Jerusalem was no more. The temple that had stood for nearly 500 years lay in ruins. All the people were gone too, except for a few left behind. Many had been killed. The rest were led away to Babylon. The prophets had foretold Jerusalem’s fall. They also foretold that God would repurchase his people and restore them to their desolate homeland. This actually happened. In one night mighty Babylon fell and the man who engineered Babylon’s overthrow, a man named Cyrus, was foretold by name through Isaiah long before he was even born. Cyrus and other Persian rulers treated the Jews kindly and allowed them to return to Judah and rebuild Jehovah’s city and temple.
Was pure worship restored then? Not really. Only pictorially. God’s grand, overarching purpose was far from complete. Jehovah allowed the Jews to return to Palestine for one reason —to provide a landing place, so-to-speak —a field of operation, a setting for the most pivotal event in human history —the advent of the Messiah, the man whom the Jews came to know as Jesus.
It is true, when Jesus walked the length and breadth of the land God had given to Abraham’s offspring he was not confronted with the rank idolatry that existed before the Babylonian holocaust. There were no baal images. No child sacrifices upon the high places. There were no sacred poles or idols of any kind. Even so, the majority of Jews did not accept Jesus as the messianic Son of God. Why not?
The primary reason for their not accepting the Messiah was the leadership of the Jews did not acknowledge that Jesus was the Christ and the one sent from God.
After returning to their ancestral homeland sometime during the Greek domination the religious life of the Jews came to be dominated by an educated class of men who were the keepers of knowledge. They were divided into two primary sects. One group was known as the Sadducees. The other, the Pharisees. There were also scribes, who were copyists of the sacred Scriptures, which made them knowledgeable of the Law. Together with the priests and high priest, the scribes, Sadducees and Pharisees, controlled every aspect of Jewish society.
Keep in mind that back then individuals did not possess what we know as the Bible –or the Old Testament, as it is called now. Even though the Israelites were entrusted with the sacred writings the hand-copied scrolls were not in abundance. Most likely only synagogues had copies of the writings of Moses and the prophets, whether in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek.
Jesus was born into this culture and was immersed in it. He was a devout Jew —a fervent worshipper of Jehovah. As a boy and young man, he attended the annual religious festivals in Jerusalem and the weekly Sabbath meetings at his local synagogue.
When Jesus was about 30 years old something extraordinary occurred when he attended a meeting in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth. Unbeknownst to his fellow Galileans, Jesus had been anointed by holy spirit a few weeks before. After 40 days in the wilderness, fasting and being tempted by the Devil, Jesus returned to Nazareth and entered the synagogue. He stood up before the congregation and asked for the scroll of Isaiah. He scrolled to a particular passage and read the following: “‘Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor. He sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and a recovery of sight to the blind, to send the crushed ones away free, to preach Jehovah’s acceptable year.’ With that he rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were intently fixed on him. Then he began to say to them: ‘Today this scripture that you just heard is fulfilled.’”
At first the congregation spoke favorably of their hometown man —that is up until Jesus explained to them that “no prophet is accepted in his home territory” —at which point the congregation tried to murder him. Obviously, those synagogue-going Nazarenes were not practicing pure worship. (Luke 4)
That was just the beginning. As his fame spread and crowds of people were attracted to him, the Pharisees and leaders of the Jews opposed Jesus more and more. They tried repeatedly to trap him in his words in order to discredit him and have a pretext for arresting him. They failed over and over again. The leaders opposed Jesus to such an extent that they determined that any Jew who followed Jesus ought to be expelled from the synagogue, which would mean total ostracism from Jewish society. What made their opposition inexcusable was the fact that they were eye-witnesses to many of Jesus’ miracles. Instead of convincing them that Jesus had God’s spirit they claimed he was a charlatan and empowered by Beelzebub —the Devil.
Jesus knew the real reason the majority of the Jews did not believe him. It was because they were not his sheep. Jehovah only drew certain people to Jesus. When the Jews demanded to know if he was, in fact, the Christ, Jesus explained it to them: “I told you, and yet you do not believe. The works that I am doing in my Father’s name, these bear witness about me. But you do not believe, because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them everlasting life, and they will by no means ever be destroyed, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is something greater than all other things, and no one can snatch them out of the hand of the Father. I and the Father are one.” (John 10) Once again, the Jews tried to kill Christ.
With the coming of Christ a new phase of worship was implemented. Jesus explained it to a non-Jewish woman —a Samaritan —when he said: “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, because salvation begins with the Jews. Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshippers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for indeed, the Father is looking for ones like these to worship him. God is a Spirit, and those worshipping him must worship with spirit and truth.”
