“This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah says: ‘Look! A calamity, a unique calamity, is coming. An end is coming; the end will come; it will rouse itself against you. Look! It is coming. Your turn has come, you who inhabit the land. The time is coming, the day is near. There is confusion and not joyful shouting on the mountains.” —Ezekiel 7:5-6

In what sense was the destruction of Jerusalem a “unique calamity”? After all, empires are beastly by nature. Assyria was notorious for its cruelty. Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon was a rapacious juggernaut. Habakkuk described the Chaldeans as being like the grave, never satisfied no matter how many it swallows down in death. Babylon crushed and plundered many peoples and nations besides Judah. Again, what made the destruction of Jerusalem unique?

About 1,000 years before the prophet issued Jehovah’s determination to bring about a “unique calamity” Moses mediated the covenant that God made with the Israelites. Written into the law of the covenant God guaranteed that he would protect and provide for Israel on the condition that the people would obey him as ruler and give him exclusive devotion. Also embedded in the law were specific curses that would be activated if the Israelites flagrantly broke the terms of the covenant.

Sadly, before the Israelites even entered into the promised land Jehovah told Moses that he knew that the people would rebel against him, saying: “When I bring them to the land that I have sworn about to their forefathers—one flowing with milk and honey—and they eat their fill and prosper, they will turn to other gods and serve them and treat me with disrespect and break my covenant. When many calamities and distresses come upon them, this song will serve as a witness to them (for their descendants should not forget it), for I already know the inclination that they have developed even before I bring them into the land about which I have sworn.”

So, the calamity was unique in that the law required it, should the Jews turn their backs on God. It was also unique because Jerusalem was where Jehovah placed his name. It was his city. That is why it was called the “holy city.” Zion was home to the only temple on earth dedicated to Jehovah. And when Solomon officiated at the dedication ceremony Jehovah demonstrated in a very dramatic way that he approved and was symbolically inhabiting the sanctuary. His presence was manifested when the inner room of the temple was filled with a cloud and glory so that the priests could not enter.

The prophecy of Isaiah refers to “his strange deed” and “unusual work” with regards to the siege of Ariel, “the city where David encamped” —that being the former Jebusite stronghold called Jerusalem. Jehovah’s work is strange because he allows people who hate him to mistreat those whom he loves. Very unusual.

The “unique calamity” more especially applies to the antitypical city of Jerusalem. Jesus spoke of the uniqueness of the global calamity that he referred to as a great tribulation, the likes of which has never occurred before or will ever occur again. That certainly sounds like a one-time, unique, unparalleled disaster.

As regards the far-reaching prophecy the Lord spoke on the Mount of Olives, although Jesus said the tribulation would come upon the entire inhabited earth, he specifically said Jerusalem would fall by the edge of the sword and her inhabitants will “be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.”

The apostles must have wondered how the desolation of Jerusalem could be such a calamity that it would come upon the whole world and that unless God intervened no flesh would be saved. They could not have known that Jesus was not merely speaking about the end of the literal city of Jerusalem, but of events far into the future.

“HAS ANYTHING LIKE THIS HAPPENED IN YOUR DAYS?”

The prophecy of Joel also speaks about a unique calamity as well. In the opening words of the prophecy Jehovah says: “Hear this, you elders, and pay attention, all you inhabitants of the land. Has anything like this happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers? Tell about it to your sons, and let your sons tell about it to their sons, and their sons to the next generation.”

The unique disaster foretold in the prophecy of Joel is portrayed as an unstoppable onslaught of winged locusts that simply devours everything, leaving nothing but devastation. To make the scene as vivid as possible, Jehovah declares: “Ahead of it a fire devours, and behind it a flame consumes. The land ahead of it is like the garden of Eden, but behind it is a desolate wilderness, and nothing can escape.” Who can deny that is a unique calamity?

The disaster comes upon the world as if from God himself, which is why Joel 1:15 goes on to say: “Woe because of the day! For the day of Jehovah is near, and it will come like a destruction from the Almighty!”

As with all other prophecies, including Ezekiel and Isaiah and Jesus’ prophecy of the conclusion, the global disaster outlined in Joel also concerns Jerusalem. The last chapter of Joel states that Jehovah will gather back the captives taken from Jerusalem and: “And you will have to know that I am Jehovah your God, residing in Zion, my holy mountain. Jerusalem will become a holy place, and strangers will pass through her no more.”

So, the unique calamity has to do with strangers trampling upon Jerusalem. In other words —God’s special property.

In the Christian era, God has no brick and mortar temple. He has no literal hallowed sanctuary. There is no city on earth that Jehovah considers his special possession. People are God’s possession. Specifically, those who are bought and paid for by the blood of Christ, who belong to Jesus, of whom the apostle Peter said: “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the One who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. For you were once not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not been shown mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

The city of Jerusalem represents God’s earthly organization. It is global in scope. The unique calamity will destroy Christ’s congregation. Surely, nothing like that has ever happened or will ever happen again.

To be continued….