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Results of Preaching​—“The Fields . . . Are White for Harvesting”

Results of Preaching​—“The Fields . . . Are White for Harvesting”


Jehovah has made the seeds of Kingdom truth grow

1, 2. (a) Why are the disciples puzzled? (b) Jesus speaks about what type of harvest?

THE disciples are puzzled. Jesus has told them: “Lift up your eyes and view the fields, that they are white for harvesting.” They gaze in the direction to which Jesus gestures, but all they see are fields that are, not white, but green​—the color of recently sprouted barley. ‘What harvest?’ they likely reason. ‘It will take months before the harvest takes place.’​—John 4:35.

2 Jesus, though, is not speaking about a literal harvest. Instead, he is using this occasion to teach his disciples two important lessons concerning a spiritual harvest​—a harvest of people. What are those lessons? To find out, let us consider the account in more detail.

A Call to Action and a Promise of Joy

3. (a) What possibly prompted Jesus to say: “The fields . . . are white for harvesting”? (See footnote.) (b) How did Jesus clarify his statement?

3 Jesus’ conversation with his disciples occurred at the end of 30 C.E., near the Samaritan town of Sychar. While his disciples entered the town, Jesus stayed behind at a well where he shared spiritual truths with a woman who quickly grasped the importance of his teachings. When the disciples returned to Jesus, the woman hurried off to Sychar to tell her neighbors the amazing things she had learned. Her report aroused great interest, and many of her neighbors rushed toward the well to meet Jesus. Possibly at that moment​—as Jesus gazed beyond the fields into the distance and saw a crowd of Samaritans approaching—​he stated: “View the fields, that they are white for harvesting.” * Then, to clarify that he meant, not a literal harvest, but a spiritual one, Jesus added: “The reaper is . . . gathering fruit for everlasting life.”​—John 4:5-30, 36.

4. (a) What two lessons about the harvest did Jesus teach? (b) What questions will we consider?

4 What two important lessons about the spiritual harvest did Jesus teach? First, the work is urgent. His declaration that “the fields . . . are white for harvesting” was a call to action for his followers. To impress upon his disciples  the degree of urgency, Jesus added: “Already the reaper is receiving wages.” Yes, the harvest had already begun​—there was no time for delay! Second, the workers are joyful. Sowers and reapers will “rejoice together,” said Jesus. (John 4:35b, 36) Just as Jesus himself must have rejoiced on seeing that “many of the Samaritans . . . put faith in him,” so his disciples would experience deep joy as they worked whole-souled in the harvest. (John 4:39-42) This first-century account has special meaning for us because it illustrates what is happening today during the greatest spiritual harvest of all time. When did this modern-day harvest begin? Who have a share in it? What have been the results?

Our King Takes the Lead in the Greatest Harvest of All Time

5. Who takes the lead in the global harvest, and how does John’s vision indicate that the work is urgent?

5 In a vision given to the apostle John, Jehovah reveals that he assigned Jesus to take the lead in a global harvest of people. (Read Revelation 14:14-16.) In this vision, Jesus is described as having a crown and a sickle. The “golden crown on [Jesus’] head” confirms his position as ruling King. The “sharp sickle in his hand” confirms his role as Harvester. By stating through an angel that “the harvest of the earth is fully ripe,” Jehovah emphasizes that the work is urgent. Indeed, “the hour has come to reap”​—there is no time for delay! In response to God’s command “put your sickle in,” Jesus thrusts in his sickle, and the earth is reaped​—that is, people of the earth are reaped. This exciting vision reminds us that again “the fields . . . are white for harvesting.” Does this vision help us to determine when this global harvest began? Yes!

6. (a) When did “the harvest season” begin? (b) When did the actual “harvest of the earth” begin? Explain.

6 Since John’s vision in Revelation chapter 14 shows Jesus, the Harvester, wearing a crown (verse 14), his appointment as King in 1914 had already taken place. (Dan. 7:13, 14) Sometime after that, Jesus is commanded to start the harvest (verse 15). The same order of events is seen in Jesus’ parable about the harvest of the wheat, where he states: “The harvest is a conclusion of a system of things.” Thus, the harvest season and the conclusion of this system of things began at the same time​—in 1914. Later “in the harvest season,” the actual harvesting began. (Matt. 13:30, 39) Looking back from our vantage point in time, we can see that the harvest began some years after Jesus started ruling as King. First, from 1914 until the early part of 1919, Jesus carried out a cleansing work among his anointed followers. (Mal. 3:1-3; 1 Pet. 4:17) Then, in 1919, “the harvest  of the earth” began. Without delay, Jesus used the newly appointed faithful slave to help our brothers see the urgency of the preaching work. Consider what happened.

7. (a) What examination helped our brothers to see the urgency of the preaching work? (b) What were our brothers encouraged to do?

