The Jehovah's Witnesses, The 144, 000, and the Bible
My assignment for this article is the viewpoint of the Jehovah's Witnesses concerning the "144,000" of Revelation 14:1-3 and then to see what the Scriptures have to say about it. I am thankful for this opportunity and it is my prayer to God that all who read will be benefited in a spiritual way.
The "144,000" has many different names according to the Jehovah's Witnesses, i.e., "the heavenly class, body of Christ, chosen ones, elect, holy nation, Israel, kingdom class, anointed, new creation, the little flock, and the congregation of God" (The Bible and the Watch Tower Society, Robert A. Bolton). One other name given to them by the WTBTS (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society) in ("Look! I Am Making All Things New," pp. 22,23) is "the perfect government of peace. " From the same publication I quote, "The Bible shows that the perfect government will be in heaven. From this vantage point, the King Jesus Christ will effectively rule all the earth in righteousness. Moreover he will have associate rulers in that invisible, heavenly government. These are chosen from among faithful humans, followers of Jesus who stuck with him through trials and to whom he says." "I will make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom" (Lk. 22:28-29). This list is added to in 2 Timothy 2:12 -- "If we go on enduring, we shall also rule together as kings." Here Paul and Timothy are added to the covenant of Luke 22:28-29. It is only a few humankind who are taken to heaven to rule with Christ Jesus. So God's kingdom, or heavenly government, consists of Christ Jesus and "144,000" people taken from earth to heaven (Rev. 14:1-4; 5:9-10). "And I saw, and behold, the Lamb standing on the mount Sion, and with him a hundred and forty and four thousand, and having his name, and the name of his Father written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and the voice I heard was as the voice of harpers harping with their harps. And they sing as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the elders: and no man could learn the song save thehundred and forty and four thousand, even they that have been purchased out of the earth. These are they that were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they that follow the Lamb withersoever he goeth. These were purchased from among men, to be the first fruits unto God and unto the Lamb." According to the Jehovah's Witness doctrine the "144,000" are to have the characteristics given in this passage: (1) purchased out of the earth, purchased from the earth, purchased by the blood of the Lamb, they are the redeemed (Rev. 5:9); (2) follow the Lamb withersoever he goeth; (3) purchased from among men, to be the first fruits unto God and unto the Lamb; (4) they are not liars, they spoke the truth in everything. Thus, we see ac-cording to the JW's doctrine that the "144,000" are a very special group indeed. This group is indeed so special that not one single individual who lived in all of the 4000 year period of history from Adam until Jesus Christ will go to heaven. I wonder what happened to Enoch who walked with God and I wonder what happened to Elijah who went by whirlwind into heaven. I wonder what God will do with the Old Testament roll call of worthies who are spoken on in Hebrews 11?
In The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life (pp. 114-116) the "144,00" are set forth as the "true church" that Christ built (Matt. 16:18). It is noted that no one can "join" this church simply by getting his name written on a membership role. The "true church" or "church of the firstborn who are written in the heavens" (Heb. 12:23, NWT) can only be entered when God selects you (1 Cor. 12:18). These are the ones who will be in heaven with Christ and that number will be limited (it will not include all who profess to be Christians) to "144,000" (Rev. 14:1-3; Lk. 12:32).
How Are They Selected?
"`Members of the little flock' know that God has called them to heavenly life. How? By means of the operation of God's spirit, which implants and cultivates in them the hope of heavenly life" (The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life, p. 78). Jehovah Witnesses believe that God works on a per-son miraculously to make over or change completely a per-son's thoughts, his attitudes, everything about him is radically different. Thus he looks upon serving God as the primary thing in his life and, therefore is fitted with the "heavenly hope" in him. Before one can tell whether he is in this condition he first must arrive at an understanding of what the Bible teaches. Why? "Because God's holy spirit that bears witness that one has been called to heavenly glory is the same spirit that directed the writing of the Bible." In 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 the apostle Paul states, "But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." This passage is used to show that God does the choosing of the "144,000." Those who are chosen must be willing to sacrifice relatives and friends and every earthly tie to be able to go to heaven and participate in Christ's heavenly government as ''assistant kings and under priests and to be a part of the "bride of Christ."
