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Memorial of Jesus Christ’s Death

Memorial of Jesus Christ’s Death

On Tuesday, April 11, 2017, Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world will be participating in their annual memorial to commemorate Christ’s death. They are currently going door-to-door inviting the public to attend this solemn event with them. It is expected that upwards of 20 million will attend their global event this year.

Background to the Memorial

If you are unfamiliar with Watch Tower’s doctrinal teachings, this is their viewpoint of the memorial.  The Watchtower has a two class system.  One class is the 144,000, also known as “the anointed”.  The other class is known as “the great crowd”. Without breaking it down too much, the 144,000 as the Watchtower teaches it are destined for heaven and the great crowd is to live on a paradise Earth in the future. This is one of their core doctrines. (Read Revelation 19:1 and Revelation 14:1-5 This separation is further delineated since the Greek Scriptures/New Testament is written specifically for the anointed. This is reinforced with the following:

Special attention was being given to making up the government that would rule mankind for 1,000 years, and nearly all the inspired letters in the Christian Greek Scriptures are primarily directed to this group of Kingdom heirs—“the holy ones,” “partakers of the heavenly calling.”

– United in Worship of the Only True God,  1983, p. 111


How the Memorial came to be

With that in mind, let us consider how the memorial came to be. This video clip speaks as to how Charles Taze Russell was influenced (pay attention when George Storrs is mentioned):


Instead of relying solely on God’s word, we have a young Russell going to those who were not part of “God’s channel” for instruction. Ironically, this went into the memorial itself. 

These are the Bible verses that pertain to the memorial:

Galatians 3:27, 28 speaks of breaking down the barriers that had existed at this point. There is one common baptism – that doesn’t even follow the baptismal formula in the bible – and that’s where the similarity stops. 

1 Corinthians 12:22-25 speaks of the body of Christ. One body, many parts, all are necessary to function yet some at times are more prominent than others. Those that aren’t as honorable we surround with greater honor.  

These are Bible verses that specifically refer to the memorial:

 Matthew 26:26-29,  John 6:53-58

Now what we have is an organization that vehemently discourages the majority of its members from partaking.  Hence you can go door to door thinking you will earn your salvation. However, Jesus said that “whoever feeds on this bread will live forever”. There is no verse in the bible that says, “Whoever goes door to door will live forever”.

The Jehovah’s Witness leadership directs that members only observe the memorial just once a year. But there is no explicit verse to agree with this.  

Imagine you’re invited over to someone’s house for dinner. You sit down at the table. The food and drink is placed in front of you. The host offers a prayer to God. After the prayer is said, the food and drink are passed around the table. Each person looks at the food and drink. They do not eat or drink any of it. The table is cleared and everyone goes home. That would be ridiculous, right?  Well that’s exactly what happens at a Jehovah’s Witness Memorial. Here is the rationale:

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. 

– The Watchtower,  February 15, 2006 p.24

Almost 40 years earlier, the Watchtower Corporation explained why only a small number partake:

However, the time came when the number partaking began to decrease. What did this indicate? It indicated that the number of those called to the heavenly kingdom, namely 144,000, had come to completion and more were dying off than being added. 

– The Watchtower  June 15, 1966 p. 374

Notice how the number of those partaking had come to completion.  The number peaked at 52,465 in 1935 as stated in Proclaimer’s of God’s Kingdom (1993) on page 717.

The number was, despite some small spikes over the years, to continually decrease.  Yet, when the 2007 Yearbook was published, Jehovah’s Witnesses noticed a large spike in the partakers of the bread and wine. The number increased by 334 from the previous year!

Watchtower went into panic mode. They had to publish an explanation for the spike in memorial partakers. A clarification in their biblical understanding of the heavenly hope was conveniently made:

On the other hand, as time has gone by, some Christians baptized after 1935 have had witness borne to them that they have the heavenly hope. (Romans 8:16, 17) Thus, it appears that we cannot set a specific date for when the calling of Christians to the heavenly hope ends.

How should a person be viewed who has determined in his heart that he is now anointed and begins to partake of the emblems at the Memorial? He should not be judged. The matter is between him and Jehovah. 

– The Watchtower May 1, 2007 p.31

So in short, the belief in the sealing of the anointed that was firmly held by Jehovah’s Witnesses since 1935 was discarded with just a few sentences of a Watchtower article.

Two years later, despite an increase of almost 1500 memorial partakers since 2007, they attempted to hoodwink their members by focusing on the increase in “the other sheep”:

While the number of anointed ones on the earth has decreased over the decades, the number of the other sheep has increased. When those who have an earthly hope share in the witness work, serving if possible as full-time evangelizers, they support the spirit-anointed ones in fulfilling the disciple-making assignment.

