On a Sunday afternoon I received a few knocks on my door. Since my family and I are new in Edmonton, the last thing we expect is a knock on the door. As I opened, there were two older Jehovah's Witness men. I invited them in, had a wonderful conversation on the Bible, Jesus, and how to attain eternal life. They then proceeded to hand me an invitation to the Memorial of Christ death. This year the date landed on April 14th, 2014.
It has been 5 years since I have attended the yearly Memorial celebration of Jehovah's Witnesses. For those who do not know, the Memorial or "Lord's evening meal" is the only sanctioned celebration JW's across the World observe, it is the one part of the year where they remember the death of Jesus and pass around the emblems of the bread and wine. It is essentially their yearly sacrament meeting, and it is very important to the Witnesses. An estimated 17 million people Worldwide attend this meeting.
I decided that I would go. My wife never grew up as a Witness and has never been to any of their meetings. The only experience she has is through me and interactions shes had with my JW family members. I thought it would be good for her to see and get a feel for the religion I grew up in. So we went. As I walked into the rented Hall they had for the occasion, I could not help my mind from going to an earlier time in my life, going to the Memorial felt familiar and almost routine. I was told that the event had 3 congregations in one, yet there couldn't have been more than 200 people in attendance. As I looked around my family and I looked like we we're the only ones "out of place", we had our own Bibles, no song books. Not to mention I wore no tie and walked in with a full set of hair on my face. We sat in the last row and observed everyone coming in. Out of everyone there I am convinced we were the only ones who were not either studying with JW's or were JW's. The reason this is interesting to me is that I am sure that the Witnesses in my area have spent thousands of hours inviting people to this event for the past month and it seems like we were the only ones who responded to the invite. How ironic.
The meeting started with a usual "Kingdom song", but as soon as the recorded tune started I noticed maybe half of those in attendance were actually singing along. This depressed me, I mean this is the most important night of the year for these Witnesses, you would imagine that they would be eager and excited to praise Jehovah for the sacrifice of his Son. Yet the music reflected the dead spiritual state of their worship. It's no wonder why they call it the "Memorial", it feels more like a funeral then a celebration of life and triumph. The talk given was no different from years before, they talked about the provision of the ransom, the significance of the occasion, who could and could not partake and then the future blessings on Paradise. Looking from the outside in, its incredibly alarming how the speaker brings together isolated Scriptures and quotes one end of the Bible to the other to prove his doctrine without any context of the surrounding verses. I use to do the same thing as a JW but I was never conscious that I myself was doing it. Then came the moment to pass the emblems of the bread and wine. I had contemplated partaking of the Memorial to make a statement, but I decided against because I did not want to bring unwanted attention to myself or offend anyone. So when the emblems started coming our way my wife and I got up and walked away to the back of the meeting.
Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe that they can partake of the emblems of the Sacraments unless they are part of the 144,000. They believe that the Great Crowd members are not born again, that they are not apart of the New Covenant, and that they are not sons and daughter of God. It was as they were passing the emblems that we saw the saddest sight- Every Jehovah's Witness in the room passing and rejecting the body and blood of Jesus. This was the first time that my wife had been to the Memorial and as she saw what was happening a tear came down her eyes as she saw an entire room of people reject the sacrifice of Jesus. As we were standing in the back another gentlemen was back there attending his child and was trying to explain to us what was happening and why no one was partaking, I turned to him and asked, "Doesn't it seem like they are rejecting and passing away the ransom sacrifice of Christ?". He stood stunned by the question, he had never seen it that way and he was taken back by the question. After the meeting I stood in the back for a while as a few JW's approached us and greeted us. As we were getting ready to leave three JW men approached us and I took the opportunity to ask them a few questions regarding some of the stuff that was mentioned during the Memorial. The conversation lasted about 10 minutes and at the end of the conversation all three Witnesses were stunned by some of the verses I had shared with them. They all promised to look into it and research it.
Going to this years Memorial was a reminder of what I once was, a person outside of the Kingdom and Covenant of God. It was sad to see people who genuinely want to serve God reject the very sacrifice that can set them free. I'll end this post with a quick overview of what the Bible really says regarding the Memorial of Jesus.
How often are we to observe the Memorial? The Bible makes clear that every time believers in the 1st Century came together, they observed the sacraments or "Memorial" of Jesus. It was NOT a once a year occasion. READ 1 Corinthians 11:20-34 & Acts 2:46
Who can partake of the emblems? According to the New Testament, every believer has the privilege of taking communion, it is one of the two commands instituted for believers in the Church alongside baptism. Jesus said regarding the cup, "Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." What are we to do to remember Him? Is it to pass the cup and bread? No, to remember is to partake according to Jesus. There are no verses in all of Scripture that says that a certain class of Christians CANNOT partake of the emblems. The belief that only a 144,000 can partake is an unscriptural assumption.
Are only the 144,000 Born again members of the New Covenant? This is a concept that is totally foreign to Scripture. Jesus said,"Most truly I say to you, unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God." (John 3:3, NWT) He did not say only 144,000 would be born again, instead he said "That is why he(Jesus) is a mediator of a new covenant, in order that because a death has occurred for their release by ransom from the transgressions under the former covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the everlasting inheritance." (Hebrews 9:15, NWT) If you are outside of the New Covenant arrangement you are outside of life and salvation. If you are not in the New Covenant relationship with Jehovah than you have no guarantee of the promises of everlasting life. The 144,000 are very likely Jews who are the promised remnant of the nation of Israel who will believe in the Messiah during the end times. READ Romans 11:1-2, 25-26 & Revelation 7:4-8
Are there "two hopes" for Christians, a Heavenly and Earthly one? Ephesians 4:4-5 in the NWT confirms that "
So everyone will go to Heaven? What about Paradise Earth? The Bible teaches that when a believer dies, he will go straight into the presence of the Lord. (Philippians 1:20-21) But that is not the final reward of the believer, for the Bible teaches that there will be a new heaven and a new earth, we believe that in the new creation Heaven in the form of New Jerusalem will come down to the Earth and God will dwell and reign with man for all eternity. It will be a true Paradise, literally a Heaven on Earth! READ Revelation 21:1-27
Place your faith and trust in the Savior, Jesus said "