Safeguard Your Christian Hope
1. What will make the ‘new heavens and the new earth’ so desirable?
HOW grand to contemplate the prospect of life without pain, sorrow or death! And yet, in reality, it is even grander that our freedom from these things will come through the removal of imperfection and sin. What a blessing no longer to have to struggle against wrong leanings and tendencies that we know result only in injury to ourselves and others! It will indeed be a joy when every word we speak, every thought we think, every one of our actions will be for the good of all, genuinely reflecting what our heavenly Father is like, never stemming from selfish motives. Yes, for a certainty, righteousness will abound in the ‘new heavens and the new earth’ of God’s making. Surely this is a hope worth safeguarding.—2 Peter 3:13.
2. (a) To experience the fulfillment of our Christian hope, what must we do? (b) Why should we not be surprised that self-seeking men could be found among professing Christians?
2 To see the fulfillment of our Christian hope, we need to keep it prominently before us and live in harmony with it. We can only do that if we resist all influences that could dim or destroy our hope. At times such damaging influence can come from unspiritual, self-seeking persons associated with the congregation of God’s people. This should not surprise us, for the apostle Peter wrote: “There also came to be false prophets among the people [Israel], as there will also be false teachers among you [Christians].” (2 Peter 2:1a) Just as with natural Israel, Christians are subject to corruption from within the congregation.
“QUIETLY BRING IN DESTRUCTIVE SECTS”
3, 4. How does the apostle Peter describe the way in which false teachers propagate error?
3 Commenting on how the proponents of error operate, the apostle Peter continues: “These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects.” (2 Peter 2:1b) The apostle was not writing about persons who simply have difficulty in understanding certain matters, or persons whose views, honestly held, may not coincide in all respects with those of the majority. (Compare Romans 14:1-6.) He deals instead with those who deliberately work to divide and corrupt.
4 Such ones are seldom open, frank or straightforward. Generally they “bring in” their unscriptural views in a quiet, camouflaged way. In the original Greek used by the apostle Peter, the phrase “quietly bring in” is literally to “lead into by the side of, or along with.” This is their method. Along with some sound Scriptural doctrine, they gradually and subtly introduce their divisive or corrupting views. By first conditioning the minds of their listeners with some obvious truths, or even by a long, involved line of reasoning, they can often get them to accept some principle that can lead only to error. They may use the Bible, but they do not really teach it, employing whatever they find convenient and slanting its teachings to fit what they, for personal advantage, are trying to promote. Thus, what actually lacks any solid Scriptural foundation is made to appear to be true.
5. How does Satan’s manner in deceiving Eve illustrate the methods of a teacher of falsehood?
5 This process is well illustrated in the way Satan deceived Eve by means of the serpent. Initially, a seemingly innocent question was raised: “Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1) That question perverted the truth. It intimated that the Most High was unduly restrictive, withholding from the first humans something to which they were entitled. The serpent’s words must have caused Eve to wonder just why she could not eat from the “tree of the knowledge of good and bad.” In this way Satan conditioned her mind to want an answer. Then came the serpent’s pointed reply: “You positively will not die. For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.”—Genesis 3:4, 5.
6. (a) What factors made Eve susceptible to accepting error? (b) How was a heretical body formed as a result of Satan’s lie?
6 Since Eve’s mind had been subtly prepared for it, the lying answer did not come as a shock. The fact that “the serpent proved to be the most cautious” of all the animals seemed to suggest that such a creature could hardly be the source of wrong information. (Genesis 3:1) Furthermore, the tree was attractive and its fruit gave indication of being good for food. Eve was totally deceived. After partaking of the forbidden fruit, she persuaded Adam to join her in rebellion against God. (Genesis 3:6) In this way the lying words of the serpent succeeded in alienating the first humans from their heavenly Father. In actuality, a heretical body consisting of two persons was formed.
7. (a) Why do those who cause divisions in the congregation disown Christ? (b) Why can it be said that they ‘bring speedy destruction upon themselves’?
7 By similar means, men may foment a divisive spirit in a congregation, a “party” spirit of rivalry. Since any such faction has its roots in error and deliberately seeks to create disunity, its stand and teachings misrepresent the Son of God, who bought the Christian congregation with his blood. Therefore, the apostle Peter speaks of such pseudo teachers as ‘disowning even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves.’ Yes, once people stop holding fast to Christ as head, they disown him and plunge into a course that is morally and spiritually disastrous. There can be only one outcome—destruction. When the time for executing condemnatory judgment comes, there will be no delay. Justice will be executed swiftly. By willingly embracing error, the individuals involved ‘bring speedy destruction upon themselves.’—2 Peter 2:1.
