“Keep on the Watch”—The Hour of Judgment Has Arrived!
The information in this study article is based on the brochure Keep on the Watch! released at the district conventions that were held around the world during 2004/05.
“Keep on the watch . . . because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”—MATTHEW 24:42.
1, 2. To what did Jesus fittingly liken his coming?
WHAT would you do if you knew that a thief was on the prowl, burglarizing homes in your neighborhood? To protect your loved ones and your valuables, you would keep alert, watchful. After all, a thief does not send a letter announcing when he is coming. On the contrary, he comes stealthily and unexpectedly.
2 On more than one occasion, Jesus used the ways of a thief as an illustration. (Luke 10:30; John 10:10) Regarding events that would occur during the time of the end and that would lead up to his coming to execute judgment, Jesus gave this warning: “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know one thing, that if the householder had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have kept awake and not allowed his house to be broken into.” (Matthew 24:42, 43) So Jesus likened his coming to the arrival of a thief—unexpected.
3, 4. (a) What is involved in heeding Jesus’ warning about his coming? (b) What questions arise?
3 The illustration was fitting, for the precise date of Jesus’ coming would not be known. Earlier, in the same prophecy, Jesus said: “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36) Jesus, therefore, urged his listeners: “Prove yourselves ready.” (Matthew 24:44) Those heeding Jesus’ warning would be ready, conducting themselves properly, whenever he would come as Jehovah’s Executional Agent.
4 Some important questions arise: Is Jesus’ warning only for people of the world, or do true Christians also need to “keep on the watch”? Why is it urgent to “keep on the watch,” and what does this involve?
A Warning for Whom?
5. How do we know that the warning to “keep on the watch” applies to true Christians?
5 It is certainly true that the Lord’s coming will be thieflike to people of the world, who shut their ears to the warning of impending calamity. (2 Peter 3:3-7) However, what about true Christians? The apostle Paul wrote to fellow believers: “You yourselves know quite well that Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2) There is no doubt in our minds that “Jehovah’s day is coming.” But does that minimize the need for us to keep on the watch? Notice that it was to his disciples that Jesus said: “At an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.” (Matthew 24:44) Earlier, when urging his disciples to seek continually the Kingdom, Jesus cautioned: “Keep ready, because at an hour that you do not think likely the Son of man is coming.” (Luke 12:31, 40) Is it not clear that Jesus had his followers in mind when he warned: “Keep on the watch”?
6. Why do we need to “keep on the watch”?
6 Why do we need to “keep on the watch” and “keep ready”? Jesus explained: “Two men will be in the field: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned; two women will be grinding at the hand mill: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned.” (Matthew 24:40, 41) Those who prove themselves ready will be “taken along,” or saved, when the ungodly world is destroyed. Others will be “abandoned” to destruction because they have been selfishly pursuing their own way of life. These may well include individuals who were once enlightened but who did not keep on the watch.
7. What does not knowing when the end will come allow us to do?
7 Not knowing the exact day of the end of this old system gives us the opportunity to demonstrate that we serve God out of a pure motive. How so? It may be that the end seems to be a long time in arriving. Sad to say, some Christians who feel this way have allowed their zeal for Jehovah’s service to cool off. Yet, by our dedication, we have without reservation presented ourselves to Jehovah to serve him. Those who know Jehovah realize that a last-minute display of zeal will not impress him. He sees what is in the heart.—1 Samuel 16:7.
8. How does love for Jehovah move us to keep on the watch?
8 Because we truly love Jehovah, we find the greatest delight in doing his will. (Psalm 40:8; Matthew 26:39) And we want to serve Jehovah forever. That prospect is not less precious just because we must wait a little longer than we may have expected. Above all, we keep on the watch because we eagerly anticipate what Jehovah’s day will mean for the accomplishment of his purpose. Our earnest desire to please God moves us to apply the counsel of his Word and give his Kingdom first place in our life. (Matthew 6:33; 1 John 5:3) Let us consider how keeping on the watch should influence the decisions we make and the way we live our life each day.
