Is the New Covenant Only for a Group of 144,000 People?

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IS THE NEW COVENANT ONLY FOR A GROUP OF 144,000 PEOPLE? —15 Questions to Ask Jehovah’s Witnesses on the 144,000 and the Great Crowd

Of all of the doctrinal topics one can discuss with Jehovah’s Witnesses, nothing is more essential than the identity of Jesus Christ and the issues related to salvation and eternal life. Jehovah’s Witnesses have a two-class system of salvation in which they divide their followers into two groups. They call the first group the “little flock” and limit it to 144,000 members, and they call the second group the “great crowd” which is open to the rest of the population of mankind. When examining what they believe about this two-class system of salvation, it is here that we discover the greatest hole in Watchtower theology because there is not a single Scripture that supports their unique views on this issue.Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that all of the privileges associated with the New Covenant belong only to the first group of 144,000 people. It is claimed that most of the followers in this first group (with few exceptions) have been appointed between Pentecost 33 A.D. and the year 1935. 1. The New Covenant privileges given to this group of 144,000 include the ability to be born again, to be spiritually adopted into God’s family, to be able to approach Jesus as personal “Mediator” between them and God, the ability to partake in the Lord’s Evening Meal (Lord’s Supper), and the hope of resurrection to life in heaven.

Since the majority of Jehovah’s Witness today are told that they do not belong to this group of 144,000, most consider themselves members of the second group, the “great crowd. They do not believe the New Covenant privileges apply to them. Rather, they are taught to view the Mediator relationship between Jesus Christ and the 144,000 as extending only two benefits to them—namely, the forgiveness of sins and the opportunity to approach God in prayer. Thus, most of the people in this second group are content to consider a resurrection to earthly life under the rule of Jesus Christ and His 144,000 “little flock” as the highest spiritual level to which they may attain.

One can easily see how viewing salvation through this two-class system causes most Jehovah’s Witnesses to discount the majority of the New Covenant promises given in the Bible. This creates a serious problem because the Bible is very clear that if one excludes himself from the New Covenant, he excludes himself from eternal life and places himself beyond the saving forgiveness offered in the blood of Christ. Using the following questions and verses listed below, one can easily demonstrate to a Jehovah’s Witness the seriousness of their spiritual views on this two-class system of salvation:

15 QUESTIONS TO ASK JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES ON THE 144,000 AND THE GREAT CROWD

1. Where in the Bible does it say that the 144,000 are the ONLY people in heaven?

Revelation 7:3-8 and Revelation 14:1-5 are the ONLY two passages in the Bible that mention the 144,000. While Revelation 14:3 describes the 144,000 as being before the throne of God in heaven, Jehovah’s Witnesses have a hard time trying to prove from this verse that this group is the ONLY group of people in heaven because the Bible NEVER says this. By asking the above question, you will help them realize that the Watchtower has built an entire theology with NO Scriptural backing! To further emphasize this point, when they appeal to these and any other Scriptures to try to support their beliefs about a two-class system of salvation, follow-up by repeatedly asking the above question. The examples given below will help you respond to their common objections:

  • OBJECTION 1: Jehovah’s Witnesses may argue that heaven has to be limited to 144,000 because if every Christian goes to heaven, there will be no people left upon the earth for the heavenly group to rule “over” when paradise earth becomes a reality under the 1,000 year reign of Christ. In response to this objection, simply ask:
    • Don’t you believe there will be earthly survivors of God’s Battle of Armageddon? Why can’t resurrected Christians rule over them? Since these survivors will continue to have children with successive generations populating the new earth, don’t you think there will be plenty of people on earth for Christians to rule over for the entire 1,000-year reign of Christ without limiting heaven to only 144,000 people?

Most Jehovah’s Witnesses will see your point and agree that Armageddon survivors will provide enough people for Christians to rule over from heaven. But whether they agree to this or not, continue to press them for Biblical proof for their views by asking your question again: “Where in the Bible does it say that the 144,000 are the ONLY people in heaven?

