“They did not receive the fulfillment of the promises; but they saw them from a distance.”
1. How can we benefit from our ability to visualize things we have not seen? (See opening image.)
OUR ability to form mental pictures of things we have not seen is a gift from God. It allows us to make wise plans and to look forward to good things. Jehovah can foresee future events, and in the Scriptures he often tells us ahead of time what will happen. We may be able to form mental pictures of what will occur. In fact, our ability to conceive of unseen things helps us to exercise faith.
2, 3. (a) Why is the basis for what we visualize important? (b) What questions will we consider in this study?
2 A mental picture of something we have never seen may not always be based on reality. For example, if a little girl pictures herself riding on a butterfly, that is mere fantasy. But when Hannah spent time thinking about what it would be like when she took her son Samuel to serve at the tabernacle, she had a basis for her mental picture. It was based on what she had resolved to do, and this helped her to focus on her objective. (1 Sam. 1:22) If we visualize what God has promised to do, we are thinking about something that will definitely happen.
3 No doubt, many faithful people of Bible times formed mental pictures of things God had promised. How did such individuals benefit by visualizing future blessings? And how may we find it beneficial to think about the wonderful things God has foretold for obedient mankind?
STRENGTHENED BY “SEEING” THEIR HOPE
4. What basis did Abel have for forming a mental picture of the future?
4 Did Abel, the first faithful human, “see” anything that Jehovah had promised? It cannot be said that Abel had foreknowledge of the eventual outworking of the promise contained in God’s words to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head, and you will strike him in the heel.” (Gen. 3:14, 15) However, Abel likely gave much thought to that promise and realized that someone would be ‘struck in the heel’ so that mankind could be lifted to perfection such as that enjoyed by Adam and Eve before they sinned. Whatever Abel may have visualized regarding the future, he had faith based on God’s promise, and Jehovah therefore accepted his sacrifice.
5. Why would a mental picture of the future have encouraged Enoch?
5 Faithful Enoch exercised faith, even though he faced ungodly people who spoke shocking things against God. Enoch was divinely inspired to prophesy that Jehovah would come “with his holy myriads to execute judgment against all, and to convict all the ungodly concerning all their ungodly deeds that they did in an ungodly way, and concerning all the shocking things that ungodly sinners spoke against him.” (Jude 14, 15) As a man who exercised faith, Enoch could have formed a mental picture of a world free of ungodliness.
6. What could Noah continue to keep in mind after the Flood?
6 Noah survived the Deluge because of his faith. (Heb. 11:7) After the Flood, he was moved by faith to offer animal sacrifices. (Gen. 8:20) Like Abel, he undoubtedly had faith that mankind would eventually be released from bondage to sin and death. As he entered the dark post-Flood era during which Nimrod acted in opposition to Jehovah, Noah still had faith and hope. (Gen. 10:8-12) Very likely, he would have been heartened to think about mankind as being set free from oppressive rule, inherited sin, and death. We too can “see” such a wonderful time
“SEEING” THE PROMISES FULFILLED
7. What future could Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have “seen”?
7 Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob could have visualized a grand future because God had promised that by means of their offspring, all nations of the earth would obtain a blessing. (Gen. 22:18; 26:4; 28:14) The descendants of those patriarchs would become numerous and would reside in the God-given Promised Land. (Gen. 15:5-7) By faith those God-fearing men could “see” their progeny in possession of that land. For that matter, ever since human creation lost perfection, Jehovah has assured his loyal servants that the blessings forfeited by Adam were not gone forever.
8. What helped Abraham to demonstrate outstanding faith?
8 It is likely that Abraham’s ability to form a mental picture of what God had promised enabled him to perform outstanding acts of faith. The Scriptures point out that although Abraham and other loyal servants of God “did not receive the fulfillment of the promises” in their lifetime, “they saw them from a distance and welcomed them.” (Read Hebrews 11:8-13.) Abraham had so much evidence to demonstrate the reality of what he hoped for that it was as if he could see what he had not actually beheld!
9. How did having faith in God’s promises benefit Abraham?
9 Abraham’s faith in God’s promises strengthened his resolve to do the divine will. Acting in faith, he left the city of Ur and refused to take up permanent residence in any of the cities of Canaan. Like Ur, they had shaky foundations because of their ungodly governments. (Josh. 24:2) For the rest of his long life, Abraham “was awaiting the city having real foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Heb. 11:10) Abraham “saw” himself living in a permanent place governed by Jehovah. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and others like them believed in the resurrection of the dead and looked forward to life on earth under God’s Kingdom, “the city having real foundations.” Reflecting on such blessings bolstered their faith in Jehovah.
10. How may Sarah’s view of the future have benefited her?
10 Consider Abraham’s wife, Sarah. When she was 90 years old and childless, her positive view of the future enabled her to act with faith. In effect, she saw her offspring enjoying blessings that Jehovah had promised. (Heb. 11:11, 12) What gave her such expectation? Jehovah had told her husband: “I will bless her and also give you a son by her; I will bless her and she will become nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” (Gen. 17:16) After Sarah gave birth to Isaac, she had good reason to envisage the fulfillment of the rest of God’s promise to Abraham. What a gift we too have of being able to form wholesome mental pictures of things that are promised by God and are sure to happen!
