The Book of the Revelation, the very last book of the Bible, is more Jewish than Apostolic, though penned by the last surviving Apostle, John. John was given the content by signs and symbols, when he was an invited observer “backstage.” That is, he was given a guided tour of “heaven” while a prisoner on the Island of Patmos about 95 AD.
In Chapter One of Revelation, we learn that the letter originated with God the Father and was given to Jesus the Son to be passed along to John who wrote it all down.
"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Who bore record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw." (Revelation 1:1,2)
Most every reader and commentary misses the flow of time through the Book.
Persons who do not know Jesus ("earth dwellers" in the Book of the Revelation), are trapped in linear time. They are born into the space-time domain of earth, grow up and die here, being unaware that "heavenly dwellers," --those who know Jesus--already live in a multiple space time regime. There are time zones in heaven! On earth we live imprisoned in one-dimensional time. We can only experience “now” (the present) but we can remember the past and anticipate the future. Most commentators read the entire book of Revelation as if the reference level was on earth in linear time. Time itself was created by God and is far from being one-dimensional. (See It's About Time). God Himself, "the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity" is outside of dimensional time, seeing past, present and future as "NOW."
Similarly with respect to space, we relate to things tangible and to things unseen. Science has given us good reason to expect the universe actually has more than four dimensions —perhaps ten or twenty. Our limited reality of everyday life is embedded in a vast unseen realm which is as yet mostly unexplored by man.
God created the whole ensemble of time and space, and He has chosen to record history in linear time. History is moving inexorably forward in time from creation down the ages into our present. By revelation from outside the system, we can know what lies ahead for mankind and about our place in the cosmos. The Creator has chosen not to stay hidden but to make Himself known to us as time marches on. The present universe is broken and damaged. Man the original Superintendent and Lord is fallen, and has placed the whole cosmos in jeopardy. But God has intervened and He has been silently building a whole new creation to replace the old. The Book of the Revelations shows us the end of the old and the coming in of the new. It is much more dramatic and grand than most readers suppose.
Three levels of heaven are mentioned in the Bible. The First Heaven in Hebrew cosmology is the earth’s atmosphere where winds blow and birds fly. The Second Heaven is inhabited by the sun, moon and stars. The Third Heaven the abode of God and the angels.
While time is linear for earth-dwellers, time in the heavenly places evidently encompasses ten or even twenty dimensions. The general flow of time in heaven is somewhat linear, that is there is a forward progression of events in heaven from past to present to future, much as we experience the flow of time on earth in our present fallen bodies. (Time travel is not yet possible for us under the current administration). In heaven there is evidently an overarching realm we might label as “eternity.” Eternity is not “timeless” but “timefull.” This top level of time is occupied only by God. Below this there are other levels of time connected with threads. Different users travel in different time lines which need not be connected to other threads or time travels. More about all this later.
A special group of evangelists, the 144,000 play a major role in events of the end-time between the time of the Rapture of the Church and the Second Advent of Jesus in power and glory. They number 144,000 men, all single, all Jewish. They will have been trained and discipled by Yeshua Himself. Quite specifically these disciples of Yeshua are unmarried Jewish young men who a very special place in history after the departure (the rapture) of the true church. These militant outspoken evangelists will continue Active Duty up to the Second Advent to earth of Yeshua, seven years later.
They are stationed in Israel, it seems, and Jesus will train them there. Quite possibly the church, the Bride of Christ (us) will assist in training these men, at least by praying for them and encouraging them? They are not, however part of the church. They will probably be stationed in Jerusalem, Israel.
The church will be be a small space-time warp backstage in the heavenly city of New Jerusalem at this time. The 144k will show up on earth from place to place, probably two by two. They will powerful announce that Jesus is Lord, and His kingdom will soon come. They'll probably get out of Dodge after speaking as the Antichrist's police moves in to arrest the converts. The church of Jesus Christ is not mentioned after Revelation 4:1 until the end of the letter. The silent unannounced return of Jesus FOR His church is described by the Greek word parousia (presence). Parousia which carries the meaning of an exiled monarch returning and remaining with His subjects, but staying behind the scenes until the appointed time of his public appearing, His epiphaneia.
The true church is called in the Bible “the Bride of Christ, a feminine term, but the same church is also known as the Body of Christ, a masculine symbol. But the Rapture, the catching away of the Church, is referenced in 4:1 by the words meta tauta, "after these things." The events just preceding in Revelation Chapters 2, 3 are the letters to seven representative churches of the age just ended. Jesus has been quietly building His Church for two thousand years! The Dispensation of the Church, in effect for 2000 years, is apparently now ending.
Notice the strategy of God for the end of the current age: The Lord Jesus and His Bride, the true church, are together in a safe place (New Jerusalem) praying, singing, learning--one in the Spirit. Daily they intercede from the Mezzanine watching the time of the Final Redemption of Israel. The daily evangelism of the 144,000 bring many millions out of the darkness into God's forever family.
The Near Future of Planet Earth
The Fiftieth Generation
Distress of Nations
The Great Uncovering
We Are All Accountable!
Bryce Self, my friend for over thirty years, has added the following note on the 144,000:
Notice that the 144K occur twice in the “Pause” placement of the sevens: chapter 7 at the pause in in the seven seals, and chapter 14 at the pause in the seven signs.
The “Pause” passages are not dissociated from the series in which they are embedded.
They “interrupt” the series, but in each case point up or pick out and encapsulate the meaning of the series in a nutshell, even though they. do not actually push the narrative forward.
They are kind of stock taking or pulse-point that punctuate and highlight each series of seven.
Because the 144K appear so prominently, and twice at that, they are critically important to understanding the book (or at least this central portion).
