Who Will Escape the “Time of Distress”?
“Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will get away safe.”—JOEL 2:32.
1. According to Daniel and Malachi, what characterizes those in line for salvation during the coming “time of distress”?
LOOKING forward to our day, the prophet Daniel wrote: “There will certainly occur a time of distress such as has not been made to occur since there came to be a nation until that time. And during that time your people will escape, every one who is found written down in the book.” (Daniel 12:1) Comforting words indeed! Jehovah’s approved people will be remembered by him, just as Malachi 3:16 also declares: “At that time those in fear of Jehovah spoke with one another, each one with his companion, and Jehovah kept paying attention and listening. And a book of remembrance began to be written up before him for those in fear of Jehovah and for those thinking upon his name.”
2. What results from thinking upon Jehovah’s name?
2 Thinking upon Jehovah’s name leads to accurate knowledge concerning him, his Christ, and all his grand Kingdom purposes. Thus, his people learn to hold him in reverence, to enter into an intimate dedicated relationship with him, and to love him ‘with their whole heart and with their whole understanding and with their whole strength.’ (Mark 12:33; Revelation 4:11) Jehovah has made the gracious provision, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, for the meek ones of earth to find everlasting life. Hence, these may echo with confidence the words of the heavenly army that praised God at the time of Jesus’ birth, saying: “Glory in the heights above to God, and upon earth peace among men of goodwill.”—Luke 2:14.
3. Before peace can come to this earth, what act of Jehovah must take place?
3 That peace is nearer than most people think. But first must come the execution of Jehovah’s judgment on a corrupt world. His prophet Zephaniah declares: “The great day of Jehovah is near. It is near, and there is a hurrying of it very much.” What kind of day is that? The prophecy continues: “The sound of the day of Jehovah is bitter. There a mighty man is letting out a cry. That day is a day of fury, a day of distress and of anguish, a day of storm and of desolation, a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick gloom, a day of horn and of alarm signal, against the fortified cities and against the high corner towers. And I will cause distress to mankind, and they will certainly walk like blind men; because it is against Jehovah that they have sinned.”—Zephaniah 1:14-17; see also Habakkuk 2:3; 3:1-6, 16-19.
4. Who today are responding to the invitation to know and serve God?
4 Happily, millions today are answering the invitation to know and serve God. Of anointed Christians, who are taken into the new covenant, it was prophesied: “‘They will all of them know me, from the least one of them even to the greatest one of them,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.” (Jeremiah 31:34) These have spearheaded the modern-day witness work. And now as more and more of the anointed remnant finish their earthly course, the “great crowd” of “other sheep” have come forward to ‘render God sacred service day and night’ in his templelike arrangement. (Revelation 7:9, 15; John 10:16) Are you one who is enjoying this inestimable privilege?
How “the Desirable Things” Come In
5, 6. Before all nations are rocked to destruction, what saving work takes place?
5 Let us now turn to Haggai 2:7, where Jehovah prophesies concerning his spiritual house of worship. He says: “I will rock all the nations, and the desirable things of all the nations must come in; and I will fill this house with glory.” Bible prophecies show that ‘rocking of the nations’ refers to Jehovah’s execution of judgment upon the nations. (Nahum 1:5, 6; Revelation 6:12-17) Hence, the action of Jehovah prophesied at Haggai 2:7 will climax with the nations being rocked out of existence—annihilated. But what of “the desirable things of all the nations”? Do they have to wait for that final destructive rocking to bring them in? Hardly.
6 Joel 2:32 says that “everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will get away safe; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will prove to be the escaped ones, just as Jehovah has said, and in among the survivors, whom Jehovah is calling.” Jehovah draws them out, and they call on his name with faith in Jesus’ sacrifice before the climactic shaking of the great tribulation. (Compare John 6:44; Acts 2:38, 39.) Happily, the precious great crowd, now numbering more than four million, ‘comes into’ Jehovah’s house of worship in anticipation of his ‘rocking all the nations’ at Armageddon.—Revelation 7:9, 10, 14.
7. What is involved in ‘calling on the name of Jehovah’?
7 How do these survivors call on the name of Jehovah? James 4:8 gives us an indication, stating: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you indecisive ones.” As with the anointed remnant who led the way, those who hope to be of the great crowd of Armageddon survivors must act decisively. If you hope to survive, you must drink deeply from Jehovah’s purifying Word and apply his righteous standards in your life. You must be decisive in dedicating your life to Jehovah, symbolizing this by water baptism. Your calling on Jehovah in faith also includes witnessing for him. Thus, at Romans chapter 10, verses 9 and 10, Paul writes: “If you publicly declare that ‘word in your own mouth,’ that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” Then, in Ro 10 verse 13, the apostle quotes Joel’s prophecy, emphasizing that “everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.”
