“You do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”
SONGS: 136, 129
1. Illustrate why it is important to be aware of what time it is and what is happening around us. (See opening picture.)
THE convention was about to start. The chairman walked onto the platform and welcomed everybody. The music was about to begin. The audience knew that it was time to sit down. They wanted to listen to the beautiful music, and they looked forward to the talks to come. But perhaps there were some who did not pay attention to the chairman or notice that the music was playing. So they did not realize that the convention was starting, and they were still walking around or talking to their friends. This situation shows what can happen if we are not aware of what time it is or of what is happening around us. This is an important lesson for us because very soon a much greater event will begin, and we must be prepared for it. What event is that?
2. Why did Jesus tell his disciples to “keep on the watch”?
2 Jesus Christ warned his disciples about the need to stay alert and be prepared for “the conclusion of the system of things.” He told them: “Keep looking, keep awake, for you do not know when the appointed time is.” After that, he said to them several times: “Keep on the watch.” (Matthew 24:3; read Mark 13:32-37.) Matthew’s account also shows that Jesus warned his disciples about this. He told them: “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” And again he warned them: “Prove yourselves ready, because the Son of man is coming at an hour that you do not think to be it.” Then he repeated: “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you know neither the day nor the hour.”
3. Why do we pay attention to Jesus’ warning?
3 Jehovah’s Witnesses pay attention to the warning that Jesus gave. We know that we are living in “the time of the end” and that the “great tribulation” will begin very soon! (Daniel 12:4; Matthew 24:21) Just as Jesus foretold, Jehovah’s people are preaching the good news about the Kingdom in all the earth. At the same time, we see wars, disease, earthquakes, and hunger in many places. There is religious confusion and more crime and violence than ever before. (Matthew 24:7, 11, 12, 14; Luke 21:11) We are now eagerly waiting for the time when Jesus will come and fulfill his Father’s purpose.
THE DAY IS GETTING CLOSER!
4. (a) Why can we believe that Jesus now knows when Armageddon will occur? (b) Although we do not know when the great tribulation will begin, what can we be sure of?
4 When we go to a convention, we know what time each session will begin. However, it is impossible for us to know exactly when the great tribulation will begin. When on earth, 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) Of course, since Jesus is the one who will lead the war of Armageddon, most likely he now knows when that war will be. (Revelation 19:11-16) But we still do not know the date or time when the end will come. That is why it is very important for us to keep on the watch. Jehovah has decided exactly when the great tribulation will begin, and each day it is getting closer and closer. “It will not be late!” (Read Habakkuk 2:1-3.) Why can we be so sure of this?
Jehovah has decided exactly when the great tribulation will begin
5. Give an example to show that Jehovah’s prophecies are always fulfilled right on time.
5 Jehovah’s prophecies have always been fulfilled right on time! For example, think about the day he freed his people from Egypt. That was on Nisan 14 in the year 1513 before Christ. Moses later wrote about that day: “At the end of the 430 years, on this very day, all the multitudes of Jehovah went out of the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 12:40-42) On Nisan 14 in the year 1943 before Christ, exactly 430 years before the Israelites were freed, Jehovah’s promise that he would bless Abraham’s offspring went into effect. (Galatians 3:17, 18) Sometime later, Jehovah told Abraham: “Know for certain that your offspring will be foreigners in a land not theirs and that the people there will enslave them and afflict them for 400 years.” (Genesis 15:13; Acts 7:6) The 400 years began in the year 1913 before Christ when Ishmael began to treat Isaac badly. They ended on the day that Jehovah freed the Israelites from Egypt. (Genesis 21:8-10; Galatians 4:22-29) Yes, hundreds of years in advance, Jehovah set the exact day when he would free his people!
6. Why can we be sure that Jehovah will save his people?
6 Joshua was one of the Israelites who were freed from Egypt. Many years later, he reminded the people: “You well know with all your heart and with all your soul that not one word out of all the good promises that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true for you. Not one word of them has failed.” (Joshua 23:2, 14) Jehovah has promised to deliver his people through the great tribulation and to give them everlasting life in the new world. And we can be sure that his promise will come true. So if we want to be in that new world, we must keep on the watch.
KEEP ON THE WATCH IN ORDER TO SURVIVE
7, 8. (a) What was the role of a watchman in ancient times, and what lesson does that teach us? (b) Give an example of what could happen when watchmen fell asleep on the job.
7 We can learn a lesson from the watchmen who guarded cities in ancient times. Many of these cities, including Jerusalem, were surrounded by high walls so that enemies would not be able to get inside. Watchmen stood on these walls, and from there they could see the land all around the city. Other watchmen stood at the gates of the city. Those men had to keep on the watch night and day, and if they saw enemies coming, they had to warn the people in the city. (Isaiah 62:6) They knew how important it was to stay awake and carefully watch what was going on. If they did not, many people could die.
8 Josephus, who wrote about Jewish history, explained how the Romans were able to enter Jerusalem in the year 70 after Christ. The watchmen who were guarding part of the city had fallen asleep. As a result, the Roman soldiers were able to enter the city. They went to the temple, set it on fire, and destroyed the rest of Jerusalem. That was the final part of the greatest tribulation that the Jewish nation had ever experienced.
