The 144,000 and the Philadelphia Church
In chapters two and three of Revelation we are introduced to seven churches. These seven churches represent seven different periods in the history of God’s people. Logically, one of these churches must represent God’s people in the last days – the church that witnesses the coming of Christ and is redeemed by Him to heaven. It cannot be any of the first three churches because they have passed into history. It must therefore be one of the last four, because all four of these churches exist until the end of time. However, the first two of the last four, have already been identified as applying to the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches respectively. Therefore, it must be one of the last two.
The logical choice would be to choose Laodicea, because it is the last of the seven churches. However, when one reads the contents of the message to the Laodicean Church, it does not sound like the triumphant church of the last days. Laodicea does not sound like the church that exhibits “the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). Therefore, we must dismiss the Laodicean Church as being the 144,000. Our only option left is the Philadelphia Church and when we read the message to the Philadelphian Church, we can see that it corresponds well with the description of the 144,000.
If we have reasoned correctly [that one of the seven churches prevails until the end of time], then this church must also go through the time of trouble. The 144,000 also go through the time of trouble. Therefore, the 144,000 and one of the seven churches must be identical. The only church (of the last four) that goes through the time of trouble is the Philadelphia Church. The purpose of this chapter is to prove that the 144,000 and the Philadelphia Church are the same people. We have already discovered that the 144,000 are the same people. Now we are going to discover that the 144,000 and the great multitude and the Philadelphia Church are the same people.
The Book of Revelation is simply doing what the Bible regularly does, it is presenting the same entity under different identities, names, titles etc. For example, Jesus is presented and represented by many different names and titles such as; Son of God, Son of Man, the Lamb, the Shepherd, and many more. The same applies to God’s people, they are presented and represented as; Israel, the Kingdom, Sheep, a Vineyard, a Fig Tree, Wheat and many more. In the same manner, the Book of Revelation is presenting and representing God’s people as: the Philadelphia Church, the 144,000, the Great Multitude, the Woman on the Moon, the Remnant and the wife.
This practice, of presenting the same entities under different representation is a teaching method. It is based on the principle of repeat and enlarge and it uses repetition to reinforce and certify, the basic principles that Heaven wants to teach us. If the Bible uses this method persistently and consistently, we should not be surprised to find the same method used in the Book of Revelation.
The Pioneer Position
The pioneers and founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, not only believed they were the Philadelphia Church; they also saw the connection between the Philadelphia Church and the 144,000. For example, James White wrote:
The history and description of the 144,000 apply to those who are to be changed at the coming of the Lord, and to no other class. “Having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.” Said the true Witness to the Philadelphia church. “Him that overcometh, will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out, and I will write upon him the name of my God.” Where? “In their foreheads,” just where John saw the “Father’s name.” Now just as sure as the Philadelphia church is the true church of the last days, just so sure the 144,000 are sealed, just before the coming of the Lord. RH May 9, 1854. [Italics are those of James White].
We can only speculate as to why James White did not further develop and publish his thoughts on the connection between the Philadelphia Church and the 144,000. But it could have been because Ellen White cautioned pursuit in that area (see 1SM 174). Nevertheless, it is obvious from the statement above that James White has concluded, that the Philadelphia Church and the 144,000 are the same people. And he has made this connection by simply comparing Scripture with Scripture. We will follow his example, and not only compare Scripture with Scripture, but also Scripture with the Spirit of Prophecy.
Is the description of the Philadelphia Church the same as the 144,000?
description & experience
references to the 144,000
|Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.||These are they, which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. Rev. 14:4.
[The 144,000 and the synagogue of Satan are in opposition to one another. One refuse to be corrupted, the other gives in to corruption].
|The 144,000 were all sealed and perfectly united…Then it was that the synagogue of Satan knew that God had loved us who could wash one another’s feet and salute the brethren with a holy kiss, and they worshiped at our feet. EW 15.|
|Because thou hast kept the word of my patience…||And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Rev. 12:17.
Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. Rev. 14:12.
|But as he (John) looked with intense interest he beheld the company of God’s commandment-keeping people. They had upon their foreheads the seal of the living God, and he (the angel) said: “here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” 6T 15.|
|I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation…||And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image and over his mark, and over the number of his name… Rev. 15:2.
|“These are they (144,000) which came out of great tribulation;” they have passed through the time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation… GC 649. cf. EW 19.|
|Which will come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.||And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.
And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
Rev. 13:12, 15.
|A decree went forth to slay the saints, which caused them to cry day and night for deliverance. This was the time of Jacob’s trouble. Then all the saints cried out with anguish of spirit, and were delivered by the voice of God. The 144,000 triumphed. EW 37.|
|Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.||And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. 1 Pet. 5:4.||Here on the sea of glass the 144,000 stood in a perfect square. Some of them had very bright crowns, others not so bright. Some crowns appeared heavy with stars, while others had few. All were perfectly satisfied with their crowns. EW 16.|
|Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out…||These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth… Rev. 14:4.||And as we were about to enter the holy temple, Jesus raised His lovely voice and said, “Only the 144,000 enter this place” EW 19.|
|And I will write upon him the name of my God…
|Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. Rev. 7:3.
