Now Is the Time for Zealous Service
“He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.”—MARK 13:13.
1, 2. (a) What conditions make it obvious that we are living at the end of this system of things? (b) What two reactions could you have?
SOME people still doubt that we are living at the end of this present system, although it is hard to imagine why they would be doubtful about that fact. Morals deteriorate. Economic conditions worsen. Violence abounds. The population explosion continues, pollution grows, atomic waste increases, atomic weapons multiply and nonbelievers often wonder if life will survive on earth.
2 However, the end of this old system has not yet come. Some dedicated Christians may have wearied of doing Kingdom service. If anyone, in effect, dedicated his life, not to God, but to a date, he may have been sifted out. But those who dedicated their life to Jehovah God, always to do his will and to follow his ways, are stronger than ever and their numbers continue to grow.
3. (a) Why are lovers of righteousness anxious to see this old system end? (b) Until it does, what should we be doing?
3 People who love righteousness are anxious to see this old system end, for it will be replaced by an earthly Paradise, by the righteous New Order that the Bible promises. (Isaiah 9:6, 7; Matthew 6:9, 10; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-4) Of course, Jehovah’s servants want this change to come as soon as God wills it. But, having made a genuine dedication to God, they patiently await his time as they push ahead with zeal in the thrilling Kingdom-preaching work he has given them to do.—Matthew 24:14.
4. What fine example was set by men and women of faith in ancient times?
4 There is no reason for anyone to draw back, slack off, or relax the hand. Jehovah God and Christ Jesus are workers. (John 5:17) Moreover, the Bible is filled with accounts of hardworking, happy men and women of faith, who serve as inspiring and encouraging examples for us. Yet many of those faithful men and women knew that the promises they awaited would not be fulfilled in their lifetime. Generations, in some cases even thousands of years, would have to pass before the things they awaited would occur. Yet they never slackened their activity. Many served joyfully to a ripe old age, firm in faith, zealous in obedience to God, patiently awaiting the outworking of his purposes. Furthermore, over the centuries, God gave his revelation progressively. Hence, those ancient men of faith had far less knowledge of how God would accomplish the things he had promised than you can have today.
5. What example did Abel set?
5 For example, think of how little information Abel had. He knew only that God had promised a “seed” and that at some future time that “seed” would bruise the serpent’s head. (Genesis 3:15) Yet Jesus called Abel “righteous,” and he is mentioned first in Paul’s list of outstanding men of faith. (Matthew 23:35; Hebrews 11:4) Would you have had such faith with the limited information that was available in Abel’s time?
6, 7. Although certain God-given promises were not fulfilled in Abraham’s day, how did he set us a fine example?
6 Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all lived before Jehovah demonstrated his marvelous power at the time of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. They knew nothing of the awesome events that would surround the giving of the Law at Sinai. When they lived, not even the first book of the Bible had been written.
7 Abraham had no hope that a Paradise would be restored on earth during his lifetime. Instead, he was told that his offspring would be afflicted for 400 years. Only at some distant future time would God’s promise be fulfilled that ‘by means of Abraham’s seed all nations of the earth would certainly bless themselves.’ (Genesis 15:13; 22:18; Galatians 3:8) Abraham was “awaiting the city having real foundations, the builder and maker of which city is God.” (Hebrews 11:10) The fact that Abraham would see it not in his day but only in the resurrection did not diminish his faith, obedience and zeal in serving God. We might ask ourselves: Do I have the kind of faith, obedience and zeal that Abraham had?
8. From Moses, what do we learn about patience and endurance?
8 Moses thought that he could not do the work God assigned him. He said that he was not a fluent speaker and felt that neither his own people nor Pharaoh would listen to him. (Exodus 4:1, 10; 6:12) Yet Moses obeyed. He did what Jehovah told him, and he did this for a very long time. In the wilderness Moses knew that it would be 40 more years before his people would enter the Promised Land, and because of his own later sin he was told that he would not enter the land even then. Yet year after year he continued in Jehovah’s way. (Numbers 14:33, 34; 20:9-12; Deuteronomy 3:23-28; 34:1-6) Would your love for God have prompted such patience and diligence in his service? Would you faithfully have led others toward a goal that you knew you personally would not reach?