LOOKING INTENTLY AT THE REWARD
11, 12. How did Moses cultivate love for Jehovah?
11 Moses is another person who exercised faith in Jehovah, cultivating deep love for him. While Moses was a young man living as part of the Egyptian royal household, he could easily have developed a love for power and riches. From his natural parents, however, Moses evidently learned about Jehovah and His purpose to free the Hebrews from slavery and give them the Promised Land. (Gen. 13:14, 15; Ex. 2:5-10) If Moses often thought about the blessings ahead for God’s people, what do you think would grow in his heart
12 The Scriptures tell us: “By faith Moses, when grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing to be mistreated with the people of God rather than to have the temporary enjoyment of sin, because he considered the reproach of the Christ to be riches greater than the treasures of Egypt, for he looked intently toward the payment of the reward.”
13. How did Moses benefit by thinking deeply about what God had promised?
13 As Moses thought deeply about what Jehovah had promised to do for the Israelites, his faith and his love for God grew. Like other God-fearing humans, he could likely conceive of the time when Jehovah would set mankind free from death. (Job 14:14, 15; Heb. 11:17-19) It is no wonder that Moses was moved to love the God who felt compassion for the Hebrews and for all mankind. Faith and love motivated Moses throughout his life. (Deut. 6:4, 5) Even when Pharaoh threatened Moses with death, his faith, love for God, and likely a mental picture of a bright future strengthened him to face the threat courageously.
VISUALIZING KINGDOM REALITIES
14. What type of thinking is really fantasy?
14 Many people today have unrealistic mental pictures of the future. Although they have little in a material way, for instance, they dream of becoming fabulously rich and of being completely secure, although human life now is “filled with trouble and sorrow.” (Ps. 90:10) They imagine themselves living without anxiety under a human government, whereas the Bible points to God’s Kingdom as mankind’s only true hope. (Dan. 2:44) Many people feel that God will not destroy this wicked system of things, but the Bible paints an entirely different picture. (Zeph. 1:18; 1 John 2:15-17) Such hopes of those who ignore Jehovah’s purpose for the future are mere fantasies.
15. (a) How do Christians benefit from visualizing their hope? (b) Mention something you look forward to as God fulfills his promises.
15 On the other hand, as Christians we are encouraged by visualizing our hope, whether it is heavenly or earthly. Can you see yourself enjoying the things that God has promised? Contemplating what you may do as God fulfills his promises undoubtedly brings joy to your heart. Perhaps you “see” yourself living on earth forever. Think about cooperating with others in making this globe into a paradise. Your neighbors love Jehovah, even as you do. You are healthy, energetic, and have a bright outlook. Those supervising the work of restoration make life a pleasure because they genuinely care about you. And you are happy using your talents and skills because everything you do is benefiting others and honoring God. For example, you are helping newly resurrected ones to come to know Jehovah. (John 17:3; Acts 24:15) No, this is not a dreamworld. This appealing mental picture is based on Scriptural truths about the future.
WHY TALK ABOUT OUR HOPE?
16, 17. How do we benefit from talking about our hope?
16 When we talk to other Christians about what we would like to do as Jehovah continues to fulfill his promises, our mental picture of the future becomes more vivid. Even though none of us can be sure of exactly what our individual circumstances will be in the new world, when we talk about the possibilities, we encourage one another and express our faith in the reality of what God has promised. When the apostle Paul visited his brothers in Rome, they surely appreciated the “interchange of encouragement,” and so do we in these troubled times.
17 Visualizing the future can also help us to control negative thoughts about present difficulties. The apostle Peter may have had such concerns when he said to Jesus: “Look! We have left all things and followed you; what, then, will there be for us?” Helping Peter and the others present to imagine the future, Jesus responded: “Truly I say to you, in the re-creation, when the Son of man sits down on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit everlasting life.” (Matt. 19:27-29) Peter and the other disciples could thus contemplate their role in the government that would rule over the earth and bring grand blessings to obedient mankind.
18. How does thinking about the fulfillment of God’s promises benefit us today?
18 Jehovah’s earthly servants have always benefited from thinking about the fulfillment of divine promises. Abel knew enough about God’s purposes to envision a better future, exercise faith, and embrace a reliable hope. Abraham’s outstanding acts of faith were possible because he “saw” something about the fulfillment of God’s prophecy concerning the promised “offspring.” (Gen. 3:15) Moses “looked intently toward the payment of the reward,” acting in faith and growing in love for Jehovah. (Heb. 11:26) Our own faith in God and love for him may well increase as we use our ability to envision the fulfillment of what Jehovah has promised. How we can best use this gift from God will be discussed in the next article.