A consideration of chapter 28. (For commentary on chapter 27 see the article: Will Christianity Survive the End of the World?)
The 28th chapter of Isaiah begins with Jehovah’s denunciation of the leaders of the nation of Israel and a declaration of the means by which God would deal with them: “Woe to the eminent crown of the drunkards of Ephraim, and the fading blossom of its decoration of beauty that is upon the head of the fertile valley of those overpowered by wine! Look! Jehovah has someone strong and vigorous. Like a thunderous storm of hail, a destructive storm, like a thunderous storm of powerful, flooding waters, he will certainly do a casting down to the earth with force. With the feet the eminent crowns of the drunkards of Ephraim will be trampled down. And the fading flower of its decoration of beauty that is upon the head of the fertile valley must become like the early fig before summer, that, when the seer sees it, while it is yet in his palm, he swallows it down.”
When Joshua brought the Israelites into the so-called promised land it was described as a place just flowing with milk and honey. But after the Hebrews had lived in the land of Canaan for several centuries it was as if the beautifully decorated land had faded from its former glory, like a wilting bouquet of flowers. This was because the leaders of the people became corrupt. They stopped worshiping Jehovah in the way he had prescribed in the covenant, and so they lost their spiritual beauty. Eventually, God was obligated to take drastic measures – completely destroying the nation, as a means of effecting needed discipline in order that some might be restored.
Prior to the times of the prophets Jehovah use various nations like the Philistines and the Midianites to afflict Israel in order to bring them to their senses. Then he would empower certain men to act as judges, men like Gideon and Samson, and they would bring about deliverance for Israel.
In the days of the prophets Jehovah used the mighty empires of Assyria and Babylon as powerful, thunderous storms, to sweep away the faithless and wicked and chastise a remnant that he would eventually restore to his favor.
Those events, both foretold by the prophets beforehand and recorded in the history of the prophets after the fact – as in the case of Jeremiah and Ezekiel – serve as a model for things to come, except the political nation of Israel today is not the land of beauty. As Paul masterfully reasoned in the letter to the Hebrews, the old covenant that God had made with the Hebrews had become obsolete and God was determined to violently demonstrate that fact, which, of course he did when the Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and the Jewish priestly system, as Jesus had also prophesied.
When Jesus was upon the earth he plainly stated that the kingdom of God was being taken from the Jews and given to a nation which would produce the kingdom’s fruit, to the glory of God. What was that “nation”? It was the congregation that Christ established upon the foundation of the 12 apostles – obviously intended to model the 12 tribes of Israel, which sprang from the 12 sons of Jacob. Likewise, the Christian writer, James, opened his letter with a greeting to the “twelve tribes that are scattered about” – referring to all Christians then living as being members of the 12 tribes of the Christian Israel of God. Jehovah’s Witnesses understand and accept this concept.
At I Peter 2:9-10 the apostle wrote to those who had been anointed by Jehovah and he referred to them as a holy nation, saying: “But 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 that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. For you were once not a people, but are now God’s people; you were those who had not been shown mercy, but are now those who have been shown mercy.”
However, it is the “holy nation” that Christ founded that must ultimately be subjected to the flooding downpour of Jehovah’s temporary displeasure. How do we know? Because the prophecy, although set in ancient times, actually speaks to the unveiling of Christ at his return. That ought to be apparent to anyone who thoughtfully reasons upon the context. For example, Isaiah 28:16 relates: “This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said: ‘Here I am laying as a foundation in Zion a stone, a tried stone, the precious corner of a sure foundation. No one exercising faith will get panicky.’”
The foundation stone of Zion is none other than Jesus Christ. But it is not in reference to his original earthly visitation. Again, how do we know?
Because the prophecy refers to him as “a tried stone” and before Jesus met his torturous death he had not been fully tried. So, it was not until his return to heaven that Jesus became the cornerstone of the kingdom of God, at least as far as this prophecy is concerned. Besides that, though, the prophecy speaks of the stone being installed in the context of the flood of God’s righteous indignation. So, the laying of the cornerstone is actually in reference to the long-awaited establishment of the kingdom of God at the coming of the Son of Man. Those who will not “get panicky” at the rising flood of tyranny are obviously Christians who have genuine faith in Jehovah and his Christ. Of these the prophet goes on to say:
“In that day Jehovah of armies will become as a crown of decoration and as a garland of beauty to the ones remaining over of his people, and as a spirit of justice to the one sitting in the judgment, and as mightiness to those turning away the battle from the gate.”
