Watchtower’s study article of week 7 to 13, September 2015
The first three paragraphs carry us to the time of the early Christians, to the time before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies of Titus. Imagine that you are a Christian living in Jerusalem in 66 C.E. A lot has been happening around you. First, the Roman procurator Florus seized 17 talents from the sacred temple treasury. Immediately, Jews rose in revolt, slaughtering the Roman forces in Jerusalem and asserting their independence from Rome. But Rome reacted swiftly. Within three months, 30,000 troops appeared on the scene, led by the Roman governor of Syria, Cestius Gallus. The soldiers quickly entered the suburbs of Jerusalem, and the Jewish rebels retreated to the safety of the temple fortress. Next, the Roman soldiers started to undermine the outer wall of the temple area! Panic is spreading throughout the city.
Faced with such events, Christians reminisce the words of Jesus in Luke 21:20: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near.” (Luke 21:20) Certainly this verse has been read and reread for decades, and some have ended up not believing, wondering “Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as they were from creation’s beginning.” But now the long-awaited day finally arrives. How obey this commandment? Jesus also said: “Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains, let those in the midst of her leave, and let those in the countryside not enter into her.” (Luke 21:21) How can you possibly leave Jerusalem with so many troops surrounding it? Then, an amazing thing happens. Right before your very eyes, the Roman troops start to retreat! As foretold, their attack is being “cut short.” (Matt. 24:22) Now you have the opportunity to obey Jesus’ instructions. Immediately you flee to the mountains across the Jordan River, along with all the other faithful Christians in the city and its surroundings.Then, in 70 C.E., a new Roman army heads for Jerusalem and destroys the city. But your life is spared because you obeyed Jesus’ instructions.
The third paragraph draws a parallel with what will happen during the great tribulation. Fortunately, “a great crowd” of people will survive this worldwide catastrophe. (Revelation 7:9, 13, 14.) What does the Bible tell us about these upcoming events? We should be keenly interested in the answer, for our very salvation is involved.
THE BEGINNING OF THE GREAT TRIBULATION
How will the great tribulation begin? asks the fourth paragraph. With the destruction of “Babylon the Great”, we are told. In supporting this assertion, the article gives as a reference the passage of Revelation chapter 17 verses 5 and 7. These verses reveal to us: “On her forehead was written a name, a mystery: “Babylon the Great, the mother of the prostitutes and of the disgusting things of the earth.” And I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the holy ones and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. Well, on seeing her I was greatly amazed. So the angel said to me: “Why is it that you were amazed? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the wild beast that is carrying her and that has the seven heads and the ten horns”.”Yes, these verses are talking about the judgment of the prostitute who has on her forehead written a name, a mystery, “Babylon the Great, the mother of the prostitutes and of the disgusting things of the earth”. The first two verses of the chapter confirm this fact. But there is no evidence that this judgment marks the beginning of the Great Tribulation. Unfortunately, the Society makes a baseless assertion.
Yes, these verses are talking about the judgment of the prostitute who has on her forehead written a name, a mystery, “Babylon the Great, the mother of the prostitutes and of the disgusting things of the earth”. The first two verses of the chapter confirm this fact. But there is no evidence that this judgment marks the beginning of the Great Tribulation. Unfortunately, the Society makes a baseless assertion.
The end of this paragraph asks the question: “Who will destroy the harlotlike organization?” The answer is clear, it is drawn from verses 16-18 of the same chapter of Revelation: “Jehovah God will put “his thought” into the hearts of “the ten horns” of the “scarlet-colored wild beast.”” What is less clear is the explanation of the "ten horns" as given in the article. The ten horns are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom. They do receive authority as kings for one hour with the wild beast. They give their power and authority to the wild beast, the angel explains. The paragraph says: “These horns represent all the present political powers that give support to the United Nations.” Now these "ten kings" are to rule one hour and then give their power to the beast. Let us suppose that these ten kings are the political powers of the twentieth and twenty-first century that support the UN. We're talking about a century of existence since the advent of the League of the Nations that the Society presents as the ancestor of the UN, or seventy years if we consider only the UN itself. Is this not an hour that lasts a bit much? There are certainly things to consider on the subject of the ten horns, or kings.
