— Who are the 144,000 Witnesses of Revelation Chapter 7? A Biblical Study —
They are one of the most mysterious groups mentioned in the Bible. Many sects and cults have claimed to literally be them. But who are the 144,000 witnesses mentioned in Revelation chapter 7? Are these the only people who make it to Heaven? Are these supernatural beings who will descend to Earth in the end times? This article will identify the 144,000 based on Bible Scripture and their very important role in God restoring the nation of Israel and the world in the final days before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
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 should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. 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, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. 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.
Of the tribe of Judah were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand. 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. 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. Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand. – Revelation 7:1-8.
The most important aspect of interpreting Bible Scripture is to examine the verses in context. In our article The Red Moon Rapture – Biblical Timing of The Rapture, we detailed the events of the 6th seal of Revelation chapter 6. The Rapture of the church takes place at its opening and is immediately followed by a massive, global earthquake that sends the most powerful, wealthiest people on Earth literally running for the hills. The entire sinful world, who rejected God, will realize that the wrath of God has begun. Chapter 6 ends with the exclamation:
And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? – Revelation 6:15-17.
This is important to understand the context as we head into chapter 7. The Apostle John, the author of the book of Revelation was called up to Heaven in the spirit to record the events of the end of the world. From his heavenly perspective he was shown events on both Earth and Heaven. And clearly, the events of the 6th seal (a massive global earthquake, people running and hiding in caves and holes in fear for their lives, etc) are taking place on Earth. So it is critical to understand that as chapter 7 begins, we are still in the events of the 6th seal. The 7th seal has not been opened yet. [B&E: as a side note, this should give the reader of the Rapture series more confirmation that the 6th seal is the time of the Rapture and the start of the end times Day of The Lord. Each of the preceding 5 seals in Revelation 6 were given about 3-4 verses of description. On the other hand, the Apostle John devotes one and a half chapters worth of Scripture to detail all the events of the Sixth Seal].
Now that the Rapture has taken place and all born again Christian have been removed from Earth, God returns His attention to the nation of Israel. As detailed in our article The Day of The Lord – The Event That Starts The End of The World, this is one of the primary purposes of the end times: The Lord’s plan to reconcile the nation of Israel to believing faith in Jesus Christ the Messiah. From the time Christ was rejected by Israel during His ministry on earth, He prophesied to the nation of Israel that they would walk in spiritual blindness:
And when he was come near, he beheld the city [Jerusalem], and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. – Luke 19:40-44.
The Lord Jesus was informing the Israelites that had they known the prophetic signs detailed in the Old Testament, all of which Jesus had fulfilled, they would not have missed the time of “their visitation.” But because they had rejected the Messiah, they were going to suffer spiritual blindness. This is confirmed in Romans Chapter 11:
What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway… For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. – Romans 11:7-11, 25-27.
This is a very important passage to understand the ultimate plan of God in the end times. Paul calls it a “mystery” – meaning this is divine revelation that had not been disclosed prior to the writing of these verses. The Apostle Paul makes it very clear: the nation of Israel, the actual lineage of the same Israelites alive at the time of Christ, were walking in “blindness in part.” There would be a lack of understanding and belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ among the Israelite people. And of course this is seen in Israeli culture as the overwhelming majority of people today still do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God or Messiah. And they are still awaiting their Messiah to come.
But the passage goes on to say that this blindness would last “until the fullness of the Gentiles is come in.” The fullness of the Gentiles is the full amount of members of the Church – the believers in Jesus Christ who put their faith in the Biblical Gospel. The church reaches its fullness at the Rapture, when it is supernaturally removed from the Earth, to the clouds to meet Jesus Christ in the air and go to Heaven. The Greek for the phrase “come in” is eiserchomai and it means “to enter.” It is the same phrase used by Jesus in Matthew 5:20 when He said: “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter [eiserchomai] into the kingdom of heaven.” It is at this time that The Lord returns his attention to the nation of Israel and pours out the spirit of “grace and supplication” to start the process of their redemption to saving faith. The prophet Ezekiel prophesied of this end times revival among the people of Israel:
Prophesy therefore concerning the land of Israel, and say unto the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I have spoken in my jealousy and in my fury, because ye have borne the shame of the heathen: Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; I have lifted up mine hand, Surely the heathen that are about you, they shall bear their shame. But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come. For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn unto you, and ye shall be tilled and sown:
Therefore say unto the house of Israel, thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. – Ezekiel 36.
