While imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos, more than nineteen centuries ago, the Apostle John received an extraordinary vision that took him on a spiritual journey far into the future. As his supernatural vision unfolded, twelve vital keys were revealed. Each key is a clue that helps solve the longstanding mystery surrounding the 144,000. Together these twelve keys form a body of unimpeachable evidence that finally reveals the identity of this fascinating group of people.
The 144,000 are sealed with the holy Spirit as servants of God. They are an exact number of people who have been redeemed from among men. They stand on Mount Zion--the New Jerusalem, a city of whose dimensions are multiples of twelve and which has the names of the twelve tribes inscribed upon its gates. The 144,000 are destined to rule from this magnificent structure. They are the first fruits--spiritual Israel--God's true Church. They will rule alongside Christ, as kings and priests throughout the millennium, and beyond, for all eternity.
The 144,000 are those who have not allowed themselves to be defiled by the false doctrine, superstition, and practice of the counterfeit religions of this world. They are virgins--clean and pure--ready to marry Christ at His return. They are part of a better covenant with better promises--heirs to a better citizenship and a better resurrection (Hebrews 8:6, 11:16, 11:35).
The 144,000 are the first resurrection, raised up to work personally with Jesus Christ. The final members of this elite group will be finally chosen before God executes His wrath on the Earth. These will join the New Testament apostles, ancient prophets, righteous kings and holy people of God from all ages. They will be Christ's bride. They will be His friends and coworkers for eternity.
The rest of mankind will come up in another resurrection. Unlike the first resurrection of 144,000, this resurrection will not be limited in number. Rather, it will be a multitude that is so vast it cannot be numbered by men. Because of God's love and never ending mercy, He desires that all people who ever lived on earth be saved. The Apostle Peter tells us that: The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (II Peter 3:9).
God loves all mankind, no matter what color or culture. No matter how squalid our lives once were, He loves us all. For this reason, He will give every man and woman a chance for salvation. Once God makes that chance available, most of mankind will likely be brought into the family and Kingdom of God by choosing to live His way.
A REWARD WORTH WORKING FOR
Although the vast majority of mankind will one day be saved, the greatest rewards are reserved for the 144,000. Jesus will marry only one bride. At present he is working with a comparatively few number of people who will be included in the 144,000--the elite group that will be His bride.
At the same time, He is preparing a wonderful home in excited anticipation of His bride to be. The New Jerusalem will be the home of Christ's beloved wife. This magnificent edifice will contain the palatial estates where God the Father, Jesus Christ, and His bride will live and work for all eternity.
The future of the 144,000 is truly staggering to the imagination. It is a future more glorious than anything the human mind could ever conceive. Compared to it, the material rewards and physical pursuits of this life pale into utter insignificance. Nothing else can equal the promise of such a wonderful and stupendous future.
This incredible future has been the motivation of the faithful men and women of God throughout history. They were willing to give their lives, if necessary, to attain this goal. They understood the magnitude of what God is offering. Do we?
Abraham looked to a city "whose builder and maker is God"--the New Jerusalem! The inspired prophets of old also envisioned the time of the Kingdom, and they were fueled by this same hope. It is what transformed the Apostles--men who once ran in fear--into men willing to die if necessary, to continue preaching the gospel message of the Kingdom. The apostle Paul also confirmed that this future, which God offers us, is worth more than any sacrifice we might make. He writes: I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ (Philippians 3:).
Winning Christ means having the exhilaration of working directly with God the Father, and Jesus Christ. Imagine the excitement of eternally sharing an intimate relationship with Jesus, discussing intimate details of his projects, hopes, and dreams for man and the universe. Imagine enjoying God's sense of humor, and sharing in the pleasures He experiences. For those who are called during this age, it is more than the opportunity of a lifetime. There is nothing greater, and nothing more compelling. Christ explains: The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it (Matthew 4:44-46).
Christ is saying that in comparison to what God will give His servants, no sacrifice is too great. It would be worth losing literally everything we count valuable in this life, if it means gaining the Kingdom.
In the Kingdom, the 144,000 will experience the intense excitement and interest of life at the very hub of the universe. The cultural, artistic, and musical events, sponsored in the presence of the Father and Christ, are no doubt elevated to a level beyond comparison to that of the human realm. The fascinating discussion of ideas, projects, and inventions conceived and implemented will delight and awe the inheritors of God's Kingdom. This itinerary of incredibly creative activities and projects will continue for all time, uplifting and enthralling all who are included therein.
