Who are the 144,000? The 144,000 appear twice in the book of Revelation.
The first appearance:
The 144,000 of Israel Sealed:
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.’ And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,
12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,
12,000 from the tribe of Gad,
12,000 from the tribe of Asher,
12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali,
12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,
12,000 from the tribe of Simeon,
12,000 from the tribe of Levi,
12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,
12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun,
12,000 from the tribe of Joseph,
12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed. (English Standard Version, 7.1-8)
There are many different ideas when it comes to the 144,000. There are symbolic and literal interpretations of who the 144,000 are. Some believe the 144,000 is a literal number of Jews that belong to the ethnic (biological) Israel that will be brought to faith after the rapture of the Church, which some believe it occurs before the seven year tribulation period.
However, another group believes the term Israel that symbolizes the Church and the 144,000 is not an exact number nor does it just include ethnic Israel. Rather, Israel represents the New Covenant of people. In either case, it appears that they are protected from the Lamb’s wrath but still face persecution by evil enemies. They receive this protection during the sixth seal in which they are sealed by God’s Holy Spirit.
The second appearance:
John’s second vision of the 144,000:
The Lamb and the 144,000:
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. 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, 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. 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 firstfruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless. (Rev. 14.1-5)
In this second vision, much of what is written sounds straightforward except there are open interpretations to who the 144,000 are in relation to the first vision.
In addition to these views, from the book “Revelation Unveiled,” Tim Lahaye describes the 144,000 as two separate groups that both exist. The first group being 144,000 Jews that will preach during the Tribulation, whereas the other 144,000 being Christians who enjoy a special relationship with God in Heaven.
Also, is the word virgin meant to be taken literally or is it to be taken spiritually as in spiritual purity?