Deliverance Near for People of Godly Devotion!
“Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial, but to reserve unrighteous people for the day of judgment to be cut off.”—2 PETER 2:9.
1. (a) What distressing conditions confront humankind in our day? (b) In view of this, what questions are we going to consider?
PROBLEMS of life are increasing for all mankind. This is true whether one lives where material things are plentiful or where they are in short supply. Insecurity exists everywhere. As if unstable economic conditions were not enough to worry about, serious environmental problems are assaulting planet Earth, threatening all life upon it. Sickness is rampant. Infectious diseases, heart ailments, and the scourge of cancer take a heavy toll. Immorality has wreaked havoc with human emotions and with family life. Besides all of this, the world is saturated with violence. In view of what human society is facing, we realistically ask: Is there a sound basis for expecting early deliverance? If so, how will it come, and for whom?—Compare Habakkuk 1:2; 2:1-3.
2, 3. (a) Why do we today find what is said at 2 Peter 2:9 to be reassuring? (b) To what specific acts of deliverance does the Bible point as a basis for encouragement?
2 What is taking place in our day reminds us of certain other highly significant times in human history. The apostle Peter draws attention to the acts of deliverance that God performed on those occasions and then comes to this reassuring conclusion: “Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial.” (2 Peter 2:9) Take note of the context of that statement, at 2 Peter 2:4-10:
3 “Certainly if God did not hold back from punishing the angels that sinned, but, by throwing them into Tartarus, delivered them to pits of dense darkness to be reserved for judgment; and he 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; and by reducing the cities Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them, setting a pattern for ungodly persons of things to come; and he delivered righteous Lot, who was greatly distressed by the indulgence of the law-defying people in loose conduct—for that righteous man by what he saw and heard while dwelling among them from day to day was tormenting his righteous soul by reason of their lawless deeds—Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial, but to reserve unrighteous people for the day of judgment to be cut off, especially, however, those who go on after flesh with the desire to defile it and who look down on lordship.” As those scriptures show, what took place in Noah’s day and in the time of Lot is filled with meaning for us.
The Spirit Prevalent in Noah’s Day
4. In Noah’s day, why did God view the earth as ruined? (Psalm 11:5)
4 The historical account in Genesis chapter 6 informs us that in Noah’s day the earth had become ruined in the sight of the true God. Why? Because of violence. This was not a matter of isolated cases of criminal violence. Genesis 6:11 reports that “the earth became filled with violence.”
5. (a) What attitude on the part of humans contributed to the violence of Noah’s day? (b) What had Enoch warned regarding ungodliness?
5 What was behind it? The scripture quoted from 2 Peter refers to ungodly people. Yes, a spirit of ungodliness pervaded human affairs. This involved not merely a general disregard for divine law but a defiant attitude toward God himself.* And when men are defiant toward God, how can it be expected that they will deal kindly with their fellowman? Already before Noah was born, this ungodliness was so rampant that Jehovah had caused Enoch to prophesy regarding the outcome. (Jude 14, 15) Their defiance of God was certain to bring an execution of divine judgment.
6, 7. What situation involving angels was a major factor in the bad conditions that developed before the Flood?
6 There was also another influence that contributed to the violence of those days. Genesis 6:1, 2 directs attention to it when it says: “Now it came about that when men started to grow in numbers on the surface of the ground and daughters were born to them, then the sons of the true God began to notice the daughters of men, that they were good-looking; and they went taking wives for themselves, namely, all whom they chose.” Who were those sons of the true God? Not mere humans. Men had for centuries been taking note of good-looking women and had been marrying them. These sons of God were angels who materialized. At Jude 6, they are described as “angels that did not keep their original position but forsook their own proper dwelling place.”—Compare 1 Peter 3:19, 20.
7 When these superhuman creatures who materialized as men had relations with the daughters of men, what was the result? “The Nephilim proved to be in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of the true God continued to have relations with the daughters of men and they bore sons to them, they were the mighty ones who were of old, the men of fame.” Yes, the offspring of that unnatural union were Nephilim, mighty ones who used their superior power to bully others.—Genesis 6:4.
8. How did Jehovah react to the bad conditions on earth?
8 Just how bad did the situation become? It came to the point that “Jehovah saw that the badness of man was abundant in the earth and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time.” How did God react to this? “Jehovah felt regrets that he had made men in the earth, and he felt hurt at his heart.” This does not mean that God felt that he had made a mistake when he created humankind. Rather, he felt regret that after he had made humans, their conduct became so evil that he was obliged to destroy them.—Genesis 6:5-7.
