A consideration of the 27th chapter of Isaiah and related prophecies.
The question of which shall end first—Christianity or the world—may seem like a strange topic to even consider. No doubt Jehovah's Witnesses naturally assume that true Christianity will without question outlive, not only the present evil world, but especially that brand of counterfeit Christianity known as Christendom. Jehovah's Witnesses likely consider it a moot question in view of the authoritative statement made by the April 15, 1962, Watchtower, in this regard:
"The end of Christendom does not mean the end of Christianity, for Christendom and Christianity are two different, separate things…Christianity could not end after Christendom's destruction in Armageddon."
As the Watchtower correctly states, Christianity and Christendom are two different things. But the question remains: Will true Christianity survive the end of this world? With the reader's curiosity now piqued, the purpose of this article is to more closely examine the relevant portions of the only book that can shed light upon these vital matters—the Bible.
For a certainty, Jehovah's Witnesses have a unique understanding of the Holy Scriptures – recognizing that Jehovah's intentions to save mankind are two-fold. The first phase of God's purpose is to gather a select group of 144,000 anointed Christians from among mankind to serve with Christ as kings and priests in his heavenly kingdom during the 1,000-year rehabilitation of mankind. They experience the first resurrection.
The second stage of the divine purpose is to gather and prepare a family of believers to stay on earth after the end of this wicked world in order to re-inhabit the earth and physically transform it into paradise. Indeed, God's everlasting Word assures the believer that the meek will inherit the earth and reside forever upon it.
However, in the strictest definition only anointed individuals are truly Christians. The word Christ literally means "anointed one." And the designation "Christians" applies specifically to the small body of anointed followers of Christ. Also, only anointed Christians are in a covenant relationship with Jehovah through Christ—Jesus serving as their mediator with God Almighty. Also, in the most precise interpretation only anointed Christians comprise the true Israel of God. So, to dispel any unease over the topic at hand concerning whether Christianity will survive this world, it is in the strictest definition of Christianity that the question is framed.
Acknowledging, then, the classical sense of the word "Christianity," the question is now rephrased to say: Will the anointed survive the end of the world?
For many years, even as far back as 1928, the Watchtower has insisted that some of the anointed will survive the world-ending battle of Armageddon. Here is a sampling of a few snippets from various Watchtower articles on that topic. From the August 15th, 1954, the Watchtower states:
“While the anointed remnant expect to serve on earth for a period after Armageddon, as it pleases Jehovah, and while the other sheep expect to serve Jehovah without a break in life clear through to the end of this system of things at Armageddon and on into the unending time of the new world, yet death due to natural causes or due to keeping integrity may occur before Armageddon.”
Two years more recently the January 15th, 1956, Watchtowersays:
"So the remnant of "his body" must keep on eating the Lord's evening meal on earth until they are glorified, even after surviving Armageddon."
Then the May 15th, 1960, Watchtower stated:
"The heavenly kingdom for which Jesus taught his followers to pray is the promised new heavens, composed of Jesus Christ and the 144,000 other members of the sanctuary class. True, the remnant of the "spiritual house" expect to survive Armageddon and to dedicate the "new earth" to Jehovah's worship after the old world's destruction."
Seven years later, in 1966, the Watchtower comments again, saying:
“The ones who died faithful prior to the battle and who were rewarded with a resurrection to life with him in the heavens will be with him in the battle. All of these are now gathered with him awaiting the signal for the battle to begin. However, we know there are yet those on the earth who are standing faithfully also waiting for the battle to begin, but who will not have any part in the actual fighting with material weapons. They will stand firm against the furious attack of Gog of Magog, Satan the Devil, and of his entire beastly organization. They are known as the remnant of Christ’s spiritual brothers, but, being faithful through the fight, they will be accredited with a share in the conquest. Here we have added proof, assurance, that a remnant of Christ’s spiritual brothers will survive Armageddon in the flesh and will for a while be in the flesh on earth in the new order after the battle. Alongside them will be the “great crowd” of persons who serve with them.”
