The 144,000 Will Speak the “Testimony of Jesus”
Before we consider the mission of the 144,000, we need to consider how Jesus selects this group. During the Great Tribulation, there will be several surprising and disturbing developments. One of the biggest surprises will be who constitutes the 144,000. Jesus will bypass most pastors, priests, rabbis, imams, religious experts and scholars. Instead, He will select 144,000 ordinary people, both men and women, from all over the world (Joel 2:28-30) who will serve as His spokespersons. If we assume the population of the world is reduced to about six billion people after the first four trumpets occur, and if we assume the 144,000 are evenly distributed around the world – because God loves everyone the same – one of God’s prophets will serve approximately 42,000 people. This is how the “testimony of Jesus” will be delivered to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. (Matthew 24:14; Revelation 12:17; 19:10) Many Christians are aware that the 144,000 will be chosen from the twelve tribes of Israel (Revelation 7:4), but there is a big surprise coming. The twelve tribes today are not the twelve tribes described in the Old Testament! The Father replaced “Old Testament Jews” with “New Testament Jews” when Jesus was on Earth. The old covenant was abolished and a new covenant was established at that time.
A “New Testament Jew” is a person who has been born again through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Millions of “New Testament Jews” are living on Earth today. Such a person is eager to know truth, has an honest heart, loves God with all his heart, mind, and soul, and his neighbor as himself. Jesus assigns a person to one of the twelve “New Testament” tribes when he is born again. Therefore, only God knows the tribe to which each “New Testament Jew” belongs. When the time comes for Jesus to select the 144,000, He will have many people from which to make His selection because there are over 12,000 members within each tribe. Notice how the Bible indicates that in the last days, each tribe is larger than 12,000: “From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed.” (Revelation 7:5)
The 144,000 will serve as God’s prophets during the Great Tribulation. While they will be few in number compared to the population of the world, they will be like Gideon’s tiny army of 300 who delivered Israel from the oppression of a huge Midianite army. (Judges 7:7; 6:5) God used Gideon and his tiny army so Israel would know that the Lord Himself had provided the victory. During the time of the seven trumpets, God will use another tiny army to spread His gospel all over the world. They will achieve a result that Christians have not accomplished during the past 2,000 years! Jesus will evangelize six billion survivors through the 144,000 in a mere 1,260 days! When Jesus selects the 144,000, He will appear to them in a vision. Like Ezekiel, Jesus will give them a book to eat (His words to speak). (Compare Ezekiel 3:1-4 with Revelation 10:8-11.)
Many Christians have not considered the distinctions between “New Testament” and “Old Testament” Jews. Please consider these:
- New Testament Jews have a high priest from the tribe of Judah. (Hebrews 7:12-21) Old Testament Jews had a priest from the tribe of Levi. (Hebrews 7:11,12)
- Jesus is the high priest for New Testament Jews. He serves in the “true temple” which is located in Heaven. (Hebrews 8:1,2) Old Testament Jews do not have a temple, because the Romans destroyed it in A.D. 70.
- New Testament Jews consider their capital city to be New Jerusalem. (Revelation 3:12; Revelation 21:2) Even Abraham anticipated God would someday construct this city. (Hebrews 11:8-10; John 14:2,3) Old Testament Jews consider Jerusalem to be their capital city.
- New Testament Jews have nothing to do with Zionism or modern Israel. The kingdom they expect to inherit is not located in the Middle East. Instead, it will be in the Earth made new. (John 18:36, 37; Matthew 5:5)
- New Testament Jews live according to a new covenant that Jesus initiated. (Luke 22:20; Hebrews 12:22-24) Old Testament Jews cannot accomplish the requirements of the old covenant because they have no temple. (Deuteronomy 12)
- Paul says New Testament Jews have a much better set of promises and prophecies than those God gave to Old Testament Jews. (Hebrews 8:6)
- Paul described a “New Testament” Jew saying, “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly [as the result of the circumcision of the flesh], nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.” (Romans 2:28,29, insertion mine, compare with Deuteronomy 30:6)
- New Testament Jews believe God regards them as the seed of Abraham and heirs of the promises given to him. (Galatians 3:28,29) Old Testament Jews also believe they are the seed of Abraham, but they have to assume their lineage because there are no records proving their ancestry. The Roman army destroyed all Jewish genealogical records in A.D. 70.
