Kingdom Proclaimers Active in All the Earth
“You will be witnesses of me . . . to the most distant part of the earth.”—ACTS 1:8.
1. What message did Jesus say his followers would proclaim in our day?
WHEN describing the work that Jehovah sent his Son to earth to do, Jesus said: “I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God.” (Luke 4:43) Similarly, when telling of the work that his disciples would do on earth when he returned with kingly authority, Jesus said: “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.”—Matthew 24:14.
2. (a) Why is it so important that the Kingdom message be given wide publicity? (b) What question should all of us ask ourselves?
2 Why is news about God’s Kingdom so important? Why does the Kingdom require such extensive publicity? Because it is the Messianic Kingdom that will vindicate Jehovah’s universal sovereignty. (1 Corinthians 15:24-28) By means of it, Jehovah will execute judgment against the present satanic system of things and fulfill his promise to bless all the families of the earth. (Genesis 22:17, 18; Daniel 2:44) By having a witness given concerning the Kingdom, Jehovah has located those whom he has thereafter anointed to be joint heirs with his Son. By means of Kingdom proclamation, a dividing work is also being accomplished today. (Matthew 25:31-33) Jehovah wants people of all nations to be put on notice regarding his purpose. He wants them to have the opportunity to choose life as subjects of his Kingdom. (John 3:16; Acts 13:47) Are you having a full share in proclaiming this Kingdom?
In Anticipation of the End of the Gentile Times
3. (a) Fittingly, what was the subject that C. T. Russell featured on an early trip to organize groups for Bible study? (b) What did those early Bible Students realize as to the place that God’s Kingdom should have in their lives?
3 Back in 1880, Charles Taze Russell, the first editor of the Watch Tower magazine, made a trip through the northeastern United States to encourage the formation of groups for Bible study. Appropriately, the subject on which he spoke was “Things Pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” As reflected in early issues of the Watch Tower, the Bible Students (as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known) realized that if they were going to prove worthy of having a share in God’s Kingdom, they must make the Kingdom their first interest, gladly using their lives, their abilities, and their resources in its service. Everything else in life had to take second place. (Matthew 13:44-46) Their responsibility included proclaiming to others the good news about God’s Kingdom. (Isaiah 61:1, 2) To what extent did they do that before the end of the Gentile Times in 1914?
4. To what extent did the small band of Bible Students distribute Bible literature before 1914?
4 From the 1870’s down to 1914, the Bible Students were relatively few in number. By 1914, only some 5,100 were actively sharing in giving a public witness. But what an extraordinary witness it was! In 1881, just two years after the Watch Tower was first published, they undertook distribution of the 162-page publication Food for Thinking Christians. Within a few months, they put out 1,200,000 copies. In a few years, tens of millions of tracts were being distributed annually in many languages.
5. Who were the colporteurs, and what sort of spirit did they manifest?
5 Also starting in 1881, some offered their services as colporteur evangelizers. These were the forerunners of today’s pioneers (full-time evangelizers). Some of the colporteurs, traveling on foot or by bicycle, personally witnessed in nearly every part of the country where they lived. Others reached out to foreign fields and were the first to take the good news to such places as Finland, Barbados, and Burma (which is now Myanmar). They manifested a missionary zeal like that of Jesus Christ and his apostles.—Luke 4:43; Romans 15:23-25.
6. (a) How extensive were Brother Russell’s travels to spread Bible truth? (b) What else was done to further the preaching of the good news in foreign fields before the end of the Gentile Times?
6 Brother Russell himself traveled extensively to spread the truth. He went to Canada repeatedly; spoke in Panama, Jamaica, and Cuba; made a dozen trips to Europe; and circled the globe on an evangelizing tour. He also sent out other men to initiate and take the lead in the preaching of the good news in foreign fields. Adolf Weber was sent to Europe in the mid-1890’s, and his ministry reached out from Switzerland into France, Italy, Germany, and Belgium. E. J. Coward was dispatched to the Caribbean area. Robert Hollister was assigned to the Orient in 1912. There, special tracts were prepared in ten languages, and millions of copies of these were circulated throughout India, China, Japan, and Korea by native distributors. If you had lived then, would your heart have moved you to make an earnest effort to reach others in your community and beyond with the good news?
