The Temple to Remain as Nations Are Rocked
1. How long was it now after the Jews had acted on Haggai’s preceding prophecy, and what festival was being completed at Jerusalem?
NOT QUITE a lunar month had passed since the Jews had acted on Haggai’s preceding prophecy, namely, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month (Elul) of the second year of the reign of Darius I (Hystaspis), king of Persia, or 520 B.C.E. The seven-day Festival of Booths (or, Tabernacles) had begun on the fifteenth day of the following month, the seventh month, Tishri, and had reached the seventh day, which was the twenty-first day of Tishri. On the following day, Tishri 22, there was to be a solemn assembly of all the celebrators at Jerusalem. All twenty-four divisions (or, courses) of the Aaronic priesthood were expected to be present at this Festival of Booths in the capital city. Interestingly, it was during the celebration of the Festival of Booths that King Solomon the son of David inaugurated the temple of Jehovah’s worship that he had finished building.—1 Kings 8:62-66; 6:37, 38; 2 Chronicles 7:7-10.
2. What else was the Festival of the Booths called, and what were to be the features of it?
2 This festival of the seventh month, five days after the Day of Atonement, was also called the Festival of Ingathering. In view of the ingathering of the agricultural products of the ground the Israelites were commanded: “You must rejoice before Jehovah your God seven days. And you must celebrate it as a festival to Jehovah seven days in the year. As a statute to time indefinite during your generations, you should celebrate it in seven days. All the natives in Israel should dwell in the booths, in order that your generations may know that it was in the booths that I made the sons of Israel to dwell when I was bringing them out of the land of Egypt. I am Jehovah your God.”—Leviticus 23:33-43; Numbers 29:12-38; Deuteronomy 16:13-17.
3, 4. (a) Over what could those Jews rejoice during that Festival of Ingathering, and how did their dwellings compare with that of Jehovah? (b) Why was it the appropriate occasion for an encouraging message from Jehovah, and how did this message begin?
3 That the repatriated Israelites had much of an ingathering in 520 B.C.E., we have little reason to believe, in view of what the prophet Haggai said in his first prophecy. (Haggai 1:5, 6, 9-11; 2:16, 17) But what they did gather into their garners was because of Jehovah’s mercy and forbearance. On this account they had good cause to rejoice in Jehovah their God for the seven days of the Festival of Ingathering. And, dwelling in the temporary booths as they did during the festival, in and around Jerusalem, they did not then have paneled, well-roofed houses for themselves any more than Jehovah then had a house for his worship at Jerusalem. They had by now done much of the preliminary work toward getting at the rebuilding of the temple again. They needed further encouragement. Tishri 21 being still a festival day, Jerusalem would be thronging with worshipers of Jehovah, including the governor of Judah and all the priesthood, and it would be a fine time for an inspired message to be given to them. Jehovah saw to it that it was given, as we now read:
4 “In the seventh month [Tishri or Ethanim], on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of Jehovah occurred by means of Haggai the prophet, saying: ‘Say, please, to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak the high priest, and to the remaining ones of the people, saying, “Who is there among you that is remaining over who saw this house in its former glory? And how are you people seeing it now? Is it not, in comparison with that, as nothing in your eyes?”’”—Haggai 2:1-3.
5. (a) Jehovah’s form of questioning indicated what concerning those present on this occasion? (b) In view of the comparison made, what was really the big question?
5 All that those thus questioned could see, at most, was the groundwork of the temple, the foundation that had been laid sixteen years previously, back in 536 B.C.E. (Ezra 3:8-13) The form of questioning indicates that there were some very old persons there who had been deported to Babylon and who had seen the temple built by Solomon before it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 607 B.C.E., more than eighty-seven years previously. They could recall how gorgeous that divinely designed temple of Solomon had looked. They alone were able to make a full comparison of it with what they now saw. What now lay before their eyes on the former temple location was as nothing in comparison. What, then, could be expected with regard to a temple that would have such a humble, lowly start? So, would it be worth while for those God-fearing Israelites to carry forward the rebuilding of the temple? But, since the temple was to be Jehovah’s house, the big question was, Could Jehovah of armies make something impressive, something suitable, out of nothing?
6. The matter of rebuilding the temple actually rested with whom, and who therefore would really be building it, and how?
6 The matter really rested with the God who was to be worshiped at the proposed house. Was it His will that the house be rebuilt for his glory and the promoting of the spiritual interests of the nation of Israel? Since it was His will, then the builders would be doing His will and His work. They would therefore have his approval and his backing and support, no matter who and how many were against them. He, in fact, would be building the house through the Israelite builders as his instrumentalities. This was all-important, just as it is stated by Solomon in Psalm 127:1, where he remarks: “Unless Jehovah himself builds the house, it is to no avail that its builders have worked hard on it. Unless Jehovah himself guards the city, it is to no avail that the guard has kept awake.”