8. What effect can the “loose conduct” of professed Christians have on persons outside the congregation?
8 Sadly, these persons, because they claim to be Christians while conducting themselves in an unbridled way, put a blot on the fine record of God’s faithful servants. Many who observe the debased conduct of certain individuals professing to be Christians begin to speak blasphemously or abusively of all who identify themselves as being such. This is the point that Peter made when he wrote: “Furthermore, many will follow their acts of loose conduct, and on account of these the way of the truth will be spoken of abusively.”—2 Peter 2:2.
BEWARE OF BEING ‘EXPLOITED WITH COUNTERFEIT WORDS’
9. (a) What motivates corrupt men to try to build up a following? (b) What will happen to such men and those who are deceived by them?
9 What motivates such corrupt men to build up a following for themselves? The apostle Peter answers: “With covetousness they will exploit you with counterfeit words.” (2 Peter 2:3a) These individuals seek to gain material advantages for themselves or want the power, authority and honor that come with being looked up to as teachers. By means of “counterfeit words,” that is, deceitful statements, including plausible arguments, they endeavor to take advantage of others, exploiting them. Since both the motivations and the teachings are wrong, the result to the individuals involved is ruin. The apostle Peter continues:
“As for them, the judgment from of old is not moving slowly, and the destruction of them is not slumbering. Certainly if God did not hold back from punishing the angels that sinned, but, by throwing them into Tartarus, delivered them to pits of dense darkness to be reserved for judgment; and he did not hold back from punishing an ancient world, but kept Noah, a preacher of righteousness, safe with seven others when he brought a deluge upon a world of ungodly people; and by reducing the cities Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them, setting a pattern for ungodly persons of things to come; and he delivered righteous Lot, who was greatly distressed by the indulgence of the law-defying people in loose conduct—for that righteous man by what he saw and heard while dwelling among them from day to day was tormenting his righteous soul by reason of their lawless deeds—Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial, but to reserve unrighteous people for the day of judgment to be cut off, especially, however, those who go on after flesh with the desire to defile it and who look down on lordship.”—2 Peter 2:3-10.
10. (a) When was the first expression of God’s judgment against the ‘serpent’s seed’ made? (b) Why is its execution “not moving slowly”?
10 The executional judgment that God has decreed “from of old” against all who come to belong to the ‘serpent’s seed’ will without fail be carried out. (Genesis 3:15; John 8:44; Jude 14, 15) Though originally stated about 6,000 years ago and repeated since then, this judgment is “not moving slowly” as if it will never arrive. The destruction is sure to come, for it is not dormant. It is still very much alive in God’s purpose.
11. (a) What happened to the disobedient angels, and what still awaits them? (b) What is proved by the punishment of the angels, the destruction of the ungodly in the Flood, and the annihilation of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah?
11 As Peter noted, even angels who had enjoyed being in the very presence of God but who later became unfaithful were not spared being ‘thrown into Tartarus,’ that is, debased to the lowest degree. Cut off from all divine enlightenment, debarred from their original position in the heavens and limited in their activities, the disobedient angels find themselves in a condition comparable to “pits of dense darkness,” awaiting executional judgment at the hands of Jesus Christ. (Compare Revelation 20:1-3, 7-10.) Similarly, Jehovah God did not hold back from destroying an entire world of corrupt people in a global flood nor from acting against the sexually depraved inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah in the days of Lot. Only righteous persons like Noah and his family and like Lot can hope to escape divine judgment and be delivered from the trial resulting from living among lawless persons. However, claims of being Christian will not save anyone who seeks to defile the flesh of others by committing immorality.
BE ON GUARD AGAINST THOSE WHO DISRESPECT AUTHORITY
12, 13. As shown at 2 Peter 2:10b, 11, what is the attitude of corrupt persons toward authority?
12 Often the bad motivations of corrupt persons can be discerned by their attitude toward authority. They “look down on lordship,” despising authority of any kind. The apostle Peter continues his description: “Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble at glorious ones but speak abusively, whereas angels, although they are greater in strength and power, do not bring against them an accusation in abusive terms, not doing so out of respect for Jehovah.”—2 Peter 2:10b, 11.
13 Therefore, we would want to beware of bold, presumptuous men who have no regard for “glorious ones.” In the Christian congregation, faithful men entrusted with responsibility do not view themselves as being of superior rank or as being exalted above fellow believers but humbly regard themselves as servants. (Matthew 23:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:5-12) However, their assignment of service is a ‘glorious one,’ as they are appointed by holy spirit as overseers or “shepherds” of the flock. (Acts 20:28; compare Romans 11:13.) They also represent the glorious Lord Jesus Christ and the Great Shepherd Jehovah God. (1 Peter 2:25; 5:4) That is why the Scriptures encourage members of the congregation to be submissive to those who are taking the lead. (Hebrews 13:17) While such men, like Peter himself, may make mistakes, this would not excuse anyone who speaks in an abusive way against them. (Compare Galatians 2:11-14; 3 John 9, 10.) Hardworking “shepherds” deserve the respect of the congregation. But men who influence others for bad do not shrink back from reviling Christian elders. If a person uses abusive, reviling speech against his brother, Jehovah God and his Son count it as if done to themselves.
