This article was originally published in 2011 and has been slightly edited and updated.
As the Watchtower’s commentary on Isaiah notes, although Jerusalem was situated on a hill it was also surrounded by higher hills, making the city itself a valley in comparison. And because Jerusalem is the focus of prophecy, much of which was originally conveyed to the prophets by means of inspired visions, the city of Jerusalem is “the Valley of the Vision.”
The underlying theme of Bible prophecy is the destruction and restoration of Jerusalem, which in former times was known as the city where Jehovah caused his name to reside. Because of Jerusalem’s prominence as the center of true worship and the capital of Jehovah’s earthly kingdom, it also has prophetic significance in the Christian arrangement, relative to the coming of Christ. That is made all the more apparent when we consider, for example, the Christian prophets wrote of the Jerusalem above, heavenly Jerusalem, and a New Jerusalem.
Not coincidentally, Jerusalem was where Christ terminated his earthly mission after having inspected his Father’s temple for the final time. It is also where Christianity originated – the holy spirit having been poured out upon the original disciples in an upper room in the heart of the holy city. And it appears that even though the apostles were all from the area of Galilee north of Judea after Jesus returned to heaven they permanently relocated to Jerusalem – making the city the unofficial earthly headquarters of Christ’s congregation.
In the manner of the Hebrew prophets before him, Jesus also spoke of Jerusalem in symbolic terms when he foretold that the city would be trampled on by the nations and that a “disgusting thing” would violate God’s holy place. True, the actual city and temple were quite literally demolished by the Roman army in 70 C.E.; but it is also apparent that Jesus used that localized tragedy as a pattern for events that are destined to occur during the conclusion of the global system when he stated that the desolation of Jerusalem would occur in the context of the worst time of distress the world will ever experience – calling it, the great tribulation.
Although masses of misled fundamentalists imagine that the modern, nuclear-armed state of Israel and the literal rebuilt city of Jerusalem with its so-called Wailing Wall, remain the focus of prophecy, Jehovah’s Witnesses realize that the coming desolation of “Jerusalem” will have a direct impact upon Christians – the chosen ones in particular – indicated by the fact that Jesus gave explicit instructions for survival, forewarning his disciples that when they see the holy place violated by a disgusting thing then they must immediately flee the doomed “city” without delay: “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 the house to pick up his outer garment. Woe to the pregnant women and those suckling 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, there are comparatively few Christians that actually inhabit the modern city of Jerusalem now. It is interesting, though, in the event of a full-scale war in the Middle East, most likely Israel will be threatened with annihilation. That may well factor into the great deception and confusion that will go into operation during the time of the end; but most assuredly, it will have nothing to do with the prophecies regarding the destruction of “Jerusalem.” With these facts in mind consider the opening words of the prophecy in the 22nd chapter of Isaiah.
“A pronouncement about the Valley of Vision: What is the matter with you that you have all gone up to the roofs? You were full of turmoil, a boisterous city, an exultant town. Your slain were not slain with the sword, nor did they die in battle. All your dictators have fled together. They were taken prisoner without need of a bow. All who were found were taken prisoner, even though they had fled far away.”
It is noteworthy that there are aspects of Isaiah’s depiction of the siege of Jerusalem that do not line up with the historical accounts. For example, when king Sennacherib threatened Jerusalem and demanded that the king of Judea submit to Assyria God simply slew the Assyrian army as they slept – there was no siege. And later when Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem he certainly slew many with the sword and the only hope of survival was if the Jews surrendered to the Babylonians. Running away was not an option. It is evident that the prophecy speaks to something other than the ancient city.