At present, among those who enjoy this glorious atmosphere at the the throne of God are the twenty-four elders. These magnificent and glorious beings, who apparently act as advisers at God's throne, are so awed by the decisions and judgements they witness that they cast their crowns before God in praise. These twenty-four elders are not simply programmed to do this automatically. Instead, this is a spontaneous reaction done in deep and profound admiration (Revelation 4:10).
Is it possible that in His Kingdom, Christ will include the 144,000 in His decision-making process, much as a man counsels with his wife? The thought of being able to think and plan with the very God of the universe is more than thrilling! This thought should inspire Christians everywhere, lifting our imaginations to the very heights of God's throne.
A NEW BODY
Each individual included in the 144,000 will be given a new body to complement his or her position and office of responsibility in the Kingdom. Christians often wonder, "What will this new body be like?"
Paul explains that what is sown in corruption will be raised in incorruption. What is sown in weakness and dishonor will be raised in power and glory. These weak, corruptible, physical bodies will be changed into powerful, glorious, spirit bodies (I Corinthians 15:42-44). The new spirit bodies will shine with the brilliance of the sun and stars (Matthew 13:43; Daniel 12:3).
Just as stars vary in brilliance, some spirit bodies will shine much brighter than others. God designed life so that the physical reflects the spiritual. Therefore, Paul explains that each spirit body has a different glory, as do the sun, the moon and the stars (Romans 1:20; I Corinthians 15:40-41).
In this life, some have more beauty than others. Some people are blessed with hair and skin that seems flawless-their bodies sleek and beautiful, the differing beauty of each human being pictures the fact that each person in the resurrection will also differ in glory.
Human beings can be very beautiful, but God is much more than beautiful. He is glorious. He radiates a resplendent glory, majesty, and dignity so awesome that humans cannot look upon Him and survive. Christ's hair is white as snow, and His feet appear as brilliantly burning brass. Looking into the face of Jesus as He now appears, is likened to looking into the very heart of the fiery sun (Revelation 1:15-16).
God is offering those who will be the 144,000 this same kind of glory. Paul describes the change that will take place in the resurrected Christian. He says the Christ will: Change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself (Philippians 3:21).
Those who are a part of the 144,000 will have greater glory than the great multitude. They will be more beautiful to behold. As John writes in his first letter: Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is (I John 3:2).
When the 144,000 stand before Christ, He will perform a miracle in each one. He will put each person's reward in their body. It will be visible--evident to all. The apostle Paul explains: For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad (II Corinthians 5:10).
Our spiritual reward will be reflected in our body. Even in this life, to a greater degree than most people realize, a person's body is a reflection of who and what he or she is. Most psychologists realize that personality traits, talents, and abilities are tied to a genetic code that is reflected in the physical body.
In a similar way, our spirit bodies will reflect who and what we are in the family of God. Depending on the gifts that God has given us, and what we do with those gifts, our new spirit bodies will shine brightly, radiating a beauty and brilliance befitting our reward.
SEEK YE FIRST THE KINGDOM AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS
With the realization that all we will become depends on what we do in this life, we should be more diligent in our quest for the Kingdom of God. If we truly comprehend the glory of the first resurrection, it will become our consuming desire. We should, and yes, we must, seek it with all our might and with all of our strength (Matthew 6:33).
We cannot allow anything to stop us from pursuing this most magnificent quest. The problems we experience, the setbacks we endure, the pain we suffer--these are nothing compared to the glorious future God has in store for us. As Paul writes: The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:16-18).
Unimaginable glory can be yours, if you have been called to be one of the 144,000. The glory which shall be eventually given to us is worth any sacrifice--any effort. Make up your mind now to push toward the "finish line" in this extraordinary race. Pick up the pace and give your whole heart to seeking God's Kingdom. Commit all resources to it!
Do not let down! Even if you have let down in the past, even if you have failed miserably in some way--don't quit! Instead, commit yourself to overcoming. Fast often to draw close to God. Talk to Him in prayer on a continual basis. Listen to what He has to say through reading and meditating on His Word. Strive to fill your thoughts with the mind of God. Work at truly understanding and living God's perfect, spiritual laws of liberty.
SEEK HIM WHILE HE CAN BE FOUND
There now exists a window of opportunity for each of us who has been called. There is still time for us to change our lives. There is still time to overcome, and to succeed in attaining the first resurrection.