7. (a) Who was most concerned with the rebuilding of that house, and why? (b) That they might not be fearful because of the enemies, what did Jehovah now say through Haggai?
7 As the matter concerned the pure worship of the one living and true God, Jehovah himself was involved as being that God. He was the One who would do the building. In view of that they did not need to be weakened through fear of the overwhelming numbers of the enemies. That is why he inspired his prophet Haggai to say: “‘But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and be strong, O Joshua the son of Jehozadak the high priest.’ ‘And be strong, all you people of the land,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and work.’ ‘For I am with you people,’ is the utterance of Jehovah of armies. ‘Remember the thing that I concluded with you people when you came forth from Egypt, and when my spirit was standing in among you. Do not be afraid.’”—Haggai 2:4, 5.
8. In what respect did those temple builders have to be strong, and how was a similar thing true of the apostle Paul in Corinth?
8 That Israelite remnant, who were charged with the rebuilding of the temple, had to be strong in faith. They would show their faith by their work at temple building. Why not? For Jehovah of armies was with them. As the Jewish Christian apostle Paul later on said to the congregation at Rome, Italy: “What, then, shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who will be against us?” (Romans 8:31) Such a divine assurance is very strengthening, as this same Paul experienced when doing God’s work in the Grecian city of Corinth in the first century C.E. Concerning this, the account in Acts of the Apostles tells us: “Moreover, by night the Lord said to Paul through a vision: ‘Have no fear, but keep on speaking and do not keep silent, because I am with you and no man will assault you so as to do you injury; for I have many people in this city.’” Did Paul show faith and do as told? The account says: “So he stayed set there a year and six months, teaching among them the word of God.”—Acts 18:9-11.
9. (a) Likewise, in what quality should those temple builders be strong, and under whose leadership? (b) What was it that God concluded with their forefathers that they should remember, and why now?
9 Just so, too, the repatriated Israelite remnant needed to be strong in their reliance upon Almighty God and do His work. The foremost officials among them, Governor Zerubbabel and High Priest Joshua, were responsible to take the lead, and the rest of the remnant would follow along and work with them. They should remember the covenant that Jehovah had concluded with their forefathers when He was leading them away from Egypt. It was very fitting for them to be reminded of this by Haggai, for during their forty-year journey from Egypt to the Promised Land their forefathers had lived in tents or booths, and, look here! the Israelite remnant at Jerusalem were celebrating the Festival of Booths in remembrance of that experience of their forefathers. Their forefathers had encountered enemies along the way; but Jehovah had delivered his people and had kept his covenant and brought them into the Promised Land. The same God of deliverances was with the Israelite remnant at the Festival of Booths there in Jerusalem. They should not be afraid.
GRANDER GLORY FORESEEN
10, 11. (a) Why should those temple builders not be discouraged at the comparative look of things? (b) To build up their expectations, what did Jehovah now say through Haggai?
10 The Israelite remnant were not to be discouraged because what they were now starting with was like nothing in comparison with the magnificent world-famous temple of Solomon. They might have expected nothing outstanding or deserving of notice to result from their efforts at temple building. But Jehovah saw something simply surpassing for the product of their labors of faith. So, in order to spur them on, to cheer them on with the highest of expectations, Jehovah now explained why they should not be afraid but be strong in faith and should work, by saying through the prophet Haggai:
11 “For this is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘Yet once—it is a little while—and I am rocking the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry ground.’ ‘And I will rock all the nations, and the desirable things of all the nations must come in; and I will fill this house with glory,’ Jehovah of armies has said.”—Haggai 2:6, 7.
12. Despite the universal rocking, what would remain, and who was it indicated would turn to Jehovah?
12 Was that not a thrilling prospect for that Israelite remnant to entertain with respect to the house of worship that they were about to build? Jehovah of armies himself was setting that prospect before them, and it was therefore certain to be realized. There was to be a universal shaking. He would cause it. Things high and low with respect to their earth would be rocked—out of their place, if not also to their destruction! But, through all this rocking, one thing was bound to remain standing—that house that the Israelite remnant had built! That meant that the pure worship of Jehovah was to endure, even as His house endured. His house of worship He would fill with glory, for the desirable things of all the nations would come into it. Those desirable things would be borne there by all those who had turned to worshiping Him from among all the nations. That house of divine worship would become the most important and famous house on earth. Not alone would natural Israelites worship Jehovah there, but also non-Jewish peoples from all the nations!
13. What were the workers thus assured this time about their temple building, and so what was there incentive for them to do?