Probably God has planned three and a half years training and prep time for the 144k "Band of Brothers" during first half of the seven year Tribulation period? This to be followed by their “Active Duty” on the front lines during the last half of the 70th Week of Daniel (known as the “great tribulation).” All of the 144k survive unharmed. They will know the Old Testament (the Tanach) well, but not be familiar with church history or the New Testament at the start. They each will have been soundly committed to Jesus as Lord--like the Apostle Paul. Their Leader, Yeshua Hamashciach, is very Jewish!
At the present time one can find at least two hundred thousand Jewish unmarried men in yeshivas (yeshivot) in Israel. They have been pouring over the Tanach (the Old Testament) diligently but as yet not the New Testament. Christ’s commandos are mentioned and alluded to several times in the last book of the Bible. Their converts seem to number in the millions. All they lead to Jesus will be killed by the one-world tyranny then in power.
God wishes to save all that can be saved and turning up the heat for the last seven years is an amazing campaign. “All who will may come.” The hellish nature of life on earth during these last seven years has been designed by God to bring everyone possible into a personal relationship with Jesus.
The universe we live in was created by a living Spirit, a Being who is Love. He owns the place and takes full responsibility for all that happens here. At the present time, things are pretty broken on our planet. The Creator made us very much like Himself. This state of affairs came about because we were created with vast freedom to choose. If only one choice was available, we'd be mere puppets.
The earth is home to 8000 million people now. Optimum is probably no more than 500 million people, according to some globalists. only God knows, but probably only 10% of earth's persons are spiritually regenerated.
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness," (2 Peter 3:9-11)
Management of the Universe
Man's Lost Dominion
Citizens of New Jerusalem
The Coming Intervention by Jesus
The Temple Cleansings
The Exchanged Life
In the Cross
God our Healer
Nekrosis and Thanatos (Dying and Death)
The Normal Christian Life
Come, Sweet Death
Six Hours in Eternity on The Cross
The Wasted Years
Near Death Experiences
Three Stewards over God's House: Shebna, Eliakim, Jesus
Pillars of Fire
The Revirginized Bride
“Everyone knows that the tiny nation of Israel, with a population of less than four million people, nevertheless receives enormous attention in the world's media, far beyond what its size would warrant. The only explanation for that extraordinary fact is that it indicates the central place that Israel has in the program of God. God will not let the world forget Israel! In the Old Testament, of course, Israel is always center stage. Everything centers around this nation. God has recorded the history of the world only as it relates to Israel, the nation that came from the loins of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Even when you come to the Gospels in the New Testament, Israel is still the focus of attention. Jesus insisted that "salvation is of the Jews," (John 4:22 KJV). He corrected people when they misunderstood that principle. He sent his twelve disciples out and told them, "Go not to the Gentiles, but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel," (Matthew 10:6, 15:24 KJV). Even in the epistles of the New Testament, primarily written to the church, nevertheless the Apostle Paul in his great masterpiece, the letter to the Romans, devotes three chapters to Israel. He points out in Chapter 9 how God has dealt with them in the past, in Chapter 10 he states the present condition of Israel, existing in unbelief among the nations of the world, and in Chapter 11 he clearly foretells the time when God will restore Israel again to prominence among the nations of earth. God has a great future yet for the Israelis.
I find it very strange that many commentators on the book of Revelation and other passages of Scripture virtually ignore this remarkable future that God has predicted for his ancient people. Although God has saved these commentators by sheer grace, yet they refuse to believe that he will yet show equal grace to Israel. But God declares plainly that is what he intends to do. How he will do it is made known in Revelation 7. That is where we have come today.
The next prophetic event that the world will experience is the rapture of the church, the departure of dead and living saints, all born-again people, to be with the Lord. It is described in detail by the Apostle Paul in First Thessalonians 4. It is a stunning event wherein God suddenly removes from the earth a great host of people. You can imagine what an effect that will have on those left. That is how the long-predicted "last days" starts. After that, God begins a program of judgment in which Israel is at the center.
During our study of Revelation 6 last week, we were all glued to our chairs as we watched the unrolling of the seven-sealed scroll held in the hands of "the Lamb who had been slain," (Revelation 5:6, 6:1-17). We saw the four terrible horsemen ride out through the earth, leaving devastation and terror in their wake. Then we were shown the slaughter of thousands of martyrs who lost their lives in a great bloodbath during this terrible time of judgment to come. Finally, we read the description of the great upheaval in nature that will take place in the last days, when every mountain and rock is moved and shaken, and the people of the earth cry out, "Fall on us and hide us from the wrath of Him who sits upon the throne," (Revelation 6:16a NIV)
To many who read that, it seems like an unwelcome pronouncement of doom and gloom, but we must remember that, all through the Bible, it is part of God's announced program for the end times. It leads beyond the darkness and despair to a time of great peace, victory, and blessing upon the earth. Christians are not pessimists -- they are optimists -- but they recognize the reality of a time of judgment to come. We have now seen six of the seven seals opened, but before the seventh seal is opened God, as it were, declares an intermission. We are ready for it after the judgments of Chapter 6, are we not? It is hard to listen to those terrible scenes. But in a beautiful interlude here in Chapter 7, which is in the nature of a flashback, God shows us something else that takes place during this period of time. Sometimes a movie will flashback to the central character's childhood and depict an event that has significance for the film story. That is the kind of thing we have in Chapter 7. We are taken back to the beginning of the judgments of this last seven-year period to see another aspect of God's working during this time. What we will see is the selection of a special group of Jews whom I would call "Christ's Commandos," to operate in an uncommon way during those days. This is introduced to us in Verses 1-3: John says,
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east[literally, "the sun rising"], having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: "Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God." (Revelation 7:1-3 NIV)
We are told in the opening chapter of Revelation that much of it will be made known to us by symbols. The book is an unusual blending of literal and symbolic things and events. There are certain symbols here in the opening of this chapter. The "four corners of the earth," for instance, stand for the four cardinal directions. Skeptics laugh at the phrase "four corners" and say the early Christians believed the earth was square and literally had four corners. Yet today people frequently use the expression "the four corners of the earth" as a figure of speech to indicate far-off regions. But here it means the four directions, north, south, east and west.
