Awake Worshipers in the Time of the End
1. Why is it so important to be spiritually awake now?
FACED as we are with the impending destruction of the wicked world at the hands of Jehovah’s executioner Christ Jesus, how vital it is to be awake to the responsibilities that rest on those who practice the religion of the Bible! We must guard against the pitfalls that could drag us down into destruction with the wicked, because the Devil, like a roaring lion, seeks to devour those who falter. Care should be exercised to keep our eyes firmly fixed on the new world immediately before us.—1 Pet. 5:8.
2. What attitude did the apostle Peter urge his Christian brothers to have, and why is that advice appropriate for us in the time of the end?
2 It was just about six years before Jerusalem’s destruction by the Roman armies A.D. 70 that the apostle Peter wrote his second letter to those of the Christian congregation, giving inspired counsel that is of even greater force now in these days immediately preceding the destruction foreshadowed by that of Jerusalem. Addressing those who had already obtained the faith, he stressed their dependence upon God, consequently their need to walk humbly before him, when Peter said that they had obtained the faith “by the righteousness of our God and the Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:1) All of us are indebted to God for life and the innumerable provisions that sustain it. We have nothing to boast of in ourselves, but we do have much for which to be thankful. Even as we are indebted to God for our present life, so too our hope of eternal life in the new world is founded on his provisions.
DIVINE PROVISION FOR DELIVERANCE
3. On what is our hope of salvation based?
3 Though born in sin and under sentence of death, when we heard the good news we were awakened to the fact that the only means by which redemption is available is through the ransom sacrifice of Jesus, of which provision Jehovah God is the Author. Jesus is “the way and the truth and the life,” and no one comes to the Father except through him. (John 14:6) Those Christians who become “sharers in divine nature” as spirit sons of God and joint heirs with Christ in the heavenly kingdom have such a hope because of the ransom. To them the apostle Paul says: “Now that we have been declared righteous as a result of faith, let us enjoy peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have gained our approach by faith into this undeserved kindness in which we now stand, and let us exult, based on hope of the glory of God.” (2 Pet. 1:4; Rom. 5:1, 2) The hope cherished by the “great crowd” of believers who inherit the earthly realm of the Kingdom is also based on this provision, and they publicly proclaim: “Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:10) They deeply appreciate this divine provision. It is not something in which they profess faith but that they do not understand. They teach others about it, and regularly avail themselves of prayer to God in the name of the one who gave his life as a ransom.
4. (a) By what means is deliverance from destruction at Armageddon possible? (b) Instead of putting trust in men, what attitude must we have?
4 Accepting Jesus Christ as the one through whom God provides deliverance is also the means by which it is possible to survive the cataclysm of Armageddon. In Noah’s day only those who put faith in Noah as God’s prophet and submitted to his headship were preserved through the flood. When Armageddon strikes in this generation, only those who have proved their faith in the Greater Noah Jesus Christ as God’s great Prophet and reigning King and who submit to his headship will be preserved into the new world. (1 Pet. 3:20, 21) Those who have put their trust in earthling men will find themselves to be without help. Man with all his scientific know-how will find his missile interceptors powerless to head off the forces of nature that God will turn upon the wicked to destroy them; nor will man be able to devise any means by which he can escape judgment by flight to some other part of the universe. Of the wicked God says: “If they dig down into Sheol, from there my own hand will take them; and if they go up to the heavens, from there I shall bring them down.” (Amos 9:2) Instead of putting confidence in the works of men, those who are awake to the situation that now faces mankind will in humility seek the face of God and the favor of his Son, the King Jesus Christ. “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.”—1 Pet. 5:5; Ps. 2:12.
BEARING THE RIGHT FRUIT
5. What qualities should be manifest in the lives of those who want life in the new world, and in what will this result now?
