As most Bible scholars will tell us, there is "great diversity" in the
teachings concerning the 144000 Jews. The view that Revelation is written
in chronological order has confused some, and also modern translations are
in no small measure to be blamed. Reading and believing Bibles such as the
New International Version, Dispensational futurists, among others, believe
that this present dispensation cannot end until the "full number of the
Gentiles has come in" (Rom. 11:25, NIV), meaning that when all the Gentiles
in the world are saved, and brought into the Church, and when there are no
more Gentiles to be saved, then the Church will be raptured off this earth,
leaving all the unsaved behind. Very soon after that the Holy Spirit is
taken out of the way, and the Antichrist is revealed. The Antichrist makes
a "firm covenant" with Israel, permitting them to rebuild the temple (if it
hadn't already been built), and resuming Old Testament style worship, with
animal sacrifices and all of that. That is how the Tribulation begins.
Obviously, this presupposes that future seven year "Great Tribulation" we
hear so much about.
Among all the sinners and the unbelievers who are left behind to go through
the Tribulation will be 144000 Jews. They will become known as
"super-evangelists," or as some Bible teachers prefer to call them, "144000
Apostle Pauls." But at the start they are just unbelieving Jews who wander
about, bedazzled and befuddled, apparently trying to figure out what
happened. They pick up tracts and other literature left here and there by
the departing Christians, begin reading them, and suddenly give their
hearts to Jesus. That's a beautiful story. It's nonsense, but beautiful.
Now, remember that these are all Jews, 12000 from each of twelve tribes of
Israel (whether the number is literal or symbolic is not important). What
are they doing picking up and reading Christian literature? You would think
that when all Jews everywhere hear of the "covenant" that has just been
made between Israel and the Antichrist, they would jubilantly rush to the
land of Israel, and would press into Jerusalem and their new temple,
picking up on old style worship where their ancestors left off some 2000
years ago, with animal sacrifices and the whole bit. As a matter of fact,
when the time comes, they may all be there already; much of Dispensational
literature is dedicated to how God even now is bringing back Jews into
their land in preparation for the "Great Tribulation."
This is just a side comment, but what puzzles me is why is Israel waiting
until the Antichrist makes a covenant with the nation (Dan. 9:27) before
they begin worship in their temple? They have all the resources they need
to build a temple, and surely they are able to raise the animals they need
for sacrifices. Why not start now? Could it be that the covenant mentioned
in Dan.9:27 has nothing to do with any Antichrist, but is God's covenant
with the old-timers of Israel, the covenant which Christ, not Antichrist,
came to CONFIRM with the nation?
So we must ask again, how is it that out of all Israel, 144000 Jews will
forget all they have been anticipating for 2000 years, and turn to Christ,
after rejecting and ignoring Him all these years? It cannot be said that
the horrors of the tribulation will cause this great conversion, because
this is at the very beginning of the Tribulation, with that "signed peace
treaty" and all, when none of the "bad stuff" will happen until after the
midpoint - after three and half years into the seven year Tribulation.
Dispensationalists have not yet told anybody how that can be. Of course,
none of this being in the Bible, it is possible that the Lord Himself might
like to hear how they explain this one.
The story, nevertheless, continues that the 144000 Jews immediately become
fantastic witnesses, and before the Tribulation is over, will have won
countless millions of Gentiles to Christ - more than the Church had been
able to win in 2000 years or more. This becomes all the more fantastic when
we learn that the Holy Spirit has been "taken out of the way," the
Antichrist is in full power, and such evil prevails throughout the world so
as to make witnessing Christ to anyone virtually a hopeless project. But
with Dispensationalism nothing is impossible. And that's just the beginning
of dispensational fantasy.
This is what the teachers say...
Dr. Tim LaHaye: "The greatest revival the world has ever known is yet to
come. It will not occur within the Church Age but during the Tribulation
period. This coming worldwide revival is prophetically described in
Revelation 7, appearing right after the seal judgments to indicate that it
will take place during the first twenty-one months of the Tribulation.
Evidently, while the Antichrist is making his political advance, the Holy
Spirit will move in the hearts of millions of people, leading them to a
saving knowledge of Christ" (Revelation Unveiled, p 148).
Hal Lindsey, who is very adept at finding verses here and there in the KJV
which need "correcting," has this to say, "Israel's partial hardening of
the heart is said to continue 'until the full number of Gentiles has come
in.' (Rom. 11:25 NIV) The original Greek literally says, 'until the fulness
of the Gentiles has come in,' but the New International Version correctly
interpreted the word FULNESS in the light of the context" (The Road To
Holocaust, p 202).
Even though the original Greek literally says, "until the fulness of the
Gentiles has come in," the NIV offers it's own interpretation. Since this
term, "full number," is determined by interpretation, when the Greek text
literally says, "fulness," these modernists apparently knew something the
inspired writers did not. But, reason and common sense persuades us to
reamin the safe side: their "interpretation" should be taken with a large
grain of salt.
Notice how Mr. Lindsey justifies that NIV re-write according to
interpretation: "Paul frequently wrote about Gentiles being added to the
body of Christ to make up a certain number of redeemed people...As this age
progresses, that Gentile-dominated number of saved people in the body of
Christ is nearing completion. There will soon come a time when the last
person will believe in Christ...then its earthly mission will end. Christ
will suddenly come for His own and take them to His Father's house." (IBID,
So Dr. Lindsey says that the Rapture happens after there are no more
Gentiles to be saved. But at the same time, the teaching goes that almost
immediately after the Rapture, during the first 21 months of the seven year
"Tribulation," the 144000 Jews will win untold millions of Gentiles to
Christ, more than the Church had been able to win during its entire 2000
year existence! But if the Tribulation does not occur until the last
Gentile is brought into the Church, where do the 144000 Jews find all those
countless millions of Gentiles to witness to in the Tribulation? Dr. Lahaye
and Mr. Lindsey do not explain.
The big problem with Bible teachers, even old timers of the Fundamentalist
persuasion, may be the idea that possessing and using works of modern
scholarship, such as the NIV, adds to one's appearance of sophistication.
The general assumption, faulty as it may be, is that modern scholars know
the Greek language better, and are therefore better equipped to translate
the Bible than were the translators of the King James Bible. But close
scrutiny shows that those translators four hundred years ago understood
the Word of God better than scholars do today. Whether they were smarter, or
whether they got help from above, may be arguable, but the fact is, the AV
is much more consistent, and much less self-contradictory, than virtually
any other Bible available today.
FULNESS VS FULL NUMBER
"Fulness" does not mean "full number," and "be come in" indicates a
beginning, not a "coming in." In the context of Romans 11:25, "fulness"
means full stature, full power, completeness, perfection, abounding in
quality, etcetera. Closely related is the "day or times of the Gentile," so
that the expression "fulness of the Gentiles be come in" really translates
to the beginning of the "day of the Gentile."
At the same time that the day of the Gentiles began, the day of Israel came
to an end. Until the nation ultimately rejected Christ, and technically
until the end of the war in AD70, Israel was in its day. The times of
Israel began when the nation began, and it had been in its day ever since,
contrary to the ideas of some Bible scholars who say that the day of the
Gentiles began with the Babylonian captivity five or six hundred years
before Christ. The day of Israel never ran concurrently with the day of the
Gentile. When one went out, the other came in. Scriptures reveal that Israel
was in its day right to the end. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the day
of the "Triumphal Entry," Israel was still in its day:
"...If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this
the things [which belong] unto thy peace! but now they are
hid from thine eyes" (Luke 19:42).
As we might expect, modern
translators, apparently not understanding the Scriptures, thought "on this
day" was grammatically more correct, so they changed it.
UNBELIEVING ISRAELITES WERE DESTROYED,
BELIEVING ISRAELITES BECAME CHRISTIANS.
The "fulness of the Gentiles" became the status of the Gentile world when
the times of Israel ended in AD70. Israel itself ended at that time. When
the nation and city were sacked by Rome, there were two spiritual divisions
of Israel, the good and the bad, the believers in Christ, and the
unbelievers. The believers were Christians, who had given up their national
identity as Israelites; they were now subjects of Christ's Kingdom, and
were scattered throughout the world to spread the Gospel of Christ among
all Gentile kingdoms. The stubborn unbelievers, the blinded, were the sole
representatives of Israel, and they were all destroyed in the AD70
holocaust. After that, there were no Israelites. With no Israelites, there
could be no Israel. People who call themselves Jews today only think they
are Jews. The term "Jew" is neither ethnic nor national, it is religious.
You could say that Israelites were Jews, but only while Israel remained a
viable nation, whether Judaea or the Northern Kingdom; the nation was in
God's family. But by the end of that war in A.D.70, Israel ceased to be,
and so did the Jew as far as the Bible is concerned. The day of Israel
ended, the times of the Gentiles began. We are now in the times of the
Gentiles, and the times of the Gentiles will continue until the days when
time itself comes to an end.
THE CHARACTER OF THE 144000 JEWS
If these 144000 Jews had rejected the Gospel of Christ to the end, and end
up in the Tribulation, they would have little to commend them. In that
case, what the Bible has to say about them would be a bit puzzling.
Revelation 14:4 " These are they which were not defiled with women; for
they are virgins."
Verse 4 continued: "These were redeemed from among men, being the
first-fruits unto God and to the Lamb." Being the "first-fruits unto God
and to the Lamb" strongly suggests that they were redeemed from among men
at the beginning of the Church Age. "First" means first, no matter how it's
painted. Some schoalrs, believing that these 144000 Jews are out a future
period, have interpreted the verse to mean, "first fruits of that time
period," meaning the future "Great Tribulation." But the Bible doesn't say
that. (Rev. 22:18)
Verse 5: "And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault
before the throne of God" (Rev.14:5). How could they have been stubborn
unbelievers if there was no guile found in them? If they are without fault
before the throne of God, it is hardly imaginable that they would be left
behind to endure that "Great Tribulation."