Here four angels are seen withholding something that is about to come upon the whole earth. What is it that they are restraining? They are told to hold back the four winds that are about to blow upon the earth. Winds are a symbol of devastating and destroying power. The TV pictures of the terrible devastation left behind by Hurricane Hugo when it blew across the southern states of the East Coast recently leave us in no doubt how apt it is to use wind as a symbol of judgment. The same destructive power is seen in one of these whirling dervishes, called tornadoes. Here, then, is a picture of terrible judgment that is about to fall on the earth, a devastating power or force that is to be released soon.
The land, the sea, and the trees are also used as symbols here. The land or the earth, is used frequently as a symbol for Israel throughout the Old Testament. Israel is viewed as a nation with stability because it had God as its head. It had structure, order, and foundation, and so it was depicted as "land." But the sea is used many places in Scripture to describe the Gentile nations (pagan nations, by and large), which had no inner stability because there was no recognition of the authority of God. They worshiped idols and held to pagan concepts which rendered them unstable and uncertain in their conduct of human affairs. Individuals are described in several places in Scripture as "trees." The very first Psalm, speaking of the righteous, says, "He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of waters, that brings forth its fruit in its season," (Psalm 1:3a KJV). Trees are symbols of influential men and women, people of authority, who stand out from the crowd like tall trees in a forest.
These four angels are identifiable as the first four of the seven angels that will blow their trumpets in succeeding chapters. If one carefully compares what happens under the judgments of the seven angels you will see that the first four affect the land, the sea and the trees. At this point they are told to hold back until a very important group of individuals are sealed by God. The great angel that seals them is linked here with the rising of the sun. That is an allusion to the prophecy of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament. The prophet predicts that "the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings," (Malachi 4:2). That is a poetic description of the coming of Christ in great glory and power. So, it is in relationship to that coming that this special group are marked with the seal of God's ownership. We do not have to guess at what the seal of God is, because believers today are also sealed by God. Paul tells us in the letter to the Ephesians, "You were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise," (Ephesians 4:30). The presence of the Spirit of God in every individual Christian is the unmistakable mark of God's ownership. Paul declares in Chapter 8 of Romans, "His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God," (Romans 8:16 KJV). The Holy Spirit himself, then, is the seal of God.
This indicates that this group which is to be sealed are Spirit-filled individuals. The seal is placed upon their forehead which indicates the Spirit is especially related to their minds. It means that in some evident sense they are governed by "the mind of Christ." In Chapter 2 of Philippians the Apostle Paul writes, "Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus," (Philippians 2:5 KJV). He describes it as the mind of one who, though possessing inherent glory and dignity, is willing to lay it aside and become a servant. That is the mind of Christ. Notice that these people are specifically called the "servants of our God." They serve with that same wonderful willingness to give up themselves for the sake and benefit of others. We are told exactly who these are in Verses 4-8:
Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed,
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 12,000. (Revelation 7:4-8 NIV)
I have deliberately read the names of each of the tribes because I want to emphasize what the text emphasizes: It is Israel and only Israel that is in view! I recently listened to a commentator on Revelation, teaching on the radio here in the Bay Area, who labored with diligent effort to prove that these people were the church, but when God says Israel he means Israel; he does not mean the church. He is talking about Jews. Teachers who twist Scripture like that man did can convince others that black is white, sugar is sour, and Adolph Hitler was one of the great saints of all time! There is much such twisting of Scripture going on, but if one stays with the simplicity of the Scripture itself, all is clear. These are, then, the well-known 144,000 Jews of the last days.
In their earlier days, the group known as Jehovah's Witnesses claimed they constituted this select band. They misappropriated this Scripture and applied it to themselves, though they are not Jews and never were. They ran into difficulty, however, when the group grew beyond 144,000. They did not know what to do with the leftovers, so they started another category of 144,000. They taught there was an earthly band of 144,000 and a heavenly band, and if you believed their doctrines in the early decades of this century you could belong to the heavenly band. But now, again, they have a problem because they number more than 288,000 today, so they have created still a third band called "the servant band." If you join the Jehovah's Witnesses today you must come in at the servant level. That is just one example of the many ways people can twist Scripture to make it fit a program of their own devising. But God clearly identifies these people for us here.
You may have noticed that two of the tribes of Israel, that of Ephraim and of Dan, are not mentioned here. Though Ephraim is not named, his brother-tribe, Manasseh is included. Ephraim and Manasseh were the two sons of Joseph, the next to the youngest of Jacob's sons. Because of Joseph's role in the history of Israel, and his preservation of the nation in Egypt during the days of famine, his two sons were adopted by Jacob to be given an inheritance with the rest of Joseph's brothers. That really makes thirteen tribes of Israel. When they came to divide up the land Levi was left out because he was called to be the priestly tribe. Ephraim actually does appear here under the name "Joseph." So Manasseh and Joseph are really Manasseh and Ephraim.
But what about Dan? The tribe of Dan is not included here, I believe, because they are the tribe that introduced apostasy into Israel. The closing chapters of Judges give an account of the sordid way the tribe of Dan led Israel into terrible apostasy, involving homosexuality and idol worship in its grossest forms. This was in line with Jacob's prediction concerning Dan. In the 49th chapter of Genesis Jacob predicts the future of his twelve sons and he says, "Dan will be a serpent by the roadside, a viper along the path, that bites the horse's heel so that its rider tumbles backward," (Genesis 49:17 NIV). It is a poetic portrayal of the treachery of Dan in introducing apostasy. In the millennium, however, Ezekiel tells us that Dan has a portion in the distribution of the land in that day.
