The Fight for Freedom to Preach World-wide
“The king granted the Jews . . . to stand for their life.”—Esther 8:11, AS.
1. What prophecies indicate a fight for freedom to preach world-wide?
JEHOVAH God commands that this good news shall be preached in all the world. (Matt. 24:14) Jesus warned: “You will be hated by all the nations on account of my name.” (Matt. 24:9, NW) David declared: “Why do the nations rage, . . . and the rulers take counsel together, against Jehovah, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” (Ps. 2:1-3, AS) This means a fight to preach world-wide.
2. Our fight for freedom to preach has what ancient parallel?
2 This world-wide fight today finds a parallel in ancient times. In the fifth century B.C. the Persian Empire was the world power. It was ruled over by Ahasuerus, who is commonly known in history as Xerxes. God’s people were in captivity and scattered throughout that world. The wicked prime minister, Haman, sought to destroy all of God’s people throughout the empire. (Esther 3:6) He tricked the king into signing an unchangeable decree of death for them. Jehovah then used the king’s new wife, Esther. At the instance of Mordecai she intervened. A request was made for relief from the death sentence that had been ordered by the king. The king granted Esther’s request. He did not change the decree, but he ordered that all the Jews in each of the provinces and in every city should stand and fight for their lives. (Esther 8:11, 12) Jehovah’s people gathered together in all the cities and provinces. They fought throughout that empire for their lives.—Esther 9:16.
3, 4. (a) Why is it so vital that we fight for freedom to preach? (b) Who is the chief enemy of our freedom to preach, and what tactics does he use?
3 Are not the modern-day witnesses of Jehovah in the same position as those ancient servants of God? Yes, exactly! We must fight world-wide for our lives. Since our lives are at stake we fight for freedom to preach. Jehovah has commanded us to preach the good news. Our lives depend on faithfully preaching it! In fact, necessity to do it is laid upon all of us. Woe is to every last one of us if we do not publicly and fearlessly declare the good news. (1 Cor. 9:16; Ezek. 3:20) Jehovah has stated: “If I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die,’ and you say nothing to warn the wicked man from his way, that wicked man shall die for his iniquity, but his blood will I require at your hand.” (Ezek. 33:8, AT) The only way we can expect to save ourselves is to preach and to declare the good news for the salvation of others.—1 Tim. 4:16.
4 The Devil is the invisible ruler of this present evil system of things. (2 Cor. 4:4) Does not Satan know the Scriptures? Surely he does! Did he not quote them to Jesus? (Matt. 4:6) He knows that the only way he can destroy Jehovah’s witnesses, according to Ezekiel 33:8, 9, is to force us to stop preaching in all the nations as commanded by Jehovah. He knows that if we do we shall suffer death. To attempt to stop us he, therefore, frames mischief by law against us throughout the world. Jehovah’s revealed Word shows that we must, therefore, fight for freedom. Let us call it “The Fight for Freedom to Preach World-wide”!
5, 6. (a) Who is freedom’s Author and whom does he use to set us free? (b) How only can we keep free, and what example did Jesus set for us in this regard?
5 Where does our freedom come from? Is it from the nations of this world and their rulers? No! Jehovah God is the author of freedom. With us there is liberty and freedom. As it is written at 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NW): “Now Jehovah is the spirit; and where the spirit of Jehovah is, there is freedom.” We have been set free by the Son of God, Jesus Christ. “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Therefore if the Son sets you free, you will be actually free.” (John 8:31, 32, 36, NW) We are blessed with that treasured liberty. But we must fight to hold it. It is knowing and talking the truth accurately that keeps us free.
6 Who was the first to possess this freedom? Jesus was the first to claim it. He was persecuted. He had to fight for his right to preach. He did this by carrying on without any protection from the Roman government. He declared the God-given right to preach. He gave this freedom to others. (Gal. 5:1) Did he claim any guarantee as a citizen? No, he had no Roman citizenship. His citizenship was in heaven. He claimed the fundamental freedom to preach given by God. Was he afraid because he did not have any protection from Caesar’s government? No! He declared his freedom with a boldness that was frightening. He showed his confidence in the power of Jehovah, the Giver of freedom. He said: “And do not become fearful of those who kill the body but can not kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”—Matt. 10:28, NW.
7, 8. Why should persecution not surprise us? Instead, how should it affect us?
