A Time to Keep Awake
1. Why should we endure and take courage?
ENDURE we must—amid a faithless and twisted generation! Since 1914 a generation of people has become corrupt, just as in Jesus’ day. And today the corruption is on a worldwide scale. In these “last days,” the “critical times hard to deal with” described by the apostle Paul are afflicting mankind. ‘Wicked men and impostors continue to advance from bad to worse.’ Clearly, “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one,” Satan the Devil, who is now making his final effort to ruin the earth. But take courage! There is an oncoming “great tribulation” that will bring permanent relief to all who love righteousness.—2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13; 1 John 5:19; Revelation 7:14.
2. How was prophecy fulfilled in 1914?
2 Happily, Jehovah has now enthroned the Lord Jesus Christ in the heavens, preparatory to removing mankind’s oppressive enemies. (Revelation 11:15) As at Messiah’s first advent, so in this century a remarkable prophecy penned by Daniel has been fulfilled. At Daniel 4:16, 17, 32, we are told of the suspending of rightful kingship over the earth for a period of “seven times.” In their major fulfillment, these seven times amount to seven Biblical years of 360 ‘days’ each, or 2,520 years in all.* They ran from 607 B.C.E., when Babylon began trampling underfoot the kingdom of Israel, to 1914 C.E., the year of Jesus’ enthronement in heaven as mankind’s rightful King. Then “the appointed times of the nations” ended. (Luke 21:24) But the nations have declined to yield to the incoming Messianic Kingdom.—Psalm 2:1-6, 10-12; 110:1, 2.
3, 4. (a) What comparison may be made of first-century events to those in our time? (b) What pertinent questions may be asked?
3 As the 70th week of years (29-36 C.E.) approached, and again as the year 1914 drew near, God-fearing people were expecting Messiah’s arrival. And arrive he did! In each case, though, the manner of his appearing differed from the expectation. In each case too, after a comparatively brief time period, an evil “generation” finally suffers execution by divine decree.—Matthew 24:34.
4 In our preceding article, we noted how the wicked Jewish generation that called for the blood of Jesus met its end. What, then, of the ruinous generation of mankind that even now opposes or ignores him? When will judgment on this faithless generation be executed?
“Keep on the Watch”!
5. (a) For what good reason do we not need to know the time of Jehovah’s “day and hour”? (b) According to Mark, with what sound counsel did Jesus conclude his prophecy?
5 After prophesying events leading up to a time of “great tribulation,” Jesus added: “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:3-36; Mark 13:3-32) We do not need to know the exact timing of events. Rather, our focus must be on being watchful, cultivating strong faith, and keeping busy in Jehovah’s service—not on calculating a date. Jesus concluded his great prophecy by saying: “Keep looking, keep awake, for you do not know when the appointed time is. . . . Keep on the watch . . . What I say to you I say to all, Keep on the watch.” (Mark 13:33-37) Danger lurks in the shadows of today’s world. We must keep awake!—Romans 13:11-13.
6. (a) On what should our faith be anchored? (b) How may we “count our days”? (c) What does Jesus basically mean by “generation”?
6 Not only must we pay attention to the inspired prophecies concerning these final days of a wicked system but we must anchor our faith primarily on the precious sacrifice of Christ Jesus and God’s marvelous promises based thereon. (Hebrews 6:17-19; 9:14; 1 Peter 1:18, 19; 2 Peter 1:16-19) Eager to see the end of this evil system, Jehovah’s people have at times speculated about the time when the “great tribulation” would break out, even tying this to calculations of what is the lifetime of a generation since 1914. However, we “bring a heart of wisdom in,” not by speculating about how many years or days make up a generation, but by thinking about how we “count our days” in bringing joyful praise to Jehovah. (Psalm 90:12) Rather than provide a rule for measuring time, the term “generation” as used by Jesus refers principally to contemporary people of a certain historical period, with their identifying characteristics.*
7. What does a history professor write about “the generation of 1914,” and how does this tie in with Jesus’ prophecy?
7 In line with the above, professor of history Robert Wohl wrote in his book The Generation of 1914: “A historical generation is not defined by its chronological limits . . . It is not a zone of dates.” But he pointed out that World War I created “an overwhelming sense of rupture with the past,” and he added: “Those who lived through the war could never rid themselves of the belief that one world had ended and another begun in August 1914.” How true that is! It focuses on the crux of the matter. “This generation” of mankind since 1914 has experienced appalling changes. It has seen the earth drenched with the blood of millions. Warfare, genocide, terrorism, crime, and lawlessness have erupted worldwide. Famine, disease, and immorality have stalked our globe. Jesus prophesied: “You also, when you [his disciples] see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to you, This generation will by no means pass away until all things occur.”—Luke 21:31, 32.
