1-3. (a) In what will Jehovah’s “great rage” result? (See opening picture.) (b) What will we now consider?
THE men, women, and children stand together, singing a Kingdom song. An elder then offers a heartfelt prayer, begging Jehovah for His protection. The members of the congregation are confident that Jehovah will care for them, but they still need comfort and reassurance. Outside, the sounds of battle split the air. Armageddon has begun!—Rev. 16:14, 16.
2 During the war of Armageddon, Jehovah will execute people, not in a cold, clinical manner, but in a “great rage.” (Read Ezekiel 38:18.) He will direct the explosive force of his anger, not against one army or one nation, but against countless individuals living across the globe. On that day, those slain by Jehovah “will be from one end of the earth clear to the other end of the earth.”—Jer. 25:29, 33.
3 What causes Jehovah, the God of love, the one described as “merciful and compassionate” and “slow to anger,” to take such an action, flaring up in a “great rage”? (Ex. 34:6; 1 John 4:16) Let us see how the answer to that question can bring us great comfort, fill us with courage, and motivate us in our preaching work today.
What Provokes Jehovah’s “Great Rage”?
4, 5. How is God’s anger different from that of imperfect humans?
4 We first need to recognize that Jehovah’s anger is not like that of imperfect humans. When man’s anger boils over into rage and spills over into action, the results are often uncontrolled and are seldom good. For example, Cain, the first son of Adam, became “hot with anger” because Jehovah rejected his sacrifice but approved of the gift offered by Abel. The outcome? Cain murdered his righteous brother. (Gen. 4:3-8; Heb. 11:4) Think, too, of David, described as a man agreeable to Jehovah’s heart. (Acts 13:22) Even this good man almost committed a terrible crime when he heard that the rich landowner Nabal screamed insults at him and his men. Boiling with rage, David and his soldiers “strapped on their swords,” intending to kill not only ungrateful Nabal but also every male in his household. Fortunately, Nabal’s wife, Abigail, was able to convince David and his men not to take revenge. (1 Sam. 25:9-14, 32, 33) With good reason, Jehovah inspired James to write: “Man’s anger does not bring about God’s righteousness.”—Jas. 1:20.
Jehovah’s anger is always controlled and predictable
5 In contrast with man’s temper, which is often misdirected, Jehovah’s disposition is always controlled and predictable. Even when motivated by great rage, Jehovah acts righteously. When he fights an enemy, he never sweeps away “the righteous with the wicked.” (Gen. 18:22-25) In addition, Jehovah’s anger is ignited only for righteous reasons. Consider two reasons and the lessons we can learn from them.
6. How does Jehovah react when his name is profaned?
6 Reason: Jehovah’s name is profaned. Those who claim to represent Jehovah but who act wickedly damage his reputation and rightly provoke his anger. (Ezek. 36:23) As discussed in the preceding chapters of this publication, the nation of Israel brought great reproach on Jehovah’s name. Understandably, the nation’s attitudes and actions made Jehovah angry. But he never lost control of his rage—he punished his people only to the proper degree, never beyond it. (Jer. 30:11) And once Jehovah’s anger accomplished its purpose, it ended with no residual resentment.—Ps. 103:9.
7, 8. What lessons do we learn from Jehovah’s dealings with Israel?
7 Lessons: Jehovah’s dealings with the Israelites provide a sobering warning for us. Like the ancient Israelites, we have the privilege of bearing Jehovah’s name. We are Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Isa. 43:10) Our speech and actions reflect directly on the God we represent. Never would we want to become brazen in doing wrong and bring reproach on Jehovah’s name. Such a hypocritical course will spark Jehovah’s anger, and sooner or later, he will act to protect his reputation.—Heb. 3:13, 15; 2 Pet. 2:1, 2.
8 Should the warning that Jehovah is capable of “great rage” prevent us from drawing close to him? No. We know that Jehovah is patient and forgiving. (Isa. 55:7; Rom. 2:4) But we also recognize that he is not weakly sentimental. In fact, we develop a healthy respect for him, knowing that his anger will blaze against those who become hardened in a course of sin and that he will not allow them to remain among his people. (1 Cor. 5:11-13) Jehovah has clearly told us what makes him angry. It is up to us to avoid the attitudes and actions that provoke him.—John 3:36; Rom. 1:26-32; Jas. 4:8.
