‘Stay Awake and Keep Your Senses’
“Let us not sleep on as the rest do, but let us stay awake and keep our senses.”—1 Thess. 5:6.
1. What fulfillment of Bible prophecy can we expect soon?
WHEN Jesus foretold the destruction of Jerusalem in his generation, he stated: “These are the days for meting out justice, that all the things written may be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:22) In 70 C.E., God’s righteous execution of judgment came against those who had profaned his name, broken his laws and persecuted his servants. Similarly, God’s righteous execution of judgment against this present wicked system of things is soon to come, once again demonstrating that all the things written in Bible prophecy are sure to be fulfilled. And that judgment will come with shocking suddenness to those who are unprepared, for the Bible states: “Whenever it is that they are saying: ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them.”—1 Thess. 5:2, 3.
2. What counsel does God’s Word give us that we can apply to the immediate future?
2 Between now and the time when God’s judgments are concluded, it is imperative for Jehovah’s servants to maintain the highest sense of vigilance and dedication of purpose. The apostle Paul, who recorded the inspired prophecy at 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3, also said: “So, then, let us not sleep on as the rest do, but let us stay awake and keep our senses.” (1 Thess. 5:6) Jesus counseled: “Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur.” (Luke 21:36) The apostle Peter similarly wrote: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion.”—2 Pet. 3:11.
COMING TO JEHOVAH NOW
3. For anyone to survive into God’s new order, what must he do?
3 Any person who wants to survive into God’s righteous new order urgently needs to come into a right relationship with Jehovah and His earthly organization now. “The name of Jehovah is a strong tower. Into it the righteous runs and is given protection.” (Prov. 18:10) “It must occur in the final part of the days that the mountain of the house of Jehovah will become firmly established above the top of the mountains, and it will certainly be lifted up above the hills; and to it all the nations must stream.” (Isa. 2:2) Yes, any people of the nations who want to live in God’s paradisaic new order must now stream to Jehovah’s mountain, his true worship, which is firmly established and is exalted high above any other type of worship.
4. How does Jesus show that waiting too long to come to Jehovah could be fatal?
4 Why is there such an urgency about coming to Jehovah’s true worship now? Could not a sincere person wait until he actually sees Jehovah’s executional judgments beginning, and then quickly come over to His side? While that might sound appealing to some, would there then be enough time to build the right relationship with Jehovah? The evidence from the Scriptures answers, No. Jesus warned: “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.” (Luke 21:34, 35) Note that those who are not awake spiritually are caught unawares, for that “day” comes upon them “suddenly,” “instantly,” in just the same way that “sudden destruction is to be instantly upon” those who are saying “Peace and security!”
5. What Bible examples do we have to show that people need to learn about Jehovah before destruction begins?
5 Jesus likened such persons to an animal that unwittingly walks into a trap. He also likened spiritually unaware persons to those in Noah’s day who “took no note until the flood came and swept them all away.” Was there any time for those people to learn of Jehovah and come under his protection after the Flood began? No, because Jesus plainly says that when the Flood came it “swept them all away.” They were not already in the ark of protection with Noah and his family. Also, when God’s judgment came against Sodom and Gomorrah, were there any who escaped after fiery destruction began raining from heaven? No, for all were destroyed except Lot and his daughters, who already had left the area. Even Lot’s wife, who had started to leave but then hesitated, was overwhelmed by the destructive forces. With good reason did Jesus say: “Remember the wife of Lot.”—Matt. 24:37-39; Luke 17:32.
6. The weight of evidence in the Scriptures argues against what belief?
6 Yet might there be a period of time after “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion, goes down, when people could have the opportunity of awakening spiritually and searching for Jehovah? The weight of evidence in the Scriptures is against this. In addition to the previous examples, there is also that of the first-century Jewish nation. Those religious Jews felt that they were worshiping God sufficiently and did not need to listen to the preaching of Jesus or of his followers. However, Jesus had warned: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near. Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains, and let those in the midst of her withdraw.” (Luke 21:20-22) But when Roman armies that had been surrounding Jerusalem withdrew in the year 66 C.E., the overconfident Jews did not “begin fleeing.” Having turned the Roman army’s retreat into a rout by attacking its rear guard, the Jews felt no need to flee. They believed that God was with them, and they even coined new silver money bearing the inscription “Jerusalem the Holy.” But the inspired prophecy of Jesus showed that Jerusalem no longer was holy to Jehovah.
