Keep Looking, Keep Moving Forward with Jehovah
“My word that goes forth from my mouth will . . . certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it.”—Isa. 55:11.
1. What basis do we have for confidence that Jehovah will carry out his purposes?
WITHOUT a question of doubt, Jehovah always crowns his purposes with sure success. His Word, as well as the history of humankind, testifies to Jehovah’s having done so in times past, assuring us of his continued interest in carrying out the original Kingdom prophecy and promise made in Eden. And even as Jehovah keeps looking ever forward, so must we. Giving us many powerful reasons for looking forward are the many prophecies yet to be fulfilled.
2. What vital work has been assigned to us, and whose assistance do we have in accomplishing it?
2 However, not only do we want to keep looking forward with Jehovah God but we also want to keep moving forward with him, for he has much work for his servants on earth to do. Part of that work is preaching the good news of God’s kingdom so that people can identify themselves as being either for it or against it. (Matt. 24:14; 25:31-46) As Revelation 14:6, 7 shows, the burden of this preaching work is not wholly on the shoulders of God’s earthly servants; they have the help of angelic forces, both in directing and in maneuvering matters.
3. What obligation do we have toward fellow believers?
3 As Christ’s true followers, commissioned to carry forth this activity, we must be loyal and true to one another. We want to be as helpful as we possibly can to one another, for we have a greater obligation to minister to one another than to minister to those on the outside. “Really, then, as long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” (Gal. 6:10) Who knows how long we will have time favorable for it? So let us do all the good we can toward one another before severe economic conditions or bitter persecution may restrict our efforts. Then, should hard times strike us, we will have the attitude needed to continue aiding and encouraging one another. So let us be willing to put up with one another’s weaknesses and shortcomings. Instead of being touchy and complaining, let us be willing to suffer for the sake of righteousness, for the sake of peace in the congregation. Yes, “do not heave sighs against one another, brothers, so that you do not get judged,” adversely.—Jas. 5:9.
WHAT LIES IMMEDIATELY AHEAD?
4, 5. (a) What things lie immediately ahead of us? (b) Of what can we be certain regarding the “great tribulation”?
4 Among the things that lie immediately ahead of us is the execution of God’s judgments on “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion. (Rev. 17:15-18) This marks the beginning of the “great tribulation.” (Matt. 24:21) The true footstep followers of Jesus Christ and their companions will survive this. Then what? Satan and his forces, under the symbol of Gog of Magog, will attack God’s people, being envious of their peace and prosperity. This will be the signal for the heavenly forces under Jesus Christ to proceed against the Devil’s visible forces, marking the beginning of “the war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Har–Magedon. (Rev. 16:14, 16) That battle will be marked by fratricidal warfare, pestilence, hailstones, lightning, fire and sulphur, tidal waves and earthquakes, all of which will be in vindication of Jehovah God’s rightful sovereignty.—Ezek. 38:14-23.
5 Regardless of what happens we can be certain that Jehovah will deliver his people. So long as we truly know and unselfishly serve Jehovah God we will have no cause for fear. As a class we will survive the “great tribulation,” to form the foundation of the new earth.
6. Why can we say that the period of the “great tribulation” will be a time of exultation for us, and how should this affect us even now?
6 Another thing we can be certain of is that the period of the “great tribulation,” the day of Jehovah, will be a time for exultation. Think of the gratitude for Jehovah’s means of salvation that Noah and his family must have experienced as the rain began to fall; think of the joy the Israelites must have felt as they escaped to the other side of the Red Sea and then saw Pharaoh and his army engulfed in that sea. God’s war at Har–Magedon will be far more stupendous than were those great saving acts of Jehovah. True, the “great tribulation” will be fear-inspiring and accompanied by a measure of hardships. But God’s servants will be thrilled to witness what they have been proclaiming and looking forward to for many years. It will truly be something to recount with joy and satisfaction to those raised from the dead. The very thought of it should stimulate our zeal in making known the fast-approaching day of Jehovah.
