What We Learn From God’s Permission of Wickedness
1, 2. (a) If Jehovah had promptly executed the rebels in Eden, how would that have affected us? (b) What loving provisions has Jehovah made available to us?
“FEW and distressing the days of the years of my life have proved,” said the patriarch Jacob. (Genesis 47:9) Similarly, Job stated that man “is short-lived and glutted with agitation.” (Job 14:1) Like them, most of us have experienced difficulties, injustices, even tragedies. Yet, our being born was no injustice on God’s part. True, we do not have the perfection of mind and body and the Paradise home that Adam and Eve originally had. But what if Jehovah had immediately executed them when they rebelled? While there would not have been any sickness, sorrow, or death, there would not have been a human race either. We would not have been born. Mercifully, God allowed Adam and Eve time to bring forth children, even though these inherited imperfection. And through Christ, Jehovah made provision for us to get back what Adam had lost—everlasting life on a paradise earth.—John 10:10; Romans 5:12.
2 How encouraging it is for us to be able to look forward to living forever in the new world amid Paradise surroundings, where we will be free from sickness, sorrow, pain, and death, as well as from wicked people! (Proverbs 2:21, 22; Revelation 21:4, 5) But from the Bible record, we learn that while our personal salvation is very important to us and to Jehovah, something even more significant is involved.
For the Sake of His Great Name
3. What is involved in connection with the fulfillment of Jehovah’s purpose for the earth and mankind?
3 God’s name is involved in the fulfillment of his purpose regarding the earth and mankind. That name, Jehovah, means “He Causes to Become.” So his name embodies his reputation as the Universal Sovereign, the Purposer, and the God of truth. Because of Jehovah’s position, the peace and well-being of the entire universe require that his name and what it encompasses be given the full respect it deserves and that all be obedient to him.
4. What did Jehovah’s purpose for the earth include?
4 After creating Adam and Eve, Jehovah gave them an assignment to fulfill. He made it clear that his purpose was not only to subdue all the earth—thus extending the boundaries of Paradise—but to populate it with their descendants. (Genesis 1:28) Was this purpose going to fail because of their sin? What a reproach it would be to the name of the almighty Jehovah if he could not fulfill his purpose toward this earth and humanity!
5. (a) If the first humans ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, when would they die? (b) How did Jehovah fulfill his word at Genesis 2:17 while respecting his purpose regarding the earth?
5 Jehovah had warned Adam and Eve that if they were disobedient and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, they would die “in the day” of their eating. (Genesis 2:17) True to his word, Jehovah called them to account on the very day of their sinning and pronounced the sentence of death. From God’s standpoint, Adam and Eve died that day. To carry out his purpose regarding the earth, however, Jehovah allowed them to produce a family before they died physically. Nevertheless, since God can view 1,000 years as one day, when Adam’s life ended at 930 years, it was within one “day.” (2 Peter 3:8; Genesis 5:3-5) Thus Jehovah’s truthfulness was upheld as to when punishment would be executed, and his purpose for the earth was not thwarted by their deaths. But for a time, imperfect people, including wicked ones, have been allowed to live.
6, 7. (a) According to Exodus 9:15, 16, why does Jehovah allow the wicked to continue for a time? (b) In Pharaoh’s case, how was Jehovah’s power shown, and how was His name made known? (c) What will result when the present wicked system ends?
6 What Jehovah said to the ruler of Egypt in the days of Moses further indicates why God has allowed the wicked to continue. When Pharaoh forbade the departure of the sons of Israel from Egypt, Jehovah did not immediately strike him down. Ten Plagues were brought on the land, demonstrating Jehovah’s power in amazing ways. When warning of the seventh plague, Jehovah told Pharaoh that He could easily have wiped Pharaoh and his people off the face of the earth. “But, in fact,” Jehovah said, “for this cause I have kept you in existence, for the sake of showing you my power and in order to have my name declared in all the earth.”—Exodus 9:15, 16.
