Jehovah’s Day of Judgment Is Near!
“The great day of Jehovah is near. It is near, and there is a hurrying of it very much.”—ZEPHANIAH 1:14.
1. What warning did God issue through Zephaniah?
JEHOVAH GOD is about to swing into action against the wicked. Listen! This is his warning: “I shall finish off earthling man . . . I will cut off mankind from the surface of the ground.” (Zephaniah 1:3) Those words of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah were spoken through his prophet Zephaniah, perhaps the great-great-grandson of faithful King Hezekiah. That pronouncement, made in the days of good King Josiah, did not bode well for the wicked ones residing in the land of Judah.
2. Why did Josiah’s actions not forestall Jehovah’s day of judgment?
2 Zephaniah’s prophesying undoubtedly heightened young Josiah’s awareness of the need to purge Judah of unclean worship. But the king’s actions in purging the land of false religion did not remove all wickedness from among the people or atone for the sins of his grandfather, King Manasseh, who had “filled Jerusalem with innocent blood.” (2 Kings 24:3, 4; 2 Chronicles 34:3) So Jehovah’s day of judgment was sure to come.
3. How can we be sure that it is possible to survive “the day of Jehovah’s anger”?
3 Yet, there would be survivors of that fear-inspiring day. Therefore, God’s prophet urged: “Before the statute gives birth to anything, before the day has passed by just like chaff, before there comes upon you people the burning anger of Jehovah, before there comes upon you the day of Jehovah’s anger, seek Jehovah, all you meek ones of the earth, who have practiced His own judicial decision. Seek righteousness, seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.” (Zephaniah 2:2, 3) With the hope of survival during Jehovah’s day of judgment in mind, let us undertake a consideration of the Bible book of Zephaniah. Written in Judah before 648 B.C.E., it is part of God’s “prophetic word,” to which all of us should wholeheartedly pay attention.—2 Peter 1:19.
Jehovah’s Hand Stretched Out
4, 5. How was Zephaniah 1:1-3 fulfilled upon wicked ones in Judah?
4 “The word of Jehovah” to Zephaniah starts with the warning cited earlier. God declares: “‘I shall without fail finish everything off the surface of the ground,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘I shall finish off earthling man and beast. I shall finish off the flying creature of the heavens and the fishes of the sea, and the stumbling blocks with the wicked ones; and I will cut off mankind from the surface of the ground,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.”—Zephaniah 1:1-3.
5 Yes, Jehovah was going to bring gross wickedness to an end in the land of Judah. Whom would God use to “finish everything off the surface of the ground”? Since Zephaniah apparently prophesied during the early part of King Josiah’s reign, which began in 659 B.C.E., those prophetic words found a fulfillment in the desolation of Judah and her capital city, Jerusalem, at Babylonian hands in 607 B.C.E. At that time, there was a ‘finishing off’ of wicked ones in Judah.
6-8. What was foretold at Zephaniah 1:4-6, and how was that prophecy fulfilled in ancient Judah?
6 Foretelling God’s acts against false worshipers, Zephaniah 1:4-6 says: “I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and I will cut off from this place the remaining ones of the Baal, the name of the foreign-god priests along with the priests, and those who are bowing down upon the roofs to the army of the heavens, and those who are bowing down, making sworn oaths to Jehovah and making sworn oaths by Malcam; and those who are drawing back from following Jehovah and who have not sought Jehovah and have not inquired of him.”
7 Jehovah’s hand was stretched out against the people of Judah and Jerusalem. He was determined to cut off in death the worshipers of the Canaanite fertility god Baal. Various local deities were called Baals because their worshipers thought of them as possessing and having influence over particular localities. For instance, there was the Baal worshiped by Moabites and Midianites at Mount Peor. (Numbers 25:1, 3, 6) Throughout Judah, Jehovah would cut off the priests of Baal, as well as unfaithful priestly Levites who were violating God’s law by having fellowship with them.—Exodus 20:2, 3.
8 God would also cut off those ‘bowing down to the army of the heavens,’ evidently practicing astrology and worshiping the sun. (2 Kings 23:11; Jeremiah 19:13; 32:29) Divine wrath would also be unleashed upon those trying to mix true worship with false religion by ‘making sworn oaths to Jehovah and by Malcam.’ Malcam is possibly another name for Molech, the chief god of the Ammonites. The worship of Molech included child sacrifice.—1 Kings 11:5; Jeremiah 32:35.
Christendom’s End at Hand!
9. (a) Of what is Christendom guilty? (b) Unlike the unfaithful ones of Judah, what should we be determined to do?
