bunk beds 2In a previous blog article entitled, “The Lure of Hidden Knowledge,” I explained some of the psychological barriers we face in getting through to Jehovah’s Witnesses and offered suggestions for overcoming them.

In discussing “hidden knowledge,” I cited the Watchtower’s unique beliefs about the 144,000 and the “great crowd.”

Today I’m embarking on a series of articles explaining these beliefs, discussing their significance, and suggesting ways to discuss these matters with Jehovah’s Witnesses in our efforts to get through to them with the real gospel.

Underlying doctrines

The Watchtower teaches a two-class salvation system. In order to understand this system, you need to be aware of two underlying Watchtower doctrines.

The first Watchtower doctrine is that no person, not even Jesus Christ, has a separate soul or spirit that survives physical death.[1] The Watchtower teaches that when people die, they completely cease to exist except for the memory of their life patterns (personalities and memories) in the mind of God.

The Watchtower concept of resurrection is not a reuniting of soul and body.[2] Instead, it teaches that when he resurrects a person who has died, Jehovah uses his perfect memory of the people he is resurrecting to re-create their life patterns inside new bodies he has prepared for them.

The second Watchtower doctrine is that no one, not even Jesus, can go to heaven with a physical body. In support of this contention, they cite 1 Corinthians 15:50, which says that flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom. The Watchtower does not see “flesh and blood” as a figure of speech that means “natural human beings.” They take it literally and say that in order to inherit God’s kingdom of heaven, one must give up any hope of a bodily resurrection and a life on earth in order to have a spirit resurrection and the hope of heaven. They believe that Jesus himself was not raised bodily but instead was raised as an invisible spirit creature, suited for life in heaven. In order to give his disciples faith, he temporarily manufactured bodies so his disciples could see him, but he does not have a physical body in heaven.[3]

The two classes

Based on these two doctrines, the Watchtower teaches that when God resurrects someone, he will re-create that person by putting their personalities and memories either into a spirit body designed for life in heaven or a physical body designed for life on earth.[4] This creates two classes of people:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.

According to the Watchtower, because the anointed have a heavenly hope and the great crowd have an earthly hope, in the resurrection the two classes will always be separate. Nevertheless, both groups will have to prove worthy of everlasting life through their own diligent efforts.


Your turn:

Did you know that the Watchtower teaches that there are two classes of Christians—the anointed 144,000 and the other sheep? Did you realize that it claims that each has to prove worthy by their works?

Share your thoughts in the comments.


[1] Reasoning from the Scriptures (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1985, 2009 printing), p. 383

[2] Reasoning from the Scriptures, p. 333

[3] Reasoning from the Scriptures, p. 217

[4] The Watchtower, “Resurrection Our Strength-giving Hope, 5/1/54, p. 282