VOLUME 2 ISSUE 3 MARCH 1998
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE: The "Friends of the Nazarene" are a Bible research group and Christian association for better Scriptural understanding dedicated to the preservation and publishing of Christian writings which aid the Fathers Children to "follow the Lamb no matter where the Lamb goes." We are Apologists dedicated to the defense of the truth that "God is One" and not three. The Bible is our credo but we wish to respect the views of our multitude of Christian brethren. [Research associates: Mark Miller, Andrew Foss.]
Inside this Issue:
1. Who Are the 144,000?
3. Who are the Great Crowd?
4. Perfecting the Christian Character: Love of Enemies.
5. Faith Perspectives: an open forum
6. What is "this generation"?
THE 144,000 --- WHO ARE THEY?
[This is a reprint from the verse by verse commentary on Revelation, NAZARENE APOCALYPSE (formerly Apocalypse 2,000) The online publication may be down-loaded at www.nazarene-friends.org/pubs ]
INTRODUCTION. It is very easy with this type of subject to wave the Magic Wand and sprinkle Fairy Dust with some grand authoritarian pronouncement regarding the identity of the 144,000. Many have done so throughout the centuries. While refraining from being judgmental or critical of these views and opinions, we first ask: "How does one go about interpreting this subject?"
GUIDELINES FOR INTERPRETATION. The ancient rule from Josephs mouth is still the best, "Does not interpretation belong to God?" (Ge 40.8) How are we to do this? How can we possibly let God interpret such matters as the Apocalypse?
First, we ask if someone else, someone inspired by God, has quoted or alluded to these verses regarding the 144,000? We do find some amplification of the 144,000 in Revelation 7.1-8 by reading a couple later remarks: Revelation 9.4 and 14.1-5. We may view these later verses as commentaries on the earlier occurrence. Secondly, we look to see if there are Hebrew Bible allusions buried within the word choices and context of the 144,000. Third, we examine the contexts themselves of all three locations where the 144,000 are being referenced (6.12-7.17, 9.1-4, and 13.16-14.5) looking for a general chronological time frame. Fourth, we seek a general pattern in the rest of the Bible where such a group like the 144,000 might be in harmony with, or consistent with, what we have found by examining the three methods above. Finally, if these fail or have serious limitations, we must admit we are in an area where a firm answer does not exist and we then seek what we have called a bias, a leaning toward a certain possibility.
Though we may consider 9.4 and 14.1-5 as amplifications on the subject of the 144,000, it seems our best possibility is to examine the context. We find three immediate contexts to the 144,000: 1) 6.12-7.17; 2) 9.1-4; 3) 13.16-14.5
1) THE 144,000 WITHIN THE SIXTH SEAL. The first occurrence of the 144,000 is in the context of the sixth seal. (6.12-7.17) This Seal begins with language very similar to that of the Nazarene in his answer to his disciples questions: celestial darkness. We learned earlier that Jesus language is very much like that of Isaiah where such a heavenly phenomenon is foretold in conjunction with the gathering of Israel from the four winds. (Re 6.12, 13; Mt 24.29; Is 11.12; 13.10, 13) If we view 6.12, 13 as an allusion to Jesus own prophecy cited above, then the Sixth Seals occurs following the Great Oppression of Mt 24.21, 22. We understand this period of oppression to be three and a half years in length. (Lk 21.24; Re 11.2; 13.5-7; Dn 7.21, 22) It is a particular period of persecution brought upon the Elect (the Chosen Ones) or Saints just prior to the Return of our Lord in his foretold Arrival or Parousia. (Dn 7.18-22; 12.1-7; Mk 13.24-26; Lk 21.25-27; Re 13.5-7, 10, 15)
We understand the series of events to occur in this sequence: the great oppression, celestial phenomenon, earthwide anguish, the Revealing of the Sign of the Son of Man, the coming of the King, international lamentation, the gathering of the Saints (by resurrection and rapture), the ascension of the Church to heaven, a period of great turmoil on earth, the descent of the New Jerusalem, the destruction of Babylon the Great, Armageddon, the abyssing of Satan and the beginning of the 1,000-Years. We will leave it to another discussion to establish the Scriptural support for this chronology of events. However, these should become obvious as we proceed through the Apocalypse.
