Name and Purpose of The Watchtower
WHY is this magazine called “The Watchtower”? Does the name have Bible background and significance? What is the purpose of the magazine? Does it fill a need not met by any of the hundreds of other magazines that continually flood onto the public newsstands? The Watchtower stands alone in its field, its value unmeasurable in money. What are the facts that prove it so?
The Bible frequently mentions towers. They were lofty structures, much higher than wide, and erected in a variety of places to form a prominent feature of architecture in ancient Israel. Often they were in vineyards, as shown by Jesus in his parable of the husbandmen. (Isa. 5:2; Matt. 21:33; Mark 12:1) Towers as lookout stations were built beyond the walls of fortified cities, as well as atop the walls to serve as observation posts and fortified strong points. (2 Ki. 17:9; 18:8; 2 Chron. 20:24; 26:9, 10, 15; Neh. 3:1; Ps. 48:12) Because of the use of literal towers as places of refuge, figurative language speaks of Jehovah God as a strong tower to those trusting in him.—Judg. 9:51, 52; Ps. 18:2; 61:3; 144:2; Prov. 18:10.
Watchmen were stationed on the towers to serve as lookouts, to forestall any surprise attacks by enemies, or to herald forth any news of consequence that they could glean from their observations, whether that news be good or bad. (2 Ki. 9:17) Their duty was to stay awake, and watch, and warn. However, in that typical Theocracy it was true that, “unless the LORD keep the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain.”—Ps. 127:1, An Amer. Trans.
This connection between Jehovah God and the watchmen in the watchtowers was even more vital in the case of those men appointed to be on the lookout for messages from the Lord and to warn of dangers that threatened the spiritual welfare of the nation of Israel. Appreciation of the duties of the watchmen posted in literal towers helps us to grasp the service responsibilities of those assigned as watchmen on the more vital spiritual front. Habakkuk was one of such, and he said: “On my watch-tower I will stand, at my post upon the turret, watching to see what he will say to me, what answer he will offer to my plea.”—Hab. 2:1, Moffatt.
THE WATCHMAN’S COMMISSION
The commission of such watchmen is more sharply defined for us in the case of Ezekiel. Though he stood upon no literal watchtower atop some city wall, he was addressed by Jehovah as follows: “O mortal man, I appoint you a watchman to the house of Israel; and whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall warn them from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you fail to warn him—if you say nothing to warn the wicked man from his wicked way, in order to save his life—he being wicked shall die for his iniquity, but his blood will I require at your hand. If, however, you warn the wicked man, and he turn not from his wicked conduct and his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have saved yourself. Or if a righteous man turn from his righteousness, and do what is wrong, and I make that the occasion for bringing about his downfall, he shall die; because you did not warn him, he shall die for his sin, and the righteous deeds which he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood will I require at your hand. If, however, you warn the righteous man not to sin, and he do not sin, he shall live, because he took warning; and you will have saved yourself.”—Ezek. 3:17-21, An Amer. Trans.
Not only is the watchman’s salvation assured by faithful performance of his duties, but also opportunity for life opens up to wicked ones who heed the watchman’s warning. Jehovah’s merciful promise is: “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather in this, that the wicked man turn from his way and live. Turn, O turn, from your evil ways! Why should you die, O house of Israel? And if I say to the wicked man, ‘You shall surely die,’ and he turn from his sin, and do what is lawful and right—if the wicked man restore the pledge, repay what he has taken by robbery, follow the statutes that lead to life, and do no wrong, he shall surely live, and not die.”—Ezek. 33:11, 14-16, An Amer. Trans.
After Jerusalem’s fall to Babylon and her lying desolate like a female captive for seventy years, she spies the messenger speeding over the mountain tops who comes to publish salvation and declare to liberated Zion that her God reigns. In joyous faith she sees, as it were, her walls and towers rebuilt and her watchmen stationed at their posts beholding with her the welcome sight of the coming deliverer: “Hark! your watchmen lift up the voice, together they sing; for eye to eye they shall see, when the LORD restores Zion.” It is on the occasion of this same glorious restoration that watchmen are again mentioned as zealously singing Jehovah’s praise: “Over your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen, who never keep silent by day or by night. You who are the LORD’S remembrancers, take no rest for yourselves, and give him no rest, until he establish and make Jerusalem a praise in the earth!”—Isa. 52:1-10; 62:1-12, An Amer. Trans.
Having in mind that it meant restoration for Jerusalem, the tidings of Babylon’s fall came as good news from the watchman’s throat: “Thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman; let him declare what he seeth. And he cried as a lion: O Lord, I stand continually upon the watch-tower in the day-time, and am set in my ward whole nights; and, behold, here cometh a troop of men, horsemen in pairs. And he answered and said, Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the graven images of her gods are broken unto the ground.”—Isa. 21:6, 8, 9, Am. Stan. Ver.
Does not all the foregoing impress upon us that watchmen occupied a key position, whether as observers on literal watchtowers or as servants of God alert to receive messages from Jehovah and relay such counsel and warning on to the people? In either case, the watchman had to occupy a position or vantage point that enabled him to see and hear what was essential for the performance of his duties.
Today the clergy of Christendom’s orthodox religions assume a position of watchmen over the spiritual welfare of the nations. Because of their training they should be in a position above the greeds and prejudices of our time, as though on the heights of a watchtower that lifts them above the worldly wranglings and affords them a clear view of matters, unobstructed by the many blinding biases of these days. They should be able to view happenings in terms of Bible prophecies, noting significant events that warn of approaching danger, or that appear as heart-cheering signs of better times to come. They should be receptive to God’s direction, awake to his precepts, quick to declare his Word.
