Looking to the Future with Confidence
“Make fast our hold on the confidence we had at the beginning firm to the end.”—Heb. 3:14.
1. Do all persons have the same viewpoint about the future? Explain.
MOST people will summarily dismiss any attempted description of a future brightened by a righteous “new order” by stating: “That will never be!” Since they lack any confidence in the future, it is not surprising that most become self-centered and choose to live only for “today.” Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, however, do not share this disheartening outlook on the future. Instead, their hearts overflow with confidence as they eagerly anticipate a future that is controlled, not by selfish nations or greedy power blocs, but by the living God, Jehovah. Nevertheless, a person’s view of the future could become blurred. But how?
2. What danger is there to a confident outlook for the future, and how does the apostles Paul warn us in this regard?
2 The danger lies in becoming too involved with the present system of things. Yet you may have heard someone defend such an involvement by saying, “Look, you have to be practical, after all.” Were you inclined to agree with him? What may happen, however, if people continue to enlarge their involvement? You may have seen the results yourself. Perhaps a whole family—parents and children—become so enveloped in present pursuits that their vision of the future is no longer real to them. Only what they have gained by so-called “practical” means has any reality in their eyes. Unwittingly they have let their hearts be changed into faithless ones that desire wicked things. A strong statement? Well, that is how the apostle Paul put it: “Beware, brothers, for fear there should ever develop in any one of you a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God.” (Heb. 3:12) Did you notice how all-inclusive Paul’s statement is? He says it can happen to “any one” of us, yes, even those of us who have served God faithfully for years! Lest that happen, however, let us review what lies ahead of us in the future with the purpose of confirming in our hearts that what Jehovah has promised will really happen. With our confidence in the future thus bolstered, we will “make fast our hold on the confidence we had at the beginning firm to the end.”—Heb. 3:14.
WHY CONFIDENCE NEEDED FOR FUTURE
3. How does the Bible describe the impending world showdown, accompanied by what boastful proclamation?
3 What is revealed by that unerring guide, the Bible, respecting our immediate future? It pictures a drawing of the nations, duped by demons, into battle formation against God. We are told: “They [expressions inspired by demons] go forth to the kings of the entire inhabited earth, to gather them together to the war of the great day of God the Almighty,” to the place called “Har–Magedon.” (Rev. 16:14, 16) So thorough is the deception worked upon the nations that, instead of showing alarm at this impending showdown with God, they self-confidently proclaim a secure future, crying out, “Peace and security!” However, no sooner is this boastful proclamation uttered than “sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them just as the pang of distress upon a pregnant woman; and they will by no means escape.” (1 Thess. 5:3) Is this, perhaps, still a long way off? Not if present peace moves by the nations are any indication. However, even more startling developments are about to take place. What are they?
4. (a) How does the “great tribulation” begin? (b) What attack upon His people moves Jehovah to rescue them?
4 With surprising suddenness the beastly political element will turn upon “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion. Her disgusting tactics finally prove to be too much for the political rulers so that not even her harlotrous services will save her from their wrath. Their disdain for her supposed dignity is revealed by the fierceness with which they expose her and devour and burn her up. (Rev. 17:5, 16; 18:8, 21) So begins the “great tribulation” upon the Devil’s visible system of things upon the earth. As for the worshipers of Jehovah, they are seemingly in an unprotected position, “dwelling without wall, and they do not have even bar and doors.” (Ezek. 38:11) But they “say to Jehovah: ‘You are my refuge and my stronghold.’” (Ps. 91:2) This is too much of an opportunity for the devilish “Gog of the land of Magog” to ignore. With a great horde, “like clouds to cover the land,” he attacks these apparently defenseless servants of God. (Ezek. 38:2, 16) This cowardly, unprovoked attack causes Jehovah to become righteously indignant and he rises up to the rescue of his servants with the mightiest attack weapons ever forged: an outpouring of pestilence, flooding rain, hailstones, fire and sulphur upon the visible enemy hordes. (Ezek. 38:18, 21, 22) Because the enemy forces deny the existence of any gods whatsoever, they eagerly attack Jehovah’s people. Too late, they realize that they are fighting against the living God!