For our purposes here, the immediate context of Revelation 6.12-7.17, within the frame of the Sixth Seal, is after the celestial darkness and thus after the Great Oppression, but before the end of Babylon the Great. It is precisely that period of angelic gathering foretold by the Nazarene. (Mt 13.41; 24.29, 30; 2 Th 2.1) This is the time for the parousia-Judgment of the Household of God. (Mt 24.43-25.46; 2 Co 5.10; 1 Pe 4.5, 13, 17; 1 Jn 2.28; 4.17) We understand this judgment to occur in two parts: the dead and the living. (2 Tm 4.1; 1 Pe 4.5) According to Paul the Christian dead are raised first and then judged. (1 Co 15.23; 1 Th 4.15-17; 2 Co 5.10) It is our view that the Christian living at this moment are judged while in the flesh for only the called, chosen and faithful are raptured. (Re 17.14) The unfaithful are assigned their part with the hypocrites. (Mt 24.51; Lk 12.46; Mt 25.46) Rather than be taken up in the Rapture, they are left or abandoned to those events which will yet occur on earth. (Mt 24.40-42, 51; Lk 21.34; Re 11.11, 12)
Therefore, the precise moment here during the Sixth Seal is that moment when the Great Oppression is over and the living believers come up for judgment, just as the Nazarene foretold. The believers know their deliverance is getting near. It is in this context of celestial darkness and the global fear described in 6.15-17 that the selection of the 144,000 on earth takes place. (Lk 21.25-28) The Great Day has arrived but does not yet carry on to an actual conclusion. The actual "end" is months off. (Re 9.5; Dn 12.11, 12) It is the moment when the Four Winds ought to break forth but those responsible angels are held in restraint, bound as it were at the symbolic Euphrates river. (7.2, 3; 9.14, 15) There is a hesitation as it were to wait for an important work to be accomplished: the Kings angelic representatives gather or seal those living Nazarene Saints who have the Fathers approval. (Mt 24.30)
2) THE FIFTH TRUMPET. Judging from Revelation 9.1-11 those "sealed," that is the 144,000, are present on earth during the moment the fifth angelic trumpet sounds and that apocalyptic locust plague breaks forth. In this stage of sequential blowing of the Seven Trumpets there are only two groups among mankind: those sealed and those not sealed. (9.4) Although 9.4 does not mention this number 144,000, it appears to be the same group as mention in 7.3 and we do not believe it unfair to state that the 144,000 are all sealed at this moment in the prophetic timing of things. This has a strong bearing on their identity.
3) THE VICTORIOUS AND THE WILD SEA BEAST. The final context regarding the 144,000 falls within a similar historic moment. Revelation 13.1-14.5 describes the period of the Great Oppression of three and a half years and the ultimate victory in vivid detail. A wild Sea-Beast is revived and all the earth is held in religious awe over this. A second Earth-Beast makes an Image to this revived Sea-Beast and there is global worship of this Image. There is some kind of international or global economic control with earths inhabitants forced to accept a "mark" or "engraving." Those that refuse are subject to prison or execution. It is during a period of 42 months that the Sea-Beast makes an oppressive war on those Nazarene Saints still living just prior to the Return of Christ. These "saints" mentioned in 13.5-7, 10 are identical to those described in Daniel 7.18-22. (Compare Daniel 12.1-7) It seems reasonable to us that these "saints" at this precise moment, after the rise of the Sea-Beast, as well as the Lamb-like Earth-Beast and the Image it creates, are the same was what Paul calls, we the living at 1 Thessalonians 4.16. We say this for several reasons, but one we mention here: Revelation 15.2. Following the account of the 144,000, the Apocalypse describes a vision of those who come off victorious from the Wild Beast and from its Image and from the number of its name. These victorious ones must be the same as the "saints" of 13.7, 10. Later, at the beginning of the 1,000-Years, the total number of the Saints are described in two groupings, as it were: a) the ancient saints who suffered martyrdom described also at 6.9-11; and, b) those saints contemporary with the Wild Beast and who did not receive or accept the number or mark of the wild Sea Beast. (20.4; 13.5-7, 10)
So, this context in 13.1-14.5 is consistent with those of 6.12-7.17 and 9.1-12. These contexts would likely place the 144,000 at this future period of human history: after the Great Oppression but before the Rapture.
IS THE NUMBER 144,000 A SYMBOL? There are many numbers in the Apocalypse. How could we take this number, 144,000? We have at least three options: it is literally 144,000; or, the number is symbolic for something else; or, it is both symbolic and literal. What would be our first inclination? Judging from the announcement in the first verse in the Apocalypse we would have the tendency to view it as symbolic, or a sign. There are literal numbers in Revelation which can be such and yet still have symbolic value. For example, the number seven must be literal in the case of the seals and trumpets for they are sequential.
The number twelve (12) is packed with symbolism as it relates to Israel. In the ancient Orient, including Babylon, numbers with values or cryptic meanings were heightened or amplified by squaring them. Thus, the number 9 is very sacred as the square of 3. [NOTE: The sacred number 9 is absent in the Apocalypse though the cardinal "ninth" appears once in the list of gates of the New Jerusalem.] If we square the number of Israel, 12, we get 144. Another way to heighten the value of a number was to multiply it against 1,000 or 10,000. If this be the case, the number 144,000 is the result of squaring 12 and multiplying by 1,000. It seems strange that this number, 144,000, does not occur elsewhere in the Apocalypse when one might expect it, such as in the description of the New Jerusalem where various numbers are mentioned, including 144.
There is something in the description of the 144,000 in 14.1-5 which has a priestly tone to it. This causes us to look at the ancient Mosaic tabernacle for a clue. We have found the possibility in the number of the cherubs on the interior tapestry of the sacred compartments, the Holy and the Most Holy. According to our estimate there are 144. If this be true, the tabernacle number of cherubs would be the source for the number 144,000. It would emphasize that this group is a priestly class of great significance.
Some see the 144,000 as the literal number of all the Christian saints who have ever existed. But, right off, this seems unreasonable as there have been many, many times that among the faithful martyrs alone. The Apocalypse alludes to what one might call the Christians of history, that is from the time of the writing of the Book of Acts up to that period yet in the future as described in 6.9-11 with the outcry of the martyrs. Those who view this number literally also interpret the action of sealing 12,000 out of each tribe of Israel as symbolic. In other words, if the "12,000 out of the tribe Judah" is symbolic, then it seems reasonable that the entire number 144,000 is symbolic.
