Christendom’s “Holy Place” Soon to Be Desolated
THE destruction of religious buildings during wars, earthquakes, storms or the like comes as a great shock to many religious people. And even persons who may not view the ruined structures as sacred may be saddened by the fact that impressive works of art have been destroyed. How great, then, would be the shock if all of Christendom’s sacred edifices were suddenly to come to nothing! Surprising as that may seem, the Bible indicates that this will soon occur.
This future event had a historical parallel in the first century C.E. At that time Jerusalem and its glorious temple were utterly destroyed. No longer could Aaronic priests sacrifice at the altar. Gone, too, were the records on the basis of which a man might establish his descent from Aaron and claim a legitimate right to serve as priest. The Jewish system of things that had existed for centuries definitely ended. Since the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century C.E., the Jews have been unable to carry out their worship in the manner set forth in the Mosaic law.
Jesus Christ, the greatest prophet ever to walk the earth, foretold this startling development. Regarding what would befall Jerusalem, he said: “They will not leave a stone upon a stone in you.” (Luke 19:44) Another time, with reference to the temple, Jesus noted: “By no means will a stone be left here upon a stone and not be thrown down.”—Matt. 24:2.
So that his disciples might escape that terrible calamity, Jesus Christ gave this admonition: “When you catch sight of the disgusting thing that causes desolation, as spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in a holy place, (let the reader use discernment,) then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains.”—Matt. 24:15, 16.
It was in 66 C.E. that Jesus’ words could first be acted upon. In that year the Roman armies under Cestius Gallus stood in a “holy place,” that is, Jerusalem and its environs. (Compare Matthew 4:5; 27:53.) The Roman armies got into the city itself and even began undermining the temple wall—an act that meant assailing what the Jews considered to be very “holy.” Actually, Jerusalem and its temple had already lost a sacred standing with God. As Jesus Christ had said earlier: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her—how often I wanted to gather your children together in the manner that a hen gathers her brood of chicks under her wings, but you people did not want it! Look! Your house is abandoned to you.”—Luke 13:34, 35.
Yet, to the Jewish people Jerusalem still was a “holy place.” The presence of the Roman armies in this “holy place” was, therefore, disgusting. Furthermore, the Roman armies were not acting out of any love for the true God in coming against Jerusalem. Rightly, then, the Roman armies were prophetically designated as the “disgusting thing.”
A FUTURE FULFILLMENT IN OUR DAY
The prophecy involving ancient Jerusalem is not limited to the time when the Roman armies came against the city and then withdrew, enabling Christianized Jews to flee to the mountains before the ‘disgusting desolator’ returned and destroyed the city in 70 C.E. A consideration of the rest of Jesus’ words (in Matthew chapter 24) reveals that they have a future application, for he spoke about his coming “with power and great glory.” The effect of that coming would be to cause “all the tribes of the earth” to beat themselves in bitter lamentation due to the calamitous results of having failed to submit to him as King. (Matt. 24:30) Such a thing did not happen in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E.
Hence, what befell ancient Jerusalem must have been prophetic of a far greater tribulation to come upon the entire human system of things, causing those who are adversely affected thereby to give way to bitter lamentation. That coming tribulation will, in the fullest sense, fit Jesus’ description: “There will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.”—Matt. 24:21.
Accordingly, ancient Jerusalem must have a modern counterpart. What might that be? The city of Jerusalem had a sacred status because of its being the religious center of a people who claimed to be in a covenant relationship with God. So the modern counterpart must likewise claim to enjoy a covenant relationship with the Most High. Do not the religious systems of Christendom claim to be Christian and, hence, parties with God in the “new covenant”? (Heb. 9:15) But does not their course of action reveal that they, like unfaithful Jerusalem, are false to their claim?
Christendom has made herself a friend of the world. She has willingly participated in the world’s wars and in its corrupt politics. God therefore views her as unclean. The Bible says: “Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” (Jas. 4:4) Accordingly, Christendom is a part of the worldwide religious system that is spoken of in Scripture as a “harlot,” “Babylon the Great.” (Rev. 17:1-5) But what is Christendom’s “holy place”?
CHRISTENDOM’S “HOLY PLACE”
This is a symbolic place representing everything that the religions of Christendom control and hold sacred—their whole field of operation and claimed religious rights. Christendom’s clergymen have considered themselves to be God’s special representatives toward the people and, hence, entitled to the treatment of a privileged class, exempt from duties and responsibilities to which the rest of the population may be subject. Contrary to Jesus’ admonition not to take to themselves such titles as “Rabbi,” “Leader” and “Father,” they regard it as their right to be addressed as “Father,” “Reverend” and the like. (Matt. 23:8-10) The religious systems of Christendom have constructed magnificent buildings throughout the earth. They have also amassed great wealth in other forms. In many lands, these vast holdings are, by reason of their claimed sacred status, exempt from the assessments and taxes imposed upon businesses in general.
Christendom’s “holy place,” however, will soon be invaded and destroyed. It is no more sacred in the eyes of God than were Jerusalem and her temple prior to their destruction in 70 C.E. The religions of Christendom will be deprived of their field of operation, losing control of everything. No respect will be shown for any of their claimed religious rights. Who or what will be the ‘disgusting desolator’ that will soon take a stand in Christendom’s “holy place” and bring it to ruin?
THE DISGUSTING DESOLATOR
The Bible points to an organization reflecting the flaws and weaknesses of the entire present-day political system. This organization is spoken of as being the “image of the wild beast” and is itself referred to as a “scarlet-colored wild beast.” (Rev. 13:15; 17:3) The “wild beast” of which the “scarlet-colored wild beast” is the “image” is described in Scripture as being “like a leopard,” having feet “as those of a bear” and a mouth “as a lion’s mouth.” (Rev. 13:2) By comparing this description with what is stated at Daniel 7:3-7, 17-23, we can see that the “wild beast” is a combination of beasts, such as those mentioned in the book of Daniel. Those beasts are specifically identified as kings or kingdoms.
Therefore, the “wild beast” out of the “sea” must represent the global political system made up of the “kings” or ruling powers on earth. It is said to have “ten horns and seven heads, and upon its horns ten diadems, but upon its heads blasphemous names.” (Rev. 13:1) So it is Satan’s agelong political organization that has always blasphemed the true God.
The identification of the “wild beast” provides the key for determining the identity of its “image.” What organization today is the “image” or reflection of the worldwide political system? Is it not the United Nations organization? Does not that organization mirror the flaws and imperfections of the world’s political system?
The Bible speaks of a harlot, “Babylon the Great,” as riding on the back of the “scarlet-colored wild beast,” or the political “image” of the “wild beast,” that is, the United Nations of today. When the United Nations organization came into existence, “Babylon the Great,” of which the religions of Christendom are a dominant part, gave her support to it, viewing it as man’s only hope for peace and security. She looked to that organization to prevent conflicts that could result in her annihilation. In this way the United Nations organization has proved to be like a mount under her. She has depended upon it as does a rider upon his horse.
“Babylon the Great,” however, will experience bitter disappointment. She will become an object of hatred. With reference to what the “scarlet-colored wild beast” will do to her, Revelation 17:16 says: “The ten horns that you saw, and the wild beast, these 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.”
According to Revelation 17:12, the “ten horns” are “ten kings.” Ten being a number of completeness in the symbolic language of the Bible (comparable to ten toes and ten fingers), a complete number of earthly rulers, not a minority, will turn against the religions of Christendom and the rest of “Babylon the Great.” But not just the symbolic “ten kings” will take such aggressive action. The entire organization represented by the “scarlet-colored wild beast” (the United Nations) will do so.
In acting against Christendom’s religions, the ‘desolator’ will not be acting out of any love for God. But God will maneuver it to serve his purpose in destroying religions that are “Christian” in name only. The motivations of the desolator will be totally selfish. It has utter contempt for Christendom’s church systems. But since these religious organizations claim to represent the true God, the desolator will act also in hatred against the One whom they pretend to serve. This vicious, beastly attitude against God and its ‘blaspheming’ his name make the desolator a “disgusting thing” from Jehovah’s viewpoint.
The very fact that “Babylon the Great” and the “disgusting thing” can be identified shows that there is no time to lose in getting out of Christendom’s religious organizations. This is not a flight to another geographical location, as in the first century C.E. “Babylon the Great” is not confined to one geographic location but is a worldwide religious empire. Hence, fleeing from the religious systems of Christendom means severing all connections with them and identifying oneself as being a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
No one should delay his flight until the “disgusting thing” actually starts to invade Christendom’s “holy place.” There being no necessity to flee to another geographical location, a person should not expect a historical development corresponding to the Roman armies’ abandoning the siege of Jerusalem in 66 C.E. The appearance of the Roman armies and their withdrawal positively identified the “disgusting thing” and enabled Christianized Jews to act in harmony with Jesus’ admonition to flee.
Today, once a person has identified Christendom’s religious systems as part of “Babylon the Great” and recognizes that the “disgusting thing” is about to stand in her “holy place,” he should act on the command found at Revelation 18:4: “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues.”
Is this what you have done? If not, do not delay. Christendom’s holy place—her field of operation and her claimed religious rights—is soon to be desolated.
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The destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by the Roman armies in 70 C.E. was prophetic of a greater tribulation soon to come upon Christendom