They Listened to an Angel
“Be on your way, and, having taken a stand in the temple, keep on speaking to the people all the sayings about this life.”—Acts 5:20.
1. Although the apostles had been arrested before, what new experience does Acts, chapter five, relate concerning them, and how did it affect them?
THE Christian apostles Peter and John had been in custody before. So being arrested and jailed now was no new experience for them. But to have an angel of Jehovah open the door of the prison and tell them and their fellow apostles to be on their way was something new. Such an experience must have instilled confidence, strengthened their faith and helped them in their fearless position already taken against the religious leaders of Jerusalem. The religious leaders had shown fear of this small band of Christian ministers and their successful work. “The high priest and all those with him, the then existing sect of the Sadducees, rose and became filled with jealousy, and they laid hands upon the apostles and put them in the public place of custody.” (Acts 5:17, 18) What had these men said or done to arouse jealousy on the part of these religionists and make them take such action? Let us see.
2. On the day of Pentecost what had Peter told the many Jews gathered in Jerusalem, and what response did he get?
2 It was not many days before this happening that the apostles and others with them, 120 in all, were “filled with holy spirit and started to speak with different tongues, just as the spirit was granting them to make utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4) It was on that very day of the Festival of Pentecost that Peter stood up with the eleven and spoke to the men of Judah and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Peter told them about Jesus the Nazarene, how he had been fastened to a stake by the hands of lawless men and killed, and how God had resurrected Jesus by loosening the pangs of death. Peter spoke fearlessly. He told the truth about the impaling of Jesus Christ outside Jerusalem fifty-one days previously. Listening attentively to the words of Peter, that great crowd of people heard his exhortation to repent. Peter said: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the free gift of the holy spirit.” “And with many other words he bore thorough witness and kept exhorting them, saying: ‘Get saved from this crooked generation.’” There were many there who embraced Peter’s words heartily and were baptized, and on “that day about three thousand souls were added. And they continued devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles.” (Acts 2:38-42) This great crowd of people that had come to Jerusalem from many nations, some from as far away as Rome, were in constant attendance at the temple day after day listening to the truth from God’s Word. Before returning home they were anxious to learn all they could about the fulfillment of prophecy and about this impaled one, Jesus Christ, the Son of Jehovah God. How many persons today are anxious to learn “all the sayings about this life”? In our day you can hardly find a person who reads his Bible daily.
3. Why were the Jewish religionists jealous of the apostles?
3 However, nineteen hundred years ago the temple area in Jerusalem, where Jesus did considerable preaching, was the center of attraction for gaining the latest information. From Pentecost on, the apostles were there busily giving out the most important information, telling the truth concerning the kingdom of the heavens, the exaltation of Christ Jesus to the right hand of God and the promised holy spirit from the Father that was being poured out daily upon believers. There was much evidence of the pouring out of this holy spirit, because “Jehovah continued to join to them daily those being saved.” (Acts 2:47) The Christian religion was getting a real foothold. No wonder, then, that the Jewish religionists were getting jealous.
4. Relate the experience of the lame man who came into contact with Peter and John.
4 The Bible account in the following chapter tells us: “Now Peter and John were going up into the temple for the hour of prayer, the ninth hour, and a certain man that was lame from his mother’s womb was being carried, and they would daily put him near the temple door.” Here this crippled man would “ask [for] gifts of mercy from those entering into the temple.” It was quite natural, then, for him to ask Peter and John for gifts of mercy. Peter and John stopped and gazed at this lame man and said: “Take a look at us.” So the man did and was surprised to hear Peter say: “Silver and gold I do not possess, but what I do have is what I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!” Peter reached out and took the lame man by the right hand and raised him up. A miracle occurred! “Instantly the soles of his feet and his ankle bones were made firm; and, leaping up, he stood up and began walking, and he entered with them into the temple, walking and leaping and praising God.”—Acts 3:1-8.
5. (a) At the gathering together of all the people following the miraculous healing show how Peter gave proper credit to Jesus for this lame man’s recovery. (b) What exhortation did he now give those gathered Jews?
