Quantcast
You are visiting from Ashburn,VA,US

Where did the 144,000 come from?

How will they be identified and have they all been identified yet?

Thanks for your question.

Revelation 7:4 "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."

Revelation 14:3 "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."

These verses are cited by Jehovah's Witnesses to support the doctrine that most of the 144,000 are now reigning over the earth. This "little flock" of the "anointed remnant", it is claimed, commenced its rule in 1914. Members of this group are said to depart to heaven at the instant of death. 1 A J.W. publication comments as follows:

"Those who are called by God to share in such heavenly service are few in number. As Jesus said, they are a 'little flock'. Years after his return to heaven, Jesus made known the exact number in a vision to the apostle John . . . So the 144,000 are persons who die on earth as humans and are resurrected [at the instant of death] to heavenly life as spirit creatures, as Jesus was . . . 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." footnote 1

We must begin by understanding that, "the book of Revelation is primarily symbolic, therefore, the 144,000 is a symbolic number". Consistency would demand that the 1,000 years of Rev. 20:4, 6 should also be taken figuratively.

But, consistency also demands that the J.W. settle for either a literal or figurative interpretation, but not an indiscriminate mixing of the two to suit a presupposition. If the J.W. insists on a literal 144,000, then all J.W.'s are excluded from this group because literally the 144,000 only come from the tribes of Israel! footnote 2. If, on the other hand, the J.W. takes the stand that the passage is figurative because the tribes are symbolic, then likewise the 144,000 is a symbolic, and not a literal number.

The following evidence from Rev. 14 indicates that the number 144,000 is symbolic, and not literal:

  • John "looked", vs. 1, but could he see a Lamb on Mount Zion from 1,000 miles away on the Aegean Island? (John was on the Island of Patmos, Rev. 1:9).
  • Did he really hear the harper's playing over the same distance?
  • Were these saints literally virgins? If so, are the first fruits only bachelors and spinsters? (vs. 4).

It is usually inconclusive to assert that the 144,000 and the great multitude are two presentations of the same redeemed group. There appears to be too much evidence that two different groups are intended. Although it is sometimes stressed that John "heard" the number and "saw" the great multitude, this in itself does not establish that he saw and heard the same group. The two groups have these significantly differing descriptions:


144,000

  • John heard the number
  • precisely numbered as 144,000
  • sealed out of the tribes of Israel (7:4)

Great Multitude

  • John saw the great multitude
  • innumerable (7:9)
  • from all nations, kindreds and people (7:9)
  • have palms in hands

A more fruitful approach is to trace the allusions in Scripture. It is suggested that to do so establishes the 144,000 as the first fruits i.e., those faithful at Christ's return, and the great multitude, as the final in-gathering of the saints at the end of the millenial age.

The following is the evidence for identifying the 144,000 with the saints at Christ's return:

  • The 144,000 are said to be "firstfruits" (Rev. 14:4). Two New Testament passages identify the first fruits:
  1. James 1:18 - "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."
  2. I Cor. 15:22,23 - " . . . in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming."

The word first fruits is taken from the Old Testament feasts in Lev. 23. Using the above two quotations to identify the types, the following pattern becomes apparent:

  1. The sheaf of the first fruits represents Christ in type. (Lev. 23:10). (Notice in I Cor. 15:23 that both Christ and the saints are first fruits, following the similar Old Testament usage in Lev. 23:17 where the two wave loaves are also "first fruits").
  2. The two wave loaves signify the Jew and Gentile composition of the firstfruits. (Lev. 23: 17; cf. Eph. 2:12-16).
    "The firstfruits unto the LORD" are the saints at Christ's coming. (Lev. 23:17).

The evidence that the great multitude, which no man can number, represents the final in-gathering of the saints at the end of the millenial age comes from the following:

  1. The great multitude have palms in their hands. (Rev. 7:9). This is another allusion to Lev. 23. Following the pattern of the types, the great multitude represents the final in-gathering of the fruit and the carrying of palms occurs at the end of the harvest. (Lev. 23:40).
  2. I Cor. 15:23-28 supports this interpretation in-so-far as the first fruits of the harvest are set out in verse 23. The final in-gathering is described from vs. 24-28 - "then cometh the end."
  3. The symbolic 144,000 reign on the earth (Rev. 5:10)4 for a period designated as a 1,000 years. (Rev. 20:6). Nowhere is their reigning either stated or implied to be in heaven. They will have power over the nations (Rev. 2:26,27), and since they follow the Lamb "whithersoever he goeth" (Rev. 14:4), they will be reigning on the earth - this is where the Lamb will be. As the Father's accredited representative "his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives which is before Jerusalem on the east . . ." (Zech. 14:4). He will then sit on David's throne in Jerusalem, the city of the great King. (Lk. 1:32,33; Matt. 5:35). footnote 3

The import of the J.W. teaching on the 144,000 becomes apparent once it is realized that current living members of the 144,000 expect to obtain immortality at the instant of death in heaven, whereas worthies commended for their faith and works, such as Abraham and David, are relegated to second-rate positions of everlasting life on the earth without immortality. footnote 4

It is expressly stated that the worthies catalogued in Hebrews 11 died in faith not having received the promises, "God having provided some better thing for us [New Testament believers], that they without us should not be made perfect". (Heb. 11:13,39,40). Yet, according to J.W. teaching, Abraham sleeps unconsciously in his grave awaiting resurrection to everlasting (not eternal) life on the earth, while thousands of J.W.'s since 1914, said to belong to the 144,000, have gone straight to heaven at the instant of death.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Footnotes:

  1. The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life, (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc., 1968), pp. 77, 78.
  2. It should be noted that the tribes of Dan and Ephraim are omitted and the tribes of Levi and Joseph included, which, in itself, suggests a symbolic interpretation of the 144,000.
  3. This point is observed in the J.W. New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures which translates this verse " . . . and they will rule as kings over the earth." The Greek word "epi" translated "over" in this text is translated "on the earth" or "upon the earth" in six other places, (Rev. 6:10; 7:1; 11:10; 13:14; 14:6; 17:8, A.V.), but not "over the earth" so as to suggest remote control. The Emphatic Diaglott, a J.W. publication, renders the text "on the earth".
  4. It is sometimes argued by J.W.'s that the kingdom of heaven is for the 144,000, whereas the kingdom of God is for the great multitude on the earth. But Abraham will be in both the kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God, (Matt. 8:11, cf. Lk. 13:28), thereby indicating that the terms are used interchangeably and that they are not intended to convey the idea of a "heavenly" and an "earthly" reward.

This answer is taken from thewww.wrestedscriptures.com article on Jehovah's Witnesses

 
Bible Questions and Answers
Browse all the questions that have been asked at ThisisyourBible.com and see their answers,   read the most recent questions and answers,  or have a look at some prepared questions and answers on key Bible themes.
 
__________________________________________________________________________________________________