5 All this requires effort on our part. It means directing our lives in such a way as to bring them into line with God’s righteous requirements. In view of the prospects for life that God has set before us, Peter admonished: “Yes, for this very reason, by your contributing in response all painstaking effort, supply to your faith virtue, to your virtue knowledge, to your knowledge self-control, to your self-control endurance, to your endurance godly devotion, to your godly devotion brotherly affection, to your brotherly affection love.” (2 Pet. 1:5-7) Faith, which is a well-founded conviction that the hope set before us through God’s Word will be fulfilled, is required in order to please God. Virtue is uprightness of conduct, in harmony with God’s standard of morality; without this our worship would not be acceptable. Knowledge is a necessity if we are to be ‘workmen with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.’ (2 Tim. 2:15) Self-control is important in order to bring our lives into harmony with what we know to be right. Endurance enables us to stay firm in the faith even under difficult circumstances. Godly devotion moves us to put our heart into our worship. Brotherly affection and love hold us close to God, to our brothers and to the theocratic organization. “If these things exist in you and overflow, they will prevent you from being either inactive or unfruitful regarding the accurate knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—2 Pet. 1:8.
6. (a) What fruits has Christendom brought forth, and why? (b) What kind of fruit is evident among Jehovah’s people, and why?
6 We cannot afford to be inattentive or drowsy worshipers. This is a time for activity. Our course of action now will determine our opportunity for life in the new world. All men are known by their fruits. A paper entitled “Memento,” specially prepared for “Passion Sunday” and distributed in the Netherlands, in commenting on the fruits of Christendom’s religion, said: “We are guilty of the frayed unity of the Church of Christ and the disintegration of the Truth. . . . We are guilty of the thirty-three million communists who deny God, because we do not love zealously enough. . . . We are weak because we have turned the gospel into a sweet formula for outward decency and secure living . . . We are weak because we shake off the Christian morals . . . We are weak because we do not pray.” Their fruits manifest that theirs is not the religion of the Bible, because their fruits do not spring from an “accurate knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” However, the one who hears the Word of truth and gets the sense of it really does bear fruit of a right kind. He brings forth in his life fruitage of Christian qualities, referred to at John 15:8, and which brings glory to the Father. He is consistent in offering “to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” (Heb. 13:15) This results in more persons hearing the good news and becoming dedicated Christians, heartwarming letters of recommendation testifying to the fruitfulness of the ministry in which we participate as “God’s fellow workers.”—2 Cor. 3:1-3; 1 Cor. 3:5-9.
7. If one does not bear Christian fruitage, what is wrong? What should be done about it?
7 If these proper traits and activities were missing from our lives, something would be seriously wrong. “For if these things are not present in anyone, he is blind, shutting his eyes to the light, and has taken on a forgetfulness of his cleansing from his sins of long ago.” (2 Pet. 1:9) If any have become negligent in these matters and have not been putting forth the “painstaking effort” that is required, now is the time to correct the situation. We cannot afford to be indifferent or halfhearted. It would be most unwise to put off for some future time our service to God, especially in view of the shortness of the remaining time. We must be awake to the requirements of true worship. Only by recognizing the need to conform to God’s requirements and putting forth wholehearted effort to serve him now will there “be richly supplied to you the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”—2 Pet. 1:11.
8. What did the apostle Peter say was his reason for writing his second letter?
8 Why was it that Peter wrote these points of counsel to his Christian brothers? Did they not know the things of which he wrote? He answers: “For this reason I shall be disposed always to remind you of these things, although you know them and are firmly set in the truth which is present in you. But I consider it right, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to rouse you up by way of reminding you.” (2 Pet. 1:12, 13) It is true that by this time two or three of the Gospel accounts had been written, as well as the book of Acts. Paul, too, had written most of his fourteen inspired letters, and Peter makes mention of these. Yet he says: “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 words previously spoken by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles.” (2 Pet. 3:1, 2) He knew that it would stimulate them to continued spiritual wakefulness. It was a safeguard for them to review these important truths, to keep their appreciation alive and to enable them to be ‘always ready to make a defense before everyone that demanded of them a reason for the hope in them.’—1 Pet. 3:15.
9. How have we today been provided with reminders, and what effect do they have on us?
9 We who live in this time of the end likewise need such loving reminders. The Bible itself contains reminders for us. (Ps. 119:2) Also, by means of articles that appear in The Watchtower and others of the Society’s publications our thinking is stimulated by way of a reminder. True, we may recognize many of the basic truths as things that we have studied before, but this reminder is vital to keep our appreciation alive, and without appreciation even the knowledge we have would soon fail to move us to active service. With a view to spiritual wakefulness, take full advantage of these divinely provided reminders.
10. What made Peter so confident of the truthfulness of the prophecies, and why do we today have even greater reason for confidence?