There is a statement of Jesus in the 24th chapter of Matthew, which relates to these 144,000 Jews, and is often misunderstood and misapplied, in my judgment. In unfolding the events of the future, Jesus had said, "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached to the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come," (Matthew 24:14 NIV). The gospel is always the same in every age. It is the story of God sending a Savior to die for the sins of men. Whether it is told by means of symbol, such as the sacrifice of animals, or by the ritual of the tabernacle, or whether it is the historic announcement of the Lord himself and the disciples in the early days of the church, the gospel is always the same. It is the death of a Savior on behalf of sinners. That is the good news. There is no other.
But when one adds the phrase "of the kingdom," then it is a reference to that gospel applied in a specific relationship. John the Baptist and Jesus both preached "the gospel of the kingdom" to Israel. They announced that the messianic kingdom, long predicted by the prophets, was at hand because the King was in their midst. Jesus announces that he is a King, not the kind the Jews expected -- a conqueror who would deliver them from the Romans -- but that his kingdom would deal with sin and the terrible evil of man. It must begin on that note. But he was their long-expected King. He deliberately fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah, "Behold, your king comes unto you, meek and lowly and riding upon an ass and upon a colt, the foal of an ass," (Zechariah 9:9 KJV). That was fulfilled on the day we call "the triumphal entry," when Jesus rode a donkey down the side of the Mount of Olives and was greeted by the people as the promised King of the Jews.
This group of 144,000 select men from Israel, will fulfill the word of Jesus that this "gospel of the kingdom" will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the final judgments of God will come. This group proclaims the gospel during that seven-year period that we call "the last days" of this age. It is a band of Spirit-filled Jews, converted after the church has been taken out of the world. Like 144,000 Apostle Paul's, they preach the gospel throughout the earth during the judgments of the end times.
There is a most extraordinary passage in the 10th chapter of Matthew which confirms this concept. It describes the Lord sending out his disciples to preach the gospel to Israel in the days of his flesh.
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions, "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:5-8 NIV)
Then Jesus goes on to give further instructions in that ministry of the twelve, and warns them that they will not be welcome in every place. But when we come to Verse 21 he apparently skips over the centuries to these last days when the gospel will be preached to Israel again:
"Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes." (Matthew 10:21-23 NIV)
There is no record of Jesus coming to the twelve when he sent them out to minister to Israel. Rather they came back to him and reported on what they had been doing. Our Lord seems to leap over the whole of the present age to the day when a group of Jews (not twelve but twelve squared, times the cube of ten -- 144,000), will be sent out into all the world. He says to them, "You will not even have finished preaching through all of Israel until the Son of Man comes." It seems to be clearly his prediction of this ministry of the 144,000. We will meet them again in Revelation 14, ministering under the direction of the Lamb himself, but on earth, and beginning with Israel. What is the result of their preaching? We are told in Revelation 7:9-14:
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
"Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes -- who are they, and where did they come from?"
I answered, "Sir, you know,"[By now John has learned that these elders are party to the mind of God; they know what God is planning.] And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Revelation 7:9-14 NIV)
Because John is in heaven he sees these things from an eternal point of view, and, as we have seen before, there is no sequence or time limitations, no past or future in heaven. From our standpoint of time, John sees things that are happening at the close of the seven-year week. He sees ahead, as it were, to the end of the seven years, and sees this great multitude that have come out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, and they have palm branches in their hands.
When did we last find a crowd of people with palm branches in their hands, welcoming Jesus as a King? It was, of course, when he rode down the mountainside into Jerusalem. The prophet is linking that event with this. Then, Israel had the opportunity to receive their King, but the leaders of the nation rejected him. At this event, in the end times, they are welcoming and worshiping their King, still with palm branches in their hands. So this great multitude of Jews and Gentiles is particularly associated with the restoration of Israel. These are all martyrs. They have died for the sake of Christ during the tribulation, and they now appear before the throne of God as victors over death and hell, and join the worship of angels around the throne. Is it not wonderful to think that, in earth's darkest hour, yet to come, the greatest harvest the world has ever seen will take place? Millions of those who have never heard the gospel today will be saved. I do not think there is any possibility that those today who hear and reject the gospel will be any part of this number. It is a harvest of those who have never heard.
During these terrible days of judgment, when the witches of war ride their nuclear brooms across the darkening skies of the world's last night, thousands who have never heard before will hear the gospel of the coming kingdom of God announced, and will turn to Christ. It will cost them their lives. As we read on in Revelation we will see that the anti-Christian powers of that day, powerful and tyrannical, will massacre anyone who does not bear "the mark of the beast." These believers must give up their lives because of their testimony for God. We will meet them again when we come to Chapter 20. There we are told that those "who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God" (Revelation 20:1 NIV) will be raised from the dead to serve the Lord throughout the thousand-year reign of Christ. It is the same multitude as here. John sees them in heaven at this point, but they are given a spiritual ministry on earth during the thousand-year reign of Christ. That is suggested in the closing description of their ministry, beginning with Verse 15:
"they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (Revelation 7:15-17 NIV)
Notice the throne and the temple. In fact, there are two thrones in this passage. There is, first, the "throne of God," which is the throne of the Father, reigning over all the universe, as we have seen throughout this book thus far. But the second mention of the throne, "He who sits on the throne," is a reference to the throne of Jesus on earth. Remember that in 3:21, in the letter to the Laodicean church, Jesus said, "He who overcomes I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne." This is "the throne of his father, David," which was promised in the annunciation to Mary, recorded in Luke 1:32.
The fact that a temple is mentioned here, is, I believe, a reference to the millennial temple which is yet to be built in Jerusalem; the one which Ezekiel describes in the closing chapters of his great prophecy. It will be the place where the nations come to worship in the days when Christ rules over the earth. There is a beautiful description of it in the prophecy of Micah 4:1-6:
“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the Lord’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And peoples shall flow to it.
Many nations shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
For out of Zion the law shall go forth,
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between many peoples,
And rebuke strong nations afar off;
They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war anymore.
