ASK: The 144,000 and the Two Witnesses
QUESTION: Who are the “144,000” mentioned in the book of Revelation?
ANSWER: In vision, John saw 144,000 people who were sealed with the Father’s name on their forehead (Rev. 7:4; 14:1). This number (12 times 12 times 1,000) is symbolic; the group that John saw represented all who are faithful, and the “seal” symbolizes that every believer is safe in the hands of God.
The faithful are described as “virgins” (Rev. 14:4), which denotes spiritual faithfulness in the sense of not turning away from God.
QUESTION: How are the “two witnesses” in Revelation 11 to be understood?
ANSWER: Throughout the history of the church, commentators have interpreted the two witnesses of Revelation 11 in various ways, including as two actual people who prophesy before Jesus’ return. Similar imagery from Zechariah 4 describes them as servants of God. They can also be symbolically modeled after Moses and Elijah, who exhibited similar powers historically.
Revelation pictures the church as a martyr church. It is the souls under the altar, representing the church, who were “slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained” (6:9). The same is true of the two witnesses; they are martyred for their testimony (11:7). In this sense, the two witnesses are symbols of the entire witnessing church. Their invulnerability until their appointed time of death, resurrection and vindication denotes the ultimate triumph of the gospel over all obstacles.
In this column, Christian Odyssey can answer short Bible questions of general interest. Please send questions by email to the editor, firstname.lastname@example.org