|The Watchtower claims that they are the only true organization/religion that’s approved by Jehovah God, and that they were definitively chosen in 1919|
The 144,000 is the most crucial teaching to the Witnesses, it has been with them since their inception. It divides people into two classes, the heavenly and earthly class. 144,000 becomes the foundation for the whole organization and how they relate to their members.
Today the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that only 144,000 of their people are going to make it to heaven. “Does the Bible show that some people will go to heaven? Yes, the Bible does teach that a limited number go to heaven for a special reason.” (Watchtower 2/15/1984 p.4) The odds are that the visitor at your door with the Watchtower or Awake magazine isn't one of them. I haven’t met one yet in over 20 years.
The fact is, no Jehovah Witness will go to heaven, not even the 144,000 because they do not have Jesus as their mediator in the accurate Biblical sense. This will be proven later in this article. In the meantime let us learn what they teach on the 144,000 before 1931-34 and afterwards.
Paul states in Galatians 1:6-9 that anyone, even an angel, “that preaches anything other than that which he preached, is anathema, or accursed?”
“The son of man is come to seek and save - that which is lost.” (Luke 19:10) Jesus is not excluding anyone but has open salvation to EVERYONE, not just a few. The gospel which can save people from there is so that people will be in the kingdom. The Apostles and disciples preached for people to understand that believing in Christ brought salvation. In Acts 16:30-31 In answer to the Philippian Jailer's question of “What must I do to be saved?” They responded, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”
Paul scolds the Jews who were in opposition to them, “Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved” (1 Thess. 2:16). Hmm, seems the Watchtower has repeated this same injustice to their own members. Which is a serious affront to God.
The teaching on the 144,000 the way they believe today did not come from their founder C.T. Russell. Russell taught all the members of the Watchtower were “anointed,' and the 144,000 who were Spiritual Israel having the heavenly hope.
The early Watchtower teaching was that all Jehovah’s Witnesses go to heaven. There was no paradise earth teaching, no two destinations for their members. Russell actually taught that the calling of the 144,000 was completed in 1881. “We believe that the seven years ('harvest') from the autumn of 1874 to 1881, is the time for the construction of this temple, i.e. the bringing of all the members--fruit bearing branches of the Vine-- into the perfect spiritual condition...If we are correct in this matter, it proves, in harmony with the parallelism of the Jewish and Gospel ages, not only that the door of favor to the high calling to be the 'bride'-- the temple will end in the autumn of 1881.”
“And the three and a half years following the Spring of A.D. 1878, which ended October, A.D. 1881, correspond to the three and a half years of continued favor to individual Jews in the last half of their seventieth week of favor. As in the type that date-three and a half years after the death of Christ-marked the end of all special favor to the Jew and the beginning of favor to the Gentiles, so we recognize A.D. 1881 as marking the close of the special favor to Gentiles-the close of the “high calling,” or invitation to the blessings peculiar to this age-to become joint-heirs with Christ and partakers of the divine nature.” (The Time Is At Hand 1916 ed. p.235)
Russell’s Bible students” were taught in the first issues of the Watchtower that in 1881 they would be transferred to heaven (Watchtower 1/1881 How long oh Lord?)
When this did not occur it was “spiritualized” as happening in the invisible realm. Later “Bible Students” would recognize 1881 as the official closing of the door to the 144,000 joint heirship with Christ (The New Creation (1899) 1915 edition p.95; Studies in the Scriptures Vol.3 1913 edition p.367; The Time is at Hand (1889); 1915 edition p.235).
“The undefeatable purpose of Jehovah God to establish a righteous kingdom in these last days was fulfilled in a.d. 1914,” “The climax of the centuries has been reached” (Let God Be True, pp.143,144).
Russell died in 1916 and Judge Joseph Rutherford became the new president. It was under his leadership that many things began to change, especially the teaching on the 144,000.
Rutherford (1869-1942) published The Finished Mystery, a book which predicted that in 1918 God would destroy churches and millions of their members, and claimed that by 1920 every kingdom would be swallowed up in anarchy.
Rutherford started prophesying that Armageddon was right around the corner. Using the fast approaching Armageddon the Jehovah's Witnesses worked harder than ever under Rutherford. He taught that the only way to escape the impending judgment and destruction was to join the Watchtower organization. This program continued for years.
This became the impetus to grow the organization even in modern times; making it a matter of survival by being one of the faithful Jehovah's Witnesses when Armageddon does occur.
The 144,000 continued to be taught after Russell died. To increase their membership, he began to emphasize that only 144,000 people were going to make it to heaven.
Rutherford's book Millions Now Living Will Never Die which predicted “end times” events was used in their campaign. The motivation was fear; this same fear continues to be used today in their teachings. The Jehovah’s Witnesses going door to door began to tell the people that they had better join the Watchtower before it’s too late, Armageddon is right around the corner. In the year 1919 membership rose to 4,000 and was continuing to increase.
