“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”
Imagine the excitement it generated when Jesus caused the startling announcement to herald throughout the land:“The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near!”
It had been nearly 2,000 years since Jehovah had originally made the covenant with Abraham for the purpose of eventually producing a messianic seed for the blessing of all the nations. In spite of the apostles’ many unfounded expectations regarding the kingdom, on the occasion of Jesus’ baptism and anointing the kingdom of God really had drawn near.
Since no king of David’s lineage had sat upon Jehovah’s throne in Jerusalem since the Babylonian conquest five centuries earlier, it was especially poignant when Jesus entered Jerusalem seated upon an ass’ colt—hailed as the King of Israel. This was in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, which foretold: “Be very joyful, O daughter of Zion. Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem. Look! Your king himself comes to you. He is righteous, yes, saved; humble, and riding upon an ass, even upon a full-grown animal the son of a she-ass.”
While earthly Jerusalem was no longer the throne of the kingdom of Israel and Judah at that time, it was still the exclusive religious center for the worship of Jehovah God when Jesus Christ was on the earth. But even that would eventually change.
Jesus himself told a Samaritan woman of the coming change, saying to her: “The hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you people worship the Father.” The advent of the kingdom of God, which originally manifested itself in the form of Christ’s apostolic congregation, marked the beginning of the end for the temple-centered Jewish form of worship.
The writings of the apostle Paul, particularly his letter addressed to the Hebrews, explain how the traditional type of religion had merely foreshadowed much greater spiritual realities. The real truth lay beyond the sanctuary pall, the inspired apostle revealed. Paul further argued in his letter to the Galatians that the Law covenant had actually accomplished its intended purpose by serving as a tutor leading to Christ. Consequently, with the coming of Christ the tutoring course had reached its natural conclusion, and with it, the entire Jewish system had become obsolete and was about to violently pass out of existence. Less than a decade after Paul penned his letter to the Hebrews, the city of Jerusalem and the holy place of Jehovah’s worship were completely demolished by the Roman legions.
Contrary to what one might have expected, the very system that God had originally provided as a life-saving tutor leading to Christ was also a potential snare to the Jews who did not have the faith to make the complete transition from Judaism to Christianity.
Centuries have now passed since the kingdom of God was said to have drawn near. Perhaps not coincidently, it has been nearly 2,000 years—roughly equivalent to the same interval from God’s covenant with Abraham until Christ’s baptism. And in the interim since the apostolic era, Christianity has lurched down the same path of corruption, idolatry and apostasy, as did Israel, so that the pure teachings of Christ have long been marinated in babylonish mysticism, nationalism and other worldliness.
Then, toward the close of the 19th century, a much-needed reform began to take shape around a small circle of Bible students in association with a zealous young man by the name of Charles Taze Russell. The effect was not unlike what took place during the reign of a young and zealous Judean king named Josiah (659-629 BCE). Consider a few similarities: Prior to Josiah’s reign the kingdom had sunken to such deplorable depths of ignorance and idolatry that even the book of the Law of Moses had been lost! However, the record at 2 Chronicles 34:14 informs us that during the restoration of the dilapidated temple initiated by Josiah, “Hilkiah the priest found the book of Jehovah’s law by the hand of Moses.”
As a result of the Law of Moses being read to him, King Josiah ripped his garments apart in demonstration of the realization that the nation had broken their covenant with God and had obviously greatly offended Jehovah by practicing various forms of pagan idolatry. Josiah no doubt realized that the Law of Moses called for the destruction of the nation if they broke their sacred covenant with God. God-fearing Josiah sent a delegation to inquire of a prophetess named Huldah, to see if perhaps the prescribed punishment might be averted by their repentance.
The prophetess informed the king that Jehovah was still determined to bring calamity upon the wayward nation. But in consideration of the reforms that he had undertaken, Jehovah would not destroy Judah during Josiah’s lifetime. Then Josiah gathered all the people and had the book of the Law read to them.
In a similar pattern, in the Christian era it was as if the Bible had been lost to the world from the Dark Ages onward. In reality, even though the Bible itself was not literally lost, the truth certainly was. And although numerous individuals before Charles Russell undertook to rediscover and publish long-lost Bible truths, none were as successful in bringing them to light, as was the Watchtower Society. Commenting on the importance of the work of Charles Russell, the book, Kingdom Proclaimers, says:
“Then how did Russell perceive the role that he and his associates played in publishing Scriptural truth? He explained: ‘Our work . . . has been to bring together these long scattered fragments of truth and present them to the Lord’s people—not as new, not as our own, but as the Lord’s.’”
