“[Jesus] said to them: ‘. . . You will be witnesses of me . . . to the most distant part of the earth.’”
1, 2. (a) Who is the most outstanding witness of Jehovah? (b) What does the name Jesus mean, and how did God’s Son live up to his name?
“FOR this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (Read John 18:33-37.) When on trial for his life, Jesus Christ said those words to the Roman governor of Judea. Jesus had just identified himself as a king. Years later, the apostle Paul referred to this courageous example of Jesus, “who as a witness made the fine public declaration before Pontius Pilate.” (1 Tim. 6:13) Indeed, it sometimes requires great courage to be a “faithful and true witness” in Satan’s hate-filled world!
2 As a member of the Jewish nation, Jesus was a witness of Jehovah by birth. (Isa. 43:10) Indeed, he turned out to be the greatest witness God has ever raised up in behalf of His name. Jesus took seriously the meaning of his own God-given name. When an angel told Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, that what had been conceived in Mary was by holy spirit, the angel added: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:20, 21; ftn.) Bible scholars in general agree that the name Jesus comes from a Hebrew name, Jeshua, and contains a shortened form of the divine name; it means “Jehovah Is Salvation.” In harmony with the meaning of his name, Jesus helped “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” to repent of their sins in order for them to regain Jehovah’s approval. (Matt. 10:6; 15:24; Luke 19:10) To this end, Jesus zealously witnessed about God’s Kingdom. The Gospel writer Mark reported: “Jesus went into Galilee, preaching the good news of God and saying: ‘The appointed time has been fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has drawn near. Repent, and have faith in the good news.’” (Mark 1:14, 15) Jesus also courageously denounced the Jewish religious leaders, which contributed to their having him executed on a stake.
“THE MAGNIFICENT THINGS OF GOD”
3. What happened on the third day after Jesus’ death?
3 But wonder of wonders! On the third day after Jesus’ cruel death, Jehovah resurrected him, not as a human, but as an immortal spirit creature. (1 Pet. 3:18) In proof of this, the Lord Jesus materialized in human form and gave evidence that he had come back to life. On the very day of his resurrection, he made at least five appearances to different disciples.
4. What resurrection-day meeting did Jesus preside over, and what responsibility did he make clear to his disciples?
4 The fifth time Jesus appeared was to present himself to his apostles and others who were gathered with them. On that memorable occasion, he conducted, as it were, a study of God’s Word. “He opened up their minds fully to grasp the meaning of the Scriptures.” Thus they came to understand that his death at the hands of God’s enemies and his miraculous resurrection had been foretold in the Scriptures. At the conclusion of that resurrection-day meeting, Jesus made clear to his audience what their responsibility was. He told them that “on the basis of his name, repentance for forgiveness of sins would be preached in all the nations
5, 6. (a) Why did Jesus say: “You will be witnesses of me”? (b) What new feature of Jehovah’s purpose would Jesus’ disciples have to make known?
5 Thus, 40 days later, during Jesus’ final appearance, his apostles would have understood what he meant by the simply yet powerfully worded command: “You will be witnesses of me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Why did Jesus say: “You will be witnesses of me,” not of Jehovah? Jesus could have said the latter, but the ones whom he addressed were Israelites and as such were already witnesses of Jehovah.
6 Now Jesus’ disciples would have to make known a new feature of Jehovah’s purpose
“A RANSOM IN EXCHANGE FOR MANY”
7. What did the events on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E. prove?
7 Events on the day of Pentecost in 33 C.E. proved that Jehovah had graciously accepted the value of Jesus’ perfect human sacrifice as an atonement, or a covering, for sin. (Heb. 9:11, 12, 24) As Jesus explained, he came, “not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his life as a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matt. 20:28) The “many” who would benefit from Jesus’ ransom were not to be limited to repentant Jews. Rather, it is God’s will that “all sorts of people should be saved,” since the ransom “takes away the sin of the world!”
8. To what extent did Jesus’ disciples witness, and how was this possible?
8 Did those early disciples of Jesus have the needed courage to keep on witnessing about him? Indeed they did, but they did not do it in their own strength. Jehovah’s powerful holy spirit motivated and energized them to keep on witnessing. (Read Acts 5:30-32.) Some 27 years after Pentecost 33 C.E., it could be said that “the message of truth of the good news” had reached Jews and Gentiles “in all creation under heaven.”
9. As foretold, what happened to the original Christian congregation?
9 Sadly, however, the original Christian congregation gradually became corrupted. (Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Pet. 2:2, 3; Jude 3, 4) As indicated by Jesus, such apostasy, promoted by “the wicked one,” Satan, would grow and obscure true Christianity until “the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 13:37-43) Then Jehovah would enthrone Jesus as King over the world of mankind. That happened in October 1914, marking the beginning of “the last days” of Satan’s wicked system.
