What Does the Lord’s Evening Meal Mean to You?

“Whoever eats the loaf or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty respecting the body and the blood of the Lord.”—1 CORINTHIANS 11:27.

THE most important event planned for the year 2003 is to take place after sundown on April 16. Jehovah’s Witnesses will then meet to observe the Memorial of Jesus Christ’s death. As shown in the preceding article, Jesus instituted this observance, also called the Lord’s Evening Meal, after he and his apostles celebrated the Passover on Nisan 14, 33 C.E. The Memorial emblems of unleavened bread and red wine symbolize Christ’s sinless body and his shed blood—the only sacrifice that can redeem mankind from inherited sin and death.—Romans 5:12; 6:23.

2 Those partaking of the Memorial emblems must do so worthily. The apostle Paul made that clear when he wrote to Christians in ancient Corinth, where the Lord’s Evening Meal was not being observed in a proper way. (1 Corinthians 11:20-22) Paul wrote: “Whoever eats the loaf or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty respecting the body and the blood of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 11:27) What is the significance of those words?

Some Observed It Unworthily

3 Many Corinthian Christians partook of the Memorial unworthily. There were divisions among them, and at least for a time, some brought their supper and ate it before or during the meeting, often eating and drinking excessively. They were neither mentally nor spiritually alert. This made them “guilty respecting the body and the blood of the Lord.” Those who had no supper were hungry and became distracted. Yes, many partook without respect and full realization of the seriousness of the event. No wonder they brought judgment upon themselves!—1 Corinthians 11:27-34.

4 As the Memorial approaches each year, self-scrutiny is essential for those who customarily partake of the emblems. To share in this communion meal properly, they must be in a healthy spiritual condition. Anyone who shows disrespect, even contempt, for Jesus’ sacrifice would be in danger of being ‘cut off from God’s people,’ just like an Israelite who partook of a communion meal in an unclean state.—Leviticus 7:20; Hebrews 10:28-31.

5 Paul compared the Memorial to a communion meal in ancient Israel. He spoke of the partakers sharing together in Christ and then said: “You cannot be drinking the cup of Jehovah and the cup of demons; you cannot be partaking of ‘the table of Jehovah’ and the table of demons.” (1 Corinthians 10:16-21) If a person who usually partakes of the Memorial emblems commits a serious sin, he should confess this to Jehovah and also seek the spiritual assistance of the older men of the congregation. (Proverbs 28:13; James 5:13-16) If he truly repents and produces fruitage befitting repentance, he would not be partaking unworthily.—Luke 3:8.

Attending as Respectful Observers

6 Should those now doing good to the remnant of the 144,000 brothers of Christ partake of the Lord’s Evening Meal? (Matthew 25:31-40; Revelation 14:1) No. God has reserved that privilege for individuals he has anointed with holy spirit to be “joint heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:14-18; 1 John 2:20) What, then, is the position of those who hope to live forever in a global paradise under Kingdom rule? (Luke 23:43; Revelation 21:3, 4) Since they are not Jesus’ joint heirs with a heavenly hope, they attend the Memorial as respectful observers.—Romans 6:3-5.

7 True Christians in the first century were anointed by holy spirit. Many of them were able to use one or more of the miraculous gifts of the spirit, such as speaking in tongues. Therefore, it would not have been difficult for such individuals to know that they were spirit-anointed and should partake of the Memorial emblems. However, in our time, this can be determined on the basis of such inspired words as these: “All who are led by God’s spirit, these are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but you received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: ‘Abba, Father!’”—Romans 8:14, 15.

8 Over the centuries, genuine anointed ones grew as “wheat” in a field of “weeds,” or false Christians. (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) Since the 1870’s, the “wheat” became increasingly evident, and some years later anointed Christian overseers were told: “The elders . . . should set before those who assemble themselves [for the Memorial] these terms and conditions,—(1) faith in the blood [of Christ]; and (2) consecration to the Lord and his service, even unto death. They should then invite all who are thus minded and thus consecrated to join in celebrating the Lord’s death.”—Studies in the Scriptures, Series VI, The New Creation, page 473.*

Searching for “Other Sheep”

9 In time, Jehovah’s organization began to focus attention on others in addition to Christ’s anointed followers. A notable development along these lines took place in the mid-1930’s. Before then, God’s people viewed the “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9 as a secondary spiritual class that would be associated with the 144,000 resurrected anointed ones in heaven—like bridesmaids or companions of the bride of Christ. (Psalm 45:14, 15; Revelation 7:4; 21:2, 9) But on May 31, 1935, in a discourse given at a convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Washington, D.C., U.S.A., it was Scripturally explained that the “great crowd” (“great multitude,” King James Version) refers to the “other sheep” who live during the time of the end. (John 10:16) After that convention, some who had previously partaken of the Memorial emblems stopped partaking because they realized that their hope was earthly, not heavenly.

