The 144,000 in the Holy Scriptures
The 144,000 form a perfect square
In Early Writings, we find a description of the 144,000, standing on the sea of glass in perfect order by number. What do they form? A perfect square!
“We all entered the cloud together, and were seven days ascending to the sea of glass, when Jesus brought the crowns, and with His own right hand placed them on our heads. He gave us harps of gold and palms of victory. Here on the sea of glass the 144,000 stood in a perfect square. Some of them had very bright crowns, others not so bright. Some crowns appeared heavy with stars, while others had but few. All were perfectly satisfied with their crowns. And they were all clothed with a glorious white mantle from their shoulders to their feet. Angels were all about us as we marched over the sea of glass to the gate of the city. Jesus raised His mighty, glorious arm, laid hold of the pearly gate, swung it back on its glittering hinges, and said to us, ‘You have washed your robes in My blood, stood stiffly for My truth, enter in.’ We all marched in and felt that we had a perfect right in the city.” –Early Writings, pp. 16, 17.
This information that they stood in a perfect square is helpful for our research. How? They were not just some random number, for in such a case they would be unable to form a perfect square. To form a perfect square, all four sides must have the same length and contain the same number of people. Well, 144,000 is exactly such a number that permits a perfect square to be formed! Therefore, the number must be literal, not symbolic.
Only the 144,000 enter the temple
In the same vision, the 144,000 are seen near the heavenly temple, and it is written that they alone would be privileged to enter there. “Mount Zion was just before us, and on the mount was a glorious temple, and about it were seven other mountains, on which grew roses and lilies. And I saw the little ones climb, or, if they chose, use their little wings and fly, to the top of the mountains and pluck the never-fading flowers. There were all kinds of trees around the temple to beautify the place: the box, the pine, the fir, the oil, the myrtle, the pomegranate, and the fig tree bowed down with the weight of its timely figs– these made the place all over glorious. And as we were about to enter the holy temple, Jesus raised His lovely voice and said, ‘Only the 144,000 enter this place,’ and we shouted, ‘Alleluia.’” –Early Writings, p. 19.
This means that the 144,000 do not represent all of the redeemed but only a portion of them. By contrast, Revelation 7:9 describes a great, innumerable multitude, made up of all nations, people, and tongues, in addition to the 144,000. Therefore, the 144,000 cannot be synonymous with the great multitude, because they are privileged to enter the temple, while the others are not. They are a specific group with specific privileges.
The names of the 144,000 are engraved in letters of gold
The same vision presents other interesting points. Inside the temple, the names of the 144,000 are seen engraved in letters of gold. “This temple was supported by seven pillars, all of transparent gold, set with pearls most glorious. The wonderful things I there saw I cannot describe. Oh, that I could talk in the language of Canaan, then could I tell a little of the glory of the better world. I saw there tables of stone in which the names of the 144,000 were engraved in letters of gold. After we beheld the glory of the temple, we went out, and Jesus left us and went to the city.” –Early Writings, p. 19.
Note that in the tables of stone are engraved the very names of the 144,000. If this number were indefinite, it could not have been presented in this very definite way. The fact that it is given as a definite number is another evidence that the figure is not symbolic.
Visiting other worlds with the 144,000
“I begged of my attending angel to let me remain in that place. I could not bear the thought of coming back to this dark world again. Then the angel said, ‘You must go back, and if you are faithful, you, with the 144,000, shall have the privilege of visiting all the worlds and viewing the handiwork of God.’” –Early Writings, p. 39.
This is the eighth time that Sister Ellen G. White refers to the definite number of the 144,000; there was more than enough opportunity for the writer to associate it with something symbolic or to define it as such, but this is not done. If the Lord had given this number as indefinite or figurative, in all or in at least one of these statements Sister White could have mentioned it, but this never happens. So, the idea that the number 144,000 is symbolic has no support, not in the Holy Scriptures, and not in the Spirit of prophecy.
In summary, the number 144,000 is mentioned twice in the Bible, along with specific characteristics of this group of saints; there is no indication that the number is symbolic. In Revelation 7, two groups are presented–the 144,000 and the great multitude, each group with its own description. The differences show that they are not two reports describing the same group but present twodifferent groups. One report uses a definite number, while the other presents a broad, indefinite grouping. Thus, the evidence shows that the number 144,000 is literal, while the great multitude is an indefinite, innumerable group.
In the eight quotations above, the 144,000 are mentioned but never with even a hint of an idea that the number is symbolic. On the contrary, they are referred to in all cases as being an exact, definite number. In the one case, it is said that they formed a perfect square, and this gives the idea that the number 144,000 is to be considered literal, and in another place they are presented as “the living saints, 144,000 in number,” expressions that still mean a literal number. May the Lord help us to understand the inspired texts and to explain them correctly!
Let us strive to be among the 144,000
It is written that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:16, 17. The Lord “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:4.
Today the gospel is being preached, and the message will be carried to the furthermost corner of the earth to give everyone the opportunity to choose eternal life for himself. But salvation does not depend solely on the gospel message, for “that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” John 3:19. Therefore, in answer to the question: “Lord, are there few that be saved?” Jesus said: “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” Luke 13:23, 24.
Referring to the spiritual condition of the church, Sister White wrote in 1893: “It is a solemn statement that I make to the church, that not one in twenty whose names are registered upon the church books are prepared to close their earthly history, and would be as verily without God and without hope in the world as the common sinner.” –Christian Service, p. 41 (1893); Last Day Events, p. 172.
A few years later, the same condition still existed, and the same message was given: “It is a solemn statement that I make to the church, that not one in twenty whose names are registered upon the church books are prepared to close their earthly history, and would be as verily without God and without hope in the world as the common sinner. They are professedly serving God, but they are more earnestly serving mammon.” –General Conference Bulletin, July 1, 1900.
Referring to the day of God, the following inspired messages were written: “The great mass of professing Christians will meet with bitter disappointment in the day of God. They have not upon their foreheads the seal of the living God. Lukewarm and halfhearted, they dishonor God far more than the avowed unbeliever. They grope in darkness, when they might be walking in the noonday light of the Word, under the guidance of One who never errs.” –(Letter 121, 1903) Maranatha, p. 241; Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 970.
“Many will not receive the seal of God because they do not keep His commandments or bear the fruits of righteousness.” –Maranatha, p. 241.
Therefore, let us trust completely in the Lord and ask Him to guide our lives. “Let us strive earnestly and untiringly to fulfill God’s purpose for us ‘till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God,’ unto perfect men and women, ‘unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.’” –Pacific Union Recorder, March 26, 1903.
“For Christ’s sake do not speak or think evil. May the Lord help us not only to read the Bible, but to practice its teachings. The human agent who is faithful in His work, who unites gentleness with His power, justice with His love, causes rejoicing among the heavenly intelligences, and glorifies God. Let us strive earnestly to be good and to do good, and we shall receive the crown of life that fadeth not away.” –(MS 116, 1898) Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, p. 439.
“Let us strive with all the power that God has given us to be among the hundred and forty-four thousand. And let us do all that we can to help others to gain heaven. We are to have an intense interest in Christ Jesus; for He is our Saviour. He came to this world to be tempted in all points as we are, to prove to the universe that in this world of sin human beings can live lives that God will approve.” –(Review and Herald, March 9, 1905) Maranatha, p. 241; Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 970.
By Antonino Di Franca
Source: Sabbath Watchman