Preaching in a Lawless World
“Because of the increasing of lawlessness the love of the greater number will cool off. But he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved. And 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. 24:12-14.
1. To what extent is lawlessness taking over in the world today? (2 Tim. 3:1-5)
DO YOU see lawlessness on the increase today? In many parts of the earth disrespect for law and order is rising to a flood tide. Crime is rampant in most big cities. It is no longer safe to walk the streets. In recent years, many governments have been toppled by revolutions, and others are arming to the teeth against rebellion from within and threats from the outside. Even the Communist world is having difficulties, as nationalism takes precedence over socialistic “unity.”
2. How has lawlessness permeated many of the sects of Christendom?
2 What of Christendom? As Jesus prophesied for our day, “the increasing of lawlessness” has had a devastating effect on many of her sects. The Bible, which advocates proper respect for law and order, is now regarded by many as “out of date.” Numerous churches have gone along with the permissive society of the day, winking at immorality, homosexuality and corruption—thus producing a crop of counterfeit Christians, of the kind that will not “inherit God’s kingdom.”—Matt. 24:12; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10.
3. How have lawless ones tried to penetrate the Christian congregation, and what does Jesus say concerning such persons?
3 Lawless persons have even tried to penetrate the true Christian congregation, arguing that the “promised presence” of our Lord is not in this day. They ridicule the elders and dispute the Master’s appointment of “the faithful and discreet slave” to care for his Kingdom interests on earth. (2 Pet. 3:3, 4; Matt. 24:45-47) Persons of this kind are included in Jesus’ warning recorded at Matthew 7:15-23: “Be on the watch for the false prophets that come to you in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves. . . . [In that day] I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
4. What quality are we encouraged to cultivate, and how may we demonstrate it?
4 However, Jesus stated concerning truly “sheeplike” ones: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” How may we demonstrate that we have this quality of endurance? Why, by sharing in the fulfillment of Jesus’ further words: “And 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. 24:13, 14) It is by our endurance in proclaiming “this good news of the kingdom” that we may attain to salvation.
5. (a) Why can it be said that we are not alone in our work? (b) What judging is now being done, and by whom?
5 We are not alone in doing this work, for Jesus’ prophecy on this “conclusion of the system of things” goes on to tell us that “when the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne.” From the invisible heavens he directs a work of judgment, in which he separates the people of the nations “just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” This separating work is climaxed by the “great tribulation,” at which time the unresponsive “goats” depart “into everlasting cutting-off,” whereas the obedient “sheep” are invited to inherit the kingdom that the Father has prepared for them “from the founding of the world.”—Matt. 24:3, 21; 25:31-46.
6. (a) How have the “sheep” and the “goats” been made to identify themselves? (b) How has angelic direction of our house-to-house service often been demonstrated?
6 How do the “sheep” and the “goats” identify themselves as such? This is a consequence of a work of witnessing carried out on earth by the spirit-anointed “brothers” of the king and their companions, a work that reaches “to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) In the main, this has been a global campaign of preaching from house to house. Such activity results in the appreciative response to spiritual things that is suggested by the King’s words to the “sheep” class: “I was a stranger and you received me hospitably.” (Matt. 25:35) He counts their receiving his “brothers” as something being done to him. It is in contrast to the reception given by stubborn persons who pay no attention to spiritual matters. This separating work has indeed been carried forward under angelic direction. (Matt. 25:31, 32) And in conjunction with it there has been angelic aid in declaring the “good news,” for how often it has happened that a sincere person has prayed to God for help, only to find one of Jehovah’s Witnesses standing at his door! And how often has a Witness been guided by some unusual circumstance to call at a home when spiritual aid is needed the most! Being aware of the support of the myriads of heavenly angels, may we never let up in searching out worthy persons by zealous house-to-house preaching.
FOLLOWING THE FIRST-CENTURY PATTERN
7. (a) What indicates that the early Christians were intensely involved in witnessing “publicly and from house-to-house”? (b) What other comparison may be made between first-century and modern-day Christians?
