Should You Partake of the Lord’s Evening Meal?
SPRING had come to the year later known as A.D. 33. The day was the fourteenth of Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew lunar year. The sun had disappeared below the horizon as in an upper room Jesus Christ and his twelve apostles, reclining on couches around a spread table, were eating a meal consisting of roast lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs and wine. As faithful Jews they were celebrating the annual passover feast, commemorating the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. As they reached the end of this meal one of their number, Judas Iscariot, rose and left, and, then, according to an eyewitness account:
“Jesus took a loaf and, after saying a blessing, he broke it and, giving it to the disciples, he said: ‘Take, eat. This means my body.’ Also he took a cup and, having given thanks, he gave it to them, saying: ‘Drink out of it, all of you; for this means my “blood of the covenant” which is to be poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins.”’ And from other accounts it is apparent that Jesus intended this event to be observed repeatedly, for he further said: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.”—Matt. 26:26-28; Luke 22:19.
Why did Jesus so command, and just what is the import of his words? This celebration, termed by Paul “the Lord’s evening meal,” was instituted as a lesson in appreciation—appreciation of what Jehovah had done in providing his Son, but particularly in appreciation of what Jesus Christ had done and appreciation of what is required of his followers. In obedience to Jesus’ command the Christian witnesses of Jehovah throughout the world will come together after sundown on Nisan 14 to commemorate the death of their Lord, which day, according to our modern calendar, this year begins on March 30.
Consider the import of Jesus’ words. In likening his body to the unleavened bread Jesus was referring to his literal fleshly body, which was to be, in effect, life-giving food for mankind, even as he had previously stated: “The bread that I shall give is my flesh in behalf of the life of the world.” As for the wine, it represented Jesus’ literal blood or his life, the soul or life being in the blood. It served two purposes: it took “away the sin of the world,” and it made valid a new covenant, which God was instituting at the time to take the place of the old law covenant under Moses, which was passing away.—John 6:51; 1:29; Jer. 31:31-34; Acts 15:14.
On this very occasion Jesus took his eleven faithful apostles into a covenant for the Kingdom, even as we read: “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, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.” Other scriptures show that sharing this glory with Jesus and his eleven faithful apostles will be 143,989 others, for a total of 144,001. These all have part in the first resurrection and reign as kings and priests for a thousand years. It is only such as these that are entitled to partake of the Lord’s evening meal.—Luke 22:28-30; Rev. 14:1, 3; 20:4-6.
NO PROBLEM IN TIMES PAST
There was a time when the question of whether one should partake of the Lord’s evening meal or not did not even need to be asked. In the early Christian congregation all dedicated and baptized Christians became members of the body of Christ, were anointed by holy spirit and gave proof of it by their being able to use one or more of the miraculous gifts of the spirit, such as healing, speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, and so forth. So long as these gifts were being imparted it was clear to all who should partake of the bread and wine at the Lord’s evening meal.
Even after the passing away of these gifts, when the apostles as well as those to whom they had imparted these gifts had fallen asleep in death, it was comparatively easy to determine whether one should partake or not, whether one was a spirit-begotten son of God, a member of the spiritual body of Christ, or not. At least until modern times it was true that “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!”’ Further, of them all it also could be said: “We know we have passed over from death to life, because we love the brothers.” Scriptures such as these found application only to those who were in line for the heavenly reward and kingdom.—Rom. 8:14, 15; 1 John 3:14.
Without doubt, during all the centuries from the death of the apostle John down to the end of the nineteenth century, there were some of these spirit-begotten Christians upon earth, growing as wheat in a field that was now full of weeds, even as Jesus’ parable showed. (Matt. 13:37-43) Then, beginning in the 1870’s, God began to gather these together, and in 1919 began the fulfillment of Matthew 24:31, which says: “And he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet-sound and they will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from one extremity of the heavens to their other extremity.” The facts show that at that time the call went out for more workers in God’s vineyard. This call continued until 1931, when, at the end of the “day’s” work in the vineyard, all the workers received their reward, the denarius, the name Jehovah’s witnesses.—Matt. 20:1-16.
THE OTHER SHEEP
Particularly since 1931 Jehovah God has been gathering to himself a great crowd of “other sheep,” persons who dedicate themselves to God to do his will and who manifest love for their brothers and spiritual-mindedness. In all other respects, except as regards their heavenly hope, they resemble the remaining ones or the remnant of those in line for the heavenly kingdom. These may be compared to the temporary residents in ancient Israel. These accepted all the responsibilities of the law covenant and shared its many blessings, even as their modern counterparts today accept the responsibilities resting upon spiritual Israel and share in the blessings. And just as no alien or temporary resident could ever have become king, so none of those who today comprise the great crowd of other sheep can ever be of the ruling class, that is, not as such.—Deut. 17:15.
Since 1931 the Kingdom message has been directed primarily to this great crowd of other sheep whose hopes are earthly. However, it is likely from among such that individuals are called to fill any vacancy in the 144,000 caused by unfaithfulness and rejection. So the date of one’s dedicating oneself would have some bearing on the likelihood of one’s being of the remnant, although it would not be conclusive.
Both those comprising the body of Christ, the little flock, and the great crowd of other sheep take the same initial steps. These consist of taking in knowledge, repenting, converting, exercising faith in God, in Christ’s sacrifice and in God’s Word, dedicating themselves to God to do his will and being baptized in water. But for those who become part of the spiritual body of Christ Jehovah God acts uniquely in their behalf: On the basis of their faith in Christ’s sacrifice and their dedication he declares them righteous, begets them as spiritual sons by means of his holy spirit or active force and brings them under the anointing of the body of Christ. All such are at the same time made parties to the new covenant and the Kingdom covenant. Thus by reason of what the creature himself does and what God does in behalf of him, such a one now has a firm conviction of a heavenly reward if faithful until death.—Rev. 2:10.
To such and only to such the words of Paul apply: “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. For we were saved in this hope; but hope that is seen is not hope, for when a man sees a thing, does he hope for it? But if we hope for what we do not see, we keep on waiting for it with endurance.” And concerning these John wrote: “Beloved ones, now we are children of God, but as yet it has not been made manifest what we shall be. We do know that whenever he is made manifest we shall be like him, because we shall see him just as he is.”—Rom. 8:16, 17, 24, 25; 1 John 3:2.
To determine whether one should partake of the bread and wine of the Lord’s evening meal or not he should ask himself the following questions:
Am I a spiritual Israelite, begotten by God’s active force to become a spiritual child of his with a spiritual destiny? Have I become one that is in this new covenant made with spiritual Israel? Furthermore, am I in this Kingdom covenant? Do I, like Paul, have the firm conviction that I am going to have a heavenly resurrection, to be joined with the Lord Jesus in the heavenly kingdom? Since the spirit of God itself bears witness, there should be no doubt about it. Am I in that relationship with God and Jesus Christ even as were those eleven apostles back there with whom Jesus instituted the Lord’s evening meal? Am I convinced that I have this heavenly calling, this hope? Do I make it a subject of my prayers, my thoughts, my longings?
If you are a married man and your wife is not in this covenant for the Kingdom, you must ask yourself: Am I prepared to die with the consciousness that I am leaving her never to join her again on earth, but to join Jesus Christ and leave her on this earth? Or if you are a wife and mother you must ask yourself: Am I prepared to leave my children behind and never mother them any more and never associate with them throughout all eternity? Does my being a member of the bride of Christ take precedence over my being the wife of a husband on earth? Do I want to be with Jesus more than with that dear man, and that for all eternity?
These are some of the things to think about, to know what we are doing, to know what our destiny will be. Then we can be certain of what course of action we should take at the Lord’s evening meal, whether we should partake of the bread and wine or not.
If you really have these heavenly convictions, then you are preparing for them, you are working for them and they are the very fiber of your life. Then, like the apostle Paul, you know, you have the conviction, you have the witness of God’s spirit, it witnessing with your spirit that you are a spiritual son of God, a joint heir with the Lord Jesus in the Kingdom.
If you have such a whole-souled conviction and God’s dealings with you up till now confirm this fact, then you know where you stand and you know your relationship with God, and then you should partake of the bread and wine of the Lord’s evening meal with appreciation of how these symbolize Christ’s sacrifice, by which means you came into this wonderful relationship with God, with its wonderful heavenly opportunities.
THOSE NOT PARTAKING
But if you cannot answer a confident “Yes!” to all the foregoing questions, then you are one of the great crowd of other sheep. Then you are not in the covenant for the Kingdom and consequently there is not a heavenly, royal destiny awaiting you, but an earthly one.
Still you will want to cling to God’s covenant people of spiritual Israel because you love God and you recognize his people and want to be associated with them. Having dedicated yourself to God to do his will, you come under the wonderful benefits of the new covenant though you are not in that covenant. You can look forward to the joys of a paradise earth, to sharing in the token fulfillment of the procreation mandate, living forever on earth in perfection and happiness with your blessed offspring.
The fact that a heavenly destiny is not for you should not make you feel discontented. After all, none of us are entitled to anything. Everything is undeserved kindness, everything is unmerited favor. If all were of the heavenly seed of Abraham, there would be no families of the earth for that seed to bless.—Gen. 12:3; Gal. 3:16, 29.
The other sheep are just as welcome at the Lord’s evening meal as are those of the remnant, even though they do not partake of the bread and wine. They have the same opposition to meet that those of the remnant do and therefore are greatly aided by the lesson of appreciation of what Jehovah God did, and in particular what his Son did in providing a ransom for us as well as setting the perfect example for us.
Therefore let all the spirit-begotten remnant, all of the great crowd of other sheep, as well as all men of good will toward God, heed Christ’s command by assembling at the local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s witnesses on Thursday evening, March 30, after sundown—the remnant to partake of the bread and wine, the others to observe, yet all to be spiritually refreshed by having the truths regarding Christ’s sacrifice rehearsed in their hearing.