Christendom and Judaism Now Facing Desolation
1. What is the year 1975 on the religious calendar of the Roman Catholic Church, and how often are such celebrations held?
1975 of our Common Era—the year marked in the religious calendar of the Roman Catholic Church for celebration as a Holy Year, which really began on Christmas Eve, December 24, of the year 1974. In this twentieth century three such Holy Year celebrations were observed, in 1925, in 1933 in commemoration of the nineteen hundredth anniversary of the death of Jesus Christ in 33 C.E., and in 1950. On this subject the New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 7, pages 108, 109, has this to say, in part:
A year during which a solemn plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful under certain conditions, and special faculties are given to confessors. Holy Years are ordinary when they occur at regular intervals (every 25 years in modern times) and extraordinary when they are proclaimed for some very special reason, e.g., in 1933, to celebrate the anniversary of the Redemption. Twenty-five general Holy Years were celebrated between 1300 and 1950. . . .
The first Holy Year in 1300 began on the evening of December 24-25 . . . Pope Boniface VIII issued the bull . . . which determined that every 100 years a universal jubilee should be celebrated. . . . In 1342 Clement VI decreed a jubilee every 50 years; . . . In 1389 Urban VI reduced the time to 33 years . . . and proclaimed the third Holy Year for 1390. . . . The fourth jubilee was the centenary year 1400, and the fifth was held in 1425 . . . Finally, in 1470, Paul II reduced the time to 25 years, so that the next Holy Year was in 1475, and up to our days this custom has remained. . . .
2. Current statistics show what as to the size of Christendom?
2 The Roman Catholic Church entered the Holy Year for 1975 with an estimated Roman Catholic population of 551,949,000, making it the largest religious organization on earth today. The next-largest religious organization, that of the Hindus, numbers 515,580,500 members. If we add to the Roman Catholic population the estimated 91,580,700 members of the Eastern Orthodox group and the 324,263,750 reported members of the Protestant denominations, it gives to Christendom a membership of at least 967,793,450—a formidable religious organization that it would ordinarily seem impossible to overthrow or to eradicate from the earth. (See The World Almanac 1975, page 322.)
3, 4. The extent of Christendom’s numerical growth was foretold by Jesus in what illustration?
3 Measured by the size of Christendom at its beginning in the fourth century of our Common Era, her claimed population today bespeaks indeed a tremendous growth. It creates the impression that the One after whom Christendom takes its name has been blessing Christendom. The statistics regarding her growth to nearly a thousand million members would give the impression that Christendom has been flourishing with the luxuriousness of a spiritual paradise. Some may think that she is on her way to her onetime goal, that of world conversion. Her growth to her present numerical proportions should not be surprising, for it was foretold by Jesus Christ himself. In the midst of a series of prophetic illustrations or parables, he gave pictures drawn from everyday life to foretell Christendom’s growth. For example, he said:
4 “The kingdom of the heavens is like a mustard grain, which a man took and planted in his field; which is, in fact, the tiniest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the largest of the vegetables and becomes a tree, so that the birds of heaven come and find lodging among its branches.”—Matthew 13:31, 32; Mark 4:30-32.
5. (a) When referring here to “the kingdom of the heavens,” what did Jesus have in mind? (b) Why should this not seem strange, in view of the parable preceding this one?
5 In this parable, Jesus Christ was referring to “the kingdom of the heavens” with its counterfeit in mind. This was not strange, for, in the parable just preceding this one, he illustrated how imitation Christians in great numbers would be produced. He, like the sower of the fine wheat seed in the field, was sowing the figurative “fine seed,” the “sons of the kingdom.” However, as, in the parable, the enemy came by night when men slept and oversowed the same field with weed seed, or bearded darnel seed, so later on, when baptized professing Christians did not keep awake and on the watch against the invasion of error and pretenders, Satan the Devil would sow imitation Christians in among the true “sons of the kingdom.” This would call for a separation of the true from the false at God’s appointed time, in the “conclusion of the system of things,” where we find ourselves today.—Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43; compare Mt 13 verses 47-50.
6. Instead of predicting world conversion, what did Jesus foretell as to the number of the “sons of the kingdom”?
6 The Lord Jesus Christ did not expect and did not predict world conversion to true Christianity. He did not predict that all the world of mankind would one day become “sons of the kingdom” in fact. To the prospective “sons of the kingdom,” he said: “Your Father knows you need these things. Nevertheless, seek continually his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Have no fear, little flock, because your Father has approved of giving you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:30-32) About sixty-five years after the giving of the parable of the mustard seed, the resurrected, glorified Jesus Christ transmitted a revelation to the apostle John and plainly stated that the “sons of the kingdom,” the spiritual Israelites, would number twelve times twelve thousand. Compare this with the present-day membership of Christendom, or 144,000 compared with 967,793,450.—Revelation 7:4-8.
