Who are the 144,000 in the Bible? That’s a great question and we are glad you asked. Let’s see what the Bible says.
“And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel (Revelation 7:4).”
The Bible mentions 144,000 in the Bible book titled Revelation.
Before we talk about the 144,000, we should discover why God seals them and what that sealing does.
The Apostle John, one of Jesus’ disciples, wrote down the words of this vision (the book of Revelation) that Jesus revealed. In this vision, John’s writing a prophecy about a seven-year time called the tribulation. This time is still in the future. It starts soon after Jesus has taken His Church Age believers off the earth to be with Him in heaven. God has patiently withheld His wrath against sin throughout history, waiting for people to believe in Jesus. But His patience will soon run out, and the seven years of tribulation will begin.
The tribulation divides into two halves, with the second half even more intense than the first 3.5 years. The events described in this article all happen in the first half.
144,000 During the Tribulation
Immediately before we learn of the 144,000, we see God’s wrath pouring out on “earth-dwellers.” Earth-dwellers is the term John uses to refer to those who aren’t God’s people. These unbelievers will try to shelter themselves from God’s fury. The vision describes the terrors in chapter 6 before it tells us how the earth-dwellers respond in the same chapter in verses 12-14:
- There will no longer be world peace, so men slay one another.
- Food will be scarce and expensive.
- A fourth of the people on earth will die.
- There will be earthquakes, the sun will become black, the moon will turn to blood, stars will fall to earth, the sky will split apart, and every mountain and island will be moved out of their place.
The following verses tell us how earth-dwellers will respond:
“Then (everyone) hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; (saying) to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who (can) stand (Revelation 6:15-17)?”
So, according to the vision, the question posed here is, who can stand (prevail, survive during this time of God’s wrath)? The 144,000 is one group who will stand because God seals them.
The vision continues: “And I saw another angel…and he cried out…to the four angels…saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads (Revelation 7:2-4).”
God’s angel seals 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. And the sum of those numbers is 144,000.
So, why did God seal these people? What’s their mission?
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude (were) standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands…saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb (Jesus) (Revelation 7:9-10).”
The scene described above is a vision of God’s throne in heaven. These people became believers who died (as martyrs) during this first half of the tribulation. So, because this time is perilous, God seals the 144,000 and they’ll be His missionaries to the earth-dwellers of this time. And these former earth-dwellers became believers because of the testimony of the 144,000. The scene shows these believers are now in heaven. They are the second group who will stand.
Jesus will rapture and take to heaven everyone who believes in His Name before the tribulation time begins. They won’t be on earth to experience the horrors of the tribulation time. But Jesus will leave all unbelievers behind, and they’ll be in the tribulation.
So, the two groups who can “stand” during this first half of the tribulation time are the 144,000 witnesses sealed by God and those who believed who will be before God’s throne in heaven.