Blessed Are the Watchers

“Watch therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” —Matthew 24:42

A WATCHER, according to the scriptural use of the term, is one who is vigilant, and this implies that he is attentive, observant, on the lookout, and wide awake. The Greek word translated ‘awake’ comes from the same root as the word ‘watch’ and they have basically the same meaning. The admonition to watch is especially important during the Gospel Age, because the evidence of the Lord’s hand in the affairs of men is more subtle than in previous ages. During the Jewish Age, for example, the Lord performed wonderful miracles to give the Israelites full assurance of his overruling in their behalf. It was by great demonstrations of power that he delivered them from Egypt and the Red Sea. He inaugurated the Law Covenant at Mount Sinai with mighty demonstrations of power and might; he delivered them into the Promised Land across the Jordan River when it was at flood stage; he delivered them from their enemies by marvelous exhibitions of power.

The first advent of Jesus was at the end of the Jewish Age but still during the time when God was using his power and performing miracles for the benefit of the Jewish people. Jesus, as God’s representative, was given access to this power to perform miracles for the purpose of helping the Jews to identify him as the Messiah and to give power and authority to his ministry. The Apostle Paul tells us that the ministry of Jesus, at his first advent, was to the Jews for the very purpose of giving them an opportunity to accept him as the Messiah and to fulfill the prophecies concerning himself. “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers.”—Rom. 15:8

God, through the prophets, told of many things the Messiah would do that would help the people to identify him. He was to heal the sick, open the blind eyes, and even raise the dead. These were dramatic physical signs that were in harmony with the work the Messiah was to perform.—Isa. 35:5,6; 42:7

We know that Jesus, during his ministry, did all of these things according to the prophecies, but the Jews, because they were blinded by their traditions and their own concept of what the Messiah and the kingdom would be like, true to the prophecies, found Jesus to be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. As a nation they refused to accept him.—Isa. 8:14-18; John 10:38; Matt. 23:37-39

Even John the Baptist, who had the God-given privilege of introducing Jesus as the Messiah, sent messengers from his prison to Jesus asking, “Art thou he that should come or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see. The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached unto them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” (Matt. 11:3-6) Jesus simply called John’s attention to the fact that the signs which had been prophesied concerning him, he had fulfilled, and blessed was he who did not find him to be a stone of stumbling.

The apostles also were given the power to perform miracles such as healing the sick and speaking in foreign languages to help them witness to the truth with authority and effectiveness. All of these evidences of the presence of Messiah at his first advent were ignored by the nation as a whole. They were not faithful watchers. Jesus said of them, “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.”—Luke 19:42-44

There was, however, a remnant from the nation of Israel who accepted Jesus as the Messiah, and as a result they were given the opportunity to become part of the seed of blessing. The Apostle Paul likens the end of the Jewish Age to the day of the Prophet Elijah when he thought that he alone was faithful in all of Israel. In Romans 11:2-5 we read, “God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elijah? How he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” Then the apostle continues in this eleventh chapter to show that because the Jews, as a nation, were cast off with respect to the promise, it was necessary to turn to the Gentiles to fill up the number of the seed.

After Jesus performed the miracle of cleansing the ten lepers, the Pharisees demanded to know when the kingdom of God would come. He answered them, “The kingdom of God comes not with outward show; nor shall they say, Behold here, or there! For, behold God’s Royal Majesty is among you.” (Luke 17:20,21, Diaglott) They, of course, did not believe him. Jesus then turned to his disciples and said that when he came the second time, to establish his kingdom, the same conditions of unbelief and lack of vigilance would prevail as were present then, and he gave some examples: “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the Flood came, and destroyed them all. … Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.” (Luke 17:26-30) The thought seems to be that when Jesus returns at his second advent there will be a complete unawareness of the time, not that there will not have been ample warnings and signs to properly inform them of the circumstance of the time, had they been vigilant or watching.

In the text quoted above, Jesus warned his disciples that before these things could happen he “must suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.” (vs. 25) And in other places he told them that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem where he must suffer and die. The disciples accepted Jesus as the Messiah, and to them this meant that he was, at that time, going to set up his kingdom. The thought of him dying was a difficult thing for them to accept, and so Jesus, in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, gave them signs by which they would be able to discern his presence, since they evidently recognized that when he came again he would be an invisible spirit being.

