Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
The visions in Revelation are filled with symbolism, so we should not read the number 144,000 literally. If that were the total of all whom “God so loved . . . that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16), it would be too few. John also soon sees “a great multitude that no one could count” (Rev. 7:9)—and that, of course, is far more than 144,000 people.
There is poetic beauty in the numbering of 144,000 servants of God here. The use of 12’s and 1,000’s is symbolic of completion and fullness in God’s kingdom.
In this scene God builds on three fundamental givens for all who put their faith in him. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are indebted to the story told and lived by the 12 tribes of Israel. Their story (in the Old Testament part of the Bible) is foundational to our faith in Jesus. We also stand on the story lived and told by the 12 apostles of Christ (in the New Testament part of the Bible). We also know that 12 x 12 = 144. Then this is multiplied by the most common unit of numbering large quantities in John’s day, 1,000, to invite readers to imagine the vast impact that God is creating by shaping us as his servants. This is a picture of God’s grace flowing wider and deeper than we can fathom.
Since this is who we are and how many we are, imagine how God can use us to share his good news and love with the world!
Thank you, Lord, for giving us a place with your covenant people. And thank you for expanding your story beyond our expectations. In Jesus, Amen.