Happy Are the Ones Staying Awake
“Look! I am coming as a thief. Happy is the one that stays awake and keeps his outer garments, that he may not walk naked and people look upon his parts of shame.”—Rev. 16:15.
1. Under whose supervision does the particular work come that calls for the forfeiture and destruction of the dismissed worker’s garments?
NOT all types of work today call for a man’s outer garments to be forfeited and destroyed when he is thrown out of work for not staying awake. What, then, is the particular type of work referred to at Revelation 16:15, which brings the surrender and destruction of one’s clothing when dismissal from work occurs for going to sleep at one’s post? It is the work that comes under the supervision and control of the heavenly One who issues the warning: “Look! I am coming as a thief. Happy is the one that stays awake and keeps his outer garments, that he may not walk naked and people look upon his parts of shame.” Re 16:15 It is Jesus that speaks.
2. As respects his professed followers, in what is Jesus keenly interested, and how does he get the true information in this matter?
2 It is in the manner in which his professed followers conduct themselves now that Jesus Christ is keenly interested. Are they faithfully imitating him, or are they disloyally, hypocritically misrepresenting him before the world? Are they lovingly serving him, or are they serving the interests of an enemy world? Are they alertly doing the work he commanded them to do in these days since the year 1914, or are they asleep to their Christian obligations because of seeking the ease, the peace and the prosperity that this world holds out? These are the questions to which Jesus Christ has to learn the true answers, by coming upon his professed followers at a time not known beforehand, at a time when they would be doing just the things that they want to be doing when he is not around.
3. At his coming, what happens to the awake Christians and to the ones asleep, and to what place is it that he comes?
3 At his thieflike coming the awake Christians would keep possession of their outer garments. Those found asleep would lose their outer garments. The Lord Jesus Christ would remove their garments from them, leaving them to walk naked and to expose their parts of shame in disgrace. To what place, though, is it that he comes? To the Vatican or to the Roman Catholic Church? To the Church of England or to any other Protestant church or to any federation of Protestant churches? No! It is to the spiritual temple of God that he comes. That is to say, to both the true spiritual temple of God and that which falsely claims to be the spiritual temple of God.
4. What is the temple to which he comes as the Chief Overseer?
4 Let us understand the matter clearly as to the temple. To true Christians or true followers and imitators of Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul writes: “Do you not know that you people are God’s temple and that the spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you people are.” (1 Cor. 3:16, 17) The Jews’ temple to Jehovah God on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman legions in the year 70 (A.D). Since then the only temple to Jehovah in existence has been the spiritual temple, in which God dwells by his spirit or holy active force. The spiritual temple is made up of “living stones,” Jesus Christ himself being the foundation cornerstone and his 144,000 chosen followers being “living stones” built on him. (Eph. 2:21, 22; 1 Pet. 2:5-7) This is the temple to which he comes as the Chief Overseer.
5. What course would be a defiling of the temple class, and what would the defilers prove themselves to be?
5 To the same true Christians the apostle Paul also writes: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Belial [or, Satan]? Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does God’s temple have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said: ‘I shall reside among them and walk among them, and I shall be their God, and they will be my people.’ ‘“Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,” says Jehovah, “and quit touching the unclean thing,’” ‘“and I will take you in.”’” (2 Cor. 6:14-17; Isa. 52:11; Ezek. 20:41) Manifestly, any class of Christians that would get unequally yoked with unbelievers and mix philosophical doctrines of worldly darkness with Christian doctrines of light and borrow from the Devil’s worship and bring idolatrous images into the congregation for worship would be defiling the temple class. Such pretenders of Christianity would be setting up a false temple of God. They could not be the true temple of God, but would merely be pretending to be the Christian temple of God. They would really be a hypocritical part of this old world.
6. In coming to the spiritual temple to do any destroying, why must Jesus Christ make an inspection?
6 At the time that he comes like a thief to destroy the old world or the unclean, oppressive, wicked old system of things, Jesus Christ must make inspection and find out what has to be destroyed. He must inspect the religious realm claiming to be Christian. He must separate the hypocritical from the true Christians. That is why he has to come to the spiritual temple of God.