Where Is Your Life Heading?
9. Why is there an urgent need for people of the world to wake up to the significance of our times?
9 Many people today recognize that serious problems and shocking events have become everyday occurrences, and they may not be pleased with the direction that their own life is taking. However, do they know the real meaning of world conditions? Do they realize that we are living in “the conclusion of the system of things”? (Matthew 24:3) Do they recognize that the prevalence of selfish, violent, even ungodly attitudes marks these times as “the last days”? (2 Timothy 3:1-5) There is an urgent need for them to wake up to the significance of all of this and to consider the way their life is heading.
10. What must we do to be sure that we are keeping on the watch?
10 What about us? Every day we face decisions that involve our employment, our health, our family, and our worship. We know what the Bible says, and we endeavor to apply it. Therefore, we do well to ask ourselves: ‘Have I allowed the anxieties of life to push me off course? Am I letting the world’s philosophies, its thinking, determine the choices I make?’ (Luke 21:34-36; Colossians 2:8) We need to continue to demonstrate that we trust in Jehovah with all our heart and not lean upon our own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5) In that way, we will keep “a firm hold on the real life”—eternal life in God’s new world.—1 Timothy 6:12, 19.
11-13. What can we learn from the examples of what happened (a) in the days of Noah? (b) in the days of Lot?
11 The Bible contains many warning examples that can help us to keep on the watch. Consider what happened in Noah’s day. Well in advance, God saw to it that warning was given. But apart from Noah and his household, people took no note. (2 Peter 2:5) Regarding this, Jesus said: “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 24:37-39) What can we learn from that? If any of us are allowing mundane concerns—even the normal activities of life—to crowd out the spiritual activities that God urges us to keep in first place, we need to think seriously about our situation.—Romans 14:17.
12 Think, too, about the days of Lot. The city of Sodom, where Lot and his family lived, was materially prosperous but morally bankrupt. Jehovah sent his angels to bring the place to ruin. The angels urged Lot and his family to flee from Sodom and not to look back. Encouraged by the angels, they did leave the city. Lot’s wife, however, evidently could not let go of her feelings for her home in Sodom. Disobediently, she looked back, and for this she paid with her life. (Genesis 19:15-26) Prophetically, Jesus warned: “Remember the wife of Lot.” Are we acting on that warning?—Luke 17:32.
13 Those who heeded divine warnings were spared. That was true of Noah and his family and of Lot and his daughters. (2 Peter 2:9) As we take to heart the warning in these examples, we are also encouraged by the message of deliverance contained therein for lovers of righteousness. That fills our heart with confident expectation of the fulfillment of God’s promise of “new heavens and a new earth” in which “righteousness is to dwell.”—2 Peter 3:13.
‘The Hour of the Judgment Has Arrived’!
14, 15. (a) What does “the hour” of judgment include? (b) What is involved in ‘fearing God and giving him glory’?
14 As we keep on the watch, what can we expect? The book of Revelation outlines progressive steps in the fulfillment of God’s purpose. Acting on what it says is vital if we are to prove ourselves ready. The prophecy vividly describes events that would occur in “the Lord’s day,” which began when Christ was enthroned in heaven in 1914. (Revelation 1:10) Revelation alerts us to an angel who has been entrusted with “everlasting good news to declare.” He proclaims in a loud voice: “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of the judgment by him has arrived.” (Revelation 14:6, 7) That “hour” of judgment is a brief period; it includes both the pronouncement and the execution of the judgments that are depicted in that prophecy. We are now living in that period.
15 Now, before the hour of judgment concludes, we are urged: “Fear God and give him glory.” What does this involve? Proper fear of God should cause us to turn away from badness. (Proverbs 8:13) If we honor God, we will listen to him with deep respect. We will not be too busy to read his Word, the Bible, regularly. We will not minimize his counsel to attend Christian meetings. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) We will cherish the privilege of proclaiming the good news of God’s Messianic Kingdom and will do so zealously. We will trust in Jehovah at all times and with our whole heart. (Psalm 62:8) Recognizing that Jehovah is the Universal Sovereign, we honor him by willingly submitting to him as the Sovereign of our life. Do you truly fear God and give him glory in all such ways?
