Do Christians Need “This Good News of the Kingdom”?
WHAT was your reaction when one of Jehovah’s witnesses first approached you and explained that he had come to preach the “good news of the kingdom” to you? If you are a member of one of Christendom’s religious organizations, you may have thought, as some have expressed themselves: ‘Why don’t you go to someone who needs it, to those who do not believe in Christianity? My preacher preaches the Kingdom, in fact, has done so for many years.’
It is understandable that you feel this way. On the other hand, give some thought to this question: Does not the very fact that you are a member of a religion mean that you are looking for something good that is to come? And did God not in the past send progressive new messages of good news to his people at different times? When Jesus was born in Bethlehem about the beginning of our Common Era, angels announced this as good news. (Luke 2:10) About thirty years later, six months before Jesus was baptized at the Jordan River and began his ministry, God considered it good news to the extent that he sent a special messenger, John the Baptist, to proclaim it to the Jews. (Matt. 3:1, 2) This was in fulfillment of the good news that God had given Abraham. (Gal. 3:8) When Jesus died, his disciples were very sad, but when he was resurrected, and he told them that all power had been given him in heaven and in earth, this, to the disciples, was the best news of all to date. (Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:50-53) But before Jesus died he told his disciples of an even better good news that would be proclaimed on a worldwide scale in a time far distant from their day.
TODAY’S GOOD NEWS DIRECTED FIRST TO CHRISTIANS
This is the first of two very good reasons why the good news of the Kingdom being preached by Jehovah’s witnesses today is of greater interest to Christians than to any other people. In fact, it is sent specifically and first of all to them. Everyone who professes to be a Christian should at least examine what the good news is that is being proclaimed, for it is a special good news for our day to Christians. Let us see how this is true.
When Jesus was on earth he opened up his Galilean ministry with the announcement, “The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matt. 4:17) John had begun making that announcement the year previous. Jesus’ disciples took up the good news of the earthly presence of Jesus the King and proclaimed it widely throughout Palestine during Jesus’ three-and-a-half-years’ ministry in association with them. He told them, however, that he would have to go away from them and that in time he would return, after receiving Kingdom power. They were very concerned about his return, for they knew that it would mean that they would sit on thrones in his kingdom with him. Therefore they asked him shortly before his death: “What will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” (Matt. 24:3) In answer Jesus described a long list of events that would take place to mark this time of his second presence and, among other things, he said: “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.
After Jesus’ death his disciples no longer proclaimed ‘the kingdom is at hand,’ for the King was not at hand among them. They preached the Kingdom to come. The preachers of Christendom have been preaching a kingdom to come through the past centuries. But notice that Jesus was talking about the time of the end, when he said: “THIS good news of the kingdom will be preached.” Yes, the good news of the King at hand would again be preached, meaning that the Kingdom had been obtained by the King and that he had returned to exercise Kingdom power. In other words, this good news of the kingdom would be the good news that at last the Kingdom had been established in power. The purpose of the preaching of it would be for a witness. It would therefore be done by Kingdom witnesses who would be Christians.
Do you believe that this is true? or would you like to have further proof? Then consider this fact: The apostle John lived to work vigorously for more than sixty years in proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom to come in the future. Yet close to the end of the first century C.E. John was given a vision of future historical events, and included among the things to take place at the time of judgment of the nations was a special good news:
“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.
Did this mean that John had not been preaching the good news heretofore? Not at all. It means that there was a further and greater good news to be proclaimed in future times.a Notice that the angel flew relatively near the earth, for midheaven is described in the Bible as the place where the birds fly. (Rev. 19:17) Did it signify that an angel would literally shake the earth with a thunderous voice? No, for God is not going to take the message out of the hands of Christ’s followers on earth. Christ told them: “You will be witnesses of me . . . to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) But Jesus said that, when he arrived in his glory, he would have the angels with him. (Matt. 25:31) In the prophecy of Revelation he shows that “this good news” would be so important that he would use mighty heavenly angels in directing the preaching of it to the ends of the earth for a witness. The message would not be delivered directly or audibly by the angel in midheaven, but by people on earth, by worshipers who fear God and give him glory. Flying in midheaven and with a loud superhuman voice would mean that it would be heard over a wide radius from that height as he orbited the earth. It was good news deserving to be heard and given attention by everybody dwelling on the earth. The good news would come, not from politicians or earthly rulers, but from heaven, and it would affect every person living on earth, man, woman and child.
The fact that more than a million persons, mostly in the lands known as Christendom, have recognized “this good news” as truly announcing the establishment of the Kingdom for which they have prayed, supplies incentive to listen. These persons have analyzed the announcement carefully and the effectiveness and the power of the good news is such that in 1965, 1,034,268 were regularly proclaiming “this good news.” They devoted 171,247,644 hours and conducted 770,595 home Bible studies with more who are listening. The previous year’s proclamation (1964) added to their ranks 64,393 proclaimers.
A SECOND REASON CHRISTIANS SHOULD LISTEN
There is a second urgent reason why all persons who belong to a religion of Christendom should give more than the usual attention to this good news of the Kingdom being preached. That reason is that there is a judgment message that accompanies the good news, as the angel flying in midheaven goes on to say 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. 14:7.
Now, the word “judgment” is a word generally connected with fearful implications in the minds of most people, but here it is really good news. Why? Because Jehovah God’s judgment hour having arrived means that he, the Supreme Judge, will straighten out all matters in perfect justice, vindicating his own universal sovereignty and holy name and delivering his faithful servants from bondage and slavery to the Devil’s oppressive organization. His judgments in force will truly be the panacea for human ills and injustices.
Revelation’s next Re 14 verse 8 goes on to tell us just what part of the oppressive organization of this world is judged first. When you see what it is you certainly have reason to be happy, for it has been the most vicious instrument that Satan has used. It has been the key enemy of the worship of God since its beginning. It has been doubly insidious in that its very identity has been shrouded in mystery and it has thereby been able to make many sincere, conscientious people serve its vile purpose. It has to do with wrong religious worship and practice, which makes it most dangerous and destructive of all, for it directly affects the morals and lives, even the hope of future life, of its practicers. O how good it is to see this deceptive instrument of the Devil exposed and judged! John, describing his vision, goes on to say:
“And another, a second angel, followed, saying: ‘She has fallen! Babylon the great has fallen, she who made all the nations drink of the passion-arousing wine of her fornication!’”—Rev. 14:8.
By the time Revelation was written (about the year 96 C.E.) Babylon, of course, had not been a world power for centuries. What was left of the city was declining toward its final disappearance. It had been good news when ancient Babylon had been overthrown in the sixth century B.C.E. During Babylon’s existence her name had become synonymous with enmity toward the Most High God and with that which is cruel and oppressive. But now here is something even worse—Babylon the Great. Surely we should inform ourselves as to what she is.
Babylon the Great is named after a city, but she is only a symbolic city, like the city that Revelation 11:8 describes as “the great city which is in a spiritual sense called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was also impaled.” What is this city, this spiritual Babylon the Great?
THE OUTSTANDING FEATURE OF BABYLON
To understand what she is it is necessary for us to take a brief flashback. Babylon originally was founded as a breakaway from the worship of Jehovah and from allegiance to him as God, for Babylon was established by the rebel Nimrod, stigmatized in the Bible as “Nimrod a mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah.” The pagan city came to be called by its inhabitants the “Gate of God.” However, Jehovah called the city Babel, which means “Confusion,” because he confused the language of the builders of the city and its tower. (Gen. 10:8-10; 11:5-9) From that time on, Babylon was always against God’s chosen people. In the days of Nebuchadnezzar it rose to the height of power and delighted in the opportunity to overthrow the dynasty of King David, who ruled in Jerusalem. It apparently had swallowed down the chosen nation of Israel “like a big snake” or dragon. (Jer. 51:34) Babylon’s purpose was to keep Israel down.
When we think of the ancient city of Babylon, what feature stands out most remarkably? Of what trait are we at once reminded? Well, Babylon was, of course, a political city. It was militaristic and highly commercial and materialistic. But the one thing that overshadowed its other features by far and for which it is best known in history is its religiousness. Even Assyria, which was very religious, kept detailed records in which even the names and political outcomes of the kings of Judah and Israel were frequently included with historical backdrop, but cuneiform inscriptions dug up in the Middle East show that in Babylon the main emphasis was placed on religion, for the records of Babylon under the dynasty of Nebuchadnezzar mention little else than the religious and architectural events of the time, ignoring what happened to the kingdom of Judah. An ancient cuneiform inscription gives us some idea of just how religious ancient Babylon was:
Altogether there are in Babylon 53 temples of the chief gods, 55 chapels of Marduk, 300 chapels for the earthly deities, 600 for the heavenly deities, 180 altars for the goddess Ishtar, 180 for the gods Nergal and Adad and 12 other altars for different gods.
Regarding Babylon’s greatest king, Nebuchadnezzar, The Encyclopædia Britannicab says: “From his inscriptions we gather that Nebuchadnezzar was a man of peculiarly religious character.” His successors were also religious.
As to the hold of the Babylonish religion upon the people of Babylonia, historical records show that Babylon was a “land of graven images” (Jer. 50:38), that its priests ruled on nearly every activity of the Babylonian’s life and that the people could undertake no important activity without consulting the Babylonian priests and practitioners of magical arts.
Even a great part of the commercial life of Babylon was fully controlled by religion, for the Babylonian priests turned all the sacrificial animals and all the religious tithes that people presented each day on the altars, especially the quickly perishable things, into money as soon as they could. Just as in Abraham’s hometown of Ur of the Chaldeans, the temple authorities had their necessary warehouses and ran their own department stores. They saw good to invest their religious revenue and so ran their own banks for that purpose.c Do you see anything like this in religion today?
BABYLON’S FIGHT, AND ITS NEW OPPONENT
Religious Babylon had been against God’s true worshipers when Nimrod established it. Later, when the tongues were confused and Babylon’s people were scattered, they carried their false religion to other parts of the earth. Consequently, wherever true worship was practiced false Babylonish religion was there to oppose it. In 539 B.C.E., when Babylon fell to the Medes and the Persians, its religion continued. It had tried to swallow up the Jews permanently when it took them into captivity but was forced to release them. However, its religion made strong efforts and did succeed in influencing and corrupting the Jewish religion, so that when Jesus appeared on earth he was bitterly opposed and put to death. But now in Christianity the religion of Babylon came up against something new, even though Christianity began with or among the Jews. Her religion came up against the faith of Christ’s apostles. Babylon’s religion had fought against earthly Zion, but now set herself to fight against spiritual Zion as represented by the Christian witnesses of Jehovah. Would she have success in this fight?
All along, Satan the Devil has used Babylonish false religion as an instrument to fight against God’s people, and we can be sure that now that wily adversary of Jehovah would be more vicious than ever in his fight. In our next issue we shall discuss how, by means of Babylonish false religion, he contrived the most treacherous and diabolical plot ever conceived and carried out. We shall see how it has deceived and ensnared many, has tested the faith of true Christians to the limit and has brought great distress upon all the peoples of the earth. So the message of this day that a judgment time has arrived is certainly good news, something over which to rejoice. “This good news of the kingdom” is therefore something needed by all, especially by Christians, for it is only with the Kingdom established in power in the hand of Jesus Christ that the judgment of Babylon’s religion could come about. If you are not fully aware of the fact that Christ has received the Kingdom and has returned invisibly in Kingdom power, and if you do not know the extent to which Satan has used Babylon’s religion to infiltrate even Christendom and her religions, you need to give attention to this good news of the Kingdom. You will enjoy and appreciate the forthcoming issues of this magazine, which will discuss and expose this plot and will show how God has unveiled Babylon the Great and stripped her of her mysteries in this day when she will be judged and put out of existence, to the great relief and blessing of all true Christians, who uphold the pure worship of Jehovah God.
a For details on this, and how it came to be understood first in the year 1920 C.E. that “this good news of the kingdom” at Matthew 24:14 is of the Kingdom established in power in the heavens, soon to exercise full control of earth’s affairs, see the bound book “Babylon the Great Has Fallen!” God’s Kingdom Rules! by Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society (1963), pages 462-467.
b Volume 19, page 332a (edition of 1911).
c See The Bible as History, by W. Keller, pages 287, 289. London Edition. Also Young’s Concordance supplement (1879 edition), pages 33, 34.