1, 2. What great work did Jesus foretell, and what important question arises?
POLITICAL RULERS often make promises that go unfulfilled. Even those with the best of intentions may be unable to carry out their promises. In refreshing contrast, the Messianic King, Jesus Christ, always proves true to his word.
2 After he became King in 1914, Jesus was ready to fulfill a prophecy he had made some 1,900 years earlier. Shortly before he died, Jesus foretold: “This good news of the Kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth.” (Matt. 24:14) The fulfillment of those words would be part of the sign of his presence in Kingdom power. However, an important question arises: How would the King be able to raise up an army of willing preachers in the last days—a time period that would be marked by a selfish, loveless, and irreligious spirit? (Matt. 24:12; 2 Tim. 3:1-5) We need to know, for the answer to that question involves all true Christians.
3. What confidence did Jesus express, and where did he get such confidence?
3 Look again at Jesus’ prophetic words. Do the words “will be preached” express confidence? Indeed, they do! Jesus was sure that he would have willing supporters in the last days. Where did he get such confidence? He learned it from his Father. (John 12:45; 14:9) In his prehuman existence, Jesus observed firsthand that Jehovah has confidence in the willing spirit of His worshippers. Let us see how Jehovah expressed that confidence.
“Your People Will Offer Themselves Willingly”
4. What work did Jehovah invite the Israelites to support, and how did they respond?
4 Recall what happened when Jehovah directed Moses to construct the tabernacle, or tent, that was to be the center of worship for the nation of Israel. Jehovah, through Moses, invited all the people to support the work. Moses told them: “Let everyone with a willing heart bring a contribution for Jehovah.” The result? The people “continued to bring . . . voluntary offerings, morning after morning.” They brought so much that they had to be “restrained from bringing in anything else”! (Ex. 35:5; 36:3, 6) The Israelites lived up to the confidence that Jehovah had placed in them.
5, 6. According to Psalm 110:1-3, what spirit did Jehovah and thus Jesus expect to find among true worshippers in the time of the end?
5 Did Jehovah expect to find such a willing spirit among his worshippers in the last days? Yes! More than 1,000 years before Jesus was born on earth, Jehovah inspired David to write about the time when the Messiah would begin to rule. (Read Psalm 110:1-3.) Jesus, the newly installed King, would have enemies who would oppose him. Yet, he would also have an army of supporters. They would not have to be forced into serving the King. Even the young among them would offer themselves freely, becoming a multitude so great that they could aptly be compared to the countless dewdrops that blanket the ground in the morning sun.*
6 Jesus knew that the prophecy recorded in Psalm 110 applied to him. (Matt. 22:42-45) Hence, he had every reason to be confident that he would have loyal supporters who would offer themselves willingly to preach the good news in all the earth. What do the historical facts show? Has the King, in fact, raised up an army of willing preachers in these last days?
“My Privilege and Duty Is to Announce That Message”
7. After he was installed as King, what steps did Jesus take to prepare his supporters for the work ahead?
7 Shortly after he was installed as King, Jesus took steps to prepare his followers for the vast work to be done. As we saw in Chapter 2, he did an inspection and a cleansing work from 1914 to early 1919. (Mal. 3:1-4) Then, in 1919, he appointed the faithful slave to take the lead among his followers. (Matt. 24:45) Especially from that time onward, that slave began dispensing spiritual food—by means of convention discourses and printed publications—that repeatedly emphasized the responsibility of all Christians to have a personal share in preaching.
8-10. How did conventions give impetus to the preaching work? Give an example. (See also the box “Early Conventions That Gave Impetus to the Preaching Work.”)
8 Convention discourses. Eager for direction, the Bible Students gathered at Cedar Point, Ohio, U.S.A., from September 1 to 8, 1919, for their first major convention following World War I. On the second day, Brother Rutherford gave a discourse in which he pointedly told the delegates: “A Christian’s mission on earth . . . is to proclaim the message of the Lord’s kingdom.”
9 The climax of that convention came three days later when Brother Rutherford delivered the talk entitled “Address to Co-laborers,” which was published in The Watch Tower under the title “Announcing the Kingdom.” He stated: “In sober moments a Christian naturally asks himself, Why am I on the earth? And the answer of necessity must be, The Lord has graciously made me his ambassador to bear the divine message of reconciliation to the world, and my privilege and duty is to announce that message.”