7 In July 1920, The Watch Tower stated: “It seems evident from an examination of the Scriptures that a great privilege is granted unto the church in delivering a message concerning the kingdom.” For instance, Isaiah’s prophetic words helped the brothers to see that the Kingdom news had to be announced worldwide. (Isa. 49:6; 52:7; 61:1-3) How such a work could be accomplished they did not know, but they trusted that Jehovah would open the way for them. (Read Isaiah 59:1.) As a result of this clearer view about the urgency of the preaching work, our brothers were encouraged to step up their activities. How did the brothers respond?

8. In 1921, what two facts about the preaching work did our brothers grasp?

8 In December 1921, The Watch Tower announced: “It has been the best year of all; and greater numbers of people have heard the message of truth during 1921 than in any previous year.” The magazine added: “There is much yet to be done. . . . Let us do it with a joyful heart.” Note how the brothers grasped the same two important facts about the preaching work that Jesus had impressed upon his apostles: The work is urgent, and the workers are joyful.

9. (a) In 1954, what did The Watchtower state about the harvest work, and why? (b) What worldwide increase in publishers has taken place during the past 50 years? (See the chart “ Worldwide Increase.”)

9 During the 1930’s, after the brothers understood that a great crowd of other sheep would respond to the Kingdom message, the preaching work intensified further. (Isa. 55:5; John 10:16; Rev. 7:9) The result? The number of those preaching the Kingdom message rose from 41,000 in 1934 to 500,000 in 1953! The Watchtower of December 1, 1954, rightly concluded: “It is Jehovah’s spirit and the power of his Word that have accomplished this great world-wide harvest.” *​—Zech. 4:6.







































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 The Result of the Harvest​—Foretold in Vivid Word Pictures

10, 11. In the parable of the mustard grain, what aspects of the seed’s growth are highlighted?

10 In his Kingdom parables, Jesus foretold in vivid language the result of the harvest work. Let us consider the parable about the mustard grain and the one about the leaven. We will focus particularly on how they have been fulfilled in the time of the end.

11 The parable of the mustard grain. A man plants a mustard grain. It then grows into a tree in which birds find shelter. (Read Matthew 13:31, 32.) What aspects of the growth of the seed are highlighted in this parable? (1) The extent of the growth is amazing. “The tiniest of all the seeds” becomes a tree with “great branches.” (Mark 4:31, 32) (2) Growth is assured. “When [the seed] has been sown, it grows.” Jesus does not say, “It may grow.” No, he states: “It grows.” Its growth is unstoppable. (3) The growing tree attracts visitors and provides lodging. “The birds of heaven come” and “find lodging under its shadow.” How do these three aspects apply to the modern-day spiritual harvest?

12. How does the parable of the mustard grain apply to today’s harvest? (See also the chart “ Growing Number of Bible Studies.”)

12 (1) Extent of growth: The parable highlights the growth of the Kingdom message and the Christian congregation. Since 1919, zealous harvest workers have been gathered into the restored Christian congregation. At that time, the number of workers was small, but it grew rapidly. In fact, its growth from the early 1900’s to today has been phenomenal. (Isa. 60:22) (2) Assurance: The growth of the Christian congregation has been unstoppable. No matter how many layers of rocklike opposition God’s enemies placed upon the tiny seed, it kept growing​—pushing aside all obstacles. (Isa. 54:17) (3) Lodging: “The birds of heaven” that find lodging in the tree represent many millions of righthearted individuals from some 240 lands who have responded to the Kingdom message by becoming part of the Christian congregation. (Ezek. 17:23) There they receive spiritual food, refreshment, and protection.​—Isa. 32:1, 2; 54:13.

The parable of the mustard seed shows that lodging and protection are enjoyed by those in the Christian congregation (See paragraphs 11, 12)

13. The parable of the leaven highlights what aspects of growth?

13 The parable of the leaven. After a woman adds some leaven to a mass of flour, the leaven ferments the whole mass. (Read Matthew 13:33.) What aspects of growth are highlighted in this parable? Let us consider two. (1) Growth causes transformation. The leaven spread “until the whole mass was fermented.” (2) Growth is pervasive. The leaven ferments all “three large measures of flour”​—the entire mass. How do these two aspects apply to the modern-day spiritual harvest?

14. How does the parable of the leaven apply to today’s harvest?

 14 (1) Transformation: The leaven stands for the Kingdom message, and the mass of flour represents mankind. As leaven causes a change in flour after the two are mixed together, so the Kingdom message causes a transformation in the hearts of individuals after they accept that message. (Rom. 12:2) (2) Pervasive: The spreading of the leaven stands for the spreading of the Kingdom message. Leaven works its way through the dough until it has spread throughout the entire mass. Similarly, the Kingdom message has spread “to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) This aspect of the parable also indicates that even in lands where our work is under ban, the Kingdom message will spread, though our preaching activities in those parts of the earth may largely go unnoticed.

15. How have the words found at Isaiah 60:5, 22 been fulfilled? (See also the boxes “ Jehovah Made It Possible” and “ How ‘the Small One’ Has Become ‘a Mighty Nation.’”)

