Hold On—The Promise Nears Fulfillment!
“You have need of endurance, in order that, after you have done the will of God, you may receive the fulfillment of the promise.”—Heb. 10:36.
1. What did a reliable promise influence the common forefather of Arabs and Israelites to make of himself?
A GOOD promise, made by a reliable person, can influence the receiver to take rewarding action. All for the sake of a promise, how many of us today would be willing to become an alien, a man without a country, in a foreign land, for a hundred years? Amazingly, we have the historical record of just such a course! It is the case of a man from whom the Arabs claim descent, as well as their blood relatives, the Israelites. This common forefather of theirs received a promise the carrying out of which affects the whole human family for everlasting good.
2. Why did the realization of that promise call for action on the receiver’s part?
2 The realization of this world-important promise called for action, as the promissory statement from God said: “Go your way out of your country and from your relatives and from the house of your father to the country that I shall show you; and I shall make a great nation out of you and I shall bless you and I will make your name great; and prove yourself a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and him that calls down evil upon you I shall curse, and all the families of the ground will certainly bless themselves by means of you.”—Gen. 12:1-3.
3. As respects a promise, in what way is Abraham of Ur of the Chaldeans an example to us?
3 How thankful all of us who belong to “the families of the ground” can be that the receiver of the promise, Abram of Ur of the Chaldeans, trustfully took the prescribed action! Abram (later called Abraham) is an example to us in the way of taking due action to realize a promise that Abraham’s God makes to us.
4. How long was Abraham a man without a country in the land of Canaan; also his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob?
4 When Abraham was seventy-five years old, he entered the Promised Land, then a country foreign to him. He died at the age of one hundred and seventy-five years. On this account he was a man without a country for a whole century—quite a time. His son Isaac, born to him in this foreign land not yet given to Abraham, was likewise a man without a country, but for even a longer period of time—for one hundred and eighty years. Isaac’s son, Jacob, to whom the divine promise was passed along, was a man without a country for one hundred and thirty years before he was called down to Egypt, where he died. (Gen. 47:7-9; 49:33) Yet, at his own request, this patriarch of one hundred and forty-seven years of age was buried in the Promised Land, the land of Canaan.—Gen. 50:1-14.
5 What was it that strengthened those three patriarchs to hold on in a foreign land and not to return to Ur of the Chaldeans? What helped them to endure in the alien land of Canaan for two hundred and fifteen years (1943 to 1728 B.C.E.) all together? It was their faith in Jehovah God and in the reliability of his unbreakable promise. To this effect we read, in Hebrews 11:9, 10, 13-16:
6 “By faith he [Abraham] resided as an alien in the land of the promise as in a foreign land, and dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the very same promise. For he was awaiting the city having real foundations, the builder and maker of which city is God. In faith all these died, although they did not get the fulfillment of the promises, but 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. Hence God is not ashamed of them, to be called upon as their God, for he has made a city ready for them.”
7. How did Abraham make himself an undesirable person in the neighborhood of his birth, and what kind of “city” did he want?
7 Abraham, as an example to his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob, was determined to die abroad rather than shrink back from his assignment and return to his native city, Ur of the Chaldeans. That pagan city being in the land of Shinar, Abraham even made himself an unwelcome person there in that neighborhood, because he pursued and put to rout four confederate kings from that area. These were Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim. Abraham and his troops despoiled those kings of all the valuable things and captives that they had seized during their invasion of the land of Canaan. (Gen. 14:1-24; Heb. 7:1) No longer did Abraham want Ur of the Chaldeans as his residential city. He renounced it. He preferred to live as a nomad in the Promised Land, desiring something better than that idolatrous, sinful city of his birth. Rather than a man-made city, Abraham, as well as Isaac and Jacob, wanted a city or government of which his God is the Builder and Maker. The foundations of Ur of the Chaldeans lie in ruins today, but not so God’s “city.”
8, 9. (a) What kind of inheritance will Abraham get in the resurrection, and how? (b) According to Romans 4:11, 12, how did Abraham become the “father” of Christ’s disciples, spiritually speaking?
