Introduction

A rather intriguing set of passages is contained in Revelation chapter 7. The first eight verses of that chapter refer to a very specific group of individuals. Those individuals are referred to as “servants of God” – and they are subsequently “sealed”  by an angel of God. Here are those eight verses:

Revelation 7:1-8 (ESV):

7 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:

12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,
12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,
12,000 from the tribe of Gad,
12,000 from the tribe of Asher,
12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali,
12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,
12,000 from the tribe of Simeon,
12,000 from the tribe of Levi,
12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,
12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun,
12,000 from the tribe of Joseph,
12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.

As noted above, Revelation 7 gives us a very specific number of individuals that are contained in this group – and that number is: 144,000.

 

Two Doctrines about the 144,000

Not surprisingly, there are many many different beliefs, among the various Christian denominations, about who, exactly, this group of “144,000″ represents. However, from my experience, there are two broad “categories” of doctrines about that group.

One of those doctrines states that the number 144,000 is completely literal. In other words, that doctrine states that there will be exactly 144,000 specific individuals, who will comprise that group. As a result, I call that doctrine the “completely literal” doctrine.

The other main doctrine states that the number 144,000 is completely figurative. In other words, that doctrine states that the “144,000″ number does not have any relation whatsoever to the actual number individuals who will comprise that group. As a result, I call that doctrine the “completely figurative” doctrine.

 

Exploring the “Completely Literal” Doctrine

First, let’s take a look at the completely literal doctrine. In other words, let’s consider the ramifications of the 144,000 number being the exact number, that will be a part of the “servants of God” group.

Take a look at Revelation 7:1-8 again. As listed, the 144,000 number is generated by assigning 12,000 individuals, from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. That is, there are 12,000 from the tribe of Judah, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, etc.

So, consider this: if the number 12,000 from each tribe is literal, then why wouldn’t the tribe, itself, also be literal? In other words, if we accept that Revelation 7 is completely literal, then not only will there be exactly 12,000 individuals from each tribe, but those individuals will also be literal Israelites! That is, the first group of 12,000 will be literal descendants of the man named Judah, the second group of 12,000 will be literal descendants of the man named Reuben, etc.

As a result, if Revelation 7 is completely literal, then that means that this group of 144,000 will only be comprised of Israelites – i.e., there will not be any gentiles in that group at all.

The reason why this is important is that many of the groups that hold the “completely literal” doctrine state that only the number 144,000 is literal. In other words, those groups claim that the  tribes of Israel that are listed are figurative. For example, Revelation 7:5 states that “12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed”. Some groups are very insistent that the “12,000″ is literal, but the “tribe of Judah” is figurative. In other words, those groups split up a single verse, into literal and figurative “halves”.

Certainly, there are some parts of Scripture that are literal, and some other parts that are figurative. However, splitting up a single verse into literal and figurative components indicates that one is trying to force Scripture into validating a preconceived doctrine.

Another item to  note is that there are quite a few numbers in Scripture, which have great symbolic significance. Some of those numbers are 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 10, and 40.

Two other numbers that are very symbolic in Scripture are: 12 and 1,000. The number 12 is used in many places, to denote “governmental perfection”. For example, there were 12 tribes of Israel, as well as 12 apostles. In addition, the number 12 appears quite frequently in the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21. For example, there are 12 gates in the city, with 12 angels at the gates.

In addition, the number 1,000 has great significant in Scripture – and in at least some cases, that number is used in a very figurative sense. For example, Psalm 84:10 states “A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere”; and 2 Peter 3:8 says “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”. So, in those cases, the number 1,000 is used to denote “a very large number”.

So, in Revelation 7, we see that for each of the 12 tribes, there are 12,000 individuals sealed – for a total of 144,000 individuals. Of course, 12,000 is 12 times 1,000. In other words, we have the number 12 – which often represents governmental perfection, multiplied by 1,000 – which often represents a very large number. As a result, it is certainly possible that the 12,000 from each tribe is a figurative number – and that, in turn, would mean that the overall 144,000  number is figurative as well.

It appears to me that a good general rule to use, to determine if a given passage is literal or figurative, is to examine the context of the passage in question. So, let’s take a look at Revelation 7 again. The very first verse of that chapter tells us that there are “four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth”. So, can we take that verse literally? For example, are there literally four corners of the earth? Of course not – the earth is mostly spherical in shape; and there are no “corners” on a sphere. Similarly, there are not literally four winds that blow upon the earth. Finally, note that 4 angels + 4 corners + 4 winds = 12. In other words, verse 1 contains yet another reference to the number 12, in Revelation 7.

So, overall, it appears to me that the number 144,000 is most likely a figurative number – i.e., that the size of the “servants of God” group will not be exactly 144,000 individuals. This is especially true due to all of the other figurative references in Revelation – e.g. the “stars of the sky falling to the earth” in Rev 6:13, and the “woman clothed with the sun” in Rev 12:1.

 

Exploring the “Completely Figurative” Doctrine

Some other Christian groups have a much different belief about the 144,000 individuals listed in Revelation chapter 7. Basically, those groups believe that that the 144,000 represent every Christian who has ever lived.

