The Hour of Test Is On!
1. Why is it difficult to view the world situation objectively, and what proves this?
SOLDIER actively engaged in bitter fighting cannot get a comprehensive view of the battle as a whole. It is not expected of him. He is too occupied otherwise, and his view of the whole thing is largely affected by his own experience. Similarly, if trouble breaks out on the industrial front, involving a strike and maybe violence, the average workman will likely only have listened to the harangue and propaganda of those supposed to be on his side. Like the soldier, he views the whole thing subjectively, that is, as it affects him personally. The opposite of this is to view a thing objectively, which means to take a detached view, not swayed or prejudiced by personal feelings or involvement. Humanly speaking, perhaps it is the historian who is in the best position to do this when he can look back and see the incident in its entire context. If this is true of occasions where there is great pressure, what about an entire world situation that is daily becoming more threatening? What individual is in such a superior position that he can rightly assess the true situation, properly understand the principles involved, and give reliable guidance on which others can depend? Leading figures in the political and religious world often make such a claim and make their pronouncements, but are they justified? How often it happens that their word is soon forgotten, or later used as evidence against them.
2. On what grounds can we look to the Scriptures for reliable guidance?
2 Where can we turn for enlightenment and guidance that is wholly trustworthy? Why, surely we would expect to find it in the Holy Scriptures that contain the “word of God,” for it is so extremely powerful and penetrating, and it expresses what God’s “holy spirit says.” (Heb. 3:7; 4:12) That was the word that guided Jesus throughout his ministry, concerning which he testified: “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) It gave him the right viewpoint, God’s viewpoint, of things when under tremendous pressure, so why not let it be our guide? It never let him down, and we too can have strong confidence that as we approach the complete end of this system of things we will have the authoritative backing both of the living “Word of God,” Christ Jesus, and of the written Word of God.—Matt. 28:20; Rev. 19:13.
3. As a history book, how is the Bible proved to be unique, and why so?
3 The Bible is the most remarkable history book. It objectively records past history, giving the correct viewpoint of events and of the characters and nations involved, against their true background. More wonderful, it is history written in advance. Its penetrating beam focuses on our day, showing how “all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction,” yes, “written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.” (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11) This is called prophecy, much of which has already been fulfilled, and never once has it been proved that the Bible is at fault, despite its many critics. If you really believe that Jehovah is its Author, this will not surprise you. As Jehovah himself says: “I am the Divine One and there is no other God, nor anyone like me; the One telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done.”—Isa. 46:9, 10.
4. Regarding the scroll in God’s hand, why did John weep, and with what outcome?
4 However, you may have felt, as many have when reading the Bible, that it is largely a closed book, except for making plain certain moral lessons and standards. Do not be discouraged. That is likely how John felt when, in vision, he saw Jehovah enthroned in heaven in the awe-inspiring, glorious setting described in Revelation, chapter four. He then noticed in Jehovah’s right hand a “scroll written within and on the reverse side, sealed tight with seven seals.” Such a scroll in Jehovah’s hand obviously contained vital information well worth knowing, yet at first “no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.” John felt so grieved about this that he “gave way to a great deal of weeping,” but was shortly told: “Stop weeping. Look! The Lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered so as to open the scroll and its seven seals.”—Rev. 5:1-5.
5. (a) How can we identify the Lion of the tribe of Judah? (b) In what way must all true Christians prove to be conquerors?
