Serve with Eternity in View
1, 2. (a) What view do individuals and nations have about the future? (b) Why are some not even inclined to think about their future?
IS IT not common today to meet persons whose basic theme in life, as revealed by what they say or do, is: “Enjoy yourself while you can; who knows what tomorrow will bring?” Even many nations seem to follow that idea. One of Europe’s most influential economists accused his government of pursuing a policy of “After us the deluge”—that is, plan and spend money with only today in view, not the future.
2 And many people are so disenchanted with the goals and accomplishments of the “establishment” that they are not interested in a future of just more of the same. In 1972 one college professor observed that “young adults do not seem interested enough in their own personal future.” He added: “Youth lacks what social scientists call ‘goal orientation,’ and they frequently appear to be frittering away their time with everything from drugs and protest to life-style experiments and pointless projects or pleasures.” Then there are other persons who would rather not even think about the future because of the ever more terrifying warnings about pollution, crime, famine and war.
3. What realization moves many persons to live just for the present?
3 Even if the major nations made startling breakthroughs in international relations, so that the foretold significant announcement of “peace and security” appeared certain, many persons would still ‘live just for the moment.’ (1 Thess. 5:3) They believe that they might as well get all they can out of life while they have it, since science (in which they have trusted) cannot prevent death. For example, commenting on science’s findings, one reporter admitted that Tübingen professor Friedhelm Schneider has established that “nothing supports [the view] that death is tied to the concept of life as a physical necessity.” And the reporter acknowledged that current evidence is that “with the right mixture of cell hormones in each cell one would die no more.” Still, he was compelled to add, “Except: At present there is no possibility of producing this right mixture!” So, for most people it is ‘Live for today!’ since death appears to be inevitable.
4. (a) Is this the view of Jehovah’s witnesses? (b) But what does each of us need to consider?
4 What a vastly different outlook, though, is found among the Christian witnesses of Jehovah! It is not a fatalistic “let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die.” (1 Cor. 15:32) Rather, they are intensely interested in the future, looking forward to it. In fact, their whole life and thinking revolve around, not a finite, limited existence, but around eternity. However, is that so with you individually? In order to see how it can be so, let us consider “eternity” as respects God and his purposes.
ETERNITY INHERENT IN OUR WORSHIP
5. Why is eternity fundamental to our worship?
5 It can fittingly be said that Christian worship pivots around eternity, for our God is himself eternal. For humans, that may be hard to conceive—God never having a beginning. But just consider the mountains, the whole earth, and, yes, the entire universe. Are these new, recent? Scientists date the universe in thousands of millions of years. So would not their Creator extend back even beyond that? Understandably, the apostle Paul wrote that Jehovah’s “eternal power and Godship” are evident from what He has created.—Rom. 1:20.
6. What does the Bible indicate about God’s future?
6 God’s eternity also extends into the future. The writers of both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Greek Scriptures knew that God will never die, hence, that Jehovah will reign for all eternity to come. The psalmist proclaimed: “Jehovah is King to time indefinite [Heb., ‘ohlam], even forever [Heb., ‘adh].” (Ps. 10:16; Ex. 15:18) And in the final book of the Bible the apostle John quoted voices out of heaven that said about the Lord Jehovah: “He will rule as king forever and ever.” The writer John here used the plural form of the Greek phrase, which literally means “to the ages of the ages.” (Rev. 11:15; 1 Tim. 1:17) With regard to the future, then, John knew unquestionably that our Creator will reign “into the ages of the ages.” (Kingdom Interlinear Translation) What can this mean both now and in the future for you?
7. Is eternal existence linked with all of God’s living creation on earth? And what about man?
7 Not all of God’s living creation is eternal. We know that plants, even long-lived trees, eventually die. (1 Pet. 1:24) And there is no Biblical evidence that God purposed for individual animals to live forever. Yet it was different with humans. God held out to our first parents the prospect of never dying. By obedience they could have hoped to live eternally. (Gen. 2:17) God’s purpose in this regard was not interrupted by man’s fall into sin. But the Bible shows that His purpose to have obedient humans living forever on earth is definitely going to be realized. That will be accomplished by means of God’s kingdom, which, as described in Revelation 12:1-5, was born in heaven in 1914 C.E. Yes, since then it has been appropriate to say: “The kingdom of the world did become the kingdom of our Lord.”—Rev. 11:15.
