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“A Great Crowd” Hails the King

“A Great Crowd” Hails the King

 Chapter 16

“A Great Crowd” Hails the King

1, 2. (a) How did Jehovah proceed to fulfill his prophecy at Isaiah 60:22? (b) What remarkable revelation of divine truth was made in 1935?

THROUGH his prophet, Jehovah declared: “The little one himself will become a thousand, and the small one a mighty nation. I myself, Jehovah, shall speed it up in its own time.” (Isaiah 60:22) And, wonderfully, Jehovah did proceed to “speed it up.” In 1935 Jehovah’s Witnesses assembled in convention at Washington, D.C., U.S.A. There it was made known that Jehovah was proceeding to gather “a great crowd” of “other sheep”​—God-fearing persons who would, by the ‘coming’ of God’s kingdom, gain everlasting life on a paradise earth.​—John 10:16; Revelation 7:9.

2 Revelation chapter 7 describes it thus: “After” the sealing of the “little flock” of Kingdom heirs, numbering 144,000, “a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” is seen standing before God’s throne. They acknowledge the sovereignty of Jehovah as exercised through his Christ. Joyfully they attribute salvation to God and to the Lamb. As a group, they will never need to die, for they are “the ones that come out of the great tribulation”  to inherit everlasting life in the cleansed earth.​—Revelation 7:4, 9, 10, 14; Luke 12:32.

3. (a) Has the “little one” indeed become “a thousand”? (b) How may you share in the fulfillment of Revelation 7:15-17?

3 Have you taken your place among this “great crowd” of worshipers today? Are you one of the 2,000,000 and more of these that are ‘rendering God sacred service’ throughout the earth? True, you are surrounded still by Satan’s wicked, oppressive world and may have to endure many pressures in your daily life. But if you are one of the Lord’s “sheep,” you are under God’s protective care. You do not have to hunger or thirst anymore for lack of spiritual sustenance. No longer need you fear God’s scorching displeasure, for the Lamb is shepherding you and guiding you to “fountains of waters of life.” Thus, in a figurative way, you are already sharing in the fulfillment of the promise: “And God will wipe out every tear from their eyes.”​—Revelation 7:15-17.

THE KING BLESSES HIS “SHEEP”

4. What is the relation of Jesus to his “little flock”?

4 In Bible times, and even down to our day, an Oriental shepherd enjoyed a most intimate relationship with his sheep. He called each one by name, and they knew his voice and responded readily as he led them in and out of the sheepfold. In John chapter 10 Jesus drew on this in illustrating, first, the loving relationship between himself and his “little flock” of 144,000 anointed followers, saying: “I am the fine shepherd, and I know my sheep and my sheep know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I surrender my soul in behalf of the sheep.” These become part of  “Abraham’s seed,” through which “all the families” of the earth are to bless themselves.​—John 10:14, 15; Genesis 12:3; Galatians 3:28, 29.

5. (a) What further happy relationship is referred to at John 10:16? (b) What privileges do the “other sheep” enjoy now, and what is the future prospect for this group?

5 What, then, is the relation of “the fine shepherd” to the families of mankind that are to live forever on earth? A most blessed one! For Jesus says of these:

“And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold [of the “little flock”]; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.”

Today, a “great crowd” of these “other sheep” are to be observed as they pasture along with the “little flock”​—all of them unitedly obeying the “voice” of their shepherd in preaching “this good news of the kingdom . . . in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” Happy is your portion if you are one of these! (John 10:16; Matthew 24:14) Under the Kingdom rule, the number of the “other sheep” will increase into the billions by means of the resurrection of the earthly dead, as God’s purpose to populate the earth with righteous humans moves on to its completion.​—Genesis 1:28.

