“I did not send the prophets, yet they ran. I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied.” — Jeremiah 23:21
Who are God’s people? According to God’s own declaration His people, whom he likens to a flock of sheep, have been entrusted to the care of earthly shepherds. At the time Jeremiah issued Jehovah’s denunciations the Jews were God’s exclusive people and the city of Jerusalem was the place where Jehovah caused His name to reside. The shepherds who were entrusted with shepherding Jehovah’s sheep were the Jewish priests and kings.
There were also those who claimed to be prophets, who presumed to speak for Jehovah God. And so the denunciation is directed against the prophets and priests: “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares Jehovah. Therefore this is what Jehovah the God of Israel says against the shepherds who are shepherding my people: “You have scattered my sheep; you kept dispersing them, and you have not turned your attention to them. So I will turn my attention to you because of your evil deeds,” declares Jehovah.” — Jeremiah 23:1-2
Before considering the application of the prophecy first consider the time frame of its fulfillment. At Jeremiah 23:19-20 we read: “Look! The windstorm of Jehovah will burst out in fury; like a whirling tempest it will whirl down on the head of the wicked. The anger of Jehovah will not turn back until he has carried out and accomplished the intentions of his heart. In the final part of the days you will clearly understand this.”
The final part of the days is an expression that is used in the Hebrew prophecies; namely Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, and Micah. The final part of the days is the same period of time as the time of the end, which is used exclusively in the prophecy of Daniel. In the Greek Scriptures, Jesus spoke of the end of the age or the conclusion of the system of things.
As Jehovah’s Witnesses well know, the Jewish system ended in 70 C.E. The Jews in Judea experienced the whirling tempest of Jehovah in the form of the Roman legions that obliterated Jerusalem and slaughtered a million worshippers who had packed the holy city for the annual Passover. Accordingly, the final part of the days has to do with the end of the Christian Era.
The very fact that the Watchtower declares itself to be Jehovah’s earthly spokesman, even a modern prophet class that shepherds Jehovah’s international flock, identifies the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses as the negligent shepherds who are scattering and dispersing God’s flock—or at least they will be in the near future; specifically during the final part of the days.
The very foundation of the Watchtower is built upon the supposed return of Christ in 1914. In fact, the would-be interpreters of prophecy claim that the very prophecy of Jeremiah under consideration has already been fulfilled! According to the institutional seers God entrusted his precious sheep to “political shepherds.” These so-called “political shepherds” are said to be the kings and popes of Christendom. (See Sept 1st, 1979 Watchtower)
And supposedly in 1914, Jeremiah 23:3-6 begin to be fulfilled: “Then I will gather together the remnant of my sheep from all the lands to which I have dispersed them, and I will bring them back to their pasture, and they will be fruitful and become many. And I will raise up over them shepherds who will really shepherd them. They will no longer be afraid or be terrified, and none will be missing,” declares Jehovah. Look! The days are coming,” declares Jehovah, “when I will raise up to David a righteous sprout. And a king will reign and show insight and uphold justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will reside in security. And this is the name by which he will be called: Jehovah Is Our Righteousness.”
If what the Watchtower teaches is true it raises a number of questions. Foremost, why would the loving heavenly Shepherd entrust the sheep of his pasturage to “political shepherds”? Keep in mind in the original setting the negligent shepherds were not men of the world, but rather, they were all Israelites. And the entire nation was in a binding covenant with Jehovah. That is why God expected the kings and priests to teach the people the law.
Furthermore, none of those so-called “political shepherds” in the Christian Era presume to speak in the name of Jehovah—as does the Watchtower. None of them claim to be the exclusive mouthpiece for an anointed prophet class. Yet, those whom Jehovah denounces do claim to speak in the name and by the authority of Jehovah. That is why Jeremiah writes: “Therefore this is what Jehovah of armies says against the prophets: “Here I am making them eat wormwood and giving them poisoned water to drink. For from the prophets of Jerusalem apostasy has spread throughout the land.” This is what Jehovah of armies says: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are deluding you. The vision they speak is from their own heart, not from the mouth of Jehovah. They are saying again and again to those who disrespect me, ‘Jehovah has said: “You will enjoy peace.” And to everyone who follows his own stubborn heart they say, ‘No calamity will come upon you.’ For who has stood in the inner circle of Jehovah to see and hear his word? Who has paid attention to his word in order to hear it?”” —Jeremiah 23:15-18
The obvious fact is Jerusalem was the birthplace of Christianity. Jesus was sacrificed in Jerusalem. The apostles—those whom the Watchtower refers to as the first-century governing body—were headquartered in Jerusalem. Anointed Christians preached in the temple up until the disgusting thing appeared. Therefore, Jerusalem is a cryptic term that denotes Christ’s congregation in the final part of the days.
