JEHOVAH’S “DAY OF VENGEANCE”
4. What is one of the prophecies relating to this system’s end, and what questions does it raise?
4 Among the many Bible prophecies concerning the end of this system of things is the one recorded at 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, verses 2 and 3. This reads: “For you yourselves know quite well that Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night. Whenever it is that they are saying: ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them just as the pang of distress upon a pregnant woman; and they will by no means escape.” What is this saying of “Peace and security”? Who says it? And what destruction comes immediately afterward?
5. The prophecy at 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3 concerns what event?
5 These Bible verses speak of “Jehovah’s day,” which will result in “sudden destruction.” So it is apparent that this prophecy concerns the “day” or period of time when Jehovah executes his judgments against this wicked system of things controlled by Satan the Devil. (2 Cor. 4:4; Rev. 12:9) This will be Jehovah’s “day of vengeance.” (Isa. 61:2) Jesus spoke of this period of time in this way: “Then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matt. 24:21) The apostle Paul wrote that the coming execution of judgment would mean “the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels in a flaming fire, as he brings vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus.” He added: “These very ones will undergo the judicial punishment of everlasting destruction from before the Lord and from the glory of his strength.”—2 Thess. 1:7-9.
6. How does the “great tribulation” begin and end?
6 The coming “great tribulation,” Jehovah’s “day of vengeance,” will involve the entire present system of things—its false religions as well as its economic, social and political arrangements. The order of events in that “great tribulation” is indicated by the prophecies given in the Bible book of Revelation (the Apocalypse). These prophecies reveal that Jehovah’s “day of vengeance” begins with the destruction of all false religion. It ends when the political and other elements of the Devil’s world, along with their supporters, “small ones and great,” are finally destroyed.—Rev., chaps. 17 to 19.
7. The saying of “Peace and security!” comes just before what?
7 The saying of “Peace and security!” thus comes just before the “sudden destruction” of the world empire of false religion, which empire is called “Babylon the Great” in Bible prophecy. (Rev. 17:5) She also is spoken of as “the great harlot . . . with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication.” (Rev. 17:1, 2) But, ironically, many of these “kings of the earth” who were once the harlot’s ‘lovers’ will turn against her, for we are told: “These will hate the harlot and will make her devastated and naked, and will eat up her fleshy parts and will completely burn her with fire.”—Rev. 17:16.
8. Why does Jehovah so severely judge worldly religion?
8 Why such a severe judgment upon this world’s religious system? God’s Word answers: “For her sins have massed together clear up to heaven.” (Rev. 18:5) Among these sins is this: “In her was found the blood of prophets and of holy ones and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.” (Rev. 18:24) While not teaching her followers the truth about God and his laws, worldly religion has become involved in wars that have resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of millions of people down through the centuries. Too, false religion has taken the lead in persecuting God’s true servants. (Luke 11:47-51; Rev. 17:6) So, directly or indirectly, by what she has done or has failed to do, Jehovah holds “Babylon the Great” responsible for the blood of “all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.”
9, 10. (a) How have some people noted false religion’s responsibility for bloodguilt right down to our day? (b) In reality, whom has “Babylon the Great” been serving?
9 False religion continues to amass bloodguilt right down to this day. For example, the New York Post of May 18, 1981, reported: “Former President Carter said yesterday that hate and violence make it seem that ‘the world has gone mad.’” He also said that “deep religious conviction which should bind people in love seems often to be part of the madness and murder.” Similarly, two days earlier an editorial by Mike Royko in the same publication stated that Catholics, Protestants, Moslems and Jews “are expressing their devotion to [God] by killing each other.” He observed: “I guess they figure that if one side can wipe the other side out, it will prove that their way of worshipping is correct.” He also noted that while the pope of the Roman Catholic Church is said to be a peaceful man, “his followers have been known to shed a few million gallons of blood when their tempers are up.”
10 Thus, the “great tribulation” rightly begins with the destruction of the blasphemous, hypocritical world empire of false religion. It is a righteous judgment because worldly religion, “Babylon the Great,” has claimed to serve God, but in fact has served the Devil. So by her “spiritistic practice,” hundreds of millions of people have been deluded into serving the Devil’s interests.—Rev. 17:3-6; 18:23.
