Be “Sound in Mind” as the New Order Draws Near
“The end of all things has drawn close. Be sound in mind, therefore.”—1 Pet. 4:7.
1. What visible evidence is there pointing to an early end of the present world order?
EVIDENCE abounds that a new order is near. On the one hand, we find ourselves living in a unique time as regards the present world order. For the first time in human history, all the systems that men have set up are in a state of crisis. Look where you will, consider any of the many systems that combine to form the present order, and you see signs of grave trouble. Political systems, religious systems, social systems, police systems, educational systems, transportation systems, monetary systems—the list of those in crisis is almost endless. Even the most fundamental things, such as air, water and food, are seriously endangered.
2. Why can men not give permanence to the present order?
2 The present order is like an old building whose foundations, supports and beams are all seriously fractured, decayed or corroded. Men may add lots of fresh paint or fancy decorations and new furniture, but nothing can give the rotted structure the strength it needs to remain standing for long. No matter how much men may try to cover up and ‘plaster over’ the serious divisions that lie deep within human society as it is now structured, they cannot prevent the consequences pointed to in Jesus’ words: “A house divided against itself falls.”—Luke 11:17.
3. What is the truly solid basis for believing that a new order is near?
3 But the finest, most convincing evidence that a new order is near comes from the promises and prophecies of God’s Word, the Bible. Its prophecies not only foretold the present decay of morality and the turning away from truth and righteousness that have brought the present order to its state of global crisis, but they also tell us God’s declared purpose to sweep away all these present systems in an unequaled “great tribulation” within “this generation” and to establish his own order with new systems founded on righteousness, on love of God and love of neighbor.—Matt. 24:21, 33, 34; Rev. 7:14-17.
4, 5. What does the Bible promise of “new heavens and a new earth” mean for us?
4 “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. 3:13) The “promise” to which the apostle Peter here refers is found at Isaiah 65:17 in the Hebrew Scriptures. Bible scholars have long recognized that the “heavens” and “earth” here are symbolic. M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia (Vol. IV, pp. 122-127), for example, comments: “In Isa. 65:17 LXV , 17, a new heaven and a new earth signify a new government, new kingdom, new people. . . .”
5 This means a new order. God’s kingdom by his Son having come against all enemies of God’s sovereignty, it will then put God’s will into effect in all the earth, even as the well-known Lord’s Prayer petitions. (Matt. 6:10) That ‘kingdom of the heavens’ will thus provide “new heavens” to guide and govern mankind. And the new earthly society of persons surviving into that new order will not be plagued by the imperfect, unworkable, greed-ridden systems that now cause such irritation and frustration and danger. Founded and structured on righteousness, that society will enjoy new systems as directed by the heavenly government over it.
SEARCHING QUESTIONS IN ORDER
6, 7. How do the apostle’s words at 2 Peter 3:11, 12 bring up searching questions for us today?
6 Faced with such a prospect, how do we feel? Are our thoughts in line with those of the inspired apostle, who wrote: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion, awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah”?—2 Pet. 3:11, 12.
7 With that new order now so imminent, do you not incline to pause and ask yourself: ‘Really, what sort of person am I as to “holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion”? Am I truly the sort of person that God wants in his new order? Do I myself really want to live in an earth where “righteousness is to dwell,” prevailing throughout all the earth?’ These are soul-searching questions, but now is the time for them.
8, 9. What information about the New Order would some like to know, in view of the vast change it promises to bring?
8 Some, however, may incline to say: ‘If we just knew more about what life will be like in the New Order, more details, perhaps we could answer those questions better.’ True, the prospect of a genuinely new order excites wonderment and many questions easily come to mind. For example, some ask, ‘In that new order, who will supply all the services the present worldly systems have been providing? If all the present systems end in the coming “great tribulation,” how will the survivors communicate with one another around the earth? With mail, telephone, telegraph and radio systems gone, how could there be any unified direction of activities, as by an earthly governing body serving under the heavenly kingdom?’ Others ask: ‘How will people know where to live? Will it be a case of everyone just picking out the area he likes and settling there, in effect staking out a claim, as was done in the days of the “frontier West” of the United States? If not, how and by whom will land be assigned out?’
9 Still others wonder about transportation methods then, whether there will be automobiles, airplanes or other such powered means of travel. Among feminine questioners there may be more concern as to whether such conveniences as electric stoves, electric washing machines and similar devices will be available. And, for that matter, what about really fundamental things, such as clothing? When the clothing or shoes one is wearing at the time of survival wear out, where will new ones come from? Or if one wants to build, where will one obtain such things as hammer, nails, saw and other equipment now supplied by the systems of this present order?
10, 11. What is the answer to their questions, and what effect does this have on our preparing for life in the New Order?
10 Questions like these are multiple. But there is a simple and brief answer to them all. It is: God’s Word, the Bible, does not say and so we do not know.
