Keep Awake in “the Time of the End”
“Keep looking, keep awake, for you do not know when the appointed time is.”—MARK 13:33.
1. How should we react as exciting events unfold in this “time of the end”?
AS EXCITING events unfold in this “time of the end,” how should Christians react? (Daniel 12:4) They are not left in doubt. Jesus Christ uttered the prophecy containing the composite sign that has been undergoing fulfillment in this 20th century. He foretold the many features that have marked this period since 1914 as unique. Being acquainted with Daniel’s prophecy concerning “the time of the end,” Jesus followed up his own great prophecy by urging his disciples to “keep awake.”—Luke 21:36.
2. Why is there great need to keep awake spiritually?
2 Why keep awake? Because this is the most perilous time in human history. For Christians to give in to spiritual drowsiness at this time would be disastrous. If we become complacent or allow our hearts to be weighed down with the anxieties of life, we will be in danger. At Luke 21:34, 35, Jesus Christ warned us: “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.”
3, 4. (a) What did Jesus mean by saying that God’s day of fury would come instantly upon people “as a snare”? (b) Since God does not set the snare, why will that day unexpectedly overtake people in general?
3 It was with good reason that Jesus said that Jehovah’s day will be ‘instantly upon us as a snare.’ A snare is often equipped with a noose, and it is used for capturing birds and mammals. The snare has a trigger, and anyone who walks into it trips the trigger. The snare then pulls shut, and the victim is caught. All of this happens very suddenly. In like manner, Jesus said, spiritually inactive ones will be surprised and will be overtaken in God’s “day of fury.”—Proverbs 11:4.
4 Is Jehovah God the one who sets the snare for people? No, he is not waiting to catch people off guard to destroy them. But that day will overtake people in general because they do not give prime consideration to the Kingdom of God. They go their own way in the pursuits of life, ignoring the meaning of the developments around them. This, however, does not alter God’s schedule. He has his own fixed time for settling accounts. And, mercifully, he does not leave mankind ignorant of his coming judgment.—Mark 13:10.
5, 6. (a) Because of the coming judgment, what loving provision has the Creator made for human creatures, but with what general result? (b) What will be considered to help us keep awake?
5 This forewarning is a loving provision on the part of the great Creator, who is interested in the welfare of human creatures here on his symbolic footstool. (Isaiah 66:1) He cherishes the inhabitants of the place where his feet are spoken of as resting. So by means of his earthly ambassadors and envoys, he warns them of the events ahead of them. (2 Corinthians 5:20) Yet, despite all the warning given, those events will arrive upon the human family as unexpectedly as if they had stepped into a snare. Why? Because most people are sleeping spiritually. (1 Thessalonians 5:6) Only a comparatively small number heed the warning and will survive into God’s new world.—Matthew 7:13, 14.
6 How, then, can we keep awake in this time of the end so as to be counted among those who will be saved? Jehovah provides the needed help. Let us note seven things that we can do.
7. What warning regarding distraction did Jesus give?
7 First, we must fight distraction. At Matthew 24:42, 44, Jesus said: “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. On this account you too prove yourselves ready, because at an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.” The language Jesus here used indicates that at this critical time, there would be much distraction, and distraction could lead to destruction. In Noah’s day many things preoccupied people. As a result, the distracted people took “no note” of what was going on, and the Flood swept them all away. Accordingly, Jesus warned: “So the presence of the Son of man will be.”—Matthew 24:37-39.
8, 9. (a) How can the ordinary pursuits of life dangerously distract us? (b) What warnings did Paul and Jesus give us?
8 Keep in mind, too, that in his warning at Luke 21:34, 35, Jesus was discussing the ordinary features of life, such as eating, drinking, and anxieties over making a living. They are things common to all men, including the disciples of the Lord Jesus. (Compare Mark 6:31.) These things may be harmless in themselves, but if allowed, they can distract us, preoccupy us, and thus induce dangerous spiritual drowsiness in us.
