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144.000 JW's Going to Heaven?
Of all the peculiar doctrines or teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses their thoughts on the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation is probably one of the most recognized. Unfortunately most Witnesses have never thought the teaching through or examined the Watchtowers history on the subject.
There are some key ideas which the Watchtower Society is built on. Some of them are the 1914 date at which time Michael was to have begun to reign in heaven, the 1935 date which they claim was the year when the number of the "anointed class" was completing for all practical purposes. the preaching of the "Kingdom" throughout the world, which includes the "new earth," organization, governing body, and "new light,"just to name a few.
But all of these concepts are built upon the foundational teaching that only 144,000 are "anointed" and that some of them are living today. However, if it can be proven that not one of the 144,000 "anointed" could have lived in the 20th century, then all of the rest of the building blocks in the superstructure of the Watchtower Society crumbles.
A close look at the Bible and Watchtower writings clearly prove that if only 144.000 are among those who are "anointed" and go to heaven, that this number was filled early in the history of the Christian church.
The Watchtower teaches that since Pentecost of 33 C.E. Jehovah God has been selecting those who are to make up the 144,000 who are to reign with Michael in heaven. They further teach that the thousands mentioned in the Book of Acts who became Christians are included in this number. (See The Watchtower, June 15, 1970, page 382.)
A careful reading of the Book of Acts reveals that there were many thousands in the early church, which of course was the true church. For example, in Acts 2:41, 3,000 were added. 2:47 "daily those being saved." 4:4 "about five thousand." 9:42, 17:12, & 19:18 "many." 13:48, "All those who were rightly disposed for everlasting life became believers." and 26:10 says there were "Many of the holy ones."
But the most important verse of all is Acts 21:20 which reads, "You behold, brother, how many myriads [in the Greek] of believers there are among the Jews.""[The same word 'myriads" is used in the text in Jude 14 in the New world Translation. There is a footnote in the large revised 1984 edition which says. "holy tens of thousands.")
Thus James, whom the Watchtower says was one the members of the governing body, said that there were "many tens of thousands of believers".
He could easily be talking about fifty thousand or many more true believers just among the Jews. By adding those mentioned in the Book of Acts alone, the number of the anointed would easily be 100.000. That doesn't leave many of the 144,000 left.
The early Christian church was made up exclusively of Jews who would be both physical and spiritual Jews. This number is believed to have been at least 250,000 and might have been as high as one million. Thus if only 144.000 go to heaven, then the number would have easily been filled in the first century.
It is well known that true Christianity spread to most of the known world of that day, so this would ad many Gentiles to the number of the true church. Here a quote from the Watchtower publications Revelation Climax on page 62 helps us to understand something of the growth of the early church where they us give the following quote. "
."..growing out of the rapid extension of Christianity and the consequent rage of the heathen population within his providence."
Thus we see that not only was there a large number of Jewish believers, but there was also "the rapid extension of Christianity" among the Gentiles which would greatly enlarge the number of the first century Christians.
More light is shed on this subject in the 1993 Watchtower publication JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, On page 31 they write,
"They [Christians carried out a disciple making work with outspokenness and zeal; as a result, literally thousands of persons abandoned false religions systems and became Christians."
This was not speaking about Jews, but about Gentiles. Again we note that "thousands" were converted to Christianity, further increasing the number of Christians.
Another quote from the same book on page 32 is very important. It reads.
"History confirms that persecution by authorities of the Roman Empire failed to stamp out the early Christian witness of Jehovah."
On the same page there is a picture of martyrs dying in a Roman coliseum. It is believed that at least 250,000 died as martyrs during this early persecution.
Charles Russell confirms this persecution in the book The Finished Mystery on page 27 where he wrote about this Roman persecution and said that in the year 95 C.E. alone there were 40,000 who suffered martyrdom.
History also shows us that there was great persecution of the Christians under the Roman Emperor Diocletian from February 23, A.D. 303 to June 13, A.D. 313.
Again in the book The Finished Mystery on page 29 we learn of the extent of this persecution where (Charles Russell claims there were 861,000 martyrs in this ten year period alone. We know that all of the true Christians would not be martyred so the number of Christians, even in the fourth century. would have been very large.
By adding up all these number of true Christians it would come into the million which is far greater than 144,000. Rev. 20:4 says.
"Yes. I saw the souls of those executed with the ax [martyrs] for the witness they bore to Jesus and for speaking about God, and those who had worshiped neither the wild beast nor its image and who had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand. And they came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ [Michael] for a thousand years."
The Bible says that these martyrs are the ones who live and reign with Christ in heaven for one thousand years. (The Bible never identifies the l44,000 as living and reigning with Christ. Only in Rev. 20:4 and 6 do we have an identification of those who live and reign with Christ.)
In the June 15, 1970 Watchtower on page 383 it identifies those who die as martyr's as being among the anointed.
The evidence is very conclusive from Watchtower publications that if only 144,000 are "anointed" and go to heaven that this number was filled very early in the history of the Christian church. There are two arguments I have found given by the Watchtower Society trying to prove that the 144,000 were not filled in the early church.
(1) The first is found in the Dec. 15, 1988 Watchtower on page 9 which reads, "
Thus, beginning particularly at Pentecost 33 C.E.. a second invitation was extended to the despised and lowly ones of the Jewish nation. But not enough responded to fill the l44,000- places in God's heavenly Kingdom."
But this clearly is not in harmony with the Bible. As we saw before. in Acts 21:20. James said that there were
"many tens of thousands of believers among the Jews."
Then there were many more Jews that were believers besides those mentioned in the Book of Acts. So this statement of the Watchtower Society clearly contradicts the Bible.
(2) The second and most commonly used excuse used by Jehovah's witnesses is found in the Oct. 15, 1988 Watchtower on page 12. They say,
"Moreover, after the first century a great apostasy set in, and the priestly anointed Christians were surrounded by flourishing "weeds, apostates."
This can very easily be shown to not be a valid argument from a number of ways through Watchtower publications. As we noted before, on page 29 of The Finished Mystery, Charles Russell said there were 861,000 Christian martyrs from A.D. 303 to 313 alone.
So there had to be a very strong church up to the fourth century to have so many Christians who were faithful unto death. But not all the Christians were martyred at this time.
Again we turn to Charles Russell and page 30 of The Finished Mystery for proof. He wrote about the Arian controversy that brought about the Nicene council in A.D. 325. The Watchtower Society believes that Arius had the truth and since he had so many followers to have enough influence to cause the Nicene Council to be called. this would reveal that there were still many Christians even after 861,000 were martyred in first part of the fourth century.
However, if we take what the Watchtower said was true that "a great apostasy" had set in after the first century, and there were 861,000 true Christians still living in the year 303 A.D., this would prove that the number of Christians in the first century had to be in the many millions if there were still millions left in the fourth century.
This also proves that the number of l44,000 would have been filled early in the first century if only 144,000 are of the anointed and go to heaven.
But there is still another way to prove from Watchtower writings that there could not have been "a great apostasy" like they claim. In the book Revelation Climax on pages 113-119 in chapter 19 titled "Sealing the Israel of God" they state that those who are among the "anointing" have a special sealing and protection so that the greater majority of them will make it to heaven.
After using 2 Cor.1:21, and some other verses. they say.
"Thus, when these slaves are adopted as God's spiritual sons, they receive a token in advance of their heavenly inheritance--a seal, or pledge."
There is another statement in an article on this subject in the Dec. 1, 1973 Watchtower on pages 730-733 titled "Sealing' of the chosen ones." The article explains this sealing and uses Eph.1:13. So the Watchtower Society clearly teaches that the "anointed" have a sealing which entities them to a special protection from God and the assurance of being among the heavenly class.
But probably the strongest statement is found in the Feb. 1,1982 Watchtower on page 28 in an article which discusses the condition of the anointed. We read.
"Of course, any individuals [meaning any anointed] proving unfaithful would need to be replaced. But understandably, these would be comparatively few."
Since the Watchtower teaches those who would become "apostate" among the anointed would be "comparatively few" because of this special "sealing", the argument that many fell away in the early church is not valid and contradicts their own publications.
The above material proves conclusively that it was impossible for any of the l44,000 to have lived even in the second century let alone in the 20th century.
The Watchtower teaches that all the members of the Governing Body must be of the "anointed' class." In the Dec.15.1971 Watchtower in an article describing the "Theocratic Organization" it says on page 758,
"Let us keep in mind that the governing body must be made up of dedicated, baptized Christians who are anointed with God's spirit, and are begotten by Him to be his spiritual children, and who are to be united with the glorified Jesus Christ in the heavenly kingdom."
Since all the members of the Governing Body of the Watchtower Society must be of the "anointed" class, and since it is impossible for any of the "anointed", 144,000 to be living today, this leaves the Watchtower with out any authority or direction from God.