Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses
GOD’S kingdom rules—throughout the universe! As never before in history it made its presence felt in the earth in the summer of the year 1958, not with any violence, but with a remarkable peaceful demonstration. Never before did it have so many of its ambassadors and envoys assembled together for training and consultation and for a united public testimony and proclamation as then. The world-known Yankee Stadium and the neighboring Polo Grounds, the largest baseball parks in metropolitan New York city, literally overflowed with myriads, yet without disorder of any kind, just as befitted representatives of the great Government of universal order. Daily for eight days in succession more than 145,000 of them came together and deliberated concerning the interests of God’s kingdom; and peace, orderliness and brotherhood reigned among them. The tension, the fierce charges and countercharges, the rivalry and the clash that marked the official gatherings at the United Nations capital a few miles to the south did not disturb or mar a single session of the Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses from Sunday, July 27, to Sunday, August 3. Coming from at least 123 countries and island groups, yet they met together in loyal unity around the now-ruling kingdom of God.
The hostility of the nations of the East and of the West because of endangerment to their divided selfish interests had brought all mankind near to the brink of war—of World War III. The Middle East, a zone of continual ferment and recurring trouble in Bible history, was like a powder keg that a wild spark could blow up. Violent rebellion had overthrown the royal government in the ancient Bible land of Mesopotamia, and Russia and the United Arab Republic of Egypt and Syria had promptly recognized the rebel regime. At the request of the then constitutional president of Lebanon, the United States of America had landed thousands of troops in that coastal land of famous cedar trees; and at the request of the king of Jordan Great Britain had landed troops at its capital Amman. Selfishly concerned nations called these moves “acts of aggression.” The United Nations and its border observation force proved to be unequal to the emergency. The earthly situation was shaping up dangerously. For an international nonpolitical assembly of any size to be held the time seemed to be most inopportune. Especially so when delegates would come from the four quarters of the earth, even areas in the trouble zone, and would be dependent upon the world transportation system.
However, the long-announced international assembly had not been misnamed. It was the “Divine Will” for it to be held, and world conditions had to yield to it. The Most High God of heaven, who rules by means of his enthroned Son Jesus Christ, displayed his power to rule in the midst of his demonic and human enemies. He restrained the forces behind the Eastern and Western blocs of nations in order that the ambassadors and envoys of his heavenly kingdom might assemble in peace according to divine will.
It takes time and organization to gather together any great number of ambassadors, diplomats and official representatives from worldly nations. Expect, then, the coming together at New York city of more than 150,000 ambassadors and envoys of God’s kingdom from more than sixscore lands, and one can at least faintly imagine the amount of time and organization it had to take to arrange to bring together all the dedicated Christian witnesses of Jehovah to the Divine Will International Assembly for eight days.
All those attending had been given nineteen months of advance notice by the announcement that appeared in the issue of December 15, 1956, of the official Kingdom magazine, The Watchtower, Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom, page 763. By that time the contract had been secured for the use of the Yankee Stadium during the announced eight days. However, in view of the growth of the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses since the 1953 international assembly in Yankee Stadium, supplemented by a Trailer City many miles away in the neighboring state of New Jersey, it was evident from the start of the negotiations that more than the one stadium was needed for the vastly greater number of assembly delegates expected. So with intense interest the spiritual governing body of Jehovah’s witnesses watched the developments with regard to the baseball park of the New York Giants, the Polo Grounds, just northwest across the Harlem River from Yankee Stadium. A shift of the National League baseball team, the New York Giants, from New York city to San Francisco, California, was under consideration; and providentially this transfer was approved on August 19, 1957, by the Board of Directors of the corporation operating the team. This shift left the Polo Grounds without regular occupancy and hence available for assembly use. Without delay the president of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society closed a contract with the owners to use the Polo Grounds simultaneously with Yankee Stadium.
Efforts, begun long in advance, to procure an ample and convenient site for erecting a Trailer City to accommodate tens of thousands of theocratic assemblers failed repeatedly. Finally, near the time for the opening of the international assembly, the monthly service folder, Kingdom Ministry, as of July, 1958, advised definitely that there would be “no trailer city.” It was plainly the divine will that all the theocratic assemblers meet together at one site, in direct contact with one another and in full view of one another, under one administration, for one combined demonstration of Christian love, fellowship and solidarity. Whatever tents were to be pitched were to be those right alongside the Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium for cafeteria and for great overflow crowds to sit under cover and listen to the Assembly program by sound equipment.
Moreover, there were other vital meetings to be held with key members of Jehovah’s visible organization that could not conveniently be held inside the Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium. For such special meetings, as well as for additional overflow accommodations, the New Rockland Palace was rented, just one city block south of the Polo Grounds. Thus the all-provident King of eternity, Jehovah God, not only called his royal ambassadors and envoys to the great Kingdom assembly but also saw to it that they had ample accommodations for meetings and for transacting their affairs.