The disciples (in verse three) asked three questions:  1.) When shall these things be?  2.) What shall be the sign of thy coming?  3.) What shall be the sign of the end of the world? The word ‘coming’ is translated from the Greek word parousia and means ‘presence’ or ‘alongside’. Professor Rotherham states that the original term occurs twenty-four times in the New Testament. In every instance the sense of presence as opposed to absence is so plain that he translated the word ‘presence’ throughout the New Testament. This is an important gem of truth, because it enables the faithful watchers to better understand and interpret the signs Jesus gave, and also to cooperate in the work the Lord is doing at his second presence. The word ‘world’ in the King James Version is also a poor translation. The Greek word translated world is aion, which means ‘age’. So the question the disciples asked Jesus would better be phrased: “What is the sign of thy presence and the end of the age?” It is important to note that the second presence of the Lord is associated with signs that verify the end of the age.

In the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapters of Matthew, Jesus gave many wonderful signs of his presence and the end of the age. We, of course, will not be able to consider all of them, but we do want to look at one especially, that involves the nation of Israel, which is encouraging to the watchers. In the Luke account we read: “There shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:23,24) In the first part of this text the Lord is describing what was to happen to the nation of Israel after Jesus was crucified and the Jewish Age ended.

History proved the accuracy of this prophecy, for in A.D. 70 the Jewish nation was decimated and the Jews were scattered throughout the world. The scripture continues, stating that they would be led away captive. They were captive in the sense that they were subservient to the governments and nations into which they took refuge. Then the account states that they, as a people, would be trodden down by these host nations, or Gentiles, until the lease of power granted to the Gentiles by God had expired. When we review the history of this people, we see that in every nation they have suffered persecution and humiliation. The prophecy indicates this time of ascendance of the nations over the Jews is designated the Times of the Gentiles.

In another prophecy, relating to the same time frame as the one quoted above, we read: “But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments, and if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant: … I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you. And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.”—Lev. 26:14-18

In the Bible, a ‘time’ is used in the sense of a year, whether the year be literal or symbolic. A symbolic year, as used in prophecy, is reckoned on the basis of a lunar year—twelve months of thirty days each, or 360 days—each day representing a year. Consequently, a time or year, if symbolic, signifies 360 symbolic days; therefore, seven times equals 7 X 360—2520 symbolic days, or 2520 literal years. (Please see Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. II, pages 73-93.) The time measurement started when the crown was taken from Zedekiah. The incident is recorded in Ezekiel 21:25-27: “Thou profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end, thus saith the Lord God: Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it [to] him.” This event, according to history, occurred in the year 606 B.C. Therefore, at the time the Lord spoke the prophecy recorded in Luke 21:23,24, over 600 years of the period of disfavor had passed. But apparently, even at that late date, the Lard would have returned them to at least a measure of favor had they repented and received Jesus as their Messiah. (Luke 19:42-44) But with their refusal to accept him, the full force of the prophecy was upon them.

From the time the crown was taken from Zedekiah until the expiration of the 2520 years, Israel never had another independent government. This period of time expired in 1914. (2520 minus 606 = 1914) This becomes a most important sign to the watchers of the Lord’s second presence. This being so, we would expect to see some visible evidence of the beginning of the return of favor to Israel at about that time. This would be an evidence to the watchers of the Lord’s second presence, which we believe occurred about 1874. In 1860 there was a stirring with a few Jews beginning to return to Palestine, and by 1883-1900 there were many pioneer colonies, totaling some 50,000 Jews, according to the Encyclopedia Americana. In 1897, Theodor Herzl established the Zionist movement which began operating worldwide, urging Jews to return to their homeland. As a result of the First World War, which began in 1914, came the ejection of the Turks from Jerusalem by General Allenby, the famous Balfour Declaration, and the opening of the ancient homeland to Jewish refugees and prisoners from all lands. Out of all this came the birth of the new State of Israel in 1948.

The nation of Israel today is a free nation. No longer are the Jewish people without their own government. Israel is a nation among the nations of the world, no longer a vassal state under Rome, or any other Gentile power. The Times of the Gentiles ended in 1914, and subsequently Israel became a free nation. It is important that we note that the end of Gentile Times does not mean the end of Gentile nations; it simply means that the time expired during which time the Gentile nations were to have dominance over Israel. God’s dealings with the nation of Israel in this instance is a sure and positive sign to the faithful watchers that the Lord is present.

