‘The Hour of Judgment’ Has Arrived
REVELATION, the last book of the Bible, alerts us to the fact that an angel flying in midheaven has “everlasting good news to declare as glad tidings.” He says in a loud voice: “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of the judgment by him has arrived.” (Revelation 14:6, 7) That ‘hour of judgment’ includes both the pronouncement and the execution of divine judgment. An “hour” is a relatively short period of time. It comes as the climax of “the last days.” We live in that time now.—2 Timothy 3:1.
The arrival of ‘the hour of judgment’ is good news to lovers of righteousness. It is a time when God will bring relief to his servants, who have suffered at the hands of this violent, loveless system of things.
Now, before ‘the hour of judgment’ concludes with the destruction of the present wicked system of things, we are urged: “Fear God and give him glory.” Are you doing that? This involves far more than saying, “I believe in God.” (Matthew 7:21-23; James 2:19, 20) Proper fear of God should make us stand in awe of him. It should cause us to turn away from badness. (Proverbs 8:13) It should help us to love what is good and hate what is bad. (Amos 5:14, 15) If we honor God, we will listen to him with great respect. We will not be too busy with other things to read his Word, the Bible, regularly. We will trust in him at all times and with our whole heart. (Psalm 62:8; Proverbs 3:5, 6) Those who truly honor him recognize that as the Creator of heaven and earth, he is the Universal Sovereign, and they lovingly submit to him as the Sovereign of their lives. If we realize that we ought to give more attention to these matters, let us do so without delay.
The time of the execution of judgment of which the angel spoke is also known as “the day of Jehovah.” Such a “day” came upon ancient Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. because its inhabitants did not heed Jehovah’s warnings through his prophets. By postponing Jehovah’s day in their own minds, they further endangered their lives. Jehovah had warned them: “It is near, and there is a hurrying of it very much.” (Zephaniah 1:14) Another “day of Jehovah” came upon ancient Babylon in 539 B.C.E. (Isaiah 13:1, 6) Confident in their fortifications and in their gods, the Babylonians ignored the warnings given by Jehovah’s prophets. But in one night, great Babylon fell to the Medes and the Persians.
What confronts us today? Another and more far-reaching “day of Jehovah.” (2 Peter 3:11-14) Divine judgment has been pronounced upon “Babylon the Great.” According to Revelation 14:8, an angel declares: “Babylon the Great has fallen.” That has already taken place. No longer can she restrain worshipers of Jehovah. Her own corruption and involvement in war have been widely exposed. Now her final destruction is near. For that reason, the Bible urges people everywhere: “Get out of her [Babylon the Great] . . . if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues. For her sins have massed together clear up to heaven, and God has called her acts of injustice to mind.”—Revelation 18:4, 5.
• The priests of ancient Babylon were deeply involved in the nation’s political affairs. That is true of much religion today.
• Babylon’s priests often promoted the nation’s warfare. Modern-day religion has often been in the forefront of those blessing soldiers as the nations have gone to war.
• The teachings and practices of ancient Babylon led the nation into gross immorality. When religious leaders today push the Bible’s standard of morality aside, immorality is rampant among both clergy and laity. Noteworthy also is the fact that because Babylon the Great prostitutes herself to the world and its political systems, Revelation depicts her as a harlot.
• The Bible also says that Babylon the Great lives “in shameless luxury.” In ancient Babylon, the temple organization acquired extensive landholdings, and the priests became prominent in commercial activities. Today, in addition to places of worship, Babylon the Great has vast commercial holdings. Her teachings and her holidays bring great riches both to her and to others in the business world.
• Use of images, magic, and sorcery were common in ancient Babylon, as they are in many places today. Death was viewed as a passage to another kind of life. Babylon was filled with temples and chapels in honor of its gods, but the Babylonians opposed worshipers of Jehovah. The same beliefs and practices identify Babylon the Great.
In ancient times, Jehovah maneuvered powerful political and military nations to punish those who showed persistent disregard for him and his will. Thus Samaria was destroyed by the Assyrians in 740 B.C.E. Jerusalem was devastated by the Babylonians in 607 B.C.E. and by the Romans in 70 C.E. Babylon, in turn, was conquered by the Medes and the Persians in 539 B.C.E. For our day, the Bible forecasts that political governments, like a wild beast, will turn on “the harlot” and strip her naked, exposing her real character. They will completely destroy her.—Revelation 17:16.
Will the world’s governments really do such a thing? The Bible states that ‘God will put it into their hearts.’ (Revelation 17:17) It will be sudden, surprising, shocking, not foreseeable or gradual.
