While the ancient Israelites were not renowned for their engineering skills, Solomon's temple was one of the most magnificent structures of the ancient world. Though perhaps not as imposing from the outside as some ancient structures may have been; the inside of the temple was truly awe-inspiring. The interior of the temple was divided into two main compartments of the Holy and Most Holy. In the Most Holy compartment was kept the original stone tablets, inside the Ark of the Covenant, along with a jar containing some of the original manna.
Cedar-paneled walls throughout the temple were overlaid in gold foil and studded with every sort of precious gem. All of the temple utensils and lamp-holders were made of pure gold. The two massive, beautifully carved, olive wood doors were also covered in gold. What a sight it must have been when the rays of the rising sun shone upon the glittering golden doors of the east-facing temple entry. (Take virtual tour of Solomon's Temple - YouTube)
But what was most impressive about the temple King Solomon had built on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, what made it so special, even sacred, was that Jehovah actually dwelled there, at least in a token way.
That fact was made evident when the temple was originally inaugurated by Solomon. 1st Kings 8:10-13 describes what happened when the priests brought up the sacred Ark of the Covenant and deposited it in the Most Holy compartment: “And it came about that when the priests came out from the holy place, the cloud itself filled the house of Jehovah. And the priests were unable to stand to do their ministering because of the cloud, for the glory of Jehovah filled the house of Jehovah. At that time Solomon said: ‘Jehovah himself said he was to reside in the thick gloom. I have successfully built a house of lofty abode for you, an established place for you to dwell in to time indefinite.”’
Not only did Jehovah's glory fill the house on that day, but all of the Israelites in attendance witnessed an awesome spectacle when a blazing fire fell from the heavens to consume the sacrificial offerings of the altar.
1st Chronicles 7:1-3 records the amazing event: “Now as soon as Solomon finished praying, the fire itself came down from the heavens and proceeded to consume the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and Jehovah's glory itself filled the house. And the priests were unable to enter into the house of Jehovah because Jehovah's glory had filled the house of Jehovah. And all the sons of Israel were spectators when the fire came down and the glory of Jehovah was upon the house, and they immediately bowed low with their faces to the earth upon the pavement and prostrated themselves and thanked Jehovah, ‘for he is good, for his loving-kindness is to time indefinite.”’
Because the temple represented God's presence among his people and the divinely appointed kings of Judah also ruled from Jerusalem, the entire city of Jerusalem and Mount Zion came to be inseparably identified with the name of Jehovah before the surrounding nations back then. That is why Psalms 48:2 reads: "Pretty for loftiness, the exultation of the whole earth is Mount Zion on the remote sides of the north, the town of the grand King." Similarly, the 9th Psalm reads: "Make melody, you people, to Jehovah, who is dwelling in Zion; tell among the peoples his deeds." Psalm 99:2 reads: "Jehovah is great in Zion, and he is high over all the peoples." Also, Psalm 132 says: "For Jehovah has chosen Zion; he has longed for it as a dwelling for himself." Lastly, Psalms 135:21 reads: "Blessed out of Zion be Jehovah, who is residing in Jerusalem. Praise Jah, you people!"
But, regrettably the Jews did not always honor and respect the God that called Jerusalem and its' temple home. As a result of their repeated lapses into idolatry and apostasy, Jehovah finally caused the beautiful temple and the entire city of Jerusalem to be utterly destroyed by king Nebuchadnezzar and the surviving Jews unceremoniously deported off their homeland to far-away Babylon.
Not only was it a colossal disaster for the Jewish nation, but the fact that the city and temple of Jehovah were conquered by the Chaldean worshipers of Marduk was a tremendous reproach for Jehovah God—at least as far as the nations were concerned. The implication was that Jehovah was a lesser god than the Babylonian pantheon.
Of course, Jehovah actually sanctioned the overthrow of his nation by the Babylonians and announced it through his prophets many years in advance. Jehovah even called Nebuchadnezzar "my servant" because he was merely acting on Jehovah's counsel against the Jews.
Nevertheless, from all appearances it seemed as though God's purpose to bring forth the world-conquering Messiah from the nation of Judah had been permanently derailed. After all, the Messiah was to be of the royal line of David, yet the kings and princes of Judah had become helpless prisoners in the land of the Chaldeans and the royal City of David was a mere pile of rubble.
No wonder the humiliated worshippers of Jehovah lamented over the sad state of affairs their foolishness had wrought. The 137th Psalm laments their plight, saying:
"By the rivers of Babylon—there we sat down. We also wept when we remembered Zion. Upon the poplar trees in the midst of her we hung our harps. For there those holding us captive asked us for the words of a song, and those mocking us—for rejoicing: ‘Sing for us one of the songs of Zion.’ How can we sing the song of Jehovah upon foreign ground?"
As a prophet and priest to the kingdom of Judah for over 40 years, Jeremiah personally witnessed the end result of his prophesying; namely, the complete destruction of Jerusalem. However, Jeremiah was not deported to Babylon as his contemporaries, Ezekiel and Daniel, had been earlier. But, after the remaining Jews were dragged off in chains, Jeremiah was left behind for a time in the rubble-strewn ruins of Jerusalem to weep and wail over the disaster that had befallen Jehovah's once glorious city and temple.
