“Keep on the watch, therefore, because you know neither the day nor the hour.”
1-3. (a) What situations can help us understand the lesson in two of Jesus’ parables? (b) What questions do we need to answer?
IMAGINE that a government official asks you to drive him to an important appointment. A few minutes before you leave to meet him, you realize that there is not enough fuel in your car. You rush to buy some more. The official arrives while you are gone. He looks around but cannot find you. He cannot wait, so he asks someone else to drive him. You soon get back and realize that the official has left without you. How would you feel?
2 Now imagine that you are the official. Before you go away on a trip, you choose three men to take care of some important work. You explain what you want them to do, and all three agree to do it. But when you come back some time later, you learn that only two of them have done what you asked. The one who did not do his job is making excuses. Actually, he did not even try to do the work. How would you feel?
3 The situations we just considered are similar to two of Jesus’ parables, the parable of the virgins and the parable of the talents. Both parables are about the time of the end and show why some anointed Christians would be faithful and discreet but others would not. * (See footnote.) (Matthew 25:1-30) Jesus emphasized the lesson in these parables by saying: “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you know neither the day nor the hour.” Jesus was saying that his disciples would not know the exact time when he would destroy Satan’s world. (Matthew 25:13) We too must “keep on the watch.” Why is it good for us to do as Jesus said? Who have kept on the watch? And what must we do now to keep on the watch?
WHY IT IS GOOD TO KEEP ON THE WATCH
4. To keep on the watch, why is it not necessary to know exactly when the end will come?
4 Sometimes it is important to know exactly what time it is. For example, if you work in a factory, have an appointment with a doctor, or need to take a bus or a train, you must make sure of the time so that you are not late. But a person who is fighting a fire or saving someone’s life after a disaster should not keep looking at the time. That could be distracting or even dangerous. In these situations, it is much more important to focus on the work than to know what time it is. Our preaching work helps people to learn about what Jehovah has done to save mankind. This work is especially important now because the end of this system is getting nearer. To keep on the watch and do what Jehovah expects of us, we do not need to know exactly when the end will come. Actually, the fact that we do not know the exact day or hour is good for us in at least five ways.
It is good for us not to know the exact time when the end will come
5. How does the fact that we do not know when the end will come allow us to show what is in our heart?
5 First, the fact that we do not know when the end will come allows us to show what is really in our heart. Jehovah shows us respect by allowing us to choose to be loyal to him. We serve Jehovah because we love him, not only because we want to survive the end of this system and have everlasting life. (Read Psalm 37:4.) We have joy when we do God’s will, and we realize that he is teaching us because he wants what is best for us. (Isaiah 48:17) We do not feel that his commandments are too difficult for us.
6. When we serve God because we love him, how does he feel? Why?
6 Second, the fact that we do not know the day or the hour gives us the opportunity to make Jehovah’s heart glad. When we serve him because we love him and not because the end is coming soon or only because we want a reward, we help Jehovah prove that his enemy, Satan, is a liar. (Job 2:4, 5; read Proverbs 27:11.) We know how much suffering Satan has caused, so we are happy to support Jehovah’s rule and reject Satan’s.
7. Why do you want to use your life to serve God and help others?
7 Third, the fact that we do not know the specific date of the end makes it easier for us to be unselfish and to use our life to serve God and help others. Some today who do not know God also believe in the end of the world. They are afraid that some disaster could destroy the earth at any time, so they have the attitude, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die.” (1 Corinthians 15:32) But we are not afraid. And we do not care only about ourselves. (Proverbs 18:1) On the contrary, we put Jehovah’s will first in our life, and we willingly use everything we have, including our time and energy, to preach the good news of God’s Kingdom. (Read Matthew 16:24.) Our service to God gives us joy, especially when we help others to come to know him.
8. What Bible example shows that we need to trust completely in Jehovah and his Word?
8 Fourth, the fact that we do not know the day or the hour helps us to trust completely in Jehovah and to do our best to obey his Word. Because we are imperfect, it is very easy for us to trust in ourselves. Paul warned all Christians: “Let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.” He mentioned the 23,000 Israelites who disobeyed Jehovah and died just before they were going to enter the Promised Land. Paul said that “these things were written for a warning to us” who live so close to the end of this system.
9. How can trials strengthen our faith and our friendship with Jehovah?
9 Fifth, the fact that we do not know when the end will come allows us to learn from trials and to strengthen our faith. (Read Psalm 119:71.) The last days of this system are “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Many in Satan’s world hate us, so we may be persecuted for our faith. (John 15:19; 16:2) But just as fire can refine metal, trials can refine our faith and make it stronger. If we are humble and follow Jehovah’s direction, trials will not stop us from serving him. Instead, our friendship with him will become stronger than we ever imagined.
10. What makes time seem to pass quickly?
10 Time can seem to pass quickly or slowly. If we are busy and not constantly looking at the clock, time seems to pass very quickly. In the same way, if we are busy doing the exciting work Jehovah has given us, the end may come more quickly than we imagine. Most anointed ones have been wonderful examples for us because they have stayed busy in God’s service. Let us briefly review what happened after Jesus became King in 1914 and see how some of the anointed were ready while others were not.
