Christendom’s Fiery Destruction from the Celestial Chariot
1-3. Jehovah’s position at the temple was rightly the occasion for him to do what, and for what did this set the pattern as foretold in Malachi 3:1-5?
THE celestial chariot of Jehovah is still standing outside the northern gate that leads up into the inner court of Jerusalem’s temple as new things are revealed in the vision to the Levite prophet Ezekiel. From a rider’s position above the celestial chariot the “glory of the God of Israel” had moved to above the threshold of the Most Holy of the temple. (Ezekiel 8:3, 4; 9:3) His presence there was rightly the occasion for him to inspect this house dedicated to him and to see what was going on there and then to express his judicial decision. It set the pattern for what was to take place later with regard to a greater temple, as foretold by a later prophet in these words:
2 “‘Look! I am sending my messenger, and he must clear up a way before me. And suddenly there will come to His temple the true Lord, whom you people are seeking, and the messenger of the covenant in whom you are delighting. Look! He will certainly come,’ Jehovah of armies has said. ‘But who will be putting up with the day of his coming, and who will be the one standing when he appears? For he will be like the fire of a refiner and like the lye of laundrymen. And he must sit as a refiner and cleanser of silver and must cleanse the sons of Levi; and he must clarify them like gold and like silver, and they will certainly become to Jehovah people presenting a gift offering in righteousness. And the gift offering of Judah and of Jerusalem will actually be gratifying to Jehovah, as in the days of long ago and as in the years of antiquity.
3 “‘And I will come near to you people for the judgment, and I will become a speedy witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against those swearing falsely, and against those acting fraudulently with the wages of a wage worker, with the widow and with the fatherless boy, and those turning away the alien resident, while they have not feared me,’ Jehovah of armies has said.”—Malachi 3:1-5; written 443 B.C.E., after Jerusalem’s temple was rebuilt.
4. According to the vision to Ezekiel, against whom had Jehovah been a speedy witness at the temple, and from there to where else had the “six men” carried on their smashing work to the finish?
4 In the vision to Ezekiel at the temple Jehovah had indeed been a “speedy witness” against the seventy older men who had been burning incense to idolatrous carvings and against the women who sat weeping over the false god Tammuz and against the twenty-five men who had their backs to Jehovah’s temple as they bowed in worship to the eastern sun. The man “clothed with linen, with a secretary’s inkhorn at his hips,” had not put a saving mark on their foreheads, and so Jehovah’s “six men” with smashing weapons had killed off those defilers of Jehovah’s temple. From their work at the temple those six executioners had gone out through the city of Jerusalem and had smashed to death all the unmarked persons, regardless of age, sex or civil status. Now what was to happen to the city itself, filled as it was with the corpses of the slain? Ezekiel was under command to tell us:
5. What was the man “clothed with linen” now told to do, and did he do so?
5 “And I continued to see, and, look! upon the expanse that was over the head of the cherubs there was something like sapphire stone, like the appearance of the likeness of a throne, appearing above them. And he proceeded to say to the man clothed with the linen, even to say: ‘Enter in between the wheelwork, in under the cherubs, and fill the hollows of both your hands with coals of fire from between the cherubs and toss them over the city.’ So he entered in before my eyes.”—Ezekiel 10:1, 2.
6. What was Jehovah’s judicial decision from the temple, and from where were the means for this to be done to be procured, and then used by whom?
6 Thus we have indicated to us the judicial decision of Jehovah from the temple: the city of Jerusalem must be destroyed, burned with fire, not even its temple being spared! From where would the incendiary material being spared! From where would the incendiary material proceed? From between the chariot wheels, beside which the four cherubs were standing. There the coals of fire were to be found. However, the cherubic living creatures were not the ones directly commanded to toss the fiery coals over corpse-filled Jerusalem. They were not to leave their place beside the wheels of the celestial chariot, but were to use an agent. Whom? The man “clothed with linen, with a secretary’s inkhorn at his hips.” In this way the fiery destruction of Jerusalem and its temple is traced back to Jehovah’s celestial chariot, and the tossing of the fiery coals therefrom is done at Jehovah’s command. The prophet Ezekiel saw the linen-clad man go in to where the fire was to get both hands filled with the fiery coals. Miraculously his hands were not to be hurt thereby.