10. (a) What important date did modern-day anointed Christians point to? (b) What happened in October 1914, and how has that become clearly evident?
10 Modern-day anointed Christians pointed in advance to October 1914 as a significant date. They based this on Daniel’s prophecy about a large tree that was cut down and would grow again after “seven times.” (Dan. 4:16) Jesus referred to this same period as “the appointed times of the nations” in his prophecy about his future presence and “the conclusion of the system of things.” Ever since that marked year of 1914, “the sign of [Christ’s] presence” as earth’s new King has become clear for all to see. (Matt. 24:3, 7, 14; Luke 21:24) So since then “the magnificent things of God” have included Jehovah’s enthronement of Jesus as King over the world of mankind.
11, 12. (a) What did earth’s new King start to do in the postwar year of 1919? (b) What further development became evident from the mid-1930’s onward? (See opening image.)
11 As earth’s new King, Jesus Christ soon began to deliver his anointed followers from captivity to “Babylon the Great.” (Rev. 18:2, 4) The postwar year of 1919 opened up the possibility for a worldwide witness to be given about God’s means of salvation and the good news of the established Kingdom. Anointed Christians seized this opportunity to witness, resulting in thousands more anointed ones being gathered to become Christ’s joint heirs.
12 From the mid-1930’s onward, it became evident that Christ had started to gather millions of his “other sheep,” who would make up a multinational “great crowd.” Under the direction of anointed Christians, this great crowd also follow the courageous example of Jesus and publicly make known that they owe their salvation to God and Christ. By enduring in this witness work and continuing to exercise faith in Christ’s ransom, these ones will be privileged to survive “the great tribulation,” which will bring an end to Satan’s world.
‘MUSTER UP BOLDNESS TO TELL THE GOOD NEWS’
13. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, what are we determined to do, and how can we be sure of success?
13 May we continue to treasure our privilege of being Witnesses of “the magnificent things” that Jehovah God has done and of his promises for the future. True, such witnessing is not always easy. Many of our brothers work in territories where there is a lot of apathy, ridicule, or outright persecution. We can do just as the apostle Paul and his companions did. Paul said: “We mustered up boldness by means of our God to tell you the good news of God in the face of much opposition.” (1 Thess. 2:2) So let us never give up. Rather, may we be determined to be true to our dedication as Satan’s system crashes in ruins. (Isa. 6:11) We cannot do this in our own strength, but following the example of the early Christians, we must pray that Jehovah by means of his spirit will give us “the power beyond what is normal.”
14, 15. (a) How were Christians viewed in the first century C.E., and what did the apostle Peter say about them? (b) How should we feel if we are mistreated for being Jehovah’s Witnesses?
14 Today, millions may claim to be Christians, “but they disown [God] by their works, because they are detestable and disobedient and not approved for good work of any sort.” (Titus 1:16) It is good for us to remember that in the first century, genuine Christians were hated by many
15 Can those inspired words be applied to Jehovah’s Witnesses today? Yes, indeed, because we bear witness to Jesus’ kingship. Thus, being hated for bearing Jehovah’s name is the same as “being reproached for the name of [Jesus] Christ,” who said to his opposers: “I have come in the name of my Father, but you do not receive me.” (John 5:43) So the next time you experience opposition in your witnessing work, take courage. Such mistreatment is proof that you have God’s smile of approval and that his spirit “is resting upon you.”
16, 17. (a) What do Jehovah’s people experience in many parts of the world? (b) What is your determination?
16 At the same time, remember that fine increases are being enjoyed in many parts of the world. Even in well-worked territories, we still find people who are willing to listen and with whom we can share our wonderful message of salvation. May we be diligent to call back on interested ones and, if possible, conduct Bible studies with them, helping them to progress toward dedication and baptism. Likely, you feel as does Sarie in South Africa, who has been active in the witnessing work for more than 60 years. She says, “I am deeply thankful that through Jesus’ ransom sacrifice, I can enjoy a good relationship with Jehovah, the Sovereign of the universe, and I am happy that I can make known his glorious name.” She and her husband, Martinus, have helped many, including their three children, to become worshippers of Jehovah. “No other activity,” adds Sarie, “brings greater satisfaction, and by means of his holy spirit, Jehovah gives all of us the needed power to continue with this lifesaving work.”
17 Whether we are baptized Christians or we are working toward that goal, we have every reason to be thankful for the privilege of associating with the worldwide congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Therefore, continue to bear thorough witness while you strive to keep yourself clean from Satan’s unholy world. By doing so, you will bring honor to our loving heavenly Father, whose glorious name we are privileged to bear.