Look Forward with Confidence in God’s Righteousness and Justice
1, 2. Why might acquaintances not invite you to share in some improper activity?
SUPPOSE a group of people on your job, at your school or in your neighborhood decide to go to an immoral motion picture. Then someone mentions you, wondering if you might want to join the group. How do you think those who know you would react? Would they respond: ‘Oh, there’s no sense in inviting him (or her). He’s not interested in such things; that’s just not his way.’ Certainly that should be the assessment of a Christian’s interests and pursuits.—2 Tim. 2:19.
2 What, though, led these acquaintances to react in that way? Being aware of your principles and having observed how you have acted in the past, they could be confident as to how you would respond in this situation.
3. What basis do we have for assurance that God’s course will always be righteous and just?
3 If observant humans could know what course a Christian would follow, how much more can we be sure of what course Jehovah God will take in certain situations. In Eden a moral issue was raised as to Jehovah’s universal sovereignty and the righteousness of his way of dealing with mankind. That issue must be settled. The pages of Bible history record progressive steps in Jehovah’s dealings as he has moved toward the final settlement of that issue. And that very record provides us with ample reason to be confident that He will always do what is righteous and just. Also, the record assures us that the course Jehovah follows will always be in the lasting best interest of humans, as well as being righteous and just.
4. Is a lack of righteousness and justice manifested in Jehovah’s allowing mankind to experience suffering?
4 The apostle Paul wrote: “For the creation [mankind descending from Adam and Eve] was subjected to futility [being born in sin and faced with death], not by its own will [we humans have no control over Adam’s sin having brought sin and imperfection upon us] but through him [God] that subjected it [by allowing Adam to produce offspring], on the basis of hope that the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:20, 21) Yes, God’s allowing humans to be born, even though they would experience pain and problems in life, was by no means unrighteous or unjust. For in due course God also set before them the opportunity to have perfect life in paradise forever.
5. How are we today particularly favored with respect to mankind’s “enslavement to corruption”?
5 We today are particularly favored, for we stand at the threshold of God’s new order in which obedient mankind will “be set free from enslavement to corruption.” The fulfillment of Bible prophecy proves that since 1914 we have been in the “generation” that will see God wipe out wickedness on earth and establish a paradise earth wide. So Jehovah’s Witnesses are busily proclaiming the “good news of the kingdom,” which will bring to humans loyal to Jehovah “the glorious freedom of the children of God.”—Matt. 24:3-14, 21, 34.
PREACHING TO ALL PEOPLES—HOW?
6. What questions might arise regarding Jesus’ words at Mark 13:10?
6 Jesus said: “In all the nations the good news has to be preached first.” (Mark 13:10) Despite the strenuous efforts of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it seems that there are yet hundreds of millions of persons who have not received a personal witness. Even in lands where the Witnesses are active, there are some persons who have not been reached. And there are millions more who live where there are few if any Witnesses. Can the vital Kingdom message reach all these people in time? If so, how? Should we ‘just leave that to God,’ or are we involved in some way? What will God’s judgment be?
7. Why can we be confident that Mark 13:10 will be fulfilled?
7 If the preaching work were of men, there might be reason for concern. The job would appear to be far too big in view of the political barriers that now retard the preaching work in some lands, as well as the fact that the “population explosion” results in millions more persons each year who have not heard the message. But, happily, the One to determine to what extent the witness is to be given to the nations is not any man or group of men; it is Jehovah God! What he will do will be in full harmony with what he is—a wise, just, loving and compassionate God. Why can we be sure?
8. What is Jehovah’s view about humans’ gaining eternal life?
8 Jehovah sent his Son to earth as a “corresponding ransom for all.” (1 Tim. 2:6; John 3:16) God assures us that he does not desire any to lose their lives through disobedience. As 2 Peter 3:9 says: “Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, . . . but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” Because He “desires all men to be saved and to attain the knowledge of the Truth,” the Creator has given individuals time to hear about salvation and to repent. (1 Tim. 2:4, Moffatt) That Jehovah has had his Witnesses proclaim the “good news” in over 200 lands and islands of the sea is an evidence that he cares; Jehovah wants individuals to become obedient and to gain the blessing of eternal life.—Rom. 6:23; Heb. 5:9; compare Isaiah 55:6, 7; Malachi 3:7.
9. (a) How is it possible that the preaching work could yet be done on a vaster scale? (b) What examples bear this out?
9 On how much greater a scale the witnessing work is yet to be done, we simply do not know. We should not overlook the fact that Jehovah is responsible for this work and is using angels in heaven to oversee it. (Rev. 14:6, 7) Look what occurred on a single day in the year 33 C.E.! (Acts 2:37-42) Or, in modern times, think about what has happened in the Soviet Union. Not too many years ago it might have seemed impossible to imagine the “good news” being preached throughout that Communist land. But it is now being preached, even in remote Siberia. In The Kremlin’s Human Dilemma, Maurice Hindus writes about Jehovah’s Witnesses:
“There is no stopping them. Suppressed in one place, they bob up in another, now in European Russia, now in Siberia. . . . They appear as indestructible as the Soviet police that is determined to sweep them off the Soviet scene.”—P. 304.
Also, in many lands Kingdom Halls are being filled to an extent that is astonishing to those who shared in the preaching work before the mid-1960’s. Yes, Jehovah is having his message preached.
10. Regarding this preaching, on what should we concentrate?
10 Since we are assured that our all-powerful and righteous God will decide when the preaching is done to the extent he purposes, we can with singleness of mind concentrate on what we have to do. He has not told us to determine when sufficient preaching has been done, but has told us to keep on declaring the good news. Lives are involved. That realization, combined with the awareness that God has commissioned us to preach, should move us to action!
11. (a) What lesson can we learn from Jehovah’s words at Ezekiel 33:7-9? (b) Like Paul, what concern should we have about the preaching?
11 We can draw a lesson from what Jehovah God told Ezekiel as to his responsibility with regard to an impending destruction:
“A watchman is what I have made you to the house of Israel, and at my mouth you must hear the word and give them warning from me. When I say to someone wicked, ‘O wicked one, you will positively die!’ but you actually do not speak out to warn the wicked one from his way, he himself as a wicked one will die in his own error, but his blood I shall ask back at your own hand. But as regards you, in case you actually warn someone wicked from his way for him to turn back from it but he actually does not turn back from his way, he himself will die in his own error, whereas you yourself will certainly deliver your own soul.”—Ezek. 33:7-9.
Jehovah spoke those words prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. But they also have meaning for Christians today who have a message that is both a warning and an invitation for persons to ‘turn back from their sins and carry on justice and righteousness.’ (Ezek. 33:14) Our concern should be like that of the apostle Paul:
“Paul began to be intensely occupied with the word, witnessing to the Jews to prove that Jesus is the Christ. But after they kept on opposing and speaking abusively, he shook out his garments and said to them: ‘Let your blood be upon your own heads. I am clean.’”—Acts 18:5, 6.
With so much evidence available that the conclusion of this wicked system of things is near, we too ought to be “intensely occupied with the word, witnessing.” Doing so, we can be “clean from the blood of all men,” and we can wait on God for the decision as to when the preaching work is done to his satisfaction.—Acts 20:26.
WHAT WILL HIS JUDGMENT BE?
12, 13. (a) Is there reason to be concerned about what will be Jehovah’s judgment at the conclusion of the system of things? (b) How is this borne out by what we read at Ezekiel 33:17?
12 Related to the question of the extent to which the good news of the Kingdom will yet be preached is a certain uneasiness on the part of some persons about what Jehovah’s judgment will be at the conclusion of the system of things. They are somewhat concerned as to whether Jehovah’s judgment will be just and righteous.
13 But, really, is there any reason to be concerned, in view of the fact that Jehovah will be responsible for the outcome? Long ago the prophet Isaiah wrote about Jehovah God: “With whom did he consult together that one might make him understand, or who teaches him in the path of justice, or teaches him knowledge, or makes him know the very way of real understanding?” (Isa. 40:14) Is it not true that no human has ever needed to teach God justice and righteousness? When some Israelites said, “The way of Jehovah is not adjusted right,” with whom was the lack? It was not with Jehovah, but on the part of those imperfect men with their imperfect view of what is right. As Ezekiel recorded, “As for them, it is their way that is not adjusted right.” (Ezek. 33:17) We can be absolutely confident that Jehovah’s judgment at the conclusion of the system of things will be righteous, just, loving and merciful.
14. When does the illustration of the sheep and the goats apply?
14 An illustration that Jesus gave provides some information about that judgment. The apostles had asked Christ what would be ‘the sign of his presence and of the conclusion of the system of things.’ (Matt. 24:3) The final part of his reply, was the parable of the sheep and the goats. (Matt. 25:31-46) This illustration applies now, for in 1914 C.E. his “presence” in Kingdom power in heaven began; then ‘the Son of man arrived in his glory and sat down on his glorious throne.’ (Matt. 25:31; Dan. 7:13, 14) Also confirming its application to this period between the start of his “presence” and the destruction of the system of things is the fact that Jesus spoke of his spiritual brothers, the remaining ones of the 144,000, as being mistreated and imprisoned; this is something being done to them now, not something that will occur in the New Order.—Rev. 12:17.
15. Why can we conclude that this is a time of judgement?
15 In the illustration, Jesus said that during this period, “all the nations will be gathered before him [as the enthroned King], and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (Matt. 25:32) This is no mere temporary handling of matters, but involves decisive judgments rendered by the one appointed by Jehovah to “judge the living and the dead.” (2 Tim. 4:1; John 5:26, 27) Well, then, can we conclude that during this period the attitude and actions of some individuals will result in their meriting eternal destruction? While some persons might hesitate to reach such a firm conclusion, note what Jesus said about those who now prove themselves “goats”: “Be on your way from me, you who have been cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.” (Matt. 25:41, 46; 2 Thess. 1:6-9) So this is a time when eternal lives of such individuals are in the balance; it is a time of judgment.
16, 17. (a) Why are humans not in position to render judgments involving the “goats”? (b) What should we do about such matters?
16 Observe, however, that Jesus did not leave it up to humans to determine who are the “sheep” and who are the “goats.” How fine that is! For, if we humans were responsible to judge, how could we properly evaluate factors such as: How much of an opportunity did a person have to hear and accept the good news? Did his genetic, family or religious background affect his response? What is his heart condition—does he love righteousness? If he is a child or was born mentally retarded, how much bearing should family or community responsibility have on the matter?—1 Cor. 7:14; Deut. 30:19.
17 Unquestionably, not one of us is qualified to weigh these, and perhaps many other, vital factors and principles. We could not reach judgments that are ‘perfect, righteous and upright.’ (Deut. 32:4) Hence, why should any of us become needlessly involved with trying to decide who will survive and who will not? If we say, ‘I think these people in this certain situation are “goats” and will perish eternally, but those in that other category will live,’ are we not making ourselves judges? (Jas. 4:12) Rather than trying to decide whether a certain person, family or group of persons fits the description of the “goats” or not, we can be content to leave the matter in the hands of “the Judge of all the earth.”—Gen. 18:25.
18. (a) Does God follow merely strict justice? (b) Why can we be certain that his judgments will be righteous and just?
18 God’s judgments are not merely a matter of applying strict, unfeeling justice. His mercy, compassion and love are involved. As the psalmist David put it: “He has not done to us even according to our sins; nor according to our errors has he brought upon us what we deserve.” (Ps. 103:10) Actually the only wages that imperfect, sinful humans deserve is death. (Rom. 6:23) Yet, in his mercy and compassion Jehovah has purposed that the message of salvation be spread extensively so that humans might gain life. He wants them to do so. (Ezek. 33:11; Isa. 55:6, 7) If God’s mercy, love and compassion have been displayed so consistently down to this time, and we have benefited from them, cannot we be absolutely certain that they will come into play, too, in the judgment at the conclusion of the system of things? Yes, the survivors will be absolutely right when they proclaim, “Jehovah God, the Almighty, true and righteous are your judicial decisions.”—Rev. 16:5-7; 19:1, 2.
19, 20. What does the Bible teach about a future resurrection?
19 We have seen that there is good reason for us to be confident in God’s justice and righteousness as regards the preaching of the “good news of the kingdom” and his judgment at the conclusion of the system of things. We have just as much reason for confidence respecting what Jehovah will do in resurrecting individuals.
20 In his Word he assures us that “there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) The Scriptural testimony is that all those who have died and gone to Sheol or Hades, the common grave of dead mankind, will be raised. (Rev. 20:13) Hence, millions upon millions of individuals who have died in the past will have opportunity in the New Order to follow Jehovah’s righteous ways and gain eternal life. But the Bible also shows that not everyone will be resurrected. As we have seen, this would be because some persons have sinned against the holy spirit and were judged by Jehovah as meriting everlasting destruction, being assigned to Gehenna.—Mark 3:28, 29; Heb. 6:4-6; Matt. 23:33.