The Course That Led to Deliverance
9. (a) Why did God deal favorably with Noah? (b) What advance information did God give to Noah?
9 As for Noah, he “found favor in the eyes of Jehovah. . . . Noah was a righteous man. He proved himself faultless among his contemporaries. Noah walked with the true God.” (Genesis 6:8, 9) So Jehovah gave Noah advance notice that He was going to bring a global deluge and instructed him to build an ark. All humankind, apart from Noah and his family, would be wiped off the surface of the earth. Even the animal creation would be destroyed, with the exception of those few representatives of each basic kind that Noah was to take into the ark.—Genesis 6:13, 14, 17.
10. (a) What preparation had to be made with a view to preservation, and how big a job was it? (b) What is noteworthy about the manner in which Noah cared for his assignment?
10 This advance knowledge put a heavy responsibility on Noah. The ark must be built. It was to be shaped like a huge chest, some 1,400,000 cubic feet [40,000 cu m] in total volume. Noah was to stock it with food and then gather animals and birds, “every sort of flesh,” for preservation. It was a project that would involve years of work. How did Noah respond? He “proceeded to do according to all that God had commanded him. He did just so.”—Genesis 6:14-16, 19-22; Hebrews 11:7.
11. As to his own household, what vital responsibility rested upon Noah?
11 While doing that work, Noah also had to devote time to building up the spirituality of his household. They needed to be safeguarded against adopting the violent ways and the defiant attitude of people around them. It was important that they not become overly engrossed in the everyday affairs of life. God had a work for them to do, and it was vital that they build their lives around it. We know that Noah’s family accepted his instruction and shared his faith because Noah, his wife, their three sons, and the sons’ wives—eight persons in all—are spoken of with approval in the Scriptures.—Genesis 6:18; 1 Peter 3:20.
12. As shown at 2 Peter 2:5, what responsibility did Noah faithfully fulfill?
12 Noah also had another responsibility—to warn of the coming Deluge and to make known why it was coming. It is evident that he faithfully discharged that responsibility, for he is referred to in God’s Word as “a preacher of righteousness.”—2 Peter 2:5.
13. What conditions confronted Noah as he cared for his God-given assignment?
13 Now just think of the circumstances under which Noah carried out that assignment. Put yourself in his position. If you had been Noah or a member of his family, you would have been surrounded by the violence that was perpetrated by the Nephilim and ungodly men. You would have been directly confronted by the influence of rebellious angels. As you worked on the ark, you would have been the object of ridicule. And year after year as you warned of the coming Deluge, you would have found that the people were so wrapped up in the daily affairs of life that “they took no note”—that is, “until the flood came and swept them all away.”—Matthew 24:39; Luke 17:26, 27.
What Does Noah’s Experience Mean for You?
14. Why do we today not find it difficult to understand the situation that confronted Noah and his family?
14 Such a situation is not at all hard for most of our readers to imagine. Why not? Because conditions in our day are very much like those that prevailed in the days of Noah. Jesus Christ said that this was to be expected. In his great prophecy about the time of his presence during the conclusion of the system of things, Jesus foretold: “Just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be.”—Matthew 24:37.
15, 16. (a) How is it true that, as in Noah’s day, the earth today is filled with violence? (b) To what violence in particular have Jehovah’s servants been subjected?
15 Has it turned out that way? Is the world today filled with violence? Yes! Over a hundred million people have died in wars in this century. Some of our readers have directly felt the effect of this. Even more have been threatened by criminals intent on getting their money or other valuables. And young ones have been exposed to violence at school.
16 However, Jehovah’s servants experience more than the ravages of war and criminal violence in general. They are also subjected to violence because they are no part of the world but endeavor to be people of godly devotion. (2 Timothy 3:10-12) Sometimes that violence simply takes the form of pushing or slapping; at other times it involves destruction of property, vicious beatings, and even killings.—Matthew 24:9.
