(Investigator 102, 2005 May)


The Memorial is the Jehovah's Witness (JW) commemoration of the death of Christ. It is the JW equivalent of the Lord's Supper in other religions.

Until 1879 the sect celebrated the "Lord's supper" every few weeks but since then annually near Easter. The book Organized to Accomplish Your Ministry (1983) says:

The date is determined by counting 14 days from the new moon nearest the spring equinox, March 21-22, as it would be visible at Jerusalem in the land of Palestine.  (p. 80)
Only some JWs partake of the "emblems" – the wine and the unleavened bread. The majority do not partake.

Memorial "partakers" are members of the 144,000 who, according to JW belief, go to heaven after they die. Non-partakers are of the "great crowd". These expect salvation, eternal life, on a future "paradise Earth". Non-partakers attend the Memorial as observers.

JWs believe that all 1st-century Christians belonged to the 144,000. More were chosen in the next 18 centuries and the rest in the 20th century.

Those of the 144,000 currently alive are called the "remnant". The entire 144,000 are referred to as the "little flock".

Russell estimated that 20,000 to 30,000 were alive in the early 20th century. (Studies in the Scriptures Volume 6 p. 95)

Rutherford estimated in the 1920s that at most 50,000 of the 144,000 were on Earth. (Deliverance 1926 p. 282)

144,000 COMPLETED IN 1935

Most of the remnant joined JWs from 1919 to 1931, "This gathering of the anointed remnant from and after 1919 continues on down more particularly to 1931." (The Watchtower 1942 March 1 p. 69)

In 1935 JWs started a new "harvest". They started gathering the "great crowd" who would not go to heaven but live forever on Earth:
Their being identified in 1935 as the great crowd of other sheep was an indication that the choosing of the 144,000 was then about complete.
(Revelation It's Grand Climax At Hand! 1988 p. 125)

In 1935 the gathering of the 144,000 was finished – except to replace a few who deserted the JW sect.

How did the current doctrine about the remnant and "great crowd" come about?


In the 1870s Charles T Russell (1852-1916) started the Watchtower cult that developed into JWs.

Russell taught that the living members of the 144,000 or "little flock" would rise physically to heaven in 1878:
Based on Paul's statement at 1 Corinthians 15,51, 52 it had been expected ‘that at some time the living saints would be suddenly and miraculously caught away bodily, thenceforth to be forever with the Lord.' Believing this would take place in 1878, some were disappointed. (Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose 1959 p. 19)
After the prediction for 1878 failed Russell tried 1881:
OUR CHANGE SEEMS DUE. We do not know the day or the hour, but expect it during 1881, possibly near the autumn. (Watch Tower reprints 1881 February p. 191)

Wrong again. Therefore Russell made 1881 the end of God's "general call" to join the "little flock". (Studies in the Scriptures Volume II p. 235; Volume III p. 217) This meant that the 144,000 were complete in 1881 except for a few replacements when unfaithful ones dropped out. But the replacements had to be converted and dedicated by 1881. (Watch Tower Reprints 1901 November 1 p. 2901; 1900 August 1 p. 2676)

Meanwhile the date 1878 was not discarded. It became the date the Kingdom of God started, Christendom was "spewed out" by God, and the dead members of the 144,000 were resurrected to heaven:
In the spring of 1878 all the holy apostles and other "overcomers" of the Gospel age who slept in Jesus were raised spirit beings, like unto their Lord and Master. (Studies in the Scriptures Volume 3 p. 234)
Russell now predicted that the ones still living on Earth would rise to heaven soon after 1914:
That the deliverance of the living saints must take place very soon after 1914 is manifest. (Studies in the Scriptures Volume 3 p. 228)
Once again, wrong!  Russell then died.

The Watch Tower Reprints sum up Russell's ascent-to-heaven doctrine:

Brother Russell expected the church to go beyond the veil in 1878, 1881, 1910 and 1914. (Watchtower Reprints 1918 April 15 p. 6237)

ASCENT TO HEAVEN 1918 & 1925

 The cult's new president was Judge Rutherford (1869-1942). He predicted 1918 for the ascent:

The seven days before the Deluge may represent seven years, from 1914 to 1921, in the midst of which "week of years" the last members of the Messiah class pass beyond the veil.

Our proposition is that the glorification of the Little Flock in the Spring of 1918 A.D. will be half way (three and one-half years each way) between the close of the Gentile Times and the close of the Heavenly Way, A.D. 1921. (The Finished Mystery 1917 p. 64)
That the harvest began in 1878, there is ample and convincing proof. The end of the harvest is due in the spring of 1918. ...
During the entire forty years of the harvest the sealing of the saints progressed. ...
If the harvest has ended, then the sealing is complete. The evidence strongly suggests that all the saints are sealed. (Watch Tower Reprints 1918 May 1 p. 6243)
However, all the "saints" were not "sealed" after all and they did not ascend. Why? Because again a few replacements were needed:
Many of the dear friends think that "the door is shut," and that opportunities for service are at an end, or nearly so.
The Society does not share this opinion. It is quite probable that the harvest, in the sense that no more will be spirit-begotten, ended in the spring of 1918, except as some will fall out or be rejected, and others take their places. (Watch Tower Reprints 1918 December 1 p. 6358)
As heretofore definitely set forth in THE WATCH TOWER, the harvest of the wheat class covered a period of 40 years; that it had its beginning in 1878 with the resurrection of the sleeping saints; ... that the forty-year period would end, and did end, in the Spring of 1918. (Watch Tower Reprints 1919 May 1 p. 6426)
At this stage the cult's famous message "Millions Now Living Will Never Die" commenced. The "Millions" message stated that ancient Bible heroes like Abraham, Samson and Daniel would rise physically from the dead and take over the world in 1925. The cult members believed they would then not be needed, their work would be finished, and they could finally go to heaven.