Jerusalem was no longer the center of the worship of Jehovah. It was being phased out along with the entire brick and mortar temple arrangement. It had become obsolete. Jesus was the cornerstone of a spiritual temple —an entirely new form of worship. Shortly after Jesus’ death, the construction of the invisible temple got underway when the first 120 were anointed by holy spirit in an upper room in the storied city of Jerusalem. They were the first building blocks being chiseled, honed and fitted into place on the foundational rock —Christ.
The construction of the spiritual temple was always intensely opposed. Not only were anointed Christians persecuted by the Jews, but they also became enemies of the Roman state. Many of the original Christians were killed. The apostles, James, Peter and Paul were all martyrs for their faith in Jesus. The insane Nero made a mockery of Christians being the light of the world by tying them to poles and dousing them in oil and using their smoldering corpses as lamps to light the darkened streets of Rome.
In time, however, the most effective opposition to the truth came from within. As the apostles foretold, wicked men —false teachers —rose up within the congregations and assumed roles as elders —bishops, as they came to be called. Eventually, those apostate bishops handed the leadership of the congregations over to the pagan emperor of the demon-worshipping empire, Constantine. The spirt and truth that were the basis for pure worship were lost. The temple-building project came to a halt.
If the Christian congregation was the spiritual temple —the new Jerusalem —what happened? The primary vulnerability was that Satan was allowed to have influence within the temple, just as he had over the Jewish temple. The Devil’s influence was there from the beginning —manifested in the person of Judas —one of Jesus’ handpicked apostles who accompanied Christ during his ministry, but who betrayed him into death. Later, other agents of Satan infiltrated the temple of spirit and truth. For example, Paul warned the Corinthians that their beloved, superfine apostles were actually only wearing a disguise and posing as ministers of Christ. Naturally, it would be impossible for the truth to flourish unimpeded if the father of the lie were allowed to wield any influence over imperfect, corruptible humans.
Nevertheless, the evidence is there —if you want to believe it —the original Bible Students were fired by the same spirit that had animated the original Christians. The doctrinal lies that had buried and blurred the truth for centuries were torn down by the Watchtower. The spirit and truth began to flow again. More anointed stones were being hewed and put into their proper place. The temple construction project was renewed for the purpose of bringing about its completion.
John saw the finalized city and described it in a magnificent word picture: “So he carried me away in the power of the spirit to a great and lofty mountain, and he showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God and having the glory of God. Its radiance was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone shining crystal clear. It had a great and lofty wall and had 12 gates with 12 angels at the gates, and on the gates were inscribed the names of the 12 tribes of the sons of Israel. On the east were three gates, and on the north three gates, and on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. The wall of the city also had 12 foundation stones, and on them were the 12 names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb. Now the one who was speaking with me was holding a golden reed as a measure in order to measure the city and its gates and its wall. And the city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as its width. And he measured the city with the reed, 12,000 stadia; its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits according to a man’s measure, at the same time an angel’s measure. Now the wall was made of jasper, and the city was pure gold like clear glass. The foundations of the city wall were adorned with every sort of precious stone: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh hyacinth, the twelfth amethyst. Also, the 12 gates were 12 pearls; each one of the gates was made of one pearl. And the main street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.”
With the anointing spirit in operation again and the truth flickering back to a flame over the course of the past century and a half, and the world on the edge of catastrophe, surely the Second Coming of Christ is imminent.
Does that mean pure worship has at last been restored? No. It does not. Obviously, the original corrupting influence is still very much present. The inspired apostle informed us that God would again allow for a Judas-like presence of a man of lawlessness who would be the point-man for an extensive operation of Satan aimed at deceiving those who had been called with a false parousia. I have written about these matters in detail over the years.
Peter also wrote with no uncertainty, saying: “However, there also came to be false prophets among the people, as there will also be false teachers among you. These will quietly bring in destructive sects, and they will even disown the owner who bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves. Furthermore, many will follow their brazen conduct, and because of them the way of the truth will be spoken of abusively. Also, they will greedily exploit you with counterfeit words. But their judgment, decided long ago, is not moving slowly, and their destruction is not sleeping.”
At no time in the history of Christianity has God brought about the destruction of Satan’s ministers. It is therefore undeniable that the presence of false teachers will continue up until the return of Christ. That is when the sons of the wicked one will be uprooted like so many weeds and thrown into the eternal fire of death. All the evidence points to the Watchtower as both the source of truth and the source of the operation of error –the deluding influence. That is in keeping with the fact that the original temple of Jehovah was also corrupted by demon worship.
Just as the superfine apostles had disguised themselves to appear as godly men, the false teachers are counterfeiters of truth. The counterfeiting operation underway now is masked behind the veneer of pure worship. By falsely claiming that Christ has already come and cleansed the spiritual temple the agents of Satan provide cover for themselves to operate as the faithful slave of Christ. Unfortunately, at this point in time Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot distinguish counterfeit words of truth from the genuine article.
