Dr. Sam Storms on the Dispensational, Pre-Tribulational, Premillennial End Times View:
Here’s a very interesting article by Gary DeMar that will certainly challenge much current thinking about the identity of the Beast in the book of Revelation. (original source here)
Dr. R. C. Sproul has come to similar conclusions – see his lecture on “The Beast” at this link)
This comment was made in a post about the number of the Beast (Revelation 13:18): “This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.”
The question is: Why should we use Hebrew gematria in a book that is written in Greek for the Greek speaking churches of Asia Minor?
Gematria is an interpretive method that assigns numerical value to letters, words, and phrases. Most of us are unfamiliar with this method since we have a separate alphabet and numbering system.
Anybody familiar with the Bible understands that numbers are important. Some see gematria everywhere in Scripture. I have Theomatics: God’s Best Secret Revealed and The Original Code in the Bible: Using Science and Mathematics to Reveal God’s Fingerprints in mind. This is not to dismiss the idea that some, maybe many, Bible numbers have a deeper symbolic meaning, especially when the Bible tells us in the case of Revelation 13:18 to “calculate the number of the beast.”
When trying to match up “six hundred and sixty-six” with a known historical figure, we need more than a plausible candidate; we need a relevant candidate. The first readers of Revelation were told to “calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six” (13:18). Since Revelation was written to a first-century audience (“these things must shortly take place . . . for the time is near . . . the hour of testing is about to come on the land. . . . Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book for the time is near”: 1:1, 3; 3:10, 22:10), we should expect some first-century readers to have been able to calculate the number with relative ease and understand the result. They would have had few candidates from which to choose. It’s unlikely that this number of a man identifies someone outside their time of reference. The same is true of the rest of the book.
Notice that the number is “six hundred and sixty-six,” not three sixes. Tim LaHaye misidentifies the number when he writes, “The plain sense of Scripture tells us that it comprises the numbers: six, six, six.”1 The three Greek letters that make up the number represent 600 (ἑξακόσιοι), 60 (ἑξήκοντα), and 6 (ἕξ).
Ancient numbering systems used an alphanumeric method. This is true of the Latin (Roman) system that is still common today: I = 1, V = 5, X = 10, L = 50, C = 100, D = 500, M = 1,000.
Greek and Hebrew follow a similar method: each letter of each alphabet represents a number. The first nine letters represent 1–9. The tenth letter represents 10, with the nineteenth letter representing 100 and so on. Since the book of Revelation is written in a Hebrew context by a Jew with numerous allusions to the Old Testament, we should expect the solution to deciphering the meaning of six hundred and sixty-six to be Hebraic. “The reason clearly is that, while [John] writes in Greek, he thinks in Hebrew, and the thought has naturally affected the vehicle of expression.”2
Is there anything in John’s writings, especially in Revelation, that hints at this use of both Greek and Hebrew? The “angel of the abyss” is described in two ways: “His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon” (Rev. 9:11). Something similar was done with “Har-Magedon” (hill of Megiddo) or “Ar-Magedon” (city of Megiddo) (Rev. 16:16). Megiddo was an Old Testament city (1 Chron. 7:29), the place where King Josiah was killed (2 Chron. 35:20–27). There are references to Egypt and Sodom (Rev. 11:8), Jezebel (2:20), Balaam (2:14), Babylon (17-18), the attire of the high priest (17:4-5).
Of the 404 verses of the book of Revelation, 278 are based directly on Old Testament language and thought. . . . The author of Revelation does not intend to show that Old Testament predictions are fulfilled in events involving Christ and the church. Instead, he used Old Testament language to describe the situation facing his readers. He draws parallels between Old Testament events and ideas and the circumstances in which he and his readers find themselves.3
For a comprehensive list, see “Old Testament References in the Book of Revelation” by Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum.
In John’s gospel, the place where Pilate sat down to judge Jesus was called “The Pavement,” but John called attention to its Hebrew (Jewish Aramaic) name “Gabbatha” (John 19:13). In the same chapter, John wrote how Pilate had an inscription placed on the cross above Jesus’ head written in “Hebrew, Latin, and in Greek” (John 19:20). Going from Greek to Hebrew was typical and expected since Jews spoke Hebrew or Jewish Aramaic which is very similar to Hebrew.
