Mercy to the Persecuted but Judgment to Persecutors
1. How much time was it after Haggai’s final prophecy before another inspired message came to the temple builders, and what had they done meantime?
AT THE Jerusalem of the days of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah the time had now moved into the first quarter of the year 519 B.C.E., but still in the second year of the reign of King Darius I of the Persian Empire, the Fourth World Power of Bible history. It was exactly two lunar months since the day that Haggai was inspired to give his final prophecies—to the Aaronic priests and to Governor Zerubbabel. That was on the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month (Chislev), which was toward the beginning of the year 519 B.C.E. On that memorable day of Jerusalem’s history, work had been taken up again at the foundation of the temple on Mount Moriah, just north of Mount Zion. Before another inspired message came to the Jewish builders from their God, they worked unceasingly at the sacred building site, for two whole months. This time they did not let any attempts at interference by enemies stop them.
2. Who evidently would get the news before King Darius I did concerning what was going on at Jerusalem, and how much time for getting a decision would be involved?
2 By Shebat 24, 519 B.C.E., the word of what was going on at Jerusalem may not have reached the ears of King Darius at the distant Persian capital city. The news traveled quite slowly, even by couriers riding post-horses and covering about a hundred miles a day. (Esther 3:13-15; 8:10, 14) From Jerusalem by way of the “fertile crescent” over to Shushan would be over a thousand miles, and from Shushan up to Ecbatana to the north would be more than two hundred miles, if the roads were straight. Hence considerable time would be required for King Darius to get the startling information. Persian officials of provinces lying beyond (westward of) the Euphrates River from the king in Persia, reasonably, would get the news earlier. This is evidently what happened. The discussions that followed and the investigations that were launched must have occupied months (four or five months, according to some estimates) before a decision by King Darius on the matter in dispute could be received and enforced. Here is what took place, as recorded in Ezra 5:2 to 6:2:
3. What questions did the Persian governors westward beyond the Euphrates River ask the temple builders, and what did these do?
3 “It was then that Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jehozadak got up and started to rebuild the house of God, which was in Jerusalem; and with them there were God’s prophets giving them aid. At that time Tattenai the governor beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and their colleagues came to them, and this is what they were saying to them: ‘Who put an order through to you to build this house and to finish this beam structure?’ Then they said to them this: ‘What are the names of the able-bodied men that are building this building?’ And the eye of their God proved to be upon the older men of the Jews, and they did not stop them until the report could go to Darius and then an official document concerning this could be sent back.
4. What did the letter that the Persian governors sent to King Darius I say?
4 “Here is a copy of the letter that Tattenai the governor beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and his colleagues, the lesser governors that were beyond the River, sent to Darius the king; they sent the word to him, and the writing in it was in this manner:
“‘To Darius the king:
“‘All peace! Let it become known to the king that we went to the jurisdictional district of Judah to the house of the great God, and it is being built with stones rolled into place, and timbers are being laid in the walls; and that work is being eagerly done and is making progress in their hands. Then we asked these older men. This is what we said to them: “Who put an order through to you to build this house and to finish this beam structure?” And we also asked them their names, so as to let you know, that we might write the names of the able-bodied men that are at their head.
“‘And this is the word that they gave back to us, saying: “We are the servants of the God of the heavens and the earth, and we are rebuilding the house that had been built many years before this, which a great king of Israel built and finished. However, because our fathers irritated the God of the heavens, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, the Chaldean, and he demolished this house and took the people into exile at Babylon. Nevertheless, in the first year of Cyrus the king of Babylon, Cyrus the king put an order through to rebuild this house of God. And also the gold and silver vessels of the house of God that Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple, which was in Jerusalem, and brought to the temple of Babylon, these Cyrus the king took out of the temple of Babylon, and they were given to Sheshbazzar, the name of the one whom he made governor. And he said to him: ‘Take these vessels. Go, deposit them in the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt upon its place.’ When that Sheshbazzar came he laid the foundations of the house of God, which is in Jerusalem; and from then until now it is being rebuilt but it has not been completed.”
“‘And now if to the king it seems good, let there be an investigation in the king’s house of treasures that is there in Babylon, whether it is so that from Cyrus the king an order was put through to rebuild that house of God in Jerusalem; and the decision of the king concerning this let him send to us.’
5. What action did King Darius take on receipt of the letter, and what was found?
5 “It was then that Darius the king put an order through, and they made an investigation in the house of the records of the treasures deposited there in Babylon. And at Ecbatana, in the fortified place that was in the jurisdictional district of Media, there was found a scroll, and the memorandum to this effect was written within it.”
6. While that was going on, what were the builders at Jerusalem doing, and what happened on Shebat 24 of 519 B.C.E.?
6 During all the time that the things narrated by the priest Ezra were taking place, the Jewish remnant under Governor Zerubbabel and the High Priest Joshua courageously went forward with the temple reconstruction. This was true on the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which fell in the winter of the year 519 B.C.E. On that momentous day the prophet Zechariah began to receive a series of encouraging visions. About this he tells us:
THE FIRST VISION
7. In the first vision on Shebat 24, what did Zechariah see?
7 “On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, that is, the month Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of Jehovah occurred to Zechariah the son of Berechiah the son of Iddo the prophet, saying: ‘I saw in the night, and, look! a man riding on a red horse, and he was standing still among the myrtle trees that were in the deep place; and behind him there were horses red, bright red, and white.’”—Zechariah 1:7, 8.