But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree,
And no one shall make them afraid;
For the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.
For all people walk each in the name of his god,
But we will walk in the name of the Lord our God
Forever and ever.”
The prophet describes the government of God as centered in Jerusalem; justice will flow out from there to all the earth; the nations will bring their tribute; and men shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks and will make war no more. Peace will come at last over all the earth.
Here we are told that "they serve the Lord day and night." There is no day or night in heaven. This is clearly an earthly scene. He who sits on the throne (the throne of David), will spread his "tabernacle" (literally), over them and never again will they hunger or thirst, etc. It is a beautiful description of the blessings of that millennial day. Many other passages in the prophets also describe it.
This is the fulfillment of the dream of the prophets of the past. Israel shall blossom as the rose and shall fill the earth with blessing. The nation will be like a beautiful, fruitful, vine that runs its branches throughout the earth and blesses the nations, just as Abraham had been promised, "All nations shall be blessed because of you," (Genesis 22:18). Associated with them will be thousands of Gentiles who likewise serve the Lord day and night in relationship to the temple, ministering throughout the whole earth. You can read of that in the prophecy of Isaiah, Chapter 66, Verses 18-21.
“...I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory. I will set a sign among them...I will send to the nations: to Tarshish and Pul and Lud, who draw the bow, and Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off who have not heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles. Then they shall bring all your brethren for an offering to the Lord out of all nations, on horses and in chariots and in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the Lord, “as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord...
And I will also take some of them for priests and Levites,” says the Lord.
“For as the new heavens and the new earth
Which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the Lord,
“So shall your descendants and your name remain.
And it shall come to pass
That from one New Moon to another,
And from one Sabbath to another,
All flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord.
“And they shall go forth and look
Upon the corpses of the men
Who have transgressed against Me.
For their worm does not die,
And their fire is not quenched.
They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”
All alike, Jews and Gentiles, are under the care of the Great Shepherd of the sheep. Christians are grateful for the shepherd care of Jesus to us now. He is the Great Shepherd of the sheep, but he has more than one flock. On one occasion he said to his disciples, "Other sheep have I that are not of this fold. Them also must I bring that there will be one flock and one Shepherd," (John 10:16 KJV). That is what we see here. He is bringing another group, saved by his blood -- "they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" -- but with an earthly ministry, yet he leads them also to refreshment and blessing, with every tear of sorrow wiped away.
There is a great hymn we often sing, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," that reflects the concern of the church for her sister people Israel. Paul's word of promise about Israel will be fulfilled, "All Israel shall be saved" (Romans 11:26 NIV), i.e., all the generation that are on earth when Jesus returns shall be redeemed. Zechariah gives us a vivid picture of it. The church today ought to know this truth and understand the future God has for his people Israel. We should often sing,
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!
To Jew And Gentile, by Ray C. Stedman
The second major reference to the 14,000 in Revelation (14:1-7) shows them gathered with their Leader, Jesus, on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This event is seen to take place near the end of the seven-year tribulation period rather than back at the beginning (7:1-17), where we first met them.
“Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth. These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.
Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people— saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”
And another angel followed, saying, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”
Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ”
“Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” (Revelation 14:1-13)
Ray Stedman’s comments on this passage are also too good to be passed over:
“John Wesley once said, "Give me a hundred men who love nothing but God and hate nothing but sin, and I will shake the whole world for Christ." I think Wesley probably underestimated, because in the 14th chapter of the book of Revelation, to which we come this morning, we read that Jesus chose not just 12, not even 100, but 144,000 men, and with that number he would to shake the world in the closing days of this age. In Chapter 7 we saw these 144,000 were chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, 12,000 from each tribe. In Chapter 14 they reappear, and we will see their ministry described:
Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless. (Revelation 14:1-5 NIV)
It is important to see exactly the location where these 144,000 and the Lamb are seen. The opening sentence tells us they were "standing on Mount Zion" -- the temple mount in Jerusalem. This means that they were on earth, in Jerusalem, not in heaven. And they are seen together, the Lamb (Jesus). They are 144,000 male Jews chosen out of Israel -- "Christ's Commandos," as we called them earlier.
I want to try and put some loose ends together here. According to the promise of Jesus given to the seven churches in the opening chapters of this book, he told them in several places that he would take the church (i.e., the true believers of this present age), to be with him before this last seven-year period would begin upon the earth. This was accomplished, as Paul describes it in First Thessalonians 4, in what is called the "rapture" (or departure) of the church to be with Christ. The last word of that Thessalonians passage is, "so shall we ever be with the Lord," (1 Thessalonians 4:17b KJV).
The problem that people get into at that point is they think that being "with the Lord" in heaven means to be taken far off into space somewhere. We all have difficulty thinking of heaven as being right here on earth as well as off in space. In other words, heaven is another dimension of existence just beyond our present senses. You can be in heaven and still be on earth at the same time. As I read these prophetic passages I am more and more convinced that this will be the case -- the church is with the Lord, but the Lord is on earth during the whole last seven years. The church is with him, but invisible to the rest of the world, and ministering to this select group of 144,000 Jews as Jesus appears to them from time to time. If this is true, Jesus will be in exactly the same condition with them as he was with the eleven disciples after his resurrection, when for a period of 40 days he appeared from time to time to them. At different times and in different places he was with them, and yet he would not be with them; he would step back into the realm of invisibility after appearing in their midst. This seems to be the situation here. These are not only 12 disciples -- they are 12 times 12 times 1,000 -- all men of Israel chosen for a special work on earth during these last days. If you can put that scene into your imagination you will get a much clearer picture of what is going on in these scenes. Now let us look at the characteristics of these 144,000. We are told five things about them:
First, they learn a new song which they hear from heaven. Remember, heaven is not way off somewhere, it is just beyond the realm of visibility. They hear a great group singing the song of the redeemed. We are not told precisely who it is that sings, but you will notice they are identified with a pronoun. Verse 3 says, "And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders." Who are "they"? It is apparently a huge group. They make a sound like the "roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder." But it was a sweet sound -- "like that of harpists playing their harps." Surely, what the 144,000 hear is the church as it is "with the Lord," singing his praises and singing the song of the redeemed! These 144,000 are living men, still on earth, not yet glorified or transfigured, but following the Lord as he appears to them from time to time as we see him here now on Mount Zion. In other words, they are men who march to a different drum beat. It was Henry David Thoreau who said, "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer." Here is a group of committed men who listen to different drum beat; they follow the music of heaven! They can learn the song of the redeemed because they know themselves what redemption means. They, too, have been redeemed.
