Jehovah’s Fear-Inspiring Day Is Near
“A book of remembrance began to be written up before him for those in fear of Jehovah and for those thinking upon his name.”—MALACHI 3:16.
1, 2. Of what fear-inspiring day does Malachi forewarn?
FEAR-INSPIRING! As day dawned on August 6, 1945, a great city was demolished in an instant of time. Some 80,000 dead! Tens of thousands mortally injured! Raging fire! The nuclear bomb had done its work. How did Jehovah’s Witnesses fare during that catastrophe? There was only one Witness in Hiroshima—confined within the protective walls of a prison because of his Christian integrity. The prison collapsed into rubble, but our brother was not hurt. As he put it, he was atom-bombed out of prison—perhaps the only good thing that the bomb accomplished.
2 Fearsome as that bomb blast was, it fades into insignificance when compared to “the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah” that lies just ahead. (Malachi 4:5) Oh, yes, there have been fear-inspiring days in the past, but this day of Jehovah will surpass all of them.—Mark 13:19.
3. What contrast is to be noted between “all flesh” and Noah’s family leading up to the Deluge?
3 In Noah’s day “all flesh had ruined its way on the earth,” and God declared: “The earth is full of violence as a result of them; and here I am bringing them to ruin together with the earth.” (Genesis 6:12, 13) As recorded at Matthew 24:39, Jesus said that people “took no note until the flood came and swept them all away.” But faithful Noah, “a preacher of righteousness,” along with his God-fearing family, survived that Deluge.—2 Peter 2:5.
4. What warning example is provided by Sodom and Gomorrah?
4 “So too,” Jude 7 relates, “Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them, after they . . . had committed fornication excessively and gone out after flesh for unnatural use, are placed before us as a warning example by undergoing the judicial punishment of everlasting fire.” Those ungodly people perished because of their disgustingly filthy life-style. Let sex-oriented communities of this modern world be warned! Note, however, that God-fearing Lot and his daughters were preserved alive during that catastrophe, even as Jehovah’s worshipers will be protected during the fast-approaching great tribulation.—2 Peter 2:6-9.
5. What can we learn from the judgments executed on Jerusalem?
5 Then consider the warning examples provided when Jehovah used invading armies to wipe out Jerusalem, the glorious city that had once been “the exultation of the whole earth.” (Psalm 48:2) These tragic events took place, first in 607 B.C.E. and again in 70 C.E., because God’s professed people abandoned true worship. Happily, loyal servants of Jehovah survived. The disaster of 70 C.E. (depicted below) is described as “a tribulation such as has not occurred from the beginning of the creation which God created until that time.” It removed once and for all the apostate Jewish system of things, and certainly in that respect it “will not occur again.” (Mark 13:19) But even this execution of divine judgment was merely a shadow of “the great tribulation” that now threatens the entire world system of things.—Revelation 7:14.
6. Why does Jehovah permit calamities?
6 Why would God permit terrible calamities, with loss of so many lives? In the cases of Noah, of Sodom and Gomorrah, and of Jerusalem, Jehovah was executing judgment on those who had ruined their way upon the earth, who had sullied this beautiful planet with literal pollution and moral degradation, and who had apostatized from, or rejected, true worship. Today we stand on the brink of an all-inclusive execution of judgment that will engulf the entire world.—2 Thessalonians 1:6-9.
“In the Last Days”
7. (a) Of what were ancient divine judgments prophetic? (b) What glorious prospect lies ahead?
7 Those destructions of ancient times were prophetic of the fear-inspiring great tribulation described at 2 Peter 3:3-13. The apostle says: “You know this first, that in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires.” Then, focusing on Noah’s day, Peter writes: “The world of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water. But by the same word the heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.” In the wake of that greatest of all tribulations, the long-awaited Kingdom rule of Messiah will take on new dimensions—“new heavens and a new earth . . . , and in these righteousness is to dwell.” What a joyful prospect!
8. How are world events moving to a climax?
8 During our 20th century, world events have moved progressively toward a climax. Though the devastating of Hiroshima was no divine visitation, it may be included in the “fearful sights” that Jesus prophesied for the time of the end. (Luke 21:11) It launched a nuclear threat that still hangs like a storm cloud over mankind. Thus, a headline in The New York Times of November 29, 1993, reads: “The Guns May Be a Bit Rusty but the Nuclear Arms Are Still Polished.” In the meantime, international, interracial, and intertribal wars continue to reap a horrifying harvest. In former ages the vast majority of casualties were among the soldiers. Today, 80 percent of war casualties are reported to be civilians, not to mention the millions who flee their homelands as refugees.
