Being Saved with Difficulty
A FEW years before Emperor Nero launched his fiery persecution campaign against Christians throughout his far-flung empire, a decade before the Roman armies marched upon Jerusalem and effected its destruction and slaughter of the faithless population, an urgent and most timely warning was sounded by the apostle Peter. “The complete end of all things has drawn close” was his solemn announcement. (1 Pet. 4:7, NW) Anxious concern for the salvation of his fellow publishers of the Kingdom message clothed his words with pregnant meaning. Those first-century Christians had accepted Christ Jesus as the divinely provided propitiatory offering for the sins of humankind, and were confidently worshiping Jehovah God through him. Yet the apostle warns and exhorts those who are in the way of salvation to prepare themselves to meet the most critical test of their integrity and so gain salvation.
What salvation did Peter have in mind? Obviously, the “once saved, always saved” idea held no place among the brothers of that day. All the things that had heretofore seemed vitally important and indispensable to those converts from Jewry and pagandom were about to crumble and disappear in the crucible of world hatred. The opportunity to preach was about ended, and they were not yet saved. The apostles and disciples were to be scattered and hounded like animals, and some of them put to a torturous death. Jehovah’s restraining hand would not much longer hold off the fierce attack of hate-filled enemies of Jerusalem, its temple and its worship. Jesus had announced the doom of the city and all it stood for and urged those who heard him to be ready for instant flight as soon as the final warning sounded. A time of soul-searching judgment that, when the searing flame of tribulation would try every man’s work whether it was of the quality to endure. Surely a time for servants of God to be wide-awake and filled with concern about how they might survive the terrible end of that system of things and be delivered for further happy privileges of theocratic service!—Matt. 23:37, 38; 24:15-21; 1 Cor. 3:13-15, NW.
Now in these last days, especially since A.D. 1918, a time of climactic judgment has begun. It has come upon all who claim to be in covenant relationship with God and who really claim Jehovah as their God and Christ Jesus as their Lord. Two world wars with their global violence have swept over true servants of God like waves of a storm-tossed sea. Postwar conditions and cold-war operations continue to harass and impede their worship, but still the judgment trial goes on. The black and threatening cloud of Gog’s demon horde already darkens the horizon and forewarns of drastic enemy attempts upon the New World society. Many of the things that have been viewed as vital and necessary to God’s modern-day ministers may well be on the verge of joining this selfish old system in its Armageddon doom. “The complete end of all things has drawn close” is a warning that now reaches us with greatly magnified force.—Mal. 3:1-3; Ezek. 38:1-9; Luke 21:25, 26, NW.
SNARES OF MATERIALISM
Knowing that an entire world of wickedness is about to fold up in a miserable end, “what sort of persons ought [we] to be?” is the very pointed question of the apostle. Certainly not luxury-loving devotees of materialism. Is there danger of that? some may ask. Just consider the facts. Jehovah’s people and their work have been blessed with great prosperity in this time of the end. Multitudes of people from all nations and lands are joining them in their worship. New branch headquarters are being established in many countries. A huge thirteen-story printing plant has been erected in Brooklyn, New York, to meet the tremendous increase in demand for publications containing the Kingdom message. Congregations are multiplying rapidly in all parts of the world. Attractive, practical places of meeting, Kingdom Halls, are already in use or in course of construction at hundreds of places. All this tells of a mighty work yet to be accomplished in all nations. But in face of these facts some are hastily concluding that there yet remains a continually lengthening period of comparative peace for this old world. Perhaps they are even permitting themselves to be lulled into a false sense of security, forgetting that this “time of the end” is also the “critical times hard to deal with” warned of by Paul.—2 Pet. 3:11; 2 Tim. 3:1, NW.
There are indications that some have concluded they still have time to drift back into the orbit of the old world and its ways and once again join in the quest for material gains, comforts and extra luxuries. Some young men and women associating with the New World society are casting longing eyes toward the prizes held forth by this world’s careers. In some instances there would seem to be collusion between parents and children, for the former are even encouraging their youth to go high in this world to achieve some degree of importance. After all, they fondly hope, there is still plenty of time ahead. But is there? Not if we are confidently relying upon the Word of God and its many warnings, such as that voiced by Jesus at Matthew 24:17-20, NW.
Never forget that some professed servants of God have already paid with their lives for relaxing vigilance and returning to the old way of life. They said: “My master is delaying.” Instead he arrived and began his judgment or accounting work right on time. Their leaning back and taking things easy found no excuse or justification. The unguarded, unprepared ones lost out completely.—Matt. 24:48-51; 25:1-13, NW.
GIRD UP THE MIND
What, then, must we do in this time of lurking perils? “Be sound of mind, therefore, and be vigilant with a view to prayers.” A spiritually healthy mind will not break down or surrender in the hour of extreme danger or of temptation. It will refuse to give ear to the plausible argument of those who see no early end for Christendom and this entire world. So by all means let us keep our minds sound by regular private and congregational study of God’s Word. Prayer, too, is vital. Thereby we give evidence of true humility, dependence upon the Supreme Sovereign, trust in his omnipotent power to achieve all his grand purposes. Persons truly humble will not take their safety in this trialsome judgment day for granted. Proud ones will do so, and thereby leave themselves wide open to attack and certain fall.—1 Pet. 4:7, NW; Prov. 16:18.
