The Exposing of the False Kingdom Refuge
1. What was the intent of Jesus in giving the parable of the mustard grain, in harmony with what prophecy?
WHAT, now, must be the intent of Jesus’ parable of the mustard grain, a seed very tiny in its embryonic condition but developing into a tree? The intent must be to show something in harmony with the reference made by Jesus to the negative picture given in Isaiah 6:9, 10. (Matt. 13:13-15) In giving this third parable in a series of seven, Jesus said: “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.”—Matt. 13:31, 32.
2. In likening the mustard-grain tree to the nominal church, how did Zion’s Watch Tower as of May 15, 1900, interpret the lodging of the birds of heaven among the tree’s branches?
2 The issue of Zion’s Watch Tower under date of May 15, 1900, page 153, said: “The third parable-picture of the kingdom in its present embryonic condition of development is intended to show that from a very small beginning the nominal church of this Gospel age would attain to quite considerable proportions. . . . Yet this large development does not necessarily signify advantage or anything specially desirable, but on the contrary it becomes a disadvantage, in that the fowls of the air come and lodge in its branches, and defile it. The ‘fowls of the air’ in the preceding parable of the sower represented Satan and his agents, and we are, we think, justified in making a similar application here, and interpreting this to mean that the church planted by the Lord Jesus flourished rapidly and exceedingly, and that because of its attainments, strength. etc., Satan through his agents, came and lodged in the various branches of the Church. They have been lodging in the branches of this Gospel church for these many centuries, and are still to be found in her, a defiling element.”
3. What did The Watch Tower under date of June 15, 1910, say that the “tree” at its full development represented, along with birds?
3 Presenting a view similar to that just quoted, the issue of The Watch Tower for June 15, 1910, page 204, went on to say: “So then the teaching of this parable would lead us to conclude that the church of Christ, at one time, was so unimportant in the world that it was a shame and a dishonor to belong to it, but that ultimately it would become honorable and great and the adversary’s servants would have pleasure in its shade. This development the Scriptures represent as being Babylon, declaring that, as a whole, with the various branches and denominations, the nominal church of Christ is Babylonish. Hearken to the Lord’s words: ‘She has become the hold of every foul spirit and the cage of every unclean and hateful bird.’”—See also The Watch Tower as of June 15, 1912, page 198, under the heading “Like a Mustard Seed.”
4. (a) What did those two Watch Tower articles not say that the symbolic “tree” was? (b) As to time and location, what kind of picture and scene does the mustard-grain parable not illustrate?
4 Here we are now, in this year 1975, and the big question is, What does that grown mustard-seed tree picture? Babylon the Great, say the above-quoted two issues of the Watch Tower magazine. They do not say that this vegetable tree pictures the Kingdom class of 144,001 enthroned Christians in heavenly power. But what must we of today say? For one thing, we must bear in mind that this illustration of the mustard grain does not present a millennial picture, to show the final number of the Kingdom class reigning in heavenly glory and with all mankind taking refuge under this Messianic kingdom. It does not present a heavenly scene with regard to the heirs of the “kingdom of the heavens.” It pictures an earthly state of affairs at a particular period of time.
5. What is the special period of time in which the parable reaches the climax of its fulfillment, and where does that fulfillment take place?
5 The special period of time is that indicated by Jesus in the parables of the wheat and weeds and of the dragnet. In the parable of the wheat field oversown with weeds, Jesus said: “The harvest is a conclusion of a system of things, and the reapers are angels.” In the parable of the dragnet, Jesus said: “That is how it will be in the conclusion of the system of things: the angels will go out and separate the wicked from among the righteous and will cast them into the fiery furnace. There is where their weeping and the gnashing of their teeth will be.” (Matt. 13:39, 49, 50) The “harvest” takes place here on earth, where the “weeds” that need to be separated out are located. Likewise, the separating of the suitable “fish” from the unsuitable takes place here on earth, where the fishing ‘waters’ are. The symbolic “weeds” and unsuitable “fish” are the professed Christians whose hearts are unreceptive, whose ears are unresponsive, and whose eyes are pasted together so that spiritual healing of such professed Christians is impossible.—Isa. 6:9, 10; Matt. 13:14. Compare Acts 28:25-28. See the article “No Healing Till Houses Are Without Man,” in Watchtower issue of December 15, 1966.
6. What does this vegetable “tree” of today claim to be, and why, therefore, could that symbolic “tree” not be Babylon the Great?
6 By the “conclusion of the system of things” in our times the symbolic mustard-seed tree should be fully grown. That state of growth would correspond with the harvesttime. Since the harvest of the spiritual “wheat” or “sons of the kingdom” has been in progress since 1919 C.E., we can discern the symbolic mustard-seed tree now at its full growth here on earth. This vegetable tree claims to represent the “kingdom of the heavens,” for Jesus said that “the kingdom of the heavens is like” it. For that reason the mustard-grain tree could not picture Babylon the Great, for that organization is the world empire of false religion that started with ancient Babylon. Babylon the Great as a whole does not claim to be or represent “the kingdom of the heavens” or the Messianic “kingdom of God.” However, the most numerous and prominent part of Babylon the Great does claim to represent God’s heavenly Messianic kingdom. That most powerful part of Babylon the Great is Christendom, with its thousand or more religious branches and denominations.
7. To what has Christendom’s greatest growth in history been due, and when did she really start and how?
7 Christendom claims to have sprung from the original small Christian congregation in Jerusalem during the first century C.E. Today Christendom’s congregations number into the millions. She has attained her greatest growth! But her scandalous worldliness and lack of spirituality today make it certain that her tremendous growth has not been due to her spiritual virtues and her having the advancing light of Bible truth. Religious history shows that actually Christendom was founded in the fourth century C.E. by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great, who claimed to be converted to Christianity in 312 C.E. but who remained unbaptized until shortly before his death on May 22, 337 C.E. He made the degraded Christianity of his day the State Church of the Roman Empire, using some three hundred apostate, compromising “bishops” to do so. As Pontifex Maximus of the Roman Empire, he convened the first Council of Nicaea, Asia Minor, and ruled on the doctrines that it decreed to be Church doctrine.
8. What in the way of doctrine and practice permeates Christendom today, and in fulfillment of what parable?
8 Today, what permeates the whole mass of the churches of Christendom? True Bible teaching and structure and procedure and observance? No! It is the fusion religion that Pontifex Maximus Constantine promoted, in which the Babylonish doctrines and procedures are the fundamental things rather than the teachings of God’s inspired Holy Word. Constantine was the one who as presiding officer of the Council of Nicaea settled the dispute over the personality and attributes of Jehovah God by ruling in favor of the Babylonish doctrine of the Trinity. Jesus Christ foretold this process of corrupting Christian doctrine and practice by giving the parable of the leaven. He said: “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.”—Matt. 13:33.
9. How long has this religiously corrupting influence been going on in Christendom, with what opportunity for the agents of the Devil?
9 The fermentation of the whole mass of Christendom has now had sixteen centuries of time in which to take place. Who can deny that Christendom is completely leavened today by the corrupting influence of Babylonish doctrine and worldliness and Nimrod-like defiance of the universal sovereignty of Jehovah God? This corrupting of the tremendous mass of Christendom’s imitation “sons of the kingdom” has made the false earthly “kingdom of God” an excellent place for the agents of Satan the Devil to take refuge in, like the “birds of heaven” lodging among the branches of the full-grown mustard-seed tree.—Matt. 13:31, 32.
10, 11. (a) Why is nothing beneficial for mankind pictured in the parable of the mustard grain? (b) So, what “kingdom” today does the mustard-seed “tree” picture?
10 The lodging of all these symbolic “birds of heaven” in the many ramifications of Christendom has not been for the spiritual benefit of Christendom. It is just like the tree that grew from the mustard grain that the farmer planted in his garden or field. The birds of heaven that lodged in its branches were able to eat the mustard seeds, just like the birds of Jesus’ parable of the four soils who ate up the seeds that fell from the sower’s hand by the roadside. (Matt. 13:4) As far as Jesus’ parable went, the tree did not serve for any human benefit. For instance, the parable does not tell how, when the tree became full size, the planter came and chased those birds away and collected a large quantity of mustard seed for making a good sauce to season some foods. But, certainly, the farmer did not plant the mustard grain in his garden just to provide a lodging place for the “birds of heaven.”
11 All things taken into account, it is apparent that the symbolic mustard-seed “tree” of today is the counterfeit “kingdom of the heavens,” namely, Christendom, with her clergy lording it over the laity. The full-grown “tree” could not consistently picture the remnant on earth today of the sealed spiritual Israelites, for these are merely a fraction, not the full numerical growth of the 144,000 Kingdom heirs. In fact, for more than twenty-seven years the spiritual remnant has been getting fewer in number. At the Memorial celebration of 1975 their number had dropped to 10,454.
