The Time of the End
A Study About the Book of Revelation
Arlen L. Chitwood
The One Hundred Forty-four Thousand
Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.
And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps.
They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.
These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits [a first fruit] to God and to the Lamb.
And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.
Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth — to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people —
saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” (Revelation 14:1-7)
The individuals who will proclaim the gospel of the kingdom to the ends of the earth during the Tribulation, spoken of by Christ in Matthew 24:14 and Mark 13:10, are revealed in the book of Revelation to be 144,000 Jews, 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel (Revelation 7:1-8; 14:1-5). And, in order to provide additional information, these Jewish evangels are presented after another fashion in chapters eleven and twelve of this book — as “a male child” (“man child” in the KJV) at the time Israel brings the 144,000 forth (gives birth [12:2, 4, 5]), and as “the rest of her [Israel’s] offspring [KJV: ‘the remnant of her seed’]” following the nation bringing the 144,000 forth (11:13; 12:17).
(Refer to Chapter 21 in this book for more information on the male child and the rest [KJV: the remnant] in Revelation chapters 11, 12, along with how these are descriptive references to the 144,000 in chapters 7, 14.)
Thus, information in each of these four chapters (chapters 7, 11, 12, 14) presents different things about the 144,000.
Chapter seven presents the sealing of the 144,000 (vv. 1-8), along with the results of their ministry — “a great multitude that no one could number, of all nations . . . .” (vv. 9-17).
Chapter eleven drops back behind chapter seven in time and presents the apparent means by which the 144,000 will hear the message and be saved — through the ministry of the two witnesses (vv. 3, 13).
Chapter twelve continues from chapter eleven, providing additional information about the 144,000. This chapter presents their being brought forth as “the male child” after all 144,000 have been saved, the timing surrounding their being saved (progressively during the first half of the Tribulation, with the complete number [all 144,000] brought forth, saved, by the middle of the Tribulation), and that which will occur once the 144,000 have been brought forth (vv. 1-17).
(Note that the 144,000 couldn’t be saved near the end of the dispensation in which God deals with the Church, prior to the Tribulation. If saved during the present dispensation, they would be part of the one new man “in Christ” and would be removed at the time of the rapture, preceding the Tribulation. Thus, they will have to be saved following the removal of Christians from the earth.)
Chapter fourteen then presents additional commentary concerning the 144,000 for that which is previously revealed in chapters seven, eleven, and twelve (vv. 1-7).
When information in all four of these chapters is studied together, allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture, a developing word picture can be seen concerning the place that these Jewish evangels will occupy in events throughout the entire seven years of the Tribulation.
As previously seen, the 144,000, referred to in chapter twelve as “a male child” and “the rest” [KJV: “the remnant”] (vv. 5, 17), are presented in this chapter as being brought forth in a progressive manner throughout the first three and one-half years of the Tribulation. The matter is presented as the development and subsequent birth of a child, with “Israel” seen as the mother and “the 144,000” seen as the child (vv. 2, 4, 5).
The gestation period for child-birth in the human realm is nine months, but for the male child it will be three and one-half years. Development of the child in the mother’s womb (Israel’s womb), as it were, will progressively occur over a three and one-half-year period as individuals are saved and added to the number throughout this time. Then, near the middle of the Tribulation when the number is complete, Israel will give birth to the male child, the 144,000 (Revelation 12:2, 4, 5; cf. Matthew 24:8; Mark 13:8).
The 144,000 are referred in Revelation 11:13 as “the rest” [KJV: “the remnant”] in connection with events occurring immediately following the death, resurrection, and ascension of the two witnesses (vv. 7-13). And this “rest” [KJV: “remnant”] is seen again in the next chapter (12:17), identifying the male child seen earlier in the chapter (v. 5).
(The word “rest” [“remnant”] in both Revelation 11:13 and 12:17 is a translation of the Greek word loipos, which means “remaining ones.” The word loipos could not refer to the Jewish people in the land as a whole. The nation will exist in unbelief at this time, and those remaining, the rest [remnant], though afraid like the rest of the Jewish people, will give “glory to the God of heaven.” Doing this would be completely out of place for all of the unbelieving Jewish people still in the land.
