At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Watchtower Society, a new publication was released entitled Pure Worship of Jehovah—Restored at Last. The very title epitomizes the core message of the Watchtower Bible Society, that being —the existence of Jehovah’s Witnesses is a result of the fulfillment of prophecy regarding God’s purpose to bring into existence a holy organization for his praise.
While there is no question that under the direction of the Watchtower Jehovah’s Witnesses are accomplishing the foretold global preaching of the good news, there are many reasons to question the supposition that the organization is the embodiment of pure worship.
Sadly, it is not possible for the veracity of the Watchtower’s interpretation of prophecy to be critically discussed in the tens of thousands of congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world. Be that as it may, as a staunch advocate of the faith and as one who is keenly interested in promoting the accurate understanding of God’s prophetic word, particularly as it relates to the coming of his Kingdom, I am compelled to publish an independent analysis of not merely the Society’s recent publication, but the book of Ezekiel itself —offering an unfiltered message derived from prophecy.
What is my purpose in presenting the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses with a Bible-based message? I believe it is God’s will for his judgments to be declared prior to their execution. My role is similar to what was stated in the commission Jehovah gave to his ancient watchman, the individual known as Ezekiel: “Son of man, go in among the house of Israel and speak my words to them. For you are not being sent to a people who speak an unintelligible language or an unknown tongue, but to the house of Israel. You are not being sent to many peoples speaking an unintelligible language or an unknown tongue, whose words you cannot understand. If I would send you to them, they would listen to you.” —Ezekiel 3:4-6
Ezekiel was commanded to speak God’s words to God’s people, which he unswervingly did. Today God’s words spoken to Ezekiel are preserved for us in the pages of the Bible. Anyone can read them. There is no need for God to speak any more words. If, however, those who are in positions as the gate-keepers and guardians of God’s word are unfaithful and untrue to God’s word —as were the rulers and priests in Ezekiel’s day —then what? Should we not expect God to raise up messengers to declare his judgments as contained in his word? Such men could rightly be considered watchmen. (A Watchman is What I have Made You)
What is the modern counterpart to the ancient house of Israel? Is it not Christ’s congregation —those who have been brought into the new covenant who are part of what Paul called “the Israel of God”? The purpose of Jesus’ mediation of the new covenant is to provide God with the justification to declare sinless a sinful nation —indeed, ultimately, to establish pure worship!
Although Bethel’s Pure Worship commentary denies that the ancient temple and the prophecies associated with it have any sort of antitypical fulfillment in what they call the great spiritual temple, the true interpretation of prophecy indicates otherwise.
As for my credentials, having served as a Christian elder and pioneer minister and receiving an upward calling some years ago, which served as my heavenly commission, I speak the same spiritual language as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Theirs’ is not an unknown tongue to me. Their teachings are not unintelligible to me. Nor should my message be unintelligible to them.
This is not my first message to the Watchtower. Over the course of the past 20 years, I have presented the Governing Body, as well as branch overseers and tens of thousands of elders with many messages. Of course, as was the case with Ezekiel, I do not expect any sort of positive response. That too is in accord with what God stated to his prophet: “But the house of Israel will refuse to listen to you, for they do not want to listen to me. All those of the house of Israel are hardheaded and hardhearted.” –Ez 3:7
No doubt Jehovah’s Witnesses will bristle with resentment that anyone would be so audacious as to call into question the truthfulness of the Governing Body. Jehovah’s Witnesses will naturally assume that I am an apostate opposer. However, such is not the case. On the contrary, I do not speak against the Watchtower because it is not Jehovah’s organization —but because it is! The truth must be given voice no matter who may be offended by it. As with Ezekiel, Jehovah has made my head harder than theirs. (I am More Stubborn than They Are)
Although the Governing Body should certainly know that Christ did not begin ruling in his Kingdom in 1914 and that the judgment of the house of God has not taken place; that pure worship has not been restored yet, they stubbornly persist in perpetuating what will inevitably be exposed as an artfully-contrived hoax. Ultimately they will have to know that “a prophet was among them” —someone whom God impelled to deliver his message to them. (Ez 2:5)
Ironically, the Watchtower’s recent commentary on Ezekiel reveals just how hard-headed the self-exalted leaders of Jehovah’s earthly organization have become.