14. How do the faithful angels show an entirely different attitude from that of false teachers?
14 How different self-seeking teachers of falsehood are from the faithful angels! The angels have a zeal for righteousness. But they do not use harsh, abusive language even when dealing with opposers. For example, “when Michael the archangel had a difference with the Devil and was disputing about Moses’ body, he did not dare to bring a judgment against him in abusive terms, but said: ‘May Jehovah rebuke you.’” (Jude 9) From this we can conclude that the other faithful angels would never resort to heaping reproaches on anyone but would calmly, yet forcefully, set forth the facts. They have a proper regard for their Maker, realizing that abusive speech is never in harmony with his holiness or purity.
15. In harmony with Peter’s counsel, against what kind of persons must we be on guard?
15 We must be on guard against persons who viciously downgrade others and then proceed to advance themselves. The fact that such individuals will not escape adverse judgment for their actions should remain prominently before us. This can aid us to be cautious in lending an ear to those who seem to be interested in others but are, in reality, only seeking their personal advantage. The apostle Peter commented on the outcome for self-seeking men, saying:
“These men, like unreasoning animals born naturally to be caught and destroyed, will, in the things of which they are ignorant and speak abusively, even suffer destruction in their own course of destruction, wronging themselves as a reward for wrongdoing.”—2 Peter 2:12, 13a.
16. How are corrupt men like “unreasoning animals”?
16 Men who are ruled by vicious passions act like “unreasoning animals.” Concerning animals Jehovah said: “Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you.” (Genesis 9:3) In being like such “unreasoning animals,” the abusively speaking men are not bridled by the dictates of a good conscience and so show no appreciation for God’s ways, dealings and activities. Unable to make a proper estimation of valuable spiritual things, they may speak of them as being worthless. Their wrong opinions will be their undoing. They hold to these false views to their own injury and are bound to experience the bad results of their unrighteous course. Surely, we want to hold fast to our hope and avoid sharing in their ruin.
BEWARE OF THOSE WHO SEEK SELFISH PLEASURE AND PERSONAL GAIN
17. According to 2 Peter 2:13b-15a, what are some other identifying traits of corrupt men?
17 Among other bad traits, unspiritual persons have a burning desire for ease and pleasure. The apostle Peter wrote:
“They consider luxurious living in the daytime a pleasure. They are spots and blemishes, indulging with unrestrained delight in their deceptive teachings while feasting together with you. They have eyes full of adultery and unable to desist from sin, and they entice unsteady souls. They have a heart trained in covetousness. They are accursed children. Abandoning the straight path, they have been misled.”—2 Peter 2:13b-15a 2Pe 2:13-15.
18. How are unspiritual persons like the unfaithful Israelites described in Isaiah 5:11, 12?
18 During the daylight hours, when they could be accomplishing much for the upbuilding of others, unspiritual persons may instead engage in revelries, giving themselves over to excesses in food and drink. They are much like certain Israelites who lived solely for pleasure. Wine flowed with excessive freedom at their feasts. As the day progressed into the night, the revelers would become louder and more boisterous, accompanying their noisy feasting with passion-arousing music. The prophet Isaiah writes of such ones:
“Woe to those who are getting up early in the morning that they may seek just intoxicating liquor, who are lingering till late in the evening darkness so that wine itself inflames them! And there must prove to be harp and stringed instrument, tambourine and flute, and wine at their feasts; but the activity of Jehovah they do not look at, and the work of his hands they have not seen.” (Isaiah 5:11, 12)
The pleasure seekers thus acted as if no testimony existed as to the grand works of the Creator. They exercised no restraint, ignoring all accountability to Jehovah God, and, therefore, could not hope to escape his judgment.
19. What shows that some persons associated with the congregation are lovers of pleasures?
19 It should not surprise us if similar things should take place among some persons who claim to be God’s servants today. Wedding receptions and anniversaries may be converted into occasions for wild, sensuous dancing to the blare of passionarousing music. At such celebrations, alcoholic beverages may flow too freely. The loud, unruly partying may not end until the wee hours of the morning or until daybreak. In some lands, the naming of a newborn child, the inauguration of a new house, funerals and the dedication of buildings used for worship may be converted into occasions for holding gatherings that become very inconsiderate, disturbing even worldly neighbors and causing them to appeal for relief from the excessive noise. Even in lands where people are generally known for their reserve, heavy drinking may develop among close friends in a way that causes the truth of the “good news” to be spoken of with contempt. Surely, true Christians must guard against such excesses.—1 Peter 4:3.
20. (a) What effect do those who are given to excesses have on the congregation? (b) How are even noble occasions turned into carouses?
