Gain the Promised Eternal Life—Exercise Faith!
1. In view of the Devil’s “short period of time,” why is it now more urgent for doers of God’s will to exercise faith?
THE “short period of time” during which Satan the Devil and his demon army are restrained here at the earth is now nearing its close. (Rev. 12:7-12) He may therefore be expected to intensify his warfare against the “remaining ones” of the “seed” of God’s heavenly “woman” and against the “great crowd” of fellow proclaimers of God’s Messianic kingdom. So it becomes all the more urgent for these doers of God’s will to exercise faith in order to endure faithfully under the fire of the enemy.
2, 3. Despite the shortness of the time left for Satan, what counsel of Paul to Hebrew Christians do we targets of Satan’s fire need to follow?
2 All we who are now the target of Satan’s warfare are given much encouragement to remain faithful to the Sovereign Lord Jehovah until the enemy’s guns are silenced. This bringing of the warfare to a close should reasonably be near, especially since it is now more than fifty-six years since the symbolic Dragon and his demon army were hurled down from heaven to the neighborhood of our earth, to be left here on the loose for only “a short period of time.” In spite of the shortness of the time, we still must follow the counsel of the apostle Paul, written in Hebrews 10:36, 37:
3 “You have need of endurance, in order that, after you have done the will of God, you may receive the fulfillment of the promise. For yet ‘a very little while,’ and ‘he who is coming will arrive and will not delay.’”
4. How will God vindicate his promise to bring timely relief to his worshipers?
4 According to those quotations made by the apostle Paul from Habakkuk 2:3 and Haggai 2:6, Jehovah is “he who is coming” and who “will arrive and will not delay.” As an invincible Warrior he will gain the victory over all those who wage war against his long-harassed worshipers. By his glorious victory in the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Har–Magedon, he will vindicate his promise to bring lasting relief to his afflicted worshipers.
5. Why are Satan and his demon army now obliged to use visible earthly agencies, and what are the symbolic “wild beast,” the Seventh World Power, and the “image” of the wild beast?
5 The Dragon, Satan the Devil, and his demon army have been restrained from materializing visibly in the flesh in order to wage war on Jehovah’s Christian witnesses of today. Hence, they are obliged to use earthly agents under their unseen control, worldly persons, organizations and political governments. The political elements that are involved in the warfare make up the worldwide political system that Revelation 13:1-10 pictures as a ferocious “wild beast.” This includes the modern Anglo-American Dual World Power, the Seventh World Power spoken of in Bible prophecy. In fulfillment of Bible prophecy this Seventh World Power promoted the creation of an idolatrous “image” of the political “wild beast.” (Rev. 13:11-15) For more than fifty-six years now that “image” has attracted the attention of the world. The “image” is the international organization for world peace and security, first in the form of the League of Nations and now as the United Nations.
6. What symbolic “mark” do patriotic worshipers of the “wild beast” get, and what does this numerical “mark” signify?
6 Patriotic believers in national sovereignty and man-made forms of political rulership over all the earth really worship the political “wild beast.” They also trust in the “image” of that “wild beast” rather than Jehovah’s sovereign rulership by Christ. Nationalistically they lend hand and head to the support of those man-made arrangements for world domination. This results in their getting the “mark” that plainly shows that they are serving, not the interests of God’s kingdom, but those of self-governing mankind. They are not ashamed to be connected with the meaningful number, six hundred, sixty and six, the identifying number of the political “wild beast.” In the Bible six is the number used to signify human imperfection, human shortcoming. Hence, 600 plus 60 plus 6 denotes human imperfection and deficiency in an intensified way, particularly in human rulership of the earth. Today we can see more clearly than ever before the frustrating failure of man’s political rulership because of its imperfection, inadequacy and corruptness. It is found wanting before God.—Rev. 13:16-18.
7. What do political patrioteers try to force everybody else to join them in doing, and for whom does this pose a test of faithfulness?
7 Patrioteers who worship the “wild beast” and its “image” proudly wear the “number of its name .” They put pressure upon everybody else to force them to join in worshiping the “wild beast” and thereby getting marked as belonging to the man-made political state, not to God. They resort to persecution of various kinds against Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. Why? Because these refuse to take part in idolatrous worship of man-made creations. This poses a severe test of faithfulness for all who uphold Jehovah’s universal sovereignty and Godship. That is why the angel seen in the apostle John’s vision said: “Here is where it means endurance for the holy ones, those who observe the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”—Rev. 14:12.
8. So what do we observers of God’s commandments and of the faith of Jesus do, and what would getting the “mark” of the “wild beast” result in for us?
