Who Will the Survivors Be?
1. Upon what will one’s survival into God’s peaceful new order depend?
SURVIVAL of the coming world destruction will not be a matter of chance, as so often happens in human wars. It will not be determined by the part of the earth in which one lives. Nor will it result from one’s hurrying to some bomb shelter or other refuge at the sound of a warning siren. Survival will depend on God’s mercy along with one’s deliberate choice made before the foretold “great tribulation” begins. How can you make the choice that will place you among those surviving to life in a peaceful new order?
PROPHETIC PATTERN OF THE PAST
2. Who sets the terms for survival, and where are these found?
2 The Bible not only foretells that persons will survive the coming world destruction. It also sets out a pattern enabling us to know what kind of persons they will be. Since God makes possible the survival, rightly he sets the terms.
3. For there to be peace and security, why is it necessary for evildoers to be cut off?
3 God will wisely and justly see to it that those surviving the coming “great tribulation” are persons who will do good in his new order, not work to its harm. He will preserve only those who love righteousness. If he did otherwise, letting unrighteous persons survive, there would be no peace and security. The homes and personal safety of upright people would still be endangered. But his inspired Word promises: “Evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth. And just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more . . . But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth.” Only by God’s applying to its full extent the standard set forth here at Psalm 37:9-11 [36:9-11, Dy] will survivors be able to “find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace,” as is further promised in this scripture. How God will do this is seen in the record of past occasions when men’s wickedness obliged God to bring destruction.
PAST EXAMPLES OF SURVIVAL
4-6. (a) What testifies that the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. is a historical fact? (b) Why did the destruction come? (c) What made it possible for the disciples of Jesus Christ to escape?
4 In the city of Rome today there still stands an arch from the first century of the Common Era, known as the Arch of Titus. On its interior walls is depicted the carrying away of items from the temple in Jerusalem after the destruction of that city in 70 C.E. That destruction is a historical fact. Equally historical is the fact that, decades before that destruction, Jesus Christ had foretold both its coming and how persons could survive it.
5 The Jewish people had turned away from God; they were following men and the religious traditions of men, not God and his Word. (Matthew 15:3-9) They put their faith in human political rulers and not in God’s promised kingdom. (John 19:15) They went so far as to reject and even fight against the truth that God’s Son and his apostles proclaimed. Christ Jesus warned of the consequences to which such a course would inevitably lead.—Matthew 23:37, 38; 24:1, 2.
6 The results were exactly as foretold in the Bible. In the year 66 C.E. the Jews revolted against Rome. An initial attack on Jerusalem by the Romans was followed by their unexpected retreat. This was the signal and opportunity for those believing God’s Word to do what his Son had said: Flee—get out of the doomed city and out of the whole province of Judea, no matter what one might have to leave behind. Genuine disciples of Jesus Christ did just that. Then, in the year 70 C.E., the Romans returned and, after a siege, destroyed Jerusalem. An eyewitness, Jewish historian Josephus, claims that 1,100,000 persons in Jerusalem died by famine, disease, civil strife or the Roman sword. Yet those Christians who took positive action, demonstrating faith by obedience, escaped that destruction.—Luke 19:28, 41-44; 21:20-24; Matthew 24:15-18.
7. What did persons need to do to survive when Babylon wrecked the Israelite nation?
7 A similar situation had prevailed nearly seven centuries earlier. At that time Jehovah God allowed Babylonian forces under King Nebuchadnezzar (II) to wreck the Israelite nation. That destruction, too, is a matter of history. For years before, God through his prophets had warned the apostate people that their course was leading to disaster. “Turn back, turn back from your bad ways, for why is it that you should die?” was God’s call to them. (Ezekiel 33:11) The majority put no faith in the warning sounded. Even when Jerusalem came under siege by Babylon’s forces, those Israelites still kept hoping that no destruction would come. Nevertheless, it took place as foretold. Yet God fulfilled his promise of preservation to those who demonstrated by obedience their faith in him.—Jeremiah 39:15-18; Zephaniah 2:2, 3 [Sophonias 2:2, 3, Dy].
8-10. (a) Why did Jehovah bring a world destruction in the days of Noah? (b) Why were Noah and his family spared?
8 Farther back in human history, we find the earliest expression of the divine pattern for survival. It involves, not a national destruction, but a world destruction, and that too is a historical fact. This came in the global flood occurring during the years 2370/2369 B.C.E., in the days of Noah. Of the conditions prevailing before that world destruction, the historical account reads: “Consequently Jehovah saw that the badness of man was abundant in the earth and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time. And the earth came to be ruined in the sight of the true God and the earth became filled with violence.”—Genesis 6:5, 11.
9 The wickedness and violence obliged God to act. On earth only Noah and his family showed faith and obedience. Out of mercy to them and to preserve justice and righteousness on earth, Jehovah God did “not hold back from punishing an ancient world . . . of ungodly people.” The result was that “the world of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water.”—2 Peter 2:5; 3:5-7.
