Taken from Questions for Jehovah’s Witnesses
Matt Slick is misinformed on a couple of points. First, the Watchtower does not teach that anyone goes to heaven due to good works and sincere effort. The Bible makes it plain that salvation is a result of God’s calling and choosing and ultimately, his undeserved kindness. Secondly, the Watchtower does not teach that the 144,000 are composed entirely of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The calling and choosing of the holy ones first began on the day of Pentecost after Jesus returned to heaven. That is when holy spirit was poured out upon the 120 gathered in an upper room – begetting them as God’s sons and daughters. By the way, in the eighth chapter of his letter to the Romans the apostle Paul referred to Jesus as the “firstborn of many brothers.” What birth was Paul referring to? Jesus was born again when he was baptized in the Jordan and God’s spirit came down upon him in the form of a dove. At that moment Jesus was born from the spirit – he was anointed, which is what the words Messiah and Christ mean. Prior to his anointing Jesus had no opportunity to return to heaven. His anointing brought into existence what Paul referred to as a new creation.
(Here are a couple of “stumper” questions for trinitarians: Does God anoint himself with himself? Or, does God have brothers? If so, who might they be?)
However, toward the end of the first century the apostle John, apparently one of the last surviving apostles, wrote that it was the last hour before the coming of the antichrist. The last hour had to do with the temporary cessation of the anointing, because, as Jesus and the apostles foretold, wicked men soon infiltrated the congregations and by the fourth century the apostate bishops handed control over to the Roman Emperor, Constantine, and from there came the anti-christ, Catholic monstrosity and the introduction of all sorts of pagan doctrines and practices, which, of course, the Protestants have retained and perpetuated to this day.
But we believe the evidence points to the fact that Charles Russell and the Watchtower Society were a seedbed and rallying point for the revival of the anointing, which is to be expected as a preliminary to the return of Christ. One of the distinguishing features of the first century congregation of the anointed is that they were zealous preachers. From the beginning so were the International Bible students, as are Jehovah’s Witnesses today.
As regards the awkwardly phrased question, ‘what gives Jehovah’s Witnesses the right,’ that’s it. Anointed Christians own the Bible. It was written for them and by them, the so-called New Testament anyway. And anointed Christians living at this time have the obligation to accurately understand its message and preach in the world.
To be sure, the teaching that only 144,000 go to heaven is one of the Watchtower Society’s most misunderstood and controversial doctrines. People reject the teaching because they are ignorant of Jehovah’s purpose to restore mankind and the earth to Edenic perfection. People do not understand that God intends to resurrect the vast majority of people who have ever lived and died, regardless of whether they were righteous.
But it will be an earthly resurrection; they will come back as the imperfect people they were when they died. For example, in the book of Acts Paul said that he entertained the hope that there was going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.
People have been falsely taught that heaven and hell are mankind’s destiny. Even Hindus and Muslims believe variations of this satanic falsehood. But according to the Bible those who belong to Christ and who are taken to heaven will have a specific role to play. They are to rule as kings and to serve as priests with Christ. Obviously, if they are to rule as kings they must have subjects. And if they are to serve as priests there must be some in need of redemption.
As Jehovah’s Witnesses know, it was never God’s purpose to perpetually harvest the imaginary departed souls of the dead to populate the heavens – much less does God delight in roasting hapless sinners in hellfire. God has always intended for humans to live forever in peace and happiness on earth and that purpose will be accomplished by two means – one, as mentioned, by resurrecting the dead back to life on earth; and secondly, by preserving a great crowd through the world-ending great tribulation, to establish what the prophecies call the new earth.
However, it has also pleased Jehovah to create what is called the new heavens. The new heaven is a group composed of Christ and those who are chosen to share with him in his kingdom. The reason God purposed to create a new heaven, as well as a new earthly society, is because the rebellion against God originated in the heavens, with Satan the Devil and the angels who became demons.
In Eden Satan accused God of selfishly holding back knowledge from his creation because they couldn’t be trusted. Further in the book of Job the Devil also slandered God, impugning his character by implying that God has to bribe his creatures to be loyal to him and that if tested with hardship no one would ever be willing to suffer for God. And conversely, Satan also suggested that all intelligent creation is incapable of offering God complete loyalty and unselfish devotion.
So, in order to conclusively prove Satan to be a liar God proposed to create a new creation composed of a limited number of indestructible spirits who are chosen from among condemned sinners and basically given the keys to the universe. They are to be a new creation because no other creatures in the universe will be immortal, having life in themselves. Jesus, of course, was the first of the new creation. But first they must prove their loyalty unto death before Jehovah grants them their reward. By doing so, God demonstrates that he will not withhold anything from those whom he loves and who love him.
Because Jehovah’s magnanimity is displayed to such a superlative degree in his proposed new creation, it is a complete humiliation for the Devil. But, because he is a liar and the father of all lies, as Jesus called him, Satan is intent on belittling, discrediting and opposing anything having to do with the new creation.
