144,000 Evangelists by Woodrow Kroll Today’s Radio Study: Woodrow Kroll: Every number in the Book of Revelation has significance based on the fact that Revelation is a symbolic kind of book. That is to say, there are things for us to learn that we can’t learn just by reading. We have to think about these things, and we have to take the symbols that John uses to describe what is absolutely indescribable. The Spirit of God catches him up to heaven, spiritually catches him up to heaven. He physically stayed on the island of Patmos. But heaven is cracked open, and John’s getting a view of the future. And he doesn’t understand this view of the future. And God says, “Write this down.” And he [John] uses the kind of images that come to his mind (God directing him) so that he can describe just how horrific this future is. And so as he’s describing the six seals that were opened in chapter 6 that we talked about yesterday; he’s using a lot of images. Today, this 144,000 relate to, again, an image of a group of people; and that group of people comes from 12 different families—12 times 12 is 144 so suddenly the number becomes significant based on who it is we’re dealing with here. Chapter 7, verse 1, notice the first words, “After these things.” If you’ve been following our study of Revelation, you know that I’ve made a point again and again and again that you can’t miss the little things in Revelation. After these things means after six seals have been opened. Remember the scroll. No one found where they’d opened the scroll. John weeps because of that back in chapter 5. As a result, an angel says to him, “Hey, John, don’t worry about this. God’s got it covered. The only person worthy of opening the scroll and revealing the future is the Lord Jesus.” Jesus comes; He opens the scroll, breaks one seal and reveals a little bit about what the future is, rolls it open a little more, breaks the second seal. Now, we have six seals that have been broken. There’s only one to go. But after the sixth seal was broken, notice it says, verse 1 of chapter 7, “After these things.” So, before we get to that seventh seal, something’s going to happen. Here’s what happens: “After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree. Then 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 granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their 1 144,000 Evangelists
foreheads’” (Revelation 7:1-3). You know how it has been when you have been in the business of being a parent and your kids have done something they shouldn’t have done, and you’re trying to work out an effective correction method for them. And they’re used to eating, oh—I don’t know—let’s say seven ice cream cones every night before they go to bed. They have seven ice cream cones before they go to bed, and you’re trying to meet out punishment to them. And you say to them, “Because of this, we’re going to have to cut back tonight. So, I’m taking one away; I’ll take two away; in fact, three, four, five and six.” But, before you get to the seventh, before the end of that correction measure is taken, you say, “I have to seal them so that they know that I’m not just punishing them; I’m trying to correct them.” So, something happens before you finish the correction process. That’s exactly what’s going on here. There are going to be seven seals opened for the scroll, seven kinds of judgment. But before you get to the last one, this angel says to the angels holding the winds from the four corners of the earth, “Don’t let loose on the winds until I can seal the servants of God on their foreheads.” Now, isn’t that interesting because all of you have read enough of the Left Behind books, or you’ve understood enough prophecy to know that there is coming a day, when people on this earth will have to have the number 666 in order to buy and sell and do trade. But before that even happens, I mean God is so far out ahead of judgment, before that even happens He says, “Before the seventh seal is opened more judgment comes, I want you to seal, on the earth, my servants.” Now, who are these servants? Well, notice who they are. In verse 4, he says, “And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed.” Now, you see, verse 5, all the way down to verse 9, describes who those people are: the tribe of Judah, the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin. Now, this is interesting because Benjamin, of course, is the youngest; and so he’s the last, the one who’s associated with Joseph in the history of Jacob’s sons. Next to the last, of course, is Joseph because he was the favorite, and he came in that order. But notice that Reuben, the original firstborn, comes after Judah in this list. I find that interesting because Reuben had to give place because of his adultery and his sin. There are two tribes that don’t even appear in this list. Now, if you are a keen student, you notice that Dan does not appear here and Ephraim is not mentioned here. Both Dan and Ephraim are purposely omitted from this list because both Dan and Ephraim fell into idolatry. And these are the people of God whom God seals from judgment future, and they’re representative of the 12 tribes of Jacob. And there are 12, but not the original 12 because two of them had become idolatrous. Now what does this mean? It means before God allows any more judgment to happen, He’s going to take care of us all. God has a history of taking care of His own, doesn’t He? He promised us that we would not go through the wrath and so He snatched away His church before wrath even began; 1 Thessalonians 4. Remember the word harpazo we studied last week, the word that means “to snatch away or to take away.” It’s the word used in John 10:29 where Jesus says, “You are in your Father’s hand and no one can snatch you out of the Father’s hand.” It’s exactly the same word in 1 Thessalonians 4. By the way, it’s the same word for John in chapter 4 of the Revelation, verse 1 where it says he was caught up to heaven; snatched away. 2 144,000 Evangelists
God has always been in the business of taking care of His own, and these 144,000 people here are God’s own. I’ve heard people argue that these are Gentile believers, but I find that very difficult when it actually says in verse 4 that they’re the children of Israel. So, let me tell you what my take on this passage is. I think we are talking about Jewish people, probably Jewish people who have come to trust the Lord Jesus as Savior during the early years of Tribulation. This is the first half of the Tribulation now. These 144,000 Jews are going to be turned-on evangelists for the Lord Jesus. These people are going to be the TV, the radio, the preachers, the writers. These are going to be the representatives of God on this earth during a very difficult time—the time of the Tribulation. Tami Weissert: We’re talking about 144,000 and you’re saying that your belief is that these are Jewish people who have come to know the Lord during the Tribulation. Explain this a little bit because the Rapture has already taken place. How is it that these people get a second chance? WK: They don’t get a second chance. The Bible is very specific about those who have heard the Gospel and decided to reject it. Once the Rapture occurs, they will be blinded by Satan and by the Antichrist and they will not be able to respond to the Gospel that’s preached during the Tribulation. If you want