Faith in God Rewarded by Preservation
TODAY we stand on the threshold of a great era for the earth. Though the astronauts viewed the earth from space as a jewel unique in the solar system, its history since shortly after man appeared on the scene about 6,000 years ago has been one of pollution, corruption and gradual ruination. But all evidences point to an end to the system of things now running earth’s affairs. The Bible prophecies point out that there is indeed an end, and that it is not an end by man’s hand, but by God’s.
Then the earth will be freed, cleansed from the defilement it has undergone, and will enter into a glorious thousand-year period of rehabilitation and beautification. Just ahead, however, are momentous, yet strenuous, times. But the human race will not be blotted out. Many will fail to exercise faith in God’s promise to provide survival, yet anyone who really desires to do so can now seize the opportunity.
To survive these dangerous times takes faith in God—faith actually to accept what he says and then to conform to it. The apostle Peter wrote: “If the righteous man is being saved with difficulty, where will the ungodly man and the sinner make a showing?” Then he advised Christians to “keep on commending their souls to a faithful Creator while they are doing good.”—1 Pet. 4:18, 19.
What is just ahead? The Bible shows that soon the political governments will turn against false religion, including the religious organizations of Christendom and their leaders, and will devastate it. In the previous issue of this magazine this development of matters was discussed in connection with Re chapters seventeen and eighteen of the Bible book of Revelation. Therein we are shown how false religion will fall. Those truly serving God will not be caught in this destruction, but will stand out as God’s representatives, as no part of this world’s system.—John 17:14; compare Ezekiel 33:33.
ENDANGERED BY INTERNATIONAL ATTACK
There will naturally be hardships during the turmoil that accompanies the destruction of false religion. But the really great pressure on those serving God will come after false religion’s destruction when the political rulers will move against the peaceable ones, who are enjoying spiritual prosperity. These will not possess military might, but will rely only on God’s invisible protection. This attack will be under the leadership of “the ruler of this world,” “the god of this system of things,” Satan the Devil.—John 12:31; 2 Cor. 4:4.
How does the Bible inform us that this attack will come against those serving God with spirit and truth? The same vision in Revelation that tells of false religion’s destruction says also that the kings of earth “will battle with the Lamb, but, because he is Lord of lords and King of kings, the Lamb will conquer them.” (Rev. 17:12-14) The Lamb Jesus Christ being in the heavens, the earthly kings and their armies can fight him only by attacking his followers on earth, who recognize and submit to his kingly authority. Revelation chapter 19 describes that fight.
In addition to Revelation’s prophetic vision, the prophet Ezekiel was inspired to write about the attack in symbolic words. Satan the Devil is shown under the name “Gog” as leading his hordes against Jehovah’s people. Gog will think that they have no “wall” or protection. This Gog is quoted as saying: “I shall go up against the land of open rural country. I shall come in upon those having no disturbance, dwelling in security, all of them dwelling without wall, and they do not have even bar and doors.” (Ezek. 38:2, 11) The kings, under Gog’s leadership, will not see the invisible protection of Jehovah like “a wall of fire.” (Compare Zechariah 2:5; 2 Kings 6:11-17.) Then Jehovah, through his “King of kings,” the “Lamb,” will destroy them.—Ezek. 38:21-23; 39:1-4; Rev. 19:19-21.
How can anyone have the faith to stand firm under such an attack from all earth’s armies, trusting in something one cannot see? To help those looking to him, Jehovah caused the psalmist to write his own experience as a strengthening encouragement. God’s preservation of those trusting in him is plainly brought to our attention. The writer could have been speaking representatively for his whole nation, because not just he himself, but also his people, Jehovah God’s chosen people, were at that time threatened with death, with an extermination. He said:
“I do love, because Jehovah hears my voice, my entreaties. For he has inclined his ear to me, and throughout my days I shall call. The ropes of death encircled me and the distressing circumstances of Sheol themselves found me. Distress and grief I kept finding. But upon the name of Jehovah I proceeded to call: ‘Ah, Jehovah, do provide my soul with escape!’ Jehovah is gracious and righteous; and our God is One showing mercy. Jehovah is guarding the inexperienced ones. I was impoverished, and he proceeded to save even me.”—Ps. 116:1-6.
DELIVERANCE BY COMPLETE DEPENDENCE ON JEHOVAH
The psalmist did not want to die. And yet death seemed a sure thing for him. It was already as if death had its ropes tied fast and unbreakable around him, preventing all moves for escape. It was as if he were already in Sheol (the common grave of mankind), feeling the distressing circumstances of being squeezed in by the narrow walls of a burial pit. But he cried to Jehovah and was delivered. For this graciousness, righteousness and mercy of God, the psalmist was moved to express his deep love for his Creator and Preserver.
Similarly, when God’s people survive the destruction of this system of things at Har–Magedon, they will look back and appreciate just what a salvation God the Almighty has wrought in their behalf. (Rev. 16:14, 16; Luke 21:36) It was a near-death situation from which they were rescued. They were inexperienced in the devious maneuverings and wicked ways of this world and could not appeal for human aid. No one would or could deliver them but Jehovah—they could call on no other name. In their endangered state, impoverished of all earthly help, their full reliance had to be on Him. And it was not misplaced. How grateful those whom Jehovah delivers will be! With what heartfelt terms and actions they will express their love to him, their God, forever!
WALKING BEFORE JEHOVAH IN THE LAND OF THE LIVING
Being preserved from such a fearful situation, the survivors can then say, as did the psalmist:
“Return to your resting-place, O my soul, for Jehovah himself has acted appropriately toward you. For you have rescued my soul from death, my eye from tears, my foot from stumbling. I will walk before Jehovah in the lands of those living. I had faith, for I proceeded to speak. I myself was very much afflicted. I, for my part, said, when I became panicky: ‘Every man is a liar.’”—Ps. 116:7-11.
After deliverance from the enemy attack, which certainly will bring tenseness to the endangered ones, the survivors of Har–Magedon can let their souls, their own selves, relax. They may get temporarily panicky when under attack, knowing that no human could help them even if he promised or tried to do so. Faith in God is what will bring their deliverance. Then, having been preserved from stumbling in a death-dealing fall, they will be determined to continue to “walk before Jehovah in the lands of those living.”
Today all who have faith in God can get strength from the words of the psalmist in conjunction with the apostle Paul’s comforting counsel at 2 Corinthians 4:8, 9: “We are pressed in every way, but not cramped beyond movement; we are perplexed, but not absolutely with no way out; we are persecuted, but not left in the lurch; we are thrown down, but not destroyed.”
The apostle went on to say, with Psalm 116 in mind: “I exercised faith, therefore I spoke.” (2 Cor. 4:13) Likewise God’s people can speak with full, unquestioning faith in God’s protection. Why? Because God will ‘act appropriately toward them.’ (Ps. 116:7) His action is altogether appropriate and in harmony with the promises recorded in his Word. He “becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Heb. 11:6) This is also in harmony with his loving-kindness and his purpose to vindicate his name in the foiling of his enemies and their vicious purpose.
Having survived the enemy attack and entered into a cleansed earth, the survivors will witness another deliverance performed before their eyes. That is the deliverance of billions of persons from the grave by a resurrection. With the help of the survivors these will learn of the God of salvation and deliverance. Uncounted numbers of these will express faith and will be able also to “walk before Jehovah in the lands of those living,” attaining finally to everlasting life in perfection on earth as “children of God.” (Rom. 8:21; Rev. 20:11-15) Faith in God is rewarded by preservation, and such preservation leads to everlasting life.