From the very beginning, the leading men of Israel were prone to idolatry. It was the brother of Moses, Aaron, who made a golden calf for the camp to worship while his brother was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments.
Shortly after Israel settled in the promised land they began worshipping the baals. Over and over again God would chastise them. They would repent and then the next generation would revert right back to idolatry. The worst came from the reputed wisest man in his day, Solomon. The second king of Israel ignored Jehovah’s command not to multiply foreign wives for himself. Although he built and dedicated a magnificent temple to Jehovah, in time his many hundreds of pagan wives inclined his heart away from God and he began building temples to demon gods that his wives worshipped.
Most of the kings of Israel and Judah followed Solomon’s bad example. There were a few reformers, but as soon as they passed off the scene demon worship would pop up like weeds. During the time of the prophets, Jehovah had determined to crush idolatry once and for all.
It is noteworthy that demon worship was usually out in the open. There were the so-called high places and sacred poles that were quite visible. Of course, the kings of Israel maintained two golden calves for the Israelites to worship —for their convenience, so they didn’t have to travel up to Jerusalem to worship Jehovah. But some 400 years after Solomon dedicated the temple to Jehovah it too was defiled with demonism.
When Ezekiel was given a vision of the temple he first saw the symbol of jealousy at the entryway. The symbol —whatever it was —was visible to all who came to the temple to worship. However, what Ezekiel saw next was not so apparent. Ezekiel was shown a hole in the wall of the temple and then Jehovah commanded him to bore through the wall —apparently making the hole wide enough to enter. There, in the darkness, in secrecy, were 70 elders of the people paying homage to a variety of representations of beasts engraved on the wall and various idols and disgusting things. They had incense censers and a perfumed cloud filled the sanctuary. The incense was an offering of worship to the demons who were represented by the engravings and idols.
Jehovah, who sees into the darkest places, the recesses of our minds and hearts, informed Ezekiel that the idolatrous elders were saying: “Jehovah is not seeing us. Jehovah has left the land.”
It is not that the 70 elders did not believe in God. They apparently did. They even used his personal name. However, they simply did not believe that Jehovah was concerned. They did not believe that Jehovah was any longer in the land. After all, some 150 years before Jehovah had the 10 tribes taken off the land and then the upper crust of Jewish society was taken captive to Babylon, which is where Ezekiel was at the time.
The prophecy of Zephaniah reveals a similar faithless attitude. That is why Jehovah stated: “At that time I will carefully search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will call to account the complacent ones, who say in their heart, ‘Jehovah will not do good, and he will not do bad.’”
Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize that the prophecy of Zephaniah is a vision for the future when God will judge the earth. That is when there will be a change to a pure language. That being true, the complacent ones in Jerusalem who do not suppose God will do anything good or bad, are hidden in Christ’s congregation —which is what Jerusalem symbolizes. That is why Jehovah will perform a careful search, as if with a lamp in order to search out and destroy them. Not only that, like the 70 elders, the complacent ones are leading men who climb the platform to offer sacrifices and who wear official grab. Also, the prophecies of Ezekiel and Zephaniah both foretell that when the judgment comes no amount of silver, gold or any form of wealth will be of any value.
In the Christian era God no longer symbolically inhabits a literal temple. Christians worship in spirit and truth. The real temple is spiritual. Just like in Solomon’s temple the spiritual sanctuary is also infested with demon worshippers. However, it is not out in the open. It is secret —as if in the dark. Paul was aware of this phenomenon in his day. In the 11th chapter of his second letter to the Corinthians, the apostle expressed his fear that some in the congregation may be seduced by Satan, just like the serpent seduced Eve. Paul went on to expose a spiritual danger that was in their midst in the form of those whom he dubbed the “superfine apostles,” whom Paul revealed to be wearing a disguise and posing as ministers of righteousness. They were empowered to do that because Satan insidiously transforms himself into an angel of light.
Keep in mind that it was these very same anointed Corinthians of whom the apostle said: “Do you not know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that the spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him; for the temple of God is holy, and you are that temple.” —1 Cor. 3:16-17
Think about it, within God’s temple were men who were outright frauds. They were pretenders. They were not sons of God but were from their father, the Devil. They were doing the will of their evil father by spending their lives pretending to be ministers of righteousness within Christ’s congregation. And the Corinthians were unaware that Satan’s agents were presiding over them like Christ’s own apostles. The inspired apostle boldly outed them as being secret agents of Satan. And the record has been preserved for us.