For a fully study of this topic, see William Henry Guillemard’s Hebraisms in the Greek Testament.
So what name is behind the cryptic 666? When Nero Caesar’s name is transliterated into Hebrew, which a first-century Jew would probably have done immediately, he would have gotten Neron Kesar or simply nrwn qsr, since Hebrew has no letters to represent vowels. (The w represents a long “o” sound and the q represents the “k” sound in Hebrew.) “It has been documented by archaeological finds that a first century Hebrew spelling of Nero’s name provides us with precisely the value of 666. Jastrow’s lexicon of the Talmud contains this very spelling.”4 When we take the letters of Nero’s name and spell them in Hebrew, we get the following numeric values: n = 50, r = 200, w = 6, n = 50, q = 100, s = 60, r = 200. Put together, the sum is 666.
Every Jewish reader, of course, saw that the Beast was a symbol of Nero. And both Jews and Christians regarded Nero as also having close affinities with the serpent or dragon . . . The Apostle writing as a Hebrew, was evidently thinking as a Hebrew . . . Accordingly, the Jewish Christian would have tried the name as he thought of the name—that is in Hebrew letters. And the moment that he did this the secret stood revealed. No Jew ever thought of Nero except as “Neron Kesar.”5
I have a coin (see right) that spells Nero’s name as NERŌN. Coins were struck with the spelling NEPΩN KAIΣAP ΣEBAΣTOΣ = “Neron Caesar Augustus.”
The solution to the riddle of 666 which has been most widely accepted since it was first suggested in 1831 is that 666 is the sum of the letters of Nero Caesar written in Hebrew characters as נרון קסר (נ = 50 + ר = 200 + ו = 6 + ן = 50 + ק = 100 + ס = 60 + ר = 200). Few of the many other solutions by gematria which have been proposed offer a name, which the phrase ‘the number of his name’ (Rev. 13:17; 15:2) requires, and of those few which do this seems eminently the most preferable.6
A textual variant in some New Testament manuscripts has the number of the Beast as 616 based on the reading of nrw qsr — Nero Caesar — instead of “the Greek form Nerwn, . . . so that the final ן is omitted from נרון , the numerical value becomes 616.”7
Solomon and 666
The Jews had seen the number six hundred and sixty-six before (not 6-6-6 but 600+60+6= 666). Prior to Solomon’s slide into apostasy, a description of his reign is given. One of the things said about him is that “the weight of gold which came in to Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold” (1 Kings 10:14). From the number of shields (300) to the price of a horse imported from Egypt (150 shekels), we find round numbers, except when the number of gold talents is mentioned. Why not 650 or even 660? Why 666?
From the point where we are told that 666 talents of gold came into Solomon’s possession in one year, we read of Solomon’s apostasy. First, Solomon violates the law regarding the accumulation of horses, chariots, wives, and gold (1 Kings 10:26; see Deut. 17:16-17).
The law of Deuteronomy 17 forbad the king to multiply gold, women, and horses, but here we see Solomon do all three. In Revelation, the religious rulers of the “land” are called kings, the “kings of the land.” The apostasy of the High Priest, and of the religious leaders of Israel, is thus linked to Solomon’s sin. As Solomon lost his kingdom when the northern tribes rebelled after his death, so the Land Beast will lose his kingdom permanently when Jerusalem is destroyed.8
Second, Solomon sells himself to foreign interests by marrying foreign women to create political alliances (1 Kings 11:1–2). It is here that we see a parallel with Revelation 13. In their rejection of Jesus as the promised Messiah (“He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him”—John 1:11), the unbelieving Jews committed spiritual adultery with the nations (Roman Empire of nations) in the way that Solomon committed physical/spiritual adultery with the nations surrounding him:
Now Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the sons of Israel, ‘You shall not associate with them, neither shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.’ Solomon held fast to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away (1 Kings 11:1–3).