13 This assured that Israelite remnant that this time they would complete the building of the temple of Jehovah at Jerusalem. No matter what world-shaking events might take place around them, this goal would be gloriously attained. Let all the rest of the world be disturbed, frightened and preoccupied by the shaking and rocking that unsettled them, the work of building the house of worship to Jehovah must go forward—to glorious completion! And then would come the jubilant inauguration of it! (Deuteronomy 20:5) Jehovah of armies has given his word for it, and so it must come to pass! So, then, to the work, with His strength! There is every incentive to work!
14, 15. The expression “yet once” is in relation with what—where and when?
14 When, though, is this to be? Jehovah of armies said: “Yet once—it is a little while—and I am rocking the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry ground.” (Haggai 2:6) “Yet once”—in relation to what previous? When, previous to this, did he do a rocking of things? This must have been down south at Mount Sinai in the third lunar month (Sivan) in the year of the exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt, the year 1513 B.C.E. On the first day of that month (Sivan) they encamped in front of Mount Sinai, the mountain at which Jehovah by means of his angel had appeared to the prophet Moses by miraculous manifestation of the burning bush that did not get consumed. On the third day of their encampment there, what happened? Let us read the account in Exodus 19:16-19:
15 “And on the third day when it became morning it came about that thunders and lightnings began occurring, and a heavy cloud upon the mountain and a very loud sound of a horn, so that all the people who were in the camp began to tremble. Moses now brought the people out of the camp to meet the true God, and they went taking their stand at the base of the mountain. And Mount Sinai smoked all over, due to the fact that Jehovah came down upon it in fire; and its smoke kept ascending like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain was trembling very much. When the sound of the horn became continually louder and louder, Moses began to speak, and the true God began to answer him with a voice.”
16, 17. (a) What warning was then issued, after which there were given what? (b) What request did the Israelites now make about hearing God speak directly to them?
16 Then, after issuing instructions for the Israelites to take care and keep a respectful distance from the mountain so as not to touch it, Jehovah, by means of his angel, pronounced the Ten Commandments from the top of Mount Sinai. (Exodus 19:20 to 20:17) After that divine expression, did the Israelite people care to hear the voice of Jehovah directly anymore? Moses tells us, saying:
17 “Now all the people were seeing the thunders and the lightning flashes and the sound of the horn and the mountain smoking. When the people got to see it, then they quivered and stood at a distance. And they began to say to Moses: ‘You speak with us, and let us listen; but let not God speak with us for fear we may die.’ So Moses said to the people: ‘Do not be afraid, because for the sake of putting you to the test the true God has come, and in order that the fear of him may continue before your faces that you may not sin.’ And the people kept standing at a distance, but Moses went near to the dark cloud mass where the true God was.”—Exodus 20:18-21.
18. (a) When did Moses later refer to these experiences at Mount Sinai, and what did David say about it in Psalm 68? (b) What relation did that shaking have with the building and inaugurating of the sacred tabernacle?
18 In farewell talks almost forty years later to the younger generation of Israelites, the prophet Moses referred back to these experiences at Mount Sinai. (Deuteronomy 4:9-14; 18:15-19) Even the psalmist David was inspired to tell about it in a melodious song, saying: “O God, when you went forth before your people, when you marched through the desert—. . . the earth itself rocked, heaven itself also dripped because of God; this Sinai rocked because of God, the God of Israel.” (Psalm 68:7, 8, NW; RS; JP) This shaking of an entire mountain was something not soon forgotten. Interestingly, also, this making of Mount Sinai rock took place nine months before the Israelites finished making the sacred tent of meeting, the tabernacle. After this the inaugurating of this holy tabernacle occurred on the first day of the first lunar month (Nisan) of the following year, 1512 B.C.E. Thus the shaking and rocking preceded the start of the worship of Jehovah at this tabernacle erected in the wilderness of Sinai.—Exodus 39:42 to 40:37.
19. According to Haggai 2:6, Jehovah was to do another rocking, but this time of what?
19 According to his declaration in Haggai 2:6, Jehovah purposed to do another shaking or rocking of the earth, this to be accompanied by a rocking also of the heavens and the sea and the dry ground. When? “Yet once—it is a little while,” said He.
20. As regards the literal rebuilt temple at Jerusalem, during what period of time would that rocking have to occur as a primary fulfillment of Haggai 2:6-9?
20 It was on Tishri 21 of the year 520 B.C.E. that he said this. The rebuilding of the temple was not finished until the third day of the twelfth lunar month (Adar 3) of the sixth year (515 B.C.E.) of the reign of the Persian Darius I. That was more than four years four lunar months later than Jehovah’s prophecy of Haggai 2:6-9. After that would come the inauguration of the rebuilt temple. Following that, Jehovah would fulfill his word and fill that sacred house with glory. (Ezra 4:24; 6:14, 15) Hence the shaking and rocking of things to fulfill his prophecy in connection with that literal rebuilt temple at Jerusalem would have to occur during that period of time (520-515 B.C.E.), as a primary fulfillment of the prophecy. The records of history would have to show how the prophecy was fulfilled in the international affairs of that particular time. It was indeed a time of considerable disturbance for the Persian Empire.
