Jehovah has given us a responsibility and a great privilege, saying: “You are my witnesses, . . . and I am God.” (Isa. 43:12) We are not simply believers. We are witnesses who publicly testify to vital truths contained in God’s inspired Word. What is the message that Jehovah has commissioned us to deliver in our day? It focuses attention on Jehovah God, Jesus Christ, and the Messianic Kingdom.
“FEAR THE TRUE GOD AND KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS”
LONG before the Christian era, Jehovah told faithful Abraham about a provision for “all nations of the earth” to bless themselves. (Gen. 22:18) He also inspired Solomon to write regarding a fundamental requirement that rests on all humans: “Fear the true God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole obligation of man.” (Eccl. 12:13) But how would the people living in all nations learn about these things?
Although there have always been some people who believed God’s word, the Bible indicates that the intensive global witness that would actually reach all nations with the good news was reserved for “the Lord’s day.” This began in 1914. (Rev. 1:10) Concerning this time, Revelation 14:6, 7 foretold that a vital proclamation under angelic direction would be made “to every nation and tribe and tongue and people.” They would be urged: “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of the judgment by him has arrived, and so worship the One who made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters.” It is God’s will that this message be delivered. We have the privilege of sharing in that work.
“The True God.” When Jehovah declared, “You are my witnesses,” it was in a setting where the issue of Godship was being debated. (Isa. 43:10) The message that must be delivered is not merely that people should have a religion or believe in a god. Rather, they need to be given the opportunity to learn that the Creator of heaven and earth is the only true God. (Isa. 45:5, 18, 21, 22; John 17:3) Only the true God can reliably foretell the future. It is our privilege to point out that the fulfillment of Jehovah’s word in the past gives sound basis for confidence that everything he has promised for the future will come true.—Josh. 23:14; Isa. 55:10, 11.
Of course, many to whom we witness worship other gods or claim to worship no god at all. In order to gain a hearing ear, we may need to begin with something of mutual interest. We can benefit from the example recorded at Acts 17:22-31. Notice that although the apostle Paul was tactful, he clearly stated the accountability of all people to the God who is Creator of heaven and earth.
Making Known God’s Name. Do not fail to identify the true God by name. Jehovah loves his name. (Ex. 3:15; Isa. 42:8) He wants people to know that name. He caused his illustrious name to be included in the Bible more than 7,000 times. It is our responsibility to acquaint people with it.—Deut. 4:35.
The future life prospects of all humankind depend on their knowing Jehovah and calling on him in faith. (Joel 2:32; Mal. 3:16; 2 Thess. 1:8) Yet, most people do not know Jehovah. That includes large numbers who profess to worship the God of the Bible. Even if they have a Bible and read it, they still may not know God’s personal name because it has been removed from many modern translations. The only acquaintance that some people have with the name Jehovah is that their religious leaders have told them not to use it.
How might we acquaint people with God’s name? Nothing is quite as effective as showing it to them in the Bible—their own copy if possible. In some translations, that name appears thousands of times. In others, it may appear only at Psalm 83:18 or Exodus 6:3-6, or it may be found in a footnote on Exodus 3:14, 15 or 6:3. In a number of translations, substitute expressions, such as “Lord” and “God,” are set in distinctive type when the original-language text contains the personal name of God. Where modern translators have omitted God’s personal name entirely, you may need to use an older Bible translation to show people what has been done. In some lands you might point out the divine name in religious hymns or in an inscription on a public building.
Even for those who worship other gods, Jeremiah 10:10-13 in the New World Translation can be used effectively. It not only states the name of God but also clearly explains who he is.
Do not hide the name Jehovah behind such labels as “God” and “Lord,” as Christendom does. This does not mean that the name has to be used at the beginning of every conversation. Because of prejudice, some people would cut off the discussion. But after establishing a basis for conversation, do not shy away from using the divine name.
It is noteworthy that the Bible uses the personal name of God more often than the combined number of times that it uses such designations as “Lord” and “God.” Even so, Bible writers did not try to include the divine name in every sentence. They simply did it naturally, freely, and respectfully. That is a good pattern to follow.
The Person Identified by the Name. Although the fact that God has a personal name is in itself a profound truth, that is only the beginning.