11. What shows that false religion’s destruction comes with shocking suddenness?
11 The fall of “Babylon the Great” comes very suddenly, totally unexpected from the world’s standpoint. So sudden will be her destruction that it will shock the political rulers who supported her, for we read: “The kings of the earth who committed fornication with her and lived in shameless luxury will weep and beat themselves in grief over her, when they look at the smoke from the burning of her, while they stand at a distance because of their fear of her torment and say, ‘Too bad, too bad, you great city, Babylon you strong city, because in one hour your judgment has arrived!’” Others—the “traveling merchants” or commercial elements that supported her—similarly exclaim: “Too bad, too bad . . . because in one hour such great riches have been devastated!”—Rev. 18:9-19.
12. In what way does destruction come unexpectedly and painfully?
12 This fits the description in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 and 3, which shows that destruction comes very suddenly and unexpectedly, for “Jehovah’s day” is to come “exactly as a thief in the night.” In what way does it come “as a thief in the night”? In that most of mankind have not kept awake to the progressive revelation of God’s will. They are spiritually asleep. They are like a person who is sleeping at night when a thief comes unexpectedly. Such persons have allowed themselves to become dulled into supporting this doomed system of things. So the destruction of Babylon the Great comes unexpectedly for them. Indeed, “Jehovah’s day” for the destruction of all elements of Satan’s system will come “exactly as a thief in the night.” Destruction will come upon God’s enemies suddenly and painfully, “just as the pang of distress upon a pregnant woman; and they will by no means escape.”—See also 2 Peter 3:10.
SAYING “PEACE AND SECURITY!”
13, 14. (a) How have the nations long talked about peace and security? (b) Why could none of such peace efforts be a fulfillment of 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3?
13 World-shaking events will mark the “sudden destruction” of false religion and all of Satan’s world. But that destruction is immediately preceded by the saying of “Peace and security!” Thus it is of great interest to know what this proclaiming of “Peace and security!” could mean. For one thing, it does not appear to be just the usual efforts of the nations wanting peace. They have long talked about that. For example, after World War I the nations signed the peace treaty at Versailles. Later, most countries signed the Kellogg-Briand peace pact of 1928. World War II also ended with peace treaties. In recent years the Soviet Union and the United States have talked about peace and have signed some arms-control agreements. Various nations of the Middle East have from time to time entered peace pacts with one another.
14 But none of these efforts fit the description at 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3. Why not? Because of the fact that the “great tribulation,” Jehovah’s “day of vengeance,” has not begun. Remember, Paul said that destruction would come suddenly, “instantly,” after the declaring of “Peace and security!” Moreover, the fulfillment has to be something striking enough to justify its being recorded as a specific prophecy inspired by Jehovah. The “Peace and security!” must be an exceptional development, different from the many peace efforts that had been made up until that time.
15. Who logically will be saying “Peace and security”?
15 Also, who are the “they” who say “Peace and security!” just before the end comes? It is unlikely that any part of this world could proclaim such a thing without the cooperation or direction of the major political powers. Hence, it appears that the rulers of the nations play a large part in the outworking of this prophecy. The United Nations organization, supposedly dedicated to peace, could also play a role. And what of the religious elements? Since they are so much a part of the world, ‘committing fornication with the kings of the earth,’ they likely will support or actively promote the efforts that the political powers make in this direction. In this they would be imitating the false prophets of ancient Judah who falsely declared: “Jehovah has spoken: ‘Peace is what you people will come to have.’” Instead, God was soon to bring calamity on them, as his true prophet Jeremiah foretold.—Jer. 23:16-22.
16, 17. (a) Does it seem that the nations are moving toward any kind of “peace and security” now? (b) Yet, why can we have confidence that such will take place?
16 But have the nations been moving toward any kind of “peace and security” lately? From the news of recent times, it would seem to be the opposite. George Kennan, former American ambassador to the Soviet Union, said: “Not for 30 years has the political tension reached so high and dangerous a point as it has today. Not in all this time has there been so high a degree of misunderstanding, of suspicion, of bewilderment and of sheer military fear” as there is today. A Toronto Star editorial added: “It wasn’t fear of the future, but something more ominous: Fear of the present.”
17 In recent months the major powers have spoken accusingly and threateningly against one another. Civil disorders, revolutions and wars have broken out in one part of the earth after another. The world’s economy has become very unstable. Crime and violence have kept increasing to epidemic proportions. Surely, it seems difficult to see how “people” could say “Peace and security!” Yet Jehovah’s Word never fails. (Isa. 55:11; 1 Thess. 5:3, Today’s English Version; The Jerusalem Bible) When it tells us that such a development will come just before “sudden destruction” strikes, then it indeed will come, however unlikely this may seem at present.
18. How can the prophecies against ancient Babylon help us to have faith in the modern fulfillment of prophecy?
18 Recall the many prophecies that God inspired his servants to proclaim against ancient Babylon, the mighty world power that existed centuries before the Common Era. One author calculated that the probability of the Bible’s major prophecies against Babylon being fulfilled was 5,000,000,000 to one! No doubt many of God’s people in ancient times must have wondered how those prophecies could ever be fulfilled against so strong and entrenched a world power as Babylon. But they were, in every single detail. So today, it may appear that the saying of “Peace and security!” followed by destruction of the world system is unlikely. But God’s prophetic Word declares it will be that way!
ONLY A VENEER
19. What will the saying of “Peace and security!” not mean?
19 Of this we can be certain: The cry of “Peace and security!”—whatever form it takes—does not mean that the underlying condition of this world will have been reversed. Nor does it mean that the nations will disarm or give up their hostile attitudes. “‘There is no peace,’ my God has said, ‘for the wicked ones.’” (Isa. 57:21) It is just that, for the moment, world leaders, out of desperation or because of seeing some selfish advantage in pursuing some new policies, will cry “Peace and security!” in a more pronounced way than before.
20. (a) How can we be so certain that world conditions will continue to deteriorate? (b) What can we expect the majority of people to do with regard to the worship of God?
20 Why can we be so certain that this world will continue to deteriorate? Because 2 Timothy 3:1, 13 foretells that in these “last days . . . wicked men and impostors will advance from bad to worse.” Therefore, the saying of “Peace and security!” will be only a veneer. It will not touch the true condition of mankind. Nothing this world under Satan does is going to end the avalanche of crime and violence, or bring a halt to family breakdown, or reverse rampant immorality, or prevent the millions of abortion murders of unborn children every year, or solve any other major problems of mankind. (Jer. 10:23) Nor will the majority of people suddenly turn to the true worship of God. Bible prophecy correctly stated that people in our time would be “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power.”—2 Tim. 3:4, 5; see also Matthew 7:13, 14.
21. What will Jehovah’s servants take the coming declarations of “Peace and security!” to mean?
21 Thus, while the world will be deluded by vain hopes during the coming declaration of “Peace and security!” Jehovah’s servants will not be. Instead, they will take this coming fulfillment of prophecy for what it really is: a final signal that the “great tribulation” is about to begin!
Similarly, God’s righteous execution of judgment against this present wicked system of things is soon to come, once again demonstrating that all the things written in Bible prophecy are sure to be fulfilled. And that judgment will come with shocking suddenness to those who are unprepared, for the Bible states: “Whenever it is that they are saying: ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them.”—1 Thess. 5:2, 3.
2. What counsel does God’s Word give us that we can apply to the immediate future?
2 Between now and the time when God’s judgments are concluded, it is imperative for Jehovah’s servants to maintain the highest sense of vigilance and dedication of purpose. The apostle Paul, who recorded the inspired prophecy at 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3, also said: “So, then, let us not sleep on as the rest do, but let us stay awake and keep our senses.” (1 Thess. 5:6) Jesus counseled: “Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur.” (Luke 21:36) The apostle Peter similarly wrote: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion.”—2 Pet. 3:11.
COMING TO JEHOVAH NOW
3. For anyone to survive into God’s new order, what must he do?
3 Any person who wants to survive into God’s righteous new order urgently needs to come into a right relationship with Jehovah and His earthly organization now. “The name of Jehovah is a strong tower. Into it the righteous runs and is given protection.” (Prov. 18:10) “It must occur in the final part of the days that the mountain of the house of Jehovah will become firmly established above the top of the mountains, and it will certainly be lifted up above the hills; and to it all the nations must stream.” (Isa. 2:2) Yes, any people of the nations who want to live in God’s paradisaic new order must now stream to Jehovah’s mountain, his true worship, which is firmly established and is exalted high above any other type of worship.
4. How does Jesus show that waiting too long to come to Jehovah could be fatal?
4 Why is there such an urgency about coming to Jehovah’s true worship now? Could not a sincere person wait until he actually sees Jehovah’s executional judgments beginning, and then quickly come over to His side? While that might sound appealing to some, would there then be enough time to build the right relationship with Jehovah? The evidence from the Scriptures answers, No. Jesus warned: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth.” (Luke 21:34, 35) Note that those who are not awake spiritually are caught unawares, for that “day” comes upon them “suddenly,” “instantly,” in just the same way that “sudden destruction is to be instantly upon” those who are saying “Peace and security!”