The Watchman Lives to Get the Report
1. Because of his great interest in our welfare, what has the Creator provided for us in these troublous times, and how should we feel about this?
OUGHT we not be thankful that there is a Creator who is so interested in our welfare that he has provided a watchman for our safety in these dangerous times? We have reason to be grateful for this divine provision, rather than be irritated because the watchman warns us so promptly and conscientiously. He is not needlessly disturbing our peace and repose.
2. What worldlings of today do not prove to be His watchman class, why does He have a great account to settle with this system of things, and what does heeding His real watchman mean for us?
2 Scientists, economists, ecologists and historians are shouting out well-founded warnings to this present system of things about eventual disaster. But these worldlings do not make up the “watchman” class that the Creator of heaven and earth has raised up. Those men or women do not issue warning in the name of the Creator or at His command. Whether we refer to man’s natural environment or we refer to moral standards and religious obligations, in all cases the Creator’s laws and arrangements are being violated. The account that He has to settle with man’s present system of things world wide is great. His settling of accounts in the near future will mean a “great tribulation” of the worst sort that has ever befallen our race. Heeding His real watchman means our salvation.
3. How was the Creator’s “watchman” foreshadowed or typed, and when?
3 The Creator’s “watchman” for our day was foreshadowed or typed. By whom? By the prophet Ezekiel, during those critical six years that wound up with the first destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. Ezekiel was commissioned as a prophet and watchman in the year 613 B.C.E. (Ezekiel 1:1-3; 3:17-21) But now, before the report of Jerusalem’s destruction reaches him at his place of exile in Babylon, he is reminded how, as a watchman, he is responsible for the lives of the chosen people of God. After recording the messages that he was called upon to deliver against seven nations who had mistreated God’s chosen people (Ezekiel, chapters twenty-five through thirty-two), the prophet writes:
4. In Ezekiel 33:1-5, what does Jehovah say regarding the placing of a watchman and the case of the heedless hearer of the warning signal of the horn?
4 “And the word of Jehovah proceeded to occur to me, saying: ‘Son of man, speak to the sons of your people, and you must say to them, “As regards a land, in case I bring upon it a sword and the people of the land, one and all, actually take a man and set him as their watchman, and he really sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the horn and warns the people, and the hearer actually hears the sound of the horn but he takes no warning at all, and a sword comes and takes him away, his own blood will come to be upon his own head. The sound of the horn he heard, but he took no warning. His own blood will come to be upon his own self. And had he himself taken warning, his own soul would have escaped.”’”—Ezekiel 33:1-5.
5. According to those words, who is it that brings the sword upon the land, and who shoulders the responsibility for loss of life if a hearer disregards a watchman?
5 Let us here notice that it is Jehovah that brings the “sword” of execution of his judicial decisions upon the land in question. But even if the people of that land set up their own watchman, just the same the resident of the land who fails to heed the watchman’s warning and loses his soul or life must shoulder the responsibility for his own death. It is fair to the watchman.
6. What does Jehovah say is the case of a people in danger whose watchman fails to sound warning to them?
6 “Now as regards the watchman,” continues Jehovah, “in case he sees the sword coming and he actually does not blow the horn and the people itself gets no warning at all and a sword comes and takes away from them soul, for its own error it itself must be taken away, but its blood I shall ask back from the hand of the watchman himself.”—Ezekiel 33:6.
7. Although a people deserves to be destroyed, who is held accountable for their death in the case of a delinquent watchman?
7 If a people is destroyed at the edge of the executional sword, no injustice was done to it because it did not first get warning. It deserved to be destroyed because of its own error toward God. But this does not excuse the delinquent watchman. He was duty-bound to sound the warning to the people. Modern-day law would call his failure to do so “criminal negligence” on the watchman’s part. Certainly, then, Jehovah rightly held him responsible.
8. Who made Ezekiel a watchman and to whom, and how would Ezekiel be dealt with where a wicked man died for failing to get warning, or where he failed to heed Ezekiel’s warning?