15 Some 800 years before Jesus spoke those parables, Jehovah, by means of Isaiah, foretold in memorable language  the scope of the modern-day spiritual harvest and the joy this harvest would cause. * Jehovah describes people “from far away” streaming toward his organization. Directing himself to a “woman,” who today is represented by the anointed remnant on earth, he states: “You will see and become radiant, and your heart will throb and overflow, because the wealth of the sea will be directed to you; the resources of the nations will come to you.” (Isa. 60:1, 4, 5, 9) How true those words are! Today, longtime servants of Jehovah are indeed radiant with joy as they observe how the number of Kingdom publishers in their lands has increased from just a few to many thousands.

Why All Servants of Jehovah Have Reason to Rejoice

16, 17. What is one reason why ‘the sower and the reaper rejoice together’? (See also the box “ How Two Tracts Touched Two Hearts in the Amazon.”)

16 You will recall that Jesus told his apostles: “The reaper is . . . gathering fruit for everlasting life, so that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together.” (John 4:36) How do we “rejoice together” in the global harvest? In several ways. Let us consider three.

17 First, we rejoice to see Jehovah’s role in the work. When we preach the Kingdom message, we sow seed. (Matt. 13:18, 19) When we help someone to become a disciple of Christ, we harvest fruitage. And all of us feel deep joy as we observe with awe how Jehovah causes Kingdom seed to “sprout and grow tall.” (Mark 4:27, 28) Some seed that we scatter sprouts later and is harvested by others. You may have had an experience similar to that of Joan, a Christian sister in Britain who was baptized 60 years ago. She said: “I have met individuals who told me that I planted a seed in their heart when I preached to them years ago. Unknown to me, other Witnesses later studied the Bible with them and helped them to become servants of Jehovah. I rejoice that the seed I planted grew and was harvested.”​—Read 1 Corinthians 3:6, 7.

18. What reason for joy is mentioned at 1 Corinthians 3:8?

18 Second, we remain joyful workers when we keep in mind that Paul stated: “Each person will receive his own reward according to his own work.” (1 Cor. 3:8) The reward is given according to the work, not according to the results of that work. How heartening that assurance is for those preaching in territories where there is little response! In God’s eyes, every Witness who wholeheartedly shares in the sowing work is “bearing much fruit” and therefore has reason to rejoice.​—John 15:8; Matt. 13:23.

19. (a) How does Jesus’ prophecy found at Matthew 24:14 relate to our joy? (b) What should we keep in mind even if we do not personally succeed in making a disciple?

19 Third, we rejoice that our work fulfills prophecy. Consider Jesus’ answer to his apostles when they asked: “What  will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” He told them that one feature of that sign would be a global preaching work. Was he speaking of the disciple-making work? No. He said: “This good news of the Kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness.” (Matt. 24:3, 14) Thus, Kingdom preaching​—sowing seed—​is a feature of the sign. Hence, as we preach the good news of the Kingdom, we keep in mind that even if we do not succeed in making a disciple, we do succeed in giving “a witness.” * Yes, no matter how people respond, we share in fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy and have the honor to serve as “God’s fellow workers.” (1 Cor. 3:9) What good reason to rejoice!

“From the Rising of the Sun to Its Setting”

20, 21. (a) How are the words of Malachi 1:11 being fulfilled? (b) As to the harvest work, what are you determined to do, and why?

20 In the first century, Jesus helped his apostles to see that the harvest work was urgent. From 1919 onward, Jesus has helped his modern-day disciples to grasp the same truth. In response, God’s people have intensified their activities. In fact, the harvest work has proved to be unstoppable. As foretold by the prophet Malachi, the preaching work is being carried out today “from the rising of the sun to its setting.” (Mal. 1:11) Yes, from sunrise to sunset​—from east to west, no matter where they are on earth—​sowers and reapers work and rejoice together. And from sunrise to sunset​—from morning till evening, or all day long—​we work with a sense of urgency.

21 As we look back today over some 100 years and see how a small group of God’s servants has grown into “a mighty nation,” our heart does indeed “throb and overflow” with joy. (Isa. 60:5, 22) May that joy and our love for Jehovah, “the Master of the harvest,” impel each one of us to keep on doing our share in completing the greatest harvest of all time!​—Luke 10:2.

^ par. 3 Jesus’ remark about ‘the fields being white’ could allude to the white robes that may have been worn by the crowd of Samaritans whom Jesus saw approaching.

^ par. 9 To learn more about those years and the decades that followed, we encourage you to read pages 425-520 of the book Jehovah’s Witnesses​—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, which relate what the harvest work accomplished from 1919 to 1992.

^ par. 15 For more details about this colorful prophecy, see Isaiah’s Prophecy​—Light for All Mankind II, pages 303-320.

^ par. 19 That vital truth was already understood by the early Bible Students. Zion’s Watch Tower of November 15, 1895, stated: “If but little wheat can be garnered, abundant testimony to the truth can at least be borne. . . . All can preach the gospel.”