An introduction to Lamentations in the Septuagint reads: "And it occurred that, after Israel had been taken captive and Jerusalem had been desolated, Jeremiah sat down weeping and lamented with this lamentation over Jerusalem and said…"
“CHRIST JESUS HIMSELF IS THE FOUNDATION CORNERSTONE”
Today Jehovah is no longer associated with any stone temple of any kind. The Christian apostle Paul went into considerable detail in the book of Hebrews explaining how the ancient portable tabernacle and later temple were merely typical representations and copies of spiritual realities.
One of many similarities worth noting: Just as Solomon's temple was inaugurated when a billowing cloud filled the temple and fire crackled down from heaven before many witnesses to consume the sacrificial offerings, so too, Jesus inaugurated a spiritual temple when he ascended to heaven in a cloud as a crowd of his awe-struck disciples gazed on. Then, shortly after Christ's ascension, miraculous tongue-shaped flames of fire hovered above the heads of the first disciples as they met in an upper room, and they suddenly began to speak before assembled Pentecost crowds in languages previously unknown to them. In that way Jehovah expressed his approval on the spiritual temple, similar to the way in which God had previously demonstrated his approval of Solomon's temple.
The apostle Paul stated in numerous places that anointed Christians comprise just such a spiritual temple. For instance, Ephesians 2:20-22 says: "You have been built up upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, while Christ Jesus himself is the foundation cornerstone. In union with him the whole building, being harmoniously joined together, is growing into a holy temple for Jehovah. In union with him you, too, are being built up together into a place for God to inhabit by spirit."
Another important parallel is that both the physical and spiritual temples are inspected or judged. The last book of the Hebrew Scriptures foretells that a special messenger will come to God's temple. Malachi 3:1 reads: “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he must clear up a way before me. And suddenly there will come to His temple the true Lord, whom you people are seeking, and the messenger of the covenant in whom you are delighting. Look! He will certainly come...”
As the foretold messenger of the covenant, Jesus cleansed the Jewish temple on two different occasions, once at the start of his ministry and again at the conclusion. On both occasions Christ threw out the moneychangers. Shortly after his last inspection, Jesus announced to the astonishment of his disciples: "The days will come in which not a stone upon a stone will be left here and not be thrown down." (Luke 21:6) Jesus went on to relate in detail how a prophetic "disgusting thing" would, once again, bring desolation upon God's holy place.
Interestingly, exactly forty years to the very day, counting from his first inspection on Passover 30 C.E., the city of Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed by the Roman legions.
However, the prophecy of Malachi lends itself to Christ coming again as an inspector and refiner of the spiritual temple, of which he himself is the temple Captain. Not only that, but Christ's prophecy foretelling of the desolation of Jerusalem and its temple by a "disgusting thing," applied far beyond the 1st century.
The question Jehovah’s Witnesses ought to consider is this: Has there been anything in the nearly 2,000-year history of Christianity that parallels or even approximates the devastating calamity that befell Jehovah's people in Jeremiah's day or in the 1st century, when Jerusalem and its temples were destroyed by foreign imperial powers on those two occasions? The answer is no.
The Watchtower interprets numerous prophecies in a way that depicts true Christianity being more or less gradually swallowed up and overshadowed by babylonish Christendom down through the centuries, until the restoration of the true congregation in the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in modern times.
The problem with that teaching is that it disallows the plain fact that the restoration of the true congregation comes after God allows an unexpected disaster to befall his people. According to the Watchtower, though, the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple finds a parallel in the annihilation of Christendom in the future. So, the proverbial cart is ahead of the horse, in that Jehovah’s Witnesses suppose that a restoration has occurred before the need for reclamation and salvation has even arisen!
It is my task to lay before Jehovah’s Witnesses the fact that the prophecies definitely foretell that a similar unanticipated disaster is in store for Jehovah's spiritual temple and people of God.
Frankly, the hardships of the International Bible Students during the 1916-1919 period, as distressing as they may have seemed at the time, do not begin to even compare to the disastrous calamity Jeremiah's Zion suffered at the hands of the Babylonians. If the prophecies are true and if biblical patterns are to have any meaningful comparison to modern realities, there is no other reasonable conclusion to draw except that a calamity of unimaginable scope awaits Jehovah's Witnesses in the future.
The remainder of this essay will focus primarily on select passages taken from Lamentations. While Lamentations is not considered a book of prophecy, a careful consideration of it overlaid against the backdrop of otherprophetic books, reveals that Jeremiah's book of Lamentations establishes a pattern of things to come.
“ALL HER GATES ARE LAID DESOLATE”
The 1st chapter of Lamentations, verse four, says: "The ways of Zion are mourning, because there are none coming to the festival. All her gates are laid desolate; her priests are sighing. Her virgins are grief-stricken, and she herself has bitterness."
Many, many places in prophecy Jehovah foretold that he would make his own holy place into a desolate object of astonishment. One prophetic book that harmonizes with Lamentations is the book of Joel. Joel describes the entire "land," as well as God's holy place, being desolated by an invasion of insect-like invaders from the north. However, the prophecy of Joel only remotely relates to Nebuchadnezzar's destruction of Jerusalem. There are some things that are interestingly dissimilar. For one thing, Jehovah calls his people to take up mourning during a time of national disaster, with the priests and ministers of God being commanded to gather to Jehovah's house to supplicate God for his favor. Obviously, though, it could not have been possible for the Jewish priests to gather at Solomon's temple after it was destroyed or while it was under siege. Nonetheless, Joel 1:13-14 states: "Gird yourselves, and beat you breasts, you priests. Howl, you ministers of the altar. Come in, spend the night in sackcloth, you ministers of my God; for from the house of your God grain offering and drink offering have been withheld. Sanctify a time of fasting. Call together a solemn assembly. Gather together the older men, all the inhabitants of the land, to the house of Jehovah your God, and cry to Jehovah for aid."
