God’s Day of Vengeance
AS WE saw in the previous article, there are several reasons why it is wrong for us to seek vengeance. It is wrong because in the long run, it does not solve anything. It is wrong because it cements enmity instead of building bridges of friendship. And it is wrong because it is bad for the one who harbors vengeful thoughts.
The most important reason, however, why human vengeance is wrong is seen in Moses’ words to Israel: “Jehovah your God is a merciful God.” (Deuteronomy 4:31) Since God is merciful, we should be merciful like him. Jesus told his followers: “Continue becoming merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”—Luke 6:36.
Nevertheless, the Bible also describes Jehovah as a “God of acts of vengeance.” (Psalm 94:1) The prophet Isaiah speaks about “the year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah” and also “the day of vengeance on the part of our God.” (Isaiah 61:2) How can God be both merciful and vengeful? And if we are to imitate God’s mercy, why may we not imitate him in taking vengeance?
To answer the first question, God is merciful because he loves mankind, and he forgives as much as he can for as long as he can in order to give humans the opportunity to mend their ways. Many, like the apostle Paul, have taken advantage of this mercy. But God is also vengeful—in the sense of exacting justice—because such mercy can continue only so long. When some have demonstrated that they will never change their ways, God will execute judgment in what is called his day of vengeance.
In answer to the second question, no, we are not justified in being vengeful because God exacts vengeance. Jehovah is perfect in justice. Humans are not. God sees all sides of a matter and always makes a righteous decision. We cannot be relied on to do the same. That is why Paul counseled: “Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath; for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.’” (Romans 12:19) For our own sakes, we must leave vengeance in the hands of Jehovah.
Why a Day of Vengeance?
Nevertheless, the Bible in many places acknowledges the need for an accounting with unrepentant wrongdoers. For example, the apostle Paul foretold that God, through Jesus, would bring “vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus.” (2 Thessalonians 1:8) We have good reasons to take those words seriously. Why?
For one thing, because the majority today persist in defying the Creator’s sovereignty, they disregard his righteous laws. Whether they claim to believe in God or not, their conduct clearly shows that they do not feel accountable before God. The psalmist’s words apply to all such: “Why is it that the wicked one has disrespected God? He has said in his heart: ‘You will not require an accounting.’” (Psalm 10:13) Surely, Jehovah will not forever allow himself to be taunted in this manner. Although he is a God of love, he is also a God of justice. He will heed the cries of those truly concerned with justice: “Do arise, O Jehovah. O God, lift up your hand. Do not forget the afflicted ones.”—Psalm 10:12.
Furthermore, law-defying people are ruining the very earth we live on. They befoul the air, the land, and the water; they fill the earth with injustice and cruelty. And they stockpile enough chemical, nuclear, and other deadly weapons to threaten the survival of humankind. Divine intervention is imperative in order to ensure a secure future for obedient mankind. (Revelation 11:18) This intervention is what Isaiah referred to as the day of vengeance.
What Will God’s Day of Vengeance Accomplish?
According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, in the Greek Scriptures, the word for vengeance, when used in connection with God, literally means “‘that which proceeds out of justice,’ not, as often with human vengeance, out of a sense of injury or merely out of a feeling of indignation.” Thus, God’s vengeance against his enemies will not be a time of uncontrolled bloodshed, like a personal vendetta. “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,” the Bible tells us.—2 Peter 2:9.
Servants of God look forward to God’s day of vengeance as a time when right conduct will be vindicated and the righteous delivered from the oppression of the wicked. This does not mean that they are malicious or vindictive. “He that is joyful at another’s disaster will not be free from punishment,” the Bible warns. (Proverbs 17:5) On the contrary, they cultivate mercy and compassion, leaving any decisions about vengeance to God.
True, it is not easy for angry individuals to act in this way. But it is possible, and many have done so. For example, Pedro had an unhappy childhood and was often beaten by his older brother. So he grew up violent, constantly in trouble with the police and taking out on his wife and children the anger he felt toward his brother. Finally, he listened to one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and later started to study the Bible. “With Jehovah’s help,” he relates, “I changed, and now, instead of fighting people, I help them as a Christian elder.” With the help of the Bible and holy spirit, countless others have similarly changed from being spiteful or vengeful to showing love and patience toward others.
What Will You Do?
Keeping in mind the coming of God’s day of vengeance will help us to take advantage of Jehovah’s patience. But the opportunity to do so is not unlimited. Soon that day will arrive. The apostle Peter showed why it has not already come: “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.
It is urgent, then, to prepare now for God’s day of accounting by studying the Scriptures and applying their counsel. This will help us to follow the psalmist’s words: “Let anger alone and leave rage; do not show yourself heated up only to do evil. For evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth.”—Psalm 37:8, 9.
[Picture on page 7]
After God’s day of vengeance, ‘those hoping in Jehovah will possess the earth’