THERE is a real need today for someone to speak as a true representative of God. Why?
Because things are taking place that people do not understand—things that greatly affect their daily activities, yes, their very lives. The churches do not have a satisfactory explanation. But God does have. Is there someone who can bring the truth of God’s Word to the people, letting them know what is ahead and what they can do for safety and survival?
We can better understand what is taking place by going back to something described in the Bible that took place under conditions very similar to today’s situation. By seeing what God did then, and for what reasons, we can discern what he is doing today, and where we fit in. We can be sure that our discernment will thus be accurate, for God never changes his principles. The way he viewed matters back there is the way that he views similar matters now.—Mal. 3:6.
In the situation referred to in the past a messenger was needed, and one was found and commissioned. He was a Jewish servant of God, the priest Ezekiel. Ezekiel was living when his people, the Jews, were in a sad condition. The year was 613 B.C.E., and Ezekiel was with some of his countrymen in exile in Babylonia. But the majority of the Jews were yet back in Jerusalem and the land of Judah, and though they were unaware of it, they were facing great danger. For this reason, most of the message delivered by Ezekiel, though he was in Babylonia, was a warning to the Jews remaining in Jerusalem, reinforcing a like message being delivered by the prophet Jeremiah in Jerusalem itself. But Ezekiel’s message also served to correct the Jews in Babylonia as to their attitude toward God.
Jehovah God appeared to Ezekiel in a vision in which he beheld the celestial chariot of Jehovah. (Ezek. chap. 1) Overwhelmed to the point of prostrating himself before the “likeness of the glory of Jehovah,” Ezekiel heard the voice of the chariot’s Rider commissioning him.
Jehovah addressed Ezekiel, not by his personal name, but as “son of man.” By this expression, in Hebrew ben adám the Most High God called attention to Ezekiel’s lowly state and origin, as but an offspring of earthling man. The prophet’s own name, therefore, receives no prominence in the prophecy.
We are not to understand this addressing of Ezekiel as “son of man” to mean that he was a “type” of Jesus Christ, who spoke of himself seventy-six times as “the Son of man.” In Jesus’ case, he was comparing himself, not with Ezekiel, but with the “son of man” seen in vision in Daniel 7:13. That “son of man” received kingly authority from God.—Compare Acts 7:56.
As Ezekiel lay prostrate on the ground, Jehovah said to him: “Son of man, stand up upon your feet that I may speak with you.” God’s command imparted active force to Ezekiel: “And spirit began to come into me as soon as he spoke to me, and it finally made me stand up upon my feet that I might hear the One speaking to me.” (Ezek. 2:1, 2) The serious need for a messenger was then revealed to Ezekiel, God saying:
“Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to rebellious nations that have rebelled against me. They themselves and their forefathers have transgressed against me down to this selfsame day. And the sons insolent of face and hard of heart—I am sending you to them, and you must say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said.’ And as for them, whether they will hear or will refrain—for they are a rebellious house—they will certainly know also that a prophet himself happened to be in the midst of them.”—Ezek. 2:3-5.
Ezekiel was thereby commissioned. Note that he did not raise himself up to be a prophet. This difficult mission was not one an individual was likely to choose for himself. The fact that Jehovah appeared to him in a remarkable vision (and later in the vision revealed things to him that could not otherwise have been known by Ezekiel), also that Jehovah commissioned him directly—all these things prove that what Ezekiel said and wrote in his prophecy was inspired by Jehovah. He was in an outstanding way made a witness of Jehovah God. His being a witness of Jehovah is emphasized by his unusually frequent use of God’s personal name.
EZEKIEL PROPHETIC OF A GREATER MESSENGER
Moreover, not only were Ezekiel’s words prophetic, but also he was a prophetic figure in his action, as shown on occasion. (Ezek. 24:24) He was a “portent” or sign. Of whom was he—this messenger—a prophetic figure, since he did not prefigure Jesus Christ? Consider first this evidence.
It was only about six years after Ezekiel’s vision of God’s celestial “chariot,” namely, in 607 B.C.E., that Jerusalem was destroyed by the armies of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. So, if the evidence shows that Ezekiel was a prophetic figure of a ‘messenger’ of God today, this world’s system of things does not have much longer before its complete end. Certainly the world would need a God-sent messenger to give warning.
Indications are that since 1914 this world has been in its ‘time of the end.’ Modern historians are agreed that an era ended in that year when World War I began its violent, destructive course. They have arrived at this conclusion without realizing that the Bible’s chronology marks 1914 as the date for the end of the “times of the Gentiles.”—Luke 21:24, Authorized Version.
How does the Bible show 1914 to be a marked date? Why is it of such great importance? Because it has to do with God’s exercise of his sovereignty toward the earth. Up to the time of Jerusalem’s fall to Nebuchadnezzar, God had expressed his sovereignty over part of the earth, that is, the domain of the kings of Judah, through the rule of kings of the line of David, who were said to sit on “Jehovah’s throne.” (1 Chron. 29:23) But in 607 B.C.E. he removed that kingdom and let the land lie desolate for seventy years. Even after the seventy years God did not put a king back on the throne, but Jerusalem continued under the domination of Gentile powers.
The prophet Daniel, a fellow exile of Ezekiel, was used by God to point out that there would be a prophetic period of “seven times,” that is, seven years of 360 days each, or 2,520 days, each day counting for a year in the larger fulfillment. (Dan. 4:25; Ezek. 4:6) The 2,520 years run from 607 B.C.E. to 1914 C.E. At the end of that time God would again express sovereignty, this time toward the entire earth by means of his Messianic King. He would begin to ‘rule in the midst of his enemies,’ taking steps toward the complete ousting of man-rule from the earth.—Ps. 110:1, 2.