9, 10. How did Isaiah and Jeremiah demonstrate endurance, without the hope of obtaining a desired reward during their lifetime?
9 When Jehovah asked who would go and speak for him, Isaiah said: “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8-11) For more than 40 years he served as Jehovah’s prophet. Among other things, Isaiah transmitted God’s promise of “new heavens and a new earth,” although there was no hope of a righteous new system in his lifetime. (Isaiah 65:17-25) Would you have been that faithful simply because maintaining faithfulness was right and in harmony with your deep love for God?
10 Jeremiah was used to proclaim unpopular warnings to an unbelieving people. No righteous earthly Paradise awaited the end of his preaching. Instead, his beloved Jerusalem was to become “a devastated place, an object of astonishment,” destroyed for her inhabitants’ lack of faith. Jeremiah knew that there would be a restoration, but it would not occur until after the passing of 70 years—almost another normal lifetime! (Jeremiah 25:8-11; 29:10) The fact that he would not live to see the foretold restoration did not keep Jeremiah from preaching. Even when he tried to stop, Jehovah’s word was “like a burning fire” in his bones. He just had to speak, and Jehovah was with him “like a terrible mighty one.”—Jeremiah 20:7-11.
Aids to Our Endurance
11, 12. What does the Bible indicate that ancient examples of faith should prompt us to do?
11 The apostle Paul indicated the effect that these examples should have on us. He wrote: “So, then, because we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also put off every weight and the sin [lack of faith] that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”—Hebrews 12:1.
12 Paul also wrote: “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. Now may the God who supplies endurance and comfort grant you to have among yourselves the same mental attitude that Christ Jesus had, that with one accord you may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:4-6) So these ancient examples of faith should inspire us to endure, to stick to our preaching and teaching assignment, and thus zealously glorify Jehovah, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
13. What do we know that ancient men of faith never had the opportunity to learn?
13 Just think of the faith-strengthening things we know that the ancient faithful prophets could not have known. When they lived, no one yet knew who the Messiah would be. But not only do we know who he is; we also know about the birth, teaching, death and resurrection of that One, Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we know about the ransom, the Kingdom and the “seed” that those men had faithfully awaited. Moreover, we have all the Christian Greek Scriptures—from Matthew through Revelation. And we have the opportunity to understand that marvelous book of Revelation, with its faith-strengthening prophecies that are being fulfilled in our time and will yet undergo fulfillment. Indeed, we live in an exciting and crucial time—a time those ancient men eagerly awaited.
Examples of Zealous Service
14, 15. Did the fact that the Kingdom was still future discourage first-century Christians? Explain.
14 Jesus’ early followers were impatient about seeing the promised Kingdom. They asked Jesus: “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” Those disciples did not then realize that the Kingdom would be a heavenly one. They would come to understand that later under the influence of God’s spirit. But Jesus let them know that they had a big work to do. He said that they were to “be witnesses of [him] both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8) That task did not seem too great to undertake. On the day of Pentecost in 33 C.E., about 120 disciples, under the guidance of the holy spirit, set about preaching the good news. Some 3,000 people embraced the word that day! And in a short time the Jewish high priest could say: “Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching.”—Acts 2:41; 5:28.
15 People then present in Jerusalem from various parts of Europe, Asia and Africa likely took the good news back to their own countries. (Acts 2:5-11) Soon Paul was zealously preaching and helping to establish Christian congregations throughout the Roman province of Asia and in Greece. He went on to Rome and possibly even to Spain. Peter went in the other direction, as far as Babylon. After fewer than 30 years of activity by these first Christians and the multitudes they taught, Paul could say that the good news had been “preached in all creation that is under heaven.” (Colossians 1:23) What a work they did, zealously obeying Jesus’ command to teach others!—Matthew 28:19, 20; Titus 2:13, 14.
A System Ends
16. For what event were early Christians watching?
16 There was, however, a time period of particular importance to first-century Christians. Jesus had said: “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, and let those in the country places not enter into her; because these are days for meting out justice, that all the things written may be fulfilled.”—Luke 21:20-22.
17, 18. (a) When and how did Christians act on Jesus’ words recorded at Luke 21:20-22? (b) What further test might they have faced?
17 More than 30 years had gone by. Then, in the year 66 C.E., Roman forces laid siege to Jerusalem. When near victory, they withdrew. Elated at the thought that they had won, Jewish people pursued the Romans.* But what would the Christians do? Eusebius, who lived in the first part of the fourth century, reports that “those who believed on Christ migrated from Jerusalem” to a city in Perea called Pella.*
18 Time moved on. The year 66 gave way to 67. Then 68 came and went, also 69. Were those Christians being tested by the passing of time? Did things become too long for some? Had they been mistaken? Jesus had not said how long to wait. But if any did return to Jerusalem, it was to their sorrow, for in 70 the Romans came back, captured the city and killed many of its residents. The historian Josephus says that 1.1 million people died, for Jerusalem was “crowded with inhabitants,” throngs having come “from all the country” into Jerusalem for the Passover.*
19. (a) Today, what are the really significant questions for dedicated Christians to answer? (b) What should motivate us to engage in sacred service?
19 Does that make you think of the situation today? The question is not: When will this old system end? That will occur in God’s due time. What we should be thinking about is what we are doing. We should ask ourselves: Have I diligently studied God’s Word and unreservedly dedicated my life to him? Am I really living up to that dedication? It is not where we are in the stream of time that should move us to engage in sacred service. Like Abel, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah and others, love for Jehovah God should prompt us to do that. We must serve Jehovah willingly, no matter when the end comes. But we have a special motivation now. We have reached the final part of “the last days” of this present system. (2 Timothy 3:1) That fact should move us to exceptional service.
20. How do the events you have seen compare with those that first-century Christians saw?
20 Christians fled Jerusalem because they had seen the many facets of Jesus’ “sign” come true and after they had seen the fulfillment of his statement about armies surrounding the city. Since the eventful year of 1914 we have observed the fulfillment of many prophecies regarding the time of the end. (Matthew, chapters 24, 25; Revelation 6:1-8; 2 Timothy 3:1-5) These prophesied events began to take place some 70 years ago. Yet Jesus said that they would all happen during the lifetime of one generation. (Matthew 24:32-34) Obviously, we are a long way into that generation!
Zealous in the Faith
21. Why is zealous service to God an urgent matter?
21 Lifesaving work often has to be done in haste. Ours is a time for exceptional activity, intensified service and enlarged faith and zeal. We should remember that one day will be our last day in this old system. Either we will have lived through to this system’s end or our own life will have ended first. Life now is short, fleeting. No one knows that he will be alive tomorrow. We have only a limited time in which to prove our faithfulness and integrity to God. (Psalm 39:5; Ecclesiastes 12:1; Luke 12:18-21) So it would be fitting to ask ourselves: Am I satisfied with what I did today?
22. What do the Scriptures say about the reward?
22 It is important not to forget the reward. Keep your eyes on the prize. Jesus said: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” Paul wrote that “each person will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” He also said: “You have need of endurance, in order that, after you have done the will of God, you may receive the fulfillment of the promise.”—Mark 13:13; 1 Corinthians 3:8; Hebrews 10:36.
23, 24. In view of the counsel in Bible texts here quoted, what are you determined to do as regards your faith and Kingdom service?
23 The Scriptures admonish us: “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, awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah.” Further, we are told: “As for the times and seasons, brothers, you need nothing to be written to you. For you yourselves know quite well that Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night. . . . So, then, let us not sleep on as the rest do, but let us stay awake and keep our senses.”—2 Peter 3:11, 12; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6.
24 May we, therefore, maintain a solid faith and remain zealous in Kingdom service, not doubting at all. If we do so, we can say with the apostle: “We are not the sort that shrink back to destruction, but the sort that have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.”—Hebrews 10:39.
Josephus, Wars of the Jews, II, 19:5-7.
Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, III, 5:3.
Josephus, Wars of the Jews, VI, 9:3, 4.
Things to Think About
□ How do the examples of Abel, Abraham, Moses and Jeremiah greatly encourage us today?
□ The fact that the Kingdom had not yet come had what effect on first-century Christians?
□ What test might the early Christians have encountered after fleeing from Jerusalem?
□ What should be our main concern now?
[Pictures on page 15]
They did not quit!