IN UNION WITH CHRIST
January 1, 2017
Jehovah’s Witnesses will commemorate the Memorial or Remembrance Supper this year on April 11, 2017, after sundown. This is the annual opportunity for many among them who recognize that they are ‘sons of God’ to openly confess their union with Christ Jesus and to put themselves in line for a resurrection to the ‘real life.’ (John 6:53-56; 1 Timothy 6:19)
We know that many Jehovah’s Witnesses partake of the symbolic bread and wine privately in their homes to avoid complications in the congregation. They know that to confess openly at a congregation meeting that one is a ‘son of God’ with the hope of living eternally in heaven will draw negative congregational scrutiny, depending on the spirituality of their body of elders. And so we begin this Memorial season with words of encouragement to all Jehovah’s Witnesses to take the leap of faith and stand courageously in union with Christ Jesus, and in full reliance on his command to ‘take, eat and drink’ the Memorial emblems ‘in remembrance of him.’ (Matthew 26:26-28; Luke 22:19)
In January 2012, when we began this ministry of awakening Jehovah’s Witnesses to sonship, the annual yearbook reported 11,824 Memorial partakers. It has progressed as follows:
2012 12,604 780 new partakers
2013 13,204 600 new partakers
2014 14,121 917 new partakers
2015 15,177 1,056 new partakers
2016 18,013 2,836 new partakers
Total from 2011 - 2016 6,189 new partakers!
Of course, there are many, many more partakers who are not included in the annual count because, according to Watchtower directives, elders can arbitrarily decide who should and who should not be counted. And we must keep in mind the hundreds more who partake privately – not at the Watchtower hosted events. So, the actual number of partakers in the Watchtower organization could be hundreds, even thousands more! The important thing to remember is that more Witnesses are waking up and having the courage to publicly declare their union with Christ Jesus!
Now, we are not claiming that all of these new partakers are a result of our ministry, but we are certain that a large number of them are. We note in particular that we published a series of commentaries on the Watchtower articles that were studied just prior to the 2016 Memorial Supper, entitled The Spirit Bears Witness With Our Spirit and We Want to Go With You. The response we received from readers led us to expect a significant increase in partakers. And that is exactly what we see with nearly 3,000 additional Witnesses openly confessing union with Christ Jesus that year.
We pray that more and more Witnesses pay close attention to the words of Jesus, over and above the words of men, because it is Jesus who is the true and actual head of the Christian congregation (Colossians 1:17-20), and one who has no successor (Hebrews 7:24) – not a Pope nor any ecclesiastical body of men. We implore Jehovah’s Witnesses to take Jesus seriously when he said:
“Everyone, then, who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father who is in the heavens. But whoever disowns me before men, I will also disown him before my Father who is in the heavens.”
– Matthew 10:32-33
So, how can we encourage more Jehovah’s Witnesses to take their stand boldly and courageously as sons of God in the Watchtower organization? We can think of two distinct ways Jehovah’s Witnesses can be encouraged: (1) by breaking down the doctrinal barriers to partaking at the Memorial Supper; and (2) by bringing the Memorial Supper to life by visualizing what occurred on that night.
Breaking Down Doctrinal Barriers
Over the past 5 years, we published many articles showing that all Christians are required to actively participate in the Memorial Supper, and we published answers in response to many frequently asked questions about who should partake. A link to the articles and answers can be found at this page: “Memorial Articles.”
The biggest doctrinal barrier to partaking among Jehovah’s Witnesses is the Doctrine of the 144,000, based on a few scriptures in the prophetic book of Revelation. This Doctrine teaches that only 144,000 Christians in all of human history are the ‘kings and priests’ who are in the ‘covenant for a kingdom’ and invited to live eternally in heaven; thus they are the only ones who can rightfully partake. If the Bible really supports the Doctrine of 144,000, then, yes, only a small number of Christians should partake. But if the Bible does not support the doctrine, then all Christians are obligated to do just what Jesus commanded, ‘take, eat and drink’ of the Memorial emblems when they reenact the Remembrance Supper. So what do those verses in Revelation actually say? Here is an excerpt from the article The Great Crowd of Partakers:
The first mention of the 144,000 appears in the 7th chapter of Revelation where the Apostle John hears an accounting of that particular group:
“And I heard the number of those who were sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel. Out of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand sealed; out of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand sealed.”
– Revelation 7:4-8
Then the Apostle John sees a vision of a second group:
“After these things I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands.”
