144,000

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The Last Judgement - Fresco in the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo.

The number 144,000 is a positive integer that has a special religious significance for many Christians because of its use in the biblical Book of Revelation, where it is connected to a selected elect who will attain salvation. The figure 144,000 appears three times in the New Testament: Rev. 7:3-8; Rev. 14:1; and Rev. 14:3-5. These passages have been interpreted in different ways. Some groups, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, place a high degree of importance on this literal number while others see it as a symbolic amount denoting a mystical significance.

The spectrum of Christian theological views on the meaning of 144,000 is quite diverse. In general, four viewpoints prevail: 1) either 144,000 is a symbolic number representing all of God's chosen people to be raised up to spend eternity in heaven with God; 2) it may refer to a literal 144,000 people who will be chosen from the tribes of Israel (12,000 from each tribe) to be saved; 3) it may denote a 144,000 people from "spiritual Israel" to be be saved; or finally, 4) it may have a deeper mystical significance and symbolic meaning that is too obscure to be understood.

The number 144,000 is also significant in some New Age religious movements (see below.)

Contents

Christianity

The number 144,000 is mentioned three times in the Book of Revelation in the context of an eschatological struggle between good and evil. Within this struggle, a designated group of humans (144,000) are especially enumerated for God's blessings and redemption.

The three specific biblical passages that mention the 144,000 are as follows:

  • Revelation 7:3-8
"Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until after we have sealed the servants of God on their foreheads." And I heard the number of the sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,
12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,
12,000 from the tribe of Gad,
12,000 from the tribe of Asher,
12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali,
12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,
12,000 from the tribe of Simeon,
12,000 from the tribe of Levi,
12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,
12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun,
12,000 from the tribe of Joseph,
12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed."[1]
  • Revelation 14:1
"Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads."
  • Revelation 14:3-5
"And they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. For it is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless."

The numbers 12,000 and 144,000 are variously interpreted in traditional Christianity. Some, taking the numbers in Revelation to be symbolic,[2] believe it represents all of God's people throughout history in the heavenly Church.[3] Others insist the numbers 12,000 and 144,000 are literal numbers and that the 144,000 people who are descendants of Jacob (also called Israel in the Bible) have a distinct role at the time of the end of the world.[4]

Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses distinctly believe that only 144,000 people will be raised to heaven, and will thus spend eternity with God. They do not believe that this number necessarily comes from descendants of Jacob, but from early Christians, and those of Jehovah's Witnesses who profess to be "anointed" or ("spiritual Israel").[5] Witnesses believe that the 144,000 have been selected by God from the time of Jesus' apostles through to today. They believe that the 144,000 (those having a "heavenly hope") will reign with Christ in heaven, while all other people accepted by God will live forever on a paradise earth (an "earthly hope.")

Traditional Christian teaching Corresponding Jehovah’s Witnesses teaching
12,000 and 144,000 are symbolic numbers representing all of God's people; or 2) Literally 144,000 people (12,000 from each tribe) will be chosen from the tribes of Israel. 12,000 is symbolic of balance.[6] Literally 144,000 people will be the "spiritual Israel" (i.e. "anointed" Jehovah's Witnesses).[7]
All Christians are born again and will thus spend eternity with God. Only 144,000 believers are to be raised up and spend eternity in heaven with God.[8]
One cannot see God’s Kingdom or enter into it without being born again. Those who do not have a "heavenly hope" have an "earthly hope" to a paradise earth.[9]

Only about 8,500 of Jehovah's Witnesses claim to be of the 144,000 today. However, they believe that Jesus is Shepherd and Savior over both those with the "heavenly hope" (the 144,000) and those with the "earthly hope" (to live on a paradise earth).[10]

Skoptzists

The Christian Skoptzy sect, founded in Russia in 1757 by André Ivanov, believe that the Messiah would come when the Skoptsi numbered 144,000, and all their efforts were directed toward reaching this total.

New Age movements

The number 144,000 is also significant in various New Age religious movements.

  • "Song of the 144,000" is a poem by J. J. Dewey that features prominently in the New Age novel The Immortal.
  • The Church Universal and Triumphant, founded by Mark L. and Elizabeth Clare Prophet, teaches that the Ascended Master Sanat Kumara and the Lords of the Flame also brought 144,000 souls with them from Venus.
  • The new age religion called Raëlism, founded in Franceby Claude Vorilhon, states that there are 144,000 chosen people to continue humanity in case of an upcoming disaster.[11]

Other uses

  • A Baktun is 20 Katun cycles of the ancient Maya Long Count Calendar, which contains 144,000 days.
  • In author John DeChancie's comic fantasy Castle series, 144,000 doors (or "aspects") of the Castle each lead to another parallel universe.

Notes

  1. English Standard Version
  2. See "Numbers in the Book of Revelation" as an example of this view.
  3. "144,000 sealed in Apocalypse [Revelation] 7:4ff; 14:1 ff: This is 12 (number), the number of the tribes of Israel, multiplied by itself and then multiplied by 1000 (number), the number of a military unit in the ancient Israelite army. The number indicates the fullness of Israel; the Church in the New Testament is conceived as the fullness of Israel, and this is the heavenly Church in its final completion."—John L. McKenzie, S.J. Dictionary of the Bible, 621.
  4. "The earth-dwellers will stand in rebellion against God, but the 144,000 as slaves of God will faithfully proclaim the gospel." Robert L Thomas, "One Hundred Forty-Four Thousand: Who Are They?", Ankerberg Theological Research Institute Retrieved January 1, 2008.
  5. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. What does the Bible Really Teach?, ch. 8 (New York: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of New York, 2005. ASIN: B000NXX2Z4), 79
  6. "Since natural Israel consisted of 12 tribes, it logically follows that spiritual Israel would be spoken of as having 12 tribes to show that it was a complete spiritual nation, with no part or tribe missing. There is no numerical imbalance within spiritual Israel, for the Bible book of Revelation symbolically reveals that an equal number—12,000—is sealed from every tribe. (Rev. 7:4-8) Commentary on the Letter of James, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (1979), 12, 13.
  7. What does the Bible Really Teach? ch. 8, 79
  8. The Watchtower, (February 1, 1986), 17 (see also watchtower.org) Retrieved January 1, 2008.
  9. The Watchtower, (February 15, 1986), 14 (see also watchtower.org) Retrieved January 1, 2008.
  10. Worldwide Security Under the "Prince of Peace", 1986, 11.
  11. The message, Intelligent Design, (Nova Distribution, 2007. ISBN 294025222X), 298.

References

  • Bainbridge, Bruce. Why do only 144,000 go to heaven? Maverick Publications, 1988. ISBN 978-0892881345
  • Colin, D. and Russell R Standish. The 144,000 The Great Multitude & The Return of Jesus. Hartland Publications, 2007.
  • Gundry, Stanley N., ed. Four Views on the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998. ISBN 978-0310210801
  • Lindsay, Gordon. The 144,000 on Mt. Zion and the first fruits. (Revelation series). Christ for the Nations, 1976.
  • Metzger, Bruce. M. Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0687089994

External links

All links retrieved August 7, 2012.

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