Jehovah’s Witnesses are made up of two primary groups:
1. The Great Crowd.
2. 144,000 anointed class.
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the Great Crowd look towards an earthly future hope on a paradise earth, whereas the 144,000 is the number of those limited to go to heaven. Today, the vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses make up the earthly class of the Great Crowd. However, those who make up the Great Crowd are not born again, neither are they part of the new covenant, and have no absolute assurance of eternal life:
A Watchtower article states:
Hence, the ransom sacrifice is fundamental to the new covenant, of which Jesus is the Mediator. Paul wrote: "There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all-this is what is to be witnessed to at its own particular times." (1 Timothy 2:5, 6)Those words especially apply to the 144,000, with whom the new covenant is made…Another Watchtower article likewise teaches:
Nevertheless, in a preliminary way, the great crowd have already "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Revelation 7:14) Christ does not act as a mediator of the new covenant toward them, yet they benefit from this covenant through the work of God's Kingdom. (The Watchtower 1991 February 15 pp.15-20 "You Were Bought With a Price", emphasis added)
Is Jesus the "mediator" only for anointed Christians? The term "mediator" occurs just six times in the Christian Greek Scriptures and Scripturally is always used regarding a formal covenant. Moses was the "mediator" of the Law covenant made between God and the nation of Israel. (Gal. 3:19, 20) Christ, though, is the "mediator of a new covenant" between Jehovah and spiritual Israel, the "Israel of God" that will serve as kings and priests in heaven with Jesus. (Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24; Gal. 6:16) At a time when God was selecting those to be taken into that new covenant, the apostle Paul wrote that Christ was the "one mediator between God and men." (1 Tim. 2:5) Reasonably Paul was here using the word "mediator" in the same way he did the other five times, which occurred before the writing of 1 Timothy 2:5, referring to those then being taken into the new covenant for which Christ is "mediator." So in this strict Biblical sense Jesus is the "mediator"only for anointed Christians [i.e. the 144,000]. (The Watchtower 1979 April 1 p.31 Questions from Readers, emphasis added)Even so, despite these teachings, the good news for Jehovah’s Witnesses is that the Bible declares that, through the death and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:1-3), they can be in the new covenant and be born again (John 3:3-5; 1 John 5:1) and receive God’s free gift and assurance of eternal life (1 John 5:13). The Bible teaches that all need to be born again to have any future eternal hope of seeing the kingdom (John 3:3).
The 144,000 are explicitly mentioned in Revelation 7:4-8 and 14:1-5 but notice from these texts that nowhere, at all, is it even hinted that heaven is limited to this number in either of these texts. Furthermore, there is simply no Scripture that says this. Similarly, there is no Scripture anywhere in the Bible that limits the born-again experience to 144,000. In fact, the opposite is true. The Watchtower's own New World Translation (NWT) of the Bible says at John 3:3:
"Unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3 NWT, emphasis added).The kingdom is the place wherever Jesus is reigning as King, be it earth or heaven. The point is that if you want to see that Kingdom you need to be "born again". Who is this for? Just a 144,000 people? No. It is for "Anyone". Are you “anyone”? Then you need to be born again (John 3:3).
Similarly, the New World Translation also states:
"Everyone believing that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God" (I John 5:1, NWT, emphasis added)Does the expression "everyone believing" leave anyone out? Would this limit the number of "everyone believing" being "born of God" to 144,000? Of course not.
The Watchtower also teach that the way which a Jehovah’s Witness treats the 144,000 anointed class will determine his or her eternal future:
“Your attitude toward the wheatlike anointed "brothers" of Christ [i.e. the 144,000] and the treatment you accord them will be the determining factor as to whether you go into "everlasting cutting-off" or receive "everlasting life." (Matt. 25:34-46)” (The Watchtower, 1st August, 1981, Harvesting in the “Time of the End”.See pp. 21-24 of this Watchtower magazine for full article).Another earlier Watchtower article similarly teaches:
The new covenant will terminate with the glorification of the remnant who are today in that covenant mediated by Christ. The "great crowd" of "other sheep" that is forming today is not in that new covenant. However, by their associating with the "little flock" of those yet in that covenant they come under benefits that flow from that new covenant. During the millennium Jesus Christ will be their king, high priest and judge. (The Watchtower 1979 April 1 p.31 Questions from Readers, emphasis added)But the Bible clearly declares that it is how we view and associate with Christ, not some group of individuals, which will be the determining factor of our eternal destinies. For example, Jesus said:
“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and exercises faith in him should have everlasting life, and I will resurrect him at the last day.” (NWT, John 6:40).Another Watchtower article basically teaches that the 144,000 act as a kind of mediators for the Great Crowd!:
“To keep in relationship with "our Savior, God," the "great crowd" needs to remain united with the remnant of spiritual Israelites [i.e. the 144,000].” (The Watchtower, November 15th, 1979, Benefiting From “One Mediator Between God and Men". Full article pp. 21-27)This is certainly in conflict with what the Bible clearly teaches. The Bible states that Christ alone is to be our only mediator, and it our relationship with Him that makes us favourable in God‘s sight:
"There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all." (NWT, 1 Tim. 2:5- 6).In the same above mentioned article however, the Watchtower even attempt to explain away the passage in 1 Timothy 2:5-6 by adding a qualifying extra-biblical Watchtower explanation:
“What, then, is Christ's role in this program of salvation? Paul proceeds to say: "There is one God, and one mediator between God and men [not, all men], a man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all."-1 Tim. 2:5, 6.” (The Watchtower, November 15th, 1979, Benefiting From “One Mediator Between God and Men". Full article pp. 21-27, emphasis added).The Watchtower therefore try and replace Christ’s perfect mediatorship with that of 144,000 imperfect people.
As was mentioned earlier, the 144,000 are only explicitly mentioned in two Bible passages: Revelation 7:4-8 and 14:1-5. Exactly who are the 144,000 anyway? The Watchtower teach that this group are a special group of elite Jehovah’s Witnesses, a spiritual Israel. But a straight reading of Revelation 7:4-8 would lead one to the conclusion that the 144,000 are a literal Israel as the actual tribes of Israel are listed. However, Watchtower teaching objects to this view on the grounds that it cannot be talking about literal Israel for the following reasons:
1. There was never a tribe of Joseph in the Old Testament but they are in the Revelation list.
2. The tribes of Ephraim and Dan are not listed in the Revelation list as they are usually listed in the Old Testament.
3. The Levites are listed even though they were never a tribe in the Old Testament.
Ron Rhodes, in his excellent book, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah's Witnesses, responds to these objections in the following way:
Firstly it should be noted that the Old Testament contains many variant lists of the tribes of Israel all of which differ in how many and who they include (e.g. Gen 49; Deut. 33; Ezek. 48). Many scholars believe Dan was omitted because they were guilty of idolatry on many occasions (Lev. 24:11; Judges 18:1, 30 cf. 1 Kings 12:28-29). What of Ephraim? Ephraim and Manasseh were both son’s of Joseph. Joseph is always mentioned either by including Joseph and excluding his sons (Gen. 49) or by exluding Joseph and including his sons (Ezek. 48). But in Rev 7 Joseph and Manasseh are listed but Ephraim is omitted. It would seem that they were omitted for the same reason as Dan - idolatry (e.g. Judges 17; Hosea 4:17). The Levites seem to have been included in Revelation 7 because their priestly functions ceased with the coming of Christ, the great high priest, who fulfilled the Levitical priesthood (Heb. 7-10). As they were no longer to function as priests, they could rightly be included in the tribal listings of Revelation. It is therefore clear that the 144,000 are literal Israelites who will be converted to Christ to fulfil God’s purposes in the end times. This also fits in with the with the fact that the Bible clearly states that God has not forgotten Israel (e.g. Psa. 105:7-11; Isa. 45:17; Ezek. 16:60; Amos 9:14-15).The Bible, therefore, does not support the teaching that heaven and the born-again experience is limited to 144,000 people. Nowhere in the Bible is it even hinted that only 144,000 can be born again. Indeed, as has been noted, the Bible clearly states that the new birth is for every individual, or as the NWT puts it “anyone”. Are you “anyone“? If so, you need to be born again to see God’s kingdom (John 3:3. Notice as well that “kingdom” here does not distinguish between earthly or heavenly).
What is important? "You must be born again" - a clear command of Jesus (John 3:3-7). This is clearly for all people (“anyone”). Are you obeying Jesus’ command, or merely the whims of men? You need to repent (Mark 1:15; Acts 3:19; 17:30), have faith/belief in Christ (John 3:16; 6:47; 1 John 5:13), and receive Christ (John 1:12; Col. 2:6; Rev. 3:20), so as to have Christ in your heart (Gal. 4:6; Eph. 3:17; 1 Pet. 3:15). As a result, you can know that you have an eternal assurance of spending an eternity with Jesus Christ (1 John 5:13).
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