A MUSTARD PLANT DIFFERENT FROM WHAT WE MIGHT EXPECT
12. On the basis of the Bible rule that a seed must bring forth its kind, what objection might someone logically raise to the explanation that the mustard-seed “tree” pictures Christendom?
12 Quite logically, someone might raise up against the foregoing presentation the following objection: In Jesus’ parable, the man who sowed the mustard grain did so with good intentions. From this grain he expected the growth of a mustard plant “according to its kind.” (Gen. 1:11, 12) He did not expect something foreign to what he had sown. He had in mind no counterfeit of a mustard plant. That being the case, how can we say that such a counterfeit is exactly what the sower got? Accordingly, how can we say, as above, that the “tree” that grew from the mustard grain represented Christendom, the counterfeit of the “kingdom of the heavens”?* Is that not contrary to God’s law that a seed must produce its own kind? Would not this divine law, when spiritually applied, rule out the idea of Christendom, the opposite of the “kingdom of the heavens”?
13, 14. (a) Why would there have been no Christendom if there had been no Jesus Christ? (b) According to what standard does God hold her accountable to Him, and of what is she the counterpart?
13 In this regard, things started with Jesus Christ. If there had been no Christ, there would have been no Christendom. A simple statement, but true nonetheless! In the fourth century of our Common Era Christendom pinned herself to the true Christ, not to a false Christ, a false Messiah, so as to make the counterfeit more undiscernible. She even took his official designation by calling herself Christendom. She has appropriated to herself the various things connected with Jesus Christ. She practices baptism in water, some of her churches even today practicing total immersion. She celebrates the Lord’s Supper with bread and the product of the grapevine. She has her elders or bishops and deacons. (Phil. 1:1, Authorized Version) And, as for the Holy Bible as a whole, the very Bibles that the Christian witnesses of Jehovah have used down till the beginning of the publication of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in 1950 C.E. have come to us from the Bible societies that Christendom’s churches have operated.
14 It is plainly evident that Jesus Christ is implicated with the formation of Christendom, which has professed till now to be his true Church. Furthermore, Jehovah God takes Christendom at her word and according to her own claims. For this reason Jehovah calls upon her to live up to her claims and holds her responsible for failure to live up to his requirements. For this he will bring upon her a due punishment. In this “conclusion of the system of things” he judges her as unfaithful to her religious professions. She is the modern-day counterpart of unfaithful Israel of ancient times.
15, 16. How does Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds show his being implicated with the growth of Christendom till now?
15 Adding to the Scriptural proof that Jesus Christ is implicated with the growth of Christendom, there is the parable of the wheat and the weeds (tares). True, Jesus Christ, “the Son of man,” did not sow those weeds in his own field. His enemy, Satan the Devil, did so. In the parable, the slaves of the Sower quickly discovered the presence of the weeds in the wheat field. They wanted to uproot the weed sprouts. But the Sower, the owner of the wheat field, would not let them do so. In his patience and long-suffering he ordered the slaves to let both the weeds and the wheat grow together until the harvest around Pentecost time. First then would he have the weeds, now fully grown, separated from the wheat.
16 In fulfillment of this feature of Jesus’ parable, he did not have Christendom destroyed as soon as it manifested itself. He permitted it to expand. In that sense he is involved with Christendom’s growth to its present proportions, the greatest in its history. Even up till this writing, Jesus Christ has not destroyed Christendom. She is still, by his permission, occupying space in the Sower’s field, “his field,” his religious “field under cultivation.”—Matt. 13:24-27; compare 1 Corinthians 3:9.
17. By whom has the symbolic “dragnet” been handled, and, in 1891 and 1912, what was this “dragnet” said to picture?
17 Further illustrating Jesus’ tie-in with Christendom is the parable of the dragnet. (Matt. 13:47-50) The fishermen who handle the dragnet picture the heavenly angels under the direction of the glorified Jesus Christ. But what does the dragnet itself picture? Because the parable says that “the kingdom of the heavens is like a dragnet,” does the dragnet picture the 144,001 members of the “kingdom of the heavens” class? No, it could not do so, when we take all the features of the parable together. The book “Thy Kingdom Come,” published in 1891, said, on page 214, that the dragnet pictured “the nominal Christian Church.” The Watch Tower under date of June 15, 1912, on its page 201 and under the heading “The Parable of a Fish Net,” spoke of it as “the Gospel net, with its full assortment of churchianity of every style.”
18. What did The Watchtower under date of November 15, 1967, say that the dragnet pictured?
18 More recently, in the Watchtower issue of November 15, 1967, appeared the study article entitled “Let Down Your Nets for a Catch.” On page 686, paragraph six says that “the dragnet symbolizes the earthly organization that professes to be God’s congregation that is in the new covenant with God through the Mediator Jesus Christ. So it claims to be the spiritual Israel, the holy nation that is anointed with God’s spirit to reign with Jesus Christ in the heavenly kingdom. It includes the true professors and the false or unfaithful professors. Logically it includes Christendom, with its hundreds of thousands of professed Christians, belonging to hundreds of sects called Christian.”
19, 20. (a) Jesus’ experience with the symbolic mustard grain has been like what experience of Jehovah, as set out in Jeremiah 2:21-23? (b) In Hosea 10:1-4, how did Jehovah picture the degeneration of Israel as a symbolic “vine”?
19 Thus in the Kingdom parables Jesus Christ illustrated his link with the formation and growth of the nominal Christian organization of Christendom. His connection with Christendom is similar to the connection of his heavenly Father Jehovah with apostate Israel of ancient times. Jehovah’s purpose in establishing the nation of Israel back in 1513 B.C.E. was good and righteous. But what happened to that nation whom he had chosen and planted in the Promised Land in Palestine? Jehovah himself replies to that question in Jeremiah 2:21-23. There he says: “‘As for me, I had planted you as a choice red vine, all of it a true seed. So how have you been changed toward me into the degenerate shoots of a foreign vine? But though you should do the washing with alkali and take to yourself large quantities of lye, your error would certainly be a stain before me,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah. ‘How can you say, “I have not defiled myself. After the Baals I have not walked”? See your way in the valley. Take note of what you have done. A swift young she-camel aimlessly running to and fro in her ways.’”
20 Also, in Hosea 10:1-4, Jehovah says: “Israel is a degenerating vine. Fruit he keeps putting forth for himself. In proportion to the abundance of his fruit he has multiplied his altars. In proportion to the goodness of his land, they put up good pillars. Their heart has become hypocritical; now they will be found guilty. . . . They speak words, making false oaths, concluding a covenant; and judgment has sprouted like a poisonous plant in the furrows of the open field.”
21. (a) How did the Jewish generation of Jesus’ day show its apostasy? (b) Whose experience answers the question as to whether Jesus could plant a symbolic mustard grain and have a foreign plant develop?
21 In the days of Jesus Christ and his apostles the nation of Israel was just as apostate as in the days of Jeremiah and Hosea. In fact, it was the generation of Israel that brought about the death of Jesus the Messiah and that persecuted his apostles and first-century disciples. Such Israelites especially were the ones to whom Jesus, as well as Isaiah, referred as having their eyes plastered shut, their ears unresponsive and their hearts unreceptive so that there was no spiritual healing for them. (Isa. 6:9, 10; Matt. 13:13-15; Acts 28:24-28) Hence that apostate generation suffered national calamity in 70 C.E. So, now, does anyone ask the question, How could Jesus as the Sower of the parable plant the symbolic mustard grain and yet have it become a tree of a foreign kind, the corrupt counterfeit called Christendom? The experience of Jehovah God with the ancient nation of Israel gives the divine answer to such a questioner!
22. Why could Jesus tell the parable of the mustard grain and have in mind that the full-grown “tree” would picture a counterfeit organization?
22 Jesus Christ, with his prophetic foresight, could foreknow the outcome for the symbolic mustard grain that he planted in the first century. He was acquainted with the history of Israel and knew all the prophecies. So he could tell the parable of the mustard grain and have in mind the counterfeit “kingdom of the heavens,” Christendom, as being pictured by the full-grown mustard plant in which the “birds of heaven” lodged.—Note Matthew 13:25, 38, 39; 24:23-25.
23. (a) From the failure of the parable to show the destruction of the mustard-seed “tree,” what should we not conclude? (b) What does the parable of the dragnet not show about that fishing net?