James Jordan sums up the connection between Solomon and the apostate character of the Church’s enemy in Revelation 13:
The number of the name (character) of the Sea Beast, then, means “apostate Solomon; apostate Jew.” It is Solomon, not free under Yahweh’s rule, but enslaved to Gentiles through illicit trade, the idol worshipping wiles of his women, and his lust for gold.9
It’s possible, therefore, that 666 refers to both Nero and Solomon since the Sea Beast (Roman Empire under Nero) and the Land Beast (Israel as a “synagogue of Satan”: Rev. 2:9; 3:9) cooperate in their desire to see the new covenant people of God destroyed. Those Jews who rejected Jesus (the greater David: Acts 2:25–36) embraced the apostasy of Solomon who did not follow after his father David.
Marrying foreign wives was similar to what the Jews did when they cried out at Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate, the civil representative of Rome, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). They aligned themselves with Rome against Jesus. This made them true antichrists (2 John 2:7; 1 John 2:18-22; 4:2-3). They chose the bastard Barabbas (“son [bar] of a father [abba]”) rather than the true son, Jesus (Son of the Father).
Nero the Beastly Character
By all accounts, Nero had a reputation as an immoral beast. “According to the emperor Marcus Aurelius [121–180], ‘To be violently drawn and moved by the lusts of the soul is proper to wild beasts and monsters, such as Phalaris and Nero were.’”10 Other histories of the period offer a similar description. But for Christians, Nero was a beast because “he was the first emperor to persecute the church.”11
Nero was an animalistic pervert. He kicked one of his pregnant wives to death. He murdered his mother. He set Christians on fire to serve as lamps for a dinner party. He would dress up as a beast and rape both male and female prisoners. And he was the covenant head of Rome—that great Satan.12
There is a long history of Christian commentators who have taught that John, through the Revelation received through Jesus, had Nero in mind as the fulfillment of what is taking place in Revelation 13 as the Sea Beast. Nero fits the historical circumstances since he was the Emperor of Rome from A.D. 54 through June of 68 and was a tyrant of first order. According to first-century Roman historian Tacitus (A.D. 56–117), Nero blamed the burning of Rome on Christians:
Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace (Annals, 15:44).
Nero committed numerous atrocities against Christians. Some Christians were “wrapped in animal skins and torn apart by dogs; others were crucified and set aflame after being soaked in oil. Nero threw open his gardens for the spectacle and drove about in his chariot.”13
One of the reasons Nero was often identified as the Beast of Revelation 13 (the word “antichrist” is not used in Revelation) was because his name, when put into Hebrew letters, as a Jew would have done (Rev. 16:16), adds up to 666:
Every Jewish reader, of course, saw that the Beast was a symbol of Nero. And both Jews and Christians regarded Nero as also having close affinities with the serpent or dragon . . . The Apostle writing as a Hebrew, was evidently thinking as a Hebrew . . . Accordingly, the Jewish Christian would have tried the name as he thought of the name — that is in Hebrew letters. And the moment that he did this the secret stood revealed. No Jew ever thought of Nero except as “Neron Kesar.”14
Mark Wilson writes the following in his brief commentary on Revelation in the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: “Nero is the only first-century emperor whose name can be calculated to equal 666. Nero’s Greek name NERON KAISER was inscribed on the obverse of coins from Ephesus, Sardis, and Laodicea during this period.”15 The IVP Bible Background Commentary states that identifying Nero as the Beast and the number 666 is “the most popular proposal among scholars today.”16
There’s something else to consider. If the Greek word for beast (θηρίον = תריון) is translated “into Hebrew consonants, the numerical value comes out to 666. This appears to be what John means when he mentions in 13:18 ‘the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.’”17
So not only does Nero Caesar add up to 666 when transliterated into Hebrew letters, but the Hebrew transliteration of the Greek word for “beast” also comes to 666.
By paying attention to the specific time elements in Revelation and audience relevance, we can conclude that John’s Beast with a name that adds up to 666 is long dead and gone. Today’s end-time speculation is foolish and counter-productive and dilutes the Bible’s message of the finished work of Jesus Christ and the end of the old covenant system that passed away with the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. We should focus on the name of Jesus “and the name of His Father” (Rev. 14:1). The Lamb has conquered the Beast of Revelation 13 and any beasts to follow.
