“‘[…] They will sleep a lasting sleep,
From which they will not wake up,’ declares Jehovah.”
The Bible explains that there are at least two different types of deaths.
One is the death of someone whom God will resurrect in Paradise, a death Jesus likened to sleep. (Luke 23:39-43; John 11:11-13)
The other death the Bible refers to is that which results in nothingness, nonexistence, simply dust and ashes. (Gen. 3:17,19; Isa. 66:24; Luke 12:4,5; Rev. 20:15)
God foretold through his prophet Jeremiah that Babylon’s leaders would receive permanent punishment for the war crimes they committed, reiterating in verse fifty-seven that they would not benefit from the resurrection hope. (Jer. 51:6, 9, 24, 25, 35, 47, 49, 56)
This prophecy was fulfilled in the year 539 b.C.E., when the city fell in one night to the Mede and Persian armies while the empire’s leaders celebrated a banquet. (Daniel 5:1-3, 30)
Because Jehovah God has appointed his son Jesus as judge, it is unwise for us to speculate whether someone who does not serve God today will not benefit from the resurrection in Paradise. (Acts 10:36,42)
“’In those days and at that time,’ declares Jehovah,
‘Israel’s guilt will be searched for,
But there will be none,
And the sins of Judah will not be found,
For I will forgive those whom I let remain.'”
God allowed his people to be disciplined for not heeding his commandments and straying from true worship. (Jer. 44:10,11)
But God also foretold that his people would return to the Promised Land after a set period and they would then be at peace with him. (Isa. 44:22; Jer. 31:34, 33:7)
Jehovah God is willing to forgive once he has set matters straight, leaving the past in the past.
Shouldn’t we be willing to do the same?
“The sword of Jehovah!
How long will you not be quiet?
Go back into your sheath.
Take your rest and be silent.
How can it be quiet
When Jehovah has given it a command?”
When God pronounces judgment against someone, his word is as good as done.
His word ‘does not return to him without results […] It will certainly accomplish whatever is his delight, and it will have success in what he sends it to do.’ (Isa. 55:10,11)
In contrast, us humans are subject to many circumstances, most of which are outside of our control, and many of our plans fail to come to fruition. (Jam. 4:13,14)
Bearing that in mind, the best way we can ensure our plans will be successful is if we commit our ways to Jehovah. (Ps. 37:5)
Circumstances will try our faith and patience, but God promises to bring about justice to those who serve him. (De. 32:10; Ps. 37:7-9)
“[…] You should know for a certainty that I have warned you today that your error will cost you your lives.”
After the Chaldeans took most of the Jews captive, the army chiefs along with the remaining people in the vicinity of Jerusalem asked the prophet to pray on their behalf and find out what God’s will for them was. (Jer. 42:1-3)
Ten days later, Jehovah gave his reply, asking them to remain there and not fear the king of Babylon. (Jer. 42:7,10,11)
But the people had allowed their fear to overcome them and were headstrong about fleeing to Egypt (Jer. 43:4-7)
Eventually, the Chaldeans extended their battles into Egypt, and that remnant did not survive (Jer. 43:10,11)
They were not necessarily evil people.
They mostly consisted of the poorest sector of the population. (Jer. 40:7)
The fact that they first sought out God’s guidance indicates that at least at one point they had the right intention. (Jer. 42:5,6)
But their subsequent decision to ignore Jehovah’s commandment and head on into Egypt without his blessing ended up having tragic consequences.
Today, God warns us that a time is coming in which he will judge all of humanity. (Mark 13:32,33; Acts 17:30,31)
If we were in the habit of praying for his guidance and then ignoring Biblical counsel, we, too, would be falling in an error that will cost us our lives.
“Perhaps when those of the house of Judah hear of all the calamity that I intend to bring on them, they may turn back from their evil ways, so that I may forgive their error and their sin.”
Jehovah God looks to forgive those who have offended him. (Isa. 55:7)
He sees everyone’s heart and does not give up hope that these people can change. (2 Pet. 3:9)
Likewise, we should not hold on to a grudge or seize the opportunity to get even with someone who has offended us. (Ro. 12:17-19)
Nor should we rejoice when they suffer due to their own imperfections or to unrelated circumstances. (Prov. 24:17,18)
However, God’s pardon is not unconditional.
He forgives those who “turn back from their evil ways.”
