Making Known the Good News Earth Wide
JEHOVAH GOD has always had witnesses to declare his sovereignty. Abel was the first of the long line. (Matt. 23:35; Heb. 11:4; 12:1) Later, when an issue arose among the nations about his Godship, Jehovah said to the entire nation of Israel: “You are my witnesses.” (Isa. 43:10-12; 44:8) Jesus Christ is God’s Chief Witness. He called himself “the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation by God.”—Rev. 3:14.
All true followers of Jesus Christ are, consequently, witnesses to Jehovah’s name and purposes through Christ. God formed the Christian congregation, as the apostle Peter pointed out in testifying before the first-century Christian governing body. (Acts 15:7, 8, 14; 1 Pet. 2:9) At specific times of judgment God’s name and purposes were proclaimed widely and intensively. For an outstanding example we can point to the time forty years prior to the end of the Jewish system of things in 70 C.E., when Jerusalem was destroyed. Jesus and his disciples were the proclaimers of God’s purposes toward that nation, and they became numerous and markedly noticeable, even to their enemies. (Acts 17:6; 28:22) Also, before the global flood of Noah’s day, and before the first destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 607 B.C.E., a thorough warning was given, which could not be ignored.—2 Pet. 2:5; Jer. 25:8-12.
So today, in the conclusion of the present system of things, an even more far-reaching and intensive proclamation must be made. This is being done. In 210 lands, including countries where Jehovah’s Witnesses must work “underground,” more than two million people are preaching and teaching the “good news” of God’s righteous kingdom and giving a warning of the destruction of wickedness in the earth.
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES IN MODERN TIMES
The modern-day work of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses received impetus about 1872 with a small group of men who became especially interested in what the Bible has to say about Christ’s return. They also focused much attention on the Bible teaching of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Charles Taze Russell was prominent in establishing study groups among interested ones. Seeing the need for making known the results of their Bible research to others, these Bible students organized a corporation to meet the legal requirements for the dissemination of Bible truths in various languages by means of printed publications. C. T. Russell was elected as president of the corporation now known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. It was chartered in 1884. Other corporations have also been formed in many countries, to cooperate with the above-named Society.
The second president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society was Joseph F. Rutherford, serving from the time of Russell’s death in 1916 until his own death in 1942. From that time Nathan H. Knorr served in this capacity, until his decease on June 8, 1977, after which Frederick W. Franz was elected as president.
BIBLE LITERATURE AND ITS PREPARATION
Literature discussing and explaining the Bible is prepared under the supervision of a central governing body residing in Brooklyn, New York. The chief organ of Jehovah’s Witnesses for disseminating Bible truths is The Watchtower. This magazine began with an edition of 6,000 copies in July 1879, and has grown to enjoy a circulation of 10,400,000, in 79 languages as of August 1, 1977. A companion magazine, Awake!, began publication first as The Golden Age in 1919 and later (from 1937 to 1946) as Consolation. The circulation of Awake! as of August 8, 1977, was 10,125,000, in 33 languages.
The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is a modern-language translation of the entire Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek texts. This work was done by a committee of fully dedicated Christians. The same committee also prepared The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, which contains the Westcott and Hort Greek text with an interlinear literal English translation, and the New World Translation in English in the right-hand column. These have been great aids in Bible study. The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures has been translated from English into Dutch, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish, and the Greek Scripture portion into Danish, Finnish, Japanese and Swedish.
The most widely distributed of the many Bible study books published by Jehovah’s Witnesses, aside from the Bible, is The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. This is primarily a doctrinal study. Publication figures on this 192-page hardbound book, released in 1968, were 84,000,000, in 101 languages, as of August 1, 1977. Hundreds of thousands of home Bible studies are carried on with interested persons, using this and other books as study aids.
Correspondents and contributors from many lands supply articles for The Watchtower and Awake! A staff at the Brooklyn, New York, headquarters also writes material and prepares contributed articles for publication.
Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain a large printing plant in Brooklyn, New York, with a subsidiary printery near Wallkill, New York. Some of the other printing plants are operated in Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Italy, Japan, Nigeria, the Philippine Republic, South Africa, Sweden and Switzerland. Of the 97 branches used to direct the work in 210 lands, 31 do local printing of magazines or other literature. During the 1975-76 service year (September to August) they turned out 2,484,919 Bibles and 102,638,842 bound books and booklets explaining the Bible. In addition, 513,282,880 magazines were printed. These printeries are staffed by volunteers, all Jehovah’s Witnesses. They serve at these printeries and branch offices, living in homes provided for the staff, receiving board and room and a small monthly allowance. Free guided tours are provided for visitors to these branch offices, homes and printing plants.
The Bible literature has been of great help to Jehovah’s Witnesses in proclaiming the “good news” to the greatest possible number of people in the short time that is left for this system of things. These Bible study helps are placed with interested persons for a small contribution. Much literature is also given free to those unable to contribute. Jehovah’s Witnesses make return visits on persons manifesting interest, and free Bible studies are conducted in the homes of those desiring to know more about God’s Word and purpose.
Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses have distributed well over a billion Bibles, books and booklets and billions of Watchtower and Awake! magazines. Additionally, the subscribers to these magazines run into the millions.
EXPANSION IN ALL THE WORLD
In recent decades, particularly since 1950, Jehovah’s Witnesses have expanded their witnessing activity phenomenally. In more than 40,000 congregations world wide, upward of two million of Jehovah’s Witnesses are actively proclaiming the “good news.” Associated with them in their congregation meetings are millions of others who are learning of God’s purposes and are being trained to engage in this same work. On Sunday, April 3, 1977, at the annual celebration of the Memorial of Christ’s death, “the Lord’s evening meal,” there were more than 5,089,000 persons present.—1 Cor. 11:20; Matt. 26:20-30.
In many lands of earth the work has been opened up by missionaries. To provide special training for this service the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead was opened in 1943. Since that time nearly 6,000 students have graduated. Many of these are still serving as full-time workers in assignments all over the earth. Attendance at the School is by special invitation. Students are selected from among Jehovah’s Witnesses who are engaged in full-time witnessing work and whose health and circumstances allow them to qualify for service in another land. The primary textbook of the School is the Bible. Bible doctrine, congregational operation, effective witnessing and teaching, and a foreign or second language have been the principal subjects. At present the course is of only five months’ duration, but is very concentrated and intensive.
Upon graduation the students are assigned to missionary homes or branch offices, provided and supported by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Thus the missionaries do not have to be concerned about daily material needs and can devote full time to declaring the “good news” to the people by calling on them at their homes. The missionaries of Jehovah’s Witnesses learn the local language and get out among the people, working hard to proclaim the “good news” in the assigned territory. They establish congregations with which they associate as members, training those accepting the “good news” in witnessing and teaching, in congregational work and in organizing assemblies and large conventions. In many lands that have been opened up by the missionaries, the burden of responsibility to care for the work is now in the hands of the people of those lands. The missionaries feel very happy to serve alongside these fine new Christian brothers of theirs.
The largest single gathering at a convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses was the 253,922 persons who packed out New York city’s Yankee Stadium and Polo Grounds in 1958. Every year, besides small “circuit assemblies” having an attendance of a few hundred to several thousand, there are larger “district” or national or international assemblies. Often several conventions are held in convenient locations in a country, so that as many as possible may attend. The convention program is the same in each location all over the world. A report on the “Sacred Service” assemblies held world wide in 1976 showed that more than 3,360,000 persons attended in 96 countries.
At each assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses, arrangements are made for baptism of all those who have taken a course of study with Jehovah’s Witnesses and who wish to follow Christ’s example in thus being immersed in water. By this act and with faith in Christ’s atonement sacrifice, they symbolize their dedication to God. (Matt. 3:15; 28:19, 20) During the three years 1974 through 1976 the total number of persons baptized by Jehovah’s Witnesses was 789,601. Year by year the number hearing and joining the ranks of proclaimers of the “good news” increases, and many more are hearing the warning that the end of this system of things is very near and that the righteous thousand-year reign of Christ is at hand for the liberation of earth from sin, sickness and death.—Rev. 21:1-4.
[Pictures on page 633]
Charles T. Russell
Joseph F. Rutherford
Nathan H. Knorr
Frederick W. Franz
[Picture on page 634]
Millions of pieces of Bible literature are produced annually at this large printing plant in Brooklyn, New York, and at its subsidiary located near Wallkill, New York (shown below). These printeries serve the needs of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the world
[Picture on page 635]
Jehovah’s Witnesses utilize over seventy rotary printing presses; this one is in Japan