7 Does this not show us that Jesus expected to be persecuted by the rulers because of his claiming the freedom given by Jehovah God? Yes! And Jesus also knew that the persecution would not spend itself on him or end with his death. He knew that every one of his followers would be persecuted even as he had been. Did he indicate that it would be confined to only a few nations? No! He showed that this persecution would come from all, every nation! He gave the reason. It would be because we bear his name. Jesus said: “If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also; . . . But they will do all these things against you on account of my name.”—John 15:20, 21, NW; Matt. 24:9.
8 The mistreatment we receive is no surprise to us. It is not as though it were unexpected. (1 Pet. 4:12) Does it discourage us? No, it really encourages us. It proves to us that we are the ones worthy to bear his name. Jesus also mentioned our persecution as a sign of the approaching end of this wicked system of things. So we lift up our heads and rejoice. Persecution is a sure sign that our complete deliverance from the present evil system of things is rapidly approaching. “But as these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.” (Luke 21:28, NW) This gives us courage to push on in “the fight for freedom to preach world-wide.”
FIGHTING WITHOUT GUARANTEE AGAINST PERSECUTION
9, 10. (a) In spite of persecution and lack of legal guarantees what course did the apostles pursue? (b) What was their position regarding the right to preach?
9 Did the early followers such as the apostles and disciples give up the fight to preach the gospel world-wide because they did not have a license or guarantee against persecution from Caesar? Only one apostle was a Roman citizen. That was Paul. The others were Jews living under military occupation by Rome without any rights of Roman citizenship. They all kept on preaching boldly, as did Jesus, even though their rights were not guaranteed by Caesar. Paul’s rights as a Roman citizen did not stop his persecution. Apparently he was persecuted more than some of the other apostles. They all had to fight for freedom to preach. The apostles could not be stopped by the absence of a license or guarantee from Caesar. They continued preaching. Many even gave up their lives for the good news.
10 They fought for freedom to preach the Word of God. Because they claimed the Jehovah-given freedom the early apostles were mobbed, arrested, persecuted, imprisoned and whipped with lashes. (Acts 4:3; 5:17-27) The false religionists could not bear to hear their cutting and piercing message. The apostles were accused of turning the world upside down. (Acts 17:6) They were commanded by the high priest not to preach any more in the name of Jesus. Peter and the apostles declared their bill of rights, their God-given freedom! They said: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29, NW) The hatred of their preaching and freedom did not stop in courts. When they won their cases before the judges and were discharged they were followed by the mob that attended the trial. Their persecutors beat them. (Acts 5:40) Did not justice done in the law courts drive the enemy mad?
11, 12. (a) Who suffered, and how, because of fighting for freedom to preach? (b) Of what legal instrument did Paul make use in his fight for freedom to preach?
11 What else happened because of the bold fight of the early church to preserve their freedom? It is commonly known that, after Jesus, Stephen was the first Christian martyr. He was forcibly brought by a mob to the Sanhedrin. There he gave an eloquent public witness. He was seized by the mob. They then dragged him to the edge of the city. They threw him out of town! There he was stoned to death outside the city limits. Saul (later to become the apostle Paul) was present and conspired with the killers of Stephen. (Acts 6:11–8:1) Do not forget, also, that King Herod had James beheaded with the sword.—Acts 12:2, AT.
12 The apostle Paul himself was stoned. They mobbed him and dragged him outside the city limits of Lystra. They left him there, thinking they had killed him. (Acts 14:8-19) The prosperity of the missionary work of Paul and Silas stirred up another mob of false religionists in Philippi. They mobbed them, had them arrested, placed in jail and locked in stocks. An earthquake in the middle of the night released them. (Acts 16:16-26) The frightened authorities wanted those Jehovah’s witnesses to leave the city secretly. Did Paul and Silas accept the compromise? No! They made them dispose of the case openly. Paul claimed his Roman citizenship. This astonished his accusers. His boldness of speech frightened them. (Acts 16:37, 38) Did not Paul use his citizenship to fight to preach? When before Festus he unhesitatingly appealed to Caesar, a right which the Jews did not have. (Acts 25:10-12) Paul could not have appealed his case to Caesar and gone to Rome for a hearing had he not been a Roman citizen.
13, 14. What was Paul’s record as a fighter for freedom to preach, and what advice did he leave for us to follow?