LODGINGS AND DEPARTMENTAL SERVICES
Although situated in a so-called Christian land, New York city is in fact a great pagan city, a large percentage of it not professing Christianity or even Judaism and those who do merely “having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power.” (2 Tim. 3:5) This great metropolis and its environs, with over eight millions of inhabitants, have many hotels, tourist camps and motels, but not enough rooms were available at convenient rates for the critical time, the international assembly dates. Since all the assembly delegates from all quarters of the earth were to flock together to New York city and needed to be roomed there and roundabout, with no trailer city available, this posed a big problem, not for the great God of heaven, but for his witnesses in and about New York city who were to play hosts to the overwhelming number of guests from outside this metropolitan area. But the hand of Almighty God, the divine Host, worked in their behalf, however, not without strenuous effort and extreme hospitality on the part of the members of the seventy-three congregations inside New York city and many other congregations roundabout.
Generously the Yankee Stadium management provided the use of its facilities for the two-hour “kickoff” meeting on Saturday afternoon April 26, 1958, for starting off the campaign to get rooming accommodations in the private homes of people in this great pagan or semireligious area, where neighborliness is not much practiced with one’s heart in it. Fully 9,000 attended this kickoff meeting in Yankee Stadium to receive encouragement and instructions on how to proceed with this mammoth rooming-accommodations task and succeed in it. At the very start they were told that they would have to accommodate more than 150,000 guests, who would come by various means of transport from more than a hundred lands and largely with limited means for lodging and other assembly expenses.
The very next morning that largest number ever to launch a rooming-accommodations campaign was out in the field, going to the private homes in the metropolitan area seeking and completing arrangements for lodgings for the coming theocratic assemblers. Exemplarily the homes of members of the metropolitan congregations threw open their own doors first in an expression of hospitality to Christian ministers, to Kingdom ambassadors and envoys, before asking the homes of Catholics, Protestants, Jews and outright pagans to do so. The Brooklyn Bethel home, where the central headquarters personnel of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania have their home, arranged to take in more than three hundred assembly delegates from more than eighty lands, one or two or more extra cots being installed in each dwelling room. Happy were the hospitable, for they were shown hospitality when sorely needed.
Following due announcement, the requests for rooms in hotels and private homes poured in by the thousands each week at the rooming-accommodations department on the eleventh floor of the Watchtower Building, 77 Sands Street, Brooklyn, N.Y. For many weeks the number of requests received exceeded the number of rooming accommodations definitely engaged, and the margin between the requests and the rooms secured widened. The first weekend of the Assembly month saw more than 30,000 requests still not accommodated, and more requests were sure to come in by mail, not counting in the many requests that would be made directly at the Rooming Departments when set up at Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds. With just three more weeks to go till Assembly, faith and perseverance needed to be exercised to the limit in the hunt for rooms. What a joy and relief it was, when, at the dinner table just a few days before the Assembly start, the president of the Watch Tower Society read off a triumphant rooming-accommodations report to the Brooklyn Bethel family, revealing that several hundred rooming accommodations had at last been secured in excess of all the requests received to that date! The great King and heavenly Supervisor of the approaching international assembly had rewarded the hospitality, the strenuous labors and the faith of the congregations of his dedicated witnesses in and around the Assembly city. Still the engaging of further rooms continued, in order to provide for any emergencies as to lodgings.
By television, radio, printed matter and direct, personal visitation at homes and hotels the colossal need for rooms was advertised to the millions of inhabitants of New York city. Many were the cases of exceptional generosity that turned up in exhibition of good will and confidence toward Jehovah’s witnesses, thousands of absolutely free accommodations being tendered. Thus the entire metropolitan district was keenly alive to the fact that New York city was to play host to the Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses. From the beginning of July onward, advertising cards in New York city subway trains, billboards, magazines, handbills, newspaper announcements, radio and television, besides bumper signs on thousands of private autos from all parts of America and Canada, were overwhelming the people with notice of the Assembly and especially of its public meeting on August 3.
Long before the first official announcement of the Assembly was made in the Kingdom magazine, The Watchtower, behind-the-scenes preparations were already under way for it. Jehovah God the King of eternity has gifted his earthly organization with the needed farsightedness like that of the high-perched eagle. This 1958 Assembly was included within the purpose of the Most High God, and nothing could be left to take care of itself without preparation. The Assembly was to be a world-impressive demonstration of the power, organizability, theocraticalness and presence of God’s kingdom. Hence the Assembly needed the utmost of preparation, with due attention to the thousands of details. There is nothing slipshod about God’s kingdom. For an assembly of the size estimated, an organized personnel of ten thousand voluntary workers had to be assembled and assigned to departments and duties, from workers serving on the platform program down through the twenty-two listed departments, yes, down to the vital cleaning and sanitation department. Everything deserved to be done for the comfort, convenience and help of the Assembly delegates that they might better enjoy the program of platform events and of united field activities in advertising God’s kingdom for eight days straight. One can well imagine the extensive and intensive planning, arranging and organization work that had to go forward. Not only was there an organizational structure to be worked out, but many physical structures had to be prefabricated for the platforms and their decorations, for the booths, for the sound-equipment facilities, and for many other things. A tremendous amount of printing in many languages needed to be done on short order. This kept the Society’s factories in Brooklyn working night and day, for weeks.
