A Prophecy of Enormous Importance
“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.
THAT verse, scholars agree, is highly important. It is important because of the global scope of the work it describes. And it is important because it points to what Christians should be doing—a preaching work that would precede and herald the momentous and far-reaching event that Jesus called “the end.”
That prophetic verse is being fulfilled today. You are involved because the good news contains both an invitation and a warning. It offers you a choice: Accept God’s Kingdom or oppose it. The choice you make affects your very life.
Consider the context. Several days before Jesus was impaled, the disciples came to him and asked him about the future. They were interested in knowing about the establishment of God’s Kingdom, of which Jesus had so often spoken. They also wanted to know about “the conclusion of the system of things,” or as some translations render that expression, “the end of the world.”—Matthew 24:3, American Standard Version; King James Version.
In reply, Jesus foretold that there would be large-scale wars, famines, pestilences, and great earthquakes. He also said that lawlessness would increase, false religious teachers would mislead many, and true Christians would be hated and persecuted. All of this was bad news.—Matthew 24:4-13; Luke 21:11.
But there was also good news. Jesus next spoke the words quoted above, words that have intrigued and inspired men for centuries. Though people agree about the importance of Jesus’ words, they disagree about the meaning. What exactly is this good news? What is the Kingdom? When is this prophecy to be fulfilled, and by whom? And what is “the end”? Let us see.
What Is God’s Kingdom?
“This good news of the kingdom . . .”—MATTHEW 24:14.
IN HIS famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave a model prayer, which includes this petition to God: “Let your kingdom come.” Countless millions have memorized that prayer and have repeated it often. In the words of one encyclopedia, it is “the principal prayer used by all Christians in common worship.” Yet, many who recite it have little idea what the Kingdom is or what it will do when it comes.—Matthew 6:9, 10.
That is not surprising. Christendom’s leaders offer conflicting, confusing, and complicated explanations as to what the Kingdom is. One writes that God’s Kingdom is “something supernatural, . . . an inner link with the living God . . . , an experience with God in which men and women find salvation.” Another defines the gospel of the Kingdom as “instruction about the church.” And the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The kingdom of God [is] righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
You will find a much clearer explanation on page 2 of this journal. It reads: “God’s Kingdom, which is a real government in heaven, will soon bring an end to all wickedness and transform the earth into a paradise.” Let us see how the Bible supports that understanding.
The Future Rulers of All the Earth
A kingdom is a government ruled by a king. The King of God’s Kingdom is the resurrected Jesus Christ. His enthronement in heaven was described in a vision given to the prophet Daniel, who wrote: “I kept on beholding in the visions of the night, and, see there! with the clouds of the heavens someone like a son of man [Jesus] happened to be coming; and to the Ancient of Days [Jehovah God] he gained access, and they brought him up close even before that One. And to him there were given rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him. His rulership is an indefinitely lasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom one that will not be brought to ruin.”—Daniel 7:13, 14.
The Bible book of Daniel also shows that the Kingdom would be firmly established by God, that it will put an end to all human governments, and that it will never be overthrown. Chapter 2 describes an inspired dream that the king of Babylon had, in which he saw a great statue, representing a succession of world powers. The prophet Daniel interpreted that dream. In “the final part of the days,” he wrote, “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Daniel 2:28, 44.
The King of God’s Kingdom does not rule alone. During his ministry on earth, Jesus assured his faithful apostles that they, along with others, would be resurrected to heaven and would sit on thrones. (Luke 22:28-30) He did not mean literal thrones, for as Jesus indicated, the Kingdom would be in the heavens. The Bible describes these corulers as being from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” They would be “a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.”—Revelation 5:9, 10.
Why the News of the Kingdom Is Good
Notice that Christ Jesus is given rulership over all “peoples, national groups and languages” and that those associated with him will “rule as kings over the earth.” Who, then, will be the subjects of this Kingdom? Those who respond positively to the good news that is being preached today. Subjects also include those who will be resurrected to life on earth and who will have the prospect of living forever.
The Bible eloquently describes the blessings the people will enjoy under the Kingdom. Here are a few of them:
“He is making wars to cease to the extremity of the earth. The bow he breaks apart and does cut the spear in pieces; the wagons he burns in the fire.”—Psalm 46:9.
“They will certainly build houses and have occupancy; and they will certainly plant vineyards and eat their fruitage. They will not build and someone else have occupancy; they will not plant and someone else do the eating.”—Isaiah 65:21, 22.
