The 144,000, the GREAT CROWD, and 1935

(Investigator 162, 2015 May)


Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) believe that many earliest members of the "great crowd" will live to see Armageddon.

Their book Survival into a New Earth (1984) says:
Especially beginning in 1935, when the identity of the "great multitude," or "great crowd," was clearly understood, large numbers of these began to manifest themselves… God’s infallible Word depicts this group as 'coming out of the great tribulation,' being survivors of it, living right on into God’s New Order without ever having to die. (Revelation 7:9, 10, 14; John 11:26) The early members of this group are now in their 60's or 70's or older. Jehovah did not allow the ingathering of this group to begin too soon. The "great crowd," including many of the earliest members thereof, will survive into the "new earth." (p184)

The "great crowd" are JWs who believe they will survive Armageddon and live as flesh-and-blood humans forever on Earth.

JWs distinguish these from "the 144,000" who expect to live as ghost-like "spirits" in heaven.

Consider the above quote again: The great crowd began "manifesting" in 1935 and "many of the earliest members … in their 60's or 70's or older … will survive into the new earth."

It is now 31 years after the above quote, and the "earliest members" are in their 90's or 100's.


The JW Yearbooks contain attendance statistics of their annual "Memorial" of Jesus' death which all JWs try to attend.

Those who partake of the bread and wine are called "Memorial partakers" and belong to the alleged 144,000.

Members of the "great crowd" attend as observers and do not partake.

The table below shows that less than 11,000 people in 1935 were of the great crowd.

Table 1
52,465 63,146
36,732 69,300
27,620 96,600
22,723 511,200
13,911 1,520,000
10,526 3,226,000
9,564 5,727,000
8,869 9,950,000
8,661 14,872,000
8,524 16,383,000
11,202 18,707,000
14,121 19,950,000

With life-expectancy in the 1930s lower than today, it is doubtful that more than 1% of the 11,000 "earliest" great-crowd members are still alive. That's about 100 individuals who are now aged in their 90's or 100's.

A mere 100 out of 11,000 is hardly "many" — therefore the prediction that "many" will survive Armageddon already looks shaky.

Furthermore these estimated 100 surviving "earliest members" should all be deceased in another 20 years. We see this because the world's oldest people are aged around 115 years. Recently Wikipedia reported:
Ethel Lang (27 May 1900 - 15 January 2015) was a British supercentenarian and, at the time of her death  [at age 115], the oldest living person in the United Kingdom, the eighth oldest living person in the world, the second-oldest living person in Europe and one of the 100 oldest people ever…

Therefore even if a "great crowd" member of 1935 becomes the world's oldest person, he will die in about 20 years.


The prediction based on 1935 reminds us of a similar prediction based on 1914:
We also know that the 19I4 generation is well into the evening of its existence, thus allowing only a little time for this prophecy yet to be fulfilled. (Watchtower 1985 May 1, p7)

Until 1995 JWs preached that people who lived before 1914 would live to see Armageddon. This prophecy was mentioned hundreds of times in JW writings and was called "the creator's promise" but is now defunct.

The forecast based on 1935 is not as prominent in JW thinking as 1914 but already looks as worthless.

But how did JWs get the date 1935? Did they calculate it from the Bible?


A century ago the sect that became JWs was commonly called "Russellites" and "Millennial Dawners".

The Russellites believed they were doing a "harvest work" which began in 1874 to collect into their cult the 144,000. The selection of the 144,000 began in the first century, but 1874 marked the end-time "harvest" when the remainder had to be found.

The "harvest" would finish in 1914 when members of the 144,000 still living on Earth would ascend to heaven and Armageddon would also occur:
The harvest work will occupy forty years for its full accomplishment, ending with A.D. 1914. (The Time is At Hand 1889, p150)
But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble. (Watchtower Reprints, July 1894, p1677)

In 1915 would come world peace, the resurrection of the dead, and world rule by Abraham, Moses and other Old Testament heroes.

The Russellites were surprised when in 1915 they didn't ascend to heaven and the other predictions were also not happening.

So they changed the start of the harvest to 1878, and to keep the harvest at 40 years they predicted 1918. In 1918 they would ascend to heaven and all religions and nations would start to be annihilated.

Again the Russellites were surprised when in 1918 they stayed on the ground and Armageddon didn't come.