1. Tim LaHaye, Revelation Unveiled, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), 22–27.
2. R.H. Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John, 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1920), 1:cxliii.
3. Frank Pack, “The Old Testament and the Book of Revelation.”
4. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., The Beast of Revelation, rev. ed. (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2002), chap. 3. Also see Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John, 1:367.
5. Frederic W. Farrar, The Early Days of Christianity (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1882), 471.
6. Richard Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1993), 387.
7. Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy, 387. Also see James Tabor, “Why 2K?: The Biblical Roots of Millennialism,” Bible Review (December 1999): http://bit.ly/WtlK30
8. James B. Jordan, A Brief Reader’s Guide to Revelation (Niceville, FL: Transfiguration Press, 1999), 36.
9. James B. Jordan, “The Beasts of Revelation (4),” Studies in Revelation (April 1996), 2.
10. Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy, 409.
11. Bauckham, the Climax of Prophecy, 411.
12. Douglas Wilson, “666” (July 13, 2005): http://bit.ly/StHTRq
13. John Haralson Hayes, Introduction to the Bible (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1971), 453.
14. Frederic W. Farrar, The Early Days of Christianity (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1882), 471.
15. Mark W. Wilson, “Revelation,” Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, gen. ed. Clinton E. Arnold (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 4:330.
16. Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 799.
17. Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy, 389.
Article “Replacement or Inclusion Theology?” by Dr. Sam Storms (at this link)
I was recently asked by a member at Bridgeway if I believe in what is called “replacement” theology. Although this is a massively complex subject, I tried to provide a brief answer. Here it is.
All biblical interpreters recognize that there is development between the Old Testament and the New. Some say the Old Testament is the seed to which the New Testament provides the flower. Others speak of the relationship as one of symbol to substance, or type to anti-type. The point being that we must strive to understand the progress in redemptive history. And when I look at the relationship between Israel and the Church I see something similar to the relationship between the caterpillar and the butterfly.
The butterfly doesn’t replace the caterpillar. The butterfly IS the caterpillar in a more developed and consummate form. The butterfly is what God intended the caterpillar to become. Likewise, the church doesn’t replace Israel. The church IS Israel as God always intended it to be. Let me explain that further.
I believe that what we see in the NT isn’t the replacement of Israel but an expanded definition of who Israel is. During the time of the old testament one was an Israelite (primarily) because one was a physical, biological descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. One’s ethnicity was the deciding factor. But with the coming of Christ and the extension of the gospel to the Gentiles, the meaning of what constitutes a “true Jew” has undergone revision, or perhaps a better word would be expansion. Not one believing Jewish person has been replaced. Not one believing Jewish person has been set aside or lost their promised inheritance.
Rather, God now says that a true Jew is one who is circumcised in heart and not just in one’s physical body (Rom. 2:28-29). The key passage is Galatians 3:16-18 and 3:25-29. There Paul says that the promises were made “to Abraham and to his offspring” (v. 16). I prefer the translation “seed” instead of “offspring” but the point is the same either way. In other words, when God gave the promises to Abraham and his seed in Genesis 12-17 it appeared he had in mind Abraham and all his physical progeny. But later we learn that it was limited to the progeny of Isaac and not Ishmael. Then we learn that it had narrowed down even further to be the progeny of Jacob and not Esau. When we get to the NT, Paul says it has been narrowed down even further, to but one Jewish person, Jesus. Here is what Paul says:
“Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring/seed. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings/seeds,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ” (v. 16).
Wow! Paul is saying that God’s ultimate meaning in the Abrahamic covenant was that all the promises would be fulfilled in only “one” of Abraham’s physical seed/progeny . . . Jesus Christ! But just when you feel led to conclude that it’s impossibly narrow, Paul opens it up and says:
“for in Christ Jesus you are ALL sons of God, through faith. . . And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (i.e., the promise made to Abraham) (v. 28, 29).
So, the only relevant question now isn’t whose blood is in your veins (physically speaking) but whose faith is in your heart (spiritually speaking). If you have faith in Jesus and thus are “in” him then you become the seed of Abraham that will inherit the promises! That means being an ethnic Jew or Gentile doesn’t matter when it comes to who inherits the promised blessings. What matters, the only thing that matters, is whether or not you are in Christ by faith.
So, a true “seed” of Abraham or a “true Jew” isn’t a matter of physical descent but of spiritual new birth. No one has been replaced. All ethnic Jews who are in Christ by faith are the seed of Abraham and no less so is it true of all ethnic Gentiles who are in Christ by faith.
This is why Paul said in Ephesians 2:11ff. that believing Gentiles are now equal members of the “commonwealth of Israel” (2:12) and are “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (2:19).
One more text from Ephesians will prove helpful. Paul says that in Christ the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile has been torn down and that he “has made us both one” (Eph. 2:14). Again, he has created “in himself one new man in place of the two” (Eph. 2:15). This “one new man” is the Church of Jesus Christ in which are believing Jews and believing Gentiles, co-heirs of the promises made to the old testament patriarchs.
The old covenant into which God entered with the physical descendants of Abraham was designed to be temporary until the coming of the Messiah and the New Covenant. This is the consistent message of the book of Hebrews. Now, anyone of any ethnicity has equal status as heirs of God’s promises so long as they believe in Jesus.
Whether or not God will save the last generation of living ethnic Jews just before the second coming of Christ is a matter of debate. I hope that is true! Who could possibly protest? But there are texts on both sides of the issue and God-honoring, Bible-believing Christians end up with differing answers. But regardless of one’s conclusion on that matter, I still believe that whoever gets saved, whether now, during the course of church history, or later when Christ returns, all will be members of the one body of Christ, the Church, equal in their inheritance of all that God has promised.
So I don’t believe that God’s saving work among ethnic Jews means that he will reconstitute the old covenant theocracy of Israel. I believe that all believing ethnic Jews, together with all believing ethnic Gentiles, will together constitute the Elect, the Church of Jesus Christ, the one “holy nation” that is in covenant with God (1 Peter 2:9). And because they are all in him, the true seed of Abraham, they are all likewise the seed of Abraham and thus heirs of the promise.
I don’t believe in replacement theology. I believe in inclusion theology: Gentiles have now been included in the commonwealth of Israel and are as much “true Jews” as are believing ethnic Jews. It isn’t replacement, but fulfillment, just as the butterfly fulfills and completes what God intended when he first made a caterpillar.
Article by Dr. Sam Storms entitled “10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE 144,000 IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION” (original source here)
Will the debate ever end about the identity of the 144,000 servants in Revelation 7? Perhaps not, but I hope these ten truths will contribute something to our understanding of who they are and what they do. We read that 12,000 are “sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel” (Rev. 7:4).
(1) The list of tribes in Revelation 7 corresponds to none of the nearly twenty different variations found in the OT. Judah, listed first here, is found in that position in the OT only when the tribes are arranged geographically, moving from south to north (Num. 34:19; Josh. 21:4; Judges 1:2; 1 Chron. 12:24). The only exception to this is Numbers 2:3 (followed by 7:12; 10:14). Perhaps Judah’s priority here “emphasizes the precedence of the messianic king from the tribe of Judah (cf. Gen. 49:10; 1 Chron. 5:1-2) and thus refers to a fulfillment of the prophecy in Gen. 49:8 that the eleven other tribes ‘will bow down’ to Judah” (Beale, 417).
(2) One can hardly fail to note that the tribes of Dan and Ephraim are omitted. One tradition believed that the Antichrist was to come from the tribe of Dan (based on a misinterpretation of Jer. 8:16 and first found in Irenaeus, @ 200 a.d.). Dan was also closely associated with idol worship (Judg. 18:16-19; 1 Kings 12:28-30; cf. Gen. 49:17; Judges 18:30; Jer. 8:16), as was Ephraim (Hosea 4:17-14:8). In Revelation 7, Joseph and Manasseh substitute for Dan and Ephraim. In the final analysis, there is no clear reason for this and we may never know why.