“[God] will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”—Revelation 21:3, 4.
“At that time the eyes of the blind ones will be opened, and the very ears of the deaf ones will be unstopped. At that time the lame one will climb up just as a stag does, and the tongue of the speechless one will cry out in gladness.”—Isaiah 35:5, 6.
“The hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his [Jesus’] voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life.”—John 5:28, 29.
“The meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—Psalm 37:11.
That is certainly good news! What is more, fulfilled Bible prophecies show that the time is near for the Kingdom to establish its righteous rule over all the earth.
What Is the Good News?
“This good news . . .”—MATTHEW 24:14.
CHRISTIANS are to preach the “good news of the kingdom” by telling others about it, explaining that the Kingdom is the future world government that will rule the earth in righteousness. Yet, the expression “good news” is also used in other ways in the Bible. For example, we find reference to “the good news of salvation” (Psalm 96:2); “the good news of God” (Romans 15:16); and “the good news about Jesus Christ.”—Mark 1:1.
Simply stated, the good news includes all the truths about which Jesus spoke and his disciples wrote. Before ascending to heaven, Jesus told his followers: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) So the work of true Christians is not just to inform others about the Kingdom; they must also endeavor to make disciples.
How are the churches doing in this regard? Those who do not understand what the Kingdom is—and there are many—cannot accurately teach others about it. Instead, they preach feel-good sermons about forgiveness of sins and faith in Jesus. They also seek to win converts through social work or by building hospitals, schools, and homes for the poor. While such efforts may boost church membership, they do not produce true Christians who sincerely seek to live in harmony with what Jesus taught.
One theologian writes: “You will find few scholars or leaders in Christian circles who deny that we are supposed to make disciples or apprentices to Jesus and teach them to do all things that Jesus said. . . . Jesus’ instructions on this matter are, after all, starkly clear. We just don’t do what he said. We don’t seriously attempt it. And apparently we don’t know how to do it.”
Similarly, a survey of Catholics in the United States revealed that 95 percent agreed that preaching the good news is a requirement of their faith. Yet, almost all felt that the best way to do this was, not by talking about it, but by living their life in such a way that it would be an example to others. One of those polled said: “Evangelization is different from words, words, words. We need to be the Good News.” U.S. Catholic, the magazine that conducted the survey, said that many hold back from sharing their faith because of “the church’s poor image with the recent sex abuse scandal and problematic church teachings.”
Elsewhere, a Methodist bishop lamented that his churches are divided and confused, lacking the nerve to carry out their mission and holding much the same values as does society in general. In a tone of frustration, he asked: “Who are the responsible bearers of the gospel of the Kingdom?”
The bishop did not provide an answer to his question. But there is an answer. You will find it in the next article.
[Blurb on page 6]
The good news is about both the Kingdom of God and salvation by faith in Jesus Christ
Who Are Preaching the Good News?
“ . . . will be preached in all the inhabited earth.”—MATTHEW 24:14.
THE good news is being preached worldwide by Jehovah’s Witnesses. They do this in a variety of ways. One way is by . . .
The Spoken Word. Like Jesus and his disciples, Jehovah’s Witnesses go to people with the good news. (Luke 8:1; 10:1) They do not simply expect people to come to them. Witnessing to people about God’s Kingdom is something all Witnesses—numbering over seven million—engage in. They preach from house to house, on the street, by telephone, and by other means. Last year, the Witnesses spent more than one and a half billion hours in this activity.
They teach others not only about God’s Kingdom but also about “all the things [Jesus] commanded.” (Matthew 28:20) They regularly conduct over eight million free home Bible studies.
The Witnesses are preaching worldwide—in 236 lands. They preach to people of all walks of life. They preach in the country and the city, in Amazon jungles and the Siberian taiga, in African deserts and the Himalaya Mountains. They are not paid for this work; they do it at their own expense and using their own time, motivated by their love of God and of neighbor. They also make known the good news through . . .
The Printed Page. This magazine, the full title of which is The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom, is now published in 185 languages and has a circulation of more than 42 million copies each issue. The companion magazine, Awake!, which also publicizes the Kingdom, is published in 83 languages and has a circulation of about 40 million copies each issue.