17. Is ungodliness rampant today? Explain.
17 While engaging in such violence, ungodly men have, at times, brazenly declared their contempt for God. In one area in Africa, the police declared: “The government is ours. You go to God, if there is one, and ask him to come and help you.” In prisons and concentration camps, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been confronted by men like Baranowsky, in Sachsenhausen, Germany, who taunted: “I have taken up a fight with Jehovah. We will see who is the stronger, I or Jehovah.” Shortly afterward, Baranowsky took ill and died; but others continue to manifest a similar attitude. Officials indulging in a crusade of persecution are not the only ones who display defiance of God. Around the world, servants of God hear and see things that give evidence that those who indulge in them have no fear of God in their hearts.
18. In what ways are wicked spirits contributing to the agitated state of humankind?
18 In these days that are so much like the time of Noah, we also witness interference by wicked spirits. (Revelation 12:7-9) These demons are the same angels that materialized as humans and married women in the days of Noah. When the Deluge came, their wives and children were destroyed, but those disobedient angels were forced back into the spirit realm. They no longer had a place in Jehovah’s holy organization but were consigned to Tartarus, a condition of dense darkness, cut off from divine illumination. (2 Peter 2:4, 5) Operating under Satan’s direction, they have continued to maintain close contact with humans and, although unable any longer to materialize, have endeavored to control men, women, and even children. Some of this is done through occult practices. They also stir up mankind to destroy one another in ways that defy human reason. But that is not all.
19. (a) Against whom in particular do the demons direct their hatred? (b) What are demons trying to force us to do?
19 The Bible reveals that the demons are waging war against those “who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.” (Revelation 12:12, 17) Those wicked spirits are the prime instigators of persecution of Jehovah’s servants. (Ephesians 6:10-13) They use every conceivable means to coerce or entice faithful humans to break integrity to Jehovah and to stop proclaiming Jehovah’s Kingdom with Jesus as the Messianic King.
20. How do the demons try to hinder people from breaking free from their control? (James 4:7)
20 The demons strive to hinder people who long for relief from their oppressive influence. A former spiritist in Brazil reports that when the Witnesses called at her home, demon voices ordered her not to open the door; but she did, and she learned the truth. In many areas the demons directly employ practicers of witchcraft to try to stop the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For example, in a village in Suriname, opposers of Jehovah’s Witnesses contacted a spiritist who was well-known for being able to cause the sudden death of people simply by pointing his magic stick at them. With his entourage of dancers and drummers, the spiritist, possessed by a demon, confronted Jehovah’s Witnesses. He uttered his magic formulas and pointed his stick at them. The villagers expected the Witnesses to drop dead, but it was the spiritist who fainted and had to be whisked away by his embarrassed supporters.
21. As in Noah’s day, how do the majority of people react to our preaching, and why?
21 Even in areas where witchcraft and sorcery are not as openly practiced, every Witness of Jehovah has experienced what it is like to try to preach to people who are so wrapped up in the everyday affairs of life that they do not want to be bothered. As it was in Noah’s day, the vast majority ‘take no note.’ (Matthew 24:37-39) Some may admire our unity and achievements. But our spiritual building work—involving hours of personal study, regular meeting attendance, and field service—is all foolishness to them. They ridicule our confidence in the promises of God’s Word because their lives are centered on the material possessions and sensual pleasures that they can have now.
22, 23. How do the events of Noah’s day give sound assurance that Jehovah will deliver people of godly devotion out of trial?
22 Will Jehovah’s loyal servants be forever subjected to abuse from those who have no love for God? By no means! What happened in Noah’s day? At God’s direction, Noah and his family moved into the completed ark. Then, at the divinely specified time, “all the springs of the vast watery deep were broken open and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.” The Deluge continued until even the mountains were covered. (Genesis 7:11, 17-20) The angels that had forsaken their proper dwelling place were forced to abandon their materialized human bodies and return to the spirit realm. The Nephilim and all the rest of that world of ungodly people, including those who were too indifferent to act on Noah’s warning, were destroyed. On the other hand, Noah and his wife and their three sons and the sons’ wives were saved. Thus, Jehovah delivered Noah and his household out of the trial that they had loyally endured for so many years.
“Anomia is disregard for, or defiance of, God’s laws; asebeia [noun form of the word rendered ‘ungodly people’] is the same attitude toward God’s Person.”—Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Volume 4, page 170.
Do You Remember?
□ How did Peter show that Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial?
□ What factors contributed to the violence in Noah’s day?
□ In view of the coming global Deluge, what responsibility did Noah have?
□ What parallels with Noah’s day do we see in our time?
[Picture on page 12]
Building the ark involved years of hard work
[Picture on page 13]
Noah devoted time to developing the spirituality of his family