Second, we are told they kept themselves for the Lord only. They were separated unto him. The phrase is, "they did not defile themselves with women." Now don't get upset, ladies. These are not chauvinists; they are celibates. This is not a put-down of marriage, or of sex. It is a reference to what these 144,000 would do. For them to be married would be defiling because it is outside the will of God for them. That is all this means. They are separated unto the Lord to be his, just as the Apostle Paul was. Paul tells us in several places that he was committed to celibacy. He was single, and he devoted his life to the Lord as an unmarried man. He knew it was not the will of God for him to be married. So these men follow Christ completely. They are free to do so without any ties with anyone else because they were called to a dangerous and demanding work and needed to be unencumbered in following the Lamb wherever he went.
That is the third thing said of them. They followed the Lamb throughout the earth. I believe that these 144,000 are the brethren whom our Lord refers to in Matthew 25, when he tells us that where he tells us that when he comes again as the Son of Man he will sit on his throne and will judge the nations on the basis of how they treated the "least of these my brethren" -- "Inasmuch as you have done it [or did not do it] unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it [or not done it] unto me," (Matthew 25:40 KJV). The world's treatment of these Jewish Christians will reveal where each individual's heart loyalty is truly found, during these terrible days of worldwide judgment. The fourth thing said is they are the "firstfruits" of the harvest during the tribulation period. We already have seen part of this in Chapter 7 -- the great multitude which no man can number that come from every "tribe and nation and people and language" (Revelation 7:9 NIV) in response to the preaching of these 144,000. We will see another aspect of that when we come to Verses 14-16 of this chapter.
The fifth thing that is said about these is they are transformed men. They are clearly born again. "No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless," i.e., without blemish. They have been cleansed and changed by grace -- just as we also have been, if we know the Lord. Jude tells us that true believers now will be presented before God's presence "without fault and with great joy," (Jude 1:24). So it is also with these redeemed Jews who recognize their once-crucified Messiah and follow him faithfully wherever he goes. At this point the scene suddenly changes, and John sees three angels flying through the heavens making three important announcements. This first one is given in Verses 6 and 7:
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth -- to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water." (Revelation 14:6-7 NIV)
This is called here the "eternal gospel," i.e., the everlasting gospel. We learn from the angel's words that it is the gospel of creation; it is the witness to God that nature unceasingly gives. People are told to worship him who "made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water." That is the fundamental witness of God to found everywhere in the world. It is the witness that no one can miss because it is manifest all around us. As the words of Psalm 19 proclaim, "The heavens declare the glory of God. The firmament shows his handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night shows knowledge," (Psalms 19:1-2 KJV). We are part of nature.
Our own nature witnesses that there is a God. It takes four years of college and two years of postgraduate work to deny that! Nature is everywhere testifying to the existence and the glory of God. What it says is, "There is a God and you cannot live without him. You breathe by him. You think by him." As Paul said to the Athenians, "In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28) -- everybody, without exception does. So this gospel declares, "Since there is a God, and you cannot exist without him, therefore, worship him!" It is the fundamental cry of nature.
In the great faith chapter in Hebrews 11, the writer says in Verse 6, "He who comes to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him," Hebrews 11:6 KJV). Paul rings the changes on this in Romans 1, in the words, "What may be known about God is plain to them," (Romans 1:19 NIV). God has made it plain through the things that he has created. This becomes the basis for the ultimate judgment of mankind. God will say, in effect, to people in that day, "If you knew that I was essential to you, did you worship me?" That is the gospel by which men will be judged when, as it says, "the hour of his judgment has come." A second angel now cries out in Verse 8:
A second angel followed and said, "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries." (Revelation 14:8 NIV)
This is the first mention in Revelation of "Babylon the Great." It will move onto center stage in Chapters 17 and 18. It is the woman who rides the beast that we referred to briefly last week. It is, as we shall see when we come to those chapters, the false church, that which professes to be Christian but really is not, the church that does go through the great tribulation! Before it appears, God wants us to know that it is treacherous and adulterous, and it will fall in due course. Then a third angel speaks:
A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur[or brimstone] in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name." (Revelation 14:9-11 NIV)
We saw in Chapter 13 how the Antichrist exerts economic control of the whole world. No one can buy or sell without the mark of the beast imprinted into the back of the hand or on the forehead. According to this passage, the angel announces this is a fatal choice. Anyone who receives this mark shall experience the fury of God's wrath to the last dregs.
This is what is often called "hellfire and brimstone" preaching. It is regarded as contrary to the gospel of love. But all through the Bible you see that God's love is manifest to men everywhere in urging them to escape this judgment. God in love pleads with people, "Do not go on to this end!" But ultimately he must judge those who refuse his offer of grace. He says, in effect, "I love you and I can provide all you need. Therefore, love me, and you will find the fulfillment your heart is looking for." But many men and women say, "No, I do not want that. I will take your gifts, I will take all the good things you provide, but I do not want you! Let me run my own life. Let me serve my own ends. Let me have my own kingdom." To such, God ultimately says, "All right, have it your way!"