10 Especially since 1935 has there been a search for those who come to be “other sheep,” who have faith in the ransom, dedicate themselves to God, and support the anointed “little flock” in Kingdom-preaching activity. (Luke 12:32) These other sheep hope to live on earth forever, but in all other respects, they resemble the present-day remnant of Kingdom heirs. Like ancient Israel’s alien residents who worshiped Jehovah and submitted to the Law, today’s other sheep accept Christian responsibilities, such as preaching the good news along with the members of spiritual Israel. (Galatians 6:16) Just as no alien resident could become Israel’s king or a priest, however, none of these other sheep can as such rule in the heavenly Kingdom or serve as priests.—Deuteronomy 17:15.

11 By the 1930’s, then, it was becoming clear that, in general, the heavenly class had been chosen. For decades now, the search has been for other sheep, whose hope is earthly. If an anointed one proves unfaithful, it is most likely that a person who has long served God faithfully as one of the other sheep would be called to fill the vacancy thus caused in the 144,000.

Why Mistaken Assumptions

12 Anointed Christians are absolutely sure that they have the heavenly calling. But what if some individuals who lack this call have been partaking of the Memorial emblems? Now aware that they never had the heavenly hope, surely their conscience will compel them to stop partaking. God would not look with favor upon anyone representing himself as a person called to be a heavenly king and priest when he knew that he really did not have such a calling. (Romans 9:16; Revelation 20:6) Jehovah executed the Levite Korah for presumptuously seeking the Aaronic priesthood. (Exodus 28:1; Numbers 16:4-11, 31-35) If any Christian comes to realize that he has wrongly partaken of the Memorial emblems, he or she should stop partaking and humbly pray for Jehovah’s forgiveness.—Psalm 19:13.

13 Why might some mistakenly assume that they have the heavenly calling? The death of a mate or some other tragedy might cause them to lose interest in life on earth. Or they might desire the same destiny as a close friend who professes to be an anointed Christian. Of course, God has not assigned anyone to recruit others for this privilege. And he does not anoint Kingdom heirs by causing them to hear voices with messages to that effect.

14 The false religious idea that all good people go to heaven might lead some to think that they have the heavenly calling. Hence, we need to guard against being swayed by past wrong views or other factors. For instance, some might ask themselves: ‘Do I use medications that affect my emotions? Am I inclined to have deep emotions that I could misjudge?’

15 A few might ask themselves: ‘Do I want to be prominent? Am I ambitious for authority now or as a future joint heir with Christ?’ When Kingdom heirs were called in the first century, not all of them had responsible positions in the congregation. And individuals with the heavenly calling do not seek prominence or boast about being anointed. They display the humility expected of those having “the mind of Christ.”—1 Corinthians 2:16.

16 Some may have concluded that they have the heavenly calling because they have acquired considerable Bible knowledge. But spirit anointing does not bring extraordinary understanding, for Paul had to instruct and counsel certain anointed ones. (1 Corinthians 3:1-3; Hebrews 5:11-14) God has an arrangement for providing spiritual food for all his people. (Matthew 24:45-47) So nobody should think that being an anointed Christian gives him wisdom superior to that of those having the earthly hope. Spirit anointing is not indicated by proficiency in answering Scriptural questions, witnessing, or giving Bible talks. Christians with the earthly hope also do well in these respects.

17 If a fellow believer asks about the heavenly calling, an elder or other mature Christian can discuss the matter with him. However, one person cannot make this decision for another. A person who truly has this calling does not need to ask others if he has such a hope. Anointed ones “have been given a new birth, not by corruptible, but by incorruptible reproductive seed, through the word of the living and enduring God.” (1 Peter 1:23) By his spirit and Word, God implants the “seed” that makes the individual “a new creation,” with a heavenly hope. (2 Corinthians 5:17) And Jehovah makes the choice. Anointing “depends, not upon the one wishing nor upon the one running, but upon God.” (Romans 9:16) So how can a person be sure that he has the heavenly calling?