21. Why should we today be interested in a larger fulfillment of the prophecy of Haggai 2:6-9?
21 However, we must remember that the rebuilt temple at Jerusalem was typical. It was a small-scale representation of Jehovah’s greater temple, his spiritual temple where his dedicated people worship him today. So the larger and final fulfillment of Haggai 2:6-9 is the fulfillment in which we today should be interested.
THE CERTAINTY OF A MODERN FULFILLMENT
22. Since what year have modern nations been unsteady, and what question arises?
22 All informed persons will readily agree that, ever since the fourteenth year of our twentieth century, something out of the ordinary has been happening to the nations. World War I, which began in 1914 C.E., unloosed a chain of events that have sent all the nations reeling today. All their efforts to steady themselves, even with the aid of the United Nations organization for world peace and security, continue to fail. What is the meaning of it all? How will it at last turn out? Political forecasters of events and world historians have no reliable answer. But is there no answer?
23. The answer is contained in what message out of the sixth century B.C.E.?
23 The answer is contained in the words that come ringing out to us from Jerusalem of the sixth century before our Common Era: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘Yet once—it is a little while—and I am rocking the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry ground.’ ‘And I will rock all the nations, and the desirable things of all the nations must come in; and I will fill this house with glory,’ Jehovah of armies has said.”—Haggai 2:6, 7.
24. What questions arise as to the application of those prophetic words?
24 How, though, do we know that those thrilling words transmitted to us by Jehovah’s prophet Haggai do not just apply back there in that prophet’s time or a “little while” after? How can we be sure that those same words have a modern application in our own day?
25. (a) The answer is indicated for us in what quotation made later to people of the same race? (b) Why did those people need to be careful because of an impending catastrophe?
25 We know, because, a long while after Haggai’s prophecy, in fact, about 580 years after, those prophetic words were quoted under divine inspiration and were given a future application, to the end of this international system of things. As with Haggai’s prophetic words, this quotation of his words was made to Hebrews, to the descendants of the patriarch Abraham the Hebrew, only these latter Hebrews had become Christians in the first century of our Common Era. (Genesis 14:13; Hebrews 1:1, 2; 2:16) The quotation from Haggai’s prophecy was made to them about ten years before the destruction of Jerusalem and its rebuilt temple by the Romans in the year 70 C.E. Consequently a great change was impending, and the Christianized Hebrews had to be careful now that they did not suffer harm and loss along with those unbelieving Hebrews who still clung to the earthly Jerusalem and its material temple.
26. For those Christianized Hebrews to avoid loss, what did the writer say to them, with a reference to Esau?
26 Telling the Christianized Hebrews how to avoid irreparable loss by pursuing the right course with proper appreciation of spiritual values, the inspired writer said to them: “Pursue peace with all people, and the sanctification without which no man will see the Lord, carefully watching that no one may be deprived of the undeserved kindness of God; that no poisonous root may spring up and cause trouble and that many may not be defiled by it; that there may be no fornicator nor anyone not appreciating sacred things, like Esau, who in exchange for one meal gave away his rights as firstborn. For you know that afterward also when he wanted to inherit the blessing he was rejected, for, although he earnestly sought a change of mind [in his father Isaac] with tears, he found no place for it [in Isaac].”—Hebrews 12:14-17.
27. (a) Why was the condition of these Christianized Hebrews more serious than that of their forefathers at Mount Sinai? (b) How could they avoid being like Esau?
27 For those Christianized Hebrews things had changed tremendously since they became followers of the Messiah, Jesus the descendant of King David and of the patriarch Abraham. Those Hebrews faced a bigger and more serious set of circumstances than did their forefathers, when these were led to the mountain of Sinai by the prophet Moses in 1513 B.C.E. Bigger things were at stake and could be permanently lost, with destruction finally for the losers. As the patriarch Isaac the son of Abraham refused to repent in spite of the tears of his materialistic son Esau, so Jehovah God would not repent if these Christianized Hebrews lost their appreciation of His undeserved kindness to them through the Lord Jesus Christ. Instead of being like Esau, who placed a cheap value on the spiritual opportunities that were open to him as a grandson of Abraham, they should avoid profaneness by showing full appreciation for sacred things and holding fast to these. That is why the inspired writer went on to say to these Christianized Hebrews who had now been brought into a new covenant through Jesus Christ:
28. According to the writer, what had those Christianized Hebrews not approached?
28 “For [that is to say, In view of what I have just said in the preceding sentences] you have not approached that which can be felt [like Mount Sinai] and which has been set aflame with fire, and a dark cloud and thick darkness and a tempest, and the blare of a trumpet and the voice of words; on hearing which voice the people implored that no word should be added to them. For the command was not bearable to them: ‘And if a beast touches the mountain, it must be stoned.’ Also, the display was so fearsome that Moses [the mediator] said: ‘I am fearful and trembling.’