However, the main emphasis in the Apocalypse is upon those Saints alive during the contemporary history of the revived Sea-Beast and the global marking with the number of its name. In our view nearly every chapter from 7 through 20 in some way allude precisely to those saints alive during this Great Oppression of 42 months. This is similar to our Lords own emphasis on those watchful believers who have remained in faithful anticipation of his Return and are actually "living" when the Parousia arrives. (Mt 24.42-25.46; Jn 11.25, 26; 1 Th 4.15-17; 2 Tm 4.1; Re 11.18) This can be seen in the many parable in Matthew chapters 24, 25, Mark 13.34-36, and Luke 12.35-48. The reason for this is simple: these Nazarene Saints are those who have obeyed all of the Masters warnings precisely at the moment of his Return for inspection and judgment.
12,000 OUT OF WHAT "TRIBES"? There is something hidden here we need to examine. If this "sealing" by the angels is the same as the "gathering" the Nazarene foretold at Matthew 24.30 (Is 11.12), we want to ask: "When Revelation 7.4-8 describes the sealing out of the tribes of Israel, what Israel is this?" Or, put another way: "Israel" has existed since 1512 BC, or more than 3,500 years, precisely when do the angels gather out or seal 144,000 out of 12 tribes of Israel? We have discussed what must be that future moment when this occurs: after the Great Oppression and before the Rapture. Thus, this special selection out of "Israel" must be from (or, out of) Israel at that future prophetic moment.
When Jesus foretells in Matthew, "And the Son of Man will send forth his angels with a great trumpet sound, and they will gather the Elect together from the four winds," (24.31) there is something here like Revelation 7.1, "the four winds." Also, it must be noted that the Nazarenes words in Matthew 24.31 may well be drawn from a paraphrase of Isaiah 11.12, "And (Messiah) must raise a sign for the Gentile, and he will gather the dispersed of Israel and the scattered ones of Judah he will collect together from the four ends of the earth." There is much that is similar in Jesus speech at Matthew 24.30, 31, a Sign and the gathering of the Chosen Ones from the four winds. This gathering, or sealing, must be from Israel at that moment precisely just after the Parousia (or, Arrival) of the King-Messiah begins.
We note that in the discussion of the Large Crowd in Revelation 7.9-17 there are numerous allusions to Isaiah chapter 49. For example, Revelation 7.16, 17 are compound paraphrases from Is 49.10. So, the mention of these tribes in 7.4 may also be an allusion to Is 49.5, 6, "Bring back Jacob to Yahweh, in order that Israel may be gathered. ... To raise up the tribes of Jacob (Israel) and to bring back even the safe-guarded ones of Israel . . . that my salvation may come to the extremity of the earth." If Revelation 7.4 is a subtle reference to this, then the context of Revelation 7.4, 16, 17 are brought much closer together, hinting that the 144,000 are very much linked in identity to the Large Crowd.
Therefore, the sealing of the 144,000 out of the tribes of Israel would occur at this same contextual moment in Jesus own prophesy: after the Great Oppression and contemporary with the celestial darkness and Messiahs Appearing. Now, we must ask: Which Israel? We remember that Paul speaks of his brethren the Jews and himself in this manner: "Our twelve tribes, by earnest worship, night and day, are hoping to attain the hope promised by our forefathers." (Ac 26.6, 7) Paul makes himself a part of that "Israel."
Peter also opens his first letter with, "to the tribes in the Diaspora." (1 Pe 1.1) This is, of course, all in agreement with Pauls statements about the real or true "Israel": "the visible Jew and the hidden Jew"; and, "For, not all from Israel are Israel, and also, If you are a Christian you are really of Abrahams seed." (Ro 2.28, 29; 9.6; Ga 3.29) So, we could expect a remnant of this "Israel" to be present upon the Return of Jesus Christ from heaven. Now, "the Lord knows those who are his," and for this reason he can send forth his angels to gather these scattered or dispersed ones of the True Israel --- the New Israel of God. (Ga 6.16; He 10.15-17; Je 31.31-34)
Some wish to make the 144,000 the total of the spiritual twelve tribes of Israel but that is not what John hears. He hears the 144,000 are "out of" this Israel. The 144,000 are only a part of this spiritual Israel with its twelve tribes.
However, it would be that "remnant of Israel" (Zp 3.12, 13 = Re 14.4, 5) at the precise moment described above: just as the Day of Wrath is upon the world with its celestial darkness. (Re 6.12, 17) The way the "tribes of the earth" cry in Revelation 6.16, 17 may well suggest "they see the Son of Man coming on clouds." (Mt 24.30; Dn 7.22) This is in harmony also with the Nazarenes words about the deliverance out of the Great Oppression: it is "the Chosen Ones" who are saved. This is a term used of Israel itself. (Mt 24.20, 22; 1 Sa 26.2; 1 Ch 16.13; Ps 105.6, 43; 106.5; Is 65.9, 15, 22; Lk 18.7)
THE 144,000 AND THE LARGE CROWD. Many read Revelation 7.1-17 and draw a distinction between the 144,000 and what Revelation 7.9-17 describes as a Large Crowd out of all nations. [NOTE: LARGE CROWD. Sometimes translated "great multitude." The Greek is ochlos polys. [For a discussion of this "large crowd" see the following article.] Remember that the gathering of the dispersed of Israel is by angelic direction and from the four winds, or out of all nations. So that the description of the Large Crowd out of all nations may not necessarily mean they are Gentiles in the sense of Romans 2.25, 26. This Large Crowd could be Israel out of all nations as Matthew 24.31 has it. (Is 11.13)
What is often overlooked is that John does not "see" the 144,000 in 7.1-8. Rather, John "hears" the tally or roll-call of the number 144,000. It is not until verse 9 that he begins to "see" something! May he now be seeing with verse 9 what he was hearing in verses 4-8? Note, that the Large Crowd is identified as "those who come out of the Great Oppression." [NOTE: COME OUT. Does not the text seem to infer that these are the only ones who "come out" or are "rescued" from (Da 12.1, 2) the Great Oppression? Interestingly, the expression "come out" in Re 7.14 is similar to the "Come out!" in Is 49.9.] Is this not an allusion to Matthew 24.21, 22, 31? And, are not Jesus own words drawn from Daniel 12.1? So, the Large Crowd is the same as the Elect of Matthew 24.21, 22 and what would be Daniels own people (the Jews) at Daniel 12.1. Also, the Large Crowd is described in terms that make them very much Israel: waving palm branches as if at the Jewish Festival of Booths and worshipping God day and night in his Temple. If you were in Jerusalem when Jesus was present at a Festival of Tabernacles and you saw people waving palm branches and worshipping God in His Temple, whom would they be? Jews, or Israelites! (Lk 19.36-40; Jn 12.13)
Therefore, it seems to us that the 144,000 is a symbol for this Large Crowd of spiritual Jews who are rescued from the Great Oppression. So, the 144,000 and the Large Crowd are identical with what Paul has called, "we the living" at the Return of Christ. (1 Th 4.15-17) There is something else which helps us draw this conclusion. [NOTE: LARGE CROWD = 144,000. This view is similar to that expressed by the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Colin Brown editor), Vol 2, page 695: " . . . 12 x 12,000 = 144,000 who are sealed ... from the tribes of Israel; cf. also 14:3. Thus the number 144,000 does not denote a numerical limitation of those who are sealed; it symbolizes the final perfection of the people of God (cf. also 7.9). In this respect when John sees them, as opposed to hearing the number of the sealed, they are a great multitude which no man can number . . . (cf. Rev. 7:9 with 7.4)."]
In the account of the 144,000 in Revelation 14.1-5 there is phrase very much like that in Zecariah 3.13 in the Jewish Greek Septuagint. In Zechariah this reads from the LXX, "And the remnant of Israel shall fear the name of Yahweh and shall do no iniquity, neither shall they speak vanity; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth." Note that Revelation 14.5 is identical to this in Greek. Zechariah describes the "remnant" of Israel and not all Israel. This harmonizes with the idea that the 144,000 are those sealed at the moment of the Lords Return, having endured 42 months of war and oppression at the hands of the Wild Sea-Beast. The Large Crowd is this same remnant that comes out of the Great Oppression. The word remnant has been used in Re 12.17 to describe the Seed of the Woman during a period exactly 42 months, or 1,260 days, long. In other words, this "seed of the woman" is the same as the 144,000 sealed after this moment, and thus the same as the Large Crowd which comes out of the Great Oppression.
OTHER FEATURES IDENTIFYING THE 144,000. There are several features in Re 14.1-5 which point again to similarities with that group of Nazarene Saints of the True Israel who are rescued after the Great Oppression. (Dn 12.1) For example, the 144,000 are described as being "in sight of the Throne" just as the Large Crowd of Re 7.9, 14 are. From this the conclusion could be drawn that they are the same.
The 144,000 are pictured in heaven on Mount Zion with the Lamb-Messiah. (Ps 2.7) They are described as having the "name of the Lamb and the name of his Father written upon their foreheads." This may be a description of "the Seal of the living God" of Revelation 7.3, 4. Are the 144,000 the only ones on Mount Zion, or are they the only ones to go to heaven as it were?
The 144,000 are described as "a firstfruits" from the earth and mankind. Judging from 1 Corinthians 15.20, 23, where the same Greek word aparkhe is used, means the first part of a general harvest of the same type. (note 1 Co 15.23, 48, 49) In other words, the 144,000 are the first of the harvest, but not the total of all the fruitage harvested to the heavenly Kingdom. There is something of this in Revelation 14.14-16 which seems a paraphrase of Matthew 24.30, 31: the Arrival of the Son of Man and the gathering of the Elect. In what way could the 144,000 be firstfruits of a greater harvest?
If we judge what has been described above correctly, and the living Saints at the moment of Christs Return are judged while in the flesh, and thus sealed for immediate gathering in the Rapture, they would be the first of the Christian Church so judged. For Paul has it that the "dead in Christ rise first"; but, upon their resurrection there must occur their judgment. (Dn 12.2; Jn 5.29; 2 Co 5.10; He 9.26, 27; Mt 25.31-46) The living Christians must be judged in the flesh so they may partake of the Rapture. This, in affect, makes them the firstfruits to God and the Lamb. The after-fruits, or a later product of the Christian harvest, will come from the Faithful Dead after the parousia-Judgment.
Finally, we see a parallel between the "harps" in Revelation 14.2 and those in 15.2. These harpists in 15.2 are described as those who are victorious from the Wild Beast, its Image, and the number of its name. This would place these harpists in 15.2 as those living at the time of the mark (13.7, 17) and most likely identical with the 144,000 who have endured the captivity and sword of 13.9, 10. Everything seems to point to the 144,000 being the same as those Saints who come out victorious over the wild Sea Beast, and thus come out of the Great Oppression as a Large Crowd of spiritual Jews from the prophetic tribes of Israel.
SUMMARY. Judging from the contexts described above, similar parallels between the 144,000 and the Large Crowd, as well as those Biblical allusions which demonstrate a similarity, we feel the 144,000 are identical with the Large Crowd. Precisely, both terms can be applied to what Paul calls "WE THE LIVING" (1 Th 4.16); or, what the Nazarene calls "THE CHOSEN ONES" (Mt 24.21, 22), and Isaiah, "THE REMNANT." (Is 11.13; Zc 3.13; Re 12.17) The appearance of the 144,000 can only occur following the test of the Great Oppression and before the Rapture, during what we have called the parousia-Judgment. This angelic work of sealing the 144,000 is the Masters judgment of his own Household upon his Return, while the judging of the resurrected Christians is also taking place in heaven. With the Rapture, the living Nazarene Saints, having been "changed" (1 Co 15.50-52), join the approved Christian dead and then, "together with them, at the same time, ascend to meet the Lord in the air," and, thereafter, enter the glorious New Jerusalem. (1 Th 4.16, 17; Re 3.12; 21.2-4) All of this raises a most interesting question. [NOTE: RAPTURE. Compare the Dictionary of New Testament Theology (DNTT), Vol 3, page 602-3: "In 1 Thess. 4:17 Paul deals with the final rapture into the fellowship of the redeemed at the last day. It was not the sufferings of the church that caused Paul to make the statement, but the concern some of its members about the fate of Christians who had already died. This concern is removed by the certainty of resurrection. Those Christians who were still alive would not die but would be taken up directly into the fellowship of those who had already been raised, as they leave the gates of the world to meet in the air the Christ acclaimed as Lord." When Jerome in the Fourth Century was to translate the Greek into Latin in his famous Vulgate he came to 1 Th 4.17 and used what amounts to the English "raptured" for the Greek harpagesometha, used rapiemur. The whole phrase in Latin goes, "deinde nos qui vivimus qui relinquimur simul rapiermur cum illis in nubibus obviam Domino in aer et sic semper cum Domino erimus ... ."]
WHERE ARE THE 144,000-SAINTS DURING THE 7 PLAGUES?
144,000-SAINTS. Above we have discussed their identity of the 144,000 as those Nazarene Saints alive at the moment of Christs Return who are then snatched or raptured off this earth. When we now use this number it will mean the same as the Large Crowd at Revelation 7.9-17 and the Saints at Revelation 13.5-7, 10. So, we will use the expression 144,000-Saints to be the same as "we the living" in 1 Thessalonians 415-17; "the Chosen Ones" in Matthew 24.21, 22, 30; "the people who are the Saints of the Most High" in Daniel 7.18-27; and "your People" in Daniel 12.1.
144,000-SAINTS AND THE GREAT TRIBULATION. The 144,000-Saints are those who live through the 42 months of Great Oppression brought upon them by what Daniel calls "the Little Horn" and the Apocalypse describes as the wild Sea-Beast. Compare Daniel chapter seven with Revelation chapter thirteen. Just prior to this period called "a time, times, and half a time," the Devil is ousted from heaven to begin his war against the "remnant of the Womans Seed." (See Re 12.10-17) These are the 144,000-Saints. We believe in the possibility that this period of three and a half years, or 1,260 days, has within it that "five months" during what is described in Revelation 9.1-6 occurs. Revelation 9.4 clearly shows the 144,000-Saints are still on earth and in a position to be "harmed" by these apocalyptic locusts. We feel it likely that the 144,000-Saints are present during this whole episode up until the blowing of the Seventh (Last) Trumpet. It would seem harmonious with Pauls "last trumpet" of 1 Corinthians 15.23, 50-53 (also 1 Th 4.17) that this seventh apocalyptic trumpet is that moment when the parousia-Judgment arrives and the Nazarene Saints (the entire Church of Christ) are raised or raptured. (Re 11.11, 12, 15, 18)
One of the main features of the Great Oppression is the test of either accepting or refusing "the mark of the Wild Beast." (Re 13.10, 16, 17; 15.2, 3) This "mark" or "name" is related to the commercial or economic necessity "to buy or sell." There is no stronger way to control people than by their ability to buy or sell something. So, the test which comes upon the 144,000-Saints at this moment is an economic, commercial, or financial one. One can now see the value of the Nazarenes parable at Matthew 25.31-46 where the sheep and goats are judged by how they treat, or did not treat, their "brothers" who were strangers in flight, hungry, thirsty, cold or imprisoned. We can expect some of the Saints to be put into prison or executed with the "sword" according to Revelation 13.10. Without the ability to buy or sell the individual Saints would have to rely on the hospitality of others during this time of Great Oppression.