The prophecy of Ezekiel begins with the gripping vision of the awe-inspiring celestial chariot. Does the vision merely represent “the heavenly part of Jehovah’s universal organization” as the Watchtower teaches? Or does it symbolize something more specific —something unbelievably more relevant and profound? (Ezekiel’s Chariot – What Does It Symbolize?)
The Watchtower points to the scope of the preaching work in modern times as evidence of the supposed movement of the invisible chariot in directing the visible organization. The Governing Body asserts that the remarkable expansion of the worldwide work could only be accomplished if Christ were sitting upon his heavenly throne ruling in his Kingdom. Now, please consider the question: is that really true? Did not the first century Christians accomplish a similar work and without any technology whatsoever, such as modern transportation, radio, high-speed printing presses, smartphones, and the Internet and everything else that the Watchtower has employed over the past 140 years?
What is to be made of the fact that Jesus assured his disciples that he would be with them all the days until the conclusion? Surely, Jesus’ being with his willing people is not insignificant; no, the Lord’s presence (not the presence) among his people is sufficient to enable them to accomplish anything. That being true, if Jesus Christ is invisibly overseeing his disciples all the days leading up to the conclusion, then the relatively short period known as the time of the end must be something significantly different than the epochal period that precedes it.
Just as the harvest follows the planting and growing season, the conclusion comes after the preaching of the good news. That is what Jesus meant when he said the good news will be preached in all the earth and then the end will come —not the end of the world immediately —the end of the disciple-making work that Jesus commissioned his followers to accomplish during all the days he is with them prior to the conclusion. The conclusion is the judgment phase. And judgment begins with the house of God. That is what the book of Ezekiel is all about. (The Harvest Is a Conclusion of a System)
WHAT DOES THE CELESTIAL CHARIOT SYMBOLIZE?
Consider more closely the activity of the phantasmic chariot. In the first chapter of Ezekiel the enraptured watchman saw a throne supported on the colossal wheeled structure. The question is, who is seated upon the throne? Keep in mind that the prophets all have to do with Christ. Ezekiel is no exception. As the Governing Body is well aware, the prophecies directed against ancient Israel and Judah have an application to Christians. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not need to be convinced of that. We speak the same “language.”
Now consider what Ezekiel 1:26 states: “Above the expanse that was over their heads was what looked like a sapphire stone, and it resembled a throne. Sitting on the throne up above was someone whose appearance resembled that of a human.”
It is true, Jehovah describes himself in human terms, using what the Watchtower has termed anthropomorphism. But the same can be said of Jesus, who is similarly depicted in heavenly scenes in the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation as having a human appearance —albeit, a glorious one. It is especially appropriate for Jesus to be depicted as a human since he once was a man —the Son of man. Not only that, the brilliance surrounding the figure on the throne and the resplendent rainbow overhead is also connected to the glory of Christ. For example, in the 10th of Revelation says: “And I saw another strong angel descending from heaven, arrayed with a cloud, and a rainbow was on his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs were like pillars of fire, and he had in his hand a little scroll that had been unrolled. And he set his right foot on the sea, but his left one on the earth, and he cried out with a loud voice just as when a lion roars. And when he cried out, the voices of the seven thunders spoke.”
Notably, the “strong angel” handed John a little scroll and he was commanded to eat it, the same as the rider on the celestial chariot handed Ezekiel a scroll, which he was also commanded to ingest. Surely, those two prophecies are harmonious.
Besides, Ezekiel does not specifically identify the person on the throne as Jehovah himself; only that his appearance was as the glory of Jehovah and that he spoke with the voice of the Almighty. Nevertheless, is not Christ given the very glory of Jehovah —making him the exact representation of the Father? Has he not been given all authority in heaven and on earth? Did not Jesus speak of his coming in the glory of his Father with all his angels with him in order to judge mankind? Why, then, should we suppose that Jesus will be less glorious than Jehovah?
