Questions From Readers
● Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has put “time indefinite” in the heart of mankind. What does this mean ?—M. O., U.S.A.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 reads: “Everything he [Jehovah] has made pretty in its time. Even time indefinite he has put in their heart, that mankind may never find out the work that the true God has made from the start to the finish.” The Hebrew word rendered “time indefinite” here and elsewhere in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is ʽolam΄. It relates to time, carries the basic thought of “hidden” or “concealed,” and has been defined as meaning “hidden time, i.e. obscure and long, of which the beginning or end is uncertain or indefinite.” (A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, William Gesenius, 1836, page 746) Some translations of Ecclesiastes 3:11 say God has put “eternity” in the heart of mankind. (Le, RS, AS) The context shows that time is under consideration. (Eccl. 3:1-8, 17) Because of this and the basic meaning of ʽolam’, the terms “eternity” or “time indefinite” are most appropriately used in Ecclesiastes 3:11.
Jehovah has an appointed time for all things. (Dan. 2:21, 22; Acts 17:26, 31) He has also made everything pretty or well-arranged in its time. The orderliness and splendor of creation, such as the procession of the seasons, illustrates this. Of course, Ecclesiastes 3:11 does not mean that God literally puts a time mechanism in one’s heart. It evidently refers to the way in which man’s appreciation of various matters would be affected by the passing of time. This text helps us to realize that God can never be completely searched out by man. Jehovah’s works are perfect, but even perfect man in God’s promised new order will be unable to fathom the depths of God’s wisdom. (Deut. 32:4; Isa. 40:28; 55:8, 9; Rom. 11:33-36) In the words of Ecclesiastes 3:11, mankind will “never find out the work that the true God has made from the start to the finish.” There will always be something to learn about Jehovah’s works. Hence, man will never lose interest in learning about God or in searching out the marvels of his creation. Though the inhabitants of God’s new order will never fully “find out the work that the true God has made,” they will, with each passing year, more and more learn about and appreciate the greatly diversified wisdom of God.
● What is the meaning of Matthew 10:41? Is there any difference in the rewards mentioned there?—R. D., U.S.A.
Jesus Christ stated, as recorded at Matthew 10:40-42: “He that receives you receives me also, and he that receives me receives him also that sent me forth. He that receives a prophet because he is a prophet will get a prophet’s reward, and he that receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will get a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water to drink because he is a disciple, I tell you truly, he will by no means lose his reward.”
Jesus was sent by his Father, Jehovah God. Hence, a person who favorably received Christ’s disciples would be receiving Christ and also God, who sent Christ. Surely that person would be blessed; he would not go unrewarded.
Similarly, an individual favorably receiving a prophet of God because he was a prophet would be rewarded. He would receive “a prophet’s reward.” How so? Well, consider the reward realized by the hospitable widow who gave Elijah food and water. For ‘receiving a prophet,’ she was greatly blessed. Her supply of flour and oil was miraculously multiplied by this prophet who acted under God’s spirit. Why, even her son was miraculously restored to her after he had experienced an untimely death! (1 Kings, chapter 17) These miracles were wrought by Jehovah through his prophet Elijah. Evidently the widow received Elijah ‘because he was a prophet.’ Consequently, she received “a prophet’s reward.”
Not to be overlooked is the fact that Jesus Christ, who uttered the words recorded at Matthew 10:40-42, was the greatest of all the prophets. (Deut. 18:15-19; Acts 3:19-23) Those who received him because he was a prophet were spiritually blessed by what he said to them. Some of them also received miraculous cures and even resurrections. (Matt. 4:23; Luke 8:40-42, 49-56; John 11:38-44) Thereafter, as gifts to the Christian congregation, Jesus Christ gave “some as prophets.” Among them was Agabus. Spiritual benefits were surely enjoyed by persons who received them favorably and who associated with them in the Christian congregation. These men were used to utter new prophecies. (Eph. 4:11, 12; Acts 11:27, 28; 21:10, 11) However, in fulfillment of the words of Joel 2:28, 29, even today dedicated servants of Jehovah, though not inspired, are aided by God’s spirit or active force to explain Scriptural prophecies to those receiving them in a favorable and appreciative way. Such persons are thus rewarded spiritually.—1 Cor. 2:10.
Jesus Christ also mentioned receiving a righteous man and getting “a righteous man’s reward.” For hospitably receiving a righteous man one could expect to be treated kindly in return, not in an unrighteous way, but in harmony with God’s righteousness. The kind of righteous man to whom Jesus referred was not a person who simply set up his own standards and led what might merely be viewed as a “good life.” He was speaking of a man who adhered to Jehovah’s righteous expressions and commandments. (Matt. 4:4; Eccl. 12:13, 14) Those who truly met God’s requirements in Jesus’ day became his followers. If some individual was privileged to entertain such a believer in his home, he was in position to receive spiritual benefits, “a righteous man’s reward.” The visitor would no doubt share faith-building truths from God’s Word with his host, even as Jesus did. (Luke 10:5-7; 19:1-10) The same thing is true in our day.
There are persons who kindly receive and do good to the righteous “little ones,” those who are anointed disciples or spiritual brothers of Jesus Christ. (Rev. 14:1-4; Luke 12:32) By showing this kindness, they give Jesus’ anointed followers “a cup of cold water to drink,” as it were. They do good things for Christ’s spiritual brothers, not simply because they show humanitarian kindness to all men, but because such ones are Christ’s disciples. Therefore, these doers of good are rewarded; they ‘by no means lose their reward.’ Though they do not immediately receive some miraculous benefit, they have the privilege of hearing the anointed disciples of Jesus Christ explain the Scriptures. Consequently, such hearers stand to benefit measurably in a spiritual way. Those among them who manifest a love for righteousness and who do good things for Christ’s brothers out of respect for the fact that they are his spiritual brothers or anointed disciples, are really showing a favorable disposition toward and support of the King Jesus Christ himself. (Matt. 25:34-40) If these persons continue to pursue such a course of action, they will receive lasting benefits, for theirs is the prospect of life everlasting in Jehovah’s promised new order of things.—2 Pet. 3:13; Zeph. 2:2, 3.