… having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. Rev. 14:1.
|The 144,000 were all sealed and perfectly united. On their foreheads was written, God… EW 15.
|And the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God…||And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband… the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. Rev. 21:2, 3.||The 144,000 were all sealed and perfectly united. On their foreheads was written, God, New Jerusalem… EW 15.
|and I will write upon him my new name.||And he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself…
|… and a glorious star containing Jesus’ new name… EW 15.
It should be evident from a cursory glance at the evidence that the Philadelphia Church and the 144,000 are very similar, and when the principle of repeat and enlarge is fully understood, it should be understood that the Philadelphia Church and the 144,000 are identical. For those who are not convinced, there are more details of a comparative nature to present.
The Change of Name Principle
Another way of proving that the 144,000 are a repetition and enlargement of the Philadelphia Church is to recognize the use of ‘the change of name principle.’ Both Jacob and Esau had their names changed. Esau’s name was changed because of his sin. Jacob’s name was changed because of his victory. The 144,000 are described as ‘Israelites’ – they are overcomers – they have obtained the victory.
In Christ’s words to the seven churches, there is only one message that is consistently given to all seven. There is only one thing that He tells them that they all must do. That one thing is: – they must OVERCOME. When Jacob overcame his name was changed. There is only one church of the seven that achieves the same victory as Jacob – that church is Philadelphia – the only difference is that, the last generation of overcomers receive not one new name, but three:
Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. Rev. 3:12. cf. Rev. 14:1; 19:12.
Philadelphia and the Sealing of the 144,000
For those who are still not convinced, there is still more evidence available to prove that the 144,000 are a repetition and enlargement of the Philadelphia Church. For example, such evidence can be found in the sealing of the 144,000. Revelation clearly teaches that the work of sealing God’s people produces the 144,000 (see Rev. 7:1-4). We also know, that the sealing work began with the proclamation of the third angel’s message, just after 1844. We also know that the Philadelphia Church began at the same time. Therefore, the sealing work, which produces the 144,000 and the Philadelphia Church, began at the same time. Therefore the 144,000 and the Philadelphia Church are identical. If we were to express our conclusion in the form of an equation it would look like this:
- The sealing work produces the 144,000.
- The sealing work began with the preaching of the first and second angel’s messages.
- The first and second angel’s messages were preached by the Advent Movement.
- The Advent Movement and the Philadelphia Church are the same entity.
- Therefore, the Philadelphia Church must be the church that is sealed and must also be the 144,000.
Confirmation from Ellen White
Such a conclusion (that the Philadelphia Church and the 144,000 are the same), can be proven from the writings of Ellen White. Ellen White was given a vision to explain what happened in 1844, and why the people went through ‘the great disappointment.’ In the vision she was clearly shown that the sealing work was going on from the time of the “open and shut doors” [the time of the Philadelphia Church]:
The enemies of the present truth have been trying to open the door of the holy place, that Jesus has shut, and to close the door of the most holy place, which He opened in 1844, where the ark is, containing the two tables of stone on which are written the ten commandments by the finger of Jehovah.
Satan is now using every device in this sealing time to keep the minds of God’s people from the present truth and cause them to waver. I saw a covering that God was drawing over His people to protect them in the time of trouble; and every soul that was decided on the truth and was pure in heart was to be covered with the covering of the Almighty. EW 43. [The ‘covering’ that is drawn over God’s people is defined as the sealing, see below].
Please note, that one of the purposes of the vision is to explain the meaning of the open and shut doors (these doors opening and shutting are part of the message to the Philadelphia Church). It is explained that the opening and the shutting occurred in 1844. Therefore, God’s people in the year 1844 (and prior) were the Philadelphia Church.
However, another purpose of the vision was to warn the Philadelphia Church about deception. To warn about Satan’s attempts to distract and deceive people about specifically about ‘this sealing time.’ Ellen White goes on to explain, that the onset of spiritualism and other deceptions, are an attempt on the part of Satan to prevent people from being sealed. She concludes her warning by saying:
Satan was trying his every art to hold them were they were, until the sealing was past, until the covering was drawn over God’s people, and they are left without a shelter from the burning wrath of God, in the seven last plagues. God has begun to draw this covering over His people, and it will soon be drawn over all who are to have a shelter in the day of slaughter. EW 44.
The ‘sealing’ and the ‘covering’ that God draws over His people are the same. Ellen White writes like a Hebrew prophet, she repeats and enlarges. First, she says, “until the sealing was past” and then she repeats and explains what the sealing is, she says, “until the covering was drawn over God’s people.” And this covering is further explained to be a “shelter from the burning wrath of God, in the seven last plagues.” And she repeats again that this shelter, this seal is been drawn over God’s people now. And the present time that she is referring to is the time of the Philadelphia Church.
Thus, the church that stretches from earth to heaven is indeed the Philadelphia Church. It is this church, using the principle of repeat and enlarge, that enters the prophetic picture again, as the 144,000, when the importance of the sealing work is added to the picture. The Philadelphia Church is represented as the 144,000, because it is emphasizing the fact that God’s Church has finally reached maturity. It is a spiritual illustration of the answer to the question “who is able to stand?” The 144,000 are able to stand – and the time has come, o reap the harvest and take it ‘home!’