Waiting in “Eager Expectation”
“The eager expectation of the creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God.”—ROMANS 8:19.
1. What similarity exists between the situation of Christians today and that of first-century Christians?
THE situation of true Christians today resembles that of the first-century Christians. A prophecy helped Jehovah’s servants of those days to identify when the Messiah was due to appear. (Daniel 9:24-26) The same prophecy foretold Jerusalem’s destruction but contained no elements enabling Christians to know in advance when that city would be destroyed. (Daniel 9:26b, 27) Similarly, a prophecy providentially caused sincere 19th-century Bible students to be in expectation. By linking the “seven times” of Daniel 4:25 with “the times of the Gentiles,” they anticipated that Christ would receive Kingdom power in 1914. (Luke 21:24, King James Version; Ezekiel 21:25-27) While the book of Daniel contains many prophecies, none of these enable present-day Bible students to calculate exactly when Satan’s entire system of things will be destroyed. (Daniel 2:31-44; 8:23-25; 11:36, 44, 45) However, this will soon occur, for we are living in “the time of the end.”—Daniel 12:4.*
Watchfulness During Christ’s Presence
2, 3. (a) What constitutes the major proof that we are living during Christ’s presence in kingly power? (b) What shows that Christians were to keep on the watch during Jesus Christ’s presence?
2 True, a prophecy put Christians in a state of expectation before Christ was invested with Kingdom power in 1914. But the “sign” that Christ gave of his presence and of the conclusion of the system of things featured events. And most of these would be seen after his presence had begun. Such events—wars, food shortages, earthquakes, pestilences, increased lawlessness, persecution of Christians, and the worldwide preaching of the good news of the Kingdom—serve as the major proof that we are now living during Christ’s presence in kingly power.—Matthew 24:3-14; Luke 21:10, 11.
3 Yet, the whole tenor of Jesus’ parting counsel to his disciples was: “Keep looking, keep awake, . . . keep on the watch.” (Mark 13:33, 37; Luke 21:36) A careful reading of the context of these exhortations to watchfulness shows that Christ was not primarily speaking of keeping a close watch for the sign of the beginning of his presence. Instead, he was ordering his true disciples to keep watchful during his presence. For what were true Christians to remain on the watch?
4. What purpose would be served by the sign that Jesus gave?
4 Jesus gave his great prophecy in answer to the question: “When will these things be [events leading up to the destruction of the Jewish system of things], and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” (Matthew 24:3) The foretold sign would serve to identify not only Christ’s presence but also events leading up to the end of the present wicked system of things.
5. How did Jesus show that while spiritually present, he would yet be “coming”?
5 Jesus showed that during his “presence” (Greek, pa·rou·siʹa) he would come with power and glory. Concerning such “coming” (denoted by forms of the Greek word erʹkho·mai), he declared: “Then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in lamentation, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. . . . Now learn from the fig tree as an illustration this point: Just as soon as its young branch grows tender and it puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. Likewise also you, when you see all these things, know that he [Christ] is near at the doors. . . . Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. . . . Prove yourselves ready, because at an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.”—Matthew 24:30, 32, 33, 42, 44.
Why Does Jesus Christ Come?
6. How will the destruction of “Babylon the Great” come about?
6 Although present as King since 1914, Jesus Christ must yet judge systems and individuals before executing judgment on those he finds to be wicked. (Compare 2 Corinthians 5:10.) Jehovah will soon put it into the minds of political rulers to destroy “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion. (Revelation 17:4, 5, 16, 17) The apostle Paul specifically stated that Jesus Christ will destroy “the man of lawlessness”—the apostate clergy of Christendom, a prominent part of “Babylon the Great.” Paul wrote: “The lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will do away with by the spirit of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence.”—2 Thessalonians 2:3, 8.
7. When the Son of man arrives in his glory, what judgment will he render?
7 In the near future, Christ will judge people of the nations on the basis of how they have acted toward his brothers yet on earth. We read: “When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will put the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left. . . . The king will say to [the sheep], ‘Truly I say to you, To the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ . . . And [the goats] will depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones into everlasting life.”—Matthew 25:31-46.
8. How does Paul describe Christ’s coming to execute judgment upon the ungodly?
8 As shown in the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus executes final judgment upon all the ungodly. Paul assured suffering fellow believers of “relief along with us at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels in a flaming fire, as he brings vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus. These very ones will undergo the judicial punishment of everlasting destruction from before the Lord and from the glory of his strength, at the time he comes to be glorified in connection with his holy ones.” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10) With all these exciting events ahead of us, should we not exercise faith and eagerly keep on the watch for Christ’s coming?
Eagerly Waiting for Christ’s Revelation
9, 10. Why do the anointed ones still on earth eagerly wait for the revelation of Jesus Christ?
9 “The revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven” will be not only to bring destruction upon the wicked but also to reward the righteous. The remaining ones of Christ’s anointed brothers still on earth may yet suffer before Christ’s revelation, but they rejoice in their glorious heavenly hope. To anointed Christians, the apostle Peter wrote: “Go on rejoicing forasmuch as you are sharers in the sufferings of the Christ, that you may rejoice and be overjoyed also during the revelation of his glory.”—1 Peter 4:13.
10 Anointed ones are determined to remain faithful until Christ ‘gathers them together to him’ so that “the tested quality” of their faith “may be found a cause for praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1; 1 Peter 1:7) Concerning such faithful spirit-begotten Christians, it can be said: “The witness about the Christ has been rendered firm among you, so that you do not fall short in any gift at all, while you are eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—1 Corinthians 1:6, 7.
