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]

Notes 

[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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23 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  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!

    Reply
    • 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.
      .
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      John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
      .
      .
      KNOW JESUS – KNOW PEACE
      NO JESUS – NO PEACE

      Reply
      • Steve wilson says:

        Thanks, Mark. Yes, the JWs beliefs seem particularly far fetched. I just got a bit frustrated at all the mental energy being devoted to reconciling scripture and logic. I fear I’m too far gone for Christian salvation. At this point my only hope is to live as good a life as I can with love and goodwill to all and trust that death is final and that there is no heaven or hell. Curiously, I find some comfort in that, and even a greater sense of urgency to live life fully in the moment. I’d enjoy your response, Mark, but I don’t mean to offend and if this isn’t the right venue then I can just go on my way.

        Reply
        • Mark Heavlin says:

          Sorry should have added that article is a short read 5 minutes for the article and maybe 15 minutes to check the actual verses.
          .
          I use: “http://biblehub.com/”
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          Very straight forward and gives you lots of translations to compare on each verse.

          Reply
        • Mark Heavlin says:

          Second:
          .
          John Chapter 2 where Jesus is talking to Nicodemus about being born again is worth reading.
          .
          Third:
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          You mentioned above that you have many close friends and family that are Christian. At least one but probably all would be more than willing to help you in your search.
          .
          Not sure where you are located but you need to find a strong Bible believing Church to attend. As a test of whether a church fits that category I would say that at a minimum they should affirm The Apostle’s Creed. One note in the creed that “catholic” means “universal” or “the entire Christian Church” and not “The Roman Catholic Church”. Google search for “apostle’s creed”.
          .
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostles%27_Creed

          Reply
          • Mark Heavlin says:

            My apologies for the above typo: “John Chapter 2” should be “John Chapter 3”.
            .
            If I could only type correctly or be a better proof reader of my own stuff.

          • L.G. Swift says:

            You can be sure of one thing, if you find a true church, Satan will either screw the church up or he will screw things up for the people in the church.

        • Mark Heavlin says:

          Fourthly:
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          A couple comments that I have gleaned from Dr. Turek’s video’s:
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          Concerning the Bible:
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          The main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things.
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          And along those lines the following acronym: CRIME
          .
          C – Creation
          R – Rebellion
          I – Intervention
          M – Mission
          E – Eternity

          Reply
        • Mark Heavlin says:

          Lastly:
          .
          “and if this isn’t the right venue”
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          Agreed that this type of venue makes it difficult to properly address the subject matter. Hopefully, the information I have provided will help you in your search to discover “TRUTH”.
          .
          I find myself always questioning always testing making sure I have the “TRUTH”.
          .
          John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
          .
          NO JESUS – NO PEACE
          KNOW JESUS – KNOW PEACE

          Reply
          • Steve wilson says:

            Thanks, Mark for your thoughtful responses! Timely to refer to Billy Graham today, of course… yes, I am very familiar with the apostles creed. It is still very much burned into memory from my childhood. I have recited it many times. To wit, in your view, how essential is belief in the virgin birth, the resurrection of the body as referenced in that creed? So often it feels as though these beliefs overreach and in the process call into question the legitimacy of any other claim of truth or authenticity. Must I believe in a Noah’s ark? A burning bush? An earth less than 10,000 years old? Must I accept intelligent design? Must I fill in the (shrinking) void in human understanding of the world around us with personal God who cares about me as an individual? How do I ignore similar claims to the truth made by so many other religions around the world (and how can I not admit that if I was born a Saudi I may be occupying myself with the truth of the Koran). I’m left only with evidentiary truth to cling to. This was my original motivation in seeing what people like frank turek could offer. You’re right in that I feel no peace (no Jesus no peace), but is the approach which relies on observation over mythology, of fact over faith, of skepticism over zealotry more likely to come closer to the truth of who we are, why we are here and what the world around us truly is…? I’m sure my points are not new “there is nothing new under the sun”. Thanks for your thoughtfulness…

          • Mark Heavlin says:

            Sorry, read your comments yesterday; been beating around in my head the best way to represent what I believe. If you have been following any of the other threads here then you know that the ongoing argument with the atheists is about The Holy Bible and whether it is true or not. They think that when I quote scriptures at them that it is a circular argument and that I am the one doing the arguing. This is not true. The Holy Bible makes claims about itself and existed long before I was born and will continue to exist long after I am dead and gone from this planet. The truth of The Holy Bible is in zero way tied to how I or anyone else feels about it.

