A Great Crowd Rendering Sacred Service
“They are rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple.”—REVELATION 7:15.
1. What milestone of spiritual understanding was reached in 1935?
ON May 31, 1935, there was great joy among the delegates at a convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Washington, D.C. There, for the first time, the great multitude (or, great crowd) of Revelation 7:9 was clearly identified in harmony with the rest of the Bible and in accord with events that had already begun to unfold.
2. What indicated that a growing number had realized that God had not called them to heavenly life?
2 About six weeks earlier, at the celebration of the Lord’s Evening Meal in congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 10,681 of those present (about 1 out of 6) had not partaken of the emblematic bread and wine, and 3,688 of these were active proclaimers of God’s Kingdom. Why did they refrain from partaking of the emblems? Because on the basis of what they had learned from the Bible, they realized that God had not called them to heavenly life but that they could share in Jehovah’s loving provisions in another way. So at that convention, when the speaker asked: “Will all those who have the hope of living forever on the earth please stand,” what happened? Thousands rose to their feet, followed by prolonged cheering on the part of the audience.
3. Why did the identifying of the great multitude give fresh impetus to the field ministry, and how did the Witnesses feel about this?
3 What the delegates learned at that convention gave fresh impetus to their ministry. They came to appreciate that now, before the end of the old system, not just a few thousand but a great multitude of people would be given the opportunity to come within Jehovah’s arrangement for the preservation of life, with a view to living forever on a paradise earth. What a heartwarming message was there presented to lovers of truth! Jehovah’s Witnesses realized that there was a great work to be done—a joyous work. Years later, John Booth, who became a member of the Governing Body, recalled: “That assembly gave us much to rejoice over.”
4. (a) To what extent has there actually been a gathering of the great crowd since 1935? (b) In what way are those of the great crowd giving evidence that theirs is a living faith?
4 During the years that followed, the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses increased dramatically. In spite of the often violent persecution heaped upon them during World War II, their numbers nearly tripled within a decade. And the 56,153 publishers who had been giving a public witness in 1935 increased, by 1994, to over 4,900,000 Kingdom proclaimers located in more than 230 lands. The vast majority of these look forward with eager anticipation to being included among those whom Jehovah favors with perfection of life on a paradise earth. Compared with the little flock, they truly have become a great crowd. They are not people who say they have faith and yet do not demonstrate it. (James 1:22; 2:14-17) All of them share with others the good news about God’s Kingdom. Are you one of that happy throng? Being an active Witness is an important identifying mark, but more is involved.
“Standing Before the Throne”
5. What is indicated by the fact that the great crowd are “standing before the throne”?
5 In the vision given to the apostle John, he saw them “standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9) Their standing before the throne of God, as described in this context, indicates that they give full recognition to Jehovah’s sovereignty. This includes much. For example: (1) They acknowledge Jehovah’s right to decide for his servants what is good and what is bad. (Genesis 2:16, 17; Isaiah 5:20, 21) (2) They listen to Jehovah as he speaks to them through his Word. (Deuteronomy 6:1-3; 2 Peter 1:19-21) (3) They appreciate the importance of submitting to those whom Jehovah has entrusted with oversight. (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22, 23; 6:1-3; Hebrews 13:17) (4) Though imperfect, they earnestly endeavor to respond to theocratic direction, not grudgingly, but readily, from the heart. (Proverbs 3:1; James 3:17, 18) They are before the throne to render sacred service to Jehovah, whom they profoundly respect and deeply love. In the case of this great crowd, their “standing” before the throne indicates the approval of the One seated on the throne. (Compare Revelation 6:16, 17.) Approval on what basis?
“Dressed in White Robes”
6. (a) What is meant by the great crowd’s being “dressed in white robes”? (b) How do the great crowd gain a righteous standing before Jehovah? (c) To what extent does faith in Christ’s shed blood influence the lives of the great crowd?
6 The apostle John’s description of what he saw says that the members of this great crowd are “dressed in white robes.” Those white robes symbolize their clean, righteous standing before Jehovah. How did they gain such a standing? We have already observed that in John’s vision they were standing “before the Lamb.” They recognize Jesus Christ as “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) John heard one of the elders who, in the vision, was present at God’s throne explain: “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. That is why they are before the throne of God.” (Revelation 7:14, 15) Figuratively, they have washed their garments by exercising faith in Christ’s redeeming blood. They do not give mere mental assent to the Bible’s teaching about the ransom. Appreciation for it affects the sort of person they are inside; thus, it is “with the heart” that they exercise faith. (Romans 10:9, 10) This has a far-reaching effect on what they do with their lives. In faith, they dedicate themselves to Jehovah on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice, symbolize that dedication by water immersion, truly live in harmony with their dedication, and thus come to enjoy an approved relationship with God. What a fine privilege—one to be carefully safeguarded!—2 Corinthians 5:14, 15.