23 Jesus’ parable did not, in itself or as far as it went, illustrate that the thing that was symbolized by the bird-infested “tree” would be destroyed. Yet that is no argument that such destruction will not come upon the symbolic “tree,” namely, Christendom. (Compare Luke 13:5-9.) The same thing may be said with regard to the dragnet: Jesus’ parable does not show that the dragnet would pass out of existence. But neither does the parable show that the dragnet was ever used again. Were it to be used again, it would bring out again from the “sea” the very same mixture of sea life as was depicted in the parable. So, because the parable does not go so far as to illustrate it, this does not signify that what is pictured by the dragnet will not be done away with in God’s due time. Operations under the guidance of the angels have been carried on with that symbolic dragnet for the past nineteen centuries. But, when once the work of separating the forms of sea life that have been hauled in by that symbolic dragnet is completed, that fishing operation will not be repeated.
24. Despite its not being shown in the parable, why will the symbolic dragnet be done away with in God’s due time?
24 Since the dragnet pictured “the nominal Christian Church” or ‘the organization of professed Christians, including the true and the false,’ the symbolic dragnet will actually be done away with. Such a religious device that includes Christendom will be cast away and never be used again. By the end of the “conclusion of the system of things” Jehovah God will have gotten all his good “fish” for the true “kingdom of the heavens.” (Matt. 4:17; 13:47-50) So the failure of the parable to illustrate it does not prove that the figurative dragnet will not accomplish its purpose and be done away with, be laid away, never to be used again. And yet Jesus said that “the kingdom of the heavens” was like that dragnet. Certainly, then, the dragnet did not itself picture the Kingdom class of 144,001 members.
WHAT ABOUT LEAVENED THINGS OFFERED TO JEHOVAH?
25. Although the nominal Christian organization is leavened with Babylonish things, what question might someone still have about the leaven hid in dough by the woman, and why so?
25 There is no question about whether the nominal Christian organization, pictured by the bird-infested mustard-grain “tree,” has become corrupted with Babylonish teachings and practices. In the foregoing discussion it was pointed out that this corrupting of the professed Christian organization was pictured in Jesus’ parable in which a woman hid a bit of leaven in three large measures of flour, in order to leaven the whole mass. (Matt. 13:33) Yet someone might still find difficulty with that explanation of the parable. He might ask himself, Does the leaven in that parable really picture something bad, corruptive of religion? Might it not picture the power that permeates the true Christian congregation of Kingdom heirs with righteousness, holiness? Why, look at the things that were offered to Jehovah God according to the law of Moses and that contained leaven with acceptance by Him! Does this not indicate that the Holy Scriptures use leaven as a symbol of goodness and righteousness? Might this not also be the case in Jesus’ parable of the leaven buried in a large batch of dough?
26. How might such a questioner reason about the leaven in the two loaves of wheat bread that the high priest offered on the day of Pentecost?
26 A prominent instance, that might be referred to, of where leavened things were offered to Jehovah under command by him and with acceptance by him, is the two loaves of leavened wheat bread that the Jewish high priest offered on the day of the Festival of Weeks, or Pentecost, which fell on the sixth day of the spring lunar month of Sivan. This was the fiftieth day from Nisan 16, when the high priest offered up the firstfruits of the barley harvest. (Lev. 23:15-17; Deut. 16:9-12; Acts 20:16; 1 Cor. 16:8) In view of all the respect given to those two loaves, one’s reasoning might go in the following way: Jehovah on the festival day accepts the two wheat loaves containing leaven. Does not, then, Jehovah’s acceptance in this case of something leavened signify that there the leaven takes on a favorable meaning? Does this not prove that at times leaven does take on a good symbolic value with God? Why, look at how leavened bread was a favorite bread among Jehovah’s ancient chosen people, whereas the unleavened bread was called “the bread of affliction.” (Deut. 16:1-3) Surely that must impart a favorable aspect to leaven when being used as a symbol in the Bible!
27. If we follow that line of reasoning, to what conclusion does it lead us as to the meaning of the leaven in the antitype of the two Pentecostal loaves of wheat bread?