Another similarity is that when Ezekiel saw the glory of the one on the throne he fell facedown —prostrating himself in worship. John responded similarly before the resplendent Christ, as Revelation reveals: “His countenance was like the sun when it shines at its brightest. When I saw him, I fell as dead at his feet.”
Given the prevalence of Christendom’s blasphemous Trinity doctrine, Jehovah’s Witnesses are understandably reluctant to acknowledge that Jesus receives worship —preferring instead to refer to such as mere obeisance.
Consider, though, when John tried to do obeisance before an angel he was cautioned not to worship a fellow creature, no matter how glorious. The angel considered an act of obesiance to be the same as worship. (Revelation 22:9) Yet these very angels are themselves commanded by God to bow in worship before the Firstborn when he again comes into the world. Referring to the Second Coming of Jesus in the glory of Jehovah, Paul wrote: “But when he again brings his Firstborn into the inhabited earth, he says: ‘And let all of God’s angels do obeisance to him.’” – Hebrews 1:6
Is it really appropriate to split hairs, so-to-speak, to quibble over the meaning of an act of obeisance, whether it is worship or merely an act of showing respect or honor? When Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane he informed his apostles that he could summon legions of angels if he wished. And angels ministered to Jesus just moments before the mob came to arrest him. So, angels have been subservient to the Son all along. The apostle, however, revealed that Christ is honored in a way he was not prior to the second time he appears. And make no mistake, Paul used that exact expression in the very same letter to the Hebrews, saying: “The Christ was offered once for all time to bear the sins of many; and the second time that he appears it will be apart from sin, and he will be seen by those earnestly looking for him for their salvation.”
The second time he appears he will be seen? How is it possible to see something invisible? Obviously, Paul was referring to Christ being seen by humans. Not coincidently, the Greek word that the New World Translation renders as “manifestation” is “epiphaneia.” It literally means a glorious, brilliant appearance. Who would not fall at the feet of Jesus in worshipful obeisance if they were so privileged to have the glorious Lord manifested to them?
Furthermore, any competent researcher can prove to themselves that the parousia, the revelation and the manifestation of Jesus are virtually interchangeable terms. That being true, Jehovah’s Witnesses would do well to disabuse themselves of the absurd notion that the glorious, brilliant appearance of the Lord will be invisible. At the very latest the revelation —yes, the presence of the Lord Jesus will dissolve the Watchtower’s invisible parousia delusion.
Recognizing Jesus Christ as the one seated on the throne of the fear-inspiring celestial chariot harmonizes with what is revealed in the great mystery of God regarding the divine purpose to bestow upon Christ great glory, honor and yes, worship, at his Second Coming.
There’s a problem though. If the Watchtower were to accept this as the true interpretation of Ezekiel’s vision, which it surely is, it would expose an enormous contradiction. That is because the vision could only be fulfilled when God’s Kingdom comes to power. Unquestionably, the coming of Christ in glory is the pinnacle of prophecy, which, unfortunately, the Watchtower has always relegated to a non-event. If anyone doubts that, simply consider the fact that from day one the Watchtower taught that the parousia began in 1874 and the Kingdom came to power in 1878. It was not until around 1930 that the date for the most important event in human history was reset to 1914. So, for over half a century the earnest Bible Students, in all of their zeal, were laboring under an artfully contrived parousia delusion.
In spite of that enormous error, Jehovah’s Witnesses are under the same powerful deluding influence regarding an ongoing invisible parousia.
Does the majestic chariot really symbolize the Second Coming of Christ? Yes. It is beyond dispute, at least if we are honest in our interpretation. Consider the purpose of the appearance of the chariot in Ezekiel’s day.