Why They Are Sure

18 The witness of God’s spirit convinces anointed Christians that they have heavenly prospects. “You received a spirit of adoption as sons,” wrote Paul, “by which spirit we cry out: ‘Abba, Father!’ The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children. If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified together.” (Romans 8:15-17) Under the holy spirit’s influence, the spirit, or dominant attitude, of anointed ones impels them to apply to themselves what the Scriptures say about Jehovah’s spiritual children. (1 John 3:2) God’s spirit gives them a sense of sonship toward him and engenders within them a unique hope. (Galatians 4:6, 7) Yes, everlasting earthly life as perfect humans surrounded by family members and friends would be splendid, but that is not their God-given hope. By means of his spirit, God has produced within them such a strong heavenly hope that they are willing to sacrifice all earthly attachments and prospects.—2 Corinthians 5:1-5, 8; 2 Peter 1:13, 14.

19 Anointed Christians are certain of their heavenly hope, of their having been taken into the new covenant. Jesus mentioned it when he instituted the Memorial and said: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf.” (Luke 22:20) The parties to the new covenant are God and anointed ones. (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 12:22-24) Jesus is the mediator. Made operative by Christ’s shed blood, the new covenant took out not only from the Jews but also from the nations a people for Jehovah’s name and made them part of Abraham’s “seed.” (Galatians 3:26-29; Acts 15:14) This “everlasting covenant” provides for all spiritual Israelites to be resurrected to immortal life in heaven.—Hebrews 13:20.

20 The anointed are sure of their hope. They have been taken into an additional covenant, the Kingdom covenant. Concerning their sharing with Christ, Jesus said: “You are the ones that have stuck with me in my trials; and I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom.” (Luke 22:28-30) This covenant between Christ and his associate kings remains forever operative.—Revelation 22:5.

The Memorial Season—A Blessed Time

21 Many are the blessings of the Memorial season. We can benefit from the Bible reading scheduled for this period. It is also an especially fine time for prayer, for meditation on Jesus’ earthly life and death, and for participation in the Kingdom-preaching work. (Psalm 77:12; Philippians 4:6, 7) The observance itself reminds us of the love shown by God and Christ in connection with Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. (Matthew 20:28; John 3:16) This provision gives us hope and comfort and should bolster our determination to pursue a Christlike course. (Exodus 34:6; Hebrews 12:3) The Memorial should also strengthen us to fulfill our dedication as God’s servants and to be loyal followers of his dear Son.

22 What good gifts Jehovah gives us! (James 1:17) We have the guidance of his Word, the help of his spirit, and the hope of eternal life. God’s greatest gift is Jesus’ sacrifice for the sins of anointed ones and for all others who exercise faith. (1 John 2:1, 2) So how much does Jesus’ death mean to you? Will you be among those who show gratitude for it by gathering after sundown on April 16, 2003, to observe the Lord’s Evening Meal?


Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses but now out of print.

What Are Your Answers?

• Who should partake of the Memorial emblems?

• Why do the “other sheep” attend the Lord’s Evening Meal only as respectful observers?

• How do anointed Christians know that they should partake of the bread and wine at the Memorial of Christ’s death?

• The Memorial season is a fine time for what?

[Study Questions]

 1. What is the most important event planned for the year 2003, and what was its origin?

 2. What warning is recorded at 1 Corinthians 11:27?

 3. How were many Corinthian Christians conducting themselves at observances of the Lord’s Evening Meal?

4, 5. Why is self-scrutiny essential for those who customarily partake of the Memorial emblems?

 6. For whom has God reserved the privilege of partaking at the Lord’s Evening Meal?

 7. Why did first-century Christians know that they should partake of the Memorial emblems?

 8. Who are represented by “the wheat” and “the weeds” mentioned in Matthew chapter 13?

 9. How was the identity of the “great crowd” clarified in 1935, and how did this affect some who had been partaking of the Memorial emblems?

10. How would you describe the hope and the responsibilities of the present-day “other sheep”?

11. Why could the date of a person’s dedication have a bearing on his hope?

12. Under what circumstances should a person cease partaking of the Memorial emblems, and why?

13, 14. Why might some mistakenly assume that they have the heavenly calling?

15, 16. Why might a few wrongly conclude that they are anointed ones?

17. Spirit anointing depends upon what and upon whom?

18. How does God’s spirit bear witness with the spirit of anointed ones?

19. What role does the new covenant play in the life of an anointed Christian?

20. The anointed are taken into what covenant with Christ?

21. How can we derive great benefit from the Memorial season?

22. What is God’s greatest gift to mankind, and what is one way to show appreciation for it?

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Memorial Attendance






















       1935        1955        1975        1995        2002

[Picture on page 18]

Will you be present for the Lord’s Evening Meal this year?

[Pictures on page 21]

The Memorial season is a fine time for increased Bible reading and participation in the Kingdom-preaching work