Our Watchfulness Takes On Greater Urgency

“Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”​—MATTHEW 24:42.

1, 2. What shows that we are living in the conclusion of the present system of things?

“ABOVE all other things, the twentieth century was shaped by war,” says author Bill Emmott. While admitting that all periods of human history have felt the weight of wars and violence, he adds: “The twentieth century did not differ in kind, it differed in degree. It was the first century to feature a truly world-spanning conflict . . . And, as if to emphasize the point, it featured not just one such worldwide conflict, but two.”

2 Wars that involve ‘nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom’ were foretold by Jesus Christ. However, they are just one aspect of ‘the sign of Christ’s presence and of the conclusion of the system of things.’ In this great prophecy, Jesus also mentioned famines, pestilences, and earthquakes. (Matthew 24:3, 7, 8; Luke 21:6, 7, 10, 11) In many respects, such calamities have increased in scope and severity. The badness of man is abundant, as seen in his attitude toward God and fellowman. Moral breakdown and increase in crime and violence are evident. Men have become lovers of money rather than lovers of God, obsessed with pleasure. All this testifies that we are living in “critical times.”​—2 Timothy 3:1-5.

3. How should “the signs of the times” affect us?

3 How do you view the worsening trend in human affairs? Many are indifferent, even callous, to distressing events of the day. The world’s influential and intellectual men do not discern the meaning of “the signs of the times”; neither have religious leaders given proper guidance in this matter. (Matthew 16:1-3) But Jesus admonished his followers: “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (Matthew 24:42) Jesus here encourages us not only to be watchful but to “keep on the watch.” To keep on the watch, we must remain alert and vigilant. This requires more than simply acknowledging that we are living in the last days, more than recognizing that times are hard. We must have firm conviction that “the end of all things has drawn close.” (1 Peter 4:7) Only then will our watchfulness take on a sense of urgency. Hence, the question that we must reflect on is: ‘What will help us to strengthen our conviction that the end is near?’

4, 5. (a) What will strengthen our conviction that the end of this wicked system is near, and why? (b) What is one similarity between Noah’s day and the presence of the Son of man?

4 Consider the conditions prevailing during the time preceding a one-of-a-kind event in human history​—the great Deluge of Noah’s day. People were so bad that Jehovah “felt hurt at his heart.” He declared: “I am going to wipe men whom I have created off the surface of the ground.” (Genesis 6:6, 7) And he did just that. Drawing a parallel between then and now, Jesus said: “Just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be.”​—Matthew 24:37.

5 It is reasonable to assume that Jehovah  feels about the present world as he felt about the pre-Flood world. Since he brought an end to the ungodly world of Noah’s day, he will certainly destroy the wicked world of today. Having a clear understanding of the parallel between that time and our day should fortify our conviction that the end of the present world is near. What, then, are the similarities? There are at least five. The first is that a warning of coming destruction is given in no uncertain terms.

Warned of “Things Not Yet Beheld”

6. What did Jehovah determine to do in Noah’s day?

6 In Noah’s day, Jehovah declared: “My spirit shall not act toward man indefinitely in that he is also flesh. Accordingly his days shall amount to a hundred and twenty years.” (Genesis 6:3) The issuance of this divine decree in 2490 B.C.E. marked the beginning of the end for that ungodly world. Just think what that meant for those then living! Only 120 years more and Jehovah would bring “the deluge of waters upon the earth to bring to ruin all flesh in which the force of life is active from under the heavens.”​—Genesis 6:17.

7. (a) What was Noah’s response to the warning about the Flood? (b) How should we respond to warnings about the end of this system?

7 Noah received the warning of the upcoming catastrophe decades in advance, and he wisely used the time to prepare for survival. “After being given divine warning of things not yet beheld,” says the apostle Paul, “[Noah] showed godly fear and constructed an ark for the saving of his household.” (Hebrews 11:7) What about us? Some 90 years have passed since the last days of this system of things began in 1914. We are certainly in “the time of the end.” (Daniel 12:4) How should we respond to warnings we have been given? “He that does the will of God remains forever,” states the Bible. (1 John 2:17) Now is therefore the time to do Jehovah’s will with a keen sense of urgency.

8, 9. What warnings have been given in modern times, and how are these being declared?

8 In modern times, sincere students of the Bible have learned from the inspired Scriptures that this system is doomed to destruction. Do we believe this? Notice what Jesus Christ clearly stated: “There will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matthew 24:21) Jesus also said that he would come as God’s appointed Judge and would separate people as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. Those found unworthy would “depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones into everlasting life.”​—Matthew 25:31-33, 46.

9 Jehovah has kept these warnings in front of his people by means of timely reminders through the spiritual food provided by “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45- 47) Moreover, every nation, tribe, tongue, and people are called upon to “fear God and give him glory, because the hour of the judgment by him has arrived.” (Revelation 14:6, 7) An integral part of the Kingdom message preached earth wide by Jehovah’s Witnesses is the warning that God’s Kingdom will soon remove human rulership. (Daniel 2:44) This warning is not to be taken lightly. Almighty God always keeps his word. (Isaiah 55:10, 11) He did in Noah’s day, and he will in our day.​—2 Peter 3:3-7.

Sexual Depravity Becomes Rampant

10. What can be said about sexual depravity in Noah’s day?

10 Our time corresponds to Noah’s day in another respect. Jehovah had commanded the first man and woman to “fill the earth” with their kind, using their God-given sexual powers honorably within the marriage arrangement. (Genesis 1:28) In Noah’s day, disobedient angels contaminated humanity with unnatural sex. They came down to earth, materialized bodies, and cohabited with beautiful women, producing offspring that were half human, half demon​—the Nephilim. (Genesis 6:2, 4) The sin of these lustful angels is likened to the perversions of Sodom and Gomorrah. (Jude 6, 7) Consequently, sexual depravity was widespread in those days.

11. What moral climate makes our time similar to the days of Noah?

11 What about the moral climate of today? In these final days, the lives of many revolve around sex. Paul graphically describes such ones as “having come to be past all moral sense”; many have given themselves over “to loose conduct to work uncleanness of every sort with greediness.” (Ephesians 4:19) Pornography, premarital sex, sexual abuse of children, and homosexuality are commonplace. Some are already “receiving in themselves the full recompense” in the form of sexually transmitted diseases, breakdown of family life, and other social ills.​—Romans 1:26, 27.

12. Why should we cultivate hatred for what is bad?

12 In Noah’s day, Jehovah sent the great Deluge and brought an end to that sex-crazed world. We must never lose sight of the fact that these days are truly just as the days of Noah were. The upcoming “great tribulation” will clear the earth of ‘fornicators, adulterers, men kept for unnatural purposes, and men who lie with men.’ (Matthew 24:21; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Revelation 21:8) How urgent it is that we cultivate hatred for what is bad and stay clear of circumstances that could lead to immorality!​—Psalm 97:10; 1 Corinthians 6:18.

Earth Becomes “Filled With Violence”

13. In Noah’s day, why was the earth “filled with violence”?

13 Pointing to yet another characteristic of Noah’s day, the Bible states: “The earth came to be ruined in the sight of the true God and the earth became filled with violence.” (Genesis 6:11) Violence was not actually new.  Adam’s son Cain murdered his righteous brother. (Genesis 4:8) Reflecting the violent spirit of his day, Lamech composed a poem boasting about how he had killed a young man, allegedly in self-defense. (Genesis 4:23, 24) What was new in Noah’s day was the degree of violence. As disobedient angelic sons of God married women on earth and produced progeny​—the Nephilim—​violence increased to a level previously unknown. These violent giants were “the Fellers”​—“those who cause others to fall down.” (Genesis 6:4, footnote) As a result, the earth was “full of violence.” (Genesis 6:13) Imagine the problems Noah must have faced bringing up his family in such an environment! Yet, Noah proved to be ‘righteous before Jehovah among that generation.’​—Genesis 7:1.

14. How has the world today become “filled with violence”?

14 Violence has been with mankind throughout the ages. But as was true in the days of Noah, our time has also witnessed it on an unprecedented scale. We regularly hear about domestic violence, acts of terrorism, campaigns of genocide, and mass killings by gunmen with little apparent motive. Add to all of this the bloodshed caused by wars. The earth has again become filled with violence. Why? What has contributed to the increase? The answer reveals another similarity to Noah’s day.

15. (a) What has contributed to the increase in violence in the last days? (b) Of what outcome can we be confident?

15 When God’s Messianic Kingdom was established in heaven in 1914, the enthroned King, Jesus Christ, took epoch-making action. Satan the Devil and his demons were ousted from heaven to the vicinity of the earth. (Revelation 12:9-12) Before the Flood, disobedient angels forsook their heavenly position voluntarily; in modern times, however, they were forcibly evicted. Furthermore, they now lack the ability to materialize human bodies on earth in order to enjoy illicit fleshly pleasures. So in frustration, anger, and fear of impending judgment, they influence men and organizations to perform inhuman acts of crime and violence of even greater magnitude than those of Noah’s day. Jehovah obliterated the pre-Flood world after disobedient angels and their offspring had filled it with badness. Make no mistake about it, he will not do any less in our day! (Psalm 37:10) However, those staying  watchful today know that their deliverance is near.

The Message Is Preached

16, 17. What is the fourth similarity between the days of Noah and our day?

16 The fourth point of similarity between the present day and the pre-Flood world is seen in the work that Noah was commissioned to do. Noah constructed a huge ark. He was also “a preacher.” (2 Peter 2:5) What message did he preach? Noah’s preaching evidently included a call for repentance and a warning of coming destruction. Jesus said that the people of Noah’s day “took no note until the flood came and swept them all away.”​—Matthew 24:38, 39.

17 Similarly, as Jehovah’s Witnesses diligently fulfill their commission to preach, the message of God’s Kingdom is being declared worldwide. In almost every part of the globe, people can hear and read the Kingdom message in their own language. The Watchtower magazine, announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom, has a circulation of over 25,000,000 and is printed in more than 140 languages. Indeed, the good news of God’s Kingdom is being preached “in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” When that work is completed to God’s satisfaction, the end is certain to come.​—Matthew 24:14.

18. How does the response of many to our preaching activity compare with that of most people in Noah’s day?

18 Given the spiritual and moral bankruptcy of the days preceding the Flood, it is not hard to imagine how Noah’s family became the laughingstock of incredulous neighbors and the object of abuse and ridicule. The end did come though. Similarly, “ridiculers with their ridicule” abound in the last days. “Yet Jehovah’s day will come as a thief,” states the Bible. (2 Peter 3:3, 4, 10) Come it will at the appointed time. It will not be late. (Habakkuk 2:3) How wise we are to keep on the watch!

Only a Few Survive

19, 20. What parallel can we draw between the Flood and the destruction of the present system of things?

19 The parallel between Noah’s day and our day does not end with the badness of the people and their destruction. As there were Flood survivors, so there will be those who survive the end of the present system of things. The Flood survivors were meek ones who did not live as the people in general did. They heeded the divine warning and kept separate from the wicked world of that time. “Noah found favor in the eyes of Jehovah,” states the Bible. “[Noah] proved himself faultless among his contemporaries.” (Genesis 6:8, 9) Out of all mankind, one family, “a few people, that is, eight souls, were carried safely through the water.” (1 Peter 3:20) And to them Jehovah God gave a mandate saying: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth.”​—Genesis 9:1.

20 God’s Word assures us that “a great crowd” will “come out of the great tribulation.” (Revelation 7:9, 14) How many will there be in the great crowd? Jesus himself said: “Narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.” (Matthew 7:13, 14) Compared to the billions living on earth now, the survivors of the upcoming great tribulation will be few. But they may well have a privilege similar to that given to the Flood survivors.  The survivors may for a time be able to have offspring as a part of the new earthly society.​—Isaiah 65:23.

“Keep on the Watch”

21, 22. (a) How has this consideration of the Flood account benefited you? (b) What is the yeartext for 2004, and why should we heed the advice it gives?

21 Although the Flood seems remote from our day, it clearly provides a warning that we must not ignore. (Romans 15:4) The similarities between Noah’s day and our day should make us increasingly aware of the significance of what is happening and alert us to the thieflike coming of Jesus to execute judgment upon the wicked.

22 Today, Jesus Christ is directing a tremendous spiritual building work. For the security and survival of true worshipers, an arklike spiritual paradise exists. (2 Corinthians 12:3, 4) To be preserved through the great tribulation, we must remain in that paradise. Surrounding the domain of the spiritual paradise is Satan’s world, ready to assimilate any who have become spiritually drowsy. It is imperative that we “keep on the watch” and prove ourselves ready for Jehovah’s day.​—Matthew 24:42, 44.

Do You Recall?

• What admonition did Jesus give concerning his coming?

• With what does Jesus compare the time of his presence?

• In what ways are our times similar to the days of Noah?

• How should reflecting upon the similarities between Noah’s day and our day affect our sense of urgency?

[Study Questions]

[Blurb on page 18]

The yeartext for 2004 will be: “Keep on the watch . . . Prove yourselves ready.”​—Matthew 24:42, 44.

[Picture on page 15]

Noah heeded a divine warning. Do we respond similarly?

[Pictures on page 16, 17]

“Just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be”