The Children of Yahweh are given signs for which to watch, so that we will not be surprised by the events that take place around us. (Amos 3:7)
Who are the 144,000?
As we investigate the third angel's message, we naturally feel an interest to know if the prophecies anywhere intimate what the effect of this message will be; or what measure of success will attend it. We think we find this clearly indicated in the seventh chapter of Revelation. We have shown that the angel ascending with the seal of the living God, here brought to view, is the same as the third angel of Revelation 14. And as the result of this work, in Revelation 7 it is declared that 144,000 were sealed as the servants of God.
But, says one, the 144,000 cannot belong to the present generation, or be gathered in the gospel dispensation; for they were sealed out of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. A sufficient answer to this is found in the testimony of James. He, writing in A.D. 60, to Christians, and for the benefit of Christians, and carrying us down even to the coming of Christ, addresses his epistle to the twelve tribes scattered abroad. It is evident, therefore, that Christians are counted as belonging to the twelve tribes.
In what sense are they so considered? For there are no genealogies of tribes preserved among men in this dispensation. Paul illustrates this by a beautiful figure in the eleventh chapter of Romans. He sets forth the people of God in the former dispensation, the literal Israel, under the figure of an olive-tree with twelve branches. These branches represented the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. These branches were broken off, which signified that the Jews, by rejecting Christ ceased to be God's people.
These are not the literal seed, but the spiritual; because they are not brought in by faith. So we hear Paul saying, in Rom. 2:28, 29, " He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not of the letter.' Again, Paul says, Rom. 9:6—8, "They are not all Israel which are of Israel; neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children; but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed." And he adds, in Gal. 4:28, that, "We, brethren, [Christians] as Isaac was, are the children of promise." And he adds in the next verse that he was born after the Spirit.
Nothing could be plainer than these testimonies, that there is a spiritual seed, reckoned as the true Israel, perpetuated, not in a literal, but in a spiritual sense.
Because the twelve tribes, therefore, are mentioned in Revelation, from whom the 144,000 are sealed, that is no evidence that they are not taken from the gospel dispensation; or even from the closing portion of it. But we have still clearer evidence to present upon this point.
The New Jerusalem, which John saw coming down from God out of heaven, in which there was the throne of the Lamb, as well as the throne of God, will not certainly be considered a Jewish city; for in the twelve foundations were the names of the twelve apostles. But on the twelve gates of that city, as described in Rev. 21:12, there are names written, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.
Now all the people of God, from Adam to the close of the gospel dispensation, will go into that city through some one of those twelve gates; hence, all will be reckoned, both Jews and Christians, as belonging to some one of the twelve tribes.
No genealogy is kept of those tribes here upon earth, as it is not necessary that men should now understand these distinctions. But Paul speaks of the church of the first-born written in heaven, giving us to understand that the record is kept there. The only object of preserving the tribes distinct in the former dispensation was that men might understand the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning Christ, Who was to spring from a particular tribe; and the Jews might thus be able to identify the Messiah. But since Christ has come, that necessity no longer exists; and hence the genealogy of the tribes has been irrecoverably lost.
This company, the 144,000, are again brought to view in Rev. 14:1-5. And here we have indisputable evidence that they are gathered from the last generation of the living. John says, "A Lamb stood on the Mount Sion, and with him a hundred and forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads." This name is the same as the seal of God brought to view in Revelation 7; hence this company is the same as the 144,000 of chapter 7.
And of these it is said, that they were "redeemed from the earth," and "redeemed from among men." This can mean nothing else but translation from among the living. These first five verses of Revelation 14 belong to chapter 13, and are the closing portion of the line of prophecy beginning with chapter 12. These 144,000 are the ones who pass through the terrible conflict with the power symbolized by the two-horned beast described in Rev. 13:11—17. But we have shown that this power is a symbol of our own government, is now upon the stage of action, and is the last power which persecutes the church of God. Therefore the 144,000 are the ones who are developed by the third angel's message, and who will be translated from among men at the second coming of Christ.
The sealing work of Revelation 7 results in sealing the number here specified; but as this is identical with the third angel's message, this sealing work has for many years already been going forward; and some whose whole religious experience has been connected with, and is owing to, this work, have fallen asleep since the message commenced. Will they be reckoned with this 144,000? If so, how can it be said that they will be redeemed from among men, or be translated?
We answer, Before Christ comes, there is a partial resurrection to take place, according to Dan. 12:2 and Rev. 1:7. Daniel says, "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." This is not the general resurrection of either class; for at the general resurrection of the righteous there are no wicked ones to be raised, and at the general resurrection of the wicked there are no righteous ones included. But here is a mixed resurrection, taking some, a few, of both classes; and this occurs in connection with the standing up of Michael, and the closing time of trouble. We therefore infer that at this time, probably when the voice of God is heard (Joel 3:16, Heb. 12: 27, and Rev. 16:17), some of the pre-eminently wicked, and some of the preeminently good, including all those who have died in the third angel's message, will be raised from the dead, but raised only to mortal life. Being then raised from the dead, and taking their place with those who have not died under this message, they are translated when the Lord appears; and hence, with the others, may also be said to be redeemed from among men.The CSDA Signet
A publication of Uriah Smith, Synopsis of the Present Truth, 1884