THE KINGDOM A DOMINANT FEATURE
The divine Creator of heaven and earth does everything with a purpose in expression of his will. (Rev. 4:11) The Divine Will International Assembly of his witnesses had to serve his purpose, because it was held in his name. His purpose was that this Assembly should serve the interests of his established kingdom now ruling. In any international gathering of ambassadors, foreign ministers or heads of governments it is very necessary for first an agenda to be worked out, a program of events, a listing of subjects that it is agreed upon to discuss freely, in the hope of coming to some agreement and understanding and thus making progress and getting something done. Since the Divine Will International Assembly concerned itself with the greatest and only enduring government in the wide universe, it was highly proper that a far-reaching, many-featured, progressive and purposeful program be scheduled. The program had to be in full harmony with the divine will as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, in the light of fulfilled Bible prophecy. It had to serve the interests of God’s kingdom as such interests were dictated by the needs of God’s ambassadors and envoys in doing the work that they are ordained to do in all the earth, in the midst of enemies.
The thirty-two-page printed program, in an attractive cover, was distributed at the two Assembly stadiums on the day before the Assembly opened. It amazed the theocratic assemblers with the great variety of its features and the richness and interestingness of the matters that were to be handled from the platform. In fact, since two Assembly stadiums were to be served, it really required the putting on of a double program, each feature of which, with a few exceptions, was presented first at one stadium and then shortly afterward at the other stadium by the same speaker or symposium of speakers or group of demonstrators. The nearness of the two stadiums to each other, requiring just a few minutes’ ride on the subway train under the Harlem River from the one stadium station to the very next stadium station made this conveniently possible. So each audience in each stadium got things directly, first hand, from its own platform. Each stadium had its own assistant chairman and assistant convention servant and orchestra.
The printed program gave the menu of the spiritual feast that the divine King of the universe was to spread for his assembled ambassadors and envoys. (2 Cor. 5:20) Here, in an exceptional and large-scale way, through the publications of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, Jehovah God the King was calling out in the words of Isaiah 55:1-3: “Hey there, all you thirsty ones! Come to the water. And the ones that have no money! Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk even without money and without price. Why do you people keep paying out money for what is not bread and why is your toil for what results in no satisfaction? Listen intently to me, and eat what is good, and let your soul find its exquisite delight in fatness itself. Incline your ear and come to me. Listen, and your soul will keep alive.”
Ah yes, all those dedicated witnesses of Jehovah God who came to the Assembly had turned away from toiling and paying out money for materialism at a high price in dissatisfaction. They had hungered and thirsted for a divine government to rule all the parts of the earth where they lived. So in dedication to Jehovah God through Jesus Christ they turned to God’s kingdom as the only means for the everlasting blessing of all the families and nations of the earth. Without paying financially for ministerial training in any of Christendom’s theological seminaries they had begun to eat freely of the milk of the fatness of God’s service, being enriched with pure Bible knowledge and enjoying many privileges in the ministry of Kingdom truth for which this precious knowledge equipped them. They drank deeply of the wine of Kingdom joys that their ministry as ambassadors and envoys of God’s kingdom brought to them. Now, by attending this international assembly, they wanted to learn and to be trained how to partake more fully of the wine and milk of ministerial joys and privileges, which a minister enjoys by proclaiming God’s kingdom and by gathering all the other hungry, thirsty sheeplike people into God’s fold under Christ. At this 1958 international assembly the teeming multitudes of delegates enjoyed the richest, most wholesome spiritual feast yet.
The rule of God’s kingdom is global, despite the enemies in the midst of which it must rule. In support of this fact is the observable presence of Jehovah’s witnesses in more than 170 countries and islands around the globe. In all those territories Matthew 24:14 is being proved to be a true prophecy by the preaching of the good news of God’s established kingdom to the many nations by his witnesses. All these witnesses are under the supervision of the now eighty-five Branch offices of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania, including the American Branch in Brooklyn, N.Y., each Branch having its own assigned territory to supervise and to report on directly to the President of the Society at Brooklyn, N.Y. Taking advantage of the Assembly, the Society’s president called in each supervisory Branch servant to report in person directly to him at Brooklyn and to the international assembly.
Despite the troubled world conditions, only two of the Branch servants were prevented by men in worldly authority from answering the call to the visible headquarters of Jehovah’s witnesses in Brooklyn. The Society’s president who has visited almost all of these Branch offices and factories around the globe, appreciated the need for all the Branches to carry on the functions of their various departments uniformly, according to proved efficient methods. So, after he himself had made a personal inspection of the Society’s biggest and most complicated Branch in Brooklyn over several weeks, he composed an all-embracing book of guidance and instruction for all Branch organizations and had it specially printed. This large-size 158-page loose-leaf book is entitled “Branch Office Procedure of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania”; and its instructions were to be put into effect from September 1, 1958, forward. This new book required study and discussion. On July 16, or about two weeks before the Assembly began, the Society’s president called together all the more than eighty Branch servants present, together with their respective assistants, totaling all together 160 overseers, to the Kingdom Hall located in the Brooklyn Bethel building, at 136 Columbia Heights. There, day after day, he went over this Branch Office Procedure book with them discussing it, enlarging on it, answering their questions upon it, until two days before the Assembly opened. The gift of a copy of this special book to each one of the Branch servants was, in effect, the first release of the international assembly, or at least a preliminary release.