One method he has used to belittle Jehovah’s incredible gift is by making it seem ordinary to most people. This he has done through the commonly accepted lies of Christendom that have deluded masses of people into believing that everyone goes to heaven, or at least all “Christians” supposedly do, as if it were their God-given birthright. But the Scriptures indicate otherwise. Only a representative number are chosen to be part of the new creation. The very designation of “chosen ones” indicates that it is an exclusive group of a limited number. Jesus also indicated as much when he addressed his fellow kingdom heirs as a “little flock.” Jesus also said that many are called but few are chosen. Jesus also indicated that most people are on the broad road to destruction, but a comparative few are on the narrow road that leads to life.
As recorded at John 17:2, In prayer Jesus referred to the “whole number” of believers, whom his Father had given him. This signifies that there is a specific number Who will be associated with Christ. And Revelation reveals the “whole number” amounts to 144,000. How do we know that number applies to the little flock?
For one thing, the 7th chapter of Revelation says that the 144,000 are sealed, 12,000 out of the 12 tribes of Israel. Of course, it is not in reference to the literal 12 tribes of Israel, which no longer even existed when Revelation was written, the tribal records having been destroyed when Titus razed Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E.. In Galatians Paul referred to Christ’s congregation as “the Israel of God.” The letter of James is addressed to the “twelve tribes scattered about,” which is in reference to the congregations of Christians that had sprung from the 12 founding apostles. So, the entire kingdom organization is symbolized as spiritual Israel having 12 tribes.
On the matter of the sealing: only anointed Christians are said to be sealed with God’s spirit. As 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 says: “But he who guarantees that you and we belong to Christ and he who has anointed us is God. He has also put his seal upon us and has given us the token of what is to come, that is, the spirit, in our hearts.”
Furthermore, Revelation 14:1-3 reveals other vital clues as to the identity of the 144,000. Those verses read: “And I saw, and, look! the Lamb standing upon the Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound out of heaven as the sound of many waters and as the sound of loud thunder; and the sound that I heard was as of singers who accompany themselves on the harp playing on their harps. 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.”
The fact that the 144,000 have the name of Jehovah and Jesus written upon their foreheads indicates that they have been especially chosen, bought from the earth, as verse three says. The great crowd are not said to have been bought from the earth, nor are they depicted as having the name of God and Christ written on their foreheads. The 144,000 are Jehovah’s very special possession, unlike any other creation.
In his letter to the Philadelphians Jesus also made mention of those will have the name of his God written upon them. Specifically, Jesus said: “‘The one that conquers—I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will by no means go out from it anymore, and I will write upon him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which descends out of heaven from my God, and that new name of mine. Let the one who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the congregations.’”
Obviously, the name of Jesus’ personal God is not Jesus. So, the question Jehovah’s Witnesses ought to pose to their trinitarian friends is: How reasonable is it that persons who do not even acknowledge that God has a personal name, or who refuse to use it, would have the very name they despise written upon them? Only Jehovah’s Witnesses have happily received the sacred name of God and display it before the world, as if written upon there foreheads. And ultimately, the anointed among their number who are faithful to the end, he that “conquers,” will have the name of Jesus’ God – Jehovah – written upon them.
Mount Zion, where the 144,000 are standing with Christ, is a symbol for the very kingdom of God in heaven. That’s because literal Mount Zion in Jerusalem was the place of Jehovah’s typical throne and temple were once located. Jesus standing upon Mount Zion with 144,000 can only be depicting Christ and his little flock in the kingdom; the very ones whom Jesus assured would be given the kingdom.
It is significant, too, that it says that the 144,000 are singing to Jehovah a new song and “no one was able to master that song but the hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been bought from the earth.” The exclusivity of the 144,000 grouping is underscored by the fact that no one can master the new song except the 144,000. A new song is a fitting symbol to distinguish the special worship rendered to Jehovah by those who are taken into a new covenant, to be a new creation in the new heavens and a New Jerusalem.
What is meant by the fact that they are said to be males? This is probably to signify that they are priests, since only males could serve in the Jewish priesthood. Their being virgins symbolizes that as an organization they make up the virgin bride of Christ. Jesus also gave an illustration regarding the wise and foolish virgins.
A variety of objections have been put forth to contradict the Bible’s teaching that the 144,000 are the only ones “who have been bought from the earth.” One commonly circulated objection is that there were many more than 144,000 Christians in the first century. But, really, that is mere conjecture. The truth is there is no record in the Bible.
It is interesting, however, that in the 11th chapter of Romans Paul alluded to the days of the prophet Elijah when Jehovah preserved 7,000 who had not bent their knee in worship of Baal. Paul then applied that number to what he called the “remnant” of God’s choosing then living. That is not to say that Paul was implying that there were literally only 7,000 Christians in the first century, but in order for his comparison to have any meaning back then there must have been a comparable number. (The real significance of the 7,000 is sealed up in the sacred secret of Revelation)
On down in that same chapter of Romans, Paul went on to say that “all of Israel will be saved” only when the “full number of people from the nations has come in.” This expression not only indicates that “Israel” is composed of non-Jewish persons; hence, a spiritual Israel, but that there is a pre-ordained specific number that is to be gathered.
In Paul’s day the full number who would be taken from the nations to become part of “Israel” was still a mystery, but with the writing of Revelation at the close of the apostolic era the full number was revealed to amount to 144,000