After his initial vision, Ezekiel had another encounter with the heavenly chariot. This occurred after Ezekiel was given the vision of the deplorable idolatry within the temple. In connection with the temple inspection, the man in linen was commanded to “enter between the wheelwork, under the cherubs, and fill both your hands with burning coals from between the cherubs and toss them over the city.” —Ezekiel 10:2
Ahhh. The celestial chariot supporting the throne of the glorious King has come to execute judgment. The city over which the burning coals are thrown is Jerusalem, where the temple of Jehovah was located. Jerusalem itself was the only city on earth where God caused his name to reside. You might say in Ezekiel’s day Jerusalem and especially the temple were Jehovah’s visible, earthly organization.
The apostle Paul explained to anointed Christians that the old tabernacle and temple were merely shadows of greater realities. The reality belongs to Christ, who once informed the Jews that he would raise up a temple in three days. Anointed Christians themselves comprise a spiritual temple, with Christ as the essential cornerstone. True, it is a project under construction.
Two times in his brief three and a half year ministry Jesus entered the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem and threw out the moneychangers and merchants. Upon his Second Coming Jesus will inspect the spiritual temple. The apostle Peter wrote concerning the coming inspection: “For it is the appointed time for the judgment to start with the house of God. Now if it starts first with us, what will the outcome be for those who are not obedient to the good news of God?” —1 Peter 4:17-18
As stated already, the judgment phase follows the preaching of the good news. That is appropriate. How could anyone be expected to obey the good news of God if they had no opportunity to know it?
Therefore, it is no grand revelation that judgment starts first with the spiritual house of God. And that is exactly what is symbolized in Ezekiel, as is evidenced by God’s command to the six symbolic executioners of his judgments: “‘You should start from my sanctuary.’ So they started with the elders who were in front of the house. Then he said to them: “Defile the house and fill the courtyards with the slain. Go!” So they went out and struck down people in the city.”
The vision of the execution is just that —a vision. In reality, God maneuvered the Chaldeans to lay siege to the city and God’s adverse judgment was accomplished by means of the sword, famine and pestilence.
The central feature of Jesus’ well-known prophecy concerning the return of the Son of man has to do with the desolation of Jerusalem and the regathering of the scattered chosen ones. That is central to Ezekiel’s prophecy as well, as stated at Ezekiel 11:16: “Although I have removed them far away among the nations and I have scattered them among the lands, for a little while I will become a sanctuary for them in the lands to which they have gone.”’
Jehovah went on to say: “I will also collect you from the peoples and gather you from the lands to which you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. And they will return there and remove from it all its disgusting things and detestable practices. And I will give them a unified heart, and I will put a new spirit in them; and I will remove the heart of stone from their bodies and give them a heart of flesh, in order that they may walk in my statutes and observe my judgments and obey them. Then they will be my people, and I will be their God.”
After divine mercy is extended to the survivors and a new spirit and a new heart is given to them, at which point they become the approved people of God, that is the end of the matter. It is the end of the new covenant. The end of Christianity. The point at which Jehovah becomes their God is when pure worship is established —at last! That is when Christ will reveal himself to them. That is why the apostles reveal that the parousia is the end, not the beginning of another extended period of testing and sifting. For example, Paul wrote: “…so that he may make your hearts firm, blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the presence of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.” 1 Thess 3:13
And again in the fifth chapter: “May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. And may the spirit and soul and body of you brothers, sound in every respect, be preserved blameless at the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
And James wrote: “Be patient then, brothers, until the presence of the Lord. Look! The farmer keeps waiting for the precious fruit of the earth, exercising patience over it until the early rain and the late rain arrive. You too exercise patience; make your hearts firm, because the presence of the Lord has drawn close.”
Since pure worship only becomes a reality in the aftermath of the desolation of Jerusalem and the scattering of its inhabitants, and the execution of the unfaithful and unrepentant is accomplished by means of the sword, famine and pestilence, what evidence is there that this was accomplished during World War One, when the messenger of the covenant supposedly inspected Bethel?
The Watchtower’s interpretation of Ezekiel and all prophecy is wholly artificial and self-serving. That will be considered in more detail in the next installment. Not only has the presence of Christ not begun, but pure worship will not be established until after the fiery purge of the house of God.
This is the first of an intended series of articles examining the Pure Worship publication.