THE 144,000 GO TO HEAVEN. Regardless, at some point in this Great Oppression, no doubt right at the limit of the three and a half years, the Lord Christ Jesus returns and the 144,000-Saints are raptured or snatched out of harms way. Revelation 14.1-5 describes the 144,000-Saints upon Mount Zion or in heaven with the Lamb. This is repeated again in Revelation 15.2 without using the number 144,000 but by describing their victory. These are the last Saints who "are victorious over the Wild (Sea) Beast and its Image and the mark or number of its name." Those so mentioned or described in 15.2 are limited to those who experienced the whole revival of the wild Sea Beast, the setting up of its Image, and the global enforcement of the use of this mark as a tool for buying and selling. The 144,000-Saints are relieved of this great pressure and persecution caused by the Great Oppression and safely raptured under the protection of Gods "tent." (Re 7.15)
THE 144,000-SAINTS ARE IN HEAVEN DURING THE 7 LAST PLAGUES. Following the lovely description in Revelation 15.1-4 the vision of the "seven last plagues of Gods anger" occurs. The 144,000 are in heaven, likely within the protection of the New Jerusalem, the Celestial City of God. At this moment the seven plagues unfold upon the earth with Babylon the Great, the Wild Sea-Beast, and the False Prophet as its focus. We leave a discussion of these plagues to future pages. For our purposes at the moment it is enough to see where the 144,000-Saints are when the plagues occur---in heaven.
New email or online publications available: NAZARENE COMMANDMENTS, a list with brief commentary on the "commandments" of Jesus Christ (25 pages). NAZARENE COMMUNITY, a manual on harmonious Christian association and perfecting the Christian character. (38 page) WHERE ARE THE DEAD? A discussion of what the Bible has to say on death, soul, resurrection, Hades, and judgment. DE TRINITATIS ERRORIBUS, a 100 page research book in progress dealing with most facets of the doctrine of the Trinity. BIBLE KEY WORDS is a one word summary of the entire Bible. All of these may be printed or down-loaded at the Nazarene Saints web site: www.nazarene-friends.org .
UPCOMING ISSUES: APRIL: Celebrating the "Memorial" of Christs Death; Christian Characteristic #15: SYMPATHY; taken from "Nazarene Commandments" and "Nazarene Community." MAY: When Does the New Jerusalem "descend"? A Humble Spirit. Our First Year!
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WHO ARE THE GREAT CROWD?
"THESE DRESSED IN WHITE ROBES, WHO ARE THEY, AND WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?" [This article is a reprint from the commentary on Revelation, NAZARENE APOCALYPSE (formerly APOCALYPSE 2,000.) It may be downloaded at www.nazarene-friends.org ]
THE SIXTH SEAL CONTINUED: REVELATION 7.9-17 AND THE LARGE CROWD. Both the 144,000 and the Large Crowd occur in the prophetic context of the Sixth Seal. Having heard the number of those sealed as 144,000, John is now given a description of a Large Crowd. This method of hearing the number and then seeing such described is similar to a later vision John has of 200,000,000 horsemen in chapter nine, verses 13-19. He first hears the number and then he sees the 200,000,000 riders. (verses 16, 17). This is just as he experienced in chapter seven: he hears the number 144,000, and then he sees their description in the Large Crowd. [NOTE: LARGE CROWD. For details on this subject see the work THE NAZARENE APOCALYPSE. The Large Crowd is symbolized by the number 144,000. This view is similar to that expressed by the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Colin Brown editor), Vol 2, page 695: " . . . 12 x 12,000 = 144,000 who are sealed ... from the tribes of Israel; cf. also 14:3. Thus the number 144,000 does not denote a numerical limitation of those who are sealed; it symbolizes the final perfection of the people of God (cf. also 7.9). In this respect when John sees them, as opposed to hearing the number of the sealed, they are a great multitude which no man can number . . . (cf. Rev. 7:9 with 7.4)."]
As with the 144,000, there has been many different views of this Large Crowd in chapter seven, verses 9-17. Some view it as the whole Church in heaven. Others feel it is only the Gentile members of the Church. One group views this Great Multitude as a secondary class of Christians who do not go to heaven but survive Armageddon to live on earth forever. As interesting as this idea of "millions now living will never die" is, we are more concerned with the actual identity of this Large Crowd. Who are they?
This question is raised by the celestial presbyter in Revelation 7.14, "These enwrapped in white robes, who are they and from where do they come?" The answer is given by the heavenly elder himself: "These are the ones coming out of the Great Oppression." John would have no difficulty in identifying the Large Crowd now, for this phrase "Great Oppression" is exactly the one used by the Nazarene himself in Matthew 24.21. The word for "oppression" is thlipsis in Greek and is the same word used in Daniel 12.1: "And at that time Michael, the Great Prince, shall stand up ... and there will be a time of tribulation (thlipseos), such a tribulation (thlipsis) as has not been from the time there was a nation on earth until that time: at that time thy People shall be delivered, even every one that is written in the Book." (LXX) [NOTE: the original source of the idea of this "oppression" is rooted in Daniel 7.25 where the Aramaic word Bela may mean "oppress."]
Is it being fair to say that the Celestial Presbyter clearly quotes the Nazarene at Mt 24.21 and Daniel 12.1? Is it fair to suggest that the Large Crowd is the same as the Nazarenes "chosen ones" (or, the Elect) and Daniels "People"? Is it fair to compare the "Book" in which Daniels People are inscribed is the same as sealing the 144,000? (Lk 10.20; 2 Ti 2.19; Re 17.8)
Those few who view the Large Crowd as a secondary "earthly class" spend most o their commentary space in trying to prove this group is not heavenly. However, a close review of Revelation 7.9-17 will produce about a dozen phrases which would identify the Large Crowd with the remnant of spiritual Israel or locate them in heaven. Take a look at some of these.