How important, then, in this “time of the end” to have the right mental attitude. And this not for just a limited period. Rather, we must nurture and safeguard it continually until Armageddon is past. There can be no furlough in this spiritual warfare. We cannot afford to doff the divinely provided suit of armor, for if we do so the enemy will take us by surprise. That is why Peter warned: “Do not be puzzled at the burning among you which is happening to you for a trial, as though a strange thing were befalling you.” There is nothing strange about it. This world is still a going concern. It is still a hater of everything godly and Christian. It is committed, under direct guidance of its ruler, Gog, to the task of plundering and destroying the name-people of Jehovah. The closer we approach to “the complete end of all things” the greater and more concerted will be the attempts of the enemy to cut off the praisers of Jehovah God. Seek no favors from this old system. Do not be deceived. This world will love only its own.—Eph. 6:10-20; 1 Pet. 4:12; Matt. 5:11; John 15:19, NW; Ezekiel 38.
To the contrary, God’s “righteous man” class stands out today as the prime target for assault by the enemy forces. They are in a perilous position. Only the course of perfect integrity to Jehovah can bring them salvation. No taking things in an easy, casual manner for them! No, but a recognition of the urgency of these times, a watchfulness unto prayer, an anxiety to gain God’s final approval is what will sustain and deliver them. They heed Paul’s counsel to prepare and arm themselves for the most critical time of all, and then hold on to that state of preparedness, never for a moment allowing their spiritual senses to become dulled. Continual association with our brothers in the faith, both in study and in the ministry, is a must if we are to be kept on guard, sharp to discern the dangers that beset our path.—Ps. 112:1; Prov. 27:17; 1 Pet. 4:18; Phil. 2:12; Eph. 6:13, NW.
The binding force tying all members of the New World society together firmly is intense love for one another. Thereby a “multitude of sins” and imperfections inherited from father Adam are covered over and forgotten. Personal differences and feuds are settled and banished from mind. Every hurtful action and attitude is outlawed. Any who dare to reintroduce old-world attitudes and practices are taken note of, investigated and dealt with so that the organization may remain pure and unsullied for the sacred service of God. Closed, indeed, is it to evildoers and ungodly men. But to sincere and honest persons who approach, the gates of this city-organization are wide open in genuine hospitality. There is within a continual sharing with one another the good things with which Jehovah blesses his people, and this they do by speaking often to one another in congregation meetings and elsewhere, building one another up in the faith.—1 Pet. 4:8, 9, NW; Mal. 3:16, AS; Isa. 65:25, AS.
Spiritual alertness, prayerfulness, intense mutual love, and genuine hospitality combine to form a unique organization of servants. Yet this “righteous man” now and on through to the finish of the test of integrity at Armageddon is “being saved with difficulty.” The Scriptures prophetically describe him as “a charred stick pulled out of the fire” that barely escapes being burned to ashes. Was not that the case with “righteous Lot”? The record tells that the angelic messengers “seized hold of his hand . . . and they proceeded to bring him out and to station him outside the city” and then urged him to flee for his life. He and his daughter-companions were truly saved with difficulty from that doomed city. Now the modern Sodom and Gomorrah faces its merited end. Right up to the last minute there is great danger that our hearts may be attracted and enticed by some things left behind, worldly prizes of no genuine value, high position, better wages, more pleasures, more relaxation, in a word, materialism. “Remember the wife of Lot”! Do not “return to the things behind”! Keep hurrying, ever in the same direction, farther and farther from this old world!—Zech. 3:2, Mo; 2 Pet. 2:7; Gen. 19:15-17; Luke 17:31, 32, NW.
Do not entertain any desire for this world’s way of life, for that in effect will be treating lightly the undeserved kindness of Jehovah and missing its purpose. It puts one in a class with the sinners, and “if the righteous man is being saved with difficulty, where will the ungodly man and the sinner make a showing?” They will not. They will disappear into oblivion in the climax of judgment at Armageddon. While Jehovah causes his people of good will to be taken by the hand and hurried from the scene of this old world, now about to experience its most drastic change of all, what will you do? Keep looking in one direction only, the direction of safety. Be like Paul in your concentration upon this one course. Leave everything of this old world behind you, and show yourself energetic in the New World interests and wholly concerned about them.—2 Cor. 6:1;1 Pet. 4:18; Phil. 3:13, NW.
As Christian soldiers in the grandest cause ever fought for we are called upon to take our part in suffering evil and enduring the hardships of the continuing fight right down to the very end. Then, and only then, comes our salvation. This is what is meant by “being saved with difficulty.” How vital, then, to identify ourselves continuously and closely with Jehovah’s “righteous man” and the New World society! Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together for mutual incitement to love, intense love, and right works. Do not think you can take things easy, even for a temporary period. Guard well the treasured position of service with which you have been honored by the New World’s King. Keep on the suit of armor from God and keep wielding the sword of the spirit with vigor. That is how we may be saved through “the complete end of all things” with difficulty, but happily saved, and our salvation will magnify the power and name of Jehovah, our God.—2 Tim. 2:3; Matt. 24:13; Heb. 10:24, 25, NW.