5 We have no difficulty in identifying the conquering “Lion” as Christ Jesus, for he is also described as “a lamb as though it had been slaughtered,” and a song is sung in his praise: “You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slaughtered and with your blood you bought persons for God. . . and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.” (Rev. 5:6-10) As we have already discussed, Jesus proved his obedience under the severest pressure and thereby qualified for his lofty position at God’s right hand. Through his priestly work he is used as the Chief Agent in “bringing many sons to glory” to share his heavenly throne. These many sons making up the Christian congregation must likewise prove to be conquerors. As Jesus could say: “I have conquered the world,” despite all its pressures, so the same must be true of each one of these who “have been given a new birth” into God’s family of sons. Besides confirming this, John gives the underlying reason as to how it can and must be done. He says: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome, because everything that has been born from God conquers the world. And this is the conquest that has conquered the world, our faith.” Did you notice the fire-resisting qualities of an obedient faith, motivated by agápe love? This personal responsibility is strongly emphasized when we recall that at the close of each message to the seven congregations comprising the true church, the reward is promised individually “to him that conquers.”—Heb. 2:10; John 16:33; 1 Pet. 1:23; 1 John 5:3, 4; Rev. 2:7–3:21.
HOUR OF TEST ON ALL EARTH’S INHABITANTS
6. What characteristics mark some of John’s visions? Is time involved?
6 You may say this requirement is quite clear for the comparatively few who share Christ’s throne, but does it stop there? Well, let us take a look at what was later revealed to John as a result of that scroll’s being opened by the one found worthy and revealing its hitherto closely guarded secrets. It led the way for further visions “which God gave him [Jesus], to show his slaves the things that must shortly take place.” (Rev. 1:1) We refer particularly to a series of vivid scenes portraying a situation of great pressure bearing heavily on all persons then living. No one is exempt. As we shall see, that time is now and the hour of test is on!
7. How does Revelation explain why the Devil has great anger?
7 Touching only on those points related to our theme, we recall that in Revelation, chapter twelve, we are told, by symbols of the birth of the Kingdom and the enthronement of its King in 1914. It tells of the Devil, after being hurled out of heaven, as “having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” He feels he is under great pressure himself. No time to lose. He is enraged because he knows that “they [Christ’s brothers] conquered him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their witnessing.” So he goes off “to wage war with . . . [those] who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.”—Rev. 12:11, 12, 17.
8. (a) What vision was next given to John? (b) What was thus symbolized, involving what issue and what pressure?
8 However, these are not the only ones involved. John next sees a “wild beast . . . with ten horns and seven heads,” symbolizing Satan’s visible earthly political organization that has continued down to our day. Now notice how the situation develops, showing how the issue causing the pressure can be summed up in the question, Whom do you worship? John records that the “dragon [Satan] gave to the beast its power and its throne and great authority . . . and all the earth followed the wild beast with admiration. And they worshiped the dragon . . . and they worshiped the wild beast.” John also says that “authority was given it [the beast] over every tribe and people and tongue and nation. And all those who dwell on the earth will worship it; the name of not one of them stands written in the scroll of life of the Lamb.” (Rev. 13:1-4, 7, 8) Certainly none are exempt, but that last expression indicates that, though people in general succumb to the pressure to engage in false worship, there are exceptions, as will be mentioned again shortly. How well this describes the present situation. Do not people in general give their service and allegiance and patriotic support to one part or another of the current political setup? They submit to its authority, perhaps unwillingly if under any form of conscription. To them, “Caesar” is the only and final authority. In God’s eyes, this constitutes worship of the wild beast and of the dragon, the Devil, the “god of this system of things.”—2 Cor. 4:4.
9. How did Jesus exemplify the stand we should take respecting true worship?
9 Where do you stand on this issue? Do you remember how Jesus answered Satan when under the pressure of the temptation to “fall down and do an act of worship” on consideration of receiving from Satan “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (making up the “wild beast”)? Jesus replied: “Go away, Satan! For it is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’” (Matt. 4:8-10) Notice how worship and service are closely linked. If you claim to worship Jehovah, prove it by rendering sacred service to him and to him alone. This principle was stressed from earliest times. Joshua told the people: “He [Jehovah] is a God exacting exclusive devotion.” That is the stand you must take, learning how to view the present situation and the issue as it affects you from God’s viewpoint.—Josh. 24:19.