As an example of their fraud, consider the Watchtower’s “new light” regarding when Christians went into captivity to Babylon the Great. The Governing Body now claims that God’s anger blazed against Christians in the 2nd century because they put up with false teachers. Imagine that! God sold them into captivity, even though at that time nothing of the hideousness of Christendom was in evidence. But even if it that were true in what way was “Jerusalem” destroyed?
The teachers of Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that they only follow the type/antitype formula if there is clear biblical support for doing so. Since the Watchtower now has come around to recognizing that ancient Israel and Jerusalem are not a pattern of Christendom, what is?
According to what is implied in the Pure Worship publication the original congregation of Christ is the antitype of Jerusalem. That is certainly true, whether they actually intended to imply that or not. Here is an abbreviated excerpt:
Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon struck the final blow, destroying Jerusalem and her temple. Many thousands of the surviving Jews were carried off into exile in Babylon. There they suffered the mockery and opposition described at the outset of this chapter. Did something similar to the Babylonian exile befall the Christian congregation? It did indeed! Like the Jews of ancient times, Christ’s followers were warned ahead of time. Early in his ministry, Jesus said: “Be on the watch for the false prophets who come to you in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves.” Years later, the apostle Paul was inspired to issue a similar warning: “I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.”
Christians were taught how to identify and avoid such dangerous men. Christian elders were instructed to remove apostates from the congregation. Nonetheless, as was the case with Israel and Judah of old, many Christians gradually turned a deaf ear to loving warnings. By the end of the first century, apostasy had taken root in the congregation…As Jesus had foreseen, Satan oversowed the congregation with “weeds,” or imitation Christians, and the corruption of the congregation sped up. How heartbroken Jehovah must have been to see the congregation his Son had founded become polluted with idolatry, pagan holidays and practices, and false doctrines adopted from godless philosophers and satanic religions!
What did Jehovah do? As he had done with unfaithful Israel, he let his people be taken into exile. From sometime in the second century C.E. onward, the wheatlike ones were lost among the imitation Christians. The true Christian congregation was, in effect, in exile in Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, whereas the imitation Christians were absorbed by that corrupt empire. As the imitation Christians flourished, Christendom came into being. —Paragraphs 8-9
One would think Jehovah’s Witnesses could see through this sort of sophistry. Sadly, that is not the case. Even so, there are many reasons thinking Christians ought to reject the Watchtower’s phony new light. Simply reason upon the question: Since the Jewish exile in Babylon was accompanied by the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, what is the parallel to that destruction? The WT has implied that because first century Christians were misled by imposters that they met a fate similar to Jerusalem when Nebuchadnezzar invaded the holy city and razed it to the ground. Can the Governing Body provide a biblical, historical explanation of what exactly was destroyed? Of course not. They are simply flimflamming Jehovah’s Witnesses with counterfeit words that they pass off as truth.
The fact is, the literal city of Jerusalem was destroyed in the year 70 and according to Jesus the desolation of the holy city most certainly foreshadows something to come during the great tribulation. Let the one who has an ear hear…
Furthermore, why would God punish his faithful sheep because they had become dominated by devouring wolves? Isn’t that punishment enough? Besides, second century Christians had not become steeped in the bloodshed, idolatry, superstition and ignorance that became prevalent in Christendom in the ensuing centuries after Christianity was co-opted by the Roman Empire. If God tolerated Israel for centuries before bringing about their eventual punishment, why was the long-suffering God so quick to punish Christ’s followers just a few decades into the Christian era? The fact is, the apostasy that began in the second century was not a punishment from God. Nor was the gradual domination of Christendom a punishment from God. Why would God punish people who had no clue what the truth was?
The truth is, pure worship has never existed. It cannot exist as long as Satan is allowed to exert his wicked influence over the people of God. Satan’s influence will prevail until Christ exerts his power. The end of Satan’s operation will come about when Christ’s angels remove all persons doing lawlessness and all things that cause stumbling. That is when the false teachers within will meet up with destruction. Then all of the Watchtower’s pure worship claptrap will be swept away in preparation for the ultimate revelation of truth in Christ and the revealing of the sons of God.
Leading up the epic Second Coming Jehovah has permitted a pharisaic-like structure to dominate. Once Christ arrives the Watchtower will come into full opposition to Christ –just like the Pharisees and Sadducees in the first century. That is why salvation will then depend upon leaving “Jerusalem” – what has up until then been Christ’s congregation. Then the final phase of the establishment of pure worship will begin –at last!
To be continued…