27 If we follow such a line of reasoning regarding the two leavened wheat loaves presented on the festival day of Weeks, then where does it consistently lead? To this: Those two Pentecostal loaves were typical, foreshadowing things to come according to God’s purpose. So in the antitype of that presentation of the two leavened loaves on Sivan 6, the thing symbolized by the leaven in the loaves must be something good, righteous, virtuous. Hence we ask, What do those two loaves of leavened wheat bread themselves typify? They typify the true Christian congregation of imperfect human believers that came into existence on the day of Pentecost of the year 33 C.E. (Zion’s Watch Tower as of March 1, 1898, page 68, paragraph 4) So, now, if, on the day of Pentecost, the leaven pictured something on the good side, then consistently the new Christian congregation is pictured as starting off with an antitypical leaven of goodness in itself, some special “grace of the holy spirit.” All of this, before the holy spirit was poured out!
28. However, in harmony with The Watch Tower, what does the leaven in the typical Pentecostal loaves of wheat bread picture?
28 However, did the human members of the Christian congregation start off with some inward merit of their own on the Pentecostal day of the outpouring of God’s holy spirit upon them? No; they had no righteousness of their own. So, the leaven found in the offering of the firstfruits of the wheat harvest has long been explained to mean sin, the sin that the members of the Christian congregation of Kingdom joint heirs inherited from disobedient Adam. (Rom. 5:12; see The Watch Tower as of June 15, 1912, page 198, the second paragraph under the heading “Parable of the Leaven.”) However, back there on the day of Pentecost, 33 C.E., it became true of the imperfect members of the Christian congregation that “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”—1 John 1:7; see page 229, paragraph 1, through page 231 of the book The Temple, by Alfred Edersheim, edition of 1881.*
29. (a) With what day of offering firstfruits is the day of Pentecost linked, and how? (b) What about the matter of leaven as regards that earlier day of offering firstfruits of harvest?
29 Such explanation of the leaven in the two Pentecostal wheat loaves is supported by another fact. It is this: Pentecost, the festival day of Weeks (Shabuoth), is linked by the count of time to the day for offering the firstfruits of the barley harvest. That offering was made on Nisan 16, the third day from Passover. (Lev. 23:9-17) When, on Nisan 16, the high priest waved to and fro the “sheaf of the firstfruits of [Israel’s] harvest” of barley, no leaven was offered along with it. Two tenths of an ephah of fine flour moistened with oil was offered along with the fourth of a hin measure of wine, but no leaven. (Lev. 23:13) In fact, this ceremony fell within the seven-day festival of the unleavened bread, during all of which time no leaven was to be around or to be eaten. Why, now, was there an absence of leaven at this ceremony on Nisan 16 whereas on the related festival of Pentecost there was the presence of leaven?
30. (a) If leaven typified something righteous, then what would its absence on the day of offering the barley firstfruits indicate? (b) What did the sheaf of the firstfruits of the barley harvest typify?
30 If leaven were to be regarded as a favorable symbol because God accepted it on the day of Pentecost, why was it not permitted in the offerings that were made along with the waving of the sheaf of the firstfruits of the barley harvest? If the leaven were a symbol in a good sense, then would not the absence of leaven indicate that there was something good missing at the offering of the sheaf of barley by the high priest? Yes, it would typify that in the fulfillment of this prophetic picture there would be absent some virtue or some “grace of the holy spirit.” But is that actually the case? For an answer we have to consider what was typified by the sheaf of the firstfruits of the barley harvest. It is no one else but the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ himself.—1 Cor. 15:20.
31. (a) On what day was Jesus resurrected, and why then? (b) What did there being no leaven permitted on that day in Israel picture about Christ’s resurrection?
31 In harmony with that fact, Jesus Christ was raised from the dead on Sunday, Nisan 16, 33 C.E., in the midst of the week-long festival of the unleavened bread or cakes. Certainly at his glorious resurrection he was not missing out on something good, some virtue or “grace of the holy spirit,” a fact that would be pictured if the missing leaven were to be viewed as a favorable symbol, as a so-called ‘leaven of righteousness.’ To the very contrary of that, the absence of leaven on Nisan 16 at the waving of the sheaf of the firstfruits of the barley harvest typified that Jesus Christ was resurrected as a perfect, righteous, sinless spirit person. At his resurrection he was, as 1 Timothy 3:16 says, “declared righteous in spirit.” There was no symbolical “leaven” about him.
32. (a) What did Jesus say about the loaf that he broke when instituting the Lord’s Supper? (b) Hence what did the unleavened quality of that loaf there symbolize?
