A consideration of a portion of the prophecy of Zechariah
The temple of Jehovah in Jerusalem was one of the grandest structures of the ancient world. It also had the unique distinction of being the only edifice on earth (other than the portable tabernacle) where God maintained a visible manifestation of his presence. There, within the temple’s Most Holy chamber, God’s presence was manifest in the form of a cloud hovering over the golden Ark of the Covenant.
Although Solomon knew that the Creator of the universe did not literally dwell in earthly temples of stone – no matter how grand – still, it was God’s purpose that a permanent temple should be built in Jerusalem – upon the highest pinnacle, called Mount Zion. It was there that Jehovah chose to representatively take up residence; hence, that is where he placed his sacred name, even as the scripture says: “In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I shall put my name to time indefinite. – 2 Kings 21:7
But “time indefinite” proved to be a mere five centuries. That is because eventually the Jewish priests defiled the house of God with their disgusting idols. And in a brazen violation of their covenant with God, the kings of Israel and Judah faithlessly sought out alliances with Assyria, Babylon and Egypt instead of relying upon Jehovah for their security. As a result of their descent into apostasy, Jerusalem, the very “city of Jehovah,” became filled with lawlessness, oppression and injustice.
In spite of the warnings of the prophets the Jews superstitiously trusted in the permanence of the earthly temple, as if God would never allow it to be destroyed. They presumed that Jehovah would always protect Jerusalem; perhaps as he did during the Assyrian invasion of Judah, when one angel slew an entire encamped army. But Jehovah did not spare Jerusalem from being ravaged by Nebuchadnezzar’s army. Recounting the badness of their Jewish forefathers, through Zechariah Jehovah reminded the Jews that the words of the prophets eventually came true: “However, as regards my words and my regulations that I commanded my servants, the prophets, did they not catch up with your fathers?” (Zechariah 1:5-6) Indeed they did!
Unquestionably, the central theme around which nearly all Hebrew prophecy revolves is the unfaithfulness of Jehovah’s people and the resultant destruction of Israel and especially the city of Jerusalem and the house of God; as well as the eventual repurchase of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon and the restoration of true worship. The prophecy of Zechariah is no exception. However, Zechariah is unique among the prophets, in that, it was written after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians and in spite of that fact, the theme of the prophecy is in harmony with all the prophets in pointing forward to a universal war and the future “capture” of Jerusalem and the ultimate accomplishment of God’s purpose in connection with it.
So, while a remnant of repatriated worshippers of Jehovah worked to lift Jerusalem from its desolate state, the prophet Zechariah was inspired to record a chilling adumbration concerning the ultimate destiny of the city: “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.” (Zechariah 14:1-2)
A HIGH PRIEST APPOINTED TO JUDGE THE HOUSE OF GOD
As the Jews worked to rebuild the house of Jehovah, God appointed a new high priest to officiate at the temple – Joshua. At Zechariah 3:7 Jehovah said to him: “If it is in my ways that you will walk, and if it is my obligation that you will keep, then also it will be you that will judge my house and also keep my courtyards; and I shall certainly give you free access among these who are standing by.”
As is apparent, Joshua portrays Jesus. That is evident from the fact that “Joshua” is said to wear a crown and sit as a priest upon the throne; however, as is known, in Israel the kingdom and the priesthood were separate offices. But not so with the Christ who is a king and priest in the manner of Melchizedek. Appropriately, too, the name Jesus is the Latinized derivation of the Hebrew name Joshua. And Jesus did indeed judge the typical house of Jehovah, as Joshua was commissioned to do. Even though Jesus was not a Jewish priest and was not authorized to enter into the temple’s inner sanctum, he did “keep my courtyards” when he, on two occasions, threw out the moneychangers and their clients who were doing business in the courtyard. In this he surely set a precedent for the judgment of the spiritual house of God, of which Jesus is the High priest.
Shortly after the second time he judged the house of his Father Jesus pronounced woe upon Jerusalem and prophesied that not even a stone would be left upon a stone in the place where the temple then stood! As Jesus had previously revealed in connection with himself there was in their midst something greater than the temple. However, although Christ had told the Jews that their “house” had been abandoned to them the apostles and a growing number of reverent Jewish Christians continued to consider the temple as something holy to God. As an example, the 21st chapter of Acts records the occasion when Paul traveled to Jerusalem for the Festival of Pentecost and upon his arrival was instructed by the apostles to ceremonially cleanse himself and present himself in the temple in order to quell the rumors that he had been preaching an apostasy from the Law. This was extraordinary in view of the fact that Paul taught that the Law had been nailed to the torture stake. But it demonstrates the fact that even the apostles did not consider the doomed temple as something unholy.
