Worldwide Witnessing versus World Conversion
1. Why does a command issued nineteen centuries ago deserve our looking at it very carefully today?
LOOKING at a command more than nineteen hundred years after it was first issued, a person can determine to what extent the command has been carried out and how well. If it is a command that is bound to have an effect on the whole world of mankind, then it deserves our looking at it very carefully. What has been done about that command until now? The situation is real, for there is such a command of worldwide importance. The carrying out of the command has affected the world. Whether we like the situation or not, we are involved, even today.
2. On what day of the week and month of what year was that command issued, and where?
2 When was the command issued, and by whom and to whom? It was issued on the fifth day of the week, or, as we would say today, on a Thursday, and on the twenty-fifth day of the lunar month of Iyar (or Ziv), in the year 33 of our Common Era, in the springtime of that year. Men have even tried to mark the place about where the command was issued, putting a shrine over it, for it was issued on a famous mountain to the east of Jerusalem, namely, the Mount of Olives.
3. Why was the Commander an unusual person, and what was his name?
3 The Commander was an unusual person, a person who had come back from the dead just forty days before that. Roman soldiers had been used to put him to death. He had been put to death because of the charge that his accusers made out against him, when they said to the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate: “This man we found subverting our nation and forbidding the paying of taxes to Caesar and saying he himself is Christ a king.” In order to urge on the execution of him by the Romans, the accusers said further: “We have a law, and according to the law he ought to die, because he made himself God’s son.” From these accusations you will recognize the man. He was Jesus Christ.—Luke 23:2; John 19:7.
4, 5. (a) What had the enemies done with regard to the fact of Jesus’ resurrection? (b) What did Jesus now tell his disciples to do as regards the facts about him?
4 The religious leaders of Jerusalem had tried to hush up the facts about his resurrection. They tried to falsify the facts, even by bribery. (Matt. 28:11-15) But, all the same, Jesus Christ was fully alive again on that Thursday, Iyar 25 of 33 C.E., making his last appearance in flesh to his faithful disciples. He gave them to understand that the kingdom of David was not to be restored to the earthly nation of Israel. Nor was it the time for the kingdom of God then to be set up in the hands of God’s Messiah or Christ. Well, then, were the disciples to let the case of Jesus Christ drop? Were they to let the distorted facts about him be broadcast world wide by the instigators of his death and let all mankind get no benefit from the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Were they to keep mum about the things that they had seen and heard and shared in so personally? Absolutely not! They were to be empowered to do something about this, but starting at the right time, namely, the day for the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32 to begin. So he said to them:
5 “You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.”—Acts 1:8.
6. So from when on were the disciples to be witnesses of Jesus, and to whom?
6 “Be witnesses!” That was what they were commanded to do, and they would be commissioned for this witnessing when the holy spirit of God was poured out upon them in fulfillment of Joel 2:28, 29, ten days later, on the festival of Pentecost of that same year, 33 C.E. They were to be witnesses of Jesus Christ, not just to the Jews who came to the festivals in Jerusalem from various lands inside and outside the Roman Empire and to all Judea and Samaria, but “to the most distant part of the earth.” That is, to the Gentile nations.
7. Was this witnessing to Jesus to cease with the death of those disciples, and how have we today got involved with it?
7 This witnessing was not to be dropped when those disciples there on the Mount of Olives died within that first century of our Common Era. This witnessing concerning Jesus Christ, of worldwide importance, was of vital interest for all generations to come, be it even the last generation of the twentieth century. The witnessing was to be continued through the centuries, to be taken up by Christian disciples whom those disciples there on the Mount of Olives would yet make, and then by the whole chain of disciples that would follow, till indeed the most distant part of the earth was reached with the witness. And thus it has reached us today. We have got involved. We are interested.
8. Under whose guidance was the worldwide witnessing to be done, and of what were the disciples assured concerning the departing Jesus?
8 This worldwide witnessing was to be done under the invisible guidance of the Lord Jesus Christ. Why so? Because, after issuing this command of such long-range, worldwide importance, Jesus Christ was seen by the disciples there present to ascend heavenward and disappear by God’s miraculous power. The book of the Acts of the Apostles, Ac chapter one, verses ten and eleven, informs us: ‘And as they were gazing into the sky while he was on his way, also, look! two men in white garments stood alongside them, and they said: ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus who was received up from you into the sky will come thus in the same manner as you have beheld him going into the sky.’” The Messiah was to come again!