STEPPING INTO THE CLEANSED EARTH
7. (a) With what kind of parents will humankind be blessed? (b) What kind of men will represent the heavenly rulers, with what results?
7 What a pleasure it will be to step forward after the “great tribulation” into the cleansed earth and to experience the start of the thousand-year reign of Christ and his bride composed of 144,000 men and women purchased from the earth! They will be turning their attention to humankind, with a view to raising a large family of perfect sons and daughters. What loving parents these will be! Moved by love and compassion, they will begin their parental activities, giving the guidance and help needed for the tribulation survivors to overcome their weaknesses and imperfections. Then, after Jesus Christ raises the dead to life, the bride will work along with him in aiding the resurrected ones to start growing to perfection. By means of what Christ and his bride will be doing for humankind, the tent or tabernacle of Jehovah God will be with men. (Rev. 21:1-4) To represent them on earth they will have faithful men as princes. (Ps. 45:16) These princes will not be like the corrupt, self-seeking politicians that have governed people for many centuries. Rather, they will be like the ones whom Moses was told to choose: “Capable men, fearing God, trustworthy men, hating unjust profit.” (Ex. 18:21) These will provide a just and loving administration, with security and comfort for all.—Isa. 32:1, 2.
8. What conditions can we expect in God’s new order, and why?
8 The ungodly world having been destroyed and Satan and his demons abyssed, there will be no more wickedness, no more false religion, no more demonic activities. ‘No one will do any harm or bring about any ruin in all God’s holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters cover the very sea.’ (Isa. 11:9) Not only will there be peace between all peoples and races, but there will be peace between men and the rest of earth’s creatures: “For them I shall certainly conclude a covenant in that day in connection with the wild beast of the field and with the flying creature of the heavens and the creeping thing of the ground, . . . and I will make them lie down in security.” Humankind will exercise a loving dominion; man will not fear the animals, and the animals will have no morbid fear of man. The whole earth will reflect the glory of its Creator, who is the “God who gives peace,” and of Jesus Christ, who is the “Prince of Peace.”—Hos. 2:18; Rom. 16:20; Isa. 9:6.
THE RESURRECTION HOPE
9. Why can we be certain of the resurrection of the dead?
9 Also with the utmost assurance we can look forward to the resurrection of the dead. Why? Because God has given us many promises to that effect, and he cannot lie. (Titus 1:2) Moreover, he has furnished to all men a guarantee of it in that he raised Jesus from the dead. (Acts 17:31) The resurrection is so sure of taking place that Jehovah counts those dead as being actually alive, even as Jesus told the doubting Sadducees of his day.—Matt. 22:31, 32.
10. What will be resurrected, and from where?
10 What will be resurrected? Not the body that died, for it has returned to the dust and may have become part of other living things. As the apostle Paul shows: “What you sow is not made alive unless first it dies; and as for what you sow, you sow, not the body that will develop, but a bare grain,” and “God gives it a body just as it has pleased him.” (1 Cor. 15:35-38) Yes, not a body made up of the same molecules, but the soul—the person—will be raised from gravedom, Sheol or Hades, even as it was foretold regarding Jesus: “You will not leave my soul in Sheol.”—Ps. 16:10; Acts 2:24-27.
11. (a) What is the first resurrection? (b) Who share in it, and when?
11 What kind of body will the resurrected soul or person have? For those sharing in the first resurrection it will be a glorious, divine, incorruptible body. The first resurrection is first in time, importance and quality, and is experienced by the anointed footstep followers of Christ, the 144,000 shown standing upon Mount Zion. (Rev. 20:4, 6; 14:1, 3) Regarding the resurrection of sleeping anointed ones during the Lord’s presence, we read: “The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first.” (1 Thess. 4:16) Concerning the remaining ones of this group who die after that resurrection, Paul goes on to say: “Afterward we the living who are surviving will, together with them, be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:17; Rev. 14:13) As shown at 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52, this means that they do not fall asleep in death, but are instantly raised to heavenly life and united with the Lord Jesus Christ in the invisible heavens.
