who fell on hard times and in 1910 sold his body for medical research after his death to the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. The following year he inherited a fortune and resolved to buy himself back. The institute refused to sell its rights to his body, went to court, and won possession. In fact the institute obtained damages, since Olav had had two teeth pulled out without asking their permission.
Who owns you? Not just your body, but your soul? One of the great themes of the Bible is that even in judgment, God always differentiates between His people and the rest of the world.
Ex 8:22-23 22And in that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, in which My people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there, in order that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the land. 23I will make a difference between My people and your peopleÖ
This is the picture painted by Johnís vision. He sees 4 angels standing at the 4 corners of the earth, holding back the tornado of judgment, the calm before the storm when a 5th angel from the east (the direction of Jerusalem) calls for a sealing of the servants of our God (v. 3). This sealing is an act of identifying these people specifically as belonging to God. John doesnít see the sealing, but he does hear the number of those sealed as being 144,000 of all the tribes of Israel (v. 4), which are listed by tribe in vs. 5-8.
Now here we come to another area of diverse opinions about what Johnís vision means.
There are those who see these sealed people as 144,000 literal Jews who come to Christ during the Great Tribulation. Because they come to Christ, they are sealed by the Holy Spirit as belong to God. This view seems to be a more literal interpretation of the verses.
On the other hand, there are others who see this passage (as the rest of Revelation) as more symbolic. The earth is not flat, and so John is speaking symbolically when he talks about the 4 corners of the earth in vs. 1-2. The seal probably not a literal mark placed on the bodies of these 144,000, but Godís way of expressing His ownership of them. 144,000 is another of the Bibleís numbers of perfection or completeness (12 X 12 X 1000). The list is a little unusual, since Judah is listed first (rather than Reuben, the firstborn.) The tribe of Dan and the half-tribe of Ephraim is omitted, while the tribe of Joseph is included. In addition, these 144,000 show up later in Rev. 14:1-3, where they are described in terms that are almost certainly symbolic.
All of this evidence points to the possibility that this vision (like most of the rest of the Revelation) is symbolic of something else, namely, the 144,000 represent Godís people who are alive during the Great Tribulation.
By now youíve probably guessed I favor the 2nd view, though I cannot completely discount the more literal view. What I do want to focus on is what Johnís vision focuses on: even in tribulation, God identifies His people as His own precious possession.