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The 144,000 virgins

November 29, 2011

Brian Collins has posted some comments on the people who are sealed in Revelation 7, and he relates them to Numbers 1, in his post: “Numbers 1 and the 144,000 of Revelation.”

The 144,000 saints, described in Revelation chapters 7:3-8 and 14:1-5, are identified as virgins in 14:4; they are said to be not “defiled with women,” and Collins infers they must be all men, apparently assuming that the defilement must have something to do with sexual relations. He stated, “The fact that Revelation 14 indicates that all of them are men strengthens the military view of this census.”

But why should it mean that? Didn’t God make male and female? Virginity, and not being “defiled with women” are spiritual concepts, and metaphors, in the prophecies about the 144,000.

Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, where there were both men and women, “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” [2 Corinthians 11:2] He was speaking of false teachers, and presenting them as a “chaste virgin” had to do with the purity of their faith, and beliefs that are undefiled, rather than sexual activity. Virginity was a metaphor. It is even more likely, that references to virginity in John’s prophecy are meant spiritually and metaphorically.

In the book of Revelation, women have a symbolic meaning. The church is represented by a woman in chapter 12, who appears in heaven in 12:1; she is described “travailing in birth” in verse 2, and gives birth to a son, although, as Paul suggested, he wished to present her as a chaste virgin. She flees to the wilderness in verse 6, and in verse 14. Verse 17 speaks of “the rest of her seed.”

Corrupt forms of religious teaching, and false worship, are represented by the whore sitting on a beast in chapter 17, and seductive teaching is represented by Jezebel, Ahab’s queen, in Revelation 2:20.

Thus, “defiled with women” in Revelation 14:4 most probably represents involvement with the worldly political and religious systems, and in that case, the 144,000 who are sealed not being “defiled with women” would have nothing to do with their sexual experience.

Collins doubts that the 144,000 could be symbolic of the church, as he discounts the
significance of their having been sealed. This sealing clearly refers to receiving the Spirit of God; Paul wrote:

2 Corinthians 1:21-22
Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;
Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.

Ephesians 1:12-14
That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 4:30
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

As noted above, and in these Scriptures, sealing has to do with the receiving the Spirit, and in Christ, whether one is Jewish or Gentile, male or female, bond or free, all are one in Christ.

Galatians 3:28
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

This principle means that in Revelation 7:3-8, John meant something other than the race, nationality, or the ancestry after the flesh of believers, when he said there were 12,000 sealed from each of the tribes, which he names, leaving out two of the tribes,  Ephraim, and Dan. John identified those who have been sealed with the spirit of Christ with the 12 tribes of Israel; the names are labels, that apply to the saints. It has nothing to do with race, or ancestry after the flesh.

Collins wrote: “The numbering of 12,000 from every tribe could well signify completeness, though this need not rule out numerical prediction. Because of God’s sovereignty, symbol and reality can often coincide.” I agree that the number could signify completeness, besides linking to Revelation 21; the 144,000 must then be symbolic of all the saints of the present age.

The combination of the numbers twelve, and a thousand, in Revelation 7 and 14, links those chapters to chapter 21, where the holy city, the New Jerusalem is described. Here, the dimensions of the city are 12,000 furlongs, its length and breadth and height being equal. The number of foundations is twelve, as is the number of gates. The names of the twelve tribes are on the gates, or on the angels at the gates, and the names of the twelve apostles are in the foundations. The dimension of the wall is 144 cubits. All these associations identify the 144,000 who are sealed with the city, which is called the bride, the Lamb’s wife. In every case, the numbers are symbolic and may only be understood spiritually.

Furthermore, they are called “the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb” in Revelation 12:4. James wrote, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” [James 1:18] Clearly the 144,000 can be none other that the whole church of the present age.

The idea that the 144,000 are ethnic Jews, all men, 12,000 of each tribe, and all of them virgins, is quite humorous, and something of a tall story!