An Assembly That Anticipates Divine Victory
WHERE is the world heading? Can the overwhelming problems of mankind be solved? People everywhere are concerned.
Yet despite the pessimism of the general population, Jehovah’s witnesses face the future with confidence. For that reason they have been holding earth wide a “Divine Victory” International Assembly. This past summer Detroit, Michigan, hosted the first of these five-day gatherings, from June 20 to 24. During the three months that followed, 1,433,078 persons attended the assembly in thirty-nine cities of America, Europe and Asia!
That is a lot of people—1,433,078! Some entire countries do not even have as many people. Where did such vast numbers meet?
The largest facilities available were obtained, including eleven of North America’s biggest baseball stadiums. And even these were often crowded to capacity—and beyond.
Thus, for the convention’s public address, 79,256 squeezed into Yankee Stadium, New York; 60,158 overflowed Houston’s Astrodome; 52,349 crowded into Detroit’s Tiger Stadium; 52,390 jammed the Oakland-Alameda Stadium; 49,684 packed Atlanta Stadium; 50,879 filled Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium; 47,339 thronged White Sox Park, Chicago; 38,225 met in Royals Stadium, Kansas City; 44,564 listened at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium; 28,007 gathered in Jarry Park, home of the Montreal Expos; and two conventions during two different weeks at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, had final-day totals of 43,720 and 54,381 attending!
Yet these were only a few of the huge facilities used. Large auditoriums and spacious racetracks were also employed. Similar places were utilized in Europe and Asia, including the stadiums in Munich, Germany, where last year’s summer Olympics were held. For the next few months other cities in Middle and South America, the South Pacific and Africa will also host the “Divine Victory” International Assembly.
Commenting on the assembly theme “Divine Victory,” the Glasgow Herald of August 2 reported: “Some 30,000 joyous people thronged Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, yesterday to celebrate a victory. . . . The victory which is giving them such pleasure is nothing so shallow as a win for Scotland over England.” What victory is it, then, that Jehovah’s witnesses anticipate?
A Victory Affecting All Mankind
In an editorial, Montreal’s La Presse of July 27 explained: “They await a divine government which will replace those of the earth.” Also, the Belgian magazine CHOC of August 19, reporting on the assembly in Brussels, carried this headline: “FIFTY THOUSAND JEHOVAH‘S WITNESSES CELEBRATE WITH JOY THE NEARNESS OF THE ‘END OF THE WORLD’ AND GOD’S VICTORY.”
Yes, the Witnesses rejoice because God’s victory is at hand—he will soon wipe this wicked system of things from the earth! The apostle Peter foretold this world destruction, but then wrote: “There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to [God’s] promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Pet. 3:13) Jehovah’s witnesses really do believe this promise of God.
True, many may consider it foolish to believe such things. Yet no one can deny that the Bible foretells the end of this system. (Matt. 24:3-14; 1 John 2:17; 2 Pet. 3:3-13) And, really, are there not plenty of indications that this system is rapidly deteriorating, and just as the Bible said it would immediately prior to its end? Are Jehovah’s witnesses simply ignorant calamity howlers, with no tangible evidence to support their beliefs?
Although many may have thought so, visitors to the “Divine Victory” assembly saw evidence that caused them to pause and ponder. For example, the London Sunday Telegraph of August 5 reported:
“Since Wednesday the stands at Twickenham have been packed daily with more than 50,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses . . . Undoubtedly there is none of the gloom traditionally associated with those who declare that ‘The End Is Nigh.’ Nigh it may be. In the meantime everyone seems to be enjoying himself in a sober, upright, Godly but cheerful manner. . . .
“It is an impressive undertaking. If the present world order really is about to break down, the Witnesses at Twickenham seem well prepared to organise the new one.”
Is it possible that these are the people that God will use as the nucleus of his promised new order? If they are, then as a group they would stand out in sharp contrast from the rest of mankind—showing the fine godly qualities that are so rare today. The “Divine Victory” assembly afforded opportunity to see well over a million Witnesses living, working and studying together. What was observed?
