The reason there are 12 inches in the standard foot measurement is because the foot used to be based on the length of the English king's physical foot, and that measurement constantly changed through various kings. This is also why a 12-inch measuring stick was called a "ruler."
The number 12 in the Bible almost always represents leadership of the church. There were 12 patriarchs from Shem to Jacob. In addition, 12 spies led the way to the Promised Land, and there are 12 judges from joshua to Samuel. In Scripture, the number 12 is also often associated with God's church, which is typically symbolized by a woman.
There is also an interesting story in the Gospels concerning the number 12. In just one hour, lesus healed two females with miracles associated with the number 12. First, He healed a woman who had been bleeding 12 years. From that event, He went directly to resurrect a 12-year-old girl. The first woman represented the Old Testament church with a continual flow of sacrificial blood. The young girl symbolized the New Testament church that came to life after a resurrection. They both touched lesus that day and were made whole (Mark 5:25-42).
In Revelation 12:1, we read, "Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars." God's church pictured here has 12 stars above the head; these stars are a symbol of the inspired leadership of the church (1 Corinthians 11:10).
Another interesting clue related to the 144,000 is found in 1 Chronicles 27:1-15. Here we read that David's army was comprised of 12 sets of 24,000, totaling 288,000. That's two teams of 144,000.
First Chronicles 25 tells of a literal group of "24 times 12" Levities that were to lead in praise music of the temple—that's two times 144, which equals 288. And of course, you have two times 12, or 24 elders on thrones around the throne of God in Revelation 4:4. This represents the 12 patriarchs in the Old Testament and 12 apostles in the New Testament!
In Matthew 19:28, Jesus says to the Apostles, "You who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." He then makes a promise to those who will come out of the last age of the church known as Laodicea, which means "judging the people." "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne" (Revelation 3:21). This is because the 144,000 live during the last age of the church and share the experiences of the apostles.
In heaven, it seems that at times there will be an expanding square formation around God's throne. First, the Lord Himself sits on His throne. Outside His throne sit the four creatures, then the 24 elders in a square around them (six to each side), and then finally the 144,000 in a perfect square (36,000 to each side). The great multitudes of saved are the last group that surrounds the 144,000. The perfect and symmetrical math of this assembly is far beyond the fisherman who wrote Revelation.
As a final point of interest for our math majors, did you also know that in addition to the 144,000 being calculated as 12 times 12,000, it can also be achieved this way: 12 x 12 x 103 (or 10 cubed). In this way, you have God's kingdom number (12), God's number of completeness or wholeness (10, as in com mandments), and God's number (3 as in Godhead). I think this might be another fascinating example of God's perfect design.
Another reason for the number 12 is found in the breastplate worn by the High Priest bearing the 12 different precious stones. This reminds us that God's church is made up of many different personalities all near to the heart of our High Priest. The Bible reveals the diverse temperaments that make up the 12 patriarchs and apostles. God chooses leaders of every type, that He might use them to reach all kinds.
Exodus 39:14 says, "There were twelve stones according to the names of the sons of Israel: according to their names, engraved like a signet, each one with its own name according to the twelve tribes." These stones also appear identical to the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem, as described in Revelation 21:12,14: "Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb."
For these reasons and others, I believe the number 144,000 is a precise figure. Just as there were 12 literal tribes in the Old Testament and exactly 12 apostles in the New Testament, and as the walls are truly 144 cubits thick, and as there will be exactly 144 different kinds of fruit on the tree of life each year (12 different fruits each month), there will be 12 times 12,000 apostles in the last days.
So let's assemble the clues we have uncovered. In Scripture, the numbers 12 and 144,000 are associated with Judges, David's army, praising priests, and precious stones. In the same way, the 144,000 are an army of judges and priests that Jesus values as precious stones.
Only 144,000 Saved?
But then the natural thought is, "If this number is not just a symbol, will the 144,000 be the only ones saved in the last days—and if only 144,000 will be saved, what are my chances?" Lets do some simple figuring. If there are 6 billion people in the world when lesus comes (roughly today's global population), that would mean that 1 in 41,666 would be saved. It is still much better than the odds offered by most state lotteries, but it still offers a pretty slim hope of salvation!
But praise God! Though the 144,000 might be an exact number, the Bible does not teach they are to be the only ones saved in the last days. If we read on in Revelation 7:9, immediately after the listing of the tribes and the 144,000, the prophet sees "a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands."
Then in verse 13, one of the 24 elders asks lohn, "Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?" In verse 14, he answers his own question: "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
Now the Bible speaks of two great tribulations in prophecy. One was during the
Papal persecution of the Dark Ages when millions of Christians were slain. But the primary "great tribulation" must refer to the time just before Christ's second coming as referred to in Daniel 12:1,2. "And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt."
Evidently, this great multitude who come out of great tribulation are converted under the preaching and influence of the 144,000. Shortly after Pentecost, the 12 apostles reached a great multitude, then there followed a great persecution (Acts 8:1). Shortly after the Holy Spirit is poured out on the 144,000, a great multitude will be converted and then comes the great tribulation.
The Seal of God & the Father's Name
One of the most important and prominent characteristics of the 144,000 is the special seal and name they bear in their foreheads (Revelation 7: 1-4; 14:1). Shortly after this special seal is secured, the great tribulation and seven last plagues blast onto an unrepentant world. Typically in Revelation, when we think of someone being marked or sealed, it conveys a very negative connotation. In reality, all the saved and lost in Revelation bear some form of mark or seal in their foreheads or hands.