When the mighty Assyrian army flooded into Jehovah’s land and dragged the Israelites off into captivity there were none left remaining to turn the away the battle from the gate.
Likewise, when Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah and laid siege to Jerusalem Jehovah commanded the Jews to ‘fall away’ to Nebuchadnezzar; in other words – surrender, come out with your hands up! Do not resist.
It was not a glorious victory for the remnant of survivors, nor was that an occasion for turning away the enemy from the gates of the city of Jehovah – as Jerusalem was once called.
Elsewhere in prophecy, namely, in the book of Revelation, a remnant of God is depicted as being menaced with a demon-driven flood of persecution. The concluding verses of the 12th chapter of Revelation state: “And the serpent disgorged water like a river from its mouth after the woman, to cause her to be drowned by the river. But the earth came to the woman’s help, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the river that the dragon disgorged from its mouth. And the dragon grew wrathful at the woman, and went off to wage war with the remaining ones of her seed, who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.”
“The remaining ones of her seed” are the remnant of anointed Christians who are left on earth after the first resurrection commences; hence, “the remaining ones.” These correspond with “the ones remaining over of his people” described in Isaiah. But the prophecy says of them: “And these also—because of wine they have gone astray and because of intoxicating liquor they have wandered about. Priest and prophet—they have gone astray because of intoxicating liquor, they have become confused as a result of the wine, they have wandered about as a result of the intoxicating liquor; they have gone astray in their seeing, they have reeled as to decision. For the tables themselves have all become full of filthy vomit—there is no place without it.”
Of course, the prophecy is not talking about literal drunkenness. Jehovah’s Witnesses at least understand this to be in reference to spiritual drunkenness. But, as most surely are aware, the Watch Tower teaches that the prophecy is in reference to the spiritually drunken parishioners of Christendom. But if that is true, may we expect that Jehovah will glorify a remnant of them and they will be empowered to successfully wage spiritual warfare and turn back the enemy? Not only that, but the prophecy says that the glorified ones are those remaining over of “his people.” But are the members of the conglomeration of denominations and sects of Christendom God’s people? That simply cannot be the case. For one thing, Jesus revealed in Revelation that he hated sects. Paul listed sects as a work of the flesh. Obviously, Christ does not recognize or accept the multitudes of sects that all claim to believe in him.
How is the prophecy intended to be understood?
Jehovah’s Witnesses would never recognize themselves as being spiritually inebriated, nor should we expect them to since a person who is literally intoxicated is usually beyond reasoning with and unaware of their actual state of mind.
In actuality, though, the truth can have a powerful, intoxicating effect upon a person, causing them to be overconfident – cocksure of their own understanding and of their supposed good standing with God.
Is that the actual state of mind of Jehovah’s Witnesses from Jehovah’s point of view? Yes, it is. Among Jehovah’s Witnesses the prevailing attitude is that merely following the program laid out by the Watchtower Society assures one of salvation and the Watchtower undeniably subtly promotes that culture.
Consider, too, the fact that the “invisible parousia” is the foundation of the Watchtower’s entire prophetic exegesis. It is presented as an indisputable fact that the kingdom came to power in 1914. The doctrine is regarded as God’s sacred truth – beyond any doubt. In fact, any of Jehovah’s Witnesses who may express the slightest reservation regarding the accuracy of the Watchtower’s interpretations are viewed as being spiritually weak or even apostate. Because of their inebriation indoctrinated Jehovah’s Witnesses consider themselves privileged to be able to see the phantasmagorical parousia that the poor, duped masses in bondage to Satan cannot see.
Beyond all reasoning, it is considered to be impossible for the sign of Christ’s parousia to present itself more convincingly in the future – this in spite of the obvious reality that the world is presently careening towards global war and societal collapse. Hence, Jehovah’s Witnesses are unable to reason correctly: “They have gone astray in their seeing” – having imbibed too deeply of the intoxicating liquor dripping from the Bethel distillery.
Although Jehovah’s Witnesses may be deeply offended by it, still, the fact remains that the prophecy finds fulfillment among them, even the aspect of all of their tables being filled with “filthy vomit.” After all, since it is a demonstrable fact that Jesus Christ did not begin ruling in his kingdom in 1914 the Watchtower’s insistence to the contrary means that the very centerpiece of the Society’s spiritual table is an unclean deception. Yet, it is served up on a regular basis as the most tasty and nutritious spiritual food and drink available. But from Jehovah’s standpoint it is as unappetizing as vomit!