9. How have religious leaders displayed friendship with the world?
9 Religious leaders have often shown, and continue to show, “friendship with the world” by getting actively involved in wars and bloody revolutions. (James 4:4) Some have collaborated with greedy barons of the commercial world as these mass-produce armaments and build up drug empires. For example, in reporting the assassination of a South American drug lord, The New York Times stated: “Hiding his drug dealing behind claims of legitimate business wealth and the image of a benefactor, he had his own radio show and was often accompanied by Roman Catholic priests.” The Wall Street Journal reported that in addition to ruining the lives of millions who became drug addicts, this drug lord personally directed the murder of thousands. The Times of London noted: “The killers often pay for a special Mass to give thanks . . . at the same time as the victim’s funeral mass is taking place elsewhere.” What wickedness!
10. How should we view the worsening of world conditions?
10 Who knows what havoc demon-inspired men may yet inflict on this earth? As 1 John 5:19 states, “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one,” Satan the Devil. Today it is “woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” (Revelation 12:12) Happily, though, Romans 10:13 assures us that “everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.”
God Comes Near in Judgment
11. What conditions in Israel called forth Malachi’s prophecy?
11 As to the immediate future of mankind, the prophecy of Malachi throws light on what is about to happen. Malachi is listed last in the long line of ancient Hebrew prophets. Israel had experienced the desolating of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. But 70 years later Jehovah had displayed merciful loving-kindness in restoring that nation to its land. Within a hundred years, however, Israel was again drifting into apostasy and wickedness. The people were dishonoring Jehovah’s name, ignoring his righteous laws, and polluting his temple by bringing blind, lame, and sick animals for sacrifice. They were divorcing the wives of their youth so that they could marry foreign women.—Malachi 1:6-8; 2:13-16.
12, 13. (a) What purifying has been necessary for the anointed priestly class? (b) How do the great crowd also benefit by cleansing?
12 A purifying work was needed. It is described at Malachi 3:1-4. Like ancient Israel, Jehovah’s modern-day Witnesses needed to be cleansed, so the purifying work described by Malachi can be applied to them. As the first world war drew toward its close, some of the Bible Students, as the Witnesses were then known, did not maintain clear-cut neutrality in worldly affairs. In 1918, Jehovah sent His “messenger of the covenant,” Christ Jesus, to His spiritual temple arrangement to cleanse the small group of His worshipers from worldly blemishes. Prophetically, Jehovah had asked: “Who will be putting up with the day of [the messenger’s] coming, and who will be the one standing when he appears? For he will be like the fire of a refiner and like the lye of laundrymen. And he must sit as a refiner and cleanser of silver and must cleanse the sons of Levi [anointed priestly group]; and he must clarify them like gold and like silver, and they will certainly become to Jehovah people presenting a gift offering in righteousness.” As a purified people, they have done just that!
13 That anointed priestly group numbers only 144,000. (Revelation 7:4-8; 14:1, 3) What, though, of other dedicated Christians today? Now increasing into the millions, these form “a great crowd” that also has to be cleansed of worldly ways, ‘washing their robes and making them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ (Revelation 7:9, 14) Thus, by exercising faith in the ransom sacrifice of the Lamb, Christ Jesus, they are able to maintain a clean standing before Jehovah. They are promised survival through the entire great tribulation, the fear-inspiring day of Jehovah.—Zephaniah 2:2, 3.
14. What words should God’s people heed today as they continue to cultivate the new personality?
14 Together with the priestly remnant, this great crowd must heed God’s further words: “I will come near to you people for the judgment, and I will become a speedy witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against those swearing falsely, and against those acting fraudulently with the wages of a wage worker, with the widow and with the fatherless boy, and those turning away the alien resident, while they have not feared me . . . For I am Jehovah; I have not changed.” (Malachi 3:5, 6) No, Jehovah’s standards do not change, so in fear of Jehovah, his people today must shun idolatry of all kinds and be truthful, honest, and generous as they continue to cultivate the Christian personality.—Colossians 3:9-14.
15. (a) What merciful invitation does Jehovah extend? (b) How may we avoid “robbing” Jehovah?