8 We who observe God’s commandments obey Him as Ruler rather than men, even at the cost of suffering at the hands of persecutors. We hold onto our faith in Jesus as the Messiah or Christ and advertise him as the anointed King whom Jehovah has enthroned and crowned at the expiration of the Gentile Times in 1914. For this vital reason we abstain from taking an active part in the politics and violent controversies of the “wild beast” and of the Anglo-American Dual World Power, the promoter of the “image” of the “wild beast” from the postwar year of 1919 onward. We are not ignorant of what it would mean for us to get the “mark, the name of the wild beast or the number of its name.” It would mean for us to “drink of the wine of the anger of God that is poured out undiluted into the cup of his wrath” and to “be tormented with fire and sulphur in the sight of the holy angels and in the sight of the Lamb [Jesus Christ].” This would lead to our everlasting destruction, “the second death.” We would be plunged into the symbolic “fiery lake that burns with sulphur.” (Rev. 14:9-11; 13:16, 17; 19:20; 21:8) Do we want that to occur to us? No!
9. (a) The present situation calls for what quality on our part? (b) What serves as an incentive for us to keep on faithfully, with what confidence in God?
9 The present situation where extreme nationalism and the worship of the political state have spread world wide indeed calls for endurance on the part of those who “observe the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” But our steadfast obedience to God’s commandments and the faith of Jesus is what now constitutes the will of God. It is only after we have done the will of God in this respect that we shall receive the fulfillment of his promise to us. Inasmuch as it is now but “a very little while” before “he who is coming” will arrive and will not delay, it would be foolish in itself for us to stop enduring so as to get selfish relief for ourselves before Jehovah arrives with vengeance against those who make it so hard for us to do His will faithfully to the end. But the thing promised by God serves as an incentive to us to continue doing God’s will out of love for him. The thing promised is held out to us, but we need to exercise strong faith in the Promiser, believing that he is absolutely faithful to his promise as well as being able to fulfill it to us.
GAINING ETERNAL LIFE BY FAITH
10. (a) Why is God pleased to reward our demonstration of faith in him? (b) In contrast with the soul swollen up with self-confidence, by reason of what quality will God’s righteous one live?
10 Do we have such faith? We need it to make us strong to endure until the fulfillment of God’s promise. Such faith on our part honors God, for it demonstrates that we trust in him with respect to trueness to his promise. So our faith in God is something pleasing to him. He is happy to reward such an enduring faith. (Heb. 11:6) In reminding us of how essential faith is to our maintaining Christian integrity and proving worthy of eternal life in the promised new order of righteousness, the apostle Paul quotes a further statement by God in the prophecy of Habakkuk. In that prophecy God first speaks of the one who is swelled up with pride, self-importance and self-confidence, having no faith in Jehovah. So this one is not an upright soul, not upright toward the one true and living God. After taking note of such a soul, Jehovah makes the statement that is quoted by Paul: “But my righteous one will live by reason of faith.” (Heb. 10:38; Hab. 2:4) Such faith induces the “righteous one” to be faithful, upright.
11, 12. (a) In order to gain the promised eternal life, to what extent do we have to exercise faith? (b) From a brief description of exploits of faith by persons of old time, to what example of the greatest kind does Paul lead us?
11 Of course, in 2 Corinthians 5:7 Paul says: “We are walking by faith, not by sight.” And this means that we are living with faith toward God. However, in order to endure and gain eternal life in fulfillment of God’s promise, we have to exercise faith down to the finish of our life in this wicked system of things, of which Satan the Devil is ruler. (1 John 2:25; John 12:31) We need to display the same degree of faith that was displayed by faithful “men of old times.” They proved their faith down to the very death, even though then they did not receive the fulfillment of the particular promise made to them. Their exemplary exploits of faith the apostle Paul briefly describes in the following chapter of his letter, Hebrews chapter eleven. From his account of so many men and women of faith who had a commendable witness borne to them by God, Paul leads us to the greatest example of faith, saying:
12 “So, then, because we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also put off every weight and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, as we look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”—Heb. 12:1-3.
13. During this “very little while” that is terminating, why do we especially need to look intently at the perfect Exemplar of faith, having in mind what warning of Paul in Hebrews 10:38?
13 Now especially it behooves us to look intently at our Perfect Exemplar, Jesus Christ, for by this time he not only sits at the right hand of the throne of God but also reigns as the installed Messianic King. Even during this “very little while” that is rapidly terminating before Jehovah arrives as Avenger, it is possible for us to lose faith, committing the sin that so easily entangles us. Nineteen centuries ago Paul took occasion to warn the Christianized Hebrews of such a danger, by adding the further quotation from Habakkuk’s prophecy, saying: “And, ‘if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’”—Heb. 10:38.
14 In Habakkuk’s prophecy, according to the early Greek translation, the Septuagint, Jehovah says: “If anyone draw back, My soul hath no pleasure in him. But the just shall live by faith in Me.” (Hab. 2:4, Thomson’s translation) The one losing faith and drawing back gains Jehovah’s displeasure. This one is contrasted with the Christian who holds fast his faith in Jehovah and gains eternal life. In making his quotation Paul reverses the order of the two parts of Habakkuk 2:4. Paul puts the last part first.