Some believe that this is actually how God planned to redeem untold
millions, i.e., by using Jews to do the witnessing, because, as some
admiring scholars say, Jews are more effective than Gentiles, and whatever
a Jew sets his mind to do, it gets done. That's odd, because 2000 years ago
God gave up on the "effectiveness" of the Jews, and turned to Gentiles to
spread the Gospel. And now He is turning back to the Jew because of their
"effectiveness?" Something really doesn't add up!
Actually, if we read and accept the Scriptures literally, these 144000 Jews
were saved back then in the days before AD 70, before the nation was
destroyed, when there still were 12 tribes of Israel on earth. Whether or
not they evangelized is not told us in the Scriptures, even though it seems
reasonable that they may have evangelized to some extent. The Bible refers
to them as "servants," which does not necessarily mean that they were
full-time witnesses for Christ. The word "servant" covers a number of job
descriptions. For example, Neduchadnezzar was a servant of God, and he
surely never witnessed Christ to anyone. "And now have I given all these
lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and
the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him" (Jer. 27:6).
But the story that they will evangelize untold billions is a myth. That
comes from reading more into Scripture than is there. In the Book of
Revelation John was in heaven in spirit, and saw visions of reality, not
the actual reality itself. And the scenes were not always related to one
another. In chapter 7:1-8 John talks about the 144000 being "sealed," which
is another term for being saved. Then in verse 9 the scene switches, as
happens in much of Revelation, and he sees a vast multitude of
saved people. He doesn't say anything about the 144000 Jews having
witnessed to any of them, he was merely describing another in a series of
visions. Futurists seize upon the fact that verse 9 follows the description
of the 144000 Israelites, and presume that they are connected. That can
hardly be called "literal interpretation," a self-proclaimed virtue which
futurists so loudly trumpet.
WHO REALLY WERE THE 144000 JEWS?
The 144000 were all Jews, saved early during the time of the Apostolic
Church, before A.D.70. They were first fruits of the Church. During those
years the Gospel went out to everyone in the whole world. "If ye continue
in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of
the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature
which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister" (Col. 1:23); Paul
does not say that the Gospel is GOING TO BE preached to every creature
under heaven; he says that it WAS preached to everyone under heaven. That
does not necessarily mean that the Gospel was preached to every creature in
Africa, the Far East, the Americas, and so forth. The world - as it was
known then - was confined largely to areas where Jews had been dispersed
ages before. Among them were His people who would hear the Gospel, and many
would repent and be saved.
Some scholars, particularly Dispensationalists, exert a great deal of
effort keeping Israel and the Church separate, and this somehow hinders
them from admitting that the 144000 Jews, which represented Israel, were
redeemed and brought into the Church, which is always pictured as Gentile.
This is a contrived separation. The Church began as Jewish. The Apostles,
the charter members of the Church, were Jews. Most of the beginning members
of the Church were Jews.
The Old Testament foretold that God would not cast away His people which He
foreknew. So when He concluded all Jews in unbelief - converted them to the
status of unbelief (Romans 11:32), God kept His word by taking the Gospel
of salvation to every Jew in the known world, so that everyone had the
opportunity to accept it or reject it. That's what the new Church of Christ
was all about. And if the pace of the evangelizing seemed to be urgent,
there was a reason; there were only about 35 to 40 years before the Jewish
calendar ran out, before daylight ended, and night time fell, when no one
could work. "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day:
the night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9:4).
Some teachers, even outstanding Bible teachers like J. Vernon McGee,
present a foggy picture of what Jesus meant. "He is the Light of the World.
He is still in the world today, my friend. He comes to us in the Person of
the Holy Spirit. Unless the Son of God, by means of the Holy Spirit, opens
our eyes so that we may see spiritual things, we will remain blind as
bats." (Thru The Bible, vol 4, p 423). That is a sweet sermonette, and
makes for an excellent devotional. But devotionals don't necessarily
replace Bible knowledge. Thru the Bible should be a Commentary on the Bible
- a book to help us understand the Bible. Dr. McGee doesn't really explain
what Jesus meant by "night" and "day." So we're on our own in this passage.
And we believe that what it meant was that within a few dozen years the
times of Israel would come to a close, that all Israelites must hear the
Gospel and turn from depending on keeping the Law to believing in Christ
while the time was yet available. When the Romans invade and destroy
Jerusalem and the temple, the time would be gone, God's vengeance would be
accomplished. The day would end, and night would fall over the whole
nation. Their window of opportunity closed in A.D.70.
Verse 1: "And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with
him an hundred forty [and] four thousand, having his Father's name written
in their foreheads."
Verse 2: "And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and
as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping
with their harps:"
Verse 3: "And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before
the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the
hundred [and] forty [and] four thousand, which were redeemed from the
Verse 4: "These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are
virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These
were redeemed from among men, [being] the firstfruits unto God and to the
Verse 5: "And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault
before the throne of God."
Without a doubt the 144000 Jews, whether or not they are representative of
all the Jews of all the tribes of Israel, were redeemed in the early years
of Christ's Church. They escaped the holocaust, the "day of vengeance"
which came upon all unbelieving Israel in A.D.70, and they have been with Christ
in heaven for nearly 2000 years.