The number 144,000 is a positive integer that has a special religious significance for many Christians because of its use in the biblical Book of Revelation, where it is connected to a selected elect who will attain salvation. The figure 144,000 appears three times in the New Testament: Rev. 7:3-8; Rev. 14:1; and Rev. 14:3-5. These passages have been interpreted in different ways. Some groups, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, place a high degree of importance on this literal number while others see it as a symbolic amount denoting a mystical significance.
The spectrum of Christian theological views on the meaning of 144,000 is quite diverse. In general, four viewpoints prevail: 1) either 144,000 is a symbolic number representing all of God's chosen people to be raised up to spend eternity in heaven with God; 2) it may refer to a literal 144,000 people who will be chosen from the tribes of Israel (12,000 from each tribe) to be saved; 3) it may denote a 144,000 people from "spiritual Israel" to be be saved; or finally, 4) it may have a deeper mystical significance and symbolic meaning that is too obscure to be understood.
The number 144,000 is also significant in some New Age religious movements.
The number 144,000 is mentioned three times in the Book of Revelation in the context of an eschatological struggle between good and evil. Within this struggle, a designated group of humans (144,000) are especially enumerated for God's blessings and redemption.
The three specific biblical passages that mention the 144,000 are as follows:
The numbers 12,000 and 144,000 are variously interpreted in traditional Christianity. Some, taking the numbers in Revelation to be symbolic, believe it represents all of God's people throughout history in the heavenly Church. Others insist the numbers 12,000 and 144,000 are literal numbers and that the 144,000 people who are descendants of Jacob (also called Israel in the Bible) have a distinct role at the time of the end of the world.
Jehovah's Witnesses distinctly believe that only 144,000 people will be raised to heaven, and will thus spend eternity with God. They do not believe that this number necessarily comes from descendants of Jacob, but from early Christians, and those of Jehovah's Witnesses who profess to be "anointed" or ("spiritual Israel"). Witnesses believe that the 144,000 have been selected by God from the time of Jesus' apostles through to today. They believe that the 144,000 (those having a "heavenly hope") will reign with Christ in heaven, while all other people accepted by God will live forever on a paradise earth (an "earthly hope.")
|Traditional Christian teaching||Corresponding Jehovah’s Witnesses teaching|
|12,000 and 144,000 are symbolic numbers representing all of God's people; or 2) Literally 144,000 people (12,000 from each tribe) will be chosen from the tribes of Israel.||12,000 is symbolic of balance. Literally 144,000 people will be the "spiritual Israel" (i.e. "anointed" Jehovah's Witnesses).|
|All Christians are born again and will thus spend eternity with God.||Only 144,000 believers are to be raised up and spend eternity in heaven with God.|
|One cannot see God’s Kingdom or enter into it without being born again.||Those who do not have a "heavenly hope" have an "earthly hope" to a paradise earth.|
Only about 8,500 of Jehovah's Witnesses claim to be of the 144,000 today. However, they believe that Jesus is Shepherd and Savior over both those with the "heavenly hope" (the 144,000) and those with the "earthly hope" (to live on a paradise earth).
The Christian Skoptzy sect, founded in Russia in 1757 by André Ivanov, believe that the Messiah would come when the Skoptsi numbered 144,000, and all their efforts were directed toward reaching this total.
The number 144,000 is also significant in various New Age religious movements.
All links retrieved October 12, 2019
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