In God’s Day of Judgment no one will be able to say “You have no idea what I had to deal with,” or “You put me through this while you sat aloof on your heavenly throne,” or “I had to sin to survive,” and so forth. Israel’s God paid the ultimate price to save his people, suffering the pains of all persons everywhere so that they might not suffer under the law of justice if they would repent. He knows firsthand about enduring sorrows and afflictions. Being a just Judge, Jehovah cannot judge under the law of mercy those who refuse to repent. His sacrifice on their behalf is in vain if they still cling to their sins. Their road of return begins with letting go of evil and acknowledging Jehovah as their Savior.
In his role of Lawgiver—when imparting the law of his covenant—Jehovah doesn’t resemble the often abusive enforcers of human law in the world at large. He simply says to his creatures “These are the terms under which you will find eternal happiness and everlasting joy.” He leaves it to us whether we observe them or not. As Maker of the universe, he reveals its unchangeable laws, including his relationship to us. While he shows us the way to heaven, himself guiding us, lighting our path, and helping us follow, he doesn’t stop us from going after the evil one, the Lawbreaker, who is quite happy to lead us down a tortuous road to hell, robbing us of the most precious gift of all—eternal life.
God has to enforce “punishment” on those who transgress, no less than he grants “deliverance” to those who don’t. Where strict justice is the rule—because mercy can’t apply—persons who persist in wrongdoing must themselves pay the price of their transgressions, enduring “suffering” for all their sins. But even then, after a full consciousness of guilt sears their souls, they still can’t obtain “salvation” unless they choose, at some point, to repent. That is the only way out of their predicament. No escape from their plight occurs until they accept Jehovah as their Savior. With that initial act of “loyalty” and “compliance” their return journey begins, including the prospect of ascent to heaven.
As his people’s King—who decides matters of life and death and governs the affairs of his kingdom—Jehovah is more than equal to the task. Because he knows all about death, dying, and suffering, his permitting death to be a part of the human experience can’t be something cruel or vindictive. If we imagine it so, it may be because our faith in God is weak. God sees the big picture and how even an “untimely death” may, in fact, be timely. By now, we have learned that not all “suffering,” including death, is a “punishment.” Death, too, is an opportunity for spiritual growth, for the dead and living alike—for those dealing with the loss of a loved one who has now begun a new phase of life.
Just as our spiritual lives don’t begin on the earth, so our physical lives don’t end here. Except in cases of regression beyond the “point of no return,” what we acquire in any phase of growth continues with us wherever we go. There may be a time when we can’t use every faculty and ability, as in the interval between death and resurrection when our spirits experience other challenges. But being a righteous ruler, God makes provision for us all to enjoy the fruits of ascent. When our trials are over, God “replenishes Zion.” Isaiah’s words ring true: “Your faithfulness in time [of trial] will prove to be a strength, your wisdom and knowledge your salvation” (Isaiah 33:5–6; emphasis added).
(Taken from Isaiah Decoded: Ascending the Ladder to Heaven, pp 308–309)