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2014 Annual Meeting Report

100 Years of Kingdom Rule!

On October 4, 2014, an audience of some 19,000 assembled for the 130th annual meeting of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. The program originated from the Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.A., and was tied in by video to a number of other locations.

Mark Sanderson, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, served as chairman of the meeting. In his opening remarks, Brother Sanderson emphasized that this year’s meeting was historic, as it commemorated the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom.

Brother Sanderson reviewed three significant accomplishments of the Kingdom during its first 100 years:

  • A global preaching work. With Jehovah’s blessing, his people have worked tirelessly to spread the good news of the Kingdom. Our ranks have swelled from just a few thousand publishers in 1914 to over eight million during the 2014 service year. We will continue to preach zealously until Jehovah says the work is done.

  • Protection for the Kingdom’s subjects as a group. Religious and political authorities have bitterly opposed us, even attempting to exterminate Jehovah’s Witnesses altogether. However, Jehovah has protected his worshippers as a group. Numerous legal victories, including those in the United States Supreme Court and in the European Court of Human Rights, confirm that Jehovah continues to watch over us down to this day.

  • The uniting of people from all walks of life. God’s Kingdom has united people from various backgrounds, nationalities, and languages, helping them to overcome a wide array of challenges and forming them into a united group of worshippers. “This is a miracle that only Jehovah God could have achieved,” said Brother Sanderson. He reiterated how honored all in attendance felt to be present at this historic annual meeting.

Become Jehovah’s Friend Series.

This video series for children, which we have enjoyed for over two years, was the next subject on the annual meeting program. First, Brother Sanderson introduced a video of interviews of children from around the world. The audience was touched by the children’s candid and heartfelt expressions of appreciation for what they have learned from these videos.

A new video in this series was then shown. It is entitled “Jehovah Will Help You Be Bold.” This 12-minute video brings to life the Bible account of the Israelite girl who courageously spoke about Jehovah to Naaman’s wife. (2 Kings 5:1-14) The video was posted on jw.org on Monday, October 6, 2014, and is available in more than 20 languages.

JW Language.

Brother Sanderson announced this new application for digital devices, which will help Jehovah’s Witnesses who want to learn another language to expand their ministry. The application includes over 4,000 words and phrases in 18 languages. Plans are under way to include additional words and phrases, presentations for field service, and other features.

JW Broadcasting.

The audience was excited to learn of a new Internet TV station sponsored by Jehovah’s Witnesses, which has been launched on a trial basis in English only. Originating from our world headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A., this station will broadcast our videos, music, and dramatic Bible readings. In addition, it will feature a monthly program hosted by a member of the Governing Body or a helper to one of its committees.

Brother Sanderson introduced a preview of the first of these programs. Hosted by Stephen Lett of the Governing Body, this program includes a behind-the-scenes look at the work that went into preparing the new TV station. JW Broadcasting went live on October 6, 2014, and can be accessed by visiting tv.jw.org.

“The Kingdom—100 Years and Counting.”

Samuel Herd of the Governing Body narrated a video that reviewed how God’s Kingdom has progressively helped us to grow and improve in our preaching work. Combining historical footage, reenactments, and experiences related by long-time Witnesses, the video highlighted such initiatives as the production and extensive showing of the “Photo-Drama of Creation”; the use of the phonograph, testimony cards, information marches, and sound cars; and the provision of schools to train us for the ministry.

How do we benefit from reflecting on what the Kingdom has accomplished in its first 100 years? Doing so makes the Kingdom more real to us and heightens our anticipation for what it will accomplish in the future.

Songs for Worship.

David Splane of the Governing Body delighted all in attendance when he announced plans to revise our songbook, Sing to Jehovah. It will be produced with the same cover materials and silver edges as the New World Translation. The use of these high-quality materials reflects the dignified place of music in our worship.

Brother Splane also announced that a few more songs will be added to the songbook. But we do not have to wait for the revised songbook to be printed to begin using the new songs. They will be released on jw.org as they become available.

Three of the new songs, which had been rehearsed by the Bethel family earlier in the week, were sung at the annual meeting. Brother Splane conducted a chorus that sang the new song entitled “The Kingdom Is in Place—Let It Come!” This song was specially composed to mark the 100-year anniversary of the birth of the Kingdom. After the chorus sang the song, the rest of the audience sang it with them. Later in the program, the chorus and the audience sang another new song, entitled “Grant Us Boldness.

Interview.

Gerrit Lösch of the Governing Body hosted a prerecorded interview of three married couples with decades of experience in Bethel service. They related a number of changes they had seen over the years, underscoring that God’s people are on the move. Brother Lösch noted that the Bible foretold organizational improvements, and he urged all to keep moving forward with Jehovah’s organization.Isaiah 60:17.

“Types and Antitypes.”

Brother Splane delivered this talk, which explained why in recent years our publications have not discussed types and antitypes as much as they once did.

In the past, many faithful men and women mentioned in the Bible were said to foreshadow groups of faithful Christians in our time. Likewise, a number of Bible accounts were thought to be prophetic of events involving God’s modern-day servants. Admittedly, it can be fascinating to study such comparisons. Why, then, have our recent publications seldom mentioned types and antitypes?

The Scriptures indicate that some characters and events foreshadowed someone or something greater. Where the Bible makes a clear connection between a type and an antitype, we gladly accept it. “But where the Bible is silent, we must be silent,” said Brother Splane. We should avoid reading too much into an account. Moreover, if we get caught up in looking for typical and antitypical patterns and fulfillments, we may lose sight of the practical, everyday lessons that Bible accounts can teach all of us—regardless of whether we have the heavenly hope or the earthly hope.Romans 15:4. *

“Will You ‘Keep on the Watch’?”

This talk, delivered by Brother Lett, adjusted our understanding of Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins. (Matthew 25:1-13) We now understand the parable in this way: The bridegroom is Jesus, and the virgins are Jesus’ anointed followers. (Luke 5:34, 35; 2 Corinthians 11:2) The parable applies to the last days, with its climax occurring during the great tribulation. In describing the five foolish virgins, Jesus was not saying that many of his anointed servants would prove unfaithful and need to be replaced. Rather, he was conveying a powerful warning. Just as five virgins were discreet and five were foolish, each anointed one has the opportunity to choose either a course of preparedness and vigilance or one of unfaithfulness.

In line with the principle of not reading too much into an account, it does not seem wise to analyze this illustration with a view to looking for a prophetic parallel in every detail. Rather, we do well to draw practical lessons from the illustration. Whether we are of the anointed or the “other sheep,” all of us have the responsibility to let our light shine brightly and to “keep on the watch.” (John 10:16; Mark 13:37; Matthew 5:16) No one can be faithful for us. Each of us “must choose life” by staying spiritually alert and active in the ministry.Deuteronomy 30:19.

“The Parable of the Talents.”

Anthony Morris of the Governing Body spoke next, helping the audience to understand our adjusted explanation of the illustration of the talents. (Matthew 25:14-30) We now understand that the master in this illustration (Jesus) will reward the slaves (his faithful anointed followers on earth) in the future when he arrives and raises them to life in heaven. When he spoke of what would happen to the “wicked and sluggish slave,” Jesus was not foretelling that a large number of his anointed followers would prove unfaithful. Rather, he was warning the anointed of the need to remain diligent and avoid the attitudes and actions of a wicked slave.

What practical lessons can we draw from this parable? The master in the illustration entrusted something of value to his slaves. Likewise, Jesus has entrusted his followers with something he views as precious—the commission to preach and make disciples. He expects all of us to share diligently in that preaching work, according to our circumstances. Brother Morris commended those in attendance for their zealous share in Kingdom activities.

“Who Will Soon Attack God’s People?”

That was the intriguing theme of the final talk on the program, delivered by Geoffrey Jackson of the Governing Body. Brother Jackson discussed the future attack on God’s people that will be led by Gog of Magog.Ezekiel 38:14-23.

In the past, we have understood Gog to be another name for Satan the Devil after he was cast out of heaven. However, Brother Jackson reasoned on several important questions that such an explanation raises. For example, Jehovah foretold that when Gog is defeated, Jehovah would give Gog “as food to all kinds of birds of prey and the wild beasts of the field.” (Ezekiel 39:4) Jehovah also foretold that “Gog and all his hordes” will be given a burial place on earth. (Ezekiel 39:11) But how could either of those things happen to a spirit creature? Satan will be thrown into the abyss for 1,000 years, not eaten or buried. (Revelation 20:1, 2) Moreover, at the end of the 1,000 years, Satan will be released from the abyss and “will go out to mislead those nations in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog.” (Revelation 20:7, 8) Clearly, Satan cannot mislead Gog if he himself is Gog.

Brother Jackson explained that Gog of Magog of Ezekiel’s prophecy must represent, not Satan, but a coalition of nations that will turn on God’s people in the future. Likely, the attack by Gog is the same as the attack by “the king of the north” and the attack by “the kings of the earth.”Daniel 11:40, 44, 45; Revelation 17:12-14; 19:19.

To whom does “the king of the north” refer? We will have to wait and see. In any case, we find it faith-strengthening to see how our understanding of these future events continues to be refined as they draw ever closer. We do not fear the coming attack on God’s people, for we know that when Gog of Magog attacks, he is going to be defeated and destroyed completely—while God’s people will remain forever. *

Conclusion.

Brother Sanderson announced that a pocket-size New World Translation is now available. Also, an audio Bible is being prepared, which will feature the voices of various individuals reading the words spoken by Bible characters. These recordings will gradually be posted on jw.org, beginning with the book of Matthew.

Brother Sanderson announced that our yeartext for 2015 will be Psalm 106:1: “Give thanks to Jehovah, for he is good.” He encouraged all to look for reasons to be thankful each day.

The closing song for the meeting was the third of our new songs, entitled “Jehovah Is Your Name.” All seven members of the Governing Body joined the chorus on stage as everyone in attendance sang this beautiful new song—a fitting end to a truly historic meeting!

^ par. 22 This talk and the two that followed were based on articles that will appear in the March 15, 2015, issue of The Watchtower.

^ par. 30 This talk was based on an article that will appear in the May 15, 2015, issue of The Watchtower.

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