Joining the “Great Crowd” of “Men of Goodwill”
1. (a) Why has there been goodwill shown toward the descendants of Adam? (b) How did Jehovah prophetically express his desire to bring goodwill through his Son?
CHRIST JESUS was God’s greatest ‘man of goodwill.’ As the only-begotten Son of God sent to the earth as a man, Jesus enjoyed his Father’s goodwill more than any other human that ever lived. It was out of God’s love for the many of sinful and dying humanity who incline toward righteousness that God gave his most favored Son as a ransom. God foreknew that not all of Adam’s offspring would share the disregard of their first father for obedience and righteousness, but some would cultivate a love for godliness and truth and seek to regain His favor. It was these for whom the ransom was provided. This sacrifice of His most trusted and beloved companion was an act far too costly, too precious, to be squandered and wasted on those who neither deserve nor appreciate it. (Rom. 5:15, 18; 1 John 4:9, 10; Matt. 20:28) Jesus’ presence on earth nineteen hundred years ago was proof of God’s goodwill, for it guaranteed that God would never forget, nor fail to fulfill his announced covenant for bringing blessings to deserving ones of all families of earth. (Gen. 22:17, 18) Prophetically, God expressed that promise of his goodwill toward his faithful Son long before his coming to earth, saying: “In a time of goodwill I have answered you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you; and I kept safeguarding you that I might give you as a covenant for the people, to rehabilitate the land, to bring about the repossessing of the desolated hereditary possessions, to say to the prisoners, ‘Come out!’ to those who are in the darkness, ‘Reveal yourselves!”’—Isa. 49:8, 9.
2. When does this prophecy find fulfillment, as shown by Paul?
2 Centuries later the apostle Paul drew on this same prophecy to support his encouragement of first-century Christians who were seeking the goodwill of God. Paul wrote: “Working together with him, we also entreat you not to accept the undeserved kindness of God and miss its purpose. For he says: ‘In an acceptable time I heard you, and in a day of salvation I helped you.’ Look! Now is the especially acceptable time. Look! Now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:1, 2) What folly to misuse the opportunity, to “miss its purpose” when we are nearing the end of the “especially acceptable time,” the “day of salvation,” and the end of the “year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah”!
3. What special ministry has God authorized? Through whom?
3 Well aware of our imperfect and sinful condition and of our inherited enmity with him, he invites us to seek a reconciliation to friendship with him, if we would gain his favor and goodwill while it may still be found. Through faithful witnesses on earth now who have already accepted the privilege of worshiping him as their God, and who have already become his “men of goodwill,” God makes his entreaty, his invitation, known to still others who desire righteousness and truth. Paul speaks of the privilege of representing God by bearing this message as the “ministry of the reconciliation”: “All things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of the reconciliation, namely, that God was by means of Christ reconciling a world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and he committed the word of the reconciliation to us. We are therefore ambassadors substituting for Christ, as though God were making entreaty through us. As substitutes for Christ we beg: ‘Become reconciled to God.”’—2 Cor. 5:18-20.
4, 5. (a) Why does God send out his “ambassadors” in the earth? (b) Is the “ministry of the reconciliation” finding success?
4 In Paul’s day ambassadors were sent to nations at war or threatening war to try to arrange peaceful relations between the troubled nations and thus avert bloodshed. (Luke 14:31, 32) All of humankind is at enmity with God due to inherited sin and imperfection from Adam. God has already taken the steps to make possible the removing of that enmity, and he lovingly and mercifully sends out his “ambassadors” to show the way to “become reconciled to God” and be restored to his favor and goodwill. Will you accept the invitation brought to you by God’s “ambassadors substituting for Christ,” and put yourself in line for everlasting life through the provision that God has lovingly made through his beloved Son?
5 Thousands every month are taking advantage of the time left in the “year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah.” They recognize the hopeless plight of the present system of things, and they are choosing the course of practical wisdom. They are turning their attention to God’s Word, the Holy Scriptures, there to learn that God has wonderful blessings in store for his “men of goodwill.” They are an evergrowing “great crowd” who are accepting the invitation from God through his servants to “become reconciled to God.”
6. How was the growing crowd of believers foretold, and what characteristic marks their worship of God?
6 The existence of this “great crowd,” however, is no surprise to those familiar with God’s Word, for they were long ago seen in a prophetic vision of our day given to the faithful apostle John on the island of Patmos and written down in the book of Revelation. He described them this way: “After these things I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands. And they keep on crying with a loud voice, saying: ‘Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.”’ (Rev. 7:9, 10) This “great crowd,” who are obviously “men of goodwill,” are not divided by racial and national barriers, nor is there any hatred or inequality among them because of skin color or language differences. They come from all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues, and they stand unitedly, shoulder to shoulder, proclaiming their praise and their indebtedness to God and to the Lamb.
7. When does the “great crowd” make it appearance according to the prophecy?
7 When do these put in their appearance? John records the answer: “These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation.” Thus, their favorable standing with God has won for them his protection from the wrathful “day of vengeance on the part of our God,” for the “great tribulation” from which they come out could be nothing other than the execution of God’s judgment against this wicked system of things. The fact that they are survivors of the “great tribulation” indicates that they must have been gathered together during the “year of goodwill,” before the “day of vengeance” of God broke in all its fury in the great tribulation that culminates in the battle of Armageddon.—Rev. 7:14; Matt. 24:3, 21, 22.
8. What steps do these take to indicate their faith in God’s promises?
8 Have these favored ones sought reconciliation with God by means of his provision of life through Christ Jesus? John replies: “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. That is why they are before the throne of God; and they are rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple.” (Rev. 7:14, 15) Thus they recognize their own sinful and unclean condition, and see the need to take the initiative, to take positive steps to prove themselves qualified to receive God’s favor and become his “men of goodwill.” That is why they are described as having “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” This means they have repented of their former course of life and accepted in faith the cleansing power of Jesus’ sin-atoning sacrifice.
9. What have the “great crowd” done with their lives to gain goodwill from God, and on what basis have they made this choice?
9 It also indicates that they have made big changes in their lives, going on record that they have without reservation chosen to pursue the way of life that God approves. Their willingness to be clean and pure in God’s sight shows that they have realized that God hates wickedness and uncleanness, and he approves righteousness, integrity and truth. Fittingly they are seen before the throne in white robes, clean and unspotted from the world. Thus they have made an unconditional dedication of themselves to God. Their worship is to God exclusively, for it is before his throne that they have positioned themselves, and before no other. This dedication is not a sudden emotional whim or isolated act of devotion. Theirs is an irrevocable lifelong dedication, one that they have made willingly and freely and that without coercion. They have taken the initiative. The choice was theirs. They have recognized from their study and research into the Word of God that His way is the way of wisdom and his rewards and blessings are permanent and sure. To gain his goodwill they must put forth the effort and obediently take the steps that please him.—Acts 3:19; Heb. 9:22; 1 John 1:9.
10. With whom have the “great crowd” eagerly joined, and what benefit has this served?
10 As true Christians and followers of Christ they happily and eagerly join in actively worshiping God alongside the remnant of the “little flock” of spiritual Israelites, the 144,000 “sealed ones” of God mentioned earlier in the seventh chapter of Revelation. (Luke 12:32; Rev. 7:4; 14:1-5) Under the supervision of the anointed remnant of spirit-begotten ones, this “great crowd” of faithful disciples have accepted the privilege of sharing in the work that God has assigned for this day, namely, the preaching of “this good news of the kingdom.” Their zealous efforts have assisted greatly in getting the message into “all the inhabited earth for a witness” in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy. God has allowed them to share in the “ministry of the reconciliation,” along with the remnant who act as “ambassadors substituting for Christ.” Truly they have been “rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple.”—Matt. 24:14; 2 Cor. 5:20.