The time is coming, however, when the window will be closed. The door will be shut, and there will be no more time left (Revelation 10:6; Matthew 25:1-5). There will be no more time to overcome, and no longer a chance to qualify for this magnificent reward. Notice Gods warning: He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with Me, to give every man according as his word shall be (Revelation 22:11-12).
Right now is the time to begin to DO more and to BE more. Now is the time to prove to God that you belong in His Kingdom. Now is the time to give God reason to finally say about you, as He did Abraham, "Now I know." Seize the moment! Give God the best that you have. Use this remaining time to rededicate your life to God, and strive to develop the qualities of the 144,000.
TWELVE KEYS TO THE KINGDOM
The Scriptures reveal twelve keys that identify the 144,000. These keys are the character traits that qualify these individuals to attain the first resurrection. Therefore, these are literally our keys to God's Kingdom. We must recognize who and what God is, and the incredible price He was willing to pay to redeem each individual. We must see that our real value lies not in our material possessions, or even our own talents and abilities, but in what God is creating within us.
We must strive to be led by the Holy Spirit which seals us. We must become faithful servants of God--not servants of the self, or Satan. We must live up to our covenant name--Israel.
Before God will allow us to rule over others, we must first allow God's Spirit to rule over us. We must study to understand God's law and meditate on how to apply it in everyday life. We must then strive to live by that law. We cannot permit ourselves to be defiled by the doctrines, and practices of this world's counterfeit religions.
We must seek to emulate God's holiness, and work at keeping ourselves pure. We must strive to follow Christ in every way--to think and act as He would in every situation.
To be His firstfruits, we must eliminate hypocrisy, and become a people who are completely sincere. We must become what Christ saw in Nathanael--a people who live without guile.
TWELVE KEYS TO UNDERSTANDING THE IDENTITY OF THE 144,000
(1) They are sealed---Christians are sealed by the Holy Spirit
(2) They are servants of God---God's servants are converted, obey Him, and will be
(3) They are a precise number, consisting of 144,000---Their number is a factor of
twelve picturing divine government
(4) They are spiritual Israel---Spiritual Israel is the Church
(5) They stand on Mount Zion before God's throne---They stand at the base of New
Jerusalem in Heaven
(6) They sing a song no man can learn---They are the only ones in the first
(7) They have not be defiled by women---They have not accepted doctrine from the
(8) They are virgins---They are qualified to marry the High
Priest, Jesus Christ
(9) They follow the Lamb---They are Christ's followers
(10) They are the firstfruits---This is the first resurrection
(11) They are redeemed---They accepted Christ, overcame and are resurrected
(12) They are without fault,having no guile---They lived without deceit, and
raised as faultless
The 144,000 are sealed by the Holy Spirit in their foreheads (minds). Revelation 14:1 shows that this sealing is done by writing the Father's name there. Jesus' very last prayer was that His church would be kept--preserved, guarded--in the Father's name (John 17:11). This suggests that the 144,000 are set apart, and thus protected (in an eternal sense), by God's work of building character in them, as God's name identifies and defines His character.
So, like those is Ezekiel's day who "sigh and cry over the abominations that are done," the 144,000 will be sparred the terrors of the Day of the Lord because they have proven their sterling character before God. Their sealing is obviously based on their spiritual condition rather than their physical descent.
They are also called "redeemed from among men,...firstfruits to God and the Lamb" (verse 4). This can only mean that they are those who take part in the first resurrection (Revelation 20:4-6; I Corinthians 15:23). They are a special first "crop" of God's harvest, who are given special rewards and privileges because of their struggles in overcoming of Satan and their sins--Hebrews 11:35 calls it "a better resurrection".
The 144,000 are a unique group of people who overcome their sins and grow in character, and their reward is to live and rule forever by the side of Jesus Christ."
RUN THE RACE
We are now living in the lull just before the storm of the last days. It is a time of sifting in the Church. God is separating the wheat from the chaff. It is a time of final decision-making about who will be accounted worthy for inclusion in the 144,000.
The Scriptures tell us plainly that judgement is now upon the Church (I Peter 4:17). God is watching and making decisions about where we will fit in His Kingdom, or even if we will fit there at all. Our purpose should be to dedicate ourselves to proving to Him that we do!
This time of proving ourselves has been compared to running a race. The Apostle Paul makes this analogy to convey the urgency of this critical time in our lives. He writes: Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain (I Corinthians 9:24).
