# 114,000, Literal, or Symbolic?

by Wonderment 37 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

• ##### Wonderment

A poster wrote to me privately, and brought to my attention the following comment below I made a while back in regards to the 144,00 number of Revelation. I had casually conjectured that this number was likely symbolic in line with the book of Revelation being mostly symbolic in kind. He brought up this juicy source:

--at another point you also say the 144,000 would most likely be symbolic, now I'm going to politely disagree, as I think its more likely to be a literal number as its contrasted with "the great crowd" a not very specific number. as was point out by Robert L. Thomas, Jr., professor of New Testament at The Master’s Seminary in the United States, wrote:

“The case for symbolism is exegetically weak.” He points out: “It is a definite number [at 7:4] in contrast with the indefinite number of 7:9. If it is taken symbolically, no number in the book can be taken literally.”—Revelation: An Exegetical Commentary, Volume 1, page 474.

As you can see the poster disagrees with my conjecture, but his quote of Robert L. Thomas, Jr. is highly interesting. By reason of this professor's explanation, are any of you guys willing to reconsider your stand on this issue, whether your conclusion of the reference is literal or symbolic in application?

• ##### TonusOH

I would ask if there is a way to determine the meaning of the number, if it is symbolic. If I am remembering correctly, there is a reference to 12,000 who are chosen from each of the twelve tribes, and 12,000 x 12 = 144,000. We know the reference to the twelve tribes of Israel. What is the symbolic meaning of the number 12,000?

Lacking that, his point has some weight to it. Granted, I would think that the number must have some meaning. Why pull it out of thin air and then use it in a formula to get the 144,000 number? That doesn't seem sensible to me.

• ##### Sea Breeze

Unless it tells you otherwise, ALL of the bible is literal . Symbolism supports an elite class. Try reading the bible without all the symbolism and it will really open things up and reveal the errors.

For instance, there will literally be 144K male Jewish virgins that will evangelize the world during the Great Tribulation. Their message will be the good news of god's kingdom that is about to manifest.

This explains why Christians are preaching the "ministry of reconciliation" while JW's are preaching the good news of the kingdom.... they are out of season for this message.

The apostles never preached the good news of the kingdom.... they preached the ministry of reconciliation. JW's do not preach this. If we preach another gospel that the apostles didn't preach, we are cursed according to scripture. (Gal. 1: 8-9)

• ##### waton

It is a literal number with symbolism. see

a) the tribe of Joseph, new at this point, rewarded for being whistleblowers. like us. and contrasted with

b) the the undetermined number of the members in each tribe, and

c) the in innumerable Great Crowd ,

• ##### Ding

I've never gotten a good answer to this question: How can 12 symbolic 12,000s comprise a literal 144,000?

They either have to be all figurative or all literal.

• ##### Vanderhoven7

Jehovah's Witnesses preach that the 144,000 of Rev 7:4 is to be taken literally. If that number is literal, why isn't Revelation 7: 5-8 to be taken literally Jehovah's Witnesses?

Witnesses say the tribes are figurative but the total number of the figurative tribes is literal. They are not being consistent.

Why couldn't both the tribes and their numbers be figurative?

Doesn't exactly 12,000 from 12 symbolic tribes seem unlikely? What is each tribe a symbol of? Why couldn’t the total number of the tribes 144,000 be a symbol as well? Doesn’t this "suspiciously tidy sort of number seem much more likely to be a symbol than a statistic"?

Witnesses argue that the 144,000 must be literal because it is given in contrast to the innumerable number of "Great Multitude" members.

But they don’t take into account that this apparent contrast could be one of perspective (i.e. divine/human) rather than numerical literalness?

LOOKING AT THE NUMBER A LITTLE MORE CLOSELY:

How is God to numerically express the entire church down through history? When you apply Christ's mustard seed analogy to the "Kingdom of Heaven", and the promise to Abraham of an innumerable progeny, wouldn't you be dealing with a sizable group? How is God to give a definite total for such an innumerable multitude? Why couldn't it be by a number which no man could number,- ie. by a symbol- which stands for completion and perfect symmetry?

David Chilton, in his commentary on Revelation entitled, "Days of Vengeance" says:

The tidy number 144,000 is obviously symbolic: twelve (the number of Israel) squared, then multiplied by 1000 (ten and its multiples symbolizing many; cf. Deut. 1:11; Ps.50:10; 68:17; 84:10; 90:4). St. John pictures for us the ideal Israel, Israel as it was meant to be, in all its perfection, symmetry, and completeness." (p.206)

• ##### Sea Breeze

Vanderhoven7,

Are you amillennial?