to read about this, take a little peek at 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 (ESV). It talks about the Lord Jesus being revealed from heaven with His mighty angels and flaming fire inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. Those two expressions are extremely important. They do not know God and they do not obey the Gospel. Paul says it this way: “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord.” Then in the very next chapter, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 (ESV), the coming of the lawless one (that’s the Antichrist). “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing because [watch this] they refuse to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore, God sends them a strong delusion so that they may believe what is false in order that they may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” So the Bible doesn’t teach that the people who reject the Gospel now during this period of history will get a second chance after the Rapture. These 144,000 and others saved during the Tribulation are people who have never heard the Gospel now and have never rejected it. They are the ones that God shows mercy to. TW: We’re not saying that just Jewish people will have an opportunity to be saved after the Rapture. This is for anyone as long as they haven’t, pre-Rapture, rejected the Gospel. WK: That’s correct. The 144,000 are Jewish people, but there will be a multitude of others who will now come to trust Christ as Savior. TW: We’ve already talked about the Spirit of God no longer being on the earth, being removed when the church is raptured. So what part does the Spirit have in bringing these people to salvation? WK: The Spirit of God is on the earth today because the church is on the earth today. The Holy Spirit inhabits the believer in Jesus Christ. But when the believers in Christ are taken to heaven, the Spirit returns to heaven as well. That doesn’t mean that He has to be on the earth to convict people of sin. So during the Tribulation, the Holy Spirit will continue His work in their hearts, the hearts of those who believe; He’s simply going to do it from heaven. Anytime you have 100,000 people in a football stadium you have a lot of noise. Suppose you 3 144,000 Evangelists
have 144,000 turned on evangelists preaching the Gospel when it was pretty evident to the world something bad was happening around them. The six seals have been opened. There’s a lot of death and destruction already. It isn’t nearly as bad as it’s going to get, but it’s a whole lot worse than it is today. So, you have these 144,000 making a lot of noise and there are going to be a lot of people who are going to listen to them. It will be, I think, easier even to believe then than it is now because you’re going to have so many object lessons of the wrath of God around you all the time. So what would you expect to be the result of all of this? Well verse 9 of chapter 7 tells us what the result is. “After these things I looked and behold a great multitude, which no one could number. Of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues standing before the throne and before the lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, crying out with a loud voice saying salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne and to the lamb.” My goodness! A great multitude that no one could number! I have trouble thinking of 144,000. This is a multitude which is enumerable and none of these people were believers the day Jesus came back to take His church away. So, one of the great periods of evangelism is yet to come. There are lots of people who are going to trust Christ during this time. We see this company listed as a company that no man could even number. Now what are they doing? It says they are before the throne of God. They are standing before the throne. Notice they’re not on their knees. They are not sitting. They are not bowing. They are standing. So far, every time someone has been before the throne of God they have been flat on their face. This is different and that is why it is important to pay attention to little things. These people come. They stand before the throne of God. They cry out with a loud voice and they say, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.” This is not the first time, by the way, that anyone has made a statement like this. Remember an Old Testament prophet had something to say about this? He was the prophet who got a good dose of whale belly theology. You know after Jonah was running the wrong way from God and the great fish swallowed him up, and the great fish decided after three days, “I don’t want a scraggly prophet in my stomach.” So he spit him out. Can you imagine what Jonah looked like when he came out after three days of gastric juices? Seaweed wrapped around his head. Jonah is spit out and he says, “Salvation is of the Lord.” Well, eventually we’re all going to learn it. These people have now learned it so they stand before the throne of God and they are testifying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb. And the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.” Seems to me, we have missed something in the whole concept of worship. So they fall down before Him. Now they were standing, testifying. They’re worshiping. They fall down before Him. They say, “Amen! Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever, Amen.” What a testimony! These people have come to understand what its like to experience grace in the midst of judgment, and they’re on their face before God. Now isn’t it interesting here, these people who are saying salvation is of the Lord are not alone, and did you notice what they have in their hands back in verse 9? They have white robes. They have palm branches in their hands. It’s not the first time people have had palm branches in their hands. Isn’t that true? If you’ve been to Jerusalem, you’ve probably gone down of the 4 144,000 Evangelists
Mount of Olives, through the Palm Sunday Street, which is a narrow, steep street going down from the top of the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane. Along that street one day, Jesus came riding a colt. And when the multitudes gathered there, they sang, “Hosanna to God,” speaking of Jesus. Now, it’s interesting the term Hosanna means “save us now.” It’s all about salvation. So here again, we have these people with palms in their hands declaring salvation only comes from God. You don’t get saved by being a Christian. You don’t get saved by being a Muslim. You don’t get saved by being a Buddhist. And, you don’t get saved by being an atheist. It’s not about religion. It’s about your relationship to God through His Son, Jesus Christ. When we recognize salvation only comes through Jesus, we won’t be so worried about whether or not Christianity is an exclusivist religion. We’ll just recognize it just happens to be the truth. It’s the way God presents Himself to the world through the only book He claims ever to have written.
Unless otherwise indicated, scripture references are from the New King James Version of the Bible. Copyright © 2012 The Good News Broadcasting Association, Inc. All rights reserved. Back to the Bible P.O. Box 82808 Lincoln, NE 68501 1-800-759-2425 backtothebible.org
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All that will take place before and after the rapture