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I understand that the Jehovah's Witnesses believe that there are few of their members today who are part of the 144,000 mentioned in the book of Revelations. This implies that most of their members are not included in that number.

What, then, is the status of these people? Are they just believers who will go to heaven when Christ returns? Will they live on earth at that time? What are they called, and what will happen to them according to the teaching of the Jehovah's Witnesses?

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5 Answers 5

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Q. "If most of the Jehovah's Witnesses today are not a part of the 144,000, then what exactly are they?"

A. While the scriptures show that a limited number of 144,000 have the God given hope of living FOREVER as Kings & Priests RULING in God's Heavenly Kingdom with Christ himself, the overwhelming vast majority of Jehovah's Witnesses have the awesome God given hope of living FOREVER on the Biblically foretold paradisaic New Earth as royal subjects of God's Heavenly Kingdom wherein the Scriptures state that such ones will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace. (Psalm 37:11, 29; Isaiah 65:17, 20-23; Matthew 5:5; 2 Peter 3:13; Rev 21:3-5).

While the vast majority of the Churches of Christendom teach that there is but only one final destination for the faithful of God's chosen people, the Holy Scriptures teach and show that there is in fact not one but TWO final destinations for the faithful of God's chosen people (Ruling in Heaven or The foretold Paradisaic New Earth). Almighty Jehovah God by means of His Holy Spirit through Christ determines who goes where in accordance to His divine will and everlasting purpose.

~ NOTE: I am a dedicated and baptized member of the unified worldwide Christian Congregation of JEHOVAH'S Witnesses.

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While it is true that according to Revelation 14:1-3, the apostle John wrote that the number of those "bought from the earth" to go to heaven is 144,000, Jehovah's Witnesses will point out that the Bible clearly shows that the vast majority of mankind (including most Jehovah's Witnesses) have the prospect of living on into, or of being resurrected in the future to life in Paradise on earth - not in heaven:

"But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, And they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace." (Ps. 37:11)

"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:5 KJV)

Recommended Related Articles from the Official Website of Jehovah's Witnesses:

Eternal Happiness—In Heaven or on Earth? http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2000721#p18

Do All Faithful Christians Go to Heaven? http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2011405

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You ask, if most of the Jehovah’s Witnesses today are not part of the 144,000 then what exactly are they?

They are God-fearing, Bible-believing men and women who want to live forever on a paradise earth. They don’t want to go to heaven. They believe only 144,000 persons since the time of Jesus can ever go to heaven, there to rule alongside Jesus over the subjects of the earthly kingdom. They sincerely believe that if they are to survive the Great Tribulation and Armageddon then they must remain faithful and obedient to Jehovah’s earthly organisation.

This article talks about the resurrection of the billions of people who died before Armageddon. Virtually all of them will be resurrected with physical bodies and given an opportunity to conform to the rule of Jesus and the 144,000 over the subjects of the earthly kingdom. Both the righteous and the unrighteous will be resurrected – not to heaven, but to this earth:

18 “The righteous” include faithful servants of Jehovah who lived before Jesus came to earth. People like Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Ruth, and Esther will be resurrected to life here on earth. You can read about some of those men and women in Hebrews chapter 11. What about Jehovah’s faithful servants who die in our time? They are also “righteous,” so they will be resurrected.

19 “The unrighteous” include billions of people who did not have the opportunity to know Jehovah. Even though they died, Jehovah hasn’t forgotten them. He will resurrect them, and they will have the opportunity to learn about him and serve him.

24 When would the 144,000 Christians be resurrected? The Bible tells us that this would happen after Christ started to rule in heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:23) We are living in that time right now, and most of the 144,000 have already been resurrected to heaven. Those who are still on earth and who die in our day will instantly be resurrected to life in heaven. However, the majority of people will be resurrected in the future to life in Paradise here on earth.

Regarding the 144,000 who “have already been resurrected to heaven,” they numbered 52,465 in 1935. At that point in time, people joining the organisation were told that the number of the 144,000 had been sealed. After that year, the numbers of the anointed dropped as older persons died and new baptised members settled for an earthly hope. Since 1986 when 8,279 believed they were of the heavenly class, more than 14,000 Witnesses have joined the ranks of the 144,000. It is impossible to know how many “have already been resurrected to heaven” (i.e. those who have died) but the numbers of those who have a heavenly hope are increasing.

This article published in 2015 has this to say about judgment:

The Bible also describes a day of judgment that will occur suddenly before the thousand years begin. That day is also called the end, as discussed in the cover articles of this issue. In that day, God will remove all ungodly, wicked people. (2 Peter 3:7)

The dead will be raised during the thousand years. (Revelation 20:4, 12) They will need time to learn God’s ways and obey him. Contrary to popular opinion, the Bible shows that people will be judged on the basis of what they do after their resurrection.

At the end of the millennial reign of Christ Jesus and the 144,000, there will be a final attack by Satan on God’s people. This will be the final test of their obedience and loyalty. Then, and only then, can they hope to live forever on a paradise earth. Until then, they have no assurance of being worthy to receive eternal life (on earth).