20 As the apostle Peter said, those acting in this way are like spots and blemishes on the Christian congregation. They mar the clean appearance of God’s true servants. They are like spots on a clean garment or like any unsightly blemish on an otherwise attractive face. Because the intent of certain persons is to ‘go all out’ to satisfy their desire for pleasure, they turn even normally fine occasions into rowdy ones. They try to influence or to teach others to join them in wild dancing and heavy drinking by claiming it is just ‘normal relaxation.’ The “eyes full of adultery” Peter refers to may be in evidence. At social affairs, male eyes may begin to look with immoral interest at attractive women present. The impure desires may become so powerful that the eyes even of married men simply cannot fail to be guilty of sinning. (Compare Matthew 5:28; Mark 9:47.) Women who are not firmly established in Christian principles, as “unsteady souls,” may easily become the victims of corrupt men.—Compare 2 Timothy 3:6, 7.
21. Why are persons who would involve others in a life of excesses a real danger to the Christian congregation?
21 These men are a real danger, for they show skill in enticing the weak. The apostle Peter describes them as ‘having a heart trained in covetousness.’ Their whole objective or aim in life seems to be the satisfying of covetous desires, and they become experts in achieving their ends. The disciple Jude also spoke of such ones who ‘slip in’ and turn God’s undeserved kindness “into an excuse for loose conduct,” thereby proving false to our only Owner, Jesus Christ. He shows that they often ‘admire personalities for the sake of their own benefit,’ and that those causing divisions are “animalistic men, not having spirituality.” (Jude 4, 16, 19) If any succeed, whether by flattery or by some display of apparent zeal, in gaining influence or prominence within a congregation, they pose a grave danger. Rightly such ones come under God’s curse and merit destruction, even as the apostle Peter declares. What is true of men who follow this divisive, corrupting course would be equally true of women who do so.—Compare Revelation 2:20-23.
22, 23. How are those who corrupt others like Balaam?
22 The apostle Peter also compared corrupt men to Balaam, saying:
“They have followed the path of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the reward of wrongdoing, but got a reproof for his own violation of what was right. A voiceless beast of burden, making utterance with the voice of a man, hindered the prophet’s mad course.” (2 Peter 2:15b, 16)
This diviner knew full well that it was contrary to the will of the Supreme Sovereign to curse the Israelites. While outwardly maintaining that he would not go beyond what Jehovah would impel him to speak, Balaam was inwardly nurturing the desire to curse Israel. He wanted the reward that Moabite King Balak offered. But the Almighty God reproved Balaam by means of Balaam’s own she-ass. By a miracle, the Most High caused an unreasoning beast of burden to utter intelligible speech. (Numbers 22:1-35) This was no difficult thing for the One who could make even the stones cry out. (Luke 19:40) In view of Balaam’s extreme greed for gain, Jehovah God rightly employed this most unusual means of reproof. In trying to resist God’s will respecting Israel, Balaam acted like a man lacking his senses. For a time, the reproof of his domestic animal hindered him from pursuing his course, as it showed that he simply could not succeed in cursing Israel.—Numbers 23:1–24:9.
23 Nevertheless, Balaam was still bent on getting the reward. Finally, he came up with a plan whereby the Israelites would bring God’s curse upon themselves. He instructed Balak as to how he could use Moabite and Midianite women to get the men of Israel to engage in idolatry and fornication. (Numbers 31:16; Revelation 2:14) The scheme had a measure of success and was responsible for the death of 24,000 Israelites.—Numbers 25:1-9.
24. What does the example of Balaam help us to see about persons who are self-seeking?
24 How forcefully the case of Balaam illustrates the course of men who forsake what is right for personal gain! Not even a miracle would stop them from trying to satisfy their greediness. Therefore, we should avoid close association with anyone whose attitude, speech and conduct seriously disturb our conscience. Self-seeking men simply have no qualms about injuring others to attain their own goals.
25. What is emphasized by the words of 2 Peter 2:17?
25 Continuing his description of such wicked men, Peter states: “These are fountains without water, and mists driven by a violent storm, and for them the blackness of darkness has been reserved.” (2 Peter 2:17) Nothing beneficial can be gained through close fellowship with defiled persons. They are like wells or fountains that a weary traveler might approach in the hope of getting refreshing water, only to be disappointed to find that the source of water is dried up. They are also like wispy, mistlike clouds that one might look to in hope of needed rain for growing crops but which are quickly blown away by strong winds. Teachers of falsehood are not the source of any light or enlightenment. They themselves are headed for the “blackness of darkness,” a total darkness representative of the condemnatory judgment that awaits them.
BE CAREFUL OF “SWELLING EXPRESSIONS”
26. How does the apostle Peter describe the way in which corrupt men attain their ends?
26 It is because of their deceptive outward appearance that we must be on guard against dangerous elements inside the congregation. Especially those who are not well established in Christian truth and living must be careful. The methods employed by self-seeking men may be very impressive. But woe to those who are deceived by their grandiose persuasions! The apostle Peter says:
“They utter swelling expressions of no profit, and by the desires of the flesh and by loose habits they entice those who are just escaping from people who conduct themselves in error. While they are promising them freedom, they themselves are existing as slaves of corruption. For whoever is overcome by another is enslaved by this one.”—2 Peter 2:18, 19.