The only Jewish people in the land at this time that this could possibly be referring to would be those seen in Revelation 12:17 — “the rest of her offspring” [KJV: ‘the remnant of her seed (Israel’s seed)’], who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” And this “rest” [‘remnant’] in Revelation 12:17, referred to as Israel’s offspring [seed] is the identification that the chapter provides for Israel’s offspring back in v. 5, the “male child” [easily identified as the 144,000 in chapters 7, 14, for they will be the ones having the testimony of Jesus Christ and will be the only ones on earth at this time who could fit the description of the male child, the rest [remnant], in chapter 12].)
Following the order of events occurring in the middle of the Tribulation, the beast (who will, at this time, be the world ruler, the crowned seventh head) will slay the two witnesses (11:7). The two witnesses’ bodies will then lie unburied in the streets of Jerusalem for three and one-half days, while the world rejoices. And this rejoicing will apparently include the unbelieving Jewish people in the land, those guilty of the blood of the prophets, along with others sent to them, including God’s Son (Matthew 21:33-39; 23:37; Luke 13:33, 34).
Then, after three and one-half days, a day for each year of their ministry, the two witnesses will be raised from the dead and ascend to heaven. And it will apparently be at this point that the beast breaks his covenant with the Jewish people and enters into the temple, declaring himself to be God (Daniel 11:31; Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4). At this time he will show his true colors, turn against the Jewish people, and seek to destroy them from off the face of the earth.
The first part of Revelation 11:13 (describing events occurring immediately following the ascension of the two witnesses), in the light of related Scripture, apparently has to do with the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Jewish people (events that occur at this time). Then attention is called to “the rest [KJV: ‘the remnant’]” — individuals who are afraid but still place first things first and give “glory to the God of heaven.”
Things will happen so fast at this time that the Jewish people in Jerusalem and Judea are told to run for their lives, without even taking time to enter into their homes to take necessities with them. A segment of the Jewish people will escape to a specially prepared place in the wilderness or in the mountainous terrain, apparently in Moab (Isaiah 16:4). And the remainder will either be slain, sold as slaves to the Gentiles, or driven out among the nations of the earth (Joel 3:6, 7; Matthew 24:16-21; Luke 21:20-24; Revelation 12:6, 14).
Jerusalem and the temple will be destroyed at this time, with the nation of Israel in the Middle East, as the world knows it today, ceasing to exist (cf. Daniel 9:26; Luke 21:22-24; Revelation 11:2). And the Jewish people will not again have a national identity in this respect until Christ returns, removes the Jewish people from the nations, and reestablishes them back in the land Himself (Ezekiel 37:21-28; 39:25-29; Matthew 24:30, 31).
The present nation of Israel in the Middle East — destined to be uprooted, with the Jews comprising this nation being driven back out among the Gentile nations — includes only a part of world Jewry, was brought into existence through man’s efforts in a Zionistic movement, and is a restoration of the Jewish people in unbelief.
But when Christ returns, the restoration of the Jewish people back to the land will occur through divine activity. Christ will send His angels out to re-gather all of the Jews from the nations of the earth (Matthew 24:31), and He will then restore them to the land in belief. The latter, not the former, is that which is prophesied in Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets concerning Israel’s national restoration.
(For a more complete discussion of things in Revelation chapters eleven and twelve, refer to Chapters 20 and 21 in this book. Also refer to Appendix 2, “The Death of the High Priest,” in this book.)
The 144,000, Removed from and Returned to the Earth
Revelation chapter fourteen provides the necessary information to explain things surrounding the removal of the male child from the earth in Revelation 12:5. The male child, the 144,000, is seen in Revelation 14:1 in Christ’s presence on Mt. Zion in heaven. And further down in the chapter the 144,000 are said to have been “redeemed from the earth” (v. 3), and “redeemed from among men” (v. 4). Then they are referred to as “firstfruits [lit., ‘a first fruit’] to God and to the Lamb” (v. 4b).