No doubt the apostle Paul was fully aware that the prophets and Jesus himself had prophesied the complete desolation of Jerusalem and the temple and that at some point in the future – when the “disgusting thing” stood in the holy place – the Judean Christians would have to flee for their lives and abandon what had been the birth place of the Christian congregation as well as the unofficial headquarters of the apostles and the historical nexus of Jehovah’s worship. Being aware of their strong attachment to earthly Jerusalem and the Jewish form of worship, leading up to the destruction of the earthly temple Paul explained to the Hebrew Christians that the various features of the tabernacle and temple were merely representations of greater heavenly realities centered on Christ. Paul also reminded the anointed Hebrews that they had “approached a Mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem,” and that they did not have in earthly Jerusalem a city that would remain. Even with that knowledge, Christians living in Jerusalem and Judah at the time when the “disgusting thing” began to stand where it ought not would face a severe test of their faith.
Jesus gave no indication that the second temple would ever be rebuilt, yet he prophesied that during the conclusion of the global system of things another “holy place” would be desolated by a “disgusting thing”; signifying that the organization foreshadowed by the city of Jerusalem would be trampled on by the nations until the appointed times of the nations had ended. According to prophecy, the fiery time of the great tribulation will serve as the backdrop for Christ and his angels to cleanse Jehovah’s house of evildoers for the last time.
The Watchtower has convinced Jehovah’s Witnesses that they are living in the post-judgment period and are now secure in the prophesied predator-free spiritual paradise and that even the evil slaves have already been debarred from the house of God. That belief tends to spiritually disarm the unwary. In reality, the Scriptures teach that there is a misleading influence emanating from within Christ’s congregation up until the outbreak of the great tribulation, when all leavening influences will be permanently eliminated. For example, in the Revelation Jesus revealed that even during the initial phase of “the Lord’s day” his congregations would be menaced from within by false apostles and corrupt influentials likened to the infamous diviner Balaam and the wicked Jezebel. Consider one aspect of internal evil influence – that being the consistent falsity of the Watchtower’s prophetic exegesis.
Just as Zechariah was written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, John received the Revelation more than two decades after the city and rebuilt temple had been destroyed by Titus. The 11th chapter of Revelation corroborates what Jesus had foretold when he was on the earth; namely, that the temple and holy city would be trampled on by the nations for an appointed time – the appointed time being forty-two months. Revelation 11:2 states: “And a reed like a rod was given me as he said: ‘Get up and measure the temple sanctuary of God and the altar and those worshiping in it. But as for the courtyard that is outside the temple sanctuary, cast it clear out and do not measure it, because it has been given to the nations, and they will trample the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.’”
The significance of the 11th chapter of Revelation is that it verifies that Jesus’ prophecy regarding the desolation of the temple and the holy city of Jerusalem is to have a second, grander fulfillment and that it will directly impact true Christians. Reasoning upon the entirety of the 11th chapter of Revelation, is it not apparent that the expiration of the forty-two month period allotted to the nations to trample the “holy city” is the end of God’s allowance for the persecution of his people? But according to the Watchtower it was just the beginning.
On the one hand, the Watchtower insightfully recognizes that the “sanctuary” and “holy city” symbolize that which is connected to the spiritual temple that Paul espoused. In spite of that insight, though, Jehovah’s Witnesses are laboring under the misconception that this vital aspect of the Apocalypse was accomplished back in the 1916-1918 period. Contradictorily, related prophecies bear the Society’s imprimatur as having been fulfilled during the Second World War. For instance, the eighth chapter of Daniel is a vision earmarked for “the time of the end”; pertaining specifically to the ruination of not only the “mighty ones” of the world, but the king fierce in countenance is prophesied to bring to ruin the holy ones of the kingdom and cause the desolation of the sanctuary of God, the temporary cessation of the “constant feature” and the trampling of the holy place; which is precisely the topic Jesus expounded upon in his prophecy concerning the events that would transpire during the conclusion – climaxing with the desolation of the holy place and the persecution of the chosen ones on a grand scale. But according to the Watchtower’s interpretation, this portion of Daniel’s prophecy was fulfilled during the Second World War; when supposedly the holy ones were brought to ruin by the Anglo-American king and then afterwards the holy place was brought into its right condition when the board of directors in Brooklyn made some trifling adjustments to the Watchtower Society’s corporate structure.
However, sound reasoning insists that there is only one occasion during the conclusion of the system of things when God allows his earthly sanctuary to be violated and trampled upon by the nations. And according to no less an authority than Jesus Christ, it occurs during the great tribulation. Otherwise, why would it be imperative for the chosen ones to heed Christ’s warning and flee for their lives when the “disgusting thing” appears? As in the first century, the appearance of the “disgusting thing” in the “holy place” will confront Christ’s followers with a life-or-death decision. And as then, Christians will be required to abandon that which is recognized as Jehovah’s earthly organization and place their trust solely in Jehovah and the then-reigning kingdom.
