but Jewish witnesses who will evangelize the world for Jesus Christ. They have the light and they will pass it on to others during the tribulation period. So let’s read through the first 8 verses of Revelation chapter 7, and see what the Lord has for us this morning. (Revelation 7:1-8).

As we have seen in our study in the book of Revelation, the church has been "caught up" or taken up to be with the Lord, meeting Him in the air and then we see the church around the throne of God, represented by the 24 elders. This all takes place prior to the judgment of God being poured out upon a Christ rejecting world.

And then we saw Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, the Lion from the tribe of Judah, come and take the scroll out of the Father’s hand and begin to loose the seals of judgment. The scene that was in heaven is now focused upon the earth as these judgments are being poured out.

We saw with the opening of the first seal the rider on the white horse emerge. This is the Antichrist who usher’s in 3½ years of a pseudo-peace. He will have the answers for the worlds struggles and the people will usher him into power over the world. Then, with the opening of the second seal, the last 3½ years of the tribulation period begins, also known as the Great Tribulation. And with this second seal we see the rider on the red horse riding onto the scene, and this rider carries with him wars on a world-wide scale. Now the true colors of Antichrist are seen as he unleashes his fury upon the inhabitants of this earth.

With the opening of the third seal we saw the rider on the black horse come into view, which spoke of catastrophic famine affecting the entire world except the wealthy. As the fourth seal is opened we see the rider on the pale horse come forward. And as his color, he represents death. Death by the sword, by famine, by pestilence, and by the wild animals or the beasts of the earth. And these judgments are so intense that 1/4 of the earth’s population is destroyed. That means anywhere from 1.5 billion to 2.25 billion people will be killed during this time, maybe more!

As the fifth seal was opened we saw those who were saved during the tribulation period and martyred for their faith, waiting under the altar in heaven for God to pour out His vengeance upon those who did these things to them. And with the opening of the sixth seal we saw cataclysmic events take place, every mountain and island was moved out of its place. The sun turns as black as night and the moon red like blood. The sky recedes like a scroll, and I believe these events bring us to the close of the Great Tribulation period.

John has given us a sweeping description of what those last 7 years will be like, and now he is going to fill in some of the details of this period of time. It is kind of a pause to catch your breath. And if you think about it, John needed it. After all he has seen take place, all the destruction, he needs a rest, and that is what God gives him here. And I also think that in the midst of this wrath, in the midst of all this judgment, God is showing us His mercy. It is as Habakkuk 3:2 says, "O LORD, I have heard your speech and was afraid; O LORD, reviveYour work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; in wrathremember mercy." What a comfort to know that our God is a God of mercy, not giving us what we deserve!

Now the focus here in Revelation chapter 7 is going to be on 2 groups of people. The first group of people total 144,000 and are sealed by God. The second group of people, seen in verses 9-17, are innumerable in number and are not sealed by God. After this John will once again pick up with the seventh seal being opened and then the sounding of the trumpets, as more judgments from God are being poured out upon a Christ rejecting world.

Our focus this morning will be the first group of people, the 144,000. These are the ones that are saved and sealed by God. Who are these people? Who do they represent? What do they do? All important questions that God will answer for us this morning. And then next week we will look at this second group of people and see who they are and what they are all about.

REVELATION 7

VERSE 1

1. Now these angels that are "standing at the four corners of the earth" trouble many people. Even many commentators relate this to the knowledge they had at that time, for we all know now that the earth is round and not flat or square!

Even William Barclay in his commentary on the book of Revelation said this in regards to the four corners of the earth. He said "This vision is expressed in conceptions of the world which were conceptions for the days in which John wrote. The earth is a square, flat earth; and at its four corners are four angels waiting to unleash the winds of destruction." The point that William Barclay is missing is that the creator of heaven and earth knows that the earth is not flat and He would not put forth a misconception like that.

Long before man recognized that the earth was round, God spoke to them about this fact. In Isaiah 40:22 we are told "It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitantsare like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them outlike a tent to dwell in." And in Proverbs 8:27 we read "When He prepared the heavens, Iwas there, when He drew a circle on the face of the deep." These verses are referring to the shape of the earth, that it is a sphere!

So what is being spoken of here in Revelation chapter 7 is simply a figure of speech. We still talk about the four corners of the earth and mean that the entire world is covered. Even the United States Marine Corps ran an ad several years ago stating "Our Marines are stationed on the four corners of the earth." They knew the earth was not flat or square but they were stating a fact that their men were on duty in the north, south, east and western parts of the earth.