(3) There are several noticeable differences between the 144,000 in vv. 4-8 and the great multitude in vv. 9-17. Notice that the first group is specifically numbered (144,000) whereas the second is innumerable. Furthermore, the members of the 144,000 are all taken from but one nation, Israel, whereas those in the innumerable multitude are taken from “every nation and tribe and people and language” (7:9). Another difference is their location: the 144,000 appear to be on earth, whereas the multitude is in heaven, before the throne of God (7:9). Finally, the 144,000 are in imminent peril and thus require divine protection, whereas the multitude are in a condition of absolute peace and joy.
Do these differences mean that the two groups are entirely different, or is it the same group viewed from different perspectives, at different stages of their existence and experience? I believe it is the latter. More on this in a moment.
(4) These in 7:4-8 are surely identical with the 144,000 mentioned in Rev. 14:1-5. In both cases it is said that they received the seal of God on their “foreheads” (7:3 and 14:1). In 14:3 they are described as those who had been “redeemed from the earth” and again in 14:4 they were “redeemed from mankind”. This echoes Revelation 5:9 where the Lamb is said to have “ransomed” or “redeemed” for God people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. This same phrase is used again in Revelation 7:9 to describe the innumerable multitude. This would seem to indicate that the 144,000 = the innumerable multitude = the redeemed of all ages, and not some special remnant of humanity. Continue reading
A 16 part response by Dr. Sam Waldron found at this link.
Dr. Sam Waldron writes, “… one of the great things about the Optimistic Amillennialism which I defend and teach is that it is not mere theory and speculation about the distant future. The focus of optimistic amillennialism is not a Jewish Millennium by and by, but the Christian church here and now. It is, therefore, practical and can be preached with great blessing for the encouragement of God’s people. I attempted to do this recently, and I hope God gave some help and blessing. My text was Matthew 16:18 and Christ’s great promises to the church there.”
Sermon on audio here.
Article by Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan. (original source here)
The 144,000 are not an ethnic Jewish remnant, and certainly not an Anointed Class of saints who became Jehovah’s Witnesses before 1935. The 144,000 “sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel” (Rev. 7:4) represent the entire community of the redeemed. Let me give you several reasons for making this claim.
First, in chapter 13 we read that Satan seals all of his followers, so it makes sense that God would seal all of his people, not just the Jewish ones.
Second, the image of sealing comes from Ezekiel 9, where the seal on the forehead marks out two groups of people: idolaters and non-idolaters. It would seem that the sealing of the 144,000 makes a similar distinction based on who worships God, not who among the Jewish remnant worships God.
Third, the 144,000 are called the servants of our God (Rev. 7:3). There is no reason to make the 144,000 any more restricted than that. If you are a servant of the living God, you are one of the 144,000 mentioned here. In Revelation, the phrase “servants of God” always refers to all of God’s redeemed people, not just an ethnic Jewish remnant (see 1:1; 2:20; 19:2; 19:5; 22:3).
Fourth, the 144,000 mentioned later in chapter 14 are those who have been “redeemed from the earth” and those who were “purchased from among men.” This is generic, everybody kind of language. The 144,000 is a symbolic number of redeemed drawn from all peoples, not simply the Jews. Besides, if the number is not symbolic, then what do we do with Revelation 14:4, which describes the 144,000 as those “who have not defiled themselves with women”? Are we to think that the 144,000 refers to a chosen group of celibate Jewish men? It makes more sense to realize that 144,000 is a symbolic number that is described as celibate men to highlight the group’s moral purity and set-apartness for spiritual battle.
Fifth, the last reason for thinking that the 144,000 is the entire community of the redeemed is because of the highly stylized list of tribes in verses 5-8. The number itself is stylized. It’s not to be taken literally. It’s 12 x 12 x 1,000: 12 being the number of completion for God’s people (representing the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles of the Lamb) and 1,000 being a generic number suggesting a great multitude. So 144,000 is a way of saying all of God’s people under the old and new covenant.
