Before I attempt what I believe is a logical and yet esoteric explanation of just who these sealed servants are, let me say, I do not claim to be the final authority on the subject. I am willing to simply put in writing a helpful treatise designed to clarify many misconceptions regarding these male, Jewish virgins who play an important role in the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, i.e. The Tribulation Period.
The thought that the 144,000 of Revelation are today’s Jehovah Witnesses is almost too funny to even consider, but being we live in an ungodly world filled with false “gospels” and much deception, I will quickly dismiss their claims by the obvious. The text in Revelation 14:4a says, “These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. …” Now that wasn’t hard was it? So the next time the Jehovah Witnesses try to manipulate the word of God by saying they are these heavenly beings, try asking them if they are virgins! If the person is not a male, then don’t bother with the question because it’s moot at that point. Secondly, ask them from which of the 12 tribes were they sealed? They must be Jewish. God takes 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes (as stated in Revelation 7) hence equaling the 144,000 total. (I don’t want to spend too much time with this cult’s teaching on these Tribulation Saints but had to include these readily apparent discrepancies with their teaching on this subject).
Now to continue on, let’s look at some relevant verses which shed light on the subject. The first of these verses is found in Matthew 2:16-18, “Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, … Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.” All right, if we now know the author is quoting Jeremiah 31:15, let’s go to that prophecy to better understand what was spoken of and just what part was fulfilled. All looks to be in order. The verse is almost identical to what Matthew’s account says. A closer look also tells us that there is more to that prophecy than that verse. Verses 16-17 are quite revealing giving us insight into how God intends to use these first martyrs for the Lord Jesus Christ. The end of verse 16 says, “ … and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.” The “they” of the verse obviously refers to the children who were slaughtered at the behest of Herod! To continue the thought, look at the next verse 17, which says, “And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border.” If this slaughter is the fulfilled prophecy of Jeremiah 31:15, when will the other part of that prophecy be fulfilled? Verses 16-17 complete Jeremiah’s thought. Many times, a prophecy may be fulfilled at one point in time, and in other cases, only a part of the prophecy may be fulfilled while the remaining part still awaits future fulfillment.
Consider the following example: In Luke 4:19, Jesus is in the synagogue at Nazareth quoting Isaiah 61:1-2, but interestingly enough, when one looks at the prophecy found in Isaiah, he will find the clear and purposeful omission by our Lord in not finishing the prophecy which says, “ … and the day of vengeance of our God;” Well now, with the benefit of hindsight, we understand that Jesus’ ministry on earth was to bring in the kingdom Israel had been promised, and in so doing, he was setting the captives free from their sins! He did not plan on executing vengeance his first time around; that will be fulfilled at his Second Advent! There are many other examples, but for brevity sake, I believe this should satisfy my point sufficiently.
Now let’s look at the verse that started me going on this many years ago – Revelation 14:4b: “… These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.” The “firstfruits”? How can these Tribulation Saints be part of the “firstfruits” which are connected with Jesus at his ascension? First Corinthians 15:23 says, “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” In verse 20 of the same chapter, it also states “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” Lets now look at the verse in its entirety, which says: “These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb withersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.” (Rev. 14:4-5)
OK, as I understand these verses, they are plainly saying that those who ascended up with Jesus after he rose victoriously from the grave and hell were the “firstfruits” of the first resurrection (Rev. 20:5). Clearly then, the “firstfruits” of Revelation 14 must have something to do with the “firstfruits” which rose up with Christ. To say they are the “firstfruits” of the Tribulation Period would be a stretch because when were they “…redeemed from among men.”? This, not to mention that their ministry brings them to the end of that time period, seems highly unlikely that the “firstfruits” reference has anything to do with them being the “firstfruits” of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble.
Another fact to bear in mind is that they are “without fault.” Well, if they were killed at two years old, they certainly would be “without fault”; notice it doesn’t say “without sin!” Any Bible-believer knows that all men are born with an Adamic nature but not responsible for their sin until an age of accountability. Romans 5:13b says, “… but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” In addition, James 5:16 tells us to “Confess your faults one to another …” not your sins! Well here is a perfect example of innocent children (“without fault” and with “no guile”) yet still part of humanity and, thus, providing us with the missing piece to this spiritual puzzle! That’s why the 144,000 are “without fault” and “guile!”
Could it be that those innocent, slaughtered children in Matthew 2 are, in fact, these 144,000 Tribulation Jews who show up in Revelation 7 & 14, having already been redeemed and, by virtue of the time placement of their deaths, would certainly qualify for being part of the “firstfruits?” (They are killed prior to Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary and, therefore obviously, not part of the body of Christ but part of the first resurrection.) They were butchered because Herod was trying to kill the Christ child, thus making them unwitting martyrs for Christ!
