The number 12
It represents the expression of God's sovereignty by an administration of a nation or
a group of Jehovah's worshipers. The 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 apostles (Genesis 49: 28, Matthew 12: 2-4). This symbolism of the administration of a people, stands out very well in Revelation: the 12 times 12000 of the Spiritual Israel, the 144000 (Revelation 7: 4-8, 14: 1-5). The dimensions of the New Jerusalem revolve around the number 12, as a multiple: "And the city is laid out as a square,
and its length is as great as its width. And he measured the city with the reed, 12,000 stadia; its length and width and height are equal" (Revelation 21:16). A cube of 12 thousand stadia on each of the 12 edges of the cube, we get by their sum, the number
of (12x12000) 144000 stadia. The astronomical height (12000x185 (607 feet) = 2220 km) of the New Jerusalem illustrates the fact that it descends on earth from God, like a symbolic umbilical cord, which connects the Earthly Paradise with Heaven where God lives:
"I also saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Revelation 21:2).
This symbolic heavenly town has a base
with a wall of 144 cubits in height: "He also measured its wall, 144 cubits according to a man’s measure, at the same time an angel’s measure" (Revelation 21:17). The symbolic of the 144 cubits (measure of the length of a human forearm), seems
to indicate that the heavenly administration of the New Jerusalem, will have its human or earthly correspondence. For example, the 144,000
will be kings and priests according to Revelation 5:10. The human correspondences to these two heavenly functions will be: the prince
as representative of this heavenly kingship, and of "sons of Zadok", the priests, corresponding to the heavenly priesthood (Psalms 45:16, Isaiah 32: 1,2 "princes"; Ezekiel
44: 3 "chieftain" (prince); Ezekiel 40:46 "sons of Zadok"). These two functions of prince and priest, will constitute the protective basis of the sovereignty and worship to God, of the New Jerusalem on earth by the symbolic wall of 144 cubits in height.
Often, the biblical expressions, in connection to numbers, are figures of styles which have the value of a qualifying symbol. As we have briefly seen, to express the completeness or what is to
the maximum, in the sacred (7), what is incomplete (6), the insistence (2 and 3), the completeness in space (4), what is superlative or excessive, when the 10 multiplies a 7 or a 4, and so on. It is often the immediate biblical context that allows us to understand
the symbolism of a number expression (THE GREAT CROWD; THE EVERLASTING LIFE; THE HEAVENLY RESSURRECTION; EARTHLY RESURRECTION; EARTHLY KINGDOM OF GOD; THE EARTHLY PRINCE; THE EARTHLY PRIEST; THE EARTHLY LEVITE).
"Then I saw, and look!
the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who have his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads"
This text describes King Jesus Christ in heaven, with the group of 144,000 who will share royalty and the priesthood with him. It is quite normal to wonder whether this number of 144,000 is to
be taken literally or figuratively. It is the context of the Book of Revelation that allows us to have a clear answer, especially in Chapter 7:3-8. In verse 4, it is written: "And I heard the number of those who were sealed, 144,000, sealed out of every tribe
of the sons of Israel". The following verses (5-8), list the 144,000, in 12 tribes of 12,000.
Next, from verses 9-17, the apostle John described a great crowd that will survive the great tribulation.
Regarding this group of humans, he wrote: "After this I saw, and look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there
were palm branches in their hands" (Revelation 7:9). In this text we have indirect information which clearly indicates to us that the number 144000, is to be taken literally: "After this I saw, and look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number". Why
did the apostle John write "no man was able to number"? Because this information on the innumerable great crowd, is in contrast with the previous one, that of the precise group of 144,000. This vision follows that of the complete group of 144,000, divided
into 12 tribes of 12,000, which shows that the number of 144000, is to be taken literally.