Most Jehovah’s Witnesses are unaware that the Watchtower used to teach as truth a 4-class salvation system – two classes on earth and two classes in heaven. Under this system, the Watchtower taught that both the 144,000 and the “great crowd” would be in heaven.
The current teaching
The Watchtower currently teaches a two-class salvation system.
- The heaven-bound class consists of Jesus Christ and an “anointed” “little flock” (Luke 12:32) of exactly 144,000 witnesses of Jehovah (Revelation 7 and Revelation 14:1-3) specially selected by God throughout all the centuries of the Christian era. These are Christ’s brothers. If they prove worthy in this life, they will be resurrected in non-physical spirit bodies. They will go to heaven to be with Christ and reign with him.
- The earthly class consists of a “great crowd” of “other sheep.” The class is so large that no one can number it (Revelation 7:9). They will never go to heaven. Rather, if they prove worthy, they will enter a restored earth in physical bodies as subjects of Christ’s millennial kingdom. Then if they prove worthy throughout this 1000 years, progress to moral perfection, and pass a final test by Satan at the end, they will live forever in paradise on earth, provided that they never choose to rebel against Jehovah as Adam did.
A 4-class salvation system
But on page 134 of the book The Finished Mystery (1917), the Watchtower identified two degrees or kinds of heavenly salvation and two degrees or kinds of earthly salvation.
It noted that in Genesis 2, four streams went forth from the Garden of Eden and said that this is scriptural recognition of the fact that from Adam will come four streams:
- “The Little Flock, who will sit with Christ in His Throne.” This group of 144,000 gets a full reward.
- “The Great Company, who are to stand before the Throne, having the palms of martyrdom but without the crowns of glory.” These get a lesser reward because the course they pursued was not as pleasing to God. They will be servants, not rulers. In fact, they were wicked and slothful servants who failed to manifest earnest devotion (p. 137).
- “The Ancient Worthies, the Jewish fathers, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Daniel, etc., who are to be made princes in all the earth.”
- “The world of mankind, who will constitute the subjects of the Kingdom over which the ancient worthies will rule.”
It went on to say that the existence of these four classes is verified by the division of the Levites into four groups in Numbers 3 and Paul’s statement in 2 Timothy 2:20 that in God’s house there will be “four classes of vessels to his praise.”
The book goes through each of the twelve “tribes” of 12,000 that comprise the 144,000, describing specific characteristics and rankings of each “tribe.”
If you present all this information to Jehovah’s Witnesses, most likely they will be quite surprised, but they will brush it off as “old light,” saying something like, “Oh, we don’t teach that anymore.”
The question you need to press is, “Why did the Watchtower writers believe it was true in the first place? Did they get their understanding from Jehovah? If not, where did they get their understanding? What about the passages they cited from Genesis 2, Numbers 3, and 2 Timothy 2 in support of this four-class system? Did they read into the Bible all sorts of things that weren’t there? How do we know they aren’t doing that now? What guarantee do you have that what you are teaching as truth today won’t be just as easily discarded as ‘old light’ tomorrow?”
Did you know that the Watchtower used to teach a four-class salvation system? What impact, if any, do you think this information would have on the Jehovah’s Witnesses you encounter?
Share your thoughts in the comments.