“[Jesus] said to them: ‘. . . You will be witnesses of me . . . to the most distant part of the earth.’”
1, 2. (a) Who is the greatest witness of Jehovah? (b) What does the name Jesus mean, and what did he do to help the Jews regain Jehovah’s approval?
WHEN Jesus was on trial, he courageously told the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate: “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.) Years later, the apostle Paul called Jesus the witness who made “the fine public declaration before Pontius Pilate.” (1 Timothy 6:13) We live in a world that is controlled by Satan and is filled with hatred. To keep witnessing, we need to have great courage like that of Jesus, “the faithful and true witness.”
2 All Jews were called witnesses of Jehovah, but Jesus was going to be the greatest witness of all. (Isaiah 43:10) Before Jesus was born, an angel told his adoptive father, Joseph: “You are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20, 21; footnote) The name Jesus in Hebrew means “Jehovah Is Salvation.” Jehovah was going to use Jesus to save mankind from sin and death. Jesus told the Jews that they needed to repent of their sins in order to regain Jehovah’s approval. (Matthew 10:6; 15:24; Luke 19:10) He preached about God’s Kingdom. Mark wrote: “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 was zealous and courageous when he preached. He even courageously condemned the powerful Jewish religious leaders, which was one reason why the Jewish religious leaders killed him.
“THE MAGNIFICENT THINGS OF GOD”
3. What happened three days after Jesus died?
3 Three days after Jesus’ cruel death, something amazing happened. Jehovah resurrected him, not with a body like that of a human, but with a spirit body. (1 Peter 3:18) Jesus proved to his disciples that he had come back to life when he appeared to them as a human. The same day he was resurrected, he appeared to different disciples at least five times.
4. What happened when Jesus appeared to his disciples, and what did he command them to do?
4 When Jesus appeared for the fifth time, his apostles and others were gathered together. Then he helped them understand that his death and resurrection were foretold in the Scriptures. At the end of that important meeting, Jesus told his disciples what they had to do. He said that “on the basis of his name, repentance for forgiveness of sins would be preached in all the nations
5, 6. (a) Whom would Jesus’ disciples be witnesses of? (b) What were Jesus’ disciples going to witness about?
5 So 40 days later, when Jesus appeared for the last time, the apostles would clearly have understood his next command. He said: “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) The disciples were Israelites who were already witnesses of Jehovah. Now they were going to be witnesses of Jesus too. What did that mean?
6 They would begin to make known that Jehovah was now using Jesus to save mankind. This way of salvation was far greater than the way Jehovah had saved the Israelites in the past. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ made it possible for people to be freed from sin and death. When Jesus’ disciples were anointed with holy spirit at Pentecost in the year 33, they began to witness about “the magnificent things of God.” Many who heard this message repented, put faith in Jesus’ sacrifice, and were baptized. The resurrected Jesus had new authority in heaven, and Jehovah was using him to save thousands of people on earth.
“A RANSOM IN EXCHANGE FOR MANY”
7. What did the events on the day of Pentecost in the year 33 prove?
7 The events at Pentecost in the year 33 proved that Jehovah had accepted Jesus’ perfect sacrifice as the ransom needed to free people from sin. (Hebrews 9:11, 12, 24) Jesus explained that he came “to give his life as a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:28) Would only Jews benefit from this ransom? No, the ransom “takes away the sin of the world.” It is God’s will that “all sorts of people should be saved.”
8. How was it possible for Jesus’ early disciples to keep witnessing about him, and what did they accomplish?
8 Jesus’ early disciples courageously kept on witnessing about him. How was this possible? It was not because of their own strength. They asked Jehovah for his holy spirit to give them the courage they needed to keep on witnessing. (Read Acts 5:30-32.) About 27 years after Jesus’ disciples started witnessing, they had preached “the message of truth of the good news” to Jews and Gentiles “in all creation under heaven.”
9. As foretold, what happened to the Christian congregation?
9 Sadly, as time went by, members of the congregation began teaching things that were not true. (Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Peter 2:2, 3; Jude 3, 4) In time, these false teachers corrupted the entire congregation. Jesus foretold that this apostasy would continue until “the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 13:37-43) In October 1914, Jehovah made Jesus King over mankind. At that time, the conclusion, or “the last days,” of Satan’s world began.