Not all who run this race will reach the finish line, and not everyone who is called will automatically be chosen. Many are called, but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14). Christ is very selective when it comes to choosing whom He will marry. Many run the race, but not all will obtain the prize. The apostle Paul reaches down and pulls from his vast personal experience in order to give us an important warning message. He writes: And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we are incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others I myself should be a castaway (I Corinthians 9:25-26).
Some will be castaways! Paul realized that even he could be disqualified. For that reason, he ran the race with diligence. He worked to bring himself into subjection to Jesus Christ in all things. While there is yet time, we must also run the race. The end is nearer than before. We must be diligent, and continue to run with renewed zeal.
HANG IN THERE
Far too many in God's church today seem willing to let the prize slip through their fingers. Some are completely turned off to the Church. They complain that the Church has wronged them or failed them. Perhaps they have been hurt by the ministry or offended by another Church member. Some have simply been disappointed by their own failure to measure up.
Others have become distracted by the pressures and cares of this world. They have been caught up in careers, investments, and the pursuits of this physical life. In this age of spiritual indifference, few pay real attention to the spiritual anymore. Many have become weary of well-doing and have begun to let this precious calling slip through their fingers. What about you?
Perhaps you have seen the poster that captures the image of a somewhat frantic little kitten suspended in mid-air, while desperately clinging in wide-eyed panic to the most precarious of paw holds. The caption under the kitten reads, "Hang In There, Baby."
Many of us have felt like this kitten during difficult times in our Christian walk. Sometimes the trials we face while striving to live God's way can make us feel as if we are desperately holding on for dear life, but we cannot afford to give up. We must hang in there! The following story is a fitting illustration of this point: Off the coast of New England many years ago, a fishing boat was being tossed about in a rough sea. Suddenly, a seaman noticed a young man clinging to the mast, lashed by the biting wind. In horror, the seaman ran to the Captain and exclaimed, "Look, Captain, it's your son up there in grave danger. If he lets go he'll be dashed to pieces!" The Captain looked up calmly and replied, "He won't let go. He's my son! He won't let go!"
In the story, the Captain knew what his son was made of. He knew that he would not let go. What about your Captain, Jesus Christ? Does He know that you won't let go? Will you let go of the magnificent calling God has given you? Is there anything that could cause you to let go of the fantastic reward God offers to those who endure to the end?
The understanding of God's Word that you have been given is priceless. You now know who the 144,000 are. You now know what it will take to be counted among them. Let this knowledge motivate you. Realize that you are being given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with absolutely fabulous rewards that will last for all eternity. Recognize what has been laid at your feet. Pick it up and run with it. Overcome! Strive to be worthy of your calling and be chosen as one of the 144,000.
This information relates to the end of time as we know it and includes information on the 144,000, or the servants of God who will be sealed and set apart from the rest of humanity at the end of time. Jesus' explanation of the 144,000 states: They are of the tribes of Israel, 12,000 of each tribe (verse 4). In Galatians 6:16, the church is called "the Israel of God," so this separation into "tribes of the children of Israel" may be a spiritual designation rather than physical lineage, meaning that these 144,000 will be of a spiritual nature rather than only decendants of Israel as we know it. So that being said, everyone can be included in this number! Take the time now to bow your head and go deep inside of yourself and put yourself out there humbly to God. We must subject ourselves to Jesus Christ and hold steadfastly to our belief of being saved.
Jehovah, Lord most High, I put my life in your hands and ask to be included in this 144,000 and pray that every human being may come to rely on You and You alone. I worship You from the bottom of my heart and hearken to hear Your Word. Thank you for all you have done for me when I pour out my heart to You. I only pray that EVERY HUMAN can know You as I know YOU!
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Sunday, September 5, 2010
The book of Revelation clearly reveals twelve distinct keys that identify the 144,000. Each key is a characteristic that unmistakably proves that this unique assembly is the first resurrection in its entirety--but what about the great multitude? Are they not also in the first resurrection? Doesn't the Bible state that they attain this reward, having gone through the Great Tribulation that comes on the whole world? The Apostle John continues his vision, he states: After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues...These are they which came out of a great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:9-14).
Many read these verses, and assume they refer to the Great Tribulation which comes upon the whole world at the end of the age. Armed with this assumption, readers may then conclude that the great multitude must be a part of the first resurrection.
All the evidence, presented thus far, has shown that the 144,000 are the entirety of the first resurrection. They are spiritual Israel, the redeemed, and the firstfruits. Therefore, the great multitude cannot be part of the first resurrection.