It is noteworthy that paragraph 5 applies to the religions of Babylon a passage from Zechariah which is actually written to the attention of the leaders of God's people. The thirteenth chapter of Zechariah prophesies the final purification of the congregation for its entry into the Kingdom. The judgment is on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, ie the congregation of God. Indeed, “the house of my friends” can be none other than the house of God. This is evident from the verse 7 in which Jehovah Order: “Strike the shepherd, and let the flock be scattered”. The passage discussed in this paragraph is: “And he will say, ‘I am no prophet. I am a man cultivating the soil, because a man bought me when I was young.’ And if someone asks him, ‘What are these wounds between your shoulders?’ he will answer, ‘Wounds I received in the house of my friends.’” (Zech. 13:4-6)
Will they really be the religious leader of Babylone the Great those that will be wounded by their friends? Why the paragraph does make no mention of verse 7 that says that Jehovah will strike the shepherd and the flock will be scattered? Because it speaks of religious leaders and their followers? This seems highly unlikely.
The sixth paragraph is balm for the faithful servants of God; because of the anointed, the tribulation will be shortened. Indeed, Jesus explains: “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.” (Matt. 24:22) And the Society adds: “As we considered, in 66 C.E. the tribulation was “cut short.”” Indeed, if we check the event which took place in 66 AD, on the 16th of May 3,600 people were massacred in Jerusalem. But can we speak of a “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again”? Was not the conquest of Jerusalem a tribulation even bigger for the jews? When we make assertions, it is advisable to be precise at the risk of losing any credibility afterward.
A TIME OF TESTING AND JUDGMENT
According to paragraphs 7 & 8, we should expect at a time of judgment after the destruction of Babylon the Great. As in the first century, God’s people will flee to the refuge that Jehovah provides. Certainly, by refuge the Watchtower means the Organization. Yet many prophecies indicate that God's judgment begins with his people. The Apostle Peter himself says: “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
However, it is apparent that even though in one sense the appointed time for the judgment of the house of God had already begun in the first century and is ongoing, the Scriptures foretell of a final judgment period concurrent with the conclusion of the entire wicked system of things. Hence, in the second chapter of the same letter Peter wrote of a future day of inspection, saying: “Maintain your conduct fine among the nations, that, in the thing in which they are speaking against you as evildoers, they may as a result of your fine works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God in the day for his inspection.” Logically, the future “day for his inspection” is an immediate preliminary to Jehovah becoming king in the fullest sense.
The Watchtower having announced the coming of God's Kingdom in 1914 and the judgment of Babylon in 1919, it seems that almost all the prophecies are fulfilled. The Watchtower’s assumption that by 1919 God had passed judgment on all religion is based upon the mere fact that a handful of prominent clergymen once hailed the League of Nations as “the political expression of God’s kingdom on earth.”
But, is it reasonable that God’s judgment started back in 1918-19? Moreover, is it true? Every Jehovah’s Witness must consider seriously the matter.
SHINING BRIGHTLY IN THE KINGDOM
Let us read paragraphs 14 & 15.
14 What will happen after Gog of Magog starts the attack on God’s people? Both Matthew and Mark record the same event: “[The Son of man] will send out the angels and will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from earth’s extremity to heaven’s extremity.” (Mark 13:27; Matt. 24:31) This gathering work does not refer to the initial ingathering of anointed ones; nor does it refer to the final sealing of the remaining anointed ones. (Matt. 13:37, 38) That sealing happens before the outbreak of the great tribulation. (Rev. 7:1-4) So, what is this gathering work that Jesus mentions? It is the time when the remaining ones of the 144,000 will receive their heavenly reward. (1 Thess. 4:15-17; Rev. 14:1) This event will take place at some point after the beginning of the attack by Gog of Magog. (Ezek. 38:11) Then these words of Jesus will be fulfilled: “At that time the righteous ones will shine as brightly as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.”—Matt. 13:43.