9, 10. How does Jehovah respond when his faithful people are threatened? Give examples.
9 Reason: Jehovah’s faithful people are threatened. Jehovah is provoked to anger when enemies attack those who loyally seek shelter under his protective care. For example, after the Israelites left Egypt, Pharaoh and his mighty army descended on the seemingly helpless people huddled on the shore of the Red Sea. But when that powerful military force chased the Israelites across the dry seabed, Jehovah took the wheels off the war chariots and shook the Egyptians off into the sea. “Not so much as one among them was allowed to survive.” (Ex. 14:25-28) Jehovah’s anger blazed against the Egyptians because of his “loyal love” for his people.—Read Exodus 15:9-13.
10 Likewise, Jehovah’s love for his people prompted him to act in the days of King Hezekiah. The Assyrians, the most powerful and brutal military force of the day, had marched on the city of Jerusalem. Jehovah’s loyal servants were threatened with a siege that would lead to a slow, horrible death. (2 Ki. 18:27) In response, Jehovah sent just one angel; he killed 185,000 enemy soldiers in a single night! (2 Ki. 19:34, 35) Imagine the scene in the Assyrian camp the following morning. Spears, shields, and swords lie untouched. No trumpets wake the men. No orders rally the troops. An eerie silence hangs over still tents and an encampment strewn with corpses.
11. What comfort and courage do we gain from Scriptural examples of how Jehovah reacts when his people are threatened?
11 Lessons: Those examples of how Jehovah reacts when his people are threatened provide a graphic warning to our enemies: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” when his wrath is provoked. (Heb. 10:31) For us, those same examples bring comfort and foster courage. We gain comfort from knowing that our main enemy, Satan, will not succeed. Soon his “short period” of dominance will end! (Rev. 12:12) Until then, we can serve Jehovah with courage, confident that no individual, organization, or government can prevent us from doing God’s will. (Read Psalm 118:6-9.) The apostle Paul expressed our conviction with these inspired words: “If God is for us, who will be against us?”—Rom. 8:31.
12. During the great tribulation, what will cause Jehovah’s rage to flare up?
12 During the coming great tribulation, Jehovah will act to protect us, just as he did the Israelites trapped by the Egyptians and the Jews in Jerusalem besieged by the Assyrians. When our enemies try to destroy us, Jehovah’s deep love for us will cause his rage to flare up. Those who are foolish enough to attack us will, in effect, be touching the pupil of Jehovah’s eye. His response will be swift and decisive. (Zech. 2:8, 9) The resulting carnage will be unprecedented. But God’s enemies will have no valid cause to be surprised when Jehovah unleashes his wrath on them. Why not?
What Warnings Has Jehovah Given?
13. What warnings has Jehovah given?
13 Jehovah is “slow to anger” and has given ample warnings that he will destroy those who oppose him and threaten his people. (Ex. 34:6, 7) Jehovah used such prophets as Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Christ Jesus, and the apostles Peter, Paul, and John to warn of a great climactic battle.—See the box “Jehovah Warns of the Coming Great Battle.”
14, 15. What work has Jehovah done, and why?
14 Jehovah had these warnings recorded in his Word. He also ensured that the Bible would become the most widely translated and distributed book in history. Throughout the earth, he has raised an army of volunteers who help others learn how to make peace with God and who warn of the coming “great day of Jehovah.” (Zeph. 1:14; Ps. 2:10-12; 110:3) He has motivated his people to translate Bible study publications into hundreds of languages and to spend hundreds of millions of hours each year talking about the promises and the warnings found in his Word.
15 Jehovah has had all this work done “because he does not desire anyone to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9) What a privilege we have to represent our loving, patient God and to play a small part in spreading his message! Soon, however, time will run out for those who do not pay attention to the warnings.
When Will Jehovah’s Anger “Flare Up”?
16, 17. Has Jehovah set a day for the final war? Explain.
16 Jehovah has set a day for the final war. He knows in advance when the attack on his people will take place. (Matt. 24:36) How does Jehovah know when his enemies will attack?
17 As we saw in the preceding chapter of this publication, Jehovah tells Gog: “I will . . . put hooks in your jaws.” He will lead the nations into a decisive conflict. (Ezek. 38:4) This does not mean that Jehovah is the aggressor in this fight; nor does it mean that he takes away the free will of those who oppose him. Rather, it indicates that Jehovah can read hearts and knows how his enemies will respond to a given set of circumstances.—Ps. 94:11; Isa. 46:9, 10; Jer. 17:10.
