Living Now for a New World
1. What does God purpose to have, and what did Peter write about it?
IT IS God’s purpose to have a new world in which righteousness is to dwell. It was the hope of such a new world that encouraged the early Christians in the days of the apostles; indeed, it caused them to change their whole lives. Instead of living for the things that the world of the nations round about them had to offer, they began to live for that new world. The apostle Peter wrote: “Since all these things [the things of the old world around them] are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion . . . ! But there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.”—2 Pet. 3:11-13.
2. What was the result of man’s rebellion in Eden? Does this mean that God has abandoned his purpose to have a righteous world?
2 Long before the days of Peter, Jehovah, the Creator of the universe, had made known his purpose to have such a new world. Through the prophet Isaiah he said: “For here I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and the former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart.” (Isa. 65:17) It was His purpose from the beginning to have such a righteous world, and it was only because of man’s rebellion in Eden that this earth became a place where wickedness and unrighteousness came to flourish, where sin has resulted in suffering and death for earth’s inhabitants instead of earth’s being a paradise of peace and happiness with everlasting life for those living therein. But God has not abandoned this thrilling purpose of his, for he promises that the righteous “will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”—Ps. 37:29.
3. What will it mean for ‘righteousness to dwell in the earth’?
3 The word “righteous” means being “just, upright, virtuous, law-abiding.” It is God’s declared purpose then to have a cleansed earth, restored to a state of paradisaic beauty like the original Eden, in which “righteousness is to dwell.” It is to be a world in which justice, truth and uprightness will flourish, where all earth’s inhabitants will be law-abiding, that is, abiding by the divine law, doing the divine will. It is for such conditions upon earth that Jesus taught us to pray in his model prayer: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will come to pass, as in heaven, also upon earth.”—Matt. 6:9, 10.
4, 5. (a) Why did God bring the Flood on the earth? (b) Of what was the Flood a picture, and how are conditions on earth today similar to those just before the Flood?
4 Today we do not live in such a world. This world’s inhabitants do not dwell together in peace, nor do the majority deal justly with one another. Virtue is something easily laid aside. There is less respect for keeping proper laws, even the laws of men, for reports clearly indicate that lawlessness is on the increase. But most disturbing to sincere persons is the fact that this world shows little or no respect for the divine law of God. Similar conditions existed on earth in the days of Noah, when “the badness of man had become great in the earth and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time.” (Gen. 6:5) Because of its badness God destroyed that wicked society of men by a flood, allowing only Noah and his family to escape. The Bible speaks of it as a destruction of an “earth.” Not that the literal earth was destroyed; what was destroyed was the society of people living on the earth, those who were living only for their own degraded worldly ideas and who had forgotten God.—2 Pet. 3:5, 6.
5 What happened back there was a small-scale pattern of how God is to destroy this present evil world. Jesus himself warned of this and said: “For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be.” (Matt. 24:37) It was accurately foretold that just prior to the end of this wicked world the conditions on earth would be similar to those preceding the Flood. Notice how true to the facts are these inspired words: “In the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, without gratitude, with no loving-kindness, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with self-esteem, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Tim. 3:1-4) A careful study of other prophecies in the Bible makes it most certain that we are now living in these last days, and this means that the end of this present evil world is to be experienced in our time.
GATHERING THE SHEEP INTO A NEW WORLD SOCIETY
6, 7. (a) To what kind of people is Jehovah now showing mercy? (b) How does Jesus speak of the gathering of lovers of righteousness today?
6 The destruction of this evil world will of necessity involve the lives of a great number of people. But in his loving-kindness and mercy it is God’s purpose that, before this world comes to its end, he will gather out from the nations those who love what is right, who desire to see righteousness flourish, who show faith in God’s Word the Bible and in the promise of the new world, whose faith is such that they are prepared to turn their backs on this old world and its bad ways and, instead, conform to the principles of righteousness that are forever to govern the new world of God’s making.