However, as of their most recent significant comment on the topic 20 years ago the Watchtower Society seems to have backed off of their earlier cocksureness that a remnant of the anointed will survive the end of the world—now saying that the Bible does not say, one way or the other. The August 15, 1990, Watchtower says in answer to the following Question from Readers: "Will some anointed Christians survive the great tribulation to live on earth in the new world before being taken to heaven?"
"Pointedly, the Bible does not say…Comments about the possibility that some of the anointed might survive into the new world are made with good intentions and in the light of Biblical precedents for trying to understand prophecies or patterns that could have later parallels. If it turns out that none of the anointed are left on earth, there will be no reason for dissatisfaction. We already have accepted that Biblical matters are understood better as time passes."
But even in leaving open the possibility that none of the anointed will survive Armageddon, the Watchtower is inadvertently contradicting itself. How so? Well, if the Bible "does not say," then that aspect of God's purpose is humanly unknowable by any means. Yet, the Watchtower then goes on to say: "Biblical matters are understood better as time passes." But if the Bible is silent on that crucial issue – as the Watchtower claims it is – then it is not really a "Biblical matter," is it?Presumably, the Watchtower is saying that we will just have to wait until after the dust settles to find out what the Bible doesn't say!
Unquestionably, the calling, choosing and glorification of the bride of Christ is central to Jehovah's universal purpose and is the focal point of much of the Bible itself. This is clearly a very important subject and not merely fodder for unprofitable speculation. That being the case, is it really true that "the Bible does not say" whether the anointed will survive Armageddon or not?
No, the Watchtower is wrong!
Contrary to what the Watchtower Society presently teaches, the Bible most certainly does say! And Jehovah's inspired prophets emphatically state that not a single anointed Christian will survive in the flesh even to the start of the war of Armageddon! In fact, one of the most profound truths contained in the Bible is that the untimely deaths of all true Christians (anointed) is the reason Jehovah authorizes the destruction of the present world at the decisive battle of Armageddon.
Sadly, over the course of 75 years the Watchtower has gone from confidently stating that the anointed will definitely survive Armageddon, to now revising their official comment to: "the Bible does not say." Rather than the light getting brighter though, the Watchtower oracle seems to be oblivious. In view of the Watchtower Society’s apparent ambivalence in clarifying the truth, it seems long overdue that Jehovah's Witnesses should be informed from other sources concerning these vital matters.
“ALL THE HOLY ONES BEING WITH HIM”
Common sense should have a say in this matter. For example, the 19th chapter of Revelation clearly establishes that the marriage of the Lamb of God occurs immediately after the destruction of Babylon the Great but before the final war between Christ and the beast. How reasonable is it that the marriage takes place while some members of the bride are absent? It is not reasonable at all. After all, how could a wedding even be considered a real wedding of two parties if one party is not present? Unfortunately common sense does not always prevail.
Now consider Zechariah 14:1 – "Look! There is a day coming, belonging to Jehovah, and the spoil of you will certainly be apportioned out in the midst of you. And I shall certainly gather all the nations against Jerusalem for the war; and the city will actually be captured and the houses be pillaged, and the women themselves will be raped. And half of the city must go forth into the exile; but as for the remaining ones of the people, they will not be cut off from the city."
The significance of this prophecy is that Zechariah was written after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon. Therefore, there is no need to even consider any sort of earlier fulfillment in history. The "Jerusalem" that is the object of attack by all nations cannot be the brick-and-mortar Jerusalem in the Middle East. It is the "Jerusalem above,"—represented on earth by the holy ones. Since Jerusalem was once known as the city where Jehovah placed his holy name, the modern counterpart must be that which is associated with the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society today.
The Watchtower recognizes this fact, but in keeping with their attachment to 1914, Bethel has misapplied Zechariah 14:1 to events of the early 20th Century. But, seeing that the persecutions of the International Bible Students during the hysteria of the First World War, and the even more severe persecutions since then, in no way compares to the prophetic description given above, thinking persons must conclude that the prophecy awaits a future fulfillment. We may be assured that the "day belonging to Jehovah" will not pass by so uneventfully as the Watchtower would have us believe.