7, 8. Where were the four cherubs alongside the chariot wheels standing, and how do we figure that out?
7 As Ezekiel watches, he proceeds to give us the background of the exciting scene by saying: “And the cherubs were standing to the right of the house when the man entered, and the cloud was filling the inner courtyard.”—Ezekiel 10:3.
8 By the expression “right of the house” did Ezekiel mean his right side as he faced the temple? Traditionally, the right side represents the south to the Hebrews. But here he speaks of the “right of the house when the man entered,” which would seem to have reference to the right side of the man as he entered, his right side being to the north. Taking this viewpoint of the matter, The New English Bible (1970) translates this part of verse three: “The cherubim stood on the right side of the temple as a man enters.” This would place the cherubs on the north side, where the description in Ezekiel 8:3, 4 stations them. Otherwise, we must understand (although Ezekiel does not say so) that the celestial chariot with its wheels and cherubs had moved from north of the temple to the south side (the right side when one faces east) of the sanctuary.
9. How does Ezekiel apparently repeat Ezekiel 9:3 regarding the movement of Jehovah’s glory and the sound of the cherubs’ wings?
9 Now apparently Ezekiel repeats what he had described previously (in Ezekiel 9:3) as he goes on to say: “And the glory of Jehovah proceeded to rise up from the cherubs to the threshold of the house, and the house gradually became filled with the cloud, and the courtyard itself was full of the brightness of the glory of Jehovah. And the very sound of the wings of the cherubs made itself heard to the outer courtyard, like the sound of God Almighty when he speaks.”—Ezekiel 10:4, 5.
10. How do three modern translators indicate there had been no interim movement of Jehovah’s glory?
10 As indicating that there had not been a movement of Jehovah away from the threshold of the temple to above the celestial chariot and then back again to the threshold of the temple, Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible reads: “And become high doth the honour of Jehovah above the cherub, over the threshold of the house, and the house is filled with the cloud, and the court hath been filled with the brightness of the honour of Jehovah.” Also, An American Translation renders Ezekiel 10:3, 4: “. . . and the cloud filled the inner court; for when the glory of the LORD had gone up from the cherubim to the threshold of the house, the house was filled with the cloud, while the court was filled with the radiance of the glory of the LORD.” Also, A New Translation of the Bible (by Dr. James Moffatt) here reads: “. . . a cloud filled the inner court. When the Splendour of the Eternal ascended from the kherubs and went to the threshold of the temple, the temple was filled with the cloud, and the inner court was filled with radiance from the Splendour of the Eternal.”
11. When the linen-clad man went in to get the fiery coals, where was Jehovah’s glory, and what was the effect of this on the temple, so that the cherubs called attention to it in what way?
11 Thus the glory of Jehovah had left the sapphire throne above that icelike expanse that was above the wheels and the cherubs alongside them and was still over the threshold of the Most Holy of the temple when the linen-clad man was told to get coals of fire. (Ezekiel 1:25-27; 10:1, 2) As for the temple down under the glory of Jehovah, it became filled with a miraculous cloud, this showing that Jehovah dominated the temple and no one else could enter it. (Compare 1 Kings 8:10-13; Revelation 15:8.) So bright was the glory of Jehovah above the temple that its radiance filled the courtyard in front of the temple sanctuary. Jehovah’s presence at the temple for the executing of his judicial decision was highly important. So deserving of attention was it that the four cherubs alongside the chariot wheels put their wings in motion, not to fly away with the chariot, but to make a mighty sound. If anyone had been in the outer courtyard, he could have heard the sound. It might have been like ear-shattering thunder, as when God Almighty speaks.—Compare Exodus 20:18, 19; John 12:28-30.
12. Where had the man with the inkhorn made his report, and to what did he now give his attention?
12 The man “clothed with linen, with a secretary’s inkhorn at his hips,” now turned his attention to those cherubs. Regarding his previous work of marking foreheads he had reported to Jehovah at the temple, saying: “I have done just as you have commanded me.” (Ezekiel 9:11) Now he turns to the “right [side] of the house,” to go to the celestial chariot, as Ezekiel next tells us:
13. What did the man “clothed with linen” receive from one of the cherubs, and how?
13 “And it came about, when he commanded the man clothed with the linen, saying: ‘Take fire from between the wheelwork, from between the cherubs,’ that he proceeded to enter and stand beside the wheel. Then the cherub thrust his hand out from between the cherubs to the fire that was between the cherubs and carried and put it into the hollows of the hands of the one clothed with linen, who now took it and went out. And there was seen belonging to the cherubs the representation of a hand of earthling man under their wings.”—Ezekiel 10:6-8.