What Is Their Purpose?
Jehovah's Witnesses claim that God did not change his purpose for the earth or for mankind because of Adam's sin. If God had done so he would have admitted inability to carry out his original intent. His purpose has always been to have an earthly paradise populated with perfect people. The thing that God changed was the governing structure that was to carry out his purpose. As we have already seen, his Son Jesus Christ will be the head ruler and "144,000" per-sons taken from among humankind to rule in heaven with him. These rulers in heaven will make up the "new heavens" of God's new arrangement.
In The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life (p. 115) we read, "They (144,000) are, indeed, a group of persons called out from spiritual darkness for a special purpose. While here on earth they boldly 'declare abroad the excellencies' of the Most High God, who called them out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Pet. 2:9). And, after their resurrection, they will have the grand privilege of ruling with Christ in his heavenly kingdom (Lk. 22:28-30). 'Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me' (KJV)."
This special, elect group has been chosen extremely carefully by God, and they come from people of every nation (Rev. 5:9-10), and from all walks of life; they are male and female. Their lives take into perspective every problem mankind could have dealt with, thus their qualifications for governing those left upon the earth. In Ephesians 4:22-24 -- "And that ye put off concerning the former conservation the old man. Which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the Spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. "And in 1 Corinthians 10:13
"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (KJV). Thus, with the "144,000" having done these things they become fit for the heavenly kingdom and eminently qualified to rule with "King Christ Jesus" the "other sheep" that have attained unto salvation upon a perfected earth or Paradise.
The "other sheep" will make up the new earth, the people over whom the "144,000" will rule (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1-4). Included in them will be Job, David and John the Baptist, all the faithful ones who lived before Christ, in addition to everyone who makes it through the end of this "wicked system of things."
What Does the Scripture Say?
It has truly been a rewarding experience for me to study for the writing of this article. There are many, many things not included because of space limitations. There are things which I probably should have included and left out and things which probably have been included, but which should have been left out. I pray that neither will be detrimental to our understanding. This part of the Jehovah's Witnesses doctrine as well as all of it is filled with subtle error, outright denial of God's eternal purpose, the inspiration of the Scriptures, and the deity of Jesus Christ. Mixed with a little truth it becomes a powerful force for Satan which has led many to spiritual condemnation and is responsible for many more walking that road at present.
What Is The "144,000"?
The number "144,000" (Rev. 7:4; 14:1-3) is a figurative number standing for all of God's redeemed people upon the earth. One of the most glaring errors of the Jehovah's Witnesses is the misuse of literal and figurative language, and also the failure to use all that the Bible teaches on a subject. In all of my reference sources on this subject there was no mention or use of the "144,000" spoken of in Revelation 7:4-8 -- "And I heard the number of them which were sealed.: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. Of the tribe of Judah were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Asher were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Naphtali were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasseh were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Zebulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand" (KJV). From Homer Hailey's comments (An Introduction and Commentary on Revelation) I quote, "The sum, a hundred forty and four thousand, does not designate a literal numerical quantity, but is a symbolic figure. The most reasonable view is that twelve, the religious number (see Introduction, "Numbers") multiplied by itself and then by one thousand, indicating fullness of completeness, represents the total number of saints on earth at any given time." If the number "144,000" is literal then the tribes are literal and that makes the "144,000" all Jews, but we have already noted that Jehovah Witness doctrine states that the "144,000" comes from out of every tribe, and nation, and peoples. The charter members of the "144,000" were the Jews on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 and the Gentiles in Acts 10 (i.e. Cornelius and his household). When we go to Revelation 14 we see that all Jewish make-up of a literal "144,000" is further qualified by the requirements of verse 4 which states that they must be male and also must be virgins. These are two qualifications that the Jehovah Witnesses either fail to mention or they are ignorant of them. So we see that the Bible defeats them at the very beginning of their doctrine. There is no select group of human beings taken from among men to be associate rulers with "King Christ Jesus." In fact, from True Peace and Security (p. 69), "Among them are people from all walks of life, men and women. " Jehovah's Witness doctrine contradicts the Scriptures for they say that Peter will be in heaven, but the Scriptures say that the "144,000" are male virgins, and Peter was a married man (The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, p. 118). "Peter is just one of the "144,000 living stones" making up the true church. " As the "144,000" of Revelation 7, 14 is symbolic, so is the character of "not being defiled with women; for they are virgins" (Rev. 14:4). This truly speaks of the character of the Christian; it speaks of purity and holiness.