ANOINTED ONES SHOW THAT THEY ARE READY
11. After 1914, why did some of the anointed think that Jesus was late?
11 Let us think again about Jesus’ parables of the virgins and the talents. If the virgins or the slaves in those parables had known when the bridegroom or the master was arriving, they would not have needed to keep on the watch. But they did not know, so they needed to keep ready. For many years, the anointed had known that 1914 would be a very special year, but they did not clearly understand what would happen. When things did not happen as the anointed expected, some of them thought that Jesus was late. Regarding October 1914, one brother later said, “A few of us seriously thought we were going to heaven during the first week of that October.”
12. How did anointed ones show that they were faithful and discreet?
12 Just think how hard it could have been to expect the end and for it not to come! That was also a hard time for the brothers because of the opposition they suffered during World War I. The preaching work almost stopped completely. It was as if the anointed had gone to sleep. But in 1919, something woke them up! Jesus had come to inspect all those who called themselves Christians. Some of the anointed did not pass this inspection and could no longer work for the Master, Jesus. (Matthew 25:16) They were not alert; they were like the foolish virgins who did not refill their lamps with oil. And like the lazy slave who was not faithful to his master, they were not willing to make sacrifices for the Kingdom. But most of the anointed showed amazing loyalty and a strong desire to serve their Master even during those difficult years of war.
The anointed today show a humble attitude and a strong desire to do God’s will
13. What was the attitude of the anointed right after 1914? What is their attitude today?
13 After 1914, The Watchtower explained what the attitude of most of the anointed was at the time. It said that those who had the right attitude were not disappointed. It continued: “We did not wish our own will to be done; so when we found out that we were expecting the wrong thing in October, 1914, then we were glad that the Lord did not change His Plan to suit us. We did not wish Him to do so.” They simply wanted to understand God’s purposes better. The anointed today show the same humble attitude and the same desire to do God’s will. They do not say that they are inspired. They just want to do the work that Jesus has given them to do on earth. And now Christians who have the hope of living forever on earth, “a great crowd” of “other sheep,” are imitating their example.
WE SHOW THAT WE ARE READY
14. Why is it good for us to obey what Jehovah teaches through the faithful and discreet slave?
14 God chose the faithful and discreet slave to give his people spiritual food, or teach them how to benefit from his Word and spirit. Anointed Christians and those of the great crowd show that they are ready by obeying what Jehovah teaches through the faithful and discreet slave. It is like they are refilling their lamps with oil. (Read Psalm 119:130; John 16:13.) As a result, they too can stay ready for the end, when Christ returns. Also, they have the strength to stay faithful even in extremely hard situations. For example, in one Nazi prison camp, the brothers had only one Bible. So they prayed for more spiritual food. Not too long after that, they heard that a brother who had just arrived at the camp had brought some new issues of The Watchtower hidden inside his wooden leg. One of the survivors was an anointed brother named Ernst Wauer. He later said that Jehovah helped the brothers in a marvelous way to memorize encouraging thoughts in the articles. He also said: “Nowadays, it is so easy to get spiritual food, but do we always appreciate it? I am confident that Jehovah has abundant blessings in store for those who trust in him, stay loyal, and feed at his table.”
15, 16. How were a couple blessed for their zeal in the ministry? What can you learn from such experiences?
15 The other sheep help Christ’s brothers by staying busy in the preaching work. (Matthew 25:40) They are not like the wicked and lazy slave in Jesus’ parable. They are willing to work hard and make sacrifices to put the Kingdom first in their lives. For example, Jon and Masako were invited to go to Kenya to help preach to Chinese people. At first, they were not sure they should go. But after considering their situation and praying about it, they decided to move there.
16 Because of their zeal in the ministry, Jehovah blessed them with many good results. They said that their ministry is amazing. They started seven Bible studies and have had many other exciting experiences. They added: “We thank Jehovah every day for allowing us to be here.” Many other brothers and sisters have shown that they want to be busy serving God when the end comes, no matter when that may be. Think of the thousands who have attended Gilead School and have served as missionaries. You can learn more about missionary work in the article “We Do the Best We Can!” in The Watchtower of October 15, 2001. As you read that interesting article about a day in the life of a missionary, think about how you can do more in God’s service. Your service will bring him praise and will give you more joy.
YOU TOO KEEP ON THE WATCH
17. How has it been a blessing for us not to know the day or the hour of the end?
17 The fact that we do not know the exact day or hour when this system will end is not frustrating or disappointing for us. Instead, it has clearly been a blessing for us. It has helped us to stay busy doing God’s will, and our friendship with our loving Father, Jehovah, has become stronger. Because we have focused on the work Jesus gave us to do and have avoided distractions, we have a happy life serving Jehovah.
18. Why do we want to stay faithful in our service to God?
18 The end of this system is very near, so we want to stay faithful in our service to God. We do not want to disappoint Jehovah or Jesus. They have given us a wonderful work to do in these last days. We are so grateful for the trust they have shown in us!
19. How can we be ready for the end of this system?
19 Whether our hope is to live in heaven or in Paradise on earth, we will continue to obey God’s command to preach and make disciples. We do not need to know the exact day or hour when Jehovah’s day will come. We can be ready for it, and we will be! (Matthew 24:36, 44) We are absolutely sure that as long as we fully trust in Jehovah and put his Kingdom first, we will not be disappointed.
^ par. 3 See The Watchtower of March 1, 2004, pages 14-18.