Pay Attention to Prophecy
“We have the prophetic word made more sure; and you are doing well in paying attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place.”—2 PETER 1:19.
1. What startling disclosures did Jesus make, according to Matthew 16:21-28?
JESUS’ earthly ministry was drawing to its close. Near Caesarea Philippi, north of Galilee, this “Son of man” had informed his disciples of his approaching death and of his coming again in the glory of his Father. Then he told them: “Truly I say to you that there are some of those standing here that will not taste death at all until first they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:21-28) What could this mean?
2. (a) How were Jesus’ words fulfilled in a vision seen by Peter, James and John? (b) Of what glorious event was this prophetic?
2 About six days later, Jesus took Peter, James and John up into a lofty mountain, probably Hermon of the Anti-Lebanon range. Here a remarkable thing happened! Jesus was transfigured before their eyes, taking on a dazzling appearance. In a vision, Moses and Elijah were seen conversing with him. Why Moses and Elijah? Well, Jesus is clearly identified in the Scriptures as “that Prophet” foreshadowed by Moses. And a work like that of Elijah is closely connected with God’s Kingdom in which Jesus reigns. (Acts 3:22, 23; Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Malachi 4:5) It was appropriate, then, that they should be seen here with Jesus in this vision of his coming in the magnificence of his future Kingdom glory.—Matthew 17:1-5.
3. What words of Jehovah emphasized the importance of the vision?
3 Appropriate it was, too, that Jehovah’s voice was heard from heaven, saying: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” To this, God added the words: “Listen to him.”
4. (a) Why should that event impress us today? (b) To what “prophetic word” does 2 Peter 1:19 refer?
4 What impression did that awe-inspiring event leave with those apostles? How should it affect us today? Some 30 years later, Peter could still recall that spectacle in all its brilliance. “Consequently,” he said, “we have the prophetic word made more sure.” What “prophetic word”? Why, those prophecies, such as Daniel 7:13, 14, that were now confirmed by the transfiguration—prophecies about the coming of the Son of man in the glory of Kingdom power!—2 Peter 1:16-19; see also Isaiah 9:6, 7.
5. What important additions were made to that “word”?
5 By that time “the prophetic word” had come to include, too, prophecies given by Jesus Christ himself. Among these was his Kingdom prophecy on “the conclusion of the system of things,” which also envisaged “the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” at a time of unparalleled world distress. (Matthew 24:3-14, 30, 31) Later, “the prophetic word” would include the powerful Kingdom prophecies that the glorified Jesus Christ revealed to the aged apostle John, such as those recorded at Revelation 1:12-16; 5:5-10; 11:15-17 and Re 14:14, 15.
6. Why should the prophetic word have greater impact on us today?
6 If Peter and his companions were so moved by that prophetic vision, how much greater impact should it have on us today! Now that the Son of man has arrived in his glory, to sit down on his glorious Kingdom throne in the heavens, surely it is high time to “listen to him”! We indeed do well in paying attention to the prophetic word, “as to a lamp shining in a dark place,” allowing it to illuminate our hearts.—2 Corinthians 4:6.
7. (a) How does Paul emphasize the importance of prophecy? (b) Why, especially, should we give heed to it today?
7 The apostle Paul also stressed the need to take the prophetic message into our hearts. He wrote the Hebrew Christians that God “long ago spoke on many occasions and in many ways to [their] forefathers by means of the prophets,” but ‘at the end of the days (of the Jewish system of things)’ he spoke to them by means of a Son. That prophetic word spoken by Jesus was of tremendous import. If heeded, it would lead on to salvation. “That is why,” said Paul, “it is necessary for us to pay more than the usual attention to the things heard by us.” (Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:1) Now, at “the conclusion of the [entire world] system of things,” we have all the more reason to listen to Jesus’ words.—Matthew 24:3, 35; compare Isaiah 55:6-11.
8. How should the prophetic word stimulate us, and with what benefit?
8 Let it be emphasized that our paying attention to the prophetic word should not be just for the purpose of gaining knowledge. Far from it! That word should stimulate us to act on that knowledge, causing us to do God’s will, and especially now, “in the final part of the days.” (Isaiah 2:2, 3) Addressing Jehovah God, the psalmist says: “Your word is a lamp to my foot, and a light to my roadway.” That word enables us to continue walking in the light of truth and in precious intimacy with our God. It guards us from ever drifting back to Satan’s world. (Psalm 119:105; Job 29:3, 4) To gain enduring benefit from the prophetic word, we must cultivate a deep love for the Bible, taking its entire message down into our hearts. Thus we will be motivated always to do God’s will and to keep ourselves in his love.—Mark 12:29-31; 1 John 4:16; Jude 20, 21.
