Never Fighting Illegally or Quitting World-wide Preaching
1. What will we do and what will we not do in our fight for freedom to preach?
JEHOVAH’S witnesses never resort to any illegal or unlawful means in the fight for freedom to preach world-wide. Do we, His witnesses, take the law into our own hands? No! We do not gang up on the government officials. We do not force our way through the Iron Curtain! We do not harm officials, and we do not arm ourselves to oppose them. We do not advocate the overthrow of government by force or violence through men or groups of men. This is true even when that government oppresses our God-given work of preaching the good news of the Kingdom. We make use only of those instruments of fighting that are available according to the law of the particular country. Suppose the law of a country does not have any procedure wherewith we can fight legally. We then do not attempt to make the government over or change it or rebel against it.
2. What course of action may be pursued in certain lands, why, and who determines such policy?
2 In some countries the governments are so unstable, or the opposition to the truth is so great, that it is unwise to preach publicly or openly. In such countries the courts cannot be resorted to and the officials will not protect our rights. We know that commotion or trouble there may result in a speedy ban. The reason is that there is Catholic control or totalitarian government. In some countries it is only by the favor of the officials that the work is permitted to be carried on from house to house. Street preaching is prohibited. In such a situation the right to preach on the streets is not insisted upon. The Society determines this. This policy is never fixed by the local brothers. To demand the right to do street work in such places would merely force the speedy imposition of a ban. It may cause the officials to stop the door-to-door preaching of the good news. In such countries we pray “concerning kings and all those who are in high station, in order that we may go on leading a calm and quiet life with full godly devotion and seriousness.”—1 Tim. 2:1, 2, NW.
3, 4. (a) Where it is not legal to go from door to door, how is the preaching work carried on? (b) What reasons and Scriptural support are there for pursuing such a course?
3 In some countries it is not legal to work openly from door to door with the literature. In order to avoid contest with the authorities and total banning, the Society may direct that the witnessing be confined to oral preaching with the Bible. People of good will are thus identified or marked. They are later called back on and given the opportunity to receive the publications revealing God’s Word. This is at a convenient time. This is in the privacy of their homes and out of view of the enemy. Is it not much wiser that public distribution of the literature be avoided in some countries, especially when to insist on open distribution means a speedy end of the freedom to do the work? The asking of the question proves an affirmative answer to it!
4 There are sound Scriptural reasons for altering the methods of work in different countries. We are not sent into the world to go to jail. We do not choose to be dead martyrs. Our purpose is to get the message preached. To do so we must be free and be alive. (Eccl. 9:10) To get the gospel preached world-wide we should, therefore, remember that Jesus said we are “sheep amidst wolves.” It is obvious that we cannot preach in Spain or Argentina as we now do in the United States. We must, therefore, exercise extreme theocratic tact, proving ourselves “cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16, NW) The spirit of a sound mind dictates that to do otherwise would be folly. The proverb says: “A prudent man sees danger and hides himself; but the simple go on, and suffer for it.” (Prov. 27:12, RS) A common expression is appropriate: “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” What good would it do to fight a losing battle in some countries for wide-open preaching? Suppose that, as a result of the fight, no witness work at all was allowed. Everything was banned. Then what? That would not keep the work going. Can we not do better by acting a little less conspicuous in the preaching of the gospel in such nations? (2 Tim. 1:7) Such a course will keep the work going in those countries. That is what we want, to keep the work open so that our brothers and the people of good will can be supplied and fed with spiritual food from the headquarters of the Society.
5. What course do Jehovah’s witnesses pursue when a nation completely bans their work?
5 What happens when a nation completely bans our work? The direct supply lines for spiritual food from the earthly headquarters are cut off! But—Jehovah’s witnesses are still in the country. They cannot stop preaching. (Jer. 26:14, 15) The ban merely prevents their public or open preaching. They cannot carry on their work legally aboveground. Consequently by oppressive decrees they are driven underground to continue their preaching. They follow the same course taken by the Christians at Rome. There they and their preaching were driven to the catacombs.