Consequently, both Bible chronology and worsening conditions, especially in the nations called “Christendom,” cause us to look for a counterpart of the messenger Ezekiel. Should we look for one man? No. Rather, we should look for a body of persons, a composite, unified group. Why?
Because the message, though directed first to Christendom, Jerusalem’s counterpart, is to be declared also to all the nations. It requires more than one man to do this. In the past God has addressed a composite group of persons by the word “servant” (singular number). (Isa. 43:10) Jesus Christ told his followers they would be witnesses for him, taking the good news to the nations, and the apostle Paul likened these Christians to a body made up of many members, just as the human body is. (Rom. 12:4, 5) So, what body of persons does God call together to deliver his message warning Christendom of his coming war against her?
FOUND IN JEWRY OR CHRISTENDOM?
Since Ezekiel was a Jew, we might look first among the natural circumcised Jews. But we find that, rather than acting as a mouthpiece and active agent of Jehovah, they took active part with the nations of Christendom in World War I. Chaim Weizmann, the famous Zionist leader, even lent his services as a discoverer in the chemical field to the British government during that world conflict. Thereafter Jewish efforts in Palestine were primarily political, directed toward establishing a National Homeland for the Jews rather than furthering the worship of Jehovah, or the proclaiming of his name.
Should we, then, look to Christendom? We surely would find no unified, composite body there among the hundreds of conflicting religious sects of which Christendom is composed. Not only that, but World War I was mainly Christendom’s war, and she was gruesomely bloodstained therein. Also, instead of advocating Jehovah’s sovereignty through his Messianic kingdom, she was afterward absorbed in establishing a political peace arrangement, even dealing with the newly arisen godless Communist State in Russia. Surely Christendom was not in any way a counterpart of Ezekiel.
CHRISTENDOM’S CHURCHES PROVE TO BE FALSE MESSENGERS
Since that time have the churches of Christendom shown themselves qualified to be commissioned as God’s messenger? They claim to be the representatives of Christ and of God. During the war they had been divided into two camps. Afterward they wanted to patch up their disunity and again become religious friends. But because of the Vatican’s strongly pro-German position during the war it was not allowed to have any part in drawing up the Peace Treaty of Versailles of 1919. The Covenant of the League of Nations was made a part of that peace treaty.
When the League of Nations was proposed as an international organization for world peace and security, the bloodstained religious organizations backed it, seizing upon this circumstance as an opportunity to “save face.” The Church of England and the churches of Canada supported the League, since Great Britain was the League’s proposer and chief backer. In the United States of America there was the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America (superseded in 1950 by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., a federation of 33 Protestant and Orthodox churches). On December 18, 1918, this Council sent its adopted Declaration to the American president and urged him to work for the League. The Declaration said, in part:
“Such a League is not a mere political expedient; it is rather the political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth. . . . The Church can give a spirit of good-will, without which no League of Nations can endure. . . . The League of Nations is rooted in the Gospel. Like the Gospel, its objective is ‘peace on earth, good-will toward men.’”
By accepting the League of Nations as “the political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth,” the members of the Federal Council of churches were really accepting a counterfeit “Kingdom of God on earth.” Why? Because Jesus Christ, the Head of the church, when on trial for his life before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, in 33 C.E., said: “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If it did, my followers would be fighting to save me from arrest by the Jews. My kingly authority comes from elsewhere.” (John 18:36, New English Bible) The fact that they were not, as a body, a commissioned messenger of God was made clear and their hypocrisy exposed when, twenty years later, the League of Nations was knocked out of business by the outbreak of World War II. The churches again entered into this war with all their might, encouraging their members to take part.
WHAT IS REQUIRED OF GOD’S MESSENGER
Therefore, when it came time for the name of Jehovah and his purposes to be declared to the people, along with God’s warning that Christendom is in her “time of the end,” who qualified to be commissioned? Who was willing to undertake this monumental task as Jehovah’s “servant”? Was there anyone to whom Jehovah’s heavenly “chariot” could roll up and whom it could confront? More accurately, was there any group on whom Jehovah would be willing to bestow the commission to speak as a “prophet” in His name, as was done toward Ezekiel back there in 613 B.C.E.? What were the qualifications?
Certainly such a messenger or “servant” group would have to be made up of persons who had not been defiled with bloodguilt as had Christendom and the rest of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, by sharing in carnal warfare. In fact, they would be a group that had come out from the religious organizations of Babylon the Great. More than that, they would be persons who not only saw the hypocrisy and God-defaming action of these religions, but in addition actually rejected them and turned to Jehovah God in true worship of him as set forth in the Bible. Who would they be?
In identifying the group that is truly commissioned as God’s messenger, these are points for us to consider seriously. God does not deal with persons who ignore his Word and go according to their own independent ideas. Nor does he recognize those who make a profession of serving him and at the same time associate with religions that teach God-dishonoring doctrines. No one can serve two masters, claiming to be a worshiper of God and meddling with the politics, the radical movements and other schemes of this world. (Matt. 6:24) Jehovah’s chief representative, Jesus Christ, said: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.”—Matt. 7:21.
It is of importance to every individual on earth to identify the group that Jehovah has commissioned as his “servant” or messenger. We must recognize and understand the warning that he brings. We need to take action on the warning to safeguard our lives, for they are in a danger as grave as that of the lives of Jerusalem’s citizens as that city neared destruction. For this reason forthcoming issues of The Watchtower will further discuss the identity and work of Jehovah’s commissioned messenger as revealed in His vision to Ezekiel.