However, what of Micah’s words, “They will be noisy with men”? What do we experience before and after our meetings and assemblies? Why, the noise of happy association, as in pleasant conversations we share the joy of our Christian association and speak of our service to our God. And the worldwide congregation becomes “noisy,” also, from the point-of-view that it is constantly increasing; as new congregations continue to be formed, the harmonious song of praise to Jehovah intensifies in volume throughout the earth. WT 3-1-84 Para 13
Really, throughout the prophecy of Isaiah God speaks to his people in the Christian era at the time of the conclusion through the ancient setting. Therefore, the “boisterous city” and “exultant town” that comes under Jehovah’s judgment is the Christian congregation. And like ancient Jerusalem, the modern Watchtower Society is the city-like capital of Jehovah’s earthly organization. The Christian congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses takes to itself the biblical description of being “noisy with men.” The Watchtower even claims that Jehovah’s Witnesses live in a spiritual paradise, this in spite of thousands of cases of pedophilia. In spite of the turmoil within, who can deny that the leadership constantly exults the organization? It is this “exultant town” that is destined to come under siege in the near future.
“NOT THOSE SLAIN WITH THE SWORD”
As Jehovah’s Witnesses well know, it is a grave offense against God to stumble a fellow believer. Jesus said that it would be far better to hang a millstone around one’s neck and be plunged into the heart of the open sea than to be guilty of stumbling one of God’s little ones. That is because to stumble another would cause them to lose their life.
Although the leadership of the organization has never taken any responsibility for having stumbled large numbers of Jehovah’s Witnesses over the decades, the facts speak for themselves. For example, as is well known, back in the late 60s the Watchtower Society and some of its traveling representatives began to cultivate the expectation among Jehovah’s Witnesses that the system would end in 1975. Obviously, the world did not end then. But in the years following that fiasco a substantial number of Jehovah’s Witnesses became disillusioned. Many subsequently left the faith. They were stumbled.
Up to this present moment that Watchtower Society has promoted an even greater falsehood —the artfully contrived false story that an invisible parousia began in 1914 and that virtually all of Jehovah’s judgments were accomplished back during World War One. As a consequence, Jehovah’s Witnesses only have some vague expectation of coming under divine judgment in the future. This stands as a potential faith-killer for virtually all of Jehovah’s Witnesses when the real parousia commences. That is because even now everyone who questions or outright rejects the Society’s 1914 operation of error are “slain,” as it were —cast out as mentally diseased apostates.
In that way, Jehovah’s Witnesses are imprisoned to falsehood and the trap will be sprung when Christ comes for the inspection. Then it will become manifest that Jehovah’s Witnesses are “prisoners” of their own unfounded beliefs. No doubt, too, that is why Jesus foretold that many will be stumbled. In that way, then, the Watchtower Society will become guilty of slaying many without the sword. Yes, many of Jehovah’s Witnesses are going to become as those dead in battle, when their faith in the infallible faithful and discreet slave proves to have been misplaced.
“ALL YOUR DICTATORS HAVE FLED AT ONE TIME”
Back in the 1st chapter of Isaiah Jehovah addressed himself to the dictators of his people who had not cared for the widows or fatherless boys. Nevertheless, God expressed his desire to set matters straight with his erring people, so that their sins, though red as scarlet, might become white as snow.
So, the “dictators” who flee the besieged “town” are the elders of Christ’s congregation. Appropriately, the New World Translation uses the word “dictators” —as opposed to “leaders,” as most other translations render the verse. Considering that elders merely speak and teach whatever the Society dictates they must, what could any elder possibly say to their local flock to explain how the faithful slave got 1914 wrong? They will flee in that they will be completely ineffective in their attempts to fight on behalf of the disgraced Watchtower Society.
“Dictators” is indeed an apt title for Jehovah’s Witness elders —particularly the leadership. That is because they dictate virtually every aspect of the lives of Jehovah’s Witnesses. To illustrate the point, in recent decades Bethel and various satellite branches have become popular touring sites. But instead of allowing each person to decide what is appropriate dress the Watchtower has produced a four-page pamphlet with graphics illustrating what is considered proper dress and grooming for persons touring their facility. In other words, Bethel dictates exactly what Jehovah’s Witnesses are not to wear and how exactly not to appear. Bethel elders ought to more closely consider the letter of James, which condemns the hypocrisy of Christians who would honor a well-dressed man and dishonor a poor man dressed in filthy clothing. Presumably, if Jesus Christ himself were to appear incognito in his traditional garb he would be prevented from touring any Bethel facility.
