A Critique of the Upcoming Jehovah’s Witness Memorial (Lord’s Supper)
by James Broughton
Have you ever been invited to someone’s home for dinner, but not eaten any of the food? Only sat there and watched them eat? What purpose would that serve? That is exactly what the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses expect you to do if you attend this year’s Memorial on Friday, April 3rd 2015.
An important doctrine for Jehovah’s Witnesses is that of the 144,000. This small number represents the total number of human beings that will be allowed into heaven. Those of the 144,000 alive on earth today are referred to as the Remnant.
The Remnant are the only ones who are allowed to partake of the bread and wine at the memorial, despite this being in flagrant disregard of Jesus, who said everlasting life is contingent on partaking of the emblems in remembrance of him.
John 6:53-57 “Accordingly Jesus said to them: “Most truly I say to you, Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves.”
“Since sharing in the bread and wine passed during the Memorial involves all of this, it would obviously be inappropriate for those having an earthly hope to partake. Were they to partake of the emblems, it would signify something that is not true with respect to them. Thus, they do not partake, though they do attend the Memorial as respectful observers.” Watchtower 2006 Feb 15 p.24.
Q. Who, according to Jesus, is entitled to partake of the bread and wine?
The decreasing number of the remnant was used as proof that the end is about to occur.
“Six Convincing Lines of Evidence” that we are in the Last Days.. Sixth, the number of genuine anointed disciples of Christ is dwindling, though some will evidently still be on earth when the great tribulation begins. Most of the remnant are quite elderly, and over the years the number of those who are truly anointed has been getting smaller.” Watchtower 2000 Jan 15 p.13.
Q. Is the number of anointed believers growing or dwindling?
Despite Watchtower questioning the number of newly anointed and their legitimacy, and describing them as potentially emotionally troubled, the number continues to rise.
“Memorial partakers. This is the number of baptized individuals who partake of the emblems at the Memorial worldwide. Does this total represent the number of anointed ones on earth? Not necessarily. A number of factors — including past religious beliefs or even mental or emotional imbalance— might cause some to assume mistakenly that they have the heavenly calling. We thus have no way of knowing the exact number of anointed ones on earth; nor do we need to know.” Watchtower 2011 Aug 15 p.22.
“Over the years some, even ones newly baptized, have suddenly begun to partake. In a number of cases, after a while they acknowledged that this was an error. Some have recognized that they partook as an emotional response to perhaps physical or mental strain. But they came to see that they really were not called to heavenly life. There is every reason to believe that the number of anointed ones will continue to decline as advanced age and unforeseen occurrences end their earthly lives.” Watchtower 1996 Aug 15 p.31.
Q. What factors might explain the increase in partakers of the emblems?
For over seventy years it was held that the 144,000 were fully assigned by 1935. If anyone since 1935 rightfully claimed to be anointed it was as a replacement of a sinful remnant, no longer worthy of heaven.
“For 19 centuries there was only the one calling, the heavenly one, with Jehovah being very selective as to who would serve with his Son to make up the Kingdom government…In time the prescribed but limited number of 144,000 would be reached. After this no more would be anointed by holy spirit as witness that they had the heavenly hope, unless, in a rare occurrence, the unfaithfulness of one of the remaining ‘chosen ones’ made a replacement necessary.” Watchtower 1982 Feb 15 p.30.
Quite contrary to the expectation and teachings of the Governing Body, after an initial rapid decrease, the number of partakers remained constant for almost forty years. Since 2007, there has been a surge in partakers. This followed the removal of the 1935 close for the calling, with the statement, “we cannot set a specific date for when the calling of Christians to the heavenly hope ends.” Watchtower 2007 May 1 p.31. Whilst admitting that the calling did not close in 1935, the Watchtower seems determined to encourage members that the end is very close by saying the number of anointed are decreasing, even though partakers have not decreased over the decades. It is logical that the number claiming to be anointed would rise once the restriction on new partakers was somewhat lifted.
Q. What caused the change of view and why was it necessary?
Jesus set the example of drinking wine and eating bread as observance of his sacrifice and said to his followers to “Keep doing this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:15-19). Furthermore, the New Testament shows that any follower of Jesus needs to be anointed or born again to enter the kingdom. John 3:3 – “Unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Although the Watchtower tries to dismiss such requirement on the basis that most of today’s Witnesses belong to an earthly Great Crowd, this teaching is based on a shaky foundation that collapses with the minimal examination. The doctrine that only 144,000 go to heaven brings to mind Jesus’ words of condemnation to first-century teachers.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” Matthew 23:13.
It is difficult not to make a direct comparison with the teachings of the Watchtower’s Governing Body.