(1) A LARGE CROWD. (7.9) This Greek phrase, ochlos polys (not, megalen or "great"), is the same term used in the Gospels to refer to crowds of several thousands and not millions. (Mt 14.21; 15.38; 16.9; Mk 6.44; 8.9, 19; Lk 9.14; Jn 6.10) There is an interesting use of ochlos polys in the account of the Nazarenes disciples going out to meet him with palm branches in language similar to Revelation 7.9, 10. (Jn 12.12, 13) [NOTE: DISCIPLES. These are identified as "disciples" in Lk 19.40 and therefore potential spirit-begotten Nazarene Saints.]
(2) OUT OF ALL NATIONS. (7.9) Note a similar phrase at 5.9 in relation to the Nazarene Saints who will rule the earth. The Nazarene describes the gathering of the Saints in this manner, "And the Son of Man will send off his angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together his Elect from the four winds, from one extreme of heaven to its over extreme." (Mt 24.31) These words of Jesus are borrowed from Is 11.10-12: "In that day ... (Messiah) will arise to rule the nations ... And he shall raise a Sign for the nations, and he shall gather the Lost Ones of Israel, and he will gather together the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth." (LXX) Here the gathered ones are from Israel dispersed among all the nations, thus a Large Crowd "out of all nations," not necessarily Gentiles themselves. (7.4)
(3) STANDING BEFORE THE THRONE. (7.9, 15) This is literally "in sight of the throne" from the Greek enopion tou thronou. This phrase occurs 10 times in the Apocalypse and is always heaven. An example is found in 7.11 where the angels and the Celestial Presbyters are "standing before the Throne." If these are in heaven, then the Large Crowd is also in heaven. [NOTES: 10 TIMES. (1.4; 3.5; 4.5, 6; 5.8; 7.11, 15; 8.3; 9.3; 11.4; 11.16; 12.10; 14.3; 19.12; 20.12) There is one exception to the phrase "before the throne" as a location in heaven, 20.12; however, here it is a different "throne," that of the Messiah, the Judge of mankind. (Jn 5.22)]
(4) PALM BRANCHES. There is much of John 12.12, 13 here when the Nazarenes disciples, a large crowd, go out to meet him at his entrance into Jerusalem. There is also a clear allusion to the Jewish Festival of Ingathering (or, Booths, Tabernacles). (Note Le 23.34, 42, 43; Re 14.4, 5; Zc 14.16) This would make the Large Crowd spiritual Jews and not "spiritual Gentiles."
(5) SALVATION! (7.10) This salvation hymn is very similar to that of the "great crowd" (okhlou pollou) seen in heaven at Revelation 19.1, 6 (okhlou pollou) in language like that of Revelation 14.2s 144,000. The only other reference to a Large Crowd in the Apocalypse is in heaven.
(6) WHITE ROBES. (See 7.9, 14) These robes are "washed white in the blood of the Lamb." This phrase occurs only one other time in the Apocalypse (22.14) and is limited to those who enter the New Jerusalem. The garment is called the Greek stole (stolas) and this is usually associated with kings and priests. (See Thayers and Strongs)
(7) WORSHIP DAY AND NIGHT. (7.15) This phrase is often related to that service by priests or Jews in worship in the Temple. (Compare Lk 1.74; 2.37; 1 Co 9.17; He8.5; 9.1, 6, 9, 14; 12.28; 13.10) It is also used of Jewish worship in general. (Ac 24.14; 26.7; 27.23; Ro 1.9; 12.1 Ph 3.3; 2 Jn 3) In this regard we have noted the 144 cherubs within the Mosaic Tabernacle and thus a group who do indeed serve God day and night in His Temple.
(8) IN HIS TEMPLE. (7.15) The Large Crowd are pictured in the Temple of God. In Greek this is en to nao autou. This exact phrase occurs at Revelation 11.19 as well as in the LXX 1 Samuel 3.3, 2 Chronicles 4.7, and also Luke 1.21 in the Christian Bible. These all deal with the inner shrine of the Temple Sanctuary. The Greek for "temple" (literally, "divine habitation" or "a gods shrine") is nao, naos, naon. This word group occurs 15 times in the Apocalypse and is always heaven. [NOTE: OCCURRENCES OF "TEMPLE." Re 3.12; 7.15; 11.1, 2, 19; 14.15, 17; 15.5, 6, 8; 16.1, 17; 21.22)]
(9) GODS "TENTING" WITH. This is a phrase similar to Revelation 21.3 and on this verse note that the term is used often of Gods covenant relationship with Israel. (Ez 37.26-28) The Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Volume 3, page 813: "Rev. 7:15 pictures one of the elders before Gods throne informing John that God would encamp (skenosei) over those who had come out of the great tribulation; he would shelter with them in his presence (RSV), dwell with them continuously within his temple." The whole thought seems to speak of heaven as the location of the Large Crowd.
(10) HUNGER, THIRST, HEAT AND SHEPHERDING. (7.16, 17) This is a compound paraphrase of the LXX at Isaiah 49.10, "They shall not hunger, neither shall they thirst; neither shall the heat nor the sun smite them ... and by fountains of waters shall he lead them." (Bagster) Paul has referred to this context in Isaiah when he speaks before a Jewish synagogue. He quotes Isaiah 49.6 and applies the "gentiles" to those Paul intended to preach. (Ac 13.46, 47) Paul quotes Isaiah 49.8 and applies it to the Saints at 2 Corinthians 6.2. The context of Isaiah 48.8-12 includes sheep other than those of Israel: those who come from "afar." (Compare Ep 2.13, 17) The thought is very much that of John 10.16s "other sheep." Pauls use of this portion argues strongly that the Large Crowd is a heaven-bound group of the Nazarene Saints.