Their explanation was that the "harvest" of the 144,000 was not quite finished. God wanted them to do a "gleaning" work to find a few more:
That the harvest began in 1878, there is ample and convincing proof. The end of the harvest is due in the spring of 1918… If the harvest has ended, then the sealing is complete. The evidence strongly suggests that all the saints are sealed. (Watch Tower Reprints, 1918 May 1, p6243)

While it is true that the harvest work is closed, yet there is doubtless a gleaning work that will continue for a while. (Watch Tower Reprints,1919 May 1, p6429)

True the forty year period of the harvest closed in the spring of 1918, but that does not at all signify that the work ceased or should cease, nor does it mean a complete closing of the door. In the natural harvest of Israel, which the Lord gives as an illustration of the spiritual harvest, there was always a gleaning work to be done, which work followed the regular harvest work. As long as there are any of the saints this side the vail there will be a possibility of some falling away and losing their crowns, in which event some others would be selected to take the place or places of those falling away. There are doubtless many saints yet this side the vail. This is a good reason why there is yet some work to be done, and explains why some are still coming into the truth and giving evidence of being spirit-begotten. (Watch Tower, 1919 July 1, p200)

By 1930 the so-called "gleaning work" looked bigger than the entire "harvest". Converts from 1874 to 1918 had probably numbered less than 10,000. But around 1930 the total active sect membership passed 30,000.

Continued expansion would refute the idea of a "gleaning work" and also refute the doctrine that only 144,000 would go to heaven.

Judge Rutherford (1869-1942), the then president of JWs, found the answer.

The answer was that God wanted another harvest work to be done. God wanted a "great multitude" to be "harvested" and become JWs and survive Armageddon.

The "gleaning work" to find the remaining members of the 144,000 therefore stopped in 1935 — there could be no new members except to replace a few who became "unfaithful". At the same time the "harvest" of the "great crowd" began:
Their being identified in 1935 as the great crowd of other sheep was an indication that the choosing of the 144,000 was then about complete. (Revelation It’s Grand Climax At Hand! 1988, p125)

The year 1935 therefore was not calculated directly from the Bible as were 1874, 1878, 1914, 1918, 1925, 1975 and other dates. It was simply the year when Judge Rutherford solved the problems of the "gleaning" becoming too big and the 144,000 becoming too many.

Rutherford claimed that the new harvest fulfilled Revelation 7 which mentions a "great crowd" who worship God. JWs therefore began to regard 1935 as a year when Bible prophecy was fulfilled even though 1935 is not calculated from the Bible.


With the harvest of the 144,000 completed in 1935, their number declined year after year.

Rutherford predicted that some of the 144,000 would live on until after Armageddon into the "new earth". (Preparation 1932 pp 158-166)

Even some old members of the 144,000, those who joined the Russellites before 1919, would survive Armageddon. Frederick Franz (1893-1992), the fourth president of JWs, wrote:
"A number of these should survive still longer to see and go through the war of Armageddon…" (Watchtower 1970, January 15, p52)
However, the pre-1919 members of the alleged 144,000 have died out as probably have those who were alive in 1935 (since all were adults).

Every year since the 1930s JWs eagerly awaited the statistics of the annual Memorial to see how many "partakers" remained — since the smaller the number the closer was Armageddon.

The excitement was futile because around 2005 the "partakers" began to increase — See Table 1. They are increasing even though the "harvest" of them stopped in 1918 except for a "gleaning", and finished again in 1935.


The alleged 144,000 who should by now have survived Armageddon and died out are increasing; and the "early [1935] members" of the great crowd of whom "many" were supposed to live forever are dying out!

Furthermore, the "gleaning" doctrine of 1919 is what excused the prophecy-failures of 1914 and 1918. Therefore, with the renewed increases in "partakers" since 2005 the prophecy-failures have lost their excuse and are simply false predictions!

JWs call their religion: "the only Organization on earth that understands the deep things of God." (Watchtower 1973, July 1, p402) However, no one else who looks carefully is convinced.

Still Promising Survival

(Investigator 163, 2015 July)

You can't have realized it — but your latest Investigator (#162) with your 144,000-article was perfectly timed!

You'd have thought, after ALL their numerous errors, the Society would have given up promising their readers that THEY (personally!) might be one of the lucky ones who "never dies" —  but no, they've learned nothing and carry on as if all the stuff they've written never took place.

As it happens — here's an article from a recent 'Watchtower' attached.

Under the heading "MANY WILL SURVIVE AND YOU CAN TOO" it says: "The Bible informs us that the end will involve destruction… But God promises us that many humans will survive…"

Bob Potter

Jehovah's Witnesses teachings are evaluated, compassionately and fairly, on this website: