Judgment Day—Just a Joke?
People in Noah’s day thought it was a joke. Citizens of Sodom in Lots day thought it was a joke. Jesus indicated that people today would think it a joke. Where do you stand?
MOST churchgoers make only a feeble attempt, if any, to explain the “judgment day.” They usually speak of it with a joke or some weird phrase such as “doomsday,” “the day the earth ends” or “the day when time will be no more.” Even the clergy seldom offer a more intelligent explanation. To them certain questions are a jigsaw puzzle that they cannot fit together to make a correct, comprehensive picture: What is the judgment day? When is it? Who does the judging? What is the result? Are we in a judgment day now?
The judgment day sounds like a joke to many people because they have been blinded by false religion. They have been taught that the literal earth will come to an end. Indeed, this is an absurd teaching. For God’s own Word confidently declares: “The earth abideth for ever.” So when the clergy teach that the earth will end, people cannot help laughing, because it is so unreasonable and so unscriptural.—Eccl. 1:4.
There is no doubt that a judgment day has been decreed by Almighty God. Says the Bible: “Jehovah is our judge.” “He has set a day in which he purposes to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness.” But just what is meant by the term “judgment day”? It refers to that time when the supreme court in heaven renders righteous judgment. Judgment, Scripturally used, means the determining of what is conformable to the law of God. To do this great work Jehovah God has appointed an associate Judge, one whom he raised up from the dead, namely, his own beloved Son, Christ Jesus. Concerning his appointment as Judge, Christ Jesus said: “The Father judges no one at all, but he has committed all the judging to the Son, . . . the judgment that I render is righteous, because I seek not my own will but the will of him that sent me.” Increased appreciation of the Son’s judging appointment can be gained from the words of the apostle Peter: “He ordered us to preach to the people and to give a thorough witness that this is the One decreed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.”—Isa. 33:22, AS; Acts 17:31; John 5:22, 30; Acts 10:42, NW.
THE THOUSAND-YEAR JUDGMENT DAY
The day in which Christ Jesus judges “the living and the dead” cannot be a twenty-four-hour day. For the Scriptural rule is: “One day is with Jehovah as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.” And so the day that Jehovah has set for Christ to exercise his judicial appointment is one that lasts for a thousand years. This Judge is also a King. So he is a King-Judge. His thousand-year reign begins after the universal war of Armageddon, a war destined to come upon this generation, a war in which Almighty God destroys this present system of things on the earth. It is the symbolic earth of Satan’s world, then, that undergoes destruction at Armageddon, not the literal earth. The symbolic heavens, Satan and his organization of demons, is also dissolved at Armageddon; for Jehovah uses his Son to abyss the Devil: “And he seized the dragon, the original serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. And he hurled him into the abyss and shut it and sealed it over him, that he might not mislead the nations any more until the thousand years were ended.”—2 Pet. 3:8; Rev. 20:2, 3, NW.
Though this whole present wicked system of things will feel the full fury of Jehovah’s “decree of destruction,” a great number of people, those who love righteousness and who have dedicated themselves to the true God, will survive Armageddon and be in line for the benefits of the thousand-year judgment day. During this judgment day Christ Jesus will resurrect the dead who are in the memory of God. Jesus told us not to be astonished by this fact: “Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.”—Isa. 28:22, AS; John 5:28, NW.
When these millions of people come forth out of their tombs, how will they be judged? By their past record? No, they will be given a clean slate. They will be judged by their future works. If they were to be judged by their past works, they could be judged while in their graves. Then there would need to be only a “resurrection of life.” But Jesus, the Judge, has promised a “resurrection of judgment” and that those so resurrected will be judged by their future deeds on an earth free from the influence of the Devil. Says the prophecy: “And the sea gave up those dead in it, and death and Hades gave up those dead in them, and they were judged individually according to their deeds.” Each one will be given the opportunity to prove by his deeds that he loves righteousness. Few are the nations today that offer justice for all, and even those that do cannot live up to their promise because of man’s imperfection. Then, too, the poor man has little hope for full justice; only the rich can afford to appeal to the highest courts. How unlike the present time the thousand-year judgment day will be! Then all will have an equal standing. There will be no prejudice against those who were formerly poor: “He will not judge by that which his eyes see, nor decide by that which his ears hear; but with justice will he judge the needy, and with fairness decide for the poor of the land.”—Rev. 20:13, NW; Isa. 11:3, 4, AT.
FINAL TEST APPLIED
What happens at the end of the thousand-year judgment day? Christ Jesus, having brought the human race back to perfection, turns the kingdom over to his Father that Jehovah may be all things to everyone: “Next, the accomplished end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed all government and all authority and power.” Then Jehovah God uses Jesus to release the Devil: “Now as soon as the thousand years have been ended, Satan will be let loose out of his prison.” Why is the Devil released from his thousand-year state of deathlike detention? Because a final test must be made to determine who is worthy of receiving from the hands of Jehovah God the right to live on this earth forever.—1 Cor. 15:24; Rev. 20:7, NW.
Do not think it strange that the Devil is released. We must remember that the perfect man Adam was tested by God. Jehovah used the “tree of the knowledge of good and bad.” But during the final test, after the thousand years have ended, the supreme Judge uses no tree but rather the Devil to apply a test on which he can base his judgment. Some of perfected mankind will allow themselves, like Adam in the garden of Eden, to be misled by the Devil. The result: these willfully wicked, deluded ones, symbolically called Gog and Magog, prepare to wage war against those who remain faithful to Jehovah. God does not allow things to get out of control, for when the Devil-led rebels make their all-out assault against the loyal inhabitants of the new world, Jehovah steps in: “Fire came down out of heaven and devoured them. And the Devil who was misleading them was hurled into the lake of fire and sulphur.” This time God does not abyss the Devil but hurls him into the lake of fire, a symbol of the second death or state of everlasting annihilation. All the rebels who perish with the Devil suffer the same fate.—Gen. 2:17; Rev. 20:9, 10, NW.
JUDGMENT PERIODS UPON HUMAN SOCIETY
Since the thousand-year judgment day and the judgment period at the end of that day are still in the future, can one do as he pleases now and ignore the good news of God’s kingdom? The Bible answer is, No. If nations, communities, families and individuals were not to be held accountable for their actions, then there would be no vital purpose served by the world-wide preaching work that Christ Jesus foretold: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations, and then the accomplished end will come.” (Matt. 24:14, NW) To ignore this message of God’s new world and the end of this system of things is a mistake, a deadly mistake. For even though the thousand-year judgment day has not yet begun, do not think that there has not been or is not now a judgment period upon human society.
How serious is a judgment period? Divine condemnation always results in everlasting destruction. This was true during the Edenic judgment day when God passed judgment upon Adam. Another judgment period fell upon human society in Noah’s day. God determined to exterminate earth’s inhabitants because of their wickedness. He sounded the warning through a preacher of righteousness, Noah. But to the wicked people Noah was just a fanatic. Many must have been the jokes based on Noah’s preaching and his building a boat! When we read the Bible account we can visualize the preflood people pointing with scorn and roaring with laughter at this man so engrossed in preaching and boatbuilding. But, as the Bible says, that judgment period was no joke; for God “did not hold back from punishing an ancient world, but kept Noah, a preacher of righteousness, safe with seven others when he brought a deluge upon a world of ungodly people.” All those “ungodly people” who perished will never have a resurrection, because Jehovah’s judgments are final: “I, Jehovah, change not.”—2 Pet. 2:5, NW; Mal. 3:6, AS.
The judgment day for Sodom and Gomorrah was another destiny-making time. Jehovah’s angels appeared to Lot, informed him of God’s judgment to destroy the cities and warned him to flee for his life. Before fleeing, Lot was told to sound the warning to his relatives. This God-fearing man lost no time in dashing to his sons-in-law with the city-shaking news: “Lot went on out and began to speak to his sons-in-law who had taken his daughters, and he kept on saying: ‘Get up! Get out of this place, because Jehovah is destroying the city!’ But in the eyes of his sons-in-law he seemed like a man who was joking.”—Gen. 19:14, NW.
They thought Lot was joking! And yet cannot we hear the urgency in his voice as he kept on saying: “Get out of this place”? But his hard-laughing relatives thought it so incredible that the God of heaven would destroy their city that they did not even investigate Lot’s warning. So the sons-in-law abandoned themselves to their self-chosen destiny of everlasting destruction. For “Jehovah made it rain sulphur and fire from Jehovah, from the heavens, upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah.” Scoffing laughter ceased forever in Sodom; its judgment day had been no joke.—Gen. 19:24, NW.
The fate of all the people who failed to flee Sodom was alike, whether it was men, women or children. They paid the penalty of everlasting destruction, because it was a judgment day. Sodom and Gomorrah, says the Bible writer Jude, “are placed before us as a warning example by undergoing the judicial punishment of everlasting fire.”—Jude 7, NW.
JUDGMENT DAY SINCE 1918
What does all this mean? The apostle Peter answers: “By reducing the cities Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them, setting a pattern for ungodly persons of things to come.” So Sodom’s judgment day pictured the judgment day that would come upon the peoples of the nations in the “last days,” where we now are. Since 1918 the enthroned King Christ Jesus has been judging the peoples of the nations. Jesus does not have to be on the earth to do this, but he does it invisibly from heaven as he foretold: “When the Son of man arrives in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another.” Upon what does Jesus base his judgment? Upon peoples’ response to the preaching of the good news of the established kingdom by Jehovah’s witnesses. Jesus foretold that this world-wide witness work would be done during his second presence: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations, and then the accomplished end will come.”—2 Pet. 2:6; Matt. 25:31, 32; 24:14, NW.
“The accomplished end” means the culmination of this judgment period, the war of Armageddon. Then Jehovah enforces his judgment of condemnation by “the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels in a flaming fire, as he brings due punishment upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus. These very ones will pay the penalty of everlasting destruction.” So those who die at Armageddon will pay the same penalty as the people of Sodom did; that is, they will not have a “resurrection of judgment” during the 1,000-year judgment day, but they will stay dead forever.—2 Thess. 1:7-9, NW.
To survive Armageddon and to enter the 1,000-year judgment day, during which mankind will be brought back to perfection, will be an incomparable blessing. It is a blessing open to all, no matter what their past life, if they heed the warning message now and worship Jehovah in obedient service. Most people, though, will take the indifferent attitude, which places them in the goat class. The Master foretold this mental attitude. “Just as it occurred in the days of Noah,” and “just as it occurred in the days of Lot,” declared Jesus, “the same way it will be on that day when the Son of man is to be revealed.” The people in Noah’s day were too busy to listen to Noah; if they did they scoffed. In Lot’s time some of Sodom’s citizens thought that their judgment day was just a joke. They had a good laugh but it was cut short by their everlasting destruction. So Jesus tells us not to act in the same oblivious, noninvestigating manner. Peter does also: “In the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule.” What will be the object of their laughter? The preaching of the news that Christ has taken up his Kingdom power and is now judging the peoples of the nations. This, together with the urgent warning of Armageddon, the masses think farfetched, just a joke.—Luke 17:26, 28, 30; 2 Pet. 3:3, NW.
But Jehovah’s witnesses are not joking. They would not, year after year, day after day, preach unceasingly from house to house, in the people’s homes and on the public streets if their message were a joke. So earnestly serious are they that to sound the warning of Armageddon’s nearness, they spent, in 1954, a monumental 80,814,996 hours. Avail yourself of the opportunity to hear this most urgent of all messages thoroughly. Carefully investigate it by using your Bible. Your destiny is at stake. So remember Sodom’s laughing citizens and their fate. Remember Jesus’ warning comparison of that time with today. Benefit now by knowing that this present judgment day is for a certainty not a joke.
[Pictures on page 197]
SODOM AND GOMORRAH