Moving Ahead to Final Victory!
“Look! a white horse; and the one seated upon it had a bow; and a crown was given him, and he went forth conquering and to complete his conquest.”—REVELATION 6:2.
1. What future events did John see in vision?
BY DIVINE inspiration the apostle John was able to look some 1,800 years into the future and describe the enthronement of Christ as King. John needed faith to believe what he saw in vision. We today have clear evidence that this foretold enthronement took place in 1914. With eyes of faith, we see Jesus Christ going “forth conquering and to complete his conquest.”
2. How did the Devil react to the Kingdom’s birth, and of what is this an evidence?
2 Following the birth of the Kingdom, Satan was evicted from heaven, causing him to fight harder and with greater fury but in no way improving his chances of success. (Revelation 12:7-12) His anger has caused world conditions to grow ever more critical. Human society seems to be disintegrating. To Jehovah’s Witnesses this is clear evidence that their King is moving forward “to complete his conquest.”
A New World Society in the Making
3, 4. (a) What organizational changes have been made in the Christian congregation since the Kingdom’s birth, and why were they necessary? (b) Of what benefit have these changes been, as foretold by Isaiah?
3 Once the Kingdom was born, it was time to bring the restored Christian congregation—now with increased Kingdom responsibilities—more closely in line with the pattern of the first-century Christian congregation. Thus, in its issues of June 1 and 15, 1938, The Watchtower examined how the Christian organization should operate. Later, the issue of December 15, 1971, more clearly identified the modern-day Governing Body in the article “A Governing Body as Different From a Legal Corporation.” In 1972, bodies of elders were appointed to provide help and direction for the local congregations.
4 The restoration of proper oversight greatly strengthened the Christian congregation. Also contributing to this were the provisions made by the Governing Body to instruct the elders in their duties, including the training of them in judicial matters. The gradual developments involving God’s earthly organizational arrangement and their positive results were foretold at Isaiah 60:17: “Instead of the copper I shall bring in gold, and instead of the iron I shall bring in silver, and instead of the wood, copper, and instead of the stones, iron; and I will appoint peace as your overseers and righteousness as your task assigners.” These positive changes reflected divine blessing and evidenced God’s approval of those who had come out in zealous support of his Kingdom.
5. (a) How did Satan react to Jehovah’s blessing on His people? (b) In harmony with Philippians 1:7, how have Jehovah’s people reacted to Satan’s anger?
5 The loving attention and guidance God gave his people after the birth of the Kingdom did not go unnoticed by Satan. For example, in 1931 this small group of Christians went on public record that they were more than just Bible Students. In accordance with Isaiah 43:10, they were Jehovah’s Witnesses! Coincidentally or not, the Devil unleashed a wave of unprecedented persecution around the globe. Even in lands normally known for religious liberty, such as the United States, Canada, and Germany, the Witnesses were repeatedly forced to fight legal battles to retain their freedom of worship. By 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court had reviewed 71 cases involving Jehovah’s Witnesses, two thirds of which were decided in their favor. Today, throughout the world, legal battles continue so that, as in the first century, there can be a “defending and legally establishing of the good news.”—Philippians 1:7.
6. Did bans and restrictions prevent Jehovah’s people from moving ahead? Illustrate.
6 During the 1930’s, in the days leading up to World War II, dictatorial governments placed bans or restrictions upon the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany, Spain, and Japan, to name only three. But in the year 2000, these three countries alone had almost 500,000 active proclaimers of God’s Kingdom. That was almost ten times the number of Witnesses in the entire world in 1936! Clearly, bans and restrictions cannot prevent Jehovah’s people from moving ahead under their victorious Leader, Jesus Christ.
7. What outstanding event took place in 1958, and what dramatic change has taken place since?
7 What a manifestation it was of this forward movement when, in 1958, New York City saw the largest convention that Jehovah’s Witnesses had ever had, the Divine Will International Assembly, with a peak attendance of 253,922. By 1970 their work had opened up in the three countries mentioned above, except in what was then known as East Germany. But the Witnesses were still under ban in the huge Soviet Union and in its allied nations in the Warsaw Pact. Today, in these former Communist nations, there are well over half a million active Witnesses.
