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Sanctuary lesson 23

Sanctuary Lesson 23 – The Last Generation

Satan has been trying to set up a counterfeit kingdom to take God's place since the beginning (Isaiah 14:12-13 - compare with Psalms 48:1-2).  In the last conflict, Satan has a power that will force people to receive the mark of the beast on the their right hand or forehead (Revelation 13:12-17).  Yet, there will be a people in the last days who will stand stand for God, where they will not receive the mark of the beast.  They are referred to as the 144,000 in the book of Revelation.  Who are these people?

Let's turn to Revelation 7:1-17.
- According to these verses, what are the 144,000 sealed with?

  • Answer (highlight to read): They are sealed with the seal of the living God.
- According to these verses, where did the 144,000 come from?
  • Answer: They came from the tribes of the children of Israel.
- According to these verses, where the 144,000 come out of?
  • Answer: They came out of the great tribulation.
We must remember that much of the book of Revelation's language is symbolic.  When the angels are sealing the 144,000 they are not putting on a literal mark on their foreheads.  As we learned we back in Bible study lesson 17, the forehead is a symbol of the mind.  It is a symbol of the decisions one makes.

Some people believe that the 144,000 will be literal Jews coming out of Israel.  However, does the Bible really say this?  Paul the Apostle wrote that true Jews are not Jewish outwardly, but inwardly circumcised in their heart (Romans 2:29).  God's spiritual children are those who believe in and follow Jesus Christ (1 John 3:1-24).  The Holy Spirit bears witness to this fact (Romans 8:16).  Also, God's children are not only found in Israel, but far and abroad throughout the entire world (Acts 2:39; John 11:52).  When we believe in Christ, we become part of spiritual Israel (Matthew 3:9; Galatians 3:7-9, 29).

Let's turn to Revelation 14:1-5.
- According to these verses, what is written on the foreheads of the 144,000?
  • Answer: The Father's name is written on their foreheads.
The seal of God is related to God's law (Isaiah 8:16, 20).  The seal of God is the law of God on our minds (Exodus 13:16; Deuteronomy 6:6-8; Hebrews 8:10).  It is very significant that the Father's name is written on the foreheads of the 144,000.  If you remember the story of Jacob (Genesis 25:26), a person's name was a symbol of that person's character.  Jacob was not born an Israelite.  He first wrestled with God (Genesis 32:24-26).  God gave Jacob the victory and changed his name to Israel (Genesis 32:27-28).  Therefore, the 144,000 people are a people who have the character of God and the make the decision to keep the law of God (John 17:6; 1 John 5:2).

Let's turn to Ezekiel 20:12.
- According to this verse, what is the sign that God gave to people so that they would know that He is the Lord?
  • Answer: The Sabbath
God has a special sign - the Sabbath.  The fourth commandment (Exodus 20:8-11) is the only commandment in the Ten Commandments that indicates the authority of God.  The Sabbath is the Lord's memorial of creation (Genesis 2:2-3).

The counterfeit of God's Sabbath is the papal Sabbath - Sunday.  In the end times, people will be forced to worship on Sunday.  When that time comes, what decision you will make on this issue will indicated who you have decided to follow, God or Satan.  Note, that Sunday-keeping right now is NOT the mark of the beast.  The mark of the beast will only come about when Sunday-keeping is enforced by civil authorities.

Let's turn to Romans 7:23-25.
- According to these verses, what law do we all find ourselves under?
  • Answer: The law of sin and death.
Let's turn to Galatians 4:4-5; Isaiah 55:11; Revelation 14:3-4.
- According to these verses, what did  Jesus come to do?
  • Answer: He came to redeem those under the law.
The only people who could learn the new song mentioned in Revelation 14:3 are those who have been redeemed from the earth.  The 144,000 MUST represent the redeemed of the Lord - the 144,000 are God's people.

Revelation 14:4 refers to the 144,000 as virgins.  This is also figurative language.  In Revelation, a woman represents a church - a pure woman for God's church (Revelation 12:1) and a harlot woman for Satan's false church (Revelation 17:5).  Fornication therefore would represent false doctrine.  Therefore the "virgins" mentioned in Revelation 14:4 are people who stayed true to God and did not stray into false doctrine (2 Corinthians 11:2; Hebrews 13:4). 
 
You may be asking yourself at this point - is the 144,000 literal?  Will only 144,000 people be saved? 

If the 144,000 were a literal number, then that would make God's plan of redemption (Galatians 3:8) a failure if God can only save 144,000 out of the over 7 billion people alive today (not to mention the countless billions of people who lived throughout earth's entire history).  

Let's read Revelation 7:4 again, then compare it with Revelation 7:9.
- According to verse 9, how many people were standing before the throne and the Lamb?
  • Answer: A great multitude which no one can number
"After these things I looked, and behold, 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."  This sounds like more than just 144,000 people!  Therefore, the 144,000 must be a figurative representation of God's last-day people who are faithful to Him.

So, why the number 144,000?  We know from math that this number is a multiple of 12:

12 x 12,000 = 12 x 12 x 1,000 = 144,000

You will find the number twelve appears quite often in the Bible.  There were twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 49:28; Exodus 24:4; Joshua 4:8; 1 Kings 18:31; Ezra 6:17).  Jesus had twelve disciples (Matthew 10:1; Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13).  The number twelve is also a symbol of service (Luke 22:26-28; Genesis 14:4).

The city of God is build on the number twelve.  It has twelve gates, twelve angels at the gates, twelve names of the twelve tribes of Israel on the gates, twelve foundations, and the names of the twelve apostles on the gates (Revelation 21:12-14).  The length, breadth, and height of the city is twelve thousand furlongs (Revelation 21:16).  The wall of the city is 144 cubits (Revelation 21:17).

If we take all this information together, we can say that the New Jerusalem, the city of God is a city of service and self-sacrifice.  This city is united in the Law of God, the law of love.  The 144,000 are people who have allowed the principle of God's law of self-sacrificing love and service into their hearts and minds.

On the Day of Atonement, the entire camp of Israel was cleansed of sin.  As Jesus our High Priest goes into the Most Holy Place, the 144,000 follow him (Revelation 14:4).  These people stand before the throne of God without sin (Revelation 14:5), their robes washed white by Jesus Christ's precious blood (Revelation 7:14-15).

Friend, there will be a final conflict and there will be those who survive all of Satan's coercions and last deceptions.  These people, the 144,000, are the last human demonstration of what God can do with humanity.  God intends for this demonstration to show that ordinary men in the last generation can past the successfully pass the test such as the one He gave to Adam and Eve, but on a much more difficult level (1 Peter 4:12-13).  Through Jesus Christ, the law of God can be kept.  In the end, God's character will be vindicated in front of the entire universe, laying the Great Controversy to rest forever.

Friend, will you join the 144,000?