Who Will the Survivors Be?
1. (a) Upon what will one’s survival into God’s peaceful New Order depend? (b) How does Revelation chapter 7 describe those who will survive to live on earth in Paradise?
SURVIVAL of the coming world destruction will not be a matter of chance, as is so often the case in human wars. It will not be determined by where a person lives, nor by his hurrying to some bomb shelter or other refuge at the sound of a warning siren. Survival will depend on God’s mercy along with the choice each one makes before “the great tribulation” begins. How can you make the choice that will put you among those surviving to live on earth in God’s peaceful, paradisaic New Order?—Revelation 7:9, 10, 14, 15.
2. Who sets the terms for survival, and where are these found?
2 The Bible not only foretells that there will be survivors of the coming world destruction. It also provides a pattern to help us know what kind of persons they will be. Since God makes possible the survival, rightly it is he who 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 the survivors are persons who will be an asset in his New Order, not those who would work to its harm. If he let unrighteous persons survive, there would be no peace and security for the righteous. Their homes and personal safety would still be endangered. But the Bible promises: “Evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth.” Only by God’s applying that standard, as set forth at Psalm 37:9-11, will survivors be able to “find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.” How God will do this is seen in 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 to escape?
4 In the city of Rome today there still stands a memorial arch from the first century of the Common Era, the Arch of Titus. On it are depicted items being carried away from the temple in Jerusalem after the destruction of 70 C.E. Hence 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 people could survive.
5 The Jewish people had turned away from God to following men and man-made religious traditions. (Matthew 15:3-9) They put their confidence in human political rulers rather than in God’s promised Kingdom. (John 19:15) They went so far as to reject and fight against the truth proclaimed by God’s Son and his apostles. Jesus warned of the consequences that such a course would bring.—Matthew 23:37, 38; 24:1, 2.
6 The results were exactly as foretold. 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 who believed Jesus to do what he had said: Flee—get out of the doomed city and out of the whole province of Judea, no matter what must be left behind. Genuine disciples of Jesus did just that. Then, in the year 70 C.E., the Romans returned and, after a siege, destroyed Jerusalem and those who failed to listen. An eyewitness, Jewish historian Josephus, says that 1,100,000 persons in Jerusalem died by famine, disease, civil strife, or the Roman sword. Yet the Christians who took positive action escaped.—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 when God allowed Babylonian forces under King Nebuchadnezzar (II) to wreck the Israelite nation. That destruction, too, is documented 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, and even when Babylon’s forces besieged Jerusalem, those Israelites still kept hoping that no destruction would come. But it did take place just as foretold. Yet God saw to it that those who demonstrated their faith by obedience were preserved.—Jeremiah 39:15-18; Zephaniah 2:2, 3.
8-10. (a) Why did Jehovah bring a world destruction in the days of Noah? (b) Why were Noah and his family spared?
8 Further back in human history we find the earliest expression of the divine pattern for survival. It involved not merely national but world destruction. And that too is a historical fact, involving the global Flood during the years 2370/2369 B.C.E., in the days of Noah. Of the conditions prevailing before that world destruction, the Bible says: “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. 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, they did not go along with that “world of ungodly people” in their unrighteousness. They did not become so engrossed with the ordinary things of life, eating, drinking, and marrying, that they became insensitive to God’s will or deaf to his warning. Noah ‘walked with God’ in righteousness. This did not mean that he and his family merely refrained from doing harm. Rather, they took positive action to do right. They really believed what God said, and they showed it by building a huge three-story ark that was over 400 feet long. Noah also acted positively in being “a preacher of righteousness,” telling others about 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 their faith and their works stemming from faith. Jesus and his apostles referred to that world destruction as prophetic of what faces people in this “time of the end.” So it is clear that we too must disassociate ourselves from a world headed for destruction, just as Noah and his family did. We too must live 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 is in the heart.—Proverbs 24:12; Luke 16:15.
What Jehovah Looks For in Human Hearts
12, 13. (a) What conditions cause many people to want a change? (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 Many are unhappy with present conditions, and they show it by complaints, demonstrations, and in some lands by violent revolt. Many resent high taxation and the soaring cost of living. 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 still be selfish. He might even approve of certain forms of dishonesty and immorality—as long as he himself does not suffer. However, righthearted persons view things differently. When they study the Bible they see that bad conditions are but outward evidences of the world’s real sickness. They discern that behind these symptoms is a lack of concern for knowing and doing Jehovah’s will and for living by his righteous standards. Hence, they are not primarily grieved by social injustices, crime, pollution, or the threat of war. Rather, such righthearted persons are especially grieved at seeing God’s name defamed by mankind’s corrupt course. And they grieve that others, not just they 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 survive the coming world destruction, we must be like those who were spared when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E., persons described as “sighing and groaning over all the detestable things” being done in that city. (Ezekiel 9:4) Conditions were “detestable” in various ways. For example, the poor were being oppressed, some even being held in slavery illegally by their countrymen. (Jeremiah 34:13-16) The moral state of the kingdom of Judah had become even worse than that of the northern kingdom of Israel, which was earlier described by the prophet Hosea: “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 grieved at heart by such unrighteousness and the disrespect it showed for God were ‘marked’ for survival.—Ezekiel 9:3-6.
15. What holds some persons back from making the changes needed to survive the coming world destruction?
15 Though many today would like to enjoy life on earth forever in peace, prosperity, and comfort, they do not want to make the changes in their way of life that learning and following the Bible’s pattern for right living would bring. Deep down, they really do not have a love of righteousness or a sincere concern for their fellowmen. Since God’s New Order will produce a new society in which “righteousness is to dwell,” the good news about it appeals 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? (b) What action must he take, as to false worship, and then as to true worship? (c) How must he view political institutions such as the UN?
16 Jehovah will preserve only those who sincerely want to live under his righteous rule. He will not force any to live then under circumstances they themselves do not want. Therefore, those preserved will have to prove their genuine acceptance of his divine rulership now. They become ‘marked’ for survival by putting on a Christian “new personality,” conforming their lives to God’s ways and giving evidence that they are disciples of God’s Son. Thereby they “choose life” and blessings, not death. (Colossians 3:5-10; Deuteronomy 30:15, 16, 19) What will you choose?
17 Your choice involves submission to God in worship. 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) Surviving the coming world destruction therefore requires that one abandon all false worship and participate in true worship. Too, survivors will not be found among those who put their trust in the United Nations or in other political institutions, since these are part of the world that will be destroyed.—Revelation 17:11; 18:17-21.
18 Unending blessings await those who take the course that leads to survival. Consider now some of the grand things that God promises to those who put faith in his Word and prove that faith by positive action.
[Picture on page 87]
“A great crowd” will survive world destruction to live on earth in God’s New Order