Long ago, Jesus offered an encouraging statement explaining how nothing is done apart from His Father’s will. Jesus referred to the practice of His time of selling two sparrows in the public market for a coin. He boldly stated, “Not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will” (Matthew 10:29 Matthew 10:29Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
American King James Version×).
This verse’s companion scripture of Luke 12:6 Luke 12:6Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?
American King James Version×uses different numbers to purposefully crystallize God’s great and detailed love. Here in Luke, it speaks of five birds sold for two coins or actually two sparrows per coin. Why then the mention of the fifth sparrow? This was the sparrow of little worth that was thrown in to “seal the deal” so as not to lose a customer. Here Christ defines the incredible attention God places on each member of His creation. Nothing, not even the least of us, escapes His loving attention and personalized care.
Embracing God’s promise
What does this reference to our little feathered friends have in common with God’s future involvement with the 144,000 of Revelation 7 and 14? Beyond that, where do you fit within this combined realm of birds and future saints?
Let’s bring the past, present and future together as we consider one powerful reality—the promises of God. While we may not fully understand every implication of the 144,000, we can fully embrace one basic premise embedded in the heart of every saint of God: Our Heavenly Master is true to His word and keeps His promises.
With this in mind, we enter the world of the 144,000. That world will be experiencing “great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21 Matthew 24:21For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
American King James Version×). It is a world that chooses to exist apart from God and is in conflict with the Ruler of the heavens.
But what causes this future disconnect between the Creator and His creation? Revelation 12:7-10 Revelation 12:7-10 7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brothers is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
American King James Version×offers a sequence of future activity that portrays Satan as once again striving to seize the Kingdom of Heaven , but he is thwarted and cast down to this earth. Revelation 12:12 Revelation 12:12Therefore rejoice, you heavens, and you that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time.
American King James Version×triumphantly proclaims, “Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”
Great news, bad news, good news!
The great news is Satan’s assault will be thwarted again. The bad news, at least for humanity, is he is currently down here on earth! The good news is his time is short. But each day will seem unbearable, especially to the saints during this time of tribulation that is given further definition in Revelation 6 as the fifth seal.
It is indeed the time of Satan’s wrath, not to be confused with the seventh seal that signifies the time of God’s judgment upon a rebellious society that marvels and follows “the beast” and therefore is actually worshipping “the dragon” who gives authority to the Beast (Revelation 13:3-4 Revelation 13:3-4 3 And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.
4 And they worshipped the dragon which gave power to the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like to the beast? who is able to make war with him?
American King James Version×).
This bestial system is but a pawn for Satan’s two-fold purpose:
1) to deceive all humanity and have them marvel at his surrogate, “the beast” (Revelation 13:3 Revelation 13:3And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.
American King James Version×), and
2) to eradicate the faithful seed of God’s Church “who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17 Revelation 12:17And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×).
Make no mistake, it is war, pure and simple, against the holy seed of God—the saints.
It is with this pending threat that God responds. It is an action by the One who inhabits eternity. Yes, He who alone transcends the worlds of both man and angel. We discover that He is not late in intervening, but right on schedule. He pushes the cosmic doorbell of 12-14, commonly called the heavenly signs, to announce His divine entrance into the human sphere. When hope is quickly fading and both saint and sinner are at wit’s end, God enters once and forever!
And then a specific and standalone question is asked as the world and Church reel between life and death: “For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Revelation 6:17 Revelation 6:17For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
American King James Version×). God is prepared to usher forth the seventh seal, which is His judgment upon sinful man, but take note of what He doesn’t allow until this point.
God interrupts the flow of events
Here God interrupts the flow of events by asking that His angels perform specific functions. First, the forces of nature are held back from the earth as four angels at four corners of the earth hold back winds. This signifies the global nature of this activity and appears not to speak of a specific location. The graphic description of “standing at the four corners of the earth” conveys an image of a universal Sovereign multitasking to save His holy people on a global scale (Revelation 7:1 Revelation 7:1And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.
American King James Version×).
Likewise, it appears to be time-specific (“after these things”) as a future event between the end of the sixth seal and the commencement of the seventh seal. Plainly stated, chapter 7 is a “time-out call” to fulfill God’s promises to future saints. Our holy God is going to preserve a holy people for His holy purpose, and He will not allow them to fall without His awareness, anymore than the sparrow of old mentioned by Christ.
Second, an angel approaches from “the east” (verse 2). Just as good news came from the east at Jesus’ first coming (Matthew 2:2 Matthew 2:2Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
American King James Version×), likewise, good news is going to travel from the east in preparation for His second coming.
Third, He comes bearing “the seal of the living God” (Revelation 7:2 Revelation 7:2And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,
American King James Version×). The term “living God” is the New Testament echo of Joshua 3:10 Joshua 3:10And Joshua said, Hereby you shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites.
American King James Version×, which proclaims that the “living God is among you.”
He is alive, so very real and active among His covenant peoples of each generation, even in the most doubtful and darkest moments that confront them. This should not be lost on us today, and it will once again be proclaimed to a future people about to cross from one age into another under the guidance and protection of “the living God.”
