How Long Will God’s Patience Last?
SOME 3,000 years ago, a wise man wrote: “Man has dominated man to his injury.” (Ecclesiastes 8:9) Ever since he made that observation, things have not improved. Throughout history, individuals or groups have seized power, one after another, dominating and exploiting other humans. Jehovah God has patiently endured this.
Jehovah has been patient while governments sent millions to their deaths in war and allowed gross economic injustices. Today, he is still exercising patience as men destroy the ozone layer and pollute the atmosphere and the sea. How it must pain him to see the ruin of good productive land and the wanton destruction of forests and wildlife!
Why Is God So Patient?
A simple illustration might help us to answer this question. Consider the effect on a business when an employee persistently arrives late. What should the owner do? Simple justice might demand that he immediately dismiss the employee. But he may remember the Bible proverb: “He that is slow to anger is abundant in discernment, but one that is impatient is exalting foolishness.” (Proverbs 14:29) Discernment might cause him to wait before he acts. He might decide to allow time for a replacement to be trained so that the business is not disrupted even more.
Fellow feeling might also make him wait. What about warning the negligent employee to see if he will mend his ways? Why not talk to him and see whether his habitual lateness is caused by a problem that can be solved or by an incurably bad attitude? While the owner of the business might decide to exercise patience, his patience would, however, not be unlimited. The employee would either have to reform or finally face dismissal. That would only be fair to the business itself and to the employees who follow the rules.
In a rather similar way, Jehovah God exercises patience in the face of wrongdoing in order to allow time for the working out of a just solution to certain problems. Furthermore, his patience gives wrongdoers an opportunity to change their ways and gain eternal benefits. Hence, the Bible encourages us not to be unhappy with God’s patience. Rather, it says: “Consider the patience of our Lord as salvation.”—2 Peter 3:15.
An Example of God’s Patience
Jehovah God was patient before the great Flood of Noah’s day. The world of that time was filled with violence and was very wicked. We read: “Jehovah saw that the badness of man was abundant in the earth . . . So Jehovah said: ‘I am going to wipe men whom I have created off the surface of the ground.’” (Genesis 6:5, 7) Yes, Jehovah had in mind an ultimate solution to the problem of wickedness back then: the removal of the wicked people. But he did not act immediately. Why not?
Because not everyone was wicked. Noah and his family were righteous in God’s sight. So for their sake, Jehovah waited patiently to allow the few righteous individuals to make preparations for salvation. Further, that long wait gave Noah the opportunity to be “a preacher of righteousness,” giving those wicked people the opportunity to change their ways. The Bible says: “The patience of God was waiting in Noah’s days, while the ark was being constructed, in which a few people, that is, eight souls, were carried safely through the water.”—2 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 3:20.
Why God Is Patient Now
Today, the situation is similar. The world is again filled with violence. As in Noah’s day, God has already judged this world, which, the Bible says, is “reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:7) When that happens, there will be no more ruining of the environment, oppression of the weak, or greedy abuse of power.
Why, then, has God not long since destroyed ungodly men? Because there have been issues to settle and important matters to arrange. Indeed, Jehovah is moving toward a permanent solution to the problem of wickedness that involves many things, including the saving of righthearted humans from bondage to sickness and death.
With this latter end in mind, Jehovah purposed to provide a Savior who would offer a ransom for our sins. Regarding him, the Bible says: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) It took thousands of years to prepare the way for Jesus to come and sacrifice his life in behalf of mankind. During all those years, God was lovingly patient. But was not such a provision worth waiting for?
Jesus provided the ransom for mankind almost two thousand years ago. Why, then, is God still exercising patience? For one thing, Jesus’ death signaled the beginning of an educational campaign. Mankind had to learn of this loving provision and be given the opportunity to accept it or reject it. That would take time, but it would be time well spent. The Bible says: “Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.”—2 Peter 3:9.
The Issue of Government
Another important matter would also take time. There was a need to sort out the problem of the government of mankind. To start with, man was under divine government. But in the garden of Eden, our first parents turned their backs on that. They chose to be independent of God, wanting to rule themselves. (Genesis 3:1-5) Really, though, man was not created to rule himself. The prophet Jeremiah wrote: “I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.”—Jeremiah 10:23; Proverbs 20:24.
Nevertheless, since the issue of government was raised, Jehovah has patiently allowed time to resolve it. Indeed, he has generously allowed thousands of years for man to try every conceivable form of government. With what result? It has become evident that no human government can remove oppression, inequity, or other causes of unhappiness.
Indeed, in view of human history, can anyone truly say that God is unjust when he announces his intention to remove all human governments and replace them with one of his own? Surely not! We positively welcome the fulfillment of this Bible prophecy: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Daniel 2:44.
The heavenly King of that Kingdom is the resurrected Jesus. Preparing him for that position—as well as choosing humans to be corulers with him—has taken time. During all that time, God has exercised patience.
Benefit Now From God’s Patience
Today, millions of individuals in no less than 212 lands benefit from God’s patience. They have become united in their desire to obey God and serve his heavenly government. When they meet together in their Kingdom Halls, they learn how much better it is to apply Bible principles in their lives. They do not share in the divisive politics of this world, although they subject themselves to human governments as long as God patiently allows these to function.—Matthew 22:21; Romans 13:1-5.
Such cooperation among so many vindicates Jehovah as the One who can bring about harmony among people with free will who learn to love him and who want to serve him. No doubt you have met these as they continue the same work that Jesus himself began, that of publishing the good news of God’s Kingdom. Jesus foretold the climax of this work when he said: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”—Matthew 24:14.
Not Much Longer!
Visible evidence proves that arrangements for God’s righteous government to take over the day-to-day rule of the earth are nearly complete. After describing the terrible results of the failure of human government that we have seen during this century, Jesus said: “When you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near.”—Luke 21:10, 11, 31.
Soon, God will remove the wicked from the earthly scene. The psalmist’s words will have literal application: “Evildoers themselves will be cut off . . . Just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more; and you will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be.” (Psalm 37:9, 10) Can you imagine a world without wickedness? Who would run things then? The Bible says: “A king [Christ Jesus enthroned in the heavens] will reign for righteousness itself; and as respects princes [his loyal appointees on earth], they will rule as princes for justice itself. And the work of the true righteousness must become peace; and the service of the true righteousness, quietness and security to time indefinite. And my people must dwell in a peaceful abiding place and in residences of full confidence and in undisturbed resting-places.”—Isaiah 32:1, 17, 18.
Thus, God’s heavenly government will undo the bad effects of man’s wrongdoing and organize those hoping in Him into a harmonious human society. Describing this harmony, the Bible says: “The wolf will actually reside for a while with the male lamb, and with the kid the leopard itself will lie down, and the calf and the maned young lion and the well-fed animal all together; and a mere little boy will be leader over them . . . They will not do any harm or cause any ruin in all my holy mountain; because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.”—Isaiah 11:6-9.
What a magnificent result from God’s exercise of patience! Hence, rather than complaining that God has waited too long, why not take advantage of his patience to subject yourself to his Kingdom? Learn from the Bible what his standards are and conform to them. Associate with others who are harmoniously subject to him. Then, God’s patience will result in everlasting blessings for you.