Far worse than the petty tyrannies associated with dress and grooming, now the Governing Body has ordered all of Jehovah’s Witnesses to stop preaching in public. Once regarded as an all-important, life-saving work, it has been discontinued. All of Christ’s ministers are in house confinement —restricted to writing letters and making phone calls. Although young and healthy persons are largely immune to the contagion sweeping the globe it does not matter, the dictators of Bethel have declared it to be foolhardy and reckless for any minister to venture out onto the street in obedience to Christ. No doubt it is these exalted dictators who will flee in terror when the avenger is unleashed.
“THERE IS THE DEMOLISHER OF THE WALL”
Isaiah continues: “That is why I have said: ‘Turn your gaze away from me. I will show bitterness in weeping. Do not you people insist on comforting me over the despoiling of the daughter of my people. For it is the day of confusion and of downtreading and of confounding that the Sovereign Lord, Jehovah of armies, has in the valley of the vision. There is the demolisher of the wall, and the cry to the mountain.”’
Like Isaiah, readers of the gospel will recall that Jesus also openly wept when he viewed the city of Jerusalem for the last time, knowing that the city was destined for ruin. As a Jew Jesus faithfully traveled to Jerusalem for the holy festivals and he frequently taught and preached within his Father’s temple courtyard. But as God’s prophet, Jesus surely shocked his disciples when he told them that not a stone would be left open a stone and not be thrown down. No doubt the Jews would be confused and confounded at the prospect of God allowing the hated occupiers of the holy land to destroy the city and temple. But that is what is portrayed “in the Valley of the Vision.”
According to the augur of Bethel, the holy place that is destined for desolation during the conclusion is Christendom. That is because it is inconceivable to them that God would ever demolish his earthly organization. They further reason that Jerusalem was not really a holy place to Christ and the original disciples. That is simply not true. The apostles regularly taught in the temple in imitation of their teacher, apparently up until the time they fled the city when the disgusting thing finally appeared.
Besides, why would the prophets weep over the desolation of Christendom? Isaiah wept, “over the despoiling of the daughter of my people.” So, it is God’s people who are destined to be trodden down, confounded, and confused.
Jehovah’s Witnesses will inevitably be confounded and confused at the coming of Christ. That is because they are absolutely convinced that Christ has already come. The prophets of Bethel have cleverly built up a symbolic wall that they suppose will protect them from God’s judgment. They imagine that Christ long ago inspected the spiritual temple and gave them God’s unqualified approval. The Watchtower’s 1914 teaching is unquestionably the very foundation of the organization. In the minds of millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it stands as a rock-solid fortress of truth – unassailable by outside enemies. They have no inkling that “the demolisher of the wall” is about to be dispatched.
As if to confirm Isaiah’s prophecy concerning “the Valley of the Vision,” in the 13th chapter of Ezekiel God denounces the stupid prophets that are within the intimate company of his people, saying to them: “Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said, ‘I will also cause a blast of windstorms to burst forth in my rage, and in my anger there will occur a flooding downpour, and in rage there will be hailstones for an extermination. And I will tear down the wall that you men have plastered with whitewash and bring it into contact with the earth, and its foundation must be exposed. And she will certainly fall, and you must come to an end in the midst of her; and you will have to know that I am Jehovah.’”
“YOUR LOW PLAINS MUST BECOME FULL OF WAR CHARIOTS”
For over a century the Watchtower has been harking back to 1914 and the Great War that began then. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been declaring to the world that the four horsemen of the Apocalypse have been on the gallop ever since. But according to prophecy, the sword, famine, and pestilence are the means by which Jehovah enters into judgment with those inhabiting “Jerusalem.” That theme is repeated throughout the prophets. Yet, according to the Watchtower, the judgment of antitypical Jerusalem is a future event.