Through his intense study of the Scriptures, Russell realized that Christendom was doomed to be destroyed for her idolatry and corruption. It was, then, with a sense of urgency that the Watchtower Society was formed and the International Bible Students undertook an intense worldwide preaching campaign to sound the warning of God’s impending judgment.
As a result of God’s evident blessing upon their restoration work, the fundamental truths of the Bible began to shine once again. Pagan teachings like the Trinity, the immortality of the soul and the fiendish doctrine of eternal torment in hellfire were vigorously overturned. The Catholic practices of devotion to the saints and Mary, the deified “Mother of God,” were likewise publicly exposed as mere vestiges of pagan idolatry. Just as Josiah had literally crushed and desecrated the numerous idols and pagan altars that had been erected in Jehovah’s temple and throughout the land, in the same spirit, Christendom’s idolatry and false doctrines were smashed and pulverized, as it were, by the zealous and skillful use of the Bible.
Charles Russell also revived the use of God’s personal name—Jehovah in English. Other vital truths, such as the biblical hope of surviving Armageddon and living forever on earth, began to be put forward as authentic Bible teachings. The issue of Jehovah’s universal sovereignty was understood for the first time, which explained so much that had previously confused Christians as to why the God of love has for so long tolerated evil and allowed his servants to suffer much persecution. The Watchtower Society began to function in a manner similar to the first century Christian congregation—“as a pillar and support of the truth.”
Another fascinating parallel exists in connection with Josiah’s discovery of the Book of the covenant. The record at 2 Kings the 23rd chapter tells of a great passover celebration that was held after the temple was restored: “The king now commanded all the people, saying: ‘Hold a passover to Jehovah your God according to what is written in this book of the covenant.’ For no passover like this had been held from the days of the judges that had judged Israel, nor all the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah. But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah this passover was held to Jehovah in Jerusalem.”
Just as a great passover was held to renew the covenant and celebrate the reforms that had taken place under King Josiah, it appears as though the new covenant that Christ had originally instituted with his apostles was similarly renewed in connection with the Bible Students; evidenced not only by the promulgation of the truth, as they then knew it, but also by the reappearance of anointed partakers, who, with a deeper appreciation of Christ’s sacrifice, commenced the celebration of a great Christian passover meal, which has continued to this day. Although they were laboring under many false expectations, as were the apostles and early Christians, with the reemergence of Christ’s anointed congregation, the Bible Students sensed that it was the time and season for the kingdom of the heavens to begin its rule.
“IN THE VALLEY PLAIN OF MEGIDDO”
In spite of his zeal for Jehovah and the reforms he brought about, Josiah was tragically killed in an ill-advised military campaign against Pharaoh Nechoh. The account at 2 Kings 23:29-30 reads: “In his days Pharaoh Nechoh the king of Egypt came up to the king of Assyria by the river Euphrates, and King Josiah proceeded to go to meet him; but he put him to death at Megiddo as soon as he saw him. So his servants conveyed him dead in a chariot from Megiddo and brought him to Jerusalem and buried him in his grave.” Jeremiah and all of Judah lamented Josiah’s untimely death for generations.
It is evident, for a number of reasons, that the fall of King Josiah at Megiddo was portentous. One reason that is so is that the word “Armageddon” is derived from the Hebrew “Megiddo.” That in itself does not necessarily mean the account is a prophetic pattern of greater realities; however, the prophecy of Zechariah, which might be thought of as a Hebrew precursor of the book of Revelation, attaches prophetic significance to the mourning over Josiah, saying. “In that day the wailing in Jerusalem will be great, like the wailing of Hadadrimmon in the valley plain of Megiddo.”(Zechariah 12:11)
What is the connection to Josiah? The encyclopedic Insight on the Scriptures states the following under the topic of Hadadrimmon:
“Evidently a location in the valley plain of Megiddo. Hadadrimmon is often identified with Rummana, a site about 7 km (4.5 mi) SSE of Megiddo. The ‘great wailing’ at Hadadrimmon mentioned in Zechariah’s prophecy perhaps alludes to the lamentation over King Josiah, killed in battle at Megiddo.”
However, the context of the prophecy in Zechariah has to do with the bewailing over the death of the Messiah—not King Josiah. The messianic nature of the prophecy was confirmed by the apostle’s application of Zechariah 12:10 to the execution of Christ. But, as is the case with many prophecies, Zechariah seamlessly weaves together aspects of both the first and second coming of Christ. In the latter instance, Christ comes as a refiner and cleanser of his people. Like Josiah, he initiates the removal of all the idols from “the land.”