7. (a) How were newspapers used to intensify the witness? (b) What was the “Photo-Drama of Creation,” and how many people saw it in just one year?
7 As the Gentile Times neared their end, newspapers were used to publish Bible sermons delivered by Brother Russell. Their primary emphasis was not on the year 1914 but, rather, on the purpose of God and the surety of its fulfillment. As many as 2,000 newspapers at a time, reaching 15,000,000 readers, regularly featured these sermons. Then, as the year 1914 dawned, the Society began its public showing of the “Photo-Drama of Creation.” In four 2-hour presentations, it presented Bible truths from creation all the way into the Millennium. Within just a year, audiences totaling over nine million in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand had seen it.
8. By 1914, how many lands had the Bible Students reached with the good news?
8 According to available records, by the latter part of 1914, this zealous band of evangelizers had spread their proclamation of God’s Kingdom into 68 lands.* But that was only a beginning!
Zealously Proclaiming the Established Kingdom
9. At the Cedar Point conventions, how was the work of Kingdom witnessing given special impetus?
9 When the Bible Students assembled at Cedar Point, Ohio, in 1919, J. F. Rutherford, who was then the president of the Watch Tower Society, declared: “Our vocation was and is to announce the incoming glorious kingdom of Messiah.” At the second Cedar Point convention, in 1922, Brother Rutherford highlighted the fact that at the end of the Gentile Times, in 1914, ‘the King of glory had taken unto himself his great power and had begun to reign.’ Next, he put the issue squarely to his audience, saying: “Do you believe that the King of glory has begun his reign? Then back to the field, O ye sons of the most high God! . . . 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.”
10, 11. How were radio, sound cars, and placards all used effectively to reach people with Kingdom truth?
10 Over 70 years have passed since those Cedar Point conventions—nearly 80 years since Jehovah began to express his sovereignty through the Messianic rule of his Son. To what extent have Jehovah’s Witnesses actually accomplished the work set out for them in God’s Word? What share are you personally having in it?
11 Early in the 1920’s, radio became available as an instrument that could be used to give wide publicity to the Kingdom message. During the 1930’s, convention discourses featuring the Kingdom as the hope of the world were carried by radio networks or chain broadcasts and telephone lines that circled the globe. Cars equipped with loudspeakers were also used to play recorded Bible discourses in public places. Then, in 1936, in Glasgow, Scotland, our brothers began to wear placards as they paraded through business districts to advertise public talks. All of these were effective means of giving a witness to many people at that time when our numbers were few.
12. As the Scriptures show, what is one of the most effective ways for us individually to give a witness?
12 Of course, the Scriptures make clear that as Christians, we individually have the responsibility to give a witness. We cannot simply let newspaper articles or radio broadcasts do the work. Thousands of loyal Christians—men, women, and youths—have accepted that responsibility. As a result, house-to-house preaching has become an identifying mark of Jehovah’s Witnesses.—Acts 5:42; 20:20.
Reaching Out to All the Inhabited Earth
13, 14. (a) Why do some Witnesses move to other towns, even to other countries, to carry on their ministry? (b) How has loving concern for people in the land of one’s birth helped to spread the good news?
13 Knowing that the Kingdom message is to be preached in all the inhabited earth, some of Jehovah’s Witnesses have seriously considered what they could personally do to reach out to areas beyond their own community.
14 Many people have learned the truth after moving away from the place of their birth. Though they may have moved for material advantage, they have found something more precious, and some have felt impelled to return to the land or the community of their birth to share the truth. Thus, early in this century the preaching of the good news expanded into Scandinavia, Greece, Italy, countries of Eastern Europe, and many other areas. Even now, in the 1990’s, the Kingdom message is spreading in the same manner.
15. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, what was accomplished by some whose attitude was like that expressed at Isaiah 6:8?
15 Applying the counsel of God’s Word to their lives, some have been able to make themselves available for service in places where they had not lived before. W. R. Brown (often called “Bible Brown”) was one of these. In 1923, to further the evangelizing work, he moved from Trinidad to West Africa. During the 1930’s, Frank and Gray Smith, Robert Nisbet, and David Norman were among those who carried the Kingdom message up the east coast of Africa. Others helped to cultivate the South American field. In the early 1920’s, George Young, a Canadian, shared in the work in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. Juan Muñiz, who had served in Spain, followed through in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. All of these manifested a spirit like that expressed at Isaiah 6:8: “Here I am! Send me.”