If this is true, then what does the Scripture mean when it states that the great multitude come out of great tribulation? The answer is found in the fact that there are different tribulations mentioned in the Bible. One type comes upon individuals, another upon specific churches, and one is a worldwide ordeal that lasts three and one-half years at the end of man's misrule. Which of these does the great multitude experience?
THE GREAT TRIBULATION THAT COMES ON ALL THE WORLD
The word "tribulation" has a wide range of usage in the New Testament. In the broadest sense, it means any difficulty or trouble. In all but one case in the New Testament, the word "tribulation" is translated from the Greek word "Thlipsis," which can mean "trouble," "pressure," "affliction," "anguish," or "persecution."
When the disciples asked Jesus about the end of the world, the Savior used this word, "thilipis" to describe the time of terrible trouble called the "Great Tribulation." The Lord answered them, saying: For then shall be Great Tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be (Matthew 24:21).
The Tribulation that Christ speaks of in this Olivet Prophecy occurs only one time in the whole history of mankind. It is so awesome, frightening, and destructive that if God did not intervene, there would be no flesh left alive on the earth (Matthew 24:21-22).
This Tribulation is a three and one-half year period of Satan's wrath, beginning shortly after the armies of the beast surround Jerusalem and the abomination that makes desolate is set up (Matthew 24:15-16). It culminates in Christ's triumphant return to rule the earth as King of kings.
This end time Tribulation is perpetrated by a political, military leader the Bible calls the beast. This beast leads a united Europe, fueled by religious fervor. This combined European power forges an awesome military machine that will control Eastern Civilization. It will destroy any opposition, whether it be military or religious.
This Great Tribulation will span the entire globe, but it primarily focuses upon the modern day descendants of Israel. As Jeremiah states: Alas! for the day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it (Jeremiah 30:17).
The modern day descendants of Jacob, including the United States, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, will suffer more than any other people ever have. They will experience an even greater time of trouble that the Jewish people suffered during world War II.
Eventually, the other great powers, such as Russia, India, China, and Japan will be pulled into the fray, but only at the very end (Revelation 16:12). Small groups in many third world countries, described in Revelation seven as "every tribe and tongue," may be little affected by the Tribulation until the day of the Lord. This "day," which lasts an entire year, is God's wrath. It will affect all the inhabitants of the world.
Some believe that this is the "Great Tribulation: from which the innumerable multitude emerge. However, such a belief contradicts all the previous evidence that makes it clear that the 144,000 are the entirety of the first resurrection.
Consider the fact that the majority of those who lose their lives in the end time Tribulation are physical Israelites. The description of the great multitude as being "of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues," cannot possibly apply to a group primarily composed of Israelites.
Is it possible that the tribulation which the great multitude comes through is not the Great Tribulation that engulfs the whole world at the end time? Could it be that the Bible be speaking of another type of tribulation?
TRIBULATION EXPERIENCED BY SPECIFIC CHURCHES
The Bible also speaks of tribulation that is to come on specific churches. The messages in Revelation, chapters two and three, were sent to seven Churches on a mail route in Asia Minor. Each of these individual churches were representative. Each pictured the entirety of God's Church during a specific era of time as history flowed down through the centuries culminating at Christ's return.
The first church on the route was Ephesus, and Christ explained that this church experienced tribulation (Revelation 2:9). This tribulation was the persecution by the Jews and the martyrdom perpetrated by the Roman Emperor Nero.
Jesus also predicted ten days (years) of tribulation that would fall upon the church of Smyrna (Revelation 2:10; Ezekiel 4:6). This was actually fulfilled by a ten year persecution against Christians instituted by Diocletian in 303 AD and abolished by the edict of toleration in 313 AD.
Christ further threatened Thyatira, representing the Church during the Middle Ages, with "great tribulation." Jesus Christ said: Behold, I will cast her (Thyatira) into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds (Revelation 2:22).
The "great tribulation" spoken of in the above verse was actually the Crusades and the inquisition, not the Great Tribulation which will come at the end of the age. It is not the tribulation the great multitude experiences, nor is it the one to come on the entire world at the end of the age. The great multitude come out of a kind of tribulation different than either of the two types mentioned thus far.
TRIBULATION ON INDIVIDUALS
While imprisoned and suffering on the island of Patmos, John spoke of being a companion to other Christians who were in tribulation (Revelation 1:9). In another case, Christ explained to His followers that Christians should expect tribulation simply because they were required to live in this world (John 16:33).