7 Among the early Christians there was no division into clergy and laity. Those believers in the Lord Jesus Christ were not merely pew-sitters. They were men and women of action, intensely involved in witnessing “publicly and from house to house.” (Acts 20:20) They literally ‘filled Jerusalem with their teaching’ and preached the good news “in all creation that is under heaven.” (Acts 5:28; Col. 1:23) They were successful because, as historian E. Arnold notes in his book The Early Christians: “Even the most simple members of their communities were messengers, spreading the truth entrusted to them.” It must be the same today, for these words of Paul apply to all believing Christians: “With the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” And again the result is that multitudes are hearing the “good news,” for, “in fact, ‘into all the earth their sound went out, and to the extremities of the inhabited earth their utterances.’”—Rom. 10:10, 18.
8. What sharp contrast is to be seen between Christendom’s religions and true Christianity?
8 How different the prophetic message of true Christians from the formalistic ceremonies of Christendom! Historian H. G. Wells noted this difference in his Outline of History, as follows:
“It is necessary that we should recall the reader’s attention to the profound differences between this fully developed Christianity of Nicæa [of 325 C.E.] and the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. . . . What is clearly apparent is that the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth was a prophetic teaching of the new type that began with the Hebrew prophets. . . . Its only organization was an organization of preachers, and its chief function was the sermon. But the fully fledged Christianity of the fourth century . . . was mainly a priestly religion of a type already familiar to the world for thousands of years. . . . it had a rapidly developing organization of deacons, priests, and bishops.”
For their prophetic teaching today, true Christians have the precious good news of the established kingdom, which must be ‘preached first in all the nations’ before the end comes.—Mark 13:10.
9. What house-to-house service that was started in 1919 continues with success to this day?
9 This modern-day preaching of the “good news” received added impulse after announcement of the projected new magazine The Golden Age at the Cedar Point, Ohio, U.S.A., convention on September 5, 1919. This magazine is now called by the Scriptural title “Awake!” (Rom. 13:11) It became the instrument for a special work announced by the Watch Tower Society at that convention:
“THE GOLDEN AGE work is a house-to-house canvass with the kingdom message, proclaiming the day of vengeance of our God and comforting those that mourn.”
To this day, the house-to-house work with Awake!, and also with the Watchtower magazine, continues to be one of the most valuable methods of reaching the people regularly with the “good news.”
10. What stirring call to action was given in 1922, and how was house-to-house activity tied in?
10 The house-to-house service of Jehovah’s Witnesses gained further impetus from the second Cedar Point convention in 1922, where this memorable call to action sounded forth:
“Go forward in the fight until every vestige of Babylon lies desolate. Herald the message far and wide. The world must know that Jehovah is God and that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. This is the day of all days. Behold, the King reigns! You are his publicity agents. Therefore advertise, advertise, advertise, the King and his kingdom.”
One day of that convention was set aside for house-to-house group witnessing, and it was reported that 10,000 books were distributed by the Kingdom publishers. Down to this day, special programs of house-to-house preaching at conventions add to the joy of those assembled.
A ‘LOCUST’ ARMY ADVANCES
11. (a) To what was the army of Witnesses Scripturally likened in their house-to-house preaching work? (b) How has this ‘locust’ activity affected (i) the clergy, (ii) honest-hearted people?
11 During the 1920’s and 1930’s this vigorous witnessing from house to house was like a locust plague passing through Christendom. As Revelation 9:7-10 puts it, “the likenesses of the locusts resembled horses prepared for battle . . . And the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running into battle. Also, they have tails and stings like scorpions.” A “mighty” army of zealous Witnesses swarmed through the cities and towns of Christendom, exposing wrong doctrines and hypocritical religious practices. This often stung the clergy into active opposition. The ‘locust’ band gave notice concerning the approaching day of Jehovah’s vengeance on all defamers of his name, and comforted honest-hearted ones with the glad tidings of a paradise earth to be restored under God’s sovereignty.—Isa. 61:2.
12. (a) Why are these “last days” no time for complacency? (b) How may Joel’s words concerning the ‘locust’ army be applied to the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
12 These “last days” are no time for complacency. (2 Tim. 3:1) As God’s prophet Joel declares: “The day of Jehovah is coming, for it is near!” (Joel 2:1) Though this is to be a day of gloom and anguish for false religionists, those who love God can rejoice now in spiritual enlightenment that is like the “light of dawn spread out upon the mountains.” (Joel 2:2a) As a ‘locust’ army, they carried the Kingdom message from house to house. God’s prophet describes their zealous action in these striking words:
“There is a people numerous and mighty; one like it has not been made to exist from the indefinite past, and after it there will be none again to the years of generation after generation. Ahead of it a fire has devoured, and behind it a flame consumes. Like the garden of Eden the land is ahead of it; but behind it is a desolate wilderness, and there has also proved to be nothing thereof escaping.” (Joel 2:2b, 3)
True, there has never been a spiritual army like these anointed witnesses of Jehovah! They have marched through the earth, exposing the error of Babylonish religions, completely devastating any Edenlike appearance of their realm of activity, but bringing comfort to those homes that receive the “good news.” Through Joel, Jehovah God says of this witness band:
“Like powerful men they run. Like men of war they go up a wall. . . . On the houses they go up. Through the windows they go in like the thief. . . . And Jehovah himself will certainly give forth his voice before his military force, for his camp is very numerous. For he who is carrying out his word is mighty; for the day of Jehovah is great and very fear-inspiring, and who can hold up under it?” (Joel 2:7-11)
Protected by the myriads of heavenly angels, these spiritual ‘locusts’ have carried forward their house-to-house visits. The common people have heard them gladly, as the ‘fear-inspiring day of Jehovah’ draws close.—See Religion, chaps. 6 and 7 (1940 C.E.); also The Watchtower, issue of June 15 to July 15, 1939, under “Doom of Religion.”
13. What “horses” have served today as the instrumentalities of the ‘locust’ army, and what grand house-to-house witness has resulted?
13 The prophet Joel envisioned this ‘locust’ army as running like “horses” prepared for the battle, making a sound like that of many chariots. (Joel 2:4-6) A great army indeed are these worldwide proclaimers of the Kingdom, as they carry on spiritual warfare, preaching “from house to house”! And John’s vision proceeds to describe mounted horses making up “armies of cavalry” to the number of “two myriads of myriads”—200,000,000! (Rev. 9:16-19) Powerful instrumentalities these “horses” have been for helping with the proclamation of Jehovah’s judgments! How well they compare to the millions upon millions of Bibles, books and magazines that the ‘locust’ band has distributed during these years in their house-to-house activity! (See “Then Is Finished the Mystery of God,” chap. 17.) In the year 1978 alone, they, accompanied by the “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9-17, distributed to the homes 216,709,937 copies of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines. The ‘locust’ army’s house-to-house preaching certainly gives a grand witness.
14. How may Joel 2:7 have application with regard to the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses under ban?
14 Enemies of truth have tried to stop this preaching activity. In many countries nationalistic rulers have proclaimed a ban against this ‘locust’ work. They have tried to erect a “wall” against the Kingdom-preaching activity. But the ‘locust’ army climbs such walls “like men of war.” In some towns where the work is under ban local interested persons have joined with the Witnesses, guiding them to those homes where they know the people to be friendly. At times they will witness to one or two homes in one block and then move over to do the same in another block of houses Often they witness with the Bible only. In other lands the Witnesses carry on an effective work informally, while they yearn for the day when restrictive shackles may be broken, so that they may freely go from house to house again.
15. How did the United States Supreme Court come out in support of our house-to-house preaching?
15 During World War II, religious clergymen in the United States did their utmost to get the house-to-house activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses banned. However on many occasions, the Supreme Court of the United States acknowledged that this house-to-house preaching was supported by the constitutional guarantees of the free exercise of religion and freedom of speech and press. Drawing attention to the Scriptural basis of the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Supreme Court stated, in its majority opinion in Murdock v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in May 1943:
“They claim to follow the example of Paul, teaching ‘publickly, and from house to house.’ Acts 20:20. They take literally the mandate of the Scriptures, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.’ Mark 16:15. . . . This form of evangelism is utilized today on a large scale by various religious sects whose colporteurs carry the Gospel to thousands upon thousands of homes and seek through personal visitations to win adherents to their faith. It is more than preaching; it is more than distribution of religious literature. It is a combination of both.”
Truly, the ‘locust’ army and their companions have been successful in climbing over legal walls that enemies have tried to raise against their house-to-house work.
“FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE” WORLD WIDE
16. (a) What angelic activity now takes in the world field? (b) Why have the “preaching” methods of Christendom’s missionaries proved unsuccessful?
16 In explaining one of his parables, Jesus said: “The field is the world . . . The harvest is a conclusion of a system of things, and the reapers are angels.” (Matt. 13:38, 39) The apostle John also saw in vision angelic activity at this ‘time of the end,’ and so he wrote:
“I saw another angel flying in midheaven, and he had everlasting good news to declare as glad tidings to those who dwell on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people, saying in a loud voice: ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of the judgment by him has arrived, and so worship the One who made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters.’ And another, a second angel, followed, saying: ‘She has fallen! Babylon the great has fallen, she who made all the nations drink of the wine of the anger of her fornication!’” (Rev. 14:6-8)
How could all peoples of mankind be advised of the everlasting good news concerning God’s Kingdom rule, and of the impending fall of the world empire of false religion and its destruction? Would it be by Christendom’s method of going into so-called “pagan” lands, building schools, hospitals and relief centers and incidentally preaching to the “rice Christians’ that came to them? No, for such methods could never succeed. They have not succeeded, and the religions of Christendom, which have been partners in gunrunning and colonial warfare through the centuries, are held in very poor esteem throughout many of the non-Christian countries of earth.
17. What methods have been used by the missionaries of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and with what result?
17 The angels of heaven have guided a far different missionary service in recent years. Starting in the year 1943, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been operating the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead (originally at South Lansing, New York, U.S.A.) for the express purpose of training missionaries for the world field. And these missionaries have been sent forth, to preach “publicly and from house to house,” conduct home Bible studies and gather interested persons into new congregations. Has this public preaching “from house to house” been successful? Surely it has. In 1943, 126,329 Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout 54 countries and territories of earth were serving in 6,310 congregations. In 1978, 35 years later, there were 2,182,341 active Witnesses, in 205 countries, organized into 42,255 congregations.
18. (a) Is house-to-house witnessing important today, and why do you so answer? (b) How should Jehovah’s people regard their role in connection with the judgment work? (c) What must we do to be assured of happiness as the final outcome?
18 As “the hour of the judgment” by God hastens nearer, so must this house-to-house activity by those of you who are home missionaries and foreign missionaries hasten on to its conclusion. (Rev. 14:7) Though many persons today may show a “goatlike” disposition, there are still “sheep” waiting in your territories. As you courageously continue your house-to-house activity, heavenly angels will see that you are guided to these “sheep.” The enthroned King, Christ Jesus, is the Judge. We are simply humble servants privileged to play a role in connection with his judgment work, and we may do so by ‘thoroughly bearing witness and teaching publicly and from house to house.’ (Acts 20:20, 21) Very soon the lawless cities of Christendom and of the entire earth will “actually crash in ruins, to be without an inhabitant.” Then, happy will be those who answered the call to Jehovah’s service, saying: “Here I am! Send me.”—Isa. 6:8-11.