5 What a wonderful thing! Unbelievable, but many people were coming into the temple and recognized that this one now walking about was the same man who used to be lame. “Well, as the man was holding onto Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at what was called Solomon’s colonnade, surprised out of their wits.” (Acts 3:11) This gave Peter a wonderful opportunity to talk about Jesus Christ. He certainly did not want them to believe that what had happened was due to any personal power of his. He said: “Men of Israel, why are you wondering over this, or why are you gazing at us as though by personal power or godly devotion we have made him walk? The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our forefathers, has glorified his Servant, Jesus, whom you, for your part, delivered up and disowned before Pilate’s face, when he had decided to release him. Yes, you disowned that holy and righteous one, and you asked for a man, a murderer, to be freely granted to you, whereas you killed the Chief Agent of life. But God raised him up from the dead, of which fact we are witnesses. Consequently his name, by our faith in his name, has made this man strong whom you behold and know, and the faith that is through him has given the man this complete soundness in the sight of all of you. And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers also did. But in this way God has fulfilled the things he announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer. Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the person of Jehovah and that he may send forth the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven, indeed, must hold within itself until the times of restoration of all things of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets of old time.” (Acts 3:12-21) Do you believe what Peter said then? Is your faith in Jesus Christ and Jehovah God as strong as Peter’s? Do you speak to others about your Christian faith as plainly as he did? If not, why not? Are you afraid that what happened to Peter and John will happen to you?
6. For performing this miracle how were Peter and John treated by the chief priests and Sadducees, and why should the chief priests and Sadducees have acted differently?
6 Let us see what happened when the two apostles attracted great crowds by the miracle performed and by their freeness of speech: “Now while the two were speaking to the people, the chief priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, being annoyed because they were teaching the people and were plainly declaring the resurrection from the dead in the case of Jesus; and they laid their hands upon them and put them in custody till the next day, for it was already evening. However, many of those who had listened to the speech believed, and the number of the men became about five thousand.” (Acts 4:1-4) Of course, during the previous days thousands of people had associated themselves with these faithful followers of Christ Jesus and had become Christians. The message of Peter and John was making Jews repent, and they were leaving the Jewish religion. Really, the ones who should have accepted Christ Jesus were the leaders among the people, namely, their rulers and their priests. They knew the Scriptures and should have seen the fulfillment of prophecy before their very eyes, but these leaders were no more interested in God’s kingdom and Christ Jesus in their day than are the rulers and religious priests today.
7. (a) What similar attitude is shown by modern-day religious leaders? (b) As far as the religious leaders in the days of the apostles are concerned what “wrongs” had Peter and John committed?
7 The present-day religious clergy of Christendom are acting just like the priests and Sadducees of Jesus’ time. The leaders of the masses try to keep the people in line through threats and little irritations. They cannot find real fault with the individual Christian’s excellent work, but what the Christian does is not to their liking and reflects on their prestige, so stop—scare them! What had Peter and John done that was wrong and that led to their being put in jail? The only thing that the rulers could find fault with in Peter and John was that they had told the truth to too many people and did something good to a lame man. They had healed that man, a man who had been lame from the time of his birth and now was forty years old. They had not asked permission from the rulers to do this good deed and to preach the truth. Now the way to stop them was to put them in jail for a night. That should take the spirit of God out of them, they thought.
8, 9. (a) What effect did jailing have on the apostles, and how did Peter answer the question, “By what power and in whose name did you do this” healing? (b) How did Peter use Bible prophecies of Psalms and Isaiah to good advantage?
8 This was the first time that Peter and John were put into custody, held overnight in jail. This intimidation did not disturb Peter and John at all. The next day when they were asked by the rulers, “By what power or in whose name did you do this?” here was what happened: “Then Peter, filled with holy spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers of the people and older men, if we are this day being examined, on the basis of a good deed to an ailing man, as to by whom this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you impaled but whom God raised up from the dead, by this one does this man stand here sound in front of you.’” Then they told Annas the chief priest and Caiaphas, as well as many others who were kinsfolk of the chief priest, that they were the ones that rejected Jesus and that “there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.” (Acts 4:7-12) Then Peter used a powerful illustration. He went back to the writings of David, quoting from Psalm 118:22. Peter pointed to scripture in which they should believe and he showed the fulfillment of prophecy. David had written that the stone that the builders rejected had become the head of the corner. Would they now listen when Peter said: “This is ‘the stone that was treated by you builders as of no account that has become the head of the corner’”? (Acts 4:11) Peter and John very likely had in mind the words of the prophet Isaiah, too, who wrote: “Therefore hear the word of Jehovah, you braggarts, . . . ‘Here I am laying as a foundation in Zion a stone, a tried stone, the precious corner of a sure foundation. No one exercising faith will get panicky.’”—Isa. 28:14, 16.