10. How does John’s next vision portray further modern developments?
10 There is more to follow, however, with no letup on this theme of worship. John next sees “another wild beast . . . [with] two horns like a lamb . . . And it makes the earth and those who dwell in it worship the first wild beast.” Further, “it tells those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the wild beast,” which is given breath (or life), “so that the image of the wild beast should both speak and cause to be killed all those who would not in any way worship the image of the wild beast.” As if that were not sufficient, the record continues: “It puts under compulsion all persons, . . . that nobody might be able to buy or sell except a person having the mark, the name of the wild beast or the number of its name.” (Rev. 13:11-17) Here is pictured the development of Satan’s visible organization, seen in the Anglo-American dual world power, also the creation of an “image” by this great world power, seen first in the League of Nations and today revived in the form of the United Nations. But whatever the developments, it is the same story time and time again. “All persons,” small and great, rich and poor, free and slaves, are put under inexorable pressure to worship and serve these beastlike instruments and, through them, Satan the Devil himself.
11. What fine contrasts are recorded at Revelation 14:1-5?
11 So much for the dark side of the picture. See now, though, how it is counterbalanced by what follows. John next sees those who comprise the bride of Christ, 144,000 in number, standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion. Instead of the mark of the wild beast on their foreheads, they have the name of the Lamb and of his Father identifying them as conquerors. Stressing their loyalty and singleness of devotion to their heavenly Bridegroom, the record says they “did not defile themselves with women; in fact, they are virgins. These are the ones that keep following the Lamb no matter where he goes. . . . no falsehood was found in their mouths; they are without blemish.” Their names are written in the “Lamb’s scroll of life,” though we must not overlook another “scroll of life” for all who will live on earth and who prove faithful under test, especially the final one at the close of Christ’s thousand-year reign.—Rev. 14:1-5; 21:27; 20:12.
12. The message at Revelation 14:7 stresses what vital truth, and how is this fulfilled?
12 Then John hears and records a message declared to all earth’s inhabitants: “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of the judgment by him has arrived, and so worship the One who made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters.” (Rev. 14:6, 7) How clear and forceful! The great Creator and Source of life has the sovereign right to require the worship and service of all creatures without exception. He is worthy of it. He sees to it that this message is declared earth wide, for it is the underlying theme of the message of truth proclaimed by Jehovah’s witnesses and “preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” It is a part of the “sign” that Jesus said would be fulfilled before this present generation passes away. The message is being declared today with more intensity and penetration than ever before.—Matt. 24:3, 14, 34.
13. What further message makes clear the two alternatives?
13 Shortly after, John heard announced by another angel what would happen in the way of final adverse judgment “if anyone worships the wild beast and its image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand.” (Rev. 14:9-11) Thus the two alternatives are made abundantly clear in God’s Word. This warning forms part of the Bible message declared by Jehovah’s witnesses. They view it as their God-given commission. They desire to say as Paul did: “I am clean from the blood of all men, for I have not held back from telling you all the counsel of God.”—Acts 20:26, 27.
14. If feeling inadequate, what course should we take?
14 Though the requirement and commandment to render our worship and service to Jehovah alone is made so clear, you may feel inadequate to withstand all the fierce opposing pressure mentioned in the foregoing scriptures. Jehovah, “remembering that we are dust,” is not unmindful of our frailty and need. So let us examine further a fine provision he has made whereby you can escape and yet, strangely enough, stay where you are. How can that be possible?—Ps. 103:14.
BUILDING UNDER SKILLFUL DIRECTION
15. (a) How can we escape the snare that Jesus mentioned? (b) What fine example did Noah give respecting this?
15 There are four scriptures in particular that tell about escape and deliverance. We have already mentioned Jesus’ reference to the judgment day that would come “as a snare” upon all earth’s inhabitants, similar to the flood of Noah’s day that ensnared and entombed the whole human family, except eight, because “they took no note” of the warning message. As Jesus said, the way to escape is to take careful note, “pay attention” to avoid selfish indulgence, “keep awake” in a prayerful attitude. By so doing, staying where you are, you will “succeed in escaping” the final adverse judgment shortly due. You will “succeed . . . in standing before the Son of man” in his favor and approval. Be like Noah and his family, who stayed where they were, though avoiding contamination with that dreadful generation, and got on with the job of building the ark under skillful direction.—Matt. 24:37-39; Luke 21:34-36; Gen. 6:14-16.
