Bible Topics
in the Christian Library
The 144,000 In Heaven

Revelation 7:4; 14:1

John L. Kachelman, Jr.


I. Our Bibles are opened to an amazing section of John's vision. 4 angels stand at the 4 corners of the earth ready to send God's wrath upon sinful man. As they begin they are suddenly stopped with a command to wait until the saved are protected with a seal on their forehead. The number sealed was 144,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel. These are to receive the blessings of heaven (v. 15-17). As John surveys this great multitude he is asked, "Who are these?" That is the focus of our present study.

II. The 144,000 of Rev 7 & 14 have caused great discussion. 

1. Especially the Jehovah's Witness sect emphasizes this number. In fact, the entire doctrinal system of the Jehovah Witnesses is founded upon the 144,000 being a literal number. If you have ever read their literature or talked at length with them you know this is true.

2. The fact of this number a topic of debate ought to motivate all believers to study it with intensity. We have an obligation to know what is meant and how it applies to us today (1 Peter 3:15).


I. A brief discussion of the Jehovah Witness' doctrine based upon this number.

A. Chas T. Russell prophesied that in 1914 the world would end with Armageddon being fought. Before Armageddon destroyed the world Christ was to return and take the 144,000 to heaven. Following Armageddon the saintly dead would be resurrected and enjoy a renewed earth (New Paradise). This second group, not taken to heaven, would be called "the Great Multitude." Those living on earth would form the Kingdom of Christ.

B. Although Russell's prophecy failed, the error of his prophecy continues.

1. Regarding the 144,000 - "These are the only ones whom Jehovah God takes to heaven with His Son. All others who gain life in His new world will live in Paradise restored here on earth" (1958).

2. The 2 groups are supposedly found in Rev 7:4, 9. The "heavenly class" will be the 144,000 and the "earthly class" is called "the Great Multitude."

3. To offer the illusion of Scriptural support John 10:16 is cited. The "other sheep" are supposed to be the Great Multitude on earth. Such is destroyed with the last phrase "one flock," not two!

C. Such twisting of Scripture is effective in stirring confusion. What is a simple picture is thus distorted!

II. The Jehovah Witness' interpretation is error as the following points will show. If it can be shown that the 144,000 and Great Multitude are not 2 distinct groups but only one, the error will be clear!

A. They are both before the Throne and the throne is in heaven! 

1. Rv 7:15, 17 - the Great Multitude is before the throne; Rv 14:3 the 144,000 before the throne.

2. Rv 7: 15 - the Great Multitude serve him before the throne in the Temple. The Temple is in heaven (Rv 11:19); the throne is in heaven (Rv 4:2). How can the Great Multitude serve in heaven if the Jehovah Witness' doctrine is correct?

3. Thus, both serve God in heaven, before the throne, and in the Temple - they are the same group!

B. The Great Multitude is dressed in "white robes" (7:9, 13, 14). 

1. But the 144,000 are also clothed in white robes (Rv 22:14). 

2. Thus, all who have their robes washed in the blood of Christ will enter into heaven. There is thus only ONE group not 2!

C. To claim there are 2 groups of saved saints contradicts Scripture.

1. John 10:16 - does not teach 2 groups, but one!

2. Ephesians 2:15,16; 4:4; Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:13 - all unite in stating there is only ONE group of saved believers!

3. If there is a heavenly group and an earthly group then Ephesians 4:4 is wrong! Instead of one there must be two!

D. If the Great Multitude is NOT in heaven they are lost! 

1. Rv 22:15 - One is either "within" or "without," in heaven or eternally lost! There is no other alternative.

2. Note: Jehovah Witnesses say the "new city" will be on the "new earth." If you are on the earth you will be "without." But 22:3 tells us where this city is found -- where God's throne is (in heaven)!

E. A literal 144,000 demands acceptance of absurdities with other symbols in Rv 7 and 14.

1. The Jehovah Witnesses want to pick and choose what is literal and what is symbolic. But it just cannot be reasonable!

2. If one symbol is literal, all must be literal!

a. Rv 7 - 4 corners of the world; seal on the forehead; physical Israel alone saved in heaven; only 12,000 from every tribe; the tribe of Dan is excluded.

b. Rv 14 - virgin Jewish men are the only ones able to be saved in heaven.

3. No reasonable person expects all to be literal. Why then expect the 144,000 to be literal unless you are trying to twist Scripture to fit a preconceived doctrine?

F. A doctrine of 2 different groups ignores the Scriptural teaching about the establishment of the Kingdom.

1. The Jehovah Witnesses claim that Christ is not reigning and will not reign until His Kingdom is established on earth with the Great Multitude.

2. But Acts 2:30 states that when Christ ascended He began to reign as a King!

3. If the Bible is true, and Christ began His reign on Pentecost Acts 2, then the Jehovah Witness' doctrine is false!

III. A suggested explanation of the 144,000.

A. Rv 7 is describing 2 different actions and not two different groups.

1. 7:4 - John "heard" the number and in 7:9 he "saw" the group. The 2 are the same.

2. How would you describe a mass of 144,000? It would be impossible to count them. The only one who would know is God.

3. Such happened to John - he first heard the number and then saw the multitudes. Only one group not 2!

4. Such a meaning is correct - in heaven the occupants will be from ALL nations (21:26) as described in 7:9.

B. The numerical symbolism is a definite number for an indefinite number.

1. 12 stands as a symbol of God's people - 12 tribes of Israel represented ALL of God's covenant people, even though the tribe of Dan is omitted. A multiplication would express all of God's saved, not one was missing.

2. 10 stands for completeness and 10 x 10 represented total complete ness -- nothing lacking.

3. Thus 12 x 12 x 10 x 10 x 10 is a way of simple stating that all of God's saved believers were present -- none were missing!

C. When viewed as symbolic, and not literal, this number unites with the other symbols in Rv 7 and 14 to provide cheer and comfort for struggling saints.

1. It reveals the care of God for all who obey Him. 

2. It shows that God provides for His church in spite of this world's tribulations.

3. In the end God and His children who remained devoted to God's will and refuse to compromise with sin will stand victorious over Satan. All faithful will be saved, none will be missing!


I. The Scriptures teach there are only two groups in the spiritual realm -- the saved and the lost. This is a tragic point to contemplate if you are among the unsaved. It is a beautiful fact if you have been washed pure in the blood of the Lamb.

II. One of the worse facts about a literal 144,000 as advocated by the Jehovah Witnesses is that they have an "earthly hope." How terribly sad! (Colossians 1:5).

Copyright 1998 by John L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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