In order to love Jehovah and call on him in faith, people need to know the kind of God he is. When Jehovah made his name known to Moses on Mount Sinai, He did much more than just repeat the word “Jehovah.” He drew attention to some of His outstanding qualities. (Ex. 34:6, 7) That is an example for us to imitate.
Whether you are witnessing to newly interested people or giving talks in the congregation, when you speak about the blessings of the Kingdom, point out what these indicate about the God who makes such promises. When referring to his commandments, emphasize the wisdom and the love that they reflect. Make clear that God’s requirements do not impose a hardship on us but, rather, are designed to benefit us. (Isa. 48:17, 18; Mic. 6:8) Show how each of Jehovah’s expressions of power reveals something about his personality, his standards, his purpose. Draw attention to the balance shown in the way that Jehovah manifests his qualities. Let people hear you express your own feelings about Jehovah. Your love for Jehovah can help to stir up such love in others.
The urgent message for our day calls on all people to fear God. By what we say, we should seek to build up such godly fear. This fear is a wholesome fear, an awe of Jehovah, a profound reverence for him. (Ps. 89:7) It includes an awareness that Jehovah is the supreme Judge and that our future life prospects depend on our having his approval. (Luke 12:5; Rom. 14:12) Such fear, therefore, is intertwined with deep love for him and, consequently, an intense desire to please him. (Deut. 10:12, 13) Godly fear also moves us to hate what is bad, to obey God’s commandments, and to worship him with a complete heart. (Deut. 5:29; 1 Chron. 28:9; Prov. 8:13) It safeguards us against trying to serve God while loving things of the world.—1 John 2:15-17.
God’s Name—“A Strong Tower.” People who truly come to know Jehovah enjoy great protection. This is not simply because they use his personal name or can list some of his qualities. It is because they put their trust in Jehovah himself. Regarding them, Proverbs 18:10 states: “The name of Jehovah is a strong tower. Into it the righteous runs and is given protection.”
Make good use of opportunities to urge others to trust in Jehovah. (Ps. 37:3; Prov. 3:5, 6) Such trust shows faith in Jehovah and his promises. (Heb. 11:6) When people ‘call on the name of Jehovah’ because they know that he is the Universal Sovereign, love his ways, and fully believe that true salvation can come only from him, then—God’s Word assures us—they will be saved. (Rom. 10:13, 14) As you teach others, help them to build up that sort of faith in connection with every aspect of life.
Many people face overwhelming personal problems. They may not see a way out. Urge them to learn Jehovah’s ways, to trust in him, and to apply what they learn. (Ps. 25:5) Encourage them to pray earnestly for God’s help and to thank him for his blessings. (Phil. 4:6, 7) When they come to know Jehovah, not simply by reading certain statements in the Bible but also by experiencing the fulfillment of his promises in their own lives, they will begin to enjoy the security that comes with truly appreciating what the name of Jehovah represents.—Ps. 34:8; Jer. 17:7, 8.
Use well every opportunity to help people to appreciate the wisdom of fearing the true God, Jehovah, and keeping his commandments.
“BEARING WITNESS TO JESUS”
AFTER his resurrection and before his return to heaven, Jesus Christ gave instructions to his disciples, saying: “You will be witnesses of me . . . to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Loyal servants of God in our day are described as those who “have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.” (Rev. 12:17) How diligent are you about giving that witness?
Many people who sincerely say that they believe in Jesus know nothing of his prehuman existence. They do not realize that he truly was human when on earth. They do not comprehend what is meant by his being the Son of God. They know very little about his role in the fulfillment of God’s purpose. They do not know what he is doing now, and they do not realize how their lives will be affected by what he does in the future. They may even mistakenly think that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in Jesus. It is our privilege to endeavor to make known the truth about these matters.
Still other people do not believe that anyone like the Jesus described in the Bible really lived. Some view Jesus merely as a great man. Many reject the idea that he is God’s Son. “Bearing witness to Jesus” among such people requires much effort, patience, and tactfulness.
