How Are You Affected by Not Knowing the “Day and Hour”?
1. What does God’s dominant quality have to do with his not revealing the “day and hour” for the “great tribulation” to start?
JEHOVAH GOD has had a purpose in not revealing the “day and hour” for the “great tribulation” to begin its wrecking work upon the present system of things. That purpose is closely linked with God’s dominant quality—love. (1 John 4:8) Being a God of love, he wants as his servants only those who really do love him deeply. (Ps. 119:97; 1 John 5:3) It is not his desire to have intelligent creatures cringe before him in terror, serving because they are in dread of punishments that he might bring upon them. His dealings with people have always been such as to invite their love while, at the same time, allowing them to show what is really in their hearts.
2. How has Jehovah demonstrated his love for imperfect humans?
2 Expressing great undeserved kindness, Jehovah has permitted even thankless, unappreciative humans to benefit from the natural cycles that he put into operation to make life on earth possible. (Acts 14:16, 17; 17:24, 25) Then, too, over a period of sixteen centuries, he inspired some forty men to produce a written record that makes known just what kind of God he is and what he requires of those whom he approves. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) That record, contained in the Bible, provides sound guidelines that make it possible for us to get the very best from life even now despite problems and difficult circumstances. (Ps. 19:7-11) It also acquaints us with the extraordinary love that God displayed when he gave his only-begotten Son to lay down his life in our behalf. This opened up to mankind the opportunity to gain an approved relationship with the only true God and made possible the prospect of life free from sickness, the weakness of old age, and death.—John 3:16; Titus 3:4-7; Rev. 21:3, 4.
3. Why is Jehovah’s bringing the “great tribulation” not inconsistent with his being a God of love?
3 But how can it be that such a God would also bring a tribulation that will be fear-inspiring in its destructiveness to humankind? Really, his being a God of love demands that he do so. This may sound strange to many people today. It also sounded strange to many Israelites when, some twenty-seven centuries ago, the Hebrew prophet Micah announced that Jehovah would bring calamity upon the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel and the two-tribe kingdom of Judah. In unbelief, they asked, “Has the spirit of Jehovah become discontented, or are these his dealings?” Jehovah’s answer to this was, “Do not my own words do good in the case of the one walking uprightly?” (Mic. 2:7) Yes, his doing good for those walking uprightly requires that he take action against all who stubbornly refuse to conform to the ways of righteousness and who thereby contribute to the injustices, oppression and lawlessness that are today making life on earth more dangerous and unpleasant.
4. What is Jehovah’s desire regarding all mankind?
4 Nevertheless, before the coming of his “day and hour” to act against the wicked, Jehovah warmly appeals to all to forsake their bad ways. (Compare Isaiah 55:6, 7; Jeremiah 18:7-10.) He is like a loving human father who takes no delight in having to punish disobedient children but finds pleasure in their doing what is right. Concerning how Jehovah felt about the terrible destruction he permitted to come upon Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E., the Bible says: “Not out of his own heart has he afflicted or does he grieve the sons of men.” (Lam. 3:33) He prefers having people pursue a way of life that not only makes it unnecessary for him to take action against them but also brings them personal happiness and satisfaction, and contributes to the security and joy of their fellowmen. “He does not desire any to be destroyed,” wrote the apostle Peter, “but desires all to attain to repentance.”—2 Pet. 3:9.
5. (a) What does Jehovah’s not revealing the “day and hour” cause individuals to manifest about themselves? (b) How does the fact that the “day and hour” have not been made known by God aid sincere persons in identifying true Christians?
5 The fact that Jehovah God has not made known the “day and hour” when he will send his Son to execute judgment against the wicked system of things on this earth has definitely played a part in showing up what is in people’s hearts. If they do not really love their Creator and appreciate the value of a fine relationship with him, they will pursue the things toward which their hearts incline—an abundance of material possessions, popularity with the world, a life centered around self. They may be inclined to think that, since God has not told us the “day and hour,” it probably will not be in our day. At the same time God’s not making known the “day and hour” has benefited those wanting to do his will. How so? Well, what Jehovah God has done rules out great displays of hypocritical piety just before his “day and hour” among those who merely pretend to be his servants. Sincere persons are therefore not confused about the identity of God’s devoted people. They can clearly see the difference between those ignoring God’s “day and hour” for judgment and those not doing so.