• ##### Vanderhoven7

The WTS says there were less than 144,000 Christians that existed prior to 1914 ignoring the fact that millions were martyred for the name of Christ during the centuries. All but 100,000 or so of these were actually Christians. Remember that only anointed Christians that existed prior to 1914.

Let's look at WTS logic regarding these martyrs.

The Watchtower September 1, 1951, in a wonderful article entitled “Hated For His Name”(pp518,519) describes the persecution and martyrdom of steadfast Christians in the first 3 centuries AD.

By the year (A.D.) 64 Christianity was prominent throughout much of the Roman Empire, including the capital city Rome itself. Their individual characteristics, form of worship and steadfast refusal to compromise thereon had made the Christians sure targets of hostility and ridicule. That year, the tenth in the reign of Emperor Nero, Rome was swept by a conflagration so great it is yet theobject of poetry and legend....

Diocletian assumed the crown A.D. 284. At first he seemed friendly to the Christians, but in the year 303 he gave in to persuasion and opened the tenth persecution, probably the most ferocious of all. Suffocation by smoke, forcible drinking of melted lead, mass drownings and bumings, breaking on the rack of men and women alike ran the empire with blood. In a single month 17,000 were slain. In the province of Egypt alone, 144,000 such professed Christians died by violence in the course of this persecution, in addition to another 700,000 who died as a result of fatigues encountered in banishment orunder enforced public works”.

WT 1952 1/15 p. 62 Questions From Readers

According to the article “Hated for His Name” in the September 1, 1951, Watchtower, hundreds of thousands of Christians died in the “ten persecutions” starting in Nero’s time, 144,000 dying in Egypt alone during one of the persecutions. How can this be harmonized with the Scriptural limitation of 144,000 placed on the number being in Christ’s body, and which position was the only one open to Christians during those centuries?—J.A., Dominican Republic.

The article did not class with any finality the individuals that died during these persecutions, but spoke of the results in a general way. Note that a key qualification was made in the case referred to in the question: “In the province of Egypt alone, 144,000 such professed Christians died by violence in the course of this persecution, in addition to another 700,000 who died as a result of fatigues encountered in banishment or under enforced public works.” The victims are identified as “professed Christians”, not Christians in fact. Many of those persons might have been caught in the wave of persecution, but may never have actually preached the truth or followed in Jesus’ footsteps, being only professed Christians. They knew the world they lived in was rotten and they were listening to the message of the Christians and willing to die for it even though not in line for the high calling in Christ Jesus. Many professed Christians today might be willing to die for their faith, but still not be Jesus’ footstep followers and meeting the Scriptural requirements for such.

Rather insulting to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for staying true to their Christian beliefs I would say.

.

Watchtower July 1, 1972. Questions From Readers

Large numbers of Christians are said to have been put to death during the Roman persecution in the first few centuries of the Common Era. How, then, is it possible for thousands in this century to have been called to become part of the body of Christ composed of only 144,000 persons?—U.S.A.

"There are historical indications that many Christians were bitterly persecuted, even killed, in the first few centuries. However, it should be remembered that, in itself, a martyr’s death did not give a person merit before Jehovah God nor did it guarantee membership in the heavenly kingdom. Many persons, even in recent times, have been willing to die for a cause, religious or otherwise. A person’s claiming to be a Christian and even dying for his belief does not in itself mean that he is an approved servant of Jehovah God. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “If I give all my belongings to feed others, and if I hand over my body, that I may boast, but do not have love, I am not profited at all.” (1 Cor. 13:3) It is not death, but faithfulness to the very death, that determines whether an individual will receive “the crown of life.”—Rev. 2:10.

Thus the fact that today there is still a remnant of the 144,000 on earth would show that down to this twentieth century fewer than 144,000 finished their earthly course in faithfulness.

• ##### Vanderhoven7

Hi Sea Breeze

Pre-millennial to the core.

Those who have never been drawn to Jesus will be.

• ##### slimboyfat

Romans 11:25 seems to suggest that the number of Gentiles who will join the Israel of God is a limited number.

An additional JW argument is that the spiritual Israelites are said to rule over the spiritual Gentiles. But if the number of the 144,000 spiritual Israelites is really an unlimited number of believers, then who are they going to rule over? What do you do will all the scriptures that say spiritual Israel will rule over the rest of obedient mankind?

Plus the fact John the Baptist seems to be ruled out of the kingdom of the heaven in Matt 11:11. JWs argue this narrows the Israel of God down to a select number of Christians beginning at Pentecost up until the last days.