About the 144,000, mentioned in the book of Revelation (Chapter 7 and 14), there has been endless speculations. In this blog, I would like to focus on the moment that John introduces this group. That is after the opening of the sixth seal in Chapter 6. At the opening of that seal, a great earthquake happens (cp Zech.14:5), and in addition…
... the sun became black as sackcloth of hair,
and the whole moon became as blood,
and the stars of heaven fall on the earth…
This is a most remarkable moment in Bible prophecy and is often mentioned; especially in the so-called "second Sermon on the Mount", Matthew 24 where we read:
29 Now immediately after the affliction of those days
the sun shall be darkened
and the moon shall not be giving her beams,
and the stars shall be falling from heaven,
and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.
30 And THEN shall appear the sign of the Son of Mankind in heaven,
and then all the tribes of the land shall grieve,
and they shall see the Son of Mankind coming
on the clouds of heaven with power and much glory.
(See also: Joel 2:31-3:1)
These announcements are an important chronological key, because they directly answer the question of when the opening of the sixth seal will occur. It will be
a. after the tribulation of those days, i.e., after the "great tribulation" (Mat.24: 21) and
b. when the Son of Man will appear in the clouds of heaven and
c. when all the tribes of the land will come to repentance.
It will also be on this occasion that the in-gathering of the chosen people will occur. For Jesus continues in Matthew 24:
31 And He shall be dispatching His messengers with a loud sounding trumpet, and they shall be assembling His chosen from the four winds, from the extremities of the heavens to their extremities.
The opening of the sixth seal brings us to the end of the great tribulation, the appearance of the Son of Man, the conversion of the inhabitants of the land and also to the in-gathering of all the Israelites from all nations. This context sheds much light on the contents of Revelation 7. This chapter is the prelude to Chapter 8, where the seventh seal is opened. Between the opening of the sixth and seventh seal, the restoration of Israel takes place. The mentioning of the 144,000, who are sealed from the tribes of Israel, does not need to amaze us. All the tribes are referred to by name, in Revelation 7 and also, up to 12 times 12,000 are spoken of, out of each tribe, as well as the total sum of 144,000 is mentioned. How can there be any doubt about the identity and the size of this group? Of importance is that the 144,000 are clearly distinguished from the "great multitude which no man can number", spoken of in the rest of chapter 7. The 144,000 are a selection out of Israel; the great multitude, however, is the entire nation, whose total number is unknown, assembled from out of "every nations, tribes, peoples and languages" (7:9). Ezekiel 37:10 speaks in the same context of "an exceeding great army." Hebrews 11:12: "… as the sand beside the sea shore innumerable."
About the question, "Why the 144,000 will be sealed?", I hope to write something in my nest blog.
Translation: Peter Feddema