Could the 144,000 be a set of people that the leadership of a Christian group or denomination have designated as being "special?" What does the Bible say about this fascinating prophetic subject?
The 144,000 are specifically referenced only twice in the Bible. In the end time, after God commands a temporary ceasing of earth's calamities (Revelation 6, 7:1 - 3), he sends an powerful angel on a special mission. The angel is not to allow the sea or even earth's trees to be damage until a unique group of folks are set apart. Revelation states, "And I heard the number of those who were sealed: one hundred forty-four thousand (144,000), sealed out of every tribe of the children of Israel" (Revelation 7:2 - 4, HBFV).
The 144,000 are mentioned again later in Revelation. The Apostle John, in vision, sees a group of resurrected believers standing with Jesus Christ. They have been called and converted by God during the great tribulation period. John states, "And I looked, and I beheld the Lamb standing on Mount Sion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand (144,000), having His Father's name written on their foreheads (they obey him and have His spirit in them)" (Revelation 14:1).
This special group, found in Revelation 7 and 14, are composed entirely of PHYSICAL descendants of Israel. Scripture takes great pains to enumerate twelve of Israel's tribes from which 12,000 people each will be converted (or sealed, see Revelation 7:5 - 8).
Two Israelite tribes are not specifically listed as being part of the 144,000. The first missing tribe is Dan (see our article on why Dan was left out). The second missing tribe is Ephraim. The Bible does not state why Ephraim, one of Joseph's two sons, is not directly named as contributing toward the 144,000 as his other son Manasseh is listed (Revelation 7:6). It is possible that the people of Ephraim are "hidden" within the distinct naming of the tribe of Joseph (verse 8).
When are the 144,000 sealed (a spiritual mark to denote their conversion, a possible allusion to Ezekiel 9:4) by a mighty angel? How does their sealing fit into prophetic end time events? After a great martyrdom of saints instigated by the Satan-inspired one world government, God will cause signs to appear in the heavens (Revelation 6:12 - 14). It is AFTER these signs, and just BEFORE the prophetic "Day of the Lord" that 144,000 descendants of Israel and "a great multitude" from around the world become converted.
The 144,000 are unconverted physical descendants of Israel who repent and become Christians near the middle of the Great Tribulation period. At the start of this time of global trial and trouble (Matthew 24) they are not Christians! If they were, they would have either been taken to a "place of safety" (1Thessalonians 4:16 - 17, Revelation 12:6) or would have been martyred by Satan the devil for their faith.
What does all this mean? It means that any true Christians living today, no matter how sincere they are or how much their church leadership states otherwise, are not considered by God to be one of those in this select group! The 144,000 are part of, but not all, of God's church converted during the tribulation who will ultimately be changed into spirit beings at Jesus' return (Revelation 5:10).