Assemblies Assist Those Who Would Share in Divine Victory
THE world is well along toward a severe crisis. World leaders have so many major problems on all sides that they do not even have the time, much less the facilities and the know-how, to solve them. And any one of these major problems by itself could develop into world disaster. Victory by human leaders over these problems is a will-o’-the-wisp.
Why, then, did Jehovah’s witnesses call their international assemblies, held throughout the northern hemisphere this summer, “Divine Victory” assemblies?
Well, for one thing they look for divine victory in the very near future, with God’s new and righteous administration of earth to follow. But they have also gained victories in their personal lives and in their families, in overcoming the big problems that plague people everywhere today.
So the assemblies were not just another series of religious conclaves, with debates on what position to take on social issues. Those attending came because they knew they would get more from God’s Word to help them to be fit for enjoyment of divine victory and life under His righteous government. As the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung commented:
“The message of Jehovah‘s witnesses is simple and clear. ‘The Bible is God’s Word and it is prophetic for this world—for this reason we have to learn from it and live according to it.’”
And the Düsseldorfer Nachrichten reported, under the heading “Divine Victory Is Being Proclaimed”:
“In contrast to Lutheran or Catholic conventions, there is no debating at this assembly, but just the proclaiming and expounding of what Jehovah‘s witnesses the world over consider to be the true Word of God.”
Such was the confident, positive tone throughout all the five-day assemblies. The program, by means of thirty-one talks and four Bible dramas, highlighted the need for all Christians to keep “close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah,” adjusting their own lives more fully to the fine, high moral principles of the Bible and perfecting their love for one another. (2 Pet. 3:12) They were encouraged also, in view of the scope of the work to be done, to cooperate more closely than ever before in the great disciple-making commission given by Christ. (Matt. 28:19, 20) Discussions of Bible prophecies now in course of fulfillment alerted all to the fact that we are well along, nearly sixty years along, in fact, into the time of Christ’s presence, with the “day of Jehovah” drawing nearer by the hour.
This tone of confidence, this forward-moving attitude was reflected in expressions of appreciation by the attending conventioners. One said: “It is heart education we are receiving—a schooling in divine ways—that is vital for our survival through the ‘great tribulation’ soon to come on this world.”—Matt. 24:21.
VICTORY WITHOUT ARMED CONFLICT
In the keynote talk “Victory over the World Without Armed Conflict” the speaker called attention to Christ’s words to his apostles near the end of his earthly ministry: “Keep up your courage: I have won the victory over the world.” (John 16:33, The New Testament in Modern Speech, by R. F. Weymouth, 1902). ‘It would not be consistent for followers of Jesus Christ to take up weapons or to engage in political or social conflicts,’ he said. He pointed out that Christians are not passive, however. They have a vigorous work to do and this, in fact, brings them into conflict with the world. They must overcome the obstacles that the world puts in the way of everyone trying to follow the Bible-outlined way of life.
Is this overcoming actually an accomplished fact in the lives of the thousands who assembled to take in this Bible education? Visitors from both inside and outside the congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses could see for themselves. One of the members of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s witnesses remarked, after visiting several assemblies in the Orient:
“It was really exhilarating and heartening to look at the sea of faces attentively listening to the program in Japan, in Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong and to realize that these thousands are Christians; not European but Asian Christians—people who were formerly Buddhists, worshiping idols, or Shintoists, worshiping their ancestors—people with no previous knowledge of the God of the Bible. What a change they have had to make, in the midst of pagan practices and customs! How the truth of God’s Word has made them conquerors!”
And a reporter for the Rome newspaper Paese Sera wrote of Jehovah’s witnesses:
“Just as their denomination itself declares, they have a direct responsibility to give a ‘witness to God’ . . . by leading a model, hard-working, rigorously moral life, mutually sustaining one another, as did the first Christian communities.”
The keynote speaker pointed out that the Christian, wherever he lives, and whatever obstacles he has to face in order to serve God acceptably, can achieve victory. Experiences related on the program by persons from all over the world recounted victory over the drug habit, many having experienced the whole spectrum, from tobacco and heavy drinking to marijuana to LSD to heroin. On getting a knowledge of God’s purposes, these left their drugs by applying Bible principles, through prayer and the help of fellow Christians, not “tapering off” with methadone or some such “substitute,” but breaking free and clean. Now they remain clean as they serve God. (2 Cor. 7:1) Others had strong, often violent family opposition to overcome.