7. How does the Scriptural context help us to identify the “birds” that find lodging in the mustard tree of Jesus’ illustration?
7 So Jesus Christ well knew that true Christianity, “the kingdom of the heavens,” was not to become a figurative “tree,” on the branches of which the birds could lodge or under which they could find ample shadow. In the earlier parable on the four types of soil upon which the fine seed, picturing the “word of the kingdom,” is sown, Jesus brought birds into the picture. Whom did he explain those “birds” to be like? “The wicked one,” “the Devil.” That is to say, the earthly agents of the wicked Devil. (Matthew 13:1-8, 18-23; Luke 8:4-8, 11-15) Mark 4:15 calls him Satan. Reasonably, then, birds mentioned in the same context, in the same series of parables, would picture similar things. So the birds that find lodging in the mustard tree would picture the agents of the “wicked one,” “Satan the Devil.” They would correspond with the “weeds,” the imitation wheat, in the parable of the wheat and the weeds. They are the “sons of the wicked one.”
8. Who, then, in the parable, is the “man” that sowed the mustard seed, and whom did he outstandingly use as an agent in the fourth century?
8 It is the fake “kingdom of the heavens,” the counterfeit, namely, Christendom, that is filled with these symbolic birds, “the sons of the wicked one.” Today it is big enough to hold them all. In the parable, the “man” that sowed the mustard grain pictures the “wicked one,” Satan the Devil. Outstandingly in the fourth century C.E. Satan the Devil planted or specially cultivated this symbolic “mustard grain” of contaminated, adulterated, imitation Christianity. He did so by then using a man who became the leading politician of the Roman Empire, namely, Constantine the Great. In 312 C.E. this bloodstained army man professed to be converted to Christianity, really, though, to the apostate Christianity of his day as professed by soldiers in the army. This ambitious man conquered his political rivals and gained the position of emperor of the Roman Empire. In this capacity he acted as the Pontifex Maximus or chief priest of the pagan Roman religion. He held onto this pagan religious title and position and authority despite claiming to be a Christian.
9. (a) What kind of God do all the “birds” in this symbolic “tree” worship? (b) Where do they all eventually expect to go, thus making it fitting to associate them in the illustration with the “kingdom of the heavens”?
9 As Pontifex Maximus, Emperor Constantine acted as if he were the visible head of the Christian Church and called a council of so-called “bishops,” the presiding overseers of congregations of professed Christians, at Nicea, Asia Minor, in 325 C.E. At that Council the Pontifex Maximus Constantine settled the episcopal wrangling over who and what God is by taking the trinitarian side and decreeing that God is a triune God, a God in three indivisible persons, namely, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. To this day the unscriptural doctrine of the “Trinity” is the fundamental doctrine of the sectarian churches of Christendom. To this trinitarian mustard “tree” all the trinitarian “birds” flock to roost thereon. They all expect to go to heaven, like “sons of the kingdom,” and to see this mysterious, unexplainable triune God. Truly in Christendom, the mock “kingdom of God,” is fulfilled the parable of the “mustard grain.”
10. In Matthew 13:33, what further illustration did Jesus give about the “kingdom of the heavens”?
10 According to Matthew 13:33, immediately after the parable of the mustard grain Jesus Christ gave another illustration to show something further about the imitation “kingdom of the heavens.” We read: “Another illustration he spoke to them: ‘The kingdom of the heavens is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three large measures of flour, until the whole mass was fermented.’” (Also, Luke 13:18-21) How, now, has this illustration been fulfilled?
11. (a) In Bible times, what was leaven, and what effect does it have? (b) In the Scriptures, how is leaven used figuratively? Illustrate.
11 Leaven, in Bible times, was a piece of sour dough that had been preserved and that was added to a new batch of dough to make it ferment and form gas bubbles that would leaven or lighten the whole mass. The fermentation is really a breaking-down process, a corrupting, so that it often causes spoilage. For this reason it is generally used in the Holy Scriptures in a bad way figuratively. For instance, the unbelieving Pharisees and Sadducees were purveyors of spiritual leaven, regarding which Jesus told his disciples: “Watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” The disciples grasped this to mean the “teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:6-12) According to Luke 12:1, Jesus told his disciples: “Watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” This doctrinal and ritualistic leaven could also have a political tinge, as represented by the Jewish party followers of King Herod; so that Jesus said: “Keep your eyes open, look out for the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”—Mark 8:15.
12. In 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, leaven was used to represent what, and in contrast with what?
12 Fully in obedience to that warning, the first-century Christians were celebrating in their daily lives the antitype of the ancient Jewish festival of unleavened bread or cakes, the festival that was celebrated for seven days after the annual Passover. Quite appropriately, then, the apostle Paul warned them against the figurative leaven, saying: “Your cause for boasting is not fine. Do you not know that a little leaven ferments the whole lump? Clear away the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, according as you are free from ferment. For, indeed, Christ our passover has been sacrificed. Consequently let us keep the festival, not with old leaven, neither with leaven of badness and wickedness, but with unfermented cakes of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8) This statement of the apostle contrasted the figurative leaven of badness and wickedness, false sectarian teaching and religious hypocrisy, with sincerity, genuineness and truth.