29. But what had those Christianized Hebrews approached and what set of circumstances?
29 “But you have approached a Mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem, and myriads of angels [not just those angels back there at Mount Sinai], in general assembly, and the congregation of the firstborn [Christian firstborn sons of God who are greater than Isaac’s firstborn son Esau] who have been enrolled in the heavens [not on Isaac’s earthly family record], and God the Judge of all [not God’s representative angel as at Mount Sinai], and the spiritual lives of righteous ones who have been made perfect [not condemned sinners like the Hebrews at Mount Sinai], and Jesus the mediator of a new covenant [better than the Law covenant mediated by Moses], and the blood of sprinkling, which speaks in a better way than Abel’s blood [it being the blood of Jesus Christ].”—Hebrews 12:18-24; Galatians 3:19; Acts 7:37, 38.
30. So, now, what can we appreciate more about the position of those Christianized Hebrews?
30 When we consider all those bigger things to which the Christianized Hebrews had approached, we can appreciate that they were in a situation more serious than that of their Hebrew forefathers in front of Mount Sinai of Arabia in the year 1513 B.C.E. They had more to lose. Eternal destruction was possible for them by becoming like Isaac’s firstborn son Esau and losing their appreciation of the sacred things connected with the spiritual firstborn sons of God who are enrolled in the heavens.
31. The same thing holds true for whom today, and so what should these be eager to do?
31 The same thing holds true for people of today who claim to be Christians, regardless of whether they are converted Jews or converted Gentiles. We should recognize who it is that is speaking to us—God—through his inspired Word, the sacred Bible. We should be eager therefore to listen to the additional things that he has said to us through the Mediator Jesus Christ and his disciples who were inspired to write sacred scripture. We should not fail to appreciate fully these most highly important things. We should not excuse ourselves from listening and paying attention to them. Hence the inspired writer to the Christian Hebrews goes on to say:
32. Hence, what did the writer go on to say about begging off?
32 “See that you do not beg off [excuse yourselves] from him who is speaking. For if they did not escape who begged off from him who was giving divine warning upon earth, much more shall we not if we turn away from him who speaks from the heavens. At that time his voice shook the earth [but did not shake Mount Sinai to pieces], but now he has promised, saying: ‘Yet once more I will set in commotion not only the earth but also the heaven.’”
33. Where did God make such a promise, and why did the writer now quote it as fitting?
33 Where did Jehovah God make such a promise? Why, in the prophecy of Haggai, chapter two, verse six, given in ancient Jerusalem, in these words: “For this is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘Yet once—it is a little while—and I am rocking the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry ground.’” But that divine promise was not completely fulfilled in “a little while” after the prophet Haggai uttered them. That is why the writer to the Christianized Hebrews makes this further inspired comment on that divine promise about shaking the heavens as well as the earth:
34. What comment does the writer make on his quotation of Haggai 2:6?
34 “Now the expression ‘Yet once more’ signifies the removal of the things being shaken as things that have been made, in order that the things not being shaken may remain. Wherefore, seeing that we are to receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us [unlike Esau] continue to have undeserved kindness, through which we may acceptably render God sacred service with godly fear and awe. For our God is also a consuming fire [as destructive as the fire with which Mount Sinai was set aflame].”—Hebrews 12:25-29.
35. To what time does the writer apply the expression “Yet once more,” and so what must be close as regards the shakable, made things?
35 Have we noticed? The writer to the Christianized Hebrews applies the divine expression “Yet once more” to the future and explains that the only unshakable thing is the kingdom that the Christians who render sacred service to God in an acceptable manner will receive. Also, that the removal of all the made things that are shaken will leave room for that kingdom, a government that will remain standing and in operation. The shakable made things have not yet been removed, although they may be already set in commotion and be rocking and shaking. Evidently, then, according to the interpretation placed on things by the inspired sacred Scriptures, the prophecy of Haggai 2:6, 7 has a modern, twentieth-century application and the fulfillment of the prophecy to the point of completion is yet ahead of us, but very close!