Since we cannot see what lies in the heart of our fellow man, it is best to leave the judging to God, remaining hopeful that wrongdoers will become spiritually conscious before it is too late.
“[…] I will put the fear of me in their hearts, so that they will not turn away from me.”
Fear of God is not a morbid fear.
It refers to the fear of displeasing him, just like we would not want to let down someone who loves and trusts us.
It involves having a healthy positive attitude toward spiritual matters. (Matt. 5:3; Acts 13:48)
Jehovah God attracts people to him through Bible truths. (John 6:44)
When we have the right heart condition, we respond to his truths by learning more and drawing closer to him. (Ps. 25:9)
Jehovah thus allows a strong relationship to develop and with it, a healthy fear of displeasing him.
Many of us have found that cultivating such a relationship with our Maker has given life authentic purpose. (Eccl. 12:13)
“[…] ‘You will search for me with all your heart. And I will let you find me,’ declares Jehovah.”
How do we show God we are sincerely searching for him?
One way is through heartfelt prayer.
“Make me know your ways, O Jehovah; Teach me your paths.” (Ps. 25:4)
Like the psalmist, we need to display humility and recognize we need God’s guidance.
Jehovah invites even those who have strayed from him to come back to him.
“If you search for Jehovah your God from there, you will certainly find him, if you inquire for him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in great distress and all these things have happened to you in later times, then you will return to Jehovah your God and listen to his voice. For Jehovah your God is a merciful God. He will not desert you […]” (De. 4:29-31)
But it is not enough to recognize our own sins. (La. 3:41,42)
Seeking Jehovah implies learning about his personality: what God likes and dislikes and then conforming to his standards. (Je. 31:34)
To find God, we must try to imitate his mercy, ridding ourselves of feelings of hatred toward those who have wronged us. (Mt. 6:12)
Then God allows us to find his peace and a solid hope for the future. (Jer. 29:11,12)
“‘You would not listen to me,’ declares Jehovah. ‘Instead you offended me with the work of your hands, to your own calamity.’”
When someone decides to take it upon him or herself to oppose God’s written will, they are doing so to their own detriment.
The day comes when God ‘makes his voice heard,’ and he will personally pass judgment on everyone of us. (Jer. 25:30,31)
But God does not come like a merciless executioner.
Jehovah is now teaching us and guiding us through his written word for our own benefit. (Isa. 48:17,18)
Like Jeremiah, our resolve to obey God may subject us to temporary persecution and suffering, but we faithfully continue to share God’s message knowing he gives even the evildoer a chance to repent. (Jer. 26:3,13,15)
Nevertheless, the day will come when God will realize his vision of justice. (Hab. 2:3,4)
It is not as one religious leader proclaimed- that God’s mercy “never runs out.”
Jehovah is a judge of justice and action; not an indulging authority figure who is only bluffing.
“The windstorm of Jehovah will burst out in fury;
Like a whirling tempest it will whirl down on the head of the wicked.”
In the prophet’s day, the kings and elders were corrupting justice for selfish gain. (Jer. 22:13; 23:1,2,10,11)
We should not let ourselves be consumed by wrathful anger when injustice seems to prevail, because God promises to ultimately bring the wicked to justice.
When God’s justice strikes down, it can be compared to a hurricane.
Can anyone stand in God’s way?
But there is calm in the eye of a hurricane.
If we learn to stand in ‘God’s inner circle’ by repenting and paying attention to his Word, we will be safe and at peace when that day comes. (Jer. 23:5,22)
“Every man wishing me peace was watching for my downfall. […]
But Jehovah was with me like a fearsome warrior […].”
Perhaps we have all experienced the sadness of finding out a close friend of ours is a false friend with selfish motivations.
Or perhaps someone has ruined our reputation and we watch alone as most of our acquaintances draw away from us, waiting for our fall.
In the prophet’s case, his emotional anguish was so great, he regretted ever having been born at all. (Jer. 20:14-18)
Ideally, we are surrounded by a loving brotherhood, but as the proverb says, “there are companions ready to crush one another.” (Prov. 18:24)
Jehovah God, on the other hand, ‘sees the innermost thoughts and the heart.’ (Jer. 20:12)
He sincerely wants us to draw close to him. (Ja. 4:8)
We can rely on him, confident that he will bring our case to justice and persecutors will be put to shame.