That is not to imply that the Watchtower Society and Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Jehovah’s earthly organization, only that they are blind —as the prophecies also indicate God’s servants would be at the time of Christ’s inspection.
Just as old Jerusalem was the City of David because it produced the messianic king, the Watchtower has produced a generation of anointed persons, both faithful and unfaithful, who comprise a spiritual house of God that Christ will yet inspect. His inspection is set in the context of war. So it is, the next span of verses in the 22nd chapter of Isaiah speaks to the coming global war and the collapse of the city-like organization that comes under Christ’s inspection.
“And Elam itself has taken up the quiver, in the war chariot of earthling man, with steeds; and Kir itself has uncovered the shield. And it will occur that the choicest of your low plains must become full of war chariots, and the very steeds must without fail set themselves in position at the gate, and one will remove the screen of Judah. And you will look in that day toward the armory of the house of the forest, and you people will certainly see the very breaches of the City of David, for they will actually be many. And you will collect the waters of the lower pool. And the houses of Jerusalem you will actually count. You will also pull down the houses to make the wall unattainable. And there will be a collecting basin that you must make between the two walls for the waters of the old pool. And you will certainly not look at the grand maker of it, and the one forming it long ago you will certainly not see.”
Although God has heretofore led and protected the modern-day City of David and has used it to accomplish his purpose, He will at some point abandon it. He will remove the protective screen, as it were. In that way, those who have looked to the Watchtower as Jehovah’s earthly mouthpiece will no longer see the grand maker of it. To be sure, the removal of the physical organization, described above, is a necessary prelude to the establishment of the spiritual kingdom of Christ.
“THIS ERROR WILL NOT BE ATONED FOR IN YOUR BEHALF…”
The return of Jesus Christ will be a monumental event. His coming down to this earth will coincide with world war, widespread food shortages, great earthquakes, and global pandemics. The judgment of the house of God will then take place. Jesus’ presence will place a unique test upon Jehovah’s Witnesses, for the obvious reason that Jehovah’s Witnesses ardently believe that Jesus returned long ago and has already accomplished the judgments outlined in prophecy. The Second Coming of Christ will confront Jehovah’s Witnesses with the unsettling reality that not only have they been duped into merely believing a falsehood, but virtually every publisher and pioneer have personally participated in a campaign to convince the world of what amounts to fraud. It is a very serious thing to speak and teach lies in the name of Jehovah.
So, the coming of Christ will require that Jehovah’s Witnesses repent. And, of course, the evidence of repentance is remorse and regret. That is why Isaiah next states: “And the Sovereign Lord, Jehovah of armies, will call in that day for weeping and for mourning and for baldness and for girding on sackcloth. But, look! exultation and rejoicing, the killing of cattle and the slaughtering of sheep, the eating of flesh and the drinking of wine, ‘Let there be eating and drinking, for tomorrow we shall die.’ And in my ears Jehovah of armies has revealed himself: ‘This error will not be atoned for in your behalf until you people die,’ the Sovereign Lord, Jehovah of armies, has said.”
The prophecy of Joel similarly calls upon the priests of Jehovah to dress in sackcloth and beseech Jehovah for aid. However, given the intransigence on the part of the leadership of the Watchtower Society up until now —as regards their stubborn refusal to discard the 1914 operation of error —it is doubtful that they will do so even when the sign of Christ overwhelmingly displays itself in the near future. Instead of mourning over the reproach their lies will have brought upon God’s name and the many Christians their lies will ultimately stumble, those who have idolized the Watchtower and demanded unquestioning obedience to its every dictate will likely refuse to acknowledge their error and repent of their idolatry. In reality, they will refuse to accept Christ when he comes, and as a consequence, their error will not be atoned for. They will die!