Keeping Watch for 100 Years
WITH this issue, The Watchtower has a century of publication behind it. During those years there have been many changes in the world. This journal has undergone some changes itself. Yet, in some important respects, it has not changed at all. Consider now just how The Watchtower has been keeping watch for 100 years.
This journal came on the scene in July 1879. One of the main reasons for its coming into existence was a dispute over the ransom. This prompted Charles T. Russell to publish the Watch Tower, in which, as he later wrote, “the Ransom [should be] defended and the Good Tidings of great Joy proclaimed as extensively as possible.”
The name “Watch Tower” was appropriate because in ancient times watchmen in towers often warned others of impending danger. This is also essential in spiritual matters, for God told his prophet Ezekiel: “Son of man, a watchman is what I have made you to the house of Israel, and you must hear from my mouth speech and you must warn them from me.” (Ezek. 3:17) This journal has diligently sought to live up to its name by keeping watch spiritually.
RELIANCE ON JEHOVAH
In the second issue of the Watch Tower, we expressed our confidence that it “has . . . JEHOVAH for its backer.” The publishers of this magazine are grateful that for decades now it has been possible to bring its readers “comfort from the Scriptures” and the reliable guidance that only God’s Word, the Bible, can provide. (Ps. 119:105; Rom. 15:4) Yet, for the spiritual aid that this journal has furnished, the publishers do not take credit. They seek to be “taught by Jehovah,” the Most High.—John 6:45.
This reliance on Jehovah God has proved to be a blessing, and there has been evidence of divine support. For the first issue of the Watch Tower, there were only 6,000 copies in one language, and the journal was published only once a month. Today, over 9,000,000 copies are printed twice a month. Also, The Watchtower now is published in 82 languages. This growth we attribute to God.—Zech. 4:6.
UPHOLDING GOD’S WORD
From its start, this journal has upheld the basic truths of the Bible. For instance, it stated in the issue of August 1882: “We confidently assert that the name Jehovah is never applied in Scripture to any but the Father.” Acknowledging the role of God’s Son, the first issue said that “merit toward God lies . . . in Christ’s perfect sacrifice.”
Through the years, The Watchtower has also presented such Scriptural truths as those relating to the condition of the dead, the hope of resurrection and the kingdom of God. (Eccl. 9:5, 10; Dan. 2:44; 7:13, 14; Acts 24:15) Especially have the clergy of Christendom protested. Why? Because these truths contradicted many of their teachings, such as the immortality of the soul, purgatory, eternal torment and the Trinity.—Ezek. 18:4; John 14:28.
From the outset, the Watch Tower showed that at Christ’s second coming his parousia would be an invisible presence as a mighty spirit person. (Matt. 24:3; 1 Pet. 3:18) Moreover, in keeping watch, this journal’s early issues (March and June 1880) pointed to 1914 C.E. as a climactic year. It was to mark the close of the 2,520-year-long Gentile Times, during which non-Jewish nations would rule the earth without interference by any kingdom of God.—Luke 21:24, Authorized Version.
Of course, even though this magazine has published such enlightening material, we do not claim to be infallible. It is to Jehovah God that we look gratefully for spiritual instruction. (Ps. 119:169) For any clarity of viewpoint, we have been dependent on the operation of his holy spirit, or active force. That spirit “searches into . . . the deep things of God.”—1 Cor. 2:10.
THIS “GOOD NEWS” MUST BE DECLARED
Yet searching the Scriptures and learning the truth are not all there is to true Christianity. Jesus commissioned his followers to ‘Go, make disciples,’ and said that the “good news” had to be preached in all nations.—Matt. 28:19, 20; Mark 13:10.
Appropriately, then, our April 1881 issue contained an article entitled “Wanted 1,000 Preachers.” In time, a number responded to this call. Very pointedly, another issue of this journal stated: “Are you preaching? We believe that none will be of the little flock [of Christ’s anointed followers] except preachers. . . . Yes, we were called to suffer with him and to proclaim that good news.”
MEETING THE CHALLENGE OF CHANGING ATTITUDES
Proclaimers of the “good news” certainly faced challenges in the late 19th century. True, there had been some changes in life-style in many lands. By the 1880’s there were some telephones, electric lights and electric streetcars. The 1890’s saw the appearance of a few “horseless carriages,” or automobiles. But for declarers of the “good news,” the challenge was coping with changing attitudes toward the Bible.
Charles Darwin had espoused the theory of man’s evolution, doing so in his 1859 work Origin of Species. As time passed, evolution, higher criticism of the Bible and the like presented a challenge for champions of God’s inspired Word.
The Watch Tower has always endeavored to meet the challenge of changing attitudes. For example, the March 1885 issue contained an article entitled “Evolution and the Brain Age.” Of course, the evolution theory has often been proved false in the pages of this journal.
But what about other critics of the Bible? Some contended that the prophet Isaiah erred in naming Sargon as king of Assyria, since secular history had not mentioned him. (Isa. 20:1) But the Watch Tower of January 1886 pointed to discoveries proving the Bible right.
These are mere examples. Through the years, this journal has continued publishing information that proves the Scriptures to be “the word of God.” (1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17) Not unique literary style, but confidence in Jehovah and the Bible has enabled The Watchtower to meet the challenge of changing attitudes.
ADVOCATING THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Over the years, the Watch Tower itself has undergone some changes. For instance, its English edition, a 16-page journal, became semimonthly in 1892, and by 1908 circulation had risen to 30,000 copies an issue. Beginning in 1909, it was called “The Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence.” Later, a very significant stride was taken with the issue of March 1, 1939, when this journal was named “The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom.” A change of format came with the issue of August 15, 1950, when this publication became a 32-page journal. Since then, colorful artwork and adjusted cover designs have enhanced its appearance.
But in upholding God’s Word and purposes, The Watchtower has not changed at all. To this day, it remains a staunch advocate of God’s government, “Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom.” Moreover, this journal has kept watch by calling attention to Scriptural warnings to “keep awake” spiritually. It has also alerted its readers to the wars, famines, pestilences and other indications that these are the “critical times” that mark the “last days.”—Matt. 24:3-14; Luke 21:10-36; 2 Tim. 3:1-5.
When the Gentile Times came to a close, the nations were becoming increasingly enmeshed in the first world war, one that ultimately claimed some 10,000,000 lives. After that global conflict, the League of Nations was proposed, and among its enthusiastic supporters were the Church of England and Canadian churches. On December 18, 1918, the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America (composed of representatives of various Protestant denominations) sent United States President Woodrow Wilson its adopted Declaration stating: “Such a League is not a mere political expedient; it is rather the political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth.” But from 1919 onward The Watch Tower boldly showed that the League of Nations would fail.
With the commencement of World War II in 1939, the League of Nations went into inactivity. That terrible conflict was raging with full force in 1942, when witnesses of Jehovah met in assembly and heard the thought-provoking public address “Peace—Can It Last?” “As the speech progressed,” reported The Watch Tower, “the audience saw with mental vision a word-picture drawn according to Revelation chapter seventeen, and saw the identity of the scarlet beast that now ‘is not’ but saw it ready to ascend out of the bottomless pit to become the ‘beast that was, and is not, and shall again be present’, this time with the Babylonish religious harlot dangling her legs over its back. But only for ‘one hour’ in the future this, and then the harlot is unseated and destroyed, and ‘the King of kings and Lord of lords’ destroys this . . . ‘peace beast’ with its seven heads and ten horns.” Even before the League reappeared as the United Nations in 1945, The Watchtower courageously declared that no such man-made organization, but God’s kingdom alone, will establish lasting peace.
ADVERTISING THE KINGDOM
After World War I, the work of declaring the “good news” had gathered momentum. Especially was it given impetus in 1922 during a Christian convention at Cedar Point, Ohio, U.S.A. Picking up the call to action made at that gathering, The Watch Tower urged proclaimers of the good news to advertise, advertise, advertise, the King and his kingdom.”
The 1920’s ended with the New York stock market crash that resulted in the Great Depression of the 1930’s, when nearly every country in the world was affected by high unemployment and a major slump in business activity. However, despite hardships they may have been experiencing economically, dedicated Christians reached a milestone in 1931. Assembled in convention, they enthusiastically adopted a resolution (soon published in The Watchtower), in which they declared: “We joyfully embrace and take the name which the mouth of the Lord God has named, and we desire to be known as and called by the name . . . Jehovah’s witnesses.”—Isa. 43:10-12.
SPIRITUAL FOOD “AT THE PROPER TIME”
An objective of the Watch Tower, as stated in its very first issue, was “to give the ‘meat in due season’ to the ‘household of faith.’” (Luke 12:42; Gal. 6:10, Authorized Version) We are grateful that through these pages it has been possible to direct attention to God’s Word and thus provide spiritual food “at the proper time” to benefit not only anointed followers of Christ but also their associates of the “great crowd.”—Matt. 24:45; Rev. 7:4-10.
By way of illustration, please consider the years 1933 to 1945, when Adolf Hitler’s “Third Reich” tried to exterminate Jehovah’s Witnesses in the German Reich. Their activities were banned and 6,019 were arrested, several of them two, three or more times. Two thousand suffered in concentration camps. A total of 635 Witnesses died in prison, 203 being executed. But spiritual strength was maintained, in part by recalling previous Watchtower material and by smuggling into the camps and discussing the Scriptural information in new articles. A notable example of spiritual food “at the proper time” was the Watchtower article “Neutrality,” first published late in 1939. It fortified Jehovah’s Witnesses in their already chosen stand as Christian neutrals.—John 17:16.
Prayer, reliance on Jehovah and appreciation for spiritual food strengthen faith. Hence, of numerous examples that might be cited, The Watchtower published these words from one concentration camp victim who wrote in his last letter: “In view of the fact that I maintained my objection, the death sentence was decreed. . . . I have such peace, such tranquillity, that you can’t possibly imagine. . . . My dearest ones, fulfill this my wish: be faithful and strong, that we may soon see each other again forever.”
During the same period, true Christians elsewhere also took advantage of spiritual food “at the proper time,” as published in this journal. From 1933 to 1951, thousands of Witnesses were arrested in the United States, many of them because of their stand as Christian neutrals. Additionally, at least 1,500 mobbings of Witnesses occurred in that country. But in the courts they fought valiantly and often won, thus making an indelible mark as fighters for civil liberties.
With the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945, the world had entered an era of fear and uncertainty. The Russians orbited the first man-made earth satellite in 1957 and the space age became a reality. During the 1960’s, civil disturbances occurred in various places, and nationalism was on the rise. Yet, over all these years, The Watchtower endeavored to provide timely spiritual food. In retrospect, a notable example of such ‘food at the right time’ seems to have been the 1962 Watchtower articles clarifying the Christian position of relative subjection to governmental “superior authorities.”—Rom. 13:1-7.
KEEP ON THE WATCH
Today we live in turbulent times. Pollution threatens health and life. In so many cases, there are evidences of man’s inhumanity to man. Selfishness often prevails, people hunger, and they suffer in other ways. But Jehovah promises to “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” (Rev. 11:18) So, there is “good news” for those who will receive it with appreciation, and this magazine continues to present that heartening message.
For 100 years now The Watchtower has been keeping watch in a spiritual way. Jehovah willing, it will keep watching. We sincerely hope that you will keep on the watch with this journal, confidently awaiting the time when Jehovah God will bring about the deliverance of honest-hearted people into the full blessings of his promised “new heavens” and “new earth.”—2 Pet. 3:11-13.
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1914—THE END OF THE GENTILE TIMES
“Ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah”
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The Gentile Times end October 1914
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“Our New Name”—October 15, 1931, issue
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