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The Twelve Tribes

Reference to the twelve tribes (or the 144,000) in The Revelation appears, at first glance, to be obviously talking about the twelve tribes of Israel. Because of that, many people have tried to build theories about Bible prophecy which make the "Virgin Army" of Revelation 7 something other than the Christian church. The problem is that such theories are based only on a superficial reading of the passage, a reading which both overlooks the bigger picture and overlooks the finer details as well.

The bigger picture I'm talking about here takes two forms. One is the overall Christian message, and the other is the overall fruit of any theory based on the 144,000, or the twelve tribes of The Revelation, being the Jews.

Strangely enough, every time people (including the Jews themselves) have taken a purely physical (i.e. genetic) approach to the chosen people, it has borne bad fruit. It has led to racism amongst Jews who have taken that approach, and it has led to racism against Jews by Gentiles who have taken that approach.

To start with, the 144,000 cannot come from the "Jews" (as we know them today), because the Jews are only one tribe (or two, if you count Benjamin) out of the original twelve tribes that descended from Jacob (who was later called Israel). We get the name Jew from the tribe that they primarily represent, the tribe of Judah.

The other ten tribes disappeared through intermarriage with the system during various captivities. There is no way to resurrect them in a physical sense. To illustrate that, imagine that there were just a handful of blacks left in the world, and they all intermarried with whites. They would have children with dark skin, but not with entirely black skin. Their children would then intermarry for generation after generation, until finally, there would be no black people left in the world.

Certain genes would still be there, scattered out over all the earth. But the only way to get those genes back together again would be to locate all the people who had them, and make sure that only they married each other for generation after generation, until you had made the black gene dominant once again in a handful of people. It would take as long to rebuild the blacks as it took for them to be dispersed. The same would be true for any plan to resurrect the lost tribes of Israel.

Theoretically this is possible, but it is totally contrary to the overall message of the New Testament. Considering that one of the fundamental lessons of the New Testament is that God was trying to build a nation of people who had the faith of Abraham (and not his genes), it is rather obvious that God is not interested in the genetic resurrection of Israel (which is something we would never be able to appreciate anyway, since there would be no human way to know who had all the genes, even if God were to put the tribes back together again himself).

What God is interested in, is the spiritual resurrection of Israel. You should understand that the original tribes included converts from the rest of the world, so that God was not even interested in genetic purity the first time around. A "tribe" was just a form of organisation, and did not need to be restricted to descendants of a particular person.

Let's assume for a moment, however, that God actually wanted to bring together the genes without destroying the free choice of people at this end of history, so that it just happened that those of us who chose to follow Jesus actually were the genetically restored tribes of Israel. As I said above, there would be no way to prove the theory anyway, so it would just be a theory. But it would have to be a racist theory, because it would outlaw any Blacks, any Asians, etc., since they obviously aren't flesh Israelites. All the members of the 144,000 would have to have the same racial characteristics. Is that consistent with the Christian message?

On top of that, even though God could bring all the Abrahamic genes together, he could not (because of our free will) guarantee that anyone with those genes was going to make the right spiritual choice this time around (any more than they did the last time around).

No, I think that God has brought about such a complete destruction of the tribes of Israel as to make it overwhelmingly clear that he is through with them forever. It is the spiritual Jerusalem (that which has come down from heaven... Revelation 21:2) that he is building now.

(Please read Armageddon for Beginners to get a better picture of this. I think you will see that what I am saying is totally consistent with the bigger picture that is revealed in the Bible about God's attitude toward a purely genetic, i.e. a racist, concept of Israel.)

Another interesting little quirk about the tribes listed in The Revelation is that they are not the original twelve tribes. (Revelation 7:4-8, cf. Genesis 49:1-28) The tribe of Dan has been left out, and the tribe of Joseph has been put in Dan's place. Joseph was, of course, one of the twelve sons of Jacob. However, his single tribe was originally given two names, after his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, sometimes giving the impression that there were thirteen original tribes.

In the list in The Revelation, Manasseh is a tribe in its own right, in addition to a tribe called the "tribe of Joseph". Ephraim is not mentioned at all; but it could be assumed that the tribe of Joseph is really the tribe of Ephraim, thus giving Joseph two tribes and Dan none.

I don't have any idea why Dan was left out. Maybe it is just something that God did to frustrate anyone trying to build a tidy little theory based on the original twelve tribes.

A more spiritual argument against the 144,000 being flesh Israel is to look at the "fruit" that comes from such a theory. I've already mentioned that it seems to be the basis for a lot of racism (e.g. the "British Israel" theory, which says that white Anglo-Saxons are the resurrected twelve tribes); but it also seems to be the basis of a feeling of hopelessness on the part of those exempted from the twelve tribes.

No, I think that we still can join the 144,000, whether we are Israelis or not, whether we are males or not, whether we have engaged in sex in the past or not. What matters is the future. Are we going to "keep ourselves" away from that whore, Babylon? If so, then let's purify ourselves in the blood of the Lamb and start building that army right now! Amen?

(See also Part 3, The Jews from the series of articles on the Left Behind series in the appendices of the fifth edition of Survivors.)

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