There are other parallels between “Old Testament Jews” and “New Testament Jews” worth considering:
- Jesus delivered Old Testament Jews from Egyptian slavery. (Exodus 12:29; Judges 2:1-6) Jesus delivers New Testament Jews from slavery to sin through His indwelling power. (Romans 6:20-22; 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 6:15)
- After Old Testament Jews went through the Red Sea, they were no longer Pharaoh’s slaves. After New Testament Jews are born again and go through the watery grave of baptism, they are no longer Lucifer’s slaves. (Romans 6:3-5,14-18)
- God did not permit the first generation of Old Testament Jews to enter Canaan because they had no faith in Him. Even after they crossed the Red Sea and God fed them manna from Heaven for two years, they would not believe that He could tear down the great walls of the cities in Canaan. God became angry with their unbelief and the first generation of Old Testament Jews died in the wilderness because of their lack of faith. (Psalm 95:10,11; Hebrews 3:19) New Testament Jews understand that they will not enter the Promised Land and New Jerusalem unless they maintain a non-negotiable faith in God. (Hebrews 11:6) A non-negotiable faith in God means obeying God without regard for the consequences, trusting that He will make all things work together for good. (Romans 8:28)
- God kept His promise. He took Abraham’s descendants into the land which He had promised, but Old Testament Jews could not stay there because of apostasy. Thus far, New Testament Jews have not received the land which God promised to give Abraham, but they believe they will inherit the Earth which includes everything promised to Abraham’s descendants!
- God miraculously sustained Old Testament Jews for 1,500 years (1437 B.C. to A.D. 70). He has miraculously sustained New Testament Jews for the past 2,000 years (A.D. 30 to present).
- Old Testament Jews anticipated (and still anticipate) a Messiah that would be an ordinary mortal. Old Testament Jews were monotheists. They believed there is one God and God could not possibly come to Earth as the Messiah. New Testament Jews believe in three Gods: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19,20) Some New Testament Jews believe that Jesus is a co-eternal, distinct, separate member of deity along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. New Testament Jews anticipate that two Gods will gloriously return, the Father and the Messiah who will sit at the Father’s right hand at the Second Coming. (Matthew 26:64; Revelation 6:16,17) The Holy Spirit will also be present at the Second Coming living within every saint! (2 Corinthians 1:21,22; 1 Peter 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:14)
- Old Testament Jews believed the way to eternal life was through self-righteousness, (Matthew 19:16-26) that is, sinners achieved salvation through rigid conformity to the laws of Moses and the Ten Commandments. If a righteous man had any deficiency before God, Abraham’s righteousness would make up for it. (Matthew 23:15; Genesis 15:6; Luke 3:8) New Testament Jews believe the Levitical laws were temporary from the beginning. They were a shadow (representative) of events to come. Jesus abolished the Levitical code, initiated a new covenant, and died on the cross. (Luke 22:20; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Colossians 2:9-3:1) In addition to this, some New Testament Jews believe that Jesus did not abolish the Ten Commandments at the cross because they function as a covenant, or promise. They believe the Ten Commandments describe a person’s natural behavior when his sinful nature is removed and God’s laws are written in his heart and mind. (Hebrews 8:10-12)
- If you are a New Testament Jew (you have been born again), you understand that for as long as the sinful nature remains within you, you must live in a state of humility. (Matthew 5:5; Proverbs 6:16-19) Sooner or later, some sin will trip you up. The sinful nature will not allow a born again person to live in perfect conformity with God’s will very long. (1 John 2:1,2; 5:16) However, if we sin and genuinely regret it, and if we are willing to make restitution (if needed) to make it right, Jesus is willing to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) Through faith in God and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, New Testament Jews know that victory over any sin is possible and the fruits of the Spirit are promised to all overcomers. (Galatians 5:22,23)
- Old Testament Jews anticipated (and they still anticipate) that God will establish His kingdom on Earth. New Testament Jews anticipate that God will establish His kingdom on Earth, but only after He has destroyed the wicked and purified the Earth of sin by fire. (Revelation 21:1-4)
The New Covenant
Many Christians have heard about “the new covenant” Jesus implemented, but few understand its ramifications. While on Earth, Jesus terminated the original covenant made with Abraham’s descendants (Exodus 19:4-6; Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28) by initiating a new covenant. (Luke 22:20) It is important to understand that Jesus did not hastily or arbitrarily make up a new covenant. God promised a new covenant 600 years earlier when He sent Israel to Babylon! (See Jeremiah 31:31; Hebrews 8:8,9; 9:15.) The Father planned to implement a new covenant all along because from the beginning, He intended to unite Jews and Gentiles who believed in Jesus into one body of believing people! (Ephesians 3:4-12) The Father planned before the world was created that salvation would be based on the ministry, life, and death of Jesus. This is why the old covenant had a sunset provision from the beginning. (Colossians 2:9-3:1)