27. What is characteristic of the speech and attitude of persons who exert a corrupting influence?
27 Those who persuade others to adopt error or to follow a course contrary to the dictates of a clean conscience often speak with great conviction. They think very highly of themselves and their words, attaching great weight to their utterances. (Compare 2 Corinthians 10:10, 12; 11:3-6, 12, 13.) Instead of presenting sound Scriptural reasons in a spirit of humility, they may ridicule and speak out in a forceful, pompous manner, concealing the weakness of their argument with bluster. (Contrast 2 Corinthians 4:2.) When examined in the light of the Holy Scriptures, their impressive words are shown to be empty or of no benefit to anyone.
28. Who are most likely to be influenced by corrupt elements inside the congregation?
28 Sadly, those who are not firmly grounded in the Word of God may not recognize the danger. Their ‘perceptive powers are not trained to distinguish right from wrong.’ (Hebrews 5:14) Since it may have been quite recently that these unsteady ones separated themselves from God-dishonoring practices carried on in the world, such practices may still have some appeal to them.
29. What is the Scriptural view of entertainment or recreation, and just when do we need to be on guard?
29 Clearly, there is need for balance in our approach to matters of entertainment and recreation. The Scriptures do not call upon God’s servants to live a life of asceticism, nor do they represent self-denial as having virtue in itself but only when it is engaged in with some good objective in view. (Compare Ecclesiastes 2:24; 3:1, 4, 13; 8:15; 1 Corinthians 13:3; Colossians 2:20-23.) But this does not give any excuse for going to extremes, letting the fallen flesh take control and using Christian freedom as a cloak for badness. (Galatians 5:13, 14; 1 Peter 2:16) Such a course can never be harmonized with the love of God and the love of one’s neighbor as oneself, the “kingly law” that we are under. (James 2:8, 12) Those who argue otherwise, and who ridicule those who do not agree with them in their excesses, show they are still slaves to their own selfish leanings.
30. What can eventually happen because of corrupt influence inside the congregation?
30 So there is need to keep our senses and avoid both extremes. There is an undeniable danger of being led into a course of heedless pursuit of pleasure. One can gradually be pulled into a whirlpool of parties that, over a period of time, deteriorate in quality, slipping more and more into extremes in dancing or drinking, or of viewing entertainment that glorifies sexual immorality and sadism. It is unreasoning to claim that these unwholesome influences pose no danger. They can hardly help but have a weakening effect on the Christian conscience, breaking down one’s moral fiber. Persons pretending otherwise often wind up as victims to drunkenness and sexual misconduct.—Proverbs 13:20.
31, 32. What will some members of the congregation continue to do until “the day of judgment” and with what consequences?
31 Truly, the apostle Peter accurately depicted what will continue to happen among God’s servants until “the day of judgment [for unrighteous people] to be cut off.” (2 Peter 2:9) There will always be persons who try to extend the limits of Christian freedom far beyond what is reasonable so that they can satisfy their desires for sensual pleasure. They do not want to follow the Biblical injunction: “Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness.” (Colossians 3:5) Instead, they choose the very entertainment that incites these wrong desires. When involving others, they may argue: ‘If our conscience allows it, there is nothing wrong with it.’ But they fail to recognize that a defiled conscience is not a safe guide. These persons are yielding to their wrong desires and are, therefore, in slavery to these. Their promises of “freedom” to others are misleading.
32 The result to those who are again plunged into a life of wrongdoing is indeed calamitous. The apostle Peter wrote:
“Certainly if, after having escaped from the defilements of the world by an accurate knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they get involved again with these very things and are overcome, the final conditions have become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them not to have accurately known the path of righteousness than after knowing it accurately to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them. The saying of the true proverb has happened to them: ‘The dog has returned to its own vomit, and the sow that was bathed to rolling in the mire.’”—2 Peter 2:20-22.
33. (a) What changes may a person make upon coming to a knowledge of the truth? (b) Why is a return to the ways of the world a very serious matter?
33 Why could the apostle Peter say this? Once a person gains accurate knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, he begins to see the need for making changes. He may give up heavy drinking, a life of immorality, gambling and other vices. By cleaning himself up to conform to what is expected of a disciple of Jesus Christ, the individual flees or escapes from the “defilements of the world,” from practices that he has come to know as being divinely disapproved. However, on again becoming entangled in God-dishonoring practices, he deliberately throws aside what he knows to be right. His knowledge of Jesus Christ and his Bible-trained conscience initially served as a restraint against wrong conduct. When breaking free from that wholesome restraint, he may well become even worse than before he took up the way of Christian discipleship. He may go beyond what men do who have no knowledge of the path of righteousness. This is because his conscience has become contaminated, or even seared—like dead tissue. (Compare 1 Timothy 4:2.) If he had never known the right path, his bad conduct would not have disgraced so terribly the name of Christ, his sin would not have had the same gravity, and the divine judgment against him would not have needed to be as severe.—Compare Luke 12:45-48; 1 Timothy 1:13, 15, 16.