‘Seek, Seek, Seek’
8. (a) According to the prophet Zephaniah, what does Jehovah require for salvation? (b) What warning does the word “probably” at Zephaniah 2:3 convey to us?
8 Turning to the Bible book of Zephaniah, chapter 2, verses 2 and 3, we read what Jehovah requires for salvation: “Before there comes upon you people the burning anger of Jehovah, before there comes upon you the day of Jehovah’s anger, seek Jehovah, all you meek ones of the earth, who have practiced His own judicial decision. Seek righteousness, seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.” Note the word “probably.” It is not a case of once saved, always saved. Our concealment in that day depends on our continuing to do those three things. We must seek Jehovah, seek righteousness, and seek meekness.
9. How are those who seek meekness rewarded?
9 Wonderful, indeed, is the reward for seeking meekness! At Psalm 37, verses 9 through 11, we read: “Those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth. And just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more . . . But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.” And what about seeking righteousness? Ps 37 Verse 29 states: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” As for seeking Jehovah, Ps 37 verses 39 and 40 tell us: “The salvation of the righteous ones is from Jehovah; he is their fortress in the time of distress. And Jehovah will help them and provide them with escape. He will provide them with escape from wicked people and save them, because they have taken refuge in him.”
10. Who have been noteworthy in their refusal to seek Jehovah and to seek meekness?
10 Christendom’s sects have failed to seek Jehovah. Their clergy even repudiate his precious name, presumptuously removing it from their Bible translations. They prefer to worship a nameless Lord or God and to revere a pagan Trinity. Moreover, Christendom does not seek righteousness. Many of her adherents adopt or sponsor permissive life-styles. Rather than seek meekness as Jesus did, they make a showy display, for example on television, of luxurious and often immoral living. Clerics fatten themselves at the expense of their flocks. In the words of James 5:5, they have “lived in luxury upon the earth and have gone in for sensual pleasure.” As Jehovah’s day draws near, they will surely find that the inspired words apply to them: “Valuable things will be of no benefit on the day of fury.”—Proverbs 11:4.
11. Who is the man of lawlessness, and how has he heaped up tremendous bloodguilt?
11 In the first century C.E., as the apostle Paul relates in his second letter to the Thessalonians, some Christians became excited, thinking that the day of Jehovah was then upon them. But Paul warned that first the great apostasy had to come, and “the man of lawlessness” had to be revealed. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3) Now, in this 20th century, we can appreciate the vast extent of that apostasy and how lawless the clergy of Christendom are in God’s sight. During these last days since 1914, the clergy have heaped up a tremendous bloodguilt by supporting the ‘beating of plowshares into swords.’ (Joel 3:10) They have also continued to teach false doctrines, such as inherent immortality of the human soul, purgatory, hellfire torment, infant baptism, the Trinity, and the like. Where will they stand when Jehovah executes his judicial decision? Proverbs 19:5 states: “He that launches forth lies will not escape.”
12. (a) What are the human “heavens” and “earth” that will soon be annihilated? (b) What do we learn from the coming destruction of this wicked world?
12 At 2 Peter 3:10, we read: “Jehovah’s day will come as a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a hissing noise, but the elements being intensely hot will be dissolved, and earth and the works in it will be discovered.” Corrupt rulerships that have tented like heavens over mankind, together with all elements that make up today’s decadent human society, will be swept away from God’s earth. Manufacturers and merchants of doomsday weapons, swindlers, hypocritical religionists and their clergy, promoters of depravity, violence, and crime —all of these will disappear. They will be melted away by Jehovah’s wrath. But in verses 2Pe 3:11 and 12, Peter adds this caution for Christians: “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.”
Michael Goes Into Action!
13, 14. Who is the great Vindicator of Jehovah’s rulership, and how has he been active since 1914?
13 How will anyone escape during Jehovah’s “time of distress”? God’s Agent for providing escape is the archangel Michael, whose name means “Who Is Like God?” Fittingly, then, he is the One who vindicates Jehovah’s rulership, upholding Jehovah as the only true God and rightful Sovereign Lord of all the universe.
