The redeemed of the Lord are an innumerable company, which no man can number; but among that multitude is one separate company, who are numbered and are designated by their number,-one hundred and forty-four thousand. This company is composed of twelve different divisions, each containing twelve thousand redeemed souls; and each division bears the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. (Rev. 7:4-8) The list given in Revelation varies somewhat from the list of the twelve sons of Jacob, (1 Chr. 2:1,2) as Dan is omitted, and the extra division is given the name of Manasseh, Joseph's eldest son.
This company have special privileges. They stand upon Mount Zion with Christ, and
follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. (Rev. 14:1,4) They have the exalted privilege of serving Christ in the heavenly temple; (Rev. 7:15) and like all the redeemed host, they are faultless before God, and in their mouths is no guile. (Rev. 14:5)
The great reaper death has laid one generation after another of the saints of God in the silent tomb; and lest some might fear that the grave would be the final end of the faithful, God gave the following pledge through His prophet:
I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. (Hosea 13:14)
The one hundred and forty-four thousand are redeemed from the earth-from among men. (Rev. 14:3,4) They are alive upon the earth when the Saviour comes, and will be translated, together with the innumerable host who will come from their dusty beds, clad in glorious immortality, when Christ comes in the clouds of heaven. (1 Thess. 4:16,17)
The one hundred and forty-four thousand are distinguished from all others by their having the seal of the living God in their foreheads. All who have this seal are included in this company. (Rev. 7:2-4) This distinguishing mark is called the
Father's name. (Rev. 14:3) Ezekiel was evidently shown the same work, and speaks of it as a
mark upon the forehead. (Eze.9:4)
We are familiar with the term
seal in connection with legal documents. A seal contains the name of the person issuing the document, his office or authority, and the extent of his jurisdiction. The seal placed upon the foreheads of the one hundred and forty-four thousand, is the seal of the living God. Seals are attached to laws and legal documents; therefore we should look for God's seal to be attached to His law. The prophet Isaiah, looking down through the ages, saw a people who were expecting Christ to come from the heavenly sanctuary to the earth, and the message of God to them was,
Seal the law among My disciples. (Isa. 8:16)
The Bible was given through prophets, - holy men whom God used as mouthpieces, to make His will known to His people; (2 Peter 1:20,21) but the law of God-the ten commandments-was not given through any human agent. God the Father, Christ the Son, and myriads of heavenly beings came down upon Mount Sinai, (Ps. 68:17) when the ten commandments were proclaimed to the vast multitude of Israel- over a million people. (Duet. 4:10,13,32,33)
Then, lest there might be some mistake in writing out the law which He had given, God called Moses up into the mountain, and gave him two tables of stone, upon which He any had engraved with His own finger the same ten commandments that He had spoken in the hearing of the multitude. (Duet. 10:1-5; Ex. 31:18; 32:15,19)
This law will be the standard by which every son and daughter of Adam will be judged. (James 2:10-12) Has God attached His seal to this law, whereby all may know its binding claims? Remembering that the seal must contain, first, the tame of the one issuing the law; second, the office or authority tested in the lawgiver; and third, the territory over which he roles, let us look for the seal in the law of God.
The first three commandments, and also the fifth, mention the name of God, (Ex. 20:3-7,12) but do not distinguish Him from other gods. (1 Cor.8:5) the last five commandments show our duty to our fellow men, but do not contain the name of God. (Ex. 20:13-17)
The fourth commandment contains, first, the name,
the Lord thy God;second, the statement that the Lord thy God is the Creator of all things, and therefore has power to issue this law; third, a record of His territory, which consists of
heaven and earth, which He created. (Ex. 20:8-11)
The fourth commandment requires all who dwell in the territory of the Lord God the Creator, to keep holy the seventh day of the week, which He has sanctified and blessed, (Gen. 2:2-3) as a memorial of His creative work.
