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?