12. Who else will be resurrected, and when might the resurrection of certain ones among them be expected?
12 What about the rest of dead mankind? The apostle Paul testified that “there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” Similarly, Jesus foretold that “all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice” and come forth. Further, we are told that “death and Hades” will give up all the dead in them. Included among these will be the sympathetic evildoer impaled alongside Jesus and to whom Jesus said: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.” (Acts 24:15; John 5:28, 29; Rev. 20:13; Luke 23:42, 43) In view of their evidently being assigned as earthly representatives of the Kingdom, faithful men from Abel on to John the Baptist will likely be among the first to be resurrected. (Ps. 45:16) Any of those who have met God’s requirements for surviving the “great tribulation” but who have died or may yet die before that event will doubtless also be raised to life early during the thousand-year reign. This would be reasonable, as such persons could be very helpful in educating the many unrighteous ones who will be resurrected.
13. With what characteristics will dead humankind be resurrected?
13 What about those coming back to live on the earth? What kind of bodies will they have? What will they look like? As illustrated by past resurrections, especially that of Lazarus, they will no doubt look much like they did before they died, so as to be recognizable to themselves and others. (John 11:39-44) A tall person will not come back as a short person, nor will a very old person come back looking like a teen-ager. Men will be men, and women, women. They will have their identical personalities and the same memory. As was evidently true of those resurrected in the past, the resurrected ones will have sound and complete bodies. They will not come back in the sickly condition that led to their death. But this does not mean that they will have perfect bodies, for such would not go with imperfect personalities. Rather, they will come forth with imperfect bodies and, as they make spiritual progress, overcoming their weaknesses and imperfections through obedience to Kingdom rule and their receiving the atoning benefits of Jesus’ sacrifice, their bodies will come ever closer to perfection.
14, 15. (a) The resurrections of the dead is an expression of what on God’s part, according to whose words? (b) How will Jesus feel about resurrecting the dead?
14 The resurrection provision is an expression of love on the part of Jehovah God, as seen from the words of patient and faithful Job: “If an able-bodied man dies can he live again? . . . You will call, and I myself shall answer you. For the work of your hands you will have a yearning.” Yes, Jehovah God has a yearning for those in Sheol or Hades, in particular for those who, like Job, proved their integrity to him under severe trials.—Job 14:14, 15.
15 And surely the resurrection of countless millions will also bring great joy to Jesus Christ. Indicative of Jesus’ willingness and pleasure to do this for humankind is his response to a leper who once came to Jesus, saying to him in faith: “Lord, if you just want to, you can make me clean.” And what did Jesus say to him? “‘I want to. Be made clean.’ And immediately the leprosy vanished from him.”—Luke 5:12, 13.
16. How can looking ahead in faith to the resurrection help us even now?
16 Truly the resurrection is also something for us to look forward to with eager anticipation and joy. Our doing so in faith can be a real source of encouragement and blessing to us and fellowmen even now. When death claims loved ones, we will not give way to the extremes of grief and sorrow of those having no hope. (1 Thess. 4:13, 14) We will be able to give genuine comfort to mourning ones. (2 Cor. 1:3, 4) Because of having made the resurrection hope our own, we have the confidence that even if men take our lives, they cannot wipe us out from God’s memory and prevent our being raised from the dead. (Matt. 10:28) This serves to strengthen us in remaining loyal to Jehovah God regardless of what men might do to us.—Rev. 2:10; 12:11.
17. What effect should the possibility of losing out on the reward of life have on us?
17 A further incentive to faithfulness is the fact that there is a possibility of losing out on the reward of life. (Compare 2 Timothy 4:8.) The Bible reveals that deliberate practicers of sin—those who sin against God’s spirit—will not be raised from the dead. (Matt. 12:31, 32; Heb. 10:26, 27) This should certainly encourage us to imitate the apostle Paul’s example in striving to maintain faithfulness. Paul said of himself: “I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.” (1 Cor. 9:27) Yes, may we never lose sight of the reward of life and fail to exert ourselves in sticking loyally to Jehovah God.