And then look at the list of the tribes. There are more than a dozen different arrangements of the 12 tribes in the Bible. This one is unique among all of those. Judah is listed first, because Jesus was from there as a lion of the tribe of Judah. All 12 of Jacob’s sons are listed—including Levi, who usually wasn’t because he didn’t inherit any land—except for one. Manasseh, Joseph’s son (Jacob’s grandson), is listed in place of Dan. So why not Dan? Dan was probably left out in order to point to the purity of the redeemed church. From early in Israel’s history, Dan was the center of idolatry for the kingdom (Judges 18:30-31). During the days of the divided kingdom, Dan was one of two centers for idolatry (1 Kings 12:28-30). And there is recorded in some non-biblical Jewish writings that the Jews thought the anti-Christ would come out of Dan based on Genesis 49:17.
The bottom line is that the number and the list and the order of the tribes are all stylized to depict the totality of God’s pure and perfectly redeemed servants from all time over all the earth. That’s what Revelation means by the 144,000.
In terms of eschatology, it is so important to accurately portray an opposing position before engaging with it. So often, this is not the case and the result is a complete failure of any kind of productive dialog. As far as I understand the issues involved, I think Dr. Storms does a fine job of accurately representing the post-millennial view in this article below: (original source here)
“that view of the last things which holds that the Kingdom of God is now being extended in the world through the preaching of the Gospel and the saving work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of individuals, that the world eventually is to be Christianized, and that the return of Christ is to occur at the close of a long period of righteousness and peace commonly called the ‘Millennium.’ . . . The Millennium to which the Postmillennialist looks forward is thus a golden age of spiritual prosperity during this present dispensation, that is, during the Church age, and is to be brought about through forces now active in the world. It is an indefinitely long period of time, perhaps much longer than a literal one thousand years. The changed character of individuals will be reflected in an uplifted social, economic, political and cultural life of mankind. . . . This does not mean that there ever will be a time on this earth when every person will be a Christian, or that all sin will be abolished. But it does mean that evil in all its many forms eventually will be reduced to negligible proportions, that Christian principles will be the rule, not the exception, and that Christ will return to a truly Christianized world” (The Millennium, 14; emphasis mine).
(1) According to postmillennialism, the Kingdom of God is primarily the rule or reign of God spiritually in and over the hearts of men. Thus the kingdom is truly present in this age and is visibly represented by the Church of Jesus Christ. In other words, the kingdom “arrives” and is “present” wherever and whenever people believe the gospel and commit themselves to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ as Lord.
(2) The kingdom is not to be thought of as arriving instantaneously or wholly by means of some cataclysmic event at the end of the age (an event such as the Second Coming of Christ). Indeed, the very name POST-millennialism indicates that Christ will return only after the kingdom has come in its fullness. The “arrival” of the kingdom, therefore, is gradual or by degrees. There may well be extended seasons in the life of the church where little visible and tangible progress is detected, indeed, even times when the church appears to regress in terms of its global influence. But postmillennialists are quick to remind us that we must take the long view and not succumb to the pessimism that easily grows in the soil of short-term setbacks. Whereas Satan’s kingdom may appear at times to experience a growth parallel to, if not greater than, that of Christ, the latter will most assuredly overcome all opposition in every sphere of life until the nations are brought into submission to him.
(3) The means by which the kingdom extends itself is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The continuing spread and influence of the gospel will increasingly, and in direct proportion thereto, introduce the kingdom. This gradual (but constantly growing) success of the gospel will be brought about by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Church. Eventually the greater part, but not necessarily all, of the world’s population will be converted to Christ. As Greg Bahnsen explains, “the essential distinctive of postmillennialism is its scripturally derived, sure expectation of gospel prosperity for the church during the present age” (“The Prima Facie Acceptability of Postmillennialism,” in The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, III, Winter 1976-77, 66).
As Doug Wilson explains: “the gospel will continue to grow and flourish throughout the world, more and more individuals will be converted, the nations will stream to Christ, and the Great Commission will finally be successfully completed. The earth will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. When that happens, generation after generation will love and serve the Lord faithfully. And then the end will come” (Heaven Misplaced, 10). Continue reading
I don’t always find myself in agreement with Gary DeMar but some very good points are made in the following article entitled, “The Charge of Replacement Theology is a Cover for Fuzzy Theology” found here.