Lamentations 2:18-19 harmonizes with the call for God's people to go into mourning over the desolation. It reads: "Their heart has cried out to Jehovah, O wall of the daughter of Zion. Cause tears to descend just like a torrent day and night. Give no numbness to yourself. May the pupil of your eye not keep quiet.Rise up! Whine during the night at the start of the morning watches. Pour out your heart before the face of Jehovah just like water. Raise to him your palms on account of the soul of your children, who are fainting away because of famine at the head of all the streets."
For the past approximately 70 years, the Watchtower has interpreted the locusts of Joel to symbolize Jehovah's Witnesses; whereas, and the priests and "ministers of the altar" are thought to represent the modern clergy of Christendom. However, that is simply an untenable interpretation that cannot stand up to reason. "The house of Jehovah your God" is obviously intended to represent Christ's congregation and the priests and the "ministers of the altar" can only be the anointed brothers of Christ. Any interpretation that does not recognize that should be discarded as worthless!
Furthermore, the prophecy plainly indicates that God intervenes in behalf of his besieged people and destroys the locust-like invaders. The end result of Jehovah's intervention and reversal of affairs is stated at Joel 3:17, which reads: "And you people will have to know that I am Jehovah your God, residing in Zion my holy mountain. And Jerusalem must become a holy place; and as regards strangers, they will no more pass through her." It should be clear to any sober reader of Joel that the symbolic locusts are the "strangers" who devastate and desecrate Jehovah's spiritual holy place.
Since the apostle Peter quoted from the prophecy of Joel on the day of Pentecost, applying it to the Christian congregation, it is apparent that the "holy place" and "Jerusalem" have significance for Christ's congregation too, but during a latter time of judgment. And, as stated previously, since there has been no such devastation of the anointed congregation to date, the prophecy of Joel, as well as all the other prophecies, await a future realization. (For more detailed discussion of the prophecy of Joel)
Returning to Lamentations, further down in the 16th verse Jeremiah speaks for Jerusalem in the feminine gender, which is in keeping with numerous other prophecies that personify God's organization as a woman. "Over these things I am weeping as a woman. My eye, my eye is running down with waters. For a comforter has become far away from me, someone to refresh my soul. My sons have become those laid desolate, for the enemy has put on great airs."
Lamentations 1:13 likewise reads: "He has made me a woman laid desolate. All the day I am ill." Does this aspect of Lamentations have any application to the desolation of Christianity?
First, at Galatians 4:27 Paul quoted from Isaiah 54:1 regarding the barren and desolate condition of God's woman-like organization and the apostle applied that prophecy directly to the Christian organization. However, the 54th chapter of Isaiah, from which the apostle quoted, is Jehovah speaking reassuringly to his "afflicted, tempest-tossed, uncomforted"woman. The reason Jehovah is consoling her is because of what is stated in the 7th verse, which says: “For a little moment I left you entirely, but with great mercies I shall collect you together. With a flood of indignation I concealed my face from you for but a moment, but with loving-kindness to time indefinite I will have mercy upon you…”
Clearly, that aspect of prophecy does not apply to 1st century Christianity. Recognizing its relevance for Christians, the Watchtower applies it to the hardships the International Bible Students experienced way back in 1916-1919. Without belaboring the point, the facts of history and prophecy simply do not line up to support the Watchtower's interpretation.
Consider what Isaiah 54:16 states: "Look! I myself have created the craftsman, the one blowing upon the fire of charcoal and bringing forth a weapon as his workmanship. I myself, too, have created the ruinous man for wrecking work."
In the 5th century B.C.E. Nebuchadnezzar served as"the ruinous man for wrecking work" when he brought grief and desolation upon the woman-like city of Jerusalem and subjugated a large portion of the world. He prefigures the 8th king in his God-assigned role of executioner. The modern "ruinous man" is also prophetically cast in Daniel as the so-called "king fierce in countenance." The significance of these connections is that the king fierce in countenance performs his ruining work during the time of the end. In fact, he brings ruin to such an extent that he provokes Christ into a direct confrontation. His wrecking work is described in Daniel thusly: "And in a wonderful way he will cause ruin, and he will certainly prove successful and do effectively. And he will actually bring mighty ones to ruin, also the people made up of the holy ones."
If prophecies are to be interpreted correctly it must be recognized that the ruination and desolation that comes upon the woman-like Christian organization serves as an immediate precursor to Jehovah's salvation of his people and the final judgment at Armageddon. Therefore, it is not possible that the foretold affliction and desolation of Jehovah's organization has already occurred.
Furthermore, briefly consider the amazing interconnectivity of some familiar prophecies: In the 12th chapter of Revelation, the symbolic woman that gives birth to the kingdom is depicted as crying out in pain and agony and she is driven into seclusion in a symbolic wilderness for a period amounting to 1,260 days, or three and one-half years. In the 11th chapter of Revelation, God's two anointed witnesses are reduced to preaching in sackcloth (a symbol of humiliation and mourning), as a result of the trampling of God's holy city by the nations for a similar period of 42-months.
