This Good News Must Be Preached First
“in all the nations the good news has to be preached first.”—MARK 13:10.
1, 2. What is a trademark of the Witnesses, and why?
WHY do Jehovah’s Witnesses preach so persistently? Certainly we are known worldwide for our public ministry, whether it be from house to house, on the streets, or during informal contacts. On every suitable occasion, we identify ourselves as Witnesses and try with tact to communicate the good news we treasure. In fact, we could say that this ministry is our trademark!—Colossians 4:6.
2 Just think about it—whenever people see in their neighborhood a group of well-dressed men, women, and children with briefcases, what is usually their first thought? Is it, ‘Oh, here come the Catholics (or Orthodox) again!’ or, ‘Here come the Pentecostals (or Baptists) again!’ No. People know that such religions do not have whole families performing a house-to-house ministry. Perhaps some religious groups send some “missionaries” for a two-year stint into certain areas, but their rank-and-file members do not participate in any such ministry. Only Jehovah’s Witnesses are recognized worldwide for their zeal in communicating their message to others on every suitable occasion. And they are known for their magazines, The Watchtower and Awake!—Isaiah 43:10-12; Acts 1:8.
Contrast With Christendom’s Clergy
3, 4. How are Christendom’s clergy often depicted in the media?
3 In stark contrast, news reports have time and again revealed many of the clergy in some lands to be pedophiles, immoral swindlers, and frauds. Their works of the flesh and their extravagant life-styles are manifest for all to see. One popular songwriter expressed it well in his song entitled “Would Jesus Wear a Rolex [a very expensive gold watch] on His Television Show?” He asks the question: “Would Jesus be political if He came back to Earth? Have His second home in Palm Springs [a wealthy California community] and try to hide His worth?” How appropriate are the words of James: “You have lived in luxury upon the earth and have gone in for sensual pleasure. You have fattened your hearts on the day of slaughter.”—James 5:5; Galatians 5:19-21.
4 The clergy’s hobnobbing with politicians and even participating in elections as political candidates show them up as modern-day scribes and Pharisees. At the same time, in countries such as the United States and Canada, religion’s coffers are being drained by the high costs of litigation and judgments against clergy, resulting from their licentious conduct with children and adults.—Matthew 23:1-3.
5. Why have Christendom’s clergy not proved to be “the faithful and discreet slave”?
5 Correctly, Jesus could say to the clergy of his day: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you resemble whitewashed graves, which outwardly indeed appear beautiful but inside are full of dead men’s bones and of every sort of uncleanness. In that way you also, outwardly indeed, appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Thus, God has not given to Christendom’s clergy, whether Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or nondenominational, the commission to preach the good news. They have not proved to be the foretold “faithful and discreet slave.”—Matthew 23:27, 28; 24:45-47.
Why Preach the Good News First?
6. What events are soon to take place?
6 In his terse version of Jesus’ command to preach the good news in all the nations, Mark alone uses the word “first.” (Mark 13:10; compare Matthew 24:14.) The version by J. B. Phillips reads: “For before the end comes the gospel must be proclaimed to all nations.” The adverbial use of “first” implies that other events will follow the worldwide evangelizing work. Those events will include the promised great tribulation and Christ’s righteous rulership over the new world.—Matthew 24:21-31; Revelation 16:14-16; 21:1-4.
7. Why does God want the good news preached first?
7 So why does God want the good news preached first? One reason is that he is a God of love, justice, wisdom, and power. In the fulfillment of Jesus’ statements recorded at Matthew 24:14 and Mark 13:10, we can find an impressive manifestation of these attributes of Jehovah. Let us briefly examine them one by one and see how they relate to the preaching of the good news.