Inasmuch as each Branch is equipped with this instruction book and must follow it, Jehovah’s witnesses in any territory around the globe may have the fullest confidence in the particular Branch that supervises their witness activities and congregational affairs. They know that such Branch, no matter how distant from headquarters and no matter how small or recently established, is operating according to the most advanced, up-to-date procedure, in full harmony with all other Branches, even the oldest and largest. Thus no one should despise or ignore any one Branch, but every active witness of Jehovah should appreciate that the entire organization of many parts is working in complete unity. Each witness should therefore cooperate and be submissive.
DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE
According to the skillfully planned program, each of the Assembly days was given a name that emphasized some theocratic principle or activity. Beginning with Sunday, July 27, the days were named in the following order: Faithfulness Day, Exclusive Devotion Day, Expanding Our Ministry Day, Tasting Divine Goodness Day, Fullness of Service Day, Fearless Ministry Day, “Your Will Come to Pass” Day and God’s Kingdom Day. Thus on the eighth and last day the names culminated in a theme that called attention to the outstanding teaching of the Holy Bible, God’s kingdom. This harmonized perfectly with the subject of the public lecture that climaxed the closing day, “God’s Kingdom Rules—Is the World’s End Near?” This theocratic kingdom is inseparable from the divine will, for it is by God’s kingdom that the model prayer to the heavenly Father is carried out, “Let your will come to pass, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matt. 6:9, 10) All the discussions and talks of the preceding seven days led the assemblers into a grander, soul-filling appreciation of God’s glorious kingdom that has been ruling in the heavens since 1914 by his enthroned Son, Jesus Christ.
The Divine Will International Assembly was no assembly for true, dedicated Christians just to have a relaxing good time together, listening to some entertainment program or to eulogistic speeches in praise of themselves and enjoying pleasant sociabilities together. The Assembly was arranged to be and it proved to be a most instructive training school, with the latest, most advanced Scriptural and organizational information to be given out. To this end, not only were the Society’s Branch servants called in, but all the district and circuit servants and as many foreign congregation servants understanding English as possible were brought to the Assembly. These were key men in the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses around the globe. They especially needed and deserved the counsel, the training and the mighty tonic spiritual effect that were to be imparted at the Assembly. Besides these, practically all the graduates of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, who were still active in full service as missionaries and special pioneers, were brought in. Congregations all around the globe had made voluntary contributions to the Watch Tower Society toward meeting the travel expenses of all such worthy ones; and this aided greatly in bringing them to the Assembly from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe and the Americas and the many islands of the seas.
The Society’s president made provision for meeting in special morning sessions with these outstanding representatives and appointed servants of the Society. It was particularly for such special sessions that the New Rockland Palace was engaged. On Tuesday morning, July 29, 1,211 missionaries who make use of fifty-eight languages in their territories met with the Society’s president and the teaching faculty of the School of Gilead to hear encouraging talks and to enjoy a special tray-dinner together. All thirty-one graduated classes of Gilead were represented, thirty-one missionaries being from the first class of 1943. Wednesday morning marked a meeting with another group of full-time workers whom the Society sustains, namely, the special pioneers, who are doing vitally needed witness work in many lands in specially assigned locations.
Many circuit and district servants had had schooling in Gilead, but at 9:30 a.m., both Thursday and Friday, at the Palace, the Society’s president met with all the circuit and district servants from all lands and nationalities. This was with a view to improving their ministry as special overseers of the many congregations in their circuits and districts. These two mornings of discussion and of taking counsel together at the Palace were supplemented by the talks “Keeping Strict Watch on How We Walk” and “Shepherding the Sheep with Skillfulness” by the Society’s vice-president and president respectively on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium, these talks being particularly directed to district, circuit and congregational servants, all of whom sat together in a reserved section of the stadium to hear these special talks.
A further talk Saturday morning by one of the Society’s directors from the headquarters’ Service Department, on the subject, “Overseers, Keep Your Congregation Alive,” emphasized the importance and responsibleness of spiritual overseers, on whatever level of service privileges they find themselves. Overseers with a still larger supervision received due attention during the Assembly itself when the Society’s president met again with the Branch servants together with their assistants, at the Palace on Saturday morning at 9 a.m. Branch servants as well as district and circuit servants also attended when the president addressed himself to all brothers who held the appointment as public relations servants, at the Palace on Monday, July 28, at 9:30 a.m. What those public relations servants there absorbed they were soon able to apply when they returned home and publicized in their local areas the grand features and the exploits of the Assembly which they had personally observed. Public relations servants hold a responsible relationship to the public continually in being obligated to advertise God’s kingdom and his New World society impressively and favorably by means of newspapers, magazines, radio, television and other valid means.