6. How does Jesus’ prophecy indicate when the “other sheep” come into prominence?

6 That the “other sheep” come into prominence at “the conclusion of the system of things” is shown by the illustration with which Jesus closes out his prophecy on the “sign” of his presence. (Matthew 24:3) He says:

“When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne.  And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will put the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.” (Matthew 25:31-33)

Since the glorious King and his angels are invisible to human eyes, how does he carry out the separating work?

7. (a) How is the separating work directed? (b) What must you do to receive a favorable judgment, and why?

7 The holy angels give direction to that work. (Revelation 14:6-12; compare Acts 8:26-29; 10:1-8.) And here on earth the remaining ones of the “little flock,” who are called the King’s “brothers” at Matthew 25:40, take the lead in the preaching of the “good news.” The King judges people according to their response to his “brothers” and the Kingdom message that they proclaim. What they do to his “brothers” he counts as done to himself. People who receive the King’s “brothers” hospitably are in line for a blessing. Are you one of these? Of course, you must follow through, in accepting the Kingdom message wholeheartedly and in becoming a dedicated, baptized servant of Jehovah, on the basis of Jesus’ name​—for “there is no salvation in anyone else.”​—Acts 4:12; Matthew 25:35-40.

8. In what invitation and promises may you share?

8 As one of the Lord’s “other sheep,” to what may you look forward? What will be the result of your obeying the “voice” of your “fine shepherd” and “king”? In pronouncing judgment, the King says to the humble “sheep” at his right hand of favor: “Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.” You may expect to  share in these Kingdom blessings proceeding from our Father, as the ‘righteous ones depart into everlasting life.’ (Matthew 25:34, 46) Yes, you may expect to share in the fulfillment of many prophetic promises, such as that in Isaiah, which says of Jehovah: “He will actually swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will certainly wipe the tears from all faces. And the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for Jehovah himself has spoken it.” Wicked men may reproach you only a short time longer. For God’s promise is that all who hope in Jehovah will enter soon into a veritable “banquet” of good things in a “new earth.” You want to share in that “banquet,” do you not?​—Isaiah 25:6-9; 66:22.

“GOATS” AND PERSECUTIONS

9, 10. (a) Why is it not easy to pursue righteousness today? (b) What attitude should you take toward opposers, and what help may you expect from God?

9 It may not be easy for you to pursue a course of righteousness in these “last days.” Satan and his dupes may ridicule you, as they make their last all-out attempt to ruin this earth and mankind on it. (2 Peter 3:3, 4; 2 Timothy 3:1) When you call on your neighbors with the Kingdom message, you may find some who display a goatlike disposition. This they do by showing indifference or rudeness, or by outright opposition.​—Matthew 25:33, 42-45.

10 However, as one of the Lord’s “sheep” you should not try to judge who may be a “goat.” It is for the King, not for his “sheep” here on earth, to do the judging. (Compare Romans 14:10-12.) And, though you may meet with opposition because of your becoming a proclaimer of the “good news,” God will strengthen you to do his will, as the  apostle Peter indicated in these words: “The God of all undeserved kindness . . . will himself finish your training, he will make you firm, he will make you strong.” (1 Peter 5:10; compare 2 Corinthians 12:10.) Also, the apostle Paul gives this fine admonition: “Do not loiter at your [Kingdom] business. Be aglow with the spirit. Slave for Jehovah. Rejoice in the hope. Endure under tribulation. Persevere in prayer.”​—Romans 12:11, 12.

11. What may be the happy result of exemplary Christian behavior?

11 Your loyal service and fervent prayers to Jehovah, along with your exemplary Christian behavior, may result in some who at first appeared to be “goats” turning out to be “sheep.” The patient, respectful conduct of Christian wives has often been effective in winning over unbelieving husbands “without a word.” (1 Peter 3:1, 2) Certainly we do not want to see people “depart into everlasting cutting-off,” but, rather, we should want to help them to shed goatish dispositions, so as to attain to everlasting life.​—Matthew 25:41, 46.