8, 9. Who explained matters to Zechariah, and what questions did the sight of those horses arouse?
8 During the vision Zechariah had an angelic guide, who explained things to him, things that we today also want to understand. Those horses with their riders, standing there among the myrtle trees in the hollow alongside Jerusalem—why were they there? Was war impending against Jerusalem at this stage of temple building? In the Bible horses are a symbol of war. (Job 39:19-25; Proverbs 21:31) Who sent those horses? Whom do the horsemen represent? Is their purpose warfare? Zechariah desired to know:
9 “And so I said: ‘Who are these, my lord?’”
10, 11. Who did those horse riders prove to be, and what did they report to the rider among the myrtle trees?
10 “At that the angel who was speaking with me said to me: ‘I myself shall show you who these very ones are.’”—Zechariah 1:9.
11 Those horse riders proved to be holy angels, sent out by God on scout duty, as it were. This is what becomes apparent as we read: “Then the man [on horseback] who was standing still among the myrtle trees answered and said: ‘These are the ones whom Jehovah has sent forth to walk about in the earth.’ And they proceeded to answer the angel of Jehovah who was standing among the myrtle trees and to say: ‘We have walked about in the earth, and, look! the whole earth is sitting still and having no disturbance.’”—Zechariah 1:10, 11.
12. (a) In what way was “the whole earth” at peace, as reported by the angelic scouts? (b) Over what had Egypt fought with Assyria and then with Babylon in this connection?
12 What was it that those angelic scouts were saying to their chief astride the red horse? Were they saying that there was universal peace throughout the whole earth? Apparently so! But this was true only in a relative sense, that is, in relation to something else. To what? To Jerusalem and the territory of Judah. How so? In that Jerusalem had lost its former earthly position among the nations. Down to the year 607 B.C.E., it had been the seat of the typical Messianic kingdom of God on earth. This miniature kingdom of Jehovah was a disturbing factor to the Gentile world, the pagan nations. Egypt fought with Assyria and then with Babylon to have treaty relations with Jerusalem or to have a controlling voice in its affairs. But no more since 607 B.C.E.
13. Why, since 607 B.C.E., did Egypt cease to maintain treaty relations with the typical Messianic kingdom at Jerusalem?
13 In that year of world importance King Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian armies and allies destroyed Jerusalem and its temple. The kingdom of David was overthrown, and a king of David’s royal line ceased to sit on “Jehovah’s throne” at Jerusalem. The last human king who sat there, Zedekiah the great granduncle of Zerubbabel, was caught and taken captive to Babylon, to wear out the rest of his life there as an exile, blinded, imprisoned. During the month of Tishri of 607 B.C.E., what few Jews had been left as a poor, inconsequential minority in the land of Judah fled down to Egypt because of fear of the Babylonians (Chaldeans), and the land of Judah and Jerusalem were left desolated without man or even domestic animal. Just as the prophet Jeremiah had foretold! It was then that a divinely marked out period of time began to count. What?
14. What did Jesus Christ call that divinely marked period, what did it mean for worldly politics, and when did it end?
14 “The times of the Gentiles,” or, “the appointed times of the nations,” as Jesus Christ later spoke of them, saying: “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24) Inasmuch as Jerusalem had been the seat of the miniature Messianic kingdom of God and therefore stood for the right of God’s kingdom to rule in the hands of a Messianic descendant of King David, this meant something special to those Gentile nations that were to be permitted to trample on Jerusalem or its Kingdom right. What? Nothing less than that the Gentile nations would be permitted by Jehovah of armies to rule the earth without interference from any Messianic kingdom of God, such as the former one that had had its capital in earthly Jerusalem. As the Gentile Times of such noninterruption were to run for seven symbolic “times” or for 2,520 literal years, this marked period would run from Tishri of 607 B.C.E. down to Tishri of 1914 C.E., in our own twentieth century. (Daniel, chapter four) No wonder that, back there in 519 B.C.E., the angelic scouts reported the whole earth as without disturbance!
15. Why was the status of the land of Judah and its Jewish governor nothing to be disturbed about, and how did the inquiring Governor Tattenai proceed respecting the resumed temple building?
15 In that second year of King Darius I, the land of Judah with its local capital at Jerusalem was merely one of the 127 provinces of the Persian Empire “from India to Ethiopia.” (Esther 1:1-3) It had a governor, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, but he was not sitting upon the throne of David as his grandfather, King Jehoiachin, had done for three months and ten days. He was directly responsible probably to one of the governors of a jurisdictional district on the western side of the Euphrates, probably Governor Tattenai, and then ultimately responsible to King Darius I. So now there was hardly anything to get seriously disturbed about as regards Jerusalem. Of course, Governor Tattenai had got excited because rebuilding work had been resumed at the temple foundation and he had officially inquired: “What are the names of the able-bodied men that are building this building?” But he did not apply military force to stop the work. He chose rather to submit the question to King Darius for his decision according to the “law of the Medes and the Persians, which is not annulled.” (Daniel 6:8) Why such self-restraint on Governor Tattenai’s part? Ezra 5:5 explains:
16. According to Ezra 5:5, why did Governor Tattenai proceed that way?
16 “And the eye of their God proved to be upon the older men of the Jews, and they did not stop them until the report could go to Darius and then an official document concerning this could be sent back.”