If we believe Romans 8:28, that “all things work together for good” for a Christian, is it not reasonable to think that God, too, does all things with a purpose regarding his people, Israel? To believe this slaughter had no other significance than just that of a paranoid, megalomaniac is to shortchange God’s power and providence! Some might argue, Why didn’t God stop it? While there are many unanswered questions surrounding God’s direct and permissive wills, sometimes God gives us a glimpse into his plan as revealed in the word of God. If the Bible doesn’t provide the answer, then man is left to his own conjecture and opinions regarding such matters. I believe, in this case, the Bible does provide us with the answer, albeit after much search and study!
Digressing for a moment from my treatise, another point to consider in understanding God’s will for our lives is that of individuality. When things happen to Christians, they sometimes know why they’re happening. A result of sin is often the culprit, while in other cases, it’s not that clearly identified. What is needed is an honest evaluation of one’s walk to determine what it is or which it may be. In those situations where our conscience is clear, one must believe that God is allowing something to occur in our lives that we just don’t fully understand but believe, by faith, it’s for our benefit! In the other case, I would suggest repentance and forsaking that sin of which you are aware. As long as we remain honest with God about our personal condition, then we can better accept his chastening as part of a loving parental relationship as stated in Hebrews 12:6 which says, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” Also, there are times it’s not a chastening but a purging as Jesus points out in John 15:2b when he says, “ …and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” Again, an individual spiritual check up with the Holy Spirit will reveal this. Be honest with yourself, there’s no room for denial in our walk with God! Verses like these help us accept God’s will when we don’t see it.
Back to understanding just who are these 144,000 saints! As stated earlier, the part of Jeremiah’s prophecy, which was fulfilled, had to do with the killing of the children, not their return! So when does the remaining portion of his prophecy receive fulfillment? I believe right here in Revelation when the children return (just as Jeremiah said) with the Lamb (Jesus), on Mount Sion, sealed and ready to fulfill their ministry during this time of trouble. As Bible-believers, we have no problem believing in the rapture of the Saints or any other supernatural occurrence, provided there is scriptural support, amen? As far as the feasibility of that many babies being killed, one only needs to read the Old Testament where many examples of such slaughters are cited. For example, the battle in 2 Chronicles 28 between Israel and Judah where, “Pekah the son of Remaliah slew in Judah an hundred and twenty thousand in one day, …” Wow, did you see that! If that happened in one day, the reality of Herod’s decree, as gruesome as it may be, should also be accepted by those who claim to believe God’s word!
Another incident, which is unfathomable, is a battle between the North and South kingdoms of Israel recorded in 2 Chronicles 13. Here, 500,000 men of Israel were slain by Judah’s army! While this account does not state “in one day,” it is still an unbelievable loss of life — Sounds like the Civil War Between the States where a reported 650,000 people were killed during the four-year span! This represents more casualties than WW1, WW2, Korean, Vietnamese, and the Gulf Wars combined! There are other incidents but, again, I believe these will suffice. Thus, the 144,000 figure is certainly attainable.
One last point to consider is those who might argue that Herod had no way of knowing how many to kill or precisely eliminate 12,000 from each tribe! Well, as far as human reasoning goes, I’d be the first to say, Amen! Please bear in mind, Herod had no understanding that he was fulfilling prophecy, but that never stops our Lord from accomplishing his will!
An example is when Caiaphas, the high priest at the time of our Lord’s crucifixion, also unknowingly helped fulfill scripture by stating in John 18:14 “…that one man should die for the people.” That was exactly what Jesus’ sacrifice was all about! The apostle Paul says in his letter to the Romans, (5:18b) “ … even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” The fact that Caiaphas was used to help fulfill scripture should cause us Bible-believers to rejoice, proving once again, God’s providence and will wins out, regardless of man’s attempt to thwart! Therefore, Herod did not need to devise a precise paradigm of killing, but rather a decree to do so, allowing God to turn this atrocity into part of his plan of redemption for Israel!
So in conclusion, I believe the 144,000 Tribulation Saints, who show up with a Lamb upon Mount Sion in Revelation 14, are the innocent, slaughtered children of Matthew 2, spoken about by the Prophet Jeremiah. Therefore, they fulfill the remaining portion of his prophecy uttered in chapter 31, some 2500 years later. God’s word is truly amazing!
Written by Dr. Joseph Costa, Pastor