Who Are The 144000?

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by Mike Vinson

Rev 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

Who are these 144,000 of all the tribes of the children of Israel? Whom do the scriptures reveal they really are?

It is generally understood and accepted that the book of Revelation is a book of symbols. For example, Rev 5:6 is a description of Christ: “And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.”

This is Christ in total symbolism. Later in this book we are told: “let him that hath wisdom count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man” (Rev 13:8). And again “here is the mind that hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains… which are seven kings…” (Rev 17:9-10) etc. Here we have a symbol within a symbol.

We are told at the beginning of this book that it is “of Christ” but “signified unto John.” So the book of Revelation is a book of signs and symbols from Rev 1:1 to Rev 22:21.

But what these ‘signs and symbols’ mean is not left to mere human reasonings and human speculations. They are one and all given their force of weight in the scriptures which precede them. We must be able to demonstrate, with the scriptures, what the meaning of any sign or symbol is.

Signs and symbols are not realities. And the realities of scripture are spiritual realities: “the Holy Ghost teacheth comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1Co 2:13). You have just been given the secret to understanding scripture. The Holy Spirit does not compare spiritual with physical. Nor does it compare physical with spiritual. “The Holy Ghost teaches comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”

Christ tells us that all his words “are spirit.” “The words that I speak unto you are spirit” (Joh 6:63). Christ spoke in symbols and signs. He called them ‘parables,’ and He told us He did so, because He had “not given unto them [ the multitudes of God’s ‘called out’ people] to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven” (Mat 13:11). “Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand” (Mat 13:13).

So this entire book, as with all scripture, is only understood by those who “are given eyes to see and ears to hear.” To most, this is “not given.” Otherwise a carnal mind could understand what ‘seven mountains’ are, and there would be no need for “let him that hath wisdom” and “here is the mind that hath wisdom.”

So, to determine who the 144,000 “of all the tribes of Israel” are, we must answer two questions:

  1. What does Israel symbolize in scripture?
  2. What does 144,000 symbolize in scripture?

Who Is Israel?

In order to answer our first question we must first believe Paul when he says, “he is NOT a Jew who is one outwardly” (Rom 2:27-29). Could this possibly mean that the real Jew has to be descended ‘outwardly’ from Abraham before he can be one of the 12,000 from the outward tribe of Judah? What does Paul mean when he says that “they which are the children of the flesh (outwardly), these are NOT the children of God, but the children of promise ARE COUNTED FOR THE SEED?” Does this mean that before we can be ‘counted’ one of the ‘first fruits of Christ,’ one of the 144,000, that we must be outwardly of one of the twelve physical tribes? Who are the true “children of God?” What does Eph 2:11 mean when it states that at one time in the PAST we “WERE Gentiles in the flesh, who are CALLED uncircumcision by that which is CALLED the circumcision IN THE FLESH made by hands?” Are those who are called uncircumcision really the uncircumcision? Are those who are called “the circumcision” really “the circumcision?” What does “We (Gentile Phillipians) ARE THE CIRCUMCISION” (Php 3:3) mean? Who is ‘the [ true] circumcision’? Who is ‘a [ true] Jew’? Who are the ‘[ true] children of God’?

The 144,000 are mentioned one other time in the book of Revelation. Here we learn who they really are: “These are they which are not defiled with women; for they are virgins… [ Paul tells us that we, Gentile converts, are “chaste virgins,” 2Co 11:2] These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth… [ Paul tells us “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1Co 11:1). Then Paul reveals where Christ dwells: “… that Christ may dwell in your hearts…” (Eph 3:17)] THESE WERE REDEEMED FROM AMONG MEN [ NOT OUTWARD ISRAEL], being the FIRSTFRUITS unto God and to the Lamb” (Rev 14:4). And, yes, once again Paul tells us that “ourselves [ Gentile Romans]… have the firstfruits of the Spirit” (Rom 8:23). So now, let us get this straight:

  1. The promises are made only to “one seed,” and that “one seed” is Christ (Gal 3:16)
  2. If we (Gentiles) are in Christ, then we “are counted for the seed” (Rom 9:8).
  3. “WE are the circumcision…” (Php 3:3).
  4. “WE… are the children of promise.” (Gal 4:28)
  5. “… WE are not the children of the bondwoman, but of the free.” (Gal 4:31).
  6. “YE are… the children of God…”(Gal 3:26).
  7. We are “the Israel of God.” (Gal 6:15-16)