10 What Peter wrote was not imagination. He was not basing his teaching on “artfully contrived false stories.” He had personally been with Jesus at the time of his transfiguration and had, in a vision, there seen the Lord in Kingdom glory. Moreover, he had heard the voice of God himself from heaven, saying: “This is my son, my beloved, on whom I have set my approval.” It was because of these faith-confirming experiences that Peter argued that “we have the prophetic word made more firm, and you are doing well in paying attention to it.” (2 Pet. 1:16-19) If Peter had reason for faith then, we have even stronger reasons today, for we have seen fulfilled before our very eyes the prophecies that unmistakably prove that Christ is now present in Kingdom power and glory, that he has already taken action against the Devil and ousted him from heaven, and that soon this time of the end will reach its climax with the destruction of all wickedness, opening the way for God’s everlasting new world. Keeping these facts constantly before our minds helps us to be wide awake in the performance of our worship.
PITFALLS TO BE AVOIDED
11. (a) What helps us as Christians to be watchful? (b) Against what two serious offenses are we warned at 2 Peter 2:10?
11 What a shame it would be to lose out on the new world when we are now at its threshold! Yet we could do just that if we failed to heed the warnings recorded for our protection. “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 Pet. 2:9, 10) Note the two offenses against which we are particularly warned: going after flesh with the desire to defile it, and looking down on lordship.
12. (a) If any “go on after flesh with the desire to defile it,” what hope do they forfeit? (b) How did the experience of the Israelites show the need to be alert to this danger?
12 There is no point in ignoring the warning. It will do us no good to argue that we are born in sin and for that reason easily give in to weaknesses of the flesh. “Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom.” (1 Cor. 6:9, 10) We are never so near the new world that we can let down our guard. We must stay awake to the danger. Near the end of their forty-year trek through the wilderness, as they were about to enter the Promised Land, thousands of Israelites sold out their opportunity to enter the land that God had given them by succumbing to fleshly passion and having “immoral relations with the daughters of Moab.” (Num. 25:1) Any today who have left the defiling conduct of the world and then succumb to enticements to immorality and take up that way of life have disowned the owner who bought them, Jesus Christ. “The saying of the true proverb has happened to them: ‘The dog has turned back to its own vomit, and the sow that was bathed to rolling in the mire.’”—2 Pet. 2:22.
13. What is wrong with a person who indulges in immorality, so what must we guard, and how?
13 Those who take such a course have bad hearts. “They have eyes full of adultery and unable to desist from sin, and they entice unsteady souls. They have a heart trained in covetousness,” says Peter. Jesus pointed to the same cause when he said: “Out of the heart come wicked reasonings, murders, adulteries, fornications,” and so forth. (2 Pet. 2:14; Matt. 15:19) How did such desires ever get into the heart, the seat of motive, so as to control it? A person does not act on every thought that ever enters his mind, but it is those things that he dwells on, those thoughts that he retains in his mind until they become fertile, on which he eventually acts. (Jas. 1:14, 15) If a person makes it a habit to feed his mind on immorality, he is endangering his Christian integrity. “More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.” (Prov. 4:23) This we can do by cultivating the right habits of thinking that are recommended in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.” To do so is to safeguard the heart.
14. Who are the “glorious ones” spoken of by Peter, and why is it important to show proper respect toward them?
14 What about those who “look down on lordship”? Of them the apostle further says: “Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble at glorious ones but speak abusively.” (2 Pet. 2:10) The “glorious ones” here referred to are not any who are bright and shining in their own eyes or who are glorious in the eyes of others due to their personal achievements. When praying to his Father, Jesus said of those who had become his footstep followers: “I have given them the glory which you have given me.” (John 17:22) The glory is, therefore, God-given. They have had conferred on them privileges, which, coming from God, indeed are glorious. Those who are the brothers of the King Jesus Christ have been selected as heirs of the heavenly kingdom—a glorious privilege indeed! This favor shown by God cannot be ignored by others of mankind who would gain life. For that reason, in his parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus showed that others would be judged as to their worthiness of life in the new world on the basis of their attitude toward the King’s brothers and the message they bear concerning the Kingdom. To speak abusively of these Kingdom ambassadors would be to show disregard for the Kingdom, for the King, and for the lordship of the One who empowered the King, Jehovah God himself. As a collective group, the remnant of these Kingdom heirs yet on earth constitute the “faithful and discreet slave,” to which God has committed the Kingdom interests on earth. Under the direction of holy spirit, this “slave” has designated individuals as servants in the congregations to shepherd the flock of God. It is important that we recognize and fully co-operate with the ones to whom God has thus given special responsibility, or authority, and not look down on the arrangement or speak abusively of those to whom these privileges have been entrusted.