10 In that historic discourse, Brother Rutherford announced that a new magazine, The Golden Age (now called Awake!), would be published for use in directing people to the Kingdom as mankind’s only hope. He then asked how many of those in the audience wanted to have a share in distributing this journal. A report on the convention explained: “The response was an inspiring scene. Six thousand people, as one person, arose.”* Clearly, the King had willing supporters who were eager to proclaim his Kingdom!
11, 12. What did The Watch Tower in 1920 say as to when the work that Jesus foretold would be done?
11 Printed publications. Through the pages of The Watch Tower, the significance of the work Jesus foretold—namely, the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom—became clearer and clearer. Consider some examples from the early 1920’s.
12 What message would be proclaimed in fulfillment of Matthew 24:14? When would that work be done? The July 1, 1920, issue of The Watch Tower, in the article entitled “Gospel of the Kingdom,” explained the message, stating: “The good news here is concerning the end of the old order of things and the establishment of Messiah’s kingdom.” The article clearly showed when this message would be preached, saying: “This message must be delivered between the time of the great world war [World War I] and the time of the ‘great tribulation.’” Hence, the article noted: “Now is the time . . . to proclaim far and wide in Christendom this good news.”
13. How did The Watch Tower in 1921 appeal to the willing spirit of anointed Christians?
13 Would God’s people be pressured into doing the work that Jesus foretold? No. The article “Be of Good Courage,” in the March 15, 1921, issue of The Watch Tower, appealed to the willing spirit of anointed Christians. Each one was encouraged to ask himself: “Is it not my greatest privilege, as well as my duty, to participate in this work?” The article went on to say: “We feel assured that when you do see it [as a privilege to share in the work] you will be like Jeremiah, in whose heart the word of the Lord was ‘as a burning fire shut up in [his] bones,’ urging him on so that he could not refrain from speaking.” (Jer. 20:9) That warm encouragement reflected the confidence that Jehovah and Jesus have in loyal Kingdom supporters.
14, 15. In 1922, The Watch Tower urged anointed Christians to reach others in what way?
14 How should true Christians reach others with the Kingdom message? The short but powerful article entitled “Service Essential,” in the August 15, 1922, issue of The Watch Tower, urged anointed Christians to take part in “actively carrying the printed message to the people and talking to them at their doors, giving the witness that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
15 Clearly, from 1919 on, Christ has used his faithful and discreet slave to emphasize repeatedly that a Christian’s privilege and duty on earth is to proclaim the Kingdom message. How, though, did the early Bible Students respond to the encouragement to share in the work of Kingdom proclamation?
“The Faithful Will Be Volunteers”
16. How did some of the elected elders react to the idea that all should share in the ministry?
16 In the 1920’s and 1930’s, some resisted the idea that all anointed Christians should share in the ministry. The November 1, 1927, Watch Tower explained what was happening: “There are those today in the church [congregation] occupying the responsible position of elder . . . who refuse to encourage their brethren to have part in the service, and who refuse to participate in the service themselves. . . . They scoff at the suggestion of going from door to door to carry the message of God, his King and his kingdom, to the people.” The article pointedly said: “The time has come for the faithful to mark such and to avoid them, and to say to them that no longer will we entrust such men with the office of eldership.”*
17, 18. How did most in the congregations respond to the direction from headquarters, and how have millions responded over the past 100 years?
17 Happily, most in the congregations responded enthusiastically to the direction from headquarters. They counted it a privilege to share the Kingdom message. The Watch Tower of March 15, 1926, put it this way: “The faithful will be volunteers . . . to tell this message to the people.” Such faithful ones lived up to the prophetic words found at Psalm 110:3 and proved themselves to be willing supporters of the Messianic King.
18 Over the past 100 years, millions have offered themselves willingly to carry out the work of Kingdom proclamation. In the next few chapters, we will discuss how they have preached—the methods and the tools they have used—and what the results have been. First, though, let us discuss why millions have shared in this Kingdom-preaching work voluntarily, despite living in a me-first world. As we consider why, we do well to ask ourselves, ‘Why do I share the good news with others?’
