Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
“I am pursuing down toward the goal for the prize.”—PHIL. 3:14.
1. What prize was held out to the apostle Paul?
THE apostle Paul, also known as Saul of Tarsus, came from a prominent family. He was instructed in his ancestral religion by the famous Law teacher Gamaliel. (Acts 22:3) Paul had what was considered a fine career ahead of him; yet he abandoned his religion and became a Christian. He then looked forward to the prize of eternal life that was held out to him—that of being an immortal king and priest in God’s heavenly Kingdom. That Kingdom will rule over a paradise earth.—Matt. 6:10; Rev. 7:4; 20:6.
2, 3. How highly did Paul value the prize of heavenly life?
2 Showing how highly Paul valued that prize, he said: “What things were gains to me, these I have considered loss on account of the Christ. Why, for that matter, I do indeed also consider all things to be loss on account of the excelling value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. On account of him I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse.” (Phil. 3:7, 8) The things that most people consider important—position, wealth, career, prestige—Paul considered to be refuse after he learned the truth about Jehovah’s purpose for mankind.
3 From then on, what really mattered to Paul was the precious knowledge of Jehovah and Christ, regarding which Jesus said in prayer to God: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) Paul’s earnest desire to attain eternal life is evident in his words recorded at Philippians 3:14: “I am pursuing down toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus.” Yes, his eyes were focused on the prize of eternal life in the heavens as part of God’s Kingdom government.
Living Forever on Earth
4, 5. What prize is held out to millions who are doing God’s will today?
4 For the great majority of those who choose to do God’s will, the prize worth working for is eternal life in a new world of God’s making. (Ps. 37:11, 29) Jesus confirmed that this was a valid hope. He said: “Happy are the mild-tempered ones, since they will inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:5) Jesus himself is the principal one to inherit our earth, as Psalm 2:8 indicates, and he will have 144,000 corulers in heaven. (Dan. 7:13, 14, 22, 27) Those sheeplike ones who actually will live on earth will “inherit” the earthly realm of the Kingdom ‘prepared for them from the founding of the world.’ (Matt. 25:34, 46) And we are guaranteed that this will all come to pass because God, who promises it, “cannot lie.” (Titus 1:2) We can have the same confidence in the fulfillment of God’s promises that Joshua had when he told the Israelites: “Not one word out of all the good words that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true for you. Not one word of them has failed.”—Josh. 23:14.
5 Life in God’s new world will not be like today’s unsatisfying existence. It will be very different: free from war, crime, poverty, injustice, illness, and death. People then will have perfect health and will live on an earth that has been transformed into a paradise. That life will be fulfilling and satisfying beyond our fondest dreams. Yes, then every day will be one of exquisite delight. What a marvelous prize!
6, 7. (a) How did Jesus demonstrate what we can expect to take place in God’s new world? (b) How will even the dead be given a fresh start?
6 When Jesus was on earth, he was empowered by God’s holy spirit to demonstrate the kind of wonderful things that will take place earth wide in the new world. For example, Jesus told a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years to walk. The Bible reports that the man did so. (Read John 5:5-9.) In another instance, Jesus encountered “a man blind from birth” and healed him. Later, the man formerly blind was asked about the One who had healed him, and he answered: “From of old it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of one born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing at all.” (John 9:1, 6, 7, 32, 33) Jesus could do all of this because he was empowered by God. Everywhere he went, Jesus “healed those needing a cure.”—Luke 9:11.
7 Not only could Jesus heal the sick and crippled but he could also raise the dead. As an example, a 12-year-old girl had died, causing great sorrow to her parents. But Jesus said: “Maiden, I say to you, Get up!” And she did! Can you imagine the reaction of the parents and others who were there? (Read Mark 5:38-42.) In God’s new world, there will be “great ecstasy” when billions are resurrected, for “there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15; John 5:28, 29) These will be given a fresh start in life with the prospect of living from that time forward, even forever.
8, 9. (a) During Christ’s Millennial Reign, what will happen to sin inherited from Adam? (b) On what basis are the dead to be judged?
8 The resurrected ones are not doomed to failure. Those who come back in the resurrection will not be condemned for sins they committed before they died. (Rom. 6:7) During Christ’s Millennial Reign, as the benefits of the ransom sacrifice are applied, obedient subjects of the Kingdom will grow to perfection, eventually becoming completely free from all the effects of Adam’s sin. (Rom. 8:21) Jehovah “will actually swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will certainly wipe the tears from all faces.” (Isa. 25:8) God’s Word also says that “scrolls [will be] opened,” indicating that those living at that time will be given new information. (Rev. 20:12) As the earth is transformed into a paradise, “righteousness is what the inhabitants of the productive land will certainly learn.”—Isa. 26:9.
9 The resurrected ones will be judged, not on the basis of sin inherited from Adam, but by what they themselves choose to do. Revelation 20:12 says: “The dead were judged out of those things written in the scrolls according to their deeds,” that is, their deeds following their resurrection. What a marvelous example of Jehovah’s justice, mercy, and love! Additionally, the painful things of their past life in this old world “will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart.” (Isa. 65:17) With upbuilding new information available and a life filled with good things, they will no longer be distressed by the bad things of the past. Those past experiences can be put out of their minds. (Rev. 21:4) The same will be true of the “great crowd,” who survive Armageddon.—Rev. 7:9, 10, 14.
