Discourse 06 - The 144,000 who were sealed: Israelites, or the Christian congregation of the Last Days?




The 144,000 who were sealed: Israelites, or the congregation of the Last Days? / Reply, Marcus Franz 00, 2000-07-11

The 144,000 who were sealed: symbolic understanding or not? / Reply, Marcus Franz 01, 2000-07-25

Will the Rapture take place before the Great Tribulation? - Discourse 16


(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(The 144,000 who were sealed: Israelites, or the congregation of the Last Days? / Reply MF00, 2000-07-11)

I must confess that you are right: I can justify my interpretation only indirectly, without the support of exact biblical passages. Let me first say once more that I do not want to dispute Israel’s rights in the least. Quite to the contrary: I am very well disposed to Israel, and have been privileged to visit the country twice. About my interpretation: I think that the congregation at the time of the seventh trumpet will be translated, so until that point it must still be living on earth (you will find the detailed justification of this on my website). When the judgment of the fifth trumpet occurs, it is stated that it falls only on those who do NOT have the seal of God on their foreheads (Rev 9,4), at a time, then, when the congregation must still be living on earth.

If the sealing is to be literally understood (limited to Israelites in the literal sense), one would arrive at a conclusion which I find quite inconceivable - namely, that God will protect Israel in this close of the age while at the same time delivering over his congregation, which has already been most sorely afflicted, without any form of protection to the torments of a demonic host. Consequently I believe a symbolic interpretation of the sealing is preferable. An indication of this might be found in the passage in Romans 11, 17-24, where we are told that the converted Gentiles have in a spiritual sense been grafted onto the olive tree (Israel). This of course should not lead to any mingling of Israel and the congregation - see in this connection the part of my website relating to Israel

(Marcus Franz, XXXXmarcus1973@t-online.de / http://www.marcus1973.privat.t-online.de/endzeit.html).


(See also Discourse 08: “The gathering of Israel: already since 1948, or not to happen until the Last Days?”)


The question who is to be subsumed under these 144,000 is one that can be traced through all the various denominations. While for Protestants and the free churches it is the “congregation”, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have restricted the membership of this group to their “elect brethren”. The catholic-apostolic church also sees it as a selection of the “spiritual” Israel, while the Adventists and the Catholic church, naturally enough, see it as a reference to their own believers.

Here now is the text - just to remind ourselves for a moment of what is stated there:

One hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel.

Rev 7,1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree. 7,2 And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, 7,3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.”

7,4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:

7,5 From the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand, 7,6 from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand, 7,7 from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand, 7,8 from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand were sealed. Rev 7, 1- 8;

(See also Chapter 06: “The return of the Lord.” / The marriage feast of the Lamb / The 144,000 first fruits to God and the Lamb.)

So although what we have here is a meticulously exact listing of the twelve tribes of Israel, from whom these “first fruits to God and the Lamb” are taken, attempts are repeatedly made to see in this a symbol of the congregation - and more than that, of the “congregation of all time”. The circumstance that these bond-servants of God are of Israel is reinterpreted, in the supposed sense that in early Christian times the congregation of Jews and Gentiles together was given the honorary appellation “Israel”.

The fact that we have to do here only with 144,000 bond-servants of God, whereas in the “entire congregation of Christ” one would probably need to accommodate millions, is again interpreted as a “great number” and an “unmutilated wholeness” with reference to the congregation, so that what it symbolically expresses is that “God forgets none of his congregation”.

This interpretation of the 144,000 as the “congregation of all time”, however, can be refuted with the utmost ease, seeing that these 144,000 are again referred to - indirectly - in Rev 9,3-4, in the description of the plagues of the fifth trumpet.

They were told to hurt only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

Rev 9.3 Then out of the smoke came locusts upon the earth, and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 9.4 They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. Rev 9, 3- 4;


Here then only those people are affected who do not have this seal of God. We must therefore conclude in reverse that all those with the seal - namely, the 144,000 of whom we are speaking - must still be living on earth, and these therefore cannot include - either symbolically or otherwise - the “congregation of all time”.

As for the interpretation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and all those denominations who see here an “elect multitude” of their own members, we need not discuss it here, seeing that this point of view condemns itself automatically.

This leaves the interpretation which sees in these 144,000 the members of the congregation of the Last Days. And here the argument given above, coming from Marcus Franz, cannot be dismissed out of hand. If we are to take the text literally, so as to see these “first fruits to God and the Lamb” as actually being only Israelites of the twelve tribes, would it be conceivable “ that God will protect Israel in this close of the age while at the same time delivering over his congregation, which has already been most sorely afflicted, without any form of protection to the torments of a demonic host”? That is to say, if these 144,000 are only Israelites, there are only two possibilities for the faithful of the congregation of the Last Days: either they have been already translated before this point, or they will have to undergo these “torments”. Seeing that we have to agree completely with what Marcus Franz says above, to the effect that the translation cannot occur before the seventh trumpet, the congregation would consequently still be living on earth at this point in time - at the time of the fifth trumpet - which leaves only the second possibility to consider.

In order to delimit the identity of these 144,000 somewhat, let us now look at the second passage in Revelation which speaks explicitly of this group.

These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.

Rev 14;1 Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. 14,2 And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. 14,3 And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. 14,4 These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. 14,5 And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless. Rev 14, 1- 5;


These then are the “first fruits to God and the Lamb”, who have “not been defiled with women”, who are “chaste” and follow the Lamb. They have been purchased from among men for God and the Lamb, and no lie has been found in their mouth, they are blameless.

Now that is a catalogue of superlative qualities in respect of faith and character, and it can hardly be believed that we actually have to do here with human beings in the flesh. Still more when we reflect that we find ourselves here in a time of the affliction of the faithful. But we can learn still more from this passage. Whereas earlier on, in Rev 7,3, we are told in connection with the sealing that these bond-servants of God have been sealed “on their foreheads”, here in Rev 14,1 it is more precisely stated that those who are sealed bear the name of the Son and the name of the Father.

And here we now meet with the next clue. In the epistle to the angel of the congregation in Philadelphia, in Rev 3,10-13, this distinction is also promised to those who have overcome, whom the Lord will make a column (pillar) in the temple of his God.

And I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, and My new name.

Rev 3,10 ‘Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. 3,11 ‘I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 10,12 ‘He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. 10,13 ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ Rev 3,10-13;


Who then are these ones who overcome, of the congregation in Philadelphia, and what is the congregation in Philadelphia? Let us examine the rest of the epistle:

He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David.

Rev 3,7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: 3,8 ‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. 3,9 ‘Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie - I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. .Rev 3, 7- 9;


In the introduction to each of the individual epistles the Lord presents himself to the congregation in question with a quite special property, a hallmark which has special application for this specific congregation. Here, with the congregation in Philadelphia, the Lord presents himself as “he who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens”. Now what is this meant to convey? We know this saying from the Old Testament, Isa 22,20-22:

(See also Excursus 02: “The seven Letters to the churches.”)

Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder.

Isa 22,20 Then it will come about in that day, That I will summon My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 22,21 And I will clothe him with your tunic And tie your sash securely about him. I will entrust him with your authority, And he will become a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.

22,22 Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, When he opens no one will shut, When he shuts no one will open. Isa 22,20-22;


This is a statement made by the God of Israel, in which he declares the replacement of Shebna, the corrupt overseer and deputy of the king of Israel, by the righteous Eliakim the son of Hilkiah. The exact details are not of significance here: what is significant is the fact that this statement made by the God of Israel is at the same time a prophecy concerning Jesus Christ, who will likewise replace corrupt rulers and establish a righteous dominion over Israel and the whole world in the Millennium.

As can now easily be recognized, this hallmark of the “key of David” is only meaningful to Jews or Jewish Christians (messianic Jews) who understand what is behind it and as a result know who is here speaking to them. This view receives added support from an earlier passage in this epistle. In Rev 3,9 the Lord says that he will send certain persons from the synagogue of Satan. The synagogue too is of course a typically Jewish expression, and would have no significance for Gentile Christians.

But then we are told in Rev 3,9 above, of those persons from the synagogue of Satan, whom the Lord will send to them, that “they say that they are Jews, and are not, but lie”. Here we are quite close to the theme that concerns us. One could apply this passage in the first place to the “secularized” and unbelieving Jews who wear the yarmulka on their heads at every opportunity offered but are just as corrupt outside the synagogue - whether in business or in politics - as their forefather Shebna. We must however ask, for the sake of objectivity, whether this judgment might not apply to other groups as well who pretend to see themselves as “Jews” in order to lay claim to the promises God has made to this people. There are also some Christian groups, incidentally, who claim that they themselves are this congregation of Philadelphia.

Now the features that the 144,000 of the twelve tribes of Israel who were sealed and the Jewish Christian congregation in Philadelphia have in common are twofold: the seal on their foreheads bearing the name of God and the Lord Jesus, and the exceptionally close relationship to the Lord which both enjoy. Of the congregation in Philadelphia the Lord says expressly that he loves them (Rev 3,9), and of those who were sealed we are not just told that they are the “first fruits to God and the Lamb” from the earth and purchased from among men: they are also the only ones permitted to sing the new song (Rev 14,3) and the only ones who stand with the Lord on Mount Zion (Rev 14,1).

Let us then state in conclusion that these 144,000 are not just “Israel” in general, but a select group of Israelites of the Last Days who believe in Christ/the Messiah, distinguished by their exceptional faith and personal qualities, who (perhaps even at the time of their birth?) were picked out by God and the Lord Jesus to be their first fruits (the very first!) of humanity. The statement that the congregation of the Last Days will be “delivered over without any form of protection to the torments of a demonic host” can be seen as relative, if we consider the context. The 144,000, certainly, are excepted from the plague of the fifth trumpet - for whatever reason - but the catastrophes of the first to fourth trumpets and in particular that of the sixth trumpet, in which a third of humanity will be killed, clearly affect these of God’s elect just as much as they do the faithful of the congregation of the Last Days.

(See also Discourse 15: “Who is the 'bride of the Lamb'?



(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(The 144,000 who were sealed: symbolic understanding or not? / Reply MF01, 2000-07-25)

As I have said before - it is a very difficult passage. Your arguments have something to be said for them, and it is of course quite possible that you may be right and that the sealing is really reserved to believers who are of Israel and represents a special protection for these individuals. On the other hand, I continue to think that a symbolic understanding of these passages is not out of the question. In the end the future will reveal which understanding is the correct one.

(Marcus Franz, XXXXmarcus1973@t-online.de / http://www.marcus1973.privat.t-online.de/endzeit.html).