8. How do Jehovah’s prophets stress the need to keep awake?
8 Yes, the complete triumph of the Messianic Kingdom is at hand! Is anything to be gained, then, by looking for dates or by speculating about the literal lifetime of a “generation”? Far from it! Habakkuk 2:3 clearly states: “The vision is yet for the appointed time, and it keeps panting on to the end, and it will not tell a lie. Even if it should delay, keep in expectation of it; for it will without fail come true. It will not be late.” Jehovah’s day of accounting hastens ever closer.—Jeremiah 25:31-33; Malachi 4:1.
9. What developments since 1914 show that the time is short?
9 When Christ’s Kingdom rule began in 1914, Satan was hurled down to earth. This has meant “woe for the earth . . . because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” (Revelation 12:12) That time is short, indeed, compared with the thousands of years of Satan’s rulership. The Kingdom is at hand, and so is Jehovah’s day and hour for executing judgment on this wicked generation!—Proverbs 3:25; 10:24, 25.
The “Generation” That Passes Away
10. How is “this generation” like that of Noah’s day?
10 Let us examine more closely Jesus’ statement at Matthew 24:34, 35: “Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away.” Jesus’ words that follow show that ‘nobody knows that day and hour.’ Far more important, he shows that we must avoid the snares surrounding us in this generation. Thus Jesus adds: “For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.” (Matthew 24:36-39) Jesus here compared the generation of his day to that of Noah’s day.—Genesis 6:5, 9; footnote.
11. What comparison of ‘generations’ did Jesus make, as reported by Matthew and Luke?
11 This was not the first time that the apostles heard Jesus make this comparison of ‘generations,’ for some days earlier he had stated concerning himself: “The Son of man . . . must undergo many sufferings and be rejected by this generation. Moreover, just as it occurred in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of man.” (Luke 17:24-26) Thus, Matthew chapter 24 and Luke chapter 17 make the same comparison. In Noah’s day “all flesh [that] had ruined its way on the earth” and that was destroyed at the Flood was “this generation.” In Jesus’ day the apostate Jewish people that were rejecting Jesus was “this generation.”—Genesis 6:11, 12; 7:1.
12, 13. (a) What today is “this generation” that must pass away? (b) How are Jehovah’s people now coping with this “crooked and twisted generation”?
12 Therefore, in the final fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy today, “this generation” apparently refers to the peoples of earth who see the sign of Christ’s presence but fail to mend their ways. In contrast, we as Jesus’ disciples refuse to be molded by the life-style of “this generation.” Though in the world, we must be no part of it, “for the appointed time is near.” (Revelation 1:3; John 17:16) The apostle Paul admonishes us: “Keep doing all things free from murmurings and arguments, that you may come to be blameless and innocent, children of God without a blemish in among a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you are shining as illuminators in the world.” —Philippians 2:14, 15; Colossians 3:5-10; 1 John 2:15-17.
13 Our “shining as illuminators” includes not only displaying a clean Christian personality but, above all, fulfilling Jesus’ prophetic commission: “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.” (Matthew 24:14) No human can say when that end will be, but we know that the end of “this generation” of wicked people will come once the witness has been given to God’s satisfaction “to the most distant part of the earth.”—Acts 1:8.
“That Day and Hour”
14. What admonition did both Jesus and Paul give as to “the times and the seasons,” and how should we react?
14 When the global witness has been accomplished to the extent Jehovah purposes, it will be his “day and hour” to dispose of this world’s system. We do not need to know the date in advance. Thus, following Jesus’ example, the apostle Paul admonished: “Now as for the times and the 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. Whenever it is that they are saying: ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them just as the pang of distress upon a pregnant woman; and they will by no means escape.” Note Paul’s focus: ‘It is when they are saying.’ Yes, when there is talk of “peace and security,” when it is least expected, God’s judgment will suddenly be executed. How appropriate is Paul’s advice: “So, then, let us not sleep on as the rest do, but let us stay awake and keep our senses”!—1 Thessalonians 5:1-3, 6; see also 1Th 5 verses 7-11; Acts 1:7.