As for the attitude previously mentioned regarding adhering to the Society’s program as the means of salvation, the prophecy also addresses this, where it states: ‘“This is the resting-place. Give rest to the weary one. And this is the place of ease,’ but who were not willing to hear. And to them the word of Jehovah will certainly become ‘command upon command, command upon command, measuring line upon measuring line, measuring line upon measuring line, here a little, there a little,’ in order that they may go and certainly stumble backwards and actually be broken and ensnared and caught.”
According to the words of God in the prophecy he intended for the congregation to be a place of rest for the weary one and a place of ease. As Jesus himself said, his burden was light and his yoke was kindly. But like the Pharisees of old the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses have succumbed to the tendency to create a rule-oriented, rigidly structured form of worship; hence, the formulaic “command upon command, measuring line upon measuring line,” etc. The end result will be that many will be stumbled, even as Jesus foretold.
Although the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses does not claim papal infallibility outright, the subtle implication is that God would never allow them to be in error in any significant degree. Related to the teaching that Jesus came in 1914, the Watchtower Society insists that the judgment of the house of God began shortly thereafter and at the faithful slave has been approved and appointed over all of his master’s belongings. Even though no one alive today was among the International Bible Students in 1919, nevertheless, by extension the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that they too have passed the test and have gained Christ’s irrevocable approval. (See article: The Faithful Slave Passes the Test)
In this they identify themselves as the braggarts addressed in prophecy, to whom Jehovah speaks the following words: “Therefore hear the word of Jehovah, you braggarts, you rulers of this people who are in Jerusalem: Because you men have said: ‘We have concluded a covenant with Death; and with Sheol we have effected a vision; the overflowing flash flood, in case it should pass through, will not come to us, for we have made a lie our refuge and in falsehood we have concealed ourselves’; therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said: ‘Here I am laying as a foundation in Zion a stone, a tried stone, the precious corner of a sure foundation. No one exercising faith will get panicky. And I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the leveling instrument; and the hail must sweep away the refuge of a lie, and the waters themselves will flood out the very place of concealment. And your covenant with Death will certainly be dissolved, and that vision of yours with Sheol will not stand. The overflowing flash flood, when it passes through—you must also become for it a trampling place. As often as it passes through, it will take you men away, because morning by morning it will pass through, during the day and during the night; and it must become nothing but a reason for quaking to make others understand what has been heard.”
Ancient Jerusalem was called the city of Jehovah and the place where Jehovah caused his holy name to reside. All Jewish men were required to attend the annual festivals in Jerusalem and to present themselves before Jehovah there. In the same manner Bethel today functions as a modern Jerusalem. For decades the name of Jehovah has appeared on the cover of every Watchtower Magazine, now in nearly 200 languages – making the Watchtower Society the place where Jehovah has caused his name to reside in modern times. As the headquarters for Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide Bethel serves as sort of a capitol city for the entire organization – the center for the worship of Jehovah throughout the earth.
Uncannily true to the prophecy it is as though the Governing Body have cut a deal with death, they have “effected a vision” with the grave by interpreting the prophecies in such a way that God’s judgments have either been relegated to the past or will supposedly be executed against the clergy in the future. In effect they have rendered themselves unaccountable before God! They have sought refuge in the lie that Christ has already come and given them his approval.
After nearly a century of trying to bend the prophecies to make it appear as though they have already been fulfilled, God illustrates their predicament, describing it this way: “For the couch has proved too short for stretching oneself on, and the woven sheet itself is too narrow when wrapping oneself up.”
Every few years the Watchtower is forced to revise some aspect of their 1914 dogma. And with each passing year it becomes more of a spectacle. It is as though they simply cannot get comfortable on the bed they have made for themselves; reality keeps impinging upon them and they cannot completely conceal themselves under the fabric of lies that they have spun.
What is pictured by the “overflowing flash flood” that washes away their place of concealment?
As already mentioned, the 12th chapter of Revelation depicts a great flood being disgorged from the mouth of the dragon with the intent of drowning God’s people. Of course, the Devil does not directly persecute them. He uses his earthly political beast. That is evident from the fact that the 1,260 days describing the 12th chapter of Revelation coincide with the 42 months the nations trample upon the holy city, the same length of time the wild beast from the abyss wages war against the holy ones, described in the 11th and 13th chapters of Revelation, respectively.
Similarly, Daniel 11:41 depicts the king of the north flooding over many nations, including the land of the declaration, which, not coincidentally, is exactly how Isaiah depicted God’s earthly organization. It is the final manifestation of the king of the north, the beast from the abyss, the eighth king, who is the one whom Jehovah described as “someone strong and vigorous.”
