An audience of thousands listened to encouraging reports and an exciting discussion of Matthew 24:45-47 at the 128th annual meeting of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.
On October 6, 2012, almost 5,000 people were assembled for the program at the Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.A. By means of video tie-in, over 10,000 more watched at our facilities in Brooklyn, Patterson, and Wallkill, New York, and at our branch office in Canada.
Anthony Morris, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and chairman of the meeting, reviewed past annual meetings that were especially upbuilding and historic. The audience knew that this year’s program would be upbuilding. But they now wondered, ‘Would it also be historic?’
Two videos then took the audience around the world.
Kingdom Hall Construction:
This video chronicled the success of Kingdom Hall construction in lands with limited resources. In the past 13 years, Kingdom Hall Construction Groups in such lands have built 25,402 Kingdom Halls—an average of more than five completed Kingdom Halls every day! Those Kingdom Halls were built using funds donated by Witnesses from all around the world. Moreover, when a natural disaster strikes, these skilled groups often spring into action and assist victims to repair or rebuild their Kingdom Halls and their homes.
In 2012, Jehovah’s Witnesses held several special conventions with international delegates. How did these conventions differ from the international conventions in previous years?
The video explained that the host branch offices, not travel agents, arranged accommodations, local transportation, and noon meals for delegates during the convention week. Approximately 1,500 foreign delegates attended each convention.
Foreign delegates and local Witnesses had many opportunities to become acquainted with one another, not only at the convention but also while sightseeing, eating meals, and preaching to local residents. “At all the special conventions thus far,” the video reported, “the perfect bond of union [has] proved to be brotherly love.”
How thrilled the audience was to learn that Jehovah’s Witnesses will hereafter hold special conventions annually in selected cities around the world!
Other highlights of the annual meeting included:
Three Branch Committee members and their wives, who have been full-time ministers for a combined total of 342 years, related how Jehovah God has trained them to fulfill many different assignments.
Richard Kelsey, a member of the Branch Committee in Germany, said that the School for Branch Committee Members and Their Wives taught him to “follow Jehovah’s direction always.” Jehovah is a loving Father who wants the best for us. “He wants us to live forever,” explained Brother Kelsey, “and he is doing everything to take care of us.” The school taught the Branch Committee members to follow Jehovah’s loving example.
When Linda Johansson was invited to the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead in 1958, she had been baptized for two and a half years and married for only one year. “Here I was in a class with very mature [and] experienced brothers,” said Sister Johansson. “I thought . . . , ‘I really shouldn’t be here.’”
Yet, Sister Johansson persevered, and after graduation she and her husband were appointed as missionaries in Malawi. Following the intense persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in that country, she studied the Bible with a government minister who had opposed the work of the Witnesses. Today, that man’s wife, son, and daughter are all baptized Witnesses.
Public Witnessing Project:
Four graduates of the Bible School for Christian Couples and a traveling overseer of Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York related experiences that resulted from their efforts to reach people in busy metropolitan areas.
In high-traffic urban areas, full-time ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses tend tables and portable carts stocked with Bible literature. Passersby can obtain publications, ask Bible questions, and request a Bible study.
Witnesses in other parts of New York City, as well as in Chicago and Los Angeles, are trying this method of meeting people. In just one year, some 2,700 visitors to these tables and carts asked for a free Bible study.
There were few dry eyes in the audience as a chorus of 17 children sang “Listen, Obey, and Be Blessed” from the songbook Sing to Jehovah (Song No. 120).
Next, a symposium of six talks by members of the Governing Body—Brothers Jackson, Lösch, Pierce, Herd, Lett, and Splane—analyzed and discussed the meaning of Jesus’ words recorded at Matthew 24:45-47. Jesus stated:
“Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so! Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.”
The symposium answered the following questions:
When Did Jesus Appoint “the Faithful and Discreet Slave” Over His Domestics?
Consider the context of Jesus’ words in Matthew chapter 24. All the verses listed here were to be fulfilled during Christ’s presence, “the conclusion of the system of things.”—Verse 3.