One of the reasons that those groups give for this belief is that Revelation 7 continues on, after verse 8, to describe a much larger group of people. Here is the remainder of Revelation 7 – verses 9 through 17:

Revelation 7:9-17 (ESV):

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12  saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16  They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

So, some Christian denominations believe that the “144,000″ mentioned in verses 4 through 8 are a reference to the “great multitude” in verses 9 through 12. In addition, those groups then identify the great multitude as being all Christians who have ever lived.

Another item to note is that most of the groups who hold this belief also espouse the “eternal security” doctrine – a.k.a. “once saved, always saved”. In other words, these groups state that if a person has ever accepted Jesus as his Lord, then that person is guaranteed to be saved – even if the person later rejects Jesus.

As a result, according to these groups, the “144,000″ refers to all people who have ever accepted Jesus as their Lord. So, let’s explore that belief.

First of all,in many places the New Testament appears to refer to a subset of Christians, who will be given authority to rule in the Kingdom with Jesus. Take a look at some examples:

Matthew 19:27-30 (ESV):

27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

Revelation 20:4-6 (ESV):

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

Luke 12:32-34 (ESV):

32  “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33  Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

The above passages are very instructive. First, the passage Matthew evidently refers to two separate “groups” of Christians – one group which has the apostles in it; and the other group which consists of all other followers of Christ. The primary difference between the two groups is that the “apostles’ group” is given the authority to rule with Christ (i.e., to “judge the twelve tribes of Israel”…), but the other group is not given that authority.

The passage in Revelation also appears to divide up Christians into two distinct groups. Again, the first group is given the authority to rule with Christ, while the second group is not given that authority. The first group consists of people who were explicitly granted the authority to rule with Jesus, and people who were martyred for the sake of Jesus. This definitely appears to indicate that not all Christians will rule with Jesus – because if they will, then why would Scripture explicitly mention that martyrs for Jesus will rule with him? In other words, why make a point about Christian martyrs ruling with Jesus, if all Christians (not just martyrs) will rule with him?

Finally, the passage in Luke also refers to the group of Christians who will receive authority to rule with Jesus. In that passage, the group in question is referred to as the “little flock”. The reason why that is important is because currently, about 2.2 billion people identify themselves as Christians. It strains credulity to imagine that a group of that size would be referred to as a “little” flock. Not only that, but almost one third of the total world population identifies as Christian. In other words, the total non-Christian population is only about twice as large as the total Christian population. One might expect that the total population would be hundreds (if not thousands) of times larger than a “little flock”.

As a result, it certainly appears to me that the “144,000″ group does not refer to all Christians – instead, it appears to only refer to a subset of Christians.

 

Conclusion

As mentioned above, Revelation 7 describes a group of 144,000 servants of God – 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. There are two broad doctrines about the identity of that group of “144,000″:

- Some groups believe that that group consists of 144,000 literal individuals, from all nations (not just Israelites).

- Some other groups believe that the 144,000 refers to all Christians who have ever lived, throughout history.

From what I can see, the truth lies somewhere in between those two extremes.

Basically, Scripture appears to indicate that there will be two separate “groups” of Christians – a “little flock”, and a “great multitude”. The primary difference between those two groups is that the little flock will be given authority to rule with Jesus, during the millennium – while the great crowd will not have that authority.

So, the 144,000 appears to refer to the “little flock” group. The number 144,000, itself, is probably not literal – i.e., there will probably not be exactly 144,000 members in that group. (I suspect that there will actually be many more people in that group than 144,000.)

However, the number 144,000 is significant, in relative terms. In other words, that number refers to the fact that the size of the little flock will be much smaller than the size of the great crowd. As mentioned previously, there are about 2.2 billion people in the world who identify as Christians. So, even if the little flock turns out to have 100 million people in it, 100 million is still a relatively small number, compared to 2.2 billion.

Of course, the above information raises another question – who, exactly, is going to be a part of the “little flock”? In other words, which Christians will be placed in the little flock – as opposed to being a part of the great multitude?

From what I can see, it appears that God is only “calling” a minority of people during this age – probably a relatively small minority. So, I suspect that the 144,000 group is comprised of those individuals who were “called” by God – and who responded to that call. (Just because God calls a person, that does not necessarily mean that a person will respond to it.)

For more information, the following two posts go into great detail, about the concept of God only “calling” a minority of people during this age:

God’s “Call” to Salvation (part 1)

God’s “Call” to Salvation (part 2)

40 Responses to “Who are the “144,000″ in Revelation Chapter 7?”

  1. on 20 May 2012 at 3:29 amWolfgang

    Brian,

    I would say that nowhere does Rev 7:1ff ever indicate that the 144000 are “ruling” in some way … rather, the immediate context of those verses clearly states that these 144.000 were sealed in order to be not harmed by the judgment about to be executed by the four angels mentioned who had been given “power to harm the earth and sea”. Thus, I don’t think that it is correct to equate the 144.000 with “little flock” or with those who are said to be given authority to “rule with Christ” …

    Cheers,
    Wolfgang

  2. on 20 May 2012 at 6:07 amWolfgang

    Brian,

    seeing that the text is rather explicit with detailing the 144.000 as being composed of 12.000 of each of the 12 tribes of Israel, I would think that the text is speaking about believing Israelites, that is Christians of a Jewish background, but NOT about Christians in general or Christians from a Gentile background.