7 That such a gathering of lovers of righteousness would take place in our day is made clear from the Scriptures. Jesus himself gave the parable of the “sheep and goats” to illustrate this very thing. The account of this parable at Matthew 25:31-46 indicates that this would be a gathering of individuals of all the nations and a separating of them from the world in such a way that they could be identified as a separated and gathered people. Jesus further showed that there would be such a gathering of sheeplike individuals to form an identifiable people in these last days when he said: “And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16) These are the ones who respond to the call at Zephaniah 2:3 (AS): “Seek ye Jehovah, all ye meek of the earth, that have kept his ordinances; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye will be hid in the day of Jehovah’s anger.”—See also Isaiah 2:1-3.
8. What choice faces all persons now living?
8 So it is that all persons living today have the opportunity of learning the truth and then of making a decision concerning their own destiny. A choice must be made: Will you continue to live like this present evil world, engage in its wrong practices, be part of it and die with it? Or will you learn of the new world, desire its righteousness, be alive to it and live in it forever? Will you forsake this world of unrighteousness and live now for the new world?
9, 10. (a) Why must one not delay in making his decision? (b) What decision will lovers of righteousness make in harmony with Romans 12:2?
9 It is a choice that cannot be put off indefinitely. One cannot with wisdom say, “Well, when that new world comes I will change. Of course I will be willing then to conform to what God will want us to do in that new world.” No! Now is the time to begin living for the new world, giving evidence that one is a genuine worshiper of God in spirit and truth, sheeplike, a lover of what is right, for “the Father is looking for such kind to worship him.”—John 4:23.
10 Before the destruction of this world comes at the Bible-named battle of Armageddon, Jehovah God is giving opportunity to the people of the nations to learn the truth, to conform to it, and then to demonstrate their faith by seeking the way of righteousness, giving evidence that they are the kind of people who would live righteously in God’s perfect new world if given the opportunity. If it is your sincere desire to receive God’s approval and gain life from him in that new world, then you will gladly respond to the words: “Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and complete will of God.”—Rom. 12:2.
11. What is it that makes Jehovah’s witnesses so noticeably different?
11 Jehovah’s witnesses, as a Christian body of people, are endeavoring to follow this Bible command. They are a people gathered from all the nations. They believe in the Bible promise of the new world and have begun to live for it now. For that reason they are in fact a New World society. It is this simple fact that makes them so noticeably different. Their faith in the new world is not a negative thing, but is positive. It is a living faith and moves them to an active support of what they believe. That is why you find them calling on the homes of the people to talk to them about their hope. In this they are privileged to fulfill one of the prophecies for our day: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations, and then the accomplished end will come.” (Matt. 24:14) But they know that there is more to living for the new world than just preaching about it. Living for the new world means living in harmony with the righteous principles of the Maker of it in everything one does, and these principles must govern all one’s actions as parents or children, as employers or employees, in work or in play.
12. How does the world look upon those who make the change to New World living, but what should we remember?
12 To those who take such a course it will mean a great change, but certainly a change for the better. Often such a change is misunderstood. This world is governed by one set of principles and ideas; the new world is governed by others—by divine principles and purposes. When we conform to the latter, the world may think it strange; we no longer conform to their way of thinking and acting. It may even lead to antagonism and opposition from persons we previously thought to be our friends. Did not Jesus experience this? And did not the apostle Peter write: “Because you do not continue running with them . . . , they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you”? (1 Pet. 4:4) But the Christian’s purpose in living is primarily to please God, and so the important thing for you to know is “how you ought to walk and please God,” not just men.—1 Thess. 4:1; Col. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:4.