11 But does this not put us at a disadvantage as to preparing for life in God’s new order? No, for we do not need this to prepare fully, since such questions deal with matters that are not at all vital to our preparation. What, then, are some of the truly vital things for us to concentrate on in our preparing ourselves for life in that coming new order?
MAINTAINING SOUNDNESS OF MIND
12. Why can we believe that the apostle’s counsel beginning at 1 Peter 4:7 fits us at this time?
12 “The end of all things has drawn close,” wrote the apostle Peter in his first letter (1 Pe 4:7). While the then existing Jewish system of things was due to end a few years after this letter was written (as the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its temple in the year 70 C.E. and brought to an effective end the Jewish priesthood and its functions and sacrifices), the apostle’s inspired words have prime application and significance for our time when an entire world order is due to end. The apostle’s many references in this letter to the time for the “revelation” of Jesus Christ assure this.—1 Pet. 1:5, 7, 13; 2:12; 4:13.
13. How can we, like Peter, keep “close in mind” Jehovah’s day, and why is this vital today?
13 The apostle followed his own counsel to be “awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah,” God’s time for ending the present world order and introducing his righteous new order. There is safety in keeping that time “close in mind,” not viewing it as far off, as allowing ample time for indulging oneself in selfish pursuits and still being able to ‘swing back’ to righteousness in time for escaping the global destruction. We are alive now; we have no way of knowing whether we will be alive tomorrow or next week. So the time for preparing ourselves for God’s new order is now.—Jas. 4:13-15.
14. What is the meaning of the counsel to “be sound in mind”?
14 In view of the now fast approaching end, on what should we focus attention? “Be sound in mind, therefore,” is the inspired writer’s counsel, “and be vigilant with a view to prayers.” (1 Pet. 4:7) In place of ‘being sound in mind’ other translations read “remain calm” (The New American Bible), “sane” (Revised Standard Version), “be of sound judgment” (New American Standard). The apostle Paul used the same Greek word used by Peter when urging, “Let us not sleep on as the rest do, but let us stay awake and keep our senses.” (1 Thess. 5:6) Obviously this is no time for being senseless, frivolous or rash in judgment. It is a time for sober thought and conduct.
15. (a) How can we test our ‘soundness of mind’ as regards our future hopes, including our viewpoint of such texts as Isaiah 65:21? (b) What fulfillments has this text already had?
15 We need to manifest that same soundness of mind as to our hope of life in God’s new order. Why are we striving for it? What draws us to that hope? Is it primarily material and physical benefits? Should it be? Perhaps a text like Isaiah 65:21 may come to mind: “And they will certainly build houses and have occupancy; and they will certainly plant vineyards and eat their fruitage.” On that basis should we envision ourselves living in great mansions, virtual palaces, and be attracted by this? Really the text only mentions “houses,” does it not? And that is what most of us live in today. Actually the prophecy had its initial fulfillment on Israel’s return from exile to the desolated, houseless, vineless land of Judah. After arrival, they built houses and planted vines. In our own day there has been a spiritual fulfillment of the prophecy since 1919, as God’s people who serve in the same way that Israel did as Jehovah’s witnesses (Isa. 43:10-12) came forth from a spiritual exile and began restoring their spiritual ‘land’ or field of activity and worship, building congregations and cultivating spiritual fruitfulness.
PRIME REASONS FOR DESIRING NEW ORDER
16. What point is here made as to the Bible’s appeal in its presentation of the hope of a new order?
16 Undoubtedly, after the “great tribulation” there will be much home building. And, free from the crushing burden of the present system and its commercial greed, the earthly survivors living in God’s new order will surely be able to build truly pleasant places of residence. What point is being made, then? This: That God’s Word does not set forth in any detail what those homes will be like, as to their size, their modesty or their grandeur. Throughout its pages it leaves this unstated. Why? Because its appeal is not materialistic; it places greater emphasis on other blessings as the important things to focus our prime attention on. Consider, for example, the delightful picture presented us at Psalm 85:10-13. Showing what God’s favor and blessing can result in for a land and its people, it says:
17, 18. (a) How does Psalm 85:10-13 illustrate this point? (b) What, then, are the features of New Order living that should have the greatest motivating force for us, and why?
17 “As for loving-kindness and trueness, they have met each other; righteousness and peace—they have kissed each other. Trueness itself will sprout out of the very earth, and righteousness itself will look down from the very heavens. Also, Jehovah, for his part, will give what is good, and our own land will give its yield. Before him righteousness itself will walk, and it will make a way by his steppings.”