Among the many hundreds baptized at these assemblies after a course of study in the Bible and coming to the point of dedication to God is the young man who stated to the audience in Pittsburgh:
“Before I came into the truth I was a Catholic. For about five years I took drugs (just about everything), I stole, practiced sexual immorality and almost everything the Bible says you shouldn’t do. My relationship with my ‘wife’ was an obstacle I had to overcome on becoming a Witness. She wasn’t my wife then, although I had been going with her for four years. I wanted to marry her, but she said, ‘Jehovah’s witnesses are crazy. If you’re going to associate with them, forget it.’ I said, ‘All right.’ So she knew I wasn’t fooling, but it took her about a month before she asked to study with me. She tried to prove the Bible wrong just as I had done. But she is here at this assembly today with me. We were married on May 26, 1973.”
WALKING IN THE DIVINE NAME
One of God’s prophets said that His servants would “walk in the name of Jehovah our God.” (Mic. 4:5) How is this done?
A number of talks, discussions and live illustrations provided the answer. God is invisible. But his invisibility does not make it impossible for us to “see” him as a person—that is, see his qualities, his ways, his dealings. Moses “continued steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible.” He saw and heard God’s attributes proclaimed. He experienced many close personal contacts with God’s acts, dealings and judgments, making his love for God unbreakable.—Heb. 11:25-27; Ex. chap. 15; 34:5-7.
Thus, knowing God intimately as a person, appreciating his fine qualities, his loving-kindness and mercy as well as his position as Universal Sovereign, we can develop the love that will hold us firm in devotion to him. We will put into practice what we learn about God’s ways. This practical application is essential. Also, the Christian will come to love his Christian brothers, and show love for all his fellowmen as well.—John 13:35; Gal. 6:10.
This is the secret of Jehovah’s witnesses’ unity. It explains why officials and news personnel were heard making such remarks as, “I have never seen such unity and harmony exercised among people—really something to behold,” and, “There is something to learn from these Witnesses: how to get along together.” About the program one convention delegate said: “Every talk, and the dramas presented, emphasized the need to examine each day how we feel about others, how we can spend ourselves for their welfare.”
Each one observing this portion of the program was faced with questions that we well might ask ourselves: Have I examined myself? Have I tried to find out how God, my Creator, feels about my course of life? Do I want good relations with him? Do I appreciate that wrong conduct can spoil this relationship? How do I act toward my fellowman?
‘Walking with God’ means honesty in business affairs, truthfulness, clean morals and zeal in helping others. Do you see this in the world? If you attend a sports event or a theater, or any place, even on the streets, where there is a large crowd, how do you feel when you happen to lose some money, or leave some valuable item in a public place? Do you consider it gone forever? Well, is it any different in a gathering where people have really learned Bible principles? It is. At all of Jehovah’s witnesses’ assemblies, a “Lost and Found” department is set up. Thousands of lost items are brought in. Among the many interesting occurrences at the “Divine Victory” assemblies were the following:
At the Los Angeles assembly a woman left a sum of money in a phone booth on the grounds. She was directed to Lost and Found, where her $120.00 was restored to her intact. In another case a twenty-dollar bill was brought in.
At another assembly, a boy about eight years old approached the Lost and Found department searching for his lost dollar bill. The attendant had several in his “returned money” box, and offered the boy one. “That’s not my dollar bill,” the boy said. “Mine was folded like an accordion.” The attendant looked in the box again and, sure enough, there was just such a bill, which the boy happily received.
These persons are not in themselves inherently better than other people. They have merely learned that it is better to walk in God’s way, and their heart has moved them to do this. And they are living examples that it can be done by anyone who really has a desire to serve God.
GAINING WEALTH FOR EARTH’S NEW KING
The program laid heavy emphasis on the fact that Christ is now invisibly present, having secured his power as reigning King in 1914 C.E. Accordingly, this would be a time when Christians could expect to face an accounting and to receive a reward. What this accounting would mean was discussed in an examination of Jesus’ parable of the “minas,” in the assembly discourse “Gaining Wealth for Earth’s New King.”—Luke 19:11-27.