13. How were people faced with a similar issue in the early days of Christianity?
13 If it is your sincere desire to find life at God’s hands in his new world of righteousness, then it is in your interests to consider carefully some of the basic principles of conduct that God requires of those whom he is today gathering to his side of favor and blessing and assembling into one flock as a New World society. The decisions you have to make are similar to those that faced people who lived in the days of Christianity’s beginnings, when for the first time they were confronted with the truth preached by the apostles and they saw the choice between continuing along the way they had been going previously in harmony with the ways of the nations round about them and making the change that was needed if they were to come into a favorable relationship with their Creator.
PRINCIPLES OF NEW-WORLD LIVING
14, 15. From what course did Paul tell the Christians at Ephesus they should turn away?
14 About the year 60 or 61 (A.D.) the apostle Paul was writing to the Christians at Ephesus. Before they had heard the truth preached to them the members of that early congregation had been living just like the other peoples of the nations. But that kind of life was not the kind that pleased God. So Paul wrote to them that they should “no longer go on walking just as the nations also walk in the unprofitableness of their minds, while they are in darkness mentally, and alienated from the life that belongs to God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the insensibility of their hearts. Having come to be past all moral sense, they gave themselves over to loose conduct to work uncleanness of every kind with greediness.”—Eph. 4:17-19.
15 Was that the kind of example of living that Christ Jesus had given them to follow? Most certainly not! “But you did not learn the Christ to be so, provided, indeed, that you heard him and were taught by means of him, just as truth is in Jesus, that you should put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct and which is being corrupted according to his deceptive desires; but that you should be made new in the force actuating your mind, and should put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loving-kindness.”—Eph. 4:20-24.
16. What basic principle does Paul discuss at Ephesians 4:25?
16 Then the apostle goes on to mention by name some of the bad things being practiced by the nations that could no longer be practiced by Christians. What he has to say is just as important for us living now during the time of the end of this system of things if we want to follow the example of the early Christians and learn to live in the way that pleases God and receives his approval. First, notice that verse 25 of chapter 4 of Ephesians tells us that having put away falsehood we should “speak truth each one . . . with his neighbor.” This same principle was stated by Jehovah many hundreds of years previously through his prophet Zechariah (chapter 8, verses 16, 17, AS): “These are the things that ye shall do: Speak ye every man the truth with his neighbor; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates; and let none of you devise evil in your hearts against his neighbor; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith Jehovah.”
17, 18. (a) How do people of this old world look upon dishonesty? (b) What are some of the reasons why people tell lies?
17 Dishonesty, which includes such things as lying, deceiving, stealing and cheating, is all too common in this world, is it not? We find it in all walks of life, among people of all ages. Not only will children lie to escape being found out in some wrong they have done, but adults show dishonesty in their dealings with one another, in business, in trying to escape responsibility for some debt or liability, or to cover over some wrong. Because of this, people have begun to lose trust in one another. Some will even claim that because other people are dishonest it is all right for them to be the same. But if we want to do what is right we can no longer walk “just as the nations also walk in the unprofitableness of their minds.”
18 There are many reasons why people are not honest with one another and why they resort to lying and deception. As mentioned above, one reason is to escape punishment for some wrongdoing. Fear is certainly a powerful influence in the lives of many and is one of the basic reasons for lying. In some lands the people are brought up with a fear of the “spirits” of the dead ancestors, and from youth are taught that it is necessary to deceive these “spirits” to avoid harm. Those having this belief often come to think that lying and deceit for such a purpose are not bad; but such ideas are certain to harm one’s conscience and to weaken one’s ability to speak the truth rather than falsehood in one’s dealings with his fellow men. Some take the attitude that lying is wrong only when one is found out, but if he is successful in his lies, then he is “clever” and has done something to be admired. This is indeed a perverted view of what is right and wrong. Still others lie out of pride. In fact, it is true to say that some people live their whole lives as a lie, pretending to be something that they are not, and having to make up untrue stories of their exploits to support their claims. Still others lie willfully to deceive, to mislead in order to obtain some advantage over others to their own selfish gain.