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  • Nice job. One thing that stands out as inaccurate is” new baptised members settled for an earthly hope”. The earthly hope is not a second place prize that is settled for. Anointed are not higher status JWs
    – 007
    Commented Apr 29 at 17:20
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Watchtower doctrine says that they are in a state of non-existence until the general resurrection. Here is a link.

After the general resurrection, God judges mankind. Those judged as righteous would there after live on earth in their resurrected bodies, whereas the 144,000 remain in Heaven.

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  • and then what happens?
    – Narnian
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 21:04
  • I think after that, they don't deviate entirely with most Christian eschatology. After the general resurrection comes the final judgement. newadvent.org/cathen/12792a.htm Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 21:08
  • For clarity, those being judged righteously would there after live on earth in their resurrected bodies, whereas the 144,000 remain in Heaven. Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 21:15
  • This does not seem to answer the question "If most of the Jehovah's Witnesses today are not a part of the 144,000..." Most of today's JW's are not in a state of non-existence because presumably they are alive(?).
    – alec
    Commented Apr 30 at 15:05
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From the link following comes the number of Witnesses claiming to be part of the 144,000 class as in the year 2023 – 22,312.

It is difficult to give a percentage of who claim to be part of the 144,000 compared with members who do not. Numbers of people attending each annual Memorial event far exceeds the number of total members. But in 2023 a peak of 8,816,562 active 'publishers' were counted, and that includes those of the 'anointed class'.

https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1102023816#h=5 See also: https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/library/r1/lp-e/all-publications/books/yearbooks

Way back in 1935, there were 63,146 people attending the Memorial, with 52,465 being the 'anointed class'.

In 1995, there were 13,147,201 people attending that year, with 8,645 being of the 'anointed class'.

You can see then, (assuming an average of 8.8 million active members) that the 2023 statistic of 22,312 of the 'anointed class' shows a massive preponderance of Jehovah's Witnesses not being in the 'anointed class'. This is not contested, by the way, neither amongst them, nor by me. I agree that somewhere in the region of 99% of them are not anointed (of the Holy Spirit, though they would say 'by holy spirit', meaning they have no hope of going to heaven.) See the link below for their own article explaining their beliefs about the 'anointed class' (also called 'the little flock') and those who are not (which are variously called 'the other sheep' or 'the great crowd').

https://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/lords-supper/

So, what exactly are 99% of the Jehovah's Witnesses today, if not part of a tiny group said to be anointed with 'holy spirit' and thus called to rule with Christ in heaven? They are spoken of as a different group (or 'class') of Christians who hope to live forever on a paradise Earth, after Armageddon, which they expect to survive if they are found to be obedient to their leaders when that war breaks out. If they remain obedient to their then heavenly leaders (the 144,000 and Jesus Christ), being faithful for 1,000 years, they should pass the final test and finally be assured of living forever on a paradise Earth.

Some of the present group making up 'the anointed class' are also spoken of as 'the faithful and discreet slave class'. Here is a quote from one of their official magazines where the non-anointed are urged to reverently view this tiny percentage who provide the spiritual 'food' for all Jehovah's Witnesses:

"Your attitude towards the wheatlike anointed 'brothers' of Christ and the treatment you accord them [the remnant of the 144,000 today] will be the determining factor as to whether you go into 'everlasting cutting-off' or receive 'everlasting life.' ... Prove yourself to be a loyal companion of the anointed 'wheat' class, the 'faithful and discreet slave', whom Christ has appointed to provide spiritual 'food at the proper time'." The Watchtower, 1 August 1981

In summary, this group asked about are supporters of 'the anointed' ones. That is exactly what they are - associates of 'the anointed' but not in the same class and with a different hope and calling. That is how they view themselves.

Others, who are not Jehovah's Witnesses, have a different view, many who would express deep concern that they cannot be Christians at all because they cheerfully admit that they are not anointed with the Holy Spirit - and neither they are. They claim they have 'a measure of holy spirit', and that by diligent activity and study, they can get more 'holy spirit' as it is viewed as a commodity, really, shown in this quote:

"Question - Do God's servants today who have the earthly hope have as much of God's spirit as do spirit-anointed Christians?

Answer - Fundamentally, the answer is yes. God's spirit is available in equal portions to both classes, and knowledge and understanding are equally attainable by both." The Watchtower article 'Questions From Readers', 15 August 1996, p.21. See also The Watchtower 15 June 1996, p.3

As the OP question is not clear as to whether the Jehovah's Witness view is sought, or that of non-Jehovah's Witnesses, I have given both views.

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  • a good response. Why didn't you use the latest numbers of 2023 service year? wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1102023816
    – Js Witness
    Commented Apr 26 at 13:44
  • @JsWitness The last time I looked, June 2023, the stats. were not available. I'm grateful for the link you've provided and will now add the 2023 partakers/attenders data. Thank you.
    – Anne
    Commented Apr 26 at 15:20

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