“Even if it should delay, keep in expectation of it!”—HAB. 2:3.
1, 2. What attitude has long characterized worshippers of Jehovah?
JEHOVAH’S worshippers have long lived in expectation of the fulfillment of inspired prophecies. For example, Jeremiah prophesied that Judah would be desolated, and that is what occurred at Babylonian hands in 607 B.C.E. (Jer. 25:8-11) Isaiah, who was inspired to foretell that Jehovah would bring about a restoration, declared: “Happy are all those keeping in expectation of him.” (Isa. 30:18) Micah, whose prophecies also involved God’s ancient people, personally resolved: “I will keep on the lookout for Jehovah.” (Mic. 7:7) For centuries, God’s servants also lived in expectation of the fulfillment of prophecies concerning the Messiah, or Christ.—Luke 3:15; 1 Pet. 1:10-12.*
2 God’s present-day servants also keep in expectation, for prophecies about the Messiah are still undergoing fulfillment. Through the Messianic Kingdom, Jehovah will soon put an end to human suffering by destroying the wicked and delivering his people from this unstable world lying in Satan’s power. (1 John 5:19) Let us therefore remain alert and fully aware that this system is rapidly nearing its end.
3. What question might arise if we have been waiting for years for the end to come?
3 As Jehovah’s servants, we yearn to see God’s will “take place, as in heaven, also on earth.” (Matt. 6:10) After looking forward to the end of this system for what may seem to be a long time, however, some may wonder, ‘Do we still have sound reasons to keep in expectation?’ Let us see.
WHY KEEP IN EXPECTATION?
4. What is a primary reason for us to keep on the watch?
4 The Bible leaves no doubt about what our attitude should be toward the impending destruction of this system of things. Jesus told his followers to “keep on the watch” and to “keep awake.” (Matt. 24:42; Luke 21:34-36) That in itself is a good reason to remain in expectation—Jesus told us to do so! In this regard, Jehovah’s organization has set an example. Its publications have consistently exhorted us to “await and keep close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah” and to fix our hope on God’s promised new world.—Read 2 Peter 3:11-13.
5. Why is there a special need to be watchful in our time?
5 Although keeping in expectation was appropriate for Christians living centuries ago, it is particularly important for us. Why? Because we are living during Christ’s presence. The sign of his presence has been in evidence since 1914. And the multifeatured sign, which includes worsening world conditions and global Kingdom preaching, means that we are living in “the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 24:3, 7-14) Since Jesus did not say how long that period of time would go on before the end arrived, we need to be especially vigilant, watchful.
6. Why can we expect world conditions to worsen as we draw closer to the end?
6 We might ask: Could not “the conclusion of the system of things” refer to a future time when world conditions will become even worse? The Bible does indicate that wickedness will greatly increase “in the last days.” (2 Tim. 3:1, 13; Matt. 24:21; Rev. 12:12) So we can expect that world conditions, bad as they are now, will continue to decline.
7. What does Matthew 24:37-39 indicate about world conditions during the last days?
7 But how bad do you expect conditions to become before “the great tribulation”? (Rev. 7:14) For example, do you expect that there will be a war in every country, no food on anyone’s table, and illness in every household? Under those conditions, even skeptics would likely feel compelled to admit that Bible prophecy was undergoing fulfillment. However, Jesus said that most people would take “no note” of his presence, carrying on with life’s normal activities until it is too late. (Read Matthew 24:37-39.) Thus, the Scriptures indicate that world conditions during the last days would not become so extreme that people would be forced to believe that the end is near.—Luke 17:20; 2 Pet. 3:3, 4.
8. What is evident to those who are heeding Jesus’ command to “keep on the watch”?
8 On the other hand, for the composite sign to serve its purpose, the fulfillment of it would have to be obvious enough to command the attention of those who have been obeying Jesus’ counsel to “keep on the watch.” (Matt. 24:27, 42) And that has been the case since 1914. From that time onward, the features of the sign have been undergoing fulfillment. Clearly, we are now living in “the conclusion of the system of things”—a limited period of time leading up to and including the destruction of this wicked system.
9. For what reasons should we remain in expectation of this system’s end?
9 Why, then, should Christians today keep in expectation? Out of obedience to Jesus Christ, we remain in expectation. Also, we recognize the sign of his presence. Our expectations are based, not on a naive readiness to believe anything, but on solid Scriptural evidence that compels us to remain vigilant, awake, watchful and, yes, in expectation of this wicked system’s end.
10, 11. (a) Jesus prepared his disciples for what possibilities? (b) What did Jesus tell his followers to do if their wait for the end proved to be longer than they had anticipated? (See opening image.)