God is going to work unilaterally to call Israel to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus confirmed the same when He said:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. – Luke 13:34-35.
And thus this is why right after the opening of the 6th seal, when the Church has been removed from Earth, we see God preparing the 144,000 Israelite witnesses to share the Gospel with the Israelites and the world at large. We will now go directly to the verses from the passage to show God’s plan at work:
“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 should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.”
The four angels are positioned around the earth holding the four winds of the Earth. As we explained in our article “Who Are The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse”, the first four seals opened in Revelation 6 released spiritual beings in the form of horses and riders. In Zechariah 6, we are given the interpretation of who these beings are:
In the Septuagint, the oldest version of the Old Testament (translated from the original paleo-Hebrew which the ancient copies of the Old Testament were written in) the verse reads that they are “four winds that stand before the throne of God.” In Revelation Chapter 6, as Jesus Christ open the first four seals of the Book handed to Him from The Lord God, these four spirits or winds are sent into Earth during the Church Age to bring various forms of judgment all over the planet in the form of religious deception, wars and rumors of wars, famine and death through pestilence and disease.
Once the Church Age ends with the Rapture at the end of Chapter 6, these four winds are then reassigned. In Chapter 7 they are held by four high-ranking angels who are preparing to unleash them once again to destroy the land, sea and trees of the earth as a part of the judgments of the Day of The Lord. So we see a complete consistent transition from chapter 6 to chapter 7.
It is also important to note here that the events the Apostle John is viewing here are still on Earth. The four angels are on Earth. The four winds they are holding are on Earth.
“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, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.”
A fifth angel now appears on the scene telling the first four angels who were sent to bring forth judgment against the earth, trees and sea, to wait. They are to hold off on unleashing the judgments of the four winds until the servants of the God have been sealed in their foreheads. Here we see the special distinction of the 144,000. They are a chosen group, who will fulfill a specific task for The Lord during the end times.
“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.”
Scripture clearly identifies the 144,000: they are children of Israel. It is important to note that when Scripture uses the term “children of Israel” it is referring to the lineage of Abraham. It is not a reference to the Church. The Church, in their spiritual connection to Abraham through faith are referred to as “Jews” and the “seed of Abraham” in Scripture, adopted into the family of God through faith in Christ. However the term “children of Israel” refers to national Israel. In the New Testament, the phrase “children of Israel” is only used 14 times, and each is a reference to the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob (who was renamed Israel by The Lord). The 144,000 are actual ethnic Israelite descendants. Scripture goes on to make this very clear by specifying each tribe:
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. 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. 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. Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
The Mission of The 144,000
“A true witness delivereth souls..” – Proverbs 14:25.
The 144,000 along with 2 witnesses of Revelation 11 (who will be covered in our study on that chapter) are primary witnesses of the Gospel on Earth. Jesus Christ prophesied that the Gospel of the Kingdom would be preached in the final days before His Second Coming. The Gospel of the Kingdom was what Jesus, John the Baptist and disciples preached at the beginning of their ministries. It was an announcement that “the kingdom is at hand” meaning the Messiah is about to arrive! This was John the Baptist’s message in the early days of Jesus’ ministry:
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. – Matthew 3:1-3.
The Gospel of the Kingdom is what Jesus commanded His disciples to share with the people of Israel in the beginning of their ministry. Luke chapter 10 details a special group of seventy witnesses, selected by Jesus, to go out with the twelve disciples to witness the Gospel of the Kingdom:
After these things the LORD appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house.