A Remarkable Difference
No one could miss the difference, and many reporters wrote about it. Under the heading “POLITE, CONSIDERATE, ORDERLY PEOPLE,” the Journal de Montréal of July 27 reported:
“Jehovah’s Witnesses are very, very, civilized people. Courtesy is their way of life. Neatness, cleanliness, and decency also. And this was easily noticeable at their assembly. . . No one steps on your feet, nor do you step on any paper. It’s almost perfect cleanliness. Wastepapers, half-eaten hot dogs, everything goes into the garbage cans. . . .
“You almost feel as though you were in paradise, as the atmosphere is relaxed, peaceful, and serene. And everyone is dressed modestly, and nobody’s trying to show off or draw attention to themselves as they do at baseball games.
“And especially, no discrimination. People of all races enjoy fellowship together. There is no one with hidden motives or reservations.
“Decidedly, there is a great lesson to be learned from the conduct of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In observing them, one would think that America has been transformed!”
This remarkable difference in Jehovah’s witnesses was noted time and again at all the conventions. In Rome, Italy, for example, the newspaper Paese Sera of August 9 wrote:
“Yes, there is no doubt about it, they are meek. And not only that, but also they are kind, well mannered, full of concern for one another. . . . Not one piece of paper or watermelon peel can be seen on the ground, nothing. And yet they have eaten at least 30,000 sandwiches.
“Even in the air there is something strange, but at first one is unable to say what it is. There is a different odor from that which is normally present during a soccer game in the Flaminio Stadium. There are about 50,000 persons present, but not one of them smokes. . . .
“Perhaps, rather than preaching for a little civilization in order to avoid global pollution, we should start preaching to have more Witnesses.”
If all people conducted themselves as do Jehovah’s witnesses, would this really solve major problems? Would there be true brotherhood and security world wide? Is that the impression visitors to the “Divine Victory” assembly actually received?
A Solution to Major Problems?
Interestingly, radio station CJTR, Trois-Rivières, Quebec, in an editorial broadcast on July 30 observed:
“According to reports in various Montreal newspapers, the convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses is something unique to see, not so much for the number of those attending, but rather for the atmosphere and the spirit of brotherly love which prevailed in the vast ball park.
“Several journalists who visited the spot were surprised to note that . . . children displayed the discipline which we thought had disappeared since the War.”
Columnist André Rufiange also wrote regarding this convention, and, at the same time, took note of the unjust persecution of Jehovah’s witnesses in Quebec years ago:
“Not even a single thing went wrong nor was there any unpleasant occurrence. In order to control crowds of 20,000 people, one policeman would have been enough and even he would have been bored stiff. . . .
“Of course, I am not a Witness. But I am a witness to the fact that the Witnesses witness to efficiency and proper behaviour. Have you ever seen one of them get mad? And yet, how many slaps in the face they had to endure! Really very nice people. If they were the only people in the world, we would not at night have to bolt our doors shut and put on the burglar alarm.”—Journal de Montréal, July 30.
Around the world, at convention city after convention city, similar observations were made. In Ireland, where Protestants and Catholics fight each other, the Irish Times of July 14 drew attention to “the assembly’s atmosphere of fraternal peace among different nationalities and races.”
In Osaka, Japan, where over 31,000 were in attendance, the Asahi Shimbun of July 29 commented: “This assembly is the largest crowd that the former exhibition ground has had since Expo ’70. A warm atmosphere prevailed in the audience . . . All addressed one another using the intimate expression, ‘Brother.’”
A reporter observed regarding the “Divine Victory” assembly in Brussels, Belgium:
“I have seen many things, but never anything like this. . . . No noise, no pushing, nothing but happy faces. Kindness is manifested everywhere and one yields his place to another brother or sister.”—CHOC, August 19.
