The “Cup” That All Nations Must Drink at God’s Hand
1. In view of the foreboding future, what question are we driven to ask about the potion held out to mankind to drink?
WHAT a foreboding appearance the state of world affairs has taken on in our generation! According to what informed persons are saying about the trend of world affairs, the so-called “destiny of the nations” is nothing pleasant to contemplate. It is certain to be a bitter potion for humankind to drink. In the face of continual failure of desperate human efforts to stave off world catastrophe, we feel driven to ask, Does some Higher Intelligence, yes, God, have a hand in the matter?
2. How do the heading of Psalm 75 and its seventh and eighth verses set forth something significant for us today?
2 Here the significant statement in an old song comes to mind. According to the heading of the song, it was to be sung to the melody entitled “Do Not Bring to Ruin.” The nation of Israel to which the song composer belonged did not go down to permanent ruin along with neighboring nations, but, under Divine Providence, it arose again. Thus we have a song well suited for our times, the seventh and eighth verses of which now interest us, because they say: “For God is the judge. This one he abases, and that one he exalts. For there is a cup in the hand of Jehovah, and the wine is foaming, it is full of mixture. And surely its dregs will be poured out from it; all the wicked ones of the earth will drain them out, drink them.”—Ps. 75:7, 8 and superscription; see also The Jerusalem Bible.
3. According to the potion that the nations are forced to drink, Jehovah judges them as being what, and how can we escape from drinking along with them?
3 The “cup” from which all the nations will drink in the oncoming future contains the bitterest potion that they will ever have drunk. The lessons that we can draw from history ancient and modern indicate that. The fact that all the nations are bound to drink such a gagging potion makes it certain that God, the “King of the nations,” judges them to be “wicked.” (Ps. 75:8; Jer. 10:7) So, at his hand, they will be forced to drink the very dregs out of the “cup” of the foaming, heavily spiced wine. But what about us who hope for a future that turns out happy? How can we escape from drinking along with the doomed nations that death-dealing potion out of the “cup”? Logically, we need to listen to whatever counsel is given by the One who will hold out that “cup” to the nations at his due time and then act promptly in line with that counsel. Will we do so?
4. The threatening situation of Jeremiah’s day affected what land area?
4 The world situation today resembles that in which more than 20 nations found themselves during the final years of Jeremiah. The part of the earth then affected was the land bridge between Africa, Asia and Europe. Today in that area we find the oil-producing nations of the Middle East. This is still a “hot spot” like in Jeremiah’s time.
5. How is the prophecy of Jeremiah, chapter 25, dated for us?
5 Away back there an individual whom the world might call “a man of destiny” stepped onto the world stage. His long name, Nebuchadnezzar, means “Nebo Is the Protector Against Misfortune [or, of the boundary].” This fateful man, the son of Nabopolassar, became emperor of Babylon in 625 B.C.E. In that same year a portentous prophecy was given about him. It was given, not by an astrologer in that ancient homeland of the stargazers, but by the Creator of the stars, Jehovah, the God of the prophet Jeremiah. The prophecy is dated for us in Jeremiah 25:1, 2:“The word that occurred to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, the king of Judah, that is, the first year of Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon; which Jeremiah the prophet spoke concerning all the people of Judah and concerning all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” The fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign fell in 625 B.C.E.
6. What background did the prophecy of Jeremiah 25:8-14 give for the vision of the baskets of figs?
6 This prophecy was really eight years ahead of Jeremiah’s vision of the baskets of figs at the temple in Jerusalem. (Jer. 24:1-3) What background did this prior prophecy give to that vision, and what did it say?
“Therefore this is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘“For the reason that you did not obey my words, here I am sending and I will take all the families of the north,” is the utterance of Jehovah, “even sending to Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and against its inhabitants and against all these nations round about; and I will devote them to destruction and make them an object of astonishment and something to whistle at and places devastated to time indefinite. And I will destroy out of them the sound of exultation and the sound of rejoicing, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the hand mill and the light of the lamp. And all this land must become a devastated place, an object of astonishment, and these nations will have to serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”’
“‘And it must occur that when seventy years have been fulfilled I shall call to account against the king of Babylon and against that nation,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘their error, even against the land of the Chaldeans, and I will make it desolate wastes to time indefinite. And I will bring in upon that land all my words that I have spoken against it, even all that is written in this book that Jeremiah has prophesied against all the nations. For even they themselves, many nations and great kings, have exploited them as servants; and I will repay them according to their activity and according to the work of their hands.’”—Jer. 25:8-14.