SYMBOLIC “COALS OF FIRE” TOSSED OVER JERUSALEM
14. What kind of fiery coals does the linen-clad man toss over the city, and this fact signifies what concerning the destruction of Jerusalem?
14 This is the last that the prophet Ezekiel sees of the man “clothed with linen” in the vision. Ezekiel’s eyes turn from following this man in the execution of his mission to a further contemplation of the celestial chariot. Ezekiel thus spares us the sight of the burning of the city of Jerusalem, as this linen-clad man turns his hands from the lifesaving work of marking foreheads to the destructive work of tossing “coals of fire” over the city. It is not man-made fire with which he sets the city afire; it is miraculous fire from God’s heavenly organization. Not a man, but a cherub that belonged to that organization, put this fire into the hands of the linen-clad man. What does this signify? This: that the utter destruction of Jerusalem as IF with fire could be an expression of Jehovah’s wrath and fury against that capital city of the Kingdom of Judah. The prophet Ezekiel saw this miraculous fire “between the wheelwork,” not when he first saw the celestial chariot the previous year in Babylon, but now when he sees that chariot on location at Jerusalem. When that chariot reached Jerusalem, it was the time for her destruction!
15. Correspondingly, to what does Jeremiah in the Lamentations liken the anger and rage poured out by Jehovah on Jerusalem?
15 The prophet Jeremiah, when lamenting bitterly over the destruction of Jerusalem, likens Jehovah’s anger and rage to fire. Mournfully he says: “Jehovah has swallowed up, he has shown no compassion upon any abiding places of Jacob [Israel]. In his fury he has torn down the fortified places of the daughter of Judah. He has brought into contact with the earth, he has profaned the kingdom and her princes. In the heat of anger he has cut down every horn of Israel. He has turned his right hand back from before the enemy; and in Jacob he keeps burning like a flaming fire that has devoured all around. He has trodden his bow like an enemy. His right hand has taken its position like an adversary, and he kept killing all those desirable to the eyes. Into the tent of the daughter of Zion he has poured out his rage, just like fire.” (Lamentations 2:2-4) With fitting figures of speech Jeremiah continues on to say: “Jehovah has accomplished his rage. He has poured out his burning anger. And he sets a fire ablaze in Zion, which eats up her foundations.”—Lamentations 4:11.
16, 17. The account in 2 Chronicles 36:16-20 is so worded as to indicate that destruction of Jerusalem and her temple was the expression of whose rage?
16 Even the inspired Chronicler, evidently the priestly scribe Ezra, words his account to remind us that the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 607 B.C.E. was the unmistakable expression of God’s justified rage against the unfaithful city. So, in 2 Chronicles 36:16-20, we read about the unresponsive Jews:
17 “They were continually making jest at the messengers of the true God and despising his words and mocking at his prophets, until the rage of Jehovah came up against his people, until there was no healing. So he brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, who proceeded to kill their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, neither did he feel compassion for young man or virgin, old or decrepit. Everything He gave into his hand. And all the utensils, great and small, of the house of the true God and the treasures of the house of Jehovah and the treasures of the king and of his princes, everything he brought to Babylon. And he proceeded to burn the house of the true God and pull down the wall of Jerusalem; and all its dwelling towers they burned with fire and also all its desirable articles, so as to cause ruin. Furthermore, he carried off those remaining from the sword captive to Babylon, and they came to be servants to him and his sons until the royalty of Persia began to reign.”
18. Were those who actually burned Jerusalem down prefigured by the man “clothed with linen,” and so what was really implied by this man’s tossing the fiery coals over Jerusalem?