13. Why did Jesus refer to a woman in his illustration, and how did the amount of leaven compare with the quantity of flour?
13 As, back there, the agricultural field was the realm of the man, so the kitchen was the realm of the woman. (2 Samuel 13:6-8; 1 Kings 17:11-13; Jeremiah 7:18; Luke 17:35) Appropriately, then, Jesus used a woman in his illustration as the one putting the little piece of leaven in a big batch of dough in order to leaven it. The lump of dough contained “three large measures of flour.” The New English Bible indicates the quantity of flour that this amounted to by rendering Matthew 13:33 as follows: “The kingdom of Heaven is like yeast, which a woman took and mixed with half a hundredweight of flour till it was all leavened.” The New American Bible describes the process, saying: “The reign of God is like yeast which a woman took and kneaded into three measures of flour. Eventually the whole mass of dough began to rise.” Byington’s translation also emphasizes the quantity that was leavened, saying: “The Reign of Heaven is like a bit of yeast which a woman took and buried in forty quarts of flour till it all grew yeasty.” This illustrates just how figurative yeast acts.
14, 15. (a) What effect does figurative leaven have on a religious organization? (b) With what language did the apostle Peter warn against such an influence in the congregation?
14 Like literal leaven or yeast, figurative leaven causes a souring of a religious organization. It is an agency that corrupts religiously. It is prepared by Satan the Devil, and he uses earthly human agents to introduce the figurative leaven into a clean religious organization with the design of corrupting it and making it unfit for God’s use and making it a reproach or discredit to God. In a letter written about thirty-one years after the founding of the true Christian congregation on the day of Pentecost in 33 C.E., the apostle Peter warned against such an insertion of religious leaven among the congregation, saying:
15 “Consequently we have the prophetic word made more sure; and you are doing well in paying attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and a daystar rises, in your hearts. For you know this first, that no prophecy of Scripture springs from any private interpretation. For prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit. However, there also came to be false prophets among the people, as there will also be false teachers among you. These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves. Furthermore, many will follow their acts of loose conduct, and on account of these the way of the truth will be spoken of abusively. Also, with covetousness they will exploit you with counterfeit words. But as for them, the judgment from of old is not moving slowly, and the destruction of them is not slumbering.”—2 Peter 1:19 through 2:3.
16. Similarly, of what did the apostle Paul warn the congregation at Ephesus?
16 By word of mouth the apostle Paul warned the elders of the congregation of Ephesus, Asia Minor, about the very same thing, saying: “I have not held back from telling you all the counsel of God. Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own Son. I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.”—Acts 20:27-30.
17, 18. (a) In time, what did these false teachers and prophets become? (b) Why were they rightly called the “son of destruction”?
17 These false teachers and prophets, wolfish men in sheep’s clothing, would gradually build up and form a composite “man of lawlessness.” This human agency of Satan the Devil would cause a rebellion or “apostasy” in the religious organization that claims to be Christian. For this reason, this clerical body of religious leaders would be destined for destruction, so that this composite “man” could rightly be called the “son of destruction.” Of course, the religious organization over which this “man of lawlessness” would assume control would not get God’s favor but would be marked for destruction in His due time. Why?
18 “Because they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved. So that is why God lets an operation of error go to them, that they may get to believing the lie, in order that they all may be judged because they did not believe the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness.”—2 Thessalonians 2:3-12.
19. How did the “man of lawlessness” become clearly identifiable in the fourth century C.E.?
19 Although the “mystery of this lawlessness” was already at work in the days of the apostles, this composite “man of lawlessness” did not take a clearly identifiable form until in the reign of Emperor Constantine the Great in the first quarter of the fourth century C.E. This pagan Pontifex Maximus tried to create a “fusion religion” by making a blend. True Christianity can never blend or fuse with any of the false religions of this world. (2 Corinthians 6:14 through 7:1) However, the religious-political head of the Roman Empire forced the so-called “bishops” that negotiated with him to compromise. So the adulterated Christianity that these “bishops” supervised was merged with the pagan Roman religion, so as to create a “fusion religion” that would be less objectionable, more acceptable to those who were still pagan at heart and who desired to hold onto certain pagan religious ideas and practices of theirs. Like what they were used to in their former pagan religion, they allowed the “bishops” to form a clergy class over them, to govern them as a laity class. This fusion religion became the State religion.
20, 21. (a) As a result of the religious “leaven” kneaded into Christendom at its beginning, what has developed? (b) Though the members of Christendom’s churches think that they are going to heaven at their death, what is indicated by the prevalence of the “works of the flesh” among them?