9. (a) Why do we say that the Bible record is not dead history? (b) What day of vengeance is there pictured?
9 The Bible describes in great detail the waywardness of ancient Israel. And why? “For a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.” This should instill in us godly fear, lest we ever develop “a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God.” (1 Corinthians 10:11; Hebrews 3:12; Job 28:28) The Bible record is not dead history! It provides prophetic patterns and pronouncements that show that Jehovah God will again execute vengeance but on a far more extensive scale than in the days of apostate Israel. God’s punishment of that backsliding nation in 607 B.C.E., and again in 70 C.E., is pictorial of how, shortly, his burning anger will be poured out on Christendom in particular. We do well to heed that prophetic word!—Jeremiah 7:28, 32-34; Matthew 24:3-22.
10, 11. (a) What comparison helps us to appreciate that these are indeed “the last days”? (b) How, especially, have Christendom’s sects fulfilled prophecy?
10 Indisputably, we have entered “the last days” of Satan’s system of world rulership. You have only to compare the world today with the apostle Paul’s words at 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13 to appreciate that fact. And especially among the confused sects of Christendom’s religions do we find men “having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power.” They have no genuine message of salvation.—Compare Matthew 7:21-23.
11 The many sects in Christendom match well the description given by Jehovah’s prophet, when he said: “There are two bad things that my people have done: They have left even me [Jehovah God], the source of living water, in order to hew out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that cannot contain the water.” (Jeremiah 2:13) How true it is that Christendom’s sects have abandoned the Sovereign Lord Jehovah and the righteous principles set out in his Word! They even hate to mention his name. Instead, they have hewed out “broken cisterns,” turning to the philosophies and theories of men and politicking with the world. In many lands their churches are dying for lack of support because the people find in them no refreshing waters of truth. In contrast, however, there is an abundance of spiritual refreshment to be found among those faithfully serving Jehovah.—Isaiah 55:1, 2; 65:13, 14.
What World Leaders Say
12. Why is it futile to trust in human leaders for survival?
12 The Bible is not alone in warning of world destruction. The present secretary-general of the United Nations has declared that for the first time in human history we are now “placed on the narrow edge between catastrophe and survival.” In a memorandum written as far back as 1958, former U.S. President Harry Truman said: “Now we are faced with total destruction. . . . That destruction is at hand unless the great leaders of the world prevent it.” But in the past 25 years, have the “great leaders” moved to prevent total destruction? Instead, they are now spending more than a million dollars a minute on the most devilish weapons of annihilation. It is concerning such “great leaders” that the psalmist wrote: “Do not put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs.”—Psalm 146:3.
13, 14. (a) To what false hope have religious leaders pointed? (b) According to Isaiah, what is the real hope?
13 The tragic situation is something beyond the power of the nations to defuse. Even the United Nations, so called, has proved to be more of a forum for partisan quarreling than an agency for building peace and security. Popes Paul VI and John Paul II each made an appearance before the UN, amid great pomp. They declared that body to be mankind’s ‘last hope of concord and peace.’ But is it?
14 In his prophetic word Jehovah speaks of the real hope. He caused Isaiah to foretell the birth of a son who becomes “Prince of Peace.” This one is Christ Jesus, foreshadowed by King David of old. The prophecy goes on to say of Jesus: “To the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom in order to establish it firmly and to sustain it by means of justice and by means of righteousness, from now on and to time indefinite. The very zeal of Jehovah of armies will do this.” (Isaiah 9:6, 7) But how will Jehovah’s zeal bring about ‘peace without end’?
“The Kingdom of God Is Near”
15. How did Jesus emphasize the Kingdom hope?
15 One who is greater than David, Jesus Christ, prophesied concerning the total wars and resultant distresses of our 20th century. He foretold the terrible happenings, the anguish of nations, the fearful expectation of things coming upon the earth. Then he said: “But as these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near. . . . When you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:10, 11, 25-31) The Kingdom of God! There is the solution to mankind’s problems. Down through the years, have we not been praying for that Kingdom to come? That is what Jesus instructed us to do, saying: “You must pray, then, this way: ‘Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.’”—Matthew 6:9, 10.
16. In what sense is the Kingdom of God “near”?
16 The prophetic word tells us that now “the kingdom of God is near.” But in what sense? God’s prophet Daniel explains. After describing the kingdoms, or governments, of mankind at “the time of the end,” he says: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.” (Daniel 12:4; 2:44) So the earth is not burned up by a nuclear holocaust that destroys all human life. Rather, God’s Kingdom sweeps wicked men and nations off the face of our globe, in preparation for a permanent earth-wide government on the shoulders of the “Prince of Peace.”—Isaiah 9:6.
God’s Vengeance Executed
17. The cry “Peace and security!” will be the signal for what?
17 The prophecies of the Bible focus in on our day. They show us what lies immediately ahead. “For all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) The prophetic word depicts mankind’s ‘last hope for peace,’ the UN, as a scarlet-colored wild beast. Oh, it may trump up some kind of shaky peace and share in the cry “Peace and security!”—in harmony with its charter and in fulfillment of the prophecy at 1 Thessalonians 5:3. But then Jehovah will maneuver the militarized “horns” of the UN to devastate false religion, “Babylon the Great,” of which Christendom’s sects make up the most reprehensible part. Then, when those “horns” turn to do battle with the Lamb, Jesus Christ, by attacking the peace-loving witnesses of Jehovah, God’s sword of execution will descend on those nations and their armies, and “they will by no means escape.”—Revelation 17:3-6, 12-17.
18. (a) According to the prophetic word, what will happen to those nations that attack God’s people? (b) How, finally, will God dispose of matters?
18 The nuclear armaments of the nations will provide them no protection during that “war of the great day of God the Almighty,” the battle of Armageddon. (Revelation 16:14, 16) If those weapons of mass horror are used at all, they will assist only in the nations’ destroying one another. In the days of good King Jehoshaphat of Judah, enemy hordes advanced to attack God’s seemingly defenseless people. But Jehovah, through his prophet, told them: “Do not you be afraid or be terrified because of this large crowd; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” Jehovah set an ambush for those enemies, so that “they went smiting one another,” until all of them were annihilated. (2 Chronicles 20:15-23; compare also Judges 7:22; Ezekiel 38:21-23; Zechariah 14:13.) The final outcome will be directed by God’s enthroned “King of kings” and his angelic forces, who will dispose of his enemies down to the last surviving straggler. Even Satan and his demons will be abyssed.—Revelation 19:11-16, 21; 20:1-3.
19. (a) What lesson should we draw from Genesis 18:23-33? (b) Who only will be spared out of the “great tribulation”?
19 However, is it not a shocking thing for Jehovah to destroy this entire world system, with no part of it ever to be restored? Perhaps some feel as Abraham felt about Sodom and Gomorrah, that if only 50, or 45, or 30, or 20, or even 10 righteous persons could be found out there in the world, then “the Judge of all the earth” should not sweep it all away. (Genesis 18:23-33) But the prophetic word makes it plain that Satan’s world is unrighteous from top to bottom and that it will be completely wiped out! (Jeremiah 25:31-33; Zephaniah 3:8) The only flesh saved out of that “great tribulation” will be, as Jesus himself stated, the dedicated “flesh” of his chosen anointed ones and of their sheeplike companions. No others are counted righteous in Jehovah’s sight.—Matthew 24:21, 22; 25:31-33, 46; John 10:16; Habakkuk 3:1, 2, 12, 13.
20. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, what must we be alert to do during these final days?
20 The prophetic word of Jehovah keeps “panting on” toward its final fulfillment. We should “keep in expectation of it.” (Habakkuk 2:3) Therefore, let us, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, declare boldly “the day of vengeance on the part of our God” and be ‘outspoken’ like Jesus’ apostles in comforting mourning ones with the good news of salvation. (Isaiah 61:1, 2; Acts 4:8-13, 18-20) Let us be alert, also, in heeding Jesus’ words: “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.
How would you answer?
□ What lesson do we learn from 2 Peter 1:16-19 and related scriptures?
□ What benefits do we gain by ‘paying attention to the prophetic word’?
□ What is prophesied as being near, and why should we not be afraid?
□ As God’s “day of vengeance” approaches, what should we be doing?
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“The battle is not yours, but God’s”