Shortly after Watchman Nee was saved, he began to love the Lord and was intensely burdened to preach the gospel to his schoolmates and countrymen in season and out of season. Through his preaching nearly all his schoolmates were led to the Lord...
Witness Lee was born in 1905 in northern China and raised in a Christian family. At age 19 he was fully captured for Christ and immediately consecrated himself to preach the gospel for the rest of his life. Early in his service, he met Watchman Nee, a renowned preacher, teacher, and writer.
The One Hundred Forty-Four Thousand, Life-Study of Revelation, Message Forty-Six, pp. 530-532
Verse 1 says, "And I saw, and behold, the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him a hundred and forty-four thousand." In the past many teachers have debated whether this number is literal or figurative. Some said that the number one hundred and forty-four thousand was not a literal number, and others said that just as the seven cities in chapters two and three are literal, so must the number one hundred forty-four thousand be taken literally. This number should no doubt be an actual number, but with a symbolic meaning. Although the number is literal, it has a spiritual significance. By applying a certain principle we can apprehend the spiritual significance of this number.
One hundred forty-four thousand is one thousand multiplied by twelve times twelve. Twelve is the number of completion in God's eternal administration. One hundred forty-four (21:17) is twelve times twelve, which signifies the completion of completions, the ultimate completion in the fullest way. Here it is one thousand times this ultimate completion.
The number twelve is not composed of six plus six, but of three times four. I do not say this lightly or without a basis. The biblical number twelve is composed of three times four. The New Jerusalem is a city of twelves—twelve foundations, the names of twelve apostles (21:14), twelve gates, twelve angels, the names of the twelve tribes of Israel (21:12), twelve pearls (21:21), twelve months, twelve kinds of fruit (22:2). The height of its wall is one hundred forty-four cubits (twelve times twelve, 21:17), and its dimensions are twelve thousand stadia (a thousand times twelve, 21:16). In every aspect the New Jerusalem is a city of twelves. That the number twelve in the New Jerusalem is composed of three times four we know by the fact that the city has three gates on each of its four sides (21:13). Undoubtedly, the number three signifies the Triune God. The portrait of the New Jerusalem in chapters twenty-one and twenty-two reveals the Triune God. In 22:1 we see the throne of God and the Lamb, out of which proceeds the river of water of life. Here we have the Father, the Son, and the Spirit dispensing Himself into the city. This is the Triune God. The city itself represents God's creature signified by the number four (four living creatures, 4:6). In the New Jerusalem it is not a matter of three plus four, but of three times four. Today our number is seven, as in the seven churches, the seven lampstands. But in eternity our number will be twelve, three multiplied by four, signifying the mingling of the Triune God with man. Hence, the number twelve signifies the mingling of divinity with humanity. How wonderful! This mingling is for the completion of God's economy, the completion of God's economic administration. Therefore, the number twelve indicates completion in God's administration for the fulfillment of His economy.
Here it is not simply the number twelve, but a thousand of twelve times twelve. Twelve times twelve means completion in God's administration for God's economy in completion in God's administration for God's economy. This is similar to the titles Song of Songs, Lord of lords, and King of kings. Twelve multiplied by twelve means completion of completions. This completion is not temporary, but eternal. It is the completion in God's administration for the fulfillment of God's economy. The New Jerusalem will declare to the whole universe that God's redeemed people will be twelve among twelve, completion among completions. When we are in the New Jerusalem, we will be the completion in God's administration for the fulfillment of God's economy for eternity. But in chapter fourteen we have a thousand of twelve multiplied by twelve, a thousand times of completion in completion. This is the significance of the number one hundred forty-four thousand. The one hundred forty-four thousand firstfruit are believers who are for the accomplishment of God's eternal purpose.
We are fortunate to be standing upon the shoulders of so many great teachers who have gone before us. We thank the Lord for them. What we have seen concerning the significance of this number is based upon their understanding. However, the Lord has shown us something more than He showed them. Although the number one hundred forty-four thousand is literal, it has a spiritual significance, indicating that every living overcomer is a part of the completion of God's administration in the fulfillment of His economy for eternity. To be a living overcomer is a great matter. To be a firstfruit is to be for the completion of God's administration to fulfill His economy for eternity.