Bearing Witness to “All the Nations”
“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.
1. Why must Jesus’ words recorded at Matthew 24:14 have been a surprise to his followers?
WHAT a surprise the above words of Jesus must have been to his Jewish disciples! The very idea of sanctified Jews going to talk to “unclean” Gentiles, “people of the nations,” was foreign to a Jew, even repugnant.* Why, a conscientious Jew would not think of entering a Gentile home! Those Jewish disciples still had so much to learn about Jesus, his love, and his commission. And they still had much to learn about Jehovah’s impartiality.—Acts 10:28, 34, 35, 45.
2. (a) How extensive has been the Witnesses’ ministry? (b) What three basic factors have contributed to the Witnesses’ progress?
2 Jehovah’s Witnesses have preached the good news among the nations, including modern-day Israel, and are proclaiming it now in more nations than ever before. In 1994 over four and a half million Witnesses are preaching in some 230 lands. They are conducting about four and a half million home Bible studies with interested people. This is being done in the face of worldwide prejudice, often based on ignorance of the teachings and motives of the Witnesses. As was said of the early Christians, so it can be said of them: “Truly as regards this sect it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against.” (Acts 28:22) Then to what can we attribute their successful ministry? There are at least three factors that contribute to their progress—following the leadings of Jehovah’s spirit, imitating Christ’s practical methods, and using the right instruments for effective communication.
Jehovah’s Spirit and the Good News
3. Why can we not boast of what has been accomplished?
3 Do Jehovah’s Witnesses boast of their success, as if it were due to any special abilities they might have? No, for Jesus’ words apply: “When you have done all the things assigned to you, say, ‘We are good-for-nothing slaves. What we have done is what we ought to have done.’” As dedicated, baptized Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses have voluntarily accepted the responsibility to serve God, no matter what their personal circumstances. For some, that means full-time service as missionaries or as volunteers in branch offices and facilities for printing Christian publications. For others such Christian willingness leads them to construction work on religious buildings, to full-time preaching as pioneer ministers, or to part-time preaching as publishers of the good news in local congregations. None of us can rightly brag about doing our duty, “what we ought to have done.”—Luke 17:10; 1 Corinthians 9:16.
4. How has worldwide opposition to the Christian ministry been overcome?
4 Any success we have can be attributed to Jehovah’s spirit, or active force. It is as valid to say today as it was in the days of the prophet Zechariah: “This is the word of Jehovah to Zerubbabel, saying, ‘Not by a military force, nor by power, but by my spirit,’ Jehovah of armies has said.” Thus, worldwide opposition to the Witnesses’ preaching work has been overcome, not by human effort, but by Jehovah’s direction and protection.—Zechariah 4:6.
5. What role does Jehovah play in having the Kingdom message spread?
5 As to those who respond to the Kingdom message, Jesus said: “It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by Jehovah.’ Everyone that has heard from the Father and has learned comes to me. . . . No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” (John 6:45, 65) Jehovah can read hearts and minds, and he knows those who will likely respond to his love even though they may not yet know him. He also uses his angels to direct this unique ministry. That is why in vision John saw angelic participation and wrote: “I saw another angel flying in midheaven, and he had everlasting good news to declare as glad tidings to those who dwell on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people.”—Revelation 14:6.
Conscious of a Spiritual Need
6. What basic attitude is needed for a person to respond to the good news?
6 Another factor in Jehovah’s granting a person opportunity to accept the good news is that expressed by Jesus: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.” (Matthew 5:3) A self-satisfied person or one who is not seeking truth will not be conscious of a spiritual need. He or she thinks only in material, fleshly terms. Complacency becomes a barrier. Therefore, when many we meet as we go from house to house reject the message, we have to take into account all the different reasons people may have for their reaction.
7. Why do many not respond to the truth?
7 Many decline to listen because they stubbornly adhere to the religion they inherited and are not open to discussion. Others have gravitated to a religion that fits their personality—some want mysticism, others respond to emotionalism, still others seek a social club at their church. Many today have chosen a life-style that is in conflict with God’s standards. Perhaps they live an immoral life, which is their reason for saying, “I’m not interested.” Yet others, who may claim to be educated and scientific, reject the Bible as being too simplistic.—1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 2 Corinthians 4:3, 4.
8. Why should rejection not diminish our zeal? (John 15:18-20)
8 Should rejection by the majority diminish our faith and zeal in the lifesaving ministry? We can draw comfort from Paul’s words to the Romans: “What, then, is the case? If some did not express faith, will their lack of faith perhaps make the faithfulness of God without effect? Never may that happen! But let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, even as it is written: ‘That you might be proved righteous in your words and might win when you are being judged.’”—Romans 3:3, 4.