7. What fate befell the Jews who did the opposite of what Jesus counseled?
7 Deceived by false religion, the Jews did not leave Jerusalem and Judea when they had the opportunity to do so. In fact, in the spring of the year 70 C.E., they did the opposite! They flocked into Jerusalem for a religious festival. But right at that time, powerful Roman armies under General Titus returned, surrounded Jerusalem and trapped all those people, like animals caught in snares. After a short siege, Jerusalem was destroyed. An eyewitness to those events, historian Flavius Josephus, wrote: “Now the number of those that were carried captive during this whole war was collected to be ninety-seven thousand; as was the number of those that perished during the whole siege eleven hundred thousand [1,100,000], the greater part of whom were indeed of the same nation [with the citizens of Jerusalem], but not belonging to the city itself; for they were come up from all the country to the feast of unleavened bread, and were on a sudden shut up by an army, . . . the entire nation was now shut up by fate as in prison, and the Roman army encompassed the city.”—Wars of the Jews, Book VI, Chap. IX, pars. 3, 4, translated by William Whiston.
8. What resulted to Christians who listened to Jesus, in contrast with the outcome to those who tried to flee at the last moment?
8 However, Christians who had stayed awake and had kept their senses were already out of Jerusalem and all Judea, having fled to places of security when the opportunity came after the year 66 C.E. By believing the prophetic words of Jesus and acting upon them, they survived. But, when that “great tribulation” came upon the Jews in 70 C.E., there was no longer any time for them to flee. Several thousand who tried to get out of the city through the Roman encirclement were caught by soldiers, who even cut open some of those Jews to get the gold that many of them had swallowed.
SURVIVING THE MORE SEVERE “TRIBULATION”
9, 10. (a) How severe will the “great tribulation” be? (b) Why does there not appear to be any period of calm after the destruction of “Babylon the Great”?
9 That was indeed a severe “tribulation” that came upon the Jews, exactly as Jesus had foretold. (Luke 19:43, 44) Yet Jesus’ words indicated that a much greater “tribulation” would come in our time during Jehovah’s “day of vengeance.” Answering a question about the “sign” of his “presence,” Christ declared: “For then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matt. 24:3, 21) This “tribulation” will come not only upon “Babylon the Great” but also upon all of Satan’s system, including its political, social and economic arrangements.
10 While the destruction begins ‘suddenly’ with false religion, it proceeds unrelentingly toward its finish. (1 Thess. 5:3) Arguing against there being any period of calm following the overthrow of “Babylon the Great,” Bible prophecy shows that the anti-God forces that destroy her will not show Jehovah’s dedicated witnesses any favor either. To the contrary, these anti-God forces will hate God’s people and will turn on them too. The Bible shows that the same “wild beast . . . with ten horns” that devastated “Babylon the Great” will also “battle with the Lamb,” Jesus Christ, as represented by his followers on earth. (Rev. 13:1; 17:12-14, 16; 19:19) These victory-flushed conquerors over false religion will no doubt consider God’s servants just another religion to be taken out of the way so that there will be no remaining obstacle to their exercising earth-wide domination.—Ezek. 38:14-16.
11. How does the “great tribulation” reach its climax?
11 However, this attack upon God’s servants is the same as attacking God, for he says: “He that is touching you is touching my eyeball.” (Zech. 2:8; Ezek. 38:18, 19) That brings an immediate reaction from Jehovah. It provokes his Armageddon fury upon the attackers. (Rev. 16:14, 16) He commands his King Son, Christ Jesus, and his heavenly armies to go on to the attack! With crushing force, Christ and his heavenly armies strike down the kings of the earth and all other remaining elements of this ungodly system, as well as everyone who supports it. Crying out with a loud voice, an angel invites the birds of heaven: “Come here, be gathered together to the great evening meal of God, that you may eat the fleshy parts of kings and the fleshy parts of military commanders and the fleshy parts of strong men and the fleshy parts of horses and of those seated upon them, and the fleshy parts of all, of freemen as well as of slaves and of small ones and great.” (Rev. 19:17, 18) Thus, the “great tribulation” reaches its climax. God’s righteous “day of vengeance” upon this Satanic system of things comes to its conclusion.
12. When should sincere persons “search for Jehovah”?
12 From the beginning of the “sudden destruction,” starting with the devastation of “Babylon the Great,” proceeding to the attack by the nations upon Jehovah’s servants and continuing to God’s war of Armageddon, there does not appear to be any halt in the “great tribulation.” So there is no Scriptural reason to conclude that there would be enough time to turn to God after false religion is destroyed. Instead, those who want to escape alive into God’s new order should turn to Jehovah now. “Search for Jehovah, you people, while he may be found. Call to him while he proves to be near.” (Isa. 55:6) Now is when sincere persons should develop lives of faith, courage, love and service. Now is when they need to prepare themselves to withstand the pressures that will come against God’s people during the rapidly approaching “great tribulation.”