7, 8. How has Jehovah’s organization helped the great crowd to keep their garments undefiled?
7 With loving concern for their lasting welfare, Jehovah’s organization has repeatedly pointed out attitudes and conduct that could spot, or defile, one’s garments of identification so that, in spite of outward professions, the person would not really fit the prophetic description at Revelation 7:9, 10. (1 Peter 1:15, 16) Reinforcing what had been published earlier, The Watchtower, in 1941 and thereafter, repeatedly showed that it would be grossly improper to preach to others and then, in off-hours, to engage in such conduct as fornication or adultery. (1 Thessalonians 4:3; Hebrews 13:4) In 1947 it was emphasized that Jehovah’s Christian marriage standards apply in all lands; regardless of what local custom might approve, those who continued to practice polygamy could not be Witnesses of Jehovah.—Matthew 19:4-6; Titus 1:5, 6.
8 In 1973, Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide were shown that all of them must refrain from having anything to do with undeniably defiling practices, such as misuse of tobacco, no matter where they might be—not only in the Kingdom Hall or in the field service but also at secular work or in some secluded spot out of public view. (2 Corinthians 7:1) In 1987 at district conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian youths were strongly counseled that in order to maintain a clean standing before God, they must guard against leading a double life. (Psalm 26:1, 4) Again and again, The Watchtower has warned against various aspects of the spirit of the world because “the form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father” includes keeping oneself “without spot from the world.”—James 1:27.
9. Who will actually stand approved before God’s throne after the great tribulation?
9 It is those whose faith moves them to live in such a way as to remain spiritually and morally clean who will still be “standing before the throne” as approved servants of God after the coming great tribulation. These are people who not only make a start in Christian living but loyally persevere in it.—Ephesians 4:24.
“Palm Branches in Their Hands”
10. Of what significance are the palm branches that were seen by John in the hands of the great crowd?
10 Among the outstanding features of the great crowd, as observed by the apostle John, is that “there were palm branches in their hands.” Of what significance is that? No doubt those palm branches reminded John of the Jewish festival of tabernacles, the most joyful festival on the Hebrew calendar, held following the summer harvest. In harmony with the Law, palm fronds, along with the branches of other trees, were used to make booths in which to dwell during the festival. (Leviticus 23:39-40; Nehemiah 8:14-18) They were also waved by the worshipers at the temple during the singing of the Hallel (Psalms 113-118). The waving of palm branches by the great crowd doubtless also reminded John of the occasion when Jesus rode into Jerusalem while a crowd of worshipers joyfully waved palm branches and shouted: “Blessed is he that comes in Jehovah’s name, even the king of Israel!” (John 12:12, 13) So the waving of palm branches indicates that the great crowd joyfully hail Jehovah’s Kingdom and his anointed King.
11. Why do servants of God truly find joy in serving Jehovah?
11 It is such a spirit of joy that the great crowd manifest even now as they serve Jehovah. This does not mean that they face no hardships or that they experience no grief or pain. But the satisfaction that comes from serving and pleasing Jehovah helps to offset those things. Thus, a missionary who served with her husband for 45 years in Guatemala told about the primitive conditions that surrounded them, the hard work and hazardous travel that was part of life as they reached out to the Indian villages with the Kingdom message. She concluded: “It was the time of our lives when we were supremely happy.” Though she was feeling the effects of advanced age and illness, among the last entries in her diary were the words: “It was a good life, so rewarding.” Earth wide, Jehovah’s Witnesses feel the same about their ministry.
‘Out Of All Nations, Tribes, Peoples, and Tongues’
16. How is it proving true that the great crowd come “out of all nations”?
16 Out of all nations, those of the great crowd are coming. God is not partial, and the ransom provision made through Jesus Christ is ample to cover all of them. When the great crowd was first Scripturally identified in 1935, Jehovah’s Witnesses were active in 115 lands. By the 1990’s, the search for sheeplike ones had reached out into more than twice as many lands.—Mark 13:10.
17. What is being done to help people of all ‘tribes, peoples, and tongues’ to be included in the great crowd?
17 In locating prospective members of the great crowd, Jehovah’s Witnesses have given attention not only to national groups but also to the tribes and peoples and language groups within those nations. In order to reach these people, the Witnesses publish Bible literature in over 300 languages. This involves training and maintaining teams of qualified translators, providing computer equipment able to process all these languages, as well as doing the actual printing. During just the past five years, 36 languages, spoken by some 98,000,000 people, have been added to the list. In addition, the Witnesses endeavor to call personally on these people to help them to understand God’s Word.—Matthew 28:19, 20.