The 144,000

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: Revelation 14:1-5


I.         The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the kingdom of heaven will be established after the “end times” with 144,000 faithful saints chosen by God to becomes spirits and to rule with Christ for the millennium.

            A.        These rulers, they say, will govern the earth on which will dwell resurrected humans along with the animals.

            B.        “Hence, 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.” [The Watchtower, September 1, 2004, page 31]

            C.        They justify these beliefs by citing Revelation 7:4 and Revelation 14:1-3

II.        Problems with Symbols

            A.        Revelation is written in symbolic language - Revelation 1:1

                        1.         Great care must be taken not to assign literal means to symbolic language.

            B.        Reading the context of Revelation 7:1-12

                        1.         If we say that the 144,000 is literal, then we must conclude that they are all Jewish since they all come from tribes of Israel

                        2.         These people are located on the earth, as oppose to the great multitude who are before the throne of God in heaven (and these people come from every nation)

            C.        Reading the context of Revelation 14:1-5

                        1.         Again we find them on the earth, standing on Mount Zion (Jerusalem) with the Lamb.

                        2.         We also learn that they have not defiled themselves with women, so a literal reading requires us to conclude that they are all virgins and only males will be in the number.

            D.        Interestingly, Jehovah’s Witnesses state that Peter is one of the 144,000. He is Jewish and a male, but since he had a wife (I Corinthians 9:5), he wasn’t a virgin.

            E.        The conclusion is that these are symbolic passages.

                        1.         The numbers given

                        2.         The tribes

                        3.         The lack of defilement

                        4.         All represent ideas

III.       Problems with the Resurrection

            A.        The Jehovah’s Witnesses have some raised as earthly people and others raised as spiritual beings.

            B.        But Paul says we will all be spiritual beings - I Corinthians 15:42-53

            C.        To get around this, the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that this passage only speaks of the 144,000, but such a limitation is not mentioned or even hinted at in this passage.

                        1.         Instead Paul clearly states it applies to everyone - I Corinthians 15:51-52

                        2.         This is supported by I John 3:2 which also states that we will be transformed.

            D.        In the resurrection, the righteous join Jesus to be with him - I Thessalonians 4:16-17

IV.      Problems with the Kingdom

            A.        Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world - John 18:36

            B.        Jehovah’s Witnesses have Jesus being given authority and the kingdom in the future

                        1.         But Jesus already has all authority - Matthew 28:18

                        2.         The end is when Jesus gives his kingdom back to the Father - I Corinthians 15:20-28

            C.        Paul states the kingdom exists because we have entered it - Colossians 1:13

            D.        One passage cited to talk about their paradise on earth is Isaiah 65:21-23

                        1.         It is a beautiful description

                        2.         But as often is the case, there is a flaw when we read the context - Isaiah 65:20

                                    a.         People still die!

                                    b.         Oh, but did you notice this description says there are still sinners in this world!

                                    c.         But Jehovah’s Witnesses say that in their earthly paradise, sin will be cleansed from the world.

V.        Heaven is not for a select few righteous people

            A.        There is an inheritance awaiting - I Peter 1:3-4

            B.        There are many mansions in heaven - John 14:2-3

            C.        Who are the 144,000?

                        1.         They represent God’s elect people currently on earth at any one time.

                        2.         These are the people sealed (protected) from the tribulation to be brought against the earth - Revelation 7:1-2

                                    a.         But they sealing will not protect them from being martyred - Revelation 11:7

                                    b.         It only a protection against the harm to the earth, which was held off for a while until the people are sealed - Revelation 7:3

                        3.         They are a spiritual Israel - James 1:1; I Peter 1:1; Galatians 6:16; Philippians 3:3

            D.        Who are the great multitude? - Revelation 7:13

                        1.         They came out of the tribulation - Revelation 7:14

                        2.         They weren’t sealed, implying they no longer needed protection

                        3.         They are with the angels before the throne of God - Revelation 7:15

                        4.         These are the redeemed from all ages, gathered before God to sing His great praises.

            E.        You and I can be a part of that great throng – not by following the man-made doctrine of a false religion, but conforming our lives to the will of God as taught in His book.

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