Since 1914, we have been telling others that Jehovah made Jesus King over mankind
10. (a) What date were anointed Christians preaching about? (b) What happened in October 1914, and how do we know?
10 More than 30 years before October 1914, anointed Christians began preaching that God’s Kingdom would begin to rule on that important date. Their understanding was based on Daniel’s prophecy about a large tree that was cut down and would grow again after a period of time. (Daniel 4:16) Jesus described a sign that would help his disciples know that he had become King and that the last days had begun. World events since 1914 clearly prove that Jesus is King. (Matthew 24:3, 7, 14; Luke 21:24) Today, “the magnificent things of God” that we preach about include the fact that Jehovah made Jesus King of the Kingdom in 1914.
11, 12. (a) What happened in 1919? (b) What became clear in the year 1935? (See opening picture.)
11 In 1914, when Jesus Christ became King, he started to free his anointed followers from “Babylon the Great,” that is, false religion. (Revelation 18:2, 4) In 1919, soon after World War I ended, the anointed had greater freedom to preach around the world. They witnessed about the saving power of the ransom and the good news of God’s Kingdom. As a result, thousands more learned the truth and were anointed to be kings with Christ in heaven.
12 In 1935, it was clear that Christ had already begun to gather his “other sheep.” Today, there are millions of these other sheep from all over the world. Along with the anointed, they follow Christ’s courageous example and witness to others. The other sheep too have faith that Jesus’ sacrifice is the only way they can have salvation. They know that if they endure in the witnessing work and use their lives to please Jehovah, they can survive “the great tribulation” and live in God’s new world.
WE BOLDLY PREACH THE GOOD NEWS
13. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, what are we determined to do, and how can we imitate the Christians who lived in the first century?
13 It is a great honor to witness to others about “the magnificent things” that Jehovah has done and about his promises for the future. True, it is not always easy to continue doing this work. People may reject our message or even persecute us. If so, we can imitate the apostle Paul and his companions. 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 Thessalonians 2:2) We must keep the promise we made at our dedication. We want to remain loyal to Jehovah during the time when Satan’s world will “crash in ruins.” (Isaiah 6:11) We cannot do this in our own strength. Like Christians in the first century, we must ask Jehovah for his holy spirit so that we can have “the power beyond what is normal.”
To continue doing Jehovah’s work, we must ask him for his holy spirit
14, 15. (a) In the first century, how were Christians treated, and how did Peter encourage them? (b) What should we remember if we are persecuted because we are Jehovah’s Witnesses?
14 Today, millions of people say that they are Christians, but they do what God hates and do not have his approval. (Titus 1:16) In the first century, most people did not worship God in a way that he accepts. In fact, true Christians at that time were hated by many of the people around them. To encourage those Christians, the apostle Peter said: “If you are being reproached for the name of Christ, you are happy.” Why could they be happy? Because they were approved by God and had his holy spirit.
15 Are Jehovah’s Witnesses “reproached for the name of Christ” today? Yes, because not only do we witness about Jehovah but we also talk about Jesus and preach that he is the King of God’s Kingdom. Jesus too was persecuted because he was a witness of Jehovah. He told his opposers: “I have come in the name of my Father, but you do not receive me.” (John 5:43) So the next time people persecute you because you are witnessing, remember that God approves of you and that you have his holy spirit.
When people persecute you because you are witnessing, remember that God approves of you and that you have his holy spirit
16, 17. (a) How do Jehovah’s people around the world feel about the preaching work? (b) What are you determined to do?
16 Remember, too, that around the world many people are coming into the truth. No matter where we live, even in territories where we preach often, there are people who are willing to listen to our wonderful message. So when we find people who are interested, let us make sure that we return and try to study the Bible with them. Then we can help them to know Jehovah so that they can dedicate their lives to him and get baptized. How do you feel when you do this work? Sarie in South Africa, who has been a Witness of Jehovah for over 60 years, 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 their three children and many other people to become worshippers of Jehovah. She adds: “No other activity brings greater satisfaction, and by means of his holy spirit, Jehovah gives all of us the needed power to continue with this lifesaving work.”
Around the world, many people are listening to our message and coming into the truth
17 Whether we are already baptized or not, we should be thankful for the honor of gathering together with Jehovah’s Witnesses. So continue to give a thorough witness together with his people worldwide, and keep yourself clean from Satan’s world. If you do so, you will bring honor to the one whom we represent, our loving heavenly Father, Jehovah.