(11) TEARS WIPED OUT. (7.17) This phrase is straight from Isaiah 25.8 LXX and the context here deals with the tears of Israel. Isaiah 25.8 is a verse Paul quotes and applies at 1 Corinthians 15.54 to the attainment of immortality. It clearly applies to the Nazarene Saints.
SUMMARY: The answer to the question, "Who are these (of the Great Crowd)?" is summarized as follows: the 144,000 is symbolic of a "remnant of Israel" which is sealed prior to the release of the Four Winds. The 144,000 are the same as the "large crowd" who survive three and a half years of Great Oppression (Persecution) just before the Arrival of the Messianic King. (Mt 24.29-31) They are the same as Pauls "we the living who survive to the Arrival (parousia) of the Lord." (1 Th 4.16, 17) The Great Crowd (Large Crowd) are seen in heaven in the Apocalypse.
PERFECTING THE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER:
CHARACTERISTIC #14 -- LOVE YOUR ENEMIES.
[This is taken from the new online publication NAZARENE COMMUNITY]
Romans 12.14 reads in the King James Version: "Bless them which persecute you; bless, and curse not." This phrase is variously rendered: NEB: call down blessings on your persecutors; LB: if someone harms you, dont curse them; NW: keep on blessing those who persecute.
These words echo the Nazarene when he teaches: "Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you ... Continue to love your enemies, to do good to those hating you, to bless those cursing you, to pray for those who are insulting you. To him that strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also." (Mt 5.44; Lk 6.27-29) Paul expresses the idea to the Corinthians: "We meet abuse with blessings (TCNT) ... They make our lives miserable, but we take it patiently. (PME) ... When we are slandered by them we try to conciliate them." (WMS) (1 Co 4.12, 13)
Christians are characterized by how they respond to those who hate them or love them less. Their reactions are exactly the opposite in the same degree of the antagonist. The Nazarene went further than any spiritual teacher and struck at the very heart of a persons purse or wallet as the seat of motive when it came to enemies. He taught: "Love your enemies and lend to them expecting no repayment." (Lk 6.35) Nothing could prove love more than actually giving money to the very person who dislikes you.
The Hebrew word for "blessing" (ba·rakh') carries the idea of speaking well of someone, or to "wish well" (1 Sa 25.14) and "congratulate." (1 Ch 18.10) The Greek eu·lo·ge'o can mean to speak well of or compliment. Thus, the speech of the Nazarene Saint is very much involved in responding to an enemy.
NAZARENE SAINTS ASK: How did I respond the last time someone acted as my enemy or hater? Did I respond positively to negative words and actions?
[An open forum for the free expression of faith whether these agree with the majority or not. Irasmus: "If we want truth, every man ought to be free to say what he thinks without fear."]
The Reason Why ---
Then shall I know ....
Not till the loom is silent
And the shuttles ceases to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why
The dark threads are as needful
In the weavers skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.
--- Contributed by 12 year old Zephan from England
WHAT IS "THIS GENERATION"?
The Greek genea, normally translated "generation," occurs about 40 times in the Synoptic Gospels. The word never occurs in any of Johns writings and only 4 times in Pauls letters. The meaning of this word can be understood by examining these occurrences. It has the general idea of "contemporaries" or that "age" of people alive at a specified time. For example, Hebrews 3.10 uses genea for those Israelites who perished during the 40 years in the Sinai wilderness. On this and similar basis "generation" has been understood to be about 40 years in length. (Mt 1.17)
In the Synoptic accounts of the disciples question regarding "the end" of the Temple and the Arrival of the Son of Man, the Nazarene used this word for "generation" in only one place. It is found in Matthew 24.34, Mark 13.30, and Luke 21.3. To what "generation" is Jesus referring? Is it that "generation" of Jews who would live to see "the end" of Jerusalem and her Temple? It does turn out that it was less than 40 years after their question that Jerusalem was destroyed in the year 70 A. D.
Jesus use of "generation" (genea) comes in the context of the foretold celestial darkness, the appearance of the Sign of the Son of Man, and Christs revelation to all the lamenting tribes of the earth. Had Jesus used the word "generation" earlier, in the specific context of the Temples "end," one would easily understand the Nazarene meant those contemporaries of his would still be alive when the Temples "end" came. Though this actually turned out to be the case is this what Jesus had in mind?
The context would seem to argue that Jesus was thinking of another "generation" which witnesses the celestial darkness. We believe it fair to say that Luke wrote his account last and may well have had before him copies of Matthew and Mark. So, Luke is almost a commentary on Jesus use of the word "generation." Luke 21.25-32 uses the word "near" twice, each in the context of certain observable "things." The first mentions "deliverance" and the second "the Kingdom of God." Matthew and Mark do not use the word "deliverance" but mention instead the angelic gathering of the Chosen Ones, or Elect, living at this same moment. (Mt 24.29-31) Thus, Jesus use of "generation" would not be referring at all to "the end" of the Temple, but to the same ones Paul calls "we the living" at 1 Thessalonians 4.6 who are on hand at the precise moment the Son of Man returns in glory. (Mt 25.31)
Therefore, "this generation" would include "all the (lamenting) tribes of the earth" and "the Chosen Ones" alive during the period which witnesses the celestial darkness, the appearance of the Sign of the Son of Man, and the visible return of Christ.
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