15 Jehovah extends an invitation to any who may have turned aside from his righteous ways, saying: “Return to me, and I will return to you.” If these ask: “In what way shall we return?” he replies: “You are robbing me.” And in answer to the further question: “In what way have we robbed you?” Jehovah states that they have robbed him by failing to bring their very best as offerings for his temple service. (Malachi 3:7, 8) Having become part of Jehovah’s people, we should indeed want to devote the best part of our energies, abilities, and material assets to the service of Jehovah. Thus, rather than rob God, we ‘keep on seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness.’—Matthew 6:33.
16. What encouragement do we find at Malachi 3:10-12?
16 There is a grand reward for all who put the self-serving, materialistic ways of the world behind them, as Malachi 3:10-12 indicates: “‘Test me out, please, in this respect,’ Jehovah of armies has said, ‘whether I shall not open to you people the floodgates of the heavens and actually empty out upon you a blessing until there is no more want.’” To all appreciative ones, Jehovah promises spiritual prosperity and fruitfulness. He adds: “All the nations will have to pronounce you happy, for you yourselves will become a land of delight.” Has that not proved to be so among the millions of God’s thankful people throughout the earth today?
Integrity Keepers in the Book of Life
17-19. (a) How has the turmoil in Rwanda affected our brothers there? (b) With what conviction have all these faithful ones moved onward?
17 At this point, we may comment on the integrity of our Rwandan brothers and sisters. They have always brought the finest of spiritual offerings to Jehovah’s spiritual house of worship. For example, at their “Divine Teaching” District Convention in December 1993, their 2,080 Kingdom publishers reaped a total attendance of 4,075. There were 230 new Witnesses baptized, and of these, nearly 150 enrolled in auxiliary pioneer service the following month.
18 When ethnic hatred burst forth in April 1994, at least 180 Witnesses, including the city overseer in Kigali, the capital, and his entire family, were killed. The six translators at the Watch Tower Society’s office in Kigali, four of them Hutu and two Tutsi, continued working for several weeks under heavy threats, until the Tutsi had to flee, only to be killed at a checkpoint. Finally, carrying what was left of their computer equipment, the remaining four fled to Goma, in Zaire, where they loyally continued to translate The Watchtower into the Kinyarwanda language.—Isaiah 54:17.
19 These refugee Witnesses, though in dire circumstances, always asked for spiritual food ahead of material provisions. At great sacrifice, loving brothers from several lands were able to get supplies through to them. By word of mouth and by their orderliness under stress, these refugees have given a marvelous witness. They have indeed continued to bring of their best to Jehovah’s worship. They have demonstrated a conviction like Paul’s expressed at Romans 14:8: “If we live, we live to Jehovah, and if we die, we die to Jehovah. Therefore both if we live and if we die, we belong to Jehovah.”
20, 21. (a) Whose names are not written in Jehovah’s book of remembrance? (b) Whose names appear in the book, and why?
20 Jehovah keeps record of all who serve him in integrity. Malachi’s prophecy continues: “At that time those in fear of Jehovah spoke with one another, each one with his companion, and Jehovah kept paying attention and listening. And a book of remembrance began to be written up before him for those in fear of Jehovah and for those thinking upon his name.”—Malachi 3:16.
21 How important it is today that we show godly fear in honoring Jehovah’s name! Doing so, we will not suffer adverse judgment, as will those who admiringly support this world’s systems. Revelation 17:8 relates that “their names have not been written upon the scroll of life.” Logically, the preeminent name written in Jehovah’s book of life is that of the Chief Agent of life, God’s own Son, Jesus Christ. Matthew 12:21 declares: “Indeed, in his name nations will hope.” Jesus’ ransom sacrifice guarantees everlasting life for all who exercise faith therein. What a privilege it is to have our individual names added to Jesus’ name in that scroll!
22. What distinction will be apparent when Jehovah executes judgment?
22 How will God’s servants fare in the judgment? Jehovah answers at Malachi 3:17, 18: “I will show compassion upon them, just as a man shows compassion upon his son who is serving him. And you people will again certainly see the distinction between a righteous one and a wicked one, between one serving God and one who has not served him.” The division will be plain to all: the wicked, separated for everlasting cutting-off, and the righteous, approved for everlasting life in the realm of the Kingdom. (Matthew 25:31-46) Thus a great crowd of sheeplike persons will survive the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah.
Do You Recall?
□ What judgments did Jehovah execute in Bible times?
□ How do conditions today parallel those of ancient times?
□ What purifying has taken place in fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy?
□ Whose names are written in God’s book of remembrance?