8 For Abraham’s faithfulness till death, Jehovah God promised him, not a heavenly inheritance, but an earthly one, the land of Canaan. So, at his resurrection from the dead, Abraham will be raised to life on earth. But at that time the earth will be under the absolute rule of the city “belonging to heaven,” the Messianic kingdom of Abraham’s most important Descendant, namely, Jesus Christ. (Heb. 11:16) Abraham was an excellent example of faith to this glorious Descendant, the one through whom God’s promise to Abraham is fulfilled, for Jesus Christ is outstandingly the ‘seed of Abraham’ in whom all the nations of the earth will procure a never-ending blessing. (Gen. 22:18) Spiritually speaking, Abraham is said to be the “father” of the disciples of Jesus Christ, no matter whether these have been taken from among circumcised Jews or from among uncircumcised non-Jews, the Gentiles. On this point, we read the following words:
9 “And he [Abraham] received a sign [years after his becoming a wandering alien in the land of Canaan], namely, circumcision, as a seal of the righteousness by the faith he had while in his uncircumcised state [until he begot Isaac], that he might be the father of all those having faith while in uncircumcision [as Gentiles], in order for righteousness to be counted to them; and a father of circumcised offspring, not only to those who adhere to circumcision [the circumcised Jews], but also to those who walk orderly in the footsteps of that faith while in the uncircumcised state [as Gentiles] which [faith] our father Abraham had.”—Rom. 4:11, 12; Gen. 15:6; 17:7-17.
10. (a) How is God, more so than Abraham, the “father of all those having faith”? (b) So, by means of what quality shall we enter into fulfillment of God’s promises?
10 Because Abraham became like a spiritual father to the disciples of his natural Descendant Jesus Christ, Abraham was used as a type of Jehovah God, who is the heavenly Father of all the “seed” by means of whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed. (Gal. 3:8, 9) Thus Jehovah God is the Greater Abraham. From him comes the quality of faith, because he gives his holy spirit to those who worship him, one of the fruits that this spirit produces being faith. (Gal. 5:22) His dependable faithfulness to his promises inspires faith within us toward him. Far more so than Abraham, Jehovah is the Father of the faithful ones or of those having faith. By holding fast to such faith, we shall, like Abraham, enter into fulfillment of God’s promises to us. Our faith will aid us to endure until we get the things promised by God.
“ALIENS AND TEMPORARY RESIDENTS” IN THIS WORLD
11, 12. How are we, who, like Abraham, look forward to God’s promises, a people without a country, and how is this backed up by what is written in 1 Peter 2:11, 12?
11 Abraham is indeed an example to us today who look forward to the wonderful things promised to us by the God who does not lie. At present we still have men and women who, in a figurative way, are persons without a country. These are the ones who really have the faith of Abraham. They are the dedicated, baptized disciples of Jesus Christ, the Principal One of the ‘seed of Abraham.’ It is from no wrong standpoint that they are looked upon as a people without a country. This standpoint is backed up by what one of Christ’s disciples, the apostle Peter, wrote in his first letter addressed to those whom he calls “the temporary residents scattered about in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” (1 Pet. 1:1) In what sense were these Christians “temporary residents”? This is shown in chapter two, verses eleven and twelve, where the apostle Peter writes:
12 “Beloved, I exhort you as aliens and temporary residents to keep abstaining from fleshly desires, which are the very ones that carry on a conflict against the soul. Maintain your conduct fine among the nations [or, the Gentiles], that, in the thing in which they are speaking against you as evildoers, they may as a result of your fine works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God in the day for his inspection.”—1 Pet. 2:11, 12.
13. (a) However, to whom are we not “aliens,” and why not? (b) Unlike Peter, why shall we not have to move out of their wicked system of things?
13 “Aliens” we dedicated disciples of Christ may be to the world, but how consoling it is to know that we are not “aliens” to God! To him we are no longer “alienated and enemies because [our] minds were on the works that were wicked.” (Col. 1:21) We do not walk “as the nations also walk in the unprofitableness of their minds, while they are in darkness mentally, and alienated from the life that belongs to God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the insensibility of their hearts.” (Eph. 4:17, 18) The apostle Peter and the anointed Christians of his day expected to move out of this worldly system of things in the day of their death and thus no longer be alien sojourners or temporary residents in it. But today, in this twentieth century of the Christian congregation, those of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses who survive the oncoming “great tribulation” will not move out of the system. Why not? Because this wicked system of things will itself be removed from the face of the earth in the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” in which the tribulation will end.—Matt. 24:21, 22; Rev. 7:14; 16:14, 16; 19:11-21.
14. What solid reason did Peter give for anointed Christians to conduct themselves as “aliens and temporary residents” in this world?