Devotion is everything, but to whom?
Fourth, this angel commands the other angels to not harm the earth until a divine seal is applied to these end-time saints (verses 3-4). Revelation 14:1 Revelation 14:1And I looked, and, see, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.
American King James Version×implies this is symbolically “written on their foreheads.” This divine seal of protection stands in stark contrast to another seal known as the “mark of the beast” (Revelation 13:15-18 Revelation 13:15-18 15 And he had power to give life to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. 16 And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: 17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him that has understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred three score and six.
American King James Version×).
We must remember that Revelation is a book of wisdom given to the reader to determine a contrast between two gods (the God of creation vs. the “god of this age”), two trees (the tree of life vs. the tree of the knowledge of good and evil), two ways (the way of give vs. the way of get), two churches (a great worldly church vs. a “little flock”), two cities (Jerusalem above vs. Babylon below) and two outcomes (eternal life, which is the gift of God, vs. eternal death). These two seals or marks personify these contrasting values. This brings us to a graphic reality that there will be no “third option” of doing it our way.
It is noteworthy that baptism in the early Church was considered a form of “sealing,” an indication that a convert belonged to God and not himself (Ephesians 1:13 Ephesians 1:13In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
American King James Version×). The 144,000 will be converted individuals, who will be spared from God’s judgment upon the wicked, even though they will endure persecution in the Great Tribulation. Just as the children of Israel experienced the first three plagues visited on Egypt, likewise these future “children of Israel” will go through some similar challenges.
Just who are the 144,000?
Just who are the 144,000? Revelation 7:4 Revelation 7:4And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
American King James Version×shows that they come from “all the tribes of the children of Israel.” Then it lists all but one of the tribes of that extended biblical family. A specific number is affixed to these future saints. It is noteworthy that the number is made up of 12 times 12, mathematically a perfect square. The number indicates completion, rather than a limit. It initially appears to be a small number. Yet, when considering the incredible circumstances that will be occurring on earth, it is actually quite large.
Remember Abraham’s famous countdown before God regarding the potential “righteous” of Sodom (Genesis 18:20-32 Genesis 18:20-32 20 And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;
21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come to me; and if not, I will know.
22 And the men turned their faces from there, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.
23 And Abraham drew near, and said, Will you also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: will you also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?
25 That be far from you to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from you: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
26 And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.
27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken on me to speak to the LORD, which am but dust and ashes:
28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: will you destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.
29 And he spoke to him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty’s sake.
30 And he said to him, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there.
31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken on me to speak to the LORD: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake.
32 And he said, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.
American King James Version×)? There weren’t any besides Lot . As at that time, God will know just where His precious ones are in the Great Tribulation, just as much as He is aware of that little sparrow Jesus referred to. Nothing is done apart from His will, that He, alone, might be glorified.
It is of note that the tribe of Dan is not mentioned in Revelation 7. It is impossible to know with certainty why it is excluded. But the overall number of 144,000 offers a sense that this is a group of converted, obedient and contrite people, submissive to God in contrast to ancient Israel, which was known for its idolatrous and rebellious ways. The overriding symbolism is of a spiritually purified people in an evil and immoral society.
In that number
This purity is granted further definition in Revelation 14:3-4 Revelation 14:3-4 3 And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits to God and to the Lamb.
American King James Version×. The 144,000 are “redeemed,” which means their life has been paid for by Christ’s sacrifice, by His blood, shed to pay for their sins. Thus they are a part of the firstfruits and they “follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” This signifies a covenant people, completely yielded to God.
They are further described as being without deceit “in their mouth,” (Revelation 14:5 Revelation 14:5And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
American King James Version×), meaning they are genuine from the inside out. Nothing phony! They are not seeking the “muddled middle,” trying to serve God, while simultaneously entertaining Satan’s devices. For them, there is no third option. Thus, they are “without fault before the throne of God.” They have access in incredibly horrific times to the only One who can truly step down, step in and reach out—lest they fall like the sparrow of Jesus’ day.
While we may not fully understand every nuance of the numbering of the 144,000 until it is fully revealed in “that day,” we can plainly determine what it takes to be “in that number.” The spiritual qualities of the 144,000 are no mystery. God clearly lists what it takes to “stand” in their day. It is the same list that determines what we need to “stand” in our current society.
Until that time, the sparrow, the sealing of the 144,000 and we have something in common: We exist before the living God who does not forget His promises, who remembers where we are at all times, whether in the steepest of personal falls or the darkest of personal moments. We worship God, who has ultimate control over all elements and entities, be they winds of change, Satan, a Beast or a False Prophet. Therefore, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31 Romans 8:31What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
American King James Version×). The 144,000 reminds us that in His time and way, God cares for people who have spiritual integrity.
It is in the words of Jesus Christ Himself that we hear the echo of “This is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21 Isaiah 30:21And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk you in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left.
American King James Version×). It is the simple directive and promise to a sparrow, the 144,000 and us, right here and right now, that grants us the encouraging knowledge that “not one of them [or us] falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.”