10 Many of us have been keeping awake spiritually for decades. However, let us not allow the passing of time to weaken our resolve to keep in expectation. We need to be ready for Jesus’ arrival as Executioner to end this system of things. Remember that Jesus exhorted his followers: “Keep looking, keep awake, for you do not know when the appointed time is. It is like a man traveling abroad who left his house and gave the authority to his slaves, to each one his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to keep on the watch. Keep on the watch, therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether late in the day or at midnight or at dawn or early in the morning, in order that when he comes suddenly, he does not find you sleeping. But what I say to you, I say to all: Keep on the watch.”—Mark 13:33-37.
11 Upon recognizing that Christ’s presence began in 1914, Jesus’ followers rightly prepared for a possible early arrival of the end. They did so by intensifying their Kingdom-preaching work. Jesus indicated that he might come later—“at dawn or early in the morning.” If that happened, how were his followers to respond? He said: “Keep on the watch.” So a long wait would not justify mentally postponing the end or totally dismissing their expectations.
12. What did Habakkuk ask Jehovah, and how did God respond?
12 Consider the prophet Habakkuk, who was commissioned to foretell the destruction of Jerusalem. By the time he arrived on the scene, warnings of that city’s desolation had already been sounded for years. Conditions had reached the point where ‘the wicked surrounded the righteous and justice was perverted.’ So it is not surprising that Habakkuk asked: “How long, O Jehovah, must I cry for help?” Instead of answering that question directly, Jehovah assured his faithful prophet that the foretold destruction would “not be late.” God told Habakkuk to “keep in expectation.”—Read Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:3.
13. What attitude could Habakkuk have had, and why would that have been unwise?
13 Suppose Habakkuk had become discouraged and thought: ‘I have been hearing about Jerusalem’s destruction for years. What if it is still a long way off? It does not seem realistic to keep prophesying as if the city might suddenly be destroyed. I will leave that to others.’ If Habakkuk had entertained such ideas, he would have lost his favored position before Jehovah—and possibly his life during the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians!
14. Why can we be certain that by keeping in expectation, we will not come to disappointment?
14 In the new world, we will have reason to reflect on the fact that all the foretold events associated with the conclusion of the system of things did indeed take place. Meditating on how matters actually turned out will further strengthen our confidence in Jehovah and his promises yet to be fulfilled. (Read Joshua 23:14.) We will surely be thankful that God, who ‘has placed times and seasons in his own jurisdiction,’ exhorted us to live with an awareness that ‘the end of all things had drawn close.’—Acts 1:7; 1 Pet. 4:7.
EXPECTATION MEANS ACTION!
15, 16. Why is intensified preaching the most sensible response to the times in which we live?
15 We can expect that Jehovah’s organization will continue to remind us that we should serve God with a sense of urgency. Such reminders are provided not merely to keep us busy in God’s service but to help us remain aware that the sign of Christ’s presence is now undergoing fulfillment. What is the most sensible response to the times in which we are living? Why, it is for us to keep on seeking first the Kingdom and God’s righteousness by having a zealous share in preaching the good news!—Matt. 6:33; Mark 13:10.
16 One sister commented: “By preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom, we . . . can help to rescue persons from sure death in the coming world catastrophe.” She knows something about being rescued, for she and her husband were survivors of one of the worst maritime disasters in history—the sinking of the luxury liner Wilhelm Gustloff in 1945. Even in the face of such peril, a person could have the wrong view of what is truly important. The sister recalled that one woman kept wailing: “My suitcases! My suitcases! My jewelry! All my jewelry is down there in the cabin. I have lost everything!” By contrast, several passengers who were moved by a spirit of helpfulness risked their lives working hard to rescue people who had fallen into the icy seas. Like those unselfish passengers, we do our utmost to help people. We keep the urgency of our preaching work in mind and help others to become survivors of the impending world catastrophe before it is too late.
17. What reasons do we have to believe that the end could come at any time?
17 Events on the world scene clearly indicate that Bible prophecy is now being fulfilled and that the end of this wicked system of things is imminent. Therefore, we should not assume that much time is needed for the state of this world to develop to the point where “the ten horns” and “the wild beast” of Revelation 17:16 turn on Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. Let us bear in mind that God will “put it into their hearts” to make that move—and this could happen swiftly and at any time! (Rev. 17:17) The end of this entire system of things is not far off. With good reason, we should heed Jesus’ warning: “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.” (Luke 21:34, 35; Rev. 16:15) Let us be resolved to serve Jehovah with a sense of urgency, confident that he “acts in behalf of those who keep in expectation of him.”—Isa. 64:4.
18. What question will be considered in the next article?
18 As we await the end of the present wicked system of things, let us heed the disciple Jude’s inspired words: “Beloved ones, build yourselves up on your most holy faith, and pray with holy spirit, in order to keep yourselves in God’s love, while you await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ with everlasting life in view.” (Jude 20, 21) How, though, can we show that we are living in expectation of God’s promised new world and are really looking forward to it? That will be the subject of our next article.
For a list of some Bible prophecies regarding the Messiah and their fulfillments, see page 200 of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach?