Happy Are Those Who Stay Awake!
“Look! I am coming as a thief. Happy is the one that stays awake and keeps his outer garments.”—REVELATION 16:15.
1. Since Jehovah’s day is near, what can we expect?
JEHOVAH’S great day is near, and that means war! In vision, the apostle John saw froglike “expressions inspired by demons” going forth to all “kings,” or rulers, of the earth. To do what? Why, “to gather them together to the war of the great day of God the Almighty”! John added: “They gathered them together to the place that is called in Hebrew Har–Magedon.”—Revelation 16:13-16.
2. Who is Gog of Magog, and what will happen when he attacks Jehovah’s people?
2 Soon, Jehovah will move this system’s political element to destroy Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. (Revelation 17:1-5, 15-17) Then Gog of Magog, Satan the Devil debased to the vicinity of the earth, will marshal his hordes and make an all-out attack on Jehovah’s peaceful, seemingly defenseless people. (Ezekiel 38:1-12) But God will act to rescue his people. That will mark the outbreak of “the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah.”—Joel 2:31; Ezekiel 38:18-20.
3. How would you describe the developments foretold at Ezekiel 38:21-23?
3 Yes, Jehovah will rescue his people and destroy every last vestige of Satan’s system when we reach the world situation called Har–Magedon, or Armageddon. Read the prophetic words of Ezekiel 38:21-23, and visualize the scene. Jehovah wields his power to bring about flooding cloudbursts, devastating hailstones, streaking fire, deadly pestilence. Panic reigns worldwide as Gog’s hordes are thrown into confusion, fighting against one another. Any surviving foes of Almighty God are executed as Jehovah uses supernatural means to save his servants. When the foretold “great tribulation” has run its course, nothing will be left of Satan’s ungodly system. (Matthew 24:21) Even in their death throes, however, the wicked will learn who is responsible for their calamity. Our victorious God himself says: “They will have to know that I am Jehovah.” These extraordinary events will occur in our day, during Jesus’ presence.
Coming as a Thief
4. In what manner will Jesus come to destroy this wicked system of things?
4 The glorified Lord Jesus Christ said: “Look! I am coming as a thief.” A thieflike coming would be sudden, at an unexpected time, when most people are asleep. When Jesus comes like a thief to destroy this wicked system, he will preserve those who are truly awake. He told John: “Happy is the one that stays awake and keeps his outer garments, that he may not walk naked and people look upon his shamefulness.” (Revelation 16:15) What is the import of those words? And how can we stay spiritually awake?
5. What arrangement for temple service existed when Jesus was on earth?
5 Generally, a guard would not be stripped naked if he fell asleep on the job. But that did happen at the temple in Jerusalem when Jesus was on earth and divisions of priests and Levites served at the temple in Jerusalem. It was in the 11th century B.C.E. that King David arranged Israel’s hundreds of priests and their thousands of Levitical assistants into an organization made up of 24 divisions. (1 Chronicles 24:1-18) Each division of over one thousand trained workers took its turn in handling the features of temple service at least twice a year for one full week at a time. At the Festival of Booths, though, all 24 divisions were on hand for duty. Extra help was also needed at Passover festivals.
6. To what may Jesus have alluded when he said, “Happy is the one that stays awake and keeps his outer garments”?
6 When Jesus said, “Happy is the one that stays awake and keeps his outer garments,” he may have alluded to a procedure then followed that involved guard duty at the temple. The Jewish Mishnah says: “The priests kept watch at three places in the Temple: at the Chamber of Abtinas, at the Chamber of the Flame, and at the Chamber of the Hearth; and the levites at twenty-one places: five at the five gates of the Temple Mount, four at its four corners inside, five at five of the gates of the Temple Court, four at its four corners outside, and one at the Chamber of Offerings, and one at the Chamber of the Curtain, and one behind the place of the Mercy Seat [outside the rear wall of the Most Holy]. The officer of the Temple Mount used to go round to every watch with lighted torches before him, and if any watch did not stand up and say to him, ‘O officer of the Temple Mount, peace be to thee!’ and it was manifest that he was asleep, he would beat him with his staff, and he had the right to burn his raiment.”—The Mishnah, Middoth (“Measurements”), 1, paragraphs 1-2, translated by Herbert Danby.