11. The public confession of their faith indicates what about these “men of goodwill”?
11 Like Jesus and his “little flock,” they do not hide or conceal their decision to worship God, nor are they ashamed to be known as worshipers of Jehovah, his faithful witnesses. For John sees them shouting aloud and publicly confessing their faith in God and in the Lamb before all men. The fact that they have publicly stated and affirmed their position before God further attests to the fact that they are unreservedly dedicated to God. They have demonstrated their complete trust and confidence in Jehovah and in his promises for life. They know that Jehovah is the only true God, that he is right, and that his cause will be victorious.
12. How is God’s goodwill toward the “great crowd” demonstrated in a tangible way?
12 God does not overlook their humble acceptance of his provision of life. He does not miss their faithful and zealous acts of righteousness. But his warm smile of approval and goodwill beams down upon them and he rewards them with blessings that even their fondest dreams could not imagine. John continues: “And the One seated on the throne will spread his tent over them. They will hunger no more nor thirst anymore, neither will the sun beat down upon them nor any scorching heat, because the Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne, will shepherd them, and will guide them to fountains of waters of life. And God will wipe out every tear from their eyes.”—Rev. 7:15-17.
13. To become part of the “great crowd” of “men of goodwill,” what is required of each one?
13 Are you among that “great crowd” that John the apostle of Jesus has just described for us? Do you desire this favored standing as a true worshiper of God? Are you willing obediently to take the steps that are required for you to gain God’s favor and goodwill and thus place yourself in line for salvation and life at the hands of Jehovah? If so, then you will see the need to make your personal dedication to Jehovah and then obediently to submit to the Christian act of water baptism in public affirmation of that dedication.
14. (a) According to Romans 10:1-3, are zeal and sincerity sufficient to gain God’s goodwill? (b) What is the primary requirement?
14 Outward piety and the repeating of traditional religious prayers and phrases will not gain the approval of God. Even the possession of such admirable qualities as zeal and sincerity are not themselves sufficient to gain God’s goodwill. In the days of the apostle Paul, there were doubtless many devout and sincere persons among those of his own nation, yet he showed a great concern for them because of what they lacked: “Brothers, the goodwill of my heart and my supplication to God for them are, indeed, for their salvation. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God; but not according to accurate knowledge; for, because of not knowing the righteousness of God but seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.” (Rom. 10:1-3) To become one of God’s “men of goodwill,” it is vital to acquire and exercise true faith based on accurate knowledge and humbly to subject oneself to the righteousness of God. This requires first of all the reading and study of the Bible, which provides the instruction and guidance that lead to life.—John 17:3; 2 Tim. 3:15-17.
15. According to Romans 12:2, what changes are necessary?
15 From this study you may find that you must make some adjustments in your viewpoint. You may even have to alter your way of life. But these are changes well worth making when your life is at stake. The apostle Paul counsels: “And quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”—Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:22-24.
16. (a) What mental realization and motive precede dedication? (b) How does one make public affirmation of one’s dedication?
16 As you take in knowledge from God’s Word and reason on these truths and principles, you will recognize the folly and hopelessness of human reasoning without God. As you contemplate God’s will and purposes for the earth and for humankind who were created on it to enjoy its blessings and delights, you will begin to see your place in God’s arrangement of things. For there are wonderful opportunities and privileges open to those who wisely choose to do the will of God and become his “men of goodwill.” Thus you demonstrate your love of God and your appreciation of his provision of life in a righteous new order. Your desire to worship God exclusively and to be a recipient of his blessings is manifest when you make your dedication to God and affirm it publicly by your water baptism.
