A Solid Basis for Confidence
1. What is the situation of Jehovah’s people as to connections with this world?
THOSE who have become dedicated, baptized servants of God have committed their souls to him. Everything that they have, everything that they are or will be, is in the hands of God—their present, their future, their entire lives and hope of life in God’s new system of things to come. They have, in effect, “burned their bridges behind them,” giving up any “lease” or hope they might have had in this world’s system now or what it may bring about in the days ahead.
2. How did Paul feel, even though ridiculed by the world and also by some professed “brothers”?
2 About this, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ said, in spite of the fact that he was then in prison, and that ridicule and opposition had made some of his so-called Christian “brothers” turn away from him: “I am also suffering these things, but I am not ashamed. For I know the one whom I have believed, and I am confident he is able to guard what I have laid up in trust with him until that day.”—2 Tim. 1:12.
3. What confidence can Christians have as to the coming of Jehovah’s “day” and their entering into God’s “rest”?
3 “That day” is the day that Christians have universally looked for, when God will clean up the earth and bring to pass the doing of his will “as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matt. 6:10) We have God’s word on this. This time will certainly be one of relief, or rest, to humankind. What confidence can we have that we will enjoy it? The very strongest, for the Bible tells us that “God rested on the seventh day from all his works,” and he promises to obedient ones that they may enter into his rest. (Gen. 2:2; Heb. 4:1, 4, 9) Do we really believe that promise?
4. What opportunity was set before the Israelites on coming out of Egypt, but how did they view God’s word about it?
4 The Israelites, on being delivered from slavery in Egypt, had the promise of entering into God’s rest, and of having, during their lifetime in the Promised Land, a beautiful rest from former slavery and oppression. They would enjoy life in a part of the earth that God had preserved as a paradise-like garden. (Deut. 11:11, 12; Gen. 13:10) But the majority demonstrated a serious lack of faith in God’s word to them. They expressed this unbelief to the point of wanting to return to Egypt. They viewed that word or promise of God as something no longer alive, a dead promise, as something weak, unable to be carried through to its completion.
THE SURENESS OF GOD’S WORD
5, 6. (a) What proves that God’s word to Israel was not weak? (b) Why can we have full confidence in God’s word today, about our entering into his “rest”?
5 It was in this connection that the apostle Paul wrote the familiar words recorded at Hebrews 4:12: “The word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
6 That word or promise to Israel was not dead or weak. In fact, the few who exercised faith did enter into that earthly “rest” in the Promised Land. (Num. 14:5-9, 30; Josh. 14:6-10) Similarly today, we have God’s precious promise concerning life in a new system of righteousness. We have heard his “word” that the generation living in this “time of the end” will be the generation that will experience the “great tribulation.” (Matt. 24:34) We have heard his word of promise that we can enter into his “rest” now, by faith, and that a great crowd of his servants will survive that tribulation to enter into the new order that follows. (Rev. 7:9-14) That “word” is alive and has power to accomplish everything that Jehovah has purposed; it will not fail. (Isa. 55:10, 11) Why not? God, who gave that word, is alive and is constantly working out the details that bring his word to a fulfillment. He is not asleep or forgetful of any detail of that “word,” as men may be. (Num. 23:19) How can this be said with full confidence?
7, 8. (a) Name some things that give us added assurance as to the sureness of God’s word. (b) What did Peter say as to its sureness in his day?
7 Well, do we not have positive evidence? We can point to hundreds of proofs. The Scriptures as well as history are full of instances in which God’s word was carried out.a And have not belief in and application of this word in our lives, this resting of our hope in God’s provisions and our faith in his promise, had good effect in our lives, making us happy? What prospect would be ahead of us if we should leave this word and go along with the world?—Matt. 16:25, 26.
8 As to proof of the reliability of God’s word, this very thing we are discussing—that some professing Christians could lose faith—was foretold by Jesus, Paul and Peter. We see this apostasy clearly in the religious systems of Christendom. (Matt. 13:38, 39; Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Thess. 2:3; 2 Pet. 2:1-3) Peter also pointed out to the Christians of his day that he and his fellow workers were not following artfully contrived stories, but following eyewitness accounts, and that even then they, the first-century Christians, had more than the mere prophecies. They had “the prophetic word made more sure” before their own eyes by witnessing actual fulfillments.—2 Pet. 1:16-19.
9. Why is it just as important for us as it was for the apostles to concentrate on the prophetic word of God?
9 How much more evidence we have today, nineteen centuries later! Peter concluded: “You are doing well in paying attention to it [the prophetic word] as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and a daystar rises, in your hearts.” (2 Pet. 1:19) More than ever before the word of God deserves our closer, heart-concentrated attention. For do we not observe, just as God declared in his prophetic word, the difficulties now being experienced by the world? And do we not see the expansion of the good news throughout the earth, with millions gathering together to make up that “great crowd” of survivors of the “great tribulation”?
