This is an explanation of the 144,000 in the prophecy of Revelation. While I believe this explanation is correct as far as it goes, I also expect this is only a partial limited understanding and that there is far more to this prophecy than what is presented here.
There are two sets of 144,000 in Revelation. The first set of 144,000 is specific to Israel and specific to those who are alive and sealed during the last 3 1/2 years before the millennium.
This 144,000 is specific to Israel and does not exclude others from also being sealed by God. This first group of 144,000 is not the same as a second group of 144,000 in Revelation 14. They are two quite different groups.
AFTER the sixth seal, the wind [the seven trumpets are held back] is held back until 144,000 people from the nations of Israel are sealed by God.
A seal represents ownership and the seal of God’s ownership of a person is the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
The timing of this sealing is AFTER the initial wars and great suffering of the tribulation, and immediately AFTER Jesus Christ is seen in his full glory by all nations, and before the seven trumpets blast.
The calling of God, the great suffering during the tribulation of the first five seals, the preaching of God’s two servants and then the appearance of Messiah the Christ in the heavens: will bring sincere repentance and result in 12,000 of each tribe of Israel except Dan receiving the gift of being sealed [set apart to godliness] with God’s holy Spirit.
They are sealed for the express purpose of setting them apart so that the trumpet plagues do not fall upon them; and they will witness to the nations of Israel during the time of the trumpet plagues and they will be resurrected to spirit along with all of the other chosen as the seven trump begins to sound as a powerful witness to the remainder of Israel.
The 12,000 from each tribe of Israel are called out to be personal witnesses to all Israel during the period of the trumpet plagues, and when they are changed to spirit in the resurrection, all Israel will be astonished and will begin to turn to God!
Revelation 11:11 And after three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.
11:12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
11:13 And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant [those that remained behind, specifically from Israel] were affrighted [amazed, frightened and astonished], and gave glory to the God of heaven.
Revelation 7:1 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind [that the blasts of the seven trumpet plagues would be delayed] should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. 7:2 And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, 7:3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
144,000 are sealed, 12,000 from each of the tribes of Israel. Joseph has the double portion while Reuben and Levi are included; Dan is left out; making the tribes of the sealed an even 12.
The first point is that this first 144,000 are people during the actual end time tribulation, therefore the 144,000 does not include the ancients like David, Moses, Elijah, Able, Enoch, Noah, Daniel and so very many others including the first century apostles and the many many thousands of brethren through history; and of course it does not include any Gentiles.
This 144,000 are specifically called out, repent and are sealed with God’s Holy Spirit after the tribulation and just before the Trumpet plagues. They will be a witness for God in all Israel, during the terrible time of the trumpet plagues.
7:4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
7:5 Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.
7:6 Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nephthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand.
7:7 Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.
7:8 Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph [Ephraim in addition to the aforementioned Manasseh] were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
Now comes the statement “AFTER THIS,” meaning later; the prophecy jumps forward to the resurrection to spirit. And there before the throne of God in heaven is not merely this 144,000 but a vast multitude of all those who have been called to Christ over the entire past 6,000 years, and have endured and overcome to be chosen to be resurrected and changed to spirit.
Here stand all of the chosen overcomers who had lived and been called over six thousand years; not just the specific 144,000 from the tribes of Israel sealed immediately before the end time trumpet plagues.
This tells us that God will resurrect and change a vast multitude of His faithful to spirit, both Israel and Gentile, who lived through history; not just the 144,000 from Israel who were called out and sealed at the time of the opening of the seventh seal.
Once again as in Revelation 15 and Revelation 19; here is another prophecy of the faithful, chosen and changed, standing IN HEAVEN with the angels and the four spirit beings before the throne of God.
7:9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; 7:10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. 7:11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, 7:12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
The vast multitude before God’s throne in heaven is explained as all those who have sincerely repented and been washed clean by the sacrifice of Christ; and who have faithfully endured, overcoming sin, by the power of God’s Spirit; and who have internalized the nature of God through the zealous learning and keeping of the whole Word of God.
7:13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
Now we have a point of confusion as most have assumed that the term great tribulation here is in reference to the final 3 1/2 years before the resurrection to spirit. This would imply that only those who are living in the very end time would be in the resurrection of the chosen first fruits. This idea forgets God’s promises to many of the ancients that they will be in this first resurrection to spirit as well.
In reference to the great multitude this does not refer to the final 3 1/2 year great tribulation. This term as used here, refers to the tribulations and trials of the called out in enduring and overcoming throughout their lives to be judged faithful: See Hebrews 11.
On the other hand 12,000 of each tribe of Israel who were sealed before the seven trumpets, will go through the end time great tribulation and will be among this great multitude!
7:14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation [endured much suffering for godliness as per Hebrews 11], and have washed their robes, and made them white [pure from sin] in the blood of the Lamb.
7:15 Therefore are they [are resurrected to spirit and stand before God in heaven at the marriage of the Lamb] before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple [government]: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them [referring to the Eighth Day when God the Father will come down to the earth].
7:16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more [now being spirit]; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat [being spirit they shall not need heat or light from physical sources]. 7:17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them [spiritual food and living waters of the Holy Spirit], and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
The Second Group of 144,000 is presented in Revelation 14
The first 144,000 was explained in chapter seven.
Some would speculate that the seal of God is this or that, but we must let the scriptures explain themselves.
The seal of God is the Holy Spirit which identifies the sealed as belonging to God.