7 When Jehovah delivered the Israelites, his name did indeed come to be widely known. (Joshua 2:1, 9-11) Today, nearly 3,500 years later, what he did back then has not been forgotten. Not only was the personal name Jehovah declared but so was the truth about the One bearing that name. This established Jehovah’s reputation as the God who keeps his promises and takes action in behalf of his servants. (Joshua 23:14) It demonstrated that because of his almighty power, nothing can block his purpose. (Isaiah 14:24, 27) We can therefore be confident that he will soon take action in behalf of his faithful servants by destroying Satan’s entire wicked system. That display of almighty power and the glory it brings to Jehovah’s name will never be forgotten. The benefits will be unending.—Ezekiel 38:23; Revelation 19:1, 2.
‘O the Depth of God’s Wisdom!’
8. What factors does Paul urge us to consider?
8 In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul raises the question: “Is there injustice with God?” He emphatically answers: “Never may that become so!” Then he emphasizes God’s mercy and refers to what Jehovah said about allowing Pharaoh to live a while longer. Paul also shows that we humans are like clay in the hands of a potter. He then states: “If, now, God, although having the will to demonstrate his wrath and to make his power known, tolerated with much long-suffering vessels of wrath made fit for destruction, in order that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory, namely, us, whom he called not only from among Jews but also from among nations, what of it?”—Romans 9:14-24.
9. (a) Who are the “vessels of wrath made fit for destruction”? (b) Why has Jehovah shown great long-suffering in the face of his opposers, and how will the final outcome be for the good of those who love him?
9 Ever since the rebellion in Eden, any who have opposed Jehovah and his laws have been “vessels of wrath made fit for destruction.” During all the time since then, Jehovah has exercised long-suffering. The wicked have ridiculed his ways, persecuted his servants, even killed his Son. Showing great restraint, Jehovah has allowed enough time for all creation to see fully the disastrous results of rebellion against God and of human rule independent of him. At the same time, Jesus’ death provided the means for delivering obedient mankind and for ‘breaking up the works of the Devil.’—1 John 3:8; Hebrews 2:14, 15.
10. Why has Jehovah tolerated the wicked for the past 1,900 years?
10 During the more than 1,900 years since Jesus’ resurrection, Jehovah has tolerated further the “vessels of wrath,” holding off their destruction. Why? For one thing, because he has been preparing those who are to be associated with Jesus Christ in his heavenly Kingdom. These are 144,000 in number, and they are the “vessels of mercy” spoken of by the apostle Paul. First, individuals from among the Jews were invited to make up this heavenly class. Later, God invited people of the Gentile nations. Jehovah has not forced any of these to serve him. But from among those who responded appreciatively to his loving provisions, he gave some the privilege of being corulers with his Son in the heavenly Kingdom. The preparation of that heavenly class is now nearly complete.—Luke 22:29; Revelation 14:1-4.
11. (a) What group is now benefiting from Jehovah’s long-suffering? (b) How will the dead benefit?
11 But what about inhabitants for the earth? Jehovah’s long-suffering has also made possible the gathering together of “a great crowd” out of all nations. They now number into the millions. Jehovah has promised that this earthly class will survive the end of this system and have the prospect of everlasting life on a paradise earth. (Revelation 7:9, 10; Psalm 37:29; John 10:16) In God’s due time, multitudes of the dead will be resurrected and given the opportunity to be earthly subjects of the heavenly Kingdom. God’s Word foretells at Acts 24:15: “There is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.”—John 5:28, 29.
12. (a) What have we learned about Jehovah from his toleration of wickedness? (b) How do you feel about how Jehovah has handled these matters?
12 Has there been any injustice in all of this? No, because by holding off his destruction of the wicked, or “vessels of wrath,” God is showing compassion to others, in harmony with his purpose. This shows how merciful and loving he is. Too, having had time to observe the unfolding of his purpose, we learn much about Jehovah himself. We marvel at the various aspects of his personality that come to light—his justice, his mercy, his long-suffering, his diversified wisdom. Jehovah’s wise handling of the issue of universal sovereignty—his right to rule—will forever stand as a testimony to the fact that his way of ruling is the very best. With the apostle Paul, we say: “O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and past tracing out his ways are!”—Romans 11:33.