15 Does this mean that there will be a “rapture” of the anointed ones? Many in Christendom believe, according to this teaching, that Christians will be bodily caught up from the earth. Then, they expect that Jesus will visibly return to rule the earth. However, the Bible clearly shows that “the sign of the Son of man” will appear in heaven and that Jesus will come “on the clouds of heaven.” (Matt. 24:30) Both of these expressions imply invisibility. Additionally, “flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s Kingdom.” So those who will be taken to heaven will first need to be “changed, in a moment, in the blink of an eye, during the last trumpet.” (Read 1 Corinthians 15:50-53.) Therefore, while we do not use the term “rapture” here because of its wrong connotation, the remaining faithful anointed will be gathered together in an instant of time.
We will pay attention to the three verses in bold, Matthew 24:31, 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
(Mt 24:31) . . .And he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet sound, and they will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from one extremity of the heavens to their other extremity.
(1Co 15:51-53) “. . .Look! I tell YOU a sacred secret: We shall not all fall asleep [in death], but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, during the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised up incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this which is corruptible must put on incorruption, and this which is mortal must put on immortality.”
(1Th 4:16) . . .because the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first. . .
What do these three scriptures have in common? Just as the article brings out, these three scriptures relate to us the gathering of the chosen ones ushered on by a great trumpet sound. 1 Cor 15:52 gives a bit more detail stating that the momentous event takes place during the last trumpet.
So lets move forward and identify the last trumpet. The following scriptures all relate to the event of the “last trumpet” being blown, the seventh trumpet.
(Re 11:15-17) “And the seventh angel blew his trumpet. And loud voices occurred in heaven, saying: “The kingdom of the world did become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will rule as king forever and ever. And the twenty-four elders who were seated before God upon their thrones fell upon their faces and worshiped God, saying: “We thank you, Jehovah God, the Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and begun ruling as king”.”
(Re 10:7) “but in the days of the sounding of the , when he is about to blow his trumpet, the sacred secret of God according to the good news which he declared to his own slaves the prophets is indeed brought to a finish.”
(Re 19:6-8) “And I heard what was as a voice of a great crowd and as a sound of many waters and as a sound of heavy thunders. They said: “Praise Jah, YOU people, because Jehovah our God, the Almighty, has begun to rule as king. Let us rejoice and be overjoyed, and let us give him the glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has arrived and his wife has prepared herself. Yes, it has been granted to her to be arrayed in bright, clean, fine linen, for the fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the holy ones.””
So what’s the point? The point is that these scriptures (Mt 24:31, 1 Cor 15:52, 1 Th 4:16, Re 11:15-17, Re 10:7, Re 19:6-8) are all talking about the same event, which is the blowing of the last or seventh trumpet in Revelation, and also the establishment of Gods kingdom. This event marks the final culmination of the first prophecy mentioned at Gen 3:15; the prophecy that was the solution to Satans, and ultimately Adam and Eve’s fall into sin. That solution would eventually become known as the Sacred Secret.
Every witness should be familiar with these scriptures above from Revelation. The enthronement of Jesus Christ in 1914 is the foundational teaching that Jehovahs Witnesses are built upon. Here are a few references to help you remember:
“He writes: “And the seventh angel blew his trumpet. And loud voices occurred in heaven, saying: ‘The kingdom of the world did become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will rule as king forever and ever.’” (Revelation 11:15) Those angelic hosts have reason to speak loudly, even in thunderous tones! For this historic announcement is of universal importance. It is of vital concern to all living creation. The sacred secret comes to its happy climax! Gloriously, magnificently, it is brought to a triumphant finish in 1914 when the Lord Jehovah enthrones his Christ as associate King.” Revelation—Its Grand Climax at Hand! chap. 26 p. 171 pars. 1-2
“Then it happens! Revelation 11:15 says: “And the seventh angel blew his trumpet. And loud voices occurred in heaven, saying: ‘The kingdom of the world did become the kingdom of our Lord [Jehovah] and of his Christ, and he will rule as king forever and ever.’” Yes, it is announced that God’s Kingdom by Christ was established in heaven in the year 1914.” w89 4/1 p. 19
“But there is yet more to God’s sacred secret. Since 1914 we have been living in “the Lord’s day.” (Revelation 1:10) As Revelation 10:7 states, it is the time for ‘the sacred secret of God according to the good news to be brought to a finish.’ Heavenly voices have now proclaimed: “The kingdom of the world did become the kingdom of our Lord [Jehovah] and of his Christ, and he will rule as king forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15) Jehovah has installed the Messianic King, Jesus Christ, on his glorious throne to be coruler with Him!” w90 1/15 p. 20 par. 15
We are faced with a contradiction.
The Watchtower article is using scriptures Mt 24:31, 1 Cor 15:52, 1 Th 4:16 that refer to a future event with the gathering. However the current understanding of Rev 11:15 and Rev 10:7, which is the same event as the previous scriptures places the event as having occurred in 1914. The scriptures used in the article, and the scriptures in Revelation mentioned above, are of the SAME event. The seventh trumpet in Rev 11:15 and Rev 10:7 IS the “last trumpet” spoken of at 1 Cor 15:52 and therefore could not have taken place back in 1914. This article completely invalidates the current understanding of when the birth of the kingdom takes place.
Remember that the Sacred Secret was the solution to the sin that Satan, and then Adam & Eve committed. This solution was initiated at Gen 3:15, and for several millennia has been playing out leading up to the death of Jesus Christ. However, the Sacred Secret was not finished with Jesus Death, but would continue on up until the seventh or last trumpet was blown, which is the final gathering. At this point, the Sacred Secret is complete.
Rev 10:7 states “. . .but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to blow his trumpet, the sacred secret of God according to the good news which he declared to his own slaves the prophets is indeed brought to a finish.””
The Watchtower article says in paragraph 14 that the final trumpet “is the time when the remaining ones of the 144,000 will receive their heavenly reward.” So how does the Sacred Secret come to a finish in 1914, as shown in the above references, when the remaining chosen ones hadn’t received their heavenly reward yet, yet alone proved their worthiness to do so? In order to come to a finish all 144,000 must receive their heavenly reward. If the Sacred Secret was brought to a finish in 1914 there would have been no need for anymore people to become anointed in the first place would there?
Is it any wonder that the current understanding of the trumpets being blown is so confusing? By placing so much emphasis on 1914, true understanding of bible truths is turned into a guessing game. Consider this example from a Question from Reader article (w90 4/1 p. 31):
Q: When did the seven angelic trumpet blasts of Revelation begin to sound?
The society actually has the trumpets being blown in reverse according to this answer. The 5th is blown in 1919, the 6th in 1922, and the 7th (last trumpet) is blown in 1914. Does that make sense?
The last part of the study tells the events preceding the marriage of the Lamb: the attack by Gog of God’s people. The anointed ones, who have all recently been resurrected to heaven, will fight with the Lamb and shall overcome. The resulting war of Armageddon will lead to the magnifying of Jehovah’s holy name. (Rev. 16:16) At that time, all goatlike ones “will depart into everlasting cutting-off.” The earth will finally be cleansed of all wickedness, and the great crowd will pass through the final part of the great tribulation. With all preparations completed, the climax of the book of Revelation, the marriage of the Lamb, can take place. (Rev. 21:1-4) All those surviving on the earth will bask in God’s favor and experience bounteous expressions of his love. What a marriage feast that will be! Do we not look forward to that day with eager expectation?—2 Peter 3:13. With these exciting events ahead of us, what should each of us now be doing? The apostle Peter was inspired to write: “Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, consider what sort of people you ought to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion, as you await and keep close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah . . . Therefore, beloved ones, since you are awaiting these things, do your utmost to be found finally by him spotless and unblemished and in peace.” (2 Pet. 3:11, 12, 14) Let us, then, be resolved to remain spiritually clean, supporting the King of Peace.
“The final three trumpet blasts involve “woes.” (Revelation 8:13) They are different from the first four trumpet blasts in that they relate to specific events. The fifth trumpet blast is related to the release in 1919 of God’s people from “the abyss.” The sixth has to do with the “cavalry” and the massive international preaching campaign that began in 1922. The seventh is linked to the birth of God’s Kingdom in 1914.”