I have come across some believers who use Rev.7:1-8 and Rev.14:1-5 which deal with the 144,000 as proof texts to teach that some within the Church will not go through the Great Tribulation. There is problem with this interpretation because the Rev.7:1-8 passage makes it clear those sealed are Jews. Some noticing this dilemma teach that the two are different. They capitalize on the fact that it is not explicitly stated in Rev.14:1-5 that they are Jews to allegorize the group to be the faithful and uncompromising believers. For what purpose would Christ gather all the faithful and uncompromising believers from all over the world to the physical and earthly Mount Zion prior to the outpouring of the final seven Bowl judgments? This scene occurs on the 3rd day of the 30-day reclamation period of the Kingdom on the earthly Mount Zion, after the Great Tribulation, the rapture and the outpouring of the wrath of God in the first six trumpet judgments.
“Come, and let us return unto the Lord : for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord : his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.”(Hosea 6:1-3).
At this point in the chronology of the end times, there is not a single Christian on Earth in this physical and mortal body of ours. The people on Earth at that time are branded Jews and Gentiles, unbranded Jews and Gentiles, and the 144,000 who are unbranded with the mark of the Beast, but have the seal of the God of Israel on their foreheads. The 144,000 are a segment of the unbranded Jews who in addition have the seal of the God of Israel on their foreheads. When the redeemed of humanity sing in heaven, no one on Earth could learn, understand, and sing this song but the 144,000 with Christ on the earthly Mount Zion. This is the song of the redeemed. At that point in time, they are the only ones redeemed that are on Earth. That is precisely the reason why they are the only ones who could, understand, learn, and sing the song. It is a redemption song.
No true believer will go through any or part of the wrath of God(1 Thess.1:10; 2 Thess.5:9). And the wrath of God in the Day Of the Lord begins at the breaking of the seventh seal way into the second half of the 70th week of Daniel. This group of 144,000 are rescued by Christ from the Edomite and Judaean wildernesses. “I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their fold: they shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of men. The breaker is come up before them: they have broken up, and have passed through the gate, and are gone out by it: and their king shall pass before them, and the Lord on the head of them.”(Micah 2:12,13).
They match with Christ on foot to the summit of Mount Zion from the Edomite wilderness, and are joined en route by the remnants of Israel from the Judaean wilderness, Egypt and Assyria, other parts of Israel and Jerusalem and its environs. It is hermeneutical jingoism to label them Christians, seeing there are no Christians on Earth in this physical and mortal body of ours at this time in the chronology of the end times. They are referred to as firsfruits because they are the first group of Jews to believe in Jesus after the rapture. They are the first group to be saved to enter and repopulate the Earth in the Millennium. If they were believers, they could hardly be regarded as or merit the status of the firstfruits inasmuch as they are not the first to believe in Jesus in the Church Age. They interpret the phrase “from the Earth” to mean they are saved or redeemed from all over the world. They forget that God has plan. It is always the Jew first, and afterwards the Gentile.
Firstfruits refers to the first of the harvest in Israel. It is always dedicated to God as the firstborn to open the matrix of both man and beast(Exod.13:12,34:19; Num.3:12, 18:15). Christ is the firstfruits of those who slept. He is the first to rise from the dead and die no more(1 Cor.15:20,23). Members of the house of Stephaneus are the first to receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour in Achaia, and dedicated themselves to the service of God in ministering to the saints(1 Cor.16:15). The Jewish believers in Palestine in the 1st Century were the firstfruits of His creatures(Jam.1:18). Our brother Apostle Paul regarded the whole body of Christ as the firstfruits of His creation waiting for the redemption of our body. This is in relation to the redemption of the whole creation. God had to start with man who is the zenith of His creative ability. Though not the first to be created, he is the epitome of His creative ingenuity.
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”(Rom.8:18-25).
The first people to believe in Jesus were Jews. “Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the firstfruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the Lord.”(Jere.2:3). The first people to be filled with the Holy Spirit were also Jews. So also the first people to be redeemed to enter the Millennium will be Jews. The Gentiles do not qualify until justified at the Sheep and Goat Judgment after Armageddon. This is the proper interpretation because it is in keeping with God’s pattern of redemption to the Jew first and afterwords the Gentile(Rom.1:16). It is the same in relation to God’s wrath and punishment.
“Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God.”(Rom.2:9-11).
They label this group of faithfuls as the Recovered Church. Watchman Nee advocated this view which is still held by some of his adherents till today, though a minority view. It is a form of the “Partial Rapture Theory” which teaches that believers will be raptured at various points before and during the 70th week of Daniel depending on their spiritual preparedness and readiness. They equate the 144,000 with the faithful and uncompromising believers as exemplified by the Church Of Philadelphia and perhaps the Church Of Smyrna. This is an allegorical interpretation which has long been discredited because it distorts the Scriptures and is at best eseigetical. When the plain sense of Scripture makes sense, seek no other sense. That is face value hermeneutics.
One very important fact these allegorical interpreters fail to realize is that the 144,000 are not Christrians at all but Jews. They believe in the Messiah of Israel, but they do not believe that their Messiah is the historical Jesus of the Christians. The 70th week of Daniel is a transitional period and there are various groups on Earth at this time as we have pointed out earlier as were in Israel in the First Century AD. The 144,000 are different from other Jews because of their vow of celibacy, dedication and devotion to the God of Israel. They are not the only Jews not branded with the mark of the Beast. Shortly before the sounding of the seventh trumpet, multitude of Jews who are not branded with the mark of the Beast will be reconciled to the God of Israel on day 3 of the 30-day Reclamation Period of the Kingdom, thusly completing the spiritual kingdom of God.
Some Bible teachers label them evangelists who preach the gospel to the whole world and win billions to the faith. They claim the innumerable multitude in Rev.7:9-17 mentioned immediately after their sealing are their converts, the fruits of their efforts and labours who are all martyred, the so called “Tribulation Saints.” These are eseigetical assumptions read into this passage of the Holy Writ. There is no biblical evidence they are evenagelists. They live in hiding in the Edomite and Judaean wildernesses. How do we know that? Because the Scripture tells us that those in the land of Israel at the beginning of the antiChrist’s takeover of the Temple who repudiate his authority and escape immediate massacre find refuge in the wilderness for the whole of the second half of the 70th week of Daniel which is three and one-half years in duration and corresponds also with the allotted time of the antiChrist’s reign of terror(Rev.12:14). The reason why the innumerable multitude are mentioned immediately after the sealing of the 144,000 is because the Church is raptured immediately after their sealing.
“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddo. And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.”(Zech.12:10-14).
They are selected by God, 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. There is no mention of their being Christians in these two passages. They are chosen of God as the first to be saved at the completion of the 70th week of Daniel. The purpose of thier sealing is to protect them from the impending wrath of God in the trumpet judgments. The fact that they are referred to as His servants does not mean they are saved. Had they been saved, born again, they would been raptured with the rest of the Church Age saints. Dr. Alan E. Kurschner shares this view.
“I view the 144,000 Israelites in Rev 7:4–8 as sealed in the sense of God choosing them to be saved when the end of the seven-year period is completed, fulfilling Daniel’s 70 week prophecy of the nation of Israel when they recognize Jesus as Messiah. They are also sealed in the sense of protection from the impending wrath of God (cf. Rev 9:4!) via the trumpets and bowls judgments. Some rather have claimed the 144,000 are saved at the moment they are sealed because they are described as “bond-servants.” However, as Robert Gundry has pointed out, this is not a necessary conclusion: “The designation ‘bond-servants’ (7:3), then, anticipates their role in the reestablishment of the Davidic kingdom. Isaiah calls unregenerate Israel the ‘servant’ of the Lord (42:18–25) in anticipation of the nation’s restoration (43:1ff.)—exactly the interpretation here given for the 144,000 [see also similar anticipatory statements in, for example, Jer 1:5; Luke 1:15]” (The Church and the Tribulation, 82). As we can see, Dr. Robert Gundry also shares this view which is biblically accurate. The role of the 144,000 is in the New Millennium. Therefore they match with Christ wherever He goes. They are members of human entourage in all of His earthly journeys during His Second Coming.
