(Revelation 7:4) 4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel:
According to the Watchtower, the 144,000 are a literal group of “anointed” Christians who will go to heaven to rule and reign with Christ. They believe that the rest of the true Christians are described as follows:
(Revelation 7:9) 9 After these things I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands.
In addition, the Watchtower believes this “great crowd” is so large that its not able to be numbered. And they do so on the basis of what the text actually says: “which no man was able to number.”
Since the Watchtower holds to the innumerable nature of the great crowd on the basis of such descriptive terms, it is interesting how another text uses similar language:
(Hosea 1:10) 10 “And the number of the sons of Israel must become like the grains of the sand of the sea that cannot be measured or numbered. And it must occur that in the place in which it used to be said to them, ‘YOU men are not my people,’ it will be said to them, ‘The sons of the living God.’
It is beyond dispute that though the Watchtower views an historical fulfillment of this text in 537 B.C.E. in the exile from Babylon, they also view an additional fulfillment in the establishment of the “anointed class” of 144,000. The reason we know this is because this text is quoted and applied in 1 Peter 2:10 and Romans 9:26; two texts interpreted by the Watchtower in reference to the “anointed class.”
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3 The apostle Peter clearly identified this new nation. He wrote the following to his fellow Christians: “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Pet. 2:9) As foretold, natural Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah were the first members of that new nation. (Dan. 9:27a; Matt. 10:6) Later, many non-Israelites were also included in this nation, for Peter went on to say: “You were once not a people, but are now God’s people.”—1 Pet. 2:10.
4 To whom was Peter here speaking? In the beginning of his letter, he says: “[God] gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for you.” (1 Pet. 1:3, 4) So this new nation is made up of anointed Christians, who have the heavenly hope. They are “the Israel of God.” (Gal. 6:16) In a vision, the apostle John saw that these spiritual Israelites number 144,000
Consider the dilemma for the Watchtower. Revelation 7:9 is interpreted as an innumerable group on the basis of the words, “which no man was able to number.” Yet, Hosea 1:10 is also in reference to a group “that cannot be measured or numbered.” Yet, the Watchtower believes that this group is numbered and quite small compared to the “great crowd.”
This problem can be summarized as follows:
- The “anointed” class in literal and numbered (Rev. 7:4), yet they are so large that they cannot be numbered (Hos. 1:10).
- The “great crowd” is not numbered since they are “not able to be numbered.” (Rev. 7:9)