I understand that Jehovah's Witnesses believe that "exactly 144,000 faithful Christians go to heaven to rule with Christ in the kingdom of God."

However, in Revelation the 144 000 are from Israel Revelation 7:4:

Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.

Indeed, the next four verses detail the tribes from which they came.

So do Jehovah's Witnesses believe the 144 000 are from Israel? If not, how do they explain this text?

Should go without saying, but just for clarity: I'm curious, not trying to start an argument!

3 Answers 3


Here's Revelation 7:4 from the New World Translation of the Bible

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:

In the article "Great Crowd" in the Watchtower Biblical/theological encyclopaedia Insight on the Scriptures, we find:

The apostle [Paul] wrote: “He is not a Jew who is one on the outside, nor is circumcision that which is on the outside upon the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one on the inside, and his circumcision is that of the heart by spirit.” (Romans 2:28, 29) Why, too, would there be no mention of any ‘sealing’ of the Gentile Christians in this divine vision? And why would not the Gentile Christians be able to master the new song sung by the 144,000? (Revelation 14:3) It thus seems clear that the 144,000 sealed ones are of spiritual Israel, not fleshly Israel—hence include both Jewish and Gentile Christians.—Galatians 6:16.

The 144,000 sealed ones are of spiritual Israel. In other words, adopted into one of the tribes.

Here's a further explanation from the article "Do All Faithful Christians Go to Heaven?" in the 1 June 2011 issue of The Watchtower magazine.

So, too, with this heavenly Kingdom. Jesus, the Lamb of God, rules with 144,000 co-rulers “bought from among mankind.”—Revelation 14:1, 4, 5.

True, 144,000 is a small number compared with the number of all faithful ones, past and present. But this is understandable because the 144,000 are resurrected to heaven for a specific sacred assignment of work. If you were to build a house, would you contract all the skilled builders in your area? No. You would need only as many as were required for the job. Similarly, not all faithful ones are chosen by God for the unique privilege of ruling with Christ in heaven.

  • Exemplary answer!
    – Caleb
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 14:36
  • 1
    This answer, I think, is incomplete because it neglects v5-8. If the 144,000 are spiritual sons of Israel, then what does it mean for someone to be part of a "spiritual Judah," or a "spiritual Reuben," etc? Surely, Revelations intended to convey something by including the portions from each tribe but how would that be defined or applied for a spiritual Israel?
    – Jeff
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 2:36

in Galation chapters 3 and 4 Paul explains the whole thing. He also identifies the "women" in Gen 3;15 as the Jeruselem above and he explains that she is thier mother and they are adopted as Christ's brothers to rule in her. The literal nation of Jews was disowned by Christ after his death and Given to a nation producing it's fruits

  • 2
    Part of the issue here is that most groups don't interpret Glations 3/4 the way that the Jehovah's Witnesses do. This answer leaves a bit to be explained. Could you detail for us how specifically those passages are interpreted and how those interpretations answer this specific question? Thanks.
    – Caleb
    Commented Nov 2, 2012 at 20:37

James 1:1 New International Version (NIV)

1 James, a servant of God(B) and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered( among the nations: Greetings**)

The twelve tribes had already been dissolved with the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in the year 70 AD. That was the minor fulfillment of the Jewish system of things being destroyed, mentioned in Matt 24, by Jesus.. After that destruction, all records were also destroyed with the Temple, no Jew today has been able to trace back as to what tribe they came from.

James here in James 1:1 is sending Greetings to the spiritual Tribes of Israel. Take notice when he names each tribe they are not the same 12 tribes of Israel. In fact it will be the spiritual Israel that will judge the real 12 tribes with Christ Jesus during the thousand year reign of Christ.( their being in the resurrection )

  • 1
    The question is about Jehovah's Witnesses. It is unclear whether your answer addresses that.
    – Kazark
    Commented Nov 18, 2012 at 19:18

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