  • OBJECTION 2: They may quote John 3:13 that says: “Moreover, no man has ascended into heaven but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man.” This is used to try to prove that since no person went to heaven before Jesus Christ, heaven is not meant for the majority of humankind. This is an easy objection to answer because Jesus is the One who paid the price for sin so that mankind would be able to dwell in God’s presence (in heaven). This is why no human went to heaven prior Christ. 2. Thus, this verse does NOT prove that the 144,000 are the only people in heaven, nor does it prove that heaven was not designed for humans to dwell in after death. Remind them that Jesus said He would go to prepare a place in heaven for His followers (John 14:2-3). So again you can ask, “Where does it say in the Bible that heaven is limited to ONLY 144,000 people?”
  • OBJECTION 3: They may argue that since God created the earth for the righteous to dwell in “forever” (Psalm 37:29), He intends for people to dwell “forever” upon the earth in their resurrected bodies. They may ask you why God would create a new heaven and a new earth to be the home of the righteous (2 Peter 3:13), if He wanted all Christian believers to dwell with Him in heaven instead. To answer this objection, simply reply with something like this:
    • Where does Psalm 37:29 say that the righteous who will be dwelling upon the earth are resurrected dead people? Why can’t these people be mortal humans who will be dwelling upon the land “forever” through their successive generations who will continue to populate the earth after their death?
    • Also, where in the Bible does it say that those who resurrect to heavenly life will not be able to travel back and forth between the new heaven and the new earth? Since Jesus was able to travel back and forth between heaven and earth in His resurrected body (Acts 1:11), why won’t all Christians be able to do the same when the new heaven and the new earth become a reality? Why can’t these resurrected righteous people dwell in both places if they are able to travel back and forth between both heaven and earth? Again, where does the Bible say that heaven is limited to ONLY 144,000 people?

As you answer each of their objections (above) and continue to press them for a verse that supports this fundamental Watchtower teaching about the 144,000, Jehovah’s Witnesses will usually become agitated. They may ask you to prove that there are more than 144,000 in heaven. This next question will demonstrate how the 24 elders are an additional group of people who dwell in heaven next to the 144,000. After that, you can ask several more questions (below) that will prove that the “great crowd” of Revelation 7 and 19 are also in heaven. These questions will greatly challenge the Jehovah’s Witness viewpoint about the “great crowd” being a group of people who will resurrect only to early life.

2. At Revelation 14:3, we read that the 144,000 will sing a new song “before…the elders.” We also read about the 24 elders being in heaven at Revelation 4:4, 10-11; 5:8-10, 14; 11:16 and 19:4. Doesn’t the fact that the 144,000 sing a new song “before” the 24 elders prove that the 24 elders are a separate group of people who exist in heaven alongside the 144,000? Again, can you show me a single verse in the Bible that says that ONLY 144,000 people are in heaven?

“And they are singing as if a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one was able to master that song but the hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been bought from the earth.” — Revelation 14:3 3.

3. At Revelation 7:9-15, we read of a “great crowd” which no man is able to number and that has members from every nation of humankind. When the 24 elders at verse 13 ask where this group of people came “from,” the answer given in verses 14-15 states that these people came “out of the great tribulation,” are standing “before the throne of God,” and are serving Him “day and night in his temple.” According to Revelation 11:19, is the location of this “temple” of God in Heaven or on Earth?

“And the temple [sanctuary] of God that is in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen in his temple [sanctuary].”— Revelation 11:19

Jehovah’s Witnesses may try to argue that the “temple” in Revelation 7:15 speaks of a temple that includes the outer court that they claim is upon the earth. In this way, they may argue that that the “great crowd” is only serving in the outer courtyard (earthly) section of the temple. To answer this argument, point out that the Greek word hi-e-ron’ for temple that includes the outer courtyard of the temple is NOT the word used here in this passage. Rather, the Greek word na-os’ used in Revelation 11:19 for the inner “sanctuary” part of the temple is the SAME Greek word used for the temple here in Revelation 7:15. 4. Thus, the “great crowd” is serving in the inner “sanctuary” portion of God’s temple in heaven, not some outer courtyard.

4. At Revelation 7:16 we read that the great crowd “…will hunger no more nor thirst anymore, neither will the sun beat down upon them nor any scorching heat.” Since hunger, thirst and the heat of the sun describe conditions upon the earth, how can the “great crowd” exist upon the earth without these conditions? Doesn’t this description of the location of the “great crowd” indicate that they are in heaven instead of earth?