What must the prophecy mean when it says: "And half of the city must go forth into the exile; but as for the remaining ones of the people, they will not be cut off from the city"?
The city of God—"Jerusalem above"—is a very unique and extraordinary "city." As long as a representative number of the anointed citizens of the heavenly city are upon the earth, it is as if the city is also an earthly city—breaching the span between heaven and earth by existing in two places simultaneously. But, when the citizens of "Jerusalem" depart for their heavenly inheritance, the earthly manifestation of the holy city will no longer exist. Not coincidentally, that is why Revelation depicts a "new Jerusalem" coming down out of heaven to earth after Armageddon – to replace the old Jerusalem (the Christian congregation) after it is destroyed.
So, the "half of the city" that is scheduled to go into exile must pertain to the earthly reflection of the "Jerusalem above." The remaining ones who "will not be cut off from the city" are the remnant, who finally join up with their anointed forerunners in heaven. In other words, when the heirs of the kingdom have all departed, it will be as if the earthly part of the heavenly city will have been abandoned.
(Incidentally, the word "remnant," taken from the King James' jargon, or "remaining ones," as the NWT translates the term, applies to the remaining anointed alive on earth after the first resurrection trumpet is heralded. In view of the falsity of the Watchtower's 1914 chronology, it is evident that Christ's presence has not begun yet. That being the case, the term "remnant" is not appropriate when referring to the anointed at this stage. However, we may anticipate that it will soon become relevant terminology.)
The absurdity of the Watchtower Society applying the prophecy of Zechariah to 1918-1919 is starkly evident in the next verse, which reads: "And Jehovah will certainly go forth and war against those nations as in the day of his warring, in the day of fight."
The verse goes on to say that in response to the nations' attack upon the holy city, Jehovah figuratively comes down and his feet touch upon the Mount of Olives. Certainly, though, if the foretold attack upon "Jerusalem" came nearly a century ago, then it must be concluded that Jehovah's response is certainly a long time in coming.
The relevance of this span of verses to the topic at hand is that Zechariah 14:5 concludes with these words: "And Jehovah my God will certainly come, all the holy ones being with him."
Who are the "holy ones"?
Of the 99 places in the NWT where the term "holy ones" appears, only a few places are in reference to angelic holy ones. Nearly all occurrences of the term "holy ones" in the Bible are in reference to anointed Christians. Seeing that the context of Zechariah has to do with the restoration of the anointed to their lawful spiritual inheritance, there is no reason to assume that the holy ones mentioned in the context are not anointed holy ones.
The proper understanding, then, is that "all the holy ones being with him" on the day of vengeance means that all of the 144,000 holy ones will be among the executionary heavenly forces in company with Jehovah God. Therefore, it is not possible that any anointed ones will be on earth during and certainly not after the war of Armageddon.
Reasoning further: How else could God crush Satan under the feet of his holy ones, as Paul words it, unless they were all spirit sons at the time of the crushing?
“DOES HE HAVE TO BE KILLED?”
The 27th chapter of Isaiah is one of the most profound prophecies in the entire Bible. The chapter begins with Jehovah's judgment upon Leviathan—who can be none other than Satan himself. Verse one reads: "In that day Jehovah, with his hard and great and strong sword, will turn his attention to Leviathan, the gliding serpent, even to Leviathan, the crooked serpent, and he will certainly kill the sea monster that is in the sea."
The Watchtower rightly recognizes that the "gliding serpent", Leviathan, represents the Devil in this prophecy. So, it is obvious that the entire prophecy has relevance to the time of judgment upon the Devil's system. Jehovah's Witnesses might assume that the Watchtower would assign special significance to this prophecy. However, the opposite has been the case. The Watchtower has completely glossed over the 27th chapter of Isaiah, as if it were unimportant. In fact, in the latest "commentary" on Isaiah, the Watchtower offered no commentary whatsoever on the entire span of verses from seven through eleven.
Appropriately, in the opening verse of the very next chapter of Isaiah's prophecy, the prophet also explains the reason why God's "priests" and "prophets" lack insight into God's future judgments, saying of them: "Woe to the eminent crown of the drunkards of Ephraim, and the fading blossom of its decoration of beauty that is upon the head of the fertile valley of those overpowered by wine!"
Jehovah's spokesmen are in a spiritually drunken stupor and so cannot comprehend the complexities of God's Word, as the prophecy goes on to illuminate: "because of wine they have gone astray and because of intoxicating liquor they have wandered about. Priest and prophet—they have gone astray because of intoxicating liquor, they have become confused as a result of the wine, they have wandered about as a result of the intoxicating liquor; they have gone astray in their seeing, they have reeled as to decision. For the tables themselves have all become full of filthy vomit—there is no place without it.
The Governing Body and other influential spiritual men taking the lead in teaching Jehovah's Witnesses have for too long imbibed of the intoxicating organizational wine of 1914 vintage. In their spiritually inebriated state of self-exaltation, they are unable to comprehend Jehovah's oncoming judgments.
Returning to the 27th chapter, verses 7-8 read: "As with the stroke of one striking him does one have to strike him? Or as with the slaughter of his killed ones does he have to be killed? With a scare cry you will contend with her when sending her forth. He must expel her with his blast, a hard one in the day of the east wind."
For a fact, this portion of Isaiah is hard to decipher. No spiritual inebriate could possibly hope to do so. The thing that makes the prophecy nearly inscrutable is that there are several pronouns and it is somewhat confusing just who "he," "she," "his" "him," and "you" represent. But, let us, here, now, soberly apply ourselves to the task at hand.
To situate the prophecy in the context of God's future judgments, we must first recognize that God has yet to harshly discipline his anointed sons for their numerous sins and transgressions. For example, Isaiah 26:16 situates the disciplinary period in context as occurring immediately before the day when God's people are finally to receive salvation. That verse reads: "O Jehovah, during distress they have turned their attention to you; they have poured out a whisper of prayer when they had your disciplining."
Returning momentarily to Zechariah, this time the concluding verses of the 13th chapter, the prophecy foretells that preliminary to the final attack upon the holy city of Jerusalem, God's people are disciplined and refined to the point of finally being accepted as God's people in the fullest sense. Zechariah 13:9 reads: "I shall actually refine them as in the refining of silver, and examine them as in the examining of gold. It, for its part, will call upon my name, and I, for my part, will answer it. I will say, 'It is my people,' and it, in its turn, will say, 'Jehovah is my God.'"
Now, back to Isaiah 27:3-6, where we read: "In that day sing to her, you people: ‘A vineyard of foaming wine!"’
"I, Jehovah, am safeguarding her. Every moment I shall water her. In order that no one may turn his attention against her, I shall safeguard her even night and day. There is no rage that I have."
In the verses above Jehovah refers to his people in the feminine gender. So, that helps us to understand who one of the pronouns are ascribed to in the 7th and 8th verses. "Her" whom Jehovah is safeguarding has to be Jehovah's cleansed covenant woman. The fact that Jehovah declares that he has no rage against his "woman" indicates that at that point God will have already expressed his anger and indignation upon her and repurchased her. In the verses following, Jehovah then switches to referring to his organization as "Jacob." This is not uncommon as there are numerous other instances of this. So, we must recognize that in this prophecy in particular, Jehovah alternates between feminine and masculine, referring to Jacob as "he" and "him" and the woman as "her."
Now, to fully grasp the import of the prophecy, we must briefly revisit the original prophecy that Jehovah gave in Eden. When speaking directly to the serpent, Jehovah foretold the long-running enmity that would exist between God's woman and the serpent and their two respective seeds. The 27th chapter of Isaiah brings these two enigmatic entities sharply into focus again. It is as if Jehovah's dialogue with the Original Serpent in Eden is resumed in prophecy at the point in history when God finally executes his judgment upon the Devil.
So, with the principal players in mind, it is evident that Jehovah poses the question recorded in verse seven to his arch-enemy, Satan the Devil—calling upon him to account for killing "Jacob," saying: "As with the stroke of one striking him does one have to strike him? Or as with the slaughter of his killed ones does he have to be killed?"