Ezekiel 9 records a vision where only the saved are marked. The criteria that allow them to receive this saving mark is that they are grieved by sin and long for purity. "And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof" (Ezekiel 9:4). Then, only those who have this mysterious mark are spared the awful plague of slaughter that follows.
So what is this seal found on the foreheads of the 144,000? Principally, it must be the Holy Spirit "in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise" (Ephesians 1:13). "And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:30). Obviously, whoever has the "good" mark has the Spirit of God. But beyond the Holy Spirit, there is something more distinctive about this unique seal. We also see that the seal of God involves the law of God. As Isaiah 8:16 records, "Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples." This also should not surprise us, because three times in Revelation, the saved are identified as a people who keep the commandments of God (Revelation 12:17; 14:12; 22:14).
That's also why Moses urged God's people to have God's law in their hands and their foreheads three different times. "And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes (forehead), that the Lord's law may be in thy mouth" (Exodus 13:9; Deuteronomy 6:8; 11:18).
But this seal or sign with the Father's name goes even deeper.
It's About Time
All government seals contain three common elements: the name, title and territory of the ruler. For example, Daniel 1:1
reads, "Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon." You have the name, the official title, and his area of dominion. Within the 10 Commandments, only one has all the characteristics of a seal—the fourth. There we read, "For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them" (Exodus 20:11). Here in the Sabbath commandment, we have God's name (the Lord or Jehovah), His title or office (the Creator) and His territory (the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them). The Sabbath Commandment is the only one that is repeatedly referred to as a seal or sign of God's creative, redeeming power.
For instance, Exodus 31:16,17 says, "Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed."
Furthermore, "I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sancti fy them" (Ezekiel 20:12). "And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the LORD your God" (Ezekiel 20:20).
Keep in mind, the Bible never calls it the Sabbath of the Jews. He calls the Sabbath "My Holy Day" (Isaiah 58:13) and "the sabbath of the LORD thy God (Exodus 20:10). We all know that every real love relationship needs a regular investment of quality time. Throughout history, the devil has tried to erode the relationship of God's people with their Creator by leading them to neglect or ignore His holy Sabbath. Every Sabbath, the 144,000 demonstrate that God has His seal and name in their minds, because they recognize all their time belongs to God. Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Keeping the Sabbath demonstrates that they are resting from their own works and are trusting in Jesus.
So Who Are They?
At the time of Jesus' first coming, He chose 12 men to reach Israel. "These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: 'Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel'" (Matthew 10:5, 6). With the outpouring of the former rain, the 12 apostles reached thousands during the Pentecost revival. At first they were all Jews. "And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven" (Acts 2:5).
And at the time of Jesus' second coming, from the outpouring of the latter rain (the Holy Spirit), 12 times 12,000 will reach a great multitude around the world. The great multitude is converted under the influence and preaching of the 144,000!
In Joel 2:28, 29, we read "And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days."
Please keep in mind that the 144,000 are not the only ones that Jesus is using to preach in the last days—just as the 12 apos-
ties were only part of the 120 in the upper room that led out in the Pentecost revival (Acts 1:15). Not only did Jesus send out the 12 to preach in Israel, but another time He sent out a team of 70 to preach (Luke 10:1). The 144,000 are the spiritual leaders in this revival and not the only ones preaching.
For further clarification, lets look at some of the many parallels between the 12 Apostles and the 144,000: 12 Apostles
Literal Jews Time of first coming
Spirit (Acts 1-2) Work with former rain of Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17) Firstfruits of Jesus first coming (James 1:18) Thousands of Jews converted (Acts 2:5) Have Jesus Name (Acts 3:16) No Guile (John 1:47) Follow Jesus (John 1:37) Lead thousands in loudly proclaiming
Jesus King with palms (Mat 21:1-9) Work before a great persecution in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1) The 12 Sing a song with Jesus (Mat 26:30) Rested on the Sabbath (Luke 23:56; Acts 17:2) Not defiled with leaven of Pharisees (Mark 7:1-15) Will sit on twelve thrones Judging (Mat 19:28)
Spiritual Israel (Gal 3:29)
Time of second coming (Rev 7)
Number is complete then sealed (Rev 7; Eph 4:30)
Work with latter rain of Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28)
Firstfruits of second coming (Rev 14:4)
Great multitude converted (Rev 7:9)
Have Fathers name (Rev 14:1)
Follow the Lamb (Rev 14:4)
Lead great multitude in loudly proclaiming Jesus King with palms (Rev 7:9,10) Work before a great persecution in the world (Dan 12:1)
The 144,000 sing a song with The Lamb (Rev 14:3) Have the Sabbath seal of God and Father's name
(Rev 7:1; 14:1) Not defiled with doctrines of Babylon (Rev 14:4) Will sit with Jesus on 144,000 thrones judging (Rev 20:4)
The most important factor is the Bible's emphasis on the holy condition of this group. It is a reminder to all that lesus is calling each one of us to be holy. "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" (Revelation 14:4).
If we would follow the Lamb wherever He goes to heaven, we must first follow Him all the way here now. And then we can sing together the song of Moses and the Lamb.
Just before the Lord poured out the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, something interesting happens in Acts 1. The assembled disciples watch Jesus ascend and listen as the angels promise Jesus' return (verse 11). Then they pray and put aside their differences in the upper room (verse 13). One of the 12 apostles, Judas, was dead and he needed to be replaced to restore the number 12 (verse 26). Then as soon as the number is complete, the Holy Spirit is poured out.
Jesus blessed, trained and filled with the Spirit 12 people to lead His disciples in reaching the house of Israel for His first coming. He will bless and choose 12 times 12,000 to lead His church in reaching the world for His second coming. Then there will be a great multitude converted as a result of their preaching.
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