3 God Is Vengeful—Is It True?
What you may have heard: “God keeps track of every sin and pays people back with eternal punishment in hellfire.”
“God punishes sinners with natural disasters.”
What the Bible teaches: Second Peter 3:9 says that Jehovah “does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” Rather than focusing on our mistakes, he focuses on our good points. God’s “eyes are roving about through all the earth to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him.”—2 Chronicles 16:9.
Hellfire is not a Bible teaching—the very idea of eternal torment is repugnant to God. His maximum punishment for the wicked is to revoke the gift of life. (Jeremiah 7:31; Romans 6:7) And natural disasters, which destroy indiscriminately, are not acts of God but, rather, unforeseen occurrences that can affect anyone.—Ecclesiastes 9:11.
How knowing the truth helps you: We can draw closer to God when we recognize that he is “ready to forgive” and not quick to condemn. (Psalm 86:5) We need not serve God out of feelings of guilt or a morbid dread of punishment. Instead, we can build our faith with the best motive—love of Jehovah. Such love serves as an uplifting force that moves us to do our best to please him.—Matthew 22:36-38; 1 John 5:3.
While God wants everyone to turn to doing good, he knows that many will never do so. If he never acted against those determined to do bad things, then he would be no different from a ruler who makes laws without enforcing them, allowing injustice and suffering to flourish indefinitely. (Ecclesiastes 8:11) Our knowing that God will not tolerate wickedness forever gives us a sound hope for the future. God has promised to remove those who persist in evil deeds, so that “the meek ones” can enjoy eternal life on earth as he originally intended.—Psalm 37:10, 11, 29. *
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Would God want us to worship him because we fear punishment?
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Engravings by Doré