I had opportunity to study with a person in Arkansas who kept quoting John 5:39-40 to me, and though she used it in a right sense, she never applied it to herself. The Jehovah's Witnesses need to apply it to themselves, "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And you will not come to me, that ye might have life."
Dear ones, there is no select group of "144,000" that we must be a member of to go to heaven, but there is a select group that we must be a member of and that is the church that Christ built (Matt. 16:18); the church that people were added to in Acts 2:47 -- "Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as were being saved. " To the kingdom of Colossians 1:13 -- ". . . and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son. "To the church which is the body of Christ (Eph. 1:23) -- "Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." From the point of Acts 2:47 all who were "obedient to the faith among all nations, for his name" (Rom. 1:5) were added by God to that same church.
How Are They Selected?
Paul states in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 -- "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (KJV). God chose all people to salvation that are willing to do his will. Jesus said in John 17:17 -- "Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth. " Is there a contradiction here? In one place Paul says sanctification of the Spirit, in the other Jesus says that sanctification is through the word. There is no contradiction for our sanctification takes place through the Holy Spirit whose means of doing so is the word of Christ, the truth, the gospel. The Holy Spirit does not act in some mysterious way apart from the word that we know- nothing about. The sanctification of verse 13 is a "setting apart or consecrating for use. " Please read the cases of conversion in the book of Acts. Each one agrees, all who come to God do so in the same way, by the Holy Spirit through his instrument, the word of God.
God's Purpose For All Who Obey Him!
In Genesis 2 and 3 we learn of man's relationship with God, the fellowship that existed, the perfect state that Adam and Eve lived in. We also learn of Satan, temptation, sin and its consequences. The end of that perfect relationship, the separation that it caused between God and man. Thus, there is a need for man to have a way back to God, the need for reconciliation. The need for a redeemer, thus the unfolding of God's eternal purpose in Jesus Christ. In 1 Timothy 2:4 -- Paul states, "Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to unto the knowledge of the truth" (KJV). The Jehovah's Witnesses would have us believe there is one will for "144,000" of humankind and another will for all the rest, but Peter records these words in Acts 10:34-35 -- "Of a truth I perceived that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness is accepted with him" (KJV). This means that there is one way to be chosen, one way to be saved, one way to work for God, one way to honor him, one reward to receive from him. In 1 Peter 1:4, Peter stirs our hope for "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you." It is God's desire that all be saved; in this passage we see that God's promise for us is reserved in heaven. In 2 Peter 3:13, Peter added "Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for a new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (KJV).
God's purpose for all who are obedient to him is the "inheritance . . . reserved in heaven for you. " In 2 Peter 3:13 he says the very same thing, that there is a new place for the redeemed, the saved, a new order of things which is what heaven will be to us.
God has given man "one hope"; it is a "living hope" (1 Pet. 1:3) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The "hope" given by the doctrine of the "144,000" of the Jehovah's Witnesses is a false hope of ruling with "King Jesus Christ. " The Scriptures nowhere hold out for any man this kind of hope. Jesus Christ is the "Son of God with power" (Rom. 1:4). He is the "brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power" (Heb. 1:3). John states "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (Jn. 1:1). In John 8:58 "Jesus said unto them, Verily, Verily I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am." Jesus is God with the same attributes, and characteristics as God the Father; he is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Jesus needs no human assistant rulers, or associate rulers to help him do his work. The "144,000" of the Jehovah's Witnesses do not exist. It is a false doctrine and is clearly exposed by the Scriptures. It makes the Jehovah's Witnesses false teachers.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 8, p. 7-9