13. To what are God’s faithful servants likened, and in what ways?
13 God’s Word likens his faithful servants to well-trained soldiers who are attentive, who have on their protective armor, and who are ready to obey any command given them by their leader. They are not like unprepared troops sleeping in the barracks at a time of danger and urgency. Paul says: “So, then, let us not sleep on as the rest do, but let us stay awake and keep our senses. For those who sleep are accustomed to sleep at night, and those who get drunk are usually drunk at night. But as for us who belong to the day, let us keep our senses and have on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet the hope of salvation; because God assigned us, not to wrath, but to the acquiring of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”—1 Thess. 5:6-9.
14. What shows that God’s servants will certainly be properly informed so that they can do God’s will?
14 Too, God’s servants have full confidence that he will keep his organization well informed, so that they can take the proper steps for survival. We can be sure of this because the inspired prophecy at Revelation, chapter seven, shows that “a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, . . . come out of the great tribulation” and survive into God’s new order where “God will wipe out every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7:9, 14, 17) And why does the “great crowd” survive? Because ‘they are rendering God sacred service day and night,’ and so he ‘spreads out his protective tent over them.’ (Rev. 7:15) Being properly informed, they know how to serve God acceptably. They do not wait passively to see what will happen. They know that the one who “does the will of God” is the one who “remains forever.”—1 John 2:17.
15. How have Jehovah’s Witnesses obeyed the command to ‘preach the good news of God’s kingdom in all the inhabited earth’?
15 Included as part of God’s will for our day is the fulfillment 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) To true Christians, these prophetic words are, in effect, a command to tell others about the good news of God’s kingdom and the incoming new order. And it certainly has been obeyed by Jehovah’s Witnesses in these “last days.” (2 Tim. 3:1; compare Matthew 28:19, 20.) Unselfishly they have used their time and resources to instruct others about God’s marvelous purpose for this earth. As a result of all this hard work, upwards of five million persons throughout the world expressed interest in God’s new order and his provision for salvation through Jesus Christ by meeting together this past April to observe the Memorial of Christ’s death.
16, 17. (a) What instructions were given to the nation of Israel before God destroyed Jericho? (b) How were those instructions carried out?
16 As Jehovah’s forward-moving organization approaches the final years of its preaching activity toward this world, there is no doubt that the scope of the work will grow. Recall what the Israelites were instructed to do just before God destroyed Jericho. First, they were instructed to march around the city once a day for six days. But then they were told: “On the seventh day you should march round the city seven times and the priests should blow the horns. And it must occur that when they sound with the horn of the ram, when you hear the sound of the horn, all the people should shout a great war cry; and the wall of the city must fall down flat.”—Josh. 6:2-5.
17 On that seventh and last day, the Israelites were to increase their activity seven times! Then they were to “shout a great war cry.” Exactly as instructed, they did this. “It came about on the seventh day that they proceeded to get up early, as soon as the dawn ascended, and they went marching round the city in this manner seven times. . . . And it came about on the seventh time that the priests blew the horns, and Joshua proceeded to say to the people: ‘Shout; for Jehovah has given you the city.’ . . . And it came about that as soon as the people heard the sound of the horn and the people began to shout a great war cry, then the wall began to fall down flat.”—Josh. 6:15, 16, 20.
18. What do we anticipate as regards the scope and manner of the preaching activity before this system comes to its end?
18 We can expect a similar expansion of our preaching activity now, at this climax of the ages. No doubt, before the “great tribulation” is finished, we will see the greatest witness to God’s name and kingdom in the history of this world. And while now the witness yet includes the invitation to come to Jehovah’s organization for salvation, the time no doubt will come when the message takes on a harder tone, like a “great war cry.” Revelation 16:21 shows that “a great hail with every stone about the weight of a talent [nearly 100 pounds] descended out of heaven upon the men, and the men blasphemed God due to the plague of hail, because the plague of it was unusually great.” Hailstones are frozen, hardened water. So this pictures how, at the end, Jehovah’s judgment message sent down upon disobedient mankind will be like a barrage of hard-hitting hail. The fact that the plague of hailstones is spoken of as being “unusually great” suggests that at the very end there will be a hard proclamation of Jehovah’s “day of vengeance” by Jehovah’s servants.
19. In view of the immediate future, ‘what kind of persons ought we to be’?
19 So, then, we do well to say, as Peter did, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion”! (2 Pet. 3:11) Surely, we need to “keep comforting one another and building one another up.” We should “always pursue what is good toward one another.” (1 Thess. 5:11, 15) “Really, then, as long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” (Gal. 6:10) To this end, do not fail to ‘stay awake and keep your senses.’—1 Thess. 5:6.
[Picture on page 16]
Any persons who want to survive into God’s new order must now stream to Jehovah’s true worship
[Picture on page 18]
Christians who obeyed Jesus fled Jerusalem in time and did not suffer its fate in 70 C.E.
[Picture on page 19]
God’s Word likens his alert servants to well-trained soldiers who have protective armor on and who are ready to obey
[Picture on page 20, 21]
When the Israelites began to “shout a great war cry,” the walls of Jericho fell