144,000 Sealed out of Every Tribe
In reading Revelation, it is important to remember that the entire book is delivered in the ‘apocalyptic’ style – it is highly figurative, not literal (for more on this, please see Apocalyptic Language). Much confusion, and all of premillennialism, comes from a refusal to rightly handle God’s word in this respect.
The 144,000 of Revelation 7 provides an excellent example. Some teach that only a literal 144,000 will be in Heaven, while the rest of the saved will be on the “new earth.” But let us look at the passage:
“And I heard the number of them that were sealed, a hundred and forty and four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the children of Israel: of the tribe of Judah were sealed twelve thousand: of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand…After these things I saw, and behold, a great multitude, which no man could number, out of every nation and of all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” Revelation 7:4-9
This 144,000 was composed of 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel. There was not one Gentile among them! Those who claim that this 144,000 is literal, and only they will be in Heaven, have some problems. If the 144,000 is literal, then the 12,000 from each tribe of the nation of Israel is also literal. That means that only those form the nation of Israel will be in Heaven.
But look further at this 144,000: “No man could learn the song save the hundred and forty and four thousand, even they that had been purchased out of the earth. These are they that were not defiled with women; for they are virgins” Rev. 14:3-4
Now, if this 144,000 is literal, there are no women among them. Neither are there any married men.
But look again at Revelation 7:9, “After these things I saw, and behold, a great multitude, which no man could number, out of every nation and of all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” This great multitude was composed entirely of Gentiles, and the multitude was innumerable. Notice, too, that they were also before the throne of God. So it wasn’t only the 144,000 who were before God’s throne in Heaven. There was a “great multitude” of Gentiles there.
Obviously, this passage in Revelation 7 is figurative language that shows the kind of people who will be in Heaven with God.