Seeing that God has already set matters straight between himself and his people at this stage, there is no reason for Jehovah to allow any enemy of his to further mete out discipline upon his people. The killing of "Jacob" is not sanctioned by Jehovah God. This is why God poses the question to Leviathan, asking: "Does one have to strike him…Does he have to be killed"? The Devil must now answer to Almighty God for presumptuously administering the death stroke upon Jehovah's earthly sons.
In the next verse (8) the pronoun gender is changed to the feminine, where it states: "With a scare cry you will contend with her when sending her forth. He must expel her with his blast, a hard one in the day of the east wind."
In the 12th chapter of Revelation Satan the Devil immediately persecutes the symbolic woman who gives birth to God’s kingdom. But instead of a ferocious blast of wind, the vision of Revelation depicts the enraged Dragon disgorging a flooding torrent from its mouth: "And the serpent disgorged water like a river from its mouth after the woman, to cause her to be drowned by the river."
Interestingly, whereas the previous verse in Isaiah refers to Jacob being killed, neither Isaiah nor Revelation indicates that God's woman is killed by Satan's attack. Instead of her being killed, Isaiah foretells that the dragon-like Leviathan will terrorize God's woman "with a scare cry" and that he "will contend with her when sending her forth."The prophecy further states: "He must expel her with his blast."
Now, the question: If Satan the Devil is said to send forth God's woman and "expel her with his blast," where is she expelled from and where does she go?
Reasoning on the matter: Since the contention between the woman and the serpent is played out on earth, it can only be that the woman is expelled from the earth itself by a blast of demonic fury unleashed against the sons of the covenant woman. In other words, the woman is expelled from the earthly realm when her seed (Jacob) is slaughtered.
As mentioned previously, the "Jerusalem above" is manifest on the earth only as long as the citizens of that heavenly city are in the flesh. That is why after God's woman is expelled and Jacob is killed, the 10th verse says: "For the fortified city will be solitary, the pasture ground will be left to itself and abandoned like a wilderness." The "fortified city" that becomes desolate is a reference to Jerusalem, or rather what is loosely referred to today as "Jehovah's visible organization." However, in a seeming contradiction, the concluding span of verses in Isaiah say that God's people are gathered to God's "holy mountain in Jerusalem." However, how can it be that the scattered sons are gathered to Jerusalem when the fortified city is solitary and desolate? Again, the prophecy is contrasting the condition of an earthly city with a heavenly city.
"IN THAT DAY THERE WILL BE A BLOWING ON A GREAT HORN"
The last verses in the 27th chapter of Isaiah read as follows: "And it must occur in that day that Jehovah will beat off the fruit, from the flowing stream of the River to the torrent valley of Egypt, and so you yourselves will be picked up one after the other, O sons of Israel. And it must occur in that day that there will be a blowing on a great horn, and those who are perishing in the land of Assyria and those who are dispersed in the land of Egypt will certainly come and bow down to Jehovah in the holy mountain in Jerusalem."
Astute readers will recognize that the "blowing on a great horn" that initiates the harvest-like ingathering of the scattered sons of Israel harmonizes with Christ's own prophecy of the final gathering of the chosen ones. Jesus simply worded it slightly different when he said: "And he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet sound, and they will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from one extremity of the heavens to their other extremity."
So, while the earthly realm of God's sons is abandoned to become like a solitary city, the individuals who previously inhabited the city are presented before Jehovah himself to bow down before him in his holy mountain in heaven—the real city of God. Revelation depicts this scene as 144,000 standing upon the heavenly pinnacle of Mount Zion with the Lamb.
It is evident, therefore, that the when the angels"gather his chosen ones together from the four winds"they will be harvested by their being put to death in the flesh as a result of the angels letting go their restraint on the "four winds" of demonic persecution. This is what is symbolized in Isaiah as the hard blast "in the day of the east wind."Thus, "in the twinkling of an eye" the slaughtered sons of Jacob are gathered to Jehovah's side in preparation for the crushing of the Devil's world out of existence.