Zechariah 13:1-3 foretells: ‘“In that day there will come to be a well opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for an abhorrent thing. And it must occur in that day,’ is the utterance of Jehovah of armies, ‘that I shall cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they will no more be remembered; and also the prophets and the spirit of uncleanness I shall cause to pass out of the land. And it must occur that in case a man should prophesy anymore, his father and his mother, the ones who caused his birth, must also say to him, ‘You will not live, because falsehood is what you have spoken in the name of Jehovah.’ And his father and his mother, the ones who caused his birth, must pierce him through because of his prophesying.’”
The “well opened to the house of David” has to do with fully applying the sin-atoning provisions of Christ’s sacrifice; to the extent of accomplishing the complete removal of the sins of the “house of David,” which is the 144,000 co-rulers with Christ.
But it is obvious that the time period –“in that day”—does not apply to the first century congregation. That is evident by the fact that God’s judgments upon the Christian congregation back then did not purify “the land” of idols and false prophets. On the contrary, the apostles specifically warned Christians to be on guard against false prophets within the congregation. Furthermore, the letter of 1 John abruptly concludes with an admonition to the sons of God: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”
Clearly, the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah has to do with the establishment of the kingdom of God—when at last, “the Son of man will send forth his angels, and they will collect out from his kingdom all things that cause stumbling and persons who are doing lawlessness.” Only then will Christ’s congregation be completely free of the stumbling blocks of false prophets and idolatry.
But just as the earnest efforts of Josiah did not permanently stave off God’s condemnation, neither has the restoration efforts of the Watchtower Society altered God’s determination to set things straight “in the valley plain of Megiddo.” Indeed, the need for God to set things straight is greater now than ever. The reason is, because, although Jehovah’s Witnesses may have abandoned the blatant babylonish idolatry of Christendom, in the process the Watchtower itself has become a mere organizational golden calf. And while the Watchtower Society has brought about a restoration of basic Christian doctrine, Jehovah’s Witnesses, nevertheless, continue to labor under the burden of false prophecy. Indubitably, because the Watchtower and all of Jehovah’s Witnesses have “spoken in the name of Jehovah,” as cited above, it is we who are more accountable to the Bearer of that name than any other people.
The prophecy of Zechariah goes on to say of God’s coming judgment: “And it must occur in that day that the prophets will become ashamed, each one of his vision when he prophesies; and they will not wear an official garment of hair for the purpose of deceiving. And he will certainly say, ‘I am no prophet. I am a man cultivating the soil, because an earthling man himself acquired me from my youth on.’ And one must say to him, ‘What are these wounds on your person between your hands?’ And he will have to say, ‘Those with which I was struck in the house of my intense lovers.’”
The verse above is followed by the command to strike the shepherd and let the sheep be scattered. That aspect of Zechariah was, of course, fulfilled when Jesus was arrested and impaled and his apostles and disciples were momentarily scattered. Yet, the context of the prophecy also lends itself to a greater fulfillment at Christ’s second coming. That being the case, the “prophet” who is destined to be wounded and “struck in the house of my intense lovers” must correspond to the faithful and discreet slave of Christ; who, according to Luke 12:48, will be beaten with a few strokes for his ignorant neglect when Christ comes to judge God’s household.
The Bethel house of God claims to be the voice of a Jeremiah class and Ezekiel class of prophets, and so forth. However, the evidence presented in this work is intended to show that most of the prophetic interpretations of the Watchtower are either wrongly directed towards Christendom or are misapplied to 1914-1919. Soberingly, Jehovah’s Witnesses are the only people whom the following words of Jehovah could possibly be directed against: “You who are swearing by the name of Jehovah and who make mention even of the God of Israel, not in truth and not in righteousness.”
By reason of the fact that the Watchtower has brought such reproach upon the name of God — as if “swearing by the name of Jehovah”— reasonably, they are the official prophets who will “become ashamed” for the error and deception they have perpetrated in Jehovah’s name. Nevertheless, just like the institutional worship that was once centered in Jerusalem at the time of Christ, the Watchtower has also served God’s purpose. But in so doing, it, too, is destined to become obsolete and is now near to being phased out of existence.
Happily, though, just as the formalistic religion centered in Jerusalem was replaced by a superior form of worship based upon a fuller measure of God’s spirit and truth, the present arrangement must also, inevitably, give way to the fullest expression of God’s spirit and truth, even as Jesus assured all truth lovers when he said: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”