Today we are looking at the account of the sealing of the 144,000 male Jews from the 12 tribes of Israel (Revelation 7:2-8). Who are these individuals who are sealed? Some say that they are the spiritual seed of Abraham, thus seeking to identify them as the Church or the “Israel of God”. But is that what the text says? There have been many religious groups who have laid claim to being the 144,000, the most renowned being the Jehovah Witnesses. But is that what the text says?
Whenever we seek to interpret plain statements of Scripture like these allegorically or symbolically, we leave the door wide open for all kinds of interpretations. In fact though, those who have determined that the Church has replaced Israel may not agree with one another in telling us exactly who these 144,000 are, but this one thing they are agreed on—that these are not 144,000 male Jews from the 12 tribes of Israel. But is that what the text says?
I want to be clear that agreement on the identity of these 144,000 should not be the basis of determining who we consider to be true believers or not. Our fellowship as Christians is found at the cross of Calvary and is based upon our faith in the atonement of Jesus and what He has done for us. However, in a day and age when the church is crying out for “orthodoxy” and going back to our roots, I hear a lot of references being made to the 16th century or earlier, Jew-rejecting councils, or to the ministries and writings of many of the Reformers. Wait a minute! Doesn’t Scripture tell us that the Gentiles are the wild branches who are now attached by faith in the Messiah of Israel, The Lord Jesus Christ, to the natural branch of Israel (Romans 11)?
Beloved, the roots of our faith are not based on the interpretations of Augustine or Wesley or Luther or Calvin, but on the Holy Scripture and the faith that was given to the physical seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which has found it’s fulfillment in The Lord Jesus Christ, Who, according to the flesh, was a Jew (Romans 1:3). Jesus Himself obviously knew nothing of “replacement theology” for He made future reference to the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30), who are also referred to in Acts 26:7 and James 1:1, and have their names inscribed in the heavenly city along with, and distinct from, the Church (Revelation 21:12,14).
To my knowledge, none of those references to the 12 tribes that we just read were meant to be interpreted allegorically, and neither should the 144,000 in our text this morning.