5. How thorough is Jehovah’s victory over his opposers?
5 How thorough is the victory? Is it merely a decimation? Far worse than that for these haters of God’s servants! Not even one tenth remains. The victory is total! Jehovah has preserved his faithful worshipers through the final part of the “great tribulation” and they now stand on an earth cleansed of all opposers. Not once have they had to raise a hand in their own defense. Through the Messianic kingdom and angelic forces under the command of his Son, Jehovah has seen to it!—Rev. 19:11-15, 19-21.
6. What final action against Satan and his demons will then occur, and what conditions will mark the rule of the Messianic kingdom?
6 One thing yet remains to be done after the war at Armageddon, and with swiftness it is accomplished! The would-be predators, Satan the Devil and the legions of his unseen demon hordes, are abyssed; they are thrown into the abyss and the lid is clamped on and sealed for a thousand years! (Rev. 20:1-3) Now the Messianic kingdom under Christ begins an uninterrupted rule over the survivors of that great devastation, and in God’s due time a great multitude of resurrected ones join them in filling the earth. Applying the same powers of recuperation that he used while on earth to cure sick persons and to raise the dead, the glorified Christ will bring obedient mankind to perfection during that thousand-year reign of righteousness.
7. Why need we not worry about not having every detail about the future, and yet what advantage do we have?
7 How thrilling the account of the future is! It is true that we do not have every detail, but neither do we need such. What we do have is more than enough to follow the fast-moving events that, even now, are beginning to unfold all around us. It may be that some become concerned, though, about such questions as whether all the religious clergy will die with Babylon the Great or whether all parts of that great religious empire will go down simultaneously all over the earth. However, such things need not worry us, as if that kind of information were necessary in order for us to maintain our faith in the grand promises of God. Instead, we should think of what an advantage we have over a world that does not have even one detail of what tomorrow will bring, much less a vision extending a thousand years into the future! How grateful we should be that, if we confidently trust in Jehovah, we have every reason to look forward to what lies ahead! As He himself stated it: “Blessed is the able-bodied man who puts his trust in Jehovah, and whose confidence Jehovah has become.” (Jer. 17:7) In addition, there is still another grand reason for confidence on our part.
CONFIDENT DUE TO JEHOVAH’S PROTECTION
8, 9. (a) What is another outstanding reason for confidence in the future? (b) Why do we know that things will take place as Jehovah has stated?
8 From what we have already discussed it should be evident that a foremost reason for confidence on our part is the knowledge that Jehovah is backing up faithful Christians. Unlike the fainthearted spies who brought back a disheartening report about the land that Jehovah had promised to the Israelites, Joshua and Caleb were confident He would lead them to victory, declaring: “Do not you fear the people of the land, for they are bread to us. Their shelter has turned away from over them, and Jehovah is with us. Do not fear them.” (Num. 14:9) Christians today, too, should share that same confidence, since it is written, “If God is for us, who will be against us?” (Rom. 8:31) In fact, the writer Paul is so convinced of the unbreakableness of the bond of love between Jehovah God and his faithful worshipers that he declares that nothing and no one can separate them from God’s love. (Rom. 8:35-39) What an outstanding reason for confidence!
9 So servants of God have ample reason to look forward to a future that is bright and inviting. They have no reason to believe that things will develop differently from what Jehovah has stated in His Word. He is not like men who fail to keep their word, but has always proved loyal to his friends. Paul believed that, and his confidence in God and the promised future was not misplaced. If he were on earth today he would be eagerly looking forward to the fulfillment of the promises of God. So should we.
10. (a) Does Psalm 91 support the idea of individual protection during the “great tribulation”? (b) What kind of protection will God provide?
10 Should we expect, moreover, that because Jehovah is on our side he will miraculously intervene to protect each one of us personally from death or injury during the “great tribulation”? Both Psalm 91:7-12 and Proverbs 3:25, 26 have been mistakenly cited by some as supporting this view. The psalm says: “A thousand will fall at your very side and ten thousand at your right hand; to you it will not come near.”a Lest we read into this text more than it states, we must ask ourselves if Moses is here talking about the coming “great tribulation” and is declaring a blanket protection for individual servants of God then. This would hardly be so when we remember that centuries later Paul showed that up to his time the devoted followers of Jehovah had undergone mockings, scourgings, prisons, tribulations and many other persecutions, even violent death. However, we can be assured that, as a group, Jehovah will protect them from being exterminated by their enemies during the “great tribulation,” and He, himself, will not touch them during his executing of adverse judgments.—Heb. 11:36-38.