9. What are most people today not aware of?
9 Most governments today guard their borders with soldiers and with security systems that use the latest technology. These governments watch for anyone or anything that could threaten the security of their country. But they do not realize that there is an even more powerful government in heaven that is ruled by Christ Jesus. That government will soon go to war against all governments on earth. (Isaiah 9:6, 7, footnote; 56:10; Daniel 2:44) We wait eagerly for that day to arrive and want to be ready for it. So we pay attention to Bible prophecy and keep serving Jehovah faithfully.
DO NOT BE DISTRACTED
10, 11. (a) Of what must we be careful, and why? (b) What convinces you that the Devil has influenced people to ignore Bible prophecy?
10 Imagine a watchman who has been awake all night. During the last few hours of his watch, it is much harder for him to stay awake because he is very tired. In a similar way, we are living in the last days of this world. And the closer we get to the end, the more difficult it will be for us to stay awake. How sad it would be if we did not keep on the watch! Let us discuss three things that could stop us from staying awake.
11 The Devil deceives people. He is “the ruler of this world.” Shortly before Jesus died, he reminded his disciples of this fact three times. (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) The Devil has used false religion to deceive people. That is why many today ignore Bible prophecies that clearly show that the end of this world is very near. (Zephaniah 1:14) Clearly, Satan has “blinded the minds of the unbelievers.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-6) As a result, when we try to tell people that the end of this world is near and that Christ is now ruling, many of them do not want to listen. They often say, “I’m not interested.”
12. Why must we not let the Devil deceive us?
12 Although many are not interested in Bible prophecies, we must not let their attitude discourage us. We know why it is important to keep on the watch. Paul said to his brothers: “You yourselves know very well that Jehovah’s day is coming.” He added: “Exactly as a thief in the night.” (Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6.) Jesus warned us: “Keep ready, because at an hour that you do not think likely, the Son of man is coming.” (Luke 12:39, 40) Soon, Satan will deceive people by making them think that there is “peace and security” in the world. Then, Jehovah’s day will suddenly come, and they will be shocked. What about us? If we want to be ready for that day and not be deceived like everyone else, we must “stay awake and keep our senses.” That is why we need to read God’s Word every day and meditate on what Jehovah tells us.
13. How is the spirit of the world affecting mankind, and how can we avoid that dangerous influence?
13 The spirit of the world influences the way people think. Many today feel that they do not need to know God. (Matthew 5:3) Instead, they use most of their time and energy to get many of the things that the world offers. (1 John 2:16) Also, more than ever before, there is a wide variety of entertainment that attracts people and encourages them to love pleasure and satisfy any desire they have. (2 Timothy 3:4) These things distract people from what is more important, and they do not think about their relationship with God. That is why Paul reminded Christians that they should “awake from sleep” by not focusing their lives on satisfying their desires.
We want God’s spirit, not the spirit of the world, to influence the way we think
14. What warning do we find at Luke 21:34, 35?
14 We want God’s spirit, not the spirit of the world, to influence the way we think. By means of his spirit, Jehovah has helped us to understand clearly what is about to happen. (1 Corinthians 2:12)  (See endnote.) But we need to be careful. Even ordinary things in life could distract us from serving Jehovah. (Read Luke 21:34, 35.) Others may tell us that we are foolish to believe that we are living in the last days of this world. (2 Peter 3:3-7) But we must not let them discourage us. We have clear proof that the end is coming soon. If we want God’s spirit to influence us, we must regularly attend meetings with our brothers.
15. What happened to Peter, James, and John, and how might that happen to us too?
15 Our weaknesses make it harder for us to stay alert. Jesus understood that humans are imperfect and have weaknesses. Think about what happened the night before he died. Although Jesus was perfect, he knew that to remain faithful, he needed to pray to his Father to help him. Jesus asked the apostles Peter, James, and John to stay awake while he prayed. But the apostles did not realize how important it was for them to stay awake. They were tired, and they went to sleep. Jesus too was tired, but he stayed awake and prayed to his Father. The apostles should have been praying at that time as well.
16. According to Luke 21:36, how did Jesus instruct us to “keep awake”?
16 What will help us to “keep awake” and be prepared for Jehovah’s day? We need a strong desire to keep doing what is right. But that is not enough. A few days before Jesus died, he told his disciples that they needed to keep praying to Jehovah for help. (Read Luke 21:36.) To stay alert in this time of the end, we too must pray to Jehovah constantly.
KEEP ON THE WATCH
17. How can we make sure that we are ready for what is coming in the near future?
17 Jesus said that the end will come “at an hour that you do not think to be it.” (Matthew 24:44) So we must be ready at all times. Now is not the time to try to have the lifestyle that Satan’s world says will bring happiness. That is just a dream. Instead, by means of the Bible, Jehovah and Jesus have told us how we can keep on the watch. So let us pay attention to Bible prophecies and to how these are being fulfilled. And may we keep drawing closer to Jehovah and put his Kingdom first in our lives. We will then be ready when the end comes. (Revelation 22:20) Our lives depend on it!