WHAT PROGRESS TOWARD WORLD CONVERSION?
9, 10. (a) Why does the question of world conversion here come up? (b) What does Dr. Adam Clarke’s Commentary have to say on the parable of the leaven?
9 But where is the world conversion today? Which “world conversion”? Why, do those words of command of Jesus Christ not mean the converting of the whole world of mankind to Christianity before the kingdom of God is set up in the heavens and the thousand years of Christ’s reign begins? That is the way some Bible commentators on those and other words of Jesus Christ have understood them. For instance, Jesus’ parable of the leavened dough: “The kingdom of the heavens is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three large measures of flour, until the whole mass was fermented.” (Matt. 13:33) On this the comment in A Commentary and Critical Notes by Adam Clarke, LL. D., says:
10 “Both these parables are prophetic, and were intended to show, principally, how, from very small beginnings, the Gospel of Christ should pervade all the nations of the world, and fill them with righteousness and true holiness.”—Page 155, column 2.
11, 12. What does Clarke’s Commentary have to say about the stone that struck the metallic image seen in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream?
11 Regarding the stone that struck the metallic image that was seen in the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar, and that crushed the image and then became a great mountain filling the whole earth, Adam Clarke’s Commentary says:
12 “The stone began to strike the image, when the apostles went out into every part of the Roman empire, pulling down idolatry, and founding Christian churches. . . . But the great blow was given to the heathen Roman empire by the conversion of Constantine, .‹v›.‹v›. The conversion of Constantine took place while he was in Gaul, A.D. 312, . . . He terminated the reign of idolatry in A.D. 331, by an edict ordering the destruction of all the heathen temples. This made CHRISTIANITY the religion of the empire. .‹v›.‹v›. It is the kingdom which the God of heaven sets up. That this means the whole dispensation of the gospel, and the moral effects produced by it in the souls of men and in the world, needs little proof; for our Lord, referring to this and other prophecies in this book, calls its influence and his gospel the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of heaven; showing thereby that it is . . . a spiritual kingdom raised and maintained by the grace of God himself, in which he himself lives and rules, governing by his own laws, influencing and directing by his own Spirit; producing, not wars and contentions, but glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will among men.”—Pages 3209, 3210, edition of 1836; Dan. 2:44, 45.
13, 14. Back in 1885 what did Methodist Bishop Foster have to say regarding the facts of the progress of Christianity and the work ahead for world conversion?
13 Less than a hundred years ago, in 1885, when the world’s population was smaller and did not present so big a task, the Methodist Bishop Foster, addressing the M. E. Church Conference, on November 9th that year, said, as reported in the public press:
14 “There is a lack of information on the progress of Christianity. The facts are misstated daily in pulpits all over the country. Ministers hesitate to present the worst side for fear of causing discouragement. They create hopes that are never to be realized. We are not at the dawn of the millennium. Compared with the work to be done, the past is nothing. Our children’s children for ten generations to come must labor harder than we are doing to accomplish the conversion of the world. The world’s population is 1,500,000,000. Of these Christians number less than a third. Half of that third belong to the Roman Catholic Church. The Protestants number 113,000,000. They are divided into 500 sects. And this number of their strength includes also all the thieves, ex-convicts, the debased, besotted, the speckled and streaked in Christendom. . . . before us we have the great problem—the 1,100,000,000 of pagans to convert to Christianity. That is the solid rock that looms up in our path. Look at it; see what work has been done in 1800 years, and how much is yet to be accomplished. . . . It is a big loaf to be leavened and it has been a long time working.”—See The Watch Tower, as of January 1886, pages 3-6, under “Blind Guides.”
15, 16. (a) After World War II what obstacles were removed from the progress of Christianity in Japan? (b) Reportedly, what offer was made for making Christianity the state religion, and how was the offer treated?
15 After World War II ended on September 2, 1945, it seemed as if Christendom was presented with the opportunity to expand its membership with a sudden spurt. On December 10 of that year the American General MacArthur as military supervisor of defeated Japan abolished Shintoism as the national religion. Later, freedom of religion was written into the postwar Constitution of Japan, this being patterned on the United States Constitution. Then on January 1, 1946, when the Japanese Emperor renounced the theory that he was a descendant from the sun goddess, so that he was not to be worshiped as a god, this further removed an obstacle to progress of Christendom in Japan. General Douglas MacArthur is reliably reported as having turned down an offer by Emperor Hirohito to make Japan a “Christian” country. The New York Times reports:
16 “The offer was rejected . . . because the general believed it was wrong to impose any religion on a people. General MacArthur . . . said that after the surrender of the Japanese the Emperor had privately declared his willingness to make Christianity the state religion. The general asked time to ‘think about it,’ . . . and after considering the proposal replied to the Emperor: ‘Never. No nation must be made to conform to any religion. It must be done on a voluntary basis.’ . . . General MacArthur rejected the Emperor’s proposal, . . . asking the American people instead to send 10,000 missionaries. ‘We responded with a handful of missionaries,’ Mr. [Billy] Graham said.”—N.Y. Times, as of April 7, 1964, under “General Told of Barring Offer to Create a Christian Japan.”
17. In comparison of the growth of the world population, does Christendom’s growth since that time prove her to be correct about world conversion or Jesus Christ?
17 Japan then had a population of 73,110,995. The world population had increased to 2,139,958,919. Although tens of millions of church members of Christendom had killed off one another in World War II, the membership of Christendom was then reported as being 592,406,542, or about a fourth of the world population. Today, in 1970, Christendom’s membership is rated at 924,274,000, which means less than a third of the world population of 3,483,263,000, with over one thousand million more non-Christians to be converted to Christendom than in the year 1946. Plainly, the growth of Christendom in its program of world conversion is not keeping up with the population explosion of the non-Christian world. Who, then, is wrong—Christendom or Jesus Christ and the Holy Scriptures of the Bible? The hard facts prove Christendom to be woefully wrong, but Jesus Christ and the Bible to be right.
18. (a) What work did Jesus Christ and the Bible predict would be done before the complete end of this system of things? (b) He predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and of this system for what reason?
18 Jesus Christ and the Bible never did predict world conversion to Christianity before the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ. They predicted worldwide witnessing before the “great tribulation” with which this entire system of things, including Christendom, will disastrously end shortly. In his prophecy on the conclusion of the system of things Jesus 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. 24:3-14) In his final word to his disciples on the Mount of Olives he said: “You will be witnesses of me . . . to the most distant part of the earth. (Acts 1:8) He did not say that Jerusalem or all of Judea and Samaria or the most distant part of the earth would be converted. They were not, and they have not been converted. He foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, that befell her in the year 70 C.E., and also the end of this present system of things in the approaching “great tribulation,” because they would not repent and be converted by the witness given to them. (Matt. 24:15-22) The witnessing world wide is still in progress.
WITNESSES OF WHOM?
19. What impression have the clergy of Christendom given regarding the place of God’s name in connection with the witness to Jesus?
19 When Jesus Christ told his disciples, “You will be witnesses of me,” did he mean to detract their attention from the Most High God? Did he mean that the name of God was thenceforth to be put in the background and that his own personal name was to be put to the fore and be used almost exclusively? The way in which the religious clergy of Christendom act tends to give the world the impression that that is what Jesus meant. But how could Jesus Christ ever tell his disciples not to be witnesses of the very One of whom he himself was a witness?
20 In the very last book of the Bible, that is, in Revelation 1:5, he speaks of “Jesus Christ, ‘the faithful witness,’ ‘The first-born from the dead,’ and ‘The Ruler of the kings of the earth.’” But in Revelation 3:14 the glorified Jesus Christ himself speaks and says: “These are the things that the Amen says, the faithful and true witness.” The “faithful and true witness” of whom? Why, of no one else but God, and that is why in the very next phrase he gives further identification of himself by adding: “the beginning of the creation by God.” And the message that is introduced with those words Jesus Christ ends up by saying: “To the one that conquers I will grant to sit down with me on my throne, even as I conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Rev. 3:21) Jesus Christ thus bears witness to God, his heavenly Father, as being his Creator and Life-giver.
21. In Revelation 3:12, Jesus Christ mentions whom four times, and to indicate what relationship of this one to himself?
21 Jesus was the Original One of God’s creations. And some verses earlier, in Revelation 3:12, Jesus Christ says: “The one that conquers—I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will by no means go out from it any more, and I will write upon him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which descends out of heaven from my God, and that new name of mine.” In this promise he four times mentions “my God,” to bear witness to this One as being his own God, whom he himself worships. He also calls attention to God as having a name different from his own name, to denote two separate individuals.