That is all John is saying here in Revelation chapter 7. That these angels are in the north, south, east and west and they are preparing to unleash the four winds upon the earth, and the wind speaks of judgment here. (See Jeremiah 49:36, 51:1, 16). And when these winds are unleashed, destruction, devastation will come upon the land. And we will see this as we come to the trumpet judgments in chapters 8 and 9 of Revelation. And the word "holding" in the Greek speaks of the winds struggling to break loose from their restraint. But these angels are holding them back, but once they let go, judgment will be poured out upon the earth, the sea and the vegetation. Why are these winds restrained? Lets read on and see.

VERSES 2-4

Here we see that before judgment is poured out, God is going to seal 144,000 people from the 12 tribes of the children of Israel. Now it does seem clear, but you would not believe the groups of people that love to claim this sealing for themselves, that they are part of the 144,000! And to do that they really have to twist the Scriptures. In saying that, please take the Bible literally unless the context and the text demand otherwise, and then you can take in figuratively. God wants us to know Him, He wants us to understand Him and His Word. God is not hiding His truth from us. And for these people to come up with these bizarre ideas tells me they are reading someone else’s ideas or books, or they are not letting the Scriptures speak for themselves.

In saying that, some try to tell us that the church is now spiritual Israel and thus literal Israel has forfeited her claim to the promises of God and thus God will not deal with them anymore. First of all, nowhere in the Bible is the church refereed to as the children of Israel. Secondly, we are not born from any of the 12 tribes of Israel but the church is made up from every "tribe and tongue and people and nation." So this is a big mistake to try and make the church the 144,000 for the church was taken to be with the Lord back in Revelation chapter 4, before the judgments of God were unleashed upon the earth dwellers.

There are also numerous religious people, cults, who have laid claim on being the 144,000 sealed by God. The Jehovah Witnesses claim that they are the 144,000. But when their numbers exceeded the 144,000, they had to come up with a new idea. So now 144,000 will be taken into heaven and the rest will inherit the earth. One major problem is that heaven is filled with a innumerable number of saints around the throne of God, far more than 144,000.

Also, Herbert W. Armstrong’s group, The Worldwide Church of God, believed that they were the 144,000 that were sealed by God. They also believed that if you gave double or triple tithes, then you had a chance to make it into that inner circle of 144,000. How sad to see people twist the Scriptures for their own gain. Now it does seem that the Worldwide Church of God has repented of their errors and have come to Christ as their Lord and Savior. I hope that is true, that they have come to the saving grace of Jesus. But, again, they are not the 144,000.

Besides those groups, we see historical Mormonism claim to be this group. Ellen G. White and the Seventh Day Adventist claim to be this group. And many others have joined in. But if you look at these verses, God has made it very clear who this group is, the children of Israel, the Jews, 12,00 from each of the 12 tribes as we will see in a few minutes.

These 144,000 are Jews that have been saved during the tribulation period. But what does this seal speak of? This "seal" or SPHRAGIS in the Greek, was a signet ring of kings or other officials that was used to stamp wax on documents or other items affirming their authority and guaranteeing their security. It spoke of ownership and also protection. These 144,000 were sealed by God because they were born of God, they were now Christians, saved by the redeeming work of Christ.

An example of God sealing His people, protecting them from judgment, is seen in Ezekiel chapter 9, as God is preparing to pour out His judgment upon the Southern Kingdom of Judah, specifically Jerusalem. In Ezekiel chapter 9, beginning in verse 1 we read "Then He called out in my hearing with a loud voice, saying, ‘Let those who have charge over the city draw near, each with a deadly weapon in his hand.’ And suddenly six men came from thedirection of the upper gate, which faces north, each with his battle-ax in his hand. One man among them was clothed with linen and had a writer's inkhorn at his side. They went in and stood beside the bronze altar. Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer's inkhorn at his side; and the LORD said to him,‘Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on theforeheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.To the others He said in my hearing, ‘Go after him through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at Mysanctuary.’ So they began with the elders who were before the temple.

Then He said to them, ‘Defile the temple, and fill the courts with the slain. Go out!’ Andthey went out and killed in the city." Ezekiel 9:1-7. And that is what we see here in Revelation chapter 7, God sealing His own.

As Christians today we have been sealed by God by His Spirit moving into our lives as a guarantee or an engagement ring to show us that our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ is coming back for us, His bride. It is as Paul said in Ephesians 1:13-14, "In Him you also trusted, after youheard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, youwere sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance untilthe redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory." God has put His seal upon us, we are His!

We are also told that this seal will be on their foreheads in contrast to the counterfeit seal that the Antichrist will give out for people to buy and sell with. In Revelation chapter 14, beginning in verse 1, we read "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...These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins.These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed fromamong men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found nodeceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God." Revelation 14:1, 4-5. Not one was lost, God’s seal protected them as they are now standing in victory on Mount Zion! And as we read, these servants of God are fully and wholly given over to God, to be used by Him. And God says that they are His "firstfruits" or they are the initial fruit of the tribulation period as God reaches the lost even during this time of great judgment.