But do they measure up to the high responsibilities of watchmen? When they speak of the present woes of war or collapsed morality, do not their proposed remedies make them sound more like politicians or social workers than like ministers of God? Are they not blind to the signs of the times? Silent when it comes to proclaiming an unpopular message of warning? asleep to the practical Bible truth that Christ’s kingdom is man’s only hope? Yet how alert they are to forward their own ends, advance their own church, enhance their own reputation, boost their popularity, or increase their financial income! Say what you will, honest examination fits them into the description of the unfaithful watchmen of ancient times: “His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.”—Isa. 56:10, 11.
On the other hand, honest examination matches another group with the faithful watchman Ezekiel, who fulfilled his commission: “Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall warn them from me.” What modern group stands as a faithful watchman that does not hesitate to boldly speak God’s message, though it be an unpopular warning? The anointed footstep followers of Christ Jesus now remaining on earth, and who are Scripturally known as Jehovah’s witnesses. (Matt. 24:45-47; Isa. 43:10-12, Am. Stan. Ver.) Heeding the divine order to be no part of this world, they are neutral to its squabbles. (2 Tim. 2:4; Jas. 4:4) They speak God’s Word, not man’s. They see God’s way, not man’s.
To illustrate, when Jehovah’s witnesses observe present conditions, see the bumper crop of selfish boasters and blasphemers, note the rise of delinquency and lack of natural affection, consider the persecutors and breakers of agreements, and realize that this pleasure-mad world hypocritically dons an outward form of godliness but has no real love for God, then these faithful witnesses recognize that such things are the foretold signs of the “last days”. (2 Tim. 3:1-5; Jas. 5:1-6) When they see the concentrated doses of war, famine, pestilence, earthquake, cruel persecution of Christians and blundersome political attempts to rule the world through international combines, they do not thoughtlessly parrot the old fable about history repeating itself. Having their eyes open to Bible prophecies, they see these things as fulfillments thereof. (Matt. 24:3-21; Luke 21:25, 26) They have eyes that see, ears that hear, minds that perceive, and tongues zealous to speak. (Matt. 13:14-17; Eph. 1:18) Moreover, they are enlightened to see that present woes will soon give way to an incoming new world of righteousness.—Luke 21:28-32.
But what has all this to do with the Watchtower magazine? Very much, for The Watchtower is the official voice of the watchman class today. Just as literal towers were located on vantage points affording broad views, so The Watchtower is founded on the very pinnacle of reliable wisdom, namely, God’s Word the Bible. That elevates it above party squabbles, prejudices, greeds, propagandas, biases of race or nation, and frees from influences that might sway or warp viewpoint. Its vision is not narrow or shortsighted, but takes an over-all view and is farsighted enough to peer into the future, by use of recorded inspired prophecy. It views modern conditions and events in the light of God’s Word, being receptive to Jehovah’s message, and quick to declare his truths and judgments. Jehovah commands the watchman class to “call aloud, hold not back, lift up your voice like a trumpet; show my people their transgression”. (Isa. 58:1, An Amer. Trans.) As a voice for the watchman class, The Watchtower has trumpeted forth the sins of those professing to serve God, and at present lifts up its voice in thirty languages and is heard throughout the nations of earth.
Viewed in this light it may be said that The Watchtower stands as a watchman on a lookout post, alert to what is going on, awake to note signs that warn of danger, quick to point the way to life in a new world. It heralds the news of Jehovah’s kingdom established by Christ’s enthronement in heaven, warns that we live in the last days of this old world, cries out that Jehovah’s battle of Armageddon comes on apace, feeds the kingdom joint-heirs with spiritual food, cheers men of good will with glorious prospects of eternal life in a paradise earth, and comforts us with the resurrection promise for the dead. All this it does with confident ring in its voice, because its words find their foundation in God’s Word. It is not a blind or dumb watchman, but tries to keep in tune with God by searching his Word and being receptive to his guidance, with eyes always open to prophecy so that it knows what to look for in world events, so that it understands the significance of what it sees. It does not privately interpret prophecy, but calls attention to physical facts, sets them alongside prophecy, and you see for yourself how well the two match, how accurately Jehovah interprets his own prophecy.—2 Pet. 1:20, 21.
Hence the purpose of this magazine is to keep sharp and faithful focus on Bible truth, on world happenings that may fulfill prophecies, and on religious news generally. Sometimes it will tear down religious falsehoods, that Bible truth may be built up in their stead. Such two-way work is Scripturally commanded, and is beneficial for all persons of right heart condition. (Jer. 1:10; Heb. 12:5-13) However, The Watchtower does not claim to be inspired in its utterances, nor is it dogmatic. It invites careful and critical examination of its contents in the light of the Scriptures. Its purpose is to aid others to know Jehovah and his purposes toward mankind, and to announce Christ’s established kingdom as our only hope.
Jehovah God is the Teacher of his people, but we must “be on the watch” to catch his instruction. We must “not sleep like the rest of men, but be wakeful and sober”. To those who do slumber the wakeful ones must cry, “It is high time to awake!” (Isa. 54:13; Rom. 13:11; 1 Cor. 16:13, An Amer. Trans.; 1 Thess. 5:6, Moffatt) If you have been asleep to the signs of the times, not watching world developments in the light of Bible prophecies, then you must obey the command to wake up and watch. Let The Watchtower help you heed such admonition that leads to life, for that is its purpose.
Faithfully living up to its name and purpose, The Watchtower does stand alone in its field, and its value is unmeasurable in money. It declares God’s wisdom, which is “better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it”. Such wisdom “is a tree of life”. The Watchtower beckons you to lay hold upon that wisdom, and gain life in a new world without end.—Prov. 3:13-18; 8:10, 11; Eph. 3:21.