22, 23. (a) In his Sermon on the Mount and in the midst of worshipers at Jerusalem in 33 C.E., how did Jesus show whether his name was to be put before that of God? (b) In his prayer after inaugurating “the Lord’s supper,” what prominence did Jesus give to God’s name?
22 Jesus could not possibly tell his disciples to put his own personal name before that of the God to whom he prayed. In his Sermon on the Mount he told his disciples: “You must pray, then, this way: ‘Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.’” Jesus prayed, not for his own name to be sanctified, but for the name of his Father and of their Father to be sanctified. (Matt. 6:9) In the spring of the year 33 C.E., after his triumphal ride into Jerusalem, Jesus prayed aloud in the hearing of a crowd of worshipers: “Father, glorify your name.” Was there an answer to Jesus’ prayer? The written account tells us: “Therefore a voice came out of heaven: ‘I both glorified it and will glorify it again.’” (John 12:23-28) Several days later, after Jesus had introduced what is called “the Lord’s supper,” he prayed to God amid his eleven faithful apostles, saying:
23 “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ. I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me out of the world. . . . Holy Father, watch over them on account of your own name.”—John 17:3, 6, 11.
24, 25. (a) What, then, does Jesus’ command to his disciples in the mountain in Galilee indicate as regards his final command to them on the Mount of Olives? (b) According to Isaiah 43:1, 10-12, Jesus as a born Jew under the Law was obligated to be what toward Jehovah?
24 After Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, Jesus appeared to his disciples who had gathered together at a mountain in Galilee and said to them: “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. 28:18, 19) Thus all the record goes to prove that Jesus Christ did not tell his disciples to shove aside the name of God, his heavenly Father, and put his own name, the Son’s name, ahead of his Father’s name. So, in his farewell words to his disciples on the Mount of Olives, he was not telling them to be, as he said, “witnesses of me,” to the exclusion of being witnesses of God, his heavenly Father. We must remember that Jesus Christ, like those Jewish disciples of his, was born of a Jewish woman and “came to be under law,” that is, the law given through the prophet Moses. (Gal. 4:4) Consequently, Jesus Christ, like his Jewish disciples, was part of the nation of Israel (or Jacob), to whom God spoke these words by the mouth of his inspired prophet Isaiah:
25 “And now this is what Jehovah has said, your Creator, O Jacob, and your Former, O Israel: ‘Do not be afraid, for I have repurchased you. I have called you by your name. You are mine.’ ‘You are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘even my servant whom I have chosen, in order that you may know and have faith in me, and that you may understand that I am the same One. Before me there was no God formed [by idol-worshiping nations], and after me there continued to be none. I—I am Jehovah, and besides me there is no savior. I myself have told forth and have saved and have caused it to be heard, when there was among you no strange god. So you are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and I am God.’”—Isa. 43:1, 10-12.
26. How does the last book of the Bible prove the resurrected Jesus to be still a witness to the name of Jehovah?
26 Unavoidably, then, as natural-born members of the nation of Jacob or Israel, Jesus and his disciples there on the Mount of Olives were obliged to be God’s witnesses, witnesses of Jehovah. Jesus, when in the flesh on earth, was a witness of Jehovah God, and so were his Jewish disciples. After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ continued to be a witness of Jehovah. The very last book of the Bible, Revelation, which Jesus Christ was used to give the Jewish apostle John, shows the glorified Jesus Christ to be still witnessing to Jehovah God. Revelation 19:1-6 records four times the joyous cry, “Hallelujah!” which is a Hebrew expression meaning “Praise you Jah!” the name “Jah” being the abbreviation for Jehovah.—Rev. 1:1, 2.
27. (a) By his command in Acts 1:8 did Jesus lift from his disciples the obligation to be Jehovah’s witnesses? (b) Did this hold true even after they became spiritual Israelites at Pentecost of 33 C.E.?
27 To all eternity to come the heavenly Jesus Christ will be a witness of Jehovah God. Accordingly, by his words to his Jewish disciples, “You will be witnesses of me,” Jesus Christ did not lift from his disciples the obligation to be witnesses of Jehovah God in fulfillment of Isaiah 43:1-12. This held true even after the holy spirit was poured out upon them at Pentecost, for first then they became spiritual Israelites under a new covenant with Jesus Christ himself as Mediator between God and men.—Acts 2:1-38; Gal. 6:16; 1 Tim. 2:5, 6; 1 Pet. 2:9.
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4 Thousand Millions
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“You will be witnesses of me in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.”—Acts 1:8