ETERNAL RULERS IN THE KINGDOM
8. Why is God’s kingdom stressed in the Bible?
8 This kingdom, the means by which eternal life is possible for us, is a heavenly government. Jesus himself is the chief Ruler, and he is to have 144,000 corulers who have been chosen from mankind and called by God to heavenly life. (Rom. 8:16, 17; Luke 22:29; Rev. 5:9, 10; 14:1) The paramount importance of this kingdom is seen in the emphasis that God put on it in the Bible. It was the chief subject of Jesus’ preaching. (Matt. 4:23) Also, it is to the spirit-anointed Christians who will rule in that kingdom that most of the Christian Greek Scriptures is directed, including the promises of everlasting life.
9. How can we see what John meant by “life everlasting” in 1 John 2:25?
9 For instance, the apostle John wrote in 1 John 2:25: “This is the promised thing that he himself promised us, the life everlasting.” Did he mean everlasting life on earth, or immortal life in heaven? John realized that God’s purpose from the time of Adam was to have the earth filled with true worshipers who would receive everlasting life. But in these words John was speaking to Christians who had been anointed with holy spirit and called to heavenly life. (1 John 2:20) Thus, he went on to say: “As yet it has not been made manifest what we shall be. We do know that whenever he [God] is made manifest we shall be like him, because we shall see him just as he is.”—1 John 3:2.
10. In promising that his disciples would “never see death,” what did Jesus mean?
10 A similar promise of eternal life is found in Jesus’ statement: “Most truly I say to you, If anyone observes my word, he will never see death at all.” (John 8:51; 6:51, 58; 11:25, 26; 12:25) Christ obviously did not mean that the faithful apostles and others who soon would be anointed with holy spirit would never grow old or die. He knew that in order for them to receive heavenly life they must die. Some months earlier Jesus had told them that he himself would die and then be resurrected. (Matt. 16:21; 17:22, 23; John 2:19-22) All of his anointed followers, too, had to die to become immortal rulers in his kingdom. (1 Cor. 15:42-44, 49, 53; 2 Tim. 4:18) Then how would such ones “never see death at all”? In that by being faithful until death they would never be harmed by the second death, as borne out by Revelation 2:10, 11. Thus, after being resurrected, they will forever be kings in heaven, to the benefit of all of God’s servants on earth. (Rev. 22:5) What a blessing!
11. How can we be sure that everlasting life on earth is possible for persons alive at this time?
11 This hope of everlasting life, however, is not limited to those who are part of the heavenly kingdom. Not at all. In speaking about this time or the generation seeing the establishment of the Kingdom, Jesus definitely promised everlasting earthly life. This is the time for separating the “sheep” from the “goats.” (Matt. 25:31-33) And what reward did Jesus hold out for the “sheep” who help and serve with his anointed “brothers” but who are not themselves such “brothers” of Christ who have heavenly life in view? He promised that these righteous ones will enter into “everlasting life,” yes, life right here on earth. (Matt. 25:46) What a thrilling prospect, living forever on earth, which God has purposed to become a paradise! But how much does that really mean to you? Do you show that you believe it? Does it influence your daily decisions? your attitude toward your job? what subjects you choose in school? whether you will get married soon? Yes, are you living with eternity in view?
MORE THAN GLIMMERINGS OF EVERLASTING LIFE
12. In what sense are we particularly privileged?
12 The possibility of being numbered among the “sheep” who will enter into everlasting life on earth without dying should stimulate your devotion to God. Why, you are in position to experience things of which many faithful servants of God in past centuries could see only glimmerings. Note how this was so with King David.
13 In Psalm 37:11, 29 David wrote: “The meek ones themselves will possess the earth, . . . The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” In saying this he evidently drew upon what should have been the case with regard to the Promised Land in his days and in the following generations. According to God’s covenant with Abraham, the wicked pagans who had lived in the land should be cleared out. (Gen. 15:18-21; 17:8; Deut. 7:22; Josh. 21:43-45) Thus each successive generation of righteous worshipers making up the nation of Israel could have resided on the land, the portion of the earth that God gave to them. (Deut. 30:20) We know, however, that the majority of the Israelites proved unfaithful, and so they did not carry out God’s purpose in that regard. In fact, finally God let the Assyrians and Babylonians conquer and depopulate the land temporarily.
