Many people hope to go to heaven to be with God when they die. The Bible also says there will be no more tears, mourning, crying, or pain in heaven (Rev. 21:4), so people look forward to it with great anticipation. However, some people fear they will not get into heaven. Some think their sin will keep them out of heaven. Others believe that heaven is already at capacity.
According to the Bible, there is no limit on how many people can go to heaven. The Bible describes scenes of heaven with so many people that no one can count them. The reason there is no limit to how many people can go to heaven is that there is no limit on how many people Jesus is willing and able to save.
How many people will be in heaven? Why do some people believe that only 144,000 people can go to heaven and that it’s already at capacity? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Also see Does Everyone Go To Heaven? to learn more.
How Many People Will Be In Heaven?
The Bible doesn’t specify the exact number of people who will be in heaven, but it contains descriptions that suggest it’s a large number. For example, in the book of Revelation, John sees a crowd that couldn’t be counted.
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9, ESV)
What does the “great multitude” mean? The phrase “great multitude” refers to an enormous crowd of people. The phrase “that no one could number” may suggest a group of people numbering in the millions, hundreds of millions, or more. John adds that the crowd consists of people from all over the world. The multitudes’ worship and praise of the Lamb, who is Jesus Christ, unites them in heaven.
|NIV||“a great multitude that no one could count”|
|NLT||“a vast crowd, too great to count”|
|KJV||“a great multitude, which no man could number”|
|NASB||“a great multitude which no one could count”|
|CSB||“a vast multitude”|
|CEV||“a large crowd with more people than could be counted”|
What does the great multitude have to do with the 144,000 described in the previous passage? The 144,000 are believers who are preparing for battle on Earth (Rev. 7:1-8). In context, the number has nothing to do with how many people can enter heaven (more below). The great multitude is a description of victorious believers (Rev. 7:9).
Some Bible scholars and theologians describe the groups with these terms:
- The 144,000 is a description of the Church militant
- The great multitude is a description of the Church triumphant
Also see Do People Who Commit Suicide Go To Heaven? to learn more.
Why is heaven’s capacity limitless?
Heaven isn’t like a sports arena or concert hall whose seats can be “sold out.” However, according to the Bible, entry into heaven isn’t based simply on whether a person simply chooses to go there.
Heaven is the eternal destination of those who have been saved by God’s grace through their faith in Christ. They will live forever in heaven with God as a result. (John 3:16, 14:2; Romans 6:23, 10:9-10)
While a person can’t simply decide to go to heaven, they can simply decide to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. One result of faith in Christ is that he prepares a place for believers in heaven.
|ESV||“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”|
|NIV||“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”|
|KJV||“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”|
How many people can Christ save? Despite the erroneous teachings of some organizations (see below), there is no limit. While the Bible teaches that not everyone will be saved, it’s clear that anyone can be saved. There are multiple verses in the Bible that teach this. Here are three examples:
- John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
- Acts 2:38. “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'”
- Romans 10:13, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Also see Is My Dog In Heaven? to learn more.
Where does the idea that heaven has a limited capacity come from?
In the modern era, the idea that heaven has a limited capacity comes from the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The early history of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is filled with proclamations and predictions about the end of the world. The organization’s apocalyptic narratives often center on faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Who are the 144,000 according to Jehovah’s Witnesses? In Revelation 7:1-8, John describes a group of 12,000 people from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, which amounts to 144,000 people. The Jehovah’s Witnesses organization interprets this number literally. In 1932, the organization proclaimed that the 144,000 are a group of uniquely anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses who survive Armageddon.
“And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000 from the tribe of Gad, 12,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh, 12,000 from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000 from the tribe of Levi, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar, 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.” (Revelation 7:4-8)
What is special about the 144,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses? Besides their unique anointing, these Jehovah’s Witnesses will be resurrected and go to heaven. In heaven, they will rule over the Earth with Christ. As the number 144,000 indicates, this special class of people who live forever in heaven is limited.
Is heaven already full according to this teaching? Yes. Heaven reached capacity in 1935 when all 144,000 uniquely anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses had finally entered.
What about everyone else? According to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ teaching, other people, sometimes called “other sheep,” can be part of the great multitude of people described in Revelation 7:9. This group of people, which has no capacity limits, will reside on a restored Earth for all eternity.
Does Revelation 14:1-5 teach that heaven will have a limited capacity? According to the Bible, it doesn’t. According to the interpretations of the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization, it does.
- 1 Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.
- 2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps
- 3 and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.
- 4 It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb,
- 5 and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.
Similar to Revelation 7:1-8, there is no indication in the context of the book, the chapter, or the passages that these verses are a description of heaven, which is limited in capacity.
Also see Did Judas Go To Heaven? to learn more.
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