The one thing that should be clear to ‘him that hath wisdom’ is that the 144,000 are “the firstfruits unto God” and the ‘firstfruits’ are “of all the tribes of the children of Israel” (Rev 7:4). So who is “THE ISRAEL OF GOD?”: “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision [ being physically descended from Abraham] availeth anything [ like placing us in the 144,000], nor uncircumcision [ not being physically descended from Abraham] but a new creature [ is all that counts]. And AS MANY AS WALK ACCORDING TO THIS RULE [ v. 15] peace be on them and on THE ISRAEL OF GOD” (Gal 6:15-16). Obviously the ‘Israel of God’ has nothing to do with physical descent or physical, ‘outward’ circumcision. The seed of Abraham are those who are “in Christ,” the “one seed” of Gal 3:16.

‘All The Promises’ Are In Christ

The only way to be an heir of the promises made to Abraham is to “be Christ’s” (Gal 3:29). “ALL the promises of God IN HIM are yea, and IN HIM Amen, unto the glory of God by us [ Gentile Christians]” (2Co 1:20). Does “all the promises of God” mean only the promises made to the Gentiles? If ‘in Christ we are Abraham’s ONE seed’ how could there possibly be any ‘promises of God’ made to Gentiles? No, there are NO PROMISES made to “the bondwoman and her son” [ Gentiles, Gal 4:30]. But, if you have any doubt about what promises Paul has in mind when he says ‘all the promises of God’, notice what he says on this same subject in this same book: “Having therefore THESE PROMISES, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit…” (2Co 7:1). WHICH PROMISES ARE THESE? They are the three promises Paul had just quoted.


“I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2Co 6:16). To whom was this promise made??? “And the Lord spake unto Moses in mount Sinai, saying, speak UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL and say unto THEM… And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people”(Lev 25:1-2 and Lev 26:12). This promise is made ONLY TO ISRAEL! And yet Paul says we are “the Israel of God,” and applies it to the Corinthians who were ‘IN CHRIST.’

“Wherefore come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2Co 6:17). To whom is this promise made???: “Depart ye… go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord… The Lord hath comforted HIS PEOPLE, HE HATH REDEEMED ISRAEL” (Isa 52:11 and 9). This promise is made ONLY TO JERUSALEM AND ISRAEL. Yet Paul says that “Jerusalem… above… is the mother of US ALL” (Gal 4:26), and applies this promise also to the Gentile Corinthians.

“And will be a Father unto you and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord” (2Co 6:18). Once again I ask, To whom is this third promise made???: “I… will… be the God of all the FAMILIES OF ISRAEL, and THEY shall be my people… for I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn” (Jer 31:1 and 9). Once again, this promise is made ONLY TO ‘THE FAMILIES OF ISRAEL.’ Once again Paul applies it to the Gentile converts. There are two revealing facts in this chapter of Jeremiah:

  1. This is the chapter in which it is revealed that God has divorced Israel “according to the flesh,” (Rom 9:3 and Jer 31:31)
  2. Here in Jer 31 we are told “Ephraim is my firstborn” (verse 9).

Yet in Rev 7:1-8 in the enumeration of the symbolic 12 tribes, neither Ephraim , nor Dan are mentioned. Ephraim was the name given to the entire northern nation also known as Israel after Solomon’s death. So in reality, only eleven of the twelve tribes are mentioned in Rev 7. Dan is left out and his name is replaced by “the tribe of Joseph.” Joseph, of course, was actually the father of both Ephraim and Manasseh. Yet Ephraim, the single largest tribe in Israel is not even mentioned. These facts simply point to the symbolism with which we are told up front, in the first verse of the first chapter, this book is “SIGNified” (Rev 1:1).