14 Do we really profess to be dedicated Christians? Well, then, are we conducting ourselves as “aliens and temporary residents” among the worldly nations in the way advised by the inspired apostle Peter? There was a solid reason why he exhorted Christians who had been given a “new birth to a living hope” that they should carefully conduct themselves as persons in a foreign land. The reason for their doing this was that, as Peter said, “you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. For you were once not a people, but are now God’s people.” (1 Pet. 1:3; 2:9, 10) Obviously, then, such ones are no longer a part of this world that is alienated from God. They are no longer walking in its darkness, but are light bearers from God. They are in a situation like that of Abraham of long ago.
15. According to 2 Peter 3:13, 14, what is the hope of these Christians who have been given the “new birth”?
15 Their hope is not that of this world. Their hope is one inspired by God’s promise. This promise is now nearing fulfillment, glorious realization. More than nineteen centuries ago Peter penned the words: “There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell. Hence, beloved ones, since you are awaiting these things, do your utmost to be found finally by him spotless and unblemished and in peace.” (2 Pet. 3:13, 14) Those “new heavens” were the “city” that faithful Abraham awaited so patiently, a heavenly government “having real foundations, the builder and maker of which city is God.” (Heb. 11:10) The “new earth” is the new human society made up of all those who procure a blessing through the spiritual ‘seed of Abraham.’—Gen. 22:18; Rev. 21:1.
CHRISTLIKE NON-INVOLVEMENT WITH THE WORLD
16. So, then, why can Christians not interest themselves in the political affairs and controversies of worldly nations?
16 Since Christians are “aliens and temporary residents” and, as such, are awaiting the fulfillment of such a divine promise, how could they really interest themselves in the political affairs and violent conflicts of worldly nations? If their hearts are truly set on the “new heavens” and a “new earth” in connection with God’s kingdom, they sincerely could not do so!
17. How does one’s obedience to Christ’s words in Matthew 6:32, 33 make it out of order for one to divide one’s attention between God’s kingdom and man-made kingdoms?
17 Jesus Christ said to his disciples: “Your heavenly Father knows you need all these [material] things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness.” (Matt. 6:32, 33) Such a seeking of the heavenly Father’s kingdom first would include one’s taking an active part in the carrying out of Jesus’ prophecy: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:14) An obedient Christian cannot compromisingly divide his attention and time between the interests of God’s kingdom and the interests of man-made kingdoms and actually be putting God’s kingdom first and gaining his approval.
18. Why do Christians have no right to make themselves a part of this world?
18 Having become “aliens and temporary residents” toward this old world, Christians no longer have the right to make themselves again a part of this world. Were they to do so, then they would not be included in the prayer that Jesus offered to God: “I request you . . . to watch over them because of the wicked one. They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world. Sanctify them by means of the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:15-17) There was sound reason for such a prayer, inasmuch as “the wicked one” is “the ruler of this world.”—John 12:31; 14:30.
19. As “aliens and temporary residents,” what must Christians undergo in this world?
19 Does this world of Devil-ruled mankind love these Christian “aliens and temporary residents” because they consistently refuse to become a part of this world? Well, did the world love Jesus Christ because, as he said, he was “no part of the world”? The disciple is not better than his Master. Consequently Jesus said to his disciples: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you. Bear in mind the word I said to you, A slave is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also; . . . In fact, the hour is coming when everyone that kills you will imagine he has rendered a sacred service to God.” (John 15:18-20; 16:2) In order for the genuine Christian to enter into the fulfillment of God’s promise, he has to undergo faithfully such world hatred and mistreatment.
20. According to Hebrews 10:32-34, what did Christianized Jews, who were hated as Jesus was, need to remember?
20 The Christianized Jews in the Roman province of Judea, and particularly those in its capital Jerusalem, came to know the truth of those warning words of their Messianic Master, Jesus Christ. About twenty-eight years after Jesus spoke the above words, the apostle Paul, who was a Christianized Jew, was in position to write to the Hebrew believers in Jerusalem these strength-reviving words: “Keep on remembering the former days in which, after you were enlightened, you endured a great contest under sufferings, sometimes while you were being exposed as in a theater both to reproaches and tribulations, and sometimes while you became sharers with those who were having such an experience. For you both expressed sympathy for those in prison and joyfully took the plundering of your belongings, knowing you yourselves have a better and an abiding possession.”—Heb. 10:32-34.
21, 22. (a) Because of the world’s hostility, whom does God send to the people, and for what to be done? (b) How is this called to our attention in 2 Corinthians 5:19-21?
