By Chuck Alley
Reading from Revelation, 7:1-8
1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth so that no wind could blow on earth or sea or against any tree. 2I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to damage earth and sea, 3saying, “Do not damage the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have marked the servants of our God with a seal on their foreheads.”
4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the people of Israel:
5 From the tribe of Judah twelve thousand sealed,
from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand,
6 from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand,
7 from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand,
8 from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand sealed.
As the end approaches, the great army of God will be composed of all believers as symbolized by the 144,000 in God’s census. This does not represent only Christians who are Jewish or Jews who recognize Jesus as their Messiah. Nor does it mean that the believers who come from an ethnic Gentile background will replace the Jews as God’s people. Rather, all believers in Jesus Christ, regardless of ethnicity or religious label, will be included in God’s army for the final battle. The completed Jews and the engrafted Gentiles will be united as one people in Christ through a sovereign act of God (Rom. 11). Once again, the army’s identity will be not based on ethnicity, race, or nationality, but exclusively on being Christ’s own through faith.
As believers in Jesus living in the last days, we need to look for what unites us, rather than seeking to find ways of differentiating ourselves from one another. Our ultimate unity is to be the result of a sovereign act of God and not something of our own doing. It is God who does the calling and the sealing. He is the one who will separate to himself an army — we are only his recruits. We have no right to form a different line because we do not agree with the person next to us. Our role is to remain in line as we await our final call, and share with the others in line what God has revealed to us.
Chuck Alley is a retired Episcopal priest and an adjunct associate professor of anatomy on the medical faculty of Virginia Commonwealth University. He and his wife, Scottie, have three children and nine grandchildren.
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