New Earth, Eden Restored


49 The 144,000 Sealed

by Hubert F. Sturges, www.everlastingcovenant.com, December 2013

And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads... And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:.. And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth... These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb. Revelation 14:1-4

In this end time, Satan claims that the covenant was a failure. He claims that Jesus died on Calvary in vain and that grace is not sufficient to save. Professed Christians, he says, while faithfully attending church, are selfish, greedy, pleasure loving, and hypocrites in their claim to love God.

God has always had His faithful, believing remnant. The remnant are vital to God, for even one righteous man challenges Satan’s claim to rule this world (Job 1:6-2:10). During the time of Elijah, God claimed that He had “seven thousand” in Israel that had “not bowed the knee to Baal” (1 Kings 19:18). Now in the end time, He will seal 144,000 in their foreheads. There is also a “great multitude, which no man could number” who will stand “before His throne” (Rev. 7:9). God provides the Bible, churches, schools, pastors, and the Holy Spirit to help change the life of each person who consents to the work of grace. He will show that grace has the power to reach and change whosoever will. The 144,000 and the great multitude have been faithful through extreme tribulation!


The Few, the Faithful, the Saved

There are five faculties in the human nature: reason, conscience, and will make up the higher powers; appetites and passions comprise the lower powers. Sinless Adam and Eve possessed these powers in perfect balance. After sin, humanity inherited the fallen nature, which is controlled by unbelief, selfishness, pride, and lack of love for God and man.

Controlled by the sinful nature, humans began to worship self rather than God. They increasingly catered to the desires of the lower powers. The higher powers were weakened and lacked control over appetite and passion.1

It is not easy or popular to deny self. Those who choose to serve God have always been few in number. Satan contends that the number is so small that it is insignificant, and many who start well on the path of serving God soon give up (Zech. 3:1-9; Heb. 6:4-6). The sinning of God’s people has always been an embarrassment for God’s kingdom.2

God lays claim to this earth through the presence of even one Grighteous man (Job 1:8-22). He would have saved Sodom from destruction if even ten righteous people could be found in it (Gen. 18:32). Each of these is only a small remnant. In the flood, God found and saved Noah and his family, a small remnant, out of the entire population of the earth (Gen. 6:9-18).


Grace Is Sufficient to Save

By contrast, there were millions in the Christian era whose commitment to Christ was stronger than death (Rev. 12:11). After the Reformation, many thousands sacrificed money and position to go to foreign lands to carry the gospel.

In this “time of the end,” prosperity has brought new temptations, and Satan assails Christianity on all sides. It is the purpose of God to demonstrate that grace is sufficient to save, even in the worst of conditions. He will place the seal of God in the forehead of 144,000 dedicated people. These are they who, consenting to the full work of grace in their lives, survive Satan’s unrestrained work of evil in a great time of trouble.

And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. (Rev. 7:1-4)


Four Angels Holding Four Winds

The “four angels “| holding the four winds of the earth” is symbolic language. Four winds indicate winds coming from every direction. In Revelation, water is a symbol for peoples and nations, and winds are forces that stir up the waters, symbolic of trouble and war that stir up people and nations.3 The four angels hold these winds of trouble until God has sealed His servants “in their foreheads” (Rev. 7:3).

God is patient and gives time for all to decide whom they will serve. When this final decision is made by everyone on earth, probation will close; then the winds of trouble will be let loose.

“He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still” (Rev. 22:11).

At the time this becomes reality it will be too late to choose God. The wicked have resisted and grieved the Holy Spirit until the mind is numb; the Holy Spirit can no longer be heard, and they lose salvation. The time to learn faith and accept grace is now. In one’s life, every day is a day of probation and a chance to choose Christ. There will come a time when the issue becomes a crisis of whether each person will serve God or not. Every person on earth will understand the issue and make a decision.

Then comes the close of probation. While this can be a terror to the wicked, it is a comfort to the righteous. Christ has sealed the righteous because they have chosen Him. Nothing on earth or below the earth can change their minds.

That decision will soon come. The question is: Are you choosing Christ now?


The 144,000, Living Their Faith

Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary made possible the eventual destruction of sin and Satan-and the restoration of the new earth to the perfection of Eden. The change in people’s lives has taken longer. The purpose and power of God is available through grace, but accepting God’s grace requires a free-will decision and the consent of each person.

This is the issue in the great controversy between Christ and Satan at that time. Satan says that Jesus died in vain and that grace cannot change people’s lives (Zech. 3:1-4; Rev. 12:10). In the time of the end, grace will have transformed the character of the 144,000 (Rev. 14:1, 4). This large group will live their faith in perilous times.

“They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:3). These are God’s unique people at a special time in earth’s history, people who are active in witness and evangelism. They “keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17) during a terrible time of trouble, but “at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book” (Dan. 12:1; cf. Ps. 91).


The Seal and Character of God

God has a seal. In ancient times, a seal was a lump of clay or wax that was imprinted with the signet ring of the sender to indicate a letter or document’s authenticity. Today we use embossed seals and, more often, a witnessed, handwritten signature.