PREACHING FEARLESS DESPITE OPPOSITION
6. What do the facts show regarding the effect of bans on the preaching work, and why is this so?
6 The facts of record reveal that bans do not stop the preaching. Rather, they show that, sometimes, preaching underground flourishes better than above ground. The hotter the persecution the quicker the seeds of truth come up where there is “good soil.” They grow fast and spread widely in such hot climates. It is as impossible to ban people of good will from rising up and coming into the truth as it is to try to effectively command a blade of grass not to come up out of the ground. It cannot be done! Our brothers, in such countries where there are bans, do not leave or quit like the unfaithful fleeing prophet Uriah did. (Jer. 26:21) They are like Jeremiah. He was under a ban and faced death threats. (Jer. 26:8) He refused to flee the land. He was thrown into a dungeon. (Jer. 38:6) Jehovah delivered him. (Jer. 38:10-13) As with Jeremiah, the truth is like fire in the bones of modern witnesses in such lands. (Jer. 20:9) Can it be stopped? No! It cannot be stifled! It just has to come out! Regardless of the consequences of a ban they cannot stop preaching. It is ordered by Jehovah God. To preach means life. To stop means death.
7. In view of what promises whom only should we fear?
7 We all have the promise of Jehovah. He will keep it! It is that Jehovah will continue to cover all of us under the shadow of his hand and wings. (Isa. 51:16; Ps. 17:8) This promise holds true in communistic lands as well as in democratic nations. He will deliver every one who calls upon the name of Jehovah. (Joel 2:32; Prov. 18:10) Is there need, therefore, for us to fear communistic dictators or big politicians or the rulers of any nation? The answer is, No! Never! Fear only Jehovah the Almighty God. “Say ye not, A conspiracy, concerning all whereof this people shall say, A conspiracy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be in dread thereof. Jehovah of hosts, him shall ye sanctify; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” (Isa. 8:12, 13, AS) We can depend on the safety of obedience to this command of God regardless of whether the government of the land wherein we dwell is liberal or oppressive.
8. What is our determination because of what assurance?
8 We shall not give up our fight for freedom to preach, even in the face of death. We shall rely upon Jehovah God at all times. There is no danger or trouble too great for him to preserve us in or deliver us from. We know his record. We remember what Jehovah, the Almighty God, our Father, says: “‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name—you are mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire, you shall not be scorched, or through the flame, it will not burn you; for I the LORD [Jehovah] am your God, I the Holy One of Israel am your savior. Egypt I give as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you; because you are precious in my sight, honored and loved by me, lands I give in exchange for you, and peoples instead of you. Fear not, for I am with you.’ . . . ‘and you are my witnesses,’ is the oracle of the LORD. ‘I am God from of old, and from now onward the same. There is none that can deliver out of my hand; when I work, who can reverse it?’”—Isa. 43:1-5, 12, 13, AT.
9. In what do we place our confidence, as shown by what prophetic drama?
9 Have we as Christians, followers of Christ Jesus, a navy, an army or an atom-bomb stockpile? No! We want none! We need none! Our protection is stated by Zephaniah, who wrote: “Jehovah thy God is in the midst of thee, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love; he will joy over thee with singing.” (Zeph. 3:17, AS) All we need to do for our protection is simple to state. It is to do what the faithful Israelites of old did in some of their battles. They merely sang the praises of Jehovah. They used no weapons of warfare. When the mightily armed allied forces of Moab, Ammon and Mount Seir came against Judah, Jehovah had Jehoshaphat set singers before the army to give praise in holy array. Do not you know the outcome? Surely! It was one of the greatest military defeats in history! (2 Chronicles 20) Jehovah also fought the battle for King Asa. He, not the Israelites, destroyed the Ethiopian army of one million. (2 Chron. 14:9-15) It was not Gideon’s superior strength that defeated Midian. The mere handful of three hundred was many times outnumbered. By the direction of Jehovah they threw terror into the host of Midian. All they did was to break their pitchers and let their light shine, blow their trumpets, and shout, ‘for Jehovah and for Gideon.’—Judges 7.