21 Admittedly the world is hostile to Jehovah God and to his devoted people. Because of this, God has assigned an ambassadorial service to his dedicated, baptized worshipers who have received from him the “new birth.” (1 Pet. 1:3) Accordingly he sends them forth to the alienated world, not to sue for peace and make a compromise with the world. The doomed world is not the one to dictate to God any terms of peace. (Luke 14:31, 32) God sends forth his ambassadors to plead with individual persons of the world to take advantage of God’s loving terms for entering a peaceful, lifesaving relationship with Him. The Christianized Jew, Paul, along with his half-Jewish companion, Timothy, calls this fact to our attention, saying, in 2 Corinthians 5:19-21:
22 “God was by means of Christ reconciling a world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and he committed the word of the reconciliation to us. We are therefore ambassadors substituting for Christ, as though God were making entreaty through us. As substitutes for Christ we beg: ‘Become reconciled to God.’ The one who did not know sin he made to be sin for us, that we might become God’s righteousness by means of him.”
23. In view of “the word of the reconciliation” that these Christian “ambassadors” carry, why are they not authorized to meddle in worldly politics and conflicts?
23 Because of being ambassadors substituting for Christ to all the nations, the commissioned Christians have to carry “the word of the reconciliation” to people of all sorts of political persuasion—to Democrats, to Republicans, to Socialists, to the Nazi-minded, to the Fascist-minded, to Communists, to Conservatives, to Laborites, and so forth. God’s “word of the reconciliation” is the same to all of these, without partiality. For this reason his “ambassadors substituting for Christ” cannot dabble in the politics of any country or become members of any political party anywhere. As “ambassadors” from God they are “aliens and temporary residents” no matter in what land they are preaching “this good news of the kingdom.” Remembering the apostle Paul’s words, “Our citizenship exists in the heavens” (Phil. 3:20, 21), they appreciate that they have no right or authorization to meddle in political matters. They must remain strictly neutral toward national or local politics and all selfish conflicts of this world.
24. Despite being most law-abiding, what do these “ambassadors” experience from the world, as shown by Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:19, 20?
24 So they are the most law-abiding of people, paying taxes and acting in the best interests of the community. Yet these ambassadors who substitute for Christ are hated by the world, just as Christ himself was. (Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:1-7) It is not strange, therefore, that just about six years after Paul wrote what is said in 2 Corinthians 5:19-21, he found himself a prisoner in Rome, Italy, and accordingly wrote to the congregation in Ephesus, Asia Minor, to pray for him: “That ability to speak may be given me with the opening of my mouth, with freeness of speech to make known the sacred secret of the good news, for which I am acting as an ambassador in chains.”—Eph. 6:19, 20.
25. One’s carrying out one’s Christian ambassadorship calls for what, and with what knowledge about possessions in mind?
25 Just the same as nineteen hundred years ago, one’s serving as an ‘ambassador substituting for Christ’ in among people today alienated from God calls for one to endure such suffering. As a pattern for us, Paul endured faithfully. He held onto his ambassadorship or his Christian ministry. He said: “In every way we recommend ourselves as God’s ministers, by the endurance of much, by tribulations, by cases of need, by difficulties, by beatings, by prisons,” and so forth. (2 Cor. 6:4, 5) As a fellow sufferer, Paul could tell his Christianized Hebrew brothers to keep on enduring, just as they had endured much when they first got the light of Bible truth. Although they might lose all earthly material possessions, yet they, and he too, had “a better and an abiding possession.”—Heb. 10:32-34.
26. Why is there yet need for Christian ambassadors and emissaries to hold on in faithful endurance?
26 As ambassadors or as emissaries from God who substitute for Christ, we Christian witnesses of Jehovah today have need to develop the power of endurance, do we not? Yes, for we need to continue enduring. Since the end of the Gentile Times in 1914 we have gone through a lot of persecution and mistreatment in a hostile world. Still more of such experiences lie yet ahead of us before we realize the fulfillment of God’s promise of “new heavens and a new earth,” in which righteousness is to dwell forever. (2 Pet. 3:13) The fulfillment of this promise is getting nearer and nearer. This generation among which all such unrighteous persecution of God’s ambassadors and emissaries has been committed since World War I of 1914-1918 C.E. is a marked generation. How so? In that it will experience God’s fulfilling of his promise to bring in the righteous new system of things. (Matt. 24:34; Mark 13:30) So let us hold on confidently in faithful endurance!