20 In this manner Christendom was founded, and, during the centuries since, it has grown to be what it is today. It is a huge religious mass today, and yet, from a bit of religious “leaven” kneaded into the organization at its beginning, it has become thoroughly leavened with paganism, worldliness, badness, wickedness, traditions of men, hypocrisy, doctrines of demons. Christendom made herself a part of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, and has grown to be the dominant single unit in that religious empire. (Revelation 17:3-6) The name Christendom may give the idea that her religious members are destined for the heavenly kingdom at their death. But today, more than at any time previous, Christendom is full of the “works of the flesh,” and what these works are and whether they are the basis for admission into the heavenly kingdom is stated by the apostle Paul:
21 “A little leaven ferments the whole lump. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, and they are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these. As to these things I am forewarning you, the same way as I did forewarn you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.”—Galatians 5:9, 19-21.
22. Is Christendom today enjoying a spiritual paradise, and what are her prospects for entering into any other paradise of God?
22 In view of all the oft-mentioned facts, will any honest-hearted person say that Christendom today, with her great membership, is enjoying a spiritual paradise such as is described in the Holy Bible? Are her members destined, at death, to go to heaven and eat of the “tree of life, which is in the paradise of God”? (Revelation 2:7) Or will Christendom be spared by Jehovah God because of her religious name and professions and outlive the present world distress and enjoy the literal earthly paradise during the approaching thousand-year reign of the Son of God, Jesus Christ? (Luke 23:43) There is no Scriptural basis for saying Yes to these questions. Rather, what awaits Christendom was prefigured by what befell the land of Edom in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, chapter thirty-four.
THE MODERN-DAY COUNTERPART OF EDOM
23. Who today look to Jehovah as their Judge, Statute-giver and King, as foretold by Isaiah, and therefore from what sicknesses are they safeguarded?
23 The three verses that precede the opening of this thirty-fourth chapter of Isaiah make a declaration of a religious position that has not been taken either by Christendom or by Judaism. The verses read: “Jehovah is our Judge, Jehovah is our Statute-giver, Jehovah is our King; he himself will save us. Your ropes [of the attacking enemy’s sailing fleet] must hang loose; their mast they will not hold firmly erect; they have not spread a sail. At that time even spoil in abundance will have to be divided up; the lame ones themselves [of Jehovah’s delivered people] will actually take a big plunder. And no resident will say: ‘I am sick [spiritually].’ The people that are dwelling in the land will be those pardoned for their error.” (Isaiah 33:22-24) In sharp contrast to Christendom and Judaism, Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, who are residing in the spiritual paradise of his favor and protection, are the ones that have taken Jehovah as their King, their Statute-giver, their Judge, their Savior. They are therefore the ones that are safeguarded from the spiritual sicknesses and maladies and plagues that afflict Christendom and Judaism.—Psalm 91:1-10.
24, 25. (a) In Isaiah chapter 34, Jehovah notifies the nations that they are involved in what? (b) What are they notified that the outcome of this legal case will be?
24 Following right on the heels of that prophecy, Isa chapter thirty-four of Isaiah’s prophecy presents a horrifying outlook for the worldly nations. This outlook furnishes a contrast background against which the bright spiritual paradise described in the next Isa chapter (35) stands out in bolder relief. Because what is so calamitous is ahead of the nations and because it proceeds forth from Him, Jehovah serves advance notice upon the nations and national groups. The nations today may think that God has nothing to do with the matter, that they are not involved with God in any matter, that as materialistic humans they are running their own affairs and have no responsibility to a Supreme Being, to a Creator. But through the prophet Isaiah, Jehovah God jerks the nations to attention and reminds them that they really do have part in a legal case that is before the Court of the Universe, and that, therefore, they will experience the execution of judgment.
25 So, opening up chapter thirty-four, God’s spokesman says: “Come up close, you nations, to hear; and you national groups, pay attention. Let the earth and that which fills it listen, the productive land and all its produce. For Jehovah has indignation against all the nations, and rage against all their army. He must devote them to destruction [he has vowed them to destruction]; he must give them to the slaughter. And their slain ones will be thrown out; and as for their carcasses, their stink will ascend; and the mountains must melt because of their blood. And all those of the army of the heavens must rot away. And the heavens must be rolled up, just like a book scroll; and their army will all shrivel away, just as the leafage shrivels off the vine and like a shriveled fig off the fig tree.”—Isaiah 34:1-4, NW; Je.
26. For what are the nations here being called to account by God, and which nations outstandingly so?
26 What is here called to our attention is the bloodguiltiness of the nations, among whom the nations of Christendom have been the most guilty of all. They have soaked the earth, not only with the blood of wild animals wantonly slain, but particularly with the blood of humans. Who is the logical one that should rightly require of the nations all this blood that they have spilled, asking it back from the nations because this blood stands for God-given life? It is no one else but the Creator himself, the Life-Giver, who gifted mankind with a life-sustaining bloodstream. All the nations of today have their standing armies, in greater abundance than ever before, and all equipped, prepared and trained to spill more human blood in international conflicts.