“The tribulation of those days.”—Verse 29.
“This generation.”—Verse 34.
“That day and hour.”—Verse 36.
The “day your Lord is coming.”—Verse 42.
“At an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.”—Verse 44.
Logically, then, “the faithful and discreet slave” must have appeared after Christ’s presence began in 1914.
Moreover, Jesus indicated that this “slave” would appear during a time when a legitimate question would be: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave?” Jesus’ apostles had miraculous gifts of holy spirit, so there was scant reason to raise that question in the first century C.E. (1 Corinthians 14:12, 24, 25) Although they were anointed by holy spirit, the apostles and other first-century Christians were not “the faithful and discreet slave” prophesied by Jesus.
It is reasonable to conclude, then, that Jesus appointed “the faithful and discreet slave” over “his domestics” during his presence, “the conclusion of the system of things.”
“Who Really Is the Faithful and Discreet Slave?”
Jesus was referring, not to an individual, but to a composite “slave”—a group working together as one body. Jesus said that the slave (1) is appointed to a supervisory role “over [the master’s] domestics” and (2) gives the domestics spiritual “food at the proper time.”
From 1919 on, there has always been a small group of anointed Christians at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They have supervised our worldwide preaching work and have been directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food. In recent years, that group has been closely identified with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The evidence points to the following conclusion: “The faithful and discreet slave” was appointed over Jesus’ domestics in 1919. That slave is the small, composite group of anointed brothers serving at world headquarters during Christ’s presence who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food. When this group work together as the Governing Body, they act as “the faithful and discreet slave.”
Who Are the “Domestics”?
Jesus said that “his domestics” would receive “food at the proper time.” All genuine followers of Jesus are fed by “the faithful and discreet slave.” Therefore, all of Christ’s disciples—both individual anointed Christians and members of the “other sheep”—are “his domestics.”—John 10:16.
After the speaker explained this aspect of Jesus’ prophecy, the audience erupted in sustained applause. Several in attendance later expressed their profound gratitude that Jesus considers them among “his domestics.”
When Does Jesus Appoint the Slave “Over All His Belongings”?
Jesus said that the “master on arriving” (literally, “having come”) will appoint the slave “over all his belongings.” When does the Master, Jesus, arrive?
The expression translated “on arriving” is a form of the Greek word erʹkho·mai. Verses 42 and 44 of chapter 24 translate a form of erʹkho·mai as “coming.” In those verses, Jesus is referring to his coming as Judge during the great tribulation.—Matthew 24:30; 25:31, 32.
Jesus’ appointment of the “slave” over his “belongings,” then, must also be a future event. He will make that appointment during the great tribulation.
What Are Jesus’ “Belongings”?
Jesus said: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Matthew 28:18) Jesus’ “belongings” thus include more than just his earthly interests. They include the Messianic Kingdom.—Philippians 2:9-11.
Consequently, Jesus will reward “the faithful and discreet slave” by resurrecting the individual members of that group to heavenly life and by giving them royal authority over all Christ’s belongings in heaven and on earth. This is the same reward promised to all faithful anointed Christians.—Luke 22:28-30; Revelation 20:6.
The final talk of the symposium included a special announcement. After reading Jesus’ reassuring words at Matthew 28:20, Brother Splane stated: “We have another reason for confidence. That reason is contained in the yeartext for 2013. What is it? Joshua 1:9: ‘Be courageous and strong. . . . Jehovah your God is with you.’”
“What about next year?” asked Brother Morris in his concluding comments. “Next year’s annual meeting, which is scheduled to be held on October 5, 2013, will be tied in to selected Assembly Halls in the United States and other English-speaking countries.”
This program will be broadcast in English only. It will not be interpreted into other languages.
After such an upbuilding and historic program, those in attendance heartily joined in singing “The Light Gets Brighter” (Song No. 116) from Sing to Jehovah. Its lyrics include these appropriate words:
“Our Lord has appointed a trustworthy slave,
Through whom He gives food in due season.
The light of the truth has grown brighter with time,
Appealing to heart and to reason.”