9 Therefore, let us not neglect the thing of highest importance—the gaining of divine approval. Rather than getting engrossed in the ordinary things of life, let us use them only to the limited degree needed to sustain us. (Philippians 3:8) They should not crowd out Kingdom interests. As Romans 14:17 says, “the kingdom of God does not mean eating and drinking, but means righteousness and peace and joy with holy spirit.” Remember Jesus’ words when he said: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Further, at Luke 9:62, Jesus declared: “No man that has put his hand to a plow and looks at the things behind is well fitted for the kingdom of God.”
10. What danger exists if we do not keep our eyes looking straight ahead to the goal?
10 Once we begin plowing, figuratively speaking, we must keep on in a straight line. A plowman who looks behind will not plow a straight furrow. He is distracted and can easily be sidetracked or halted by some obstruction. Let us not be like Lot’s wife, who looked behind and never made it to safety. We need to keep our eyes looking straight ahead to the goal. To do that we must fight distraction.—Genesis 19:17, 26; Luke 17:32.
Pray in All Earnestness
11. What did Jesus stress after warning us of the danger of distraction?
11 There is, however, more we can do to stay awake. An important second thing is: Pray in all earnestness. After warning us against being distracted by the ordinary pursuits of life, Jesus gave this counsel: “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 21:36.
12. What kind of prayer is needed, and with what result?
12 Thus, we must make constant supplication regarding the danger of our situation and our need to be alert. So let us go to God prayerfully with earnest entreaties. Paul says at Romans 12:12: “Persevere in prayer.” And at Ephesians 6:18, we read: “With every form of prayer and supplication . . . , carry on prayer on every occasion in spirit. And to that end keep awake with all constancy.” This is not merely a case of offering prayer as though it were an incidental matter of no great consequence. Our very existence is in danger. We therefore need to appeal earnestly for divine help. (Compare Hebrews 5:7.) In that way we will maintain ourselves on Jehovah’s side. Nothing will be more beneficial in helping us to accomplish this than for us ‘all the time to make supplication.’ Jehovah will then keep us in a state of vigilant awareness. How important, then, to persist in prayer!
Stick Close to God’s Organization and Its Work
13. Association of what kind is needed to stay awake?
13 We want to escape all these things that will come upon the world. We want to stand before the Son of man, having his approval. To this end there is a third thing we can do: Stick unbreakably to Jehovah’s theocratic organization. We need to associate unreservedly with that organization and share in its activities. In this way we will unmistakably identify ourselves as Christians who are on the watch.
14, 15. (a) Being engaged in what work will help us keep awake? (b) Who determines when the preaching work is finished, and how should we feel about it? (c) After the great tribulation, what will we discern when we look back at the Kingdom preaching that was done?
14 Closely connected is a fourth thing that can help us to keep awake. We must be among those who are warning people of the coming end of this system of things. The complete end of this old system of things will not take place until “this good news of the kingdom” has been preached to the extent that God Almighty has purposed. (Matthew 24:14) Jehovah’s Witnesses are not the ones to determine when the preaching work has been accomplished. Jehovah reserves that right to himself. (Mark 13:32, 33) We, though, are determined to work as hard as possible and as long as necessary in preaching about the best government that mankind could ever have, the Kingdom of God. The outbreak of the “great tribulation” will come while we are still engaged in this work. (Matthew 24:21) During all future time, saved ones will be able to look back and heartily confirm that Jesus Christ was not a false prophet. (Revelation 19:11) The preaching work will have been accomplished to a degree far greater than had been expected by the ones participating in it.
15 Accordingly, at the momentous time when this work will have been accomplished to God’s own satisfaction, more will likely be participating in it than at any period previously. How grateful we will be to have had a share in this grand work! The apostle Peter assures us that Jehovah “does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Consequently, the active force of God Almighty is operating today more intensely than ever, and the Witnesses of Jehovah desire to continue in this spirit-impelled activity. So stick close to Jehovah’s organization, and be busy in its public ministry. This will be an aid in your staying awake.
Make a Self-Examination
16. Why should we make a self-examination of our present spiritual status?
16 There is a fifth thing that we can do in order to stay awake. Individually, we should make a self-examination of our present status. This is appropriate now more than ever before. We need to prove on whose side we are resolutely standing. At Galatians 6:4, Paul said: “Let each one prove what his own work is.” Make a self-examination in harmony with Paul’s words at 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8: “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.”