IGNORING THAT “DAY AND HOUR” IS DANGEROUS
6. What attitude mentioned at 2 Peter 3:3-7 are many today displaying?
6 When the Scriptural evidence about the nearness of the “great tribulation” is called to their attention, many people minimize and ridicule it. Their actions fit the Bible’s description: “In the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: ‘Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.’” Past executions of God’s judgment, such as the flood of Noah’s day, mean nothing to them. They simply do not want to believe that God is going to destroy wicked ones, as he did in the past. They do not want to change their way of life but want to continue giving in to their selfish desires. (2 Pet. 3:3-7) If they persist in this attitude and God’s “day and hour” catch up with them, they will by no means escape calamity.
7. How might failure to take seriously the certainty of the coming “day and hour” for execution of judgment affect even some associated with the Christian congregation?
7 Disregard of Jehovah’s coming “day and hour” for executing his judgment can infect even those associating with the true Christian congregation today. A person may know what the Bible says about the “great tribulation.” He may have heard about it for years, perhaps even from dedicated Christian parents. But, seeing nothing really dramatic taking place, in his own mind he may begin to put into the distant future the coming of God’s “day and hour.” He may enjoy the wholesome association of those in the congregation, but he is not personally sharing with them whole-souled in doing the preaching and disciple-making work that Christ instructed his followers to do. The world and what it offers in the way of seeming material advantages may take on ever greater attractiveness. Soon he may find himself pursuing materialistic interests or he may stop making further efforts to give up ways and habits that are hindering him from having an approved relationship with Jehovah God. He may even reason that ‘when things really start to happen’ he will make changes in his life. As for now, he is not ready. Such a person lacks appreciation for the rightness of God’s requirements and is in a position of grave danger.
8. What effect can indulging in excesses of food and drink have on one’s attitude about the “great tribulation”?
8 Many allow excesses to dull their senses to the certainty of the coming of the “great tribulation.” Jesus Christ alerted his disciples to this danger, saying: “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.” (Luke 21:34, 35) Manifestly, excesses in food and drink dull the senses and ‘weigh down’ the heart with feelings of guilt. At the same time such excesses crowd out good motivations.—Prov. 20:1; compare Isaiah 28:7.
9. How can undue concern about making a living pose a danger?
9 Similarly, undue concern about making a living can overburden the heart. If a person were to allow himself to lose sight of the comforting assurance that Jehovah God will care for his people, such a person’s heart would soon motivate him to do everything possible to make his future financially secure. (Heb. 13:5, 6) In time the pursuit of spiritual interests would be pushed out of sight, leaving the individual spiritually bankrupt and in a disapproved state before Jehovah God.—1 Tim. 6:9, 10.
LIVING IN HARMONY WITH FAITH
10. How should we endeavor to live each day, and why?
10 Far better it is to live each day in recognition of the certainty of the coming of Jehovah’s time to execute judgment. Not only will this prevent a person from being trapped in a divinely disapproved state when God’s “day and hour” come, but it will also make his life more enjoyable even now. (1 Tim. 4:8) This is so because God’s commands are based on love and serve to promote good. (Rom. 13:8-10) Obedience to them prevents one from pursuing a course that is mentally, physically or emotionally injurious.—Prov. 4:1-15; Eccl. 11:9, 10.
11. What enabled men and women in the past to build their whole life around doing God’s will even though they knew that the end of the wicked system would not come in their lifetime?
11 Long before the twentieth century there were persons who lived in a way that showed faith in God’s purpose to bring an end to all wickedness and to have earth’s affairs administered in righteousness. They knew that this would not happen within their lifetime. Nevertheless, the hope of sharing in what God had in mind for them upon their being resurrected from the dead was so strong that they built their whole life around doing his will.—Compare Hebrews 11:35-40.
12. How did Abraham and Sarah demonstrate their faith in the fulfillment of God’s promise?
12 Consider the example of Abraham and Sarah. They were residents of the progressive city of Ur. Yet, Abraham, at God’s invitation, willingly left his home city for a land about which he knew nothing. (Gen. 12:1-4) His wife Sarah cooperated fully with him in this. When finally in the land to which God had directed them, Abraham and Sarah did not attach themselves to some city and settle down in a comfortable home. They and their faithful descendants continued to dwell in tents. Since nothing really prevented them from returning to a more comfortable life in Ur, why did they not do so? The Bible answers: “Although they did not get the fulfillment of the promises, . . . they saw them afar off and welcomed them and publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land. For those who say such things give evidence that they are earnestly seeking a place of their own. And yet, if they had indeed kept remembering that place from which they had gone forth, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they are reaching out for a better place, that is, one belonging to heaven.”—Heb. 11:13-16.
