Faithful Endurance in the “Time of the End”
1. After learning how to face today’s problems courageously, what is vital to determine next?
HAVING seen how vitally necessary it is to face today’s problems courageously with the wisdom and discernment born of a study of God’s Word, it is now vital to know how to build on one’s foundation of faith and courage so as to stand firm to the end. The end of what? Surely not the end of this earth, for Ecclesiastes 1:4 states: “A generation is going, and a generation is coming; but the earth is standing even to time indefinite.” Rather, it is the end of this present wicked system of things, which Jesus said would be within this very generation, it being marked by “great tribulation” the like of which has never before been experienced by man. The only thing that would even approach it would be the great destruction wrought by the global flood of Noah’s day.—Matt. 24:21, 22, 37-39.
2. Why should we seek the favor and approval of Jehovah? With what blessings in view?
2 Surely, then, we can see the practicality of taking in a more detailed knowledge of Jehovah’s purposes and fearing to displease the Sovereign Lord of the universe. Really, without him and his blessing we are nothing. Note what Solomon had to say on this point: “The fear of Jehovah is the start of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Most Holy One is what understanding is. For by me your days will become many, and to you years of life will be added.”—Prov. 9:10, 11.
3. Why is it imperative to learn the role that faithful endurance plays in the life of a Christian?
3 Does this sound reasonable and appealing to you? Do you want days and years added to your life, and would you like to be assured that you are working in the right direction to have the blessing and approval of Jehovah so that you will be included on the right hand of his King when the judgment of the nations takes place? (Matt. 25:31-33) Then we believe you will want to learn the role that faithful endurance plays in the life of a Christian right now. And, undoubtedly, you will want to give careful consideration to the Scriptural reasoning offered on these points, for the Word of Jehovah is beneficial for all things, including salvation, life and happiness.—2 Tim. 3:15, 16.
4. Is it sufficient for a Christian to start walking in the way of endurance? Why do you answer so?
4 Yes, even though one might start out to believe in Jehovah and ‘wait on him’ and have the assurance that His Word is correct and that it offers a wonderful hope for the future, this is not the end of the matter. (Ps. 31:24) It is one thing to start walking in the path of Christian integrity and endurance. It is another thing to keep on walking in this right way. It is one thing to be firm for right principles for ten, twenty or thirty years, or even longer. It is another thing to keep right on being firm, confident in Jehovah, trusting in him and in the direction his organization gives. It is only then that the reward of life can be gained. (Gal. 6:9) What is it that spells the difference between success and failure in this regard? ENDURANCE. Rightfully, then, we should want to know what endurance is and why it is so essential in these critical pre-Armageddon days.—2 Thess. 3:1-5.
WHAT ENDURANCE IS
5. (a) How may endurance be defined? (b) What does faithful endurance mean to a Christian?
5 Endurance is defined as: “The ability to withstand hardship or tribulation; the ability of a person to continue to perform especially under adverse conditions; stamina; the capability of acting with moral courage and strength.” Faithful endurance in the theocratic society would therefore be marked by constancy in the faith, progressively building on one’s foundation of faith to gain greater maturity, coupled with a firm determination to abide by right principles at all times. Moreover, since it is impossible to gain the reward of life without enduring through the time of the end until Jehovah brings in his new order of righteousness, it becomes obvious that Christian endurance is a must for the favor and approval of Jehovah.—Rom. 5:3-5; Rev. 3:10, 11.
6. How does Paul give exhortation to endurance in his letters to Timothy?
6 How thankful we are, then, that the Word of Jehovah has so much to say about endurance and sticking close to Jehovah and his organization. For example, in Paul’s letters to Timothy he consistently warns against losing faith and exhorts all Christians to shun the spirit of cowardice and cultivate the spirit of power, of love and of soundness of mind. (2 Tim. 1:7) Paul also exhorted Timothy to “keep holding the pattern of healthful words that you heard from me with the faith and love that are in connection with Christ Jesus” and to “pursue righteousness, godly devotion, faith, love, endurance.” (2 Tim. 1:13; 1 Tim. 6:11) Why did Paul make these statements? What was happening then in the Christian congregation at Ephesus that made this counsel so appropriate?
7. (a) Describe how the theme of this article is highlighted in Paul’s first letter to Timothy. (b) What must a Christian do to remain firm and steadfast in the faith?