17. When making a self-examination, what questions should we ask ourselves?
17 What about us? When we examine ourselves in the light of the Scriptures, do we see that we are staying awake, having as a helmet the hope of salvation? Are we persons who have positively separated ourselves from the old system of things and no longer entertain its ideas? Do we truly have the spirit of God’s new world? Are we fully alert as to where this system is headed? If so, Jehovah’s day will not overtake us as if we were thieves.—1 Thessalonians 5:4.
18. What further questions may we need to ask ourselves, and with what result?
18 What, though, if our self-examination reveals that we are striving to set up a nice, cozy, comfortable, relaxed way of life? What if we discover that our spiritual eyes have become heavy with drowsiness and sleep? Are we in a dreamlike state, chasing after some worldly fantasy? If so, then let us wake up!—1 Corinthians 15:34.
Meditate on Fulfilled Prophecies
19. What are some of the prophecies we have seen fulfilled?
19 We now come to a sixth thing that will help us keep awake: Meditate on the many prophecies that have been fulfilled in this time of the end. We have already passed the 77th year since the appointed times of the nations ended in 1914. As we look back over three quarters of a century, we can see how one prophecy after another has been fulfilled—the restoration of true worship; the deliverance of the anointed remnant, along with their companions, into a spiritual paradise; the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom on a global scale; the appearance of the great crowd. (Isaiah 2:2, 3; chapter 35; Zechariah 8:23; Matthew 24:14; Revelation 7:9) There has been a magnifying of Jehovah’s great name and universal sovereignty, as well as an increasing of the little one to become a thousand and the small one to become a mighty nation, with Jehovah speeding it up in its time. (Isaiah 60:22; Ezekiel 38:23) And the apostle John’s visions in the Revelation account are now nearing their climax.
20. What conviction do Jehovah’s Witnesses share, and what have they actually proved to be?
20 Therefore, more than ever before, Jehovah’s Witnesses are firmly convinced of the correctness of their understanding of the meaning of world affairs since 1914. Having such conviction, they have proved to be instruments in the hands of the Most High God. They are the ones who have been charged with delivering the divine message at this momentous time. (Romans 10:15, 18) Yes, Jehovah’s words for the time of the end have come true. (Isaiah 55:11) This, in turn, should stimulate us to carry on until we see the final realization of all of God’s promises by Jesus Christ.
Salvation Nearer Than When We Became Believers
21. What seventh help to staying spiritually awake do we have?
21 Finally, the seventh help to our staying awake: Keep ever in mind that our salvation is nearer than when we first became believers. More important, the vindication of Jehovah’s universal sovereignty and the sanctification of his name are much nearer. So the need to keep awake is more urgent than ever. The apostle Paul writes: “You people know the season, that it is already the hour for you to awake from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than at the time when we became believers. The night is well along; the day has drawn near.”—Romans 13:11, 12.
22. How should the nearness of our salvation affect us?
22 With our salvation so much nearer, we must keep awake! We must not let any personal or worldly interests outweigh our appreciation for what Jehovah is doing for his people during this time of the end. (Daniel 12:3) We need to show more persistence than ever so that we are not turned aside from the way that the Word of God plainly prescribes for us. (Matthew 13:22) The evidence clearly shows that this world is in its last days. Soon it will be wiped out of existence forever to make room for a new world of righteousness.—2 Peter 3:13.
23. In what way will Jehovah help us, and with what blessed result?
23 Let us, then, by all means keep awake. As never before, be alert to where we are in the stream of time. Remember, Jehovah will never go to sleep in this matter. Rather, he will ever aid us in staying awake in this time of the end. The night is well along. The day is drawing near. So keep awake! Soon we will experience the most beautiful of all days, as the Messianic Kingdom fulfills Jehovah’s purpose toward the earth!—Revelation 21:4, 5.
What Are Your Answers?
□ What did Jesus mean when he said that God’s day of fury would come upon people “as a snare”?
□ Why must we fight distraction, and how can we do so?
□ What kind of prayer is needed so as to remain awake?
□ What kind of association is vital?
□ Why make a self-examination of our spiritual status?
□ What part does prophecy play in our keeping awake?