27. (a) How serious is God’s law that soul must go for soul? (b) What is indicated by the statement that “the mountains must melt because of their blood”?
27 Not in mere idle talk did Jehovah God state his just law, Life must go for life; soul must go for soul. (Genesis 9:4-6; Exodus 21:23-25) True to this irrevocable law, He will cause the blood of the nations to flow to their death. The increasing bloodguilt of the nations is so great that the blood asked back in repayment to the Life-Giver would provide enough liquid to melt, to dissolve, as it were, the mountains. Of course, with the complete destruction of the military forces of the worldly nations there would come the fall of their governments, which, sometimes in Bible prophecy, are pictured as “mountains.”
28. In this prophecy, the expression “all those of the army of the heavens” refers to what, and what happens to them?
28 By the prophet’s expression, “all those of the army of the heavens,” he does not mean the stars and planets of our skies such as the sun, the moon and the milky way, and the far distant galaxies of stars. Rather, the governments over mankind are, because of their loftiness as superior authorities, likened to a heavens over earthly human society. (Romans 13:1-4) So the “army of the heavens” would be the combined armies of these heavenlike governments of mankind. This “army,” seemingly the strongest part of the heaven-high governments, will “rot away,” molder away, like something perishable. The literal heavens above us seem to be arched, curved, like an ancient book scroll, the writing on which was generally on the concave side, the inner side. The sun, moon and stars of our skies appear on the stretched-out arch of our skies, like the things written upon the inner side of a book scroll.
29. How do the symbolic heavens prove to be “just like a book scroll” and “like a shriveled fig”?
29 When the material written on the inner side of the scroll has passed before the eyes of the reader, then the finished scroll is rolled up and put away. Similarly, “the heavens must be rolled up, just like a book scroll,” in that the heavenlike governments whose “army” has played its part visibly on the pages of human history must come to their end, must come to the last page of their history, and, hence, must be brought to their finish, done away with, put away and with no further permission from God to exist. Those of their impressive-looking “army” lose the freshness of life and fall, disappear from sight of those who have read their history, just like shriveled leaves that fall off the grapevine and like the shriveled fig that drops off the fig tree. Their season is over.—Compare the language of Revelation 6:12-14.
CHRISTENDOM, MODERN COUNTERPART OF EDOM
30, 31. How do the following verses of Isaiah’s prophecy show that the “heavens” here referred to are not the invisible spirit heavens of God’s residence?
30 That the “heavens,” the “army” of which rots away or shrivels away, are not to be understood as the invisible spirit heavens of God’s residence is indicated by the further part of Isaiah’s prophecy. Expressing himself therein, Jehovah says:
31 “‘For in the heavens my sword will certainly be drenched. Look! Upon Edom [Idumea, Greek LXX] it will descend, and upon the people devoted by me to destruction in justice. Jehovah has a sword; it must be filled with blood; it must be made greasy with the fat, with the blood of young rams and he-goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams. For Jehovah has a sacrifice in Bozrah [capital city of Edom or Idumea], and a great slaughtering in the land of Edom. And the wild bulls must come down with them, and young bulls with the powerful ones; and their land must be drenched with blood, and their very dust will be made greasy with the fat.’ For Jehovah has a day of vengeance, a year of retributions for the legal case over Zion.”—Isaiah 34:5-8, NW; Septuagint translation by Thomson.
32. Who were the Edomites, and in what kind of region did they dwell?
32 The territory of the Edomites, which straddled the Arabah between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of ‘Aqaba, was called “the mountainous region of Esau.” (Obadiah 8, 9, 19, 21) Esau was the original name of the man called Edom. The nickname Edom, meaning “Red,” was given to Esau because he sold his Abrahamic birthright to his younger twin-brother Jacob (Israel) for a meal of reddish stew. (Genesis 25:29-34; Hebrews 12:16, 17) Because Jacob supplanted him in the precious birthright, Esau (or Edom) became filled with murderous hate toward his spiritually minded twin-brother. (Genesis 27:30-45) Because of Esau’s taking up residence in the mountainous region, he dwelt high up, as in heaven. Jehovah spoke of matters from that standpoint when, by the mouth of his prophet Obadiah, he said to the Esauites (Edomites):
“‘The presumptuousness of your heart is what has deceived you, you who are residing in the retreats of the crag, the height where he dwells, saying in his heart, “Who will bring me down to the earth?” If you should make your position high like the eagle, or if among the stars there were a placing of your nest, down from there I would bring you,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.”—Obadiah 3, 4.