10. Why can it be said that the Word of Jehovah is powerful?
10 We sing the song by telling the praises of Jehovah. By preaching we open wide the gate of liberty for people of good will to flow in to the cities of refuge. (Josh. 21:13, 21, 32, 38; Isa. 26:2) His word contains hope for freedom and liberation for those who know him. “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of Jehovah shall be delivered; for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those that escape, as Jehovah hath said, and among the remnant those whom Jehovah doth call.” (Joel 2:32, AS) The Word of Jehovah which we declare is powerful. It builds up what should be built up, but it tears down that which should be torn down. Paul said: “For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but powerful by God for overturning strongly entrenched things.” (2 Cor. 10:4, NW) Remember it was the Word of Jehovah that brought about the flood of Noah’s day. It is the same Word that will bring about the destruction of the present evil world at the battle of Armageddon. It is also the same Word that brings into existence the new heavens and new earth in which “righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Pet. 3:5-7, 13, NW) It was by the Word of God that the preaching by Noah was done. Just as the cataclysm of Armageddon comes about by the Word of God, so also the preaching, which must be finished before the battle starts, will be done by the Word of God. (2 Pet. 3:9, 10; Matt. 24:14) So, too, by the Word of God we, his witnesses, shall stick faithfully to our assignment of proclaiming liberty to the captives.—Isa. 61:1, 2.
11, 12. What pertinency did Leviticus 25:10 have in ancient times, in the United States in 1776, and what in our day?
11 When America in 1776 declared her independence from the British Empire the bell in the tower of the Statehouse at Philadelphia in the British colony of Pennsylvania rang out for freedom. The toll of that bell was heard around the earth through the events that followed. On that bell were forged the words: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land, to all the inhabitants thereof.” These historic words were quoted from the greatest book of freedom, the Word of God, the Bible. Jehovah God used these words in his law for Israel when he provided for the jubilee year. That was the year for returning every man to his home and freeing him from debt. That was a hallowed year of freedom. The nation was to “proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”—Lev. 25:10.
12 The hopes that sprang into the hearts of those that heard that ring of freedom by the “Liberty Bell” at Philadelphia caused multitudes to take heart, make great sacrifices and fight a revolution that produced freedom and independence. After more than a century and a half the inhabitants of the “land of liberty” see liberty dwindling. Its future life is threatened not only in America but throughout the whole world. In this time of emergency Jehovah God has struck a mighty blow upon the great Bell of freedom, the Word of God. The great message of freedom rings out! We, his witnesses, hear the sound. We make extreme sacrifices in behalf of freedom. We are proclaiming “liberty throughout all the land.” It is not done only in one land; but throughout the entire world we sound the trumpet of liberty. The message is that God’s government is man’s only hope or permanent guarantee of liberty and blessings of everlasting life. We, his witnesses, in clarion-clear tones preach freedom world-wide. We declare a message of liberation to the prisoners who are bound by the religious errors of this world of Satan the Devil. We, his witnesses, have proclaimed liberty throughout the land.
13. To keep free from Satan what example of Jesus must we follow?
13 By singing the praises of Jehovah we proclaim the real Deliverer of the prisoners, Jehovah God. We say to the prisoners, “Go forth.” (Isa. 49:9) Jehovah guarantees that they do not go back into captivity of the Devil, where Adam placed mankind. (Ezek. 39:28, 29) The great Deliverer and Warrior, Christ Jesus, took a course opposite to that taken by Adam. He made no deal with the Devil, as did Adam. He declared that Satan “has no hold on me.” (John 14:30, NW) By our faithfully following in the steps of Jesus, Satan has no hold on us, and he will never get one of the faithful liberated prisoners or people of good will, either.