The 144,000 will comprise a first fruit of the nation. During the last half of the Tribulation they, as a first fruit of the nation, will fulfill one of God’s purposes for calling the nation into existence. They will be God’s witness to the ends of the earth during this time (1 Kings 8:54-61; Isaiah 43:8, 9).
Then, following the Tribulation, God will deal with the main harvest — the nation as a whole, the nation that brought forth the 144,000. Following the Tribulation, the entire nation will be brought forth (saved through the personal appearance of their Messiah to them). The entire nation will be brought forth “in one day” (Isaiah 66:8). And, as a first fruit of the nation will have carried God’s message worldwide to the Gentile nations during the last half of the Tribulation, the entire Jewish nation will carry God’s message worldwide to the Gentile nations during the Millennium.
(Israel will bring forth a first fruit of the nation, the 144,000. But how will the entire nation be brought forth?
In Isaiah 66:7, 8 Israel is seen in travail relative to her own bringing forth. And Israel being brought forth is in connection with “the land [the land of Israel]” also being brought forth [v. 8, NASB]. Then, this concept of “the land” being brought forth at this time is seen in a larger sense in Romans 8:19-22 as the entire material creation groaning and travailing together in pain, awaiting deliverance.
In Isaiah, the deliverance of Israel and her land is seen in connection with the nation bringing herself forth:
As soon as Zion travailed [contextually, a reference to the nation], she also brought forth her sons” [Isaiah 66:8b, NASB].
And the reference to “sons” being brought forth is also seen in the travailing and deliverance in Romans chapter eight. The time when the creation will be delivered from the present groaning and travailing together in pain is the time of “the manifestation of the sons of God” [v. 19]. This chapter in Romans deals more specifically with the adoption of Christians as firstborn sons and their being manifested as such. Israel though has already been adopted and is presently God’s firstborn son [cf. Exodus 4:22, 23], though an unbelieving son. And Israel must be brought forth as well [actually first and foremost].
The creation will be delivered from its present groaning and travailing in pain only when the complete contingent of the Sons of God [Christ, Israel, and the Church following the adoption] have been manifested for all to see [refer to Chapters 8 and 9 in this book].)
The timing of the removal of the 144,000 from the earth is seen in both chapters eleven and twelve. In chapter eleven, they are still seen on earth at the time Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed (or, are in the process of being destroyed), with the Jewish people fleeing for their lives at this time (v. 13; cf. Matthew 24:15ff; Luke 21:20ff). In chapter twelve, they are seen being removed from the earth following the casting of Satan and his angels out of heaven and at the time that the Jewish people in Jerusalem and Judea flee for their lives (vv. 4-6). Thus, Satan and his angels will be cast out of the heavens before the middle of the Tribulation, apparently immediately before. And the 144,000, the male child, will be removed from the earth after the middle of the Tribulation, apparently immediately after.
(Satan and his angels will be cast out of the heavens after all seven heads of the beast have been crowned. Note, in Revelation 12:3, all seven heads are seen wearing diadems at this time [a “diadem” is a monarch’s crown, a crown worn by one holding the scepter (refer to Chapters 7 and 12 in this book)]. And the seventh head [the final world ruler, the final king of Babylon, Antichrist] will not rise to the position to which he will aspire [worldwide power and dominion], wearing a diadem, until near the middle of the Tribulation.
Thus, Satan and his angels being cast out of the heavens onto the earth will have to occur very close to the middle of the Tribulation. And the 144,000 will have to be removed from the earth at the same time that the remainder of the Jewish people in the land flee for their lives, for they are placed together in Revelation 12:5, 6 [with the escape of the 144,000 from the wrath of Satan and Antichrist being into the heavens, and the escape of other Jews in the land being out into different parts of the earth].)
1) The 144,000 Removed from the Earth
As previously seen, the male child — the 144,000 — will be removed from the earth, following birth, to escape Satan’s wrath. And the removal of the male child would parallel another removal of Israel’s Seed over 2,000 years before — Christ’s removal from the land following His birth, to escape Herod’s wrath.
