Yeartext for 1971
“You will be witnesses of me . . . to the most distant part of the earth.”—Acts 1:8.
Jesus Christ spoke these words just before ascending into the heavens. These were among the last words that he spoke to his faithful followers while on earth. This must have made quite an impression on them. Jesus, of course, gave them a promise that he would help them because he did say: “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.” Jesus, for three and a half years, spent his time preaching in Israel, on both sides of the Jordan River, and his disciples traveled with him. There is no question about his preaching in the great city of Jerusalem and in the land of Judea. We know of the account, too, where Jesus spoke to the woman at the well in Samaria and he told this woman: “You worship what you do not know.” (John 4:22) The disciples had experience in witnessing at these locations and now the command was to give an even greater witness. But this command, to go to “the most distant part of the earth”—that was new.
Very likely the disciples did considerable thinking about this in the ten days that followed until the holy spirit actually came upon them. In the second chapter of Acts we are told that the 120 that had faithfully followed Christ Jesus were gathered together in an upper room, and “they all became filled with holy spirit and started to speak with different tongues, just as the spirit was granting them to make utterance.” (Acts 2:4) This was a big help. If the disciples had to go to the most distant part of the earth to preach, they could talk to these people in their own tongue. And, as Jesus suggested ten days previously, they were to receive power when the holy spirit arrived. In other words, they were going to receive the power that would really make them active and prove that Jehovah was backing them up in all their service. But just think of the advantage they had of being able to speak in tongues of various nations.
In fact, on that very day there were individuals from fifteen different locations, some from Europe, Asia and Africa, there in Jerusalem, and they were able to understand what the disciples were saying in their languages. Some said: “How is it we are hearing, each one of us, his own language in which we were born?” (Acts 2:8) Yes, they heard the disciples speaking in their tongues about the magnificent things of God. They were all astonished and were perplexed and said to one another: “What does this thing purport to be?” (Acts 2:12) Truly it was an amazing thing! These visitors from different parts of the earth there in Jerusalem on this day of Pentecost did not appreciate at that moment that these disciples of Christ Jesus had received power through holy spirit so that they could preach to all these different kinds of people. Please keep in mind that this was accomplished on the very first day that they received the holy spirit, and the account tells us that on that day about three thousand souls were added. Those added were not just emotionally excited about the message that Peter delivered on that day. The account tells us that they embraced the word heartily and were baptized and “they continued devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to sharing with one another, to taking of meals and to prayers.”—Acts 2:42.
There is good reason to believe that these people from Europe, Asia and Africa who were now baptized, on returning to their own countries, started to tell others about the good things they had heard. Of course, what they had heard was concerning Jesus Christ. Jesus had told his followers that they would be his witnesses to the most distant part of the earth. These traveling to their homelands were also going to share in giving the witness concerning Christ.
But this was not the end of the witnesses of Jesus and the work they had to do. After three and one half years of concentrated effort on the part of the Jewish disciples in reaching the people of the Jewish nationality, the call went out to people of the nations and they were to be included among the true followers of Christ Jesus. Cornelius was the first Gentile to be begotten by holy spirit and to be baptized. After that many other Gentiles entered the congregation of God. Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Luke and others traveled all over the area, and a detailed record is made of their travels throughout Asia and Europe.
It is evident that in the days of the early church the good news was preached far and wide. The apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians, and said that the good news was being preached in “all creation.”—Col. 1:23.
The words of Jesus Christ have an even greater fulfillment today. And God’s holy spirit is operating upon his faithful Christian witnesses as they do the same work. The report in this 1971 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses proves that. It can be said right now that followers of Christ would “bear witness for me in Jerusalem and all over Judea and Samaria and away to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NEB) There is no corner of the earth where Jehovah’s Christian witnesses have not reached. It can be said that in these “last days,” now that Jesus Christ has taken his position in his heavenly kingdom and is directing the work of his witnesses, we are truly doing what he wanted done, and on a greater scale than ever before. What a joy it is for Jehovah’s Christian witnesses to share in this and to gather together so many more people with the right heart to take up the work of preaching. Not only have Jehovah’s witnesses been preaching to the ends of the earth, but they have also been making disciples. Jesus said: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations.” (Matt. 28:19) Just look at what happened during the past year! There were 164,193 persons who dedicated their lives to the doing of Jehovah’s will and, of course, they have accepted Christ Jesus as their redeemer and they witness for him too. They, along with all the rest of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, are declaring the good news. What will 1971 bring forth?
The work is not done, not as long as the “great tribulation” has not started. People can still flee, and we want to help just as many as possible to flee from Babylon the Great, and to get out of Christendom, and let them prove, too, that they are witnesses of Christ Jesus and of Jehovah God, and may they, too, help others to hear about God’s kingdom, even to the ends of the earth.