Shepherds that Follow a Lamb: The 144,000

Scripture: Revelation 14:1-3, Revelation 7:1-4
Date: 10/21/2000 
Who are the 144,000 spoken of in Revelation 7 and 14? This sermon looks at the message of this number in Scripture. These people are God's last day apostles with a special work in the last days. This group, like the Apostles during the early church, are called to bring a revival to the church. But they are not the only ones saved.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Good morning. This morning we’re going to be exploring a passage in the Bible. We’re sort of venturing out on to theological thin-ice, you might say. Talking about the subject of the 144,000. This is a controversial issue, but I believe it’s something that the Lord would have us to study. The title for today’s message is Shepherds that Follow a Lamb, Who are the 144,000? Now when we get into the book of Revelation the first thing I want you to notice is that there are a lot of symbols there. In Revelation, it’s full of symbols. You’ve got the symbols, of course, of a lion. We just heard Gwenetta sing about the lion and the lamb. Jesus is the lion from the tribe of Judah. You’ve got the symbol of the lamb. Jesus is the lamb that was slain. You’ve got these creatures around the throne of God that have these faces like a calf and like an eagle, like a man, like an ox. And the imagery in Revelation is largely symbolic and we need to understand that. The numbers in Revelation are not symbols. One of the big disputes about the 144,000 is, is it a number that has real value or is it just an ethereal, nebulous, spiritual symbolic number?

I’ll tell you right from the start, I believe that it is a real number. But stay with me. Some people get scared when they discover that. Revelation’s principle theme is Jesus. Jesus, interestingly enough, is not only the Lamb in Revelation; He says He is the Shepherd. He is not only the High Priest, He is the sacrifice. Jesus says He is the Alpha and He is the Omega. And so as we look at some of the complex imagery that we’re going to find in our study on the 144,000, please keep in mind that we’re dealing with a number of symbols and we need to know what these symbols mean. Some people, because it’s a controversial issue, have avoided studying this subject. I believe that if God puts it in the Bible He wants us to study it. Amen? And so we’re not going to hide from it today. I’m going to begin by going to the first place in the Bible you find reference to the 144,000. Please turn in your Bibles to Revelation 7 and we’ll begin with verse 1. And it tells us there, “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, or on any tree.” And then it goes on to tell us, “Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice saying, Do not hurt the earth, or the sea, or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.” And so, we have pictured for us here in Revelation these angels that are stationed at the four corners of the earth.

They’re holding back the winds of strife. It was very appropriate, the special music just before the message today, Until the Wind Blows. You know, when these angels release their grip on these winds, the Bible’s very clear, that’s when the plagues come. You find reference again to the 144,000 in Revelation 14. They’re still being sealed. They’re proclaiming their message. When they have completed with the sealing and the message, Revelation 15 and 16 have the seven last plagues. Those are the winds of strife that will be unleashed upon the world after these angels loosen their grip. So, we need to examine what the numbers mean. First of all, the numbers four in the Bible. That represents something that is universal. Four were angels, representing the north and the south and the east and the west. The Bible says Jesus will send His angels to the four corners of the earth to gather together His elect. Even in Bible times they recognized the four directions of the compass. Revelation begins by saying this angel comes from the east with the seal of the living God. Christ, biblically, is supposed to come from the east. And there is a seal that is put in the forehead. Now I’ve got 12 points in my study today. I thought that would be appropriate as we study the 12 times 12,000.

So point number one is you’ve got these four angels who are holding back the four winds of strife. Point number two is they have a special name in their foreheads. Now as soon as you start talking about something in the forehead biblically, keep in mind that that is a symbol. Names in Revelation are almost always symbolic. Numbers almost always have a real value. For instance, in Revelation it talks about Jezebel. Well, Jezebel had been dead and gone for a long time. You have to know that she’s a symbol of an Old Testament character. It talks about Balaam. It talks about Beelzebub. Talks about the dragon and Michael and all the names are symbolic. Don’t forget that. So when it talks about their Father’s name in the forehead we get a clue and we go to the great utterance that Moses made. After Moses rehearsed the Ten Commandments, just before he died, he said in Deuteronomy 6:8, well you know he says, “These words that I command you this day, shall be in your heart; you shall write them on the posts of your house. You shall talk about them when you go in, come out, lay down, rise up.” And he said, “You shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be frontlets between your eyes.” That’s the Old Testament phrase for the forehead. The word of God, the seal of God, the name of the God was to be in their forehead.