7 First of all, it should be noted that Paul’s two letters to Timothy reflect great concern and love for this genuine servant of Jehovah. (1 Tim. 1:2) And rightly so, for did not Paul say: “I have no one else of a disposition like his who will genuinely care for the things pertaining to you. For all the others are seeking their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know the proof he gave of himself, that like a child with a father he slaved with me in furtherance of the good news”? (Phil. 2:20-22) We might say that these two pastoral letters were written by an overseer to an overseer and contain specific counsel for the overseers of the theocratic society today. Of course, each one of us will profit greatly from the many excellent points of counsel contained in these letters as we individually apply the counsel to our lives. In fact, in connection with our theme under consideration, please, note how many times Paul in the first chapter of his first letter to Timothy 1Ti 1 mentions the words “faith” and “faithful.” Actually he uses these terms ten times in the first chapter alone and nineteen times in the rest of the first letter. Why? Because he knew that the only way any one of us could remain firm and steadfast in Jehovah’s favor was to anchor his faith in the Word of Jehovah. Daily study, prayer, association with wholesome and spiritually-minded people were absolutely essential for the Christians in Paul’s day. The same is true today.—2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Thess. 5:17; 1 Cor. 15:33.
8. Elaborate on the reasons why Paul counseled Christians of his day to endure and stick to the faith.
8 Please, refer to Paul’s first letter to Timothy, chapter one, and you will further observe the reasons why consistent encouragement to faith and endurance were given. Note what verses 19 and 20 say: “Holding faith and a good conscience, which some have thrust aside and have experienced shipwreck concerning their faith. Hymenaeus and Alexander belong to these, and I have handed them over to Satan that they may be taught by discipline not to blaspheme.” (1 Tim. 1:19, 20) Yes, the apostle had good reason to counsel the members of the early Christian congregation with regard to enduring and sticking to the faith, for there are no less than six individuals who are mentioned by name in these two letters to Timothy who did not stick to the faith and who failed to endure. Please, observe who these are and some of the reasons for their lack of faithful endurance.
9-11. (a) Describe the faith-subverting activities of (1) Alexander, (2) Hymenaeus and Philetus. (b) What lesson is to be learned from these warning examples?
9 Already mentioned above are Hymenaeus and Alexander. It cannot be proved that the Alexander mentioned in Paul’s first letter to Timothy is the coppersmith mentioned at 2 Timothy 4:14, 15, where the apostle states: “Alexander the coppersmith did me many injuries—Jehovah will repay him according to his deeds—and you too be on guard against him, for he resisted our words to an excessive degree.” The Alexander associated with Hymenaeus was guilty of a serious wrong, blasphemy, and both of these were disfellowshiped, handed over to Satan that their contaminating influence might be removed from the early Christian congregation.
10 Hymenaeus is also mentioned with Philetus at 2 Timothy 2:17. Prior to his reference to Hymenaeus, Paul counseled Timothy: “But shun empty speeches that violate what is holy; for they will advance to more and more ungodliness, and their word will spread like gangrene.” (2 Tim. 2:16, 17) Then he states: “Hymenaeus and Philetus are of that number. These very men have deviated from the faith, saying that the resurrection has already occurred; and they are subverting the faith of some. For all that, the solid foundation of God stays standing, having this seal: ‘Jehovah knows those who belong to him,’ and: ‘Let everyone naming the name of Jehovah renounce unrighteousness.’”—2 Tim. 2:17-19.
11 This, then, was a serious doctrinal departure on the part of these men and it had a demoralizing effect on some in the early congregation, even as Paul indicated. “They are subverting the faith of some.” How important it is, then, to stick close to Jehovah’s channel-like organization and avoid the association of any who teach doctrine contrary to what we are receiving through the “faithful and discreet slave” that Jehovah is using today to provide a constant flow of spiritual truth to his people.—Matt. 24:45-47; Prov. 4:18.
12. (a) What course of action did Phygelus and Hermogenes take? (b) In connection with these men and their activity, what principle did Paul declare?
12 Then there were Phygelus and Hermogenes. Of these men Paul wrote: “You know this, that all the men in the district of Asia have turned away from me. Phygelus and Hermogenes are of that number.” (2 Tim. 1:15) No wonder that Paul wrote in the very next chapter: “If we go on enduring, we shall also rule together as kings; if we deny, he also will deny us; if we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Tim. 2:12, 13) Yes, faithful endurance brings a great reward at the hands of Jehovah, and certainly it is absolutely necessary to cultivate this quality as we keep our eyes on the goal of Jehovah’s new order.
13. (a) What is to be learned from the life of Demas? (b) What balanced view of material riches should true Christians have?
13 Finally Paul mentions Demas: “Do your utmost to come to me shortly. For Demas has forsaken me because he loved the present system of things, and he has gone to Thessalonica.” (2 Tim. 4:9, 10) Possibly Demas was infected with a love of material things more than spiritual things, and this caused his downfall. In any event this is something for true Christians to consider with balanced thinking. In this connection the Proverbs state: “Give me neither poverty nor riches. Let me devour the food prescribed for me, that I may not become satisfied and I actually deny you and say: ‘Who is Jehovah?’ and that I may not come to poverty and I actually steal and assail the name of my God.” (Prov. 30:8, 9) Also, Paul himself wrote: “However, those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.”—1 Tim. 6:9, 10.