LOYAL “SHEEP” KEEP INTEGRITY

12. How have the King’s “brothers” and the “sheep” supported one another in modern times?

12 It is to be noted that the “sheep” of Jesus’ illustration went out of their way to minister to the King’s “brothers” while these were sick and in prison. And in some parts of the earth today, privation and persecution, sickness and imprisonment have been the experience not only of the “little flock” but also of the “other sheep” who are serving so loyally and unitedly with them. For example, during 1933 to 1945, when the Nazi Hitler  was making his drive for world domination, Jehovah’s Witnesses underwent bitter persecutions​—first in the Nazi-Fascist countries and later in all the warring nations. Many, both of the “little flock” and of the Lord’s “other sheep,” were killed. But they conquered marvelously in holding fast their integrity to the King and his kingdom!

13, 14. What contrast has been noted between the stand of Christendom’s religions and that of Jehovah’s Witnesses?

13 The contrast between the compromising stand of Christendom’s religions and the integrity of Jehovah’s Witnesses under pressure has often been commented on by historians. For example, in the book A History of Christianity, published in London, England, in 1976, Paul Johnson says first of the Catholic and Evangelical churches in Hitler’s Germany: “Both churches, in the main, gave massive support to the regime. The Catholic bishops welcomed ‘the new, strong stress on authority in the German state’; Bishop Bornewasser told the Catholic youth in Trier Cathedral: ‘With raised heads and firm step we have entered the new reich and we are prepared to serve it with all the might of our body and soul.’ In January 1934, Hitler saw twelve Evangelical leaders, and after this meeting they . . . issued a communique which pledged ‘the leaders of the German Evangelical Church unanimously affirm their unconditional loyalty to the Third Reich and its leader.’”

14 Then, with reference to the few professing Christians who he said “stuck to their principles,” the writer goes on to say: “The bravest were the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who proclaimed their outright doctrinal opposition from the beginning and suffered accordingly. They refused any cooperation  with the Nazi state which they denounced as totally evil. . . . Many were sentenced to death for refusing military service . . . ; or they ended in Dachau or lunatic asylums. A third were actually killed; ninety-seven per cent suffered persecution in one form or another. They were the only Christian group which aroused Himmler’s admiration.”

15. (a) What is your reaction to the typical letter herewith? (b) What was Satan’s effort during World War II, and what is the evidence that he failed?

15 Not as pacifists, but as Christian neutrals supporting the incoming kingdom of God, young Witnesses faced imprisonment and execution rather than break integrity, as testified to by a typical ‘last letter’ that appears herewith. Throughout the earth, whether in Axis or Allied countries, the King’s “brothers” and their companion “sheep” were mobbed, beaten up, imprisoned and maltreated. But they conquered in their spiritual warfare. The Devil could not crack their loyalty to the Kingdom. Like Jesus before them, they proved themselves to be “no part” of Satan’s world.​—John 15:19.

THE KINGDOM’S EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM

16, 17. (a) What educational program and expanded work now opened up? (b) What fruitage of this work is to be noted?

16 The Watch Tower Society’s president, J. F. Rutherford, died in 1942, to be succeeded by Nathan H. Knorr. Shortly, Theocratic Ministry Schools were set up in all congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and these have served invaluably in training male and female Witnesses to speak the Kingdom message more effectively and persuasively to others. Over the years, various textbooks have been provided for these schools. Nor was the missionary field overlooked.  On February 1, 1943, the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead was established in New York State. From many countries of earth, thousands of experienced full-time ministers (“pioneers”) have been brought to the U.S.A., trained and sent forth “into all the earth” to preach “this good news of the kingdom.”​—Matthew 24:14; Romans 10:18.