34, 35. (a) What can we draw from the proverb about the unclean dog and the pig? (b) What should this proverb impress on us?
34 In view of the proverb that Peter quotes, those who take up a life of sin evidently fail to use their opportunities to advance in Christian living. (2 Peter 1:2-11) Some may outwardly abandon bad practices but never come to hate these. They may not really leave behind the “vomit,” the filth, of this world. To them, there still is something attractive about it, and so they can be induced to turn back to it. They may have an inward desire to roll around in the world’s mire of moral degradation. In the case of others, they may fail to increase in appreciation for the value of Christian discipleship, and eventually what the world has to offer takes on greater appeal. How tragic is the fall of those who are thus lured back into the state that had at one time been sickening to them!
35 The inspired proverb stands as a warning lesson to all who claim to be Christian. If we are not cultivating moral and spiritual cleanness in our hearts and lack a real loathing for the filth of this world, we are in grave danger of spiritual ruin. Christians simply cannot afford to let down their guard in resisting the enticements of a corrupt world. We must deaden our wrong desires, not allowing them to gain the mastery over us, nor should we stimulate them by looking with longing to what the world has to offer.—1 Corinthians 10:12; Colossians 3:5.
36. Besides remaining morally and spiritually clean, what do we need to do to please our Master?
36 Besides remaining morally and spiritually clean, we also need to be active in the service of our Master, helping others spiritually as well as materially. Our whole course of life should reflect spiritual wakefulness and activity. Emphasizing the importance of this, the apostle Peter stated:
“Beloved ones, this is now the second letter I am writing you, in which, as in my first one, I am arousing your clear thinking faculties by way of a reminder, that you should remember the sayings previously spoken by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles. For you know this first, that in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: ‘Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.’”—2 Peter 3:1-4.
37. (a) Why should we have our ‘clear thinking faculties aroused’? (b) To what momentous event did the prophets point?
37 Certainly we today benefit from having our ‘clear thinking faculties aroused’ so that we can make a proper evaluation of what is essential for gaining divine approval. (Compare 2 Peter 1:12-15.) The “holy prophets” as far back as Enoch warned of a day of reckoning. At Jude 14, 15, we read: “Yes, the seventh one in line from Adam, Enoch, prophesied also regarding them, when he said: ‘Look! Jehovah came with his holy myriads, to execute judgment against all, and to convict all the ungodly concerning all their ungodly deeds that they did in an ungodly way, and concerning all the shocking things that ungodly sinners spoke against him.’” Centuries later, Hebrew prophets such as Isaiah, Daniel, Joel, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi were moved to utter similar prophecies.—Isaiah 66:15, 16; Daniel 7:9-22; Joel 3:9-17; Habakkuk 3:16-18; Zephaniah 1:14-18; Haggai 2:21, 22; Zechariah 14:6-9; Malachi 4:1-6.
38. Why should we strive to be in a state of preparedness?
38 The divine judgment foretold by all these prophets and others is bound to be fulfilled. This requires that we at all times strive to be in a state of preparedness and not jeopardize our clean standing before the Most High.
39. What is the message conveyed by the commandment of Jesus Christ?
39 The message of the prophets to us is the same as that conveyed by the commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ, as repeated by the apostles, including Paul. We disciples of the Son of God should be active in his service, remain morally and spiritually clean, and be always ready to receive our Master when he comes to execute judgment against the ungodly. The Son of God stated:
“Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth. Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and in standing before the Son of man.”—Luke 21:34-36.
40. To avoid being plunged into spiritual sleep. what must we do?
40 Yes, we must guard against being plunged into spiritual sleep. This calls for avoiding unrestrained indulgence in food, drink and pleasures. Such excesses dull mental and spiritual perception and overload the heart with feelings of guilt. They crowd out good heart motivations. Similarly, undue concern about making a living can rob the heart of the calming assurance that Jehovah God will provide everything that we truly need. (Matthew 6:25-34) Whenever the main motivation of the heart ceases to be the desire to be found approved by the Lord Jesus Christ at his time for judgment, a person comes into a condition of grave spiritual danger. He may be caught in a disapproved state by the Master, Jesus Christ.