The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung of July 28-29 reported:
“Since Wednesday nearly 60,000 people have assembled [in Düsseldorf]—it is the largest convention that has ever been held in Düsseldorf, the city of Fairs. And it is a mass meeting which follows its own laws: We have never seen so many people meet together who are so orderly, so moral, so disciplined as they are.”
An editorial in the Finnish magazine Uusi Maailma of August 15 said of the assembly in Helsinki: “This crowd of tens of thousands . . . behaves in an exemplary and quiet way.”
Columnist Larry McMullen wrote in the Philadelphia Daily News of July 20:
“I can witness to this. In a crowd of 40,000 I did not see one cigarette lit or an empty bottle of booze under a seat. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not fight wars and they are not a part of our prison population.”
No wonder visitors concluded that if everyone conducted themselves like Jehovah’s witnesses, doors would not have to be locked at night and wars would be eliminated. But what is responsible for the remarkable difference seen among Jehovah’s witnesses?
Why the Difference?
Simply stated, it is the firm faith of the Witnesses in God’s Word, and the application of it in their lives. Reporting on the Brussels convention, a writer for the magazine Journal d’Europe of August 14 explained:
“These ‘house to house’ enthusiasts did not premeditate this unprecedented publicity which is being given to the theme of their assembly . . . They do not try to be sensational nor to convert the pagans by getting them worked up by anguish . . . No, their discipling work is much more persistent than that and serious, yes, very serious. In half an hour the one I interviewed had made at least ten Bible citations—with chapter and verse. They know the Bible by heart to such an extent as to outdo the most scrupulous theologian. It’s their bed-side book, if not, their only book, and only those who meet the requirements are baptised.”
Actually, the “Divine Victory” assembly was an intensive five-day program of Bible instruction. In all, it consisted of thirty-one Bible talks and four dramas set in early Bible times. These not only highlighted the need for Christians to keep close in mind the nearness of God’s victory, but also to perfect more fully their love for one another and to keep their lives in close harmony with the high moral principles of God’s Word.
Amazed by the serious attention given to the program by the audience in Munich, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of August 4 said: “At a first glance one might think that the Olympic oval is filled with journalists since nearly every second convention participant is busy making neat notes.”
Also a newsman for Japan’s leading daily newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, was moved to comment:
“Many mothers with their children strapped to their backs are concentrating on their Bibles . . . Hence, when I see at this assembly all these faces beaming with joy, I cannot help thinking that I also should study the Bible to find out what it says about our future.”
Program Highlights and Response
The widely advertised talk “Divine Victory—Its Meaning for Distressed Mankind” was the program highlight. It focused on the assembly theme, affirming that God’s victory will be “over all the religious and political powers who ignore God’s ownership of the earth.” “There is every good reason,” the speaker stressed, “to know that it is near!”
Bible dramas, too, were highlights of the program. These also focused on God’s victory, and the need to help others to avoid destruction. A Christian elder at the Oakland, California, convention noted regarding the drama depicting the fall of Jericho: “Rahab’s concern was not just for herself, but for her entire family, not just her mother and father, but for all those in the family. There was an honest desire to save even the one that fled into the city to die.” The importance likewise of showing concern for people today was thus impressed strongly upon all in attendance.
To aid in teaching others God’s purposes, the book True Peace and Security—From What Source? was released in eleven languages—English, French, Portuguese, German, Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Swedish, Japanese and Italian. What a program highlight this was! “This is a book for today’s generation,” is how one Canadian circuit overseer described it. Many undoubtedly will be helped to learn God’s purposes by studying it.
Assembly delegates also enthusiastically received the 416-page book God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached. It examines in detail Jesus’ prophecies regarding the ‘time of the end.’ At the session during which that book was released, the delegates at each assembly enthusiastically resolved: “We will obey God rather than man and will not slack our hand in carrying out his command through Christ to ‘preach this good news of the Kingdom in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations,’ before the end of this doomed system of things comes.”
