Who is part of the 144,000 in Revelation?
144,000 is the actual number of those sealed by God that will comprise the church class and bride of Christ (See Revelation 7:4). To some, this appears to be a very small number of those that have faithfully served God. After all, there are many people in the Old Testament who served God despite great opposition.
However, no one who lived before Christ can be part of the heavenly calling and bride of Christ. Even John the Baptist, who Jesus said was greatest among those born of women, will not receive a heavenly reward. Jesus said, “he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11). This clearly excludes John from receiving a heavenly reward and being part of the bride.
There is an important reason for this distinction. It has to do with a doctrine known as “justification.” The word means to be made right (or righteous) in the eyes of God. The scriptures describe two levels of justification, by faith and by blood. In Romans 4:18-22, the Apostle Paul addresses the difference between them. He speaks of Abraham as being a great man of faith. Because of this Paul says, “therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness” (verse 22). His faith made him righteous (or justified) in the eyes of God. This formed the basis of Abraham’s relationship with God. It is called “justification by faith.” On this basis he was called “the friend of God” (James 2:23). But faith alone could not atone for his sins. As a result, justification by faith is limited.
Abraham and other faithful individuals who lived before Christ are never referred to as “sons of God” (1 John 3:1,2). The qualification to become as sons of God is not necessarily greater faith, but a better basis for their justification. Paul makes this distinction in Romans 5. He says, “…God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Romans 5:8,9). The apostle is now making a distinction between justification by faith and justification by blood.
Paul continues his explanation in Romans 8:
“For as many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God…ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”
He is saying that the holy spirit is proof of sonship. The holy spirit (God’s power and influence) was first given at Pentecost, 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus. This was not available before Jesus’ death and resurrection. Hebrews 11:40 says, “God has provided some better thing concerning us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” In other words, the faithful Old Testament people he had listed in chapter 11 will be “made perfect” through the work of the church class, the bride of Christ.
John the Baptist and other faithful individuals died before the blood of Christ was available to fully justify them. This meant that the heavenly call was not yet available. But God has not forgotten them. Hebrews 11:2 says that by faith “the elders attained a good report.” In chapter 12 He calls them “a great cloud of witnesses.” Psalm 45:16 says they will be “princes in all the earth.”
In the general resurrection of mankind, they will be God’s earthly representatives and instrumental in administering the kingdom (See Isaiah 1:26). Having faithful men and women on earth to guide and direct the world will be a necessary human touch.
In comparison to the billions who have lived, 144,000 may seem like a small number to comprise the bride of Christ. But the cooperative work of Christ and his bride with these “princes” will bring eternal life to this dying race.
Isaiah 35 is a beautiful description of God’s kingdom on earth. These faithful ones of old will be instructed to,
“Strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you’… And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called ‘The Way of Holiness… And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
This will be the result of the combined efforts of Jesus and his bride working with the resurrected faithful men and women of old.
To learn more about God’s plan for mankind in heaven and on earth listen to,
“When Jesus Prayed, ‘Thy Kingdom Come,’ What Did He Mean?”
“What If I’m Not Good Enough For Heaven?”
And listen to our three-part series, “What Will We Be Doing When We Get To Heaven?”