Hello everybody and welcome in to episode #341 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Revelation 7 today and our focus is on Who are the 144,000 in Revelation? Why is the Tribe of Dan Missing in the Book of Revelation? We are a daily 10ish minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in . Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast! Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
Two interesting mysteries to talk about today in Revelation 7, but let’s start with some solidly spiritual. I love how the the multitudes of Christians – from every tribe, tongue, ethnic group, and people all cry out this wonderful praise to God in vss 10-12
Salvation belongs to our God,
who is seated on the throne,
and to the Lamb!
11 All the angels stood around the throne, and along with the elders and the four living creatures they fell facedown before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying,
Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and strength
be to our God forever and ever. Amen.
What a wonderful cry of worship, and a reminder that salvation is indeed of God and of His Son Jesus. We did not save ourselves – we cannot save ourselves – He is our Lord and Rescuer and Redeemer! And then we get to a very, very controversial number and a surprising omission. Let’s handle the easier one first. A careful reading of Revelation 7:4-8 shows that an entire tribe of Israel is just absolutely missing, the tribe of Dan. What gives – what has happened? There are a few theories, but I believe the most likely one doesn’t have to do with something that happens to the tribe of Dan in the future, but rather something that has already happened to them. Judges 18 tells the story of the Danite tribe being unsatisfied with their portion of the Promised Land, so they decided to conquer a peaceful people nearby, and take their land. Judges 18:27 is a microcosm of how that went down:
27 After they had taken the gods Micah had made and the priest that belonged to him, they went to Laish, to a quiet and unsuspecting people. They killed them with their swords and burned the city.
They were engaging in gross idolatry, and also killed a “quiet and unsuspecting people,” and took their city. The idolatry of Dan was apparently so much that king Jeroboam 1 established the worship of a golden calf idol in their territory much later after Judges 18, so a very reasonable case could be made that the tribe of Dan basically ceased to be a tribe/people group shortly after the reign of Jeroboam I because they engaged in gross idolatry, and also – perhaps – in violent conquest that wasn’t sanctioned by God. At any rate, the tribe of Dan didn’t initially disappear in Revelation 7 – they had already disappeared from the biblical record by the time of the numbering of the tribes in 1 Chronicles, chapters 4-7, which makes no mention of Dan whatsoever, so they were either on the way out as a tribe at that point, or were already gone. Thus we don’t have a book of Revelation/future mystery, but we have an ancient mystery in the past on our hands, and thus the idolatry and violence we’ve already mentioned would seem to be the likeliest culprit behind Dan’s disappearance.
Perhaps more controversially, is the identity of the 144,000 in Revelation 7. They are mentioned in exactly 2 chapters in the Bible – Revelation 7 and Revelation 14:
Here’s what Revelation 7 says:
2 Then I saw another angel rising up from the east, who had the seal of the living God. He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who were allowed to harm the earth and the sea, 3 “Don’t harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we seal the servants of our God on their foreheads.” 4 And I heard the number of the sealed:
144,000 sealed from every tribe of the Israelites: Revelation 7:2-3
5 12,000 sealed from the tribe of Judah,…and then the other tribes of Israel, except, no tribe of Dan, and interestingly, the tribe of Joseph and Manasseh, instead of the 1/2 tribe of Manasseh and Ephraim (both of whom were Joseph’s sons)
And here is what Revelation 14 says:
14 Then I looked, and there was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him were 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 I heard a sound from heaven like the sound of cascading waters and like the rumbling of loud thunder. The sound I heard was like harpists playing on their harps. 3 They sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders, but no one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 These are the ones who have not defiled themselves with women, since they remained virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were redeemed from humanity as the firstfruits for God and the Lamb. 5 No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless. Revelation 14:1-4
And this is pretty much everything the Bible has to say about the 144,000. What do we learn? First and foremost, these 144,000 are JEWISH – they are 12,000 people each sealed from the 12 tribes of Israel. (or, the 11 tribes of Israel, minus Dan, with the 1/2 tribe of Manasseh and Ephraim included as the tribe of Joseph.) Could this be symbolic somehow – i.e. these people are not literally Jewish? I don’t think so- at least, there is no clue in the text that they aren’t literally Jewish. Here’s what we know about the 144,000:
- They are Jewish.
- They are servants of God
- They sing a song that only they themselves could learn.
- They have been redeemed from the Earth
- THEY ARE VIRGINS.
- They follow Jesus wherever He leads.
- They don’t lie and are remarkably holy.
So – those are some pretty strong clues. It rules out pretty much every married person – because, you know, the virgin thing. It rules out people who aren’t ethnically Jewish. It rules out people who lie. Take those three things together, and it rules out PRETTY MUCH EVERY JEHOVAH’S WITNESS LEADER WHO HAS EVER LIVED. Why mention the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Because they have made some wild and unbiblical claims about this group of 144,000, as our friends from Gotquestions.org tells us:
Much of the confusion regarding the 144,000 is a result of the false doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that 144,000 is a limit to the number of people who will reign with Christ in heaven and spend eternity with God. The 144,000 have what the Jehovah’s Witnesses call the “heavenly hope.” Those who are not among the 144,000 will enjoy what they call the “earthly hope”—a paradise on earth ruled by Christ and the 144,000. It is true that there will be people ruling in the millennium with Christ. These people will be comprised of the church (believers in Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 6:2), Old Testament saints (believers who died before Christ’s first advent, Daniel 7:27), and tribulation saints (those who accept Christ during the tribulation, Revelation 20:4). Yet the Bible places no numerical limit on this group of people. Furthermore, the millennium is different from the eternal state, which will be established at the completion of the millennial period. At that time, God will dwell with us in the New Jerusalem. He will be our God, and we will be His people (Revelation 21:3). The inheritance promised to us in Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13–14) will become ours, and we will be co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).
SO, if the 144,000 are NOT Jehovah’s Witnesses key leaders – and they are NOT- then WHO are they? Well, if one takes the book of Revelation as primarily pointing to future realities – and I agree with that approach to this book, then it appears that this 144,000 is a literal group of Jewish people who will wholeheartedly follow Jesus during the days of the Great Tribulation. They will live remarkably pure lives, be virgins, and thus unencumbered by the troubles faced by married people with a family to raise – and they will be wholehearted in their devotion to Jesus. Beyond that, Scripture tells us very little, and anything more I could say would be speculation. I do believe that the 144,000 are literally Jewish people who will rise up and follow Jesus in the times directly preceding the return of Jesus. They will play an important role that is not clearly spelled out in Scripture. I hope we are alive to witness it! Let’s read the chapter.
Bible Memory passage for the month of December: Revelation 5:12, “They said with a loud voice: Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
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