And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house. And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. – Luke 10:1-9.
This special envoy of witnesses were instructed specifically to preach that the “kingdom of God is nigh unto you.” It was a bold proclamation that the prophesied Messiah was preparing His arrival and Scripture is about to be fulfilled, so the people were to repent of their sins and prepare their hearts by believing in faith in Him. After the Rapture, when Israel will once again be the focus of God’s plans, the same Gospel message will be preached as it will only be a matter of years until the Second Coming of The Lord at Armageddon. Jesus confirmed this when teaching on the end times in Matthew 24.
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. – Matthew 24:14.
The Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached and Jesus Christ will have His specially assigned witnesses deliver the messages.
Foreshadow Of The 144,000
Ezekiel chapter 9 contains a foreshadow of the designation of the 144,000. In Ezekiel chapter 8, God gave the prophet a special insight into how far into spiritual idolatry, satanic witchcraft and the occult, Israel had fallen. God took Ezekiel to a place to look inside the temple, the most sacred location for the entire nation. There Ezekiel saw that the priests of the temple, who were appointed to carry out all of the duties to maintain the temple and carry out the ritual sacrifices of atonement, were secretly adepts in the occult:
And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD’s house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east. Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose. Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them. – Ezekiel 8:16-18.
The priests working in the Holy temple were secretly worshiping the sun and engaging in occult practices. This is how far gone Israel was from God. In Chapter 9, God prepared His righteous judgment to punish Israel for their worship of other gods.
He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand. And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer’s inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar. And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer’s inkhorn by his side;
And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house. And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city. – Ezekiel 9:1-7.
All the men who still believed and worshiped The Lord were given a mark in their foreheads to signify their faith. So before the avenging angel carried out his punishment to kill the idolaters, they were designated. This is a type and shadow of what will happen to the 144,000. The world will be in a complete state of spiritual confusion after all born again Christians have been raptured at the opening of the sixth seal. The Antichrist will be emerging on the world scene but not yet the global ruler he will become. It is at this time God will call out the 144,000 to be His servants on Earth to share the Gospel.
Their Supernatural Protection
Just as the faithful men in Ezekiel 9 were protected from judgment, so will the 144,000. At the sounding of the 5th trumpet judgment in Revelation 9, a supernatural demonic army will be released from the bottomless pit (also known as the abyss), a prison of demons and fallen angels:
And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.– Revelation 9:1-5.
This supernatural, demonic army from the abyss will invade the world openly. And they will torment all people on the Earth for five months. They will cause so much pain and suffering that people will wish they could die rather than suffer the torment from these beings. And the 144,000 will be protected from their attacks. Like the Israelites in Goshen in the days of the Exodus, who were protected from the plagues sent by God while the Egyptians suffered, this supernatural protection of the 144,000 will serve as a clear sign that God is truly with these men. Thus giving more evidence that they were truly sent from God. In the Gospels, Jesus, during the time of His earthly ministry, told His selected 70 witnesses they would also have supernatural ability to show the world as a sign of their being sent by Him:
And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. – Luke 10:17-20.
Just as the 70 witnesses were given power over serpents, demonic forces, referred to as “serpents and scorpions”, so too will the 144,000 witnesses of the Great Tribulation have power over the demonic army from the pit, whose power is like scorpions.
The End Of Their Ministry
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. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: 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. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God. – Revelation 14:1-5.
In Revelation 14, we see the 144,000 in Heaven, on Mt. Sion, the heavenly mountain of God (the identification of Mount Sion as a Heavenly mountain and not the earthly Mount Zion is confirmed in Hebrews chapter 12). It is clear at this point that the 144,000 are dead and thus “redeemed from the Earth”. It is this author’s contention that the 144,000 will be some of the first victims of the Great Persecution carried out by the Antichrist that commences in Revelation 13. The Antichrist once he has received the Beast spirit that emerges from the bottomless pit, will assume full global control as God-King. And one of his first acts will be to persecute all people on Earth who proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And the 144,000 along with the 2 witnesses will be killed in his persecution. [B&E: The Great Persecution of The Antichrist will be explored in more detail in our studies on chapters 13 and 14 of Revelation].