Now right off, I hope you know that the seal of God is one of the ways you categorize all those that are saved. They have the seal of God. The mark of the beast, Revelation 14 tells us is how you categorize all those that are lost. The first part of the seal of God is the Holy Spirit. Ephesians says, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit, wherewith you are sealed.” Obviously everybody that’s got their Father’s name has the Holy Spirit. Is that clear to everybody? So you already knew that. And everybody who’s got the mark of the beast, who’s spirit do they have? They’ve got the devil’s spirit. And so that’s the starting point. But there’s something beyond that. When you look in your Bibles in the book of Ezekiel. Matter of fact, turn with me to Ezekiel 9. You know a lot of people when they think about the mark, if I were to go out on the streets and ask the average person, “Would you like to have a biblical mark in your forehead? Would you like to have the mark that’s spoken of in the Bible in your forehead?” Ninety-nine percent would say, “Oh, no. That’s bad.” But in reality many times the mark in the forehead is good and something to be desired.

You need to have the right mark. Go in your Bibles, Ezekiel 9:1 and it says, “He cried out in my hearing with a loud voice, saying, Let those that have charge over the city draw near, each one with a deadly, or a destroying weapon in his hand. Suddenly, six men came form the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each one with a destroying weapon,” a battleaxe, “in his hand; one man among them was clothed with linen, that had a writer’s inkhorn at his side.” Notice the number of sixes connected with the temple. And the 144,000 is a multiple of six. I’ll get to that in just a minute. “He had a writer’s inkhorn at his side: and they went in, and stood beside the bronze altar.” It’s taking place in the sanctuary. “Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And he called to the man with the linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn at his side; and the Lord said to him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads,” oh, they must all be lost, those that get the mark on the forehead. No. “Put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over the abominations that are done within it.” This mark that is on the head of those in Ezekiel represents the people who are grieved about sin in the temple, sin among God’s people.

Put a mark on them and they are spared because he says to the others, the other angels with these destroying weapons, “Go after him,” the one doing the marking, “through the city, and kill: do not let you eye spare, nor have pity: utterly slay old and young, men and maidens, little children, and women: but do not come near any one on whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. So they began with the elders that were before the temple.” You’ll notice here, it says here that in Ezekiel 9:4, “And the Lord said to him, Go through the midst of the city, and through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.” People who are grieved by sin. People who are praying for revival. They’re in the temple. And when does this judgment begin? It begins in the temple. You remember where Peter says, “Judgment,” I Peter 4:17, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it begin at us first, what will be the end of those that obey not the gospel?” You remember when Jesus began to write in the dust of the temple floor the sins of the accusers of Mary.

Judgment began in the house of God beginning at the eldest unto the least they went out in His presence. So this is judgment that begins, it commences at the house of God. Part of the work for the 144,000 is the work of Elijah and John, a work of revival. I’ll get to that in just a minute. And so, they’ve got this special seal in the forehead. What is the seal? Now biblically when you study a seal, a seal has got several components. A seal has the name of an individual, the title and the territory. All seals contain those three elements, the name, the title, the territory. We’ve already learned that the Spirit of God is part of the seal. Deuteronomy says that the law of God is to be in our minds, and obviously in our hands. But it’s something beyond that. In the law of God it even gets deeper. One of the commandments in particular has the seal of God contained in it. It’s the fourth commandment, dealing with the Sabbath, that God is our Creator. It says in Exodus 20:11, “For in six days the Lord,” that’s His name, “made,” or created, that’s His title, “the heavens and the earth,” that’s His territory.

The Sabbath day is different from all the other commandments because it tells who you worship and why you worship Him. It’s the last of the first commandments that deal with our love relationship with God. And it’s the one that is going to be an issue of controversy in the last days. In Genesis Cain killed Abel because of worship. In Revelation those that worship the beast and his image kill those who worship God biblically. It revolves around who and how and even when you worship. These are very important issues to the Lord in the Bible. The Sabbath commandment is the seal of God in the law of God. So this is one of the characteristics. Third point I want to bring out, there’s a special number. The 144,000 represent a special number. And some people are wondering, “Well, is it a literal number?” First of all, let me answer a question that many of you might be thinking. If the 144,000 are the only ones saved in the last days then we’re in big trouble.

Right now there are approximately 6 billion people on the earth. If only 144,000 are saved when Jesus comes, and assuming He comes soon, that means your chances of being saved are about 1 in 41,666. Isn’t that interesting that it worked out that way? If there were 1 million people in Sacramento, proper then – there are more than that if you go to the extending regions. You’re chances would be 1 in 7 out of the 1 million people. We just may as well park our Bibles in church and leave, right? You’ve got a better chance of winning the lottery. But the good news they are not the only ones saved. Now I’m going to tell you right now what I believe and where I’m going. The 144,000 are the last day apostles. What the apostles were in the time of Christ the 144,000 are in the time of Christ’s second coming. When you go to the New Testament, go to the book of Acts 1. I want you to notice something interesting that takes place here dealing with the number.