13, 14. What shows that Abraham and Sarah were wise in not letting undue concern over material possessions determine their course in life?
13 Do you feel that Abraham and Sarah made a wise choice? Theirs was a life that indeed resulted in satisfaction. (Gen. 25:8) Abraham and Sarah received rich rewards for their course of action. Jehovah blessed the efforts of Abraham to provide for his household, so that he never lacked anything but always had an abundance. (Gen. 13:2; 14:14) Abraham enjoyed a very close relationship with God, even being privileged to speak with angels and to entertain them. (Gen. 18:1–19:1) Both he and his wife had their reproductive powers restored miraculously, enabling him to father Isaac by his beloved wife Sarah. And through his line God’s own Son was born as a human. (Gen. 17:17; Heb. 11:11, 12; Luke 3:23-34) With reference to God’s protection and care of Abraham and his faithful descendants, Psalm 105:14, 15 says: “He did not allow any human to defraud them, but on their account he reproved kings, saying: ‘Do not you men touch my anointed ones, and to my prophets do nothing bad.’”—Gen. 12:17; 20:3, 7.
14 Had Abraham not responded to God’s invitation to leave Ur, he would have missed out on grand opportunities. He would have been no different from any other prosperous resident of ancient Ur whose name has long been forgotten. But because he did respond, Jehovah fulfilled his promise to make Abraham’s name great. (Gen. 12:1, 2) Few names of ancient times have become as great as Abraham’s, especially as examples of outstanding faith. And Abraham came to be known as ‘Jehovah’s friend.’ (Isa. 41:8) In God’s due time, Abraham will be raised from the dead, with the prospect of eternal life before him. Regarding Abraham and his devoted offspring, Hebrews 11:16 says: “God is not ashamed of them, to be called upon as their God, for he has made a city [the Messianic kingdom] ready for them.”
15. Did first-century Christians expect that God’s righteous new order would come within their lifetime?
15 The fine sort of spirit displayed by Abraham and Sarah was in evidence also among the true followers of Jesus Christ in the first century C.E. They, too, knew that the ushering in of a righteous new order of new heavens and a new earth would not be fulfilled during their lifetime. The apostle Paul, writing under divine inspiration, pointed out to fellow believers that the “day of Jehovah” would not come until after an apostasy from true belief had firmly taken root.—2 Thess. 2:1-8; 2 Pet. 3:13.
16. What attitude did those early Christians have concerning material possessions, and how was this beneficial?
16 Did first-century Christians therefore live in a way that ignored the coming of Jehovah’s “day and hour”? Not those who valued their relationship with God as disciples of Jesus Christ. They willingly parted with material possessions so that others might share in their spiritual joys. (Luke 14:33; Phil. 3:7-9) Following the day of Pentecost of 33 C.E., for example, many believers sold their possessions and made funds available, to be used to help those needing such to remain in Jerusalem so as to continue benefiting from the teaching of the apostles.—Acts 2:41-47; 4:34, 35.
17. Why did Christians away back in the first century view the preaching of the “good news” as an urgent matter?
17 Faithful followers of Jesus Christ took seriously their commission to make disciples. (Matt. 28:19, 20) In less than thirty years, they succeeded in having the “good news” declared in widely scattered places in the Roman Empire and even beyond it. (Col. 1:23) They recognized the urgency of doing so. They knew that people could die before even learning about the prospect of gaining immortal life as associate rulers with Jesus Christ. Unselfishly they labored so that as many as possible might have the opportunity to share in that glorious prospect. Furthermore, the end of the Jewish system of things was to come within that generation. So Jews, regardless of where they were living, needed to be told about the prophecy of Jesus Christ concerning this, so that they could act on it and escape calamity.
18. How do Jehovah’s Christian witnesses as a body in our day feel about the importance of applying Bible counsel in their lives as well as preaching the “good news” to others?