21. Are we in position to know who will be raised from the dead? Why?
21 Some persons have wondered: ‘Will this certain relative of mine be resurrected? Or what about this acquaintance, or this particular ruler who persecuted true Christians?’ Such questions might arise. Yet, is any one of us in position to come to definite conclusions? If the Bible itself does not specifically state either that a certain person went to Hades at death or that he was assigned to everlasting destruction, we simply cannot be dogmatic on just what will occur. We do not have all the facts about that individual’s life. Furthermore, can we read that person’s heart? No, we cannot. But Jehovah possesses all the facts and can read hearts. We read: “I, Jehovah, am searching the heart, . . . even to give to each one according to his ways, according to the fruitage of his dealings.” (Jer. 17:9, 10; 1 Sam. 16:7) Hence, rather than trying ourselves to determine who will and who will not be resurrected, with good reason we can be confident that Jehovah and Jesus will do what is righteous and just.—John 5:30; Rom. 9:14.
CONFIDENCE IN WHAT HE PROVIDES
22. Does the Bible give complete details about what God will provide for resurrected ones?
22 The Bible does not provide full details about the resurrection. It does not, for example, say with whom resurrected ones will live or where. So it is wisdom on our part not to speculate on such matters and perhaps disturb ourselves and others. Rather, we can, with confidence in God, simply wait and see.
23. (a) Jewish religious leaders asked Jesus what question about the resurrection? (b) To whom does Jesus’ answer apply?
23 The Bible, though, makes some comment on the question of marriage. Once some Jewish religious leaders, who knew nothing about a resurrection to life in heaven, posed a question about a Jewish woman under the Mosaic law who had had seven husbands. They asked whose wife she would be in the resurrection. Jesus replied:
“The children of this system of things marry and are given in marriage, but those who have been counted worthy of gaining that system of things and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. In fact, neither can they die anymore, for they are like the angels, and they are God’s children by being children of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised up even Moses disclosed, in the account about the thornbush, when he calls Jehovah ‘the God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob.’ He is a God, not of the dead, but of the living, for they are all living to him.”—Luke 20:34-38; Matt. 22:29-32.
Was Jesus talking about the heavenly resurrection? No, Jesus did not leave unanswered their question about the earthly resurrection; he answered it. He spoke of the resurrection to life on earth, such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will receive. Such faithful ones will not receive immortality, but will be like the angels. How so? In that the angels are mortal, but by remaining loyal to Jehovah they will never die. Being rewarded with the right to everlasting life, they cannot have their life taken away from them by anyone else without authorization from God. Endless life on earth is a blessing that only Jehovah can provide, and he will provide it and preserve it!
24. Why would information about the effect of death on the marriage bond be included in the Bible?
24 In giving that answer Jesus indicated that death dissolves the marriage bond, a fact that Paul later confirmed. (Rom. 7:3; 1 Cor. 7:39) So if a woman’s husband died, would she need to feel obliged to remain without a husband or a father for her children? No. And why do we know that? Because Jehovah kindly included this information in the Bible. Even though he was not attempting to provide us with full details about family arrangements in the New Order, he was thus helping to eliminate a possible problem for Christians yet in this system of things. Does not the fact that he would show such understanding and compassion add to our confidence that whatever arrangements He will make for us in the New Order will also reflect his love, compassion and wisdom?
25. Why are we pleased to serve Jehovah?
25 Satan claimed that humans serve Jehovah only for what they can selfishly get out of it. But true Christians are not serving God primarily because of the blessings they receive now or because of what they expect to be given in the New Order. They are serving him out of genuine love and because of their privilege of sanctifying his name, and they are pleased to serve Jehovah both now and forever because of what he is. He is our Creator to whom we are grateful for life. (Ps. 100:3-5) He is also a God deserving our worship because of his very qualities and ways, “A God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice; righteous and upright is he.”—Deut. 32:4.
26. Our knowing Jehovah and Jesus gives us what view of the future?
26 Jehovah will never disappoint us. His righteous acts will move us to be ever grateful that He is our God. And the millennial rule by his Son, who “is the reflection of his glory and the exact representation of his very being,” will be marked by the same righteousness and justice. (Heb. 1:3) The Bible describes his rule in this way: “To the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom in order to establish it firmly and to sustain it by means of justice and by means of righteousness, from now on and to time indefinite. The very zeal of Jehovah of armies will do this.” (Isa. 9:7; 11:2-5) We can with full confidence look forward to such blessings from Jehovah God and his Son.