It says in Acts 1:13 when they entered in to this upper room, where they were staying, there are 11 apostles and it names them. Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon Zelotes, Judas the son [brother] of James. You count them, there’s 11. After it mentions that these 11 apostles are in the upper room, they’re not the only ones there, Peter says, “You know, Judas hung himself. He was numbered among us. He was chosen by the Lord.” Now I need to stop and ask you a question. Of the 12 apostles were they from 12 different tribes, or were many of them from Judah? They were from principally three tribes so the name of the tribe is not the issue. The literal name of the tribe is not the issue. In Revelation names are often symbolic. Matthew, for instance, was probably from the tribe of Levi. His name was Matthew Levi. Paul tells us he was from the tribe of Benjamin. And the rest of them were from either Benjamin, Levi or Judah. The other 10 tribes were carried away captive and intermarried and dispersed in the Old Testament long before Jesus was born. But the number 12 is important to God. Here the New Testament church is being born. That upper room for practical purposes is like a temple, if you will. God poured out His Holy Spirit there. They were praying there.

They were preaching and teaching there because they had been evicted from the sanctuary and they were not welcome there. After they replaced Judas, remember they cast lots and they need to replace Judas. They replace Judas with someone by the name of Matthias. Matthias, incidentally, means gift of Jehovah. Then the Holy Spirit is poured out. And they begin preaching and a great multitude is converted as a result of these 12 who are preaching. But who did they preach to, the whole world or just Israel? First they just preached to Israel. Jesus, when He sent them out He said, “Go not in the way of the Gentiles, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” In the same way that God chose 12 apostles, who working with the other disciples, brought revival to God’s people.

They started with Israel and then it expanded from there during the first coming of Christ. In the last days He’ll have 12 times 12,000 who are now sent to the church to bring revival, the church at large, there are many different denominations, to bring them back to biblical truth. And then that expands and overflows into the world. So what the apostles were during the time of Christ’s first coming the 144,000 are during the time of Christ’s second coming. Is it a literal number? Yes, I believe it is. Are they the only ones saved? No, I do not believe they are. When you look in Revelation you find it seems like there’s this ever-growing square around the throne of God. You’ve got God on His throne. Then you’ve got four creatures around the throne of God. And then it tells us you’ve got 24 elders around there. Then you’ve got around that 144,000. I guess that’d be about 36,000 on each side. Then around there you’ve got a great multitude.

It’s all like an expanding square. The number 12 is the number for God’s people, a number for God’s church. The Bible tells us that the city’s 12,000 furlongs, 12 gates, 12 types of fruit on the tree of life, 12 times a year, 12 foundations, 12 stars above the head of the woman. What do you think those stars represent in Revelation 12? Above the head means leadership biblically. These are the leadership. Just like the apostles represented leadership in the church, the 144,000 are leaders in the last days. But they’re not the only ones saved. Through their ministry and their associates a great multitude is converted. The Bible says in verse 9, “After these things I looked and behold a great multitude that no man could number who had come out of great tribulation.” Now the great tribulation, there was a tribulation during the Dark Ages, but the tribulation such as there has not been, nor will there ever be again like it. Is that past or future? Future.

So this great multitude that no man can number comes out of a great tribulation. Did the apostles, after Pentecost, when they started preaching and thousands are baptized, you get to chapter 8 and a great persecution arose because whenever the church begins to live holy, whenever the church begins to grow, the devil begins to mobilize and intensify his persecution. As a result of the preaching of the 12 thousands were converted, along with the other disciples that were preaching. Then persecution, Acts 8, arose and they were scattered everywhere. That is the same scenario. What happened to the apostles is the key to unlock -- the number is really the key. As soon as you see 12 times 12,000 go back to the apostles, you find out who the 144,000 are. Now you might be saying, “Doug, are we going to know who they are in the last days? I mean, we knew who the apostles were. They were, you know, 12 men who followed Jesus. It was a nice, small cohesive number. You could look at them all with one glance.” I don’t think – you know Karen’s getting ready for running a marathon. She’s been out running every day and she’s trying to get up. How far are you now, dear?

Where are you? You don’t want to say yet? OK. She’s running several miles every day, but she’s not up to the 26 miles yet. But when they run marathons, you know how they put a number on their back? I don’t think that in the last days you’re going to see folks running around, it’s going to say, “32,000.” “Yeah, I’m one of the 144,000. Here’s my number.” You won’t be able to identify them that way. But I don think that when God looks down from heaven that there is a real number of people. And as a result of the ministry of this real number a great multitude are converted. Now before I go on to the next point I want to emphasize this just a little further. Where did I put my notes here? I’ve got some additional notes. You know, I wrote an article and I thought, “I don’t need to rewrite everything.” If you look in the Old Testament, one of the keys for understanding who the 144,000 are is you look at some of the numbers that were listed in the sanctuary. I Chronicles 25 tells of a little group of 24 times 12 that were to lead in praise in the temple in the music. That’s two times 144,000. It also tells in, there’s several passages here.

Tells about those who praise the Lord in Chronicles. You can go to I Chronicles 23:4, “Of these twenty-four thousand were to look after the work of the house of the Lord; six thousand were officers and judges.” Twenty-four times 6,000 is 144,000. It’s not an accident that the numbers of those who would minister and sing and lead in God’s Old Testament temple were all divisions of 12 and 144,000. Because God still has a temple in the world today. “What? Know you not that you,” collectively, “are the temple of God.” And so, this number tells us these are people who are serving in the spiritual temple. So you may not see the number on their back, but I believe that it is a real group the Lord has. Next point. It says they’re from the 12 tribes. Are they literal Jews or are they spiritual Jews? In the Bible there are a number of passages that tell us that if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed. Jesus said, “Many will come from the east and the west and sit down in the kingdom with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, while the literal kingdom might be cast out.” I do not believe that the 144,000 are 12,000 from the literal 12 tribes of the Old Testament.

My reason for that are that most of the Jews that you see in the world today are just descendants from those three tribes of Benjamin, Judah and Levi. If you look in your Bible you’ll see it for yourself. It says here in II Kings 17:6, “In the ninth year of Hoshea,” this is 400 years before Christ, “the king of Assyria took Samaria, and he carried Israel,” this is the 10 tribes, “away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah by Habor by the river of Gozan in the city of the Medes.” They, over years, intermarried and disseminated and sort of dissolved among the Assyrians. Many of you might, if you could trace your family tree back far enough, find out that you’ve got some of the DNA of Zebulun and Issachar and Manasseh in you. So if you want to say technically, you know, we all might have some Jewish blood from the 10 lost tribes in us. Because they basically were absorbed and dispersed. They never did come back like the tribe of Judah, Benjamin and Levi came back from Babylon. They never really came back from Assyria. A few of them came back. They intermarried with the Assyrians. They lived in Samaria.

They were called Samaritans and the Jews wanted to have nothing to do with them because they said, “You’re not pure anymore. You’ve intermarried.” They had lost their identity. So to say that the 144,000 are 12,000 from the literal 12 tribes of Judah, Benjamin, Manasseh, Issachar, Zebulun, Naphtali, that’s really not clear Bible thinking. For one thing, you ought to know if you know your Bible that the proportions of the tribes were vastly different. Judah had 1 million at one point while Benjamin was a little bitty tribe. They were almost exterminated. You read the book of Judges, they were whittled down to almost nothing because of sin in the camp. And so, to have equal number from all the different tribes tells you that this is maybe not the literal tribes, but spiritual Israel. Furthermore, if you read in your Bible when James addresses the church, James 1:1 he’s talking to the church and he says, “James, a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes that are scattered abroad.” He wasn’t sending this letter to Manasseh and Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali. He was sending it to the church. And how did James address them?

As the twelve tribes. So who are these 144,000? They are spiritual Israel, or Christians. The Bible says that we, whether you’re literal Jews like me or whether you are a convert, because every Christian is technically a Jew. You are grated in to the stalk of Israel. We are all saved under the new covenant. The new covenant is made only with the house of Israel. The New Testament is only for spiritual Jews. “I will make a new testament after those days, a new covenant after hose days, saith the Lord, with the house of Israel.” Some people are anti-Semitic and this really bothers them. I’m sorry, that’s your problem. The Bible’s a Jewish book. You’re going to have to get over it. So you become spiritual Jews. Number five, they have special names. Now I gave you an insert in your bulletin that I want you to look at. Another reason I believe it’s not literal is because the only time that this list appears the way that you find it in Revelation is in Revelation. You say, “What’s in a name?” You’ve got this insert here. I wanted to provide that because everybody always comes and asks me for a copy. Names in the Bible mean something.