This is why the 144,000 will be considered “first fruits” unto God. They are the first of the “harvest” of end times Israelite and Gentile believers who will return to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Revelation 14 is a chapter that chronicles the persecution and murder of believers by the Antichrist – but it is from the Heavenly perspective. John is seeing events in Heaven and this is a Divine Harvest. While the death of the 144,000 may seem sad on Earth, their martyrdom is a glorious event in Heaven as these chosen servants have finally united with Christ their Savior in Heaven.
From this passage the Bible confirms that these witnesses will also be men who have not had intimate relations with women (they are called “virgins”). And for their service in the Great Tribulation, they are given the honor of singing a song of praise to The Lord that no angel or human in Heaven has ever sung before. Now in Heaven, they are redeemed and forgiven of any sins before God and remain in the presence of Jesus Christ forever.
This is the full Biblical analysis of the 144,000 in Scripture. But the story does not end here because in modern day theology, there is so much controversy about this group. So the next section will attempt to address some of the most common questions raised about the 144,00.
How do the 144,000 witnesses know what tribe of Israel they are from?
Although some people in Israel today can identify their lineage all the way back to the days of Jesus Christ, there are many Israelis who cannot. So how will the 144,000 know their tribal origin? Looking at Scripture, they do not need to know. The 144,000 are not volunteers – they are divinely selected and marked by angels who seal them with the sign of God. The angels who seal the 144,000 know who they are and will identify them at the appointed time. This is a supernatural process. God is now actively working, via divine power and agency to bring salvation to Israel. And since God knows everyone’s lineage, the angels he sends will have no problem identifying the 144,000.
Where is the tribe of Dan?
In the list of twelve tribes in Revelation 7, the tribe of Dan is not included. In most lists of the twelve tribes in Scripture, the tribes of Levi was not there (because their inheritance was The Lord) and neither was Joseph (because Jospeh’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh were adopted by Jacob and they were counted as part of the 12 tribes in place of Joseph). Dan is always listed until the end times list in Revelation 7. So why is Dan not there? That answer can be found in the book of Judges:
And when they were a good way from the house of Micah, the men that were in the houses near to Micah’s house were gathered together, and overtook the children of Dan. And they cried unto the children of Dan. And they turned their faces, and said unto Micah, What aileth thee, that thou comest with such a company? And he said, Ye have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and ye are gone away: and what have I more? and what is this that ye say unto me, What aileth thee? And the children of Dan said unto him, Let not thy voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows run upon thee, and thou lose thy life, with the lives of thy household. And the children of Dan went their way: and when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back unto his house.
And they took the things which Micah had made, and the priest which he had, and came unto Laish, unto a people that were at quiet and secure: and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire. And there was no deliverer, because it was far from Zidon, and they had no business with any man; and it was in the valley that lieth by Bethrehob. And they built a city, and dwelt therein. And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born unto Israel: howbeit the name of the city was Laish at the first. And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land. And they set them up Micah’s graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.
Rather than take their part of the Promised Land as Joshua had commanded them to do years earlier, Dan continued as nomads, traveling for land they preferred. When they finally decided to enter their designated area, they robbed the home of a man named Micah who was a worshiper of false gods. Micah also hired a corrupt Levite priest to work for him in leading his demonic worship. The Danites forced the priest to come with them and serve them once and their nation was established they fell into spiritual idolatry, setting up a new religion centered on the stolen idols and graven images. This flagrant rebellion against God was reminiscent of when the Israelites worshiped the golden calf while Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God. This sin was so severe that thousands of men were executed as a result. Now decades later, in the Promised Land, the tribe of Dan was taking their sin to the next level. Scripture states that the graven images of false gods were set up in Dan until the time of the Assyrian captivity. So for centuries, the nation of Dan was a center of pagan worship and a rejection of God right in the Promised Land.