“THE TERAPHIM THEMSELVES HAVE SPOKEN WHAT IS UNCANNY”
The question is – how could the Watchtower be so wrong? After all, the overall theme of the Bible and the prophets is fairly straightforward. First God establishes a covenant with his people and blesses their efforts to build a city and temple for him. But because of their disobedience Christ uses the nations to discipline them; hence, the holy place is trampled by the nations. Then, God intervenes and extends mercy to a chastened remnant and punishes the nations for their extreme enmity. Zechariah helps establish part of that pattern. For example, Zechariah 1:14-15 states: “I have been jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with great jealousy. With great indignation I am feeling indignant against the nations that are at ease; because I, for my part, felt indignant to only a little extent, but they, for their part, helped toward calamity.”
The greater reality ought to follow the pattern established in prophecy. But the Watchtower’s interpretation of the prophecies is excruciatingly contorted. Among other things, we have been led to believe that God became indignant with the International Bible Students back in 1916 because Bethel allowed itself to be coerced by the war-maddened government censors into removing a few offending paragraphs from the Finished Mystery book – a book that is so riddled with error it would have been better if Bethel had censored the entire publication! But supposedly, Jehovah then performed a grand salvation for them in 1919, paralleling the Jews’ exodus from Babylon. Conspicuously missing, though, is the fact that nothing even remotely analogous to the desolation of Jerusalem occurred back then. To further obfuscate matters, the Watchtower has convinced Jehovah Witnesses that the “holy place” Jesus said was destined to come to desolation during the great tribulation is Christendom.
Again, the question: What can account for such consistent erroneousness over a span of many decades on the part of those, who, in non-prophetic matters show extraordinary insight? It is not merely a matter of making a few more adjustments in interpretation. The problem is deeper than that. The Society’s ongoing efforts to convince Jehovah’s Witnesses that the house of God has already been judged gives evidence of artifice. Zechariah 10:2 gets to the heart of the matter. It reads: “For the teraphim themselves have spoken what is uncanny; and the practicers of divination, for their part, have visioned falsehood, and valueless dreams are what they keep speaking, and in vain they try to comfort. That is why they will certainly depart like a flock; they will become afflicted, because there is no shepherd.”
Teraphim were idolatrous images, often used for purposes of divination. In that respect, it is as if the Watchtower Society has resorted to what is uncanny to divine a private interpretation of God’s prophetic word. By marginalizing God’s rebuke to the past and misapplying significant segments of other the prophecies to Christendom, the Society has uncannily bestowed God’s irreversible blessing upon itself in a vain attempt to neutralize God’s coming judgment. Like the Jews who assumed that Jehovah would always protect the temple and the city where he placed his name, the Society has “visioned falsehood, and valueless dreams are what they keep speaking” in regards to the prophesied desolation of the Christian “holy place” and antitypical Jerusalem.
Consequently, Jehovah’s Witnesses are absolutely convinced that the sign of Christ’s presence has been in evidence since 1914 and that there is virtually no possibility that the sign could present itself more convincingly in the future. Ironically, though, the world now teeters on the precipice of a yawning abyss that dwarfs the calamities of the century past; world war, nuclear terrorism, food shortages brought on by hyperinflation and global financial collapse, and the specter of pandemics surpassing the lethality of the Spanish Flu are looming larger by the day.
The shepherds who have even unwittingly carried on what is uncanny will be unable to comfort the flock when the reality of Christ’s future presence overtakes them like a thief in the night. As a consequence of the failure of their shepherds God’s people “will certainly depart like a flock.”
“THE IMPENETRABLE FOREST HAS COME DOWN!”
The 11th chapter of Zechariah opens with the chilling command: “Open up your doors, O Lebanon, that a fire may devour among your cedars. Howl, O juniper tree, for the cedar has fallen; because the majestic ones themselves have been despoiled! Howl, you massive trees of Bashan, for the impenetrable forest has come down! Listen! The howling of shepherds, for their majesty has been despoiled.”
The ancient, verdant forests that once draped the mountains of Lebanon were world renown. But woodlands that may have stood for thousands of years – withstanding the ravages of both man and nature – may be despoiled in an instant by a devouring fire.
Of course, the prophecy of Zechariah is not speaking of literal cedars and junipers, or a literal devastating forest fire. The passage above likens the shepherds of the flock of God to the majestic forest of cedar trees that once luxuriated in the land of Lebanon. As unimaginable as it may seem to those who are laboring under the spell of what is uncanny, the prophecy can only be foretelling the sudden despoiling of Jehovah’s earthly, spiritual estate in the Christian era; which, in the minds of Jehovah’s Witnesses is considered to be as unassailable as the once seemingly “impenetrable forest” of Lebanon.
But like a cedar forest engulfed in a raging inferno, the organization entrusted to the under-shepherds of Christ is destined to cease! The shepherds themselves are due to be despoiled – not necessarily as individuals, but as members of an institution. Their offices of oversight will be dissolved in the coming conflagration.
