Stand Complete and With Firm Conviction
‘Behold! The Great Crowd!’
IT WAS a question that had puzzled Jehovah’s servants for decades. An effort had long been made to resolve it Scripturally. The subject had resulted in many discussions. But the Biblical answer was finally found, and it virtually electrified a convention audience in Washington, D.C., in the year 1935.
Behind all the discussion was a common issue: What is the identity of the “great multitude” (King James Version), or “great crowd” (New World Translation), mentioned at Revelation 7:9? Would this group of believers live in heaven?
A Long-Standing Question
From the time of the apostle John until our day, Christians had been puzzled about the identity of the “great multitude.” The Bible Students regarded the great crowd as a secondary heavenly class, a group that had knowledge of Bible truth but did little about spreading it.
There were, however, certain associates of the anointed Christians who became very zealous in the preaching work. They had no aspirations of going to heaven. Indeed, their hope was in line with the public talk “Millions Now Living Will Never Die,” featured by Jehovah’s people from 1918 to 1922. Such individuals would be blessed with everlasting life on earth.
The Watch Tower of October 15, 1923, discussed Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats and said: “Sheep represent all the peoples of the nations, not spirit-begotten but disposed toward righteousness, who mentally acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Lord and who are looking for and hoping for a better time under his reign.”—Matthew 25:31-46.
More Rays of Light
In the year 1931, Vindication, Book One, discussed Ezekiel chapter 9 and identified those marked on the forehead for preservation at the world’s end as the sheep of Jesus’ parable. Vindication, Book Three (published in 1932), described the upright heart attitude of the non-Israelite man Jehonadab, who got into the chariot of Israel’s anointed King Jehu and went along to see Jehu’s zeal in executing false worshipers. (2 Kings 10:15-28) The book said: “Jehonadab represented or foreshadowed that class of people now on the earth [who] are out of harmony with Satan’s organization, who take their stand on the side of righteousness, and are the ones whom the Lord will preserve during the time of Armageddon, take them through that trouble, and give them everlasting life on the earth. These constitute the ‘sheep’ class.”
In 1934, The Watchtower made it clear that Christians with an earthly hope should make a dedication to Jehovah and be baptized. The light regarding this earthly class was indeed shining ever more brightly!—Proverbs 4:18.
A Brilliant Flash of Understanding
The understanding of Revelation 7:9-17 was about to shine forth in sparkling brilliance. (Psalm 97:11) The Watchtower had expressed the hope that a convention scheduled for May 30 to June 3, 1935, in Washington, D.C., U.S.A., would be “a real comfort and benefit” to those pictured by Jehonadab. And that it proved to be!
In a stirring talk on “The Great Multitude,” delivered to about 20,000 conventioners, J. F. Rutherford presented Scriptural proof that the modern-day “other sheep” are identical with that “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9. (John 10:16) At the climax of this talk, the speaker asked: “Will all those who have the hope of living forever on the earth please stand?” As a large part of the audience stood up, Rutherford declared: “Behold! The great multitude!” There was a hush, followed by loud cheering. On the following day, 840 new Witnesses of Jehovah were baptized, most of these professing to be of the great crowd.
A Remarkable Presence
Prior to 1935, an increasing number of those who responded to the Bible’s message and showed zeal in preaching the good news manifested an interest in living forever on the Paradise earth. They had no desire to go to heaven, for God had not given them the hope of heavenly life. Their identifying themselves with the great crowd of other sheep indicated that by 1935 the calling of the 144,000 anointed Christians was virtually complete.—Revelation 7:4.
When World War II broke out, Satan the Devil put forth bitter efforts to stop the ingathering of those who would make up the great crowd. The Kingdom-preaching work was restricted in many countries. During those dark days, and shortly before his death in January 1942, J. F. Rutherford remarked: “It looks as if the ‘great multitude’ is not going to be so great after all.”
But because of divine blessing, matters have turned out otherwise. ‘Standing complete and with firm conviction,’ the anointed and their companions, the other sheep, have been fulfilling the disciple-making commission. (Colossians 4:12; Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) By 1946 the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses preaching worldwide was 176,456—most of these being of the great crowd. In 2000, more than 6,000,000 Witnesses were serving Jehovah faithfully in 235 lands—truly a great crowd! And the number keeps on increasing.