15, 16. (a) Why should we not think that Armageddon is further away than we may have believed? (b) How must Jehovah’s sovereignty be magnified in the near future?
15 Does our more precise viewpoint on “this generation” mean that Armageddon is further away than we had thought? Not at all! Though we at no time have known the “day and hour,” Jehovah God has always known it, and he does not change. (Malachi 3:6) Obviously, the world is sinking further and further toward terminal ruination. The need to keep awake is more critical than it has ever been. Jehovah has revealed to us “the things that must shortly take place,” and we should respond with an absorbing sense of urgency.—Revelation 1:1; 11:18; 16:14, 16.
16 As the time approaches, keep awake, for Jehovah is about to bring calamity on all of Satan’s system! (Jeremiah 25:29-31) Jehovah says: “I shall certainly magnify myself and sanctify myself and make myself known before the eyes of many nations; and they will have to know that I am Jehovah.” (Ezekiel 38:23) That decisive “day of Jehovah” draws near!—Joel 1:15; 2:1, 2; Amos 5:18-20; Zephaniah 2:2, 3.
Righteous “New Heavens and a New Earth”
17, 18. (a) According to Jesus and Peter, how does “this generation” pass away? (b) Why should we keep on the watch as to conduct and deeds of godly devotion?
17 Concerning ‘all these things that must occur’ Jesus said: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away.” (Matthew 24:34, 35) Jesus likely had in mind the “heaven and earth”—the rulers and the ruled—of “this generation.” The apostle Peter used similar words in referring to “the heavens and the earth that are now,” which are “stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.” He next describes how “Jehovah’s day will come as a thief, in which the [governmental] heavens will pass away” together with a corrupt human society, or “earth,” and its sinful works. The apostle then exhorts us to “holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion, [as we are] awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah, through which the heavens being on fire will be dissolved and the elements being intensely hot will melt!” What follows? Peter turns our attention to ‘new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness is to dwell.’—2 Peter 3:7, 10-13.*
18 Those “new heavens,” the Kingdom rule by Christ Jesus and his associate kings, will shower blessings on the righteous “new earth” society of mankind. Are you a prospective member of that society? If so, you have reason to exult over the grand future in store!—Isaiah 65:17-19; Revelation 21:1-5.
19. What great privilege may we now enjoy?
19 Yes, a righteous “generation” of mankind is even now being gathered. Today the anointed “faithful and discreet slave” is providing divine education in line with the words of Psalm 78:1, 4: “Do give ear, O my people, to my law; incline your ear to the sayings of my mouth . . . , relating them even to the generation to come, the praises of Jehovah and his strength and his wonderful things that he has done.” (Matthew 24:45-47) On April 14 of this year, in more than 75,500 congregations and in some 230 lands, over 12,000,000 persons around the earth attended the Memorial of Christ’s death. Were you among them? May you rest your faith on Christ Jesus and ‘call on the name of Jehovah for salvation.’—Romans 10:10-13.
20. Since “the time left is reduced,” how must we keep awake, and with what prospect in view?
20 “The time left is reduced,” said the apostle Paul. It is time, therefore, to keep ever awake and busy in Jehovah’s work, as we endure trials and hatreds imposed by a wicked generation of mankind. (1 Corinthians 7:29; Matthew 10:22; 24:13, 14) Let us keep on the watch, observing all the things foretold in the Bible to come upon “this generation.” (Luke 21:31-33) By escaping these things and by standing with divine approval before the Son of man, we may at last attain to the prize of everlasting life.
See Volume 1, page 918, of Insight on the Scriptures, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
See also pages 152-6 and 180-1 of Our Incoming World Government—God’s Kingdom, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
Questions in Review:
□ Having noted the fulfillment of Daniel 4:32, how should we now “keep on the watch”?
□ How do the Gospels of Matthew and Luke identify “this generation”?
□ As we await “that day and hour,” what do we observe, and how should we respond?
□ What should the prospect of righteous “new heavens and a new earth” encourage us to do?
[Pictures on page 17]
Suffering humanity will find relief when this violent, wicked generation passes away
Alexandra Boulat/Sipa Press
Left and below: Luc Delahaye/Sipa Press
[Picture on page 18]
Glorious “new heavens and a new earth” lie just ahead for all races of mankind