To review, we’ve had some sober advice to the various congregations of John’s day. Then he started to talk about this vision or revelation he had. Jesus is there, and the kings of the world are there, and you and you. Anyway, Jesus starts unleashing bad stuff on the world by breaking the seven seals. The feeling of gathering doom is further emphasised when there is a pause to protect some of the chosen:
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
See Revelation 7:1-8.
So first, what does it say? It says that we have an angel protecting 12,000 members from each tribe of Israel. It doesn’t say they earned the protection, other than by right of birth. It doesn’t include any Anglo-Saxons.
Is it a large number or a small number? In a time when 40 meant a large number 144,000 seems like a super large number. On the other hand, God isn’t protecting all of the Israelites, and that’s new. You’ve got your 12 times 12 formulation which seems to indicate super holy as well.