11. (a) Does Proverbs 3:25, 26 prove that no individual loyal follower of God will be kidnapped or arrested? (b) In this regard, what examples do we have?
11 Does Solomon, the writer of the aforementioned proverb, give us reason to expect divine protection from all physical harm? He said: “You will not need to be afraid of any sudden dreadful thing, nor of the storm upon the wicked ones, because it is coming. For Jehovah himself will prove to be, in effect, your confidence, and he will certainly keep your foot against capture.” Does that not seem to be evidence that Jehovah God will not permit his loyal followers to be kidnapped or arrested during the “great tribulation”? We must not forget that Solomon wrote what he did, not with us of today in mind, but more pertinently for the benefit of those living under his kingdom. (Prov. 1:1-4; 3:25, 26) Viewing his words in that way, we appreciate that he was giving the Israelites advice that would help them to live upright lives and benefit them in daily living. In this way they would be kept from “capture.” What kind of capture? Well, for instance, from the enticements of a prostitute who walks the streets in search of a victim. (Prov. 5:3-14) We can see that his words are excellent counsel for us too. But they are not an assurance that we will not be arrested, anymore than faithful Jeremiah was immune from arrest in Jerusalem’s “time of the end.” (Jer. 37:15, 21) Nor can we expect that during the “great tribulation” some may not have to lose their lives for loyally upholding their Christian integrity, even as the apostle James lost his life. (Acts 12:1, 2) Nevertheless, we do have divine protection. How?
12. (a) How do we know we are being protected as a class? (b) Will Jehovah forget those who, though faithful, lose their lives? What provision has he made?
12 We have evidence that God is protecting us now as a class. For instance, if such were not the case, we would have been wiped from the face of the earth long ago by Satan. Still, individually, some may die of old age and sickness during the “great tribulation” or, like our brothers in Malawi, from persecutions. Can we, in the face of such possibilities, still look to the future with confidence? Most assuredly! Jesus declared that the dead will hear his voice and will come forth in a resurrection. (John 5:25-29) This, then, nullifies, cancels, the effects of death. No, the Bible does not promise that Satan will let up on his testing of each one of us during the coming “tribulation,” but are we not comforted to know that Jehovah God will not forget us if we fall into death because of our faithful service to him then?
13. (a) At the time of the destruction of Babylon the Great, will God’s people as a whole also be destroyed? (b) This calls forth what response on the part of God’s servants?
13 The protection of us, as a group, will continue right on through the destruction of Babylon the Great and the war at Har–Magedon into the New Order. What a cause for confidence in Jehovah God as a fulfiller of his promises it will be when Babylon lies powerless, her ability to control world affairs reduced to nothing! No wonder God’s servants are told to exult at her overthrow, the cry going forth: “Be glad over her, O heaven, also you holy ones and you apostles and you prophets, because God has judicially exacted punishment for you from her!” (Rev. 18:20) So these can be confident that they will receive protection during God’s execution of the wicked and that they will be ushered into his new order of righteousness.—Matt. 25:46.
ADJUSTING NOW FOR NEW-ORDER CONDITIONS
14. What possibility presents itself to those who neglect to make necessary changes in order to conform to righteous standards now?
14 However, in order to have a confident outlook for the future we must also begin now to adjust our lives and thoughts to the standards that Jehovah God is revealing to us through his Word and organization. True, it is hard to correct long-entrenched bad habits and attitudes, but we must not excuse ourselves by saying: ‘Well, I’ll wait until the new order arrives to change my ways. It will be easier then.’ Such a willful slighting of God’s purposes could constitute a sin in his sight and might lead to forfeiture of our right of entry into his new order altogether.—Jas. 4:17.
15. Are doctrinal and prophetic understandings the only areas wherein we need to make adjustments? What assistance are we given to make adjustments in our thinking and actions?
15 Such adjustments are not necessarily limited to a mere intellectual acquiescence to doctrinal or prophetic understandings as explained by the ‘faithful slave.’ They may involve a change of heart, requiring us, for instance, to uproot prejudices or attitudes that act as restraints to our wholeheartedly loving all persons regardless of their race or social status. (Acts 10:34) Or, it could be some old-world taint that has been exposed as repugnant in the sight of God that must be corrected. Out of his unbounded love for us, Jehovah God has given us capable congregation overseers to help us to make these needed adjustments. Our willing acceptance of their assistance is encouraged by Paul, who wrote: “Have regard for those who are working hard among you and presiding over you in the Lord and admonishing you; . . . give them more than extraordinary consideration in love because of their work.” (1 Thess. 5:12, 13) A positive response to their considerate direction will not only make their work easier but also serve to mold our lives in harmony with God’s arrangement for new-order living, causing us keenly to anticipate the future because of recognizing the superiority of Jehovah’s way of dealing with His people.