33. (a) At Isaiah 34:5, what is meant by the statement that God’s sword would be drenched “in the heavens”? (b) By what terms is reference made to the greater ones and lesser ones in Edom?
33 Therefore in speaking of his destruction of the nation of Edom by the “sword” of warfare, Jehovah could figuratively say that “in the heavens” his sword would be drenched, filled with blood. He had devoted or vowed the Edomites to destruction in justice, and this destruction would reach to the highest-ranking part of the nation of Edom, as pictured by its capital of Bozrah. The slaughter of this enemy nation Jehovah speaks of as a sacrifice, for it is in execution of his judgment and in vindication of him as the Universal Sovereign. The greater ones and the lesser ones Jehovah speaks of as symbolic “wild bulls” and “young bulls” and as “young rams” and “he-goats.” The land of this murder-minded bloodguilty nation must be drenched with their own blood by means of the slaughtering “sword” of Jehovah.
34-36. What had the Edomites done to deserve this drastic treatment at the hands of God?
34 This drastic treatment of the land of Edom was deserved; otherwise, it would not have been an act of divine justice. “For Jehovah has a day of vengeance, a year of retributions for the legal case over Zion.” (Isaiah 34:8) It was not over so-called “Zionism.” Rather, ancient Zion, where “Jehovah’s throne” had been occupied by the anointed kings of Jehovah’s chosen people, was involved. In the year 607 B.C.E., the armies of Babylon had destroyed the holy city of Jerusalem and overthrown the Kingdom of Judah and deported the surviving Jews to the pagan land of Babylon. On this occasion the attitude of the nation of Edom toward the disciplined people of Jehovah displayed itself unmistakably. How?
35 Jehovah calls it to their attention by means of his prophet Obadiah, saying:
“In the day when you stood off on the side, in the day when strangers [Babylonians] took his [Israel’s] military force into captivity and when outright foreigners entered his gate and over Jerusalem they cast lots, you also were like one of them.
“And you ought not to watch the sight in the day of your brother, in the day of his misfortune; and you ought not to rejoice at the sons of Judah in the day of their perishing; and you ought not to maintain a big mouth in the day of their distress. You ought not to come into the gate of my people in the day of their disaster. You, even you, ought not to peer at his calamity in the day of his disaster; and you ought not to thrust out a hand upon his wealth in the day of his disaster. And you ought not to stand at the parting of the ways, in order to cut off his escapees; and you ought not to hand over his survivors in the day of distress. For the day of Jehovah against all the nations is near. In the way that you have done, it will be done to you. Your sort of treatment will return upon your own head. For in the way that you people have drunk upon my holy mountain, all the nations will keep drinking constantly. And they will certainly drink and gulp down and become as though they had never happened to be.”—Obadiah 11-16.
36 The inspired psalmist recalled the same malicious conduct on the part of a brother nation, when he prayed to Jehovah and said: “Remember, O Jehovah, regarding the sons of Edom the day of Jerusalem, who were saying: ‘Lay it bare! Lay it bare to the foundation within it!’ O daughter of Babylon, who are to be despoiled, happy will he be that rewards you with your own treatment with which you treated us.”—Psalm 137:7, 8.
37. (a) Why did Jehovah count the “legal case over Zion” with Edom as being his? (b) When did Jehovah’s expression of vengeance upon the Edomites begin?
37 What the Edomites did to his chosen people in the day of their disaster in 607 B.C.E., Jehovah counted as being done to him. For this reason he had a “legal case over Zion.” So the year must come when he would mete out “retributions for the legal case over Zion” and express his vengeance upon the offending Edomites. (Isaiah 34:8) Jehovah did begin expressing this righteous vengeance upon the Edomites by means of the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, not long after the destruction of Jerusalem.—Jeremiah 25:17-21.
ACTS OF THE EDOMITE HERODS
38. Of what further acts against Jehovah’s people were such Edomite rulers as King Herod the Great, Herod Antipas and King Herod Agrippa I guilty?
38 The descendants of Edom (Esau), the Idumeans, as the Greeks called them, continued to be guilty of acts against Jehovah’s chosen people. The family of King Herod the Great were Idumeans or Edomites. To his shame, the Bible record discloses that this king who built the gorgeous temple at Jerusalem feared for his kingdom in his family and tried to murder the young child Jesus at Bethlehem-Judah. (Matthew 2:1-22) About thirty years later, at his birthday celebration, foxlike Herod Antipas the district ruler had Jesus’ forerunner, John the Baptist, beheaded. (Matthew 14:1-11; Luke 13:31, 32) In 33 C.E., when Jesus was on trial for his life and was sent by Governor Pilate to the then king of Galilee, Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, this ruler was disappointed in Jesus and discredited him as the Messiah and sent him back to Pilate and to his death. (Luke 23:6-12) Some years later, King Herod Agrippa I tried to please the Jews and executed James the brother of John, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, by the sword and then imprisoned the apostle Peter with the intention of having him executed after the Jewish Passover. (Acts 12:1-6) And, finally, what about King Herod Agrippa II?