16. Where besides the principal centers of population was witnessing being done in prewar years?
16 The preaching of the good news was reaching into even remote areas. Boats manned by Witnesses were visiting all the outports of Newfoundland, the Norwegian coast into the Arctic, the islands of the Pacific, and the ports of Southeast Asia.
17. (a) By 1935, how many lands had been reached by the Witnesses? (b) Why was the work not finished at that point?
17 Amazingly, by the year 1935, Jehovah’s Witnesses were busy preaching in 115 lands, and they had reached another 34 lands either on witnessing expeditions or by literature sent through the mail. Yet, the work was not finished. That year Jehovah opened their eyes to his purpose to gather “a great crowd” who would survive right into his new world. (Revelation 7:9, 10, 14) There was still much witnessing to be done!
18. In the work of Kingdom proclamation, what roles have been filled by Gilead School and by the Ministerial Training School?
18 Even while World War II engulfed the earth and there were bans on the literature or activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in scores of lands, the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead opened its doors to train prospective missionaries to accomplish a yet greater work of international Kingdom proclamation. To date, graduates of Gilead have served in upwards of 200 lands. They have done more than place literature and then move on. They have conducted Bible studies, organized congregations, and trained people to shoulder theocratic responsibility. More recently, elders and ministerial servants who have graduated from the Ministerial Training School have also helped to fill vital needs in connection with this work on six continents. A solid foundation has been laid for continued growth.—Compare 2 Timothy 2:2.
19. To what extent have Jehovah’s servants responded to the invitation to serve in areas of greater need?
19 Could others help to care for some of the unworked territories? In 1957, at conventions worldwide, individuals and families—mature Witnesses of Jehovah—were encouraged to consider moving to areas of greater need to take up residence and carry on their ministry there. The invitation was much like the one presented by God to the apostle Paul, who saw in vision a man entreating him: “Step over into Macedonia and help us.” (Acts 16:9, 10) Some made the move during the 1950’s, others later. As many as a thousand Witnesses moved to Ireland and Colombia; hundreds moved to many other places. Tens of thousands moved to areas of greater need within their own country.—Psalm 110:3.
20. (a) Since 1935, what has been accomplished in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy at Matthew 24:14? (b) During the past few years, how has there been a speeding up of the work?
20 With Jehovah’s blessing on his people, the work of Kingdom proclamation continues to move ahead at an extraordinary pace. Since 1935 the number of publishers has increased almost eightyfold, and the rate of increase in the pioneer ranks has been 60 percent greater than the rate of increase in the number of publishers. The home Bible study arrangement was initiated during the 1930’s. There are now an average of more than four and a half million conducted each month. Since 1935 upwards of 15 billion hours have been devoted to the work of Kingdom proclamation. Regular preaching of the good news is now being done in 231 lands. As territories in Eastern Europe and Africa have opened up for freer preaching of the good news, international conventions have been used effectively to display the Kingdom message prominently before the public. As Jehovah long ago promised, at Isaiah 60:22, he is surely ‘speeding up the work in its own time.’ What a grand privilege it is for us to share in it!
Reaching Everyone Possible With the Good News
21, 22. What can we personally do to be more effective Witnesses wherever we serve?
21 The Lord has not yet said that the work is finished. Many thousands are still taking up true worship. Therefore the question arises, Are we doing everything possible to make good use of the time that Jehovah’s patience has allowed for this work?—2 Peter 3:15.
22 Not everyone can move to seldom-worked territory. But are you making full use of the opportunities that are open to you? Do you witness to fellow workers? to teachers and schoolmates? Have you adjusted to changing situations in your territory? If, as a result of changing work patterns, very few people are home during the day, have you altered your schedule in order to call on them in the evening? If buildings are being made inaccessible to uninvited visitors, are you doing telephone witnessing or witnessing by mail? Are you following through on interest shown and offering to conduct home Bible studies? Are you thoroughly accomplishing your ministry?—Compare Acts 20:21; 2 Timothy 4:5.
23. As Jehovah observes what we are doing in his service, what should be evident in our case?
23 May all of us carry out our ministry in a manner that clearly shows Jehovah that we truly appreciate the grand privilege of being his Witnesses in these momentous times. May it be our privilege to be eyewitnesses as Jehovah executes judgment on the corrupt old system and ushers in the glorious Millennial Rule of Jesus Christ!
Counted according to the way the earth was divided up in the early 1990’s.
□ Why is preaching the Kingdom message so important?
□ To what extent was the good news preached down till 1914?
□ How intense a witness has been given since the Kingdom’s establishment?
□ What might make our own share in the ministry more productive?
[Box on page 16, 17]
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom
At hundreds of conventions around the world during 1993-94, announcement was made of the release of a new book entitled Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom. This is a most informative, comprehensive history of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is a 752-page book, beautifully illustrated, with over a thousand pictures gathered from 96 different lands. By the end of 1993, it had already been published in 25 languages and is being translated into more.
What makes such a book timely? In recent years millions of people worldwide have become Jehovah’s Witnesses. All of them should be well-informed about the history of the organization with which they are associated. Furthermore, their preaching and way of worship have penetrated national and racial groups worldwide and have been embraced by people young and old, at every economic and educational level. As a result, many who observe what is taking place have questions about the Witnesses—not only about their beliefs but also about their origin, their history, their organization, their objectives. Others have written about them, though not always impartially. However, no one knows the modern-day history of Jehovah’s Witnesses better than do the Witnesses themselves. The editors of this book have endeavored to present that history in an objective and candid manner. In so doing, they have also documented the fulfillment to date of the very significant aspect of the sign of Christ’s presence that is recorded at Matthew 24:14, and they have done it with details that could be provided only by those deeply involved in the work there foretold.
The book is divided into seven main sections:
Section 1: This portion explores the historical roots of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It includes a concise, informative overview of their modern-day history from 1870 through 1992.
Section 2: Here is a revealing review of the progressive development of beliefs that distinguish Jehovah’s Witnesses from other religious groups.
Section 3: This part of the book examines the development of their organization structure. It relates interesting facts about their congregation meetings and conventions, as well as the way they build Kingdom Halls, larger Assembly Halls, and facilities for publishing Bible literature. It conveys the zeal with which Jehovah’s Witnesses proclaim God’s Kingdom and the love that is manifest as they care for one another in times of crisis.
Section 4: Here you will find fascinating details about how the proclamation of God’s Kingdom has reached out to major countries and remote islands around the globe. Just imagine—preaching in 43 lands in the year 1914, but in 229 lands by 1992! The experiences of those who have shared in this global expansion are indeed heartwarming.
Section 5: Accomplishing all this work of Kingdom proclamation has required the development of international facilities for publishing Bibles as well as Bible literature in more than two hundred languages. Here you will learn about that aspect of their work.
Section 6: The Witnesses have also faced trials—some because of human imperfection, others because of false brothers, and even more because of outright persecution. God’s Word warned that this would be so. (Luke 17:1; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:12; 2 Peter 2:1, 2) This section of the book vividly relates what has actually occurred and how the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses has enabled them to come off victorious.
Section 7: In conclusion, the book considers why Jehovah’s Witnesses are firmly convinced that the organization of which they are a part is truly being led by God. It also discusses why they feel the necessity, organizationally and individually, to keep on the watch.
In addition to the above, this attractively designed volume includes a beautiful and very informative 50-page section of pictures in color, showing the world headquarters as well as branch facilities being used by Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide.
If you have not already done so, you will surely be benefited by obtaining and reading a copy of this fascinating publication.
Comments From Some Who Have Read It
What are the reactions of those who have already read this book? Here are a few:
“I have just completed the reading of the fascinating, living documentary Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom. Only an organization loyally and humbly committed to the truth could write so frankly, courageously, and sensitively.”
“It reads like the book of Acts, with its honesty and candor.”
“What an intriguing new publication! . . . It is a historical masterpiece.”
After reading about half of the book, one man wrote: “I was awestruck, dumbfounded, and almost in tears. . . . In all my years, no other publication has packed this emotional punch.”
“My heart sings every time I think how this book will strengthen the faith of the young ones as well as the new ones coming into the organization today.”
“I have always appreciated the truth, but reading this book has opened my eyes and helped me to realize more than ever that Jehovah’s holy spirit is behind it all.”
[Pictures on page 18]
Many people were reached with the Kingdom message even when the Witnesses were few in number