32 Related to this, there is this fact: Nisan 16, the day when the firstfruits of the barley harvest were presented to Jehovah God, was the third day from Passover. After Jesus Christ celebrated the Passover supper on Nisan 14, 33 C.E., he took a loaf of unleavened bread and broke it and said to his faithful apostles: “Take, eat. This means my body.” (Matt. 26:26) Since there was no leaven in the loaf used, does this mean that, by reasoning on the basis that leaven is a good symbol, Jesus’ fleshly body lacked something vital, lacked righteousness, lacked some “grace of the holy spirit”? Absolutely not! The unleavened quality of the loaf that Jesus said typified his body pictured that Jesus’ fleshly body was free from all sin and imperfection.—Heb. 7:26.
33. So, then, how do the Holy Scriptures use leaven in the way of a symbol, and what witnesses do we have in support of this?
33 In agreement with all the foregoing, the issues of the Watch Tower magazine for May 15, 1900, and June 15, 1910, were correct in saying that, as a symbol, leaven or sour dough is used throughout the Scriptures in an unfavorable sense or on the negative side. From the Bible’s very first mention of leaven or sour dough, in Exodus 12:15-20; 13:7, down to the last mention in Galatians 5:9, the Holy Scriptures have used leaven as a symbol of what is bad. If we need witnesses to that fact, we have at least TWO witnesses to testify to the fact that the Bible unvaryingly uses leaven to symbolize something bad, unrighteousness, error, sin. Jesus referred to the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod. (Matt. 16:6-12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1) The apostle Paul warns against the leaven that leavens the whole lump or mass. He refers to the typical festival of unleavened bread and clearly defines what leaven symbolizes, for he says: “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 Cor. 5:6-8; see Deuteronomy 17:6, 7; 19:15; 1 Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 10:28.*
34. Accordingly, what does the parable of the leaven illustrate?
34 In the face of this, Jesus did not make an exception with regard to the meaning of leaven when he gave the parable of the woman who hid a bit of leaven in three large measures of flour. In his consistency of teaching, he there used leaven to symbolize something unfavorable. So the parable must illustrate something unfavorable about matters having to do with the “kingdom of the heavens.” There the leavening of the big batch of dough pictures prophetically the corrupting of the professed Christian congregation with Babylonish error of teaching and practice. It pictures the symbolic leavening of what is illustrated by the full-grown mustard plant. Appropriately, then, both Matthew and Luke put the parable of the leaven right alongside the parable of the mustard grain, and Luke does so right after a stinging rebuke of hypocritical religionists.—Luke 13:10-21.
See pages 206-209 of the book Man’s Salvation out of World Distress at Hand! published in 1975.
Page 230, lines 12-14, says: “Hence they were leavened, because Israel’s public thank-offerings, even the most holy, are leavened by imperfectness and sin, and they need a sin-offering.”
In correspondency with the foregoing, we read in the book Biblical Commentary on The Old Testament, by Keil and Delitzsch, (Volume II - The Pentateuch) and under the subheading (page 437) entitled “Sanctification of the Sabbath and the Feasts of Jehovah.—Chap. XXIII,” and in lines 16-34 of page 443, the following:
“‘ . . . Ver. 20. The priest shall wave them (the two lambs of the peace-offerings), together with the loaves of the first-fruits, as a wave-offering before Jehovah; with the two lambs (the two just mentioned), they (the loaves) shall be holy to Jehovah for the priest. ‘. . . The sin-offering was to excite the feeling and consciousness of sin on the part of the congregation of Israel, that whilst eating their daily leavened bread they might not serve the leaven of their old nature, but seek and implore from the Lord their God the forgiveness and cleansing away of their sin.”
In the 1971 edition of Encyclopædia Judaica, Volume 7, we find, in columns 1235-1237, an article entitled “Hamez . . . ‘fermented dough’.” In column 1237, under the heading “Leaven in Jewish Thought,” we read the following:
“Leaven is regarded as the symbol of corruption and impurity. The ‘yeast in the dough’ is one of the things which ‘prevents us from performing the will of God’ (Ber. 17a). The idea was greatly developed in the Kabbalah. The New Testament also refers to ‘the leaven of malice and wickedness’ which is contrasted with ‘the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’ (1 Cor. 5:8). Similarly the word is applied to what was regarded as the corrupt doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt. 16:12; Mark 8:15).
“It was applied particularly to the admixture of elements of impure descent in a family. (Fermented) ‘dough’ was contrasted in this context with ‘pure sifted flour.’ . . .”