KEEP LOOKING, KEEP MOVING FORWARD
18. Since we are in a race, how should we comport ourselves?
18 Truly we have much for which to look forward. How bright the prospects are, not only for the immediate future but also for the thousand years ahead! Our course has been likened to a race and it might be said that we are on the homestretch of it. What does a race suggest? Does it not suggest intense effort and concentration on the goal, that of winning the race? In fact, this is the very thing we are urged to do: “Let us also put off every weight [whether materialism or sinful tendencies of the flesh] and the sin that easily entangles us [loss of faith], and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, as we look intently at . . . Jesus.”—Heb. 12:1, 2.
19. What counsel did Jesus give his followers to help them to avoid being ensnared and losing out on the reward?
19 Yes, Jesus set the example for us and he counsels us to “keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness.” (Matt. 6:33) In his great prophecy Jesus also warned regarding this very time of the end: “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. . . . Keep awake.”—Luke 21:34-36.
20. What should be our attitude toward the world?
20 Truly the wise course is for us to focus on that for which we are living. We know that these are the “last days,” and so for us the counsel of Paul is even more applicable than when he first gave it: “The time left is reduced. Henceforth let those . . . making use of the world [be] as those not using it to the full; for the scene of this world is changing.” (1 Cor. 7:29-31) Why use the world to the full, letting it be the all-absorbing thing in our lives, as if we could not afford to miss out on anything it has to offer, and doing so at the cost of our spirituality? Rather, let us bear in mind that “the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” What a grand promise that is! Do we show that we really believe it by fully acting on it, centering our whole life around our relationship to God and letting no other relationship or pleasure take on undue importance?—1 John 2:17.
21. What should be our attitude about enjoying material things now, and why?
21 Why get swallowed up in material pursuits? Jesus, in one of his parables, warned us against such a mental attitude, saying: “So it goes with the man that lays up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21) Besides, did not Jesus promise that if we keep seeking first God’s kingdom and his righteousness God will take care of our material needs? (Matt. 6:33) Nor need we be unduly concerned about what we will have in a material way in the new system of things. If such things were important, Jehovah would have had them recorded in his Word. We know that it is not the material things or even an abundance of luxuries that make people happy today. The happiest people on earth are Jehovah’s people and they are chiefly among the poor as concerns the things that the world prizes highly. We can be assured that in the new system of things we will not lack anything in a material way. And most important of all we will have an abundance of spiritual blessings and the riches of friendships and companionships of fellow worshipers of the one true God Jehovah, all of whom will be displaying the fruitage of his spirit.—Ps. 133:1; Gal. 5:22, 23; 1 Tim. 6:17.
22. How, and in what areas, can we individually move forward with Jehovah?
22 Until that time we have fine opportunities to keep moving forward in deepening our relationship with Jehovah, growing in love for those related to us in the faith and bringing our lives into ever greater conformity with God’s will. Our personal study and prayer, attendance at congregation meetings and diligent application of the things we learn play a vital part in our spiritual progress. By availing ourselves of Jehovah’s provisions for continued spiritual growth, we will not only keep our hope strong but be impelled to make good use of our opportunities to help others to make God-given hope their own and to live in harmony with it. The progress we make now will be giving us an advance start in cultivating the attitude needed for growing to perfection during the thousand-year reign of Christ and his bride. So may we continue to move ahead.
23. What assurance did Paul give at Hebrews 6:10, 11, because of what facts?
23 What Jehovah has purposed and promised he will accomplish. His word will not return to him without results. Of this there can be no doubt. As the apostle Paul assures us, God is not unjust and so will not forget all that we “did for love of his name.” So let us keep on showing “the same eager concern, until [our] hope is finally realized.”—Heb. 6:10, 11, New English Bible.