In the parable, a man going away on a journey to receive a kingdom and return entrusted business assets to his slaves. On his return he richly rewarded those who had properly cared for the valuables committed to them, but punished a sluggish slave. Then he destroyed those who hatefully refused to acknowledge his reign over them. In the fulfillment, Jesus Christ went away to the ‘far country’ of heaven in 33 C.E., leaving to his disciples certain spiritual assets that were to be enhanced by the preaching of the good news.
As the speaker developed his theme, each listener saw his responsibility to share in making disciples, and not to be sluggish. He also realized the danger to those in the world who are not now acknowledging earth’s new king. These must be reached with the good news. Additionally, since all those gathered as disciples by the preaching work are also counted as precious property of Christ, each disciple must demonstrate love toward his fellow Christians.
To what extent the Kingdom-preaching has been done was discussed in another talk, “Sowing Seeds of Good News in a War-plagued World.” The apostle Paul was quoted, as he wrote to Christians about the year 61 C.E., saying: “The telling of the truth of that good news . . . is bearing fruit and increasing in all the world, just as it is doing also among you.” (Col. 1:5, 6) The speaker then explained that Christians today have the good news that that long-awaited kingdom of God is now established in the heavens. He said:
“For a long time it was thought that God’s kingdom would come by the converting of all mankind to be church members of Christendom. . . . Are two world wars inside of thirty-two years of this twentieth century the evidence that God’s ‘kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy, in the Holy Spirit’ was established in the hearts of the hundreds of millions of church members of Christendom? . . . All these things prove that the kingdom of God . . . has not come into their hearts. [It] cannot be expected to come in that way.”
He then declared:
‘The Kingdom is to come, nevertheless, as a real functioning government over this earth. This good news is being sown like seed in 208 countries and island groups, and it is bearing fruit. Everyone hearing the good news in a good heart joins in spreading it.’
Yes, even in countries that have long been solidly of one religion, such as Italy and France, the newspapers expressed astonishment at the way people are responding to the Kingdom-preaching. In Italy there are 30,000 of Jehovah’s witnesses active in preaching, but the amazing number of 57,000 persons came to their assembly in Flaminio Stadium in Rome. Likewise, in France, with fewer than 50,000 Witnesses in the entire country, more than 60,000 attended the Paris assembly held in Colombes Stadium.
A SPECIAL WORK
Even though many people are listening to Jehovah’s witnesses, expanded effort must be put forth in getting the good news to them. A drama was presented depicting Jerusalem’s destruction by the Romans in 70 C.E. It vividly portrayed the extreme danger to those Christians who failed to heed Jesus’ instructions at Matthew 24:15-18 and Luke 21:20-24, namely, to flee the city as soon as they saw Gallus’ army surround the city in 66 C.E. Just as he did then, God has now set a time limit for persons to get themselves untangled from this system of things. Accordingly, Christians live and work as though tomorrow could see the end of this present system.
Many people in the world today hunger for relief. Really, though not knowing it, they are starved to hear and understand the Bible’s comforting, hope-filled message. Can anything be done to find these people more quickly? To accentuate the effort to reach everyone possible in the available time, a special work was announced to all the assembled conventioners, thrilling them.
Starting this special work with the days of September 21-30 just past, the amazing total of nearly 130 million four-page folders were to be distributed to a wide area of earth’s population, in their local languages. The effort was to be made to leave a folder in every home. This is the opening phase of a work that will be periodically repeated with increased volume and extensiveness in the months to follow. Each time, a new message will be presented. Before September 1974, it is hoped, a half billion folders will be placed in the homes of the people. A monumental work indeed!
If you are one favored with an understanding of God’s purpose to bring in his righteous government, you very likely shared in the distribution of this powerful message in September. Have you made plans to have a full share in the greater campaign in December?
QUALITY OF DEVOTION IMPORTANT
On the first day of the assemblies the arrangement for elders, overseers in the congregations, received attention. These men are responsible to care for the “flock,” giving Scriptural counsel, assisting the congregation members to overcome problems in their lives, and organizing and directing the congregation’s activity in preaching and disciple-making. The discussion revealed why God has blessed the activity of Jehovah’s witnesses. For only men who meet the requirements set forth in the Bible at 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 are appointed as “shepherds.” Such men can help all in the congregations to maintain a high standard of quality in godly devotion.
