Will There Only Be 144,000 People in Heaven?

By Brian G. Chilton

At our church, we recently began a new series of messages on heaven. After the service, I received a wonderful question from one of our members, Allison Mathews. Allison said that she had heard that only 144,000 people would be in heaven, and wondered if that was true. Some groups, especially among the Jehovah Witnesses, have espoused that only a select group of individuals (that is, 144,000) throughout all of history will be in heaven. Ironically, more than 144,000 Jehovah Witnesses attend Watchtower Bible studies worldwide, so someone is in trouble. While that is said tongue-in-cheek, the number of 144,000 has brought great interest to individuals wondering whom John is referencing, and how many people will be in heaven. This article will identify the 144,000 and discuss the number of people that one can expect to find in heaven as given in the book of Revelation.
144,000 in heaven

Who are the 144,000?

The concept of the 144,000 comes from Revelation 7. John mentions the 144,000 after describing the Lamb of God (i.e., Jesus) opening up a scroll of which no one else is found worthy (Rev. 5:8-14). When the Lamb opens the seven seals of the scroll, a series of judgments come from the unsealing of the scroll, including the infamous Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Rev. 6:1-8), a group of martyred souls awaiting their vengeance (Rev. 6:9-11), and a massive earthquake (Rev. 12:9-17).

After all these events have completed, four angels standing at the four corners of the earth (symbolically speaking), and the angels hold back the judgments until 144,000 are sealed on the earth. The 144,000 are identified in verse four as those “sealed from every tribe of the Israelites.”[1] There are two primary options for identifying this group.

Metaphorical: The number 12 is symbolic of God’s government (e.g., 12 tribes of Israel and 12 disciples). 12,000 x 12= 144,000. In this case, some hold that 144,000 symbolically represents the entire church, but would not hold a precise numerical value as to the number of individuals in heaven.

Literal: In this view, the 144,000 are redeemed Israelites who are saved during the time of global tribulation after the church has been resurrected. This view is the most plausible and relates best to the text at hand. Therefore, the 144,000 are Jewish individuals who are saved during the time of tribulation and not the number of all heavenly citizens.

How Many People Will Be in Heaven?

If the 144,000 is not a representation of the number of heavenly citizens, then how many people will be in heaven? Interestingly, the number of heavenly citizens is given in the verses following the description of the 144,000. John looks and sees a “vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:9-10).

So, how many people will be in heaven? Only God knows. It is a number greater than any person could count. The citizenship of heaven will include men and women who are white and black, Jews and Arabs, Americans and Russians, Iraqis and Iranians, North and South Americans, Africans and Asians, Europeans and Oceanians. Heavenly citizens will transcend from points across time itself! As Cordie Bridgewater poetically wrote in her classic hymn, “How beautiful heaven must be, sweet home of the happy and free; fair heaven of rest for the weary, how beautiful heaven must be.”[2]


[1] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman, 2017).

[2] Cordie Bridgewater, How Beautiful Heaven Must Be, https://hymnary.org/text/we_read_of_a_place_thats_called_heaven, retrieved January 22, 2018.

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently a student of the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University. Brian is a full member of the International Society of Christian Apologetics and the Christian Apologetics Alliance. Brian has been in the ministry for over 14 years and serves as the pastor of Huntsville Baptist Church in Yadkinville, North Carolina.

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5 replies
  1. Renden Ellenberger says:

    I think one thing worth mentioning, the jw’s also add a 2 class theology to the equation. The 144,000 are the “Heavanly class” (in their doctrine) but the supposed goats are all other jw believers that go to paradise earth and have not done enough here, to deserve heaven. The new heaven and new earth in Rev. they also separated into 2 distinct locations. The way i understand Rev is that the new heaven and new earth are combined as one location,put very simply. If anyone has the correct biblical explanation feel free to set me straight on this matter.

    • St. Lee says:

      Yeah, pretty hard to keep a cult going if all the spots in heaven are already filled up and new converts will be consigned to hell. But on-going revelation to the rescue, now those new converts can still take aim at earning a place in a second class heaven. But it seems that now-a-days JWs have been sold that this second class earthly paradise is actually preferable than to being with Jesus. Well, one thing is certain, unless they repent they won’t have to worry about being with Jesus except for a brief time at the white throne.

  2. Steve says:

    I’ve tried earnestly to see if there was someone who could actually support the Christian faith with facts and solid arguments. I’ve watched countless debates between atheists and Christian apologists and have without exception come to find that the arguments and thinking of the atheists are better informed and more cogent, while those of the Christians are muddy, simple minded and full of non sequiturs. This is true even among the videos found on this website. I come from a family with a long history of strong Christian faith and still have many dear friends who are loyal Christians. I would have liked to have be among them but the truth is just too large a price to pay. These muddy and perplexing theological issues, (such as the 144,000 and countless others) all go away when one accepts that the bible is little more than a book of fiction written by men with a world view that lacks the knowledge we have collectively gained over the past two millennia. It saddens me to reach this conclusion, actually, and I hold no ill will to those who profess a steady and unflappable Christian faith. Peace to all!

    • Mark Heavlin says:

      The point of the article is that Jehovah’s Witness is a cult as proven by their own doctrine. As it has been proven false.
      “I would have liked to have be among them but the truth is just too large a price to pay.”
      I would like to point out that there is ZERO price for you to pay. Salvation is the FREE GIFT from GOD to you through Christ’s death and resurrection and that is the TRUTH of the Bible.
      John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

    • Susan Tan says:

      Then you are truly blind comparing materialist evidence with materialist evidence.

      You are trying to prove the spiritual from the material?

      They have entirely two different natures.

      Do you prove the existence of an apple by pointing to an orange.

      Christians are the wise ones who take God at His Word about who He is. He already demonstrated concretely who He is by the life of Christ which is a permanent example to all generations and why Christians put themselves without reservation into God’s hands so He can make something better out of them while there is still time.

      Only someone who can’t understand or refuses to argues against God.

      Only a spiritual ignoramus follows a cult led by a man which the Jehovah Witnesses are doing in being led by a man and not even a particularly good man. Charles Taze Russell was a con man as his wiki biography shows.

      If you atheists want to keep making the false substitution of the
      material for the spiritual so you can allow your fear to control you then do it but in private please.

      If you are too afraid to take directions from God who has the power of life and death over everyone then you are willfully ignorant.

      God displayed his power over and over again in the Old Testament and Christ did again in His resurrection.

      So if you’re going to allow your own fear to hold you in ignorance denying the Godhood of Jesus.

      Then stop skulking on message boards disseminating your errors like you aren’t rationalizing your own fears.

      God could have made godly men out of you but you wouldn’t let Him so He didn’t pick you and now you EXPECT all the good Christians to humor you while you blaspheme God in your heart.

      DIsbelief is a form of confusion and blasphemy and I am sick and tired of hearing and reading the complaints against God by people who refuse to go to Him and know Him.

      If you don’t know God be quiet.

      A Christian KNOWS God. He gives us His Spirit. We are in spiritual union with God 24/7 and I am not playing this arguing game indulging your ignorance any longer because your rebellion is an act of treason against God which owns the whole world by right of creation.

      If He has the power of life and death then He owns everyone right?

      There are none so blind as those who refuse to see but you can never stop them from airing their own ignorance confusing others into siding with them.

      That’s all. Hope you grow a big enough set of balls for God to enlighten you some day.


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