BE CAREFUL TO KEEP A BALANCED VIEW
10. (a) What does God’s word reveal about us? (b) What questions can we ask ourselves in this connection?
10 Jehovah’s word or message is true when it speaks about our entering into God’s rest now and remaining in it through the “great tribulation,” after which Christ’s thousand-year reign will transform the earth into a paradise garden. God’s word is indeed ‘sharp like a two-edged sword.’ It will show what we really are, revealing what our thoughts and the intentions of our heart are. Are we serving Jehovah God because we love him, trust him and have full confidence in what he says? Or are we ‘becoming weary in well-doing,’ looking for a certain date primarily as bringing a relief to ourselves, with little concern for the lives of other people? (Gal. 6:9) Are we appreciative of all the good things we have had from Jehovah and from association with his people? Have not the things we have learned helped us in our family lives? Do we not love the many genuine friends we have now gained as a result of knowing the truth?—Mark 10:29, 30.
11. What mistake may some persons have made as to their Christian course?
11 It may be that some who have been serving God have planned their lives according to a mistaken view of just what was to happen on a certain date or in a certain year. They may have, for this reason, put off or neglected things that they otherwise would have cared for. But they have missed the point of the Bible’s warnings concerning the end of this system of things, thinking that Bible chronology reveals the specific date.
12, 13. What did Jesus not mean by his words at Luke 21:34-36?
12 What do Jesus’ own words show concerning the proper attitude as to the end—to look for a date, or what? He said: “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. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth. Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and in standing before the Son of man.”—Luke 21:34-36.
13 Did Jesus mean that we should adjust our financial and secular affairs so that our resources would just carry us to a certain date that we might think marks the end? If our house is suffering serious deterioration, should we let it go, on the assumption that we would need it only a few months longer? Or, if someone in the family possibly needs special medical care, should we say, ‘Well, we’ll put it off because the time is so near for this system of things to go’? This is not the kind of thinking that Jesus advised.
14. (a) When Jesus and the apostles spoke concerning the time of the end, what attitude were they recommending for us? (b) Does the fact that the end is near mean that Christians must make big changes in their way of life, or what?
14 Then what did Jesus and the apostles mean when they spoke of being alert as to the signs of the end, or as to “awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah”? They meant for us to be absolutely confident that the day will not come one moment later than Jehovah purposes. Peter said that this should prompt us to “holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion,” being watchful that we are living by Bible principles and that we are busy proclaiming the Kingdom message and convincing people of the urgency of turning to God. (2 Pet. 3:11, 12) All of us can make improvements in our worship of God, cementing a closer relationship with him. Perhaps we have up to this time done the best we can, and have made improvements as we went along. Does the fact that the end is very near, then, mean to us that we should make big changes in our way of living and serving God? Not necessarily so. However, there may be major improvements that we Scripturally need to make. Also, if there are areas in our life in which we can ‘buy out’ time from vain pursuits in this system we should do it. In this way, many have continued to experience the joy of full-time “pioneer” service over the years. All of us can check to see what we can do.—Eph. 5:15, 16.
15. If a person has regulated his life with the view that the end would come on a certain date, what should he now do?
15 But it is not advisable for us to set our sights on a certain date, neglecting everyday things we would ordinarily care for as Christians, such as things that we and our families really need. We may be forgetting that, when the “day” comes, it will not change the principle that Christians must at all times take care of all their responsibilities. If anyone has been disappointed through not following this line of thought, he should now concentrate on adjusting his viewpoint, seeing that it was not the word of God that failed or deceived him and brought disappointment, but that his own understanding was based on wrong premises.
16. If you have counted heavily on a certain date in all sincerity, what comfort can you find in the situation?
16 However, say that you are one who counted heavily on a date, and, commendably, set your attention more strictly on the urgency of the times and the need of the people to hear. And say you now, temporarily, feel somewhat disappointed; are you really the loser? Are you really hurt? We believe you can say that you have gained and profited by taking this conscientious course. Also, you have been enabled to get a really mature, more reasonable viewpoint.—Eph. 5:1-17.
17. How do we know that we will not be given, in advance, the precise date of Christ’s “coming” for judgment?
17 The Scriptures repeatedly tell us that the end will come as a complete surprise upon the world. The apostle spoke of this, saying: “You yourselves know quite well that Jehovah’s day [for judgment] is coming exactly as a thief in the night.” (1 Thess. 5:2) So that true Christians would not be ‘overtaken as thieves,’ Jesus said even to his disciples back there, and to us today: “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” Thereafter he said: “Prove yourselves ready, because at an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.” (Matt. 24:42-44) These clear statements of Jesus indicate that God’s servants will never be given the date of Christ’s “coming” for judgment until it actually takes place. In fact, it will come at what appears to them an ‘unlikely’ time.—Luke 12:39, 40.
DO NOT BE DECEIVED BY THE NATIONS’ ‘SURVIVAL’ THROUGH CRISES
18. Why should we not think that all the nations, everywhere, will get to an almost starved state before the “great tribulation” breaks?