“Keep . . . Seeking First the Kingdom”
19. Why do we heed Jesus’ counsel to “keep . . . seeking first the Kingdom”?
19 Jesus counseled his followers to “keep . . . seeking first the Kingdom.” (Matt. 6:33) Why do we heed that counsel? Basically, because we recognize the importance of the Kingdom, that it is central to God’s purpose. As we saw in the preceding chapter, the holy spirit has gradually revealed thrilling truths about the Kingdom. When precious Kingdom truth touches our heart, we feel impelled to seek first that Kingdom.
20. How does Jesus’ illustration of the hidden treasure show how his followers would respond to the counsel to keep seeking first the Kingdom?
20 Jesus knew how his followers would respond to the counsel to keep seeking first the Kingdom. Consider his illustration of the hidden treasure. (Read Matthew 13:44.) In the course of his daily work, the field laborer in the illustration happens to find a hidden treasure and immediately recognizes its value. What does he do? “Because of his joy, he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field.” What is the lesson for us? When we find Kingdom truth and recognize its value, we will joyfully make whatever sacrifices are needed so that we may keep Kingdom interests where they belong—first in our life.*
21, 22. How do loyal Kingdom supporters show that they are seeking first the Kingdom? Give an example.
21 Loyal Kingdom supporters show by deeds, not mere words, that they are seeking first the Kingdom. They devote their lives, their abilities, and their resources to the Kingdom-preaching work. Many have made great sacrifices in order to pursue the full-time ministry. All such willing preachers have seen firsthand that Jehovah blesses those who put the Kingdom first. Consider an example from the early days.
22 Avery and Lovenia Bristow served together as colporteurs (pioneers) in the southern United States starting in the late 1920’s. Years later, Lovenia recalled: “Avery and I have had many happy years together in the pioneer work since then. There have been many times when we did not know where the money for gasoline or groceries would come from. But one way or another, Jehovah always provided. We just kept on keeping on. We always had what we actually needed.” Lovenia remembered one occasion when they were serving in Pensacola, Florida, and were low on money and groceries. They came home to their trailer and found two large bags of groceries along with a note that read, “With love from the Pensacola Company.”* Reflecting on her decades in the full-time ministry, Lovenia said: “Jehovah never forsakes us. He never betrays the trust we put in him.”
23. How do you feel about the Kingdom truth that you have found, and what are you determined to do?
23 We cannot all do the same amount of preaching. Our circumstances vary. However, all of us can count it a privilege to declare the good news whole-souled. (Col. 3:23) Because we prize the precious Kingdom truth we have found, we are willing—yes, eager—to make whatever sacrifices we can in order to serve to the fullest extent possible. Is that not your determination?
24. What is one of the Kingdom’s greatest accomplishments in the last days?
24 Over the past century, the King has indeed been fulfilling his prophetic words recorded at Matthew 24:14. And he has done so without using coercion. After coming out of this self-centered world, his followers have willingly offered themselves to preach. Their earth-wide preaching of the good news is part of the sign of Jesus’ presence in Kingdom power—and one of the Kingdom’s greatest accomplishments in the last days.
The pamphlet To Whom the Work Is Entrusted explained: “The Golden Age work is a house-to-house canvass with the kingdom message. . . . In addition to the canvass, a copy of The Golden Age is to be left at each home, whether a subscription is taken or not.” For years thereafter, the brothers were encouraged to offer people subscriptions to The Golden Age as well as to The Watch Tower. Beginning February 1, 1940, Jehovah’s people were encouraged to distribute individual copies of the magazines and to report the number placed.
At that time, elders were elected democratically by the congregation. Therefore, a congregation could refuse to vote for men who were opposed to the ministry. The change to theocratic appointment of elders will be discussed in Chapter 12.
Jesus made a similar point in his illustration of a traveling merchant who goes out in search of a pearl of high value. When the merchant finds it, he sells everything he has and buys it. (Matt. 13:45, 46) The two parables also teach us that we may learn of Kingdom truth in different ways. Some stumble upon it, so to speak; others search for it. But no matter how we find the truth, we are willing to make sacrifices in order to put the Kingdom first in our life.
Congregations were then called companies.