As to the importance of individual godly devotion, a fine feature of the program that involved all those listening was “How Sensitive Is Your Conscience?” Live settings of actual situations were presented, demonstrating true-to-life instances in which there is no specific “black and white” Bible statement on the problem. The conscience of the Christian must be exercised, applying Bible principles to decide what to do in “gray” areas, such as, What is my responsibility as a clerk in a store when asked to put up unchristian holiday decorations, or to sell tobacco products? Or, What governs the extent to which I should watch or participate in sports activities? Everyone in the audience searched his conscience, and considered what counsel he might offer to another who presented such a question.
One of the prominent features of the assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses is the mass baptism service. At the North American, European and Asiatic assemblies 39,313 were baptized. Jehovah’s witnesses practice total immersion in water, this symbolizing the baptized one’s dedication to God on the basis of Jesus Christ’s atonement sacrifice. At all the assemblies those qualified for baptism gathered prior to the immersion in a reserved section. They were reminded: ‘In taking this important step of baptism, you disclaim any ownership of yourselves, acknowledging that Jehovah God is your rightful Owner and submitting yourselves to his will in every aspect of life without reservation.’ (Matt. 16:24; Rom. 12:1, 2) Then the speaker explained the first Bible requirement, repentance, a deep regret for having spent one’s past life in ways not in harmony with God’s will as expressed in his Word. (Ps. 97:10; Acts 17:30) Next, conversion, a turning around from the old course, should follow. (Acts 3:19) Finally, dedication, a disowning of self and a personal commitment to serve Jehovah, puts one in proper position to be acceptable for baptism.
During the five days four Bible dramas illustrated and accentuated the assembly theme. Each portrayed actual Bible accounts.
In the opening drama the audience was deeply moved to search their own hearts as to mercy, humility, and the need for each to watch his own course of action—to guard his heart—very carefully. The account of David’s sin with Bath-sheba brought home how easily one can fall into sin, but it highlighted God’s great mercy and impressed upon the hearts of all that only by complete reliance on Jehovah’s guidance can we be victorious over temptations toward wrongdoing.—2 Sam. chaps. 11, 12.
“Shout! for Jehovah Has Given You the City!” took the audience back to the ancient city of Jericho in the days of Joshua and Rahab. (Josh. chaps. 2, 6) One observer gave his impression as to how the audience applied its message to themselves. “A chill ran up our spines when one of Rahab’s relatives was shown running out of Rahab’s house just as Jericho’s walls were falling—running out into the world to die with it, rather than staying in the place of safety.” This drama graphically portrayed God’s victory over this world in behalf of his people, and his miraculous preservation of them.
“The Zeal for Your House Will Eat Me Up” provided glimpses of the ministry of Jesus Christ, highlighting the need for vigorous preaching activity today. We can be scoffers at the Kingdom proclamation as were the Pharisees and Sadducees. Or we can take our stand on the side of the Messianic kingdom despite ridicule and opposition and assure ourselves of a share in the divine victory.
The drama “Who Will Escape and Stand Before the Son of Man?” depicted the distressful days of Jerusalem from 66 to 70 C.E. It dealt with an apathetic Christian and his family, who lost their son due to this spiritual apathy. One observer remarked: “We rightly are more interested in keeping our own families than we are in anyone else. Many parents may feel that their children are doing well by just attending meetings, or coming along in the field service. But unless they are zealous and wholehearted in all that the congregation is doing, we might be losing them.”
DECLARATION AND RESOLUTION
Immediately following the talk “Gaining Wealth for Earth’s New King” the speaker presented a Declaration, followed by a Resolution, the same being enthusiastically adopted by the huge crowds assembled. The Declaration focused on events foretold to happen from the end of the “Gentile Times” in 1914 C.E. to the complete end of the present system of things in the generation to follow 1914.
The Resolution that was preceded by the Declaration put the world on notice that Jehovah’s witnesses “will continue without letup to sound the warning from God’s written Word . . . to proclaim God’s Messianic kingdom of a thousand years as the panacea—the cure-all, for distressed humanity.” The Resolution stated, in its concluding paragraph:
“Seeing now more clearly than ever before that God’s kingdom of a thousand years has approached and that the time gets shorter and shorter for distressed humanity to take advantage of the good news of salvation, we will display both loyal love for God and love for our fellowman. In this course we will obey God rather than man and will not slack our hand in carrying out his command through Christ to ‘preach this good news of the Kingdom in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations,’ before the end of this doomed system of things comes. (Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10) On God we rely to aid us to fulfill this resolve. And may He find us faithful to the end and count us worthy to share the joys and blessings resulting from his Divine Victory!”