Lamentations 2:10 likewise describes the older men of Zion putting on sackcloth covering as they mourn the desolation of Jehovah's city: "The older men of the daughter of Zion sit down on the earth, where they keep silence. They have brought up dust upon their head. They have girded on sackcloth. The virgins of Jerusalem have brought their head down to the very earth." Moreover, the vision of Revelation describes the two priest-like anointed prophets being slain by their persecutors. Lamentations 2:20b appropriately asks: "Or in the sanctuary of Jehovah should priest and prophet be killed?"
Also, Revelation describes the people of earth rejoicing over the deaths of God's two symbolic anointed servants; whereas, Lamentations 2:16 says: "At you all your enemies have opened their mouth. They have whistled and kept grinding the teeth. They have said: "We will swallow her down. This indeed is the day that we have hoped for. We have found! We have seen!"
Verse 17 reads in part: "And over you he causes the enemy to rejoice. He has made the horn of your adversaries high."
Lamentations 1:21: "People have heard how I myself am sighing as a woman. There is no comforter for me. All my enemies themselves have heard of my calamity. They have exulted, because you yourself have done it."
Lamentations 1:7b: "When her people fell into the hand of the adversary and she had no helper, the adversaries saw her. They laughed over her collapse."
Lamentations 3:45 reads: "Against us all our enemies have opened their mouth."
Also, the previously cited verse of Lamentations 1:16 describes the sons of the woman-like city organization being laid desolate by an enemy who puts on great airs. Lamentations 1:9b reads similarly, saying: "O Jehovah, see my affliction, for the enemy has put on great airs."
Turning to Daniel the prophet again, the 8th chapter foretells that the holy place of Christ's sanctuary and the sons of God are to be trampled underfoot by a king of fierce countenance, who also will "put on great airs."
Lamentations 1:10 also describes the nations, plural, not just Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon, as trampling upon Jehovah's sanctuary and congregation: "The adversary has spread out his own hand against all her desirable things. For she has seen nations that have come into her sanctuary, whom you commanded that they should not come into the congregation belonging to you."
Discerning readers should be careful to note too, that Christ Jesus also foretold that the gentile nations and their political "disgusting thing" would cause desolation and trample upon God's holy place "until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled."
Clearly, the book of Lamentations is intended as an inspired lament, not over the coming destruction of Christendom, nor over the relatively trivial persecutions of the anointed Bible Students back in 1918; but rather, over the complete desolation of the organization composed of the earthly anointed sons of Zion at the coming of Christ, during the oncoming great tribulation. That is why Jeremiah laments over the anointed sons of Zion, saying: "As for the precious sons of Zion, those who were weighed against refined gold, O how they have been reckoned as large jars of earthenware, the work of the hands of a potter!" (Lamentations 4:2) And again, at Lamentations 4:20: "The very breath of our nostrils, the anointed one of Jehovah, has been captured in their large pit."
“DREAD AND THE HOLLOW THEMSELVES HAVE BECOME OURS”
At the risk of overwhelming the reader, it seems important to take note of some more of the many parallels and connections Lamentations has with numerous apocalyptic prophecies. You may draw your own conclusions as to the significance of these.
The book of Lamentations also relates to Habakkuk. For instance, Lamentations 4:19 says: "Swifter than the eagles of the heavens our pursuers have proved to be." Habakkuk 7:8b similarly describes the rapacious Chaldean attack force as an eagle swooping down upon its prey, saying: "They fly like the eagle speeding to eat something."
The significance of this parallel is, that, while the prophecy of Habakkuk obviously had an initial fulfillment when Nebuchadnezzar's hordes swept down upon Judah, the primary application of the vision of Habakkuk relates to the future; even as Jehovah himself reminded Habakkuk when he said: "For the vision is yet for the appointed time, and it keeps panting on to the end, and it will not tell a lie. Even if it should delay, keep in expectation of it; for it will without fail come true. It will not be late." (For a more detailed discussion see Habakkuk)
Habakkuk's merely envisioning the day of distress upon God's people caused him to experience extreme physical discomfort and anxiety. The prophet writes at Habakkuk 3:16: "I heard, and my belly began to be agitated; at the sound my lips quivered; rottenness began to enter into my bones; and in my situation I was agitated, that I should quietly wait for the day of distress, for his coming up to the people, that he may raid them."
Lamentations 2:11 gives voice to the reality of Habakkuk's horrifying vision where we read: "My eyes have come to their end in sheer tears. My intestines are in a ferment. My liver has been poured out to the very earth, on account of the crash of the daughter of my people." Consider, further, the connections to Isaiah. Lamentations 3:47 says: "Dread and the hollow themselves have become ours, desolateness and breakdown."
Isaiah 24:17-18 uses the same language to describe Zion's tribulation, saying: "Dread and the hollow and the trap are upon you, you inhabitant of the land. And it must occur that anyone fleeing from the sound of the dreaded thing will fall into the hollow, and anyone coming up from inside the hollow will be caught in the trap."
Isaiah's prophecy definitely has application far beyond biblical times, as is apparent by the very next span of verses, which unquestionably relates to Jehovah's judgment and abyssing of the army of demonic principalities in the heavenly places when Jehovah's kingdom reigns supreme. Isaiah 24:21-32: "And it must occur in that day that Jehovah will turn his attention upon the army of the height in the height, and upon the kings of the ground upon the ground. And they will certainly be gathered with a gathering as of prisoners into the pit, and be shut up in the dungeon; and after an abundance of days they will be given attention. And the full moon has become abashed, and the glowing sun has become ashamed, for Jehovah of armies has become king in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem and in front of his elderly men with glory."
There are other important connections between Lamentations and Isaiah. For instance, Lamentations 2:21 says: "Boy and old man have lain down on the earth of the streets." Also, Lamentations 1:13 says: "From the height he has sent fire into my bones, and he subdues each one. He has spread out a net for my feet. He has turned me backward." Isaiah 51:20 uses the exact same language to describe the spiritual captivity of the sons of heavenly Zion during the judgment. It reads: "Your own sons have swooned away. They have lain down at the head of all the streets like the wild sheep in the net, as those who are full of the rage of Jehovah, the rebuke of your God."
There is yet another similar parallel between Lamentations and Isaiah. Lamentations 3:28-29 calls for God's spokesman to be silenced in the dust. It reads: "Let him sit solitary and keep silent, because he has laid something upon him. Let him put his mouth in the very dust. Perhaps there exists a hope."
In the 29th chapter of Isaiah, Jehovah calls for his spiritual nation to experience lamentation and mourning and for the voice of "Ariel" to rise up as a mere whisper from the dust. Isaiah 29:2-4 reads: "There must come to be mourning and lamentation, and she must become to me as the altar hearth of God. And I must encamp on all sides against you, and I must lay siege to you with a palisade and raise up against you siegeworks. And you must become low so that you will speak from the very earth, and as from the dust your saying will sound low. And like a spirit medium your voice must become even from the earth, and from the dust your own saying will chirp."
Amazingly, 40 years ago the Watchtower even recognized this portion of Isaiah's prophecy as having a future fulfillment upon the anointed remnant. In an obscure answer to a question from the readers in the March 15th, 1961, issue of the Watchtower, the Society commented:
"These words show that God's earthly organization would come under attack and would be reduced to a very low state by the enemies of God's kingdom. God's people would be, as it were, crushed to the earth, at the time of Gog's attack upon them, so that what utterance they made, what vocal sounds they made, would come up from low down in their abasement. It would be sound coming up from the very dust of the earth. It would be as if a spirit medium were talking with the vocal sound coming from the dust of the earth."
Evidently, though, the above cogent comment on Isaiah was a temporary moment of interpretive lucidity. More recently, in the Isaiah's Prophecy:Light for All Mankind commentary, published in 2000, which supposedly is a detailed verse-by-verse discussion of Isaiah, the Watchtower dropped all mention of the modern organization being laid low in such a fashion. It is completely glossed over by the Watchtower's legerdemain to give the reader the impression that the fall of Ariel only applied to the time of Jerusalem's destruction in 607 B.C.E.
The 29th chapter of Isaiah, though, is more than relevant for Jehovah’s Witnesses today. It is, in fact, crucial in establishing the meaning of what Jesus referred to as the so-called "gentile times." It also indicates that the robust voice of the faithful slave, which is currently projected around the world in hundreds of languages through the medium of the Watchtower Society, is destined to be muted.
But what can account for the Watchtower's glaring lack of insight into these truths? Well, the very same 29th chapter of Isaiah goes on to describe the spiritual stupor and pathetic blindness of the would-be interpreters of Jehovah's word, saying of God's modern prophets: "For upon you men Jehovah has poured a spirit of deep sleep; and he closes your eyes, the prophets, and he has covered even your heads, the visionaries. And for you men the vision of everything becomes like the words of the book that has been sealed up, which they give to someone knowing the writing, saying: ‘Read this out loud, please,’ and he has to say: ‘I am unable, for it is sealed up’; and the book must be given to someone that does not know writing, somebody saying: ‘Read this out loud, please,’ and he has to say: ‘I do not know writing at all.”’
True to the prophet's words, Jehovah's Witnesses have indeed read aloud the words of the book of Isaiah in weekly congregational book studies conducted around the globe. Still, no biblically literate visionary or institutional prophet has been able to make sense of Jehovah's encrypted prophecy concerning his "strange" and "unusual work." True to the prophecy, t is as if the book is sealed and would-be interpreters are illiterate.
But some may ask: If Jehovah's Witnesses are really God's people and yet are to be blindsided and waylaid by completely unanticipated judgments of Jehovah, does not the abject blindness of the Watchtower institution in this regard preclude them from being the people of God? Again, Lamentations confirms the words of the prophets.
“VISIONING FOR YOU WORTHLESS AND MISLEADING PRONOUNCMENTS”
Speaking of Zion's breakdown, Jeremiah bemoaned the state of affairs, whereby Jerusalem's own prophets spoke useless and unsatisfactory utterances. Lamentations 2:14 reads: "Your own prophets have visioned for you worthless and unsatisfying things, and they have not uncovered your error in order to turn back your captivity, but they kept visioning for you worthless and misleading pronouncements."
Previously Jehovah had disavowed himself from any connection to Jerusalem's self-serving prophets; saying to his true prophet, Jeremiah: "Falsehood is what the prophets are prophesying in my name. I have not sent them, nor have I commanded them or spoken to them. A false vision and divination and a valueless thing and the trickiness of their heart they are speaking prophetically to you people." (Jeremiah 14:14)
Ironically, Jeremiah spoke the truth regarding Jerusalem's destruction. So did Isaiah, Micah, Habakkuk, Ezekiel, and Zephaniah. They were true prophets. However, the Jews, particularly their leaders, refused to listen to God's messengers. The Jews preferred to listen to the prophets that fraudulently proclaimed Jehovah's peace and good will for the city.
Jeremiah's lament surely epitomizes the Watchtower today! Does not the Watchtower speak prophetically in Jehovah's name? Surely they do. Ironically, even the religious enemies of Jehovah’s Witnesses charge the Watchtower as a false prophet. Jehovah's true prophets agree, albeit for different reasons.
Of course, none of Jehovah's Witnesses today claim to be a prophet in the sense of receiving direct revelations from God. However, the Watchtower speaks with authority over Jehovah's Witnesses by interpreting and projecting the Bible's prophetic message. It refers to itself as the voice of the Jeremiah-class and Ezekiel-class, and so forth. But, the Watchtower has distorted the messages of the ancient biblical prophets, resulting in a misleading and worthless vision of things to come.
As all of Jehovah's Witnesses know, most of the Watchtower's interpretations of prophecy center almost entirely on 1914—a date that is receding more and more into irrelevancy with each passing year. Another large portion of Bible prophecy was been interpreted as applying to Christendom or Babylon the Great instead of the Israel of God. As a result, Jehovah's Witnesses have no valid scriptural basis for anticipating any sort of divine denunciation that may be forthcoming. It is simply unthinkable to the average Witness that the organization could be in error to the extent that Jehovah could somehow be displeased with it.
Through countless talks, articles and graphic magazine illustrations, the Watchtower projects a vision of a triumphant organization of smiling Jehovah's Witnesses marching into the new world. But the Watchtower's Bible-based vision of the future is worthless and misleading because it completely nullifies God's Word of judgment that inevitably must come first.
Just as the Jewish kings and their subjects supposed that Jehovah would never allow Jerusalem to be destroyed, Jehovah's Witnesses have similarly been misled to assume that the Watchtower institution will always march on to greater and greater glory as "Jehovah's visible organization." Like the message of the false prophets of ancient Jerusalem, the Watchtower has soothed over Jehovah's judgments, so as if say: "There is peace, there is peace."
It is as if the false prophets have tricked the very organization they revere, even as Lamentations 1:19 says: "I have called to those intensely loving me. They themselves have tricked me."
It has even been suggested that much of the physical infrastructure and property belonging to the Watchtower Society will remain intact through the war of Armageddon. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been seduced to suppose that the dozens of Bethel branches around the world and in particular the Watchtower's vast Patterson, Wallkill and Brooklyn headquarters facilities, are the charmed safe-haven nucleus of the coming new world. The reverent attitude of Jehovah's Witnesses toward these facilities and the Watchtower institution is very similar to the way the Jews regarded Solomon's temple. That such an attitude exists is undeniable. Therefore, Jehovah’s Witnesses do well to take note of Jehovah's advice through Jeremiah: "Do not put your trust in fallacious words, saying, 'The temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah they are!'" (Jeremiah 7:4)
The sobering thing is that Jehovah also recognized Solomon's temple as belonging to himself. However, that did not prevent him from casting it off. Yet, Jehovah’s Witnesses suppose it is out of the question that Jehovah might allow a similar calamity to befall the Watchtower Society. Could it be that Jehovah's Witnesses are in for a profound faith-shaking shock when that which is considered holy to Jehovah is abased? Jeremiah's prophetic lament seems to perfectly describe the disastrous end of the presently prevailing presumptions in the organization, where it says: "The kings of the earth and all the inhabitants of the productive land had not believed that the adversary and the enemy would come into the gates of Jerusalem." (Lamentations 4:12)
Ominously Lamentations 2:15 decries the overwhelming astonishment over the fall of the city that was once regarded as "the perfection of prettiness," saying: “At you all those passing along on the road have clapped their hands. They have whistled and kept wagging their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying: "Is this the city of which they used to say, 'It is the perfection of prettiness, exultation for all the earth?”’
Do not Jehovah's Witnesses also assume that the global Watchtower organization is an indestructible "city" and in so many words, "the perfection of prettiness"?
Rather than supposing that Jehovah's modern spiritual temple and altar were made desolate during the persecutions of First World War, or that somehow Jehovah's temple symbolizes Christendom, the reader is invited to use their imagination to envision Jehovah's so-called visible organization being destroyed in the near future, even to the extent that Jeremiah bemoans the destruction of God's temple at Lamentations 2:7, where he wrote: "Jehovah has cast off his altar. He has spurned his sanctuary. Into the hand of the enemy he has surrendered the walls of her dwelling towers."
The situation today is exactly the same as in Jeremiah's day. Any sober voice of warning, no matter how scripturally authoritative it may be, which even suggests something other than what the Watchtower establishment has envisioned for our future, is unreasoningly dismissed. The Watchtower leadership simply refuses to recognize anyone among Jehovah's Witnesses as having any spiritual insights who is not part of Bethel's inner-circle of initiates. As a result of their marginalizing the true voices of the prophets from the Scriptures, which is in reality Jehovah's voice, the end result must inevitably be the same as Jeremiah's lament: "Her gates have sunk down into the very earth. He has destroyed and broken her bars in pieces. Her king and her princes are among the nations. There is no law. Her own prophets also have found no vision from Jehovah."