The Good News and Jehovah’s Love
8. How is the preaching of the good news a manifestation of God’s love? (1 John 4:7-16)
8 How does preaching the good news reflect God’s love? First of all, because it is not a message intended exclusively for one race or group. It is the good news for “all the nations.” God loves the human family so much that he sent his only-begotten Son to the earth to be a ransom sacrifice for the sins of all mankind, not just one race. The apostle John wrote: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life. For God sent forth his Son into the world, not for him to judge the world, but for the world to be saved through him.” (John 3:16, 17) Surely the good news, a message promising a new world of peace, harmony, and justice, is an evidence of God’s love.—2 Peter 3:13.
The Good News and Jehovah’s Power
9. Why has Jehovah not used Christendom’s powerful religions to preach the good news?
9 How is Jehovah’s power manifested by the preaching of the good news? Consider, whom has he used to carry out this commission? Has it been Christendom’s most powerful religious organizations, such as the Roman Catholic Church or prominent Protestant denominations? No, their involvement in politics disqualifies them for the assignment. (John 15:19; 17:14; James 4:4) Their relative wealth and their connections and influence with the elite ruling class have not impressed Jehovah God, nor has their tradition-bound theology. Human power has not been needed to get God’s will done.—Zechariah 4:6.
10. Whom has God chosen to do the preaching?
10 It is as the apostle Paul said in his letter to the Corinthian congregation: “You behold his calling of you, brothers, that not many wise in a fleshly way were called, not many powerful, not many of noble birth; but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put the wise men to shame; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put the strong things to shame; and God chose the ignoble things of the world and the things looked down upon, the things that are not, that he might bring to nothing the things that are, in order that no flesh might boast in the sight of God.”—1 Corinthians 1:26-29.
11. What facts about the Witnesses have made them unique?
11 Jehovah’s Witnesses have very few wealthy members in their ranks and certainly no politically powerful ones. Their strict neutrality in political matters means that they can exercise no political influence. On the contrary, they have often been victims of vile persecution instigated by religious and political leaders during this 20th century. Yet, in spite of the fierce opposition raised up against them by the disciples of Nazism, Fascism, Communism, nationalism, and false religion, not only are the Witnesses preaching the good news in all the world but they have also increased amazingly in number.—Isaiah 60:22.
12. Why have the Witnesses been successful?
12 To what do the Witnesses attribute their success? Jesus promised his disciples: “You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” So, what exactly would be the source of their success? Jesus said: “You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you.” Likewise today, power from God, not human ability, has been the key to the Witnesses’ success in their worldwide ministry. Using apparently the weakest of people, God is accomplishing the greatest educational work in history.—Acts 1:8; Isaiah 54:13.
The Good News and Jehovah’s Wisdom
13. (a) Why do the Witnesses serve voluntarily and without payment? (b) How has Jehovah answered Satan’s taunt?
13 The good news is being preached by volunteers. Jesus said: “You received free, give free.” (Matthew 10:8) Therefore, none of Jehovah’s Witnesses receive a salary for serving God, nor do they look for one. In fact, they do not even have collections at their meetings. They are happy, by means of their devoted unselfish service, to give to God an answer to his accuser, Satan the Devil. This spirit opposer of God has in effect said that humans would not serve God with an unselfish motive. In his wisdom Jehovah has produced an overwhelming answer to Satan’s taunt—millions of loyal Christian Witnesses preaching the good news from house to house, on the streets, and informally.—Job 1:8-11; 2:3-5; Proverbs 27:11.
14. What is “the hidden wisdom” to which Paul refers?
14 Another evidence of God’s wisdom in having the good news preached is that the Kingdom promise itself is a manifestation of God’s wisdom. The apostle Paul wrote: “Now we speak wisdom among those who are mature, but not the wisdom of this system of things nor that of the rulers of this system of things, who are to come to nothing. But we speak God’s wisdom in a sacred secret, the hidden wisdom, which God foreordained before the systems of things for our glory.” That “hidden wisdom” refers to God’s wise means for ending the rebellion started in Eden. The wisdom of that sacred secret was revealed in Jesus Christ, who is central to the good news of God’s Kingdom.*—1 Corinthians 2:6, 7; Colossians 1:26-28.