Israel brought Christ forth through a Jewish woman. Shortly after His birth, He was taken into Egypt to escape Herod’s death decree on all the children in and around Bethlehem, two years old and under. He was taken to a location that was outside Herod’s jurisdiction. Then, at a later time, Christ was taken back into the land to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom to Israel for about three and one-half years (Matthew 2:13-21).
Israel will bring forth the male child through a means other than natural childbirth. Nonetheless, the matter is likened in Scripture to natural childbirth (Revelation 12:2, 4, 5). Shortly after the 144,000 have been brought forth, they will be removed from Satan’s and Antichrist’s jurisdiction, into the heavens (Satan, immediately prior to this, will have been cast out of heaven and will no longer have jurisdiction in the heavens [Revelation 12:4, 7-12]). Then, at a later time, the 144,000 will be sent back to the earth to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom to the Gentiles worldwide for about three and one-half years (Matthew 24:14).
And there will likely be another reason for their being removed into the heavens at this time. Unlike Christ during His earthly ministry, they will need training for the ministry that they are to carry out.
Christ, in this respect, personally appeared to and taught Paul following his conversion (Galatians 1:11, 12; Ephesians 3:1-3). Paul had previously sat “at the feet of Gamaliel” and had been “taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law” (Acts 22:3). But Christ still had to take Paul, who was quite knowledgeable in the Scriptures, and teach him the message that he was to proclaim throughout the Gentile world.
And the 144,000, though many of them will have possibly been taught by the two witnesses, will likely experience the same thing Paul experienced following his conversion, though in heaven instead of on earth. During the time spent in heaven, the 144,000 will likely be taught the message that they are to proclaim throughout the Gentile world by Christ Himself.
2) The 144,000 Returned to the Earth
As Christ was taken back into the land to later proclaim the gospel of the kingdom to Israel for about three and one-half years, the 144,000 will be sent back to the earth to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom to the Gentiles worldwide for about the same length of time.
The 144,000 being sent back to the earth to proclaim this message — though not stated in so many words in Scripture — is inferred several different ways. The proclamation of this message is seen in Matthew 24:14 and Mark 13:10 as “the gospel of the kingdom” being proclaimed among all nations during what is evidently a time extending to the end of the Tribulation, and it is seen in Revelation 12:17 as individuals possessing “the testimony of Jesus Christ” during the last half of the Tribulation.
Then, the proclamation of this message is connected in a direct manner with the 144,000 in Revelation chapter fourteen. In this chapter, the connection of the 144,000 with the message to be proclaimed is seen after a fashion in keeping with how the book of Revelation is structured.
Immediately after the 144,000 have been introduced (vv. 1-5), the text reads:
Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth — to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people —
saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” (vv. 6, 7)
That which is proclaimed by the angel in verse seven is not the content of “the everlasting gospel” in verse six. Rather, this is simply an announcement to those dwelling on the earth by the angel appearing with this gospel.
Angelic activity is seen at every turn throughout the book of Revelation. And, in the light of Israel’s calling, the placement of this angel with a message to those on the earth — “to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” — immediately after the verses dealing with the 144,000 (who are about to carry a message to the same people on earth), can be understood only one way.
Israel is the nation that God called into existence to deliver His message to the Gentile nations throughout the earth, not angels. And, in view of Israel’s calling, the reference in these two verses, particularly contextually, cannot possibly have to do with an angel carrying the gospel message worldwide to all the nations on the earth. Rather, it can only have to do with an angel appearing with the message that the 144,000, seen in the immediately preceding verses, are to proclaim.
And the latter, along with Revelation 12:17 (viewed in the overall structure of the chapter) and the Olivet Discourse references (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10), would necessitate the 144,000 being returned to the earth to proclaim this message.