All the foregoing special meetings added greatly to the onerous duties of the Society’s president as a principal overseer of God’s flock on earth; but those meetings had a spurring and educational effect on all those privileged to take part in the meetings.
REALIZATION SURPASSES ANTICIPATION
The Assembly’s very opening day, Faithfulness Day, held forth the promise of surpassingly grand things to be realized here at this international assembly down to its thrilling climax. From the start the Assembly was marked by internationality. Each day the temporary chairman in each stadium was of a different nationality, as follows: American, Japanese, Brazilian, Filipino, Mexican, Northern Rhodesian, Ghanan, Egyptian, Moroccan, Argentinian, Austrian, British, Ceylonese, Grecian and French. Moreover, on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday morning, two-hour sessions were held in various sections of the two stadiums in twenty foreign languages to give Assembly résumés to those not well acquainted with English.
The first Sunday morning, July 27, in a feature entitled “We Are Glad It Is the Divine Will that We Are Here,” Branch servants from fifteen foreign lands, including Alaska, Australia Korea and South Africa, occupied the platform for forty-five minutes. The servant of the American Branch, in his capacity as Assembly Chairman, delivered a cordial Address of Welcome to an audience of 122,061 from 123 or more lands. The entire globe has been divided into large zones, each one taking in a number of the Society’s eighty-five Branches, each zone under a traveling zone servant. Seven such servants, who themselves hailed from Denmark, Japan, the Philippines, Ceylon, Uruguay, Costa Rica and Northern Rhodesia, spoke for a period of fifteen minutes on the platform as “Zone Servants Representing the Nations.” That same Sunday afternoon the internationalism of the Assembly, as forecast in the famous, oft-quoted prophecy of Isaiah 2:2-4, was shoved into bold relief in the graduation exercises of the thirty-first class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead.
On that occasion, in the running track around Yankee Stadium, in their respective class groups, sat the still-active missionaries and full-time workers of the preceding thirty graduated classes of Gilead, many in national dress. At the home plate of the Yankee team’s baseball diamond sat the 103 students of class No. 31, whose graduating exercises were now to proceed. Called to Gilead from sixty-four lands, only four being Americans, they formed a colorful group as they sat clad in native costume. Rainfall, which began at 3:35 p.m., halfway through the School president’s hour-long talk on “Stay by These Things,” did not budge them from their seats. It was still raining when the time came for them to file to the platform for the Society’s president to present to them their diplomas so well merited. After this presentation of diplomas a student read a Resolution as the united expression of the multination thirty-first class of Gilead. Then, after failing to halt the graduation exercises, the rainfall itself halted, and the astoundingly great audience of 180,291 witnesses in and around both stadiums rejoiced greatly that 103 more specially trained Kingdom educators were now ready to be sent forth on their mission to fifty-two lands of the inhabited earth. That night under the light of a shining moon, 111,795 conventioners hugely enjoyed the two-and-half-hour-long feature, “The Students of the 31st Class of Gilead from 64 Lands Express Themselves,” in native costume, at both stadiums. The students expressed themselves in seventeen highly varied, tuneful, colorful, stirring solo and group presentations that held the attention of the vast audience from start to finish.
Continuing to keep the international make-up and activity of the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses to the fore, the Branch servants or representatives from the remainder of the Watch Tower Society’s Branches continued to present territorial reports to the Assembly from day to day. Each servant played up some different feature that marked the increase of the territorial organization. All these servants swept their great audiences along with them through the lengths and the breadths of the earth, into 164 lands where Jehovah’s witnesses are courageously preaching the good news of His kingdom in more than 120 languages, underground as well as above ground.
To supply a report on eight countries under Communist rule, where Jehovah’s witnesses are banned and must operate underground, a Swiss delegate occupied forty-five minutes in presenting the feature “Behind the Iron Curtain.” It was quite sensational to learn that there were 80,000 witnesses whose service reports proved that they refused to obey the Communist ban and quit preaching Jehovah’s kingdom; and that 90,000 persons had secretly attended the annual celebration of the Lord’s Evening Meal last April 3, 1958. Of that large number, however, merely 126 partook of the bread and wine in symbol of their being of the spirit-begotten remnant of Christ’s joint heirs for the heavenly kingdom. To add some heart-stirring realism to this report from behind the penetrable Iron Curtain, the Swiss delegate played a tape recording that had been smuggled across a number of frontiers. By means of this the audience of 127,802 on Saturday morning actually heard a group of underground witnesses sing in four-part harmony two sacred songs from our 1928 Songbook and heard a message of greeting and prayerful good wishes from an underground overseer. What loyalty God’s kingdom calls forth!
Branch servants and circuit and district servants fulfilled other parts on the greatly diversified educational program. Representative brothers from the Society’s central establishment in Brooklyn also served on the platform in certain vital features. The counsel and instruction given from the Scriptures not only had in mind the representative responsible servants of the earthwide organization but also dealt with the Christian obligations of parents and children, husbands and wives, and the hundreds of thousands of congregation members who take part in Kingdom preaching. In fact, all features of Christian living were touched upon in the platform talks, and much practical advice from God’s Word was given.