5. Does Revelation 19:1 say the “great crowd” is “in heaven” or upon the earth?

“After these things I heard what was as a loud voice of a great crowd in heaven. They said: “Praise Jah, YOU people! The salvation and the glory and the power belong to our God.” — Revelation 19:1

Jehovah’s Witnesses may try to argue that the “great crowd” mentioned in Revelation 19 is not the same “great crowd” of Revelation 7. Rather, they may claim that this “great crowd” in Revelation 19 is a group of angles instead of humans. If they say this, simply reply by asking the following question:

  • If this “great crowd” of Revelation 19:1 are angels, why are they singing of the “salvation” of our God? Angles never sinned so they don’t need to be saved, do they? Again, can you show me a single verse in the Bible that says that the 144,000 are the ONLY people in heaven?

By this point, most Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have anything to say and they often give up the discussion because they have been unable to prove their belief about the 144,000 from the Bible. It is here that you can shift the discussion into how the Watchtower claim that the 144,000 are the only people in the New Covenant seriously affects their salvation.

6. Do you consider yourself to be a member of the New Covenant arrangement? Why or Why Not?

“…only the 144,000… have properly partaken of the emblems during the Memorial of Jesus’ death, and only with them did Jesus make his covenant… Members of the great crowd are not participants in the new covenant.” —The Watchtower, February 1, 1998, p. 19

“WHAT JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES BELIEVE… Only a little flock of 144,000 go to heaven and rule with ChristThe 144,000 are born again as spiritual sons of God… New covenant is made with spiritual Israel…” —JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES Who Are they? What Do They Believe?, 2000, p. 13

“On the night before his death… when he established the celebration of the Lord’s Evening Meal, Jesus Christ announced the new covenant, to be validated by his sacrifice. …The parties of the new covenant are Jehovah, on one side, and ‘the Israel of God,’ the spirit-begotten ones in union with Christ, making up his congregation of body, on the other side. …When one is selected by God for the heavenly calling (Heb 3:1), God brings that one into His covenant over Christ’s sacrifice. …Jesus Christ is the Mediator of the new covenant…” —Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 1, 1988, p. 524

Jesus Christ is not the Mediator between Jehovah God and all mankind. He is the Mediator between his heavenly Father, Jehovah God, and the nation of spiritual Israel, which is limited to only 144,000 members.” —Worldwide Security Under the “Prince of Peace,” 1986, p. 10

As is clear by the above quotes from official Watchtower publications, any Jehovah’s Witness who does not consider himself to be a member of the 144,000 has been taught to exempt himself from being a part of the New Covenant. Thus, the majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses you meet will answer your question with a “No” because they do not believe that they belong to this group of 144,000.

7. Where in the Bible does it say that the 144,000 are the ONLY people in the New Covenant?

As in the last section of questions where you challenge Jehovah’s Witnesses to prove from the Bible that only 144,000 people are in heaven, they will be unable to point to a single verse in the Bible that says that the New Covenant is limited to ONLY 144,000 people. They will show you verses that demonstrate that the New Covenant is made with spiritual Israel (Jeremiah 31:13; Hebrews 8:8, 10), and they may try to connect the number of the 144,000 to the New Covenant by referencing Revelation 7:1-8 and Revelation 14:1-5. Yet, none of these verses claim that the New Covenant is limited to 144,000 people. In fact, the sealing of the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation 7:3-4 occurs in the middle of the Great Tribulation and is done to protect the 144,000 from the plagues that will come upon the earth (see Revelation 7:1-3). Since the Tribulation has yet to occur, this sealing hasn’t even taken place yet! It certainly cannot refer to a sealing for the New Covenant because that has been in operation since Christ’s death and resurrection, and there is no reference to the New Covenant in either Revelation 7 or 14. So, again the Jehovah’s Witnesses you meet will be unable to find a single verse in the Bible that supports their view that ONLY 144,000 people are appointed to the New Covenant.

8. According to 1 John 5:1, how many people are “born of God”?

Everyone believing that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God, and everyone who loves the one that caused to be born loves him who has been born from that one.”