Because such a calamity is unthinkable from the standpoint of Jehovah’s Witnesses the shepherds will “howl” in sheer anguish when the organizational “forest has come down.” While the prophecies themselves have been cleverly interpreted by the Society’s “prophets” so as to “fireproof” the organization and insulate it from Jehovah’s rebuke – nevertheless, when the appointed time arrives the symbolic doorkeeper will be unable to disregard the divine command to “open your doors…that a fire may devour.” No one, not even the faithful slave of the master’s household can resist Jehovah’s judgments!
Naturally the Society has interpreted this portion of Zechariah to apply to Christendom, but that simply cannot be the true interpretation. Consider the next span of verses, which read: “Shepherd the flock meant for the killing, the buyers of which proceed to kill them although they are not held guilty. And those who are selling them say: ‘May Jehovah be blessed, while I shall gain riches.’ And their own shepherds do not show any compassion upon them.” Here the prophet Zechariah is commanded to intervene as a shepherd in behalf of Jehovah’s abused flock. In this he pictures Jesus Christ, who is the true shepherd. But if the “flock meant for the killing” pictures the masses making up Christendom’s flocks, why does the scripture say “they are not held guilty”? Surely God does not consider the millions of willingly ignorant churchgoers innocent.
In truth, the buyers of Jehovah’s sheep are not the clergy. The clergy make no pretense to bless Jehovah. It is the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses who say: “may Jehovah be blessed.” Yet, Bethel’s primary concern is not the sheep nor that Jehovah might be blessed. The overriding consideration is the continued existence and financial welfare of the Organization (“while I shall gain riches”).
Interestingly, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses no longer have legal control over the publishing corporations, such as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania and New York. Those corporations are controlled by a board of directors, who are elected by an anonymous 500 member Watchtower Society. Although the Governing Body presumably still retains control over what is taught in the nearly 100,000 congregations worldwide, it is becoming more and more apparent that the day-to-day policy decisions are made in the boardroom and by the Society’s lawyers, and as is the case with most large corporations the emphasis is on the accountant’s “bottom line.”
The corporate mentality of the world is reflected in the ruthless and legalistic way in which Bethel has dealt with the growing number of victims of child abuse. This is merely one example of how the sheep have been sold and how the “buyers…proceed to kill them” and how “their own shepherds do not show any compassion upon them.”
As if to anticipate the nature of the Society’s sin today, Jehovah reminded the priests of Zechariah’s day the reason the nation had become “an object of astonishment,” saying to them: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘With true justice do your judging; and carry on with one another loving-kindness and mercies; and defraud no widow or fatherless boy, no alien resident or afflicted one, and scheme out nothing bad against one another in your hearts.’”
The letter of James echoes the judgment found in Zechariah, not only in the sobering warning that elders “shall receive heavier judgment,” but that the “rich men” of the house of God will “howl” over their loss when the fiery judgment of Jehovah consumes their riches during the last days.
Although Jesus did not speak about the judgment of the house of God specifically, he did exhort his followers to stay awake and be ready for the sudden arrival of the master to judge the servants of the household. On the two occasions in which Jesus spoke about the faithful and discreet slave he prefaced his remarks with the stern exhortation to keep in expectation of the coming of the Son of man; whose arrival he likened to the unexpected visitation of a thief in the night. So, all the servants making up the house of God will be judged when the master suddenly arrives. We might ask, though, how many times does the Son of man “come”?
According to the teachings of the Watchtower Society the Son of man “comes” on at least three occasions. It is believed he has already “come” in 1914 as the newly installed king of God’s kingdom; then, Christ professedly came again in 1918 as the “messenger of the covenant” in order to judge the house of God. Still, in spite of the belief that Christ has already initiated an ongoing judgment, Jehovah’s Witnesses are continuously exhorted to remain in expectation of his coming once more. Indeed, regardless of the assumption that Christ has already arrived and has bestowed his full blessing upon the faithful slave – appointing him over all of his possessions – that slave must, nevertheless, continually remain awake and ready for the master to return yet again. Spiritually sober individuals might rightly wonder why it would be necessary to remain in expectation of the master if the slaves have already been given the ultimate reward of entering into the joy of their master.
Another inherent contradiction in the Watchtower’s teaching is in regards to the punishment meted out to the evil slave. Just as the apostles all nodded off to sleep in the Garden of Gethsemane as the critical hour approached, so too, the sudden, thief-like coming of the Son of man will catch all of his servants unawares – both the faithful and the wicked. That was well-illustrated by Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins – all ten fell asleep. This means that the good and evil slaves (and wise and foolish virgins) are side-by-side until the master arrives for the final inspection.
But according to the Watchtower, the master came nearly a century ago. And the evil slaves who were put out of the house of God were the International Bible Students who did not accept the corporate leadership of Joseph Rutherford after the death of C.T. Russell. But in what way could it be said that those sincere Bible Students were “punished with the greatest severity,” as Jesus said would be the case in regards to the wicked and sluggish slaves? What evidence is there that the original Bible Students were made to weep and gnash their teeth in anguish?