The Father reveals Himself and His plans in small steps over time. We know much more today about God’s ways and plans than Moses or David did. Before Jesus created the world, the Father planned to abolish His covenant with Israel so that a new covenant could be established in its place. Paul said: “Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 3:2-6, italics mine)
From the beginning, the Father has loved the whole world and He designed that “whosoever will” could be a member of “the kingdom of God.” God chose the descendants of Abraham to teach the world about His love and coming kingdom, but Israel failed. After Jesus came to Earth and established the new covenant, God no longer needed the biological descendants of Abraham. Instead, God created a new Israel made up of “whosoever will.” Paul explained the Father’s plans to Gentile converts in Ephesus saying, “But now in Christ Jesus you [Gentiles] who once were far away [from the Father] have been brought near [to the Father] through the blood of Christ. For He Himself [Jesus] is our peace, [He] who has made the two [kingdoms, Jews and Gentiles] one [kingdom] and has destroyed the barrier [the old covenant], the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the [Levitical] law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two [nations], thus making peace, and in this one body [of people] to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their [religious] hostility. He [Jesus] came and preached peace to you who were far away [Gentiles] and peace to those who were near [the Jews]. For through Him we both [Jews and Gentiles] have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you [Gentiles] are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people [New Testament Jews] and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone.” (Ephesians 2:13-20, insertions and italics mine)
The new covenant terminated the sacrifices and offerings of the old covenant. It also terminated the importance of being a biological descendant of Abraham. Of course, Old Testament Jews considered (and today, still consider) the new covenant blasphemous. They attempted to kill Paul for making inflammatory statements against the old covenant. (Acts 23:20,21) However, Paul could not have described the new covenant more clearly when he wrote: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed [Greek: sperma, English: sperm], and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28,29) The new covenant created a new Israel, a self-selecting body of “whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 KJV; See also Revelation 22:17.)
Because Jesus abolished the old covenant and implemented the new covenant with His blood, “whosoever will” can now be an heir of Abraham through faith in Jesus. Abraham’s heirs are not people born of the flesh but of the Spirit! (John 1:12,13; Romans 8:14; Romans 9:8) Salvation comes through faith in God, not through biological heritage. (Hebrews 11:6) God promised Abraham: “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations [including many nations other than Israel]. . . . I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on Earth will be blessed, . . . The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:4; 26:4; 17:8, italics and insertion mine) This covenant has not been realized. Yet, looking into the future, God showed John the fulfillment of His promise to Abraham. John wrote, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9, italics mine) During the Great Tribulation, a numberless crowd of believers in Jesus will come from many nations and be counted as the faithful descendants of Abraham!
God’s original promise to Abraham included Gentiles (the people from “many nations”). The new covenant makes this possible because Jesus abolished the wall that separated Jews and Gentiles. Now, all who live by faith are counted as God’s children. (Ephesians 2:14) This is what Paul meant when he wrote, “all Israel will be saved.” (Romans 11:26)
Finally, twenty-five years after Jesus ascended, the apostle James (the president of the church at that time) understood the twelve tribes of the old covenant had been replaced by twelve tribes belonging to the new covenant. He addressed his epistle to “New Testament Jews” saying, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations [because of persecution by Jews and Romans]: Greetings. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, . . . My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.” (James 1:1; 2:1, insertion and italics mine)
144,000 Distributed by Population
During the Great Tribulation, Jesus will speak through the 144,000 and the entire world will hear the “testimony of Jesus.” If we assume the 144,000 will be evenly distributed throughout a population of about six billion people (those surviving the first four trumpets), there will be a ratio of about one prophet per 42,000 people. To put this ratio into a perspective, suppose the population of the United States after the fourth trumpet is 250 million. The U.S. would have about 6,000 of the 144,000, and India, with one billion survivors, would have about 24,000 of the 144,000!