14. What twofold work are we carrying on in line with what judgments of Jehovah?
14 We carry tidings of peace to those of good will toward God. We utter a message of death and destruction to those who hate Jehovah. (Jer. 49:14) As ambassadors we are sent forth by Jesus to separate the people, as sheep are divided from goats. (Matt. 25:31) Jehovah stands ready to reward those of sheeplike qualities and execute his judgment against those who act like goats. The fire of his zeal will accomplish this. (Zeph. 3:8) We of the New World society have Jehovah as our God. Truly, “blessed is the nation whose God is Jehovah, the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.” (Ps. 33:12, AS) But this is the warning: “That nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.”—Isa. 60:12, AS; Ps. 145:20.
15. How do the scope and nature of our warfare and weapons compare with that waged by the Jews in Esther’s day?
15 Let us return now to the report in the book of Esther about the fight of the captive Jews under the ancient empire of Persia. That world power had dominion of almost all of the then-known world. Truly, those ancient servants of Jehovah were fighting world-wide. As it was in their day so it is in our day. Their fight prophetically pictures the world-wide fight of Jehovah’s witnesses to preach today. (1 Cor. 10:11; Rom. 15:4) The only difference in their fight and our fight is in the weapons used. They used carnal weapons. We do not fight with such. We, as Christian fighters for the right to preach world-wide, are armed only with the spirit of Jehovah God and his sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God. (Eph. 6:17) In addition to this Jehovah has given us a defensive armor. Paul describes it. In part, it is (1) the breastplate of righteousness, (2) the shield of faith and (3) the helmet of salvation. He warns us to be awake in the use of it. He instructs us also to preach “with all freeness of speech to make known the sacred secret of the good news, for which I am acting as an ambassador in chains, that I may speak in connection with it with boldness as I ought to speak.”—Eph. 6:14-17, 19, 20, NW.
16, 17. (a) Back there what was the result of the Jews’ fighting for their lives? (b) What has been the result of our fight for freedom to preach world-wide, and by what power has it been accomplished?
16 The Jews in ancient Persia gained a great victory. What happened? After the decree of the king that the Jews should fight to save their lives was speedily circulated by couriers on horses throughout the land, a strange thing happened. The account states concerning the Jews that “no one could stand before them; for the fear of them had fallen upon all the peoples. Moreover all the princes of the provinces and the satraps and the governors and they who did the king’s business aided the Jews, because the fear of Mordecai had fallen upon them. Likewise in every province and in every city, wherever the king’s command and his decree came, there was gladness and joy for the Jews, a feast and a holiday, and many from among the peoples of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them.”—Esther 9:2, 3; 8:17, AT.
17 Are we, the modern-day servants of Jehovah, experiencing a similar feast and prosperity in our fight for freedom to preach world-wide? Look at the increase of our numbers: 1934: 41,000; 1940: 90,000; 1944: 110,000; 1946: 158,000; 1948: 230,000; 1950: 328,000; 1953: 500,000. We have multiplied twelve times in twenty years! See! And all this increase amidst world-wide persecution! Does not this prove that the fear of Jehovah has fallen upon these people and the fear of man has left them? Truly it is exactly as Zechariah prophesied: “Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold, out of all the languages of the nations, they shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” (Zech. 8:23, AS) The preaching world-wide to date is a great work. It is being done by the power of no man or group of men. It is Jehovah’s spirit and the power of his Word that have accomplished this great world-wide harvest of preaching. (1 Cor. 3:7) Zechariah wrote: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith Jehovah of hosts.”—Zech. 4:6, AS.
THE REWARD FOR NOT COMPROMISING
18. In keeping with Paul’s example what is the determination of Jehovah’s people regarding the struggle to preach world-wide?