7. Why did priests and Levites on guard duty at the temple need to stay awake?
7 The many Levites and priests of the serving division stayed awake all night to keep guard and to prevent anyone unclean from entering the temple courtyards. Since the “officer of the Temple Mount,” or “the captain of the temple,” made the rounds of all 24 stations during the watches of the night, each watchman had to stay awake at his post if he did not want to be caught off guard.—Acts 4:1.
8. What are the Christian’s figurative outer garments?
8 Anointed Christians and their fellow servants need to stay spiritually awake and keep on their figurative outer garments. These are the outward evidences of our appointment to the ministry at Jehovah’s spiritual temple. In recognition of this, we have God’s holy spirit, or active force, to help us perform our duties and carry out our privileges as Kingdom proclaimers. Falling asleep at our posts as God’s ministers would put us in danger of being caught by Jesus Christ, the Captain of the great spiritual temple. If we were spiritually asleep at that time, we would figuratively be stripped naked and would have our symbolic garments burned. So how can we stay awake spiritually?
How We Can Stay Awake
9. Why is study of the Bible with the help of Christian publications so important?
9 Diligent study of the Scriptures with the help of Christian publications is a stimulant to spiritual wakefulness. Such study will equip us for the ministry, will help us to meet crises, and will show us the way to eternal happiness. (Proverbs 8:34, 35; James 1:5-8) Our study should be thorough and progressive. (Hebrews 5:14–6:3) Good food eaten regularly can help to keep us awake and alert. It can prevent the lethargy that may be a sign of malnutrition. We have no reason to be spiritually malnourished and sleepy, for God is making abundant provision for spiritual food by means of the anointed “faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) Regular consumption of spiritual food through personal and family study is one way to stay awake and to be “healthy in the faith.”—Titus 1:13.
10. How do Christian meetings, assemblies, and conventions help us to stay spiritually awake?
10 Christian meetings, assemblies, and conventions help to keep us spiritually awake. They provide encouragement and opportunities to ‘incite one another to love and fine works.’ Especially should we gather regularly as we “behold the day drawing near.” That day is now near indeed. It is “Jehovah’s day,” when he will vindicate his sovereignty. If that day is really important to us—and it should be—we will ‘not forsake the gathering of ourselves together.’—Hebrews 10:24, 25; 2 Peter 3:10.
11. Why can it be said that the Christian ministry is essential to spiritual wakefulness?
11 Wholehearted participation in the Christian ministry is essential to spiritual wakefulness. A regular and zealous share in preaching the good news keeps us alert. Our ministry affords us many opportunities to talk to people about God’s Word, his Kingdom, and his purposes. It is satisfying to witness from house to house, make return visits, and conduct home Bible studies in such publications as Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life. Elders in ancient Ephesus could testify that Paul had taught them “publicly and from house to house.” (Acts 20:20, 21) Of course, some faithful Witnesses of Jehovah have serious health problems that hinder their ministry somewhat, but they find ways to tell others about Jehovah and his kingship and draw great joy from doing so.—Psalm 145:10-14.
12, 13. For what reasons should we avoid overindulgence in food and drink?
12 Avoiding overindulgence will help us to stay spiritually awake. When speaking about his presence, Jesus urged his apostles: “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.” (Luke 21:7, 34, 35) Gluttony and drunkenness are out of harmony with Bible principles. (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) Proverbs 23:20, 21 says: “Do not come to be among heavy drinkers of wine, among those who are gluttonous eaters of flesh. For a drunkard and a glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe one with mere rags.”—Proverbs 28:7.
13 Even if overeating and heavy drinking have not reached that point, however, they can make a person drowsy, even lazy and negligent about doing God’s will. Naturally, there will be anxieties involving family life, health, and so forth. Yet, we will be happy if we put Kingdom interests first in life and have confidence that our heavenly Father will provide for us. (Matthew 6:25-34) Otherwise, “that day” will come upon us as “a snare,” perhaps as a camouflaged trap that will catch us unawares or as a baited trap, such as those that attract and then seize unsuspecting animals. This will not happen if we stay awake, fully aware that we are living in “the time of the end.”—Daniel 12:4.
14. Why should we engage in earnest prayer?
14 Earnest prayer is another aid to spiritual wakefulness. In his great prophecy, Jesus further urged: “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) Yes, let us pray that we may always be on Jehovah’s side and enjoy an approved standing when Jesus, the Son of man, comes to destroy this wicked system of things. For our own good and for the good of fellow believers for whom we pray, we need to ‘remain awake in prayer.’—Colossians 4:2; Ephesians 6:18-20.