Getting back to Eph 2, Paul explains why he appropriates ALL THESE PROMISES MADE TO ISRAEL TO HIS GENTILE CONVERTS: “That at that time ye were without Christ [ and what does being ‘without Christ’ mean?] BEING ALIENS FROM THE COMMONWEALTH OF ISRAEL, and strangers from the covenants of promise [ not capable of being one of the 144,000] … BUT NOW IN CHRIST JESUS YE WHO SOMETIMES WERE FAR OFF [ at one time in the past] are [ NOW] made nigh by the blood of Christ. [ Just what does the blood of Christ accomplish? It made Israel and the Gentiles “BOTH ONE” (Eph 2:14), one “inward Jew,” one “circumcision… of the heart, in the spirit,” and one “Israel of God”] for to make IN HIMSELF OF TWAIN [ Israel and Gentiles] ONE NEW MAN… AND THAT HE MIGHT RECONCILE BOTH [ ISRAEL AND GENTILES] unto God IN ONE BODY…” (vs.12-16). What room is there in this statement for two Jews, two circumcisions or two Israels? “He is NOT A JEW WHICH IS ONE OUTWARDLY…” (Rom 2:28). “They Which are the children of the flesh, THESE ARE NOT THE CHILDREN OF GOD: BUT THE CHILDREN OF PROMISE ARE COUNTED FOR THE SEED” (Rom 9:8). “We [ Gentile Galatians] brethren, as Isaac ARE CHILDREN OF PROMISE” (Gal 4:28). It is ONLY “the children of promise” who receive the promises. Will the Physical twelve tribes be ruling with those who “as Isaac are children of promise?” “What saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son [“Jerusalem which now is and is in bondage with her children” (v. 25)] FOR THE SON OF THE BONDWOMAN SHALL NOT BE HEIR WITH THE SON OF THE FREE WOMAN” (Gal 4:30). So who then, will be “heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:29)?: “Now WE, BRETHREN, as Isaac was, ARE THE CHILDREN OF PROMISE” (Gal 4:28) “So then, brethren we are not the children of the bondwoman but of the free” [ and “heirs according to the promise”] (Gal 4:31). Apparently, so far as God is concerned, “THE FLESH PROFITETH NOTHING” (Joh 6:63).

We are told that Christ made one statement that caused “many of his disciples [ to go] back and walk no more with him” (Joh 6:66). What was it that caused this? It was the statement that we have just quoted “the flesh profiteth NOTHING” (Joh 6:63). This statement is still causing “many of His disciples to [ go] back [ to the flesh] and walk no more with Him.” It is the “inward [ spiritual] Jew;” it is “circumcision… that is of the heart IN THE SPIRIT” (Rom 2:29); and it is the spiritual “Israel of God” (Gal 6:15-16)], that “are counted for the seed”(Rom 9:8). Hence the symbol of “144,000… 12,000 from all the tribes of Israel” is the symbol of the true “Israel of God” (Gal 6:15-16).

The Singleness That Is In Christ

Here is Paul’s concern for his converts in all of his epistles: “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the SIMPLICITY [ Gk. – singleness] THAT IS IN CHRIST” (2Co 11:3). Are you beginning to see the singleness of our calling? We Gentiles ‘WERE’ in the past ‘aliens from the commonwealth, the 12 tribes, of Israel’, but now we are ‘made nigh by the blood of the Lamb.’ Just how close to the 12 tribe commonwealth are we now? “NOW THEREFORE YE [ GENTILE EPHESIANS] ARE NO MORE STRANGERS AND FOREIGNERS, BUT FELLOW CITIZENS WITH THE [12,000 FROM EACH TRIBE] SAINTS… In other ages [ this] was not made known… as it is now revealed… THAT THE GENTILES SHOULD BE FELLOW HEIRS [ with the 144,000 of the ‘commonwealth of Israel’], and of the same body, AND PARTAKERS OF HIS PROMISE in Christ by THE [ SINGULAR] gospel” (Eph 2:19 and 3:6).

“We [ Gentile Galatians] AS ISAAC are the children of promise” (Gal 4:28). “Jerusalem which now is… answers to Agar [ Not Sarah, as the whole Christian world believes] and is IN BONDAGE WITH HER CHILDREN” (Gal 4:25). “What saith the scripture? [ now, here is ‘what the scripture saith’ about who the 144,000 are and who they are not] CAST OUT THE BOND WOMAN AND HER SON [“Jerusalem that now is and is in bondage with her children” vs. 25] for the son of the bondwoman [ outward Israel] shall not be heir with the son of the free woman [ Sarah]. SO THEN BRETHREN, [ Here is the truth. Can we accept The Truth?] WE [ Gentile Galatians] ARE NOT THE CHILDREN OF THE BONDWOMAN [“outward Jews” (Rom 2:28); “Agar… Jerusalem which now is and is in bondage with her children” (Gal 4:25); “Which is called the circumcision” (Eph 2:11)], BUT OF THE FREE [ The true ‘circumcision’ (Php 3:3), the true ‘Jew’ (Rom 2:29), and the true ‘Israel of God’ (Gal 6:15-16)].”