While the presence of the Son of man will evidently become manifest in stages, Jesus did not speak of multiple comings spanning generations. The arrival of the Son of man is a one-time, unique event. Contrary to the teachings of the Watchtower, the arrival of Christ will ignite a fire within the house of God that will swiftly, decisively and permanently divide the approved servants of God from the unapproved. Paul described it in the 3rd chapter of Corinthians this way: “Now if anyone builds on the foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood materials, hay, stubble, each one’s work will become manifest, for the day will show it up, because it will be revealed by means of fire; and the fire itself will prove what sort of work each one’s is. If anyone’s work that he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward; if anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved; yet, if so, it will be as through fire.”
As if to dispel any ambiguity as to where the conflagration is ignited, Paul next wrote: “Do you not know that you people are God’s temple, and that the spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you people are.”
The prophecy of Isaiah also speaks of the conflagration in the temple of God. The purpose of which is to purge it of apostates and refine the true sons of God. Isaiah 33:10-14 reads: “‘Now I will rise up,’ says Jehovah, ‘now I will exalt myself; now I will lift myself up. You people conceive dried grass; you will give birth to stubble. Your own spirit, as a fire, will eat you up. And peoples must become as the burnings of lime. As thorns cut away, they will be set ablaze even with fire. Hear, you men who are far away, what I must do! And know, you who are nearby, my mightiness. In Zion the sinners have come to be in dread; shivering has grabbed hold of the apostates: ‘Who of us can reside for any time with a devouring fire? Who of us can reside for any time with long-lasting conflagrations?’”
In harmony with Paul’s illustration above, some of the workers in the house of God have built upon the foundation of Christ using mere hay and stubble. In that respect, the Watchtower Society has imparted the truth to millions regarding the elementary things having to due with Jehovah’s character and purpose, but it has also given “birth to stubble,” as Isaiah foretold. The teachings embraced by Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding the multiple comings of Christ and the elaborate mythos surrounding 1914 are nothing but “dried grass.” The blazing heat of the onrushing day of Jehovah will completely incinerate the combustible doctrines of men. They will be consumed “with a devouring fire.” Anyone foolish enough to continue to embrace the notion that Christ came in 1914 during the actual arrival of Christ will be “set ablaze even with fire” in the “long-lasting conflagrations.”
As Christ Jesus illustrated in the 13th chapter of Matthew, during the world-wrecking conclusion of the system of things Jehovah’s powerful angels will be dispatched with orders to remove all lawless persons and all stumbling blocks. Weed-like individuals will be collected “out of his kingdom” and pitched into the fiery furnace – “There is where their weeping and the gnashing of their teeth will be.” Let there be no mistake: The angels are not going to remove lawless individuals from Christendom. “His kingdom” is Christ’s congregation – the house of God.
In brief: The fiery despoiling of the cedar-like shepherds of the flock will signal the end of the divinely instituted elder arrangement. It will have served its purpose. The evil slaves will then be consumed in the fiery furnace and the faithful slaves will become kings in God’s kingdom – being appointed over all the master’s belongings.
BREAKING THE TWO STAFFS CALLED “PLEASANTNESS AND UNION”
The prophet Zechariah continues his pre-enactment of Christ’s shepherding of the flock of God – taking two shepherd’s staffs, one he named “Pleasantness” and the other “Union” – speaking for Christ, the prophet goes on to say: “At length I said: ‘I shall not keep shepherding you. The one that is dying, let her die. And the one that is being effaced, let her be effaced. And as for the ones left remaining, let them devour, each one the flesh of her companion.’ So I took my staff Pleasantness and cut it to pieces, in order to break my covenant that I had concluded with all the peoples. And it came to be broken in that day, and the afflicted ones of the flock who were watching me got to know in this way that it was the word of Jehovah…Then I cut in pieces my second staff, the Union, in order to break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.”
Zechariah did not actually conclude a covenant with Jehovah’s people. But Jesus did when he was on the earth. Or at least he concluded “a covenant for a kingdom” with those whom his Father has anointed and brought into the new covenant, of which Jesus is the mediator. As under the terms of the Law covenant Jehovah fought to protect his people when they were obedient to him, but abandoned them to their enemies when they rebelled; so too, the Christian covenant is conditional – based upon the continued faithfulness of the people and their leaders.