Time Is Running Out
15. What is accomplished by our service as preachers of righteousness?
15 As we await the great day of Jehovah, doubtless we desire to do all we can in his service. If we earnestly pray to him about this, “a large door that leads to activity” may be opened to us. (1 Corinthians 16:8, 9) At God’s appointed time, Jesus will render judgment and separate righteous “sheep” worthy of everlasting life from ungodly “goats” deserving eternal destruction. (John 5:22) We are not the ones who separate the sheep from the goats. But our service as preachers of righteousness now is affording people the opportunity to choose a life of service to God and thus have the hope of being separated to life when Jesus “arrives in his glory.” The shortness of the time left for this system of things heightens the need for wholehearted activity as we search for those “rightly disposed for everlasting life.”—Matthew 25:31-46; Acts 13:48.
16. Why should we be zealous Kingdom proclaimers?
16 Time ran out for the world of Noah’s day, and it will soon run out for this system of things. Let us therefore be zealous Kingdom proclaimers. Our preaching work is prospering, for each year hundreds of thousands are being baptized in symbol of their dedication to God. They are becoming part of Jehovah’s blessed organization—“his people and the sheep of his pasturage.” (Psalm 100:3) What a joy it is to share in the Kingdom-preaching work that brings hope to so many before “the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah”!
17, 18. (a) As we preach, what reaction should we expect from some? (b) What is sure to overtake ridiculers?
17 Like Noah, we have God’s support and protection. Yes, the people, the materialized angels, and the Nephilim must have scoffed at Noah’s message, but that did not stop him. Today, some scoff when we point to the overwhelming evidence that we are living in “the last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Such ridicule is in fulfillment of Bible prophecy regarding Christ’s presence, for Peter wrote: “In the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: ‘Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.’”—2 Peter 1:16; 3:3, 4.
18 Present-day ridiculers may think: ‘Nothing has changed since creation. Life goes on, with people eating, drinking, getting married, and raising families. Even if Jesus is present, he will not execute judgment in my day.’ How wrong they are! If they do not die from other causes in the meantime, the fear-inspiring day of Jehovah will definitely overtake them, just as cataclysmic destruction in the Flood brought an end to a wicked generation in Noah’s day.—Matthew 24:34.
By All Means, Stay Awake!
19. How should we view our disciple-making activities?
19 If we are dedicated to Jehovah, may we never be lulled to sleep by improper reasoning. This is a time to stay awake, to exercise faith in divine prophecy, and to carry out our commission to “make disciples of people of all the nations.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) As this system faces its final end, we could have no greater privilege than that of serving Jehovah God under the leadership of Jesus Christ and sharing in the worldwide work of preaching “this good news of the kingdom” before the end comes.—Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10.
20. What example was set by Caleb and Joshua, and what does their course indicate for us?
20 Some of Jehovah’s people have been serving him for decades, perhaps for a lifetime. And even if we have more recently embraced true worship, may we be like the Israelite Caleb, who “followed Jehovah fully.” (Deuteronomy 1:34-36) He and Joshua were quite prepared to enter the Promised Land shortly after Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage. Adult Israelites in general, however, lacked faith and had to spend 40 years in the wilderness, where they died. Caleb and Joshua endured hardships along with them all that time, but eventually those two men entered the land of promise. (Numbers 14:30-34; Joshua 14:6-15) If we ‘follow Jehovah fully’ and stay spiritually awake, we will have the joy of entering God’s promised new world.
21. What will be our experience if we stay awake spiritually?
21 Evidence clearly proves that we are living in the time of the end and that the great day of Jehovah is near. This is not the time to become sleepy and negligent in doing the divine will. We will be blessed only if we stay awake spiritually and keep our garments of identification as Christian ministers and servants of Jehovah. May it be our determination to “stay awake, stand firm in the faith, carry on as men, grow mighty.” (1 Corinthians 16:13) As Jehovah’s servants, may each one of us be steadfast and courageous. Then we will be among those who are ready when the great day of Jehovah strikes, faithfully serving in the ranks of the happy ones who stay awake.
How Would You Answer?
□ How would you define our figurative outer garments, and how can we keep them?
□ What are some ways to stay awake spiritually?
□ Why should we expect ridiculers, and how should we view them?
□ How should we view our disciple-making work in these last days?
[Blurb on page 16]
Christians have God’s holy spirit to help them stay awake and carry out their duties
[Picture on page 15]
Are you determined to stay awake spiritually and keep on your figurative outer garments?