To confirm their divine appointment, Jesus will give the 144,000 an infusion of Holy Spirit power never seen before. They will do all kinds of miracles at will, even holding back the rain (as did Elijah! James 5:17): “These have power to shut Heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the Earth with all plagues, as often as they will.” (Revelation 11:6, KJV) It is important to understand that before the 144,000 receive divine power and begin their ministry, God will first remove their sinful natures and seal their hearts so they will not use this amazing power inappropriately.
God Will Seal the 144,000
The 144,000 will be given pure hearts before they begin their work. This will happen when Jesus removes their sinful natures. (Revelation 7:3) The 144,000 will be dedicated to the glory of God, their motives will be pure, and their actions will be selfless, just like Jesus when He was on Earth. According to Paul, when a person is born again, he receives the seal of God. This seal of ownership is not visible to the world, but the world will notice a life transformed by divine power because there is a change in his words and conduct. “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 1:21,22, italics mine) Every born again believer receives a deposit of Holy Spirit power when he surrenders himself to obey Jesus. This deposit of power transforms (sanctifies) the sinner. When Jesus seals the 144,000, their deposit will be fully filled, that is, Jesus will remove their sinful nature and they will be wholly sanctified. The 144,000 will be free of sin’s tempting power like Adam and Eve before they fell.
Once a person has his sinful nature removed, he will not live in a state where his sinful and spiritual natures are in conflict. (Romans 7:5-8:11) A person without a sinful nature will naturally do God’s will at all times and in all circumstances; this is entirely different from the current human experience. (Romans 7:20,21) After Jesus removes their sinful natures, He will fulfill this covenant with them: “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Hebrews 8:10) John calls the 144,000 “first fruits” (Revelation 14:5) because they will be the first to experience this covenant! The 144,000 will be the first to be set free from their sinful nature. The really good news is that Jesus promises to set everyone free! “Whosoever will” can enjoy His covenant if he is willing to live by faith. (Revelation 13:10; 1 John 5:4) Prostitutes, addicts, murderers, swindlers, and predators will be sealed just like the 144,000 after they show Jesus they are willing to live by faith and obey His gospel. I do not know of an amnesty that offers more!
Intense Conflict between the 144,000 and the Clergy
Most of the clergy will despise the 144,000 because Jesus will say things through them that make the clergy furious. The same thing happened when Jesus was on Earth. The Father spoke through Jesus’ mouth and the clergy of Israel were so incensed, they plotted to kill Him. (Acts 3;15; John 12:49,50) The 144,000 will respond to every charge and accusation with words that cannot be defeated because Jesus will do the speaking. The whole world will hear “the testimony of Jesus” with clarity and authority. (Revelation 1:9; 12:17; 19:10) The 144,000 will exalt Jesus in the same way that Jesus exalted the Father. They will present Bible truths. Bible truth will cause a firestorm of controversy because the 144,000 will use it to expose and confront every false doctrine. The testimony of Jesus and Bible truth will infuriate almost everyone, but honest hearted people within each religious system will eventually wake up and embrace it. The enabling power of the Holy Spirit will cause many to recognize Jesus’ voice speaking to them through the 144,000, (John 10:27) who will be attacked, persecuted, punished, and accused of blasphemy. Eventually, most, if not all of them, will be killed. Remember that Jesus, John the Baptist, nine of the twelve apostles and most of God’s prophets were killed for speaking the words God gave them to speak. (Matthew 23:37)
After the first four trumpet judgments occur and the survivors are in a state of shock, religious leaders will loudly proclaim God’s wrath has fallen because of man’s wickedness. They will falsely claim that more judgments are coming unless the whole world immediately changes its behavior. The 144,000 will boldly refute these religious leaders, declaring that no more judgments are coming for the next two and a half years; (See *Note below) and when the fifth trumpet does occur, it will not be a judgment producing global destruction! People will be confused. People will question who is telling the truth. This controversy will lead honest hearted people to search the Bible, because the Bible is the only sacred writing on Earth that reveals the truth about God, His character, ways and plans.
* Note: I believe the Bible indicates the amount of time between the fourth and fifth trumpet to be about 2.5 years. Of course, time will tell.