Heavenly Support of Kingdom Preaching
“Jehovah’s angel opened the doors of the prison, brought them out and said: ‘Be on your way, and . . . keep on speaking to the people.’”—Acts 5:19, 20.
1. (a) Knowledge of what fact can inspire a person to press on zealously in his work? (b) What, therefore, have worldly leaders done, but why is God not supporting them?
IT IS a comforting, reassuring thought that one is being supported in what one is doing by Almighty God and his invisible, heavenly angels. Certain knowledge of this fact can infuse a person with such courage and zeal that no obstacle, regardless of its size, is able to slow him down or stop him from pressing on with the work. It is understandable, therefore, that religious and political rulers of the world have often endeavored to inspire their people to greater efforts by telling them that God is backing them up. They frequently do this during wartime, and the result is that each opposing side claims Almighty God’s support. However, these men have no certain evidence of heavenly support of their activities. To the contrary, because they seek their own ends and refuse to heed God’s laws, even their “prayer is something detestable” to Him.—Prov. 28:9; Jas. 4:1-3.
2. (a) What evidence is there that Jesus received heavenly support? (b) Why did Jesus receive this help from heaven?
2 On the other hand, Jesus Christ, who faithfully submitted to God’s will and preached His kingdom message, was confident of God’s support. On the last night of his earthly life, while in the garden of Gethsemane, he told his apostle Peter: “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father to supply me at this moment more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53) Not only did Jesus profess to have heavenly support, but he had certain knowledge of it. Why, just some minutes before speaking to Peter out there in the garden, “an angel from heaven appeared to [Jesus] and strengthened him.” Also, three and a half years earlier, at the beginning of his earthly ministry, “angels came and began to minister to him.” (Luke 22:43; Matt. 4:11) The reason why Jesus received this help from heaven is that he was doing the will of God. Jehovah God was keenly interested in his Son’s activity of Kingdom preaching, and supported him.
3. What Scriptural assurance is there that Jehovah supports and protects his servants?
3 That God actually shares in the ministerial activity of his servants is shown by the inspired writings of the apostle Paul concerning the preaching work: “What, then, is Apollos? Yes, what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, even as the Lord granted each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow; so that neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes it grow. For we are God’s fellow workers.” (1 Cor. 3:5-7, 9) How wonderful to know that Jehovah God backs up and supports his ministers! His fellow workers can confidently sing, as did the Bible psalmist: “Jehovah is on my side; I shall not fear. What can earthling man do to me? Jah is my shelter and my might, and to me he becomes salvation.”—Ps. 118:6, 14.
JEHOVAH PROVIDES HEAVENLY SUPPORT
4. Who might have doubts that God’s servants enjoy heavenly support, and who in ancient times apparently had no thought of this?
4 Do you really believe that Jehovah God backs up his servants and uses his heavenly angels to support them? Persons who are not closely acquainted with the works of Jehovah might have doubts that he does. There was a man in the nation of Israel in the tenth century B.C.E. who apparently had no thought of this. He was the attendant of Jehovah’s prophet Elisha.
5, 6. (a) Why did the Syrian king want to capture Elisha? (b) Although he was surrounded, how was it that Elisha and his attendant were rescued?
5 The Israelites were God’s chosen people, and so when the nation of Syria became involved in war with Israel, Jehovah revealed to his servant Elisha what military maneuvers the king of Syria was planning. By thus receiving advance warning from Elisha, the Israelites were able repeatedly to avoid traps prepared for them. When the Syrian king finally learned who was revealing his well-laid military stratagems, he sent out a heavy military force to capture Elisha. The Bible record explains: “They proceeded to come by night and close in upon the city. When the minister of the man of the true God [Elisha] rose early to get up, and went out, why, there a military force was surrounding the city with horses and war chariots. At once his attendant said to him: ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’”—2 Ki. 6:14, 15.
6 It appeared that the Syrians were about to capture Elisha. He and his attendant were surrounded. There was no way of escape. Or was there? Elisha was confident of heavenly support, and so told his attendant: “‘Do not be afraid, for there are more who are with us than those who are with them.’ And Elisha began to pray and say: ‘O Jehovah, open his eyes, please, that he may see.’ Immediately Jehovah opened the attendant’s eyes, so that he saw; and, look! the mountainous region was full of horses and war chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Ki. 6:16, 17) Yes, powerful angelic forces were backing up Elisha! They rescued him and his attendant, striking blind all the enemy troops. The Bible psalm certainly is true: “The angel of Jehovah is camping all around those fearing him, and he rescues them.”—Ps. 34:7; 91:11.
7, 8. (a) Why were three Israelites in ancient Babylon thrown into a fiery furnace? (b) What protection did these men receive, and from whom?
7 However, it was not just this once, but on many other occasions in the past that Jehovah God used his heavenly angels to support and rescue his faithful servants. There was the time in Babylon that the three Israelites Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down and worship a huge gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar commanded to be set up. In faithfulness to Bible law they would worship only Jehovah God. (Ex. 20:3-5; Deut. 6:5) Therefore, King Nebuchadnezzar had the three of them thrown into a superheated fiery furnace. It was so hot that even the strong men throwing them in were killed. But what of the three Israelites?
8 Looking into the flames, King Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed: “‘Was it not three able-bodied men that we threw bound into the midst of the fire?’ They were answering and saying to the king: ‘Yes, O king.’ He was answering and saying: ‘Look! I am beholding four able-bodied men walking about free in the midst of the fire, and there is no hurt to them, and the appearance of the fourth one is resembling a son of the gods.’” It was amazing! Divine support was provided for these faithful servants of Jehovah! After petitioning them to come out, and observing that they were not even singed nor had the smell of fire, Nebuchadnezzar said: “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who sent his angel and rescued his servants that trusted in him.”—Dan. 3:24-28.
9, 10. (a) Why was Daniel thrown into a lions’ pit? (b) How was he protected there, and by whom?
9 Just a few years later Jehovah God provided similar angelic support for his Israelite servant Daniel. By this time Babylon had been overthrown by the Medes and Persians, and Daniel had been appointed a top official in the new government. However, his successfulness caused other officials to seek his downfall. Wickedly, they induced the king to pass a law that prohibited for thirty days petitions to any god or man except the king, a law Daniel could not abide by. Thus the king was forced to have Daniel thrown into the lions’ pit, since Daniel could not even for one day cease worshiping Jehovah God.—Dan. 6:1-17.
10 That night the king could not sleep. Finally, at dawn, he hurried to the lions’ pit and cried out with a sad voice: “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you are serving with constancy been able to rescue you from the lions?” Daniel answered: “My own God sent his angel and shut the mouth of the lions, and they have not brought me to ruin.” (Dan. 6:18-22) Truly, the heavenly angels served in a wonderful way to support God’s faithful servants in times past.
HEAVENLY SUPPORT OF EARLY CHRISTIANS
11. (a) To whom did Jehovah transfer his favor? (b) Why did these ones need heavenly support?
11 In time Jehovah transferred his favor from the unfaithful Israelite nation and bestowed it upon the followers of his sent-forth Son, Jesus Christ. And just as God’s angelic forces supported and strengthened Jesus and faithful Israelites before him, so they did also the members of the Christian congregation. These certainly needed support, for the message they preached concerning Jesus and the heavenly kingdom of God was extremely unpopular with the first-century religious leaders.
12. What opposition did Peter and John receive, and how did they respond?
12 Why shortly after Jesus’ resurrection and the outpouring of holy spirit upon the 120 of his followers at Pentecost during the year 33 C.E., the apostles Peter and John one evening were arrested and taken into custody. Although this was their first time in prison, they were not afraid. The next day they gave a bold witness to the religious leaders who had them arrested. To their orders to stop preaching, the apostles said: “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.” What courage! What boldness! God’s Son Jesus Christ had commanded them to preach, and they were not going to allow anyone or anything to stop them! Frustrated by the apostles’ determination, the religious rulers further threatened them and let them go.—Acts 4:1-22; Matt. 28:19, 20; Acts 1:8.
13, 14. (a) After the release of Peter and John, for what did the Christians pray? (b) What response was there to the bold, fearless witnessing of the apostles?
13 Peter and John immediately went and reported on these matters to their fellow Christian preachers. After hearing of this opposition to the preaching work, the faithful band of Christians raised their voices to God and requested: “Jehovah, give attention to their threats, and grant your slaves to keep speaking your word with all boldness.” As soon as they made this supplication, the Bible says, “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.” Their prayer was answered! Yes, this manifestation of support from heaven infused them with zeal and boldness to continue on with the preaching work regardless of the opposition they might face! “With great power the apostles continued giving forth the witness,” the Bible record says.—Acts 4:23-33.
14 The results were marvelous. “Believers in the Lord kept on being added, multitudes both of men and of women,” the Bible says. (Acts 5:14) Many persons in Jerusalem were interested in hearing about Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God. But not the religious leaders; they were outraged. They were determined to stop the preaching work. So “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 Peter and John’s second imprisonment, but this time they had company. The rest of the apostles were locked up with them. However, it was not for long.
15. (a) While in prison, what thoughts about angels might have passed through the apostles’ minds? (b) What did the angel’s appearance and instructions there in the prison make plain to the apostles?
15 A remarkable release occurred during the night to reaffirm that God was backing them up in the preaching work. The apostles were acquainted with the Bible psalms that said that God “will give his own angels a command . . . to guard you in all your ways,” and that His angel is camping “all around those fearing him, and he rescues them.” (Ps. 91:11; 34:7) They knew about the miraculous angelic rescues in times past. Also they would remember Jesus’ words: “I tell you that their angels in heaven always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 18:10) While in prison these thoughts about God’s angels may have gone through their minds. Even so, how startling it must have been when “during the night Jehovah’s angel opened the doors of the prison, brought them out and said: ‘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 5:19, 20) Could it be any plainer that Jehovah was backing up the preaching of his people? What joy, what confidence, what gratitude was theirs! They were right in what they were doing! Those religionists were wrong and were fighting against God.
16. How did Peter later receive similar heavenly support?
16 Similar heavenly support was provided some time later when strong opposition again arose against the preaching work. King Herod Agrippa had the apostle James slain by the sword. He also went on to have Peter arrested, and thrown into prison. This time Peter’s life was really in danger. Herod planned to bring him forth, and no doubt execute him. (Acts 12:1-5) But that very night an angel of Jehovah stood by Peter, the chains were broken from his hands, and he was led past the guards to freedom. (Acts 12:6-10) Yes, Peter was miraculously delivered so that he could continue to take a lead in advancing the preaching work!
17. What direct part did angels take in the preaching work as shown in Philip’s meeting of the Ethiopian eunuch?
17 Not only did God’s angels act to preserve His earthly servants, but they also took a direct part in the preaching work, assisting Christians to come in contact with righteously disposed persons. For example, on one occasion “Jehovah’s angel spoke to Philip, saying: ‘Rise and go to the south to the road that runs down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ . . . With that he rose and went, and, look! an Ethiopian eunuch . . . was sitting in his chariot and reading aloud the prophet Isaiah.” Philip was directed to approach the chariot, and, when he explained the Bible truths concerning Jesus Christ, the man happily embraced them and was baptized. What a grand privilege Christians enjoyed of serving under the direction of the heavenly angels!—Acts 8:26-38.
18, 19. What part did God’s angel have in directing that the preaching also be done to non-Jews?
18 On another occasion a short time later, Jehovah’s angel directed that the Kingdom message be carried to uncircumcised non-Israelites or non-Jews. For three and a half years after Jesus’ death, or until 36 C.E., only Jews and Jewish proselytes were accepted into the Christian congregation. Thus, the opportunity of becoming members of the heavenly kingdom was limited to these persons. However, only a limited number of Jews took advantage of this marvelous opportunity, and therefore in 36 C.E. it was God’s time for the opportunity to become heirs of the heavenly kingdom to be extended to uncircumcised persons of all nationalities.
19 So in a vision an angel appeared to the God-fearing non-Jew named Cornelius. The angel told Cornelius to send for the apostle Peter and have Peter come to preach to him so that he might come in contact with Jehovah’s Christian congregation. Cornelius obeyed, and when his messengers found Peter they explained to him: “Cornelius . . . was given divine instructions by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear the things you have to say.” (Acts 10:1-22) Peter responded to the heavenly direction, and had the privilege of accepting the first uncircumcised non-Jews into the Christian congregation.
20. How did the apostle Paul receive heavenly direction in his preaching work?
20 The apostle Paul and his missionary companions, too, frequently received heavenly direction. For example, in reporting on one of their missionary tours, the Bible says: “They went through Phrygia and the country of Galatia, because they were forbidden by the holy spirit to speak the word in the district of Asia. Further, when getting down to Mysia they made efforts to go into Bithynia, but the spirit of Jesus did not permit them. So they passed Mysia by and came down to Troas. And during the night a vision appeared to Paul: a certain Macedonian man was standing and entreating him and saying: ‘Step over into Macedonia and help us.’ Now as soon as he had seen the vision, we sought to go forth into Macedonia, drawing the conclusion that God had summoned us to declare the good news to them.” (Acts 16:6-10) What close heavenly direction the apostle Paul received! How evident it is that early Christians were given heavenly support and guidance in their preaching work!
HEAVENLY SUPPORT TODAY
21. What evidence is there that Jehovah’s Christian witnesses have enjoyed heavenly support in modern times?
21 But what about today? Are Jehovah’s Christian witnesses who are obeying His command to preach the good news of the Kingdom receiving heavenly support and direction? There can be no doubt that they are. Attempts to stamp out their preaching work have been just as unsuccessful as were such efforts in the first century. For example, over thirty years ago the tyrant Adolf Hitler swore: “This brood will be exterminated from Germany.”a Yet, despite concentration camps and brutal persecution, Jehovah’s witnesses survived and are now tens of thousands strong and still preaching in Germany, while Hitler and his party are dead and gone. Also in many other lands in recent years, such as Portugal, Spain, Cuba, Malawi, the United Arab Republic, and so forth, scores of Jehovah’s witnesses have been arrested and imprisoned, yet the Kingdom message continues to be preached. Jehovah’s angels clearly have had an important part in making this possible, even as they did in the first century.
22. How do the Scriptures indicate that angels would have a part in the preaching work in these “last days”?
22 The Scriptures indicate that the angels would have a very direct part in the preaching work in these “last days” also. The Bible prophecy says that Christ would “send forth his angels” to “gather his chosen ones together.” (Matt. 24:31) Yet, not only have the angels been instrumental in gathering the “chosen ones,” who will eventually become members of Christ’s heavenly bride, but they are also sharing in separating people of the nations, as Jesus explained: “When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, . . . he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”—Matt. 25:31-33; see also Revelation 14:6-10.
23-25. What modern-day experiences indicate that the angels are sharing in the present-day Kingdom preaching?
23 Is there evidence of this angelic participation in the Kingdom preaching today? Consider: A few years ago there was a young couple that had received copies of the Watchtower magazine and enjoyed reading them. The more the husband read, the more he believed that the magazine contained Bible truth. Then one Saturday night he and his wife knelt down and prayed that if this was God’s truth, would God please send a minister to explain to them His ways. The very next morning one of Jehovah’s witnesses called at their door with the Kingdom message! The couple were astounded, but probably no more so than was the minister who was literally grabbed, pulled into the house, given a seat, and asked for Bible knowledge. This man is now a ministerial servant in one of the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses.
24 In a similar experience, a minister of Jehovah’s witnesses recently was invited inside, and was asked: “Who sent you?” The minister inquired why the householder wanted to know, and was told: “Last night I prayed to God to send someone to help me understand the Bible.” A Bible study was immediately started with this sheeplike person.
25 Also at a semiannual assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses in Texas not long ago a Witness related: “Normally my daughter rides to school with a neighbor, but one morning in January for some reason I decided to take her myself. As I was returning home I saw a lady walking, and, as it was cold, I offered to take her to her destination. She noticed my witnessing bag and asked what kind of books were in it. When told one was a Bible and another a Bible-study aid she became extremely excited. The night before she had prayed for God to lead her to His people. Now she asked me to start a Bible study with her and insisted that I come in right then.”
26, 27. What experience involving two women who met at a laundromat further evidences angelic direction?
26 Another experience evidencing heavenly direction began at a laundromat in Cleveland, Ohio, a couple of years ago. Two women were engaged in a conversation regarding world conditions. The discussion concluded with one woman saying to the other, a person who she did not know was one of Jehovah’s witnesses: “It would be nice if you could visit me at my home to continue this discussion.” Unfortunately, however, the Witness misplaced the address. Two months later she discovered it, and immediately made the call. The woman was so pleased to see her, explaining: “I have wished every day that you would come to see me. But I didn’t have your name, so I couldn’t call.” The woman had recently lost her father and had been in much grief over this and other problems. A Bible study was immediately started with her, and she progressed rapidly in Bible knowledge and in a short time was sharing the good news with others.
27 Later this woman explained that on the very day the Witness called at her home she had decided to take her life because of her mounting troubles. But before she went through with it, she asked God in prayer to send the lady she had talked with at the laundromat, for perhaps she could help. Almost immediately the doorbell rang, and there was the Witness! And, remember, it was only shortly before that the Witness had found the misplaced address of the woman! Surely the angels today have an active part in directing God’s servants to sheeplike persons, even as they did in the first century. What a privilege it is to share under heavenly direction in preaching the good news of the Kingdom!
28. Why do we have every reason to keep a right view of Kingdom preaching?
28 We have every reason to keep the right view that Kingdom preaching is the most important work on earth today. Only God’s kingdom can usher in stable government and the peace that mankind so desperately needs. Therefore, whatever obstacles there may be, do not let them slow you up or stop you from preaching “this good news of the kingdom.” Always remember: Jehovah God and his heavenly angels are backing you up in this work. It is with God that you are a fellow worker. (1 Cor. 3:9) So never become afraid, discouraged or despondent. Rather, “be of good courage and say: ‘Jehovah is my helper.’” He is indeed supporting you.—Heb. 13:6.
a Taken from a sworn account by Karl R. A. Wittig, who, in 1934, was a German government worker who was present when Hitler made this statement. On November 13, 1947, this account was signed before a notary public in Frankfort on the Main.
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Jehovah’s angel directed Philip to preach God’s truth to an Ethiopian. Christians today also preach under the direction of heavenly angels