18 Note that this picture draws its beauty primarily from spiritual blessings, with only brief mention of material blessings from the land’s “yield.” The spiritual blessings are what should make us yearn for God’s new order. It is because of these things that we should be willing to work, sacrifice, yes, and even die in order to gain life in God’s new order. For these spiritual things are what the present system has never given and will never give us. In place of “loving-kindness” the present order is at heart cold, greedy, using one as long as one serves its purpose and then casting that one aside as worn out and to be forgotten. It abounds in falsehood, hypocrisy, double-dealing and fraud, not in “trueness.” Righteousness and peace have certainly not “kissed each other” in the present order. But in God’s new order these spiritual blessings will be evident earth wide and will combine in beautiful harmony to make life genuinely delightful—for those whose hearts are righteous. The old order is capable of granting big homes, even mansions, to people, along with fine food—in some lands a remarkable number of people have these. But it has not and never will bring the loving-kindness, trueness, peace and righteousness distinguishing God’s new order.
19. What attitude is essential with regard to the New Order, and how can we show we have that attitude now?
19 Preparing for life in the approaching new order, then, calls for our keeping a right focus as to promised blessings and placing highest value always on the spiritual ones. If we do this, then when the storm of Armageddon finally passes, the rumble of its thunder fades away, and the earth stops shaking under the impact of divine fury expressed against the nations, we will come out from wherever Jehovah God has seen fit to preserve us and we will rejoice in the morning of a new day, the dawn of his new order. When we gaze around, possibly all that will meet our eyes may be rubble and ruin—but, if so, it should look beautiful to us. Why? Because we can then say from the depths of our hearts, ‘Thank God, finally the old order with all its corruption, cruelty and rebellion against God, is gone for all time! Now righteousness will dwell in the earth.’ We can show that this is the way we feel even now by not letting material things crowd out spiritual matters in our lives or become of greater attraction.
OBEDIENCE FROM THE HEART
20. What is something we definitely know about the New Order, and what does Revelation 20:11, 12 reveal?
20 In being “sound in mind,” we do well to meditate on some of the things we do know about the coming new order. We know that obedience to God’s sovereignty, expressed through his Kingdom government, will be required. At Revelation 20:11, 12, we are informed that during the thousand-year reign of God’s Son ‘scrolls will be opened.’ All those living, including those resurrected from the dead, will be judged “according to their deeds” as being in harmony or out of harmony with those “scrolls.” Scrolls, as dealt with in Bible prophecy, almost invariably refer to some revelation of God’s will, a revelation set out in written form. Thus it appears that during the millennial reign of Christ Jesus there will be further revelations of God’s will and purpose and that these will be in published form so that all may be informed. Then it will be up to each one to demonstrate his worthiness of life everlasting by harmonizing his deeds with those scrolls.
21, 22. (a) Why might some feel that, having survived the “great tribulation,” gaining life everlasting will then be relatively simple? (b) What important factor may be overlooked?
21 Survival of the “great tribulation,” therefore, does not necessarily guarantee survival to life everlasting. Nevertheless, some may feel that, once this old order is gone and, as the book of Revelation foretells, Satan and his demons are ‘abyssed,’ then the matter of being obedient will be relatively simple, almost a foregone conclusion. Is this being “sound in mind,” and does it prepare us for life in the New Order?
22 True, the passing of the old order with all its temptations and pressures toward evil will be a grand relief. So also will be the freedom from the war we now must wage against the “wicked spirit forces” invisibly dominating the present order. (Eph. 6:10-13) Yet are those two great sources of opposition to righteousness the only ones we have to contend with? Is there not another major source? Yes; and unlike those external sources this one is internal, within us. It is our inherited sinful nature, the legacy we have all received from Adam. And ‘soundness of mind’ will cause us to realize that this is the force that is probably the most dangerous, the decisive one. How so?
23. What does the origin of unrighteousness show as to the relative seriousness of external and internal forces that work in opposition to our obedience to God?
23 Consider the origin of unrighteousness, of disobedience to divine rule. True, in Eden, Eve was subjected to outside influence and she, in turn, exercised influence on her husband. But what of the one who initiated rebellion? What external influence operated on that spirit son of God to make him go bad? Certainly God neither tempted nor pressured him to do so, nor did anyone else. Yet that spirit son became a rebel against his heavenly Father. The source of his rebellion was—not external—but internal, from within his own heart. (Compare James 1:13-15.) So with us, no matter what adverse external forces there are, the decisive factor for faithfulness is within us, what we have in our hearts. This will still be true during the millennial period when persons are judged “according to their deeds.”
24. In what do some trust to make needed changes in their personality and habits? And what do we want to determine in a succeeding study?
24 One might say, however: ‘Well, I recognize that I have some bad habits, wrong traits and ways that I haven’t overcome as I should. But I’m sure that once we pass through the “great tribulation” I’ll be different—not perfect yet, of course, but different.’ Is this being “sound in mind”? Should we think that the awesomeness of the “great tribulation” and its Armageddon war will somehow work in us some corrective transformation as to our hearts? Consider the information that follows.