- The number refers to those who are the real, authentic followers of Christ, the righteous who are covered by Christ’s righteousness and thus “saved” from God’s wrath. (Rev. 2:9; 3:9; 21:2, 14). This also may allude to Israel’s restoration as a nation, which occurred in 1948, but this is highly speculative and not supported in the context of the passage. The problem is that passages such as 2 Chron. 36:21, Jer. 24:1-7; 29:10; 32:44; Ezek. 20:34; 36:33-35; 37:15-28; Dan. 9:2; Hosea 3:4-5; Amos 9:14-15; Micah 7:8-11; and Zech. 12:6-8 are read into this passage. These Old Testament passages speak of Israel being restored after the Babylonian captivity, but not necessarily as a nation thousands of years hence.
- Sealed means that those who are faithful, who accept Christ as Lord and Savior, and who are claimed as His will be protected. The image here is like important documents in ancient times that were folded or rolled, tied with a string, and then wax or clay placed on the seam, and impressed with a signet ring (Rev. 9:4; 14:1; 22:4). Jesus seals us for protection showing that He cares, is in charge, and has ownership over us. His ownership means He possesses us¾not Satan, not the world, and not even our fallen nature and sin. His possession of our soul and life is our great comfort and relief (Gen. 4:15; Ex. 8:28; 9:4; 11:7; 11:18; Isa. 44:5; Rev. 5:6; 9:4; 14:1)!
- 144,000 is a symbol, meaning that the numbers are beyond counting or unfathomable to man (Rev. 1:1; 2:20; 22:6). This denotes how Israel returned from the Babylonian captivity to inherit the land (Ezek. 48). This also alludes to us, the Church, who are the inheritors (Rom. 11:1-36; Rev.12).
- 12,000. Twelve, like most numbers in Revelation, is not an actual number nor is 12,000 or 144,000; rather it refers to “fullness.” Twelve is also found, in various Jewish sects and in the Dead Sea Scrolls, to mean “the people of God.” Then the “12” is magnified as to 12 multiplied by 12 to mean complete fullness or God’s bountiful provisions and blessings. This is a symbolic Jewish metaphor for being “servants of God,” just as the key phrase previous to this symbolizes. This also means that He is the Provider. The debate over the numbers centers on whether they represent the entirety of saved souls or just those who just are “restored” Jews. Nonetheless, the term “servants of our God” makes it more understandable (Ezek. 9; Matt. 10:30; Rev. 9:4; 14:1-5; 21:8; 22:15).
- All/Every Tribe. The term, “tribes,” is used for the sake of illustration rather than actually referring that only some will be saved. Rather, it means that God, in His fullness, selects whom He selects for His purpose¾Jews and Gentiles alike. (Ezek. 9:4; Eph. 2:11-22; Rev. 9:4; 14:1).
- Joseph is listed twice as his sons, “Manasseh and Ephraim.” Levi is omitted as the priestly tribe without land inheritance rights. Joseph has two for His faithfulness while Dan is excluded from the list, perhaps because of their rebellious nature to God and idolatry as well as an Early Church tradition foretelling that the “antichrist” was to come from that tribe. Judah may be listed first before the first-born Reuben, because Christ the Messiah came from the tribe of Judah. The sequence of the tribes has no significance as they are often listed in various ways, depending on who is listing them (Gen. 37:21; Judg. 18:30; 1 Kings 12:29; Ezek. 48:1; John 6:70).