18 That account, and the fuller account in 2 Kings 25:8-21, show that it was the armies of the king of Babylon that actually burned down the city of Jerusalem. This does not mean, however, that such Babylonians were prefigured by the man “clothed with linen” who, in Ezekiel’s vision, tossed fiery coals over Jerusalem. No, but this visionary man continued to picture the faithful remnant of Jehovah’s baptized, anointed witnesses who do the symbolic marking of foreheads down at this “time of the end” for Christendom. Hence the man’s tossing coals of fire over Jerusalem pictured first that Jehovah would pour out his fiery rage upon Jerusalem. By the linen-clad man he was serving advance notice of this upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This pouring out of divine wrath was carried out by means of the Babylonian armies that really did burn the city. In like manner the modern-day counterpart of the linen-clad man scatter the fiery message from God’s Word all over Christendom, and this serves as advance notification to her that Jehovah’s fiery anger will be vented upon her in the coming “great tribulation.”
19. So, then, what relation does the anointed remnant pictured by the linen-clad man have with Christendom’s destruction, and, aside from his invisible, heavenly organization, what agencies will Jehovah use to wreak destruction upon Christendom?
19 Hence, in the actual working out of things in the near future, the anointed remnant pictured by the man “clothed in linen” will not actually set fire to Christendom, nor will they have any active hand in destroying her. They merely now proclaim the “day of vengeance on the part of our God” against Christendom. (Isaiah 61:1, 2) They got this fiery message from Jehovah through his heavenly organization, his celestial chariot. As it were, one of the heavenly cherubs belonging to that celestial chariot put these symbolic “coals of fire from between the cherubs” into the hollows of their hands to go and toss them out over the city of Christendom as warning notice. Aside from what Jehovah’s invisible heavenly organization under the glorified Jesus Christ will do toward the literal wiping out of Christendom, he will use earthly agencies to wreak violent destruction upon Christendom like what the Babylonians did to hypocritical Jerusalem back in 607 B.C.E.
20. Since Christendom is the outstanding part of Babylon the Great, she is in line for what kind of destruction?
20 When we call to mind that Christendom is the outstanding part of modern-day Babylon the Great, the world empire of false Babylonish religion, we can see that Christendom is in line for destruction as if by being burned with all-consuming fire.
21. Unavoidably, then, Christendom comes within the range of what words expressed in Revelation, chapter eighteen, concerning Babylon the Great?
21 Unavoidably, then, Christendom comes within the range of the prophetic words from heaven, as heard by the Christian apostle John: “That is why in one day her plagues will come, death and mourning and famine, and she will be completely burned with fire, because Jehovah God, who judged her, is strong.” Then, in a description of those who suffer personal selfish loss at the destruction of the world empire of false religion (including Christendom), the apostle John goes on to say: “And the kings of the earth who committed fornication with her and lived in shameless luxury will weep and beat themselves in grief over her, when they look at the smoke from the burning of her, while they stand at a distance because of their fear of her torment and say, ‘Too bad, too bad, you great city, Babylon you strong city, because in one hour your judgment has arrived!’”—Revelation 18:8-10.
22. According to the words of Revelation, chapter eighteen, the destruction is recognized as coming from whom, and how will those symbolically marked in the forehead react to it?
22 Even the last writer of the Bible recognizes this destruction of the hypocritical religious organization as a fiery destruction from the One who rides upon the celestial chariot. Accordingly the apostle John, after describing the sorrow of many at this destruction, says: “Be glad over her, O heaven, also you holy ones and you apostles and you prophets, because God has judicially exacted punishment for you from her!” (Revelation 18:20) All those marked in the forehead by the modern-day man “clothed with linen,” will rejoice with these at the fiery destruction that proceeded from Jehovah’s celestial chariot against hypocritical Christendom and all the rest of Babylon the Great. Surely all of us want to be on the side of those who rejoice when that occurs.
THE WHEELWORK AND CHERUBS THAT ARE INVOLVED
23, 24. What description does Ezekiel now give of the wheels and cherubs, and what does its correspondency with the previous description indicate as to the source of destruction?