When a Jewish mother named her child she didn’t get a baby book with 10,000 names in it. They prayed the Holy Spirit would guide them in the naming. When each one of the 12 sons of Jacob, or Israel, were named the mother sort of declared a spiritual utterance that the name had a meaning of. For instance, when Leah had Judah she said, “I will praise the Lord.” When Ruben was born, he was the firstborn, she said, “God has looked on my affliction. He has looked on me.” And all you have to do is read Genesis 29:32-35, you see some examples there of how they made these utterances. The list in Revelation is not according to their ages. Not according to their size. It’s a unique list. How many remember the story of Joseph when his brothers came to eat at his house before they knew who he really was. He sat them in order of their ages. And that really blew them away. They said, “Hey, this is a strange coincidence. What are the chances of getting one out of 12 numbers in the right sequence?” Most of the time when the lists are given in the Bible it starts with Ruben, the firstborn. This list is missing Ephraim and Dan.

It includes Joseph and his son Manasseh. Completely unique list. And I studied this and I thought, “Why, Lord?” And I said, “Well, maybe I should look at the names.” So I started lining up the names and their meanings. And when I did that it just really blew me away. It gave me goose bumps because I realized that when you put all the names together the way they appear in Revelation with the Bible definitions it makes a statement. You have it here in your lesson. It says, “I will praise the Lord,” and I can put it up on the screen for those of you who may not have a copy. “I will praise the Lord for He has looked on me and granted good fortune. I am happy because my wrestling God is making me to forget. God hears me and is attached, or joined, to me. He has purchased me a dwelling,” this is like a dowry, “and will add to me the son of His right hand.” This is the story of the marriage of Christ to His people, to His church. This statement is all in the context of a wedding. And this is what God is saying. The 144,000 their names are talking about the bride of Christ. And who is the bride of Christ? It’s the church. This is the 144,000.

So once again we don’t need to guess about these things. Furthermore, it tells us that it’s a pure people. It says in Ephesians 5:27 in the context of a wedding, “That he might present her,” his church, “to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkly, or any such thing; but that she should be holy and without blemish.” It’s a symbol of a church that is pure, meaning not just because she has been washed from her sins, but doctrinally pure. Number six. They have special robes, while we’re on the subject of purity. Not only does the Bible tell us that this great multitude have special robes, we also read that the 144,000 do as well. “Then one of the elders,” Revelation 7:13-14, “Then one of the elders answered, and said to me, Who are these arrayed in white robes? And were did they come from? And he said, Sir, you know. He said to me, These are the ones who have come out of great tribulation.” How did they get the robes white? “They have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Now doesn’t that sound strange that you would make something white in blood? But it’s talking about, we receive righteousness because the blood of Jesus Christ washes us from our sins. The 144,000 and those that are converted from their ministry are this group. Point number seven.

Now we’re starting to transition into Revelation 14, the other passage where it deals with the 144,000. They have a special work to do. They’re unique in that not only do they have a different relationship and some of these other things. They have a special work. You know, I’ve drawn here from a quote from the book Great Controversy, a classic I hope you’ve read. In the chapter called “The Final Warning” you read this statement dealing with God’s people in the last days. “Servants of God,” I believe this statement is talking about the 144,000. “Servants of God with their faces lighted up and shining with holy consecration will hasten from place to place proclaiming the message from heaven by thousands of voices,” like 144 of them, “by thousands of voices all over the earth the warning will be given, miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed and signs and wonders will follow the believers.”

Now do you notice in your Bible that after the apostles received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s going to fall on the 144,000. Not only did the Holy Spirit fall on the 12 in the upper room, it says there was 120 up there all together, 10 times 12. Right? That group who is filled with the Holy Spirit, through their ministry brought revival first to God’s people, like Elijah and like John the Baptist. The Bible says, “I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” There’s a special ministry of Elijah that’s to be repeated just before Jesus comes back. The 144,000 is like a little army of Elijahs that not only bring revival to the church. You notice that Elijah not only preached to Israel, but then he went and he stayed with a woman that was a Gentile. Elisha who had a double portion of Elijah’s spirit brought revival to Israel, but then he went and stayed with a woman, a Shunamite, that was a Gentile.

John the Baptist was sent first to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But then the disciples after preaching to the Jews only on Pentecost, it says, “they were devout Jews out of every nation.” It was all Jews. Then you read in Acts 10 Peter has this vision. God says, “No, it’s time now to go to the Gentiles.” First revival in the church. Judgment must begin at the house of God. Revival begins there, too. Then they take it to the world. It spills over and they go everywhere preaching. So they have a special work to do. A work of revival for the church and then to preach to the lost at large that are in the world. Point number eight. It says that they sang a special song, the 144,000. You know, I think it’s interesting in the Bible. It says that the apostles sang a song with Jesus before He went out and laid down His life for them, the 12 apostles. Only time it ever says Jesus sang is after the Last Supper. He gives them His body, the symbol.

