14:1 Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3 and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb, 5 and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.
Many years ago, a couple of lovely young people from the Jehovah’s Witnesses church knocked on my door. They were very eager to convert me and have me join the church. After listening to them for a while I asked them if they believed everything in the Bible was true. “Of course!” they answered. “So you believe only 144,000 souls can be saved?” “Yes.” “How many people belong to Jehovah’s Witnesses?” “More than 8 million,” was the proud response.
I asked, “If only 144,000 people can be saved, and they all are Jehovah’s Witnesses, why would you want me to join? Everyone who joins the church reduces your chance of going to heaven?”
They hadn’t thought of this. They were very sober and not very happy as they walked away.
The literal interpretation of the Bible is one of the voices that whisper in our thoughts. It whispers that if we join this or that exclusivist sect, then we are the privileged ones. It is a short step to deciding that if we are the elite, then the rest of humanity is condemned. They are not completely human and are depriving us of our recognition and rights. Such supremacist thinking creates violence. It excuses terrible acts in the name of religion or in the service of a nationalist agenda. No wonder the Bible records that Jesus wept...
Revelation records the visions of St John. Visions are symbolic. The events and numbers John records are symbols. The number 144,000 has a number of meanings.
144 = 12 x 12
Twelve is the number of perfection. There are twelve tribes of Israel. There are twelve disciples. There are twelve signs of the Zodiac. In Greek astrology the two most important parts of the birth chart were the twelve signs and the twelve houses. Ancient astrologers thought that a soul needed to incarnate in each of the twelve signs and experience each of the life energies represented by the twelve houses before it could reach perfection. There are 12 x 12 possible combinations = 144 possibilities.
144 = 6 x 24
According to Genesis, God created the world in six days. Each day has twenty-four hours, so there are 6 x 24 hours of creation. The 144,000 then represents each soul who has completed their cycle of incarnations and created every aspect of their spiritual being. Such a soul has united with the Christ. That is why the souls have the name of the Lamb and his Father written upon their foreheads. They have learned a new song. The song is the story of human evolution which can only be learned by those who have completed human evolution.
There is no numerical limit to the perfection of souls. We can all be part of the next evolutionary wave of humanity. The esoteric name of the first wave of human evolution, before we became part of the earth was the “Virgin Souls”. That is, spiritual beings who had never become part of the earth. We lost this status when we commenced our series of incarnations. Christ does more than restore us to our former status though. He teaches us a new song. We are given the names of Christ and the Father written on our forehead, the I AM. We are renewed as spiritual beings. We are given a new voice. We are given a new purpose.
This picture from the Ottheinrich Bible shows the whole of chapter 14 in one image. The 144,000 surround the Lamb; and the angels with the sickles are shown ready to harvest the world.
Today, let us contemplate the 144,000. The state of total commitment and connection to Christ. This connection does not rob us of our individuality nor our ability to make decisions. Instead, we become more aware. Our vision is widened. We are awake. Let us this day, practise being awake to everything going on around us.
This means that the person who is spiritually awake in the present age, and in the ages to come, will be able to hear the rumbling, the thunder, the lightning in our present society. They will be able to read the signs of the times. That person is not deceived by whatever goes on around him. In the text it says, ‘Only those who have not defiled themselves are the ones who can follow the Lamb’
Rev Mario Schoenmaker, The Book of Revelation, 1984 Lecture Series