10 Yet Noah and his family survived. Why? First, Noah and his family did not go along with that “world of ungodly people” in their unrighteousness. They did not let themselves become so engrossed with the ordinary things of life, eating, drinking and marriage, that they became insensitive to God’s will or deaf to his warning. Noah ‘walked with God’ in righteousness. This was not just a negative thing. He and his family did not merely refrain from doing bad acts. They took positive action; they did things, right acts. They really believed what God said, and showed it by obediently building a chestlike, three-story ark over four hundred feet in length, according to divine specifications. Noah was also “a preacher of righteousness,” speaking out God’s purposes, advocating the way of righteousness.—Genesis 6:9, 13-16; Matthew 24:37-39; Hebrews 11:7.
11. As indicated by these warning examples, what must we do if we are to survive the coming world destruction?
11 These eight persons survived because of faith and works of faith. Since God’s own Son and his apostles refer to that world destruction as prophetic of what faces people in this “time of the end,” it is clear that we too must disassociate ourselves from the wrong course of the world of mankind today, which is every bit as ungodly as that in Noah’s day. We too must work in harmony with God’s will. We cannot simply be guided by our own standards and expect to survive. God’s Word says: “There exists a way that is upright before a man, but the ways of death are the end of it afterward.” (Proverbs 16:25) Nor will any superficial appearance of righteousness bring survival. For Jehovah God sees what the heart is.—Proverbs 24:12; Luke 16:15.
WHAT JEHOVAH LOOKS FOR IN HUMAN HEARTS
12, 13. (a) What causes many people to want a change to better conditions? (b) Why is this not enough to assure their survival into God’s new order? (c) To be among the survivors, what must motivate our grief over present bad conditions?
12 There are many people who are unhappy with present conditions. They show this by their complaints, demonstrations, strikes and, in some lands, by violent revolt. Many resent high taxation and the soaring cost of living. In many areas they bemoan the danger of crime. Fear makes them want a change. But, is this enough to assure their survival into God’s new order? No, it is not. Why not?
13 Because one could be unhappy over these conditions and yet be selfish. He might even approve of certain forms of dishonesty and immorality—just as long as he himself did not suffer. When a person gets a knowledge of the Bible, however, he can see that these bad conditions are but the outward evidences of the real sickness of this world. He discerns that behind these symptoms is disrespect for right principles and even for God himself, a lack of concern about knowing and doing Jehovah God’s will and observing his righteous standards. Rather than being primarily upset and grieved because they are not getting certain material things or certain social rights, or because of the danger from crime, pollution and the threat of war, righthearted persons are especially grieved at seeing humankind defaming God’s name by their corrupt course. And they grieve that others, not just themselves, suffer so much as a result.
14. Who were the ones ‘marked’ for survival at the time of Jerusalem’s destruction by Babylon?
14 To be among the survivors of the coming world destruction, we must be like those whom God spared when he permitted the armies of Babylon to destroy Jerusalem. These persons marked for survival were described as “sighing and groaning over all the detestable things” that were being done in the midst of the city. (Ezekiel 9:4) Conditions were very bad there; the poor were being oppressed, some even held in slavery illegally by their countrymen. (Jeremiah 34:13-16) Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah had become even worse than had the northern kingdom of Israel and its capital, Samaria, of which the prophet Hosea had earlier written: “There are the pronouncing of curses and practicing of deception and murdering and stealing . . . and acts of bloodshed have touched other acts of bloodshed.” (Hosea 4:2; Ezekiel 16:2, 51) Only those who felt grieved at heart because of such unrighteousness and the disrespect it showed for God were ‘marked’ for survival—Ezekiel 9:2, 4-6.
15. What holds some persons back from making the changes needed in order to be survivors of the coming world destruction?
15 There are many persons today who would like to enjoy life in peace, with freedom from fear and in prosperous, comfortable conditions. But they do not want to change their way of life by learning what God’s Word says and by following its pattern for right living. They really do not have a love of righteousness or sincerely care about their fellowmen. Since God’s new order will produce a new earthly society in which “righteousness is to dwell,” the good news about it will have an appealing flavor only to those who love righteousness; others feel condemned by it.—2 Peter 3:13; 2 Corinthians 2:14-17.
WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW
16-18. (a) How does a person become ‘marked’ for survival through the coming world destruction? (b) So, what action must be taken, first as to false worship, and then as to true worship?
16 Jehovah God is going to save persons who sincerely want to live under his righteous rule. He will not force any to live in his promised new order under circumstances they themselves say they do not want. But their lack of desire is not going to hold God back from blessing those who do love righteousness. Therefore, those whom he preserves through the coming world destruction will be ones who prove their genuine acceptance of his divine rulership now. They become ‘marked’ for survival by putting on the “new personality,” conforming their lives to God’s ways and giving evidence that they truly are dedicated, baptized disciples of God’s Son. They actively share in doing the will of God. Thereby they “choose life” and blessings, not death. (Colossians 3:5-10; Deuteronomy 30:15, 16, 19) Will you thus choose life?
17 Loyalty and submission to God are required, and these things involve worship. Christ Jesus said: “The hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him.” (John 4:23) Survival of the coming world destruction therefore requires our abandoning all false worship and zealously participating in true worship.
18 Unending blessings await those who take this course that leads to survival. Consider now some of the grand things that God promises for those putting faith in his Word and proving that faith by positive action.