17, 18. (a) So what could the angelic scouts announce as to the state of the “whole earth”? (b) But whose attitude on this was it of highest importance to inquire about, and what inquiry was made?
17 Accordingly, as regards world uneasiness over what Jerusalem was planning and doing, the angelic scouts could report to their chief among the myrtle trees in the deep place by Jerusalem: “The whole earth is sitting still and having no disturbance.” The Gentile or pagan world, indeed, was sitting complacently without fears of any interference in its affairs by any kind of a Messianic kingdom of Jehovah God. But what about Jehovah of armies himself? What was his attitude toward Jerusalem and what it represented? Was there any further assurance from Him now that his prophet Haggai had ceased to speak under inspiration? Was he also complacent like the Gentile nations as regards the welfare of Jerusalem and the role it had to play in the outworking of Jehovah’s purposes? The angels of heaven were also concerned about this, and especially so Michael, “the great prince who is standing in behalf of the sons of your [Daniel’s] people.” (Daniel 12:1; 1 Peter 1:12) In proof of this the prophet Zechariah next sees this in the vision:
18 “So the angel of Jehovah answered and said: ‘O Jehovah of armies, how long will you yourself not show mercy to Jerusalem and to the cities of Judah, whom you have denounced these seventy years?’”—Zechariah 1:12.
19. Why had the “seventy years” of divine denunciation appeared to some to be continuing?
19 To some minds, according to what was said by the angel, it appeared that Jehovah’s denunciation of “these seventy years” was still continuing against Jerusalem and the other cities of Judah. This was due to the fact that the rebuilding of his temple had been neglected for the past seventeen years. He had had very much indignation against their fathers who suffered exile because of profaning the former temple that had been built by King Solomon. Now, in the eighth month (Heshvan) of the year 520 B.C.E. Jehovah had warned the repatriated Jewish remnant to avoid suffering divine indignation through becoming like their fathers and not returning to Jehovah with zeal for full worship of Him through a rebuilt temple. (Zechariah 1:1-6) In the light of this we are to understand the outcry of the angel according to what these things might indicate to him regarding Jerusalem and the other cities of repopulated Judah.
20. So why is the angel’s outcry about “these seventy years” not to be misunderstood as if those “years” were continuing?
20 The angel’s mention of these “seventy years” calls to mind the seventy years mentioned by the prophet Jeremiah. During those seventy years the nations of Judah and Israel must serve the dynasty of kings of Babylon, at the end of which seventy years Jehovah was to call the erroneous conduct of the king of Babylon and of the Chaldeans to account and He would punish them therefor. (Jeremiah 25:11-13) So did Jehovah’s angel mean that those seventy years had not yet ended, or that they had just now ended? This could not historically be true. Why not? Because about twenty years before this (in 539 B.C.E.) Jehovah had used Cyrus the Great of Persia to overthrow Babylon as a world power and about two years later, in 537 B.C.E., Jehovah moved Cyrus who was acting as the king of Babylon to let the Jewish exiles leave Babylon and return to Jerusalem to rebuild Jehovah’s temple.—Ezra 1:1 to 2:2; 2 Chronicles 36:20-23.
21. During those “seventy years,” how was the land of Judah to lie, and what now shows whether that state of the land had long passed?
21 Furthermore, the land of Judah was to keep a “sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.” (2 Chronicles 36:21) How? By lying as a “desolate waste without man and domestic animal,” it having been “given into the hand of the Chaldeans.” (Jeremiah 32:43; 33:10-12) Both the prophet Zechariah and the angels knew that those seventy years of utter desolation of the land of Judah and Jerusalem without man and domestic animal had ended in the year 537 B.C.E. when the Jewish remnant returned from Babylon and reoccupied the land, they being reported back in their cities in the seventh month (Tishri) of that year. (Ezra 3:1, 2) Instead of its lying as a desolate waste any longer, crops began to be raised in the land, as the prophet Haggai reports seventeen years later. (Haggai 1:6-11; 2:16, 17) So those seventy years were long past!
22. How did the prophet Daniel indicate that the “seventy years” did not extend to 519 B.C.E., when Zechariah got his first vision?
