There will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.
Regarding his invisible presence and the conclusion of the system of things, Jesus said the above. This unparalleled tribulation will start when Jehovah brings destruction on “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion, by using the political powers. What will come next? After false religion is destroyed, Satan and various elements of his world will attack Jehovah’s servants. Concerning “Gog of the land of Magog,” for example, the Scriptures foretell: “You will come against them like a storm, and you will cover the land like clouds, you and all your troops and many peoples with you.” Because Jehovah’s Witnesses have no armed forces and are the most peaceful people on earth, they will appear to be easy targets. But what a mistake attacking them will prove to be!
There will be a great tribulation —the likes of which has never occurred before or ever occur again. That much is certain.
But does it start with the destruction of Babylon the Great? Why not read the supporting verse cited in the text? Better yet, read the context in its entirety. If you do you will not find so much as one hint that the destruction of the harlot of Babylon initiates the start of the tribulation.
So why does the Watchtower insist that it does without any scriptural support?
The reason has to do with what Jesus said regarding the great tribulation.
According to Christ the desolation of Jerusalem commences the tribulation and it will directly impact Christians. Here is what is stated in the 24th chapter of Matthew: “Therefore, when you catch sight of the disgusting thing that causes desolation, as spoken about by Daniel the prophet, standing in a holy place (let the reader use discernment), then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains. Let the man on the housetop not come down to take the goods out of his house, and let the man in the field not return to pick up his outer garment. Woe to the pregnant women and those nursing a baby in those days! Keep praying that your flight may not occur in wintertime nor on the Sabbath day; for then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again. In fact, unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved; but on account of the chosen ones those days will be cut short.”
Obviously Jesus was speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in 70 C.E. But equally obvious is the fact that the fall of Jerusalem was a very localized event and could hardly be described as a global disaster.
Jerusalem was, after all, the birthplace of Christianity. It was the unofficial headquarters of the apostles. Contrary to the Watchtower’s teaching on the topic, Jewish Christians did not consider the temple to be unholy. They regularly preached in the temple courtyard.
Paul, the apostle to the nations who fought untiringly against the Judaizers, himself trekked to the temple and made a sacrificial offering to quell the rumors that he was preaching an apostasy from Moses. (Acts 21) Surely, if Paul had considered the temple to be an unholy place he would have never compromised by going there.
In fact, one of the primary reasons Paul wrote his letter to the Hebrews was to help them appreciate that the law had served its intended purpose and that Christians should not be attached to earthly Jerusalem. Writing in the 13th chapter Paul was preparing the brothers to flee from Jerusalem in obedience to Jesus, where he stated: “Therefore, Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people with his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the reproach he bore, for we do not have here a city that remains, but we are earnestly seeking the one to come.”
Since Jesus’ prophecy of the desolation of Jerusalem has a parallel during the conclusion, what is it? What does Jerusalem represent? According to the Watchtower Jerusalem symbolizes all the churches of Christendom. Their reasoning is because the Jews had for the most part rejected Christ and had already been rejected by Jehovah. But as has already been considered, the Jewish Christians prior to 70 C.E. did not regard the Jewish temple as something unholy.
Besides, if Jerusalem is intended to represent Christendom why would it be vital for Christians to flee out of it without delay when the disgusting thing appears?
If we are to understand Jesus’ warning it is vital to consider the prophecy of Daniel, and as Jesus advised: “Let the reader use discernment.”
The eighth chapter of Daniel uses the very same phraseology as Jesus when he spoke of the desolation of the holy place and the trampling of Jerusalem by the nations for an appointed time. Daniel 8:13-14 states: “‘How long will the vision of the constant feature and of the transgression causing desolation continue, to make both the holy place and the army things to trample on?’ So he said to me: ‘Until 2,300 evenings and mornings; and the holy place will certainly be restored to its right condition.’”
In explanation of this passage the Watchtower has published what can only be considered gobbledegook. Here, read it for yourself:
For “the holy place” to be “brought,” or restored, to what it should be, the 2,300 days must have begun when it previously was in the “right condition” from God’s standpoint. At the earliest, this was on June 1, 1938, when The Watchtower published part 1 of the article “Organization.” Part 2 appeared in the issue of June 15, 1938. Counting 2,300 days (6 years, 4 months, and 20 days on the Hebrew calendar) from June 1 or 15, 1938, brings us to October 8 or 22, 1944. On the first day of a special assembly held at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., on September 30 and October 1, 1944, the Watch Tower Society’s president spoke on the subject “The Theocratic Alignment Today.” At the annual corporate meeting on October 2, the Society’s charter was amended in an effort to bring it as close to a theocratic arrangement as the law would allow. With the publication of clarified Biblical requirements, theocratic organization was soon more fully installed in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In spite of their nonsensical explanation, contrary to the Watchtower’s insistence that the desolation of the holy place about which Jesus spoke concerns Christendom, in the very passage in Daniel, to which Jesus evidently referenced as the basis for his prophecy, the Watchtower applies it to itself, albeit to the receding past.