Saul . . . spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants about putting David to death.—1 Sam. 19:1.
Because Saul was determined to kill David, Jonathan faced a conflict of loyalties. Although he had made a covenant with David, Jonathan was also submissive to his father. But Jonathan knew that God was with David and not with Saul. Therefore, Jonathan put loyalty to David ahead of loyalty to Saul. He warned David to hide and then spoke well of him to Saul. (1 Sam. 19:1-6) If we are not careful, loyalty to a nation, a school, or a sports team can eventually choke out loyalty to God. For example, Henry enjoys playing chess. His school had a tradition of winning the championship, and he wanted to put forth his best effort. But he admitted: “Gradually, loyalty to the school began to take priority over my loyalty to God. Weekend chess matches were crowding out my Kingdom service. So I decided to give up being part of the chess team.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses are going to be faced with the most extreme conflict of loyalties imaginable, something far beyond choosing between being on the school chess team or going out in service on Saturday morning. At some point in the not-too-distant future all will have to choose between loyalty to Christ or loyalty to the fading Watchtower.
First century Jewish Christians faced a similar test. That is why the apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Hebrews —to prepare them to successfully pass the test. In his epistle the apostle stressed the place Jesus occupies in God’s arrangement —having been appointed over Jehovah’s house. Paul went into great detail to explain how Christ has become the reality that the Law only foreshadowed. Christ has even become the high priest, even though he was not of levitical heritage. How could that be? –the Jews may have reasoned. Because, as is explained in great detail in Hebrews chapters 4-7, Christ became a priest according to the manner of Melchizedek. And the king/priest Melchizedek was a contemporary of Abraham —even before Jehovah made a covenant with Abraham to be the progenitor of the messianic seed, which means that being a priest according to Melchizedek does not depend upon lineage —but upon God’s calling. In this way Christ is legally qualified to be both king and high priest, which was not legal under the Mosaic system.
The point Paul was trying to get across to the Hebrew Christians, many of whom had become dull in their hearing and spiritual comprehension, is that the Jewish system had fulfilled God’s intended purpose and was near to being done away with completely. The reason Paul felt compelled to impress this upon the Hebrews is because many of them were still tied to Jewish traditions, such as the Sabbath and various festivals. No doubt some Jewish Christians scattered throughout the Roman world still made their pilgrimages to Jerusalem in accord with the Law.
Even Paul, upon being so advised by the apostles, offered up sacrifices at the temple on one occasion in order to quell the rumor that he was preaching an apostasy from Moses. So, we should not suppose that first century Jews who became Christians made a clean break from Judaism. It wasn’t that cut and dried. We know that to be true from the bitter fight Paul waged against the Judaizers who tried to force circumcision upon gentile believers.
But according to Jesus Jerusalem was ground zero for a looming desolation that would be unlike anything that has ever occurred before or will ever occur again. So, when Paul wrote his letter to the Hebrews around 60 C.E., he was preparing them to make a clean break from the holy city and the temple; from what the Jews viewed as Jehovah visible organization, which as Paul noted, had been entrusted with the sacred writings of God. That is why in the concluding chapter of his letter to the Hebrews Paul offered this exhortation: “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.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses are going to be confronted with a similar test of faith. That is because we are nearing the end of a system. No, obviously not the Jewish system, but the Christian system —the entire system of things, also known as the era of Christianity. Up until now the Bible has served as our guide and tutor. And a Christian congregation has existed in recent decades, modeled after the first century congregation —shepherded by local elders and a central governing body and devoted to preaching and teaching in obedience to Christ’s command.
But just like the Jewish system, the Christian arrangement is only temporary. It is a means to an end. And like the former, it too will become obsolete and violently phased out of existence during the great tribulation. Prior to that horrific desolation Christians will be forced to flee from the modern “Jerusalem.” Here is the way Jesus expressed it: “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.”
In the instance of the Jews living in Jerusalem and Judea it was necessary for them to physically leave the area. That could present a problem if they were forced to flee on the Sabbath since the Jewish law prevented traveling on the Sabbath. They could be arrested and even stoned to death. But we should not suppose that the modern fulfillment will involve fleeing from a particular location. After all, Jesus said the tribulation is coming upon the entire inhabited earth. Where are you going to go?
Since those first century Christians would be forced to take up the reproach of Christ by going outside the camp —that is to say, making it publicly known they were breaking with the Jewish religion and way of life, the appearance of the disgusting thing in a holy place will impose a similar test of loyalty upon Jehovah’s Witnesses —the modern-day “camp” being the equivalent of the organization.
When Jesus advised his followers to consult the prophecy of Daniel regarding the disgusting thing to come, Jehovah’s Witnesses will likely assume Jesus was directing us the 11th chapter of Daniel, where the kings of the north and south are said to put in place the disgusting thing that will profane the sanctuary and the fortress and remove the constant feature.
The Watchtower attributes the profanation of God’s sanctuary by the king of the north to Hitler and the Nazis. Contradictorily, even though the 8th chapter of Daniel describes the very same event the Watchtower claims the British Empire fulfilled the prophecy during World War Two. And of course, neither interpretation harmonizes with Jesus prophecy of the disgusting thing that will bring desolation during the tribulation, which the Watchtower claims relates to the destruction of Babylon the Great.
Surely, just as many of the Hebrews had become dull in their powers of discernment, so too Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The truth is, the time of the end has not begun. The end of the Christian era is what is envisioned in prophecy with the removal of the constant feature. It means the preaching and teaching, yes, the heavenly calling itself, comes to an end. The earthly organization will have served it’s purpose. The Bible will have served it’s purpose. That is why it is called the time of the end. That is why the angel explained to Daniel: “Here I am causing you to know what will happen in the final part of the denunciation, because it is for the appointed time of the end.”
The end of the Christian era is a good thing. It will mark the beginning of the reign of Jesus Christ. No, not the kind of phony Kingdom rule that the Watchtower advertises, but the real thing. That is why the Bible itself will become obsolete because the reigning Christ will become the Wonderful Counselor. Then, new things will be revealed —including the revealing of the sons of God.
Isaiah speaks to the collapse of the Watchtower and the new light to come, where he says: “And on every tall mountain and on every high hill will be streams and watercourses, in the day of the great slaughter when the towers fall. And the light of the full moon will become like the light of the sun; and the light of the sun will become seven times stronger, like the light of seven days, in the day that Jehovah binds up the breakdown of his people and heals the severe wound from the blow he inflicted.” —Isaiah 30:25-26