144,000 Sealed

Revelation Overview - The first 144,000

The Mark of God

AD 395 - 400

Chapter six ended its chronology with the Constantine earthquake, which in turn culminated in the East-West split of the empire (AD 395). Skipping ahead to chapter eight we shall see that the sounding of the first trumpet commences the hoards of barbarian invasions of the West (AD 400). I’ve therefore kept the chronology simple and contiguous for now though various interpreters may see the events of chapter seven being broader and as an overlapping section in some way. But let’s see what is happening in this chapter…

Four ‘winds’ are being held back for a brief time. As we shall see in chapter eight, four separate barbarian invasions will come upon the West but for now a command has gone forth that God’s people should be sealed with a seal (mark) upon their foreheads. This is not the only occasion we read of a ‘mark’ being placed upon the forehead or elsewhere. Like its counterpart in the Old Testament (e.g. Ezekiel chapter 9) the book of Revelation recounts several occasions where men are marked/sealed. This is not a physical mark but rather a spiritual stamp signifying to whom someone belongs and whose authority they are under. The sealing at this moment in time signifies God marking a difference between His people and those of the Roman beast, which was soon to experience the decapitation of its seventh head.


Clearly there are two different groups who are sealed by God in this chapter. The first group is stated to be a specific number (12,000) from each of the “tribes of Israel.” If these simply represent ‘the Church’ then who is the next group? I think the second group much more obviously represent the Church – differing peoples drawn out from all nations, families and languages. Some say the 144000 are “Jews” – but only those from the tribe of Judah are ever called Jews and this so clearly makes the point that they are from all of the tribes.* In my present understanding this is what I think…

Dealing with the number first – 12,000 could be literal or perhaps it is a symbolic/figurative number. That’s the easy bit done. “The tribes of Israel” I am inclined to think is quite simply what it says, these are Israelites, not all Jews, but the number includes the 12,000 from the tribe of Judah. When the tribes of Israel were taken into captivity by the Assyrians (very approximately about 1000 or so years prior to this point in time) they could have been either, 1. Scattered and assimilated and ‘lost’ among the other nations, or 2. A significant portion of them could have remained together and migrated somewhere. If number two is correct, then so could be the assertion, made by many down the centuries, that they did in fact migrate North and West into Europe (and perhaps later further North into Britain and/or Scandinavia).

This of course is a huge topic with many questions and queries but whatever the outcome we must accept that for some reason this chapter, and again later in Revelation, we encounter the “tribes of Israel.” Whatever different interpretive options may be offered we can’t exclude the very simple option that they may just be Israelites!


*(Concerning the twelve tribes, there are always the questions about Dan being missing and the fact that Joseph is named place of Ephraim. Many are the answers/speculations you can find in many places. I am not aware that historicists have any particular single answer to these questions and neither do I but I’m sure that among the many speculations there are numerous interesting and valid possibilities).

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An simple overview of the book of Revelation from a historicist perspective