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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Is the Number 144,000 Mentioned in Revelation Meant to be Taken Literally?

[It is conflicting] when someone criticizes the view that the number 144,000 is not literal but at the same time THEY
want to view the *12* tribes as a literal number and as literal Jews and virgins!

Those who claim that the number 144,000 is symbolic and yet still view the number 12 and the names of the tribes as literal cannot honestly maintain their claim that literal and symbolic numbers cannot appear together.

Claiming that the number 144,000 cannot be a literal number because it appears in context with other numbers and terms which are symbolic is an unreasonable argument. If that were the case then everything in Revelation would have to be symbolic or everything literal. Yet, every one knows that Revelation contains both symbolic and literal terms. Sometimes they appear right next to each other. For example, John speaks of "the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (Rev.21:14). Clearly, the number 12 mentioned in this verse is literal, not symbolic, yet it is surrounded by obviously symbolic numbers and terms. Revelation mentions "the thousand years" of Christ's reign. Most recognize that number as a literal, but it is mentioned in context with many symbolic terms (Rev.20:3-7). Many Protestants understand the seven mountains to be literal (Rome) even though it appears in context with symbols. Hence, whether a number in Revelation is to be taken literally or symbolically depends on the scriptural context, the setting and sometimes grammar. Do such literalists also believe a literal city comes down from Heaven and marries a literal lamb?!!

Obviously, John was not referring to literal virginity, otherwise even Peter and other Apostles would not qualify to rule in heaven and Jesus would have lied when he said they would rule with him (1Co 9:5; Mk 1:29-31; Mt 19:28; Lk 22:29-30; Jn.14:1-3).

While many feel that the number 144,000 is symbolic, the contextual evidence is that it is a literal number.

First, it is contrasted with an unnumberable "great crowd." If it were not literal the number 144,000 would be senseless, it would mean nothing. It might as well have no number at all, for there would be no contrast between it and the "great crowd," which is numberless.

Robert L. Thomas Jr., professor of New Testament at The Master's Seminary wrote: "The case for symbolism is exegetically weak...It is a definite number in contrast with the indefinite number of 7:9. If it is taken symbolically, no number in the book can be taken literally."--Revelation: An Exegetical Commentary, Vol.1 pg 474.

The 144,000 are also described as "firstfruits" (Rev.14:1, 4) The expression "firstfruits" refers to a small representative selection so it cannot be referring to ALL those who gain salvation.

A literal and limited number also fits Christ's other statements such as Luke 12:32 where Jesus calls his disciples a "little flock" that will obtain the Kingdom. In John 10:1-5 Jesus discussed the same ones but then mentions "other sheep" not in the first "fold" (Jn.10:16) and they would both would be united as "one flock" following him (Christians). The picture here is a "little flock" compared to "other sheep."

So there are logical reasons to conclude that the number 144,000 cannot be a symbol of a large indeterminate number but must be literal.

Next, the 12 tribes of Rev. 7:4-8 cannot be natural Jews. The list in Revelation diverges from the usual tribal listing found at Num. 1:4-17, 47. There never was a tribe of Joseph, the tribes of Ephraim and Dan are not included in Revelation and the Levites were not reckoned as one of the 12 tribes.

John had explicitly stated that those who were to rule as kings and priests over the earth would be from "every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Re 5:9-10). Interpreting Rev.7:4 to mean literal Israel would cause John to contradict himself.

The "12 tribes" here must refer to the spiritual "Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16; 1Pt. 2:9; Mt.3:9). Gal. 3:26-29 says: "There is neither Jew nor Greek...if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham's seed."

Jesus said: "The kingdom of God will be taken from YOU and be given to a nation producing its fruits (Mt.21:42-43). Replacing natural Israel as God's nation, it becomes a new "Israel" that is "really 'Israel'" (Rm.2:28-29; 9:6-9).

John's vision of those standing on the heavenly Mount Zion with the Lamb revealed the number of this spiritual Israel of God to be 144,000 "bought from among mankind" not "from among the Jews (Rev. 7:4; 14:1, 4; 5:9,10; James 1:1).

Source: This is the Best Answer given by Bar_Anerges to a question from Yahoo! Answers.

Also see:

144,000 - Links to Information (Defend Jehovah's Witnesses)

Why Do Jehovah's Witnesses Believe That the Number 144,000 in Revelation is a Literal Number Instead of a Symbolic Number? (Defend Jehovah's Witnesses)

Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses take the number 144,000 mentioned in the book of Revelation literally and not symbolically? (w04 9/1 pp. 30-31; Questions From Readers; Watchtower Online Library)

Are the 144,000 only natural Jews? Is the number 144,000 merely symbolic? (rs p. 161-p. 168; Watchtower Online Library)

Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses take the number 144,000 literally? (w04 12/15 p. 30; Watchtower Online Library)

144,000 - Links to Information (Watchtower Online Library)


Defend Jehovah's Witnesses