Regardless of the viewpoint of your listeners, they need to take in knowledge of Jesus Christ if they are to avail themselves of God’s provision for eternal life. (John 17:3) God’s clearly expressed will is that all who live must “openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord” and must submit to his authority. (Phil. 2:9-11) Thus, we cannot simply avoid the issue when we encounter people who have strong but wrong opinions or outright prejudice. Whereas in some cases we can speak freely about Jesus Christ—even on our initial visit—in others, we may need to make discreet comments that help our listeners to begin thinking correctly about him. We may also need to think of ways to introduce additional aspects of the subject on future visits. However, it may not be possible to discuss all that is involved until we conduct a home Bible study with a person.—1 Tim. 2:3-7.
Jesus’ Vital Place in God’s Purpose. We need to help people appreciate that since Jesus is “the way” and ‘no one comes to the Father except through him,’ it is impossible to have an approved relationship with God without faith in Jesus Christ. (John 14:6) Unless a person realizes the vital role that Jehovah has assigned to his firstborn Son, it is impossible to understand the Bible. Why? Because Jehovah made this Son the key figure in the outworking of all His purposes. (Col. 1:17-20) Bible prophecy revolves around this fact. (Rev. 19:10) Jesus Christ is the one through whom the solution is provided for all the problems raised by Satan’s rebellion and the sin of Adam.—Heb. 2:5-9, 14, 15.
To appreciate Christ’s role, a person must recognize that humans are in a lamentable condition from which they cannot free themselves. All of us are born in sin. This may affect us in various ways during our lifetime. Sooner or later, however, it results in death. (Rom. 3:23; 5:12) Reason on that fact with those to whom you witness. Then point out that through the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Jehovah has lovingly made deliverance from sin and death possible for those who exercise faith in that provision. (Mark 10:45; Heb. 2:9) This opens the way for them to enjoy everlasting life in perfection. (John 3:16, 36) It is not possible in any other way. (Acts 4:12) As a teacher, whether in private or in the congregation, do more than simply state these facts. Kindly and patiently build in your listeners a feeling of gratitude for Christ’s role as our Redeemer. Appreciation for this provision can have a profound effect on a person’s attitude, conduct, and goals in life.—2 Cor. 5:14, 15.
Of course, Jesus laid down his life in sacrifice just once. (Heb. 9:28) However, he is actively serving as High Priest now. Help others to understand what that means. Are they experiencing stress, disappointment, suffering, or problems because of unkindness on the part of people around them? When Jesus was a human, he experienced all of these. He knows how we feel. Because of imperfection, do we feel the need for God’s mercy? If we pray to God for forgiveness on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice, Jesus acts as “a helper with the Father.” Compassionately, he “pleads for us.” (1 John 2:1, 2; Rom. 8:34) On the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice and through his services as High Priest, we are able to approach Jehovah’s “throne of undeserved kindness” to receive help at the right time. (Heb. 4:15, 16) Though we are imperfect, the help that Jesus provides as High Priest enables us to serve God with a clean conscience.—Heb. 9:13, 14.
Additionally, Jesus exercises great authority as the one designated by God to be Head of the Christian congregation. (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:22, 23) As such, he provides needed direction in harmony with God’s will. When you teach others, help them to appreciate that Jesus Christ, and no human, is the Head of the congregation. (Matt. 23:10) From your initial contact with interested ones, invite them to meetings of the local congregation, where we study the Bible with the help of material provided through “the faithful and discreet slave.” Explain to them not only who the “slave” is but also who the Master is so that they become aware of Jesus’ headship. (Matt. 24:45-47) Introduce them to the elders, and explain the Scriptural qualifications that these must meet. (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) Point out that the congregation does not belong to the elders but that they help us to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:28; Eph. 4:16; 1 Pet. 5:2, 3) Help these interested ones see that there is an organized, worldwide society operating under Christ’s headship.
From the Gospels, we learn that when Jesus entered Jerusalem shortly before his death, his disciples hailed him as “the One coming as the King in Jehovah’s name!” (Luke 19:38) As people study the Bible more deeply, they learn that Jehovah has now invested Jesus with ruling authority that affects people of all nations. (Dan. 7:13, 14) When you give talks in the congregation or conduct studies, build appreciation for what Jesus’ rulership should mean to all of us.