14 On another occasion Paul wrote: “For all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4) And in the same vein Paul wrote: “Now these things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.” (1 Cor. 10:11) What powerful warning examples these six men provide! True Christians cannot afford to be like them, for they did not endure. Somewhere along the way, to their own shame and loss, they let their love for the truth cool off and their tight grip on the Word of life become relaxed.—Phil. 2:16.
15. To keep on faithfully enduring, what view of Jehovah’s organization should we have? How much depends on this view?
15 How essential it is, then, not to take the Word of Jehovah for granted! It must be a vital, energizing force in our lives, and we must believe it with all our hearts if we really want to endure. (Jas. 1:21) It certainly does not pay to get upset over trivial things and find ourselves becoming critical of the organization. Would this be the course of wisdom? To what would it lead? Where else can a Christian go? Peter stated there was no other place, and thus the wisdom of faithfully sticking to Jehovah’s organization today. (John 6:66-69) Of necessity, then, we should keep our eyes on the Kingdom, not on individuals, and show respect for the “faithful and discreet slave” that He is using at the present time. Actually, your very life depends on following this course of action. Remember, too, it is only he that endures to the end that will be saved.—Matt. 24:45-47; Rev. 2:10.
ENDURANCE IN THE FACE OF GOG’S ASSAULT
16 That this position is so necessary can be seen from the impending onslaught of Gog against the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses. Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 identify the attack of Gog of Magog upon a “people gathered together out of the nations,” a people who are dwelling in security and in spiritual prosperity. Bible research has clarified these cryptic passages of Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 and has proved that Gog of Magog is a prophetic symbol of the false god of this world, Satan the Devil, when making his final attack upon the Christian witnesses of God’s kingdom.—2 Cor. 4:4; Rev. 12:7-12.
17. What activity have Jehovah’s people consistently engaged in since 1914? With what reaction by the Devil and his earthly agents?
17 This great opposer of God has now been cast out of heaven since the birth of God’s kingdom in 1914 and is now bringing unprecedented woes upon mankind. The final woe he brings upon the nations by leading them into a total attack against the kingdom of heaven, God’s kingdom by Christ, which the nations have continually rejected since 1914 C.E. They have done so with the wrath and anger of two world wars and the persecution of those Christians who have obeyed Jesus’ command to preach the good news of the Kingdom for a witness to all nations, Communist and non-Communist alike. (Rev. 11:15-18) These Kingdom witnesses are logically, therefore, the ones upon whom the attack is made by the worshipers of militarism in this time of the end. Daniel’s prophecy concerning the same time shows that the symbolic king of the north and the king of the south will be prominent in that attack.—Dan. 11:36-12:1.
18. Why should Christians build up their courage and endurance in these critical days?
18 Thus when a Christian realizes that Gog of Magog or Satan the Devil and all his unseen spirit forces are shortly going to move against him and all his fellow Christian members of the theocratic society, he comprehends to some degree the awesomeness of this situation. It will take courage and endurance to face this onslaught, courage and endurance built up as a result of one’s complete faith and trust in Jehovah and in his arrangements to put Satan and his demons out of action in due time.
19. (a) How only will any be able to endure and gain entrance into Jehovah’s new order? (b) What mental attitude should we have toward the preaching work yet to be done?
19 For compelling reasons, then, Christians should study God’s Word daily, associate with his theocratic society and pray constantly for the courage necessary to resist any encroachment on his worship to Jehovah. It is only in this way that any will be able to endure and gain entrance into Jehovah’s new order. And in the meantime there is so much to accomplish in connection with preaching the good news of God’s established kingdom. (Matt. 24:14) This is no time to slow down or give up but, rather, to press forward courageously and endure in this grand work. We want to keep right on working till Jehovah says it is enough. (Isa. 6:11) Are you personally taking the steps to share with others what you know of this wonderful message, that you may gain the favor and approval of Jehovah, whose purpose it is to restore Paradise and vindicate his holy name by eliminating all wickedness at the oncoming battle of Armageddon? You will be blessed if you do.—Rev. 7:17; 21:1-5.
20. Describe the necessity of faithfully enduring, once a start is made on the way to life.
20 To this end we encourage you to meet today’s problems and fears with the spirit and strength of Jehovah’s Word and in company with his people. (Heb. 10:24, 25; Acts 2:46) We sincerely believe that you will be blessed if you do this. And once you start in this way of life, endure in it; do not let your eye turn to the left or to the right. Rivet your attention and affection on God’s new order. Have it as your goal. Faithfully walk in this way, for your very life depends on it!