Yes, wrong again. It all proved false. The Bible heroes did not appear in 1925 and the Watch Tower cult – the so-called "wheat class" and "saints" – did not go to heaven.


In 1928 came the new interpretation that the dead members of the 144,000 rose to heaven in 1918 as "spirit creatures". Those still in the flesh on Earth would go to heaven individually at death.

Judge Rutherford, the president of the JWs from 1917 to 1942, now divided the remnant of the 144,000 into two subcategories:
1.    Those who joined the cult by 1918 he called the Naomi class and Mordecai class;
2.    Those who joined the cult from and after 1919 he called the Ruth class and Esther class.
In the book Preparation (1932) Rutherford presented this interpretation in detail. (Pages 22, 45, 46, 78, 157, 164-166) The two groups, the pre-1919 and post-1919 converts, together constituted the remnant of the 144,000.

Some of the remnant then alive, when Preparation was published in 1932, would live to survive Armageddon. (pp 158-166) Preparation implies that the Armageddon survivors would even include some of the "Mordecai class" – the converts who joined up prior to 1919.

Frederick William Franz (1893-1992), the fourth president of JWs, was baptized in 1913 and was therefore of the "Mordecai class". Franz wrote:
A number of these should survive still longer to see and go through the war of Armageddon… (The Watchtower 1970 January 15 p. 52)
This, like everything previously in this doctrine, proved false. When Franz died in 1992 the pre-1919 converts were virtually extinct.


By 1935 JWs had recovered from the drastic membership losses that followed their failed prophecies of the 1920s. Converts increased and their increased number threatened to refute that:
1.    The 144,000 is a literal number;
2.    The harvest of the 144,000 ended in 1918 except for replacements.
That's why Judge Rutherford invented two new interpretations:
1.    The call to heaven stopped in 1935 except to replace a few who became unfaithful;
2.    A new "harvest" was starting – the gathering of a "great crowd" who would join JWs but won't go to heaven but get eternal life on Earth instead.


In the 1930s the majority who attended the Memorial partook of the wine and bread. Table 1 shows figures for England:

Table 1 England

Year Partakers Attendance

The yearly worldwide figures are published in the JW Yearbooks and The Watchtower of January 1. See Table 2.
Table 2 Worldwide Totals

Partakers Attendance Year Partakers Attendance
52,465 63,146 1970
10,526 3,226,000
36,732 69,300 1980
9,564 5,727,000
27,620 96,600 1990
8,869 9,950,000
22,723 511,200 2000
8,661 14,872,000
13,911 1,520,000 2003
8,565 16,098,000

American JWs provide almost as many 20th-century candidates for heaven as the rest of the world combined. See Table 3.

Table 3 USA

25,435 1991
15,873 1992
13,889 1993
13,131 1994
Looking again at Table 2 – the worldwide figures – we notice something strange. If the door to heaven shut in 1935 except to replace a few "unfaithful ones" the decrease is much too slow.

Comparing the decrease with population statistics used by governments and insurance companies leads to the conclusion that the number of partakers in 2000 AD should be nearer 500 than 8,600!

For a rough calculation assume the average age of JWs in 1935 was 30. This means the average age of partakers 68 years later – in 2003 AD – should be about 98 (or slightly less if a few drop-outs were replaced with younger replacements). However, the proportion of people who reach their mid-nineties is less than 1% of the population. And 1% of the 1935 partakers is about 500.

Clearly, most of the remnant who partake of the "emblems" and identify themselves as going to heaven are frauds.


JW Leaders have amended, reversed or trashed not just their doctrine of the ascent to heaven but most of their other doctrines too. Changed interpretations, flip-flops, by thousands!!

Yet they claim their organization is: "the only Organization on earth that understands the deep things of God." (The Watchtower 1973 July 1 p. 402)

They claim to be the only religion with God's approval and: "the religion that is approved by God must agree in all its details with the Bible." (The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life 1968 p. 14)

They quote stooges who say: "Jehovah's visible organization is a tremendously dependable source. Never once has it misled me in any way." (The Watchtower 1984 June 1 p. 12)


The JW doctrine of the remnant developed out of repeated prophecy failures. Statistics show that most of the remnant are frauds.

<>"Flashes of light" about Jehovah's Witnesses, "Proclaimers of God's Kingdom", on this website:


Dictionary of Jehovah's Witnesses at: