In this Q & A, the question posed was, "Why do Jehovah's Witness believe that only 144,000 will be saved and allowed in Heaven?"
To be clear, most Jehovah's Witness subscribe to the belief that these 144,000 will live in Heaven while the rest of the redeemed will live on the New Earth, and tthe unsaved in Hell.
This is Scriptually incorrect as well, and if you'd like my thoughts on that as well, CLICK HERE to view my article on "Will We Live in the New Heaven or New Earth?", but to keep focus on the question at hand, I won't go further into that particular aspect here again. Both topics go hand in hand though and I highly recommend you read both articles as you need to know one to understand the other, and this article was written with the assumption that you know what happens Scripturally in the End when God washes away the old earth and heaven and creates a New Heaven and Earth free of sin.
Let's get to it!
What Does the Word Say?
Naturally, we must first examine what the Word says, and what Scripture in particular that is being interpreted to create this belief.
They interpret this from 2 primary verses in Scripture, one being Revelation 7:4 where the apostle John goes on to list 12,000 Jews from the 12 tribes and that number totals 144,000 and the other is Revelation 14:3-4. Let’s take a quick look at both before we get into everything:
Revelation 7:4 (ESV): And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
Revelation 14:3-4 (ESV): and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb,
This comes down to another example of where being a student of the Word is important, as when we take things out of the context in which they were written we end up with a false understanding and belief, such as this. Things are written literal, but in what context is the key. When we are reading through the Book of Revelation, it is important to understand the context in which this was written, and in this case it is talking about events that will occur during the 7 year Tribulation.
The 7 Year Tribulation is said to be a time when God will unleash His wrath upon the earth and be a time of very serious Judgment for the inhabitants of the earth. It is during this time that John sees a vision of 144,000 Jews “getting sealed”. This is where the JW belief primarily comes from. What does it mean to be sealed in this sense?
To answer that, we must first know exactly who are these 144,000 people. There are a lot of different views and interpretations of this, but the one I primarily side with is the idea that they will a special group of Jewish Evangelists during the time of the Tribulation (7 Year Period), as the context of Scripture seems to suggest this idea. Specifically, these will be Jewish men who are tasked with sharing the Gospel to those who are still alive on earth during this time of tribulation as sort of a “last chance” to choose Jesus as your Lord and Savior and follow God. These Evangelists would have a tough time doing this during the Tribulation period, therefore they must be protected and “sealed” so that they can complete this mission.
Not even considering everything we know from the Old Testament, or the New Testament and all of Jesus’ teachings, if you continue to read on through Revelation 7, you start to realize how it just doesn’t make sense to think that only 144,000 people will be saved. Revelation 7:9-14 shows another vision from John and how there was an innumerable amount of people rejoicing around the Throne in Heaven, including those who made it through the Tribulation period, meaning that if the number was so vast that it couldn’t even be logically counted, then for sure it was A LOT more than 144,000!
Revelation 7:9-14 (ESV): A Great Multitude from Every Nation After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Note the contrasting differences here as well - John says all people from all tribes all across the world from all nations will be present versus when he saw the very specific group of 144,000 Jews with a very specific purpose - it just further adds to the fact that he was seeing two completely separate things and events that do coincide towards the final events, but nothing to suggest that only 144,000 are saved and going to Heaven, and everything to suggest that there will be so many people in Heaven that we can’t even count them all accurately!
We can also see how the Scriptures contradict one another if taken literal without thought to context, specifically Revelation 7 and 7:9. If you take it literal and not in context, then thinking that Revelation 7 means only 144,000 Jews will be saved contradicts what John says he viewed in Revelation 7:9 with people all around the world in an innumerable amount in Heaven surrounding the Throne.
This question was actually already answered way back in Genesis as well, and is another reason I recommend, if you haven’t, one day just reading your Bible from front to back without skipping anything in between. It takes time, yes, but well worth it.
Genesis 12:3 (ESV): I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
We see in Genesis 12:3 that God tells Abraham that he will bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him, and in this context He is discussing how the Jews will be an instrument to bless others and more specifically through the birth and death of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. The spread of the message of Christianity as a whole is also a back-thought here as well. Again, you really have to read all of Genesis and this chapter in specific to understand what this one vers means.
Going back to Revelation 14:3-4 and remember how we see the next time that this specific group of 144,000 is mentioned.
The first thing that jumps out to me as obvious is that if we are to take the JW stance and believe it is literal without considering the context, then you must also believe Revelation 14 to be telling you that only 144,000 Jewish virgin men will saved and in Heaven, which again just doesn’t make any kind of sense. If this was literal, then it also means that every parent you know, every church father, every apostle, anyone who isn’t a male and a virgin, even the founder of Jehovah’s Witness himself - ALL are not going to Heaven, correct? Emphatically, this is wrong and goes against Scripture.
All of this basically comes down to making sure we read and understand the Word in context. This is where English skills and reading skills in general come in to play as well. I’m no English professor, but if you take time to read and research, you’ll find the proper meaning of Scriptures. They are written to be literal, but it is the context that changes and must be understood, as what is literal in one conversation could be a symbol, foreshadow, dramatic enhancer or prelude in another. And, in the most simple of ways, think about all that we know from the Word and from Jesus - does it really sound believable that after ALL of that and ALL that we know about faith and salvation, that God would pull a fast one and only allow 144,000 Jewish virgin men into Heave and that’s it?
Keep your eyes on the Lord, my friends, and the Word close to your heart - neither will ever steer you wrong!