Further confirming that they were most likely disqualified from being a part of the end times revival of Israel were two prophecies made about this tribe. In Genesis, when Jacob was blessing his twelve sons who were the patriarchs of the twelve tribes, he said of Dan:
Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward. – Genesis 49:16-17.
Dan would one day judge Israel but not in righteousness as a godly judge, but as a “serpent by the way, an adder in the path.” This immediately brings up a connection to Satan who in Revelation is called “that old Serpent.” In describing evil, sinful people, Psalm 58 says:
The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear;
Psalm 91, which contains a Messianic prophecy says of Jesus Christ in verse 13:
Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. – Psalm 91:13.
The designation of being a “serpent” and “adder” appears to be prophetic of Dan’s decision to enter into rebellion against God for as long as they existed as a nation.
Another association with devil is the prediction that the tribe of Dan will “biteth the horse heels.” In Genesis 3, God told Satan that he would “bruise the heel” of the Messiah, which was fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Could Dan be connected to the end times Antichrist? Could the Antichrist be a descendant of the tribe of Dan?
A second prophecy seems to further confirm this possibility. When Moses was on his deathbed and was blessing the twelve tribes, he said of Dan:
And of Dan he said, Dan is a lion’s whelp: he shall leap from Bashan. – Deuteronomy 33:22.
In this fascinating prophecy, Moses quotes from Genesis 49. Jacob used the term lion’s whelp in reference to the tribe of Judah:
Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?
The tribe of Judah was the tribe from which the Messiah would be born. And in other Scriptures the Messiah is referred to as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” In also calling Dan a lion’s whelp, was Moses making an allusion to the false Messiah? It certainly seems to be the case. Additionally, Moses prophesied that Dan will “leap from Bashan.” Bashan was one of the locations of the Nephilim giants and in particular, King Og, who Moses himself fought against and slew. The Nephilim were the fiercest enemies of Israel and absolute enemies standing in opposition of God’s plans. The Antichrist will be the embodiment of opposition to The Lord and will seek to defy God and destroy all who believe in Jesus Christ. So again the connection between Dan and the Antichrist seems to be strong. And this would be a very plausible reason for why Dan is not included in the 144,000.
Where Is The Tribe of Ephraim?
Similarly, the tribe of Ephraim is excluded from the list of tribes in the 144,000. And it is for the same reason – a rejection of God in favor leading the nation of Israel into satanic worship. This offense was done no more blatantly than by King Jeroboam, who ruled the Northern Kingdom of Israel after the nation split following the reign of King Solomon. [B&E: Please note that this was a very critical time in Biblical history. It is strongly recommended to study this section of Scripture as there are many profound and powerful lessons and insights to be learned].
And the man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valour: and Solomon seeing the young man that he was industrious, he made him ruler over all the charge of the house of Joseph. And it came to pass at that time when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him in the way; and he had clad himself with a new garment; and they two were alone in the field: And Ahijah caught the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces: And he said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee: (But he shall have one tribe for my servant David’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel:)
Because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon, and have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father. Howbeit I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand: but I will make him prince all the days of his life for David my servant’s sake, whom I chose, because he kept my commandments and my statutes: But I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes. And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there. And I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel. And it shall be, if thou wilt hearken unto all that I command thee, and wilt walk in my ways, and do that is right in my sight, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with thee, and build thee a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel unto thee. – 1 Kings 11:28-38.
Because of Solomon’s idolatry and worship of false gods and demons, the Kingdom of Israel was split, with the ten tribes forming the Northern Kingdom (called “Israel”) and the tribes of Benjamin, Judah and Levi comprising the southern Kingdom (called “Judah”). Jeroboam, who of the tribe of Ephraim, was given rulership over the Northern Kingdom. So his tribe was selected to lead the 9 other tribes with them in this time. But Jeroboam’s and the Northern Kingdom’s prosperity was conditioned on the King obeying God and putting faith and trust in His Word.
At this time of his Divine appointment to be King, Jeroboam fled to Egypt in fear for his life that Solomon, who was still ruling at the time, would kill him. After Solomon’s death, he returned and the people of the Northern Kingdom embraced him as their king. In the southern kingdom, Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, now ruler, prepared to wage war against Jeroboam and unite the kingdom once again. But before he launched his attack, God sent a prophet to tell Rehoboam not to fight but honor God’s plan of a divided Kingdom. Rehoboam obeyed and God proved He was truly protecting Jeroboam’s throne.
Despite this Jeroboam still had no faith in God’s Word. Jerusalem, the Holy City of the children of Israel, was in the Southern Kingdom. This meant that the temple of Solomon, where the ark of the covenant was located and where all worship and sacrifices to God were to take place, was there as well. Even though the Kingdom was divided, God’s law still required sacrifice and offering to take place in Jerusalem at the temple. Fearful, that the people of his kingdom would go worship in Jerusalem (and perhaps want to live there permanently or give their allegiance to the kingdom of Judah), Jeroboam doubted God and fell into sin:
And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.
And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense. – 1 Kings 12:26-33.
This time of testing revealed the wickedness of Jeroboam. Rather than trust in God for protection, Jeroboam turned from the Lord and set up his own pagan false religion in the Northern Kingdom. He had golden calves made for the people to worship and make offerings to, copying one of the worst sins in the Old Testament when Aaron made the same sinful error in the book of Exodus. Jeroboam appointed the “lowest people” to be priests, when God specifically commanded that only members of the tribe of Levi could serve as priests. And note that the golden calves were set up in Bethel and Dan. The pagan, demonic worship of Dan continued and Jeroboam made it special location for altars to the false gods he set up. This evil king even went as far as to declare his own date for the feast of tabernacles. And he led the entire Northern Kingdom into rebellion against God.
Jeroboam’s sin was so offensive and so grievous that throughout Scripture “the sins of Jeroboam” are used time and time again as a standard of evil when other later kings were being described. The Northern Kingdom was so rebellious that almost all of its kings were pagans who worshiped false gods and demons. And it was all started by Jeroboam. In 1 Kings 13, the judgment of this sinful king of the tribe of Ephraim was pronounced: “And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth.”
So like the tribe of Dan, Ephraim’s rampant idolatry and rejection of faith in God disqualified it from the 144,000.
What about groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses or 7th Day Adventists who claim to be members of the 144,000?
The Jehovah’s Witness religion has little in common with Biblical Christianity. They first teach a false gospel of works-based salvation. They also use teachings that are not from the Bible (their Watchtower magazines are used to teach in the place of the Bible). With respect to the 144,000, they erroneously believe that their members and leadership comprise the 144,000. The following is directly from the official website of the Jehovah’s Witnesses:
Who are those 144,000? John himself tells us: “These are the ones that keep following the Lamb no matter where he goes. These were bought from among mankind as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:1, 4) Yes, they are faithful followers of Jesus Christ specially chosen to rule in heaven with him. After being raised out of death to heavenly life, “they are to rule as kings over the earth” along with Jesus. (Revelation 5:10) Since the days of the apostles, God has been selecting faithful Christians in order to complete the number 144,000.
To arrange for Jesus and the 144,000 to rule mankind is very loving. For one thing, Jesus knows what it is like to be a human and to suffer. Paul said that Jesus is “not one who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in all respects like ourselves, but without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15; 5:8) His corulers too have suffered and endured as humans. In addition, they have struggled with imperfection and coped with all kinds of sickness. Surely, they will understand the problems that humans face!