One other fact we must look at is the time of their sealing. This is one reason why a proper understanding of the chronology of the end times is so vital to our interpretation of the end prophecies in the Bible. When we examine the chronology of the Scroll Of Revelation, we discover they are sealed after the breaking of the sixth seal(Rev.6:12-17) but before the breaking of the seventh seal(Rev.8:1). This period is a very short interlude between the cosmic and celestial disturbances associated with the breaking of the sixth seal and the breaking of the seventh seal. The sixth seal terminates the Great Tribulation. So, the sealing of the 144,000 occurs after the Great Tribulation. The Scriptures are silent as to how they survived the Great Trbulation. They probably hid with other Jews in the land of Israel who fled to the Edomite and Judaean Wildernesses at the abomination of desolation and the Jerusalem campaign by the antiChrist which precipitated the Great Tribulation. After the rapture, the Church Age has ended. The true believers are now in heaven. God now reverts back to dealing with Israel; hence the sealing of the 144,000. Besides, God will not leave Himself without witnesses on Earth. It is like the handing over of a baton in a relay race.
Thirdly, they are not raptured when the Great Tribulation is terminated by the cosmic and celestial disturbances associated with the breaking of the sixth which is the sign of the End Of The Ages. If they were Christians, they would certainly have been raptured when the Great Tribulation was terminated. There do not seem to be any reason to leave them behind here on Earth. Rather than being raptured, they are sealed for protection with the seal of God which is the name of the God of Israel on their forehead. This seal grants them protection during the impending wrath of God in the Day Of the Lord. “Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.”(Rev.7:3).
Fourthly, their sealing is followed by the raptured saints congregating in Heaven(Rev.7.9-17). They also claim this innumerable multitude are all martyred. The passage does not in so many words state that. There is no evidence, they are all martyred. Some of them my be martyred no doubt as they certainly include the fifth seal martyrs(Rev.6:9-11).
So, who are the 144,000? They are members of the household of Israel selected by the God of Israel as His representatives on Earth after the Church is raptured. Their sealing shortly precedes the Prewrath Rapture Of The Church, just before the wrath of God begins. As representatives of the God of Israel, they need to be protected from the wrath of God in the Day Of the Lord which is about to begin at the breaking of the seventh seal in Rev.8:1. Hence, their sealing in the interlude between the end of the sixth seal and the breaking of the the seventh seal. This interlude between the end of the sixth seal and the breaking of the seventh seal is otherwise referred to as the “Inter-tribulational Period,” by the Rev. Charles Cooper simply because it occurs between the Great Tribulation by the antiChrist against the saints of God, and God’s Day of the lord’s wrath which is recompensation of tribulation on those who trouble the saints. “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.”(2 Thess.1:6-10). For this same reason also, the “Prewrath Rapture Position” which teaches the rapture occurs in this interlude is alternatively named the “Imminent Inter-tribulational Rapture” by Rev. Charles Cooper of the Sign Ministries Inc.
The period between their sealing and the battle of Armageddon when Christ retakes physical possession of the Earth is a horrible period of the outpouring of the wrath of God in the Day Of The Lord. No one can go about preaching the gospel at that time. Even the two witnesses are more or less restricted to their location at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem till their death at the expiry of the 70th week of Daniel. Apart from the difficulty of mobility because of the outpouring of the wrath, there is also the problem of audience. After the breaking of the sixth seal and the attendant cosmic and celestial disturbances, every man on Earth is on the run for his dear life.
“And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”(Rev.6:12-13, 15-17).
It is therefore preposterous to label the 144,000 evangelists. Who are they evangelizing? People who are hiding under the rocks and in the mountains, and invoking these to fall upon them and hide them from the terrifying wrath of the Lamb which is about to begin? To protect them from the devastating effects of the final seven bowl judgments of the wrath of God, they are hidden in Azal with other Jews who are reconciled to God on day 3 of the 30-day Restoration Period of the Kingdom.
“Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: But it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.”(Zech.14:1-7).
It is exegetically in violation of the Scriptures to claim that the 144,000 Jews prove that some faithful and uncompromising believers as exemplified by the churches of Philadelphia and Smyrna will be raptured before the Great Tribulation or that some believers will “escape” the Great Tribulation by being raptured before the Great Tribulation.