God has three choices: First, he can let rebellion go on forever and never judge it. In this case the terrible things that are happening on earth, all these distressing injustices, the cruelty, the anger, the hate, the malice, the sorrow, the hurt, the pain, the death that now prevails will go on forever. God does not want that, and neither does man. Second, God can force men to obey him and control them as robots. But he will never do that because that means they cannot love him. Love cannot be forced. Therefore, third, the only choice God really has is that he must withdraw ultimately from those who refuse his love. He must let them have their own way forever. That results in terrible torment of godlessness. If God is necessary to us, then to take him out of our lives is to plunge us into the most terrible sense of loneliness and abandonment that mankind can know. We have all experienced it to some degree when we get what we want and then discover we do not want what we have got! For that sense of bored emptiness to go on forever is unspeakable torment. Now, once again in the midst of this bleak scene, the saints of that day are encouraged:
This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.
Then I heard a voice from heaven says, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on."
"Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them." (Revelation 14:12-13 NIV)
When the earth is filled with violence and widespread hate, the work of the saints of that day is to wait. "This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints," a determination not to yield at any point or to give way to the glorification of man in that day.
Then the promise comes from the voice of the Spirit himself. John is told to write this down as a special guarantee: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." Why does he add "from now on?" It has always been true, has it not, that the dead who die in the Lord are blessed? I have stood at many gravesides and repeated these words, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. They shall rest from their labor and their deeds will follow them." That has always been true, but there is a special reason why John is told to add the words, "from now on." It is because the saints of that day it will feel as if they have missed the resurrection! The church has already been taken out of the world, some by resurrection and some by transformation, and these believers know this. Those that once were here are gone suddenly, transformed by the Lord himself. As Paul said, "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we shall be changed," (1 Corinthians 15:52). To those saints who are on earth after that, it will raise the troubling thought that when they die, they are not sure that they will be included in the resurrection, for it is already past.
It is exactly the same problem that the Thessalonian Christians faced when Paul wrote his first letter to them. They thought that when their loved ones died they would miss the rapture because they saw that event in terms of catching up or snatching away living saints. So they had written to Paul about it and he said to them, in effect, "Don't worry, your dead loved ones will make it. The Lord himself will come, 'and the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord,'" (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). So these saints of the last days are given that special reassurance of the Spirit: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. They, too, shall rest from their labor, and their deeds will follow them." Now once again the scene changes. We learned in the first section that the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel are the "firstfruits" of the harvest of the last days. If they are the firstfruits, now comes the rest of the harvest:
I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one "like a son of man" with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, "Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe." So he that was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested. (Revelation 14:14-16 NIV)
We must ask, who is this one seated on the cloud "like a son of man," wearing a victor's crown and holding a sickle in his hand? There can hardly be any doubt: it is the Lord Jesus. He himself had given (this to) his disciples in Matthew 13, in the parable of the wheat and the weeds (Matthew 13:24-30, 13:36-43). In the parable, the servants had asked the Lord, "Shall we pull up these weeds?" But he said to them, "No, let both grow together until the harvest, and then I will tell the harvester, 'First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned, and then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'" Then Jesus interpreted that parable to the disciples, saying, "The harvest is the end of the age (the 7-year period to which we have come in this book), and the harvesters are the angels." This agrees exactly with what we have here. The angels announce that the time of harvest has come, and the words of Jesus in Matthew 13 will be literally fulfilled. Let me read them to you:
"The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear." (Matthew 13:41-43 NIV)
These are very clear words from the lips of Jesus himself. But there is still another scene of harvest:
Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, "Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth's vine, because its grapes are ripe." The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God's wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses' bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia[which is about 180 miles]. (Revelation 14:17-20)
Is this the same story of harvest twice-told? No. You will notice the first harvest is a harvest of wheat. It is cut with a sickle, and it is a separation of the true wheat from the false-looking wheat (darnel is literally the word, "the tares of the field"). Darnel looks like wheat at first, but it is not. As we have seen, the angels will separate the two. But this is clearly a grape harvest, a vintage harvest. The vine in Scripture is frequently a symbol of Israel. The prophet Isaiah, in Chapter 5, uses this symbol, describing Israel as a vine brought out of Egypt and planted in a beautifully cared-for land by God himself. Psalm 80 refers to the same thing -- Israel is a vine brought out of Egypt. At the Last Supper, the Lord himself said, "I am the true vine and you are the branches" (John 15:5a NIV), speaking of his Jewish disciples.
As a symbol of Israel, the wine-press describes the judgment of apostate Israel. Strangely, most of the present nation of Israel does not believe their own Scriptures. Many of them are atheists. Many of them deny the Word of God in the Old Testament, or that it applies to them as a special people at all. This is, therefore, the judgment of apostate Israel. It is called in Jeremiah 30, "the time of Jacob's trouble," (Jeremiah 30:7b). Many other Scriptures describe it. It will be a time of warfare once again against Israel, beginning with an invasion of the nation by great armies from the north. Palestine is overrun. It is at this time when the woman (true Israel) whom we saw in Chapter 12 flees to hide in the desert. But apostate Israel is destroyed, and Jerusalem is sacked and partially destroyed. You can read that in Zechariah 14. The prophet Joel describes it in vivid language. Hear these words from his third chapter:
Let the nations be roused;
let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat[which means "God judges"],
for there will I sit
to judge all the nations on every side.
Swing the sickle,
for the harvest is ripe.
