Increasing Memorial Partakers
Watchtower long said selection of the 144,000 anointed class closed in 1935. Since then, the number of anointed Jehovah's Witnesses began decreasing as they passed away. In 2007, it was admitted there is no Scriptural basis for the doctrine of 1935, after which memorial partakers have been on the increase.
Watchtower doctrine regarding the 144,000 is vitally important for Jehovah's Witnesses. It claims that in total, only 144,000 humans will go to heaven. Anyone alive today that claims to be of the 144,000 are referred to as the Remnant, and it is from this small group that the Governing Body are chosen to lead Jehovah's Witnesses. The 144,000 are taken to heaven to make up a ruling class. The rest of Jehovah's Witnesses, who now number into millions of members, expect to live forever on earth. This is an important distinction to make, and frequently misunderstood by people not closely associated with Watchtower teachings.
Only the Remnant of the 144,000 are allowed to partake of the bread and wine at the annual memorial of Jesus' death. This is in flagrant disregard of Jesus saying that 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. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I shall resurrect him at the last day; for my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in union with me, and I in union with him. Just as the living Father sent me forth and I live because of the Father, he also that feeds on me, even that one will live because of me."
For many decades it was taught that the full number of the 144,000 had been chosen by 1935.
"But it seems that in the mid-1930's, the full number of the 144,000 was basically completed." Watchtower 1996 Aug 15 p.31
After this doctrine was introduced by the Watchtower leaders in the 1930's, the number of Jehovah's Witnesses claiming to be of the anointed started to decline, with the decreasing number of the remnant used as proof that Armageddon 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
"Over the past seven years, from 1974 to 1980 inclusive, Jehovah’s Witnesses have made steady progress. Their growth is healthy. Only as to Memorial partakers has there been a gradual decline, which is in accord with Scriptural expectations." Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses 1981 p.31
Have the number of anointed partakers decreased since 1935? The accompanying graphs show otherwise.
Contrary to the expectation and teachings of the Governing Body, after an initial rapid decrease, the number of partakers remained constant for almost 40 years. More surprising is the surge in partakers since 2007. This followed the Watchtower 2007 May 1 p.31 statement, "we cannot set a specific date for when the calling of Christians to the heavenly hope ends", which effectively removed the teaching that the heavenly calling was closed in 1935.
Although Watchtower admits its 1935 doctrine was baseless, the Governing Body do not want followers claiming to be newly anointed to the ruling class. Watchtower questions the legitimacy of newly anointed ones, describing them as potentially troubled emotionally.
"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." Watchtower 2016 Jan study ed page 25 & page 26
"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
Despite these insulting attacks, the number confessing to be anointed continues to rise.
The irony of such statements is that the Watchtower Governing Body all claim to have been anointed after 1935.
When did the 144,000 calling end?
Thy Kingdom Come p.362
Watchtower 1933 Nov 15 p.343
Watchtower 1966 Feb 15 pp.116-123
Watchtower 2007 May 1 p.30
Current Governing Body
Watchtower May 1 2007 p.31
Russell, Watchtower's founder, claimed all 144,000 had been chosen by 1881.
"... we recognize A.D. 1881 as marking the close of the high calling, or invitation to the blessing peculiar to this age - to become joint-heirs with Christ and partakers of the divine nature." Studies In the Scriptures Series II - The Time Is At Hand 1915 ed. p.235
Rutherford, Watchtower's second leader, changed this to 1931, conveniently including him as one of the anointed.
"The facts in harmony with and therefore in fulfilment of the prophetic parable show that in 1931, ... all who had the love of Christ delighted to know that the last ones coming into the service were to share this honour equally with those who had been long in the service. The anointed who continue to maintain their integrity toward God will share this honor, and no others could have it." Watchtower 1931 Dec 1 pp.356-357
As late as 1945 the year 1931 was being referred to as the closing of the heavenly calling.
Watchtower 1945 Feb 1 p.44
The Watchtower 1966 Feb 15 pp.116-123 outlined the changes made over time to the understanding of who the Other Sheep, Great Multitude and Jonadabs referred to, and how in 1935 it was determined all these terms referred to the group of Jehovah's Witnesses destined to live forever on earth. This indicated the closing was in 1935, not 1931.
Franz is quoted as saying in 1970 that the called ended 1931-35.