Another important publication for Bible study, the 1,280-page volume Comprehensive Concordance of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, was also released at the assembly. With such fine Bible study aids, is it any wonder that Jehovah’s witnesses know the Bible so well?
One of the program highlights was the release of the first of a series of new Kingdom News tracts and the announcement of a special worldwide work using them. By next September it is hoped that half a billion of these tracts will be distributed! “They strike me as Bible-based bombs to drop in the midst of the population,” is how one Christian elder described them.
There was a remarkable response to the fine program. For example, a visitor from Mattoon, Illinois, said: “My mother asked me to drive her to the Kansas City assembly. I agreed but intended immediately to return home. However, my car broke down, so I attended the sessions at Royals Stadium. Each day it became more and more interesting to me. On the third day I went to the cleaning desk and volunteered to help with the cleanup after the assembly. Also, I asked a Witness from my hometown to study with me when we returned.”
A $100 contribution was received at the Winnipeg, Canada, assembly. In an accompanying letter, the man said:
“I just got the truth at this Winnipeg convention and am thankful to Jehovah for calling me out of Babylon the Great before it is too late. . . .
“I have already made contact for a Bible study and am starting today, with the hope of getting enough knowledge to be baptized and make a full dedication to do Jehovah’s will. I was very happy to attend this great spiritual feast, and it did not take me long to size up and see where Jehovah’s love abides, and surely it is only among His people.”
Attending one of these conventions of Jehovah’s witnesses is truly a rich experience, and that is why so many make such extraordinary efforts to be there.
Surmounting Obstacles to Attend
One might think that having a dozen or more children would make it impossible to attend. But not so! Not only did a couple with nineteen children attend the Hallandale assembly, but all their children were there with them! At home in Wauchula, Florida, they have a family Bible study in which all participate.
Extreme sickness might also be viewed as an obstacle that would prevent attendance. But for Terry Walters and his family it was not. In 1971, fifteen-year-old Terry was found to have bone cancer. Although in constant need of oxygen, Terry wanted, above everything else, to attend this year’s “Divine Victory” assembly. So arrangements were made to bring oxygen equipment to Royals Stadium, Kansas City, and thus Terry was able to enjoy the program. The following week the Topeka State Journal told about Terry under the heading “Lived Longer than Expected—Cancer Kills Youth.”
Employment, too, can pose a real obstacle to attending an assembly; yet ways can usually be found to overcome it. For example, a Witness with a kennel loaded his fifty-seven dogs in a large air-conditioned van with built-in cages, and headed for Hallandale. There he secured accommodations at a mobile park that had a sign “All pets welcome,” and attended the assembly.
Another Witness was pressured by his employer not to attend the assembly, since another employee had quit and the employer needed help. “What if I refuse to let you go?” he asked the Witness. “I would go anyway,” was the reply. The employer thought a moment, and then asked, “How do you plan to travel?” When told that it would be by car, the employer said that it would take too long, and so gave the Witness $700 for him and his family to go to the Oakland assembly by plane. In addition, he told him that he would pay him while he was away, and that when he returned he was going to give him a raise in salary!
When the Witness asked him why he was doing all this, the employer replied: “You have set a good example for me, and besides, you’re a good worker. If it were possible to hire another Jehovah’s witness I would do it immediately. They are the only ones that you can trust.”
Foretaste of God’s New Order
When thousands of people get together who really do love God and one another, it is a foretaste of what life everywhere will soon be like following God’s victory.
For example, one gets a foretaste of what it will be like when everyone is honest. At the Halifax assembly a youth found a wallet containing $710 in American money and brought it to the Lost and Found Department, where the owner recovered it intact. At another assembly a twenty-dollar bill was brought in. One of the Witnesses came in later and reported that she had lost twenty dollars in a certain area. When she was shown the twenty-dollar bill, found in the same area, she refused it because what she had lost was seven bills, a ten, a five and five ones.