17. What lesson do we learn from Jesus’ example of baptism?
17 No greater example of this righteous pattern approved by God could there be than that of Jesus himself. When he was thirty years of age and the time came for him to begin his earthly ministry, the Bible records how he presented himself at the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist. By this humble and willing act, he presented himself to his Heavenly Father for the accomplishing of His will on earth. Immediately following Jesus’ immersion or baptism in the waters of the Jordan, God expressed his approval and delight of the willing obedience of his beloved Son, as Matthew wrote: “After being baptized Jesus immediately came up from the water; and, look! the heavens were opened up, and he saw descending like a dove God’s spirit coming upon him. Look! Also, there was a voice from the heavens that said: ‘This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.”’—Matt. 3:13-17.
18. According to Jesus’ command at Matthew 28:19, 20, why must every believer submit to the Christian act of baptism?
18 True Christians are happy to follow this example which brought approval from God, for Jesus left us a ‘model for us to follow his steps closely.’ (1 Pet. 2:21) In the first century of Christianity, the Greek Scriptures provide a record of literally thousands who were baptized in symbol of their decision to become disciples of Christ and worship God in spirit and in truth. All this was in obedience to the last command given by Jesus to his faithful followers: “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, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) That command has not been changed. If we truly desire to become God’s “men of goodwill” today, we must humbly and obediently submit to being baptized in recognition of our unreserved personal dedication to God, for this is pleasing to our Heavenly Father.
19. How has the “ministry of the reconciliation” resulted in blessing and benefit to many today?
19 This “ministry of the reconciliation” still continues unabated throughout the earth by the modern “ambassadors substituting for Christ.” In obedience to Jesus’ command, Jehovah’s Christian witnesses have faithfully and zealously been performing the work assigned to them, ‘making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them.’ During 1971 alone, 149,808 baptized disciples were added to the growing “great crowd” of “men of goodwill.” These 149,808 have sought God’s goodwill and have found it. They have joined with one million four hundred and forty thousand other faithful “men of goodwill” earth wide in unitedly worshiping God and showing others the way to God’s goodwill. By faithfully living up to their dedication, they will forever enjoy the good pleasure and favor of God as his “men of goodwill.”
20. (a) How do God’s “men of goodwill” demonstrate their obedience to God? (b) What prospect for others exists so long as God’s “year of goodwill” remains?
20 Their dedication and baptism is not the conclusion or end of their relationship with God. It is only the beginning. They are devoted to performing obediently God’s divine will for this day, which is to preach this “good news” that God’s kingdom has been established in the heavens with his appointed King, Christ Jesus, on the throne, and this “in all the inhabited earth for a witness.” The fact that they come from every race and nationality creates no division or problem for them. It is rather a blessing for through them the “ministry of the reconciliation” reaches all nations regardless of language or race or color. They will continue faithfully to perform this earth-wide service to God ‘day and night’ as long as the “year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah” allows. As their preaching continues and spreads out in the earth, more and more persons of all nations will hear the “good news” and turn around and seek the goodwill of God, and he will not reject them. They too will join with God’s growing crowd of “men of goodwill,” dedicating themselves to God and to his worship, and symbolizing this dedication through a water baptism in obedience to the divine will. They accept God’s appointed king and thus bring pleasure to his heart, as the proverb declares: “The pleasure of a king is in the servant who is acting with insight.” “The lips of righteousness are a pleasure to a grand king; and the speaker of upright things he loves.”—Prov. 14:35; 16:13.
21. Describe the hope that awaits those who faithfully remain God’s “men of goodwill.”
21 Because of their spiritual insight and understanding these “men of goodwill” have learned and spoken upright things. Alongside the remnant of anointed disciples of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, they have rendered to God “sacred service day and night in his temple.” By remaining loyal and spiritually clean they will ever retain the goodwill of God, receiving spiritual sustenance and strength from God, and protection from the scorching heat of his anger when it is expressed on that “day of vengeance on the part of our God.” Then, “the Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne, will shepherd them, and will guide them to fountains of waters of life. And God will wipe out every tear from their eyes.” Such is the joyful prospect for those who today, while there is yet time, join the “great crowd” of God’s “men of goodwill.”