39. Although given an opportunity to become a Christian, of what did King Herod Agrippa II remain an agent?
39 In a special session the apostle Paul was brought before him at Caesarea by arrangement of Governor Festus. When, at the climax of his legal defense of himself, Paul said to the king, “Do you, King Agrippa, believe the Prophets? I know you believe,” what did this Idumean say to Paul? “In a short time you would persuade me to become a Christian.” (Acts 26:27, 28) Although then a circumcised Jewish proselyte, King Agrippa never became a spiritual Israelite, a Christian. He remained in politics as an agent of the pagan Roman Empire.
40. (a) In what conspiracy against Jesus did the party followers of Herod participate? (b) Following what event do the Edomites disappear from history, in fulfillment of Bible prophecy?
40 During the lifetime of Jesus, the party followers of Herod cooperated with the Pharisees in trying to trap Jesus in his remarks on whether it was Scripturally lawful for Jews to pay tax to Caesar. They tried to put him on the “horns of a dilemma,” and so bring him into trouble either with the Romans or with the nationalistic party of the Jews. (Matthew 22:15-22) Thus the Herodians did not take a favorable attitude toward Christianity at its beginning. The same was true, according to the Bible record, with regard to the Edomites or Idumeans, headed by the royal family of the Herods. They clung to Judaism. During the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E., the Idumeans answered a summons from the Jewish faction that was holding the temple area against the opposing faction of the Jews. But the Idumean (Edomite) help proved to be in vain, and Jerusalem fell to the Romans and was destroyed along with its temple of Herod. After this disaster, the Idumeans or Edomites disappear from the scene of Middle Eastern history. Bible prophecy did not fail as to them.
ANCIENT EDOM AND MODERN ANTITYPE
41. What is the modern-day counterpart of the “land of Edom”?
41 Jehovah’s prophecy will likewise not fail in fulfillment upon the modern-day counterpart, the antitype, of the “land of Edom.” What is that antitype? It is Christendom. Just as the ancient Jewish nation and Jerusalem were used by Jehovah God in a typical way, to foreshadow things with regard to Christendom, so the brother nation of Edom was used by Him in a typical way. (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11; Colossians 2:16, 17) The people of Edom were fleshly descendants of Esau, who was nicknamed Edom (“Red”). Their national forefather was the older twin-brother of Jacob, who became surnamed Israel. Because of his being the firstborn of Isaac and Rebekah, Esau felt that he had a natural right to the birthright that his grandfather Abraham handed down.
42. What developments in connection with the birthright led to Esau’s feeling hatred for Jacob?
42 However, Jehovah God disregarded the natural right of a firstborn son, and, before the birth of the twins, he declared in favor of the second-born twin, Jacob (“Supplanter”). Even though this was the case, Esau treated the birthright in a profane way or with a lack of appreciation for spiritual things. In a time of fatigue and hunger, he was willing to sell this birthright to his appreciative brother Jacob for just one meal. Later on, when the time came for his father Isaac to bestow the Abrahamic blessing, Esau disregarded the oath with which he had sworn in order to validate the sale of his birthright and he made preparations to receive the birthright blessing, to which he was no longer entitled. It was only right that he was outwitted in this matter and the blessing went to the one to whom it rightly belonged according to God’s will, Jacob. But Esau felt that he had been unjustly supplanted, cheated. So, in hatred, he purposed to kill Jacob at the earliest convenience.—Genesis 25:29 through 27:45; Hebrews 12:16, 17.
43. (a) In this matter, of whom did Jacob become a picture? (b) What about Esau?
43 In these regards, Jacob became a picture of the heirs of the Abrahamic promise, the ones who became the spiritual “seed” of Abraham, namely, the anointed disciples of Jesus Christ, who is the principal one of the “seed” of Abraham. (Galatians 3:16-29) As regards the materialistic Esau, he became a type of the nation of natural Israel, who were fleshly descendants of Abraham and who thought that the Abrahamic blessing belonged naturally to them.
44. How did the natural, circumcised Israelites, as a whole, prove that they were indeed like Esau?
44 However, these natural, circumcised Israelites failed to qualify for becoming the spiritual seed of Abraham. They rejected the main one of Abraham’s promised “seed,” namely, Jesus Christ, and had him killed and thereafter persecuted his faithful footstep followers. Only a small remnant of the natural Jews met the requirements and became part of the spiritual seed of Abraham. So the remaining needed members of the spiritual seed of Abraham have had to be taken from non-Jews who meet the qualifications. (Romans 2:28, 29; 11:1-29) Thus the majority of the Jewish nation made themselves like their distant uncle Esau or Edom.
45. How did those who were descendants of Esau or Edom come to manifest hostility toward their brother nation, the Israelites?
45 Due to his profaneness or lack of spiritual appreciation, Esau was not in position to hand down the Abrahamic birthright to the nation that descended from him, the Esauites or Edomites. (Hebrews 12:15-17) These Edomites were the descendants of Esau by pagan, unbelieving wives. (Genesis 26:34, 35; 27:46; 28:6-9) Naturally they would have reason to think that they had been deprived of being the natural seed of Abraham with a right to the promised blessing, because of the action of their uncle Jacob or Israel. So they easily learned to harbor the hatred that their national ancestor Esau had felt toward Jacob, and this hatred manifested itself in hostility toward their brother nation, the Israelites. During the course of the centuries that followed, the Edomites or Idumeans were made to feel the disfavor of Jehovah God.—Ezekiel 35:1-9; Malachi 1:2-4.
46. During the time of the Maccabees, how did the Edomites become amalgamated with the Jewish nation?
46 During the period of the Maccabean rulers of the repatriated Jews in the land of Judah, the surviving Edomites were obliged to become Jewish proselytes. Approximately between the years 130-120 B.C.E. John Hyrcanus of the Maccabean line subjugated the Edomites and forced them to submit to circumcision as proselytes to Judaism. This accounts for the Jewish toleration of the rulership of the Edomite (Idumean) king, Herod the Great, and members of his royal family. (See Antiquities of the Jews, by Flavius Josephus, Book 13, chapter 9, paragraph 1; Book 15, chapter 7, paragraph 9.) In this way the Edomites (Idumeans) became amalgamated with the Jewish nation of the first century of our Common Era, which Jewish nation was used as a Bible type of Christendom.
47. In what ways has Christendom proved herself to be similar to Esau or Edom?
47 Similar to Esau or Edom, Christendom has laid claim to the Abrahamic promise and considers itself to be the spiritual seed of Abraham, the heirs to the heavenly kingdom with Jesus Christ. According to their religious claims, the members of Christendom make themselves twin-brothers of those who are the real Christian heirs of God’s Messianic kingdom, the true disciples of Jesus the Messiah. Nevertheless, Christendom does not love these faithful spirit-anointed disciples of Christ. She hates them with a murderous hate. (1 John 3:12-15) Ever since the founding of Christendom in the fourth century C.E., she has persecuted those who are not imitation Christians. These follow Jesus’ words and example in being no part of this world, but Christendom has made herself a friend of this world by becoming a part of it. Therefore what the world hates, she hates. (1 John 2:15-17; John 15:19; 17:14, 16; James 4:4) By persecuting the true Christians, she imagines that she is rendering to God a sacred service.—John 16:2.
48. Just like the Edomites at the time of Jerusalem’s destruction in 607 B.C.E., how did Christendom act toward spiritual Israel during World War I?
48 Modern twentieth-century history testifies to this fact. During World War I the faithful remnant of spiritual Israel came to be hated by all the nations, just as Jesus Christ had foretold regarding his true footstep followers. (Matthew 24:9; 10:7-22) The reason for this world hatred was the fact that the anointed remnant proclaimed God’s Messianic kingdom as the rightful rule for all the earth, the only hope for all mankind. (Mark 13:10-13) During all the persecution and suffering upon the faithful remnant, Christendom did not express a word of sympathy for them. In fact, the documented evidence shows that Christendom’s religious clergy instigated this persecution upon these proclaimers of the “good news” of God’s Messianic kingdom. She rejoiced with the warring nations of Christendom over the suppression of these Kingdom proclaimers and the killing of their public witness work, just as the Edomites rejoiced with the Babylonians over the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E.—Revelation 11:7-10.
49, 50. (a) During World War II, how did Christendom further show that she had the spirit of ancient Edom? (b) In fulfillment of God’s word through Isaiah, what now faces the modern-day Edomites, the people of Christendom, as well as Judaism?
49 Nursing her hatred of the remnant of spiritual Israelites who stood out as true Christians in contrast to her church members who engaged in bloodspilling in violent warfare, Christendom did not rejoice when the suppressed Kingdom witnesses were revived by God’s spirit in 1919 C.E. She did not rejoice at the spiritual paradise into which those restored spiritual Israelites were brought. (Isaiah 35:10) During World War II of 1939-1945 C.E., which broke out within her own borders, Christendom again stirred up religious persecution and fiercely endeavored to wipe out the spiritual paradise of the remnant of spiritual Israel and their companion worshipers of Jehovah God. But all in vain! Jehovah’s Christian witnesses survived and came forth from the second world conflict with greater force of numbers than ever before. In view of such violent hatred on the part of Christendom toward His Christian witnesses, does Jehovah God have a “legal case over Zion”? Has His “year of retributions” arrived upon the modern-day Edomites, Jehovah’s “day of vengeance”?—Isaiah 34:8.
50 The answer is Yes! And so Christendom now faces desolation. Judaism faces the same thing!