Salvation: Preservation or deliverance from danger or destruction. That deliverance may be from the hands of oppressors or persecutors. For all true Christians, Jehovah provides through his Son deliverance from the present wicked system of things as well as salvation from bondage to sin and death. For a great crowd of faithful servants of Jehovah living during “the last days,” salvation will include preservation through the great tribulation.
Is anything more than faith needed in order to gain salvation?
Eph. 2:8, 9, RS: “By grace [“undeserved kindness,” NW] you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not because of works, lest any man should boast.” (The entire provision for salvation is an expression of God’s undeserved kindness. There is no way that a descendant of Adam can gain salvation on his own, no matter how noble his works are. Salvation is a gift from God given to those who put faith in the sin-atoning value of the sacrifice of his Son.)
Heb. 5:9, RS: “He [Jesus] became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” (Italics added.) (Does this conflict with the statement that Christians are “saved through faith”? Not at all. Obedience simply demonstrates that their faith is genuine.)
Jas. 2:14, 26, RS: “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.” (A person does not earn salvation by his works. But anyone who has genuine faith will have works to go with it—works of obedience to the commands of God and Christ, works that demonstrate his faith and love. Without such works, his faith is dead.)
Acts 16:30, 31, RS: “‘Men, what must I do to be saved?’ And they [Paul and Silas] said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’” (If that man and his household truly believed, would they not act in harmony with their belief? Certainly.)
Jesus left his disciples in no doubt that they had on their hands a monumental work. Before his ascension to heaven, Jesus appeared to them and said: “You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Of course, others would soon join them. Still, the disciples were few in number. How comforting it must have been to know that God’s powerful holy spirit would empower them to accomplish this divine assignment!
The Witness in the First Century
In the first century, the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work produced astounding results. On the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., about 120 disciples were in an upper room in Jerusalem. God’s holy spirit was poured out upon them, the apostle Peter gave a stirring talk explaining the meaning of this miracle, and some 3,000 became believers and were baptized. That was only the beginning. Despite the determined efforts by religious leaders to crush the preaching of the good news, “Jehovah continued to join to [the disciples] daily those being saved.” Soon, “the number of the men became about five thousand.” After that, “believers in the Lord kept on being added, multitudes both of men and of women.”—Acts 2:1-4, 8, 14, 41, 47; 4:4; 5:14. Though numerical increase among first-century Christians is impressive, never should we forget the individuals whom the figures represent. The Biblical message they heard was powerful. (Hebrews 4:12) It dramatically changed the lives of those embracing it. Individuals cleaned up their lives, put on the new personality, and became reconciled to God. (Ephesians 4:22, 23) The same is true today. And those accepting the good news all have the marvelous prospect of living eternally.—John 3:16.
Fellow Workers With God
The early Christians did not take credit for what was being accomplished. They recognized that their work as ministers was supported by “power of holy spirit.” (Romans 15:13, 19) Jehovah was the one responsible for spiritual growth. At the same time, those Christians knew that they had the privilege and responsibility of being “God’s fellow workers.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-9) Consequently, in harmony with Jesus’ admonition, they exerted themselves vigorously in the work they were assigned to do.—Luke 13:24. Jehovah richly blessed the efforts of those and other zealous workers. Less than 30 years after Jesus foretold that there would be a witness to all the nations, Paul wrote that the “good news” had been “preached in all creation that is under heaven.” (Colossians 1:23) Did the end then come? In a sense, yes. It came upon the Jewish system of things in the year 70 C.E. when Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem along with the temple. Yet, Jehovah had determined that a far greater witness would be given before he would bring an end to Satan’s global system of things.
The Witness Given Today
During the latter part of the 19th century, after a long period when religious apostasy prevailed, pure worship was reestablished. The Bible Students, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known, well understood the command to make disciples in all the earth. (Matthew 28:19, 20) By the year 1914, there were about 5,100 who actively participated in the preaching activity, and the good news had reached some 68 lands. However, those early Bible Students did not grasp the full significance of Matthew 24:14. By the late 19th century, the Bible, which contains the good news, or gospel, had been translated and printed by Bible societies in many languages and distributed around the world. Thus, for some decades, the Bible Students reasoned that a witness to the nations had already been given.
We still do not know to what extent a witness will be given to the nations, nor do we know the day and hour when the end will come. We only know that it will be soon. We rejoice that the preaching of the good news on such a vast scale is but one of the many indications that the time is near for God’s Kingdom to replace human governments. (Daniel 2:44) With each passing year, millions are being given an opportunity to respond to the good news, and this glorifies our God, Jehovah. May it be our determination to remain faithful and along with our brothers worldwide to keep busy in the work of bearing witness to all the nations. By doing so, we will save both ourselves and those who listen to us.—1 Timothy 4:16.