9, 10. What evidence is there that opposition has been overcome in many lands?
9 We can derive encouragement from the many examples around the world of countries that have seemed to be very unresponsive and yet, in time, have proved to be just the opposite. Jehovah and the angels have known that there were goodhearted ones to be found—but Jehovah’s Witnesses had to be persistent and endure in their ministry. Take, for example, some countries where Catholicism seemed to present an insurmountable obstacle 50 years ago—Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, and Spain. The Witnesses were few back in 1943, only 126,000 worldwide, with 72,000 of these in the United States. The ignorance and prejudice confronting the Witnesses seemed like a brick wall that could not be broken through. Yet, today some of the most successful preaching results have been in these countries. The same is true of many formerly Communist countries. In 1993 the baptism of 7,402 at a convention in Kiev, Ukraine, gives evidence of this.
10 What methods have the Witnesses used in order to communicate the good news to their neighbors? Have they used material inducements to get converts, which is what some have alleged? Have they visited only the poor and uneducated, as others have claimed?
Successful Methods for Transmitting the Good News
11. What fine example did Jesus set in his ministry? (See John 4:6-26.)
11 Jesus and his disciples established the pattern that the Witnesses follow to this day in their disciple-making work. Jesus went wherever there were people, rich or poor—to homes, to public places, to lakesides, to mountainsides, even to synagogues.—Matthew 5:1, 2; 8:14; Mark 1:16; Luke 4:15.
12, 13. (a) How did Paul provide a pattern for Christians? (b) How have Jehovah’s Witnesses followed Paul’s example?
12 Regarding his own ministry, the apostle Paul could rightly say: “You well know how from the first day that I stepped into the district of Asia I was with you the whole time, slaving for the Lord . . . , while I did not hold back from telling you any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house.”—Acts 20:18-20.
13 Jehovah’s Witnesses are known all over the world for their following the apostolic pattern, the house-to-house ministry. Rather than concentrate on an expensive, shallow, and impersonal TV ministry, the Witnesses go to the people, rich and poor, and meet them face-to-face. They seek to converse about God and his Word.* They do not try to make rice Christians, using material handouts. To those willing to reason, they point out that the only true solution to mankind’s problems is rulership by God’s Kingdom, which will change conditions on our earth for the better.—Isaiah 65:17, 21-25; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-4.
14. (a) How have many missionaries and pioneers laid a solid foundation? (b) What do we learn from the experience of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Japan?
14 To get the work accomplished in as many lands as possible, missionaries and pioneers have established a bridgehead in many nations. They have laid a foundation, and then the local Witnesses have taken the lead. Thus, it has not required large numbers of foreign Witnesses to keep the preaching going and to keep it well organized. One outstanding example is that of Japan. Back in the late 1940’s, mainly Australasian and British missionaries went there, studied the language, adapted to the somewhat primitive conditions of that postwar era, and set about witnessing from house to house. During World War II, the Witnesses had been banned and persecuted in Japan. So the missionaries arrived to find only a handful of active Japanese Witnesses. But today they have grown to over 187,000 in more than 3,000 congregations! What was the secret of their early success? One missionary with over 25 years of service there said: “It was most important to learn to converse with the people. By knowing their language, we were able to identify with them, to understand and appreciate their way of life. We had to show that we loved the Japanese. We humbly tried to become a part of the local community without, of course, compromising our Christian values.”
Christian Conduct Also a Witness
15. How have the Witnesses demonstrated Christian conduct?
15 However, people have not responded to a Bible message only. They have also seen Christianity in action. They have observed the love, harmony, and unity of the Witnesses even under the most trying situations, such as civil wars, tribal strife, and ethnic enmity. The Witnesses have maintained a clear stand of Christian neutrality in all conflicts and have fulfilled Jesus’ words: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”—John 13:34, 35.
16. What experience illustrates practical Christian love?
16 Neighborly love was illustrated in the case of an elderly man who wrote to a local paper about “Mr. and Mrs. Nice Guy.” He explained that his neighbors had been kind to him when his wife was dying. “Since she passed away . . . they have been super,” he wrote. “Since then they have ‘adopted’ me . . . , doing all kinds of chores and helping to solve the problems of a 74-year-old retiree. What makes all this even more unusual is that they’re black, I’m white. They’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, I’m a drop-out Catholic.”
17. What course should we avoid?
17 This experience illustrates that we can give a witness in many ways, including our daily conduct. In fact, unless our conduct is Christlike, our ministry would be Pharisaical, without effect. We do not want to be like those that Jesus described: “All the things they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds, for they say but do not perform.”—Matthew 22:37-39; 23:3.
The Slave Class Supplies the Right Instruments
18. How does Bible literature equip us to help honesthearted people?
18 Another vital factor in preaching the good news to all the nations has been the availability of Bible literature produced by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. We have books, brochures, tracts, and magazines that can satisfy almost every sincere questioner. If we meet a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Taoist, or a Jew, we can use the book Mankind’s Search for God or a variety of tracts and booklets to start a conversation and possibly a Bible study. If an evolutionist asks about creation, we can use the book Life—How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation? If a young person asks, ‘What is the purpose of life?’ we can refer him to the book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work. If someone is deeply affected by personal problems—depression, fatigue, rape, divorce—we have magazines that have dealt in a practical way with such subjects. Truly, the faithful slave class that Jesus prophesied would be supplying “food at the proper time” is fulfilling its role.—Matthew 24:45-47.
19, 20. How has the Kingdom work gained speed in Albania?
19 But to reach the nations, it has been necessary to produce this literature in many tongues. How has it been possible to translate the Bible and Scriptural literature into over 200 languages? A brief consideration of one example, Albania, illustrates how the faithful and discreet slave class has been able to promote the good news in spite of great difficulties and without a modern Pentecost to give instant access to languages.—Acts 2:1-11.
20 Only a few years ago, Albania was still looked upon as the only truly atheist Communist country. The National Geographic magazine stated in 1980: “Albania forbids [religion], proclaiming itself in 1967 ‘the first atheist state in the world.’ . . . Albania’s new generation knows only atheism.” Now that Communism has declined, Albanians who recognize their spiritual need are responding to the preaching being done by Jehovah’s Witnesses. A small translation team consisting of young Witnesses with a knowledge of Italian and English was formed in Tiranë in 1992. Qualified brothers visiting from other lands taught them to use laptop computers to enter text in Albanian. They started off translating tracts and the Watchtower magazine. As they gain experience, they work on translating other valuable Bible publications. Presently there are some 200 active Witnesses in that tiny country (population 3,262,000), and 1,984 attended the Memorial in 1994.
All of Us Have a Responsibility
21. In what kind of period are we living?
21 World events are reaching a climax. With the increase in crime and violence, the slaughter and rape in local wars, the prevailing lax morality and its fruitage of sexually transmitted diseases, the disrespect for legitimate authority, the world appears to be becoming anarchic, ungovernable. We are in a period parallel to pre-Flood times described in Genesis: “Jehovah saw that the badness of man was abundant in the earth and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time. And Jehovah felt regrets that he had made men in the earth, and he felt hurt at his heart.”—Genesis 6:5, 6; Matthew 24:37-39.
22. What Christian responsibility do all of Jehovah’s Witnesses have?
22 Just as in Noah’s day, Jehovah will take action. But in his justice and love, he wants the good news and the warning message to be preached first to all the nations. (Mark 13:10) In this respect Jehovah’s Witnesses have a responsibility—to find those who are worthy of God’s peace and to teach them his ways of peace. Soon, in God’s due time, the preaching commission will be successfully completed. “Then the end will come.”—Matthew 10:12, 13; 24:14; 28:19, 20.
For further information on the Gentiles, see the topic “Nations” in Insight on the Scriptures, Volume II, pages 472-4, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
For practical suggestions on the Christian ministry, see The Watchtower, August 15, 1984, page 15, “How to Become Effective Ministers,” and page 21, “Effective Ministry Leading to More Disciples.”
[Box on page 19]
COUNTRY WITNESSES ACTIVE IN 1943 IN 1993
Argentina 374 102,043
Brazil 430 366,297
Chile 72 44,668
Colombia ?? 60,854
France World War II—no record 122,254
Ireland 150? 4,224
Italy World War II—no record 201,440
Mexico 1,565 380,201
Peru No record of activity 45,363
Philippines World War II—no record 116,576
Poland World War II—no record 113,551
Portugal No record of activity 41,842
Spain No record of activity 97,595
Uruguay 22 9,144
Venezuela No record of activity 64,081
[Picture on page 17]
Jehovah’s Witnesses are increasing in many Catholic countries, such as Spain
[Pictures on page 18]
Jehovah’s Witnesses are active in nations around the globe