A number of true-life accounts were given by still-active, long-time faithful missionaries under the title “We Pursued Our Purpose in Life.” Various ways and means of penetrating into many untouched lands and islands where the witness work is barred to missionaries and there organizing congregations were described under the theme “Serving Where the Need Is Great Overseas.” The opportunities in one’s own home country were forcibly brought to mind in the companion talk “Filling the Need in Our Own Country.” Those talks showed the way out to the many witnesses who may feel cramped in their preaching opportunities in congregation territories that are so congested with local Kingdom publishers that the territories get worked very frequently because of the continual activities. But the talk “Staying Where the Need Is Great” reminded Kingdom publishers to endure and persevere and be stable in their assigned territories and not yield to wanderlust, disgust or despair.
The thirty-minute discussion of “Theocratic School for Fearless Ministers” stirred up a sustained applause when the speaker, the Society’s president, sprang a surprise on his combined audience of 173,079 Friday night. What was it? That, from the beginning of 1959, sisters in the congregations were to be privileged to enroll in the weekly Theocratic Ministry School. They would then take part in the platform presentations to the extent of demonstrating how to give six-minute sermons to people at their homes, these sermons being based on an assigned number of pages in the new publication entitled “From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained.” This was for the sisters a really serious assignment in the Theocratic Ministry School, for they were to be counseled afterward by the school servant on their presentation. This talk on how the program of the school will thus be expanded was followed by an hour-long platform demonstration of a School session that combined the new feature. There were the usual instruction talk and two student talks first by three brothers, but then at the close there came two six-minute sermons, each given by a sister from the Brooklyn Bethel headquarters family to another sister playing a counterpart. Each of the two sisters giving the sermons was then counseled by the school servant, the same as the two brothers giving student talks had been counseled.
Wednesday morning, or Tasting Divine Goodness Day, afforded a sight that had no equal since the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem A.D. 33, or nineteen centuries ago. The preceding night (Tuesday) the Branch servant from Korea had given the half-hour talk on “What Prevents Me from Getting Baptized?” Now this morning that question was to be answered. How many there in attendance at the Assembly had tasted of the divine goodness and had responsively dedicated themselves to the divine Good One? How many were now asking themselves the Ethiopian’s question, “What prevents me from getting baptized?” (Acts 8:36) All such dedicated ones sat in a specially reserved section down front in the grandstand of Yankee Stadium. Tens of thousands of waiting, watching observers surrounded them. The Swedish Branch servant addressed them in accord with the subject “Baptism According to the Divine Will.” He had two basic, searching questions to ask them in order to learn whether anything prevented them from getting baptized. At his request the baptismal applicants rose to answer audibly in unison these two determining questions. At that moment the great crowd of observers sent wave upon wave of heavy applause surging through the vast stadium. Why? Because so many stood to show that nothing prevented them from symbolizing their dedication to God through Christ by water baptism.
At the Orchard Beach swimming area miles away, where they were transported by seventy-five-passenger buses, they trooped into the sea in thirty lines to be baptized. At the end of two and a half hours the count of those actually baptized ran up to 2,937 men and 4,199 women, to total 7,136. This was 4,136 more than were baptized that day of Pentecost long ago, and they represented far more than the sixteen nations that were represented on that Pentecost. The Pentecostal baptism of 3,000 in water was in response to the revealed fact that Jesus was seated as Lord and Christ at the right hand of his Father in heaven. The baptism of 7,136 at the 1958 Divine Will International Assembly was a record-breaking response to the fact that God’s kingdom rules since the world-disturbing year of 1914.
For a couple of days prior to Friday an urgent appeal was made for all delegates to be present Friday afternoon when the issue was to be submitted to the Assembly, “Why This Convention Should Resolve.” To the boundless joy of the whole Assembly, the amazing number of 194,418 responded to the invitation. For three quarters of an hour the Society’s vice-president laid before this applause-happy multitude Scriptural reasons why the Assembly should seize this unequaled occasion to unite in an unequivocal resolve, thus going on record before God, angels and men. Eagerly, for the next fifteen minutes, they listened to the Society’s president as he read declaration after declaration of the proposed Resolution. This outrightly exposed Christendom’s clergy as the most reprehensible class on earth today. It reaffirmed the witnesses’ own theocratic principles. It unashamedly proclaimed God’s kingdom by Christ to be the sole means of salvation for all men who long for peace and security. It strongly asserted their determination to serve and preach God’s kingdom in love peace and unity and without letup, like our faithful brothers behind the Iron Curtain, until Jehovah himself brings the witness work to a world smashing finale by his own act of testimony at Armageddon. Applause greeted the president’s motion that the Resolution as read be adopted. His motion being seconded, he put the question, and 194,418 voices roared out a unanimous Aye! The consequences of this forthright Resolution all those who heartily adopted it stand ready to meet with Almighty God’s help.