14 What remarkable events Revelation chapter 12, verses 7 through 17, describes concerning “the Lord’s day” since 1914! (Revelation 1:10) The archangel Michael hurls the renegade Satan from heaven down to the earth. Later, as described at Revelation chapter 19, verses 11 through 16, one called “Faithful and True” ‘treads the winepress of the anger of the wrath of God the Almighty.’ This mighty heavenly warrior is named “King of kings and Lord of lords.” Finally, Revelation chapter 20, verses 1 and 2, tells of a great angel who hurls Satan into the abyss and confines him there for a thousand years. Obviously, all these scriptures point to the one Vindicator of Jehovah’s sovereignty, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom Jehovah placed on his glorious heavenly throne in 1914.
15. In what special way will Michael soon “stand up”?
15 Michael has been “standing,” as stated at Daniel 12:1, in behalf of Jehovah’s people ever since he was installed as King in 1914. But soon Michael is to “stand up” in a very special sense—as Jehovah’s Agent in removing all wickedness from the earth and as the Deliverer of the global society of God’s people. How great that “time of distress” will be is indicated by Jesus’ words at Matthew 24:21, 22: “Then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again. In fact, unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved; but on account of the chosen ones those days will be cut short.”
16. What flesh will be saved during the great tribulation?
16 How happy we can be that some flesh will be saved at that time! No, not like the rebellious Jews trapped in Jerusalem in 70 C.E., some of whom were carried away as slaves to Rome. Rather, those who escape in “the time of the end” will be like the Christian congregation that had already fled Jerusalem when the final siege began. They will be God’s own people, the millions of the great crowd together with any anointed ones who may still be remaining on earth. (Daniel 12:4) The great crowd “come out of the great tribulation.” Why? Because “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” They exercise faith in the ransoming power of Jesus’ shed blood and demonstrate that faith by loyally serving God. Even now, Jehovah, “the One seated on the throne,” spreads his protective tent over them, while the Lamb, Christ Jesus, shepherds and guides them to fountains of waters of life.—Revelation 7:14, 15.
17. How is the great crowd in particular encouraged to act so as to be concealed during the coming day of distress?
17 In seeking Jehovah, righteousness, and meekness, the millions of the great crowd must never let their first love of the truth grow cold! If you are one of these sheeplike persons, what must you do? As stated at Colossians chapter 3, verses 5 through 14, you must completely “strip off the old personality with its practices.” Seeking divine help, strive to ‘clothe yourself with the new personality, based on accurate knowledge.’ In meekness, build up and maintain zeal in praising Jehovah and in making his grand purposes known to others. Thus, you may be concealed in the “time of distress,” the day of “the burning anger of Jehovah.”
18, 19. In what way has endurance become vital for salvation?
18 That day is near! It is hurrying toward us. The gathering of individuals of the great crowd has been proceeding now for some 57 years. A number of these have died and await their resurrection. But we are assured by the Revelation prophecy that as a group the great crowd will come out of the great tribulation as the nucleus of “a new earth” society. (Revelation 21:1) Will you be there? That is possible, for Jesus says at Matthew 24:13: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.”
19 The stresses that Jehovah’s people experience in this old system may continue to mount. And when the distressful great tribulation strikes, you may suffer hardships. But keep close to Jehovah and his organization. Stay awake! “‘Keep yourselves in expectation of me,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘till the day of my rising up to the booty, for my judicial decision is to gather nations, for me to collect together kingdoms, in order to pour out upon them my denunciation, all my burning anger; for by the fire of my zeal all the earth will be devoured.’”—Zephaniah 3:8.
20. As the climactic “time of distress” draws ever closer, what must we do?
20 For our protection and encouragement, Jehovah has graciously provided his people with “a pure language,” which includes the grand message of his incoming Kingdom, “in order for them all to call upon the name of Jehovah, in order to serve him shoulder to shoulder.” (Zephaniah 3:9) As the climactic “time of distress” hastens ever closer, may we serve with zeal, helping other meek ones to ‘call on the name of Jehovah’ for salvation.
Do You Remember?
□ What act of Jehovah will precede the bringing of peace to the earth?
□ According to Joel, what must one do in order to be saved?
□ According to Zephaniah, how may meek ones find protection from Jehovah’s burning anger?
□ Who is “the man of lawlessness,” and how has he heaped up bloodguilt?
□ How important is endurance in the matter of salvation?