‘Upon the Watchtower I Am Standing’
“And he proceeded to call out like a lion: ‘Upon the watchtower, O Jehovah, I am standing constantly by day, and at my guardpost I am stationed all the nights.’”—ISAIAH 21:8.
1, 2. (a) What goal did Charles T. Russell have? (b) How would Bible literature help to accomplish his goal?
A GOD-FEARING 21-year-old man living in the northeastern United States had a mission. It was his goal to expose the false religious teachings of his day, especially the doctrines of eternal torment and predestination. Also, he wanted to champion the truth about the ransom and the object and manner of Christ’s coming. How would he do all of this? By shining the light of God’s Word, the Holy Bible, on religious beliefs.—Psalm 43:3; 119:105.
2 Charles T. Russell, the first president of the Watch Tower Society, was that man, and he decided in 1873 to publish religious literature as a means of bringing the light of Bible truth into focus. To sincere readers, those publications would reveal the cracks in Christendom’s dogmas. Any hidden doctrinal defects would not escape the Bible’s powerful light. (Ephesians 5:13) At the same time, this literature would spotlight ‘healthful teaching’ to build up the faith of readers. (Titus 1:9; 2:11; 2 Timothy 1:13) Did the zeal for Bible truth that drove Russell in his quest have a precedent?—Compare 2 Kings 19:31.
Early Christians: Champions of God’s Word
3. How did Christ Jesus set the pace for championing the truth?
3 The first-century Christians championed the use of God’s Word among the Jews and the Gentiles. They stood as if stationed on a watchtower, heralding forth the truth to all who would hear. (Matthew 10:27) Their Leader, Jesus Christ, set the pace. He said: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37) Although perfect, he refused to rely on his own wisdom or personal opinions. Rather, his teachings originated with his Superior Teacher, Jehovah God. “I do nothing of my own initiative,” he told a group of Jews. “But just as the Father taught me I speak these things.” (John 8:28; see also John 7:14-18.) According to the Gospel accounts of his earthly ministry, Jesus quoted (or spoke parallel thoughts) from about one half of the books of the Hebrew Scriptures.—Luke 4:18, 19 (Isaiah 61:1, 2); Luke 23:46 (Psalm 31:5).
4. Give examples of how Jesus used God’s Word to teach the truth.
4 Even after his death and resurrection, Christ was still using God’s Word to teach the truth. For example, when Cleopas and his companion were traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus, Jesus helped those disciples reason on the Scriptures. The account states: “And commencing at Moses and all the Prophets he interpreted to them things pertaining to himself in all the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:25-27) Later that same day, Jesus appeared to the 11 apostles and some of his disciples to build up their faith. How? By the skillful use of the Scriptures. Luke writes: “Then he [Jesus] opened up their minds fully to grasp the meaning of the Scriptures, and he said to them: ‘In this way it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from among the dead on the third day.’”—Luke 24:45, 46.
5. At Pentecost 33 C.E., how did Peter follow the example of Christ in using the Scriptures?
5 Following its Exemplar, in the year 33 C.E. the Christian congregation began its public ministry with the use of the Scriptures. The setting: an open area outside a house in Jerusalem. After hearing the sound of “a rushing stiff breeze” upon this house, a crowd of thousands of Jews of Jerusalem and Jewish pilgrims are drawn to this place and assembled. Peter steps forward—the 11 other apostles are around him—and with a powerful voice he begins to speak: “Men of Judea and all you inhabitants of Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give ear to my sayings.” Then pointing out “what was said through the prophet Joel” and what “David says,” Peter explains the miracle that has just taken place and that “God made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you impaled.”—Acts 2:2, 14, 16, 25, 36.
6. (a) Explain what took place at a meeting of the first-century governing body. (b) How were the congregations informed of the governing body’s decision, and with what benefit?
6 When the early Christians needed clarifying information on faith and conduct, the first-century governing body also made good use of the Scriptures. For example, at the meeting of the governing body in the year 49 C.E., the disciple James, acting as chairman, focuses their attention on a pertinent scripture found at Amos 9:11, 12. “Men, brothers, hear me,” he says. “Symeon has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name. And with this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written.” (Acts 15:13-17) The entire body concurred with James’ proposition and then put their scripturally based decision in written form so that it could be delivered to all the congregations and read by them. What were the results? The Christians “rejoiced over the encouragement,” and “the congregations continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number from day to day.” (Acts 15:22-31; 16:4, 5) Thus, the early Christian congregation became “a pillar and support of the truth.” But what about modern history? Would C. T. Russell and his associate Bible students imitate this fine, first-century example? How would they champion the truth?—1 Timothy 3:15.
Magazines With a Far-Reaching View
7. (a) What was the purpose of Zion’s Watch Tower? (b) To whom did it look for support?
7 July 1879 saw the birth of Russell’s principal vehicle for Bible enlightenment —Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. Its first issue laid out the magazine’s noble purpose: “As its name indicates, it aims to be the lookout from whence matters of interest and profit may be announced to the ‘little flock,’ and as the ‘Herald of Christ’s Presence,’ to give the ‘meat in due season’ to the ‘household of faith.’” Trust in almighty God was the magazine’s cornerstone. Its second issue stated: “‘Zion’s Watch Tower’ has, we believe, JEHOVAH for its backer, and while this is the case it will never beg nor petition men for support. When He who says: ‘All the gold and silver of the mountains are mine,’ fails to provide necessary funds, we will understand it to be time to suspend the publication.”
8 Zion’s Watch Tower, now The Watchtower, has been published continuously for more than 107 years. It has grown from a monthly magazine of 6,000 copies printed in one language to a semimonthly magazine of 12,315,000 copies available in 103 languages.—Compare Isaiah 60:22; Zechariah 4:10.
9. How was the title Watch Tower an appropriate one?
9 The title, Watch Tower, was an apt choice by Russell. The word usually used in the Hebrew Scriptures for “watchtower” means “lookout” or “observation point,” from which a guard could easily spot an enemy in the distance and sound an advance warning of the approach of danger. Suitably, then, for its first 59 years of publication, the title page carried this challenging quotation from Isaiah 21:11, 12, King James Version: “Watchman, What of the Night?” “The Morning Cometh.”
10. Who serves as the watchman of Isaiah 21:11, and what message does he announce?
10 The posted watchman of Isaiah’s prophecy was due to step forward shortly. Amid the earth’s prevailing wicked state of gloom, Russell had gladly broadcast the good news of “the morning” to come. Jesus Christ’s Millennial Reign of peace is the theme of a welcome bulletin. But before “the morning” arrives, the class serving as a watchman—the remnant of spiritual Israel today—boldly warns of the progress of “the night,” which will reach its darkest point in “the war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Har–Magedon.—Revelation 16:14-16.
11, 12. (a) How do the words at Isaiah 21:8 show that the watchman class is faithful and alert? (b) By what agent does today’s report come, and how is it principally spread?
11 Earlier, in Isaiah 21:8, we are introduced to this faithful watchman with these words: “And he proceeded to call out like a lion: ‘Upon the watchtower, O Jehovah, I am standing constantly by day, and at my guardpost I am stationed all the nights.’”
12 Picture in your mind a watchman stationed on a high tower, bending forward, scanning the horizon during the daylight, straining to pierce the darkness during the night—always on the alert. You now have the main idea conveyed by the Hebrew word for “watchtower” (mits·pehʹ) as used in Isaiah 21:8. Since the watchman is so vigilant, who in his right mind would doubt his ringing report? Likewise today, the watchman class has exerted itself by searching through the Scriptures to see what Jehovah has in store for this system of things. (James 1:25) This watchman then calls out that message loudly and fearlessly, principally through the pages of The Watchtower. (Compare Amos 3:4, 8.) This magazine will never shrink in fear from championing the truth!—Isaiah 43:9, 10.
13. What associate journal appeared in 1919, and what similar purpose does it have?
13 On October 1, 1919, a new magazine appeared on the world stage: The Golden Age.* The watchman class would use this instrument as an associate to The Watchtower. Although its articles would not delve into Bible subjects as deeply as those in The Watchtower, it would alert mankind to false religious teachings, the coming destruction of the present wicked system of things, and the new earth of righteousness to follow. Yes, it too would champion the truth!
14. What was the aim of Consolation, and later Awake!?
14 Eighteen years later the name of The Golden Age was changed to Consolation. “The new name stands for truth,” stated the issue of October 6, 1937. Consolation became Awake! with the August 22, 1946, issue. In that issue it pledged: “Integrity to the truth will be the highest aim of this magazine.” To this day, it has not failed to keep that promise. Uniquely, The Watchtower and Awake! carry the banner of truth high for all to see. In so doing, the magazines follow the path blazed by the early Christian congregation.—3 John 3, 4, 8.
The Watchtower and Awake!: Champions of Truth
15. (a) What method of dispensing spiritual food today is similar to that in the early Christian congregation? (b) Besides quoting Bible verses, what else is needed? Give examples.
15 The “faithful and discreet slave” class, the “watchman,” today uses the Watchtower magazine under the direction of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses as its main channel for dispensing spiritual “food at the proper time.” (Matthew 24:45) This follows the pattern of the first-century congregation, which put clarifying information on doctrine and morals into written form “to be read to all the brothers.” (1 Thessalonians 5:27) Right from its start The Watchtower has been a Bible-using and Bible-teaching magazine. For example, the first issue of Zion’s Watch Tower quoted or cited more than 200 texts from at least 30 Bible books. But more is needed than merely quoting Bible verses. People need help to understand them. The Watchtower has always advanced Bible comprehension. From 1892 to 1927 each issue contained weekly Bible readings and a discussion of a key text from each reading. For other examples, see the chart entitled “History-Making Watchtower Articles, Decade by Decade.”
16, 17. What did The Watchtower’s first editor do to ensure that this magazine would always champion Bible truth?
16 How would The Watchtower maintain the purity of its printed message? The magazine’s first editor, C. T. Russell, instituted safeguards to make certain that what was printed in The Watchtower was the truth as then understood. One of those safeguards is identified in his will made on June 27, 1907. (Russell died on October 31, 1916.) His will states:
“I direct that the entire editorial charge of ZION’S WATCH TOWER shall be in the hands of a committee of five brethren, whom I exhort to great carefulness and fidelity to the truth. All articles appearing in the columns of ZION’S WATCH TOWER shall have the unqualified approval of at least three of the committee of five, and I urge that if any matter approved by the three be known or supposed to be contrary to the views of one or both of the other members of the committee, such articles shall be held over for thought, prayer and discussion for three months before being published—that so far as possible the unity of the faith and the bonds of peace may be maintained in the editorial management of the journal.”
17 Each member of the Editorial Committee, according to Russell’s will, had to be “thoroughly loyal to the doctrines of the Scriptures” and had to exhibit, as prominent characteristics, “purity of life, clearness in the truth, zeal for God, love for the brethren and faithfulness to the Redeemer.” Also, Russell stipulated that “it shall not in any manner be indicated by whom the various articles appearing in the journal are written . . . that the truth may be recognized and appreciated for its own worth, and that the Lord may more particularly be recognized as the Head of the church and the Fountain of truth.”
18. Why can we read The Watchtower and Awake! with confidence?
18 To this day the Governing Body follows similar guidelines. Each article in both The Watchtower and Awake! and every page, including the artwork, is scrutinized by selected members of the Governing Body before it is printed. Furthermore, those who assist in writing articles for The Watchtower are Christian elders who appreciate the seriousness of their assignment. (Compare 2 Chronicles 19:7.) They spend many hours in researching the Bible and other reference material to make sure that what is written is the truth and that it faithfully follows the Scriptures. (Ecclesiastes 12:9, 10; 2 Timothy 1:13) It is not unusual for one magazine article—that you may read in 15 minutes—to take from two weeks to over a month to prepare.
19. What can you do to champion Bible truth?
19 Therefore, you can read The Watchtower and Awake! with confidence. But you can do more. You can enthusiastically offer these magazines to others so that they also can learn the truth and benefit from hearing the messages of the ‘watchman standing upon the watchtower.’ (Isaiah 21:8) Yes, along with the modern-day watchman, you too can champion Bible truth.
Interestingly, some readers were at first disappointed with the cover design of The Golden Age. To them it appeared too commonplace. In response the Watch Tower Society’s annual report said: “In this connection we would suggest that just at the time the publication of The Golden Age started there was a printers’ strike in Greater New York. Only a few days before, a contract had been made for the publication of The Golden Age and the men who were operating the presses which take the kind of paper and cover used in it did not go on strike. It thus seemed providential that the character of cover and paper had been selected, for the reason that had any other been selected it would have been impossible to start the magazine at all. Thus the Lord seemed to favor the infant publication.”
Do You Remember?
□ Why did C. T. Russell begin publishing Bible literature?
□ How did early Christians champion the truth?
□ Why is the word “Watchtower” in the title of this magazine?
□ Who is the modern-day watchman, and what instrument does he principally use to amplify his voice?
□ How do The Watchtower and Awake! champion Bible truth?
[Chart on page 13]
History-Making Watchtower Articles, Decade by Decade
1879: “God Is Love”—championed Jesus’ ransom sacrifice as the basis for mankind’s redemption
1879: “Why Evil Was Permitted”—explained why Jesus Christ’s presence would be invisible
1880: “One Body, One Spirit, One Hope”—pinpointed 1914 for the ending of the Gentile Times
1882: “The Wages of Sin Is Death”—exposed the doctrine of eternal torment as a denial of God’s love
1885: “Evolution and the Brain Age”—exposed the evolution theory as false
1897: “What Say the Scriptures About Spiritism?”—gave proof of spiritism’s demonic origin
1902: “God First—His Appointments”—emphasized obeying God’s law in the family and in business dealings
1919: “Blessed Are the Fearless”—brought new life to an awakening organization of fearless worshipers
1925: “Birth of the Nation”—made plain the prophecies showing that God’s Kingdom was born in 1914
1931: “A New Name”—henceforth the name Jehovah’s Witnesses would set true Christians apart from apostate Christendom
1935: “The Great Multitude”—showed that gathering of those who would live forever on earth was under way
1938: “Organization”—introduced a truly theocratic arrangement among Jehovah’s Witnesses
1939: “Neutrality”—fortified Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide to withstand the pressures of World War II
1942: “The Only Light”—sounded a go-ahead signal for the courageous witness work to continue
1945: “Immovable for the Right Worship”—showed that Christians must abstain from receiving blood transfusions
1952: “Keeping the Organization Clean”—showed that disfellowshipping by congregations is Scriptural
1962: “Subjection to ‘Superior Authorities’—Why?”—offered reasons for relative subjection to human powers
1973: “Keeping God’s Congregation Clean in ‘the Time of His Judgment’”—urged shunning tobacco use
1979: “Zeal for Jehovah’s House”—reiterated that house-to-house preaching follows the apostolic pattern
1982: “Beloved Ones, . . . Keep Yourselves in God’s Love”—alerted Christians to apostates’ method of operation
1983: “Walking With God in a Violent World”—confirmed that Christians must have no part with violence
1984: “The Recent Pen for ‘Other Sheep’”—clarified how this earthly class is brought into unity with those in the new covenant “fold”
1987: “Christian Jubilee Climaxes in the Millennium”—showed how all loyal Christians gain liberty and life