The shepherd’s two staffs of “Pleasantness” and “Union” are an expression of the superiority of Christ’s shepherding, which is reflected in the congregational pleasantness and unity that Jehovah’s Witnesses now enjoy – even as the oft-quoted Psalm says: “Look! How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”
“At length” (verse 9a) Zechariah’s shepherding comes to an end, which is to suggest that Jesus shepherds Jehovah’s sheep for the entire Christian era leading up to the climatic “conclusion of the system of things.” The cutting of the two staffs into pieces symbolizes that Christ temporarily ceases shepherding the flock – with predictably calamitous results for the sheep. It is worth noting that “the brotherhood between Judah and Israel” had been severed long before the Jews went into exile in Babylon. But upon their repatriation the nation was considered to have been reunified. So, the breakup of the brotherhood that exists between the two national groups must foreshadow a fracture of the brotherhood consisting of two groups – the anointed and those who entertain the hope of surviving the great tribulation.
The judicial decision to let “the one that is dying…die – and the one that is being effaced…be effaced” is very similar to the judgment pronounced against the holy ones in the 13th chapter of Revelation – “If anyone has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is meant for captivity, he goes away into captivity. If anyone will kill with the sword, he must be killed with the sword. Here is where it means the endurance and faith of the holy ones.”
Endurance and faith on the part of the holy ones will be necessary in order to face up to the wild beast after the slaughtered head of the beast recovers from its mortal wound. Although the Watchtower has interpreted the greater portion of Revelation to have already been fulfilled, including the crucial 13th chapter of Revelation, such is not the case. The sword stroke upon the head of the beast and its subsequent, seemingly miraculous recovery and the coming to life of an image of the beast, initiates judgment day not only for the holy ones in the house of God, but for all of mankind then living. That is apparent based upon what is written at Revelation 13:7-8, which reads: “And there was granted it to wage war with the holy ones and conquer them, and authority was given it over every tribe and people and tongue and nation. And all those who dwell on the earth will worship it; the name of not one of them stands written in the scroll of life of the Lamb who was slaughtered, from the founding of the world.”
God’s judgment is clear – those who worship the beast or its image will forfeit their lives. They are marked with the symbolic, yet indelible 666 mark of the beast. However, the Watchtower insists that the beast was put to death during WWI and that the image of the beast came to life in 1919 with the creation of the League of Nations and then was revived in 1945 in the form of the United Nations. Incredibly, the Society actually teaches that judgment day began in 1919 and again in 1945! In either case, if that were true it would mean that virtually everyone since then has already received the mark of the beast and hence, been X-ed out of the book of life.
Contrary to the Society’s nonsensical interpretation, judgment day did not begin in 1919 or 1945. The day of Jehovah’s judgment is a relatively short period of time (forty-two months), during which time the world will experience unimaginable horrors. That is because the prophetic death and revival of the beast signifies the sudden, catastrophic passing of the present Anglo-American dominated system and the emergence of a tyrannical world government, which will then subject mankind and the holy ones to a ferocious, genocidal rampage, the likes of which have never occurred before, nor will occur again.
In this the prophecy of Zechariah is in harmony with all the Hebrew prophets and Revelation: “‘For I shall show compassion no more upon the inhabitants of the land,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘So here I am causing mankind to find themselves, each one in the hand of his companion and in the hand of his king; and they will certainly crush to pieces the land, and I shall do no delivering out of their hand.’” – Zechariah 11:6
The “king” to whom Jehovah abandons mankind can be none other than the eighth king of Revelation; which is to say the seven-headed beast after it revives from its death blow and ascends from the abyss of oblivion. “The land” that “they will certainly crush to pieces” is the land belonging to Jehovah’s people – elsewhere in prophecy described as “the land of the decoration.” This is exactly what is meant in Revelation, where it is foretold that the beast from the abyss will conquer the holy ones. The breaking of the two staffs betokens that Christ will temporarily abandon the flock; momentarily subjecting them to the cruelties of the totalitarian last king.
“I WAS STRUCK IN THE HOUSE OF MY INTENSE LOVERS”
The 13th chapter of Zechariah prophesies the ultimate cleansing of Christ’s congregation in preparation for their entry into the kingdom. Echoing the prophecy of Malachi regarding the arrival of Christ as the refiner and laundryman, Zechariah 13:8-9 reads: “‘And it must occur in all the land,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘that two parts in it are what will be cut off and expire; and as for the third part, it will be left remaining in it. And I shall certainly bring the third part through the fire; and I shall actually refine them as in the refining of silver, and examine them as in the examining of gold.’”
The end result of the purge and refinement is stated next: “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.” The surviving “third part” that “will call upon my name” will be composed of those “left remaining” from the present organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. And to be sure, Jehovah’s declaring a chastened remnant as “my people” is no ordinary affair. It must signify no less than the complete accomplishment of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ in connection with the holy ones. That is also expressed in the bewailing of the house of David over the death of the firstborn in the valley of Megiddo. (Zechariah 12:10-11) Expressed another way, whereas previously (Zechariah 7:12) Jehovah had described the hearts of his people as being like an emery stone, the coming catastrophe “in the valley of Megiddo” will soften the hearts of Christ’s true disciples and bring home to them the full reality of the price paid by the Firstborn son of God for their salvation.