“Obey the King Christ Jesus and flee, while there is still time, to the Kingdom heights. … Time left is short, for ‘the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near” (Let God Be True, p.144).
“Who and how many are able to enter it. The Revelation limits to 144,000 the number that become a part of the Kingdom and stand on heavenly Mount Zion” (Let God Be True, 136).
Under Russell the membership was way under 100,000 so they were safe. Russell taught the whole group of Witnesses made up the 144,000 and this was the accepted view. But this brought on another quandary, the membership began to increase
Under Rutherford, Jehovah's Witnesses grew “In 1931 there were 50,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses” (in 50 lands) ((Mankind’s Search for God p.359 1990). By 1934 they ran into a new problem, they saw they would soon reach the 144,000 number. The next several years they doubled, “In 1943 there were only 126,329 Witnesses in 54 countries” (Ibid p.360)
The Watchtower had to deal with all these extra people. Because they had been previously taught there was only one calling - all 144,000 who were Jehovah’s Witnesses were going to heaven. Rutherford had new light from God. In other words, speaking ex - cathedra like the Pope he changed their whole system. This would be the most significant change in the organizations doctrine that continues today. It has become the foundation for the great crowd to be faithful by going door to door.
At the “1935 convention in Washington, D.C.” the leaders of the Watchtower publicly proclaimed to the Jonadab class they were to inherit an earthly paradise as their eternal reward (Jehovah's Witnesses In The Divine Purpose, p. 140).
The doctrine introduced by Judge Joseph Rutherford, second President of the Watchtower said from 1935 onward, “At the end of May of that year a five-day convention of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses was in session... the president of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society discussed the subject of 'the great multitude, 'spoken of in Revelation 7.9-17, Authorized Version. He made it clear that the 'multitude' was no spiritual or spirit begotten class, would not attain the angelic nature in heaven so as to assist the 144,000 joint heirs with Christ. It was a distinctly an earthly class with hope of endless perfect human life in the earthly paradise under Christ's kingdom” (Holy Spirit, 1976, p. 156)
Everyone who became a Jehovah’s Witnesses before 1934 would go to Heaven (until Rutherford changed it). God stopped calling people to only a heavenly calling from that year. So he invented two classes, a heavenly class and earthly class. The “great crowd” class introduced by Judge Rutherford out of necessity. An earthly Great Crowd was created, a second- class of people that were subject to and dependent upon the heavenly class who alone would be part of the new covenant. Rutherford claimed that God began a new work gathering a 2nd class of people outside the body of Christ. Their hope would now be to live on paradise earth forever in their resurrected bodies (or more accurately to their teachings; recreated copies). These are now known as the other sheep. This “little flock,” the anointed ones that began with the apostles, was nearly filled by the year 1935.
This doctrinal change produced a two class system within the Watchtower that continues today. The “anointed” being privileged to be in the new covenant and the “great crowd” made up of faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses on earth. “But only 144,000 persons will be a part of the new heavens with Jesus Christ” (Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained p. 232).
Rutherford changed the sealing of the 144,000 from the original date of 1881 to 1931. “God having a fixed time for every purpose (Ecclesiastes 3:1), his time to give creatures on earth the opportunity to get in line for a heavenly reward has been from A .D. 29 until, chiefly, 1931, called the “day of salvation. It began with Jesus at Jordan and is now rapidly nearing its end”“ (Let God be True” 1952 2ed. p.298).
They promoted an “invisible resurrection for the 144,000…” “And Christians back there in the first century needed it. … At that time all of them were spirit-anointed Christians who looked forward to a future resurrection “into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (Let Your Kingdom Come” p.88)
“He [Christ] went to prepare a heavenly place for his associate heirs, ‘Christ’s body,’ for they too will be invisible spirit creatures” (Let God Be True, p.138)
This means in Jehovah’s Witness language that only the 144,000 get resurrected as spirits. 1927 - In that year the witnesses understood that the dead spiritual Israelites had been raised in 1918 to life in heaven with Christ Jesus. It was an invisible resurrection, of Course.” (From Paradise lost to Paradise Regained p.192, 195)
The 144,000 have been resurrected since 1918 when Jesus, according to Watchtower theology, moved into Jehovah's temple. “In the capacity of priests and kings of God they reign a thousand years with Christ Jesus” (Let God Be True, p.137).
This means the thousand years have begun (the millennium), which is hardly a tenable position since the tribulation had not occurred yet and neither has Armageddon, and Jesus is not here! (at least according to the Bibles description). This will be addressed later.
The Great Crowd limited to earth was invented to deal with the increase membership of the organization. Rutherford narrowed the promise of salvation and heaven to an elite group of 144,000 inside their organization. The earthly class of Jehovah’s Witnesses, being the “Great Crowd” would have to survive Armageddon and hope for the resurrection.
Thus the Watchtower fulfilled exactly what Jesus scolded the Pharisees in Matthew 23:13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”
The 144,000, called the heavenly class, go to be with Jesus in heaven, the other group, the great crowd has a greater privilege, they will live on earth in the Millennium in perfect conditions. This is why no Jehovah’s Witnesses wants to go to heaven today.