8 Jehovah now makes an application of this to Ezekiel, saying: “Now as regards you, O son of man, a watchman is what I have made you to the house of Israel, and at my mouth you must hear the word and give them warning from me. When I say to someone wicked, ‘O wicked one, you will positively die!’ but you actually do not speak out to warn the wicked one from his way, he himself as a wicked one will die in his own error, but his blood I shall ask back at your own hand. But as regards you, in case you actually warn someone wicked from his way for him to turn back from it but he actually does not turn back from his way, he himself will die in his own error, whereas you yourself will certainly deliver your own soul.” (Ezekiel 33:7-9) According to this principle, Jehovah excuses a spiritual watchman, like Ezekiel, for having done his duty.
9. In what is it that Jehovah takes delight, in the death of the wicked one or in the recovery of that one to life?
9 “Now,” continues Jehovah, “as regards you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus you people have said: “Because our revolts and our sins are upon us and in them we are rotting away, how, then, shall we keep living?”’ Say to them, ‘“As I am alive,” is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, “I take delight, not in the death of the wicked one, but in that someone wicked turns back from his way and actually keeps living. Turn back, turn back from your bad ways, for why is it that you should die, O house of Israel?”’”—Ezekiel 33:10, 11.
10. How does this attitude of Jehovah open up an opportunity for us today when the “great tribulation” is impending?
10 This divine attitude opens up an opportunity for us today. He is not pleased to have us die in the approaching “great tribulation” in which he executes His judicial decisions upon this wicked system of things. If we turn back from our bad ways and strive to live according to the way marked out in His Word, he will spare us from execution. (Matthew 24:21, 22) That a wicked person’s previous record will not be held against him, Jehovah now states:
11. How does Jehovah state matters, to show that a person’s previous record will not be held against him or, also, in favor of him?
11 “And as for you, O son of man, say to the sons of your people, ‘The righteousness of the righteous one will not itself deliver him in the day of his revolt. But as regards the wickedness of the wicked one, he will not be made to stumble [and fall in death] by it in the day of his turning back from his wickedness. Nor will even anyone having righteousness be able to keep living because of it in the day of his sinning. When I say to the righteous one: “You will positively keep living,” and he himself actually trusts in his own righteousness and does injustice, all his own righteous acts will not be remembered, but for his injustice that he has done—for this he will die.’”—Ezekiel 33:12, 13.
WHEN ONE’S PAST RECORD DOES NOT COUNT
12. In the case of the wicked one, how does Jehovah state that what one actually is at the time for executing judgment is what counts?
12 Regardless of the previous record in life, it is what one actually is at the due time for the execution of divine judgment that counts with God. Hence he goes on to say: “And when I say to the wicked one: ‘You will positively die,’ and he actually turns back from his sin and carries on justice and righteousness, and the wicked one returns the very thing pledged [by the debtor, at nightfall], pays back the very things taken by robbery, and actually walks in the very statutes of life by not doing injustice, he will positively keep living. He will not die. None of his sins with which he has sinned will be remembered against him. Justice and righteousness are what he has carried on. He will positively keep living.”—Ezekiel 33:14-16.
13. Walking “in the very statutes of life” means what, as regards Ezekiel’s day and as regards our own day?
13 Such treatment of sinners—how gracious it is on Jehovah’s part! At his time of executing judgment against an unrighteous nation or organization, He does not let the reformed sinner be put to death, but this spared one is permitted to live on, walking “in the very statutes of life,” until his natural death. In Ezekiel’s day such walking meant obeying God’s law that was given to Israel at Mount Sinai through the mediator Moses. But in our day, nineteen centuries after the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ as the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world,” a reformed sinner’s walking “in the very statutes of life” would mean his accepting the ransom sacrifice of the Lamb Jesus Christ and walking in his footsteps as a true Christian.—John 1:29, 36; 1 Peter 2:21.
14. To correspond with this, what is said about the “great crowd” in Revelation 7:9-15?
14 That is why it is said concerning the “great crowd” of worshipers that survives the “great tribulation” and enters into God’s righteous new system of things: “These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. That is why they are before the throne of God; and they are rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple; and the One seated on the throne [God] will spread his tent over them.”—Revelation 7:9-15.