9 Peter and John were not panicky but spoke boldly to the Jewish rulers who had cried out to Pilate about Jesus: “Let him be impaled!” (Matt. 27:15-26) They showed their faith and courage even though being in prison one night and then being brought to stand before these august men. This did not disturb their thinking. They were there for a purpose—to speak fearlessly about the true God and his Son, Jesus Christ, the only “name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.”—Acts 4:12.
10. Though “ordinary” men, what did Peter and John as well as the rest of the apostles possess that made them different?
10 Peter and John were ordinary fishermen by trade, and the people knew them as such. But it could be seen that they had walked with Jesus, had listened to his words and were trained by him. They had something else, too—the holy spirit from God. All this would make them act differently from most persons. This difference was noticed by these rulers. “Now when they beheld the outspokenness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were men unlettered and ordinary, they got to wondering. And they began to recognize about them that they used to be with Jesus; and as they were looking at the man that had been cured standing with them, they had nothing to say in rebuttal.”—Acts 4:13, 14.
11. What problem did the religious leaders now have to face, and to what conclusion did they come?
11 The religious leaders, immediately having a problem they did not know how to cope with, told Peter and John to step outside the Sanhedrin hall, and these “wise” men began to consult with one another, saying: “What shall we do with these men?” They certainly could not ignore or deny what had happened. All the inhabitants of Jerusalem by now knew what had occurred. Fearing the people, the rulers came to a conclusion: “Let us tell them with threats not to speak any more upon the basis of this name to any man at all.”—Acts 4:15-17.
CLERICAL FEAR OF WITNESSES
12. (a) Show how similar action by false religious leaders is carried on even today. (b) How was this reported on by the Daily American newspaper?
12 Similar action has been taken today against Christians in the nations of the earth that call themselves Christian. Religious leaders get just as fearful of the same message that true Christians, Jehovah’s witnesses, preach worldwide today. They will do everything within their power to stop the message of God’s kingdom from being given. For example, in Greece, in the summer of 1963, the archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church, Chrysostomos, threatened the Greek government that he would organize a march from Salonika to Athens if the convention of Jehovah’s witnesses was allowed to meet in Athens. He had his way, as the Daily American newspaper of July 26, 1963, pointed out: “The Greek government has banned all public meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it was announced today. . . . Archbishop Chrysostomos, primate of Greece, has led all Greek Orthodox organizations in a general outcry against the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ rally, which he called a ‘shameful congress of atheists and anarchists.’ In a letter to the prime minister, Panayotis Pipinelis, he said unless the rally were banned, he would be compelled to ‘defend everything sacred and to lead the clergy and the people’ in an all-out action against the sect.”
13. Outline the pointed questions now in need of answers.
13 What was the archbishop afraid of, or, for that matter, what are all the Greek Orthodox clergy afraid of? Bible study? The distribution of the Bible? Encouragement given to the Greek people to read the Bible? All the world knows that Jehovah’s witnesses devote their time to aiding people around the world to read and understand the Bible in their own language. Is that what the archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church labels atheism and anarchy, the study of the Word of God? the preaching of the good news of God’s kingdom? Is he against having the Greek people walk in the footsteps of Christ Jesus? Who really is the anarchist, the disrupter of government? Who wanted to make all people rise up and march from Salonika to Athens and break up Jehovah’s witnesses’ peaceful meeting?
14. How was the Greek government of 1963 much like Pilate in Jesus’ day?
14 The Greek Orthodox Church was successful in its threats against the government and it was able to dictate the action that the government of Greece took, namely, cancel the approved meeting of Jehovah’s witnesses on July 30, 1963. In Jesus’ day Caiaphas, the high priest, and the howling Jews shouted at the ruler, Pilate, “Let him be impaled!” Even Pilate, the ruler in the Roman province, did not want Jesus killed; but when he saw that an uproar was arising, Pilate took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying: “I am innocent of the blood of this man. You yourselves must see to it.” “At that all the people said in answer: ‘His blood come upon us and upon our children.’ Then he released Barabbas to them, but he had Jesus whipped and handed him over to be impaled.” (Matt. 27:24-26) You hear the same kind of cries today by false religionists against true followers of Jesus.
15. (a) Does this opposition against Jehovah’s witnesses in Greece cause them to shrink back in fear? (b) What would the Greek Orthodox clergy do well to consider?
15 Despite all the outcries of the Greek clergy, Jehovah’s witnesses in Greece increased by 9 percent during the year 1963. There are now 10,507 of Jehovah’s witnesses, all Christians, preaching the good news of God’s kingdom. They have spent more than 1,100,000 hours talking to persons interested in Bible study. Have the Greek Orthodox clergy spent that much time going from house to house teaching the people of Greece the things they learned from God’s Word? Or, have they spent most of their time telling the people not to listen to Jehovah’s witnesses and seeing to it that Jehovah’s witnesses are arrested for teaching the Bible to people who want to hear? Have the Greek clergy gone to the homes of their parishioners and conducted 4,245 Bible studies each week with persons who want to know what the Bible contains? We wish they would! Jehovah’s witnesses did that in Greece in the year 1963.
16. As in the days of the apostles, who today seek to stop the preaching of the good news?
16 In the days of the apostles, it was false religionists who tried to stop the faithful followers of Christ from preaching the good news, and today it is false religionists who are doing the same thing. Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and the Protestant clergy are not training all their congregation members to be ministers; rather, their members feel they should keep quiet and not say a word about Jesus or his kingdom to anyone else. Is that walking in the steps of Jesus Christ?
17, 18. (a) Though called on to stop preaching, what was the apostles’ answer? (b) Is it any different today, and how must Christians view proselyting?
17 Returning to the account in Acts, we find that the religious leaders called the apostles back into their presence and “charged them, nowhere to make any utterance or to teach upon the basis of the name of Jesus. But in reply Peter and John said to them: ‘Whether it is righteous in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves. But as for us, we cannot stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard.’”—Acts 4:18-20.
18 So it must be today for every person who claims to be a Christian. If your “church” does not encourage you to preach publicly and from house to house about God’s kingdom, then heed heaven’s command: “Get out of her . . . if you do not want to share with her in her sins . . . and receive part of her plagues.” (Rev. 18:4, 5) You must speak about the things you have seen and heard in God’s Word. You cannot be silent! When, for instance, the Greek Orthodox Church claims that no one (in this case meaning Jehovah’s witnesses) may go about doing proselyting work, that is, preaching to other people about the Bible, they are going absolutely contrary to the commandment of God as stated in the Bible, God’s Word. What were Peter and John doing in Jerusalem? They were preaching God’s Word to the Jews, changing them from one religion to another, from traditional Jews to Christians. They were able to do it because they were preaching the truth. Jehovah’s witnesses are doing a similar thing today.
19, 20. What was the Christians’ answer to Hitler when he forbade the preaching of God’s kingdom, and with what result by 1963?
19 Hitler, a Roman Catholic, the arm of his church in Germany, forbade Jehovah’s witnesses to preach the kingdom of God, and these modern-day Christians had to say to Hitler’s Gestapo police: ‘Whether it is righteous in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves.’ They kept preaching even though 10,000 of them were put in concentration camps and over 4,000 died there. The rest nearly starved to death. The war’s end aided their survival.
20 In 1933 Hitler signed a concordat with the Roman Catholic Church, even as Mussolini, the head of the Italian government in his day, had done. But even if the rulers of countries make agreements with religious organizations, Jehovah’s witnesses living in those countries cannot forget God’s Word. They must serve God, ‘speaking about the things we have seen and heard.’ Even though these were threatened with death, the rulers were unable to stop the preaching activity of Jehovah’s people. Today Hitler and Mussolini are gone, but Jehovah’s witnesses are preaching in greater numbers than ever in their countries. Today there are 78,043 ministers in West Germany, and in Italy there are 7,801 witnesses of Jehovah telling out the good news.
21, 22. (a) How long-lasting is truth even when its proclaimers are persecuted? (b) When Peter and John related the experience to their fellow Christians what did they all together raise their voices and say?
21 No one can destroy the truth. Truth is always right, though everyone opposes it. The apostle Paul said: “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.” (Rom. 3:4) Just because Peter and John spoke the truth, saying they healed a lame man in the name of Jesus, they were jailed and threatened. Finally they were released because the Jewish court “did not find any ground on which to punish them and on account of the people.”—Acts 4:21, 22.
22 Peter and John hastened “to their own people and reported what things the chief priests and the older men had said to them.” Then, all together, they raised their voices to God and said: “‘Why did nations become tumultuous and peoples meditate upon empty things? The kings of the earth took their stand and the rulers massed together as one against Jehovah and against his anointed one.’ Even so, both Herod and Pontius Pilate with men of nations and with peoples of Israel were in actuality gathered together in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.”—Acts 4:23-27.
23. (a) How did Liberia’s president Tubman show he felt toward Jehovah’s Christian witnesses? (b) What question would be logical to ask after reading President Tubman’s public statement about Jehovah’s witnesses?
23 Just as it was in the days of the apostles, so Christians today must put up with the empty things the rulers meditate on. Just because Jehovah’s witnesses refuse to salute the flag of Liberia under pressure by the army, Watch Tower Society missionaries were expelled from that country. It is easy for the religious president, Tubman, to say “the Jehovah’s Witnesses as a sect are welcome in this country [Liberia] but they will be required to conform to the law requiring all persons to salute the flag when it is being hoisted or lowered at ceremonies in their sight, or keep away from such ceremonies.” But the question must be asked of the president: How can Christians keep away from such a ceremony, which is idolatrous, when an army comes to an assembly ground of Jehovah’s witnesses and at gunpoint makes everyone march to a compound where a flag is raised and where force is used to try to make everyone salute the flag of the Republic of Liberia? Will that make the individual a better Liberian or a better Christian? This whole story appears in the Awake! magazine of August 8, 1963. Has President Tubman put himself in the class of Hitler and Mussolini?
24. Where else have Christian witnesses had difficulty, and why?
24 The ruler in Haiti too expelled missionaries who were carrying on a good work of preaching God’s kingdom and teaching the people to study the Bible. In Spain Christian missionaries have been expelled because of conducting Bible studies in people’s homes. The same is true of Portugal. Meeting places in private homes of Jehovah’s witnesses in Roman Catholic Spain and Portugal have been invaded, and many individuals have been put in prison. Why? Because those people were studying the Bible with other Christians. So the rulers have taken their stand and have massed together against Jehovah and against his servants. They must certainly know that Jehovah’s witnesses are not interested in upsetting their governments or causing any disturbance to them. The rulers further know that Jehovah’s witnesses are well-behaved people. Why must the ruler be fearful? The only reason is that Jehovah’s witnesses preach the good news of God’s kingdom.
25. Therefore, what can the true followers of Christ expect?
25 Are you preaching this good news today? If you are, you too are doing Christian work and someday will be as much looked down upon by false religionists as the apostles were. Do not be surprised if it happens to you. Christians can expect such treatment. Jesus said: “You will be haled before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and the nations.”—Matt. 10:18.
SPEAKING WITH BOLDNESS
26. What was the prayer of Peter and John, and does it apply to Christians today?
26 Nineteen hundred years ago Peter and John asked Jehovah God to “give attention to their threats, and grant your slaves to keep speaking your word with all boldness.” This prayer God answered right away, because “they were one and all filled with the holy spirit and were speaking the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:29, 31) Jehovah did not show any partiality then, neither does he now, for it is the same holy spirit, God’s active force, that each dedicated servant of God wants so he can speak with the boldness necessary to keep on declaring the Word of God even though threats come from archbishops, presidents or dictators of countries, clergy or anyone else. Because of “speaking the word of God with boldness” today Christians will have the same results as Peter and John had, regardless of threats and opposition. They, too, can joyfully say: “Believers in the Lord kept on being added, multitudes both of men and of women.”—Acts 5:14.
27. (a) At the time of the second arrest of the apostles what unusual happening occurred? (b) What may have well come into the minds of these men of God?
27 The people in Jerusalem were interested in truth and wanted to hear what the apostles had to say. But not so the false religionists! So again “the high priest and all those with him, the then existing sect of the Sadducees, rose and became filled with jealousy, and they laid hands upon the apostles and put them in the public place of custody.” (Acts 5:17, 18) This was the second time for Peter and John, but they had company. The rest of the apostles were locked up with them too. Now something very unusual happened. The angel of Jehovah stepped into the picture and did what Jehovah told him to do. The apostles were unafraid, being well acquainted with the words of the psalmist: “The angel of Jehovah is camping all around those fearing him, and he rescues them,” and they would remember what Jesus said: “For I tell you that their angels in heaven always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Ps. 34:7; Matt. 18:6, 10) They also knew that angels took a great interest in happenings on the earth. They were acquainted with the facts of the birth of Jesus when the shepherds were living out of doors and watching their flocks. “And suddenly Jehovah’s angel stood by them, and Jehovah’s glory gleamed around them, . . . and suddenly there came to be with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God.” (Luke 2:9, 13) All these thoughts may have flashed through their minds when “during the night Jehovah’s angel opened the doors of the prison, [and] brought them out.”
28, 29. What next took place, and what command were they given?
28 Can you imagine the astonishment, the look of amazement on their faces? The doors of the prison opened. No protest came from the guards. Here is an angel directing them out of the prison. When they are all outside, the angel speaks: “Be on your way, and, having taken a stand in the temple, keep on speaking to the people all the sayings about this life.”—Acts 5:20.
29 What could be more definite! The command given to the apostles by the angel could not be made any plainer than that. Some days earlier they had asked Jehovah God to give attention to the threats of the rulers “and grant your slaves to keep speaking your word with all boldness.” When “they had made supplication, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were one and all filled with the holy spirit and were speaking the word of God with boldness.” For doing this the whole group of apostles were imprisoned this time. Now, here is more assurance that they had done the right thing. An angel is pointing toward the temple: “Be on your way, and, having taken a stand in the temple, keep on speaking to the people all the sayings about this life.” What satisfaction this must have meant to them!
30. Having this answer to their prayers for boldness, what attitude did the apostles have, and where were they at daybreak?
30 The apostles had been in the temple day after day doing what God told them to do, and thousands of people had heard them preach. There at the temple is where they belonged. There is where Jehovah was going to keep them, despite the false religionists. What joy, what confidence, what gratitude was theirs! They were right in what they were doing! Those religionists were wrong and fighting against God. Here was a direct command from Jehovah by his angel or messenger as to what to do. Were they filled with zeal? O yes! “After hearing this, they entered into the temple at daybreak and began to teach.”—Acts 5:21.
EXTENDING THE GOOD NEWS WORLDWIDE
31. (a) Why was there no stopping of the apostles then, and why will there be no stopping of Jehovah’s witnesses today? (b) To what extent must the good news be preached?
31 There was no stopping the apostles then, and there will be no stopping of Jehovah’s witnesses today, by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness. Why? Because the truth from God’s Word must be preached. Jehovah’s witnesses have the very same command that the apostles had. They have the very same message from the Word of God and they believe it just as firmly today as did the apostles. The work of declaring this good news of God’s kingdom around the whole earth is getting greater every year. This is no time for Christians to be fearful. At Pentecost the Christians began preaching in Jerusalem, first at the upper room. In time they took in all the Promised Land and then a much larger assignment, an assignment Jesus said must be covered: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.”—Matt. 28:19, 20.
32. How do Jehovah’s witnesses seek angelic direction today, and what does Revelation 14:6, 7, show as to the work of such heavenly servants of God?
32 Jehovah’s witnesses today are trying hard to accomplish the very thing that Jesus commanded his followers to keep doing, namely, fulfill their commission to disciple people of all nations. They bear constantly in mind these words: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:14) Jehovah’s witnesses still seek angelic direction but now go to God’s written Word to see what is to be done. We can see in our mind’s eye what John saw in vision: “And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, and he had everlasting good news to declare as glad tidings to those who dwell on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people, saying in a loud voice: ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of the judgment by him has arrived, and so worship the One who made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters.’” (Rev. 14:6, 7) That is an assignment! Not just for the angel, but for those who appreciate the work God wants done on the earth.
33. While the angel flying in midheaven is not seen literally by Jehovah’s people, what do they see and then do?
33 Jehovah’s witnesses today fully realize that Jehovah God has used angels in times past, and while they do not actually see the angel flying in midheaven now, they do see through John’s vision that the message of this angel must be declared today in its every detail. More than one million proclaimers of the “everlasting good news” are going from house to house around this earth declaring glad tidings to everyone everywhere regardless of his circumstances or nationality.
34. How widespread is the preaching of the “everlasting good news” in our day?
34 So what was happening back there in Jerusalem on a small scale with the angel freeing the apostles and telling them to go into the temple area, there to speak again, is occurring in these last days on a worldwide scale. The angel in midheaven is directing God’s people to preach the “everlasting good news,” that everyone may have the opportunity to “fear God and give him glory.” No one who is dedicated to Jehovah can hesitate for a minute from telling all peoples to “worship the One who made the heaven and the earth.”
35. What attitude do rulers and religious leaders have toward Jehovah’s witnesses today?
35 The rulers and false religionists of the earth today do not like Jehovah’s witnesses to do this any more than the rulers and priests did in the days of the apostles. When Jehovah’s witnesses are arrested today they usually have to stay in prison longer than the apostles experienced in these accounts, but in God’s due time they are released. It took ten years or more to release many of Jehovah’s witnesses from the concentration camps in Hitler’s time, but these Christians did get out; and today they are listening to the angel flying in midheaven and, with their brothers worldwide, are declaring the “everlasting good news” as glad tidings.
36. (a) Returning to the days of the apostles, what do we now note happening in Jerusalem? (b) Where are the apostles reported as being found, and how can we be sure that was where they would be?
36 Let us look at our apostolic patternmakers again, our exemplars in good works. Right at daybreak the apostles entered into the temple and began to teach. Now when the high priest and the Sadducees had got together and they assembled the older men of the sons of Israel, and they sent out to the jail to have the apostles brought to them, they learned from the officers that the apostles were not there. These men reported to the religious leaders: “The jail we found locked with all security and the guards standing at the doors, but on opening up we found no one inside.” The angel had taken care of everything. After he had opened the doors of the prison and had brought the apostles out, then he closed them again, locked them, and none of the guards knew what had happened, except now they learned they were guarding an empty prison. This was a disturbing situation for the captain of the temple and for the chief priests. Just about this time, when they were all worrying and were concerned over what had taken place, a certain man arrived and reported to them: “Look! The men you put in the prison are in the temple, standing and teaching the people.” This was where the angel had instructed them to go and that is where they went, to do the work God had directed them to do. “Then the captain went off with his officers and proceeded to bring” the apostles to this religious crowd, “but without violence, as they were afraid of being stoned by the people.”—Acts 5:20-26.
OBEYING GOD RATHER THAN MEN
37, 38. (a) Brought before the rulers, how did Peter fearlessly answer his accusers who demanded that the apostles stop preaching? (b) What is the situation today in this regard?
37 As the apostles stood before these rulers in the Sanhedrin hall and heard the questions of the high priest, they were not quivering and were not fearful. They had the protection of Jehovah God and of the unseen angels. Therefore, after the rulers said: “We positively ordered you not to keep teaching upon the basis of this name, and yet, look! you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you are determined to bring the blood of this man upon us,” Peter and the other apostles said: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men. The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus, whom you slew, hanging him upon a stake. God exalted this one as Chief Agent and Savior to his right hand, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these matters, and so is the holy spirit, which God has given to those obeying him as ruler.” (Acts 5:27-32) It took boldness to say what they did to the rulers, but what they said was the truth. They were Christians.
38 That is the very position every dedicated Christian must take today. Knowledge of Jehovah God and his Son, Jesus, causes a Christian to declare that Jesus Christ has been exalted as Chief Agent and Savior and now sits at the right hand of his Father “until I [Jehovah] place your enemies as a stool for your feet.”—Acts 2:34-36.
39. What may faithfulness to God mean for the Christian, and yet what does he continue to do?
39 Faithfulness to the Christian mission means some inconveniences, threats, hardships and trials, and perhaps even death in some instances. So the priests and Sadducees felt ill-disposed toward the apostles, as the record shows: “When they heard this, they felt deeply cut and were wanting to do away with them.” (Acts 5:33) Sometime later Stephen was stoned to death because he spoke the truth. (Acts 7:54-60) In this modern age we see like things happening when fanatics, filled with the spirit of this world, object to the ministry of Jehovah’s witnesses. Still, when a Christian knows he is right and is commissioned to declare the “everlasting good news,” he continues to preach the glad tidings with boldness.
40. How did Gamaliel view this trial before the Sanhedrin, and what conclusions did he reach?
40 During all this excitement back there in the days of the apostles, a man of wisdom, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, stood up and said: “Men of Israel, pay attention to yourselves as to what you intend to do respecting these men. For instance, before these days Theudas rose, saying he himself was somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined his party. But he was done away with, and all those who were obeying him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose in the days of the registration, and he drew off people after him. And yet that man perished, and all those who were obeying him were scattered abroad. And so, under the present circumstances, I say to you, Do not meddle with these men, but let them alone; (because, if this scheme or this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them;) otherwise, you may perhaps be found fighters actually against God.” At this they gave heed to Gamaliel, “and they summoned the apostles, flogged them, and ordered them to stop speaking upon the basis of Jesus’ name, and let them go.” There should be more men today like Gamaliel to counsel the religious leaders and rulers as to the course they should take.—Acts 5:35-40.
41. How did the apostles view the flogging they received and the threats?
41 The flogging did not change matters for the apostles. They had been beaten before. They had been in prison before. They had been threatened before. There was an unseen power backing them up that the rulers did not recognize. It was Jehovah God, his Son, Christ Jesus, and a multitude of angels, and the holy spirit that God was sending to strengthen his earthly servants. These faithful Christians, “therefore, went their way from before the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name. And every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ.” Do you have that kind of faith? Would you listen to an angel of Jehovah and do what the apostles did? True Christians will!—Acts 5:41, 42.
42. Having listened with joy to the angel, how did the apostles show boldness in declaring the good news?
42 What joy the apostles had because they listened to the angel! They moved out into greater fields of service in vindication of Jehovah’s name and word. They strengthened the growing congregation of God in their day. Eventually, these apostles along with many other faithful, tried followers moved out into other regions, not just among the Jews, but among the Gentiles. These others of every tribe and tongue and people were given the opportunity of learning the truth and “the sayings about this life” that Jesus had told his followers about. The apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, told of his keen interest in “the sayings about this life” when he gave them his wonderful argument in proof of the resurrection of the dead.—1 Cor. 15:1-57.
43, 44. What encouragement is given to modern-day Christian witnesses of Jehovah, and what will they continue to pray?
43 Christians will now imitate those apostles who did what God’s angel told them to do. Jehovah’s angels today are directing his people in his organization throughout the earth as these declare the message of “everlasting good news.” So take courage. Share in the preaching work. Do it with boldness, having confidence in God’s Word. “For he will give his own angels a command concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.” (Ps. 91:11) In proof of this Paul asks the question: “Are they not all spirits for public service, sent forth to minister for those who are going to inherit salvation?” (Heb. 1:14) His question calls for the answer Yes.
44 Are you, then, interested in salvation through Christ Jesus? Peter and John were and said: “There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.” (Acts 4:12) If you have the faith a Christian must have in Christ Jesus, then in order to succeed in this fast-fading system of things you will continue to pray to be “filled with the holy spirit” and as a result you will be “speaking the word of God with boldness.”—Acts 4:31.
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Friday, July 26, 1963
Greece Prohibits Meetings By Jehovah’s Witnesses
ATHENS, July 25 (Reuter) — The Greek government has banned all public meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it was announced today.
The ban was imposed following warnings from Greek Orthodox organizations that they would stage protest marches from Salonika to Athens if the sect were allowed to hold a mass rally here on Tuesday.
Announcing the ban, the undersecretary for the interior today ordered police to forbid any meeting whatsoever of the sect—numbering some 20,000 members in Greece—in the interests of “peace and order.”
Archbishop Chrysostomos, primate of Greece, has led all Greek Orthodox organizations in a general outcry against the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ rally, which he called a “shameful congress of atheists and anarchists.”
In a letter to the prime minister, Panayotis Pipinelis, he said unless the rally were banned, he would be compelled to “defend everything sacred and to lead the clergy and the people” in an all-out action against the sect.