41. Why has faith in the certainty of Christ’s coming in glory always been an aid in a person’s remaining loyal to him?
41 Like Peter, the other faithful apostles taught their fellow believers to keep ever before them the certainty of Christ’s coming to execute judgment and to reward his loyal disciples. A prime objective of such teaching was to aid Christians to be found approved on the Son’s arrival “with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30) As Jesus had done, the apostles continued to emphasize the importance of proving faithful to the end. That end could come either at their death or at “the presence of the day of Jehovah.” (2 Peter 3:12) Since even the resurrection of Christ’s joint heirs is linked in the Scriptures with his return, the hopes of all true disciples are bound up with the arrival of the Son of God in the capacity of a glorious heavenly King. (Matthew 10:28; 24:13, 36-44; 1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10; 4:14-17) Thus, during the entire history of the Christian congregation, unshakable faith in the Master’s coming “with power and great glory” has been an aid in a person’s proving loyal to him.
DO NOT BE DECEIVED BY RIDICULERS
42. (a) Why do we hear the voice of ridiculers today? (b) What is their argument?
42 Partly because of eagerness to be alive when Jesus Christ reveals himself in glory, there have been believers throughout the centuries who began looking to a particular period or a year for the windup of the ungodly system of things. This has happened right down to these “last days.” Since certain expectations were not realized, many stumbled and returned to the ways of the world. In fulfillment of Peter’s words, even today we hear the voice of ridiculers. (2 Peter 3:3, 4) In effect, they say: ‘What reason is there to believe that the Son of God is going to execute the ungodly and to reward his disciples? Why, nothing has changed since the time of creation. The original processes of life are continuing and give no indication of coming to a disastrous end in the near future. Men are marrying, and women are being given in marriage, babies are being born, and men continue to grow old and die.’ Thus they imply that the Lord Jesus Christ never will come to execute judgment or that this event is so far off in the future that it is of no immediate concern.
43. What shows that there has always been a need for Christ’s disciples to be diligent in discharging their responsibilities?
43 Such ridiculers have totally lost sight of the fact that either death or “the day of Jehovah” will inescapably overtake them. In either event, they will have no further opportunity to lay up treasure in heaven in the form of fine works. (Luke 12:15-21, 31, 33-40) Hence, for disciples of Jesus Christ there has never been a period of history when they could afford to be neglectful of their responsibilities. Certainly, the risk in doing so is even greater in our time.
44. What basic responsibilities should we be discharging?
44 Today, then, just what responsibilities should we be discharging? For one thing, we are under command to “make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) Yes, at the conclusion of the system of things, we are privileged to share in the worldwide preaching of the “good news of the kingdom.” (Matthew 24:14) Of particularly vital importance at this time is our obligation to show love to all our brothers, responding to their needs for assistance, sympathy and encouragement. (Compare Matthew 25:35-40; Hebrews 13:1-3; 1 John 3:16-18.) Moreover, we need to exert ourselves constantly to remain clean from the degrading works of the flesh.—Matthew 7:21-23; Galatians 5:19-21.
JEHOVAH HAS PROVED THE RIDICULERS TO BE WRONG
45, 46. What evidence has Jehovah provided to show that the ridiculers are wrong?
45 As we continue leading a life that harmonizes with our being disciples of Jesus Christ, we will want to keep ever before us that Jehovah God long ago provided the evidence that undeniably proves the ridiculers to be wrong. Calling attention to this fact, the apostle Peter wrote:
“According to their wish, this fact escapes their notice, that there were heavens from of old and an earth standing compactly out of water and in the midst of water by the word of God; and by those means the world of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water.”—2 Peter 3:5, 6.
46 The fact that Jehovah God once before destroyed a world of ungodly people shows that the ridiculers are wrong in concluding that there will be no drastic change in human affairs but that all things will continue “exactly as from creation’s beginning.” We have God’s own word of promise that, by means of his Son, he will take action against the ungodly. That word is so powerful that there is no possibility of its failing to be fulfilled.
47. How does the creation account reveal the power of God’s “word”?
47 The manner in which the Bible speaks of Jehovah’s creative works reveals the power of his “word.” From Genesis chapter 1, we learn that, when the Most High says the word or gives the command, his purpose is as good as accomplished. (Compare Psalm 148:1-6.) With reference to the second day, we are told: “God went on to say: ‘Let an expanse come to be in between the waters and let a dividing occur between the waters and the waters.’ Then God proceeded to make the expanse and to make a division between the waters that should be beneath the expanse and the waters that should be above the expanse. And it came to be so.” (Genesis 1:6, 7) Then, on the third day, “God went on to say: ‘Let the waters under the heavens be brought together into one place and let the dry land appear.’ And it came to be so.”—Genesis 1:9.
48. How did the earth come to ‘stand compactly out of water’ and “in the midst of water”?
48 What the Genesis account says is in full harmony with the description given by the apostle Peter. Because the dry land rose above the surface of the terrestrial water, the ‘earth stood compactly out of water.’ Yet, by reason of the water surrounding the earth above the expanse (which contained the gases needed for supporting life), the earth also stood “in the midst of water.” (Compare Proverbs 8:24-29.) This arrangement came into being by the “word of God.”