Come, trample the grapes,
for the winepress is full
and the vats overflow --
so great is their wickedness." (Joel 3:12-13 NIV)
Obviously this is the same scene as we have here. Notice, by the way, in Verse 20, the change from a symbol to the literal meaning. Grapes are thrown into the winepress (that is a symbol), but blood pours out -- that is the literal meaning of pressed grapes or wine. When we take the Lord's Supper, wine symbolizes the blood of Christ for us. Here, blood covers the land for 180 miles, the length of Israel. It is a terrible scene of judgment. We will come to it again in the next two chapters where we will look at it in more detail. I must leave this now, for the moment, but I want to remind you that beyond these scenes of judgment, beyond these terrible descriptions of what is to come upon the earth, beyond the blood, beyond the slaughter, beyond the darkness, beyond the heartache and the sorrow and the misery, when the land is covered with blood from end to end, there is coming a new day, a wonderful day, a time that the prophets have described. Beyond the time of Jacob's trouble is the time when Israel shall blossom like a rose, and like a vine spread its branches throughout the whole of the earth, and their Messiah will reign amidst his people over the whole world. It is the utopia that men have dreamed of for centuries. That is what God is working toward, and that is what will eventually come to pass. I hope you are facing your own personal relationship to these things. God is always asking, "If you know that I am the One who is necessary to your very existence, do you worship me? Will you give yourself to me?" This is the choice we all must make.” The Time of the Harvest, by Ray C. Stedman.
by: Bill Perkins
One of the most overlooked characteristics of the future seven-year Tribulation period is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be preached to the entire world. People are given the stark choice to follow Jesus or Satan. All through the book of Revelation we see the Gospel being preached to the whole world.
The Bible describes the Tribulation as an intense evangelistic period in and among the catastrophic judgments by God. And the astonishing purveyors of the Gospel will be none other than Jews! 144,000 Jews will be given instant Holy Spirit illumination–12,000 from each of the 12 Jewish tribes (Rev. 7:4). They are singers (Rev 14:3). But more interestingly these Jewish men are also unmarried virgins! (Rev. 14:4) So if we are living in the last days, let’s say between two seconds and 20 years prior to Rapture, who are these 144,000 Jewish male virgins, and where do they come from?
Today in Israel about 80% of the population consider themselves as “Secular” Jews. In talking to scores of secular Jewish people on our trips to Israel, I found that they usually observe Passover and Day of Atonement. But for the most part, they don’t go to synagogue on Shabbat (Saturday) and don’t know what to think about the miracles of the Old Testament. And prior to marriage, dating is similar to non-Believers in the U.S.A., with most having sex prior to marriage.
There are some who consider themselves as “Orthodox” Jews. They will wear the yamika (sometimes referred to as “kippah,” [the cap]) to keep something between them and God. They believe the Bible is the Word of God, go to synagogue on Shabbat, and of course, celebrate the seven Jewish feasts. But they dress normally, have no problem with using birth control, serve in the army, and work for a living. They also support the State of Israel.
And there is a third group, a most curious oddity, referred to as the “Ultra-Orthodox” Jews, or Haredi (ÁŽ ̄Õ“¦È) in Hebrew (means “one who trembles in awe of God”). Oh my gosh, they are a sight to see. Numbering about 1.3 million (800,000 in Israel), the men all dress in black suits with white shirts and a hat. The type of hat worn depends on the particular order to which they belong. The largest group of them live in Jerusalem.
They vote as a block, sort of like a third party, and it’s almost impossible to get a ruling majority in Israel without including them . . . so they take advantage of this and demand a steep political price, getting pretty much what they want. So the Haredi have exemptions from serving in the military as long as they don’t work. And most receive a small stipend from the government.
For men in Israel, military service is mandatory. Active duty is from age 18 to 21 and then you are in the reserves until age 55. So for Haredi to keep their military exemptions, over half of them simply don’t work. Rather, they just study the Old Testament and the ancient Jewish commentaries in schools called “yeshivas.” Let me repeat that for emphasis, Haredi spend their entire lives studying religious texts full-time. Understandably, some 60% are considered under the poverty level.Haredi are very, very conservative as they try to keep the Old Testament Law, word for word, all 613 Jewish Laws! These guys are amazing. For instance, on Shabbat, they can’t do any work whatsoever. They tear up their toilet paper the day before in a little pile next to the toilet so they don’t have to do work (tearing toilet paper) on Shabbat. Nor do they make or receive phone calls, drive a car, or do anything that could be considered work.
Most all the hotels in Israel have a specially designated elevator to use on Shabbat. It goes up and down all day automatically stopping at each floor. That way the Haredi can use the elevator without pushing buttons—which would be considered “work.” The wives cook all the food for Shabbat the day before. Also, believe it or not, many Haredi wives shave their heads so they won’t look attractive to their husbands (in public they wear a wig—go figure). Grace looks pretty good, huh?!
Haredi are having children at three times the rate of secular Jews. A family with 10 kids is not uncommon, and demographers now estimate about a third of last year’s Jewish babies were born into the ultra-Orthodox community. This is causing a lot of anger in the secular side because they are getting all the benefits of government, hospitals, schools, etc., but pay no taxes since they don’t work.
Young, marriage-age Haredi do not date. Rather, eligible guys and girls meet for coffee or coke at a public place. We often see couples in hotel restaurants or lobbies. They spend hours talking but would never do anything close to kissing, much less hopping in the sack together.
Which brings us back to the 144,000 male Jewish virgins. There are approximately 150,000 unmarried ultra-Orthodox Jews in the world between the ages of 18 and 35, the only group of Jewish men who can fulfill the prophecy. Imagine what they will be like when, post-Rapture, God suddenly opens their eyes to biblical truth and marks them for service. They already have a zeal for God’s Word, so when they understand the rest of the story of how their forefathers rejected Jesus their Messiah, they will become the most proficient and prolific evangelists the world has ever seen!
God uses these guys in such a powerful way that millions of people living in the Tribulation world will rather live for Christ and die on this earth rather than line up with the New World Leader’s agenda.
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues . . .” Revelation 7:9
“These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Revelation 7:14
Mind-boggling, don’t you think?
Bill Perkins is the founder and Executive Director of Compass International, Inc.
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Tucked away in Luke Chapter 10 is an account of 70 disciples sent out by Jesus on His Final trip to Jerusalem.
December 25, 1984. September 12, 2003.