Unknown to the tens of thousands attending the Assembly the New World Bible Translation Committee had finished its work on Volume IV of the New World Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures on April 13, 1958. So it released it for the Watchtower Society’s factory to print. Volume IV contains the translation of the prophetic books of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Lamentations. Jehovah having provided his witnesses with this latest translation of these three Bible books, it was apparent that his special messages for the Divine Will International Assembly should be drawn from those prophecies. They were. The reprehensibility of Christendom’s clergy as set forth in the Resolution that the Assembly adopted was foreshadowed by Jehovah’s denunciation of Judah’s religious leaders, in Jeremiah, chapter 23. Other principal speeches were likewise based upon the prophecies contained in this latest volume of the New World Translation. The president’s keynote speech on Monday afternoon, “Signs and Wonders in the Time of the End,” rested chiefly upon Isaiah’s prophecy; similarly the vice-president’s speech on Tuesday afternoon “Divine Loving-Kindness and the Kingdom,” and his speech on Saturday night, “When Jehovah Rises Up to His Unusual Work.” The president’s speech of Wednesday afternoon, “Down with the Old—Up with the New!” was a present-day application of dynamic prophecies of Jeremiah, who, together with men of good will, survived the shocking destruction of the holy city of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 607 B.C. At the dramatic close of this Jeremian speech the Society’s president evoked great applause from his audience of 150,282 by releasing Volume IV of the New World Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Tens on tens of thousands of copies of it were eagerly taken by the vast throng at the close of the session.
Thursday afternoon, July 31, was paradisaic in both its assembly and in what it produced. The surroundings of the speakers’ platforms of both stadiums were paradisaic in their physical beauty. The audience of 145,488 all roundabout were enjoying a feast of Christian association and Kingdom truths in a spiritual paradise. Their appreciation of this fact was sharpened by the speech of the Society’s president entitled “Maintaining Our Spiritual Paradise.” He crowned the occasion by his entirely unexpected display and release of the glowingly beautiful, handsomely illustrated book of 256 pages, bearing the title “From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained.” This book wastes no time and space discussing false doctrines of worldly religions, but simply explains the God-honoring truths of the sacred Bible as these came to the surface in the outworking of God’s purpose to restore obedient humankind to an everlasting earthly paradise. But this restoration has to be preceded by the establishing of God’s heavenly kingdom and his restoring first a spiritual paradise for his faithful Christian witnesses. It was this spiritual paradise that had to be maintained now with faithfulness and fruitfulness by its blest, happy inhabitants.
The book on Paradise had been published, not with children in mind, but for the purpose of satisfying the need and craving of adult persons in many lands who needed a primary or elementary manner of approach to the pure truths of God’s Word. After the session there was many an assembler that took copies of the book in large quantity. Delight went permeating the mighty hosts assembled.
Why the international assembly was embellished with the title Divine Will dawned on the delegates especially Saturday afternoon. The day’s name itself was drawn from the words of our Lord’s Prayer. This was true also of the president’s speech, “Let Your Will Come to Pass.” For twenty-three times his audience of 175,441 applauded his descriptions of how divine Jehovah had carried out his will in heaven and earth. This has been despite the opposition by Satan’s hosts of angels in heaven and by the mighty world powers on earth, from the days of the world power Babylon, Jerusalem’s destroyer, down to the atomically armed seventh world power, Britain-America, of today, together with the eighth world power, the United Nations. By his heavenly kingdom, which Jehovah God gave to the once “lowliest of men,” Jesus Christ, in 1914, the God of heaven will have his will come to pass in the coming battle of Armageddon and also afterward in the endless new world. With a deepened appreciation of how God accomplishes his will the Assembly applauded the president’s announcement of the title of the beautiful new 384-page book, “Your Will Be Done on Earth.” The distribution of 228,000 copies into their hands by the next few days bespoke the yearning they felt for the unfolding of the prophecies of Daniel and of other holy inspired men that this book offered them.
GOD’S KINGDOM DAY
For both heaven and earth the final Sunday afternoon was a happy time. Certainly the great King of heaven, Jehovah God, and his reigning Son, Jesus Christ, rejoiced together with the holy angels to have God’s kingdom preached by one mouthpiece to the largest visible audience on one occasion. From heaven they looked down on an audience of more than a quarter of a million persons, 253,922 by count, occupying all seats in the two Assembly stadiums, thousands standing in close formation out on the baseball outfield behind the speakers’ platform in Yankee Stadium, all seats in the overflow tents being occupied, and thousands standing listening on the walks outside the stadiums and tents. The challenging subject of the public address, so widely advertised over the weeks, was “God’s Kingdom Rules—Is the World’s End Near?” Showing a fine grasp of his subject, the speaking witness of Jehovah, the Society’s president, proved by Scripture and by prophecy fulfilled since 1914 that God’s kingdom by Christ has ruled in the heavens since that date. This unavoidably denotes that the end of this political, commercial, religious world is near. No vacuum will follow its complete end at Armageddon, for God’s everlasting new world of righteousness will glorify heaven and earth after Armageddon, and forever His will shall be done on earth in a paradise state as it is done in the holy heavens above.