– The Watchtower February 15, 2009 p. 27-28

The number of anointed had indeed decreased over a 70 year period from 1935 until 2005. But since then, what has been the reality?  Let us review the number of partakers for the last quarter of a century:

  • 8,850 – 1992 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 33
  • 8,683 – 1993 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 33
  • 8,693 – 1994 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p.33
  • 8,617 – 1995 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 33
  • 8,645 – 1996 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 33
  • 8,757 – 1997 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 33
  • 8,795 – 1998 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 31
  • 8,756 – 1999 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 31
  • 8,755 – 2000 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 31
  • 8,661 – 2001 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 31
  • 8,730 – 2000 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 31
  • 8,760 – 2003 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 31
  • 8,565 – 2004 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 31
  • 8,570 – 2005 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 31
  • 8,524 – 2006 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 31

The evidence showed that the numbers had decreased by more than 300 from 1991 until 2005. But from 2006 until the present, the number of memorial partakers has increased substantially.

  • 8,758 – 2007 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 31
  • 9,105 – 2008 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 31
  • 9,986 – 2009 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 31
  • 10,857 – 2010 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 31
  • 11,202 – 2011 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 51
  • 11,824 – 2012 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 55
  • 12,604 – 2013 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 178
  • 13,204 – 2014 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 176
  • 14,121 – 2015 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 176
  • 15,177 – 2016 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 176
  • 18,013 – 2017 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 177
  • 18,564 – 2017 Service Year Report of Jehovah’s Witnesses Worldwide p. 2

In the 2016 service year, the largest increase within Jehovah’s Witnesses on a global level has been the number of memorial partakers. There has been a whopping 19% increase over the previous service year. It is the largest increase on record! How does the organization account for the increasing number?  There are “a number of factors”:

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.  

– The Watchtower – Study Edition  August 15, 2011 p.22

Did you notice that this Watchtower reference laid the blame for the increase squarely at the feet of some of its members? It has even gone so far to label them as mentally or emotionally imbalanced!  Clearly, the organization takes no responsibility for its own doctrine.  Here is a more recent explanation for the increase in memorial partakers:

WHAT ABOUT THE NUMBER OF THOSE PARTAKING AT THE MEMORIAL? In recent years, we have seen an increase in the number of those partaking at the Memorial of Christ’s death. That trend contrasts with the decrease in the number of partakers that we saw for many decades. Should this increase trouble us? No. Let us consider some key factors to keep in mind. “Jehovah knows those who belong to him.” (2 Tim. 2:19) Those taking the count at the Memorial cannot judge who truly have the heavenly hope. The number of partakers includes those who mistakenly think that they are anointed. Some who at one point started to partake of the emblems later stopped. Others may have mental or emotional problems that lead them to believe that they will rule with Christ in heaven. Therefore,the number of partakers does not accurately indicate the number of anointed ones left on earth.”

– The Watchtower – Study Edition February 2016 p.25-26

What is extremely puzzling about the above explanation is that just 16 years earlier, the decrease in partakers was a line of evidence that they were nearing the Great Tribulation, or Armageddon.  :

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. 

– The Watchtower  January 15, 2000 p. 13.

In any case, these explanations do not hold water. Why? Because the anointed partakers is increasing at a rate greater than the increase in non-anointed members.  This means long standing Witnesses who have been in the organization for some time have begun to reject the doctrine of a paradise earth. Instead, as time passes by and Jehovah’s Witnesses’ ever-imminent Armageddon is delaying from generation to generation, it is like that more and more Jehovah’s Witnesses are considering the possibility that paradise is in heaven. This is a view that almost all other Christian denominations hold. It’s likely that some Jehovah’s Witnesses do not want to leave the religion for various personal reasons. Instead, they have taken the choice to remain as a Jehovah’s Witness but have embraced the biblical teaching that paradise is in heaven. Compare Luke 23:43, 2 Corinthians 12:4, Revelation 2:7 and bear in mind what Watchtower said in United in Worship of the Only True God,  1983, p. 111; “nearly all the inspired letters in the Christian Greek Scriptures are primarily directed to … “partakers of the heavenly calling.” 

With the number of partakers increasing, should the Watchtower officially push back the great tribulation for a later date? Or should they embrace mainstream Christianity’s belief that paradise is in heaven? The evidence proves that the organization behind Jehovah’s Witnesses is, yet again, giving conflicting view points on a simple Bible teaching.  Jesus said to partake but the organization implores the majority to not do so.  Who will you follow?  Jesus’ words in the Bible haven’t changed. Yet, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is continually changing. Maybe you should consider putting your Watchtower literature down and just take out your Bible and read it..  After all, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses have admitted in The Watchtower – Study Edition February 2017 that they are neither inspired or infallible. If they are not inspired or infallible, any utterance they make through any media should be questioned. – Compare Psalms 146:3.

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Jason Wynne is a husband to one wife, father to two children, and writes extensively on the activities of Jehovah's Witnesses having been baptized as a member in 1995.

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