The Good News and God’s Justice
15 Particularly in connection with justice do we see the importance of the word “first” at Mark 13:10. Jehovah is a God of justice that is tempered with loving-kindness. He says through his prophet Jeremiah: “‘Let the one bragging about himself brag about himself because of this very thing, the having of insight and the having of knowledge of me, that I am Jehovah, the One exercising loving-kindness, justice and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I do take delight,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.”—Jeremiah 9:24.
16. How may it be illustrated that justice requires giving a warning first?
16 How is Jehovah’s justice shown with regard to preaching the good news? Let us illustrate it with a mother who has made a delicious chocolate cake that is to be eaten when visitors come later in the day. If she leaves it on the kitchen table without saying a word to her children about when it is to be eaten, what will be the natural inclination of the children? All of us were children at one time! Some little finger will want to test that cake! Now if mother has failed to give due warning, she will have a weak case for discipline. On the other hand, if she clearly states that the cake will be eaten later when the visitors come and therefore it is not to be touched, then she has clearly given a warning. If there is disobedience, she is entitled to take firm and just action.—Proverbs 29:15.
17. How has Jehovah manifested justice in a special way since 1919?
17 Jehovah, in his justice, will not bring judicial action against this wicked system of things without first giving due warning. Therefore, especially since 1919, after the first world war had brought on “pangs of distress,” Jehovah has had his Witnesses go throughout the earth zealously proclaiming the good news. (Matthew 24:7, 8, 14) The nations cannot rightly profess ignorance of this unique warning.
How Widely Has the World Been Covered?
18. (a) What evidence is there of the Witnesses’ activity in remote areas? (b) What other examples do you know of?
18 An indication of the effectiveness of this worldwide educational work can be seen from the book Last Places—A Journey in the North. Its author relates that when he checked the sea charts for the isolated island of Foula, one of the Shetland Islands north of Scotland, the charts indicated “all around the island WKS (wrecks), RKS (rocks), LDGS (ledges), and OBS (obstructions).” These “warned the prospective mariner to stay away. Foula’s waters were a dazzling minefield, which made the island inhospitable to yachtsmen, day-trippers, and even Her Majesty’s public works brigade, though not—I learned in a few days—Jehovah’s Witnesses.” He continued: “Just as they ransacked big city slums and the Third World for converts, so too they proselytized for their faith on remote Foula.” He acknowledged that a local inhabitant, Andrew, had a copy of The Watchtower left on his doorstep some months before. Then he added: “One week later I would see a copy of [Awake! in Danish] in the Faeroes [North Sea islands] and two months later a copy of [The Watchtower in Danish] in Nuuq, Greenland.” What eloquent testimony to the zealous activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in those northern latitudes!
What Keeps the Witnesses Going?
19, 20. (a) What impels Jehovah’s Witnesses to keep preaching? (b) What questions will next be answered?
19 Of course, preaching from house to house to strangers is no easy matter, regardless of how many years one may have been a Witness. Then what keeps these Christians going? Their Christian dedication and a sense of responsibility. Paul wrote: “If, now, I am declaring the good news, it is no reason for me to boast, for necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe is me if I did not declare the good news!” True Christians have a message that means life, so how could they possibly keep it to themselves? The very principle of bloodguilt for failing to give a warning in time of danger is an impelling reason to preach the good news.—1 Corinthians 9:16; Ezekiel 3:17-21.
20 How, then, is the good news being preached? What is the key to the Witnesses’ success? What features of their ministry and organization help to identify them as the true religion? Our following article will answer those questions.
For further explanation of God’s wisdom and the “sacred secret,” see Insight on the Scriptures, Volume II, page 1190, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
Do You Remember?
□ What distinguishes Jehovah’s Witnesses from the clergy?
□ How does the preaching reflect God’s love, power, and wisdom?
□ How does preaching the good news reflect God’s justice?
□ What keeps Jehovah’s Witnesses going in their ministry?
[Pictures on page 15]
No matter how isolated people may be, Jehovah’s Witnesses want to reach them