This was indeed something for this overwhelmingly great audience to hail, and hail it they did, with a finale of applause that was really a tribute to the Kingdom message. During the intermission that followed they gladly accepted the proffered two free copies apiece of the booklet containing the full text of the speech, half a million copies of which had been printed and brought to the stadiums for this exalted occasion. Judging from the big audience of the preceding Friday afternoon, we believe that about 60,000 of the invited public had turned out and joined the Assembly in listening to this glad message of God’s now ruling kingdom.
Many of those 60,000 must have remained in response to the invitation to hear shortly the closing remarks of the president, the public speaker, for the final attendance was 210,778, the second-largest attendance of the entire Assembly. What they heard proved to be amply rewarding. It vividly revealed that over all the earth God’s kingdom was on the march toward victory and that his visible organization was planning, preparing and arranging for greater expansion by the enlarging of the physical facilities of the New World society and by the use of these facilities in a widening program for training the servants of the organization.
At the start of these closing remarks came the final release of the assembly, the ninety-first. Yes, there had already been ninety releases of books and booklets in various languages, post cards and sixteen-page convention reports. But this final one, a post card giving the architect’s conception of the new twelve-story building to be erected in 1959 on Columbia Heights opposite the present Brooklyn Bethel home, conveyed a thrill of its own. A copy was handed free to each adult before the Society’s president commented on its significance. He branched out from this onto many other provisions that were to be made for feeding Jehovah’s sheep under Jesus Christ with the latest spiritual food and for producing better organizational servants and for making better ministers out of all of Jehovah’s dedicated witnesses. More than fifty applauses punctuated these fascinating closing remarks.
After such a review of all the grand things of the Assembly and after the setting forth in grand array of all our theocratic purposes for the future, the immense congregation could join in singing heartfelt the song, the first line of which reads, “Great God, we thank you for the part we have in making glad your heart.” With reverent and grateful hearts they could bow their heads as the Society’s president offered the closing prayer. With hearts filled with the joy of having something noble to live for in the service of God’s kingdom, in obedience to the divine will, they gradually disbanded, the spirit of Jehovah God accompanying them. A great ineffaceable sign and wonder to Jehovah’s lasting glory had been wrought by this Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
DIVINE WILL ASSEMBLIES IN OTHER LANDS
Now, in harmony with the divine will, this great sign and wonder was due to be viewed by people in all parts of the earth. The delegates returned to the 123 lands from which they had come as living witnesses of the Assembly, and within a few weeks Divine Will assemblies were held throughout Central and South America, Europe, Africa, the Orient and the islands of the sea, providing small-scale copies of the mammoth gathering in New York. To the delight of the audience, on October 4 and 5 Brother Knorr was present at Leicester, England, and on Sunday he delivered the public lecture to 9,872 gathered at this final assembly in the series of four in the British Isles. From there he went on to Stuttgart, Germany, where he spoke to an enthusiastic audience of 16,563. This trip also afforded him opportunity to inspect the construction of the Society’s new Branch offices in England and France and Germany.
When news reached the Eastern Zone of Germany that an assembly had been planned for Berlin, the Communist police began to visit the homes of the brothers to warn them not to try to attend, taking away their personal identification cards to prevent them from traveling. When the brothers went to the railroad station to purchase their tickets, they found that their names were on special lists of persons who were to be refused. In spite of these obstacles 15,418 were present in the Deutschlandhalle in West Berlin to adopt the Resolution, and for them its words carried special meaning: “. . . and even when persecution may get more intense and we may be scattered physically or be driven underground or deprived of our Bible-study literature, we will keep on obeying God rather than men and will preach the good news of the Kingdom . . . by use of our Bibles alone, if necessary, or by just that divine Word stored up in our hearts.”
By early December, ninety-one Divine Will assemblies had been held. The attendance had now swollen from 253,922 present to hear the public talk at the Assembly in New York to a total of 562,955. This was backed up with the delivery of that same talk, “God’s Kingdom Rules—Is the World’s End Near?” at all the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses worldwide on October 5, followed by the distribution of millions of copies of it in The Watchtower. The 7,136 who symbolized their dedication by water baptism in New York have since been joined by 10,638 more at these further assemblies, bringing the total to 17,774.
One of the outstanding features of all these ninety-one assemblies was the wholehearted endorsement of the Resolution exposing the delinquency of the clergy of Christendom, spotlighting the kingdom of God as the only real hope for mankind, and declaring the determination of the witnesses faithfully to continue to serve Jehovah God. At the final count to date this Resolution has been publicly endorsed by 405,720 gathered in assemblies. And hundreds of thousands more have demonstrated that they too are in heartfelt accord with it by participating in the distribution of the Resolution contained in The Watchtower as of November 1, 1958, to millions of persons, including the rulers of the lands, the clergy and other prominent individuals. And on December 1 the world-wide distribution of 70,000,000 copies of this plain-spoken Resolution in fifty languages in tract form began, in what may well prove to be the greatest publicity campaign to date, making clear to the people of all nations the divine will as expressed in God’s own Word, the Holy Bible.
These assemblies and the Kingdom publicity now going on have attracted the attention of men of all national, racial and religious groups, and those who are of good will toward Jehovah God are gathering with his people to give him exclusive devotion.