As regards the "east wind," Bible students should take note of the fact that in Habakkuk, a self-described vision for the appointed time for which Jehovah urges us to remain in expectation; the Chaldean invaders prefigure the 8th king. Habakkuk 1:9-11 describes the Chaldean army thus: "In its entirety it comes for mere violence. The assembling of their faces is as the east wind, and it gathers up captives just like the sand. And for its part, it jeers kings themselves, and high officials are something laughable to it. For its part, it laughs even at every fortified place, and it piles up dust and captures it. At that time it will certainly move onward like wind and will pass through and will actually become guilty. This its power isdue to its god."
Returning now to the question posed at the onset: Will Christianity survive the end of this world? Isaiah provides the answer in the 9th verse, where we read: "Therefore by this means the error of Jacob will be atoned for, and this is all the fruit when he takes away his sin, when he makes all the stones of the altar like chalkstones that have been pulverized, so that the sacred poles and the incense stands will not rise up."
Even though the language is couched in a primitive setting, the 27th chapter of Isaiah really has to do with the culmination of the ongoing warfare between God's family of sons and the Devil and his seed. So, what does it mean – "the error of Jacob will be atoned for"? It means that the ransom, and particularly Jesus’ mediation of the new covenant, will have accomplished Jehovah’s purpose in connection with spiritual Israel. No longer will Jesus' shed blood need to be splashed upon the altar in order to cover over their sins. At that point Christ's anointed congregation will have been completely forgiven of their sins. When the last son of Jacob is resurrected to heaven as an immortal spirit-son of God, Jesus will no longer need to serve as the mediator of the new covenant. It will be as though the altar upon which Christ's blood was presented to Jehovah for atonement will be "pulverized"—demolished—having served its purpose. They will have been cleansed of the last taint of religious error, symbolized by the doing away of the sacred poles and incense stands associated with false worship.
The apostle Paul noted that the Memorial of Christ's death is only celebrated until such time as the Lord arrives. After that it is no longer valid. Paul writes: "For as often as you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives."
So, in answer to the question, will Christianity survive the end of this world? The answer, again, is no. Once 144,000 anointed Christians are all in heaven Christianity, as we know it presently, will no longer exist.
Isaiah continues as he describes the condition of those left behind: "For the fortified city will be solitary, the pasture ground will be left to itself and abandoned like a wilderness. There the calf will graze, and there it will lie down; and he will actually consume her boughs. When her sprigs have dried up, women coming in will break them off, lighting them up. For it is not a people of keen understanding. That is why its Maker will show it no mercy, and its own Former will show it no favor."
The prophet Jeremiah accurately assessed man’s inability to successfully guide his course of life independent of Jehovah's direction, when he stated the following: "I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step."
According to Jesus, God's chosen ones will eventually shine as brilliantly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father—reflecting divine light to all those who will be privileged to see their countenance. No doubt, the revealing of the sons of God in connection with the revelation of Christ's glory will be a dramatic display of Jehovah's chosen ones preliminary to their departure. However, when God's chosen ones are no longer on earth, how will those left behind fare who are dependent upon the "faithful slave" for their spiritual feeding?
Isaiah answers in symbolic terms denoting that the other sheep (in this prophecy symbolized by the cattle) will graze upon the "boughs" left behind by Jacob, and that "women" will break off the branches to light fires in the aftermath. They being "women" would seem to symbolize that they are the other sheep who were in wifely subjection to Jacob before his departure. Because the departed slave had not prepared the other sheep for his violent departure, Jehovah goes on to note that those left behind are not "a people of keen understanding."Jehovah shows them no favor because he takes their spiritual guide from them—momentarily leaving them to fend for themselves in Jacob's sudden absence.
Far from the Bible not having anything to say about the matter, the 27th chapter of Isaiah, as well as other portions of prophecy, have much to say on the topic of whether the anointed will survive the war of Armageddon. The deep things of God’s prophetic Word reveal that the deaths of all the living holy ones during the actual parousia is central to God’s purpose to bring the Devil and his world into judgment.