“This ‘little flock’ of 144,000 Kingdom heirs, then, are those ones from among mankind who are ‘born again.'” (source).
As we can see, this interpretation contradicts Scripture on its face. Revelation 7 is clear that after the opening of the 6th Seal, a future event that has not taken place yet, the 144,000 are sealed. Yet by Jehovah’s Witness’ false doctrine, they have been selected on an ongoing basis “since the days of the Apostles.” In terms of their mission, there is no mention of them witnessing the Gospel to Israel or the world. Instead the Jehovah’s Witness doctrine jumps back to Revelation Chapter 5 to somehow assert that the 144,000 are special rulers over mankind. None of this is ever stated in Scripture. This bizarre interpretation continues with their belief that the 144,000 are the only people who go to Heaven, living in “spirit bodies” while the rest of the Jehovah’s Witnesses remain on Earth in physical, resurrected bodies waiting to be ruled by the 144,000.
Again, this interpretation should be rejected along with all Jehovah’s Witness doctrine. Among the many heresies they teach are that there is no trinity, Jesus was a created being. Jesus was the archangel Michael, transformed into a man, Jesus did not resurrect to a physical body and Jesus returned to Earth in 1914 (one of their many failed prophecies). Charles Taze Russell, who founded the Jehovah’s Witness cult, false prophesied the Rapture and end of the world on 5 different occasions.
Seventh Day Adventists
The Seventh Day Adventist Church is also an unbiblical cult that has no part with Biblical Christianity. Like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they have an extra-Biblical source. They view the writings of their prophetess, Ellen G. White, on par with the Bible, in particular her book The Great Controversy. Additionally, they believe in works-based salvation primarily based on “keeping Sabbath”, which in their doctrine equals going to church service on Saturday. Here are a sampling of White’s writings on the 144,000:
Strive to Be Among the 144,000
“Let us strive with all the power that God has given us to be among the hundred and forty-four thousand. And let us do all that we can to help others to gain heaven.” -Review and Herald; March 9, 1905.
Mrs. White and the 144,000
“The Lord has given me a view of other worlds. Wings were given me, and an angel attended me from the city to a place that was bright and glorious. The grass of the place was living green, and the birds there warbled a sweet song. The inhabitants of the place were of all sizes; they were noble, majestic, and lovely. They bore the express image of Jesus, and their countenances beamed with holy joy, expressive of the freedom and happiness of the place. . . . I begged of my attending angel to let me remain in that place. I could not bear the thought of coming back to this dark world again. Then the angel said, ‘You must go back, and if you are faithful, you, with the 144,000,* shall have the privilege of visiting all the worlds and viewing the handiwork of God.”-Early Writings, pp. 39, 40.
Mrs. Hastings to Be With the 144,000
“I saw that she [Mrs. Hastings, who had just died] was sealed and would come up at the voice of God and stand upon the earth, and would be with the 144,000. I saw we need not mourn for her; she would rest in the time of trouble.”-Letter 10, 1850 (2SM 263). (source).
First notice there is no attempt to even quote the Bible in any of these “teachings.” White simply gives her own thoughts and it is to be accepted as the Word of God. By their false doctrine, the 144,00 are the “worthy” Seventh Day Adventists who have performed enough works to earn their way into this prestigious group. They also apparently are able to travel through space and visit various planets. This is outrageous, unbiblical heresy and no further analysis is necessary.
Trust God’s Word
The Bible is the sole source of Christian doctrine and prophecy. And the 144,000 as described in Scripture are a very specific group of people, with a specific mission, that will be fulfilled at the start of the Great Tribulation. While the Church is brought up to Heaven at the Rapture, the 144,000 are on Earth, preparing to proclaim the Gospel to those people left behind. They will announce to Israel and the world that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the prophesied Messiah, the Alpha and Omega is indeed on His way back to Earth. And Lord willing, many people in the midst of the Great Tribulation will hear their message and believe.