The Death of a God
WHAT is a god? The word “god” means a “mighty one.” The term has often been applied to anything worshiped as mighty or able to do good or bad toward its worshipers. The god could be an object, a person, a group of men or an organization.
The god here under discussion is a group or class of men. It is what the Bible calls “the man of lawlessness.” The apostle Paul gave us a description of that god, as follows:
“He is set in opposition [against Almighty God] and lifts himself up over everyone who is called ‘god’ or an object of reverence, so that he sits down in the temple of The God, publicly showing himself to be a god.”—2 Thess. 2:3, 4.
Who fits this description of the “man of lawlessness”? We might answer by asking: Who have taken to themselves titles such as “Reverend,” “Right Reverend,” “Father,” “Holy Father,” and the like, directly in opposition to Jesus’ words at Matthew 23:8-12? (Compare Job 32:21, 22.) Have not the clergy, both Catholic and Protestant, done so? Do they not lay claim to the “flock of God” as their flock, and in many places strenuously try to prevent others from speaking to the people in their parishes or communities about the Word of God, if what these people say disagrees with the clergy’s teachings? (1 Pet. 5:2) This is exactly the attitude and action that the Jewish religious leaders took toward Jesus’ preaching. (Luke 11:52) Compare also the course of the Jewish leaders of ancient times.—Ezek. 34:1-6; Mic. 3:5.
The clergy have used their influence to cause governments to ban or severely limit and oppress those trying to teach Bible truth to the people. Many of them have denied the inspiration of the Bible and call it “myth,” “outdated” and inapplicable to modern living, thereby putting their word above God’s and showing themselves to be lawless toward God.
While Christendom’s clergy have sought to elevate themselves to a godlike position, many things that they have done are most ungodly. They have made themselves friends of the world, thereby making themselves enemies of the true God, as James, Jesus’ half brother, wrote. (Jas. 4:4) They have been confidants of and counselors to worldly politicians and men of Big Business, and they have served as the handmaid of war makers and military elements. We find them serving as military chaplains, blessing the armies’ deadly weapons, and praying for victory on both sides of wars between so-called “Christian” nations.
The clergy have thereby made themselves a powerful part of “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion. She is said symbolically to be “the great city that has a kingdom over the kings of the earth.” (Rev. 17:18) She is the religious “great harlot,” with whom the “kings of the earth committed fornication, whereas those who inhabit the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”—Rev. 17:1, 2.
TO BE JUDGED BY ALMIGHTY GOD
For holding himself up as a god, the “man of lawlessness” must be judged by Jehovah the Almighty God. Jesus Christ referred to the Psalms, which spoke of mighty men who were ranked as “gods.” These men, who were leaders and judges, were unjust men, and the psalm, addressing them as “gods,” goes ahead to say: “Surely you will die just as men do; and like any one of the princes you will fall!”—Ps. 82:1-7; John 10:34-36.
The clergy class, the “man of lawlessness,” who ‘publicly shows himself to be a god,’ is not immortal, but will die like an ordinary man. He can be compared to the traitorous Judas Iscariot, who was called “the son of destruction.” (John 17:12; 2 Thess. 2:3) In spite of lifting himself up “over everyone who is called ‘god’ or an object of reverence,” that princely “man of lawlessness” will fall, put to death by Jehovah’s Messiah.
How does the “man of lawlessness” meet destruction? To answer that, let us consider the situation and destiny of “Babylon the Great,” for the “man of lawlessness,” being the chief part of this world empire of false religion, will share in its judgment. The Bible depicts “Babylon the Great” as riding the back of a scarlet-colored “wild beast.” This beast symbolizes the world organization for peace and security now known as the United Nations. It is called an “eighth king,” the Eighth World Power of Bible prophecy.—Rev. 17:1-11.
The clergy of Christendom have spoken very favorably and commendably of that international organization for peace and security, even assigning to that unchristian organization a Messianic role. They called its predecessor, the League of Nations, “the political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth.” The wish of the “man of lawlessness” is that such an international organization may save the world from a third global conflict, a nuclear war.
