Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the great crowd will live on earth when Revelation 19:1 clearly says the great crowd is in heaven?
It is problematic when a single verse is used as the proof of a particular teaching. Yes, obviously, Revelation 19:1 states that John “heard what seemed to be a loud voice of a great crowd in heaven.” The question is, is that the same great crowd that John had seen earlier in his series of visions, a great crowd who come out of the tribulation?
The answer is no. There are two groups whom the apostles described as a great crowd. The great crowd praising Jehovah in heaven are angels —not humans. First, though, take note that John only heard what seemed to be the voice of a great crowd. While clearly those praising God for the marriage of the Lamb to his bride are heavenly observers, their voices are only likened to the roar of a great crowd, something humans might be familiar with. And no, they are not people who have gone to heaven either. How do we know?
The chosen ones who are taken to heaven are said to experience the first resurrection. The 20th chapter of Revelation explains that the second death has no power over those who are made alive in the first resurrection. What does that mean? It means they will be instantaneously immortal and cannot by any means ever be corrupted or destroyed. After they are resurrected they will no longer even need Christ to intervene on their behalf as a mediator and high priest. They will have life in themselves, as does Jehovah.
That, however, is not the case with the great crowd who will come out of the tribulation. Regarding that great crowd the scripture says: “That is why they are before the throne of God, and they are rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple; and the One seated on the throne will spread his tent over them. They will hunger no more nor thirst anymore, neither will the sun beat down on them nor any scorching heat, because the Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne, will shepherd them and will guide them to springs of waters of life. And God will wipe out every tear from their eyes.”
Notice in the verse above that even after the great crowd survives the global holocaust known as the great tribulation, the Lamb ministers to them —“guiding them to springs of waters of life.” In other words, they will not have life in themselves, as will those who experience the first resurrection. They must be led further. That is because even though they will survive the end of the world they will still be imperfect humans in need of Christ’s provisions for life.
Furthermore, the passage above states that the One on the throne will spread his protective tent over them and wipe every tear from their eyes. That symbolism is presented again in the 21st chapter of Revelation, which states: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his people. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”
Only the most truth-averse and determined deceivers will reject the plainly stated fact that those over whom God spreads his tent are on earth. That is where mankind lives —on earth. And those whom God comforts are said to “be his people” —not angels. Indeed, those who survive the great tribulation will have experienced deep trauma —living through the worst war this world will have suffered. Their eyes will witness unspeakable horrors. That is why they will be in need to have the tears wiped from their eyes.
But doesn’t the passage in the seventh chapter of Revelation say that the great crowd are standing before the throne? Yes, it does, but that is a fairly common expression to denote that individuals have received a favorable judgment, not that they are literally standing before God’s throne in heaven like the angels. For example, Jesus exhorted Christians to make every effort to be faithful so that they may succeed in standing before the Son of man. Again, their standing before Christ is not in the heavenly realm.
As regards the separation of the sheep and the goats Jesus used a similar analogy, saying: “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”
Are we to imagine that all the peoples of the world will be raptured to heaven in order to be gathered before the throne of Christ for judgment? Only the most unenlightened mind would would imagine that to be so.
The apostle John warned us that there are many deceivers in the world. How true that is. There are con men aplenty who pretend to know something about the truth.
Ironically, those who refuse the accurate knowledge of the truth, who perversely insist on claiming the salvation God offers on their terms, who allow themselves to be deceived regarding the nature of the great crowd, inevitably disqualify themselves from being among the throng of Christians who are destined to be the first people on earth who have ever lived who will never die.