The 144000 are first seen in Revelation 7:3-8, they reappear in heavenly Zion in Revelation 14:1 sometime before the rapture of the church in Revelation 14:14-16 who later appear on the glassy sea in Revelation 15:2-4. Nor are the 144000 part of the “Great Multitude” which includes those saved during the entire “Great Tribulation”, meaning they had among their number those still on earth AFTER the rapture (Rev. 14:14-16) gathered to Christ by His angels (Mt. 24:31; Mk. 13:27; Dan. 12:1) prior to the Sixth Seal Event (Rev. 6:11-17).
So the 144000 are not symbolic of the entire “church militant”, they must be a small distinct group within the church who have a special calling. Its consistent with their being “super evangelists” they are martyrs killed by Adonikam the Beast and so in Heavenly Mount Zion before the church raptured later (Rev. 14:1-5, 14-16). Their apposition to the flying angel in mid-heaven preaching the everlasting gospel hints this is a continuation of the preaching work the martyred 144000 can no longer do (Rev. 14:6-7).
Let’s review the clues John put in the text.
1 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.
2 And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,
3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. (Rev 7:2-3)
WHEN a new scene begins does not indicate WHEN it occurs. While the seals, trumpets and bowls follow one another, there are huge gaps in time and there is overlap in the actual events.
This vision belongs to the first part of the “week”, the event couldn’t happen after the sixth seal after everything is over.
The four winds, four angels recalls the four spirits in Zechariah 6:5 which went forth into the earth, like the four demon riders of the apocalypse at the beginning of the end time week. However, we must consider that clue in the light of the three areas of devastation: the “earth…sea…trees.” That fixes this within the time frame of the first and second Trumpets, which affected these three entities.
7 The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
8 And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;
9 And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed. (Rev 8:7-9)
The Trumpets heralded what Satan through his “rider on the white horse” false gospel would do to the church, the third of the earth that calls itself Christian. These Trumpets poisoned the life giving food and water that was to flow from the Church to the earth. It is a poisoned fallen away church, its waters and food are bitter and kill all who drink them. See “the Seven Trumpets“.
Just as the seven seals protected the book of Revelation (Rev. 5:1) from corruption, so also the sealing of these special servants of God protect them from the evil winds of spiritism about to be unrestrained upon the earth.
Their foreheads are stamped with the brand of YHWH indicating purity of truth is assured. No telepathically suggested “doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Th. 2:9-11) in these evangelists. They preach the truth of God undiluted. God’s anointing rests upon them, upon the face and head of their spirit like warm oil guiding them into all truth (1 Jn 2:20-21), so they perceive the spirit behind the teaching protecting them from all of Satan’s devices (2 Cor. 2:11). God the Holy Spirit never leaves nor forsakes, He is an abiding presence who never ceases to comfort (1 Jn. 4:4).
Therefore, this is among the first events that occur in the end time week. Even before God takes what restrains “the mystery of lawlessness” out of the way. Before the four demons of the apocalypse, begin their ride. This is the opening salvo of the war of God against Satan.
Its a “military census” of warriors from the twelve tribes of Israel. Evidently, God will lift the veil of blindness that prevented Israel from accepting its Messiah “that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” (Rom 11:25 KJV) The Greek “until” (891 ἄχρι achri) can also be translated “while”. These 144000 super Jewish Christian evangelists will be instrumental in preaching the gospel “while the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”
I don’t think it pertinent or material 12 times 1000 is a “complete number” and therefore 144000 perhaps symbolic. Its likely to be a sizable number of Jewish Christians from the tribes listed who go forth simultaneously with Moses and Elijah as they preach in Jerusalem (Rev. 11:3-6) against the TARES defiling the outer courtyard of the fallen away church (2 Th. 2:3, 7-12), a perfect number from every tribe from God’s perspective. Then again, it just might be literal, imagine that.
It follows they were put to death at the same time Adonikam slew God’s two witnesses, and we later see them on Mount Zion in heaven singing the song of Moses (of course, they are Jews) and the song of the Lamb (of course, they are Christians).
1 And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.
2 And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:
3 And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
5 And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God. (Rev. 14:1-5)