How pleasant it is, too, when people do things for others because of love for them and not for a paycheck! The Glasgow Herald of August 2 noted regarding the gathering in Edinburgh, which is something true of all conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses:
“Everything is done by voluntary labour. More than 5000 volunteers have offered to carry out duties ranging from skilled medical attention to selling sandwiches.
“Before the visitors arrived an army of volunteers swept and cleaned the stadium, even to the extent of painting where necessary.”
In Helsinki volunteer workers arranged to accommodate not only the thousands coming to the assembly from throughout Finland, but also the more than 14,000 arriving from Sweden. A huge tent city of fifty-four acres was constructed to accommodate many of the delegates. It was laid out with streets, and included washing, laundry and ironing facilities, as well as toilets that were connected to the city sewer. A local health officer who came to make an inspection said: “Everything is so wonderfully well organized, you have to see it to believe it. To think you would go to all this trouble for just five days. It’s unbelievable!”
Obstacles were overcome with a combination of love and careful planning. In Puerto Rico there was the immense task of getting 4,000 delegates from their hotels to the Stadium. This across a congested city, twice a day! Impossible? While some buses were used, about four hundred and fifty private cars, driven by Puerto Rican Witnesses, operated a shuttle service for two hours each morning of the assembly. These same Witnesses would use their cars to take the visitors home in the evening after the sessions. Certainly a tremendous display of Christian hospitality.
People are not born with a love for God and their fellowman that motivates them to do such fine things. This love is cultivated by a study of God’s Word.
New Ones Who Anticipate God’s Victory
After a period of Bible study with Jehovah’s witnesses, persons whose hearts are moved by appreciation for what God has done for them make a dedication to serve Jehovah God. By the ceremony of water baptism, they give public witness to their dedication to God. At just the “Divine Victory” International Assembly in North America, Europe and Asia, 39,313 of these new ones symbolized their dedication to God by water baptism!
These persons come from all walks of life. Formerly, many had been drug addicts, hippies and criminals. Also, some had been homosexuals. But these all changed their lives completely to conform to God’s will. Others baptized are wealthy, many are poor. Some are very old. For example, at the Hammond, Indiana, assembly a woman ninety-one years old and another ninety-two years old were immersed! Many youths, too, were baptized, and are now taking up the full-time preaching work, announcing that God’s victory and his new order are near.
Do these witnesses of Jehovah, now numbering over 1,700,000 world wide, make up the true Christian organization that will alone be preserved when this old system soon perishes? A Belgian journalist reflected on this possibility. On Radio Television of Belgium, August 11, he reported in connection with the Brussels assembly:
“Jehovah’s witnesses . . . have transformed the immense Halls at Heysel into a town of 50,000 inhabitants, a town where everything takes place without a hitch, . . . where brotherhood is practised with a smile, a smile which enables one to overcome the language barrier.
“As a journalist, one has almost to force himself to begin asking himself questions, to interrogate himself about the deep-seated reason of all this. Because if, after all, the zeal of the Witnesses compels us to admire them, we must also remember upon what this zeal is based, namely, upon the deep conviction that all those who do not share their viewpoint will soon be eliminated from the planet by divine victory.”
Surely the earth needs a cleansing of all who are out of harmony with God’s will! Should we not, therefore, force ourselves seriously to ask: Could Jehovah’s witnesses be the people God will preserve alive to begin his new order? Why not examine for yourself? Visit their weekly meetings at the Kingdom Hall in your community. Observe their conduct. Examine their faith. You will be most welcome.
[Pictures on page 14, 15]
The “Divine Victory” International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses, in just three months, convened in 39 cities, filling the largest facilities available with a total of 1,433,078 persons
23,955 in Copenhagen
50,879 in Philadelphia
78,792 in Munich
38,225 in Kansas City
53,199 in Brussels
52,390 in Oakland
[Picture on page 16]
Witnesses talk about a future paradise earth, and they believe in cleanliness now
[Picture on page 17]
Enjoyment of life and genuine international brotherhood—clearly evident among delegates at Witness assembly