The purpose of Christ’s Second Coming is to destroy Satan’s world along with his worshippers and ultimately Satan himself. But the judgment starts first with the house of God —with Christ’s congregation. That is why Jesus spoke a series of illustrations, beginning with a question: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave…” Obviously, Jesus posed the phrase as a question because no answer could be supplied by anyone until the master comes to shine a light upon the activities of his house of servants.
Knowing the long history of Satan’s operations against Jehovah’s worship in early times and being fully aware of the tendency of men to lack faith, Christ indicated why he posed such a question when he went on to say: “But if ever that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying,’ and he starts to beat his fellow slaves and to eat and drink with the confirmed drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day that he does not expect and in an hour that he does not know, and he will punish him with the greatest severity and will assign him his place with the hypocrites. There is where his weeping and the gnashing of his teeth will be.”
The attitude of the evil slave is similar to that of the 70 leaders and the priests of Zephaniah. All of them justify their unfaithfulness by blaming God in one way or another. Either God is blind or he has left the building or he has gone off and is delaying his return. So it is, the 70 elders offering incense to the demons typify wicked men in the Christian temple —also called God’s house. The 70 are similar to the agents of Satan who presided over the Corinthian congregation. However, did not the apostle foretell that a man of lawlessness will sit down within the very temple of God and claim to be a god up until the manifestation of Jesus destroys him?
Since there is an evil slave who is yet to be exposed, the 70 elders more especially symbolize those who preside as superfine apostles now, but who will yet be exposed as evil agents of the Devil when Jesus consigns them to their place with the hypocrites.
Is there a modern counterpart to what Ezekiel saw in vision when he peered into the darkened inner chamber and “saw all sorts of images of creeping things and loathsome beasts and all the disgusting idols of the house of Israel; they were carved on the wall all around”?
For many decades the Watchtower has identified the United Nations organization as the scarlet-colored wild beast of Revelation as well as the disgusting thing Jesus foretold would stand where it ought not. The Watchtower has lambasted the clergy for idolizing the League of Nations and the UN as the political expression of God’s Kingdom on earth. The Watchtower has even declared that people of the world have already received the 666 for worshipping the loathsome political beast. We would have to agree that worshipping a symbolic beast is every bit as idolatrous and disgusting in God’s eyes as offering incense to a carving on a wall of creeping things and loathsome beasts.
Half of the member nations of the United Nations do not even profess to be Christian, but here we find nations of Christendom in political union with non-Christian or pagan nations. The United Nations is a part of this world and is a “friend of the world” and, consequently, is an “enemy of God.” Messianic hopes are attached to it by its idolizers, and it is accepted by Christendom as a substitute for the established Messianic kingdom of God. Disgusting! – God’s kingdom Has Approached, page 311
Given the Watchtower’s stance on the UN being a disgusting idol it was shocking when it came to light back in 2001 that the Watchtower had been in a secret partnership with the United Nations for 10 years. The terms of that partnership required the Watchtower to devote a portion of its capacity to reach the public to disseminate positive information about the UN and its plethora of associate agencies. Jehovah’s Witnesses had no idea that the Watchtower and Awake! journals that they distributed in the field were peppered with articles intentionally written to fulfill the organization’s obligation to propagandize on behalf of the UN. (There is no point in outlining the extent to which the Governing Body went, as it has been documented in Jehovah Himself Has Become King.)
Since the Watchtower and Awake! magazines are devoted to announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom and the Bethel considers itself to be Jehovah’s special property —the headquarters of his earthly organization —any deviation from their mission to serve Christ and be used exclusively as a holy instrument for God’s sacred service would be a grave sin —a rebellion, even apostasy.
Given that the leadership secretly engaged all who were Jehovah’s ministers from 1992-2001 to serve as emissaries of the very institution it considers to be a loathsome beast and disgusting idol, it was as if they offered incense to it in order to offend Jehovah.
How offensive it must be to heaven that the leadership of the Watchtower boldly proclaims it is the place of pure worship. It is as if they are thrusting the branch under his nose by their piously boasting of offering to God the sweetest smelling incense of pure worship. Jehovah is surely repulsed by the stench of their brazen hypocrisy.
But the idolatry of the 70 men was not all. God went on to say to Ezekiel: “‘You will see detestable things that are even more terrible that they are doing.’ So he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the house of Jehovah, and there I saw women sitting and weeping over the god Tammuz.”
To be continued…