14 What David wrote in Psalm 37, though, was also a glimmering of the prospect that Christians today can have. That David’s words had a broader, large-scale application to the Kingdom rule of the entire earth is seen in the fact that at Matthew 5:5 Jesus quoted from Psalm 37. Did Christ say that its fulfillment was all in the past? No, for he projected it into the future, saying that the ‘mild-tempered will inherit the earth.’ Yes, those mild-tempered ones who are to be with Christ in his heavenly kingdom will rule over this earth. (Rev. 5:9, 10) Jesus knew that the Kingdom would rule the earth in righteousness forever. So, the earth itself will be populated by “righteous” ones who will “reside forever upon it.” Thus, by inspiration, David had described what the finale will be when Jehovah carries out his purpose for our earth. Christians can rejoice that the things of which David saw just glimmerings, and could personally share in only by means of a future resurrection, they can experience. Those whom the Lord puts on his right hand as “sheep” have the opportunity to “reside forever” on a paradise earth governed forever from heaven.
15. What was Micah’s attitude with regard to worshiping Jehovah, and what does this mean for us?
15 How fitting, then, that we focus our thinking, plans and hopes on serving Jehovah with eternity in view! Think how much David, Abraham and prophets such as Isaiah and Micah would have thrilled to be alive now with such a privilege. In describing prophetically the restoration of pure worship among the Jews after their return from exile in 537 B.C.E., Micah indicated the attitude that he and other true worshipers had: “For all the peoples, for their part, will walk each one in the name of its god; but we, for our part, shall walk in the name of Jehovah our God to time indefinite, even forever.” (Mic. 4:1-5; Isa. 65:18) He was absolutely determined to worship God eternally. At that time Micah did not have everlasting life. Up to then death was a unavoidable experience for mortal men. Yet Micah was going to serve God right up to the day he died, and upon resurrection in the New Order he would carry on his service as if it were uninterrupted. What a fine view for Micah to have! But should not we, many of whom have the prospect actually to walk in the name of God forever, uninterrupted, have the same outlook?
NOT SERVING JUST UNTIL SOME DATE
16. Those who became Christians in the first century C.E. had what view of their service?
16 Whether we personally have the prospect of life in heaven with Jesus or in an earthly paradise, it is vital to remember that, not any set date, but eternity is our goal. We can, in this respect, imitate those who were Christians prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. They rightly expected the end of the Jewish system of things to occur soon, during the “great tribulation” that Jesus said would come in that generation. (Matt. 24:3, 21, 22, 34) But had they decided, when they repented and became Christians, to serve only until some date or event? By no means. What they had learned and accepted, such as what Peter preached to Cornelius and his household, was not that they were to be Christians only until some approaching date arrived. Rather, God “granted repentance for the purpose of life,” endless life as Christians.—Acts 10:34-43; 11:18.
17. How did Jude manifest this view?
17 Hence, when Jesus’ half brother Jude wrote his inspired letter around 65 C.E., about one year before the Romans attacked Jerusalem for the first time, he did not mention some terminal date. Instead, he wrote: “Keep yourselves in God’s love, while you are waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ with everlasting life in view.” (Jude 20, 21) He knew that the goal was to serve God forever. Whether the “tribulation” on the Jewish system came in two years, or three, or beyond that, would not affect the fact that they were going to keep right on serving God.
18. (a) Where do we stand in the stream of time? (b) What does Bible chronology indicate, without setting dates?
18 And it is the same today among true Christians who realize from the fulfillment of Bible prophecy that the end of this entire wicked system of things is near at hand. True, the most accurate Bible chronology available indicates that 6,000 years of human existence will end in the mid-1970’s.* So these Christians are intensely interested to see if that will coincide with the outbreak of the “great tribulation” of our day that will eliminate all wicked ones on earth. It could. But they are not even attempting to predict exactly when the destruction of Satan’s wicked system of things will occur. They are content to wait and see, realizing that no human on earth knows the date.—Matt. 24:36.
19. This leads to what outlook among God’s servants today?
19 Jehovah’s Christian witnesses are confident that God is going to bring the end of this ungodly system in HIS due time. When the “great tribulation” begins, we will be able to recognize it. So instead of speculating about a certain date, as if serving with that date as a goal, we can concentrate on the important preaching work that Jesus said his disciples would do in this time period. (Mark 13:10) Thus, whenever the “tribulation” breaks out, we will be found busy and zealously carrying out the assignment we have. And our “sights” for the future will not be on some date, but we will be serving with eternity in view, just as Jude urged Christians to do.