16. How is the promise at Revelation 3:10 fulfilled, calling for what action?
16 To the “congregation in Philadelphia” Jesus promised: “Because you kept the word about my endurance, I will also keep you from the hour of test, which is to come upon the whole inhabited earth, to put a test upon those dwelling on the earth.” (Rev. 3:7, 10) Not by running away from the test, or hiding in a convent or monastery, but by staying where you are and daily practicing obedience and endurance, following Jesus’ example in staying where God placed him, in the world but no part of it, not contaminated with it. By so doing you will be kept from weakening under the pressure of Satan’s beastlike system of things. Instead, by staying with God’s people, and with their help, you will prove to be adequate in maintaining your service and worship to Jehovah in support of his kingdom. During his ministry, Jesus got on with the work given him by his Father and built under skillful direction.—John 9:4; 17:4.
17. What guidance and comfort can we gain from the promise at 1 Corinthians 10:13?
17 This is confirmed by Paul’s words: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13) God tests, and allows Satan to tempt. There is no way out from this. However, while Satan’s purpose is to break down your faith and devotion, God’s purpose is always to build up by a course of training and discipline under skillful direction, even as he did with Jesus. Like a kind, wise father, he knows far better than you how to develop your powers of endurance, and “happy is the man that keeps on enduring trial.” Never fear; if you leave yourself in his hands, he will not allow Satan to overload you so that you have no way out.—Heb. 12:7-11; Jas. 1:12.
18. (a) Joel 2:32 tells of what fine provision? (b) In what various ways is the word “house” used in the Bible?
18 Finally, in a prophecy now being fulfilled, preceding the “great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah,” we read: “And it must occur that everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will get away safe; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will prove to be the escaped ones, just as Jehovah has said, and in among the survivors, whom Jehovah is calling.” (Joel 2:31, 32) What a fine, reassuring provision! But where will you find this Mount Zion and Jerusalem to which you can escape? This question brings up the subject of housebuilding. The psalmist said: “Unless Jehovah himself builds the house, it is to no avail that its builders have worked hard on it.” (Ps. 127:1) The converse of that is true. If Jehovah does build the house, acknowledging it as his, then those who work under the direction of the great Master Builder can be assured of certain success. Where and what is Jehovah’s house? Besides referring to a literal dwelling place, the word “house” is often used with regard to a family, or even a nation, such as the “house of Aaron” and the “house of Israel.” (Ps. 115:10; Lev. 10:6) As a nation, Israel proved unfaithful, resulting in Jesus’ saying to them concerning their temple at Jerusalem: “Look! Your house is abandoned to you.” (Matt. 23:38) However, Jesus had already commenced preparing for a different kind of house or temple, a spiritual house. During his ministry, he began to gather and prepare the building materials, that is, his disciples, who, at Pentecost of 33 C.E., were openly recognized by God as his spiritual house, or temple, “built up upon the foundation of the apostles and [Christian] prophets, while Christ Jesus himself is the foundation cornerstone.”—Eph. 2:20-22. (See also Hebrews 3:6; 1 Peter 2:5.)
19. Where today can we find God’s “house” and “city”?
19 In ancient Israel, Zion, or Jerusalem, became the center of worship, with its temple, housing the ark of the covenant, representing Jehovah’s presence. Similarly with the Christian congregation, spiritual Israel, it is spoken of as approaching “Mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem.” (Heb. 12:22; Rev. 21:2) Today, there is a remnant of this spiritual temple class, this remnant forming the nucleus of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, and around this nucleus a beneficial and effective building work in a spiritual sense is in progress. It is carried on by the power of God’s spirit, in full harmony with God’s Word in every respect, under the skillful direction of the Head of the Christian congregation, Christ Jesus. You are warmly invited to share with Jehovah’s witnesses in this fine building program, attending and sharing in their meetings, also sharing in all the activities of their preaching and teaching work. You will not only receive skillful direction, but will be helped to acquire skillful direction and become increasingly adequate for the work of Bible education, along with the “escaped ones.”