23 Along with the prophet Ezekiel let us take another look at Jehovah’s celestial chariot from which this fiery destruction flames forth against Christendom. How Ezekiel now describes it corresponds closely with what he said about it in Ezekiel 1:5-28. To identify it as being the same chariot, Ezekiel writes:
24 “And I continued to see, and, look! there were four wheels beside the cherubs, one wheel beside the one cherub and one wheel beside the other cherub, and the appearance of the wheels was like the glow of a chrysolite stone. And as for their appearance, the four of them had one likeness, just as when a wheel proves to be in the midst of a wheel. When they would go, to their four sides they would go. They would not change direction when they went, because the place to which the head would face, after it they would go. They would not change direction when they went. And all their flesh and their backs and their hands and their wings and the wheels were full of eyes all around. The four of them had their wheels. As regards the wheels, to them it was called out in my ears, ‘O wheelwork [hag-Galgal, Hebrew]!’”—Ezekiel 10:9-13.
25. What was the name given to the wheels, and to what feature about a wheel does it call attention?
25 It may have startled Ezekiel to hear a name called out to the wheels, “Wheelwork!” (Ezekiel 10:2) This name was evidently occasioned by what the wheel does, namely, it rolls along or whirls. So it could be called a roller or whirler. This feature is emphasized in The Emphasised Bible, by J. B. Rotherham, which translates Ezekiel 10:13 in this way: “To the wheels, to them was made the cry, O whirling wheel!” Or, according to the marginal reading: “O thou that whirlest!” Correspondingly, the name of the Israelite city Gilgal means “A Rolling Away.”—Joshua 5:9.
26. The naming of this feature about the celestial chariot with such a name called attention to what about Jehovah’s heavenly organization?
26 The naming of this part of the celestial chariot by such a name calls attention to the speed with which the celestial chariot, Jehovah’s heavenly organization, moves. It moves as with “wheels [galgal (used here in the plural)] as a stormwind.” “His wheels are like a storm-wind.” (Isaiah 5:28, Ro) The war chariots of the Assyrian capital, Nineveh, never moved faster than this celestial chariot, even if it is said of those Assyrian war chariots: “Like the lightnings they keep running.” (Nahum 2:4) Although the celestial chariot wheels whirled with so many revolutions per minute, they had eyes to see their way.
27. What observation did Ezekiel now make about the cherubs, and what does the movement of the wheels alongside them indicate?
27 From the wheels the prophet Ezekiel now turned his consideration to the accompanying cherubs. Evidently looking first at the left side of the cherubic living creature, Ezekiel remarks as follows about them: “And each one had four faces. The first face was the face of the cherub [a bull’s face, in Ezekiel 1:10], and the second face was the face of earthling man, and the third was the face of a lion, and the fourth was the face of an eagle. And the cherubs would rise—it was the same living creature that I had seen at the river Chebar—and when the cherubs went, the wheels would go alongside them; and when the cherubs lifted up their wings to be high above the earth, the wheels would not change direction, even they themselves, from alongside them. When these stood still, they would stand still; and when these rose, they would rise with them, for the spirit of the living creature was in them.” (Ezekiel 10:14-17) There was thus perfect cooperation between the wheels and the cherubs. There was no disharmony or disorganization about this celestial chariot of Jehovah.
28. To what new position did the “glory of Jehovah” and the celestial chariot now move?
28 The “fire” taken from between the cherubs of this chariot and tossed by the linen-clad man over the city of Jerusalem had not yet reached the temple. So, in the vision, the “glory of Jehovah” still continues to maneuver in that area, just as Ezekiel now tells us: “And the glory of Jehovah proceeded to go forth from over the threshold of the house and to stand still over the cherubs. And the cherubs now lifted up their wings and rose from the earth before my eyes. When they went forth, the wheels also were close alongside them; and they began standing at the eastern entrance of the gate of the house of Jehovah, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them, from above. This is the living creature that I had seen under the God of Israel at the river Chebar [in Babylonia], so I that came to know that they were cherubs. As for the four, each one had four faces and each one had four wings, and the likeness of the hands of earthling man was under their wings. And as for the likeness of their faces, they were the faces the appearance of which I had seen by the river Chebar, the very ones. They would go each one straight forward.”—Ezekiel 10:18-22.
29. To where must the prophet Ezekiel now be brought, and what are we interested to learn respecting him now?
29 As the celestial chariot, with Jehovah seated upon the sapphire throne above it, stands at the outer eastern entrance of the temple, what instructions are to be given to the prophet Ezekiel? But first he must be brought from his position in the inner court of the temple in order to view what may be seen from the outer eastern gate that looked toward the Mount of Olives. We are interested to learn what he sees and hears there.