But the Bible foretells that the ten governmental “horns” of the symbolic “wild beast” will “hate the harlot and will make her devastated and naked, and will eat up her fleshy parts and will completely burn her with fire.” (Rev. 17:16) When the duplicity, hypocrisy, greed, filth and lawlessness of “Babylon the Great” become disgusting to the world rulers, the “man of lawlessness” will share in the punishment meted out to her. The clergy class will be seen by all the people to have taught false doctrine, to have participated in worldly politics, in wars and revolutions, and the riches that their organizations have gained by exploiting the people will be taken from them.
To some it seems sacrilegious to say that the church buildings, in which the clergy sit and receive reverence as a god, will be reduced to ruins, and that the sanctimonious “men of the cloth” will be destroyed with “Babylon the Great.” The religious Jews of the first century were likewise shocked at predictions of the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. Yet the destruction came in 70 C.E. (Matt. 24:1, 2) The book of Revelation shows that, similarly, there will be mourners over the final fall of “Babylon the Great,” namely, those who got materialistic gain from their dealings with her.—Rev. 18:9-19.
This execution of judgment on the “man of lawlessness,” though it comes by the hand of the political rulers, is actually from God through his enthroned Son Jesus Christ. The Bible gives the credit to God for the destruction of “Babylon the Great” and calls for praise to him for bringing about her complete downfall.—Rev. 18:5, 8, 20; 19:1-3.
In this way the apostle Paul’s words come true about the “man of lawlessness,” “whom,” Paul wrote, “the Lord Jesus will do away with by the spirit of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence.” (2 Thess. 2:8) Soon now the Lord Jesus Christ, whose invisible presence in Kingdom power began in 1914, will suddenly bring the destruction. Though earthly kings are the instruments used, it is the “spirit,” the motivating force from his mouth, that decrees the destruction.
AVOID FOLLOWING “UNRIGHTEOUS DECEPTION”
There is a great danger impending over all who follow the clergy. The apostle said about this: “The lawless one’s presence is . . . with every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing, as a retribution 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 Thess. 2:9-12.
There is ample evidence now to identify the “man of lawlessness” unmistakably. In our day the apostasy has come to a climax. Its bad fruitage has come to full ripeness and is revealed and exposed as rotten, so that all who desire the truth can find it. Persons having “the love of the truth” need to investigate thoroughly to avoid following an “unrighteous deception.” Finding and accepting truth is more important and more vital to anyone than clinging to a deception, even if we and our forefathers have been ensnared by it for generations. This can mean life or death, for God has let “an operation of error” go to those believing the lie, who look on the “man of lawlessness” as representing God, yes, even more, as being a “god,” accepting his words as above those of Almighty God as recorded in the Bible.
God does not directly send this “operation of error,” but lets it go to the deceived ones in order to prove that it is what they really want. (Compare Hebrews 4:12.) In this way all honest-hearted persons can see that God is just in his judgment. (Rev. 19:2; 2 Thess. 1:6-8) For not ‘accepting the love of the truth’ those who ‘believe the lie’ will find themselves among “those who are perishing” at the death of their “god,” the “man of lawlessness.”
For this reason a person is following a wise course if he now takes the time to look into the evidence that identifies and exposes the “man of lawlessness.” He will be most happy to discover that there are glorious promises of God that have been obscured by the false teachings of Christendom’s clergy. In ‘sitting in the temple of The God, publicly showing himself to be a god,’ the “man of lawlessness” has kept people from learning about and coming to know the true God Jehovah and his loving qualities and purposes toward mankind.
Furthermore, in looking beyond the mere identification of the “man of lawlessness,” the sincere seeker for truth will find that God’s fine purpose toward mankind is now nearing its realization. The destruction of those who have misrepresented God will be followed by a complete wiping out of the present system of things. There will be survival for those who “accept the love of the truth that they might be saved” and an opportunity for life on a cleansed earth. These matters will be discussed in the next issue of The Watchtower.—Rev. 19:19-21; 7:9-17; 21:1-4; Zeph. 2:3.