As part of the refinement process Jehovah purges his house of the false prophets, as Zechariah 13:2 & 4-6 relates: ‘“And it must occur in that day,’ is the utterance of Jehovah of armies, ‘that I shall cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they will no more be remembered; and also the prophets and the spirit of uncleanness I shall cause to pass out of the land…And it must occur in that day that the prophets will become ashamed, each one of his vision when he prophesies; and they will not wear an official garment of hair for the purpose of deceiving. And he will certainly say, ‘I am no prophet. I am a man cultivating the soil, because an earthling man himself acquired me from my youth on.’ And one must say to him, ‘What are these wounds on your person between your hands?’ And he will have to say, ‘Those with which I was struck in the house of my intense lovers.’”
Since the publication of the book Paradise Restored (1972), the Society has taught that this portion of Zechariah was fulfilled during the First World War. But, reasoning on the verses quoted above, “the house of my intense lovers” can be none other than the house of God. That is evident by the very next verse, which is a command to strike the shepherd and let the sheep be scattered. As the prophecy was initially fulfilled when Jesus was struck down and the disciples were momentarily scattered. But the context indicates that there is a second fulfillment during the conclusion. Since Christ now lives in heaven, out of reach of those who would strike him, and since the grander fulfillment of the prophecy relates to the destruction of “Jerusalem” and ultimately Armageddon, the shepherd who is struck – resulting in the scattering of the sheep – must be the faithful and unfaithful slaves of Jesus’ illustration.
As all of Jehovah’s Witnesses know, the Watchtower Society is considered to be the mouthpiece of the so-called “faithful and discreet slave.” The leadership of the organization, particularly the Governing Body, is held in the highest esteem – being virtually idolized by Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is that organizational idolatry which Jehovah intends to eliminate by ‘cutting off the names of the idols out of the land’ – along with “the spirit of uncleanness.” So it is, that, the otherwise faithful slave will become ashamed of his having promoted such organizational idolatry (similar to Aaron fabricating and promoting the worship of a golden calf), and for his having foolishly prophesied falsehood for over a century due to his promulgating “artfully contrived false stories” regarding the parousia of Christ in 1914. The coming fiery purge – painful though it may be – will completely cleanse the house of God of “the spirit of uncleanness” that permeates the organization.
When Christ’s presence actually commences it will become apparent that the Watchtower’s 1914 doctrine is false and that the faithful slave had used his official position as steward of God’s household “for the purpose of deceiving.” Accordingly, the wounds that the then-disgraced organizational prophet is destined to receive “in the house of my intense lovers” will come from Jehovah’s Witnesses – they being his “intense lovers.” Indeed, in Christ’s discussion of the faithful and discreet slave in the 12th chapter of Luke, when the master arrives like a thief in the night even the faithful slave who acted in ignorance is destined to be beaten with a few strokes. (“What are these wounds on your person between your hands?”)
‘THE HOUSE OF DAVID BECOMES LIKE GOD, LIKE JEHOVAH’S ANGEL’
Like the Jewish system of things in the first century, the present congregational arrangement will become obsolete and pass away, making way for something better. The genuine coming of Christ will bring the power of God’s kingdom to the fore. We may be sure that the established kingdom of Christ will not need to use a publishing corporation as its “channel” of communication. As “the keyman,” Jesus Christ will infuse power into God’s chosen ones; transforming them into a company of indomitable spiritual warriors. In the post-congregational period they will then take the fight to the enemies of Jehovah in a marvelous way. Zechariah 10:3-5 points to the future fulfillment of God’s purpose, something heretofore not experienced, saying: “Against the shepherds my anger has grown hot, and against the goatlike leaders I shall hold an accounting; for Jehovah of armies has turned his attention to his drove, the house of Judah, and has made them like his horse of dignity in the battle. Out of him is the keyman, out of him is the supporting ruler, out of him is the battle bow; out of him goes forth every taskmaster, all together. And they must become like mighty men stamping down in the mire of the streets in the battle. And they must get engaged in battle, for Jehovah is with them…”
As regards the final confrontation, Zechariah 12:8-9 reads: “In that day Jehovah will be a defense around the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and the one that is stumbling among them must become in that day like David, and the house of David like God, like Jehovah’s angel before them. And it must occur in that day that I shall seek to annihilate all the nations that are coming against Jerusalem.”
The parousia of Christ literally means “coming alongside” – that is, Christ comes to be alongside his brothers, in that, he will manifest himself to them. That is why the brothers do not need to give heed to verbal messages or letters announcing that Jehovah’s day is here. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2) The chosen ones will intimately, personally, experience the reality of Christ’s presence! The miraculous “revealing of the sons of God” will then follow.
