144,000 – Translated Without Seeing Death

Question: If the sealing of the 144,000 commenced in 1848, and some of that number have died and will be resurrected in the “special resurrection”, how can it be said that the 144,000 are translated “without seeing death”?

If order to find the answer to this question, we must be willing to read the Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy very, very, carefully, and to take it exactly as it reads.

We open the consideration with the following statements:

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. Revelation 14:1-3

2 And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. 3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Revelation 15:2, 3

Only the 144,000 will sing the song of Moses and the Lamb.

We now read this simple statement from the Spirit of Prophecy:

Mary, dear precious child, is at rest. She was the companion of your sorrows and disappointed hopes. She will no more have grief or want or distress. Through faith’s discerning eye you may anticipate, amid your sorrows and griefs and perplexities, your Mary with her mother and other members of your family answering the call of the Life-giver and coming forth from their prison house triumphing over death and the grave. Your faith may see the loved and the lost ones reunited among the redeemed of earth. You with them erelong, if faithful, will be walking in the streets of the New Jerusalem, singing the song of Moses and the Lamb, wearing the jeweled crown. . . . {HP 272.4}

This man was told that if he was faithful, he would sing the song of Moses and the Lamb with his wife and her mother, who had both already passed into the grave.

If only the 144,000 sing the song of Moses and the Lamb, then we must conclude that the number will be made include those who have already died.

I will not spend any more time now on this point as this has been thoroughly covered in a previous study titled: 144,000: Dead or Alive?.

Such plain statements as quoted above from the Spirit of Prophecy are often cast aside because it conflicts with how we may have understood the matter.

I myself have often queried the idea that the number of the 144,000 could include those who have “died in the faith of the third angel’s message”. It was words and phrases quoted throughout the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy such as “translated” and “without seeing death” that caused me to question as to whether this was the case or not. And it is my belief that it is for the same reason that many Seventh-day Adventists are unwilling to accept such plain statements as the one above.

I took it for granted that I understood the subject of the 144,000. But when I returned to study it for myself, I realized that I had yet many questions unanswered, and that I was unable to give a reason for my belief.

In this short study, I hope to make the subject clearer and remove many of the obstacles that still prevent us from receiving a plain “Thus saith the Lord”.

We will read some examples of the statements that seemingly contradict the idea that some may have already died previously. We will take each one at a time and make some observations.

But first, let us look at the word “translated”.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines the word “translate/translated” thus:

1.a) to bear, remove, or change from one place, state, form, or appearance to another
b) to convey to heaven or to a nontemporal condition without death

from Strong’s Concordance we gather that the word “translate” comes from metatithēmi, which means: 1) to transpose (two things, one of which is put in place of the other)

a) to transfer
b) to change
c) to transfer one’s self or suffer one’s self to be transferred
1) to go or pass over
2) to fall away or desert from one person or thing to another

“Transpose” at Merriam-Websters Online:

1: to change in form or nature
3: to transfer from one place or period to another :

By the above definitions, we can see the two ways in which the word “translated” applies:

1. Those that are translated are changed from one state or condition to another
2. Those that are translated are transferred to one place from another

When we read the word in the inspired writings we can safely apply both definitions.

You will see both applications in the following two quotes:

I might mention very many instances where I was pressed and urged, wept over and prayed for by zealots to come to these manufactured tests and crosses. I utterly refused to submit my judgment, my sense of Christian duties, and the dignity we should ever maintain as followers of Jesus Christ, who were expecting to be translated to heaven by receiving the finishing touch of immortality. {8MR 230.1}

For his faithful obedience to God he

[Enoch]was translated. So, also, the faithful, who are alive and remain, will be translated. They will be removed from a sinful and corrupt world to the pure joys of heaven. {CC 29.6}

However, it is also important that we take note where the “without death” applies in the definition of translation. It only applies in the sense of being conveyed to heaven or to a non-temporal condition, i.e. changed form mortality to immortality. It applies in the PROCESS of the change from location or condition. It is not cognizant of the life prior to the commencement of the process of translation, or as to whether there has been a death previously or not. It is simply applicable to the change made on one who is LIVING at the time of their change, and for the duration of the process of the change that is made. Whether they have died previously or not does not come into the definition of the word translated.

This is a vital understanding. “Without death”, and “Without seeing death” is exactly the same. It is in the process of being conveyed to heaven or to an immortal condition that death is not seen.

Bearing this uppermost in our minds, we can now more safely examine the main quotes that seem to be the occasion for misunderstanding.

Example 1

Still seeking to give a true direction to her faith, Jesus declared, “I am the resurrection, and the life.” In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived. “He that hath the Son hath life.” 1 John 5:12. The divinity of Christ is the believer’s assurance of eternal life. “He that believeth in Me,” said Jesus, “though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?” Christ here looks forward to the time of His second coming. Then the righteous dead shall be raised incorruptible, and the living righteous shall be translated to heaven without seeing death. … {DA 530.3}

Observations: This is a perfect illustration of what we have just come to comprehend by the correct definition of translated – those that are living, i.e, the “living righteous” shall be “translated”, conveyed to heaven or to a non-temporal condition, “without seeing death” – that is, they are alive at the commencement of the change, are alive through the process of change, and are still alive when the change is complete.