18 Will the struggle for freedom to preach world-wide stop? No! It must continue. Whether we be in democratic lands where much freedom is granted, whether we be in countries where preaching is restricted, or whether we be in countries ruled by dictators who allow no freedom but jail all witnesses caught, the fight for freedom to preach world-wide must go on. The apostle Paul set the example for us to follow. He preached in prison and carried on his fight for freedom to preach from there. (Acts 28:30, 31) So, today we also when not at liberty to go from door to door must preach as prisoners in chains. There is no stopping in dictator countries. There is no silencing of us, his witnesses, even in Communist prisons or the prisons of others. We shall continue to preach both out of prison and in prison, and that we shall do with boldness. Remember what Paul wrote the Philippians. “In harmony with my eager expectation and hope that I shall not be ashamed in any respect, but that in all freeness of speech Christ will, as always before, so now be magnified by means of my body, whether through life or through death.”—Phil. 1:20, NW.
19, 20. (a) What would have followed had Joseph, the three Hebrews and Daniel compromised? (b) And what if the early Christians and true Christians today had done so?
19 Suppose those imprisoned for faithfulness had compromised and turned back. What would have happened? Joseph in ancient times would have lost the privilege of being used by Jehovah in Egypt to save from starvation his father, Jacob, together with his large family. The three Hebrews would have lost the distinction of having the angel of Jehovah walk with them and protect them in the fiery furnace. Jeremiah would have lost the honor of proclaiming the judgments of Jehovah against a wicked city. And Daniel would never have stopped the mouths of lions. This host of witnesses did not turn back. They were not cowards. Paul describes for us their faith and courage, in Hebrews, chapter eleven.
20 Had Peter and Paul and the other apostles compromised and turned back they would have lost the blessing of expanding the early Christian congregation and of writing the Greek Scriptures. Also, the modern-day witnesses, unjustly imprisoned in many nations, would have lost their blessed privilege of opening up the work and rebuilding it in many totalitarian lands where the preaching was banned. They would not be enjoying the sight of the great ingathering of the great multitude of people of good will today. “For God gave us not a spirit of cowardice, but that of power and of love and of soundness of mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7, NW) Concerning those who turn back, the Revelator says: “But as for the cowards and those without faith . . . their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur. This means the second death.” (Rev. 21:8, NW) Thank Jehovah God that those faithful before us and those faithful among us here now have not, as cowards, fled the field of fighting for freedom to preach world-wide.
21, 22. (a) What is Jehovah’s main purpose in permitting us to fight and suffer for freedom to preach? (b) What further purpose is served thereby in keeping with Ezekiel’s prophecy?
21 It is clear that Jehovah is permitting us to suffer and fight for freedom to preach world-wide for very good purposes. The main purpose is to vindicate his great and holy name and his Word. Another purpose is to select the right kind of people, obedient and courageous people, and with these he wants to populate the earth and have them live in the new world. (Matt. 5:5, 10; Rev. 2:10) There Jehovah will exterminate those that do not deserve living in the new world.
22 Still another purpose served by our fight for freedom is to lead the enemy on to Armageddon. Jehovah is using us, his witnesses, therefore, by our fighting for freedom to preach world-wide, as bait for the Devil, named Gog in the book of Ezekiel. In that book of prophecy it is pointed out that Gog will be led on to assault us, Jehovah’s people. Jehovah shows in that prophecy how Gog, the Devil, will cause his forces, seen and unseen, to move against Jehovah’s witnesses from every part of the earth. Jehovah declares that he will turn Gog, the Devil, about and put hooks in his jaws. Jehovah reveals that the visible and invisible forces of Gog will fall “upon the mountains of Israel,” or Jehovah’s organization. (Ezek. 38:4; 39:1, 2) Then Satan and his entire organization and all the people supporting the Devil will be destroyed. Their dead bodies will be thrown out for the ravenous birds and the wild beasts to feed upon. (Ezek. 39:4-7) Jehovah finally declares: “And my holy name will I make known in the midst of my people Israel; neither will I suffer my holy name to be profaned any more: and the nations shall know that I am Jehovah, the Holy One in Israel.” (Ezek. 39:7, AS) Let us not take ourselves out of the fight. May Jehovah continue to bless you as you keep on waging the “fight for freedom to preach world-wide.” “Praise ye Jehovah. Blessed is the man that feareth Jehovah, . . . Praise ye Jehovah.”—Ps. 112:1; 113:1, AS.