7. That the temple is the place to which he comes appears to have support from his mention of what, and where was such a procedure carried on in Jesus’ day?
7 That this is the place to which he must come appears to have support in his mention of staying awake and keeping one’s outer garments to avoid having to walk naked and let people see one’s parts of shame. This could be a reference to a procedure that was followed in Jehovah’s temple at Jerusalem in the earthly days of Jesus Christ. In that temple the sons of the ancient family of Aaron (the brother of the prophet Moses) served as the priests, and the sons of the tribe of Levi served as the assistants of the priests. Concerning the arrangements and procedures among them we read, in the Jewish Mishnah (translated by Herbert Danby, D.D.):
8, 9. According to the Jewish Mishnah, who were put on watchman duty at the temple, and how was a watchman asleep at his post dealt with?
8 “The priests kept watch at three places in the Temple: at the Chamber of Abtinas, at the Chamber of the Flame, and at the Chamber of the Hearth; and the levites at twenty-one places: five at the five gates of the Temple Mount, four at the four corners inside, five at five of the gates of the Temple Court, four at its four corners outside, and one at the Chamber of Offerings, and one at the Chamber of the Curtain, and one behind the place of the Mercy Seat [that is, outside the western or rear wall of the temple’s Holy of Holies].
9 “The officer of the Temple Mount used to go round to every watch with lighted torches before him, and if any watch did not stand up and say to him, ‘O officer of the Temple Mount, peace be to thee!’ and it was manifest that he was asleep, he would beat him with his staff, and he had the right to burn his raiment. And they would say, ‘What is the noise in the Temple Court?’ ‘The noise of some levite that is being beaten and having his raiment burnt because he went to sleep during his watch.’ Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob said: ‘They once found my mother’s brother asleep and burnt his raiment.’”—Mishnah, Middoth (“Measurements”), 1 paragraphs 1, 2.
10, 11. (a) Why was it necessary for each watchman to remain awake at his post? (b) Why was it necessary to stay awake for the coming of the officer in charge of casting lots?
10 Since the overseer or officer of the Temple Mount was accustomed to make the rounds of all twenty-four stations during the watches of the night, it was necessary for each watchman to remain awake at his post constantly in order not to be caught off guard by the overseer. It was also necessary to open the door to another officer that was in charge of the casting of the lots for the temple services. Concerning this we read: “He that was minded to clean the Altar of ashes rose up early and immersed himself before the officer came. At what time did he come? Not always at the same time. Sometimes he came at cock-crow and sometimes a little sooner or later. The officer came and knocked [on the door] where they were, and they opened to him. He said, ‘Let him that has immersed himself come and cast lots.’ And they cast lots and the lot fell upon whom it fell.a
11 “He took the key and opened the wicket and entered the Temple Court by the Chamber of the Hearth. The priests entered after him carrying two lighted torches, and they separated into two parties.”—Mishnah, Tamid (“The Daily Whole-Offering”), paragraphs 2, 3.
12. (a) As pictured by the priests and Levites serving at the temple, to whom in particular is Jesus’ encouragement to stay awake directed? (b) Since 1931, who also can well take heed to such admonition, and why?
12 The priests and Levites serving at Jehovah’s temple in Jerusalem typified or foreshadowed the 144,000 victorious footstep followers of Jehovah’s High Priest, Jesus Christ. In the “spiritual house” or temple of God the 144,000 are at the same time “living stones” and a “holy priesthood,” to offer up “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 2:5) The selection of these “living stones” of the “spiritual house” has been going on during the “Christian era.” Today, after nineteen centuries, there is only a remnant of them still on earth, and the number of them is growing less from year to year. To these in particular Jesus’ encouragement to stay awake and keep one’s outer garments is directed. However, since the year 1931 a “great crowd” of worshipers of Jehovah God out of all nations and languages have associated themselves with the remnant of the “spiritual house” or “holy priesthood.” Revelation 7:9-15 foresaw the incoming of this “great crowd” of sheeplike worshipers of God and pictured them as being before the throne of God and ascribing their salvation to him and to his Lamb Jesus Christ and also rendering sacred service to God at the temple day and night. Because of this mention of temple service at night, they also can well take heed to the admonition to stay awake directed to the spiritual remnant of the “holy priesthood.” They do not want to be like those who fall asleep and lose their garments.
13. (a) What physical condition of the priests was prohibited at Jehovah’s temple? (b) What, then, are the outer garments that the remnant should keep possession of?
13 In ancient heathen religions priests often offered sacrifices to their false gods naked, as in the sacrifices to Bacchus the god of wine, etc. In the ancient temple of Jehovah at Jerusalem the show of nakedness was prohibited. This was why the priests had to wear drawers of linen, that their private parts might not show at any time, in any position, during their ministry in the temple. (Ex. 20:26; 28:42) What, then, are the “outer garments” that the remnant of the “holy priesthood” at Jehovah’s spiritual temple wear and should keep possession of? Since failure to stay awake at one’s post of duty during the night was punished with the loss of one’s post of service at the temple and resulted in the disgrace of nakedness, the outer garments picture the insignia or the distinguishing marks or evidences of one’s holding the honorable office of being a servant of Jehovah God and a fellow minister with Jehovah’s High Priest, Jesus Christ, at His temple. The outer garments denote the honored service of being a witness of the Most High God, Jehovah, rendering public service to him at his temple. Such garments are a gift from God and hence can be taken away by God for the wearer’s not living up to the responsibilities of his sacred of office.
14. When are such outer garments of ministry at the spiritual temple bestowed, and with what privileges resulting?
14 When are such outer garments of ministry at the spiritual temple bestowed? When one believes in Jehovah as being the only living and true God and accepts his provision for salvation through Jesus Christ and then lovingly dedicates oneself to God in order to worship and serve him forever. The dedication being accepted through Jesus Christ, then Jehovah God takes the dedicated one into the sacred ministry. Figuratively speaking, he clothes the dedicated Christian with the outer garments symbolizing his being in the ministry at God’s temple; and Jehovah bestows recognition upon the dedicated Christian by giving him sacred privileges of service.
15. How was this foreshadowed in ancient Israel, and why are the garments of the ministry to be prized and retained?
15 Foreshadowing this, the priests of Israel were clothed with official garments to denote their sacred appointment to service. As regards the Levites, these had to wash their clothing before they were presented to the priests as their assistants at the temple. (Ex. 28:1-43; Num. 8:5-22) It is an honor to wear the figurative garments of the true Christian ministry at God’s spiritual temple. Jesus Christ was thus figuratively clothed when he went about on earth preaching the good news of God’s kingdom among the circumcised Jews, “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” It is written: “Christ actually became a minister of those who are circumcised in behalf of God’s truthfulness, so as to verify the promises He made to their forefathers, and that the nations might glorify God for his mercy.” (Rom. 15:8, 9) The glorified Jesus Christ is the greatest minister, the chief minister, of the Most High God, the Creator of the universe. It is the highest honor a creature could enjoy to be in the ministry with Jesus Christ, the High Priest of the only living and true God. One’s garments betokening one’s being honored with this ministry are something to prize and retain.
16. (a) What matter is here concerned, and why is it so vital to everybody? (b) How can one’s form of religion be death-dealing, and so what must not be allowed to happen to the true religion?
16 The matter here concerns the true, pure religion. The pure religion means life to all intelligent creation, because it puts and keeps an intelligent creature in touch with the divine Father, the Source of all life, whether life in heaven or life on earth. A creature’s form of worship can be wrong and deceive the worshiper’s heart and so prove futile, fruitless, death-dealing instead of life-giving. If he does not rein in his tongue and say, preach, teach and pray true, right things about the real God and his purpose, his form of worship will result in no blessing and salvation in spite of sincerity of worship. “If any man seems to himself to be a formal worshiper and yet does not bridle his tongue, but goes on deceiving his own heart, this man’s form of worship is futile. The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.” (Jas. 1:26, 27) The one true religion must not be allowed to become spotted up with the world’s false religions and forms of worship, not even with the falsely called “Christian” religions of Christendom.
THE PURPOSE OF STAYING AWAKE
17. In relation to the true temple, what is the purpose of staying awake and on the watch, and whom must we have watch with us, and why?
17 In the ancient temple of Jehovah in Jerusalem the priestly and Levite temple guards were posted at their stations in order to safeguard the temple from robbery and to keep out all unclean persons and all intruders who were bent on no proper business. In relation to God’s spiritual temple and his worship that is carried on there today, the purpose of staying awake and keeping on the watch is the same. The purpose is to keep God’s pure worship undefiled from the intrusion of any unclean persons and of any uncleanness from this Babylonish old world. It is to see to it that the pure and acceptable worship is maintained, promoted and brought to others in order that the lifesaving benefits may flow from it to others and that God may thus be honored and exalted. All true Christians, who are the ones favored with having the one and only God-given religion, are responsible to keep on the watch, as long as they are in this Babylonish world. They must keep watch with God’s help, trusting in the assistance of his holy angels and in the activity of his holy spirit. As a reminder of this, it is written: “Unless Jehovah himself builds the house, it is to no avail that its builders have labored on it. Unless Jehovah himself guards the city, it is to no avail that the guard has kept awake.” (Ps. 127:1) Our watching and guarding may be imperfect and incomplete, but God’s watching is perfect and is over everything concerned and is able to see through any emergency. We need to have him watch with us.
18. (a) Who in congregations of the temple class have a special responsibility to keep on watch? (b) Why is it now all the more important to keep watching as overseers, and against what?
18 Men who have been appointed as overseers in a congregation of God’s temple class have a special responsibility to keep on watch against the development of any bad or improper conditions. As it is now nineteen centuries since the apostle Paul said the following words to overseers, it is all the more important to take heed to them: “Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own Son. I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore keep awake, and bear in mind that for three years, night and day, I did not quit admonishing each one with tears. . . . by thus laboring you must assist those who are weak and must bear in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, when he himself said, ‘There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.’” (Acts 20:28-35) There is still great need, yes, greater need, to stay awake and watch against the intrusion of wolves to devour and against the rising of ambitious religious leaders to draw disciples after themselves away from following the Right Shepherd, who said, “Neither be called ‘leaders’ for your Leader is one, the Christ. But the greatest one among you must be your minister.”—Matt. 23:10, 11.
19. Uncertainty as to what event makes it necessary for all worshipers to stay awake, and in what sense must they do so?
19 Nonetheless, all, worshipers at the true spiritual temple of Jehovah God must stay awake and watch, not alone against unclean intruders but also for the coming of the High Priestly Inspector. Jesus warned us about the uncertainty of the time of the final inspection, at which time it will be made plain whether we have endured in the worship and service of God down to the finish of the period of watching, at the complete end of this worldly system of things. Said Jesus: “Concerning that day or the hour nobody knows, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but the Father. Keep looking, keep awake, for you do not know when the appointed time is. It is like a man traveling abroad that left his house and gave the authority to his slaves, to each one his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to keep on the watch. Therefore keep on the watch, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether late in the day or at midnight or at cock-crowing or early in the morning, in order that when he arrives suddenly he does not find you sleeping. But what I say to you I say to all, Keep on the watch.” (Mark 13:32-37) This means for all to keep on the watch, fully awake always, in a spiritual sense, in the religious realm.
a The Mishnah, under Yoma (“The Day of Atonement”), 1 paragraph 8, 2 paragraphs 1, 2, says:
Every day they used to remove the ashes from off the Altar at cock-crow, or near to it, either before it or after it; but on the Day of Atonement [they did so] at midnight, and on the Feast [Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles] at the first watch. And before the [time of] cock-crow drew near the Temple Court was filled with Israelites.
“Beforetime whosoever was minded to clear the Altar of ashes did so. If they were many they used to run and mount the [Altar-] Ramp and he that came first within four cubits secured the task. . . . When the Court saw that they incurred danger they ordained that they should not clear the Altar save by lot. There were four lots: and this was the first lot.”