13 Paul fought for freedom to preach the good news world-wide. He was ever ready with an answer. He was always vigilant in fighting for freedom to preach world-wide. He wrote: “It is altogether right for me to think this regarding all of you, on account of my having you in my heart, all of you being sharers with me in the undeserved kindness both in my prison bonds and in the defending and legally establishing of the good news.” (Phil. 1:7, NW) He fought for the right to preach with boldness, even when in chains. (Eph. 6:19, 20) Even Paul, while a prisoner in Rome awaiting trial before Caesar, did not fail to preach. While under constant guard of a soldier for two years in Rome he preached the good news. He preached to great numbers that came to see him, and this he did “with the greatest freeness of speech, without hindrance.”—Acts 28:30, 31, NW.
14 Likely Paul was in prison more often than any other apostle. He was beaten with stripes to an excess and often near death. Did he ever let any of these things turn him back? No! These and many other dangers he met and overcame in his fight for freedom to preach world-wide. (2 Cor. 11:21-27) Did he leave us any advice to follow? Note his words to Timothy. By means of these he tells us all to be fighters for freedom to preach: “Contend for victory in the right contest of the faith.”—1 Tim. 6:12, NW.
15. Who are our real enemies, and what is our only weapon of attack?
15 Paul definitely identified our real enemies. Were they said to be flesh and blood? No! He showed that they cannot be reached by carnal weapons of this evil world. Who are they? They are the unseen demons that control and rule this old world with their leader the Devil. (John 14:30; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 6:12) We do not, therefore, become excited or fearful when we see the hordes of alienated mankind against us. We see clearly that the weapons of warfare of this old world do no good in the world-wide fight for freedom to preach. The only weapon that we can use in the fight is the two-edged sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God. Is it not mighty for pulling down the strongholds of error and power in this world? It is the most powerful of all weapons of warfare. (Eph. 6:17) The apostle Paul wrote: “For the word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and their marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12, NW) That is a fact! Never forget it!
IDENTIFIED BY PERSECUTION
16. By following Jesus, in what respect shall we be like him, and in what way?
16 What proof have we that Jehovah God is using us to fulfill prophecy uttered by Jesus? The uncontradicted evidence is that we are being persecuted as was Jesus, and for the same reason! He uses our persecution to identify definitely the time where we now are. (Matt. 24:9) He identified his job when before Pilate: “For this purpose I have been born and for this purpose I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37, NW) We follow in his footsteps with the same assignment from Jehovah, to bear witness to the truth! As a result we are persecuted world-wide. We are hated world-wide for the sake of his name.
17, 18. (a) What record did Jehovah’s witnesses make in the fight for freedom to preach from 1933 to 1945? (b) Since then what has been their experience in Communist-dominated lands?
17 It is a familiar story about the fight for freedom fought by Jehovah’s witnesses to preach in Nazi- and Fascist-dominated lands from 1933 to 1945. Thousands were thrown into the concentration camps. Many were tortured and killed. Countless numbers died because of their loyalty to Jehovah God. They could have lived had they chosen to renounce the name of Jehovah God. Every well-informed person knows of the intense persecution of Jehovah’s witnesses in the United States and Canada during 1933 to 1945. Witness the court cases by the thousands and the mobs by the hundreds! More than seventy countries at one time or another during the past forty years have made restrictive decrees and have persecuted Jehovah’s witnesses.
18 Did the fall of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy and Japan at the end of World War II stop our persecution? No, it did not! In lands taken over by the Communist rulers in eastern Europe we have been banned because of our refusal to stop preaching. Jehovah’s witnesses have been thrown into dungeons and concentration camps by the thousands. Look at what has happened in East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and other countries. Thousands are in prison and forced labor camps! Today in all communistic countries Jehovah’s witnesses are stalked and pursued like wild beasts by hunters, the secret police. Restrictive bans are imposed to prohibit the preaching of the gospel completely in those communistic lands. Our brothers there have been jailed and given mock trials. Many have been killed.
19. In what way do the arrests of Jehovah’s witnesses differ from those of the clergy?
19 No other religious organization on the earth has been persecuted for the name of Jehovah God, for which also the name Jesus stands. True, some religious clergymen have been jailed in these Communist lands. But these were not for righteousness’ sake. (1 Pet. 3:14) They were imprisoned because of political reasons. They were not imprisoned because of witnessing for Jehovah God or for bearing the name of Jesus. Today the Catholic and Protestant churches are still free to hold open church services in places such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany and in other Communist countries. In these countries Jehovah’s witnesses cannot worship God openly.
20. (a) During the past two years in what other lands particularly have Jehovah’s witnesses suffered violent persecution? (b) What have the Yearbook reports of the past nine years shown?
20 In other lands persecution continues. Do you know that recently, January, 1954, a ban was imposed against Jehovah’s witnesses by the legislature of Quebec, Canada? It provided for treatment of the witnesses of Jehovah similar to that ordered by Adolph Hitler in Nazi Germany. This was done at the instance of Quebec’s Catholic Premier Duplessis. Do not forget that the ban against Jehovah’s witnesses continues in the Dominican Republic, in Argentina and in other countries. Let us call to mind the mobbings and ambush-shooting of our brothers at assemblies in the Philippines during the last two years. Consider the multitude of other cases of persecution world-wide that appears in the reports in each Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the last nine years. Look at the democratic countries of Europe: Italy, France, Switzerland and the Scandinavian lands! In fact, in every part of the world, Africa, Asia and the isles of the sea, a hard and good fight has been fought for freedom to preach. We, by Jehovah’s help, will hold to this freedom world-wide. While it is a fight in many courts of the land and it means persecution to Jehovah’s faithful servants, we cling to this glorious treasure of service, preaching world-wide.
21. What Christian group alone fulfills Matthew 24:9, and how do they feel about it?
21 Surely this testimony from many lands, standing high as the mountains, proves persecution continues. What Christian group is identified by the modern-day world-wide fulfillment of the words of Jesus? Here is the proof as plain as it can possibly be made. The facts speak for themselves. It is not necessary for more to be said to prove it. It is indisputable. Who is this group? You, the faithful witnesses of Jehovah. You are the ones identified by Jesus. You are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake in all the nations. (Matt. 24:9; 2 Cor. 1:7; Col. 1:24) Are you sad? No! You are happy to be such a favored people! (Jas. 1:12) Peter said: “Indeed, who is the man that will harm you if you become zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are happy.”—1 Pet. 3:13, 14, NW.
22. Circumstances indicate that we do what in our world-wide fight for freedom to preach?
22 This world-wide persecution puts us to a variety of tests. It forces us to use every possible method in the fight for freedom to preach world-wide. Our method of fighting must of necessity vary in different countries. This is so because our fight must be legal. The procedure established by laws for legally fighting in all of the nations of the world differ. It is impossible for all the procedure to be the same everywhere.
23, 24. (a) How is the fight for freedom to preach carried on in such democratic lands as the United States and the British Commonwealth of Nations? (b) Where such recourse is not available how is it carried on?
23 Democratic countries such as the United States, the British Commonwealth of Nations, and some countries of Europe, are liberal in giving us procedure to fight with. They permit us to appeal to “Caesar” by defending ourselves in the courts. In such countries do we make use of the courts? Yes! We freely and unhesitatingly appeal to the courts for the defense of the right to preach. Jehovah has used the judges to help us legally establish the good news. They have stacked up a great heap of victories. These stand up as a bastion. Cases by the hundreds and by the thousands have been piled high as a mountain in the world-wide fight for freedom to preach. They stand as a mighty bulwark.
24 Other nations do not allow appeals to the courts to protect our preaching. We must appeal to “Caesar,” namely, to the head of the state, such as the prime minister, president or premier. This we do. We claim our rights and argue before them as did Moses before Pharaoh. When the authority to protect and defend the right to preach is placed by “Caesar” in the hands of some state, provincial, city or local officials we freely appeal to such officials. We petition to all of them to make orders to protect our rights to do our work. Have we not time and again appealed to authorities to lift bans in some countries? Remember the mountain of cablegrams sent to Adolph Hitler! Witness the petitions to lift the ban and for a Bill of Rights in Canada! Recall the large petitions to Congress against the Roman Catholic boycott of radio stations in the United States broadcasting programs of Jehovah’s witnesses. We have petitioned the authorities to make orders permitting the importation of literature. We have in many countries appealed to the officials to allow missionaries sent from the Society’s headquarters to enter the country and preach there. We have never neglected any opportunity to fight legally for the world-wide right to preach.
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