19. Why can there be no place in the New World society for lying and deception?
19 When one learns the truth of God’s Word, one sees the need to put away all practice of dishonesty. Fear is replaced by love; love for Jehovah, for his principles and for one’s Christian brothers. Learning that the ancestors are truly dead in the graves and not alive anywhere as “spirits,” those who previously had this belief would no longer have fear for such or feel the need to deceive them. The Christian knows that he cannot deceive God, and though he were to try to deceive or lie to other human creatures, Jehovah, who can see the very inmost thoughts of the heart, would not be deceived, and His disapproval could lead to disastrous results. Pride, another cause for lying, is something that God hates, but he approves of humility. So there is no place in God’s growing New World society for such things as deception, lying and other forms of dishonesty.—1 Cor. 4:5; 1 Thess. 2:4; Acts 5:3-5; Mic. 6:8; 1 John 4:18; Matt. 22:37-39; Prov. 16:5.
HONESTY IN VARIOUS RELATIONS
20. While there is trust and confidence among Jehovah’s witnesses, against what is it proper for them to be on guard?
20 Thus among those now being gathered out of the nations of the world into the one “flock” of Jehovah’s sheep the distrust and suspicions of the old-world society are replaced by trust and confidence. Yes, even now the principles of God’s Word are changing people’s lives so that they can enjoy Christian fellowship without the fears that affect the association of those in the old world. That does not mean that Jehovah’s witnesses are, for example, a gullible people, easily deceived, trusting everyone on sight, as it were. They exercise sensible caution and are alert to deal with any wickedly designing person who might try to worm his way into their fellowship for reasons of personal gain, to take advantage of the kindness and trust exercised in the New World society. Such evil-intentioned ones quickly show by their works that they are not lovers of truth and righteousness at heart, and mature Christians soon see through their hypocritical disguise.—Matt. 7:20.
21. How would the principle of honesty apply to a Christian running a business?
21 What about a person who owns and operates a business? Can he as a Christian rightly use deceptive means to keep up with the competition of others and increase his profit? The following Bible principle is very much to the point in answering that question: “You must not commit injustice in judging, in measuring, in weighing . . . You should prove to have accurate scales, accurate weights.” So a Christian businessman would not cheat his customers by giving them short measure for their money or bad workmanship in order to make a dishonest profit. Likewise he would deal justly and honestly with his employees.—Lev. 19:35, 36; Col. 4:1.
22. For what purpose is the information in this article presented?
22 This does not mean that a Christian has the right to go around telling others how to run their businesses, as though he were the judge of such matters. The purpose of what is written here is not to try to tell people of the world how to run their lives. What are presented here are simply the principles governing Christian living, so that those desiring to quit living the way the nations do and live in harmony with the righteousness of the New World may be helped to do so.
23. How might a person be dishonest about his work, and for what most important reason should a Christian be a diligent worker?
23 The same principle of honesty equally applies to employed persons in relationship to their employers. When a person enters into an agreement to work for someone at an agreed wage, then that agreement should be honored. If a person fails because of laziness to do the work assigned, that would really be a form of dishonesty, would it not? It would likewise be dishonest if a person used the time he has agreed to work for an employer and for which he is being paid wages for some other purpose, even though he may feel that the other thing he is doing is more interesting or even more beneficial to himself and to others. To use his employer’s time in this way without his knowledge and permission is being unfaithful to one’s agreement. An honest and diligent worker wins respect and an honorable reputation. (1 Thess. 4:11, 12) The Christian employee or servant does his work well, not just to please men or to win the approval of men, but because it is right to do so, it is being honest, and he appreciates that such a course pleases Jehovah and wins a reward from him. At Ephesians 6:5-8 Paul writes: “You slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters in a fleshly sense, with fear and trembling in the sincerity of your hearts, as to the Christ, not by way of eyeservice as men-pleasers, but as Christ’s slaves, doing the will of God whole-souled. Be slaves with good inclinations, as to Jehovah, and not to men, for you know that each one, whatever good he may do, will receive this back from Jehovah.”—Compare Colossians 3:22-25.
24. What further principle of New World living is stated at Ephesians 4:28?
24 Continuing in chapter 4 of Ephesians (verse 28), the apostle states another rule of New World living: “Let the stealer steal no more, but rather let him do hard work, doing with his hands what is good work, that he may have something to distribute to someone in need.” To steal means to take away something one has no right to, secretly, without being seen. It is easy to understand that breaking into a house at night when the owner is not there and then taking away money or other goods, such as clothing, is stealing. But what about when one has to handle food or materials or equipment in the course of one’s employment as a house servant or in some business office or factory? Is one free to take for oneself of such things?
25. What questions might be asked to guard against stealing?
25 It is the custom in some village communities in some countries that a traveler passing through the village may help himself to some food, so he can proceed on his journey refreshed. This is a custom that is considerate and shows commendable hospitality. All the people of the community understand this custom where it is practiced, and it is not in any way looked upon as stealing, even when the traveler uses the food in the absence of the owner. This custom reminds us of the provision made for the stranger, the traveler or the poor person under the Jewish law. (See Leviticus 19:9, 10.) But customs change, and, though this custom is still practiced in some rural communities, it is not commonly practiced in large cities under conditions of modern civilization. So one has to adapt himself to the situation where he is. A safe guide to what is stealing and what is not stealing is to ask oneself: “Do I have the right to take this?” That is, “Do I have the permission of the owner of this food or this material to use it or take it away?” If it is something that is the property of one’s employer one might ask: “Would I take this if my employer were present and could see me take it?” If you find that the answer is “No” to any of these questions, then you know that it would be stealing to take the thing in question.
26. What is an honest and diligent worker able to do?
26 In harmony with the apostle’s advice, the Christian should be a hard worker, doing with his hands what is good, not bad; being honest and diligent, not needing to steal in order to have sufficient to eat. Instead, he will not only provide for his own needs and the needs of his wife and children, if married, but he will be in position to help any of his fellow Christians in the congregation who may not be so fortunate, having perhaps suffered some unexpected loss or disaster. And, too, he will be in position to make some contribution to the funds of the local congregation to help meet necessary expenses and advance the work of preaching the good news of God’s kingdom in his neighborhood.
27, 28. (a) How are people often dishonest when borrowing money? (b) How does the Bible speak of those who refuse to pay back what they borrow? (c) What good qualities should the Christian cultivate, and what bad qualities should he put away?
27 This old system of things is filled with selfishness. People show this in their attitude toward life, looking for as much as they can get while giving as little as they can in return. This selfishness is appealed to by political and religious leaders in order to try to gain support for their particular organizations. It is seen in the way people are quick to borrow money from whom they can, but slow to repay, and often the borrower has no intention of repaying. Some will even try to justify this by saying that to borrow from a rich man and not repay is not really very wrong, since the rich man does not need the money for himself. How often it is that quarrels and fights are the result of debts not being repaid! That is why Psalm 37:21 says it is “the wicked one [who] is borrowing and does not pay back.”
28 Jehovah does not bless the wicked. He does not bless those who are selfish, grasping, just interested in what they can get out of life while doing as little as possible for others in return. Those desiring life in the new world need to cultivate love rather than selfishness, the spirit of giving instead of greed. Rather than going into debt in order to increase material possessions, the Christian learns to be content with necessary things, working diligently to earn such things with honest labor. The apostle Paul was careful not to put any unnecessary burden on his brothers. Just because he was an apostle he did not use his position to make material gain from his fellow Christians. He did not covet their “silver or gold.” As a full-time apostle he appreciated assistance from the congregations so that he could devote all his time to the ministry, but where this voluntary assistance was not forthcoming he was ready to work with his own hands at tent-making so as to care for his material needs.—Acts 20:33, 34; 18:3; 1 Thess. 2:9.