15, 16. What were the Israelites saying about the way of Jehovah, but what did He say to make plain the rightness of His way?
15 What shall we say of this divine arrangement? That God has misadjusted matters? To say so would be doing like the Israelites of Ezekiel’s day. Here is what Jehovah tells Ezekiel about them: “And the sons of your people have said, ‘The way of Jehovah is not adjusted right,’ but, as for them, it is their way that is not adjusted right.” (Ezekiel 33:17) Then Jehovah proceeds to make plain the rightness of his way in dealing with his people in the time for executing judgment by adding:
16 “When someone righteous turns back from his righteousness and actually does injustice, he must also die for them. And when someone wicked turns back from his wickedness and actually carries on justice and righteousness, it will be on account of them that he himself will keep living.”—Ezekiel 33:18, 19.
17. As regards a righteous person’s course, what is it that counts with Jehovah on judgment day?
17 It is how a person ends up that counts with Jehovah, not what kind of a person, good or bad, that he was in the past. If Jehovah’s day for executing judgment finds that a once righteous person has turned to wickedness and has continued therein, then the penalty for sin must be inflicted upon him.
18. In contrast, what is the case with the wicked one, and what is there maladjusted about Jehovah’s way of dealing thusly?
18 However, if the arrival of Jehovah’s judgment day finds that a once wicked person has repented and turned to what is right in Jehovah’s eyes and has continued in this course, he will be spared execution as a reward for repenting, reforming and adhering to righteousness. Jehovah says that he has no pleasure in the death by execution of the wicked. He delights in the repenting and reforming of the wicked ones, because that means that He can spare them and let them keep on living in righteousness to Jehovah’s praise. When Jehovah punishes or rewards a person according to what he is on the day for executing judgment according to the divine standards concerning right and wrong, there is nothing maladjusted about that, is there? Hence in the approaching “great tribulation” we cannot expect our past course, if merely self-righteous, to count for us.
19. Like the ancient Israelites, why should we not hold onto our own manner of thinking as to Jehovah’s way, and so on what does a desirable decision toward us on judgment day depend?
19 Knowing that His way of handling judgment is adjusted right, Jehovah will proceed accordingly. That is why he warned the Israelites of this by saying: “And you people have said, ‘The way of Jehovah is not adjusted right.’ It will be each one according to his ways that I shall judge you, O house of Israel.” (Ezekiel 33:20) Let us therefore not consider God’s way to be wrongly adjusted and so hold onto our own wrong thinking. His ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts than our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8, 9) According to what our ways result in our being at His time for executing his judicial decisions is the way Jehovah will judge us, each one on an individual basis. O that his decision at that time toward us may be that we should “keep living”! Let us appreciate now that this all depends upon the deeds of each one of us during what remains of this “year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah.”—Isaiah 61:1, 2; 2 Corinthians 6:1, 2.
THE ESCAPEE ARRIVES WITH THE EYEWITNESS REPORT
20. Till what date did Ezekiel prove to be a vocal watchman to the house of Israel, and why was it that he survived Jerusalem’s destruction and loss of life till the report arrived?
20 The prophet Ezekiel proved to be a faithful vocal watchman toward the house of Israel. Till the tenth day of the tenth lunar month of the year 609 B.C.E., when the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem began, he courageously declared Jehovah’s warning to the disaster-threatened Israelites. The destruction of the rebellious city after eighteen months of intensifying siege brought death to an unstated number of besieged Jews. The toll of lives must have been great. But Jehovah was unable to ask back at the hand of Ezekiel the life of a single one of those many slain. Their blood was upon their own heads, because they had refused to pay attention to the warning sounded by watchman Ezekiel. As a result Ezekiel survived to receive finally a report that proved that his warnings as a watchman had not been baseless, unfounded. He tells us:
21, 22. When did the report arrive, what effect did it have as regards Jehovah and Ezekiel, and how long had the fugitive been on the way to deliver the report?
21 “At length it occurred in the twelfth year, in the tenth month, on the fifth day of the month of our exile, that there came to me the escaped one from Jerusalem, saying: ‘The city has been struck down!’”—Ezekiel 33:21.
22 Vindicated! Jehovah the Inspirer of the prophecies of Jerusalem’s calamity was vindicated! Ezekiel the watchman and proclaimer of those prophecies was vindicated! What a thrilling moment that was when that fugitive from more than five hundred miles away broke the not-unexpected news: “The city has been struck down!” It was on the fifth day of the tenth month (Tebeth) of the twelfth year of Ezekiel’s exile in Babylon. There are eight Hebrew manuscripts besides the Syriac Version and some manuscripts of the Greek Septuagint Version that read “eleventh year” instead of “twelfth year.” This would mean that the fugitive from Jerusalem arrived during the latter half of December of the year 607 B.C.E. Since 2 Kings 25:2-4 tells us that Jerusalem was struck down or breached by the Babylonians on the ninth day of the fourth month (Tammuz) of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah’s reign but of Ezekiel’s exile, this would mean that the fugitive arrived six months after Jerusalem was broken into and captured by the Babylonians. The time would come out the same if, as some do, we count year twelve from the Jewish New Year, Tishri 1, of 607 B.C.E.
23. When the report of the destruction of Christendom world wide comes, what will it authenticate about the anointed Ezekiel class, and who will be held accountable for all the loss of life then?
23 What a thrilling moment it will be when, during the coming “great tribulation” on this present system of things, the authentic news comes from all around the earth that the antitypical Jerusalem, Christendom, has fallen at the hands of Jehovah’s executional forces! This will be a vindication of the modern-day Ezekiel class, to authenticate that they have not been a false prophet but have been a faithful “watchman” class in sounding out Jehovah’s warnings to Christendom. The blood of clergymen and of other adherents of Christendom losing their lives at that time will be upon their own heads. Because these refused to heed the warning given, their blood will not be asked back by Jehovah at the hand of his appointed “watchman,” the anointed Ezekiel class. For her own error Christendom will perish. Jehovah will judge her in accord with her own hypocritical, bloodguilty ways.
24, 25. How was Ezekiel prepared in advance to hear the report?
24 The ancient prophet Ezekiel was prepared in advance to hear the news that, to an ordinary Jew or Israelite, would have been heartbreaking. Let us remember that the Jewish day began at eveningtime, at sundown, as we now read what Ezekiel tells us:
25 “Now the very hand of Jehovah had come to be upon me in the evening before the coming of the escaped one, and He proceeded to open my mouth prior to that one’s coming to me in the morning, and my mouth was opened and I proved to be speechless no longer.”—Ezekiel 33:22.
26. To compare with Jerusalem’s siege, how long did Ezekiel’s muteness last, and why did Jehovah choose to furnish an eyewitness report rather than an inspired report?
26 Thus Ezekiel’s muteness as regards his prophesying concerning the doomed Jerusalem lasted longer than the eighteen months of Jerusalem’s siege. His muteness had begun after he had miraculously been notified by inspiration of Jerusalem’s siege on the very day that it began. His muteness did not end by getting a miraculous communication on the day that Jerusalem was “struck down” by the Babylonians. His muteness continued after that event until it would be confirmed by the report of an escaped human eyewitness, whose report would be less questionable by Ezekiel’s fellow exiles than an inspired report to the prophet would be. But Jehovah knew that the escapee was near the end of his flight and about to make report, and so on the evening of the day of that one’s arrival Jehovah spoke to Ezekiel from the standpoint that Jerusalem had already been destroyed and there were some survivors yet in the land of Judah. To this effect Ezekiel now writes:
27. To those Jews surviving on the land of Judah after the striking down of Jerusalem, what did Jehovah tell Ezekiel to say about the possessing of the land?
27 “And the word of Jehovah began to occur to me, saying: ‘Son of man, the inhabitants of these devastated places are saying even concerning the soil of Israel, “Abraham happened to be just one and yet he took possession of the land. And we are many; to us the land has been given as something to possess.” Therefore say to them: “This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said: ‘With the blood you keep eating, and your eyes you keep lifting to your dungy idols, and blood you keep pouring out. So should you possess the land? You have depended upon your sword. You have done a detestable thing, and you have defiled each one the wife of his companion. So should you possess the land?’”’”—Ezekiel 33:23-26.