9 All of this may well remind us of Christendom, steeped in false worship and astrology. And her role in the sacrificing of millions of lives on the altar of clergy-supported warfare is disgusting indeed! Let us never be like the unfaithful ones of Judah, who ‘drew back from following Jehovah,’ becoming indifferent and no longer searching for him or seeking his guidance. Instead, let us maintain our integrity to God.
10. How would you explain the prophetic significance of Zephaniah 1:7?
10 The prophet’s next words fit both Judah’s wrongdoers and wicked ones of our day. Says Zephaniah 1:7: “Keep silence before the Sovereign Lord Jehovah; for the day of Jehovah is near, for Jehovah has prepared a sacrifice; he has sanctified his invited ones.” These “invited ones” apparently were the Chaldean foes of Judah. The “sacrifice” was Judah herself, including her capital city. Zephaniah thus announced God’s purpose to destroy Jerusalem, and this prophecy also pointed to the destruction of Christendom. In fact, with God’s day of judgment so near today, all the world should ‘keep silent before the Sovereign Lord Jehovah’ and hear what he says through the “little flock” of Jesus’ anointed followers and their companions, his “other sheep.” (Luke 12:32; John 10:16) Annihilation awaits all who will not listen and who thereby set themselves against rule by God’s Kingdom.—Psalm 2:1, 2.
Soon—A Day of Howling!
11. What is the essence of Zephaniah 1:8-11?
11 Regarding Jehovah’s day, Zephaniah 1:8-11 adds: “‘It must occur on the day of Jehovah’s sacrifice that I will give attention to the princes, and to the sons of the king, and to all those wearing foreign attire. And I will give attention to everyone that is climbing upon the platform in that day, those who are filling the house of their masters with violence and deception. And there must occur on that day,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘the sound of an outcry from the Fish Gate, and a howling from the second quarter, and a great crashing from the hills. Howl, you inhabitants of Maktesh, for all the people who are tradesmen have been silenced; all those weighing out silver have been cut off.’”
12. How is it that some are found “wearing foreign attire”?
12 King Josiah would be succeeded by Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, and Jehoiachin. Then would come Zedekiah’s rule, marked by the destruction of Jerusalem. Although such calamity was facing them, some apparently sought the acceptance of neighboring nations by “wearing foreign attire.” Similarly, many today make it evident in various ways that they are not part of Jehovah’s organization. As demonstrably part of Satan’s organization, they will be punished.
13. In harmony with Zephaniah’s prophecy, what was to happen when the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem?
13 “That day” of accounting for Judah corresponds to Jehovah’s day to execute judgment upon his enemies, to end wickedness, and to prove his supremacy. As the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem, an outcry would come from the Fish Gate. Possibly it was so named because it was near the fish market. (Nehemiah 13:16) Babylon’s hordes would enter the sector called the second quarter, and the “crashing from the hills” may denote the sound of the approaching Chaldeans. There would be “a howling” by the inhabitants of Maktesh, perhaps the upper Tyropoeon Valley. Why would they howl? Because commercial activity, including that of “those weighing out silver,” would cease there.
14. How far-reaching would God’s examination of his professed worshipers be?
14 How far-reaching would Jehovah’s examination of his professed worshipers be? The prophecy continues: “It must occur at that time that I shall carefully search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will give attention to the men who are congealing upon their dregs and who are saying in their heart, ‘Jehovah will not do good, and he will not do bad.’ And their wealth must come to be for pillage and their houses for a desolate waste. And they will build houses, but they will not have occupancy; and they will plant vineyards, but they will not drink the wine of them.”—Zephaniah 1:12, 13.
15. (a) What was going to happen to the apostate priests of Jerusalem? (b) What is in store for present-day practicers of false religion?
15 The apostate priests of Jerusalem were mixing the worship of Jehovah with false religion. Although they felt secure, God would seek them out as with bright lamps that would penetrate the spiritual darkness wherein they had taken refuge. None would escape the proclamation and execution of divine judgment. Those complacent apostates had settled down like dregs at the bottom of a wine vat. They did not want to be disturbed by any declaration of divine intervention in human affairs, but they would not escape the execution of God’s judgment upon them. There will also be no escape for present-day practicers of false religion, including members of Christendom and those who have apostatized from Jehovah’s worship. Denying that these are “the last days,” they say in their heart, “Jehovah will not do good, and he will not do bad.” How wrong they are!—2 Timothy 3:1-5; 2 Peter 3:3, 4, 10.
16. What was to happen when divine judgment was executed upon Judah, and how should knowledge of that affect us?
16 Judah’s apostates were warned that the Babylonians would pillage their wealth, desolate their houses, and take the fruitage of their vineyards. Material things would be valueless when divine judgment was executed upon Judah. The same will be true when Jehovah’s day of judgment comes upon the present system of things. May we, therefore, have a spiritual outlook and ‘store up treasures in heaven’ by keeping Jehovah’s service first in our lives!—Matthew 6:19-21, 33.
“The Great Day of Jehovah Is Near”
17. According to Zephaniah 1:14-16, how close is Jehovah’s day of judgment?
17 How close is Jehovah’s day of judgment? According to Zephaniah 1:14-16, God gives this assurance: “The great day of Jehovah is near. It is near, and there is a hurrying of it very much. The sound of the day of Jehovah is bitter. There a mighty man is letting out a cry. That day is a day of fury, a day of distress and of anguish, a day of storm and of desolation, a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick gloom, a day of horn and of alarm signal, against the fortified cities and against the high corner towers.”
18. Why should we not conclude that Jehovah’s day of judgment is a long way off?
18 Judah’s sinful priests, princes, and people were warned that ‘the great day of Jehovah was near.’ For Judah there would be ‘a hurrying of Jehovah’s day very much.’ Similarly in our time, let no one think that the execution of Jehovah’s judgment upon the wicked will occur in the distant future. Rather, as God acted quickly in Judah, so he will ‘hurry’ his executional day. (Revelation 16:14, 16) What a bitter time that will be for all who ignore Jehovah’s warnings given by his Witnesses and who fail to embrace true worship!
19, 20. (a) What were some features of the execution of God’s wrath upon Judah and Jerusalem? (b) In view of the selective destruction facing this system of things, what questions are raised?
19 The execution of God’s wrath upon Judah and Jerusalem was “a day of distress and of anguish.” Babylonian invaders caused Judah’s inhabitants many sufferings, including mental anguish in the face of death and destruction. That “day of storm and of desolation” was one of darkness, clouds, and thick gloom, perhaps not only figuratively but also literally, for smoke and carnage were everywhere. It was “a day of horn and of alarm signal,” but warnings were sounded in vain.
20 Jerusalem’s watchmen were helpless as Babylonian battering rams toppled “the high corner towers.” Fortifications of the present wicked system of things will be just as useless against the weaponry in God’s heavenly arsenal, ready for his early use in selective destruction. Do you hope to be spared? Have you taken a firm stand on the side of Jehovah, ‘who guards all those loving him but who will annihilate all the wicked ones’?—Psalm 145:20.
21, 22. How will Zephaniah 1:17, 18 be fulfilled in our day?
21 What a horrendous day of judgment was foretold at Zephaniah 1:17, 18! “I will cause distress to mankind,” says Jehovah God, “and they will certainly walk like blind men; because it is against Jehovah that they have sinned. And their blood will actually be poured out like dust, and their bowels like the dung. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them in the day of Jehovah’s fury; but by the fire of his zeal the whole earth will be devoured, because he will make an extermination, indeed a terrible one, of all the inhabitants of the earth.”
22 As he did in the days of Zephaniah, Jehovah will soon bring distress upon “all the inhabitants of the earth,” those who refuse to heed his warning. Because they sin against God, they will walk about as helpless as blind men, unable to find deliverance. In Jehovah’s day of judgment, their blood “will actually be poured out like dust,” as something worthless. Theirs will be a disgraceful end indeed, for God will strew the bodies—even the entrails—of these wicked ones upon the earth, “like the dung.”
23. Though wrongdoers will not escape “in the day of Jehovah’s fury,” what hope does Zephaniah’s prophecy hold out?
23 Nobody can save those who fight against God and his people. Neither silver nor gold could deliver the wrongdoers of Judah, even as hoarded wealth and bribes will provide no protection or escape “in the day of Jehovah’s fury” upon Christendom and the rest of this system of things. In that day of decision, “the whole earth will be devoured” by the fire of God’s zeal as he exterminates the wicked. Because we have faith in God’s prophetic word, we are convinced that we are now deep in “the time of the end.” (Daniel 12:4) Jehovah’s day of judgment is near, and he will soon execute vengeance on his enemies. Yet, Zephaniah’s prophecy does hold out the hope of deliverance. What, then, is required of us if we are to be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger?
How Would You Respond?
• How was Zephaniah’s prophecy fulfilled upon Judah and Jerusalem?
• What is in store for Christendom and all the wicked of our day?
• Why should we not think that Jehovah’s day of judgment will come in the distant future?
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Zephaniah boldly declared that Jehovah’s day of judgment was near
From the Self-Pronouncing Edition of the Holy Bible, containing the King James and the Revised versions
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Jehovah’s day came upon Judah and Jerusalem at Babylonian hands in 607 B.C.E.
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Do you hope to be spared when Jehovah destroys the wicked?