Emphasize that our way of life shows whether we really believe that Jesus Christ is King and whether we willingly submit to his rulership. Highlight the work that Jesus, after being anointed as King, assigned his followers to do. (Matt. 24:14; 28:18-20) Discuss what Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor, said regarding priorities in life. (Isa. 9:6, 7; Matt. 6:19-34) Direct attention to the spirit that the Prince of Peace said his followers would manifest. (Matt. 20:25-27; John 13:35) Be careful not to take it upon yourself to judge whether others are doing as much as they should, but encourage them to consider what their actions indicate about their submission to Christ’s kingship. As you do so, acknowledge your need to do the same.
Laying Christ as the Foundation. The Bible likens the work of making a Christian disciple to building a structure upon Jesus Christ as the foundation. (1 Cor. 3:10-15) To accomplish this, help people to know Jesus as he is described in the Bible. Exercise care that they do not look to you as the one they are following. (1 Cor. 3:4-7) Direct their attention to Jesus Christ.
If the foundation has been laid well, students will appreciate that Christ left a model for us “to follow his steps closely.” (1 Pet. 2:21) To build on that, encourage students to read the Gospels not merely as truthful history but as a pattern to be followed. Help them to take to heart the attitudes and qualities that characterized Jesus. Encourage them to observe how Jesus felt about his Father, how he dealt with temptations and trials, how he showed submission to God, and how he dealt with humans under various circumstances. Emphasize the activity with which Jesus filled his life. Then, when faced with decisions and trials in life, a student will ask himself: ‘What would Jesus do in this situation? Will my course show proper appreciation for what he has done for me?’
When you speak before the congregation, do not conclude that since your brothers already have faith in Jesus, there is no need to draw special attention to him. What you say will mean more if you build on that faith. When you speak about meetings, connect this with Jesus’ role as Head of the congregation. When you discuss the field ministry, draw attention to the spirit Jesus showed as he carried on his ministry, and present the ministry in the light of what Christ as King is doing to gather people for preservation into the new world.
It is evident that more is needed than simply learning basic facts about Jesus. To become real Christians, people must exercise faith in him and truly love him. Such love motivates loyal obedience. (John 14:15, 21) It enables people to stand firm in the faith under adversity, to continue to walk in Christ’s footsteps all the days of their life, to prove themselves mature Christians who are firmly “rooted and established on the foundation.” (Eph. 3:17) Such a course brings glory to Jehovah, the God and Father of Jesus Christ.
“THIS GOOD NEWS OF THE KINGDOM”
WHEN providing details regarding the sign of his presence and the conclusion of the system of things, Jesus foretold: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”—Matt. 24:14.
Exactly what is this message that is to be given such wide publicity? It is about the Kingdom for which Jesus taught us to pray to God, saying: “Let your kingdom come.” (Matt. 6:10) Revelation 11:15 describes it as “the kingdom of our Lord [Jehovah] and of his Christ” because the ruling authority originates with Jehovah and is conferred upon Christ as King. Note, however, that the message that Jesus said would be proclaimed in our day goes beyond what his followers preached in the first century. They told people: “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” (Luke 10:9) Jesus, the one anointed to be King, was then in their midst. But as recorded at Matthew 24:14, Jesus foretold the worldwide announcement of another development in the fulfillment of God’s purpose.
The prophet Daniel was given a vision of this development. He saw “someone like a son of man,” Jesus Christ, receiving from “the Ancient of Days,” Jehovah God, “rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him.” (Dan. 7:13, 14) That event of universal significance took place in heaven in the year 1914. Thereafter, the Devil and his demons were hurled down to the earth. (Rev. 12:7-10) The old system of things had entered its last days. But before it is completely removed, a global proclamation is being made that Jehovah’s Messianic King now rules from his heavenly throne. People everywhere are being put on notice. Their response gives evidence of their attitude toward the Most High as Ruler in “the kingdom of mankind.”—Dan. 4:32.
True, more is yet to come—much more! We still pray, “Let your kingdom come,” but it is not with the idea that the establishment of God’s Kingdom is yet future. Rather, it is with the intent that the heavenly Kingdom will act in a decisive way to fulfill such prophecies as Daniel 2:44 and Revelation 21:2-4. It will transform the earth into a paradise filled with people who love God and their fellowman. As we preach “this good news of the kingdom,” we point to those future prospects. But we also confidently make known that Jehovah has already conferred full ruling authority on his Son. Are you emphasizing this good news when you witness about the Kingdom?