REFLECT ETERNAL WORSHIP IN YOUR CONDUCT AND DECISIONS
20, 21. (a) What might a person’s life indicate about his view of the future? (b) Is this the wise outlook to have?
20 Our firm belief that we can serve God forever should also be evident in matters other than our preaching. It should influence our daily thoughts and deeds. This is mentioned because a person might say that he agrees with all that we have considered up to this point but then manifest by his daily life that it still does not affect his thoughts and actions. He might show that actually he is living only for NOW. How sad that would be!
21 The very fact that true worshipers can have a place in Jehovah’s eternal purpose proves how fleeting now is. It is comparable to one half inch on a measuring stick that extends for thousands of miles, if you can picture that. Would it be sensible to govern one’s whole life by the half inch, as if that were the principal thing? How much more balanced and wise is the one who lives now so as to live forever, and who measures and evaluates things in terms of how they will affect his everlasting welfare!
22, 23. (a) The Scriptures help Christians to understand what about marriage? (b) In contrast to the world, what attitude do Christian youths who serve with eternity in view have toward marriage?
22 One example to illustrate living with eternity in view involves marriage. The inclination on the part of young men and women toward marriage is understandable. Marriage is an arrangement that God provided and it has many blessings. But among imperfect humans it also has its problems and limitations. (1 Cor. 7:28) The apostle Paul understood this, and he recommended singleness for Christians who could maintain that state without being persistently disturbed by passion. Such single persons would be able to give ‘constant attention to the Lord without the distractions’ associated with married life. And Paul said that this advantage of singleness was specially valuable because “the time left is reduced.”—1 Cor. 7:29-38.
23 For many young persons who have no faith in the possibility of serving God everlastingly, the attitude is, ‘Why bother with self-control. If we want to enjoy sex or to get married, let’s do it. Who knows what the future will bring?’ But the young Christian who is really serving with eternity in view is in no such rush. He is willing to wait until he is “past the bloom of youth” to decide if it would be better for him to marry or not. In the meantime he can experience the advantage of singleness: “undivided devotion to the Lord.” (1 Cor. 7:35, Revised Standard Version) If in time he decides to marry, he then will be better prepared to handle the responsibilities involved. His serving with eternity in view thus helps him to avoid living only for “now.” And note, it is reflected in his everyday decisions.
24. How does “eternity” affect one’s outlook on material goods?
24 One’s belief in serving eternally should also affect one’s view of money and possessions. Many people in the world have a ‘get it while you can’ attitude toward these. And advertisements constantly stress buying new things now. But how do you react? What is your view? When you are tempted along these materialistic lines, does eternity come into the picture? It should, for after showing the dangers of loving money and material possessions, the Bible recommends thinking about everlasting life. (1 Tim. 6:6-12) So when directly or subtly pressured toward obtaining more money or possessions, ask yourself: ‘A thousand years from now, will I regret having decided against taking an extra job that would enable me to buy a new car or boat?’ Or ask, ‘A million years into the New Order, will I look back and feel I made the wrong decision in turning down overtime work so I would not miss any of my Christian meetings?’ Yes, eternity should influence our daily lives and thinking.
25. The right view of eternity is of what value when enduring various trials?
25 This same outlook—serving with eternity in view—will aid Christians to endure joyfully. Though opposition, sickness and old age can be difficult tests to endure, measured against eternity, this endurance is but momentary. We can have eternity before us, just as the apostle expressed it: “Even if the man we are outside is wasting away, certainly the man we are inside is being renewed from day to day. For though the tribulation is momentary and light, it works out for us a glory that is of more and more surpassing weight and is everlasting; while we keep our eyes, not on the things seen, but on the things unseen. For the things seen are temporary, but the things unseen are everlasting.”—2 Cor. 4:16-18; Matt. 19:29.
26. What, then, is the Christian view to have of the future?
26 As Christians, then, let us strive each day to remember that our God is eternal and that we should serve him with eternity in view. And he will aid us by increasing our knowledge of his eternal truth and giving us of his holy spirit, which is promised to his servants as a helper forever. (2 John 2; John 14:16, 17) Thus our service to him will not be just for now, or for a limited life-span. Rather, we will serve him eternally, for to him be “the glory . . . into all the generations of the age of the ages.”—Eph. 3:20, 21, Kingdom Interlinear Translation.
See Aid to Bible Understanding, pages 322-348.