A seal typically stated the name of the person, his authority, and his jurisdiction. God has placed His seal in the middle of the Ten Commandments. In the Sabbath command, He gives His name: “the Lord thy God” and His authority as Creator and His jurisdiction over “heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is.”

But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Exod. 20:10, 11)

There are some who will object to this identification of the seal, claiming that we are “sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13). While this is undoubtedly true, to be “sealed” by the Holy Spirit is to use “seal” as a verb, which is an action word. The Holy Spirit is the one who does the sealing. “Seal” in Revelation is a noun. Identifying the “seal” of God as the Sabbath is to use “seal” as a noun, a word that names something. When the Holy Spirit seals people, He puts the principle of the Sabbath (“seal” as a noun) into their soul (Exod. 31:13; Ezek. 20:12, 20); He places within them a commitment and relationship with God, the Creator of heaven and earth.

The Holy Spirit seals them in the forehead because-

1. They are born again.
2. In Christ, they are each one a “new creature.”
3. By beholding Christ, they become like Him (John 3:5; 2 Cor. 3:18; 5:17).

Receiving the Sabbath as a seal is to choose to make God first in one’s life, choosing His will above all other influences, even above one’s own opinion. This seal is also the sign of sanctification (Exod. 31:13; Ezek. 20:12, 20). The seal of the 144,000 is a sign of commitment to Christ.4

Why keep the seventh-day Sabbath? There are immediate and practical reasons for keeping each of the other nine commandments. The fourth commandment also has its practical benefits. It provides needed rest, refreshment, and fellowship on a regular basis. Yet, why must this occur on the seventh-day? There are two reasons:

(1) It is a tangible reminder that God is the Creator.
(2) We keep the seventh-day because God made it holy and He said to keep it holy. We show our submission to His will and our willingness to keep all His commandments, simply because on the basis of His command.

By way of contrast, worship on the first day of the week is entirely of human thinking and authority. A fallible ecclesiastical system is proud to claim that they transferred the sanctity of the seventh to the first day in the early history of the Christian church. The change is the sign of their authority. From time to time in the past, the day one keeps has become a public issue. It will again become an issue at the very end of time.

When the second beast of Revelation 13 creates a copy, or an “image,” of the first beast, he will enforce by law the mark of the first beast on all people (Rev. 13:1-17). When the second beast passes this law, accepting the mark of the beast in the hand (which signifies outward compliance) or in the forehead (which signifies inward conviction) is to worship the beast and its image. Thus, to keep the seventh-day Sabbath becomes the seal of God, and to worship on the first day of the week in response to the pressure of law becomes the mark of the beast.5


Who Are the 144,000?

Revelation 7 gives the number 144,000 in clear, unequivocal terms. Listing 12,000 for each of the twelve tribes of Israel emphasizes the meaning of 144,000. However, 144,000 is a small number compared to all the known Christians on earth today. We know that many professed Christians are such in name only and do not have a real faith in Jesus. Does this mean that there are only 144,000 true Christians? No, there are more. Yet, no one knows whether the number 144,000 is a literal grouping of people or if it is merely a symbol. We do know that the 144,000 are a unique group. The wording of Revelation 7 indicates that these individuals are living through the close of probation and the time of trouble. There is evidence that this group lives to see Jesus come, as the following verses would indicate:

And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book... And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt... And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. (Dan. 12:1-3)

Michael stands up when He has completed judgment and closed probation. It is time for Him to return to earth and claim His people. Before He comes, there will be a time of trouble, during which He protects His people who will be living to see Christ come again (Ps. 91). At His coming, He raises the righteous dead to meet Him in the air (1 Thess. 4:16, 17). That is the hope of every Christian.

“They that be wise” are also the 144,000. These are now actively witnessing for Christ, urging people to choose Christ now while they have time. To be a member of the 144,000 is the greatest gift one can give to Jesus. If a person loves Jesus, and he or she wants to honor His name, that person will strive to be one of the 144,000.

Will only the 144,000 be saved? No, in this same chapter in Revelation, there is another group that stands before the throne of God. It is “a great multitude, which no man could number” (Rev. 7:9). This grouping makes room for every person who chooses Christ to be saved. This vast multitude includes the last-day martyrs (Rev. 20:4) and God’s people through the ages. They live and reign with Christ for 1,000 years and have a part in the judgment. During this period of time, Jesus answers all questions about His justice and mercy in salvation. To know that God saves a “great multitude” is an encouragement to us all. Yet, who are the 144,000? What is this group?


Are They Jews?

Twelve tribes, named after the sons of Jacob and numbering 12,000 each, make up the 144,000. The tribes listed in Revelation 7 with their meaning are given below. (It should be noted that Revelation does not list either Ephraim, which means “fruitful,” nor Dan, which means “judge, plead the cause.”)

• Judah - celebrated; praise, give thanks, confess to
• Reuben - see a (first born) son, a proof that his wife will have children
• Gad - to invade, overcome
• Asher - blessed, happy
• Naphtali - my wrestling, struggle
• Manasseh - causing to forget
• Simeon - hearing; hearken, obey
• Levi - attached
• Issachar - he will bring a reward, wages
• Zebulun - habitation; dwell with me
• Joseph - let him add, increase
• Benjamin - son of the right hand.