20. How did both Jesus and Paul stress the importance of spiritual building?
20 Besides this collective aspect, the Scriptures also encourage you in personal housebuilding. Jesus, stressing obedience, made a sharp contrast between the one who “hears these sayings of mine and does them,” and the one hearing but “not doing them.” The house of prospects for life everlasting, as built by the former on the rock mass of obedience to God-given instruction, withstands the storm, but that of the latter, built on shifting sand of disobedience, quickly collapses under pressure. (Matt. 7:24-27) Paul, too, the skillful and “wise director of works,” made a sharp contrast between the one whose personality pattern was built with the sterling qualities of endurance, integrity, steadfast devotion, likened to “gold, silver, precious stones,” and the one whose religious personality, lacking these qualities, was built with “wood materials, hay, stubble.” The former’s Christian personality survives the fiery test, and the one or ones who built him up receive a reward. But of the latter improperly built religionist it can be said, as James wrote, he does not “let endurance have its work complete . . . let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from Jehovah; he is an indecisive man, unsteady in all his ways.”—1 Cor. 3:10-15; Jas. 1:4, 7, 8.
21. (a) Can we build to perfection in any sense from God’s viewpoint? (b) What did Jesus say respecting this?
21 Humbly and obediently “receive the discipline that gives insight, righteousness and judgment and uprightness [fire-resisting qualities] . . . A wise person will listen and take in more instruction, and a man of understanding is the one who acquires skillful direction.” (Prov. 1:3, 5) Dedication of oneself to Jehovah and sharing with his people, this is the way to the right kind of spiritual building. True, you cannot yet build to absolute perfection in the flesh, but you can build a new life pattern, based on a “new personality . . . according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Eph. 4:24) Remember what Jesus said about perfection. After explaining to his disciples about Godlike love as being the essence of unselfish and genuine concern for others, even to loving your enemies and praying for your persecutors, he said: “You must accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Even to one not a disciple, the rich young ruler, Jesus spoke of perfection in the same way, saying: “If you want to be perfect, go sell your belongings and give to the poor . . . and come be my follower.”—Matt. 5:43-48; 19:21.
22. (a) How can Godlike love be developed? (b) In what way is it the key to becoming a conqueror?
22 This Godlike love is the greatest quality, the main requirement. Though it is not an automatic, built-in part of perfection, there is every encouragement to develop it as part of your new personality. It is possible. Jesus evidently saw that it was a real possibility with that young ruler, else the Gospel writer Mark would not have recorded that Jesus “felt love for him.” (Mark 10:21) His heart did not go out to someone just because of outward attraction. Like faith, love can have the same tested quality. “Love is long-suffering . . . [and] endures all things.” (1 Cor. 13:4-7, 13) It is the key to proving yourself a conqueror. You cannot conquer the pressure for evil just by trying to avoid pressure, leaving a vacuum that Satan and his demons would be quick to fill. (Matt. 12:43-45) Rather, voluntarily place yourself under the pressure for good. As Paul said: “Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.” (Rom. 12:21) That is what you are invited to do by dedicating yourself to Jehovah. Learn how to view all things from his viewpoint, the Scriptural viewpoint. That is good reasoning and correct thinking. Submissively keep under the wholesome pressure of his Word and his organization. Invite others to come to his organization, to the “house of Jehovah,” to heavenly Zion and Jerusalem, out of which center of worship issue forth Jehovah’s law and word. Share with his people in all their expressions of service and worship of Jehovah in acknowledgment of his rightful sovereignty over you and over all his creatures.—Isa. 2:2-4.
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All persons are put under pressure to give worship to the Devil’s visible earthly political organization, pictured by the wild beast out of the sea. Whom do you worship?