17 What marvelous fruitage has resulted from this global campaign of education! As we move on in the  1980’s, the total of persons partaking of the bread and the wine at the annual Memorial of Jesus’ death, thus indicating their hope of being united with him in his heavenly kingdom, has dropped below 10,000, as more of the King’s “brothers” finish their earthly course in integrity. But the total of other attenders, who have an interest in living forever on earth as subjects of the Kingdom, has risen above 5,700,000. In 43,000 and more congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the earth today, the “great crowd” of the “other sheep” are doing by far the greater part of the witness work. How grand your opportunity is to be one of these!

18. (a) How has the “faithful and discreet slave” continued its service? (b) In what momentous work may you now share?

18 Though their number dwindles, the anointed remnant of Jesus’ “little flock,” the “faithful and discreet slave” class, continues to oversee the Kingdom activity. (Matthew 24:45-47) To accomplish this, it works through a governing body, an arrangement similar to that in the first-century Christian congregation. (Acts 15:6; Luke 12:42-44) With the death of N. H. Knorr in 1977, Frederick W. Franz, at 83 years of age, became the fourth president of the Watch Tower Society. And on July 1, 1979, the Watchtower magazine itself became 100 years of age! Behind it is a century of Kingdom witnessing. Yes, by printed page and word of mouth, “this good news” of the established Kingdom has been proclaimed in all the earth for a witness. Are you one who is sharing in this privileged work after the pattern that Jesus left? As Paul admonished:

“Through him let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.”​—Hebrews 13:15.

19. (a) What course did Paul encourage, involving “heart” and “mouth”? (b) What timely questions are here asked, and how do you respond?

 19 The apostle Paul declared in another letter: “With the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” (Romans 10:10) Do you exercise faith in the “good news,” which focuses now on the kingdom of God, established in the heavens since 1914? Are you ‘making public declaration for salvation,’ as you pray for God’s kingdom to “come” with all of its destructive force to remove Satan’s organization from the earth? Are you zealous in telling others ‘publicly and from house to house’ of the Kingdom blessings that will flow to all mankind when shortly God’s will takes place, “as in heaven, also upon earth”? Are you loyally supporting the anointed “faithful and discreet slave” class of true Christians as they continue to take the lead in sounding forth the Kingdom message “into all the earth . . . , and to the extremities of the inhabited earth,” and in ‘making disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing and teaching them’?​—Matthew 6:10; 24:14, 45-47; 28:19, 20; Acts 5:42; 20:20; Romans 10:18.

20. What grand privilege may you now enjoy?

20 You may enjoy a grand privilege today in thus ‘rendering sacred service day and night before the throne of God.’ At the same time you place yourself in line to be one of the “great crowd” that will inherit everlasting life on an earth made glorious. (Revelation 7:9-17) But first the Kingdom must “come” to fight Armageddon’s war! What will Armageddon mean for mankind and our earth?

[Study Questions]

[Box on page 159]

NEUTRAL TO THE DEATH

During the second world war, many young witnesses of Jehovah paid for their neutrality with their lives. The following letter is typical of a number of ‘last letters’ that such courageous Witnesses wrote to their families. It was written by 23-year-old Marcel Sutter, of Alsace-Lorraine, a few hours before he was beheaded with an ax in Torgau prison, Germany, August 1942.

“My dearly beloved parents and sisters,

“When you receive this letter, I will no longer be alive. Only a few hours separate me from my death. I ask you to be strong and courageous; do not cry, for I have conquered. I have finished the course and kept the faith. May Jehovah God help me until the end. Only a short period of time separates us from the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. Soon we will see each other again in a better world of peace and righteousness. I rejoice at the thought of that day, since then there will be no more sighing. How marvelous that will be! I am yearning for peace. During these last few hours I have been thinking of you and my heart is a little bitter at the thought of not being able to kiss you good-bye. But we must be patient. The time is near when Jehovah will vindicate his Name and prove to all creation that he is the only true God. I now wish to dedicate my last few hours to him, so I will close this letter and say good-bye until we meet again soon. Praise be to our God Jehovah! With my warm love and greetings,

“Your beloved son and brother,

Marcel”