22 If, at the time of Zechariah’s first vision, those seventy years were still continuing or were just now over, why would the angel, knowing what he did, speak as he did? Since he knew that the time period was definitely seventy years long, why would he say: “O Jehovah of armies, how long?” (Zechariah 1:12) Why, away back in the first year of Darius the Mede after the overthrow of Babylon in 539 B.C.E., the prophet Daniel “discerned by the books the number of the years concerning which the word of Jehovah had occurred to Jeremiah the prophet, for fulfilling the devastations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.” (Daniel 9:1, 2) And certainly Daniel verified the number of years, not seventeen long years before they were due to end, but immediately before the end of the seventy years in the first year of the reign of King Cyrus the Persian. Thus the aged prophet Daniel, who lived at least into “the third year of Cyrus the king of Persia,” could know that he had calculated the length of the time period correctly. (Daniel 10:1) Hence those “seventy years” did not extend to the time when Zechariah got his first vision, in 519 B.C.E.
23. Those “seventy years” were the opening of what larger period of time, and so, in asking, “How long?” the angel was making what comparison?
23 Be it remembered, also, that those unforgettable seventy years were the first seventy years of the Gentile Times, “the appointed times of the nations.” So, when those seventy years ended in 537 B.C.E., the Gentile Times still continued on for Jerusalem to be trampled on by the Gentile nations. (Luke 21:24) Apparently, then, the angel who cried out, “O Jehovah of armies, how long?” was referring back to that former period of seventy years as an illustration of Jehovah’s denunciation of his chosen people. He was asking whether Jehovah’s denunciation of them was being renewed because of their long neglect toward His temple. And so the angel was asking how long it would yet be before Jehovah would show mercy to Jerusalem and the other cities of Judah. The prophet Zechariah was also interested in knowing this. We, also!
24. How did Jehovah answer the inquiring angel, and so how did Jehovah feel toward Jerusalem and how toward the Gentile nations?
24 It must have been satisfying to Zechariah to be allowed to overhear the conversation between Jehovah of armies and the inquiring angel: “And Jehovah proceeded to answer the angel who was speaking with me, with good words, comforting words; and the angel who was speaking with me went on to say to me: ‘Call out, saying, “This is what Jehovah of armies has said: ‘I have been jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with great jealousy. With great indignation I am feeling indignant against the nations that are at ease; because I, for my part, felt indignant to only a little extent, but they, for their part, helped toward calamity.’”’”—Zechariah 1:13-15.
25. Why had Jehovah been indignant with his chosen people, but why had he become indignant toward the Gentile nations?
25 Justly, Jehovah felt indignation against this disobedient chosen people. He was therefore obliged to administer disciplinary punishment to them. He used Babylon and her allies and sympathizers as His instrument in applying the punishment. However, he was “indignant to only a little extent.” On the other hand, the Gentile nations who were used as His instrument of correction carried the disciplinary action too far, out of sheer hatred of his chosen people and to show their contempt for him and his worship. Viciously they “helped toward calamity” upon his people. In malice they added an extra measure to that calamity. How prone the persecutors in modern times have been to do that way to Jehovah’s worshipers! For good and just cause Jehovah of armies could say: “With great indignation I am feeling indignant against the nations.” Let the nationalistically minded persecutors of today remember that!
26. Therefore, what did Jehovah now purpose to do as to Jerusalem?
26 “Therefore this is what Jehovah has said, ‘I shall certainly return to Jerusalem with mercies. My own house will be built in her,’ is the utterance of Jehovah of armies, ‘and a measuring line itself will be stretched out over Jerusalem.’”—Zechariah 1:16.
27. How would Jehovah prove to the persecutors that he had not permanently abandoned Jerusalem, and how would the measuring line be stretched out over her?
27 The disciplinary action of the Gentile nations against the people of Judah and Jerusalem had been carried to the point of outright persecution. These people had been completely abandoned by their God to them, the persecutors must have thought. But not so! Jehovah had not abandoned them for all time. He was determined to prove this to the persecutors. In symbol of this, Jerusalem was not to be left permanently desolated. He would return to her with mercies by having her raised from the dust and rubble and once again peopled. Houses would be built in her, and thus the “measuring line itself will be stretched out over Jerusalem,” during house building. Why, even the most important building of all would be built in her—Jehovah’s temple itself! What a setback that would be for the persecutors and to their false gods!
28. Thus Jehovah’s choice was to be made manifest to whom, and what was it that Jehovah chose?
28 The divine time for reconstruction had arrived. Nothing was now going to stop it. The divine choice had been made of his visible earthly organization. That choice was to be made manifest by divine favor, whether the worldly nations that were at ease resented it or not. No secret was to be made of the divine choice. To show that public attention was to be called to the divine decision and choice, the command was issued in the hearing of the prophet Zechariah: “Call out further, saying, ‘This is what Jehovah of armies has said: “My cities will yet overflow with goodness; and Jehovah will yet certainly feel regrets over Zion and yet actually choose Jerusalem.”’”—Zechariah 1:17.
29. (a) So what did Jehovah claim as his possession, and how was he to show his choice of such? (b) By what other name was Jerusalem called and why, and who would reside there?
