Who actually are the 144, 000 people spoken of in this passage?
Christian commentators appear to be divided as to whether these are solely Jewish Christians or include Gentiles. However there is general agreement amongst them that the number of 144 thousand is symbolic of what is probably a much larger number.
The Watchtower on the other hand teach that the number of 144,000 is literal, and no other people will be allowed into heaven. Their expectation is that the number will comprise of individuals from early centuries, with final numbers I am given to understand being made up from the Watchtower organization.
A glorified earth will be provided for the much greater number of their followers who remain faithful to the teachings and practices of the organization. Basically then they have a two tier system, the relatively small number of elite going to heaven whilst the remainder of those eligible remaining on a new earth.
The closer we look at Scripture however, the more difficult it becomes to retain any credibility for this teaching.
The following is apparent: -
The two tier system falls at the first hurdle when we look at Revelation 7:9 where we see the so called “earthly class” of the Watchtower, are not actually upon earth, but standing before the throne in heaven. I remember showing this to a visiting Jehovah’s Witness and his answer was to quote Isaiah 66:1 – Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is my home and the earth is my footstool. He would not accept that this was simply a figure of speech (as is
Psalm 108:9 Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I cast out my shoe).
The second point is that the two tier doctrine has to be supported illogically, by interpreting half the detail in the passage as literal and the other half as symbolic, leaving us with a serious credibility problem.
A further problem with pursuing the literal 144,000 is that according to Revelation 14:3 &4 they clearly would not include any women or married men. They would therefore be excluded from heaven. Something is clearly wrong with this Watchtower doctrine.
Finally the concept of a kingdom on earth as a final destination for man is not found in the teaching of Jesus or in the writings of the Apostles. What we do find are clear references to the Kingdom of heaven as a final destination for all those who have received Christ and become children of God (John 1:12).
However, leaving aside what has been prepared for those who have been reconciled to God through His Son, it is of critical importance that you and I are among that number.
In Matthew 7:21 Jesus says that not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the Kingdom of heaven. In verse 22 He speaks of the reasons many will give to justify their entry, which are all based on their works. They speak of their works as a qualification of entry – Jesus however speaks of relationship!
In verse 23, in saying I never knew you He clearly does not mean I didn’t know of your existence, but, I never knew you as belonging to me or knew you as my disciple. Or as one commentator has rightly said – for Christ to say “I never knew you”, was another way of saying “You never knew me”.
This passage shows in summary the two reasons why those following Watchtower teaching have no place in His Kingdom and are excluded from any provision for His people.
Firstly, works. Just as those in Matthew 7:22, followers of the Watchtower are looking to works to be finally justified and accepted. The Scriptures make it very clear that this can never be so. Ephesians 2:8&9 is one of the many places speaking of this, where we see that it is only by grace through faith that we can be justified. It is spoken of here also as a gift, and not of works.
Romans 4: verses 4 to 8 tells us that trying to work for righteousness and acceptance leaves us still in debt to God, with a lifetime of unforgiven sin to give account for.
Secondly, relationship. Followers of the Watchtower place their faith in the supposed sacrificial death as a ransom of a created being – the Archangel Michael, whilst strongly denying the existence of a divine Son of God. Not therefore recognizing the true identity of Jesus they are unable to enter into the relationship spoken of in John 1:12.
Practising Jehovah’s Witnesses therefore will inevitably find themselves in the dire position of those in Matthew 7:23 on the coming great day of judgment. If you are presently one of them the good news is that the day of grace or opportunity is at this moment still open for you to believe on Jesus as the divine Son of God, receive Him as Saviour and Lord and be reconciled with God.
(For further information and comment on the Person of Jesus see “Who is Jesus” on this website, posted Feb.22nd 2011)