36. What question now arises regarding a modern, twentieth-century fulfillment of Haggai 2:6, 7?
36 The literal heavens, earth, sea and dry ground will not be removed and perish. Certainly this was not the case in any small-scale first fulfillment of the prophecy in or a little while after Haggai’s day. So, how is it that the divine promise is carried out in modern, twentieth-century fulfillment? “For this is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘Yet once—it is a little while—and I am rocking the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry ground.’ ‘And I will rock all the nations, and the desirable things of all the nations must come in; and I will fill this house with glory,’ Jehovah of armies has said.”—Haggai 2:6, 7.
37. To what is the rocking of all the things mentioned to lead up, and what must happen to the things that oppose and hinder this?
37 Who is there that cannot see that the rocking and shaking of all the things mentioned is to lead up to the glorification of the Temple of Jehovah God? That means the beautification and exaltation of the pure worship of the one living and true God, not at a literal house of worship on earth, but at his true Temple, namely, the realm of the worship of Him with spirit and with truth, within the framework of his special arrangement. (John 4:21-24) Jehovah must be given his rightful place of worship in all the living universe. All things that have opposed and hindered this right and pure worship must be removed from all existence. According to the inspired writer in Hebrews 12:26, 27, the rocking and shaking of all those things signifies the removing of them, their being shaken to pieces.
38. As regards the rocking or shaking, what about the things to which the anointed Christians have approached (Hebrews 12:22, 23)?
38 The “city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem,” will not be shaken and removed. Neither will its heavenly location, “Mount Zion.” Nor will the holy “myriads of angels, in general assembly,” nor the “congregation of the firstborn who have been enrolled in the heavens,” nor the “spiritual lives of righteous ones who have been made perfect.” (Hebrews 12:22, 23) These things to which the dedicated, baptized, anointed Christians have approached are not things perishable. These are not associated with or dependent on a typical, material temple here on earth, like the temples built in the earthly Jerusalem by King Solomon and Governor Zerubbabel and High Priest Joshua the son of Jehozadak. These imperishable things have to do with Jehovah’s greater temple, his spiritual temple, which is the only temple that can contain him in its Holy of Holies (heaven itself). (1 Kings 8:27; Isaiah 66:1; Acts 7:48-50; 17:24, 25; Hebrews 9:23, 24) Also, those imperishable, irremovable things have to do with Jehovah’s “kingdom that cannot be shaken.”—Hebrews 12:28.
39. So, are the “heavens” that are rocked literal or symbolic, and why?
39 What, then, are the “heavens” that are to be rocked and shaken and removed? Jehovah, the great Rocker and Shaker and Remover, makes the answer plain to us. In that marvelous book of “signs,” the Revelation, which He gave to the Hebrew-Christian apostle John, He gives us a symbolic picture of the removing of those heavens. In Revelation 20:11 he inspired the apostle John to write: “And I saw a great white throne and the one seated on it. From before him the earth and the heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.” That fugitive heaven was replaced, for, in Revelation 21:1, 2, John goes on to say: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea is no more. I saw also the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Just as here the “holy city, New Jerusalem,” is a sign picturing “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Revelation 21:9), so the “former heavens,” the “heavens” that fled away from before God on his great white throne, are a “sign” or symbol.
40, 41. What does Revelation 12:3-5, 7-12 say to give us a clue as to what “the heavens” signify?
40 A “sign” of what? Evidently of some invisible, spiritual heavenly organization that dominated over mankind. Revelation chapter twelve gives us the clue to this. It tells us: “And another sign was seen in heaven, and, look! a great fiery-colored dragon, with seven heads and ten horns and upon its heads seven diadems; and its tail drags a third of the stars of heaven, and it hurled them down to the earth. . . . And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled with the dragon, and the dragon and its angels battled but it did not prevail, neither was a place found for them any longer in heaven. So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
41 “‘Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ, because the accuser of our brothers has been hurled down, who accuses them day and night before our God! And they conquered him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their witnessing, and they did not love their souls even in the face of death. On this account be glad, you heavens and you who reside in them! Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.’”—Revelation 12:3-5, 7-12.
42. From this account the “heavens” are seen to be pictorial of what?
42 From this account in sign language it can clearly be seen that the symbolic “heavens” picture the invisible spirit organization of Satan the Devil and the demon angels under him. With these wicked demon angels Satan the Devil has misled the “entire inhabited earth.” Jesus Christ called him the “ruler” of the world of mankind. (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) The Christian apostle Paul identifies him as “the god of this system of things” who blinds the minds of the unbelievers. Paul also speaks of him as “the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience.” (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2) The apostle John calls attention to Satan’s influence on the world of mankind by saying: “We [Christians] know we originate with God, but the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) Satan and his demon angels are the ones whom Ephesians 6:12 speaks of as “the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” They are the unseen heavens now dominating evil mankind.
43. What can be said as to whether those “heavens” have already begun to be shaken?
43 Thanks be to Almighty God that they are not a permanent “heavens” over the human race. Shortly now, after the coming “great tribulation” upon all mankind, those “heavens” must flee from before the face of Jehovah God seated upon his “great white throne.” (Revelation 20:11) So they are removable “heavens.” They are heavens that can be shaken to their complete destruction. The shaking of them has already begun. At what time? After God’s Messianic kingdom was born in the heavens when the “times of the Gentiles” or “appointed times of the nations” ended in early fall of the year 1914 C.E. Then the enthroned Jesus Christ, acting as the heavenly Michael, the “great prince” who stands in behalf of God’s people, began waging war upon Satan the Devil and his demon organization. As a consequence those wicked spirit forces were shaken out of their heavenly position and were made to fall to the vicinity of our earth.
44. What has that shaking of the “heavens” from contacts above resulted in, and when will the shaking be brought to a finish?
44 Their chagrin at being shaken loose from former heavenly contacts has resulted in increased “woe” for mankind and also persecution upon Jehovah’s dedicated, baptized people, the spiritual Israelites, here on earth. (Revelation 12:5-13, 17; Daniel 12:1) But with this debasement the shaking of them is not all over. The final shaking to a finish must come after the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Har–Magedon and must cause their fall into the prisonlike abyss, where they will be restrained for the thousand years of Christ’s uninterrupted reign over redeemed mankind. Thus those wicked “heavens” now will disappear and will give way to the “new heavens” in which righteousness will dwell forever.—2 Peter 3:7-13; Revelation 20:1-3.
45. That initial shaking of those “heavens” has affected affairs where, and what must be said as regards a shaking and removal of our literal earth?
45 This abasing and restraining of the demonic heavens to the neighborhood of the earth for a “short period of time” till their drop into the “abyss” takes place tremendously affected the affairs of mankind on the earth, since 1914 C.E. But how is it that Jehovah God fulfills his promise to rock, shake and set in commotion the “earth” as well as the “heavens”? (Haggai 2:6; Hebrews 12:26) Well, just as the “heavens” to be shaken are not the literal visible heavens over mankind, so the “earth” that is set in contrast to those heavens is not the literal earth under man’s feet. Concerning the literal earth and its permanence, Psalm 104:5 speaks of God’s creation and says: “He has founded the earth upon its established places; it will not be made to totter to time indefinite, or forever.” In harmony with this, our literal earthly globe will not be made to rock and shake with a view to its removal.
46. What, then, is the “earth” that is shaken and removed, and when did it come into existence?
46 Logically, then, it is the symbolic “earth” that Jehovah has promised to rock and set in commotion with a view to its removal. Just as the associated “heavens” are made up of intelligent living creatures (the spirit demons under Satan the Devil), so the symbolic “earth” is made up of intelligent living creatures, namely, human society that is lying in the power of the wicked one, Satan the Devil. This ungodly human society came into existence sometime after the flood of Noah’s day and now includes practically all the world of mankind. (Revelation 12:9; 1 John 5:19) This symbolic “earth” and the associated “heavens” over it make up the “heavens and the earth that are now” and that, by the word of God, “are stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men,” as 2 Peter 3:7 tells us. Before the Sovereign Lord Jehovah destroys this symbolic “earth” as by consuming fire, how is it that he makes it rock, shakes it, puts it into commotion?
MAKING THE “EARTH” TO ROCK
47. How did God begin to do the shaking of the symbolic “earth”?
47 This He begins to do by exerting his claim to sovereignty over the dwelling place of human society, namely, the literal earth. This He does in a way that he never did before. Selfish, self-centered human society claims to own the earth and to have the right to do with the earth and its seas just what it cares to do. This leaves earth’s Creator out of consideration and is wrong as well as shortsighted. The Sovereign Lord Jehovah let this view and its application prevail uninterruptedly and unchallenged until the close of the Gentile Times or “appointed times of the nations” in 1914 C.E. Then he put life into his own rightful claim by bringing to birth in the heavens his Messianic kingdom. This invisible heavenly government, pictured in Revelation 12:5 as a “child,” the “son” of God’s “woman,” is appointed to “shepherd all the nations with an iron rod.” Jehovah’s assertion of his universal sovereignty in this way shook the symbolic “earth,” ungodly human society, loose from its long quiescent state of being settled down, its being permitted by Jehovah God to treat the literal earth as its own, and misusing it as if they were responsible to nobody.
48. How would the symbolic unspiritual “earth” be jarred by the invisible heavenly action by the Universal Sovereign Jehovah?
48 How, though, would earthly human society be rocked or shaken by this invisible heavenly action of the Universal Sovereign if human society was unaware of it? How would unspiritual human society feel it, feel jarred by it? This would be by his having them notified that the Gentile Times, “the appointed times of the nations,” had ended in 1914, the year in which World War I began. Their long world domination had now ended, for now it could be said to the Sovereign Lord Jehovah: “We thank you, Jehovah God, the Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken you great power and begun ruling as king. But the nations became wrathful, and your own wrath came.” (Revelation 11:17, 18) The notifying of the earthly human society concerning this universal change in the status quo was done by the ambassadors on earth of that now reigning Sovereign, Jehovah God the Almighty.
49. Who are those “ambassadors” that serve the notification, and why is their mission now more urgent than ever?
49 Who are these “ambassadors”? These are the dedicated, baptized, spirit-anointed Christians who are described by the apostle Paul’s words in his second letter to the 2 Corinthians, chapter five, verses nineteen and twenty: “God was by means of Christ reconciling a world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and he committed the word of the reconciliation to us. We are therefore ambassadors substituting for Christ, as though God were making entreaty through us. As substitutes for Christ we beg: ‘Become reconciled to God.’” Now that Jehovah God the Almighty had taken to himself his great power and begun to reign by means of his newborn Messianic kingdom in the heavens, it was more urgent than ever for earthly human society to become reconciled to God. The complete removal of the entire worldwide system of things was now impending, and its “time of the end” had begun. (Daniel 12:4) The question is, Who will escape destruction with it?
50. How did the symbolic “earth” react to the notification served upon it by the Kingdom ambassadors?
50 How did the symbolic “earth,” the war-afflicted human society, react to the notification served upon it by the “ambassadors” of God’s established kingdom in the hands of His Christ? Did the earth quiet down, in peaceful reaction to the invitation to become reconciled to Jehovah’s newborn kingdom by Christ? The history of those years of World War I answers No! The war-torn “earth” was rocked, shaken, set in commotion by such notification. As Revelation 11:18 foretold: “The nations became wrathful,” that is, against the Kingdom ambassadors. They tried to use the earth-wide wartime conditions to suppress these Kingdom ambassadors. They even resorted to violent persecution, in some cases even to the death of ambassadors. This was the experience of the dedicated, baptized, anointed Christians then known as International Bible Students, but today known as Jehovah’s Christian witnesses.
51. (a) What may be said further about this serving of notice by the Kingdom ambassadors and the effects thereof? (b) How has the cause of this been just as stated in Hebrews 12:26?
51 On the pages of history stands written the shameful record that the symbolic “earth” made for itself as it rocked, shook, became filled with violent commotion in hostility to Jehovah’s Kingdom ambassadors. The notification served by the faithful ambassadors of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has continued to this day, on an ever-widening scale, and the symbolic “earth” is still being rocked, shaken, set in commotion by the notification and its challenging significance. As a proof that this notification tells the truth we see fulfilled the things that Jesus Christ said would mark this “time of the end”: “There will be great earthquakes, and in one place after another pestilences and food shortages; and there will be fearful sights and from heaven great signs.” (Luke 21:11) But in a symbolic way it has been just as Hebrews 12:26 says concerning Jehovah’s presence at Mount Sinai when giving the Ten Commandments: “At that time his voice shook the earth.” In these days the delivery of the message from his written Word by means of his Kingdom ambassadors has shaken the symbolic “earth.”
52. What is pictured by the “sea” and by the “dry ground” that are also to be rocked?
52 All elements of human society on earth have been made to rock and shake. It is just as the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said: “Yet once—it is a little while—and I am rocking the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry ground.” (Haggai 2:6) On the upper crust of our earthly globe there appear the sea and the dry ground; the sea being constantly in motion and the dry ground being quite stable, except for a local earthquake. The prophecy of Haggai 2:6 having a symbolic meaning, as in the case of the “heavens and the earth,” the symbolic “sea” would be that part of human society that is unsettled, restless, tossing up, as it were, “seaweed and mire,” unpeaceable, desirous of radical changes, continually beating against the “dry ground.” (Isaiah 57:20) In contrast, the symbolic “dry ground” would be that part of human society that is settled, stable, conservative, trying to keep the status quo, opposed to radical changes.
53. How is it shown whether these two elements of human society have been rocked?
53 Nevertheless, both of these elements of human society desire rule of the earthly globe by men rather than by God, the Sovereign Lord Jehovah. Hence they also have been rocked by the serving of notice upon them by the spiritual ambassadors, announcing that the “appointed times of the nations” have expired and that Jehovah’s kingdom by Christ now reigns in the heavens and that the time fast approaches for the utter removal of this whole earthly system of things in a great tribulation such as mankind has never experienced before. (Matthew 24:3-22; Mark 13:4-20) Showing that they are being rocked by the message from God’s Word, both elements of human society, the conservative and the radical, have become “wrathful” against the proclaimers of the divine message, the Kingdom ambassadors.