16. As exemplified by Isaiah and Christ Jesus, what attitude should we show regarding assignments of work?
16 Nor is there any doubt that in the New Order there will be plenty of work of all kinds that will need to be done. Will our attitude be one of willingness to serve, to work, at whatever we are assigned to do? God’s servants in the past showed such willingness, regardless of whether the responsibility given them was exalted or lowly. Isaiah eagerly agreed to accept the difficult work of a prophet, declaring, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isa. 6:8) Jesus, though acknowledged as “Lord” by his disciples, showed his willingness to serve even in a slave’s position by washing their feet. (John 13:3-17) What a fine example he set for us!
17. What will be required on our part to fulfill assignments that are not to our preference? What other readjustments may we need to make?
17 True, it may be that the job assignment we are given will be one we would not personally have chosen. We may not, initially at least, enjoy the hard work necessary to bring the earth to a paradise condition. It will require unselfishness on our part, too, since much of our effort will be directed, not toward our personal interests, but toward the preparation for and care of a multitude of resurrected ones, most of whom will have no knowledge of Jehovah God. Can you imagine the magnitude of work involved just in transforming the minds and hearts of these persons to new-order thinking? Any with lazy tendencies will not fare well then, for the warning of the proverb is: “The very craving of the lazy will put him to death, for his hands have refused to work.” (Prov. 21:25) So it may require us to readjust our thinking now, in regard to our attitude toward the work that Jehovah gives us to do at present and in the future. In that way we can look to the future with joy.
18, 19. (a) What possibility exists as to the place where one will live in the paradise earth? (b) How should we view our assigned location in the New Order, and why will we not be left on our own there?
18 As to where we will live in the future paradise, it is quite possible that we will be assigned places to live rather than be left to choose them for ourselves. How well we will adjust to such an arrangement may be indicated by whether we presently are willing to go to the congregation or book study we are asked to attend. If we adapt to our assigned location in the New Order, it will quickly become “home” to us and we will learn to love it. This is the way missionaries come to feel about their preaching assignments even today.
19 It is comforting to know, too, that Jehovah God will see to the choosing of “princes” to serve and guide us. Again, he proves that he understands our real needs, what is best for us, and this is another reason for confidence because we know that we will not be left on our own, but will have faithful, proved men who will look after our interests.
THRILLING PROSPECTS FOR THE FUTURE
20, 21. (a) Why do we not need to speculate about the future? (b) What are some of the thrilling things the Bible does tell us about the future?
20 As we look to the future we have many inviting prospects ahead of us. Therefore, we have no need to speculate about details that are not supplied by the Scriptures, but, rather, to be willing to wait upon Jehovah instead of fretting or becoming disturbed over such matters. Why speculate about who will be resurrected, how children will be cared for, what type of houses will be built, whether we will use machines, and suchlike questions. If we really needed to know these things, Jehovah would have provided the answers.
21 Rather than speculating on the unknown, how much better it is to concentrate on the thrilling things the Bible does say. Foremost of these is the prospect of life with the approval of God. An earth teeming with life is what the Bible envisions. What a joy it will be to welcome back the dead! How tears of happiness will flow as loved ones are reunited! And imagine meeting firsthand the faithful servants of God mentioned in the Bible! How thrilling, too, to see our bodies ‘return to the days of our youthful vigor’! (Job 33:25) What a pleasure it will be to live in paradise with perfect food, satisfying work, companions with whom we delight to associate and, best of all, complete freedom to worship our God, Jehovah!
22. What assurance do we have that we can look with confidence to the future?
22 Can we really be sure that this is what the future will be like? Indeed we can, for it is promised by Jehovah God. He will not fail to bring it to pass, for “it is impossible for God to lie.” (Heb. 6:18) Eagerly, then, we look to the events ahead with full confidence in the One who is shaping the future!
a See The Watchtower under date of December 15, 1974, pages 757, 758.
[Picture on page 377]
Unlike the fainthearted ones, Joshua and Caleb brought back a good report, in full confidence that Jehovah would give them the Promised Land