29 Let us note that Jehovah of armies calls the cities of the Persian province of Judah “my cities.” He has chosen them. He claims them as his possession. He will give proof that these reconstructed cities were his by filling them with goodness from him. Consequently they would prosper. Each of these cities would have its body of elders for their local government. Such reorganized cities would not be without their earthly capital. That chief city would be the one of Jehovah’s choice. It would be the one that had been the preexile capital of Jehovah’s people, namely, Jerusalem, rebuilt by his own people. That was no democratic choice, nor any imperial choice. It was the theocratic choice. This city chosen by the heavenly Theocrat Jehovah of armies was also called Zion, because Mount Zion had been the location of King David’s palace alongside of which David had pitched the tent for the temporary residence of Jehovah’s Ark of the Covenant. In rebuilt Zion or Jerusalem was to be the location of the provincial governing body. So Governor Zerubbabel resided here.
30. How and when did Jehovah “feel regrets over Zion”?
30 Because of the persistent disobedience of its inhabitants, Jehovah had decreed that Zion or Jerusalem should be destructed by the Babylonians and that it would lie desolate for seventy years. At his due time Jehovah felt regrets for desolate Zion. Not that he had done wrong or made a mistake in having Zion destructed, but that his will had been carried out and his purpose had been served and he had vindicated himself. Now his indignation could subside and he could comfort himself. He could now feel sorrow for the object of his indignation and now feel free to show pity toward it and comfort it. Thus, without having to admit any mistake, Jehovah felt regrets for Zion at the end of the seventy years of desolation. Without having to undo any misdeed on His part and without having to make reparations for any unwarranted injuries on His part, Jehovah mercifully brought his exiled people back and had them reconstruct Zion. The time of destruction was past; the time of construction was here! What a display of divine pity!
31. (a) What nation had called out for Jerusalem to be razed to the ground, and in what belief? (b) When was it the time to call out the choice of Jehovah as to a city?
31 At the time of the razing of Zion or Jerusalem in the year 607 B.C.E., the enemy Edomites had egged on the Babylonian conquerors by saying: “Lay it bare! Lay it bare to the foundation within it!” (Psalm 137:7) The gloating enemies thought that its God, Jehovah, had cast off the city forever, and, like them, He would never choose Jerusalem again. But Jehovah could not forget or deny his gracious prophecies concerning Jerusalem. In faithfulness he did “actually choose Jerusalem,” and that choice held good years later, in 519 B.C.E., at the time of the first vision of Zechariah. Not only was Jerusalem constructed again by his own people, but the foundation of his temple was laid there and work on the superstructure was already begun. When that temple was fully constructed, then Jehovah would put his own name there, his presence by his spirit would be there, his full worship would be resumed there. This would prove to all the nations that Jehovah had chosen Jerusalem. So, even in 519 B.C.E., it was time to call out his choice!
32. Why can we not look to modern-day Jerusalem for a fulfillment of Zechariah 1:17 today?
32 Has there been anything similar to this in modern times? Certainly not so with regard to modern Jerusalem over which the Arabs and the Israelis fought both in 1948 and in 1967. The orthodox Jews wail or recite prayers down below at the Western Wall (Kótel Maʽarabí), whereas on the platform about sixty feet above them the Mohammedans worship at the Dome of the Rock and the Mosque el-Aksa. To the south of this the Biblical Mount Zion lies desolate outside the present city walls. With all due regard for the facts of the situation, Jehovah has not chosen this earthly Jerusalem as a place for his name and worship. We must look elsewhere for the modern-day fulfillment of Zechariah 1:17.
33. (a) What today corresponds with Zerubbabel governing over ancient Jerusalem? (b) What about those over whom this one governs?
33 On earth today there is no temple-building being carried on by Zerubbabel as governor of Jerusalem. But there is the Greater Zerubbabel, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ glorified in the heavens. In Jehovah’s name he governs at what Hebrews 12:22 calls “Mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem.” At the close of the Gentile Times in 1914 he was installed as reigning King there and he governs over those who are his true and faithful disciples on earth. Such disciples do not make up any part of Christendom, by any means, for she is made up of hundreds of conflicting religious sects and adheres to the United Nations as the preserver of world peace and security and her hands are full of bloodshed from the unchristian wars of this world. The heavenly Greater Zerubbabel governs over those who worship the same God that he does, namely, Jehovah of armies. These worshipers are also under obligation to be the Christian witnesses of this God, Jehovah. (Isaiah 43:10-12; 44:8) They are the ones identified with the “heavenly Jerusalem,” the seat of government of the Greater Zerubbabel.
34. During World War I of 1914-1918, how did it appear as if Jehovah had abandoned his spiritual Zion or Jerusalem?
34 Because of all these Scriptural connections, such Christian witnesses of Jehovah on earth represent the Mount Zion up above and the “heavenly Jerusalem.” What has happened to them has been like happening to the figurative Zion or Jerusalem. In the turmoil of World War I (1914-1918) they were persecuted by the so-called Christians of Christendom for trying to hold fast to the Kingdom of the Greater Zerubbabel, Jesus Christ. Their public witnessing to Jehovah’s Messianic kingdom was obstructed and reduced to a minimum. They were not fighting against one another with carnal weapons by fighting on the opposing sides of war-mad Christendom, but their international cooperation with one another was broken up by the enemies in breaking up their international organization. Because of the worldwide affliction upon them, it was as if Jehovah their God had abandoned the spiritual Zion or Jerusalem.
35. At the beginning of the postwar period, Jehovah’s choice as to who should represent his spiritual Zion or Jerusalem was between what groups?
35 Quite suddenly World War I came to an end by an armistice in November of 1918. The postwar period set in. Peacetime activities could now be resumed. In December of that year the religionists of Christendom began taking their stand in favor of an international organization for world peace and security. This was notably made publicly clear by the declaration of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America that the proposed League of Nations is “the political expression of the kingdom of God on earth.” This even though all the nations of the proposed League were stained with the blood of the millions of war dead. Was the Federal Council correct in its high-sounding declaration, so piously religious in its wording? For a certainty it was the time for Jehovah of armies to make an expression of Himself. Whom would he choose as his representatives of spiritual Zion or Jerusalem? Christendom with her bloodstained persecutors, or the persecuted adherents to the kingdom of his Greater Zerubbabel, Jesus Christ? Whom would he organize as His witnesses?
36. What questions do we ask today to prove whether Christendom was Jehovah’s choice as his organization right after World War I?
36 Does the religious disorganization and deterioration of Christendom today overwhelmingly prove that back there in the postwar year of 1919 she was the choice of Jehovah of armies? Do the facts of today prove beyond all contradiction that He has filled her “cities” with His goodness to overflowing? Does his spiritual temple stand rebuilt within her as a house of worship, that is to say, is she through her hundreds of religious sects worshiping Jehovah as God at his spiritual temple? Who will come forward as the witnesses of Christendom to offer the unequivocal answer Yes? In the absence of such witnesses we look elsewhere.
37. What is it, as respects a change of condition, that draws our attention in the right direction of Jehovah’s choice?
37 Where? It is not just the name that draws our attention in the direction of Jehovah’s plainly evident choice. What does draw attention to the chosen ones is how they have organized for His postwar service and what they have both proclaimed and what they have uncompromisingly stood for on the world stage. Also, what they have done! Yes, too, the “mercies” with which Jehovah of armies has “returned” to them. This we can appreciate when we consider the spiritual state from which they have arisen in the postwar period. From a state of apparently being disowned, rejected, by God they have arisen. Yes, from the state of being persecuted almost to the death by Christendom, who persecuted them not just during World War I but also during World War II and in between those bloodbaths of the world, all in the effort to break up their religious organization and ruin them permanently as an irritating religious problem. Who, then, are such objects of religious persecution and hostility, but also of divine “mercies”?
38. Who on earth in the postwar period has proved to be Jehovah’s choice, and by what identifying features?
38 The historical facts since World War I of 1914-1918 identify them. Their role on the international scene today marks them out in bold relief. They are the Christian witnesses bearing the name of the God whom they worship and serve, Jehovah. From the religiously crippled state in which the postwar year of 1919 found this internationally despised group, this remnant of dedicated, baptized, spirit-anointed Christians stepped forth in Jehovah’s service upon the world stage of action. When the world, political, religious, military and social, was going over to the espousal of the League of Nations, this anointed remnant stood firm for Jehovah’s Messianic kingdom as the only hope for all humanity and entered upon a course of preaching “this good news of the kingdom” as never before in their earthly career. Their preaching of “this good news” has by now proved to be just as Jesus Christ in Matthew 24:14 foretold that it would be: “in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” Yes, in 165 languages!
39. (a) This exploit is due to the fact that Jehovah has returned where and with what? (b) To what have these approached, and where do they render sacred service, being now joined by whom?
39 This noteworthy exploit in world annals has been accomplished not by human strength, ability, ingenuity, courage and fortitude on their part alone. It is primarily because Jehovah of armies has chosen them for foretold service and witness. Nor just because they were wholly dedicated to him as disciples of Jesus Christ, but because he had shown mercy upon them through Jesus Christ and had now “returned” to them with “mercies.” By faithfully following in Christ’s footsteps they are approaching “Mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem.” With greater understanding and discernment than ever previously they appreciate Jehovah’s spiritual temple and they are worshiping him there, rendering service as spiritual underpriests under their heavenly High Priest Jesus Christ. In their worship there they have now been joined by an innumerable “great crowd” of peaceable sheeplike persons out of all nations, peoples, tribes and languages. Just as foretold! (Revelation 7:9-17) In 207 countries and island groups we find them.
40. (a) Why may Jehovah call these congregations “my cities,” and how are they organized? (b) In what way do those “cities” “overflow with goodness”?
40 They do not have political communities such as cities. Their figurative “cities” are religious congregations of dedicated, baptized disciples of Jesus Christ, the Greater Zerubbabel. (Matthew 28:19, 20) These are organized according to theocratic rule as outlined in the inspired Holy Scriptures, and, like the cities of ancient Israel, these congregations have each a local presbytery or “body of elders.” There are also “ministerial servants” (diákonoi) to assist each body of elders. (1 Timothy 3:1-13; 4:14; Titus 1:5-9; Philippians 1:1; 1 Peter 5:1-4) Jehovah can appropriately call these Christian congregations “my cities,” because he is really responsible for their organization and growth and they are unreservedly dedicated to Him through Jesus Christ. An investigation of these figurative “cities” of Jehovah reveals that they “overflow with goodness” from Him, in a spiritual sense. To judge from all the accumulated evidence, Jehovah of armies has chosen them as representative of his heavenly Jerusalem. Praise to Him, for the prophecy of Zechariah 1:16, 17 has had such fulfillment!
THE SECOND VISION
41. (a) What must be said as to whether what has already befallen the persecutors is the end of the matter? (b) In his second vision on Shebat 24, about what did Zechariah ask?
41 What, though, about the persecutors and would-be destroyers of the dedicated worshipers of Jehovah of armies? As we look at the world conditions today, we can observe what has already befallen them. But the present state with the persecutors is not the end of the matter. With a view to illustrating what is finally to happen to them, the prophet Zechariah was given another vision right on the heels of the first one, on that same twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month (Shebat) in 519 B.C.E., in the second year of the reign of King Darius I of Persia. The Medo-Persian Empire was the Fourth World Power of Bible history, and this second vision should have been of interest to it. The viewer, Zechariah, tells us: “And I proceeded to raise my eyes and see; and, look! there were four horns. So I said to the angel who was speaking with me: ‘What are these?’ In turn he said to me: ‘These are the horns that dispersed Judah, Israel and Jerusalem.’”—Zechariah 1:18, 19.
42. What did those “horns” symbolize, and what is the significance of there being four of them?
42 The prophet Zechariah knew that in the inspired Hebrew Scriptures a horn is used to symbolize a governmental power of a nation or empire. Those four symbolic horns would not necessarily picture four individual nations or empires that had till then dispersed the peoples of Judah, Israel and Jerusalem and ruined their cities. In Scripture, the number four has a symbolic meaning. For example, in using four with respect to the winds, the four winds of the heavens would refer to all parts or quarters of the heavens. Or just the four winds would refer to all directions of the earth. (Ezekiel 37:9; Daniel 7:2) The four wheels belonging to Jehovah’s celestial chariot as seen by the prophet Ezekiel would suggest a well-balanced riding base for the divine chariot. (Ezekiel 1:15, 21) Four horns could accordingly mean all the governmental powers that were concerned or involved, and not just a literal four of such, operating from all directions and leaving no imbalance because of having omitted any quarter.
43. Hence, besides Egypt, Assyria and Babylon, what other political powers would be included under the symbol of those “four horns”?
43 So not just Egypt, Assyria and Babylon as world powers had been implicated with dispersing Judah, Israel and Jerusalem, but others also like the nation of Edom and other national allies or collaborators in such wicked action against Jehovah’s chosen people. They were all persecutors. Those political organizations used their power, particularly military power, in a vicious, violent way toward Jehovah’s chosen people.—Zechariah 1:15.
44. Why did Jehovah feel indignant with great indignation against the Gentile nations that were at ease?
44 Those pagan political powers had all of them gone beyond what Jehovah of armies had in mind for the disciplining of his heedless, disobedient people. They used the leeway that was given to them just to express their ill-will, resentment, envy and spite upon Judah, Israel and Jerusalem. For that reason Jehovah of armies said to the angel in Zechariah’s hearing: “With great indignation I am feeling indignant against the nations that are at ease.” (Zechariah 1:15) How did Jehovah purpose to express his great indignation against those nations that felt at ease because of having satisfied their feeling of revenge or malice upon His people? He discloses how in the further part of the second vision unfolded before Zechariah’s eyes: He says:
45. What did Jehovah show in vision to Zechariah as his instruments to express his indignation against the nations at ease?
45 “Furthermore, Jehovah showed me four craftsmen. At that I said: ‘What are these coming to do?’ And he went on to say: ‘These are the horns that dispersed Judah to such an extent that no one at all raised his head; and these others will come to set them trembling, to cast down the horns of the nations that are lifting up a horn against the land of Judah, in order to disperse her.’”—Zechariah 1:20, 21, NW; JP; Ro.
46. (a) Why were there four such “craftsmen,” and, despite their profession, what was their mission? (b) Who sent them, and what did this mean for the persecutors?
46 These craftsmen or artisans by being four in number offset the four horns. Their number would have the same significance as that in the case of the four horns. They would picture all the “craftsmen” involved in the matter and organized in a balanced, fully adequate way. Being craftsmen or artisans, they were not destructionists. Primarily they were constructionists. But they could be used in an operation of destruction, and they could use their working utensils to that end. This was their mission in the vision. But whose craftsmen were they, or who sent them? Evidently Jehovah of armies, for they came to destroy the power of the four horns that had dispersed Jehovah’s people, Judah, Israel and Jerusalem. What they used in order to do this were doubtless the hammers of their trade. Woe, then, to the persecuting “horns”! There was to be divine judgment executed against those persecutors.
PERSECUTORS COME IN FOR DIVINE ATTENTION
47. How is what happened to those persecutor nations afterward to be viewed—as the natural course of world affairs or what?
47 Jehovah’s great indignation did not fail to pour down upon the persecutor nations. Ancient history shows that the nations that maliciously mistreated Jehovah’s chosen people of old did not fare well thereafter; they suffered calamity. Where are they today? This calamitous outcome was not just the natural course of world affairs without any overriding design. It was the outworking of the divine indignation against them. The lesson of that should not be lost on us today.
48. (a) Of whom did Rome become the persecutor in the first century C.E., and how has she continued as such? (b) Of what part of Christendom is she the head today?
48 In the first century of our Common Era spiritual Israel came into existence under the leadership of the God-sent Messiah, Jesus of Bethlehem-Judah. The nation of natural, circumcised Israel was thus displaced. Just as Ishmael was displaced by Isaac the true heir of Abraham and became a persecutor of Isaac, so natural Israel persecuted Christ’s disciples who made up spiritual Israel. Natural Israel fared badly for this, its holy city Jerusalem being destroyed in the year 70 C.E. and the survivors of the province of Judah being dispersed, largely by being carried off captive. (Galatians 4:21-31; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16; Genesis 21:1-14) After the burning of Rome in the year 64 C.E., Rome took up the persecution of the Christian spiritual Israel. She continued this persecution, not only as mistress of the pagan Roman Empire, but as religious mistress of the Holy Roman Empire. That Holy Roman Empire went out of existence in the days of Napoleon Bonaparte in the early part of the nineteenth century. Yet Rome continues as the head of the largest, strongest, most populous part of religious Christendom. But in that capacity Rome has been set “trembling.”
49. Who succeeded to Rome as a persecutor World Power, and by means of whom and when was this foretold?
49 In the eighteenth century Rome as the Sixth World Power of Bible history had to bow to the British Empire as the Seventh and Greatest World Power of Bible prophecy. Its record discloses that it too has been guilty of persecuting and dispersing the spiritual Israel of Jehovah of armies. In this, too, the United States of America has shared, it being later integrated with the Seventh World Power to form a dual Anglo-American World Power. Such persecution notoriously raged against the remnant of spiritual Israel during World War I, yes, and to even a greater extent during World War II. This had been vividly foretold under prophetic symbols to the exiled prophet Daniel “in the third year of the kingship of Belshazzar the king,” that is, before the fall of ancient Babylon, and thus more than twenty years before Zechariah’s vision of the four horns and the four craftsmen. (Daniel 8:1, 9-12, 23-26) Hence Jehovah knew that there would be need of his symbolic “craftsmen” to “cast down the horns of the nations” more than 2,490 years after Zechariah’s vision.
50. Besides the Seventh World Power, what other “horns” have engaged in persecuting spiritual Israelites in recent times?
50 In modern times not only the two-horned Anglo-American dual world power has taken part in dispersing spiritual Israel by persecutions and oppressions, but also other modern symbolic “horns.” One of the most outrageous instances of this in recent times was the sadistic mistreatment of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses in the Third German Reich under the Nazi Fuehrer Adolf Hitler from 1933 to 1945 C.E. The other Axis Powers joined in with him in such malicious oppression of spiritual Israelites and their dedicated companions. Even since then other political “horns” who make up a composite “king of the north” have pushed and gored and threatened Jehovah’s faithful worshipers.
51. When and by whom was persecution by the “king of the north” foretold, and so what did Jehovah have in mind about persecution?
51 “In the third year of Cyrus the king of Persia,” after the fall of Babylon, Jehovah’s angel foretold to the prophet Daniel the infliction of such persecution upon Jehovah’s Christian witnesses by the symbolic “king of the north” in our times. (Daniel 10:1, 18-21; 11:29-36, 44, 45) From this it is apparent that Jehovah was thinking not just of “horns” that had persecuted his typical people in the past but also of “horns” that would persecute his antitypical people in the future, in our modern times.
52. Thus Jehovah was using a past case of his typical people to forewarn whom today, and how was this indicated in John’s vision in Revelation 7:1-3?
52 Thus Jehovah was using a past case of persecution of his typical people to forewarn the modern nations that “are lifting up a horn” against the rightful spiritual estate of his faithful worshipers. Against all such nations He would use his symbolic “craftsmen.” The visionary “craftsmen” being four in number calls to our minds what the Christian apostle John saw in vision near the end of the first century C.E. He tells it, saying: “After this I saw four angels standing upon the four corners of the earth, holding tight the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow upon the earth or upon the sea or upon any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the sunrising, having a seal of the living God; and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying: ‘Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until after we have sealed the slaves of our God in their foreheads.’”—Revelation 7:1-3.
53. In what will the loosing of those “four winds” result as respects the “four horns,” but what strengthens the persecuted worshipers of Jehovah to endure?
53 The release of the four winds will result in a worldwide storm that will harm all the nations of the earth and destroy the symbolic “horns” that they have lifted up against the spiritual Israelites who are sealed with the “seal of the living God.” This will produce the same result as that pictured by the “four craftsmen” in hammering and smashing the symbolic “four horns” of all the nations. In sharp contrast with all the “mercies” with which Jehovah returns to his persecuted worshipers, there will come the execution of his merciless judgments upon their persecutors. Putting our full trust in the divine assurance of this will strengthen all the persecuted ones to endure to the end.