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Jehovah’s Witnesses – Rev. 14:3

Victor M. Eskew


            In Revelation 14, one hundred forty-four thousand people have the heavenly Father’s name written in their foreheads (v. 1).  In Revelation 14:3, this group of 144,000 are said to be redeemed from the earth.  “And they sang as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders:  and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.”  The Jehovah’s Witnesses take this verse literally.  They assert that only 144,000 people will enter into heaven.  The rest of the redeemed, we are told, will live on a renovated earth.

            This teaching is a unique doctrine within the religious world.  Most groups that profess Christ believe that all the faithful have the hope of heaven.  Are the Jehovah’s Witnesses correct in their analysis?  Will only 144,000 actually make it to heaven?  We think not!

            The book of Revelation is written in highly symbolic language.  The opening verse of the book itself teaches this.  “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.”  The text says that the message was “signified.”  It was written in signs, that is, figurative language.  This being the case, one must be very careful when he interprets something within the book in a literal way.

            The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that 144,000 is the literal number of people who will make it to heaven.  If this is the case, are to assume that the rest of the description of this 144,000 found in Revelation is also literal?  Revelation 7:4 is the first time the 144,000 are mentioned.  This verse says that they are all of the tribes of the children of Israel.  “And I heard the number of them which were sealed:  and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.”  In verse 5-8 of the same chapter, we learn that twelve thousand were selected from each of the twelve tribes to make the 144,000.  Is this literal?  Returning to Revelation 14, we learn that the 144,000 are also virgins.  “These are they which were not defiled with women:  for they are virgins…” (v. 4a).  If we are to take this group of redeemed literally, they are Jewish virgins taken in increments of 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel.  It is interesting that even the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not make this claim.  In other words, they interpret everything in figurative language except the actual number of 144,000.  We wonder:  “Why?”

            Remember, the book of Revelation is written in symbolic language.  The number 12 in prophetic writings is a perfect number.  The number 10 is also a symbol of perfection.  The 144,000 figure is a multiple of both of these numbers.  It is symbolic of “all” those redeemed by the blood of Christ.  In essence, all of God’s children can make it to that beautiful place called heaven.  Peter confirms this in I Peter 1:3-4:  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.”