Explaining the Kingdom. How can we fulfill our commission to announce God’s Kingdom? We may arouse interest by starting conversations on a variety of subjects, but it should soon become clear that our message is about God’s Kingdom.
An important aspect of this work involves reading or quoting scriptures that refer to the Kingdom. When you refer to the Kingdom, be sure that those to whom you speak understand what it is. More may be required than simply saying that God’s Kingdom is a government. Some people may find it difficult to think of something invisible as a government. You might reason with them in various ways. For example, gravity is invisible, but it has a powerful effect on our lives. We cannot see the One who made the law of gravity, but it is obvious that he has great power. The Bible refers to him as “the King of eternity.” (1 Tim. 1:17) Or you might reason that in a large country, many people have never been to the capital or seen their ruler in person. They learn about these through news reports. Likewise, the Bible, published in over 2,200 languages, tells us about God’s Kingdom; it lets us know who has been entrusted with authority and what the Kingdom is doing. The Watchtower, published in more languages than any other periodical, is devoted to “Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom,” as stated on the front cover.
To help people understand what the Kingdom is, you might mention some of the things that they want governments to provide: economic security, peace, freedom from crime, impartial treatment of all ethnic groups, education, and health care. Show that only by means of God’s Kingdom will these and all other wholesome desires of mankind be fully satisfied.—Ps. 145:16.
Endeavor to stimulate a desire on the part of people to be subjects of the Kingdom, in which Jesus Christ rules as King. Point to the miracles he performed as previews of what he will do as heavenly King. Speak often of the appealing qualities he manifested. (Matt. 8:2, 3; 11:28-30) Explain that he laid down his life for us and that God thereafter raised him to immortal life in the heavens. It is from there that he rules as King.—Acts 2:29-35.
Emphasize that God’s Kingdom is now ruling from the heavens. Realize, however, that most people do not see the conditions that they think would be evidence of such rule. Acknowledge that, and ask if they know what Jesus Christ said would be evidence of it. Highlight some of the features of the composite sign found in Matthew chapter 24, Mark chapter 13, or Luke chapter 21. Then ask why Christ’s enthronement in heaven would lead to such conditions on earth. Direct attention to Revelation 12:7-10, 12.
As tangible evidence of what God’s Kingdom is doing, read Matthew 24:14, and describe the global program of Bible education that is taking place now. (Isa. 54:13) Tell people about the various schools from which Jehovah’s Witnesses benefit—all based on the Bible, all held free of charge. Explain that in addition to our house-to-house ministry, we offer free home instruction in the Bible to individuals and families in over 230 lands. What human government is in a position to provide such an extensive educational program not only for its subjects but for people earth wide? Invite people to come to the Kingdom Hall, to attend assemblies and conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses, to see evidence of how such education is affecting the lives of people.—Isa. 2:2-4; 32:1, 17; John 13:35.
But will the householder realize how his own life is affected? You might tactfully point out that the purpose of your visit is to discuss the opportunity that is open to all to choose life as subjects of God’s Kingdom. How? By learning what God requires and living in harmony with it now.—Deut. 30:19, 20; Rev. 22:17.
Helping Others Put the Kingdom First. Even after a person accepts the Kingdom message, there are decisions that he must make. What priority will he give God’s Kingdom in his own life? Jesus urged his disciples to “keep on . . . seeking first the kingdom.” (Matt. 6:33) How can we help fellow Christians to do that? By setting a good example ourselves and by discussing opportunities that are available. At times, by asking whether a person has considered certain possibilities and by sharing experiences to show what others are doing. By discussing Bible accounts in such a way that these deepen one’s love for Jehovah. By stressing the reality of the Kingdom. By emphasizing how important the work of Kingdom proclamation really is. The greatest good is often done, not by telling people what needs to be done, but by stimulating in them a desire to do it.
Without a doubt, the vital message that all of us must proclaim focuses primary attention on Jehovah God, Jesus Christ, and the Kingdom. The vital truths regarding these should be emphasized in our public witnessing, in our congregations, and in our personal lives. When we do that, we demonstrate that we are truly benefiting from our Theocratic Ministry School education.