What action do you need to take? Ask yourself: ‘Do I still cling to a religious organization that is tainted with teachings and practices that mark it as part of Babylon the Great?’ Even if you are not a member, you might ask yourself: ‘Have I allowed its spirit to influence me?’ What sort of spirit? A spirit of toleration of loose morals, love of material possessions and pleasures rather than love for God, or willful disregard (even in seemingly small things) for the Word of Jehovah. Think carefully about your reply.
For us to have Jehovah’s favor, it is vital that both in our actions and in the desires of our heart, we give evidence that we truly are no part of Babylon the Great. There is no time for delay. Alerting us that the end will come suddenly, the Bible says: “With a swift pitch will Babylon the great city be hurled down, and she will never be found again.”—Revelation 18:21.
But there is more. In another aspect of that ‘hour of judgment,’ Jehovah God will call to account the global political system, its rulers, and all who ignore his rightful rulership by means of his heavenly Kingdom in the hands of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 13:1, 2; 19:19-21) The prophetic vision recorded at Daniel 2:20-45 depicts political rulership from the time of ancient Babylon to the present as a giant image made of gold, silver, copper, iron, and clay. Regarding our day, the prophecy foretold: “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin.” And concerning what that Kingdom will yet do during Jehovah’s ‘hour of judgment,’ the Bible declares: “It will crush and put an end to all these [man-made] kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Daniel 2:44.
The Bible warns true worshipers against loving “the things in the world”—the way of life promoted by this world that is alienated from the true God. (1 John 2:15-17) Do your decisions and actions show that you are uncompromisingly for the Kingdom of God? Do you truly put it first in your life?—Matthew 6:33; John 17:16, 17.
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When Will the End Come?
“At an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.”—Matthew 24:44.
“Keep on the watch . . . because you know neither the day nor the hour.”—Matthew 25:13.
“It will not be late.”—Habakkuk 2:3.
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Would It Make a Difference if You Knew?
If you knew for sure that the impending execution of divine judgment would not come for a few more years, would that change how you are using your life? If the end of this old system is already later than you expected, have you allowed this to slow you down in Jehovah’s service?—Hebrews 10:36-38.
Our not knowing the exact time gives us opportunity to show that we serve God out of pure motives. Those who know Jehovah realize that a last-minute display of zeal will not impress God, who sees what the heart is.—Jeremiah 17:10; Hebrews 4:13.
For those who truly love Jehovah, he always comes first. Like other people, true Christians may do secular work. However, their goal is, not to get rich, but to have sufficient material goods and a little to share. (Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 6:7-12) They also enjoy wholesome recreation and a change of pace, but their desire is to be refreshed, not simply to do what everyone else is doing. (Mark 6:31; Romans 12:2) Like Jesus Christ, they delight in doing God’s will.—Psalm 37:4; 40:8.
True Christians want to live and serve Jehovah forever. That prospect is not less precious because they must wait for certain blessings a little longer than some may have expected.
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The Issue of Sovereignty
To understand why God permits so much suffering, we need to understand the issue of sovereignty. What is sovereignty? It is supremacy of authority.
Because Jehovah is the Creator, he has the right to rule over the earth and all who dwell on it. However, the Bible explains that early in human history, Jehovah’s sovereignty was challenged. Satan the Devil claimed that Jehovah was unduly restrictive, that He had lied to our first parents about what would happen if they ignored God’s law and did things their own way, and that it really would be better if they governed themselves apart from God.—Genesis, chapters 2, 3.
If God had destroyed the rebels right away, that would have demonstrated his power, but it would not have settled the issues raised. Instead of destroying the rebels on the spot, Jehovah has allowed all intelligent creation to see the outcome of rebellion. Though this has involved suffering, it has also afforded opportunity for us to be born.
Furthermore, at great cost to himself, Jehovah lovingly made provision that humans who would obey him and exercise faith in the ransom sacrifice of his Son could be freed from sin and its consequences and live in Paradise. If necessary, this could be by means of a resurrection from the dead.
Allowing time for settling the issue has also given God’s servants opportunity to demonstrate that they are capable of responding to God’s love and proving their integrity to Jehovah under all circumstances. The settling of the issue of divine sovereignty, along with the related issue of human integrity, is vital in order for there to be proper respect for law in the universe. Without that, true peace would never be possible.*
These issues and their implications are discussed in greater detail in the book Draw Close to Jehovah, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The global system of political rulership will come to its end