Sunday, August 21

This good news of the Kingdom will be preached.Matt. 24:14.

The postwar year of 1919 opened up the possibility for a worldwide witness to be given about God’s means of salvation and the good news of the established Kingdom. Anointed Christians seized this opportunity to witness, resulting in thousands more anointed ones being gathered to become Christ’s joint heirs. From the mid-1930’s onward, it became evident that Christ had started to gather millions of his “other sheep,” who would make up a multinational “great crowd.” Under the direction of anointed Christians, this great crowd also follow the courageous example of Jesus and publicly make known that they owe their salvation to God and Christ. By enduring in this witness work and continuing to exercise faith in Christ’s ransom, these ones will be privileged to survive “the great tribulation,” which will bring an end to Satan’s world.

COMMENTARY

What is the great tribulation? According to the Watchtower the great tribulation will come about when the United Nations disposes of all the religions throughout the world.

While there is no question that such a development would be earthshaking, is the destruction of Babylon the Great what Jesus was alluding to when he said “For it will come upon all those dwelling on the face of the whole earth. Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that must occur and in standing before the Son of man”?

In order to answer that question consider the context of Jesus’ remarks in the 21st chapter of Luke. The disciples had just shown Jesus the beautiful temple in Jerusalem and were likely stunned when he told them that not a stone would be left upon a stone and all Jerusalem would be destroyed.

The disciples naturally wanted to know when this would come about. So, in response Jesus foretold of wars, pestilence, food shortages and great earthquakes. Then he said: “However, when you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near. Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains, let those in the midst of her leave, and let those in the countryside not enter into her, because these are days for meting out justice in order that all the things written may be fulfilled. Woe to the pregnant women and those nursing a baby in those days! For there will be great distress on the land and wrath against this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled. Also, there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth anguish of nations not knowing the way out because of the roaring of the sea and its agitation. People will become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But as these things start to occur, stand up straight and lift up your heads, because your deliverance is getting near.”

It is particularly noteworthy that Jesus and his disciples had come down to Jerusalem from Galilee in order to observe the Passover festival. Jerusalem and especially the temple, was the center of worship for all of the Jews and proselytes. With its priests performing the sacrifices prescribed in the sacred law, you might say that the temple arrangement was Jehovah’s earthly organization.

It is also well to keep in mind that the temple had not been defiled, as it had been in the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. True, there were the money changers and sellers of animals in the temple courtyard, whom Jesus forcefully evicted on two occasions, but he did so because he recognized the temple as the house of his Father’s worship.

The Watchtower, on the other hand, claims that the temple represents false worship and not just Christendom, but Babylon the Great, the world system of false religion. The Watchtower claims that the first century Christians had nothing to do with the temple, which is a lie, as I have repeatedly pointed out in various articles. The Jewish Christians were very much tied to Jerusalem and the temple, which is why the apostles instructed Paul to go to the temple and offer up a sacrifice to quell the rumors circulating among the Jews that he was fomenting an apostasy from Moses.

In the run-up to the destruction of the temple Paul wrote his letter addressed to the Hebrews and explained to them that the temple-centered worship was merely a shadow of spiritual realities. The apostle also reminded them that they did not have in Jerusalem a city that remains. Paul was preparing them for the coming of the disgusting thing, which would be the signal for them to flee Jerusalem without delay.

Clearly, Jerusalem and the temple do not foreshadow Babylon the Great. According to Daniel, which Jesus advised the discerning reader to consult, the desolation of the holy place is connected to the interruption of the constant feature and the bringing to ruin of the holy ones. These matters have been put before the Watchtower is considerable detail.

That the desolation of the holy place during the conclusion relates to Christ’s congregation is why Jesus instructs his followers to flee out of the midst of the city when the time comes for meting out punishment. (Keep in mind that in the illustration of the faithful and evil slaves both slaves are punished, albeit the ignorant slave with only a few stories of the lash and the willfully disobedient slave with many strokes.)

Given the fact that the desolation of the holy place occurs during a time of great tribulation unlike anything that has ever occurred or will ever occur again, what is the tribulation?

In his prophecy of the conclusion Jesus said the tribulation would be followed by the sun becoming dark and the moon not giving its light and men becoming faint with fear. That same symbolism is employed in the 6th chapter of Revelation with the opening of the sixth seal. It is apparent that the crashing of mountains and falling stars is meant to symbolize the collapse of the political and economic system. That is why the terrified citizenry are depicted as hiding in caves and holes in the earth, begging the mountains to “fall over us” to protect them from Jehovah’s wrath.

In view the fact that Jesus said the tribulation would be cut short on account of the chosen ones, otherwise no flesh would be saved, indicates that the tribulation is an existential crisis for all humanity, not merely the destruction of false religion.

What does it mean that the tribulation is cut short?

That the tribulation does not immediately lead into Armageddon is evident from the fact that Jesus referred to events occurring “immediately after the tribulation in those days.” Its being cut short means that the nations will be allowed to recover momentarily. That is what is symbolized by the beast crawling out of the abyss, by the mortally wounded head that miraculously revives. In the aftermath of the tribulation Revelation depicts the angels holding back the four winds of destruction. Why? In order that the sealing of the chosen ones may be finished. Jesus indicated as much when he said after the tribulation the great trumpet will sound and the chosen ones will be gathered. 

It is at that point in Revelation chapter seven that we are introduced to the 144,000 and the great crowd who come out of the tribulation. That is what Jesus meant when he said “on account of the chosen ones,” so that they may be sealed. That the great crowd comes out of the tribulation means that from that point on salvation for anyone on the outside is impossible. That is where the weeping and gnashing of their teeth will be. 

It is after their sealing that the chosen ones are impelled to embark upon the final witness, portrayed in Revelation by John receiving the little scroll and being told by Christ to “prophesy again about peoples and nations and tongues and many kings.”

After the final witness is given concerning the then-established Kingdom, then the end will come.

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