The proconsul . . . became a believer.
Because the Jews were so widely dispersed throughout the Roman world, many non-Jews became familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures. They learned that there is only one true God and that those who serve him are held to high ethical and moral standards. Moreover, the Hebrew Scriptures were filled with prophecies concerning the Messiah. Both Jews and Christians understood that the Hebrew Scriptures were the inspired Word of God, which made it possible for Paul to establish common ground with those whose hearts were inclined toward righteousness. Accordingly, the apostle customarily entered synagogues of the Jews and reasoned with them from the Scriptures. The Jews regularly met together in synagogues or at open-air meeting places. They sang songs, prayed, and discussed the Scriptures. Similar practices are followed in Christian congregations today.
It is true, the Hebrew Scriptures are filled with prophecies concerning the Messiah. Some are related to his first coming as a human, but the majority of the prophecies focus upon the second coming* of Christ.
One aspect of the second coming is the liberation of God’s people from Babylon. Originally the Persian King, Cyrus, whom Jehovah referred to as “my anointed one,” overthrew mighty Babylon in one night and made it possible for the captives to return and rebuild Jerusalem. A fairly significant portion of prophecy is devoted to the repurchase of Israel.
But, as Jehovah’s Witnesses well know, Cyrus is a type of Christ and the overthrow of Babylon foreshadows the fall of Babylon the Great. And according to the Watchtower the grand fulfillment of this prophecy came in 1919, when the Bible Students were supposedly freed from Babylon the Great. In actuality, J.F. Rutherford and seven of his associates were merely released from prison. The Bible Students were never in any sort of captivity —spiritual or otherwise.
For decades the Watchtower taught that the Bible Students went into captivity to Babylon during the First World War. But apparently they realized the absurdity of such a notion and so came up with a new explanation. So, at the 2015 Annual Meeting the Governing Body explained that Christians went into spiritual captivity to Babylon the Great gradually, beginning back in the 2nd century. This new interpretation was discussed in this article.
But the Watchtower’s “adjustment” does not take into consideration the reason God allowed Israel to go into bondage in the first place. It was a punishment from him and Babylon merely served as the punishing agent. Speaking to the Mistress of Babylon God stated: “I grew indignant at my people. I profaned my inheritance, and I gave them into your hand. But you showed them no mercy. Even on the elderly you placed a heavy yoke.” —Isaiah 47:6
It is worth noting that when Jehovah profaned his inheritance he entered into judgment with them by means of the sword, famine and pestilence. Here are a few verses:
“I take no pleasure in them, for by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, I will do away with them.” —Jeremiah 14:12
“I will give King Zedekiah of Judah and his servants and the people of this city—those who survive the pestilence, the sword, and the famine—into the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, into the hand of their enemies” —Jeremiah 21:7
“This is what Jehovah of armies says: ‘Here I am sending against them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and I will make them like rotten figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten. And I will pursue them with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence, and I will make them an object of horror to all the kingdoms of the earth…’” —Jeremiah 29:17-18
“And all the men who are determined to go to Egypt to reside there will die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. None of them will survive or escape the calamity that I will bring on them.”’ —Jeremiah 42:17
“Therefore, know for a certainty that by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence you will die in the place where you desire to go and reside.” —Jeremiah 42:17
“I will send against you famine and vicious wild beasts, and they will bereave you of children. Pestilence and bloodshed will overwhelm you, and I will bring a sword against you. I, Jehovah, have spoken.” —Ezekiel 5:17
“The sword is outside, and the pestilence and the famine are inside. Whoever is in the field will die by the sword, and famine and pestilence will consume those in the city. Their survivors who manage to escape will go to the mountains, and like the doves of the valleys, each one will moan over his error.” —Ezekiel 7:15-16
These are only a partial listing of verses. But even a marginally knowledgable person cannot help but realize the the specific ordering of the sword, famine and pestilence is exactly what Christ foretold when he said: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in one place after another food shortages and pestilences…”
And of course, the opening of the first four seals of Revelation unleashes war, famine and pestilence, bringing death to one quarter of the world.
According to the prophets the judgment of the sword, famine and pestilence came against those who refused to obey Jehovah and surrender to the king of Babylon. Those who did obey survived, albeit in captivity.
Obviously, those Christians in the second century were not confronted with the sword, famine and pestilence as a prelude to Constantine hijacking Christianity. Nor is there any reason to believe that the First World War and the Spanish Flu pandemic was a judgment from Jehovah.
But according to the Watchtower the sign of Christ’s presence is like a human fingerprint —unique. While that is surely a true statement, it is not true that all the features of the sign are in evidence. Although on the one hand the Watchtower acknowledges that to be true, Bethel routinely contradicts itself by claiming that the sign is clearly evident. It is considered an impossibility that future events could serve as the unmistakable “fingerprint.”
In this the Watchtower fits the pattern of the false prophets of Israel in Jeremiah’s day, who assured the Jews that they were not going to be besieged by the sword, famine and pestilence. Here is what is stated at Jeremiah 27:13-14:“Why should you and your people die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, as Jehovah has said about the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon? Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are saying to you, ‘You will not serve the king of Babylon,’ because they are prophesying lies to you.”
By shifting Jacob’s captivity to the ancient past and relegating war, famine and pestilence to the recent past, the Governing Body are prophesying lies to Jehovah’s Witnesses. The outbreak of World War Three will bring their whitewashed wall of lies crashing down. And into captivity will go Jehovah’s Witnesses!
- The Watchtower does not use the term “second coming,” evidently because of the erroneous belief among evangelicals that Jesus is a fleshly entity and his second coming is in the flesh. However, the Watchtower fails to take into consideration the fact that a spirit can manifest itself without becoming a visible, fleshly organism. Paul is the only 1st century Christian who saw Jesus after his ascension back to heaven. And Paul most assuredly did not see Jesus in the flesh. He saw Jesus as an immortal spirit. The encounter was so overwhelming that Paul was temporarily blinded for three days. But Paul saw him as he is, and that is why Paul said he was as one born prematurely. Because he saw Jesus as all of the chosen ones will see him “the second time he appears” – a phrase Paul used at Hebrews 9:27