144,000 Problems

I have run into a problem as I continue to dive deeper into the controversial topic of “All Israel will be saved”, seen in Romans 11. One side of the debate believes that “All Israel” mean all ethnic Israel, meaning all those who are descendants of Abraham. Others believe it means all national Israel, which consists of all those literally in the nation of Israel as we know it today. Others believe it means all spiritual Israel will be saved, meaning the full number of Jew and gentile believers in Christ will be saved. The direct reference of this comes from Romans 11:25, which says,

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved.”

I dove into this topic in one of my later posts, called, “Will All Israel be Saved?” I took the route suggesting that “All Israel” must mean all of spiritual Israel. I brought in the context of Paul’s analogy of gentile believers being grafted into the tree to become heirs of the inheritance. One of the biggest reasons I determined this must be the case is because of the mention of 144,000 Jews getting sealed in Revelation. The “fullness of the gentiles” is complete at the rapture of believers. Whether you are pre-trib or pre-wrath, as I am, it makes no difference because the problem is still relevant. The rapture is either at the beginning of the final 7-year period, or during it. Therefore, Israel’s partial hardening ends when we are caught up to be with the Lord and the wrath of God begins. However, Revelation says that only 144,000 Jews will be sealed at that time. There are a lot more than 144,000 Jews. How can all Israel be saved if it is to be understood that Paul was referring to all ethnic Jews or all of current national Israel? They are my 144,000 problems right now. That’s why I am having a hard time determining if that is talking about spiritual Israel, ethnic or national Israel.

I have held to the belief that the 144,000 sealed Jews in Revelation is a literal number. I see 2 distinct groups: One group is a very countable 144,000 Jews with specific reference to the number that are in each tribe as well. Then, the camera panes over to another group appearing in heaven that is very uncountable, consisting of every nation and tongue. This is undeniably speaking of the church (Jew and Gentile believers alike). The literal interpretation of 144,000 is proving to be restrictive to interpreting “All Israel” as all ethnic Israel or national Israel during this future period of time. However, after much consideration and continual digging, it may not be necessary to uphold this strict literal interpretation.

I have mentioned before that 144,000 is symbolic to meaning “completeness”. Immediately after mentioning this number, John mentions the uncountable group appearing in heaven. This could very well be a retelling of the same group. This 144,000 Jews, represents spiritual Israel. Spiritual Israel is sealed. It is the complete number of God’s people. It figuratively describes the group that is afterwards literally described to be appearing in heaven. The complete number of spiritual Israel is sealed from the upcoming wrath and are now caught up to be forever with the Lord. The number of spiritual Israel is uncountable. It’s like the sand on the seashore or the stars in the sky.

The reason why this interpretation may be better is because it lifts the restriction off Romans 11. In other words, “all Israel” can truly mean ethnic or national Israel in the times of the end. It can truly mean, when believers in Christ are caught up, the righteous jealousy Paul speaks of will blaze in the hearts of the Jewish people and we could see a revival unlike anything this world has ever seen.

The natural consequence of this is that true Israel is not determined by ethnicity. It truly is of faith. To me, this is no consequence at all because, as someone who esteems covenant theology, I believe that faith alone has always been the requirement for salvation/election in the past, present, and the future. Before Christ, the requirement for election was always faith in the future Messiah. After Christ, we are simply given a name for that Messiah and the Covenant of Grace has become actualized. I go into great detail concerning this in my post called, “Who are the Elect?”. I encourage you to read that as well.

Romans 9:6-8 says,

“For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”

In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.

Where the nation of Israel failed and broke the covenant, Christ alone, the promised seed, came and fulfilled it on their behalf. No one outside of Christ, the true Israelite, deserves the inheritance. It is only through faith in Christ that anyone may become beneficiaries of that inheritance. If the 144,000 represents spiritual Israel, then it wraps up the Abrahamic covenant beautifully. It is only through spiritual Israel that Abraham becomes a father of many nations. It is only through spiritual Israel that many kings will be realized. It is only through spiritual Israel that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. It is only through spiritual Israel that the covenant may be everlasting.

All of this is wrapped up in this image of the 144,000 when seen as the completeness of God’s people. It demonstrates one beautiful bride of Christ, not two. It opens the door for ethnic Israel’s redemption, as stated in Romans 11. It harmonizes the interpretive inconsistencies that otherwise would be present. And I believe it does both these passages justice.

Let me know your thoughts. Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I pray that it helped you to think more critically and not be afraid to ask questions. I hope I modeled that here. I don’t like to leave questions as questions. I always allow my questions to bring me back to the Word for better understanding. That process is continual. I will forever be a student of the Word, and my hope is that you adopt that mindset as well.

God Bless

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