If Jehovah's Witnesses are Jehovah's organization, as they ardently believe, following the ancient pattern, then, Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot expect the Watchtower to announce its coming demise. Indeed, the unexpected collapse of the Watchtower will no doubt seem as if all has been lost. At Lamentations 3:18, Jeremiah gives voice to the crushing disappointment Jehovah's Witnesses may experience in the near future: “And I keep saying: ‘My excellency has perished, and my expectation from Jehovah.”’
YOU WILL HAVE TO KNOW THAT I AM JEHOVAH
Some may wonder, though, why the destruction of Jerusalem should be of any real interest to us today. The reason is, because, just as the Jews and the temple in the city of Jerusalem represented Jehovah in the ancient world, it is undeniable that the worldwide organization of Jehovah's Witnesses and the Watchtower Society represent Jehovah God in the modern world.
For one thing, the name of Jehovah is no ordinary name. Regardless of how it is pronounced in your native tongue, it is the rightful name of God. Even though Christendom may have sanitized the sacred name of God from most of their Bibles and promoted the babylonish Jesus-is-God Trinity, thereby shoving the unique name of God further into obscurity, Jehovah's Witnesses have restored the precious name of God to the Bible and have become inseparably linked to the divine name through their ongoing, worldwide preaching campaign.
Not only that, just as the Jews were in a covenant relationship with Jehovah through Moses, anointed Jehovah's Witnesses are in a special covenanted union with Jehovah through their Mediator, Christ. That means that Jehovah's Witnesses have a non-negotiable obligation before Jehovah to always uphold the honor of God's name. But let none of Jehovah’s Witnesses assume that if they should ever dishonor the name of Jehovah that you should fare any better than the ancient nation of Jehovah's witnesses who brought themselves under God's judgment. Since Jehovah is righteous, he can but only punish those who rebel against him.
Being dedicated to God does not necessarily preclude Jehovah’s Witnesses from coming to know that Jehovah is God in the future. What does that mean? It means that while Christians may know Jehovah in an intellectual, doctrinal way, Jehovah’s Witnesses today have yet to know him as the Jews came to know him—as a God who rebukes and disciplines his transgressing sons and who resolutely defends the honor of his own name. Furthermore, Jehovah’s Witnesses have not yet come to know Jehovah as a merciful and powerful Savior of his erring but repentant congregation.
The Watchtower has pointed out that the prophecy of Ezekiel says over 60 times 'and they will have to know that I am Jehovah.' Sometimes the prophet used the expression that "the nations will have to know that I am Jehovah."Other times, though, Ezekiel said that the house of Israel would also have to know that "I am Jehovah."Take Ezekiel 36:20-23, for example. It explains that the nations will come to know Jehovah by the way he sets matters straight among his own people. Those verses read: "So they came in to the nations where they came in, and people proceeded to profane my holy name in saying with reference to them, 'These are the people of Jehovah, and from his land they have gone out.' And I shall have compassion on my holy name, which the house of Israel have profaned among the nations where they have come in."
"Therefore say to the house of Israel, This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said: 'Not for your sakes am I doing it, O house of Israel, but for my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have come in. And I shall certainly sanctify my great name, which was being profaned among the nations, which you profaned in the midst of them; and the nations will have to know that I am Jehovah,' is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, 'when I am sanctified among you before their eyes.’”
As mentioned at the onset, the fall of the Judean kingdom and the destruction of Jerusalem and Jehovah's temple by the Babylonians was not only a tremendous humiliation for the Jews themselves, worst of all, it brought reproach upon the name of Jehovah because it gave observers the impression that Jehovah was powerless to safeguard his own possession. That is why God caused the sudden fall of Babylon and the liberation of his people, in order to reassert his mastery over the would-be gods of the nations.
The Bible record of the overthrow of Babylon and the restoration of the worship of Jehovah on Mount Zion stands as a permanent testimony to God's ascendancy. However, the contest of global supremacy between God and the gods, yes, the issue of universal sovereignty as the Watchtower words it, was by no means settled with finality back then. Neither was it by any means settled in 1918, or whenever. There remains an ultimate confrontation consistent with the scriptural pattern, between the modern entities represented by Zion and Babylon, and their respective deities.
Let the reader recount, mentally, the numerous times recorded in Judges and the Chronicles of Israel, for example, whereby Jehovah allowed Israel's many enemies to oppress them and then Jehovah caused a grand deliverance. It would seem, then, to be an integral aspect of Jehovah's purpose to allow his people to fall before their enemies as a disciplinary measure, thereby requiring God to perform an act of salvation as a means of vindicating himself.
In view of the deeply-etched Bible pattern, whereby over and over again, Jehovah beautifies his own name by redeeming his errant people and rescuing them from the clutches of their enemies, we may consider it a foregone conclusion that the culmination of things will involve Jehovah's Witnesses bringing disgrace upon themselves and the name of God by falling before their enemies.