49. (a) How was it that “by those means the world of that time suffered destruction”? (b) What future event does the powerful “word of God” make certain?
49 The waters suspended far above earth’s surface and the terrestrial waters created the possibility for a global deluge and did prove to be the means by which the Most High destroyed an ungodly world. Hence, the Flood stands as a warning example to all who ridicule the certainty of divine intervention in human affairs during the time of Christ’s presence. The powerful word that brought into being the possibilities for a global deluge is the same word that points to the destruction of the present wicked system of things. The apostle Peter continues: “But by the same word the heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.”—2 Peter 3:7.
50. (a) With reference to the destruction of the present old system of things, what viewpoint have some persons who are associated with the Christian congregation adopted? (b) How is this attitude being manifested?
50 Especially because many centuries have passed since the apostle Peter wrote these words and because certain expectations have been unfulfilled, some persons associated with the Christian congregation have questioned whether such a destruction will ever come. While perhaps not openly joining the ridiculers, they no longer view “the day of judgment” as an event with which they must reckon. They become negligent in living up to their Christian responsibilities, and succumb to a state of spiritual drowsiness. They strive to get as much as possible from the present system of things in the way of pleasures and possessions.
APPRECIATE JEHOVAH’S PATIENCE
51. Why should we not think that Christ’s coming in the capacity of an executioner has been a long time in arriving?
51 From a human standpoint, it may seem that Christ’s coming in the capacity of the executioner of divine vengeance has been a long time in arriving. But this has not been true in the eyes of Jehovah God. Consequently, for us to avoid going to sleep spiritually, we need to view matters from the standpoint of the Most High. The apostle Peter’s words can help us to do just that. We read:
“However, let this one fact not be escaping your notice, beloved ones, that one day is with Jehovah as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance. Yet Jehovah’s day will come as a thief.”—2 Peter 3:8-10.
52, 53. How is a thousand years as one day to Jehovah, and one day as a thousand years?
52 Jehovah is not indifferent to time as it applies to man. (Genesis 1:14, 15) He made man to be a timekeeper. In the Bible, God has marked out specific time periods, these being measured in years according to man’s count of time. (Genesis 15:13-16; Exodus 12:40, 41; Galatians 3:17; Numbers 14:33, 34; 32:13; Deuteronomy 2:7; Joshua 5:6; Acts 13:20) Since he is a God without beginning and end, from eternity to eternity, his own life cannot be measured in time. (Psalm 90:2, 4) So what is to man a thousand years or a period of more than 365,000 days is, comparatively speaking, like just one 24-hour day to the eternal God.
53 When the inspired Peter says, also, that “one day is with Jehovah as a thousand years,” he does not mean that time drags on tiresomely for Jehovah with regard to earthly or human affairs. Rather, in one 24-hour day God could accomplish what it would take man, say, a thousand years to get done. But the Most High is never crowded for time, although he can speed things up. Yet, if he wants to wait a thousand years before taking a certain action, he is waiting only a “day,” relatively speaking.
54. (a) Why should we not think of Jehovah God as being slow? (b) How have we benefited from God’s patience?
54 So, instead of looking at the centuries that have passed since the apostle Peter wrote his second letter as an evidence of slowness on God’s part, we should regard this period as a marvelous demonstration of divine patience. It proves undeniably that our heavenly Father wants people everywhere to come to repentance and live. As Peter pointed out, God’s patience has benefited Christians. At one time they, too, were unbelievers and needed to repent in order to gain an approved standing with the Most High. However, if divine judgment had been executed against the ungodly world, those who had not yet come to repentance would have perished. Thus Jehovah’s patience has allowed for the salvation of Christians, even as it is now continuing to open up opportunities for still others to come to repentance and live. Nevertheless, divine patience will not be shown indefinitely. Unexpectedly, as when a thief comes, the Lord Jesus Christ will be revealed “in a flaming fire” as he begins his work of executing the ungodly.—2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.
55. What should we be doing in view of the certainty of Christ’s coming to execute judgment, and what can this mean for us?
55 Because such revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ can come at any time, we need to think seriously about our standing before God and Christ. We do not have endless time to build up a record of fine works that will result in our being viewed as approved by them. The Bible clearly shows that our Master’s day for judging will overtake those not watchful. If we are negligent about our Christian responsibilities, then, as a thief, such an event could catch us in an unprepared state. Therefore, we should strive to live each day as if it were our last, not allowing personal desires or pleasures to interfere with our faithfully serving Jehovah God and our Lord Jesus Christ. In that case, we will never regret the way in which we have used our time, our energies and our material assets. The revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ will then not be a time that will expose us as disloyal slaves deserving of punishment. But it will start a period of unparalleled blessings for us as part of the “new heavens” or the “new earth” of God’s making. Surely, this is a grand hope that deserves to be safeguarded.—2 Peter 3:13.