The conventioners were delighted to receive a number of new publications that will be fine study aids. True Peace and Security—From What Source? has a direct, to-the-point approach, yet reasons with the reader. This new book, its first edition published in ten languages, treats primarily the problems of everyday life. It will help new students of God’s Word to bring their lives into harmony with God’s moral requirements and his standards for living in a righteous new order.
For about thirteen years Jehovah’s witnesses have enjoyed using the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, a modern-language translation that adheres closely to the original-language manuscripts of the Bible. At the “Divine Victory” assembly the Comprehensive Concordance of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures was enthusiastically received. This 1,280-page volume containing more than 333,000 entries will prove of great assistance in locating Bible texts.
Probably the most exciting of all the releases was the 416-page book God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached. This book, now in English and German, will be given thorough consideration by the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses. Study of the book will begin in December 1973.
A fine point with a view to helping the Christian to assure his share in the divine victory is presented on pages 126, 127. In discussing the reward for the faithful men of old before Christ, the statement is made: “Their integrity that they developed before death and with which they will be raised up will give them an advantage over the ‘unrighteous’ [who will also be resurrected to earth during Christ’s thousand-year reign] in advancing to actual human perfection in complete freedom from sinfulness. They will, as it were, have a head start over the ‘unrighteous’ in that direction.” Accordingly, those who make over their personalities now will be ahead of those who cultivate sinful things down to the time of their death. The latter ones will have greater handicaps in the race for everlasting life when resurrected, because they will have their sin-hardened personalities to make over.
Some of the foes of Jehovah’s witnesses say that the Witnesses teach a “second chance” when they speak, even as the Bible does, of the resurrection of the “unrighteous” to opportunity for life. (Acts 24:15) On pages 128, 129 the book makes clear that, being born sinful and condemned to death, mankind in general has never yet had a “chance.” (Rom. 8:20, 21) The thousand-year Judgment Day really affords most of mankind their first real opportunity to get everlasting life on earth.
These and many other points, including enlightening discussions of certain parables of Jesus, make the book one that all Bible students will enjoy.
The speaker giving the concluding talk of the five-day assembly reviewed the work done in April 1973 throughout the world. He reported that 1,701,091 Witnesses engaged actively in the preaching of the good news. Prospects for further expansion are great, since 1,266,970 Bible studies were held in the homes of interested persons during that month. At the annual celebration of the Memorial of Christ’s death, which occurred on April 17 this year, 3,883,235 persons were in attendance.
Reports from the 41 “Divine Victory” assemblies (in 38 cities) as above accounted for reveal that a total of 1,402,238 attended and 39,313 were baptized. This brings confirmation that Jehovah is truly with his people. It gives courage to each one sowing the seed of the good news to press on vigorously, knowing that his labor “is not in vain in connection with the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58) He has full confidence in Jehovah’s ability and willingness to give His servants strength to overcome the obstacles ahead. He has the guarantee of having a share in Jehovah’s final personal victory over this world and in His everlasting new order that will follow the divine victory.
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Crowds packed out the Houston Astrodome and facilities in 37 other cities this past summer for assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses
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31,263 crowded into the Expo ’70 Festival Plaza in Osaka, Japan, to learn about Divine Victory
Another 29,577 attended the international assembly in Seoul, Korea
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Members of the Governing Body served at most assemblies; here N. H. Knorr is speaking through a translator in Munich, Germany
In France, over 60,000 were present in Colombes Stadium to hear the Bible’s message
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The 30,000 Witnesses in Italy rejoiced to have over 57,000 at their assembly in Rome
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A special work was announced: worldwide distribution of a tract bearing a powerful message about God’s kingdom
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Over 39,000 were baptized, symbolizing their dedication to do the divine will
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In a forceful Bible drama conventioners watched as parents that were slow about doing the divine will lost their son in first-century Jerusalem
In drama, God’s miraculous preservation of his people was portrayed in the account about Rahab and the Israelite spies at Jericho
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An assembly highlight was release of the new book “God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached”