This is the second in a series of three questions about the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is the first question: How do Jehovah’s Witness support their belief that Jesus started ruling (invisibly) from heaven in 1914? What has been happening in those 107 years?
I have been asked to write an article on what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe with regard to the number of the 144,000 (as mentioned in Revelation7:4) being a literal number, but the description of the 144,000 (male, Jewish virgins from the 12 tribes of Israel) as being symbolic. Here is a partial quote from their 1 September 2004 Watchtower article, Questions from Readers:
The context of Revelation 7:4 and related statements found elsewhere in the Bible bear out that the number 144,000 is to be taken literally. It refers to those who will rule in heaven with Christ over a paradise earth, which will be filled with a large and undetermined number of happy people who worship Jehovah God.
Of critical importance is their belief that the 144,000 have been anointed by Jehovah’s spirit and they alone are in the New Covenant. They have a “heavenly hope.” Those Jehovah’s Witnesses who are not among the 144,000 have an “earthly hope”—to live forever on a paradise earth ruled from heaven by Christ and the 144,000. They are not part of the New Covenant. Speaking of the New Covenant that Jesus introduced on the night before he was betrayed, their ‘Bible Teach’ book says this in the Appendix on pages 207-208:
This covenant, or contract, makes it possible for 144,000 faithful Christians to go to heaven. There they will serve as kings and priests for the blessings of all mankind.... Only those in the new covenant – that is, those who have the hope of going to heaven – should partake of the bread and wine. God convicts such ones that thy have been selected to be heavenly kings.
In 1935 the number of Witnesses who believed they were part of the 144,000 numbered 52,465. The number of Witnesses who believed they were heaven bound decreased dramatically over the following decades but in 2005 there were only 8,524 partakers of the bread and wine at the annual memorial service. By 2020 the number had increased again, up to 21,182. Now the Society says the number of the 144,000 will be sealed just before the Great Tribulation starts. What is the explanation for the numbers of Witnesses partaking of the emblems going up and down so much?
And what about the hundreds of thousands of Christians who lived and died for Christ Jesus since the first century? Are we to believe that there were less than 100,000 Christians between then and the 1930’s who were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and who were in the New Covenant?
What is the official explanation that over the past 2,000 years only 144,000 persons can ever be in the New Covenant, be filled with the Holy Spirit, thereby qualifying them to go to heaven?
My information is incomplete, and may be out of date, so I would appreciate an up to date explanation from official sources so that I can write an article that accurately represents the views of Jehovah’s Witnesses as they understand who the 144,000 are and why only they can be in the New Covenant and to to heaven.
There is no intention to belittle or refute the official view with regard to their views; rather I wish to present an accurate account.