That the flood depicted in Isaiah is directed at God’s people is confirmed by numerous Psalms, which are prophetic in nature. Just as many of the Psalms were actually prayers of Christ, others serve as prayers of the holy ones, yet unuttered. Here are a few instances:
“The ropes of death encircled me; flash floods of good-for-nothing men also kept terrifying me. The very ropes of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I kept calling upon Jehovah, and to my God I kept crying for help.” – Psalm 18
“On this account every loyal one will pray to you. At such a time only as you may be found. As for the flood of many waters, they will not touch him himself. You are a place of concealment for me; you will safeguard me from distress itself.” – Psalms 32
“God is for us a refuge and strength, a help that is readily to be found during distresses. That is why we shall not fear, though the earth undergo change and though the mountains totter into the heart of the vast sea; though its waters be boisterous, foam over, though the mountains rock at its uproar.” – Psalms 46
“Save me, O God, for the waters have come clear to the soul. I have sunk down in deep mire, where there is no standing ground. I have come into profound waters, and a flowing stream itself has washed me away. I have become tired by my calling out; my throat has become hoarse. My eyes have failed while waiting for my God.” – Psalms 46
“Deliver me from the mire, that I may not sink down. O may I be delivered from those hating me and from the deep waters. O may not the flowing stream of waters wash me away, nor the depth swallow me up, nor the well close its mouth over me. Answer me, O Jehovah, for your loving-kindness is good. According to the multitude of your mercies turn to me, and do not conceal your face from your servant. Because I am in sore straits, answer me quickly.” – Psalms 69
“And yet God is my King from long ago, the One performing grand salvation in the midst of the earth. You yourself stirred up the sea with your own strength; you broke the heads of the sea monsters in the waters.” – Psalms 74
“I am afflicted and about to expire from boyhood on; I have borne frightful things from you very much. Over me your flashes of burning anger have passed; terrors from you yourself have brought me to silence. They have surrounded me like waters all day long; they have closed in upon me all at one time.” – Psalms 88
“Had it not been that Jehovah proved to be for us when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up even alive, when their anger was burning against us. Then the very waters would have washed us away, the torrent itself would have passed over our soul. Then there would have passed over our soul the waters of presumptuousness. Blessed be Jehovah, who has not given us as a prey to their teeth.” – Psalms 124
“Lighten with lightning that you may scatter them; send out your arrows that you may throw them into confusion. Thrust your hands out from the height; set me free and deliver me from the many waters, from the hand of the foreigners, whose mouth has spoken what is untrue and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.” – Psalms 144
The coming flood of persecution, unleashed during the initial phase of the actual parousia, will for certain sweep away the Watchtower’s 1914 dogma – along with the entire publishing corporation. It will have served its purpose. All the faithless will be swept away too and the wicked slaves will be flushed out of their place of concealment. This is what Christ was foretelling when he likened his presence to the day that Noah entered into the ark. At that point the faithless were abandoned, locked out of the ark and swept away by a literal flood.
This is what is referred to as God’s strange and unusual work and Jehovah’s Witnesses would be wise not to scoff.
“For Jehovah will rise up just as at Mount Perazim, he will be agitated just as in the low plain near Gibeon, that he may do his deed—his deed is strange—and that he may work his work—his work is unusual. And now do not show yourselves scoffers, in order that your bands may not grow strong, for there is an extermination, even something decided upon, that I have heard of from the Sovereign Lord, Jehovah of armies, for all the land.”
But the purpose of the coming storm is not to merely exterminate the wicked and faithless from among God’s people. Ultimately, it is intended is to discipline the faithful and make them to trust explicitly in God and his Son. God illustrates his work by comparing it to the work of harvesting various grains and herbs and the varying techniques required for each.
Give ear, you men, and listen to my voice; pay attention and listen to my saying. Is it all day long that the plower plows in order to sow seed, that he loosens and harrows his ground? Does he not, when he has smoothed out its surface, then scatter black cumin and sprinkle the cumin, and must he not put in wheat, millet, and barley in the appointed place, and spelt as his boundary? And one corrects him according to what is right. His own God instructs him. For it is not with a threshing instrument that black cumin is given a treading; and upon cumin no wheel of a wagon is turned. For it is with a rod that black cumin is generally beaten out, and cumin with a staff. Is breadstuff itself generally crushed? For never does one incessantly keep treading it out. And he must set the roller of his wagon in motion, and his own steeds, but he will not crush it. This also is what has come forth from Jehovah of armies himself, who has been wonderful in counsel, who has done greatly in effectual working.