There is one more feature of the Church that you may not know. It has to do with our number, our address, and our appointment. In Part Two we learned that we overcome death as our Lord did when we are perfected at the rapture. That’s when we receive our glorified, immortal bodies. We receive our inheritance as joint-heirs, and are seated with Him to reign over the earth.
We are sealed by the Holy Spirit for that Day when we are united with our Bridegroom and become One New Man (Acts 17:31). In the overview of the end-time events in chapters 4-9 in Revelation, we see the raptured Church in chapter 7, right after the final sign before Christ’s return of total darkness over the earth. It is a unique picture of 144 thousands. The 144 thousands only appear here and then again in Revelation 14. They are numbered in this way in both chapters so we know they are the same group of people.
In the original Greek language of the New Testament, the word translated as thousand (singular) in most Bible versions is actually the plural form of chiliades (thousands). The plural form is often used when we want to describe an innumerable group of people, as when we say there were thousands at the parade. Using the plural form (thousands) with a specific number (144) totally breaks the rule. But since it’s God doing this, we’ll cut Him some slack.
Actually, He did this on purpose, as if to use a yellow highlighter to draw our attention to the wording. God wanted us to see two things: (1) He wanted to show an indefinite number, an amount too large to number; and (2) He wanted to connect this innumerable company with a specific, symbolic number. The passage lists 12 groups of 12. Twelve times twelve equal 144. In Scripture, the number 12 is considered a perfect number. It symbolizes God’s power and authority, particularly His perfect government. It also represents completeness. When it is used twice like this, in terms of multiplication, it’s like putting an exclamation point on it. It’s the double witness.
In case you’re wondering, the 12 tribes listed are not the normal listing of the 12 tribes of Israel named after the 12 sons of Jacob. This alerts us that we are to look at the “tribes” in a different way—in light of the New Covenant. The Apostle Paul taught that the true Israel of God is not based on biological heritage, but on faith in Christ.
The innumerable company of the 144 thousands are clothed in white robes, having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. They are the called out ones, who have overcome death by the blood of the Lamb and their testimony of Christ the Savior. This promise to sit with Christ at the throne, at the Father’s right hand, is a promise made exclusively to the Church (Rev. 3:21).
This same symbolic numbering of 12 x 12 =144 is seen at the end of Revelation as well. It is the heavenly City, the New Jerusalem, which descends to the new earth after Christ’s millennial reign is complete.
If you are a believer, then you are part of this innumerable company of the 144 thousands who forever live with Christ in the Father’s House. It is your prepared place. We reign over the earth with Him for the thousand years of the 7th Day. Then when He presents the kingdom to the Father, and God creates the new heavens and new earth, we descend with Christ as the City, the New Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12). There we spend eternity with Him. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life and we shall dwell in the House of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6)!
Let’s look at another unique feature about the Church, the Body of Christ, the ekklesia, the called out ones. “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant” (Hebrews 12:22-24).
Colossians 1:18 calls Jesus “the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” The Apostle Paul explains what the phrase means in 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.”
Being born from the dead refers to resurrection. It is when we are given our glorified, immortal bodies when our Lord comes again at the rapture. Like Jesus, we shall be alive forevermore (Revelation 1:18). Resurrection is when we are perfected in Him. Being resurrected is not the same as being raised from the dead, as with Lazarus. Miraculously, life came back into his same mortal body. At some point, Lazarus died again.
Notice that Jesus is the firstborn from the dead. He was the first person who overcame death through resurrection. He was the first to be “birthed from death.” If there is a “first,” then there must be a second, third, and so on. Romans 8:29 confirms that we are “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” The many brethren are His Body, the ekklesia.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).
“For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:5).
Overcoming death in this way—being birthed from death—is one of the promises our Lord gave us in His revelation of things to come. “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:21). This is our destiny!
PART ONE: Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 that “I will build My Church.” So the Church is not an Old Testament thing of the past. Notice He said “My Church.” In John 17 Jesus says the disciples belonged to God, but God gave them to Him under the New Covenant. The Greek word for the Church is the ekklesia, the called out ones. We are called out as His.
This unique group never existed before. Whereas God’s people, the Israelites, met God at the base of Mt. Sinai, Hebrews 12:22-24 explains that the Church has “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant.”
Just as the Great Commission defines our role as the Church on the earth in this time, the Hebrews passage defines our role as the Bride. Gathered together with Jesus our Bridegroom at the rapture, we take our place as part of the immortal heavenly government as joint-heirs with Christ.
This unique group does not include the Old Testament saints. They are part of the redeemed, but they do not reign with Christ as we do. This is a limited time offer that extends between Christ’s first and second coming. It is built and established during the unique time period that Jesus called Today and Tomorrow. We’re marked as His when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
We are marked for a Third Day completion “date” with Him. For our Beloved has promised: “to him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” This overcoming power over death comes only by the blood of the Lamb and our confession of faith and testimony (Rev. 12:11). This is our resurrection and perfection.
This is our destiny as believers. For now, we “taste” the powers we shall have when we are fully completed in Christ (Hebrews 6:5). Then we shall operate by the Spirit without limits. Then we shall crush the enemy forces coming against Israel through our heavenly declarations. Then we shall execute justice against all that is evil, and bring down Satan’s spiritual hierarchy influencing the earth (Ephesians 6:12).
So take heart, my brothers and sisters. You may not feel as if you’ve been able to do much for Christ. You may feel as if you have let Him down or that you don’t have much to offer Him. But if you’ve given Him your heart, betrothed to Him by the Spirit, this is just a part of what you have in store for you. Together we shall reign with Him as the eternal heavenly government. We shall live with Him through all eternity. It doesn’t get any better than that!