The numbering of the tribes indicates the significance of the total, 144,000. We do not know now if this number is literal or symbolic. The naming of the tribes, with their varied characteristics, shows that a complete cross-section of humanity with their various characteristics will make up this group.

Are they Jews? They probably are not. At present, the Christian church is largely a Gentile body. However, all Christians are “Abraham’s seed.” “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). God gave the covenant to Abraham and to his seed after him.6 God’s people have always been under the covenant of Abraham, including the Christian church today! God grafted the Gentiles into the tree of God’s chosen people, and they partake of the covenant of Abraham (Rom. 11:17, 18).


Have the Jews Lost Their Place?

The term “replacement theology” is a sore point with Jews, and they have had untold suffering because of some of the beliefs that fall under this theology. Many evangelical Christians expect the Jews to play a large part in end-time events. Much material on the Internet shows that there is considerable confusion about end-time events. Prophecies of the end times are usually symbolic, allowing room for difference of opinion. The Catholic Council of Trent promoted a futuristic interpretation of Revelation. This built a foundation for the present-day beliefs of the secret rapture, the seven-year tribulation, and various views on the role of the Jews in end-time events. It is beyond the scope of this chapter, or even this book, to discuss these issues.

Suffice it to say that, throughout history, there have always been two classes of people. There is the faithful, believing remnant, and there is the careless, unbelieving majority. Sometimes a clear-cut division exists, but more often there is an overlap between these two groups. Shortly before Jesus comes again, the issue of the seal of God and the mark of the beast will clearly divide all humanity into two distinct groups.

The presence of these two groups in the history of Israel has led to confused viewpoints on the covenant. These two groups were present at the time of Christ. A careful understanding of the faithful, believing remnant (Rom. 11:2-7) will show that there has never been a “replacement” of Israel. The faithful, believing remnant of Israel made up the true Israel of God, and these Jews continued as the early Christian church. Into the trunk of the covenant people of God, God grafted Gentile converts (Rom. 11:17).

Israel, as a nation, lost her place as the covenant people of God, but this was a change that had occurred long before, due to their unbelief. Are the 144,000 made up of ethnic Jews? Many are, but only those in Christ receive the seal of God. To be an ethnic Jew is not enough to be saved. Only in the name of Christ is anyone saved (Rom. 2:25-29; Acts 4:12).

The early church was a Jewish church. Without the Jews, there would be no Christian church. As a nation, they, because of their leaders, turned away from Jesus as their Messiah (Acts 6:12, 13; 7:58-60). At the same time, there were thousands of individuals who chose to accept Him, and they began a strong work of witnessing for Him and spreading the gospel throughout the Roman Empire and beyond.

Will the Jews have a part in hastening the coming of our Lord? Will they be part of the 144,000? Yes, they will! God has not forgotten His people. He is willing to graft back into the tree all who will choose Christ as their Messiah (Rom. 11:23).

Will a large number of Jews be converted and make up the entire number of the 144,000? No, I do not believe that is the case. This is just my belief, but I believe it is risky to think that God is waiting for the return of the Jews as a people. It is risky because we must come to Christ now! Now is the time of salvation. Now is the time to choose Him. Now is the time to develop a faith that will be strong in spite of weariness, hunger, and delay. There is danger in waiting for some event that may never happen.

The significance of the 144,000 is that God will have a distinct, large group of people who have committed their lives 100 percent to Jesus. They will demonstrate to humans and angels that grace is sufficient to save! There is room now to honor Christ in choosing Him. I would be happy to see 144,000 Jews make up this number, but I suspect that most of this number will be Gentiles who have given themselves 100 percent to Jesus.


Endnotes

1. Thomas A. Davis, Questions That Demand Answers (Rapidan, VA: Hartland Publications, 1988), pp. 29-31.

2. God’s people’s sinning creates problems (2 Sam. 12:14; Heb. 6:4-6; 1 John 2:1, 5; 3:5-7, 9, 24).

3. Water is a symbol of people and nations (Jer. 51:13, 55, NIV; Ezek. 26:19; 27:34; Rev. 17:1, 15).

4. God’s people receive a new name (Rev. 2:17; 3:12). The seal of God and the name of God are related (Rev. 7:3); Jesus has a new name (Rev. 19:11-13, 15).

5. I must honestly and frankly present what I believe to be the truth about the mark of the beast. I will offend some by what I say, but that does not lessen my responsibility to say what I believe to be the truth and what we need for this time. The topic of the mark of the beast is critically important for each person. It is a matter of eternal life or death. Yet, the mark of the beast is not in effect at the present time. It is only when our nation enforces a false church doctrine by law that she will give the mark of the beast to those who comply. This is just a brief outline; much more could be said.

6. In giving the covenant to Abraham, God gave it to all his descendants (Gen. 17:7-10, 19). Abraham would be the “father of many nations” (Gen. 17:4, 5). Of the seven times that God gave Abraham the covenant, the greatest detail comes in Genesis 17:7-10, 19. The Abrahamic covenant extended to the church (1 Peter 2:9; Gal. 3:29).