10. (a) What will life in God’s new world be like? (b) What can you do to help you keep your eyes on the prize?
10 In God’s new world, people will be able to live without getting sick again or dying. “No resident will say: ‘I am sick.’” (Isa. 33:24) Eventually, the inhabitants of the new earth will wake up each morning to perfect health, thrilled with the prospect of another marvelous day. They will look forward to satisfying work and association with others who have only their best interests at heart. Such a life is a wonderful prize indeed! As a suggestion, why not open your Bible to the prophecies at Isaiah 33:24 and 35:5-7? Try putting yourself in the picture. That will help you keep your eyes on the prize.
Losing Sight of the Prize
11. Describe the fine beginning of Solomon’s reign.
11 Once we have learned about the prize, we have to work diligently to keep our eyes focused on it because we could lose sight of it. For example, when Solomon became king of ancient Israel, he humbly prayed to God for understanding and discernment so that he could judge His people correctly. (Read 1 Kings 3:6-12.) As a result, the Bible states, “God continued giving Solomon wisdom and understanding in very great measure.” Indeed, “Solomon’s wisdom was vaster than the wisdom of all the Orientals and than all the wisdom of Egypt.”—1 Ki. 4:29-32.
12. What warning did Jehovah give those who would become kings in Israel?
12 However, earlier Jehovah had warned that anyone who became king “should not increase horses for himself” and that he “should also not multiply wives for himself, that his heart may not turn aside.” (Deut. 17:14-17) Increasing his horses would show that the king depended upon military might to protect the nation instead of depending on Jehovah, the Protector. And multiplying wives would be dangerous because some of them could be from surrounding pagan nations that engaged in false worship, and those wives could turn the king aside from the true worship of Jehovah.
13. How did Solomon lose sight of what he had been given?
13 Solomon did not heed those warnings. Rather, he did what Jehovah specifically said kings should not do. He accumulated thousands of horses and horsemen. (1 Ki. 4:26) He also came to have 700 wives and 300 concubines, many from the pagan nations nearby. These “inclined his heart to follow other gods; and his heart did not prove to be complete with Jehovah.” Solomon engaged in the disgusting false worship of the pagan nations that his foreign wives had introduced him to. As a result, Jehovah said that he would “without fail rip the kingdom away” from Solomon.—1 Ki. 11:1-6, 11.
14. Disobedience by Solomon and by the nation of Israel resulted in what?
14 Solomon no longer focused on the precious privilege he had of representing the true God. The king became immersed in false worship. In time, the entire nation turned apostate, resulting in its destruction in 607 B.C.E. Even though the Jews eventually restored true worship, centuries later Jesus was prompted to declare: “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.” That is just what happened. Jesus declared: “Look! Your house is abandoned to you.” (Matt. 21:43; 23:37, 38) As a result of its unfaithfulness, the nation lost the great privilege of representing the true God. In 70 C.E., Roman armies devastated Jerusalem and the temple, and many of the remaining Jews became slaves.
15. Give examples of men who lost focus on what was truly important.
15 Judas Iscariot was one of the 12 apostles of Jesus. Judas heard the wonderful teachings of Jesus and saw the miracles he performed with the help of God’s holy spirit. Yet, Judas did not guard his heart. He had been entrusted with the money box holding the finances of Jesus and the 12 apostles. But “he was a thief and had the money box and used to carry off the monies put in it.” (John 12:6) His greediness reached a climax when he plotted with the hypocritical chief priests to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. (Matt. 26:14-16) Another who lost focus was Demas, who was a companion of the apostle Paul. Demas did not guard his heart. Paul stated: “Demas has forsaken me because he loved the present system of things.”—2 Tim. 4:10; read Proverbs 4:23.
A Lesson for Each of Us
16, 17. (a) How powerful is the opposition confronting us? (b) What can help us to withstand whatever Satan brings against us?
16 All of God’s servants should take to heart examples set out in the Bible, for we are told: “Now these things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.” (1 Cor. 10:11) Today, we are living during the last days of this present wicked system of things.—2 Tim. 3:1, 13.
17 Satan the Devil, “the god of this system of things,” knows that “he has a short period of time” left. (2 Cor. 4:4; Rev. 12:12) He will do all he can to entice Jehovah’s servants to break their integrity as Christians. Satan controls this world, including its propaganda channels. However, Jehovah’s people have something far more powerful—“the power beyond what is normal.” (2 Cor. 4:7) We can rely on this power from God to help us withstand whatever Satan brings against us. Thus, we are urged to pray constantly, confident that Jehovah will “give holy spirit to those asking him.”—Luke 11:13.
18. What attitude should we have toward this present world?
18 We are also fortified by the knowledge that Satan’s entire system will soon be destroyed but true Christians will survive. “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:17) In view of this, how unwise it would be for one of God’s servants to think that there is something in this present system of things that could be of more lasting value than his relationship with Jehovah! This world under Satan is like a sinking ship. Jehovah has provided the Christian congregation as a “lifeboat” for his faithful servants. As they head toward the new world, they can have confidence in this promise: “Evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth.” (Ps. 37:9) Hence, keep your eyes focused on this wonderful prize!
Do You Recall?
• How did Paul feel about the prize held out to him?
• On what basis will those who will live forever on earth be judged?
• What is the wise course for you now?
[Picture on page 12, 13]
Do you visualize yourself attaining the prize when you read Bible accounts?