2 Corinthians 1:21 Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God [the Father]; 1:22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
In fact the Holy Spirit, if followed; empowers one to zealously keep the whole Word of God and thereby makes one godly; to be of God! It is God’s Spirit that makes us godly to be God’s people; and without God’s Spirit we are not of God.
Ephesians 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 1:14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased [We are the redeemed possession, purchased by Christ if we have the gift of God’s Spirit] possession, unto the praise of his glory.
The 144,000 in chapter seven were sealed with God’s Spirit immediately before the trumpet plagues, and are added to the vast multitude of those who had already been sealed with God’s Spirit before that.
Throughout history thousands of Israel have been converted and sealed with God’s Spirit along with thousands of Gentiles.
The 144,000 of Revelation 7
The 144,000 of Revelation 7 is a group of Israelites exclusively, who had repented during the tribulation and are then sealed by God to protect them from the wrath of God being poured out on the earth. Why? So that they could witness to the people in the tribes of Israel during the seven trumpet plagues.
This 144,000 are a specific number from the tribes of Israel sealed at that time; this does not mean that others including many Gentiles were not also sealed with God’s Spirit over the previous 6,000 years.
The Revelation 7, 144,000 will be sealed with God’s Spirit and will still remain in their tribes through the trumpet plague period, witnessing to the tribes of Israel; then when God’s two are resurrected along with all the other dead in Christ, the Revelation 7, 144,000 will be changed to spirit in the sight of all those who had seen them witnessing.
Their witness during the trumpet plagues, capped of by their being changed to spirit will be an awesome witness of the truth of what they had taught and of the Mighty Power of God to save! At that time Israel will begin to repent and turn to God (Rev 11:13)!
The 144,000 of Revelation 14
The Revelation 14, 144,000 are a completely different group than those sealed before the trumpet plagues. They are those who will land on the Mount of Olives to govern the earth with Christ from the capital of the world at Jerusalem.
Revelation 14:1 And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.
John now writes about the 144,000 of Revelation 14 standing on Zion and ruling with Christ from Jerusalem.
14:2 And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters [much people], and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:
14:3 And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
This 144,000 has been redeemed from the earth and this particular 144,000 will rule as pillars in the government of God with Christ. See the massage to Philadelphia where they will be given the very name [authority] of God’s government.
14:4 These are they which were not defiled with women [false leaders, false traditions of men and false doctrines]; for they are [spiritually chaste and absolutely loyal to the Husband of their calling] virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
14:5 And in their mouth was found no guile [no deceitfulness]: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
The Great Multitude of Resurrected Saints
Revelation 7:9 reveals a vast multitude of resurrected saints besides the 144,000
Revelation 7:9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
These are those who will rule all nations, not from Jerusalem the capital of the world, but in their own nations, under those at Jerusalem.
When the second 144,000 of Revelation 14, land on the Mount of Olives at Jerusalem with Christ, these others will be landing all over the earth and taking authority under Christ, over every nation.
The 144,000 of Revelation 7 are called and converted as examples for the nations of Israel just before the trumpet plagues.
Quite probably by the time this 144,000 is sealed, difficult access to such things as internet or even regular power would be interfering with the Israelite nations hearing the teaching of God’s two witnesses.
God’s calling, the witnessing of God’s two and then the 144,000 and then the resurrection, will begin to bring all Israel to sincere repentance ready for the coming of Christ to deliver them!
Dearly Beloved Brethren, hopefully even some of the lax and lukewarm in today’s Ekklesia will repent during the tribulation and will be among this 144,000 who are sealed with God’s Spirit before the trumpet plagues!
At the resurrection a great multitude of all the dead in Christ since Abel will be changed or resurrected to spirit, including God’s two servants and the Revelation 7, 144,000. At that time the Revelation 7, 144,000 will have done their job.
God’s central government at Jerusalem
As the Marriage of the Lamb takes place in heaven, millions of resurrected saints will stand before the throne of God; and God will separate out a different 144,000 from this vast multitude of resurrected saints which 144,000 pillars will rule all nations with Jesus Christ in the world central government capital at Jerusalem.
The Revelation 14, 144,000 will descend to the Mount of Olives with Christ because it is from Jerusalem that they will rule as the government of the whole earth.
The remaining vast multitude including the Revelation 7 144,000 who were proven faithful over the preceding 6,000 years will rule in their various responsibilities around the world!
Note: Some of the Revelation 7 144,000 might also be chosen to be in the central government of 144,000 chosen pillars who rule directly from Jerusalem.
To Sum Up
The first (Rev 7) 144,000 are 12,000 from each tribe of Israel [except Dan] converted AFTER the six seals have been opened. They will be a witness to the tribes of Israel during the seven trumpet plagues and they will be changed to spirit when the seventh trumpet begins to sound.
Not only will these 144,000 be changed when the seventh trumpet begins to sound, but ALL the faithful dead who have lived since Abel will be resurrected and changed with them, that is the great multitude.
The first 144,000 will be a part of this great multitude and will be taken to the Heavenly Temple Courtyard before the throne of God for the marriage of the Lamb.
Then at the marriage of the Lamb, God the Father and Jesus Christ will organize their government.
A new and different 144,000 (Rev 14) will be selected from out of this great multitude to be the pillars of God’s central government at Jerusalem and they will descend to the Mount of Olives with Christ as the headquarters government over the entire earth.
The remaining multitudes will be organized to serve God as rulers and teachers [kings and priests] over the various nations, cities, etc. and they will descend from heaven – not to Jerusalem – but to their various nations, cities etc to gather up Satan’s demons and take local control.