16. Why can we say that the judgment against Babylon the Great stated at Revelation 14:8 has already been fulfilled?
16 Revelation chapter 14 goes on to describe further events that are to take place in the hour of judgment. Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, is mentioned first: “Another, a second angel, followed, saying: ‘She has fallen! Babylon the Great has fallen!’” (Revelation 14:8) Yes, from God’s viewpoint, Babylon the Great has already fallen. In 1919, Jehovah’s anointed servants were set free from the bondage of Babylonish doctrines and practices, which have dominated peoples and nations for millenniums. (Revelation 17:1, 15) They could henceforth devote themselves to promoting true worship. Global preaching of the good news of God’s Kingdom has taken place since then.—Matthew 24:14.
17. What is involved in getting out of Babylon the Great?
17 That is not all there is to God’s judgment against Babylon the Great. Her final destruction is soon to come. (Revelation 18:21) With good reason, the Bible urges people everywhere: “Get out of her [Babylon the Great] . . . if you do not want to share with her in her sins.” (Revelation 18:4, 5) How do we get out of Babylon the Great? This involves more than just severing any ties with false religion. Babylonish influence is present in many popular celebrations and customs, in the world’s permissive attitude toward sex, in the promoting of entertainment involving spiritism, and much more. To keep on the watch, it is vital that both in our actions and in the desires of our heart, we give evidence that we are truly separate from Babylon the Great in every way.
18. In view of what is described at Revelation 14:9, 10, what are alert Christians careful to avoid?
18 At Revelation 14:9, 10, a further aspect of ‘the hour of judgment’ is described. Another angel says: “If anyone worships the wild beast and its image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he will also drink of the wine of the anger of God.” Why? “The wild beast and its image” are symbols of human rulership, which does not acknowledge Jehovah’s sovereignty. Alert Christians are careful not to allow themselves to be influenced or to be marked, in either attitude or action, as being in servitude to those who refuse to acknowledge the supreme sovereignty of the true God, Jehovah. Christians know that God’s Kingdom has already been set up in heaven, that it will put an end to all human rulerships, and that it will stand forever.—Daniel 2:44.
Do Not Lose Your Sense of Urgency!
19, 20. (a) As we get deeper into the last days, what can we be certain that Satan will try to do? (b) What should we be determined to do?
19 As we get deeper into the last days, pressures and temptations will only intensify. As long as we are living in this old system and are plagued by our own imperfection, we are affected by such things as poor health, old age, the loss of loved ones, hurt feelings, disappointment in the face of apathy toward our efforts to preach God’s Word, and much more. Never forget that Satan would like nothing better than to exploit the pressures we face to induce us to give up—to stop preaching the good news or to quit living by God’s standards. (Ephesians 6:11-13) This is not the time to lose our sense of urgency regarding the times in which we live!
20 Jesus knew that we would be under much pressure to give up, so he counseled us: “Keep on the watch . . . because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (Matthew 24:42) Let us, then, keep ever alert to where we are in the stream of time. Let us be on guard against Satan’s ploys that could cause us to slow down or quit. Let us be resolved to preach the good news of God’s Kingdom with ever greater zeal and determination. By all means, let us keep our sense of urgency as we heed Jesus’ warning: “Keep on the watch.” Doing so, we will bring honor to Jehovah and will be among those in line for his eternal blessings.
How Would You Answer?
• How do we know that Jesus’ warning to “keep on the watch” applies to true Christians?
• What warning examples in the Bible can help us to “keep on the watch”?
• What is the hour of judgment, and what are we urged to do before it concludes?
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Jesus likened his coming to the arrival of a thief
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The destruction of Babylon the Great is near
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Let us be resolved to preach with ever greater zeal and determination