This is a number that has scientific, historical, and religious connections. It also has applications in literature and music. From a religious point of view, it is as significant as the 666.
1. To the Mayan civilization 144,000 days equaled a baktun. A baktun is 20 katun in the Mayan Long Count Calendar.
2. Authors Scott Bakker, Bernard Werber and John DeChancey use the number 144,000 in their writing of books as symbolic or proposed counts to fit the characteristics of their books.
3. In music there are many songs written using this number as its theme; 144,000 voices is the maximum contrapuntal expansion, a musical expression, of Baroque music theorist Pier Francesco Valentini’s 96-voice composition Canone nel modo Salomonis (1631). Contrapuntal music is two different songs that are performed at the same time within the same piece.
4. In broadcast TV, the population of the eponymous town in the 2013 Fox TV series Sleepy Hollow is 144,000.
5. In the Book of Revelation one will find this number three different times; Revelation 7:3-8, Revelation 14:1, and Revelation 14:3-5.
a. Side Note: Jehovah’s Witness, the Unification Church, New Age movements, Skoptists of Russian and Islam are additional religions that give different meanings to this number. We will not elaborate on these at this time but perhaps in a future blog…..?
Revelation 7:3-8 presents the 144,000 as 12,000 people from each of the 12 Tribes of Israel. We will not discuss at this time the fact that the Tribe of Dan is not mentioned, Joseph is mentioned instead of Ephraim (Joseph’s son),while Manasseh, also a son of Joseph, is named as one of the twelve.
Revelation 14:1 “Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.”
Revelation 14:3b … “…No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.”
Before moving forward and unless someone think there are only 144,000 redeemed per the bible, read Revelation 7:9…
…”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…”
We can easily see in verse 14:9 that the number redeemed or saved far exceeds the 144,000 as a fixed number of limitations. Salvation is an individual choice of accept or reject (purposefully or by doing nothing) the offer of salvation through belief and then following the teachings of Jesus Christ.
The question begs of itself, are the 144,000 set aside, or specially identified in chapter 7, the same who are mentioned in chapter 14? A great question, and one that should not be passed over so as to simplify its understandability, implications or applications. Context, context, context! Always consider the context. Context is the setting within which one is trying to understand a principle, meaning or discussion. Many times one will walk into the middle of a discussion. There is a pertinent need to find out what the discussion is all about in order to contribute or follow the context of that discussion. The same is true when reading a book. Starting in the middle does little for one’s understandings of the characters, setting or direction the author is taking his or her book theme.
In Revelation 7 we have four possibilities per the 144,000:
1. John T. Hinds argues that the number refers to those who are saved from the physical nation of Israel (p112); i.e. Israelis themselves; God’s chosen people from the Old Testament.
2. J. W. Roberts, argues that this company is spiritual Israel, i.e., the church (p71) but fails to completely explain why only 144,000.
3. Others suggest this group represents the martyrs who have given their lives for the cause of Christ during the Tribulation period.
4. Some try to spiritualize everything and say the number is simply symbolic and means little as a factual, real number count of those redeemed.
The danger is in reading then accepting as fact those theologians or wanna-be bible scholars who extrapolate, then forget context; often in defense of one’s preconceived religious doctrines rather than God’s Word. We should take literally everything in the Bible that is obviously NOT needed to be spiritualized to fit a doctrinal statement. At ahabiblemoments.wordpress.com we fully understand that to spiritualize too much of what the bible says is to make it something that is not to be understood. A favorite passage to counter this argument is Ecclesiastes 3:1-3:22. But a much more pointed passage is when Jesus tells of the consequences for misleading the listener; James 3:1. One cannot be a teacher in good faith if s/he can only spiritualize scripture. Understanding is essential and swatting at imaginary flies is expending energies that mean little to nothing to listeners concerning destinies and eternity.
II Timothy 2:15 commands us to study and learn, not theorize the Word of God. A great quote from http://www.learnthebible.org/the-command-to-study-2-timothy-215.html says:
“Every believer ought to faithfully read the word of God, but there is another command that is not to be neglected. According to 2 Timothy 2:15, believers can show themselves approved unto God by studying the scriptures. One can read through the scriptures on a daily basis without ever truly studying the scriptures. In order to study, one must delve into the words and phrases of the Bible and consider their meaning both historically and doctrinally” [and within context]. Emphasis mine.
We add… one can also discard facts through hyperbola; i.e. rejecting what the bible states as fact by not closing the loop between what God/Jesus states and what we take as meaningful and direct. We call that spiritualizing what is said instead of accepting within context what God’s Word specifically tells us.
In Revelation 7 we read specifics… the names of twelve Tribes of Israel; the 12,000 specifically identified in each case. In verse 4 they are “sealed as servants of God” and in 7:13, 14 when John asks who are these folks. He is given a straight and specific answer, “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.”
This is information-specific and not intended to be spiritualized. These 144,000 are to be identified with God. They are set aside; the remnant of Israel after the Great Tribulation. Perhaps this is the count of those who escape Jerusalem and flee to Petra where they are under God’s direct protection during Jacob’s Trouble; i.e. the 2nd half of the Tribulation.
No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.
Note that Jesus is not mentioned in chapter but is in chapter 14. Also recall that God made Old Testament covenants with Israel (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) that are unique to them and Jesus made covenants with his believers and followers that are distinct from those made with Israel but universal to mankind.
Let’s go back to Revelation 6 to better grasp these meanings and probabilities. We recall from a previous blog that there are “souls under the Throne of God waiting for Him to avenge their wrongful deaths” (5th Seal). The Bible states in 6:10, 11…
They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”  Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.” [ESV]
Until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed… this is the 144,000 discussed in chapter 14 of Revelation; [v4] those redeemed from the earth, not the Tribes of Israel. They are slain during the Tribulation, are under the same Throne waiting to be avenged, and are together as one group of specified souls. This is not true of any other Christians or what Jesus identifies as “his church; body of believer.” AND, they appear with JESUS upon His return; i.e. 2nd Advent. They follow Jesus wherever he goes. These are one’s who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior DURING the Tribulation. These are slain by the anti-Christ for their belief and refusal to accept the Mark of the Beast (666).
We also have a passage in Ezekiel that should be considered. Ezekiel 9:4 states: “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” Might these also be a description of the 144,000 from each Tribe of Israel who are marked as described in Revelation 7 and reserved for God?
When taking what scriptures tell us and keeping it within context, it is relatively easy to discern their differences and similarities. Do not waste one’s time spiritualizing what does not need to be. Even the parables of Jesus were earthly stories with heavenly meanings. Those who have man made religious platforms (we call them church doctrine in today’s language) that conflict with bible specifics will usually spiritualize the meaning of passages in the Holy Word of God that conflict with his or her preferred religious doctrine. The Bible is not a mystery book. God reveals to the human mind facts and understanding when one demonstrates an openness and wisdom in his or her studies.