11. While awaiting the revelation of Jesus Christ, what do anointed Christians do?
11 The anointed remnant share the feelings of Paul, who wrote: “I reckon that the sufferings of the present season do not amount to anything in comparison with the glory that is going to be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) Their faith does not need to be propped up by time calculations. They keep busy in Jehovah’s service, providing a wonderful example for their companions, the “other sheep.” (John 10:16) These anointed ones know that this wicked system’s end is near, and they heed Peter’s exhortation: “Brace up your minds for activity, keep your senses completely; set your hope upon the undeserved kindness that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”—1 Peter 1:13.
“The Eager Expectation of the Creation”
12, 13. How was human creation “subjected to futility,” and for what do the other sheep long?
12 Do the other sheep also have something for which to live in eager expectation? Most assuredly they do. After speaking of the glorious hope of those adopted by Jehovah as his spirit-begotten “sons” and “joint heirs with Christ” in the heavenly Kingdom, Paul said: “The eager expectation of the creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will but through him that subjected it, on the basis of hope that the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.”—Romans 8:14-21; 2 Timothy 2:10-12.
13 Through Adam’s sin, all his descendants were “subjected to futility,” being born in bondage to sin and death. They have been unable to free themselves from such bondage. (Psalm 49:7; Romans 5:12, 21) Oh, how the other sheep long to be “set free from enslavement to corruption”! But before that happens, certain things must occur according to Jehovah’s times and seasons.
14. What will be involved in “the revealing of the sons of God,” and how will this result in mankind’s being “set free from enslavement to corruption”?
14 The remnant of the anointed “sons of God” must first be ‘revealed.’ What will this involve? In God’s due time, it will become evident to the other sheep that the anointed have been finally “sealed” and glorified to reign with Christ. (Revelation 7:2-4) The resurrected “sons of God” will also be ‘revealed’ when they share with Christ in destroying Satan’s wicked system of things. (Revelation 2:26, 27; 19:14, 15) Then, during Christ’s Thousand Year Reign, they will be further ‘revealed’ as priestly channels for dispensing the benefits of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice to human “creation.” This will result in mankind’s being “set free from enslavement to corruption” and eventually entering into “the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21; Revelation 20:5; 22:1, 2) With such grand prospects, is it any wonder that the other sheep are “waiting for the revealing of the sons of God” with “eager expectation”?—Romans 8:19.
Jehovah’s Patience Means Salvation
15. What should we never forget with regard to Jehovah’s timing of events?
15 Jehovah is the Great Timekeeper. His timing of events will prove to be perfect. Things may not always appear to be shaping up the way we personally expected. However, we can have absolute faith that all of God’s promises will be fulfilled. (Joshua 23:14) He may be allowing things to go on longer than many expected. But let us seek to understand his ways and be in admiration of his wisdom. Paul wrote: “O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and past tracing out his ways are! For ‘who has come to know Jehovah’s mind, or who has become his counselor?’”—Romans 11:33, 34.
16. Who stand to benefit from Jehovah’s patience?
16 Peter wrote: “Beloved ones, since you are awaiting these things [the destruction of the old “heavens” and “earth” and their replacement by God’s promised “new heavens” and “new earth”], do your utmost to be found finally by him spotless and unblemished and in peace. Furthermore, consider the patience of our Lord as salvation.” Because of Jehovah’s patience, millions more are being given the opportunity to be saved through the “day of Jehovah,” which will come unexpectedly “as a thief.” (2 Peter 3:9-15) His patience is also allowing each one of us to ‘keep working out our own salvation with fear and trembling.’ (Philippians 2:12) Jesus said that we must ‘pay attention to ourselves’ and “keep awake” if we want to be approved and succeed in “standing before the Son of man” at the time he comes for judgment.—Luke 21:34-36; Matthew 25:31-33.
Keep On Waiting With Endurance
17. What words of the apostle Paul should we take to heart?
17 Paul urged his spiritual brothers to keep their eyes, “not on the things seen, but on the things unseen.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) He wanted nothing to cloud their view of the heavenly reward set before them. Whether we are anointed Christians or we are of the other sheep, let us keep in mind the wonderful hope set before us and not give up. Let us ‘keep waiting with endurance,’ proving that “we are not the sort that shrink back to destruction, but the sort that have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.”—Romans 8:25; Hebrews 10:39.
18. Why can we confidently leave the times and seasons in Jehovah’s hands?
18 We can confidently leave the times and seasons in Jehovah’s hands. The fulfillment of his promises “will not be late” according to his time schedule. (Habakkuk 2:3) Meanwhile, Paul’s exhortation to Timothy takes on added meaning for us. He said: “I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is destined to judge the living and the dead, and by his manifestation and his kingdom, preach the word, be at it urgently in favorable season, in troublesome season . . . Do the work of an evangelizer, fully accomplish your ministry.”—2 Timothy 4:1-5.
19. What is it still time for Jehovah’s people to do, and why?
19 Lives are at stake—our own and those of our neighbors. Paul wrote: “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” (1 Timothy 4:16) Time is very short for this wicked system of things. While we await with eager expectation the exciting events ahead of us, let us be ever aware that it is still Jehovah’s time and season for his people to preach the good news of the Kingdom. That work must be accomplished to his satisfaction. “Then,” as Jesus said, “the end will come.”—Matthew 24:14.
See chapters 10 and 11 of the book Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
By Way of Review
□ Regarding time calculations, how is our situation similar to that of the first-century Christians?
□ Why must Christians “keep on the watch,” even during Christ’s presence?
□ Why is human creation in eager expectation of “the revealing of the sons of God”?
□ Why can we confidently leave the times and seasons in Jehovah’s hands?
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Christians must keep awake in expectation of Christ’s coming
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The anointed remnant keep busy in Jehovah’s service, not basing their faith on time calculations