All throughout the year, my uncle saves his pocket change, and on Christmas night, one lucky person wins it at our family’s gathering. But the fun doesn’t stop there. After the initial prize is determined, we are all given the opportunity to guess the total amount of money and the number of pennies in the jar. We gaze at the jar, make some calculations, and write out our guesses. The person who guesses closest to the correct amount or the right number of pennies wins $100. But, in order to find out who gets these prizes, we have to do some sorting and counting. Rows and rows of change cover the table that is surrounded by past winners who are now designated counters (because that’s the one catch—if you win, you count . . . for five years).
Revelation 7:1–8 is a vision of sorting and counting, as well. John sees the faithful of Israel being sealed (marked as God’s people) and then organized, as an army would divide up in preparation for battle. Those counted are put into groups of 12,000 sorted from each tribe, totaling 144,000. The battalions are organized and sealed, ready to serve in the army of the Lord.
This number of the troops has been misinterpreted throughout history, especially by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They believe this passage supports the doctrine that only 144,000 people will be in Heaven. But if you read on in the next vision in the second half of the chapter, you’ll see that there is a great multitude of people that no one could number from every tribe and nation surrounding the throne in Heaven. This vision shows so many worshipping the Lord that it seems they can’t even be counted! I wouldn’t even guess at that number.
This is the wonderful message of Christmas that the angels proclaimed to the shepherds: “good news of great joy that will be for all the people,” not just the 144,000 most faithful! “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10–11).
Christ has come so that all who believe in Him may have salvation and they may be sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit who serves in our hearts as a guarantee of the eternal inheritance that is to come (Ephesians 1:13–14). It is our job as Christians to share this great message of joy, because salvation is the best gift anyone can receive at Christmas.
Revelation 7:1-8 (ESV):
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. 2 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, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” 4 And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
5 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000 from the tribe of Gad, 6 12,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh, 7 12,000 from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000 from the tribe of Levi, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar, 8 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.