9. Since the born again experience is a prerequisite to being in the New Covenant, and since “everyone” is able to be “born of God” as spiritual sons, doesn’t this indicate that the New Covenant is open to ALL believers in Jesus Christ, not just to a select group of 144,000? What did Jesus say one must have in order to “see” God’s Kingdom?

“In answer Jesus said to him: ‘Most truly I say to you, Unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. …What has been born from the flesh is flesh, and what has been born from the spirit is spirit. Do not marvel because I told you, YOU people must be born again.’ ”—John 3:3, 6-7

10. According to Romans 8:14, can a person be “led” by God’s spirit without being adopted as God’s child?

“For all who are led by God’s spirit, these are God’s sons. For YOU did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but YOU received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: “Abba, Father!” The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.”— Romans 8:14-16

11. Since spiritual adoption into God’s family is a prerequisite for being led by God’s spirit, can a person who “does not have Christ’s spirit” belong to Him? How can you “please God,” if God’s spirit is not truly dwelling in you (Romans 8:8-9)?

“So those who are in harmony with the flesh cannot please God. However, YOU are in harmony, not with the flesh, but with the spirit, if God’s spirit truly dwells in YOU. But if anyone does not have Christ’s spirit, this one does not belong to him.” —Romans 8:8-9

12. Is there anything in these verses that limits these New Covenant privileges of being “born again” and spirit “adopted” to only 144,000 people? What did Jesus say one must partake of in order to have everlasting life?

“Accordingly Jesus said to them: ‘Most truly I say to YOU, Unless YOU eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, YOU have no life in yourselves. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I shall resurrect him at the last day.’ ” —John 6:53-54

13. Since 1 Timothy 2:5 and John 14:6 state that Jesus is the Mediator between God and men and is the only One we are to go “through” to get to Jehovah God, how can you receive salvation and the forgiveness of sins if you accept the Watchtower teaching that Jesus is NOT your Mediator?

Jesus Christ is not the Mediator between Jehovah God and all mankind. He is the Mediator between his heavenly Father, Jehovah God, and the nation of spiritual Israel, which is limited to only 144,000 members.” —Worldwide Security Under the “Prince of Peace,” 1986, p. 10

“Think of a legal case in which an attorney is involved… Of course, you are not in that legal case, so in that sense he is not serving as your attorney… The people of all nations… benefit even now from Jesus’ services. Though he is not their legal Mediator, for they are not in the new covenant, he is their means of approaching Jehovah.”—The Watchtower, August 15, 1989, p. 31

14. Where in the Bible does it say that you are not in the “legal case” with Jehovah God because of the penalty of your sins that need to be forgiven? How can Jesus be your means of “approaching” Jehovah if He “is not serving as your attorney” to represent your case for a pardon of your sins? Again, where in the Bible does it say that the New Covenant and Jesus’ Mediator role is limited to 144,000 members?

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all…” —1 Timothy 2:5-6

“Jesus said to him: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” —John 14:6

15. Have you “come” to Jesus by directly asking Him for forgiveness and the gift of eternal life?

“Everything the Father gives me will come to me, and the one that comes to me I will by no means drive away. …No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him; and I will resurrect him in the last day.” —John 6:37, 44

“My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them everlasting life, and they will by no means ever be destroyed, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” —John 10:27-28

FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE:

WILL THE “GREAT CROWD” BE ON EARTH WHEN ARMAGEDDON BREAKS OUT?

WHAT IF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES ARE RIGHT ABOUT ARMAGEDDON?

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1. See The Watchtower, January 1, 1997, p. 10
2. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that the soul or spirit of a person exists beyond the life of the human body, so they do not believe that anyone could have existed as a spirit in heaven prior to undergoing resurrection which they believe occurred first in 1914 for those who died being a part of the 144,000. Thus, they do not believe what most Christians believe about the spirits of the Old Testament saints dwelling in “Abraham’s bosom” described at Luke 16:22-23 prior to Christ’s resurrection in which He opened the door for them to move from Abraham’s bosom to heaven. See also Matthew 8:11 and 27:52-53.
3. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible Scriptures are quoted from the Jehovah’s Witness Bible, The New World Translation.
4. Note: In the May 1, 2002, page 31 issue of The Watchtower, the Society acknowledges that the Greek word na-os’ used in this passage of Revelation 7 points to the inner “sanctuary” portion of God’s temple.

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