    I would say so especially in light of the fact, that the whole context of the book of Revelation is essentially Israelite, even though it has various sections detailing effects which the described judgments on apostate Israel have on other peoples and nations.

    Cheers,
    Wolfgang

  3. on 20 May 2012 at 11:28 amIvan Monroy

    Hello, Brian:

    The “little flock” are only such in comparison with the “so many thousands” in the masses. (Luke 12:1) Through context it is clear what is meant.

    As for the 144,000 I must differ from Wolfgang at least in terms of these being literal Israelites. Revelation 7:3 states that the “slaves of our God” are sealed, meaning, all of God’s slaves. It is an absolute statement without qualification. Thus, the 144k must represent God’s slaves in their entirety. These one’s are the true Israel and hence symbolically from the “sons of Israel.”

    Best,
    Ivan

  4. on 20 May 2012 at 12:35 pmWolfgang

    Ivan,

    you write above

    Revelation 7:3 states that the “slaves of our God” are sealed, meaning, all of God’s slaves. It is an absolute statement without qualification.

    the statement about “slaves of our God” is not a statement without qualification, instead a rather detailed qualification is given in the verses following immediately!! The immediate context is very clear in detailing who these particular “slaves of our God” are …

    There is no mention of a “true Israel” in the context from where to support your idea … btw, what would be this “true Israel” and what would be the contrasting “(untrue, false, ordinary, or what ?) Israel” to such a “true Israel”? Where is such detailed mention and naming of the 12 tribes as founis never found in Rev 7:1ff used anywhere in Scripture as a reference to “the true Israel”? Also, to what do you refer with “sons of Israel” in your comment?

    Cheers,
    Wolfgang

  5. on 20 May 2012 at 2:19 pmIvan Monroy

    Hello, Wolfgang:

    Perhaps you may have missed what is elsewhere written in John’s Apocalypse (2:9):”I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”

    Jesus says to the Christian Church in Smyrna that he is aware of those who claim to be “Jews” but who are not true Jews. Obviously, the implication is the true Jews, the true Israel, are the Christians themselves.

    As such, the absolute statement of “slaves of our God” is in reference to Christians who are the true Israel, the true offspring of Abraham.

    The point of the listing of the Tribes is to recall the census in the OT when counting military strength. This is why the 144k are described as male virgins in Revelation 14. It’s Jesus’ Messianic army preparing for war, as it were.

    Best,
    Ivan

  6. on 20 May 2012 at 2:31 pmWolfgang

    Ivan,

    Perhaps you may have missed what is elsewhere written in John’s Apocalypse (2:9):”I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”

    I would not call it “have missed” … but I am more inclined to leave what is stated in its context rather than “generalizing” something “specific”

    It remains that Rev 7:3ff very clearly is not just mentioning an all-inclusive Christians “slaves of our God”, but further defines that term in the verses immediately following with the reference to the 144.000 (composed of 12.000 of each tribe of Israel) … and also says nothing whatever about them being “Jesus’ Messianic army preparing for war, as it were” … instead it states very plainly that these are sealed in order to not be harmed in the impending judgment to be executed by “the four angels with the power to harm the earth and sea”

    Cheers,
    Wolfgang

  7. on 20 May 2012 at 3:35 pmIvan Monroy

    Wolfgang:

    Whether you wish to generalize it or not, it remains Revelation’s clear teaching that Christians are true Jews, much like Christians are the true seed of Abraham.

    It seems you take the 144k to be literal and so qualify the phrase “slaves of our God” in this way. Yet, the phrase is not qualified whatsoever. It is an absolute statement: God’s slaves are sealed. Everywhere else doulos is used in Revelation in relation to the faithful, it is always absolute. This necessitates the 144k be symoblic. Not only this but the clear background to Revelation 7:3 from Ezekiel 9 shows the sealing to be all inclusive.

    Even as the document begins, John tells of this book being for God’s slaves, which can hardly be a literal 144k.

    Ivan

  8. on 20 May 2012 at 6:18 pmSarah

    Wolfgang, I find it interesting that you argue for a literal 144K in Rev 7, but a non-literal 1K in Rev 20…

  9. on 21 May 2012 at 12:39 amWolfgang

    Sarah,

    who said that I argue for a literal 144.000 (that is, exactly 144.000 and not 143.399 or 144.001)?

    The context (overall as well as immediate ! ) shows if a statement involves figures of speech and which figure has been used by the writer/author in order to emphasize a particular point or whether what is written is meant literally.

    Also, not always is a whole verse or sentence figurative, at times only parts of an expression involve a figure (for illustration: cp “You are pulling my leg” … “you” would be literal, namely the very person who is being addressed; “my leg” and “pulling” might not be literal, if the context shows that the expression is meant as the figure idiom, rather than being a literal description of something the person literally does)

    Cheers,
    Wolfgang

  10. on 21 May 2012 at 1:34 amWolfgang

    Hi,

    the passage in Rev 7 does have some parallels to a passage in the OT, in Eze 9, where we also read of the seal of the living God. There it was the righteous just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. who were marked with the seal of God, in Rev 7 it was the righteous among the believers (of Israelite but not Gentile background) who would be marked, which would allow the angel with “the power to harm earth and sea” to pass over them during the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (cp. what the angel said in Rev 7:3: “Hurt ye not the earth, nor the sea, nor the trees, until we shall have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads”.”)