18 Note, though, what Jesus actually warned about. His words do not indicate that, as the “great tribulation” draws close, the world situation will get to be such that everybody, everywhere, will be in a state of near starvation. Otherwise, how could there be any danger of Jesus’ disciples becoming “weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking” at that time? Remember, too, that Jesus used as examples the conditions in Noah’s day before the flood and in Lot’s day before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. He showed that at that time there was an appearance of normalcy in the way people were living. They were ‘eating, drinking, marrying, giving in marriage, buying, selling, planting and building,’ right up to the day when destruction suddenly broke upon them.—Luke 17:26-30.
19. What will we have in mind, although the nations may be able to “patch” things up and keep things running?
19 So we will not expect to see this world’s systems grind almost to a halt or reach a state of virtual collapse as a necessary prelude to the “great tribulation.” We will not be deceived if these systems seem to make an apparent ‘comeback’ from severe crises, as if that apparent recuperation would have a postponing effect on the arrival of God’s day of judgment. We will not start ‘rebuilding’ with the world, as though this system will continue indefinitely. The apostle Paul’s inspired words at 1 Thessalonians 5:3 show that men of this world will actually be proclaiming, “Peace and security!” just before ‘sudden destruction comes instantly upon them like the pang of distress upon a pregnant woman,’ with every possibility of escape being cut off from them.
20, 21. (a) What do we want to avoid in eating and drinking, building, and so forth, as was taking place before the Flood? (b) How do the words of the apostle Paul at 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6 warn us as to escaping the impending peril of that “day”? (c) How does Paul show, at Romans 13:11-14, what it means to be awake?
20 There is nothing wrong with eating and drinking, nor with marrying or raising a family, buying, selling, planting or building. But what is wrong is doing as the people did in the days of Noah and Lot—letting these things so involve or engross us that we lose sight of God’s purposes and his righteous standards and put fleshly things in first place in our lives. To do that is to go to sleep spiritually. Contrary to that course, the apostle Paul says: “But you, brothers, you are not in darkness, so that that day should overtake you as it would thieves, for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We belong neither to night nor to darkness. So, then, let us not sleep on as the rest do, but let us stay awake and keep our senses.”—1 Thess. 5:4-6.
21 Showing what it means to be awake and to prove that we are “sons of day” rather than of darkness, Paul says at Romans 13:11-14: “You people know the season, that it is already the hour for you to awake from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than at the time when we became believers. The night is well along; the day has drawn near. Let us therefore put off the works belonging to darkness and let us put on the weapons of the light. As in the daytime let us walk decently, not in revelries and drunken bouts, not in illicit intercourse and loose conduct, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not be planning ahead for the desires of the flesh.”
22. Should the fact that we do not know when the “day” will come cause us to relax our alertness?
22 Clearly, then, the fact that we do not know just when the “great tribulation” will break nor when the thousand-year reign of God’s Son will begin does not lessen the need for alertness today. It greatly increases and heightens the need for being awake, watchful, ready. If we knew the exact time we might be tempted to relax and to feel that as that time drew nearer we could begin to get ourselves ready. But our not knowing requires us to be ready all the time. The whole tenor of God’s Word the Bible, and particularly the counsel of his Son, is to that effect.
23. What course does Paul tell us to pursue while we await that “day”?
23 The apostle’s counsel therefore applies forcefully to us, when he says: “Therefore keep comforting one another and building one another up, just as you, are in fact doing.” (1 Thess. 5:11) We will use every opportunity to help, not only our brothers, but also those outside the congregation, to take the course that will enable them to “succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur.” (Luke 21:36) As parents, we will endeavor to set a fine example of spiritual appreciation and alertness for our children so that they too may stay awake and on the watch with us.
MOVING AHEAD WITH INCREASED CONFIDENCE
24. As to the nearness of the end, of what value to us is chronology?
24 The chronology in the Bible is not there without good purpose. That chronology indicates that we are at the close of six thousand years of human history. While not revealing when God’s day of adverse judgment upon this wicked system of things will begin, this chronological fact does add one more reason to the many, many other reasons we already have for being confident that the remaining time is very short. It gives added support to these reasons as a basis for strong confidence in God’s word, that it is alive and powerful and will lead us on into a righteous new order.
25. With a solid basis for confidence, therefore, we will have what attitude?
25 So, then, for the love of God, for the love of his Son, for the love of truth and righteousness, yes, for the love of life itself—let us keep awake, show ourselves spiritually alive and active, today and every day, and we will succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur. Jehovah God, the God of truth, has given us his solemn “word,” and “none that rests his faith on him will be disappointed.” (Rom. 10:11) May He and his Son richly bless you, and may you continue serving faithfully, now and to all future time.
a See the book “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial,” pages 343-346, published by Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Brooklyn, N.Y. (1963) Here scores of historical fulfillments of God’s prophecies are listed.