Example 2

Moses upon the mount of transfiguration was a witness to Christ’s victory over sin and death. He represented those who shall come forth from the grave at the resurrection of the just. Elijah, who had been translated to heaven without seeing death, represented those who will be living upon the earth at Christ’s second coming, and who will be “changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump;” when “this mortal must put on immortality,” and “this corruptible must put on incorruption.”  {DA 421.4}

Observations: Here we see the meaning of the word clearly. Elijah represented those who would be living upon the earth at the time of Christ’s second coming. Moses died and Christ resurrected Him. When Christ came, Moses was raised FROM THE DEAD, i.e. He was NOT alive when Christ came and it was when Christ was already present that he was given immortality and taken to heaven. Therefore, Moses was not translated without seeing death. Elijah was already alive when his body was changed to a non-temporal condition, and was conveyed to heaven with no death involved in the process. Elijah was translated without seeing death.

Example 3

With the Lamb upon Mount Zion, “having the harps of God,” they stand, the hundred and forty and four thousand that were redeemed from among men; and there is heard, as the sound of many waters, and as the sound of a great thunder, “the voice of harpers harping with their harps.” And they sing “a new song” before the throne, a song which no man can learn save the hundred and forty and four thousand. It is the song of Moses and the Lamb–a song of deliverance. None but the hundred and forty-four thousand can learn that song; for it is the song of their experience–an experience such as no other company have ever had. “These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.” These, having been translated from the earth, from among the living, are counted as “the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb.” … {GC 648.3}

Observations: Simply read in its context, we see that the 144,000 are the only ones among the living who will be translated from the earth – the rest of those who are living at the time of Christ’s second coming will be killed by His brightness.

Example 4

I saw the saints leaving the cities and villages, and associating together in companies, and living in the most solitary places. Angels provided them food and water, while the wicked were suffering from hunger and thirst. Then I saw the leading men of the earth consulting together, and Satan and his angels busy around them. I saw a writing, copies of which were scattered in different parts of the land, giving orders that unless the saints should yield their peculiar faith, give up the Sabbath, and observe the first day of the week, the people were at liberty after a certain time to put them to death. But in this hour of trial the saints were calm and composed, trusting in God and leaning upon His promise that a way of escape would be made for them. In some places, before the time for the decree to be executed, the wicked rushed upon the saints to slay them; but angels in the form of men of war fought for them. Satan wished to have the privilege of destroying the saints of the Most High; but Jesus bade His angels watch over them. God would be honored by making a covenant with those who had kept His law, in the sight of the heathen round about them; and Jesus would be honored by translating, without their seeing death, the faithful, waiting ones who had so long expected Him. {EW 282.2}

Observations: Do we read “without their seeing death” as the same as “without seeing death”? In this example, it does not matter whether we will read it as applying to not seeing death in just the process of translation, or that they have never seen death even prior to their translation. If we read this one in context, it is only speaking of those who have lived through the sunday laws and through the entirety of the seven last plagues. This statement does not include those who had died in the faith of the third angel’s message and who had been resurrected in the special resurrection.

If you are not comfortable in taking the words “without death” as the same as “without seeing death”, please bear in mind that wherever the Spirit of Prophecy uses such statements, she is never speaking specifically about the 144,000. There will be those who will never taste of death, but in the Spirit of Prophecy there is no specific mention that the 144,000 in particular have never seen death. Death is not something that will disqualify someone from being numbered among them. Don’t forget that letter that was written over a hundred years ago to a man whose wife had died and the assurance was given that if he was faithful, he could sing that special song with his late wife that only the 144,000 can sing .

If Enoch and Elijah represent those who have never died previous to their translation, then in that sense can we consider them as representatives only of those who will live though the Sunday Laws and the entirety of the seven last plagues. Moses would then represent those who do pass under the dominion of death at some time in their lives, including the 144,000, but the time of resurrection is irrelevant in the representation.

However, if we will stay strictly with the literal definition of the word translated, as is correctly used in the English language, we will see that it applies only to that particular point in time – that their translation is not cognizant of any previous state, but that there is no death involved in their removal to heaven or their change from mortality to immortality. They are alive when Jesus comes, are alive when their bodies are changed, and are alive when they are received into the presence of Christ.

Thus, for those who are hoping on being translated the following admonition is given:

Those who have trained the mind to delight in spiritual exercises are the ones who can be translated and not be overwhelmed with the purity and transcendent glory of heaven. You may have a good knowledge of the arts, you may have an acquaintance with the sciences, you may excel in music and in penmanship, your manners may please your associates, but what have these things to do with a preparation for heaven? {CCh 186.3}

To be alive upon the earth and see Jesus coming in the clouds of heaven before our vile bodies are changed, we will need to have a mind that is well-disciplined in spiritual exercises. Like Apostle Paul, we need to learn to “keep under my body”, with all its thoughts and feelings if I want to be be received into the presence of Christ without seeing death.

May God help us to lay down all our own conclusions and read His word exactly as it reads.