15. Thus Paul gives us what cautioning, so appropriate in view of what test looming up before us?
15 Paul does this in order to caution us who have the Christian faith for the time being, for even now there is the danger that some of us may shrink back and fall away. “Consequently let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12) As the world under Satan gets more dictatorial, the pressure upon us increases. As we see the tremendous final test of our faithfulness looming up before us at the approach of the “great tribulation,” we might decide not to face it. We might lose faith and confidence in God. So we shrink back. We cease to endure trial.
16. How does a person who is unbelieving toward God act rashly?
16 Quite appropriately the Latin Vulgate version of Habakkuk 2:4 reads: “Behold, he that is unbelieving, his soul shall not be right in himself: but the just shall live in his faith.” (Douay English Version) The Roman Catholic The New American Bible indicates that the Christian is “rash” in giving up his faith because of the mounting difficulties that he sees just ahead, so that he breaks his integrity toward God. It reads: “The rash man has no integrity; but the just man, because of his faith, shall live.”
17. What can be said about one’s being “rash” in marching right on in faith toward the “great tribulation”?
17 The Christian who marches right on in faith toward the “great tribulation” is not “rash” in doing so. The real rash one, the person swollen up with self-confidence, is the one who through disbelief toward God Almighty becomes a quitter. The quitter stops short of the reward, the fulfillment of God’s promise to the faithful. Jehovah God has no pleasure in quitters.
18. In Hebrews 10:39, what course is set by the apostle Paul for the faithful class?
18 Faced now with the most turbulent time in all the history of Jehovah’s devoted people, what shall we do? What should be our determination? Far be it from us to take the cowardly course and shrink back! By God’s undeserved kindness, our rightful course is set for us by the apostle Paul as he speaks for the faithful class and says: “Now we are not the sort that shrink back to destruction, but the sort that have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.”—Heb. 10:39.
19. If declaring ourselves in favor of not shrinking back, we shall do what about meetings and “freeness of speech”?
19 Now is the time for us to make up our minds. Are we going to rest unwavering faith in God and to agree with the apostle Paul and declare with decisiveness: “We are not the sort that shrink back to destruction”? Declaring ourselves to be not of that sort of unbelieving Christians, we shall not forsake the “gathering of ourselves together,” as the shrinking unbelievers have the custom, but we shall, even in underground places, if necessary, gather together in order to encourage one another, “and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” We should not throw away our freeness of speech, “which has a great reward to be paid it,” but we will boldly keep on proclaiming Jehovah’s theocratic government by Christ as the one and only hope for all mankind.—Heb. 10:25-35; Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10.
20. If we want eternal life, in favor of what positive course do we declare ourselves?
20 In contrast with destruction, eternal life is what we want, is it not? So, speaking now, not negatively, but positively, we wholeheartedly say: “We are . . . the sort that have faith to the preserving alive of the soul. Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld. For by means of this the men of old times [including Abraham] had witness borne to them.”—Heb. 10:39 through 12:2.
21. Faith in God’s promise empowers us to do what, and with what kind of expectation?
21 Our faith in the promise of God, for whom lying is an impossibility, empowers us to endure. Faith and endurance go together, as it is written in Revelation 13:10: “Here is where it means the endurance and faith of the holy ones.” Till now we may have endured a long time for the promise of God to be fulfilled, but our expectation of it is a fortified, assured one, an expectation to the point where we are absolutely convinced that God will not disappoint us.
22. What do we believe about the unseen things of God’s promise, and with what will he reward us to enjoy fulfillment of the promise?
22 We may not yet see the things promised by God and for which we hope, but we know that they are realities forasmuch as we have the “evident demonstration” of their existence according to Almighty God’s power. In order to enter into the fulfillment of God’s promise we must possess life; we need to have our souls preserved alive. We can gain that prize of life solely by a sustained faith. We eagerly desire to enjoy God’s fulfilled promise eternally. Away, then, with any thought or inclination to shrink back in fear and in unbelief! Faith is what we will exercise along with works in proof! In reward for that, Jehovah God the Life-Giver will preserve our souls alive forever.—1 John 2:25.
23. In fulfillment of his promise, what will God do to the faithfully enduring doers of his will?
23 Without fail, therefore, the “God who supplies endurance” will fulfill his promise to the faithfully enduring doers of his will. (Rom. 15:5) Joyfully he will usher us into the eternal blessings and privileges of his long-promised kingdom by his Son Jesus Christ. Thus, not in vain shall we have preached this kingdom “in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations” before “the end” came.—Matt. 24:14.
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Only those who exercise a sustained faith will survive the end of this system and gain eternal life in fulfillment of God’s promise