Questions: The 144,000
"Next I saw four angels, standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the world back to keep them from blowing over the land or the sea or in the trees. Then I saw another angel rising where the sun rises, carrying the seal of the living God; he called in a powerful voice to the four angels whose duty was to devastate land and sea, 'Wait before you do any damage on land or at sea or to the trees, until we have put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God'. Then I heard how many were sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand out of all the tribes of Israel." (Rev. 7:1-4)
May 9, 2002
People in the Catholic Church pray to the "saints". Do you think there is such a thing or that prayers to the dead really work? MF
The word "saint" comes from the Bible. According to scripture it stands for all the people of God who have ever lived on earth.
There are many references to "saints" in the Old Testament; especially in the Psalms and in the Book of Daniel (see Daniel 7:18; 21; 22; 25; 27 and 8:12). Even more references exist in the New Testament. Paul and the Book of Revelation use the term extensively. The word "saint" encompasses everyone who has ever lived in Christ; from the earliest Christians (Peter, Paul, Jesus' mother, etc.), to those of us who are living now.
The Catholic church wanted to display role models for all their people to follow in Christ and so they set up a sort of "Cooperstown-like" hall of fame showcasing those they deemed immensly holy. These they designated as "special saints"; i.e., people sure to be in heaven and close to God.
Of course, politics sometimes has gotten in the way of their choices but for the greater part, few could argue the merits of most of those selected. Christ has assured us, however, that the actual number of "saints" is infinitely greater in number.
The Book of Revelation tells us that it will be "a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language". (Rv.7:9). Those wearing white robes and holding the palms (the saints) will be immense.
As for our praying to the saints to intercede for us to God, Paul said, "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?" (Co.5:2). Under those circumstances, perhaps the intercession might even have a more immediate value.
Of course, we have a higher judge in Christ and we know His will. No one will be judged if we abide in that will. And, more than that, He has assured us that His cross is an immense fountain that pours out forgiveness like a flooding river. All we need do is come to that cross in full contrition and our sins will disappear like a mist in sunlight.
We don't need to pray to anyone but God. However, keep in mind what Paul said: "Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Eph.6:18).
The people of God who, over the centuries, have already passed from here to the foot of God's altar in heaven and now await the great Coronation Day of Christ, were given this directive just as we were. They are in Christ and can never die. We can be assured, then, that these same saints are there today, already praying for us just as Paul requested. So it certainly does no harm for us to remind them to remember us while we are saying our prayers.
The Book of Revelation tells us that all these prayers of the saints rise up out of the angel's hand before God at the golden altar before the throne. (Rv.8:3-4). None are discarded. They all go directly to God. Every one is heard.
As far as the biblical legitimacy of a "hall of fame" for Christians is concerned, the Book of Revelation states categorically that there are a small number (symbolically, 144,000) saints of purity so great that they have been given a special designation: the "first fruits" of God. Scripture tells us they follow Jesus wherever He goes (Rv.7:2-9; Rv.14:1-5).
A gallery of saints glorifies all of us who dwell in the Lord. The world villifies us, but a "hall of fame" in Christ reminds us that our toil is not in vain and the world's villification will one day turn to praise -- a praise and glory greater than any "house or walk of fame" secular man has ever set up on this earth.
The world honors athletes, movie stars and politicians who excel, holding them out as role models we should emulate; it would seem better that we give a similar honor to Christians.
January 28, 2004
Hi, I came across your website. I have a question that I hope you can help me with. In Revelation, the 144,000 are said to be 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. Then it goes on to list each tribe. There is no mention of the tribe of Dan nor the tribe of Ephraim. Also, there is mention of the tribe of Joseph, which isn't usually considered part of the twelve tribes. And Levi isn't either. So, some conclude that this means this list isn't literal. And say that the Gentiles were allowed to become part of this 144,000.
Your observations are well taken. There are almost 6 billion people on the planet today. Several prophecies in the Old Testament testify to 1/3rd of the population being saved, or being singled out to be refined in the fire of God. If that figure is accurate, it means almost 2 billion people out of just today's population alone (see graph). When you consider the populations (a new one every 50-60 years or so) that have occupied this planet for the last 2000 years since Christ was first preached, those figures become enormous beyond calculation.
The 144,000 would be one person out of 10,000, or, to put it another way, just 5 people in a normal town of 40,000 people every 50-60 years. And that is just with today's population alone. When you add in the 40 or so separate world populations that have occupied this globe since the time of Christ, the ratio becomes too small to contemplate. It would mean virtually no one could be saved. In other words, just a Mother Theresa here and a Francis of Assisi there. The rest of us, all those people in all those churches across the planet could forget it. They could pray all they wanted to, there is just no room for them in those kind of numbers. Jesus promised us faithfully that would not be the case. He said ANYBODY who obeyed His words and had faith in Him would be saved.
"Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved. No one who believes in him will be condemned."(John 3:15-18).
Symbolism is the only way to resolve this obvious paradox.
What that statement does do is to divide the saved into two categories.
If you will note, Revelation 7:3-8 states that the 144,000 stem soley from the original Twelve Tribes of Israel. However, it goes on to say in verses 9-10 that included with them (as saved) will be a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every other tribe, nation, language and people of the world. This is an obvious inclusion of the Gentiles in the count, and it is enormous.
Furthermore, in listing the 12 tribes, the names, as you have pointed out, include additions and subtractions we know to be different from the historical list. John was a Jewish Apostle, he couldn't have got it wrong, especially not that wrong. So even this has to represent some sort of hidden symbolism.
That's in keeping with the book, because the entire Book of Revelation has been known from the beginning to be symbolic. It was made spiritually symbolic by the hand of the Holy Spirit and it was made physically symbolic by an Apostle that was trying to keep its message secret from the agents of the Caesars ruling the world at that time who were trying so hard to weed the religion out of existance.
As symbolism, the 2 divisions defined may mean that a far smaller number of the saved (though more than the finite number 144,000) will exhibit such purity and perfection that they will be commissioned to a special category where, as scripture says, their stars will shine for all eternity. Jesus has intimated that there might be such a category. The fact is, we just don't know. It is comforting to know that when He preached, He did not preach to an elitist few, He preached to the rest of us. And, as He said, the payment (eternal life) will be the same for all.
January 6, 2008
Does the idea of purgatory come from the Old Testament? PL
No. Life after death is a concept unique to the New Testament.
Like the concept of the Rapture, the concept of Purgatory is a prophecy. According to the Book of Revelation, at the front end of the saved (Rev.7:9-10) is the perfection of the 144,000 (Rev 7:4-8). At the back end of this group say others, is purgatory. There are many who believe in one of these prophecies, but not the either. There some who believe in both, and others that believe in neither. Taken together, all three possibilities show that there may be in salvation's picture, layers...
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