15. How do those who ‘speak abusively of glorious ones’ show themselves to be like unreasoning animals?
15 Those who fight against God’s visible organization, as the “evil slave” has done, show themselves to be unreasoning, without appreciation of Jehovah God and their accountability to him. Failing to appreciate spiritual things, “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 Pet. 2:12, 13.
16. Of what can we be sure in view of the divine execution of judgment in times past?
16 Let none who show themselves to be heedless of the divine warning think that God will withhold punishment for their God-defying conduct. He did not hold back from punishing the angels that sinned, or the wicked world in Noah’s day or the immoral people of Sodom and Gomorrah. (2 Pet. 2:4-7) At Armageddon he will execute judgment upon those who follow in the footsteps of their wicked predecessors, but he will also preserve those who show that their hearts are fixed on him by conforming to his righteous ways.
PROPER VIEW OF GOD’S PATIENCE
17. Why does the scoffing of unbelievers at the idea of the end of the world not shake a Christian’s faith?
17 Having had our thinking stimulated by God’s Word, even when confronted by the scoffing unbelief of the world we find that our faith is not shaken. Worldlings may say: “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 Pet. 3:4) But we know that is not true! Informed by the infallible Word of God, we are awake to the fact that we are living in the time of the end. Though men scoff at the idea of destruction of the wicked world in the battle of Armageddon, we do not. We are well acquainted with the sacred and secular historical records of the flood of Noah’s day, by means of which “the world of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water.” That set a pattern of things to come. “By the same word [of God] the heavens [Satan and his demons] and the earth [ungodly people] 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 Pet. 3:5-7) That judgment is sure; it is nothing to scoff about.
18. (a) When scoffers argue that God is slow, why is their reasoning wrong? (b) How should we view the patience now being shown by God?
18 In their endeavor to minimize the seriousness of the situation, and reflecting their own unbelief, scoffers argue that if God ever purposed to bring in a new world he would have done it a long time ago; they consider him slow. However, Peter counsels: “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.” A thousand years is a long time to a man who has a life span of only seventy or eighty years, but to God, who inhabits eternity, it is as a day would be to us. So there is no cause to doubt when we pause to consider that less than six of these thousand-year days have passed since man’s fall into sin, and we are now living in the very generation that will see the new world come in. “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.” (2 Pet. 3:8, 9) Those who are busy in the work of the Lord are not complaining because of God’s patience; they are working hard to find those who are the Lord’s sheep and help them into the fold of safety while there is yet time. While looking forward with keen anticipation to the time when wickedness will be brought to an end and God’s name will be forever vindicated, they are anxious to do all they can before that time to help those with a right heart condition to attain to repentance and survive with them into the new world of righteousness.
19. Why will destruction come on the old world as a thief, but why will Jehovah’s faithful witnesses not be caught unawares?
19 Although the world has been warned, the unbelieving, disobedient ones will be caught unawares because they give no heed. Jehovah’s day will come upon them as a thief—unwanted, and at a time when they do not expect. “But you, brothers, you are not in darkness, so that that day should overtake you as it would thieves, for you are all sons of light and sons of day.” (1 Thess. 5:2-5; 2 Pet. 3:10) No, Jehovah’s faithful witnesses will not be caught unawares. They take to heart the advice: “Since you are awaiting these things, do your utmost to be found finally by him spotless and unblemished and in peace.” They live every day with a keen sense of awareness of the nearness of the day of Jehovah’s execution of the satanic world. They know that God’s kingdom already rules in the heavens and that they are its publicity agents. Zealously they advocate it by both word and deed. These awake worshipers of Jehovah God earnestly endeavor to rouse others to spiritual wakefulness now so that they will not go down into perpetual sleep with the wicked at Armageddon, but will survive with the awake worshipers into the new world to worship Jehovah forever.—2 Pet. 3:11-14.