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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why Do Jehovah's Witnesses Believe That the Number 144,000 in Revelation is a Literal Number Instead of a Symbolic Number?

The argument is that since Revelation contains highly symbolic language, all numbers found in it, including the number 144,000, must be symbolic. However, that is not so. It is true that Revelation does contain numerous symbolic numbers, but it also includes literal numbers. Whether a number in Revelation is to be taken literally or symbolically depends on its background and setting. For instance, John speaks of "the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." (Revelation 21:14) Clearly, the number 12 mentioned in this verse is literal, not symbolic. Also, the apostle John writes about "the thousand years" of Christ's reign which has also been taken literally. (Revelation 20:3, 5-7)

The number 144,000 refers to a limited number of individuals...a relatively small group when compared with the "great crowd". For instance, the 144,000 are described as those who "were bought from among mankind as firstfruits." (Revelation 14:1, 4) The expression "firstfruits" refers to a small representative selection. Also, Jesus spoke of those who will rule with him in heaven as a "little flock." (Luke 12:32; 22:29) The scriptures indicate that those "who have been bought from the earth" are few in comparison with those of mankind who will inhabit the coming Paradise earth.

Besides Jehovah's Witnesses, various Bible scholars have reached the same conclusion that the number 144,000 is literal. When commenting on Revelation 7:4, 9, British lexicographer Dr. Ethelbert W. Bullinger observed over 100 years ago: "It is the simple statement of fact: a definite number in contrast with the indefinite number in this very chapter." -The Apocalypse or "The Day of the Lord," page 282

Also, more recently, 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 added: "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.

For much more, see:

Is the Number 144,000 Mentioned in Revelation Meant to be Taken Literally? (Defend Jehovah's Witnesses)

Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses take the number 144,000 mentioned in the book of Revelation literally and not symbolically? (w04 9/1 pp. 30-31; Questions From Readers; Watchtower Online Library)

Are the 144,000 only natural Jews? Is the number 144,000 merely symbolic? (rs p. 161-p. 168; Watchtower Online Library)

Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses take the number 144,000 literally? (w04 12/15 p. 30; Watchtower Online Library)

144,000 - Links to Information (Watchtower Online Library)

144,000 - Links to Information (Defend Jehovah's Witnesses)


Defend Jehovah's Witnesses