          • Mark Heavlin says:

            As far as miracles go.
            .
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            I think it is important to see that by definition they are rare supernatural events. Hence, the very definition. I think it is also important to note that they do not break any laws of nature as the laws of nature are “descriptive” instead of “prescriptive”. The natural laws describe what is occurring not why or how it is occurring nor do they say that it has to happen the way it does.
            .
            .
            As regards to specific miracles i.e. The Virgin Birth: I would have to say that it is absolutely essential to Christianity as it establishes the claim that Jesus is outside of what is normal and ( for lack of a better word ) immune to the sin nature that is inherent in all people since the fall in the Garden of Eden. Therefore, it was possible for him to live a sinless life and be offered as a sacrifice of atonement for all sin. With out a sinless Christ’s death and resurrection we are in exactly the same position as before he came. Dead in our sins with no way to pay our debt.
            .
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            As an aside – Crucifixion is absolutely one of the most brutal ways to die ever invented. Akin to being water boarded as you are also drowning in you own carbon dioxide at the same time. Jesus was also flogged 39 times with the cat of nine tails as this was the maximum allowed under Roman punishment. It was generally considered that a person could not survive more than this.

          • Mark Heavlin says:

            “An earth less than 10,000 years old?”
            .
            If you got the time Youtube John Lennox Socrates in the City and Seven Days that Divide the World.
            .
            I think it was Dr Turek that makes the point that when we get to Heaven the question is not going to be: ” So how long do you think it took to make the universe”.

          • Mark Heavlin says:

            “How do I ignore similar claims to the truth made by so many other religions around the world (and how can I not admit that if I was born a Saudi I may be occupying myself with the truth of the Koran).”
            .
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            All religions and world views in my opinion pretty much claim exclusivity for themselves.
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            Some self refute by making a claim that turns out to be false.
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            Only Christianity claims that salvation and the way to Heaven is a free gift from GOD.
            The others say you must work your way to god.
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            From this website from a few years ago on the truth of the Koran ( link provided):
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            https://crossexamined.org/simple-reason-quran-word-god/

          • Mark Heavlin says:

            Other semi random thoughts on the subject:
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            I am currently reading “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis which I would recommend.
            .
            Currently on the 3rd time thru Dr. Turek’s 3 DVD set ( 17 one hour sessions) entitled “Where Does Life’s Compass Point ?” which I would also recommend .
            .
            As a general rule I put very little faith into what any individual preacher or person pronounces as “TRUTH” without looking at the totality of what they mean and what The Bible says as well. Maybe “Always Questioning; Always Testing” as a motto best describes it.
            .
            One of the thing I see most apologetics people struggle with is the problem of evil and suffering. Which from my view is pretty simple to explain. Lucifer / Satan.
            .
            .
            Hope this helped. And find yourself a good Bible believing and preaching church.

    • 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.

      Reply
      • Steve wilson says:

        I’m sorry Susan, for evoking such an emotional response. I really am. In many ways I envy you. You seem to have no doubts whatsoever. What you’ve read in the Bible and what you’ve learned in your Christian education seem to be wholly sufficient for building a foundation of faith for you. I just have an incredibly hard time finding my way to these same beliefs, and trust me, I’ve tried. I will say I’m glad we don’t live in a theocracy, in which based on your tone I fear I would be put to death for treason and blasphemy. Is there room in your faith to find love for those who don’t share your convictions?

        Reply
        • Mark Heavlin says:

          @ Steve Wilson:
          .
          If you ever get back here to check in.
          .
          “As a general rule I put very little faith into what any individual preacher or person pronounces as “TRUTH” without looking at the totality of what they mean and what The Bible says as well. Maybe “Always Questioning; Always Testing” as a motto best describes it.”
          .
          Perfect example of what I am talking about right here between your comment and mine.

          Reply
    • Renden Ellenberger says:

      Dude, check out “unbelievable” pod cast with Justin brierley. It is more arguing but the Christian arguments might just get you back on track. The way you are writing makes me think God is not done with you. You sound like a truth seeker and a nice guy.

      Reply

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