Opportunity to Show Our Devotion
13. When we experience personal suffering, what opportunity is presented to us, and what will help us to respond wisely?
13 Many of God’s servants are in situations that involve personal suffering. Their suffering continues because God has not yet destroyed the wicked and brought about the foretold restoration of mankind. Should this embitter us? Or can we see such situations as opportunities to have a share in proving the Devil a liar? We can be strengthened to do so if we keep in mind the appeal: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.” (Proverbs 27:11) Satan, the one who taunts Jehovah, charged that if people suffer material loss or physical affliction, they will blame God, even curse him. (Job 1:9-11; 2:4, 5) We bring joy to Jehovah’s heart when, by our loyalty to him in the face of hardships, we show that such is not true in our case.
14. If we rely on Jehovah when we undergo trials, what benefits can come to us?
14 If we rely on Jehovah when we undergo trials, we can develop precious qualities. For example, as a result of the things that Jesus suffered, he “learned obedience” in a way that he had never known it before. We too can learn from our trials in that we can cultivate long-suffering, endurance, and a deepened appreciation of Jehovah’s righteous ways.—Hebrews 5:8, 9; 12:11; James 1:2-4.
15. As we patiently endure hardship, how may others benefit?
15 Others will observe what we do. Because of what we undergo on account of our love for righteousness, some of them may in time come to appreciate who the true Christians are today. And by uniting with us in worship, they can come in line for the blessings of everlasting life. (Matthew 25:34-36, 40, 46) Jehovah and his Son want people to have that opportunity.
16. How is our view of personal hardship related to the matter of unity?
16 How fine it is when we view even difficult situations as opportunities to show our devotion to Jehovah as well as to share in accomplishing his will! Our doing so can give evidence that we are indeed moving toward unity with God and Christ. Jesus prayed to Jehovah in behalf of all true Christians, saying: “I make request, not concerning these [his immediate disciples] only, but also concerning those putting faith in me through their word; in order that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in union with me and I am in union with you, that they also may be in union with us.”—John 17:20, 21.
17. What confidence can we have if we are loyal to Jehovah?
17 If we are loyal to Jehovah, he will reward us generously. His Word says: “Become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) It also states: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.” (Hebrews 6:10) James 5:11 notes: “Look! We pronounce happy those who have endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome Jehovah gave, that Jehovah is very tender in affection and merciful.” What was the outcome for Job? “As for Jehovah, he blessed the end of Job afterward more than his beginning.” (Job 42:10-16) Yes, Jehovah is “the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Hebrews 11:6) And what a reward we have to look forward to—everlasting life on a paradise earth!
18. What will eventually happen to any painful memories we may have?
18 God’s Kingdom rule will undo all the damage done to the human family for the past thousands of years. The joys at that time will far outweigh any suffering that we experience now. We will not be disturbed by any bad memories of previous suffering. The upbuilding thoughts and activities that will fill the everyday life of people in the new world will gradually erase the painful memories. Jehovah declares: “I am creating new heavens [a new heavenly Kingdom government over mankind] and a new earth [a righteous human society]; and the former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart. But exult, you people, and be joyful forever in what I am creating.” Yes, in Jehovah’s new world, righteous ones will be able to say: “The whole earth has come to rest, has become free of disturbance. People have become cheerful with joyful cries.”—Isaiah 14:7; 65:17, 18.
• While permitting evil, how has Jehovah properly shown great respect for his own name?
• How has God’s tolerating “vessels of wrath” enabled his mercy to reach all the way to us?
• What should we endeavor to see in situations that involve personal suffering?
[Pictures on page 67]
Jehovah “blessed the end of Job afterward more than his beginning”