8. What has been the result of Jehovah’s blessing on his people, and what did The Watchtower in 1950 have to say about this?
8 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been blessed with increase because they have continued “seeking first the kingdom and [God’s] righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33) In a literal way, Isaiah’s prophecy has already seen fulfillment: “The little one himself will become a thousand, and the small one a mighty nation. I myself, Jehovah, shall speed it up in its own time.” (Isaiah 60:22) And the end is not yet. Just during the past decade, the number of active proponents of Kingdom rule increased by over 1,750,000 persons. These have voluntarily become part of a group about which a 1950 Watchtower made this observation: “God is now getting ready a new world society. . . . This nucleus will go through Armageddon, . . . the first on the field of action in the ‘new earth’ . . . , organized theocratically, knowing organization procedures.” The article concluded: “Onward, then, steadily, all of us together, as a new world society!”
9. How have the things that Jehovah’s Witnesses have learned over the years proved beneficial?
9 Along the way, this ever-growing new world society has acquired know-how that has proved invaluable today and perhaps even will during post-Armageddon restoration work. For example, the Witnesses have learned to organize large conventions, to offer fast emergency relief, and to construct buildings quickly. This activity has caused many to look upon Jehovah’s Witnesses with admiration and respect.
Correcting Wrong Impressions
10, 11. Illustrate how wrong impressions about Jehovah’s Witnesses have been corrected.
10 Still, there are people who accuse Jehovah’s Witnesses of being out of step with human society. This is mainly because of the Witnesses’ Bible-based position on such matters as blood transfusions, neutrality, smoking, and morals. But the public is increasingly beginning to admit that the views of the Witnesses have merit. For example, a doctor in Poland phoned the administrative office of Jehovah’s Witnesses and said that she and her colleagues at the hospital had for several hours been debating the subject of blood transfusions. The discussion was triggered by an article that appeared that day in the Polish daily Dziennik Zachodni. “I personally regret that blood is overused in the medical field,” the doctor admitted. “This must be changed, and I am happy someone has broached the subject. I would like more information.”
11 During a conference held last year, medical authorities from Canada, Europe, Israel, and the United States discussed material designed to help doctors treat patients without the use of blood. It was pointed out at this meeting, held in Switzerland, that contrary to popular opinion, the mortality rate of patients who received blood transfusions is actually higher than that of patients who did not. Witness patients were generally able to leave the hospital sooner than those treated with blood, which in turn usually cut down the cost of treatment.
12. Give an example of how prominent individuals have praised the stand taken by Jehovah’s Witnesses as regards political neutrality.
12 Many positive comments have also been made about the neutral stand taken by Jehovah’s Witnesses before and during World War II when they bore up under the Nazi onslaught. The video Jehovah’s Witnesses Stand Firm Against Nazi Assault, produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses and appropriately premiered at the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany on November 6, 1996, has elicited many favorable comments. At the opening of a similar presentation at the notorious concentration camp in Bergen-Belsen on April 18, 1998, the director of the Center for Political Education in Lower Saxony, Dr. Wolfgang Scheel, admitted: “One of the embarrassing truths of history is that Jehovah’s Witnesses rejected National Socialism with far greater determination than did the Christian churches. . . . No matter how we may feel about the teachings and religiousness of Jehovah’s Witnesses, their steadfastness during the Nazi regime commands respect.”
13, 14. (a) What judicious observation in behalf of the early Christians came from an unexpected source? (b) Give examples of favorable comments that have been made in behalf of God’s people today.
13 When prominent individuals or court decisions come out in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses on controversial issues, it may break down prejudices and cause the Witnesses to be viewed in a more positive light. This often opens the way for them to speak with people never before willing to listen. Such actions are therefore welcome, and Jehovah’s Witnesses truly appreciate them. This reminds us of what happened in the first century in Jerusalem. When the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court, wanted to do away with the Christians because of their zealous preaching, Gamaliel, “a Law teacher esteemed by all the people,” sounded a warning and said: “Men of Israel, pay attention to yourselves as to what you intend to do respecting these men. . . . Do not meddle with these men, but let them alone; (because, if this scheme or this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them;) otherwise, you may perhaps be found fighters actually against God.”—Acts 5:33-39.
14 Like Gamaliel, prominent individuals have recently spoken out in favor of religious freedom for Jehovah’s Witnesses. For example, the former chairman of the International Academy for Freedom of Religion and Belief argued: “The religious rights of a religion should not be denied simply because its convictions are viewed by society as unacceptable or unconventional.” And a professor of the scientific study of religion at the university of Leipzig posed a pertinent question as regards a German government commission set up to investigate so-called religious sects, asking: “Why should only religious minorities come under scrutiny but not the two large churches [the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church]?” For an answer we need look no further than to the words of a former German official, who wrote: “There can be no doubt that behind the scenes, church zealots dictated the political course the government commission took.”
To Whom Do We Look for Relief?
15, 16. (a) Why was Gamaliel’s action limited in its effectiveness? (b) How were three other influential individuals limited in what they could do in behalf of Jesus?
15 What Gamaliel said merely highlights the fact that a work with divine backing cannot possibly fail. The early Christians doubtlessly benefited from his words to the Sanhedrin, but they did not forget that Jesus’ words about his followers being persecuted were also true. Gamaliel’s action put a stop to the religious leaders’ plans to do away with them, but that did not eliminate persecution altogether, for we read: “At this they gave heed to him, and they summoned the apostles, flogged them, and ordered them to stop speaking upon the basis of Jesus’ name, and let them go.”—Acts 5:40.
16 When Jesus was on trial, Pontius Pilate, finding no fault in him, tried to release Jesus. But he was unsuccessful. (John 18:38, 39; 19:4, 6, 12-16) Even two members of the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who were favorable to Jesus, were limited in what they could do to prevent the court from taking action against Jesus. (Luke 23:50-52; John 7:45-52; 19:38-40) The relief that humans achieve when they stand up in defense of Jehovah’s people—for whatever reason—is limited at best. The world will continue to hate Christ’s true followers, even as they hated him. Complete relief can come only from Jehovah.—Acts 2:24.
17. What realistic view do Jehovah’s Witnesses take, but why are they not weakened in their resolve to continue preaching the good news?
17 Realistically, Jehovah’s Witnesses expect persecution to continue. Opposition will cease only when Satan’s system has gone down in final defeat. Yet, this persecution, even though unpleasant, does not cause the Witnesses to refrain from fulfilling their commission to preach the Kingdom. Why should it, since they have divine backing? They look to their courageous Leader, Jesus Christ, as the proper example.—Acts 5:17-21, 27-32.
18. What difficulty still lies ahead for Jehovah’s people, but of what outcome are they convinced?
18 From its very beginning, true religion has faced strong opposition. Shortly, it will be the object of an all-out attack by Gog, Satan in his debased condition since his ouster from heaven. But true religion will survive. (Ezekiel 38:14-16) “The kings of the entire inhabited earth,” under the guidance of Satan, “will battle with the Lamb, but, because he is Lord of lords and King of kings, the Lamb will conquer them.” (Revelation 16:14; 17:14) Yes, our King is moving ahead to final victory and will soon “complete his conquest.” What a privilege to be moving along with him, knowing that shortly no one will ever again contradict Jehovah’s worshipers when they say: “God is for us”!—Romans 8:31; Philippians 1:27, 28.
Can You Explain?
• What has Jehovah done to strengthen the Christian congregation since the Kingdom’s birth?
• What has Satan done to try to stop Christ from completing his conquest, and with what results?
• What balanced view should we have of favorable action by non-Witnesses?
• What will Satan shortly do, and with what outcome?
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Conventions are a manifestation of the forward movement of Jehovah’s people
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Witness neutrality during World War II is still bringing praise to Jehovah