Who Are the 144,000?
My wife was raised Jehovah’s Witnesses. In their view, the 144,000 mentioned in Rev. 7:4 are an “anointed” group selected by god since Pentecost. Those who died before 1918 were resurrected as spirit beings that year, while those who died after 1918 but before 1935 were likewise resurrected and taken to heaven. They will rule as special kings and priests to god while the rest live in an earthly paradise. Nobody gets the golden ticket to heaven but them.
After she escaped the Watchtower, one of the things she wondered about was who were the 144,000? Our first church was Word of Faith Pentecostal, which holds to a Dispensational view of end times. Their answer to the question was that these were Jews who were saved during the seven year tribulation. Since we escaped the Name-it-claim-it-tower, Eschatology has occupied the lower rung on the “things I need to study” ladder. Consequently, I haven’t given much thought to the 144,000.
So it is with great appreciation that I found an excellent answer to the 144,000 question over at Pastor Kevin DeYoung’s blog, where he offers five reasons why both the JWs and the Dispensationalists got it wrong. Here’s how he begins:
Many sincere Bible-believing Christians would understand the 144,000 like this: The church is raptured prior to the great tribulation. During the time when the church is gone, a remnant of 144,000 ethnic Jews is converted (12,000 from each tribe). These Jewish converts, in turn, evangelize the Gentiles who make up the great multitude in white robes in v. 9. That’s one understanding of Revelation 7. A lot of godly people hold that understanding. Let me explain why I understand the 144,000 differently.
The 144,000 are not an ethnic Jewish remnant, and certainly not an Anointed Class of saints who became Jehovah’s Witnesses before 1935. The 144,000 represent the entire community of the redeemed. Let me give you several reasons for making this claim. . . .
You can read the five brief, but succinct, reasons here.