"At a Gilead graduation in 1970, Frederick Franz ... told the students ... "No, no more additions! That call ended way back there in 1931-35. There are no more additions. Who, then, are the newly associated ones who are partaking of the Memorial emblems? If they are of the remnant, they are replacements! They are, not additions to the ranks of the anointed, but replacements for those who may have fallen away." Watchtower 1999 Feb 1 p.19
In 1970, the June Watchtower was more explicit about the year being 1935.
"Does this mean that, since about 1935, those already resurrected to heaven together with the spirit-begotten remnant yet on earth have made the full number of 144 000? Yes, that is the conclusion to which evidence points. The general call for such ones has ceased to go out." Watchtower 1970 Jun 15 p.383
"Logically, the calling of the little flock would draw to a close when the number was nearing completion, and the evidence is that the general gathering of these specially blessed ones ended in 1935." Watchtower 1995 Feb 15 p.19
For around 70 years it was held that the 144,000 were fully assigned by the mid-1930's. If anyone started to claim to be anointed since 1935, they would be considered a replacement of a sinful remnant that was no longer worthy of heaven, (or, as shown above, mentally imbalanced).
"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. Many would be invited but only a precious few chosen. (Matthew 22:2, 14) 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
2007 was 72 years since the calling was said to have closed. Since a person cannot become anointed until after their baptism, which traditionally happens to Jehovah's Witness children in their early teens, in 2007 the youngest anointed from 1935 were already 85. With only a very small number of those from 1935 still alive, most partakers would be considered replacements, or imbalanced.
There are a number of holes it the idea that the heavenly call closed in 1935. To start with, there is absolutely no Scriptural basis that the calling would close, let alone specifically in 1935 or any other year. None of the Governing Body were even been born before 1935. Furthermore, there has been no decrease in partakers in over 35 years. This led to Watchtower finally admitting that this doctrine never had any basis.
"When does the calling of Christians to a heavenly hope cease? …
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. " Watchtower 2007 May 1 page 30 & page 31
The May edition of the Watchtower is released prior to the memorial, and so this statement was in time to have a relevant affect on partakers for the 2007 memorial. In 2007 the number of partakers rose by about 350, or 4%. In the 2008 memorial, partakers reached almost ten thousand. Partakers had not been that high since the 1970's.
Yet despite all of the above, Watchtower made the claim in 2009 that:
"… the number of anointed ones on the earth has decreased over the decades … " Watchtower Feb 15 2009 par.14 page 27 & page 28
In light of the graphs above, what exactly do they mean by this dubious statement? Whilst admitting that the calling did not close in 1935, 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 only a matter of time before the doctrines of the Great Crowd and 144,000 remnant are similarly overhauled. As discussed at 144,000, the concept that only 144,000 go to heaven is flawed. To say that in the 2000 years since Jesus death there were only 144,000 true Christians, of which a third were followers of the Watchtower Society, is conceited at best. Likewise, the Watchtower doctrine regarding the great crowd and the other sheep is also unscriptural. The large number of Witnesses leaving and the increasing number of memorial partakers is indication that members are no longer confident in Watchtower doctrine.
It is logical that the number claiming to be anointed would rise once the restriction on new partakers was somewhat lifted. Jesus set the example of drinking wine and eating bread as observance of his sacrifice and said for his followers to "Keep doing this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:15-19) Some Witnesses have felt distressed that refusing to partake of the emblems during Jesus memorial is akin to rejection of the Ransom sacrifice. Furthermore, the New Testament shows that a 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 modern day Christians belong to an earthly Great Crowd, this doctrine is based on a shaky foundation that collapses with the minimal examination.
The doctrine that only 144,000 go to heaven, and the claim that this number was fully selected in 1935, 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 to the teachings of Watchtower's Governing Body.
 "Today, only a remnant of the 144,000 are on earth." Worship the Only True God p.129
 "Am I of the anointed who are privileged and duty-bound to partake of the Memorial, or am I a Jonadab, who cannot partake of it?" Watchtower 1938 Mar 1 p.75 "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
"So, then, at the celebration of the memorial of Christ's death, only those who make up "the Israel of God" should partake of the emblems of bread and wine. This body of spiritual Israelites will number 144,000, who will rule with Christ in his heavenly Kingdom. (Revelation 14:1) On the other hand, the vast international company of "other sheep," who do not partake, will enjoy everlasting life on the Paradise earth, receiving the benefits of the Kingdom rule." Watchtower 1983 Mar 15 p.9
Written 2007, latest update Jan 2021.
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2021