He gives them the symbol of His blood. Then they sing a song. Nobody knows what song they sang except those that were in that upper room. It was a song they only knew about because they had that special relationship. You read in the Old Testament and there were these groups of, divisions of 12 that were assigned to sing and to praise God in the Old Testament temple. And so they are singing this special song. When you look in Revelation 14:3. Now if you haven’t turned in your Bible yet you should be in Revelation 14. It says, “And they sang as it was a new song before the throne, and before the four living creatures, and the elders,” that are around the throne of God, “and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand, who were redeemed from the earth.” Now what does that mean? Does God say, “We’ve copyrighted our sheet music. Nobody’s going to get any of this sheet music except the 144,000.”

You know when you understand the Hebrew mentality, when it says no one can learn that song it doesn’t mean everyone else is too ignorant to learn the words. What it means is no one can really sing it from their heart because they have not gone through what they went through. You know the best songs are born out of adversity. There’s a lot of beautiful Negro spirituals that were born out of adversity. And the Jews who were also a nation of slaves wrote a lot of beautiful songs, the Psalms, born out of adversity. Read Psalm 137, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and we wept.” I mean, you read some of these songs. The 144,000 are the only ones who can sing that song is what it means because they’re singing about a personal experience. It’s not that God is hiding the music from everybody else. It’s a song that they could sing that no one else can sing because it’s about them and what they’ve gone through. So they sing a special song.

Everything you find out about them is special. It says that they reflect the image of God. Their Father’s name is in their forehead. What does that mean? When you look at them you see an image of Christ. Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.” Those that follow Christ begin to reflect Christ, amen? Point number nine. It tells us that this group has special purity. Now that doesn’t mean that they have been sterilized in a vat of hydrochloric acid. It means that they have cherished holiness. And also biblical purity. Notice what it says in Revelation 14:4, which is our next reference here. It says, “These are the ones who were not defiled with women; for they’re virgins.” Now when I first read that I was wondering, “Does that mean that all of the 144,000 are females?” Because the word there in the Greek is feminine. What did we learn about the 144,000? They’re a symbol for the church. The church is symbolized by what biblically? A woman.

When it says they’re virgins it means that they are pure doctrinally. They are not defiled with the daughters of Babylon. You read about Babylon, chapter 17 of Revelation, “the mother of harlots.” “Mother of harlots,” she’s got these daughters, other churches that have come out of her that have impure doctrines. A little bit of Christianity mixed in with various elements of paganism and humanistic thinking. But the 144,000 are virgins. You go to the parable of the 12 virgins, I’m sorry, the 10 virgins. We’re just so preoccupied with 12 in this series. With the 10 virgins, they’re all virgins. They represent God’s church, don’t they? So when it says, “they are not defiled with women; for they are virgins,” I mean, it’s not talking about lesbianism. It’s talking in they symbolism of the Bible of the daughters, the pure virgins of God’s church have not been defiled with the daughters of Babylon’s false teaching. It says that she’s got a cup in her hand that is fermented wine because it makes the nations drunk. The wine that the church uses is not fermented. It’s the blood of Christ. The bread is unleavened; the wine is unfermented, amen? And so they have not been defiled with the false doctrines of Babylon. There are a lot of different churches in the world today. The way you distinguish the 144,000 is they are going to go by the book.

They are returning to the faith that was once delivered unto the saints. Can you say amen? That’s one of their characteristics. Next point. They have special honesty, special truth. Not only are they pure in heart, but the words that come out of their mouth are words of truth. Perhaps you remember the story in the Bible where Philip came to Nathaniel. And Nathaniel said, “You’re telling me that you found the Messiah? Jesus of Nazareth? Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” He said, “Come and see.” So Nathaniel came to Jesus and what did Jesus say to him? “Behold, an Israelite indeed in whom is no deceit.” That word deceit and guile are the exact same words that you find describing the 144,000. “No guile, no deceit is in their mouth.” They are speaking the pure words of truth, not only do they believe and embrace biblical truth, they are proclaiming biblical truth, they are biblically honest. The next point I want you to notice here, point number 11, things are happening in a special sequence here. Notice in Revelation 7 it says these angels are holding back the four winds of strife until they had sealed the servants of God in their forehead.

Side two

…much more motivated we would be if our eyes could be opened and the veil of the spirit world drawn aside and we could see that Satan and his infuriated demons, “the devil has come down with great wrath,” are wanting to vent their fury on the whole planet because they know they’ve lost the battle. They lost it at the cross. And God is holding them back. He’s restraining them. Why is He restraining them? So that we might be prepared to receive the seal of God, that we might be prepared to do the work of God, that we might accept the great invitation and perform the great commission. Come to Jesus and then go for Jesus. It tells us that these are the first fruits. And after they are sealed, what’s the next thing that happens?

There is the plagues. Revelation 14 talks about the 144,000. After the 144,000 are sealed they preach a message. That’s the Revelation – the three angels messages. After the 144,000 are sealed they preach the three angels messages with a loud voice to the whole world. And then you know it’s interesting, it says the third message talks about, “Woe to those that worship the beast and his image, that receive his mark or his seal.” And right after it says, “Woe to those that receive the mark of the beast,” he goes to the opposite extreme and he says, “Here,” speaking of the 144,000 and those that are converted from their ministry, “are those that keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus.” One group has the mark of the beast.

The other group keeps the commandments of God and has the faith of Jesus. It’s making a very important contrast there. Things happen in sequence. And then it says in Revelation 14, “I beheld, and lo, a white cloud, and one sat on the cloud like the Son of man.” Jesus comes after their ministry is complete. The 144,000 are today for the second coming what the apostles were during the first coming. They are to prepare the church by revival and some will fall out. Those in the church that do not have the seal, the Bible says that judgment begins at the house of God, there’s going to be a shaking. You know what’s going to bring the shaking? The preaching of the truth and when the truth is proclaimed faithfully it brings persecution.

All that live Godly will suffer persecution. And there’s a lot of people who come to church in America today because it’s easy. I’ve been in places in the world where if you’re caught worshipping Jehovah you could be imprisoned, your property can be confiscated, you can be executed. And when you go to those churches and you meet those people you know that they mean business, they really believe because they’re putting their lives and their means and their families on the line to worship God according to the Bible. When persecution comes it’s going to be a refining influence and a lot of hypocrites are going to go flying out of the church during that time. Another important point, number 10, I’m sorry, number 12 rather, they’ve got a special relationship. The Bible tells us in Revelation 14:4, “These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes.” The 144,000 follow the Lamb wherever He goes.

Matthew 19:28 Jesus said to the 12 apostles, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration,” the resurrection, the new earth, “when the Son of man sits on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” This is a statement that Jesus makes that’s in perfect concert with the 144,000. If the 12 apostles who followed Jesus during His first coming will be having a special relationship with Him, obviously they’re sitting on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes, then the 144,000 who have also followed Him right now will have a special relationship when He comes again. They’ll have special rewards as well. And the key, friends, is that if we want to be prepared to follow Him there then, you’ve heard me say this so many times, if you want to be prepared to follow them there then you must first be prepared to follow Him here now.

The Bible tells us in Revelation 22:14, one of the last things it says in the Bible, speaking about who is going through the gates and who is eating from the tree of life, it says, “Blessed.” What does that mean, sad or happy? “Blessed are those who do his commandments, that they might have a right to the tree of life, that they might enter through the gates into the city.” They’ll be eating from the tree of life, by the River of Life. They’ll be going through the gates of the city. Why? Because they have followed the Lamb here. What does it mean to follow Jesus? They are willing to obey Him. You know, in the military they have these Special Forces, these special elite commando teams that are trained for special operations.

They’re not your generic soldiers at large. And I saw a program once on the Navy SEALS. Now all soldiers go through a degree of boot camp, but the Navy SEALS go through something, I think they call it Hell Week. It’s boot camp on steroids. It’s really grueling. And through this intense training and through this sifting process these elite soldiers come out and they are prepared to tackle any mission and put their lives on the line. And it only takes a few of them to accomplish great things. You know during the Gulf War I understand that a group of less than a dozen Navy SEALS went into the Gulf there by Kuwait and they were able to create a diversionary tactic that made the Iraqi Army think that the whole combined military, the united alliance of America and the other forces that were fighting in the Gulf War, Desert Storm, were coming by sea. And it was just really a small group of Navy SEALS that created all this noise. And so they sent all their forces to the sea and in the meantime the main troops came up and came in behind them.

