The last book of the Bible, Revelation, describes how God’s wrath will be poured out upon the earth and its sinful inhabitants. Before that happens, however, a select remnant in Israel is sealed, or marked. John describes it thus:

"And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out 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 or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.’ "And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: from the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand . . ." (Rev. 7:2-5)

There are some passages in Tanakh that help in understanding the meaning and purpose of this sealing. The prophet Ezekiel saw a similar vision, in which some of the sons of Israel were sealed prior to the wrath of God falling on Jerusalem.

"Then He [the Lord] cried out in my hearing with a loud voice saying, ‘Draw near, O executioners of the city, each with his destroying weapon in his hand.’ . . . And He called to the man clothed in linen at whose loins was the writing case. And the Lord said to him, ‘Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.’

"But to the others He said in my hearing, ‘Go through the city after him and strike; do not let your eye have pity, and do not spare. Utterly slay old men, young men, maidens, little children, and women, but do not touch any man on whom is the mark; and you shall start from My sanctuary.’ So they started with the elders who were before the temple." (Ezek. 9:1-6)

In both visions, God marked and protected the sons of Israel who did not take part in the immorality all around them. The 144,000 of whom John writes are "the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless." (Rev. 14:4-5)

In like manner, when Israel did battle against the immorality and idolatry of the Midianites, Moses sent out "a thousand from each tribe of all the tribes of Israel . . . twelve thousand armed for war." (Num. 31:4-6) These 12,000 soldiers had kept themselves pure when "the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab." (Num. 25:1) Like them, the 144,000 must be men who will not be seduced or defiled by "Midianite women," for they do battle for the Lord in a world of idolatry and immorality". (cf. Rev. 8:20-21)

Zephaniah prophesied that "the remnant of Israel will do no wrong and tell no lies, nor will a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths; for they shall feed and lie down with no one to make them tremble." (Zeph. 3:13) These faithful servants will be protected by God, even as the 12,000 soldiers were in the days of Moses. After the war against Midian, "the officers who were over the thousands of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, approached Moses; and they said to Moses, ‘Your servants have taken a census of men of war who are in our charge, and no man of us is missing.’" (Num. 31:49-50) They knew that the hand of God had been upon them and preserved them all throughout the battle.

The 144,000 sons of Israel bring the greatest fulfillment in this age of the calling of Israel, which is to be "a light to the Gentiles." (Is. 49:6, Acts 13:47) They are the primary means by which "a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues" is saved from the fullness of God’s wrath.

Next: The New Covenant Part 1

Why is a Jew? Home Page