18 As a body, Jehovah’s Christian witnesses are today striving to do the same thing. They are convinced that heeding the counsel of God’s Word is the best way to live. It enables one to enjoy life even now and gives one a solid hope for the future. (1 Tim. 6:17-19) They also recognize the importance of alerting people everywhere to the need of coming into an approved relationship with the Creator before the “great tribulation” strikes. (Compare Ezekiel 33:2-9; 1 Corinthians 9:16.) That is why they have been willing to put forth earnest efforts to help their fellowmen to gain accurate knowledge of the will of God.
19, 20. (a) To what extent have many Witnesses been willing to go in order to aid others to gain a knowledge of God’s purpose? (b) Is there any reason for them to regret not having pursued other interests?
19 To aid fellow humans to learn about Jehovah and his marvelous purpose for mankind, a considerable number have given up promising careers, divested themselves of lucrative business interests, sold material possessions that they felt were unnecessary, or in other ways adjusted their circumstances. For the same reason, many have moved to other parts of their own country or even to other lands. Then there are those who chose singleness or, as married people, decided to forgo the joy of having children in order to make themselves available for service that would otherwise have been difficult to accomplish.
20 Some of these men and women have become old and infirm. Are they disappointed that they have not as yet experienced deliverance from the present ungodly system? Do they regret not having pursued certain interests that in themselves would not have been wrong? Do they feel that the sacrifices they made were unnecessary? Those who made their decision on the basis of deep love for Jehovah God and an earnest desire to aid others have no regrets. They do not envy others, thinking that they would have been better off had they lived their life differently. Nor do they look down on those who chose to settle down in a certain area and there raised their children according to Bible principles. They have the satisfaction of having done what they knew to be right in their case and rejoice in having maintained a close relationship with Jehovah God.
APPRECIATING JEHOVAH’S WAY
21. How should we feel if the “great tribulation” were not to come as soon as we personally might expect?
21 It is only natural for us to want relief as soon as possible from the world’s mounting problems, the day-to-day struggle of trying to make a living, as well as sickness, old age and death. But what if that relief were not to come as soon as you personally might expect? How would that affect your heart? Might you be tempted to forget about the importance of a proper relationship with Jehovah God and see what pleasures you might still find in the world? If you truly love Jehovah, your service to God is not limited by any date. You know that what true Christians possess is worth more than anything this world can offer. You are convinced that Jehovah God will not fail to fulfill all the things that he has promised his servants. As the inspired letter to the Hebrews says: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.”—Heb. 6:10.
22. If we truly share Jehovah’s viewpoint toward mankind, how will we view any remaining time period before the “great tribulation”?
22 Never should we conclude that what is here said means that the “great tribulation” is far off and allow ourselves to slip into a pattern of thinking like that of the world alienated from God. As long as people are still responding to God’s warm appeal, this should encourage us. It is in harmony with Jehovah’s desire that none be destroyed but that all attain to repentance. (2 Pet. 3:9) Our sharing God’s viewpoint toward mankind will cause us to rejoice that the way is still open for others to take their stand on Jehovah’s side, with the prospect of eternal life in view. And our continuing to see an obvious fulfillment of Jehovah’s purpose that as many as possible gain an approved standing before him should certainly strengthen our conviction that his “day and hour” for executing judgment will come, for this, too, is part of his unchangeable purpose.
23. (a) What makes us absolutely certain that God’s purpose concerning the removal of the present wicked system and the incoming of his new order will be accomplished, and that it will take place at God’s appointed time? (b) In view of this, what should we individually make it our determination to do?
23 Jehovah’s own reputation, his trueness, gives us the firm assurance that his promise to end injustice, oppression and pain is “panting” or eagerly moving forward to its fulfillment. (Ps. 117:2) From a human standpoint, it may, to some persons, appear that it has delayed. Nevertheless, it is just as was revealed to the Hebrew prophet Habakkuk: “The vision is yet for the appointed time, and it keeps panting on to the end, and it will not tell a lie. Even if it should delay, keep in expectation of it; for it will without fail come true. It will not be late.” (Hab. 2:3) That being the case, are you right now striving to maintain an approved relationship with Jehovah God? Are you making it your determination to continue serving him regardless of what the future may hold? If you are rightly motivated by love for God and fellowmen, that will indeed be the case. And you can confidently look forward to the reward that God will bestow upon you and all others of mankind who love him intensely from the heart.