(Note that the message that the 144,000 will proclaim is referred to as the “gospel of the kingdom” in Matthew 24:14. In this respect, the word “everlasting” in Revelation 14:6 [Greek: aionios] could probably be better translated “age-lasting.” The Messianic kingdom is in view in Matthew 24:14, and this kingdom comprises one age — the seventh day [foreshadowed by the Sabbath in Genesis 2:2, 3, following six days of restorative work], the seventh one-thousand-year period in the septenary structure of time, the coming Sabbath of rest in Hebrews 4:9 [cf. v. 4].
Aionios is used in the Greek text of the New Testament to refer to “a long period of time,” often “an age.” The “long period of time” can be understood as “eternal” only if the context so designates.
Neither the Hebrew of the Old Testament nor the Greek of the New Testament contains a word for “eternal.” Olam is the word translated “eternal,” “everlasting,” or “perpetual” in English translations of the Old Testament, and aion [a noun] or aionios [the adjective form of aion] are the words translated “eternal” or “everlasting” in the New Testament [aidios, an older form of aionios, used only two times and meaning exactly the same as aionios, is the only exception (Romans 1:20 and Jude 6)].
Olam, aion, and aionios all have to do with “a long period of time,” which, if the context permits, can refer to “eternity” [e.g., the Aionios God in Romans 16:26]. But the words standing alone, apart from a context, cannot be understood as “eternal.” Context is the all-important factor to ascertain the length of time in view when these words are used.
Aion and aionios are usually thought of and used numerous times in the New Testament in the sense of “an age.” And a usage of this nature is even brought over into English. For example, the English word “aeon [or ‘eon’]” is derived from the Greek word aion.
The only way in which the Greek text can express “eternal” apart from textual considerations is through a use of aion in the plural [e.g., Luke 1:33; Hebrews 13:8, referring to “the ages,” i.e., ages without end, which would comprise eternity] or a double use of aion, in the plural and articular both times [e.g., Revelation 1:6; 4:9, 10; 5:13, 14; 7:12; 10:6; 11:15; 15:7; 19:3; 20:10; 22:5 — referring to “the ages of the ages,” again, ages without end]. Also, the same plural double use of aion occurs in Revelation 14:11 without the definite articles, meaning “ages of ages.”
The preceding lists all occurrences of the plural double use of aion in the book of Revelation. This plural double use only occurs seven other times in the New Testament, all articular [Galatians 1:5; Philippines 4:20; 1 Timothy 1:17; 2 Timothy 4:18; Hebrews 13:21; 1 Peter 4:11; 5:11].)
The Ministry of the 144,000
The ministry of the 144,000 will reach to the ends of the earth over the short space of about three and one-half years — to “to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Revelation 7:9). Many reached with the message will be slain for their faith, with many others, in the words of Matthew 24:13, enduring “to the end” (the end of the Tribulation) and being “saved” (being physically delivered out of the Tribulation).
Those slain for their faith during this time are described in Revelation 6:9-11; 7:9-17; 20:4. Their state during the time between death and the end of the Tribulation is seen in the former two references (6:9-11; 7:9-17), and that which awaits them during the Messianic Era is seen in the latter reference (20:4).
Following death they are seen in Christ’s presence in heaven, and during the Messianic Era they are seen occupying regal positions with Christ in His kingdom.
Those enduring until the end and being delivered out of the Tribulation are seen in Matthew 25:31-46. And, as seen among those slain during the Tribulation in the larger scope of the passage in Revelation chapter twenty (vv. 4-6), both faithful and unfaithful appear among the saved who endure until the end and come out of the Tribulation alive in Matthew 25:31-46.
A judgment of these individuals who come out of the Tribulation alive, as with those slain in Revelation 20:4-6, occurs when Christ returns. And, exactly as in Revelation 20:4-6, the faithful will be allowed to enter into the kingdom, but the unfaithful will be turned away; and the same metaphorical picture of a burning in relation to the unfaithful, as seen in John 15:6 and Hebrews 6:8, is seen in both judgments (in both Matthew 25:31-46 and Revelation 20:4-6).
(For more information on Matthew 25:31-46, refer to pp. 43-45 in the author’s book, The Most High Ruleth. For more information on Revelation 20:4-6, refer to Chapter 33, in this book.)