28. Of what were those survivors who had not been deported by the Babylonians still guilty, and what viewpoint did their comments about the land show that they took toward Jerusalem’s fall?
28 This shows that those Jews who had not been deported by the Babylonians but who were still permitted to stay on the land had not been properly affected by the destruction of Jerusalem. They had not viewed this as an expression of God’s condemnation of them and so had not repented of their violations of His law. They still continued to eat animal flesh from which the blood had not been drained according to God’s law; they still carried on false worship with detestable idols, idols smeared with dung; they still committed the detestable act of adultery, violating even their neighbor’s wife. It mattered not with Jehovah that they were many as compared with their ancestor, the patriarch Abraham, to whom the land had been promised by Jehovah. (Genesis 12:1-7) Because of their not turning away repentantly from their wicked ways, they did not deserve to keep possessing the land. (Jeremiah 42:1 to 44:25) Mere numbers did not count with Jehovah; obedience to his Law did!
DESOLATION OF THE LAND TO BE MADE COMPLETE
29. To what physical state was the land to be reduced, and how would Jehovah bring this about, and for what purpose?
29 Jehovah made it plain that those unrepentant, undeported sinners were due to be deprived of using the God-given land, for he now said to Ezekiel: “This is what you should say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said: “As I am alive, surely the ones who are in the devastated places will fall by the sword itself; and the one who is upon the surface of the field, to the wild beast I shall certainly give him for food; and those who are in the strong places and in the caves will die by the pestilence itself. And I shall actually make the land a desolate waste, even a desolation, and the pride of its strength must be made to cease and the mountains of Israel must be laid desolate, with no one passing through. And they will have to know that I am Jehovah when I make the land a desolate waste, even a desolation, on account of all their detestable things that they have done.”’”—Ezekiel 33:27-29.
30. What decree concerning the desolation of the land was not to be set at nought, and when did that divine decree take effect?
30 Jehovah’s decree was not to be set at nought. He had decreed that the land of the Kingdom of Judah should be absolutely desolated of man and domesticated beast, with no one even passing through the desolated land because of fear of its being haunted by demons. It was to lie desolate in this manner for a full period of seventy years, in order that the God-given land might enjoy a sabbath period, to make up for all the sabbath years that the Jews had failed to keep regarding the land. (2 Chronicles 36:17-23; compare Daniel 9:1, 2; Jeremiah 9:11; 26:9; 32:43; 33:10-12; 34:22.) Consequently those defiers of Jehovah’s decree had to be ousted, and they were. The utter desolation of the land of Judah did begin in the seventh month of the year of Jerusalem’s destruction, about October 4/5 of the year 607 B.C.E. (2 Kings 25:18-26) Any Jewish fugitives round about who desired to repossess the land before the ending of seventy years of utter desolation were prevented from doing so.—Jeremiah 52:24-30.
31. What, corresponding to that, will befall Christendom, and what will the secular elements of this system of things have to know before their own destruction?
31 Correspondingly in our day, the realm, yes, the place that Christendom has occupied in this worldly system of things will be completely desolated without any of her religious institutions remaining therein. Before the so-called pagan, heathen part of Babylon the Great, Christendom will cease to be the dominant part of that world empire of false Babylonish religion. The secular elements of today’s worldwide system of things will look at the vacuum that she as well as the rest of Babylon the Great has left, but her they will see no more during the brief time before those secular elements are themselves annihilated in the worldwide “great tribulation” in which the whole system comes to a violent end. Christendom never did correctly put God’s name before those secular elements. Necessarily, then, in view of what the anointed Ezekiel class have long proclaimed world wide, those secular elements will have to come to the knowledge prescribed for them in the repeatedly stated formula: “They will have to know that I am Jehovah.”
ENTRANCED HEARERS, BUT NOT DOERS
32, 33. What observations did Jehovah make on the talk and attitudes of the people respecting Ezekiel, who today meet similar reactions from the people, and when things come true what will the people know?
32 As is well known, the modern Ezekiel class, the anointed remnant of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, are a subject of much discussion among the people inside as well as outside of Christendom. But the people in general react toward them just the same as Ezekiel’s fellow exiles in Babylon reacted toward him and his prophesying, before the news of Jerusalem’s destruction broke upon them with stunning impact. Jehovah observed the exiles and said:
33 “And as for you, O son of man, the sons of your people are speaking with one another about you beside the walls and in the entrances of the houses, and the one has spoken with the other, each one with his brother, saying, ‘Come, please, and hear what the word is that is going forth from Jehovah.’ And they will come in to you, like the coming in of people, and sit before you as my people; and they will certainly hear your words but these they will not do, for with their mouth they are expressing lustful desires and after their unjust gain is where their heart is going. And, look! you are to them like a song of sensuous loves, like one with a pretty voice and playing a stringed instrument well. And they will certainly hear your words, but there are none doing them. And when it comes true—look! it must come true—they will also have to know that a prophet himself had proved to be in the midst of them.”—Ezekiel 33:30-33.
34. How do people today fit the description given by Jehovah, and how do they show they merely want to be entertained by the anointed Ezekiel class and Christian co-workers of these?
34 Whether beside walls casting cooling shade or in the doorways of their homes or elsewhere, people are gossiping and conversing at times after the Ezekiel class and the “great crowd” of their Christian coworkers come around, going from house to house preaching God’s Messianic kingdom and the “conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 24:3-14; Revelation 7:9-17) Many persons, even many who are still related to Christendom, will pass around nice compliments about these Christian witnesses of Jehovah. They may even come to the large public meetings of these witnesses or arrange for a home Bible study to be carried on with them and invite neighbors or relatives to join them in the study. They like the tone and directness of the divine message and respectfully listen to it. But they leave the matter hanging in suspense; they come to no energizing favorable decision toward Jehovah. They merely like to be entertained with a Biblically supported message. Their concern is not to appear outright irreligious, open to the charge of being atheistic communists.
35. At what cry on Christendom’s part may such persons be disturbed, and what decision with its consequent action do they hold back from making?
35 They may be disturbed by the cry of Christendom that Jehovah’s Christian witnesses are “false prophets!” They may not be fully convinced that these are true spokesmen for Jehovah the Sovereign Lord. To let themselves come to the conclusion that these were authentic spokesmen would oblige them to do the positive things about it. This would mean for them to stop holding on to lustful desire and going wholeheartedly after unjust gain.
36. What better course, unlike that of those people, should we take now, and of what value will the knowledge be that is forced upon people when the thing spoken comes true?
36 None of us should want to be like these indecisive, unresponding ones! Better it is to know now, rather than too late, that there is an authentic prophetic class of Christians among us, and to accept and act upon the Bible message, “not as the word of men, but, just as it truthfully is, as the word of God.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13) Concerning the message faithfully delivered by the Ezekiel class Jehovah positively states that it “must come true.” He asseverates that those who wait undecided until it does “come true” “will also have to know that a prophet himself had proved to be in the midst of them.” (Ezekiel 33:33) Such belated knowledge, however, will not mean salvation for them, for it will find their hearts and their ways to be unchanged.
37. What will hesitation and doubt down to the end gain for one, and what is the course of wisdom and of faith for us to take because of what prospect?
37 What is to be gained by hesitating and doubting to the end that Jehovah can raise up and has raised up a genuine “prophet” within our generation? Certainly it will gain for no one the divine favor and protection needed during the speedily approaching “great tribulation” upon Christendom and the rest of Babylon the Great. If our course is to be that of wisdom and of faith, then, with Bible in hand, we will heed the warning of Jehovah’s true watchman and will take refuge where Jehovah indicates in His Word. Then, when Jehovah’s prophetic watchman gets the report that Christendom has been stricken down, we, together with the faithful watchman, will continue to live on through the destruction of the whole world empire of false religion and of its secular paramours, with what prospect before us? Ah, with the prospect of enjoying all the unspeakably good things that Jehovah has in store for his worshipers in the righteous new system of pure religion.