– Revelation 7:9
So, we see here that the 144,000 are from twelve tribes of ‘the sons of Israel;’ whereas the ‘great crowd’ is a multi-national group of a great unknown number. And we notice that neither these verses, nor the surrounding verses identify either group as kings or priests.
The only other instance in the book of Revelation where the 144,000 are mentioned is in the 14th chapter:
“And I saw, and, look! the Lamb standing upon the Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads. . . . And they are singing as if a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one was able to master that song but the hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been bought from the earth.”
– Revelation 14:1, 3
The group of 144,000 are standing with ‘the Lamb’ and are referred to as master singers, but not as kings and priests. And what about the second group, the multi-national great crowd? Do they have a designated assignment? The answer is found in the 5th chapter:
“And when he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp and golden bowls that were full of incense, and the [incense] means the prayers of the holy ones. And they sing a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slaughtered and with your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.’”
– Revelation 5:8-10
Here, John is told that a multi-national great crowd are the ones who would be kings and priests! How did we miss this point? How did those who developed the Doctrine of the 144,000 fail to see that the kings and priests are not the 144,000, but are really a ‘great multi-national crowd?’ This clarification makes a huge difference in the fundamental teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It reveals that the teaching that only a limited number of mankind would qualify as kings and priests is a misinterpretation – an error.
Since it is clear that the 144,000 are not ‘kings and priests,’ then it cannot be argued that they are in the ‘covenant for a kingdom’ and thus the only ones authorized to partake. However, a great multi-national crowd who could not be numbered and who are said to be the ‘kings and priests’ certainly would be in the ‘covenant for a kingdom’ and can certainly partake! And isn’t it interesting that the vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses profess to be part of a ‘great multi-national crowd’!! [See the complete article The Great Crowd of Partakers for a further discussion.]
With the Doctrine of 144,000 taken out of the way, and seeing that the ‘kings and priests’ are a great unnumbered crowd, what prevents any Jehovah’s Witness from partaking at the annual Memorial Supper? What reason would a Witness have for rejecting the symbolic body and blood of Christ in favor of obeying the erroneous doctrines of men? The only reason would be they lack courage to publicly declare union with Christ before men. We believe having a deeper appreciation of the faith and courage of Jesus can help.
Bringing the Memorial Supper to Life
During the Memorial season, many movies and television programs will portray the ‘Last Supper’ based primarily on the Bible, but with other scenes added for dramatic effect. Many of the additional scenes are not mentioned in the Bible but are consistent with history and with what could have occurred on that night and during that era. The added scenes do not take away from the essence of the story, and in many cases, they enhance our understanding and stir our imagination. Christians of all denominations, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, freely view these programs and their faith is often strengthened thereby.
With that in mind, we have produced a 3-part video on the Memorial or Remembrance Supper that details what occurred that night, with added material from an extra-Biblical and historical source, The Urantia Book. This version of events brings the evening to life in a way that few movies or television programs have. We have met no one whose faith was not strengthened by this enhanced depiction of the Remembrance Supper. All 3 videos can be found on our sister site, www.TheChristExperiment.org, at this link: Remembrance Supper Videos.
We hope all who want a deeper appreciation of the Supper take the time to view the videos in preparation for the annual commemoration. After you view them, please write us with your thoughts. Let us know if these videos enhanced your appreciation and strengthened your faith, or if you found them offensive in any way. Again, we are presenting these videos for the sole purpose of enhancing your appreciation for the original Supper in preparation for the upcoming commemoration or re-enactment.
Participating in the annual Memorial Supper is a vital step for those who want to be in union with Christ Jesus. (John 6:53-56) For some Christians, openly confessing union with Jesus presents a real peril and danger to one’s life, such as our Christian brothers residing in the Middle East. However, for most Jehovah’s Witnesses, the possible suffering for confessing Christ is not much more than enduring the unfavorable opinions of uninformed men. And the challenge of courage for them is not whether they can stand in the face of opposition from those outside their religion, but having the courage to confess Christ among their own brothers. As such, the annual Memorial Supper is one of the few ways that Jehovah’s Witnesses can take an unequivocal stand in union with Christ.
But we should not look at partaking as a test to see who has the courage to confess Jesus; rather we should see it as an opportunity for all who are spiritually inclined to demonstrate who they really belong to – either to the Father and His Christ, or to men. To whom do you belong? The answer is: to whomever you obey.
“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness?”
– Romans 6:16
(See also Who Are Led By Spirit? a commentary on Romans 8.)
May the Spirit of Truth guide you into all truth by removing all doctrinal barriers to obeying the Christ in all things. And may the Father and His Christ richly bless your faith as you courageously take your stand in union with Christ Jesus!