Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the number of the 144,000 (those who will rule with Christ from heaven) is a literal number.

14 Interestingly, Charles T. Russell recognized the 144,000 to be a literal number of individuals making up a spiritual Israel. In The New Creation, Volume VI of his Studies in the Scriptures, published in 1904, he wrote: “We have every reason to believe that the definite, fixed number of the elect [chosen anointed ones] is that several times stated in Revelation (7:4; 14:1); namely, 144,000 ‘redeemed from amongst men.’” In Light, Book One, published in 1930 by the Bible Students, it was likewise stated: “The 144,000 members of the body of Christ are thus in the assembly shown as selected and anointed, or sealed.” Jehovah’s Witnesses have consistently held to the view that literally 144,000 anointed Christians make up spiritual Israel. Source: https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/pc/r1/lp-e/1200274226/11/0

In 1935 the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses who believed they were part of the anointed 144,000 was 52,465. Then, in 1938 they were told that the number of the 144,000 had been sealed and from that point, the number of Witnesses partaking of the bread and wine decreased rapidly. I had relatives who became Witnesses in the mid 1930's and they were told they could not be part of the heavenly anointed class. Instead, they were led to believe they would be part of the earthly class.

The lowest number of partakers this century was 8,524 (in 2005) but that number went up to 19,521 (in 2018). However the 2019 Yearbook is not available on the official JW.org website. Has the number of Witnesses gone up this year?

Has the Governing Body received increased light to suggest that the number of the 144,000 is now perceived as being symbolic rather than literal?

If that is not the case, and the number is still literal, why is that number increasing rather than decreasing?

  • 3
    There hasn't been any recent new light on this topic. The most recent Watchtower article to discuss the increase in Memorial partakers is this 2016 article: wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/402016046?p=par#h=23 Also, the statement about the number of the 144,000 being sealed has been outdated since 2007, with this article: wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2007327
    – user32540
    Jul 20, 2019 at 22:09
  • Thanks for the links which are illuminating. The January 2016 Watchtower article says the increase may be because some Witnesses are mistaken in thinking they will rule with Christ in heaven, that they “have mental or emotional problems.” How does that account for an increase of 11,000 partakers between 2005 and 2018?
    – Lesley
    Jul 21, 2019 at 14:53
  • In paragraph 15 it says that in the first century, “all true Christians were anointed” but after the first century “most of those who said that they were Christians did not really follow Christ.” That is an astounding and incredible statement, given the thousands of early Christians who died rather than renounce their faith in Christ Jesus. The question remains unanswered – if the number of the 144,000 is literal, why is that number increasing rather than decreasing?
    – Lesley
    Jul 21, 2019 at 14:53
  • 1
    According to Matthew 20:8-15, we should not complain if the Master continues hiring workers in the last hour. Jehovah knows who is truly anointed, and he will make sure the 144,000 is filled. That statement you say is astounding and incredible was prophesied by Jesus at Matthew 13:24-30. JWs likewise acknowledge the deaths of our brothers and sisters among the early Christians.
    – user32540
    Jul 21, 2019 at 15:13
  • There is no “complaint” about the Master continuing to hire workers at the eleventh hour and being paid the same wage as those who had worked all day. That has nothing to do with the question. Neither does the parable of the wheat and the weeds in Matthew 13:24-30. It is a prophecy about the end of the age, when Christ returns. I fail to understand how this parable proves that after the first century “most of those who said that they were Christians did not really follow Christ.” You’ve lost me there. If you want to respond please post an answer, otherwise these comments are not helpful.
    – Lesley
    Jul 22, 2019 at 16:46

2 Answers 2


The number 144,000 is still believed to be a literal number. The reason for the number of persons claiming to be spirit anointed increasing in recent years can only be explained 2 ways:

1) The number chosen from the earth is going to consist of a larger number of modern day Christians than previously thought.

2) Many of the persons who are counted as partakers of bread and wine at the annual memorial of Christ’s death are mistaken about being called.

Remember JWs number under 8.5 million worldwide but over 20 million persons attended the memorial. As the number of attendees goes up the number of cases of persons partaking in error goes up too.

The actual number of spirit anointed brothers and sisters on earth today is known only by the King who calls them.

Do we worry about the number ? See https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/402016046?p=par#h=23

When does the calling of Christians to a heavenly hope cease?

See https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2007327


Yes they do.

They are not a cult in my opinion, simply a denomination that is different theologically- for which some Christians criticize them. I studied for 8 months with them and in the first book I and my elder studied,'What does the Bible really teach?, the first chapters mention the 144,000 going into heaven to work with God. Many others would be raised into the paradise (New World according to the Bible). Hope this answers your question!

  • Thank you, but how come the number of the 144,000 is literal but everything else about them is deemed to be symbolic?
    – Lesley
    Jul 25, 2019 at 17:06
  • @Lesley Here's an article that answers that question: wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2004647
    – user32540
    Jul 27, 2019 at 18:04
  • @4castle – Thank you, but it’s not the number of the 144,000 being literal that is in question. It’s picking and choosing which parts of Revelation are literal and which are symbolic that raises doubts. Perhaps I should ask another question?
    – Lesley
    Jul 28, 2019 at 17:14
  • @Lesley Sure, I would be interested to know what doubts remain.
    – user32540
    Jul 28, 2019 at 17:43

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