Books, brochures, tracts, CDs/MP3s, and DVDs that explain Bible teachings are available in some 540 languages. The Witnesses have produced and distributed more than 20 billion of these items in just the past ten years, averaging about three for every individual living on earth!
Jehovah’s Witnesses have also printed or commissioned the printing of various translations of the Bible. The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures—translated, printed, and distributed by the Witnesses—is now available in whole or in part in 96 languages. More than 166 million copies have been distributed. The Witnesses also share the good news of the Kingdom . . .
At Christian Meetings. Weekly meetings held at local Kingdom Halls are not merely religious services; they are designed to educate. Talks are given on subjects pertaining to the Bible, and the Bible is studied with the help of the Watchtower magazine and other publications. At the meetings, Witnesses also learn to be more effective proclaimers of the good news.
The Witnesses study the same material in over 107,000 congregations throughout the earth, contributing to their unity. These meetings are open to the public. No collection is ever taken. Of course, none of this would have much meaning if the Witnesses failed to practice what they preach. Therefore, they try to recommend the good news . . .
By Personal Example. They endeavor to be exemplary in Christian conduct, doing their best to treat others the way they would have others treat them. (Matthew 7:12) Though they are imperfect and sometimes fall short, they sincerely desire to act in a loving way toward all people not only by sharing the good news but also by extending a helping hand whenever possible.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are not trying to convert the world by their preaching. Rather, when that work is done to Jehovah’s satisfaction, the end will come, as Jesus foretold. What will that mean for the earth and the people on it?
[Picture on page 7]
The good news is being preached worldwide by Jehovah’s Witnesses
What Is “the End”?
“. . . and then the end will come.”—MATTHEW 24:14.
THERE seems to be no shortage of end-of-the-world scenarios. Books, movies, and magazines, ranging from the comic to the scientific, portray an assortment of doomsday catastrophes. They include annihilation by nuclear war, asteroid collision, deadly virus, runaway climate change, or invaders from outer space.
Religious views also vary; many teach that “the end” will bring an end to all life on earth. Commenting on Matthew 24:14, one theologian wrote these dire words: “This verse is one of the most important in all the Word of God . . . Our generation faces potential destruction of such total proportions that few of us try to envisage the awful reality.”
Such views usually overlook an important fact: Jehovah God “firmly established” the earth; he “did not create it simply for nothing, [but] formed it even to be inhabited.” (Isaiah 45:18) So when Jesus referred to “the end,” he did not mean that the earth would be destroyed; neither did he mean that humanity would be obliterated. He meant that the wicked—those who stubbornly refuse to live in harmony with Jehovah’s loving direction—would be destroyed.
Consider an illustration. Suppose you owned a beautiful home and allowed people to live in it for free. Some of the tenants lived peaceably with one another and took good care of your home. Others, however, made nothing but trouble, fought with one another, and abused the good tenants. They damaged your property and stubbornly refused to respond to your efforts to stop them.
What would you do to correct matters? Would you destroy your home? Not likely. You would probably evict the bad tenants and repair what damage had been done.
Jehovah will act in a similar manner. He inspired the psalmist to write: “Evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth. And just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more; and you will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be. But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—Psalm 37:9-11.
The apostle Peter spoke about the same subject. Under inspiration, he wrote: “There were heavens from of old and an earth standing compactly out of water and in the midst of water by the word of God, and by those means the world of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water.” (2 Peter 3:5, 6) Here the apostle refers to the Flood of Noah’s day. The world of ungodly people suffered destruction, but the earth was not destroyed. That global Deluge set “a pattern for ungodly persons of things to come.”—2 Peter 2:6.
Peter then added: “The heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire.” If we were to stop there, we might get the wrong idea. Note, though, that the verse goes on to say: “And of destruction of the ungodly men.” The destruction is not of the earth but of the ungodly. What follows? Peter wrote: “There are new heavens [God’s Messianic Kingdom] and a new earth [a righteous human society] that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.”—2 Peter 3:7, 13.
Does it strike you as curious that there is so much confusion about Matthew 24:14, a verse that even a child can understand? There are reasons for this. Satan has blinded people to the precious truths found in God’s Word. (2 Corinthians 4:4) Also, God has hidden his purposes from the haughty and has revealed them to humble ones. In this regard, Jesus said: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to babes.” (Matthew 11:25) What an honor it is to be among the humble ones who understand what the Kingdom of God really is and who can look forward to the blessings it will bring to all who support it!