In the Luke account, the Lord gave another sign for the faithful watchers. “There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:25-28) Part of the above text is a quotation from Daniel 7:13,14, which reads: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”

The ‘sign of the Son of man’, which is an evidence of his presence to the faithful watchers, is associated with these texts. It could well have been these prophecies that prompted the scribes and Pharisees to ask Jesus to show them a sign from heaven to verify his Messiahship. (Mark 8:11) Just before his crucifixion, our Lord in his statement before the high priest (Mark 14:61,62) repeated a portion of this prophecy from Daniel: “Again the high priest asked him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” The statement, sitting on the right hand of power, is a reference to the prophecy concerning him in Psalm 110. This psalm, as well as the Apostle Paul’s application of it in Hebrews 10:12,13, indicates that there would be a waiting period for Jesus before the Father would send him forth as the rod of his strength to subdue his enemies. The evident sign for the watchers is this time when Jesus, being authorized by God, takes action against all opposers in vigorous expression of his authority as the Arm of Jehovah, to make preparations for the establishment of the kingdom. (Heb. 12:26,27; II Pet. 3:10) We see evidence now of this intense and ever-deepening time of trouble. Our text states that upon the earth there will be distress of nations with perplexity for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. When we realize that Satan is the god of this world and that all people and nations, institutions and governments are subject to his control, we can begin to appreciate the concern and alarm that will be felt among his subjects as the authority of his rule is challenged and eventually overthrown. This is true today and the nations are perplexed, because they are finding that old remedies are no longer effective in bringing things back to normal.

The nominal church systems are the chief representatives of the heavens that now are, and therefore they, too, must fall. As watchers, do we see any evidence that this is taking place? In Italy, where 90% of the population is nominally Catholic, less than 10% attend church on a regular basis. In England many of the large church edifices are practically empty, and they are falling far short of recruiting enough candidates to fill vacancies in the priesthood. In France and Germany we find the same condition, with churches being closed and congregations consolidated. In the United States much the same condition prevails. The “Television Ministry” has eroded many from the recognized denominations. Churches are having financial difficulties and are closing buildings and consolidating congregations. We think it is evident that this phase of the heavens that are now are being thoroughly shaken.

There are many things that distinguish our present time of trouble from any other period of time in earth’s history. For example, this is the first time man has developed the means (nuclear bombs) to destroy all flesh from the face of the earth—not just once, but at least twenty-five times. To make the situation more dangerous, there are approximately ten nations which either have the bomb or have the capability to produce it. The more countries, of course, which have it, the greater the danger of a tragic or careless mistake. Is it any wonder that men’s hearts fail them for fear for looking after those things that are coming upon the earth?

Jesus said that his presence would be marked by a great time of enlightenment in all things, and that this was to be a sign to the watchers. He said, “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matt. 24:27) The word ‘lightning’ is from the Greek word astrape which means ‘bright shining’. The bright shining, or increase in knowledge, had its roots in the invention of movable type and the printing press, which made possible the accumulation and the dissemination of knowledge. This began to make itself felt in a substantial way about the time of our Lord’s return. For example:

The telegraph was invented in1832
The telephone was invented in1875
Electric generator and motor1882
Internal combustion engine1885

General knowledge and the number of inventions have increased more in the last hundred years (during the Lord’s presence) than in the past six thousand years of man’s history.

Great enlightenment has not only come to the world, but also to the footstep followers of the Master. In Luke 12:37 we read: “Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching. Verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.” It is a matter of historical record that at about the time of the Lord’s second presence, the truth, as we know it, began to be published in the six volumes of the Studies in the Scriptures and other booklets and tracts. The impact of this message of truth was felt throughout the religious world and many left the churches to follow the Christian precepts presented. These same precepts have been in the past, and continue to be, the guiding light of The Dawn. This herald of Christ’s presence has been a source of great encouragement to the faithful watchers during these distressing times.

This is a time of great tribulation, the like of which has never before come upon the earth. The focus of all these events is upon our day. But we remember that in the development of God’s plan, we are not dealing in days or hours, but in years and long periods of time. As watchers we have observed the beginning and the development of most of these evidences of the Lord’s presence. And as we see the focus of these events begin to narrow and intensify, we are thrilled, for we know that our Lord is present and that the purpose for which he came is being fulfilled. We rejoice that, true to the Lord’s Word, our deliverance draweth nigh.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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