    What we read shows a short time period of withholding between the judgment being announced and eventually executed. This short period provided the time needed for the angel to mark the righteous, and to provide them time to escape with their lives from the doomed city to Pella of Perea before the war began. All who had did not have the mark of the seal of God were struck with death or slavery (as had been the case in Eze 9 and the former event).

    Btw, some historical facts have been preserved which fit this description and which are applicable. Eusebius quotes from Hegesippus, and mentions in his church history work that “the people in the Church at Jerusalem, by a certain Oracle given by revelation, had been ordered to remove themselves before the war, and inhabit Pella, a city in Perea”, Eusebius Eccelestastical History. Book 3, ch 5. Also, there is some info in Judaistic Christianity. John Hort pp 174-175. 1894 ed.

    Removing what is stated in the book of Revelation from its overall context and its historical relevance, causes no end of confusion, discrepencies and mostly fanciful interpretations and applications which of necessity can be no more than assumptions and speculation, because all is put in a yet future time about which none of those interpreters can or does really know anything.

    Cheers,
    Wolfgang

  11. on 21 May 2012 at 7:01 amWolfgang

    Ivan,

    you write above

    Whether you wish to generalize it or not, it remains Revelation’s clear teaching that Christians are true Jews, much like Christians are the true seed of Abraham.

    there is no clear teaching anywhere in the Scriptures that “Christians are true Jews” … the clear teaching of the Scriptures is rather that there are Jews who do believe God and His Messiah (and who are thus true Jews) and there are Jews who do not believe God and His Messiah (and who are thus apostate Jews). Yes, those Christians of Jewish background who are believers in Messiah Jesus are “true Jews”, but those Christians of Gentile background who are believers in the Messiah Jesus are not and neither do they become Jews.

    Similarly, proper distinctions and accurate reading of the Scriptures is needed to correctly understand the expression “[true] seed of Abraham”. In this case, it is necessary to properly understand the use of figures of speech when the word “seed” is NOT used in its literal sense but as part of a figure of speech.

    Cheers,
    Wolfgang

  12. on 21 May 2012 at 11:58 amSarah

    Wolfgang,

    …all is put in a yet future time about which none of those interpreters can or does really know anything.

    Do you believe there are any prophecies in scripture that still await future fulfillment? And if so, which ones?

  13. on 21 May 2012 at 1:25 pmtimothy

    Hi Sarah and Doubting Thomas,

    This subject will soon be covered in the on going on line class:

    http://lhim.org/resources/classes.php?id=32

    Timothy

  14. on 21 May 2012 at 1:59 pmSarah

    Thanks, Timothy. I’ll check that out.

  15. on 21 May 2012 at 3:51 pmWolfgang

    Sarah,

    you ask above

    Do you believe there are any prophecies in scripture that still await future fulfillment? And if so, which ones?

    I used to believe that all prophecy pertaining to the end time and the coming of the Son of Man, etc. all awaited a future fulfillment … In those days i also did not believe “soon” really meant “soon”, even though I taught that it did.

    Then I noticed something that Jesus himself taught his disciples when I was reading Lk 21 one day … had read that many times, just did not “hear” or “heed” what I had “read” …

    Lk 21:20-22 (NASB)
    20 But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand.
    21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are in the midst of the city depart, and let not those who are in the country enter the city;
    22 because these are days of vengeance, in order that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

    Did his disciples to who he was speaking see Jerusalem surrounded by armies or did that not happen in their time (if it did not happen, then Jesus would have made a false prophetic prediction)?
    How many things written in the Scriptures were to be fulfilled by the time Jerusalem was surrounded with armies and the days of vengeance having come?

    Now therefore, I tend to believe that all things which are written were indeed fulfilled just as Jesus prophesied … and I would acknowledge that my previous ideas and beliefs that some or all was still to be fulfilled even in our future were incorrect, despite the fact that almost all of Christendom teaches and believes that way …

    Cheers,
    Wolfgang

  16. on 21 May 2012 at 10:06 pmTim (aka Antioch)

    Wolfgang,

    I have a lot to learn yet on the ‘preterist’ view but it had occurred to me that maybe there were two separate future events being discussed? I came across a document that quoted from Josephus’ writings and it very much sounded like his description of the destruction of the temple in 70AD was what Jesus was alluding to in many places. But then it seems that some things have not occurred (the new heaven and new earth, for example). And why is there not some serious manuscript evidence from the patristic writers about fulfillment (or is there)?

  17. on 22 May 2012 at 12:51 amWolfgang

    Tim (aka Antioch)

    if there were two (that is, more than one) future events intended in a prophecy, the prophecy would in essence be worthless, because there would be no clear fulfillment by which it could be determined if what the prophet declared had come to pass or not … a true prophetic prediction of something in the future must be (and will be) clear and precise so that no “double, triple, or other multiple fulfillment options” give room to confusion.

    Despite the fact that many today claim “dual or double fulfillment of biblical prophecy” as their solution to self-made interpretation dilemmas, the Scriptures do NOT have such when it comes to prophetic predictions of certain events, etc. When a true prophet prophesied of a future event, it concerned one … not two or many, which supposedly then are even thousands of years apart.

    Cheers,
    Wolfgang

  18. on 22 May 2012 at 1:15 amtimothy

    Hello Tim(aka Antioch),

    Would you please give me the scripture: book/chapter/verse for the temple destruction you are referring to in post 17.

    Thank you.

    Timothy

  19. on 22 May 2012 at 10:00 amTim (aka Antioch)

    timothy – Matthew 24:2

  20. on 22 May 2012 at 10:26 amSarah

    Wolfgang,

    In those days i also did not believe “soon” really meant “soon”, even though I taught that it did.

    “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand” (Joel 2:1)

    The great day of the LORD is near–near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the LORD will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there.” (Zep 1:14)

    This “great day of the Lord” is prophesied throughout the OT as being near and coming soon. What was the meaning of “soon” for the ancient Israelites?

    The idea that scripture has all been fulfilled depends upon a redefinition of the Abrahamic Covenant. There are three things that I believe are spelled out clearly in scripture regarding this covenant:

    1) God swore he would give Abraham and his Seed (Jesus Christ) the land that he specifically showed to Abraham in Genesis, as an everlasting inheritance. (Gen 13:14-15)

    2) Abraham died, thus whatever inheritance he received during his lifetime wasn’t the PERMANENT inheritance. Your inheritance can only be permanent if you can’t die. (Heb 11:39)

    3) Christ’s sacrifice made possbile the bodily resurrection of the dead, and therefore, also the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant of the eternal land inheritance for Abraham, Christ, and all who are in Christ. (Heb 9:15)

    Ezekiel 37 plainly connects the physical resurrection with obtaining the permanent land inheritance, as do many other OT prophecies. The preterist must assign an alternate meaning to these things in order to maintain the idea that all scripture is already fulfilled. The preterist says the resurrection isn’t a physical bodily resurrection, and the permanent inheritance isn’t located on earth, and so forth. I consider this redefinition of the Abrahamic Covenant to be a fundamental problem with the preterist view.

  21. on 22 May 2012 at 4:36 pmWolfgang

    Sarah

    The idea that scripture has all been fulfilled depends upon a redefinition of the Abrahamic Covenant.

    the idea that scripture has not all been fulfilled contradicts what Jesus himself taught (cp. earlier posts with reference to Lk 21) …

    It seems rather that it is such an idea contrary to Jesus’ teaching which depends on a redefinition of the Abrahamic covenant … as for Abraham, what land or country was he looking forward to in response to the promise made to him by God (cp Heb 11:16 — the “better country”)? And yet, according to your above comment, Abraham (and others) sought an earthly country, rather than a heavenly one ? Who is redefining what?

  22. on 23 May 2012 at 2:14 amWolfgang

    Sarah

    Christ’s sacrifice made possbile the bodily resurrection of the dead, and therefore, also the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant of the eternal land inheritance for Abraham, Christ, and all who are in Christ. (Heb 9:15)

    how do you think all those millions of people from thousands of years who count in the “all who are in Christ” will “fit” into the area mentioned to Abraham as the earthly land (that is now commonly called “Palestine” and which extends from Sinai to Syria) ?

    Also, the earthly land promise was already fulfilled to Abraham’s, Isaac’s and Jacob’s descendants after they returned from captivity in Egypt … cp Joshua 21:43 – “And the LORD GAVE UNTO ISRAEL ALL THE LAND WHICH HE SWARE TO GIVE UNTO THEIR FATHERS; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein.” (KJV)

  23. on 23 May 2012 at 4:22 amtimothy

    Sarah,

    Wolfgang wrote:
    **how do you think all those millions of people from thousands of years who count in the “all who are in Christ” will “fit” into the area mentioned to Abraham as the earthly land (that is now commonly called “Palestine” and which extends from Sinai to Syria) ?**

    Size of NEW Jerusalem:
    Revelations 21:
    16 And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.

    one furlong=201.16800

    Do the math:
    201.16800 times 12,000 to the third power equals cubic size:

    ***the New Jerusalem***

    last time only eight souls were saved.

    Titus 3: (esvuk)
    4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared,
    5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
    6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour,
    7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

    Timothy (:)

  24. on 23 May 2012 at 7:00 amWolfgang

    Timothy,

    you are doing some math above regarding the size of New Jerusalem.

    Can you explain a bit more how you understand a city of these dimensions to fit into the earthly land of Palestine ? In particular, it seems a little difficult to fit the width of ~ 1200 km (12000 furlongs) into that area …
    Also, how is a city of a height of 1200 km to be understood (modern commercial intercontinental airliners fly at about 9-12 km) ?

    Could it be possible that the description in Rev 21 is not speaking about literal city walls and city buildings, etc …. ?

  25. on 23 May 2012 at 1:05 pmtimothy

    Hello Wolfgang,

    A forth dimension to be seen through revelations by our indwelling
    holy spirit *comforter*…….

    Ephesians 3: (kjv)
    18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

    Everything, including the Christians new resurrected body, in the *new heaven and Earth* is beyond our capability to comprehend at this time.

    The on going TV series Star Trek has something for the imagination of the New Jerusalem descending: *The Borg*.

    Perhaps the gross size is to apply majesty to GODs temple/city and to kindle our reverence to YAHWEH our father. This shall be GODs kingdom coming to Earth. (*on Earth as it is in Heaven*) (*in my Fathers house are many mansions*)

    Romans 4: (kjv)
    13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

    Whether literal or not is past our finding out un less our holy spirit comforter gives us a bonus “vision”.

    I am learning from the “The Final Words” class being taught by my pastor.http://lhim.org/resources/classes.php?id=32

    regards,
    Timothy

  26. on 23 May 2012 at 1:36 pmSarah

    Wolfgang,

    Also, the earthly land promise was already fulfilled to Abraham’s, Isaac’s and Jacob’s descendants after they returned from captivity in Egypt … cp Joshua 21:43 – “And the LORD GAVE UNTO ISRAEL ALL THE LAND WHICH HE SWARE TO GIVE UNTO THEIR FATHERS; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein.” (KJV)

    “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.” (Hbr 4:8 ESV)

    Scripture later makes clear that they didn’t REMAIN there permanently, due to their sinfulness. The spirit of Christ brings about the resurrection, so that Israel can live in the land permanently:

    “(13) And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.
    (14) And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”
    (22) And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms.
    (23) They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” (Eze 37:13-14, 22-23 ESV)

    If this is already fulfilled, can you please point to the time in history when an Israelite king reigned over a unified and purified Israel?

    And yet, according to your above comment, Abraham (and others) sought an earthly country, rather than a heavenly one ? Who is redefining what?

    You’re constructing a false dichotomy between “earthly” and “heavenly”. I mentioned to you in a past post that I believe “heavenly country” refers not to a location other than earth, but rather the dominion of heaven enacted on earth (cp Dan 7:26-27). Can you find any other support in scripture for your interpretation of “heavenly country” – that humans will dwell in heaven rather than earth after the resurrection?

  27. on 23 May 2012 at 2:24 pmWolfgang

    Timothy

    you write above

    Everything, including the Christians new resurrected body, in the *new heaven and Earth* is beyond our capability to comprehend at this time.

    If indeed this is the case, should not then any and all teachers claiming to understand and teach about future matters which are “beyond our ability to comprehend at this time” rather not teach and instead leave such things up to whatever happens in due time?

    If, on the other hand, matters have happened as prophesied (but perhaps not as anticipated or interpreted by teachers who see such things as being still future), it is possible to understand and comprehend the teaching of the Scriptures, seeing that it will not have such dilemmas as caused by guesses and assumptions (which are the best anyone can have about future matters)

  28. on 23 May 2012 at 2:36 pmWolfgang

    Sarah,

    you make an important point about the land promise … as indicated by various prophetic utterances made to the Israelites, it was conditional on their obedience and faithfulness to God. They were plainly told that they were to be driven out of the land if they rebelled and disobeyed God (cp various sections in Deu and what Moses as a prophet declared unto them).

    Now Jesus, in his prophetic instructions about the end of the age, linked the end of the age and his coming to the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. He rather plainly declared, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” (Mt 23:38). Jesus nowhere indicated that there would be a restoration of an earthly kingdom (country, political state) of Israel” after the judgment was executed and they were dispersed among the nations and their country/kingdom was over with (which happened finally with the events of 70AD).

    As for an Israelite king reigning over a unified Israel … this has been fulfilled ever since Jesus ascended and came to the Ancient of Days (cp. respective prophecy in Daniel) and sat down on his throne. Someone else already mentioned that the kingdom was in effect in the 1st century AD as we can read that the believers then were already “in the kingdom”.

    However, there is no such thing as a dual/double nature or dual phase kingdom. It is obvious therefore that it just is not a throne in earthly Jerusalem, it is not a reign as a political king or dictator, it is not an earthly kingdom country established in Palestine by the UN or other political powers, etc …..

  29. on 23 May 2012 at 4:53 pmtimothy

    Wolfgang hello,

    you have written:

    “If indeed this is the case, should not then any and all teachers claiming to understand and teach about future matters which are “beyond our ability to comprehend at this time” rather not teach and instead leave such things up to whatever happens in due time?”

    You are a learner ed bible scholar and continue to teach. My point is that we have received spiritual abilities which may be used to better understand the matters beyond our natural mans ability to perceive.

    I agree with you about guesses and assumptions. And there is so much of that going around that I avoid those whose arguing spirit makes like bringing a knife to a gunfight.(not referring to your brilliance)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rGl6xkNqgs

    regards,
    Timothy

  30. on 24 May 2012 at 12:52 amBrian Keating

    Hi All,

    FYI – here is one additional item to consider. As mentioned above, if the number of people listed in Revelation 7 is literal, then it seems to me that the tribe listed should also be literal. That is, if there will be 144,000 literal individuals in that group, then those individuals will also be literal (i.e., biological) Israelites.

    Just for the sake of the argument, let’s assume that Revelation 7 is literal – that there are literally 144,000 people in that group, and that they are the literal decendants of the man named Jacob (i.e., Israel).

    If that is the case, then that raises another question:

    Why isn’t the tribe of Dan listed?

    Look at Revelation 7 again. Only eleven of Jacob’s sons are listed – Dan is missing. (Instead, Manasseh – one of Joseph’s two sons – is listed in that group.)

    So, if Revelation 7 contains a literal list of 144,000 Israelites – from every tribe of the sons of Israel (as it states), then why is one of the 12 tribes – Dan – excluded from that list?

    (I initially intended to include this item in the original post, but I didn’t get a chance to do so. Needless to say, I have my own theory on this issue…)

    Brian

  31. on 24 May 2012 at 2:58 amtimothy

    Tribe of Dan,

    The tribe of *Dan* is missing from the 144,000 because of their
    “sin of idolatry”.

    Genesis 49: (kjv)
    17 Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.

    Judges 18:
    18 And these went into Micah’s house, and fetched the carved image, the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image. Then said the priest unto them, What do ye?

    19 And they said unto him, Hold thy peace, lay thine hand upon thy mouth, and go with us, and be to us a father and a priest: is it better for thee to be a priest unto the house of one man, or that thou be a priest unto a tribe and a family in Israel?

    20 And the priest’s heart was glad, and he took the ephod, and the teraphim, and the graven image, and went in the midst of the people.

    30 And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land.

    31 And they set them up Micah’s graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.

    Amos 8:
    14 They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, Thy god, O Dan, liveth; and, The manner of Beersheba liveth; even they shall fall, and never rise up again.

    Deuteronomy 6:
    14 Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you;

    15 (For the Lord thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the Lord thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.

    Timothy

  32. on 24 May 2012 at 4:35 amWolfgang

    Brian,

    you mention above

    Just for the sake of the argument, let’s assume that Revelation 7 is literal – that there are literally 144,000 people in that group, and that they are the literal decendants of the man named Jacob (i.e., Israel).

    If that is the case, then that raises another question:

    Why isn’t the tribe of Dan listed?

    Look at Revelation 7 again. Only eleven of Jacob’s sons are listed – Dan is missing.

    for one, the question about the tribe of Dan missing from this list remains the same whether the passage is to be understood literally or as part of a figure of speech. In other words, the omission of the tribe of Dan does NOT indicate anything about the passage being figurative and not being literal.

    As far as I remember, there is no particular passage in Scripture which addresses this question and which provides a clear answer to the question … at best, there are some indications (such as the ones in the passages Timothy mentioned above) pointing to some possibilities, such as Dan’s idolatry.

    There are other listings of the tribes of Israel given in various passages in the Scriptures (I think there are 29 altogether in the OT and NT), and there are always only 12 and not 13 tribes mentioned. The tribe that is usually omitted is the tribe of Levi, from which tribe the priesthood came.

    Thus, perhaps it is not all that significant, why it is the tribe of Dan here in Rev 7 that is omitted … the main point of the passage here is that God is watching over the righteous, the remnant of believers who were of the tribes of Israel, and He had them marked with the seal of God, so that they could escape and be spared from the awful judgment which was about to come upon apostate Israel and the city of Jerusalem.

  33. on 24 May 2012 at 11:10 amWolfgang

    Timothy,

    you mention above

    My point is that we have received spiritual abilities which may be used to better understand the matters beyond our natural mans ability to perceive.

    I agree with you about guesses and assumptions.

    I myself used to make such a point about “have received spiritual abilities … to better understand the matters …” until I noticed how all too often what was attributed to “spiritual insight” turned out to be in need of correction some time later, because some “further spiritual insight” turned up or what was supposed to be “spiritual insight” showed itself to be contradictory to what some other passage in Scripture taught, etc ….

    Unless there was “definite revelation” (in the same sense as the apostles and prophets in the Bible had), I would be very careful and rather suspicious of so-called “spiritual insights” …. Unfortunately, quite often teachers resort to this claim of “using spiritual abilities” when “the normal every man’s ability to simply read, think, consider and understand” procedure either doesn’t fit and harmonize with a certain position or when such procedure doesn’t seem to get them to a satisfactory answer to a question.

    It seems to me that a lot more proper use of our natural man’s abilities to read, hear and understand should be made … for the Scriptures were given so that WHEN WE READ, WE MAY UNDERSTAND (cp Eph 3,4 and what Paul mentions there how his insights had come to him by the spirit revealing them to him, but now that he had them written, the readers would understand by reading – rather than by the spirit revealing it)

  34. on 24 May 2012 at 12:16 pmtimothy

    Hello Wolfgang,

    you wrote:

    *It seems to me that a lot more proper use of our natural man’s abilities to read, hear and understand should be made … *

    I agree and greatly admire your abilities in these regards.

    regards,
    Timothy

  35. on 24 May 2012 at 6:05 pmBrian Keating

    Hi,

    FYI – let me try this another way:

    1. Revelation 7 states that the 144,000 are taken from every tribe of the sons of Israel.

    2. However, not all of the sons of Israel are listed – because Dan is missing from that passage.

    3. So, if Revelation 7 is taken completely literally, then that passage is factually inaccurate – because that passage states that it includes all of the sons of Israel – but it actually does not include all of Israel’s sons.

    On the other hand, if Revelation 7 is taken figuratively, then there is no problem – because in that case, the phrase “every tribe of the sons of Israel” would not need to refer to all 12 of Jacob’s sons.

    There are certainly many places in Scripture in which there are lists of the 12 tribes, which have Ephraim and Manasseh in place of Joseph, and which do not have Levi. This is because Joseph and Levi were not granted land in Canaan – Joseph’s land went to his two sons; and Levi was scattered through all the other tribes’ lands (since they had the priestly duties).

    However, as far as I know, Revelation 7 is the only place which has a list of “all the sons of Israel” – and in which Dan is not included on that list.

    Brian

  36. on 24 May 2012 at 8:13 pmtimothy

    Brian,

    Was this your question:

    Why isn’t the tribe of Dan listed?

    You have not commented on my post # 31.

    Why have you not commented?

    Timothy

  37. on 25 May 2012 at 1:07 amWolfgang

    Brian,

    3. So, if Revelation 7 is taken completely literally, then that passage is factually inaccurate – because that passage states that it includes all of the sons of Israel – but it actually does not include all of Israel’s sons.

    On the other hand, if Revelation 7 is taken figuratively, then there is no problem – because in that case, the phrase “every tribe of the sons of Israel” would not need to refer to all 12 of Jacob’s sons.

    what do you mean with “completely literally” ? why do you not compare the “completely literally” to “COMPLETELY figuratively”?

    Furthermore, which expression(s) in Rev 7:4 would involve which figure(s) of speech in order for “Rev 7 is taken figuratively”?

  38. on 26 May 2012 at 10:18 amSarah

    Wolfgang,

    You said in post #28:

    They were plainly told that they were to be driven out of the land if they rebelled and disobeyed God (cp various sections in Deu and what Moses as a prophet declared unto them).

    Paul spent a good portion of Galations making the point that the land promise, which was specifically made both to Abraham and to Christ, has not been voided by the law. The Abrahamic Covenant was not conditional, while the Mosaic Covenant was. Through Abraham, Jesus Christ was promised an eternal land inheritance. That promise was NOT voided by Israel’s disobedience:

    Gal 3:15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified.

    Gal 3:16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.

    Gal 3:17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.

    However one views the events of prophecy, and the timing of them, the fulfillment of the specific land promise given to Abraham, Christ, and all who are in Christ, yet remains. I am flexible on many things, but this is the primary point that I believe must undergird one’s view of prophecy.

  39. on 26 May 2012 at 4:06 pmWolfgang

    Sarah,

    Deu 28, 29, 30 …have some information about what would happen (blessing and CURSE) in reference to Israel and them receiving the promise of the land and staying in the land or being dispersed from the land.

    IF what you write above is true, then what about the “curse” which did involve Israel being thrown out from the land … since a return to the land was conditional on them repenting first, and since such did not happen, they have remained in the dispersion and did not return to their land, as a matter of truth, and just as Jesus prophesied, their house was indeed left unto them desolate.

  40. on 27 May 2012 at 6:26 pmSarah

    Wolfgang,

    This will be a bit long – forgive me in advance. You make a good points about the requirement of repentance. But consider the Song of Moses in Deut 32. Here he predicts the Israel’s rebellion from the Exodus up to the final desolation. Notice the final statement of this song:

    “Rejoice, O nations, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants, And will render vengeance on His adversaries, And will atone for His land and His people.” (Deu 32:43 NASB)

    If the land is to remain in permanent desolation, why did God specifically say he would atone the land, in addition to the people? The answer is because of his eternal land promise of the Abrahamic Covenant. The land was repeatedly defiled by the Israelites’ sin, and thus God’s presence could not remain there until permanent atonement had been made for the people and the land.

    Now let me go back to your point about the curse. The first few verses of Deut 30 read:

    (1) “So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the LORD your God has banished you,
    (2) and you return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons,
    (3) then the LORD your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you.
    (Deu 30:1-3 NASB)

    I agree, the promise of the land depends on repentance. And corporately speaking, Israel failed to meet that condition. But individually speaking, a remnant through all the generations WERE repentant and possessed faith like Abraham’s.

    In the story of Daniel, set during the Babylonian captivity, he offers a prayer of repentance just before his vision of the 70 Weeks:

    (4) I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments,
    (5) we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances.
    … (13) “As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come on us; yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Your truth.
    … (18) “O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion.” (Dan 9:4-5, 13, 18 NASB)

    Daniel suffered exile from the land because Israel was under corporate judgment. But hearkening back to Deut 30:1-3 which I quoted earlier, Daniel repented of his participation in Israle’s corporate sin and cried out to God. Should he not be permitted back into the land? Did God’s land promise fail for Daniel?

    According to the angel that responded to his prayer, God’s promise did not fail him. Atonement for sin would come in the distant future (9:24) – surely pointing Daniel to the atonement of the land and people mentioned in Deut 32. And the angel later said Daniel would rise to receive his inheritance AFTER his death and subsequent resurrection, which clearly would take place at some point after the atonement had been made.

    The point I’m making is that the repentant remnant throughout Israel’s history will be gathered into the land at the resurrection. Examples like this (among many others) are my starting point when considering the resurrection and the fulfillment of prophecy.

  

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