Paul also suffered many difficulties and troubles as he performed God's work of preaching the gospel. As a result, this great apostle reminded believers down through the ages that Christ's followers should also anticipate tribulation. Paul taught Christians: To continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).
While tribulation is certainly part of the Christian life, non-Christians are by no means exempt. Suffering occurs in even greater degrees to those who know nothing of the truth. Paul states that every person who does not obey the truth will suffer tribulation.
Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the gentile (Romans 2:9).
It is this kind of anguishing tribulation from which the great multitude emerges. Rather than being firstfruits, the great multitude is all the rest of mankind who are not now called to salvation. They are not God's true Church, and are not sealed with the Holy Spirit during this life. Instead, they are those who, in their lifetime, have experienced the tremendous suffering that all mankind has endured throughout the ages--the consequence of sin.
OUT OF GREAT TRIBULATION
Every generation has suffered tribulation in its lifetime. Violence has covered the globe. Terrible atrocities have been endured, but also perpetrated, by virtually every race and religion throughout the history of mankind.
Jews, Albanians, Rwandans, Kurds, Armenians and Africans, to name just a few, have all suffered terrible tribulation during their lifetime--some even the specter of genocide. Many who will read this are facing some sort of suffering and tribulation of their own even now.
Beginning with Cain and Abel, man's history has been a parade of violence, and a path of blood. Since mankind was evicted from the garden of Eden, and cut off from God, the character of our world has not changed. In the last four thousand years, the world has only known some two hundred and fifty years of relatively calm and peaceful times!
The vast numbers of people, since the time of Adam and Eve, have experienced tribulation of one kind or another! All have borne some of the heartache, pain and suffering that this present life brings. All have witnessed the terrible ravages of illness and disease such as smallpox, cancer and AIDS, and more recently mankind's latest affliction, SARS. Everyone eventually loses loved ones, and everyone eventually comes face-to-face with his or her own death (Hebrews (9:27).
In the course of human history, there have been millions who have suffered terrible upheavals of nature. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, bitter cold, scorching heat and floods have exacted a heavy toll in the form of human lives. Many have lost everything.
The earth naturally responds to the anguish mankind has brought upon it. From God's perspective, the planet actually groans with the suffering of this world. It convulses within itself as a consequence of all the destruction inflicted upon both it and mankind (Romans 8:22-23).
In addition, the vast majority of people on earth exist in suffocating poverty and oppressive squalor. Most inhabitants of the west have no idea of the tribulation that afflicts those who live in third world countries on a daily basis. For many millions of people around the world the greatest challenge, each day, is to find enough food to survive one more day.
The tribulation this world suffers is a direct result of man's human nature. Man's greed and self-centered way of life have caused pain to everyone. None have escaped the tragic consequences of living in Satan's world (II Corinthians 4:4; James 4:1-6).
This is the kind of great tribulation the innumerable multitude comes out from. It is the tribulation each person experiences from living in Satan's world.
Although Satan is prevented from influencing the world during the millennial reign of Jesus Christ, he is once again loosed at the end of the thousand years. He will once again create the kind of suffering that man has repeatedly known for 6,000 years. He will influence men to wage war.
Christ will put down this rebellion, but people will again suffer under the devil's power and influence. Those who live at this time will be required to overcome his sway, both in the world and in their personal lives.
This is what the Scripture means when it states that the multitude come out of "great tribulation." It is not speaking of the Great Tribulation that comes on the whole world just prior to Christ's return. It is speaking of the tribulation that each person experiences while living in a world influenced by Satan, both during the first six thousand years of human history and the "little season" when Satan is once again free to sway the minds of men.
The great multitude is a collection of all those who will be saved after a second resurrection. All those who lived and died without knowing the true Jesus Christ will be raised.
They will be given physical life at the end of one thousand years of God's Kingdom, and with that new life, their real and first chance at salvation. This is their time of judgement (Revelation 20:5-6; 12). During this time, the great multitude must overcome Satan's influence. In this way, they follow the example of the 144,000, but are called at a different time and for a different purpose. They are not called now. They are not called to be Christ's bride, or to have rulership roles in the Kingdom.
They will receive salvation and have eternal life, but not the same reward as those who are called to the first resurrection. For this reason, they are not called firstfruits, or Israel. Instead, they are called the "great multitude." Their story is a fascinating one, and it also proves the identity of the 144,000.