It was a classic, brilliant military strategic maneuver called the diversionary tactic. But it was performed by an elite group. For three-and-a-half years Jesus walked and ate with and sat in the boat with and taught with 12 men. And He prepared them for a special work and to expand the church. This was during the time of the former reign. In the last days Jesus is going to have another elite special team of Christian commandos, if you will, the 144,000. They have a special relationship. Now I know that’s a very few number and according to my statistics there might only be seven in Sacramento, if we are in the last days. But these people are like your last day apostles and they are getting the world ready for the second coming of Jesus. It’s not only 144,000 that are going to be saved, anymore than Jesus just came to save 12 apostles. But through the special training that they receive, the special relationship they have following the Lamb, a great multitude is converted and when Christ comes back He is going to take them on to heaven with Him. But these people who go through this training and this tribulation, just like the Navy SEALS that go through Hell Week, so to speak, they sing a special song because they really knew the Lord. John says, “We have seen, we have known. Our hands have handled the Word of Life.

We lived with Him day in and day out and we know that He was the Messiah. You know, you can often fool people where you have a superficial relationship. But when you start really living with somebody. You can’t fool your family. Can’t fool your spouse. When you start really living with somebody they know if you’re authentic or not. And they said, “We lived with Him and we know that He was the real McCoy.” Well, these 144,000 have a special relationship with Jesus. They don’t hoard it. They then share and disseminate it. The same way that the apostles because of their relationship they were able to share it and lay hands on others and spread it, the 144,000 are going to do a ministry around the world with their faces aglow, preaching by the thousands, Bibles in hand and a great multitude is going to be converted. It’ll bring sifting and trial to the church. There’ll be a shaking in the church, but that same shaking is a revival. Because it’s a purifying influence that God brings the church through. And then when that work is done probation closes. God’s children, all of them, are sealed. They’ve got their Father’s name in the forehead.

Not just the 144,000, but everyone saved has the seal of God. Everyone lost has the mark of the beast. We’ll be talking much more about this during our seminar tonight and tomorrow and in subsequent sessions. But I wanted you to quickly get a picture of who they are. Kind of sounds backwards, doesn’t it? You know we sing that nursery rhyme, “Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow, and everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go.” We always think of lambs following shepherds. But in reality the 144,000 are shepherds like the apostles that follow the Lamb. Jesus before He ascended to heaven, He said to Peter, “Feed my sheep, if you love me. Feed my sheep, if you love me.” Third time he said, “Feed my lambs, if you love me.” So the 144,000 are 144,000 people who are being prepared by the Lord. They’re shepherds that follow the Lamb. And through their relationship and their training and their experience and their trials they will be used of the Lord in a special way in the last days, when the latter rain is poured out just like the apostles after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, where great multitudes are converted.

Then persecution’s going to come. It’ll begin with a small time of trouble when you can’t buy or sell. Ultimately a big time of trouble, probation will close and the last plagues will fall. We don’t want to wait until that happens before we decide if we want to listen to the Shepherd, amen? The Bible tells us they have this special relationship; they know Him because they follow the Lamb wherever He goes. Some of us follow Him part of the time. Even Peter got in trouble because it says he followed Jesus from a distance. If you want to be ready we need to be able to follow Him wherever He leads us. And then we know that we’ll be able to go through the gates of the city and eat from the tree of life. Is that your desire, friends? Is Jesus your Shepherd? If you want to follow Him there then you must first follow Him here now. And if that’s your plan then why don’t you turn in your hymnals to 545, Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us and let’s stand together as we sing about this Savior who’s going to lead us and prepare us for His soon return.


If there’s anything important that I wanted to impress upon you during this message is that there should be in your mind a sense of urgency, eminency. Jesus is coming soon. We want to have the stamp of the Father’s name in our minds, which would implicate on our foreheads, so to speak. We want to have His law written in our hearts and in our hands. But none of that can transpire until first we come and embrace Jesus as our Shepherd and are committed to follow Him wherever He leads. There may be some here today who, maybe you’ve had the habit of going to church, but you’re not really following the Shepherd. There may be some here who are visiting for the first time and you’ve never made a decision to accept Jesus as your Lamb that takes away the sin of the world and you’d like to indicate that today, you’d like to make that decision. We’d invite you to come to the front. This is our spiritual altar and we want to have special prayer for you as we sing the second verse. Come if you would like to either re-consecrate or maybe for the first time accept Jesus as your Savior and your Shepherd.


I especially like the words here I the third verse, “Thou hast promised to receive us, poor and sinful though we be.” You know, we all like sheep have gone astray. Some of us have maybe felt that we’ve gone too far. But the good news is that not only will He receive us if we come to Him, He is out looking for His lost lambs. Perhaps today you can hear the Shepherd calling you. If you do don’t hesitate, friends. Don’t think you’ve gone too far. Come to Him just as you are and He promises to receive you and to cleanse you and He can lead you on through the gates of that city. Come as we sing the third verse if the Lord is speaking to you.


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