Besides the magnificent transfiguration of Christ, of which Peter, James and John were eyewitnesses, another foregleam of the parousia phenomenon is provided in the Scriptures; when, after his resurrection, Jesus, who was then a glorified spirit, cloaked himself in flesh and literally appeared alongside his stumbled and frightened disciples. In a foregleam of his presence, during his manifestation to them on the road Jesus bemoaned the fact that his beloved apostles were ‘senseless and slow in heart to believe the prophets.’ To disabuse them of their senselessness, Jesus gave them the holy spirit and fully opened their blinded minds to comprehend the Scriptures, to the end that the disciples were immediately transformed to become fearless proclaimers of the kingdom.
In the same manner the parousia will transform the chastened anointed remnant into “David” – the warrior king. “In that day” the anointed will no longer serve as ambassadors, substituting for Christ. They will have become sons of the kingdom, being sealed and granted entry into the kingdom – becoming kings in the fullest sense – shining as brightly as the sun in the sky. That is why the scripture says the “house of David,” or the kingdom, will become like God, “like Jehovah’s angel before them.” The chosen ones becoming “like David” will merely be an outward reflection of the phenomenon then in progress, which will accomplish the metamorphoses of the remaining ones into immortal spirits. It is after the miraculous transformation that “ten men” out of all the nations will take hold of the skirt of the spiritual Jew. And, indeed, that is when Jesus sits down on his throne to judge the sheep and the goats as to how they treated his brothers during the time of their humiliation.
But if Jehovah is to be “a defense around the inhabitants of Jerusalem,” as the scripture says, how is it that “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”? (Zechariah 14:1-2)
As Paul explained, anointed Christians are merely temporary residents while on earth. Their real citizenship is in the heavens. They belong to the promised city of God – the New Jerusalem. They long for the promised “change” of natures. Yet, while they are upon the earth in the period immediately preceding the final war, they comprise an earthly organization. It is that earthly organization which is “the city that will actually be captured.” The “half of the city” that is forced into exile must represent the so-called “other sheep”; those who are dependent upon the earthly Jerusalem. “The remaining ones of the people” who are not cut off from the city are the remaining ones of the covenant, whose martyrdom during the great tribulation brings about their instantaneous transfer to the New Jerusalem. Thus, the desolation of the earthly city – the holy place about which Christ prophesied – serves to accomplish Jehovah’s purpose in terminating the earthly ministry of the chosen ones.
Ultimately, the killing of the sons of the kingdom justifies Heaven’s retaliation. Thus, Zechariah 14:5 indicates that all of the 144,000 holy ones are in heaven before Armageddon. That verse reads: “And Jehovah my God will certainly come, all the holy ones being with him.”
“THE WIDEMOUTHED COOKING POTS IN THE HOUSE OF JEHOVAH”
Jerusalem had once been the city where Jehovah had placed his sacred name. But their having brought reproach upon the holy name of God obligated the Bearer of the Name to destroy the temple and the holy city. In modern times Jehovah has placed his name upon the Watchtower Society – making it the modern counterpart of ancient Jerusalem. And like its predecessor, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower Society have also dishonored the name of Jehovah. The most egregious instance of how the Society has brought reproach upon the name of Jehovah is by their spiritually adulterous tryst with the United Nations and their lying justification of it. So, while God is gracious and merciful and willing to pardon such offenses, he will, as the Scriptures warn, by no means give an exemption from deserved punishment. Most importantly, the destruction of the earthly organization will contribute to the sanctification of the divine name, to the end that “Jehovah must become king over all the earth. In that day Jehovah will prove to be one, and his name one.”(Zechariah 14:9)
That the earthly organization is destined to be completely destroyed as retribution for blaspheming God’s name is confirmed by the fact that in the context of the final execution of the judgment against the attacking nations Zechariah 14:11 expresses the assurance that “there will occur no more any banning to destruction, and Jerusalem must be inhabited in security.” The “Jerusalem” that “must be inhabited in security” is the New Jerusalem that comes down from heaven in the aftermath of Armageddon and the “banning to destruction” of Jehovah’s earthly organization.
Contrary to the Watchtower’s teaching that Jehovah’s Witnesses are presently living in spiritual paradise, the concluding verses of Zechariah indicate that it is only after the destruction of the earthly city that such a condition comes about. Up until then the house of Jehovah is co-inhabited by unclean spiritual Canaanites. And their presence among Jehovah’s people defiles all of the sacrificial offerings. It is only after the Canaanite is removed that the sacrifices of God’s people are acceptable to him. The concluding verses of the book of Zechariah read:
“In that day there will prove to be upon the bells of the horse ‘Holiness belongs to Jehovah!’ And the widemouthed cooking pots in the house of Jehovah must become like the bowls before the altar. And every widemouthed cooking pot in Jerusalem and in Judah must become something holy belonging to Jehovah of armies, and all those who are sacrificing must come in and take from them and must do boiling in them. And there will no more prove to be a Canaanite in the house of Jehovah of armies in that day.”