Also, if you remember in Exodus chapter 12, the tenth plague upon Egypt, that the children of Israel were to place the blood of the sacrificial lamb upon their two doorposts and lintel of their house. Thus, with this seal, the angel of death would pass over their home and not kill the firstborn of that family. It was a seal by God. We read in Exodus chapter 12, "For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt." Exodus 12:12-13.

And so here in Revelation we again see a seal, which speaks again of their ownership by God and their protection by God. The Antichrist and his forces will not be able to touch them or destroy them, they will make it through the tribulation period unharmed.

Now where in Revelation do we see the four winds blow? The next time we see judgment come is in the trumpet judgments, for in the trumpet judgments we see the earth being struck in Revelation chapters 8 and 9, as the trumpet is blown and judgment comes upon the vegetation, the sea and the rivers, and the earth is affected by all the cataclysmic events in the heavens, but before this takes place, the 144,000 are sealed by God!

VERSES 5-8

Now you may be wondering why in the world would God list for us the tribes of Israel and tell us that there would be 12,000 sealed from each tribe? It is for those who just don’t believe that God says what He means and means what He says! There is no way you can make this the church in a spiritual sense because we are not part of the 12 tribes of Israel. And if you really think that He doesn’t mean the 12 tribes of Israel, He goes and He lists them for you! God does not say "Like the tribe of..." but He says "of the tribe of..." I think that is very clear to me!

Now as you read over this list you will notice that 2 of the tribes are left out, Dan and Ephraim. And there is and has been much speculation about why this is written like this, why they are not included in this list of tribes that are sealed. In Deuteronomy 29:18-21 God says that He would separate those who go into idolatry from the rest of the tribes of Israel. In Judges 18:30 we see the tribe of Dan first go into idolatry as they entered the land and they lead the other tribes down this path. That is the reason, I believe, why Dan is not sealed with the other tribes in Revelation chapter 7, the idolatry they brought into the land.

Also, Manasseh and Ephraim were the son’s of Joseph, who received the double portion of the inheritance from his father Jacob. Levi was not given an inheritance or a portion of the land and thus they are not listed many times with the rest of the tribes. In fact, we are told that their inheritance was the Lord, for they were the tribe that were the priests and ministered unto the Lord.

So without Levi, there would only be 11 tribes unless you inserted Manasseh and Ephraim for Joseph. And then you have 12. But here in Revelation we have Levi listed and Joseph, but Ephraim, besides Dan are left out. Ephraim is not listed here in Revelation because of her idolatry, according to Hosea 4:17-19. We read "Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone. Their drink is rebellion, they commit harlotry continually. Her rulers dearly lovedishonor. The wind has wrapped her up in its wings, and they shall be ashamed because oftheir sacrifices." And thus, with those numbers, we have 12 of the tribes listed in Revelation chapter 7, without Dan or Ephraim.

In saying that, don’t forget that our God is a God of grace, a God of mercy, a God of forgiveness. And we can see that as the kingdom is established. In Ezekiel chapter 48, in speaking of the millennial kingdom, both Dan and Ephraim are given a part in the kingdom. What a great God we serve. A God who forgives and has great compassion and mercy towards us.

Another question you might have is "Where did this group of 144,000 come from? How did they get saved?" They come from the tribulation period and I believe that they are the fruit of the ministry of the two witnesses spoken of in Revelation chapter 11. It is out of their ministry that these 144,000 get saved and then sealed by God. And then God allows those angels to unleash those destructive winds of judgment upon the earth.

And so, out of the ministry of the two witnesses come these 144,000 Jewish witnesses, bold as the apostle Paul! Now you can argue that the word "witness" is not found in the text, and that is very true. But as we look at verse 9 we see the fruit of their ministry, what is born in their lives. We read "After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" Revelation 7:9-10. As they minister during the tribulation period, record numbers of people will come to Jesus on a world-wide scale! Revival breaks out in the midst of this judgment!

Too often we look at past works of God and become frustrated that those things are not happening today. Let me ask you this, what are you doing about it? Have you left it up to others? Are you in prayer over it? Are you stepping out in faith and sharing what God has given to you? The mission of the church, those who are disciples of Jesus Christ, is to go out and spread the good news of Christ’s atoning work on the cross of Calvary and then to teach them the ways of God. Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20, "‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen."

That is not a suggestion, but God is calling for us to get up and go out into all the world and share our faith. If you do, you will see fruit produced. Even in the tribulation period these 144,000 Jewish witnesses who have been sealed by God will lead many to Christ. Folks, the cross of Calvary does not change, for without it there is only death! Let me leave you with the words we started out with this morning, "LET THOSE WHO HAVE THE LIGHT, PASS ITON!"

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