For those of you who are mathematicians, 144 is a Fibonacci number. It is both a round number and a square number. But the reason that students of prophecy are fascinated with this number is because God says that in the last generation He is going to seal 144,000 people from His true church (Israel), and this will happen before the final destructive judgments come upon this world (Revelation 7:1–4).
These people are described as virgins (Revelation 14:4), for they have not drunk the wine of the fornication of Babylon (Revelation 14:8; 17:2; 18:3).
Inspired writings describe them as being very small in number compared with the multitudes on the earth in the last days. One hundred and forty-four thousand is indeed a small number compared with today’s population of over seven billion, including many millions of Adventists. That figures out to a ratio of approximately one in 50,000 people. Actually, that is a very high number of faithful people when you consider that the ratio was far less at other periods of time. Before the flood when the population was most probably over one billion, only eight people were found to be loyal and ready to enter the ark—Noah and his family. Out of the 300,000 children of Israel who journeyed through the wilderness, only two were found. The experiences recorded in Matthew 24 and I Corinthians 10 are examples of the last days.
In addition to the 144,000, there will also be an innumerable multitude saved (Revelation 7:9), many of them martyrs and the myriads who have died in Christ, but the 144,000 is a select group from the final generation who will receive special honors in the kingdom of God. (See Revelation 14:1.)
Specific character traits have been developed in the last days in all of those comprising the 144,000: (1) purity, (2) truthfulness, (3) faultlessness or blamelessness or, in other words, perfection of character. (See Revelation 14:1–5.) Referring to this group, Ellen White wrote, “Those who receive the seal of the living God and are protected in the time of trouble must reflect the image of Jesus fully.” Early Writings, 71.
“If we would have the image and superscription of God upon us, we must separate ourselves from all iniquity. We must forsake every evil way, and then we must trust our cases in the hands of Christ. While we are working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, God will work in us to will and to do of His own good pleasure.” The Review and Herald, March 19, 1889.
And finally an exhortation: “Let us strive with all the power that God has given us to be among the hundred and forty-four thousand.” The Review and Herald, March 9, 1905.