What do the Jehovah Witnesses believe about the 144,000?

Note: All verses quoted below are from the New World Translation of the Jehovah Witnesses. Certain sections are sourced from the article Our Friends the Jehovahs Witnesses.

At a May 31, 1935 convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses held in Washington DC in Yankee Stadium, Judge Rutherford gave the sermon on Matthew 20. At the end of his sermon he made an astounding announcement. Everyone was to get a penny. And what was the “Penny”? A new name, “Jehovah’s Witnesses”. Anyone coming into the organization from that day onward would compose an earthly class of Christians. The 144,000 in number was full and complete. (How they know and compute this is not known). As the heavenly class die off each year there are less who partake of the “emblems of the Lord’s Supper”. As of 2005 there are 6,613,829 baptized members but 16,383,333 attended the “Memorial Service” as the communion is called. Only 8,524 partook of the bread and wine. Virtually every Jehovah’s Witness you meet only has an earthly future – and that only if faithful to witness daily.

How does one know if they are in the heavenly or earthly class? JW’s quote Romans 8:16. They say the God’s holy spirit (in small caps because they believe the Holy Spirit is not a person but a force) bears witness with our spirit and tells us if we belong to the heavenly class. (This is much like the doctrine of predestination in that God decides what “group” you are in). Since the 144,000 heavenly class began only after Pentecost, no Old Testament saint can have a heavenly hope. This heavenly group is also called the “Little Flock” (Luke 12:32); “The Bride, the Lamb’s Wife” Rev 21:9; the “faithful and discreet slave” Matthew 24:47; “The Body of Christ, The Israel of God”, etc. for all these terms refer to the 144,000 only, not the ordinary Jehovah’s Witness.

So where do they get these doctrines? Revelation 7:1-8. The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the 144,000 refers to the “Heavenly Class” which are born again. This literal number are the only ones born again and these only go to heaven. When one of this class dies, they go immediately to heaven to begin their reign with Christ as priests and kings (Rev 1:5, 6; 14:1-5; 20:4, 6). Those remaining on the earth are the “other sheep” (John 10:16); This heavenly, “sealed class” began to be made up from Pentecost after the cross.

The above is just an overview of the Watchtower theology on the 144,000. Is it biblical?

All the Bible teaches concerning the 144,000 is found in just thirteen verses - Revelation 7:1-8 and 14:1-5:

1. Revelation 7:1-8: A 144,000 Israelites are sealed while the angels are about to “harm the earth”.

2. Revelation 14:1-5: They came from the earth, are faultless, and are before the throne with Christ.

There are serious issues if one is to hold on to these beliefs!

Issue 1: They are a literal group of 144,000 true Christians who lived and were sealed since the time of Christ?


Revelation 7:3,4 “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until after we have sealed the slaves of our God in their foreheads.” 4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel:

The Bible teaches they are sealed just before the angels “harm the earth”. (This is just before Armageddon and the Seven Last Plagues of Rev. 16.) Not since the time of Christ!

Issue2: When one of this class (144,000) dies, they go immediately to heaven

The Watchtower for good reasons opposes Christendom’s teaching that when a person dies their soul or spirit goes to heaven. Yet that is what they teach happens since 1918 to their own heavenly 144,000 class!

Issue 3: JW's teach TWO CLASSES

1. The Heavenly / 144,000 class

These are born-again Christians, who go to heaven as spirits when they die. In 2004 they numbered 8,570.

2. The Earthly / “Great Crowd”

These people are not born-again. They do not partake of the emblems of the Lord’s Supper. They hope to survive Armageddon and then live on the earth in fleshly bodies. In 2004 there were 6,299,771.

The earthly class is shut out from salvation:

John 6:53-56 Accordingly Jesus said to them: “Most truly I say to YOU, Unless YOU eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, YOU have no life in yourselves. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I shall resurrect him at the last day; for my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in union with me, and I in union with him.

The Great Multitude is shut out from salvation and are never born again.

Issue 4: Watchtower say no GREAT CROWD in heaven!

The bible teaches a GREAT CROWD IN HEAVEN!

Revelation 15:2 And I saw what seemed to be a glassy sea mingled with fire, and those who come off victorious from the wild beast and from its image and from the number of its name standing by the glassy sea, having harps of God.

Note: It says the victorious are on the sea of Glass or glassy sea.

Does anyone have the mark of the beast now?

Revelation 13:17 and that nobody might be able to buy or sell except a person having the mark, the name of the wild beast or the number of its name.

NOTE: No person has the mark now. When it becomes a forced issue, only those who have received the mark of the beast will be able to buy or sell.

Where is the sea of glass?

Revelation 4:1-6 After these things I saw, and, look! an opened door in heaven, …and, look! a throne was in its position in heaven, and there is one seated upon the throne. ..And before the throne there is, as it were, a glassy sea like crystal.

Note: The Sea of glass is before the throne in heaven. The victorious are in heaven.

The throne is in heaven and the Great crowd is before the throne in heaven.

Revelation 7:9 After these things I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands.

The Society teaches that no one before Christ can go to heaven.

However, the Bible teaches Old Testament people will be in heaven:

Matt. 8:11 “Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens
(See also: Hebrews 11:10,16, 13:14)

Both the “great crowd” and the 144,000 heavenly class are taken to heaven. If Satan can get you to disregard the Bible (It is for the 144,000 only), he has you. The majority of the Jehovah’s Witnesses are shut out from salvation. We must bring it to them.

See also:

1914 and the parousia

Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven