The Right Attitude Is a Safeguard
1. (a) When did Peter write urging Christians to ‘keep close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah’? (b) Thereafter, how long would it be before the coming of Jehovah’s “day”?
ABOUT the year 64 C.E. the apostle Peter wrote to the Christian congregation urging them to ‘keep close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah.’ When Christians first read those words it was yet about six years before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, before God’s “day” of judgment on that city. (Acts 2:14-21) It was more than 1,900 years before the presence of the “day” of Jehovah’s judgment of Christendom and the present system of things. Yet Peter’s words had an application to Christians living back then.
2, 3. Why was it vital for anointed Christians all through the past nineteen centuries to ‘keep close in mind Jehovah’s day’?
2 Why would Christians living so far from God’s “day” of final judgment need to feel this way? Because any other attitude would lead them into the snare of involvement with the world and into putting their trust and hope in worldly things. They were to keep in mind that the things around them were going to be destroyed. Besides, they would have to prove their integrity to God by ‘loving not the world or the things in the world,’ for they would, in time, die, and what would their record then be as spirit-begotten, anointed Christians, brothers of Jesus Christ?—1 John 2:15.
3 The question facing anointed Christians all through the past nineteen centuries has been, What is my record with Jehovah God now? Am I making God’s calling and choosing of me sure, so that I qualify to be one of his “royal priesthood,” with hopes of reigning with Christ? (1 Pet. 2:9; 2 Pet. 1:10; Rev. 20:4, 6) They did not have to be living in the “day of Jehovah” to be judged by Jehovah as worthy or unworthy of that heavenly position to which they were called.—Heb. 3:1.
4. Why do we today, and every day, need to give serious attention to what we are doing with our lives?
4 What about us today? Is it different because we are close to the end of this system of things? No, it is not a matter of waiting until the “great tribulation” is upon us. For how do we know that we shall be alive at that time? At James 4:15, the Bible reminds us: “You do not know what your life will be tomorrow. For you are a mist appearing for a little while and then disappearing.” If we take matters lightly, we do not know when our unreliable heart will pull us away. (Jer. 17:9) Furthermore, we do not know when conditions might come about that could catch us off guard, to our calamity, even before the “great tribulation” comes. How could that be? Let us see.
WHAT ENDURING TO THE END MEANS
5. (a) What is the meaning of Jesus’ statement, “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved”? (b) Of what fact concerning the possible “end” of one’s present life does Solomon remind us?
5 When Jesus spoke of the time in which the apostles lived and which prefigured the time in which we are living, he said: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” (Matt. 24:13) He was talking about the enduring of persecution, mounting lawlessness and world hatred. He said that some of his disciples would be killed during that persecution. But if a Christian endured all of this to the very death or to the finish of this violent state of world hostility, he would be saved because of his integrity. (Matt. 24:9-12) He might not live until the end of the system of things, but he would be judged as to whether he was a part of this world or not, no matter at what time the “end” was for him. (1 John 2:15; Jas. 4:4) Any one of us, whether of the spirit-begotten, anointed brothers of Jesus Christ, or of the “other sheep,” who entertain earthly hopes, young or old, can die very quickly, today or tomorrow, due to unforeseen circumstances, including a sudden outburst of religious persecution. Wise King Solomon spoke of the situation that confronts men in general when he said: “Time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all. For man also does not know his time. Just like fishes that are being taken in an evil net, and like birds that are being taken in a trap, so the sons of men themselves are being ensnared at a calamitous time, when it falls upon them suddenly.”—Eccl. 9:11, 12.
6. What “unforeseen occurrence” recently befell one of the members of the Society’s headquarters staff, but what had be been doing up till that time?
6 We have examples of how quickly our end, individually, can come, emphasizing the importance of being in a right position before God and of having a good standing in his favor at all times. Not long ago one of the members of the headquarters staff of the Watchtower Society was working in a Kingdom Hall in New York with another brother. He was approached by a young man who came into the hall and asked for information, which the Witness kindly gave him. Suddenly, under religious animosity, the young man whipped out a knife and stabbed the Witness to death. How good to know that he had been serving faithfully right up to that time!
7, 8. What should we learn from the experience of our brothers in Malawi?
7 Again, we have the experience of Jehovah’s witnesses in Malawi. Here was a country where people had responded marvelously to the Kingdom message. In 1972 there was a ratio of one of Jehovah’s witnesses to every 194 of Malawi’s population. During that year 1,617 new ones were baptized. We could say that there was real prosperity for the 447 congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses in that country, and for the more than 22,000 Witnesses actively associated with these congregations. There had been persecution in 1967, true. But one might have thought in 1972, ‘With such spiritual prosperity we are surely far from calamity.’ Yet, what befell the Witnesses in Malawi almost overnight? Because of their faithful neutrality toward the politics of this world their homes were burned, some of their women were raped, they were mobbed, some tortured or killed, and most were driven, with peril to their lives, to neighboring countries.
8 What do we learn from this? The Christian should live every day as though it might be the end of his present earthly life. He must make true Christianity a way of life, being closely knit with his brothers in the congregations, actively serving Jehovah with all his strength. For where would those Malawian Witnesses have been if they had been apathetic, negligent of their spiritual condition? Only those with spiritual strength could stand firm when the test came, and to the credit of the Malawian Witnesses, the great majority of them did so.
9. What is it that determines whether we will be found pleasing to Jehovah at the time when the “great tribulation” arrives?
9 God reveals to us what we need to know so that we can take a wise course and help others by alerting them to the danger and to the imminence of Jehovah’s “day.” But he has not told us exactly what year or what day, even what hour, he will begin the “great tribulation” on this world. (Matt. 24:36) It is not knowledge of the precise time when the “great tribulation” is to begin that determines whether we will be active in his service or not, or whether we will be living in a way pleasing to him or not. To please God, we must serve him at all times, the true motivation being, not the nearness of the end, but love for him as our wonderful heavenly Father.
WHY GOD’S TIMING IS RIGHT
10-12. (a) In what sense does Jehovah’s “day” come as a “snare”? (b) How do those who lose faith because things do not take place when they anticipate them show that they fail to appreciate the superiority of Jehovah’s position?
10 We have seen that the “great tribulation” comes suddenly. Jesus said that it comes as a “snare.” (Luke 21:34-36) An animal about to be caught in a snare may be unaware that he is even near danger, when suddenly he is hopelessly caught. The Bible is not warning us of a make-believe situation. It is real, and will take place exactly when and as it should. God has a time to destroy this system of things. But some get impatient and lose faith because things do not happen as they anticipate and God’s action seems to delay. This is because of the shortness of man’s life-span and his consequent impatience to get things done in the brief time that he has. As a result, he may be inclined to judge God on the basis of such human experience, with its limitations.—Hab. 2:3.
11 On the other hand, Jehovah lives forever. He does not need to become impatient. He can scan the situation and see precisely where in the stream of time his acts will accomplish the most good for everyone concerned and will thoroughly carry out his purpose as well.—Prov. 15:3.
12 Peter expresses the thought in this way: “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. 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.
13. (a) Who really benefits from the fact that Jehovah has not yet executed judgment on this system of things? (b) How is it true that “one day is with Jehovah as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day”?
13 So any seeming delay on Jehovah’s part is not for his personal benefit, nor because of any slowness to act. It is for the benefit of us humans. Jehovah could quickly destroy this world! As Peter notes, he can do more in one day than men could do in a thousand years. For example, when Jesus was on earth, he restored withered hands, blind eyes, even resurrected a man whose body was partly decomposed. He accomplished these mighty works instantaneously. But think how long it would have taken under ordinary circumstances for the man to grow another arm, or the resurrected man to replace decayed body parts by normal growth. Then, looking at matters the other way—to Jehovah, who lives forever, and who purposes things ages in advance, the passing of a thousand years is “as a watch during the night.” (Ps. 90:4) He is not limited by time, as we are. So if he acts in a manner that appears slow to us, we must keep in mind that it is in consideration for us, and is the very best way for all concerned.
14. Why do we not need to know exactly when Jehovah’s “day” will arrive, but what should we be doing?
14 The person understanding his position before God, having faith in God, does not need to be anxious. The apostle assures Christians: “Your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58) If we know his purpose, what his will is for us now, and what is the hope ahead. we do not have to know the exact timetable of events. No matter when Jehovah’s “day” arrives, we will be busy doing the divine will. Is that what you are determined to do?
DO YOU HAVE THE “MARK”?
15. (a) What is the “mark” that all who will be spared to life on earth in God’s new order must have? (b) What questions as to a person’s reaction to bad conditions in the world will help him to analyze whether he truly has the viewpoint that God requires?
15 Just before the destruction of ancient Jerusalem by the Babylonians, Jehovah gave Ezekiel a vision in which a symbolic man went through Jerusalem, setting a mark upon the foreheads of all who were “sighing and groaning over all the detestable things” that were being done in Jerusalem. (Ezek. 9:4) That was prophetic of a work that is being done today. Each one who professes to be of the “other sheep,” with hope of life here on earth in God’s new order, should ask himself: ‘Do I really have the mark? Does my life give evidence, just as clearly as a mark on my forehead, that I have a truly Christian personality? Do I really hate the bad things that I see going on, especially in Christendom? Do I feel bad simply because these things bring danger and inconvenience to me, or am I grieved because I see God’s name being reproached?’
16. (a) Although a person may always have been morally chaste, why does that in itself not mean that he has the “mark”? (b) Yet why is it vital to avoid sexual immorality?
16 Those who truly display the “mark” of the Christian personality are very careful lest the day of Jehovah overtake them practicing things that would classify them with lovers of the world. Is that true of you? For example, how do you really feel about such things as loose conduct, fornication and adultery? Regardless of what your past way of life may have been, are you now in full agreement with Jehovah’s judgment against those who practice such things? (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Heb. 13:4) Of course, some people have never committed such a thing. Yet this in itself does not mean that they are ‘marked’ for survival. Those who have the “mark” are not merely persons who avoid such conduct because it can lead to unpleasant consequences. They hate the wrong because it is a violation of Jehovah’s righteous ways. They realize, as faithful Joseph did, that fornication or adultery not only is defiling, but is actually a “great badness” and a “sin against God.” (Gen. 39:9) It is Jehovah’s viewpoint that is of chief concern to them. Knowing that sexual immorality is one of Satan’s chief snares, it is vital to avoid situations that may tempt a person to commit this sin and lose out when so near the portals of the New Order. Keep in mind the example of Israel in Moab on the borders of the Promised Land. Twenty-four thousand lost their lives there in the snare of sexual immorality.—Num. 25:1-9.
17. If we truly have the “mark,” what will be our attitude as to truthfulness, and why?
17 What about truthfulness? Do we really respect the truth, or are we willing to twist the truth a little bit, to get out of an inconvenient circumstance, or to get something we want? Lying is a common practice in business today. But where did lying originate? Jesus said that the Devil “is a liar and the father of the lie.” (John 8:44) A liar, therefore, is actually serving the Devil. But we give evidence that we have put on the new personality, that we truly have the “mark,” if we always speak the truth. God’s Word says: “Now that you have put away falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor.” (Eph. 4:25) Do you, in a tight spot, feel a temptation to lie as the easy way out? Or are you like the writer of Proverbs who said: “Untruth and the lying word put far away from me”?—Prov. 30:8.
18, 19. Why is more required than simply coming to meetings and associating with Jehovah’s witnesses, if we want to have a good conscience before God?
18 Many persons are newly coming into the way of the truth during this time near to the “day of Jehovah.” Previously they carried on practices harmful to their own minds and bodies. But now they are being baptized, making the request to God for a good conscience. (1 Pet. 3:21) If you are among those contemplating taking that step of baptism, or if you took the step some time ago, can you get or receive a good, clean conscience from God if you continue to engage in a practice that is known to have harmful effects on mind and body? Can you gain a clear conscience simply by associating with Jehovah’s witnesses, who endeavor to live by the Bible’s high standard of cleanliness, if at the same time you carry on a practice that they reject? Can you say that you are really one of them? Do you want to be?
19 A clean conscience is essential if you expect to receive favor and life from God. Therefore, in all things that we do our first consideration should be: How do these things reflect on God’s name? And second: How do these things reflect on his Christian congregation that represents his name and kingdom? Doing this will help us to maintain a good conscience in the course that we choose. We need to consider that God has made the Christian congregation a “pillar and support of the truth” in the earth. (1 Tim. 3:15) We should live in harmony with what that congregation teaches. Keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah will protect us from holding on to something that, in comparison with the glorious treasure of Jehovah’s favor, is “a lot of refuse.” (Phil. 3:8) It will cause a person to work to maintain a good conscience. He will keep his body under control, so that, after he has preached to others, he himself should not become disapproved by God.—1 Cor. 9:27.
AGAINST WHAT DID JESUS WARN HIS DISCIPLES?
20-23. (a) Against what things that could weaken our faith did Jesus warn, as shown at Luke 21:34-36? (b) Explain how these everyday concerns of life could have such a faith-destroying effect. (c) If we really want God’s spirit to direct us, where should we be?
20 However it is not necessarily the big things that may overthrow a person’s faith. Stressing the matter of everyday living by faith, the Lord Jesus Christ warned: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth. Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and in standing before the Son of man.”—Luke 21:34-36.
21 Against what kind of things was Jesus here warning? He was not speaking of such sins as fornication, adultery and thievery. Such things would, of course, keep one out of the kingdom of God. But Jesus was warning them against common things that can easily affect any of us, involving eating, drinking and the daily cares of life. But all of these are very easy to indulge in to a sinful excess. Therein lie their subtlety and peril. A person can easily be deceived into thinking he is taking a safe course, and then be caught unawares. An individual can become involved and entangled in the affairs of this world and the anxieties that such bring, with serious damage to his spirituality. He can become overly concerned with acquiring things of this life that he may think he needs. He may get to feeling that he has to have ‘the best’ of all the conveniences and comforts that the world in general has. He may feel that it justifies his working extra time at a secular occupation in order to get them.
22 As a result, he neglects his spiritual life; he does not take time to study; he fails to give needed help to his family to keep them spiritually healthy; he loses out on association with his Christian brothers. Consequently he has little zeal for the field service. Even what he does is usually a perfunctory service, not putting himself out to aid others to become disciples. He really demonstrates that he does not actually believe that Christ is reigning and that the day of Jehovah is at hand.
23 On the other hand, if a person is truly making supplication to God, he desires God’s spirit to be upon him, to guide him. He will put himself where God’s spirit is active, associating with and being a real companion and fellow worker of those who have God’s spirit.
PROPER MOTIVATION FOR PREACHING WORK
24. What motivated Jesus in his preaching of the “good news”?
24 What motivated Jesus Christ, the greatest Preacher ever on earth? His love for Jehovah and for Jehovah’s “sheep.” “On seeing the crowds,” Matthew reports at Mt chapter 9, verse 36, “he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” Did Jesus merely feel bad about them, or merely speak to his disciples about their pitiful state? No. He loved the people from his heart, and it motivated him to act strenuously in their behalf. The very next words of Matthew’s account (Mt 9 vss. 37, 38) read: “Then he said to his disciples: ‘Yes, the harvest is great, but the workers are few. Therefore, beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.’” And Jesus and his disciples did reap a great harvest. At Acts 4:4 we find that the number of men who believed by that time was about five thousand, and later, at Acts 6:7, we read: “Consequently the word of God went on growing, and the number of the disciples kept multiplying in Jerusalem very much; and a great crowd of priests began to be obedient to the faith.”
25, 26. (a) In view of the need of the people to learn the truth, what questions face each one of us? (b) As illustrated by the experience of a couple in Ireland, what should motivate us to keep on preaching?
25 Similarly today, the need is very great. Never were the people all over the world in more dire need of the truth. So, each of us faces the questions, Do I love Jehovah’s scattered “sheep”? Am I willing, not merely to condemn and decry the bad conditions, but to do something, the only thing that will really help these people? Do I love Jehovah enough to prove my love in that way?
26 A Christian who, with his wife, had served as a pioneer minister of Jehovah’s witnesses in Ireland for fourteen years said: ‘Day after day we would go all day long from house to house and not find one response. At night when I came home I had to keep asking myself, Why am I doing this? And the answer always had to be, Because I love Jehovah.’
27. If we face indifference or opposition in our ministry, what Scriptural counsel can we beneficially call to mind?
27 What about yourself? Do you face indifference or opposition in your territory? If so, remember the apostle Paul’s words at Hebrews 10:36-39: “You have need of endurance, in order that, after you have done the will of God, you may receive the fulfillment of the promise. For yet ‘a very little while,’ and ‘he who is coming will arrive and will not delay.’ ‘But my righteous one will live by reason of faith,’ and, ‘if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’ Now we are not the sort that shrink back to destruction, but the sort that have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.”
28. So how should we feel about the privilege of being witnesses of Jehovah?
28 In view of all these things, then, it is good for all of us to examine ourselves to be sure of the spirit we have. If we have become baptized witnesses of Jehovah, we certainly do not want to develop a negative attitude toward the glorious position in which we stand. This grand favor of Jehovah should motivate us to have a burning interest in others and a desire to help others. It should impel us to be whole-souled in our service to Jehovah. (Eccl. 9:10) Having the treasure of the truth in our possession, and being favored with the Christian ministry, we cannot afford now to shirk our responsibility by an apathetic manner of reasoning or by excuses.
29. What will enable us to look forward to Jehovah’s “day” with joyful confidence?
29 Jehovah encourages us through the prophet Isaiah, saying: “Here I am laying as a foundation in Zion a stone, a tried stone, the precious corner of a sure foundation. No one exercising faith will get panicky.” (Isa. 28:16) Back there in Isaiah’s day the people trusted in a false peace and security. But today, we know that the King Jesus Christ is ruling and that the glorious new order of true peace and security is near at hand. If we exercise faith we will be firm, not shaken by doubts. There is no doubt about what is required of us to live in that new order. Firm faith coupled with “holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion” will assure us salvation. Thus we will stand approved before the Son of man when Jehovah’s fiery “day” arrives.