The Sabbath commandment contains the seal of the law. The word sign is sometimes used as a synonym for
seal. (Romans 4:11) Of the Sabbath God says:
It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever. (Ex. 31:13,16,17)
Moreover also I gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them. (Eze. 20:12)
God blessed and sanctified the Sabbath; (Gen. 2:2) and to the one who will keep it holy, it is a sign, or seal, of God's power to sanctify him. (Eze. 20:12, Isa. 58:13,14)) There is a knowledge of God in the proper observance of the Sabbath.
Hallow My Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between Me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God. (Eze. 20:20)
During the Dark Ages, when the word of God was hidden from the people, the seal was taken from God's law. Sunday, the first day of the week, a day upon which God worked, (Gen. 1:1-5; Eze 46:1) was substituted for the seventh-day Sabbath, upon which He rested. (Gen. 2:3) The Lord revealed through Daniel the prophet that a power would arise which should
think to change the law of God, (Dan. 7:25) and that the law would be given into his hands during twelve hundred and sixty years, a period of time mentioned by both Daniel and John. (Dan. 7:25;12:7 Rev. 11:2; 12:6; 13:5)
After that period had passed and the Bible was again in the hands of the people, the true Sabbath of the fourth commandment was to be restored and observed. The breach in the law would be repaired, (Isa. 58: 12) and the law sealed among the disciples of the Lord, who would be eagerly looking for His return. (Isa. 8:16,17)
In Rev. 7:2, this sealing message is represented as coming from the east, or sunrising. We should understand from this that it would begin like the sunrising, first a faint light, steadily increasing until it lightens the whole earth.
Four angels were commissioned to hold the four winds until the work was accomplished. Winds are a symbol of war. (Dan. 11:40) In fulfilment of this we should expect to find that during some period of the world's history the winds of war were miraculously held, while the work of restoring the seal to the law of God was going forward in the earth.
There have always been upon the earth some adherents of the seventh-day Sabbath; but the work of restoring the breach which had been made in the law was begun about 1845, by those who were then watching for the second coming of the Lord. After the time set for Him to come had passed, in the autumn of 1844, the attention of those who had expected Christ to return to the earth at that time was directed to the heavenly sanctuary, where by faith they saw Christ officiating as their High Priest. As they followed the Saviour in His work,
the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in His temple the ark of His testament. (Rev. 11:19) Their attention was attracted to the law contained in that ark, (Ex. 25:16) and some of them recognised the binding claim of the Sabbath of the Lord, and accepted it as the seal of the law. About 1847-48 the Sabbath began to be preached as the seal of the law of the living God.
In 1848 occurred one of the greatest upheavals in the national affairs of Europe that had been for many centuries. Decided changes were made in some of the leading nations. In a brief period of time, many of the crowned heads of Europe submitted themselves to the people. It looked as if universal war was inevitable. In the midst of the turmoil and strife, came a sudden calm. No man could assign any reason for it, but the student of prophecy knew that the angels were holding the winds until the servants of God could be sealed in their foreheads.
The forehead is the seat of the intellect; and when the honest in heart see and acknowledge the binding claims of God's law, they will keep holy the Sabbath. The seal placed in the forehead by the angel can not be read by man, for God alone can read the heart. Simply resting upon the seventh day from all physical work will not place the seal upon the forehead of any one. The resting is necessary, but with the rest must be also the holy and sanctified life that is in harmony with the holy and sanctified day. (Isa. 58:13)
Ezekiel saw an angel placing a
mark upon the foreheads of those who were distressed because of the abominations practised by the professed people of God. (Eze. 9:1-4) Those who are at ease in Zion drifting with the current, their hearts' affections centred on the world, will never receive the seal of the living God.
The Sabbath reform-the sealing work of Rev. 7:1-4-arose as the sun. For some years there were only a few that kept the Sabbath of the fourth commandment; but as individuals here and there, in all parts of the world, found that the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation teaches that the seventh day is the Sabbath, and that Christ (Luke 4:16) and the apostles (Acts 17:2; 16:13; 18:4,11) kept it, they accepted it; (Romans 3:19) and to-day in every division of the earth there are those who honour God as the Creator, by keeping holy the day which He sanctified and blessed as a memorial of His creative work.
In the Christian church there is neither Jew nor Gentile; all are one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28) We are all grafted into the family of Abraham. (Romans 11:17-21) The one hundred and forty-four thousand are not necessarily literal descendants of the Jews, (Romans 11:21-23; 9:6-9,24-26) but they are those who have received the seal of the living God in their foreheads, whose lives are in harmony with the holy precepts of Jehovah. (Rev. 7:3)
In Rev. 14:9-14 we are told of a power that is opposed to God's law, and that has a mark which it will try to enforce upon the people by means of the civil power. (Rev 13:13-18) Since the Sabbath of the Lord is given by Jehovah as a sign of His power and His right to rule, the counterfeit Sabbath, or Sunday, the first day of the week, will be the mark of the opposing power. God's law commands all to keep holy the seventh day of the week, God's memorial of creation; but the laws of the land will command all to rest upon Sunday, the first day of the week. (Rev. 13:16,17; Rev. 14:7,9,12)
When this test comes, each person will have to decide for himself. Many, like Peter and John, when they faced the magistrates and imprisonment, will say,
We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)
This conflict will continue, says John, until the dragon, Satan, will become so angry with the church that he will
make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Rev. 12:17)
Out of this conflict the one hundred and forty-four thousand will be gathered. Their experience will be similar to that of the children of Israel coming out of Egypt. Pharaoh would not allow them to rest on the Sabbath. He called the instruction of Moses and Aaron
vain words; (Ex. 5:9) or as Dr. Adam Clarke expresses it, Pharaoh said,
Let religion alone, and mind your work. On
the same day (Ex. 5:5,6) that Pharaoh complained because Moses and Aaron were instructing the people to rest, the king gave the command,
Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, and the burdens of the children of Israel were greatly increased. (Ex. 5:7,8)
Satan was determined that the Israelites should not honour the Sabbath of the Lord; but God delivered His people and destroyed Pharaoh and all his host. (Ex. 14:19-31)
On earth the distinguishing mark of the one hundred and forty-four thousand is the seal of God in their foreheads; in heaven it will be the wonderful song which they will sing:
They sung as it were a new song before the throne:. . . and no man could learn that song but the one hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. (Rev. 14:3)
They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the lamb. (Rev. 15:3) It is a song of experience-wonderful melody! Not even the angel choir can join in those marvellous strains as they echo through the arches of heaven. Even Abraham, the friend of God, with all his faith, cannot join in that song. What a chorus that will be! one hundred and forty- four thousand voices all in perfect accord, singing the
song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.
As the twelve tribes, after crossing the Red Sea, all united in the song of triumph, so the last representatives of the twelve tribes of Israel on earth, as they stand a mighty phalanx on the sea of glass before the throne of God in heaven, will sing the song of Moses and the Lamb.
The one hundred and forty-four thousand receive the seal of the living God in their foreheads. Rev. 7:2-4.
They obtain the victory over the beast and his image. Rev. 15:2.
Are redeemed from among men. Rev. 14:3,4.
Stand upon Mount Zion. Rev. 14:I.
Follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. Rev. 14:4.
Sing a song that no one else can sing. Rev. 14:3.
Serve Christ in the heavenly temple. Rev. 7:15.
A seal attached to a legal document must give the name, office, or authority, of the one issuing the document, and the territory over which he rules. God has a seal; this seal is connected with His law. Rev. 7:3,4; Isa. 8:16.
The fourth commandment contains the seal of the law of God. It gives His name,- Lord God; His authority,- the Creator; and His territory,-the heaven and earth which He has made. Ex. 20:8-11.
Sign and seal are synonymous terms. Rom. 4:11.
The Sabbath is the sign, or seal, of the law of God. Eze. 20:12, 20.
A blessing is pronounced upon the one who will keep the Sabbath. Isa. 56:1, 2.