Paul’s statement that there is neither Jew nor Gentile in Christ is not to be understood to mean that there is no Jew – “HE IS A JEW WHICH IS ONE INWARDLY” (Rom 2:29). “Circumcision availeth nothing” is not to be understood as there is no circumcision- “WE ARE THE CIRCUMCISION” (Php 3:3). What Paul is saying is what Christ said: “THE FLESH PROFITETH NOTHING” (Joh 6:63; Php 3:7). 12,000 from each tribe is not to be understood as ‘outward’, ‘children of the flesh,’ because “these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the [144,000 – 12,000 from each tribe of Israel] seed” (Rom 9:8). And who are the ‘children of promise’? I repeat: “Now we brethren… [ Gentile Galatians] are the children of promise” (Gal 4:28). These are those “These are they which… are virgins” (Rev 14:4). Whom do the scriptures reveal these ‘virgins’ signify? “I have espoused YOU [ CORINTHIANS] to one husband that I might PRESENT YOU AS A CHASTE VIRGIN UNTO CHRIST” (2Co 11:2). There again, is the answer to our question, if we can receive it.

What Does 144,000 Symbolize?

Do we think that because the scripture declares that ‘God owns the cattle on 1,000 hills’ (Psa 50:10), that He therefore does not own the cattle on hill 1001? Is that what the scripture is saying? Of course not. Neither are the “virgin,” “first fruits,” limited to exactly “144,000.” No, the explanation of the first eight verses of Rev 7 is found in the 14th chapter of this book of symbols: “… An hundred and forty and four thousand… REDEEMED FROM THE EARTH… REDEEMED FROM AMONG MEN, BEING THE FIRSTFRUITS UNTO GOD AND TO THE LAMB”(Rev 14:1-4).

The 144,000 “were redeemed from the earth… These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb”(Rev 14:5-6). It is clear from the revelations of Paul that those “IN CHRIST” are the “ONE SEED” to whom “ALL THE PROMISES” apply. So it is apparent that the 144,000 and the “one seed” of Gal 3:16 are, in reality, one and the same. They are the “firstfruits.” They are those to whom “ALL THE PROMISES OF GOD IN HIM ARE YEA, AND IN HIM AMEN’, UNTO THE GLORY OF GOD” (2Co 1:20).

Why 12,000 from each tribe, you ask? Numbers are as symbolic as anything in scripture. Six, being the day upon which every beast on earth, including man, was created, is symbolic of carnal man, independent of God, as a mere beast; “I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts” (Ecc 3:18). It also symbolizes man’s labor. The number 666 symbolizes the carnal Adam in full blown rebellion against God, ‘sitting in the temple of God, claiming to be God’ (2Th 2:4 and Rev 13:18; See ‘Strong Delusion’ on this web site). Seven symbolizes completion, both of the physical, carnal creation (Gen 2:1-2), and of the final spiritual creation (Heb 4:1-11). So, likewise the number twelve is simply symbolic. It symbolizes foundational government, whether of Ishmael, who is the symbol of Abraham’s, ‘after- the- flesh’, firstborn (Gen 25:16 and Gal 4:25), or physical Israel, whose 12 tribes symbolize the true “Israel of God” (Gal 5:15-16 and Gal 4:25-30). In reality, of course, we are told of physical Israel “these are NOT the children of God: but the children of promise are counted for the seed” (Rom 9:8 and Gal 3:16 and 26-29). The apostle Paul is not mentioned among the twelve foundations of “the wall of the city” (Rev 21: 14) simply because, as he himself put it, he was “as one born out of due time” (1Co 15:8), not ‘out of place’.

When Physical Israel Will Be Saved

At this point, someone is going to remind me of Rom 11:29: “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” Doesn’t this verse prove that God will save Israel in spite of the fact that they have rejected him?

Indeed it does. But Israel is simply typical of us: “Now these things [ that happened to Israel] became types of us…” (1Co 10:6 Concordant Literal New Testament).

So when will physical Israel be saved? Will physical Israel rule the nations of the earth during the millenium? Paul speaks of “their [ physical Israel’s] fulness:” “Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness” (Rom 11:12)? Then in verse 25, he tells us when “their fulness” will be: “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” (Rom 11:25).

It will be AFTER 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:” (Rom 11:26). So when will all of this take place?

We are not left to speculate. We are given the exact time line of these events. If only we would believe God’s plain spiritual words: “When thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate, then thou and thy daughters shall return to your former estate”(Ezekiel 16:55).

When will physical Israel be saved? “When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, then will I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them:” (Ezekiel 16:53).

Why does God do this in this manner? “For God hath concluded them all [ mankind] in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all [ mankind]” (Rom 11:32).

Those who are deceived are deceived for one main reason given in scripture: “they received not the love of the truth” (2Th 2:10). May we all truly be seeking a ‘love of the truth’.

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