To them it is better to be on paradise earth with their family having perfect harmony with the nature (this what their drawing depict), than to be with the Lord Jesus in heaven. Members of the anointed class are an estranged group to the earthly class. Not to be able to live on the future restored paradise on earth is repulsive to the average witness, and they do not understand why anyone would not want this, than to be separate from friends and family and be banished to heaven.
Since 1934 – “Evidently it meant that the 144,000 who were called to the heavenly kingdom had been picked out by that time (1934) and that there was just a remnant of those “anointed” for the Kingdom left on earth. (Revelation 14:1-3) The flock of these heirs of God's heavenly kingdom were not to be a large flock indefinite in number, but Jesus said: “Have no fear, little flock, because your Father has approved of giving you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) NWT The number of this “little flock” being limited to 144,000 heirs of the Kingdom, the time must come when this number must be filled up and no more would be added to the anointed remnant during the “conclusion of the system of things.” Instead, the number comprising this remnant should decrease as members thereof finish their earthly course faithfully” (Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God, p. 148)
Having the number decrease was the impetus for the earthly class to work even more diligently. So it is necessary that this number is filled and completed for there to be a conclusion to the system of things.
This contradicted what they taught prior, that the only calling was for going to heaven, there was only one calling for all Jehovah Witnesses prior to 1934 -5 UNTIL Rutherford changed this. “For some 19 centuries after this there was only one calling, the heavenly one. It was an undeserved kindness that God bestowed on a limited number in furtherance of his own wise and loving purposes” (United in Worship of the only True God p.111)
From Pentecost onward they taught there was but one calling for all Christians! Russell passed away in 1916 never dreaming his members would be divided into two classes earthly and heavenly.
The doctrine was developing –in flux. Titles they use for the 144,000 are ‘spiritual Israelites,’ ‘the Body of Christ, 'the mighty God,’ ‘God's spiritual children and heirs,’ ‘spirit-anointed congregation,’ the 'little flock.’ 'sons' and 'spirit-begotten Christians.'
“In the two Watchtower Publications Index 1930- 60; 61-1965, under subject “Congregation of God” there is a listing of 19 names or titles in which the figure of 144,000 is included. This means that when a reference is made to the names or titles of this 19 group, the Watchtower is speaking of the one and same group.
Here is the way it appears in these two books:
(also called Anointed, Body of Christ, Bride of Christ, Chosen Ones, Elect, Holy Nation, Israel of God, Kingdom Class, Little Flock, New Creation, New Nation, 144,000, Royal House, Royal Priesthood, Sanctuary Class, Sons of Levi, Spirit Begotten, Spiritual Israel, Spiritual Sons.) (source: Outnumbered – exploding the myth of the 144,000 by Russell Warren)
This number, which is literal, represents a limited group of believers who are to become spirit sons of Jehovah. Their interpretation of being “born again” is exclusive for a limited number of Jehovah's Witnesses that are willing to become the 144,000. Called “the little flock” taken from Christ's statement, “Fear not, little flock...” (Luke 12:32. The other Jehovah Witnesses are not part of this group, they are known as “other sheep” I have which are not of this fold...” (John 10:16). The “little flock” are to be spirit sons that will be in heaven ruling with Christ, the “other sheep” (the majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses) are to be physical inhabitants of the restored earth.
The Watchtower revisions their former position “Prior to the 1930's, many of God's people were somewhat uncertain about their hope for future life. Some had thoughts about heavenly life but were fascinated by Bible teachings about a paradise earth” (Watchtower 2001 Jan. 15 p. 19)
Prior to the 1930's it was clearly understood they were to go to heaven. It was not until Rutherford introduced changes to their doctrine that there was uncertainty on this matter.
From the beginning Russell taught the Jehovah’s Witnesses that “…The new covenant is a thing of the future” (Watchtower 6/1880 p.110) “…The work of the Christ in the inauguration of the new covenant could not begin until the perfecting of his own body, which is the church… and all of his blood has not yet been shed.” (Watchtower 4/1/1909 p.4367)
Judge Rutherford took away their pseudo-heavenly hope and had them focus on a earthly paradise.
“We understand that this heavenly calling continued down through the centuries, though during the so-called Dark Ages, there may have been times when the number of anointed ones were very few. With the reestablishment of true Christianity near the end of the last century, more were called and chosen. But it seems that in the mid-1930's, the full number of the 144,000 was basically completed. Thus there began to appear a group of loyal Christians with the earthly hope. Jesus termed such “other sheep,” who unite in worship with the anointed as one approved flock.” (Watchtower Aug. 15, 1996 p.31)
The Watchtower Societies position is that it has nearly reached completed 144,000 number in 1935. There would only be a few left to complete the number. Jehovah’s Witnesses born after 1935 were taught that their only hope in the next life is to be part of the earthly “great crowd.”