A Christian prophet and apostle foretold that an apostasy would develop as an immediate prelude to the coming of Christ. In fact, Paul said the parousia would not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed. According to the inspired apostle, the man of lawlessness wields a deluding influence. To be sure, the man of lawlessness promotes the Watchtower as a beacon of true prophetic interpretation. But as stated in Jeremiah the self-proclaimed prophets “are deluding you. The vision they speak is from their own heart, not from the mouth of Jehovah.”
To be sure, 1914 is a delusion. “The prophets of Jerusalem”—that is to say, the leaders of Christ’s congregation—are the source of the delusion and the now-developing apostasy.
Does not the Watchtower claim that Jehovah’s Witnesses are safe within the confines of spiritual paradise? According to the prophets, the coming whirlwind of Jehovah’s judgment will be against Babylon the Great. Jesus has already come and set matters straight with his people. The shepherds rule with Christ. No calamity will ever come upon Jehovah’s earthly organization—so saith the prophets!
As regards the rhetorical question posed: “For who has stood in the inner circle of Jehovah to see and hear his word? Who has paid attention to his word in order to hear it? We can say for certain who has not stood in the inner circle of Jehovah or paid attention to his word. It is the same brotherhood of whom Jehovah speaks in Isaiah: “Who is blind except my servant, so deaf as the messenger I send? Who is so blind as the one rewarded, so blind as the servant of Jehovah? You see many things, but you do not keep watch. You open your ears, but you do not listen.” — Isaiah 42:19-20
Because the Watchtower has deluded Jehovah’s flock into believing a lie, the lie that Christ has come, that the Kingdom is ruling, that the Watchtower is the safe haven, therefore when Christ actually does come it will be as unexpected as a thief in the night. The coming of Christ will initiate war, famine, and pandemics—in short, all the things the prophets have claimed have already taken place beginning in 1914. As a result of the massive shock, the sheep will be dispersed and scattered. Who could ever trust the spokesmen of an organization that speaks for God that will discredit itself beyond repair? That is why in the concluding verses of the 23rd chapter God states:
“This is what you will say to the prophet, ‘What answer has Jehovah given you? And what has Jehovah spoken? And if you keep saying, “The burden of Jehovah!” this is what Jehovah says: “Because of your saying, ‘This word is the burden of Jehovah,’ after I told you, ‘You must not say: “The burden of Jehovah!”’ look! I will lift you up and throw you away from my presence, both you and the city that I gave to you and your forefathers. And I will bring on you everlasting disgrace and everlasting humiliation, which will not be forgotten.”’” — Jeremiah 23:37-40
The expression “burden of Jehovah” may mean a weighty divine pronouncement. The Watchtower claims to carry this “burden of Jehovah.” From God’s perspective, though, the people and their leaders are themselves a burden to Jehovah and he will relieve himself of that burden.
So, how can the prophecy be best understood? Jesus said that during the conclusion, or final part of the days, he “will send out 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.” — Mathew 24:31
Since there is to be a final gathering that means that there must be a dispersal—a scattering. The gathering of the chosen does not immediately result in their being with Christ in the heavenly Kingdom. First, they must give a final witness as they shine as brightly as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. That is when Jehovah “will raise up over them shepherds who will really shepherd them. They will no longer be afraid or be terrified, and none will be missing,” — Jeremiah 23:4
Notice, please, it is not merely the king, like David, (singular) who will reign for righteousness. (23:5) The true shepherds (plural) will all be certified sons of God—immortal kings and priests—who will guide the sheep to the waters of life.