18. Why will humans pick a fight with the Almighty?
18 If Jehovah does not start the conflict or force his opponents into battle, why will mere humans put themselves in a position where they will be fighting against the Almighty himself? One reason is that by this time in history, they will likely have convinced themselves either that God does not exist or that he will not intervene in human affairs. Perhaps they will think this way because they will have just wiped out all false religious organizations on earth. So they might reason that if God existed, surely he would defend the institutions that claim to represent him. They will not realize that it was actually God who put the thought into their hearts to get rid of religions that have so grossly misrepresented him.—Rev. 17:16, 17.
19. What may well happen after false religion is devastated?
19 Sometime after false religion is devastated, Jehovah may well have his people deliver a hard-hitting message, one that the book of Revelation likens to a hailstorm in which each hailstone weighs about 45 pounds (20 kg). (Rev. 16:21, ftn.) This message, possibly a declaration that the political and commercial system is about to end, torments the hearers to such a degree that they blaspheme God. Likely it is this message that provokes the nations into making an all-out assault on God’s people, to silence us once and for all. They will think that we are defenseless, an easy target to destroy. What a mistake that will be!
How Will Jehovah Express His Rage?
20, 21. Who is Gog, and what will happen to him?
20 As we saw in Chapter 17 of this publication, Ezekiel uses a prophetic title, “Gog of the land of Magog,” to identify the coalition of nations that attack us. (Ezek. 38:2) But the members of this coalition will be tethered to one another only by a thread. Beneath a veneer of cooperation, the spirit of rivalry, pride, and nationalistic ambition will continue to exist. It will be an easy thing for Jehovah to turn the sword of each one “against his own brother.” (Ezek. 38:21) But the nations’ destruction will not be a man-made calamity.
21 Before they are destroyed, our enemies will see the sign of the Son of man, likely a supernatural manifestation of the power of Jehovah and Jesus. The opposers will see things that cause them extreme anxiety. As Jesus foretold, “people will become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.” (Luke 21:25-27) To their horror, they will realize that they miscalculated when they attacked Jehovah’s people. They will be forced to know the Creator in his role as military commander, Jehovah of armies. (Ps. 46:6-11; Ezek. 38:23) Jehovah will no doubt unleash heavenly armies and natural forces in such a way that he protects his loyal servants but eliminates his enemies.—Read 2 Peter 2:9.
22, 23. Who will protect God’s people, and how will they no doubt feel about their task?
What should our knowledge of Jehovah’s day motivate us to do?
22 Think of how keen Jesus will be to lead the charge against God’s enemies and to protect those who love and serve his Father. Think, too, of the emotions that the anointed will then feel. At some point before Armageddon begins, the last of them remaining on earth will be raised to heavenly life so that all of the 144,000 can accompany Jesus into battle. (Rev. 17:12-14) Many of the anointed will no doubt have developed close personal friendships with members of the other sheep as they worked together during the last days. Now the anointed will have both the authority and the power to defend those who supported them so loyally during their trials.—Matt. 25:31-40.
23 Angels will also be part of Jesus’ heavenly army. (2 Thess. 1:7; Rev. 19:14) They already helped him remove Satan and the demons from heaven. (Rev. 12:7-9) And they have been involved in gathering those on earth who want to worship Jehovah. (Rev. 14:6, 7) How appropriate it is that Jehovah will allow the angels to protect these loyal ones! Most important, all in Jehovah’s army will feel honored to sanctify and vindicate his name, or reputation, by helping to destroy his enemies.—Matt. 6:9, 10.
24. How will the great crowd of other sheep react?
24 With such a powerful, highly motivated army protecting them, those of the great crowd of other sheep will have no reason to cringe in fear. In fact, they will “stand up straight and lift up [their] heads, because [their] deliverance is getting near.” (Luke 21:28) How important that before Jehovah’s day comes, we help as many as possible to come to know and love our merciful, protective Father!—Read Zephaniah 2:2, 3.
25. What will we consider next?
25 The aftermath of human wars is chaos and misery. By contrast, the outcome of Armageddon will be order and happiness. What will it be like when Jehovah’s rage is spent, his warriors’ swords are sheathed, and the last echoes of the great battle fade? In the next chapter, we will consider that wonderful future.