“GET OUT OF HER MY PEOPLE”
But, a grave interpretive problem Jehovah's Witnesses are saddled with at present is that the Watchtower has applied the prophecies of getting out of Babylon the Great to the present period; thereby, nullifying God's awesome judgment, not only concerning the possibility of a future captive condition for the organization, but minimizing Jehovah's ultimate miraculous release. Put another way, the liberation of Jehovah's people from Babylon is one of the most momentous events in prophecy. But the Society’s biblical interpretations have made Zion's salvation from Babylon the Great anticlimactic and irrelevant to future events.
Getting out of Babylon does not merely involve changing religious affiliations. It means accepting the salvation from grinding tyranny that God will offer to his otherwise helpless people. It should be obvious that no such salvation has opened up yet because Jehovah has not yet sanctified his name before the nations. A case in point: Why is it that if Babylon the Great fell back in 1919 that the name of Jehovah has not since been exalted far above the other gods of the nations? Has Jehovah's name become renowned worldwide merely because the Bible Students denounced Christendom back in the 1920's? Not really.
Again, if Babylon has already fallen, why does Christendom's trinity god still presumptuously parade as if he were the real God of the Bible? Or why does the Muslim god, Allah, still oppress and kill Jehovah's Witnesses and anyone else who carries a Bible in the lands where his worshippers dominate? Is Jehovah, the God of Jehovah's Witnesses, who once parted the Red Sea and overthrew the mighty kingdom of Babylon in one fateful night, merely an also-ran to the modern pantheon of gods of the nations?
If Babylon the Great has already fallen and God's people have relived the mighty deliverance from the hand of tyranny, foreshadowed and foretold in prophecy, then Jehovah is no more powerful than any other god. If the profound shadow cast in prophecy was fulfilled in 1919, as Jehovah's Witnesses have been seduced into believing, then God's purpose has failed, in that, the name of Jehovah has by no means been sanctified by the supposed release from Babylon the Great.
What Jehovah's Witnesses have succeeded in doing by their ministry is making the name of God known before the nations, so that Jehovah is not an unknown alien deity. That is something. However, in view of all of the foregoing, it means that the name of God is yet to be profaned as a result of the transgression and subsequent fall of those who bear the name of Jehovah. Consider Lamentations 2:2 in the light of numerous other prophecies, which reads: "Jehovah has swallowed up, He has shown no compassion upon any abiding places of Jacob. In his fury he has torn down the fortified places of the daughter of Judah. He has brought into contact with the earth, he has profaned the kingdom and her princes."
Now, consider Isaiah 43:25-28: "I—I am the One that is wiping out your transgressions for my own sake, and your sins I shall not remember. Remind me; let us put ourselves on judgment together; tell your own account of it in order that you may be in the right. Your own father, the first one, has sinned, and your own spokesmen have transgressed against me. So I shall profane the princes of the holy place, and I will give Jacob over as a man devoted to destruction and Israel over to words of abuse."
Of course, the Watchtower's latest commentary on Isaiah is completely silent as to any modern fulfillment of this portion of Isaiah. But does the prophecy of Isaiah have a greater application than to merely the Jews of Bible history? If so, to whom does the prophecy apply to? Who are "the princes of the holy place"?
Isaiah 43:7 answers, saying: "Do not be afraid, for I am with you. From the sunrising I shall bring your seed, and from the sunset I shall collect you together. I shall say to the north, 'Give up!' and to the south, 'Do not keep back. Bring my sons from far off, and my daughters from the extremity of the earth, everyone that is called by my name and that I have created for my own glory, that I have formed, yes, that I have made.'"
Who are the regathered sons and daughters who are called by the very name of Jehovah? Well, the Society used to run a caption on the front page of the Watchtower Magazine quoting from this very 43rd chapter of Isaiah that names God's people as the witnesses of Jehovah. It is therefore beyond disputing that those called by God's name – who serve as his witnesses before the nations – can only be Jehovah's Witnesses; more specifically, the anointed are considered by Jehovah as sons and daughters to him. Moreover, "the princes of the holy place,"whom Jehovah profanes, can only be the sons of the kingdom—the holy ones. Also, the same ones whom Jehovah swallows down and profanes are also the ones whom he calls his as his witnesses; the very ones whom Jehovah also graciously forgives and redeems.
At some point, no doubt during the disciplining, Jehovah’s Witnesses will realize that the 43rd chapter of Isaiah is a time-encapsulated message; yet to be delivered to those who endure God's severe thrashing and captivity to an antitypical Babylon, and who afterwards enjoy the sublime comfort and salvation the Scriptures promise. By so doing, the redeemed become the witnesses of Jehovah in the fullest sense.
To better situate ourselves in relation to the timing of God's affairs: When does the foretold gathering take place that Isaiah foretells? Yes, when are God's sons and daughters, those called by the sacred name of Jehovah, brought to him from the "extremity of the earth"? According to Jesus, the gathering of Jehovah's chosen ones takes place during the tribulation; no doubt after the holy place is made desolate by a disgusting thing. That is when Christ "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."
Since Jehovah's original gathering back of the scattered Israelites came after their exile in Babylon, the final gathering of the chosen ones during the tribulation means that they are yet to go into captivity to Babylon the Great in the future. Could anything be more calamitous or humiliating for Jehovah's Witnesses than to have the entire organization go down in a heap while Christendom looks on in glee? It would not seem so. But that is the price Jehovah's Witnesses and our Watchtower must pay for dishonoring the name of Jehovah.