“NEBUCHADREZZAR THE KING OF BABYLON, MY SERVANT”
7. Whose name deserves to be feared today like that of Nebuchadnezzar, and when will the nations fear it?
7 Today is the name of any man feared by all the nations just as the name Nebuchadnezzar was feared internationally back there, from and after the 23rd year of Jeremiah’s prophesying? (Jer. 25:3) No! No man of this 20th century will go down in modern history as being like ancient King Nebuchadnezzar. True, in Romans 13:1, 6, the apostle Paul says that law-abiding Christians pay their taxes to the “superior authorities” because these “are God’s public servants [Greek, leitourgoi] constantly serving this very purpose.” But no single politician today could be prophetically called by Jehovah God “my servant.” (Jer. 25:9; 27:6) The only person that can be called “servant” in fulfillment of this prophecy through Jeremiah is Jehovah’s greatest servant in all the universe. This one is his now highly exalted Son, Jesus Christ, to whom he has given a name higher than that of any other creature in heaven and on earth. (Isa. 42:1; Phil. 2:5-11) Although worldly rulers do not today fear him like Nebuchadnezzar, they will do so in the coming “war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Har–Magedon.—Rev. 16:13-16.
8. Why did Jehovah call Nebuchadnezzar “my servant,” and what in connection with him is to be regarded as a type that concerns us today?
8 Why did Jehovah call King Nebuchadnezzar “my servant”? Because He used him to punish the people of Judah for their refusal to listen to His prophets. Punishment through this king of Babylon also extended to the neighboring countries that maliciously exploited Jehovah’s people out of contempt for Him. This does not mean, however, that Nebuchadnezzar was a type of Jesus Christ, who worshiped Jehovah alone as God. Rather, it is the executional work that Nebuchadnezzar performed for Jehovah upon the guilty nations that is typical. It prefigures the world-conquering work that Jesus Christ as Jehovah’s Chief Executional Officer carries out during the approaching “great tribulation,” in which all the enemy nations will be reduced to dust under the feet of Jehovah’s topmost Servant. Thus these nations (including those of Christendom) are the modern counterpart of those ancient nations that fell before the Babylonian World Power. That is why the matter is of most serious concern to us today.
9. What other time period began with the start of the “seventy years” of complete desolation of Judah, and how was that time period never broken up?
9 The Babylonian military steamroller brought about the desolation of the land of the kingdom of Judah for 70 years. (Jer. 25:11, 12; 29:10; Dan. 9:1, 2; 2 Chron. 36:17-21) That complete desolation of the land of Judah and Jerusalem for seven decades began in the autumn month of Tishri of 607 B.C.E. With that tragic event the far more tragic year of 1914 C.E. is connected. How so? Because in the autumn of that year the “seven times” of the Gentile nations that began with Judah’s desolation in 607 B.C.E. terminated their run of 2,520 years. (Luke 21:24; Dan. 4:16, 23, 25, 32) Those “appointed times of the [Gentile] nations,” or Gentile Times, spanned the time period during which the Universal Sovereign Jehovah permitted the Gentile nations to exercise world domination on earth without interference by his Messianic kingdom. After Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E., the typical kingdom of God on earth was never restored to earthly Jerusalem, in the hands of David’s royal family, so as not to break up complete domination of the earth by Gentile world powers.
10. Although Cyrus overthrew the dynasty of Nebuchadnezzar in 539 B.C.E., how did Judah and the other nations serve the king of Babylon 70 years?
10 The Persian conqueror of Babylon, Cyrus the Great, did not restore the kingdom of the family of David to Jerusalem. It is true that he conquered Gentile Babylon in 539 B.C.E., or about two years before the “seventy years” of desolation of the land of Judah ran out. He proclaimed himself “king of Babylon” and at first did not alter the policy of the Babylonian dynasty of King Nebuchadnezzar. Thus the nations subjugated by Nebuchadnezzar continued to serve “the king of Babylon” 70 years. First in the 70th year of the desolation of Judah did Cyrus the Great release the exiled Jews from their direct servitude to the king of Babylon and let them return home to rebuild their desolated country and their national capital Jerusalem and its temple. (Ezra 1:1 through 3:2) In this way Jehovah called to the account of the Babylonians “their error” that they had committed against the God of Israel.—Jer. 25:12.
HANDING OUT THE “CUP” INTERNATIONALLY
11. Because of what developments in the heavens have things here on earth not been the same since 1914 C.E.?
11 Now that the Gentile Times ended in 1914, we know that the day for Jehovah to hold an accounting with the Gentile nations for “their error” must be very near. Never has the world been the same since 1914. Secular historians cannot explain the reason for this. But the reason simply is that about October 4/5, 1914, or 2,520 years from the desolating of Judah and Jerusalem after the Babylonian conquest, the Gentile Times of uninterrupted world domination ended. Jehovah God did not then set up at earthly Jerusalem “Jehovah’s throne” for an earthly heir of King David to occupy it, thus reviving the typical earthly kingdom of God. (1 Chron. 29:23) Instead, since the “kingdom of the world” had now become the kingdom of the Lord God, Jehovah caused the birth of his kingdom from his heavenly organization and seated his Son, Jesus Christ the Heir of David, at his right hand on the celestial throne. (Rev. 11:15; 12:1-5) Since then this royal descendant of King David has joined Jehovah God in world rule amidst his enemies before he tramples them to death.
12. How has the Jeremiah class been handing out the “cup” to the nations?
12 In consequence of this, there remains a “cup” for the Gentile nations to drink at God’s hand. Especially since the year 1919 the Jeremiah class has been calling the attention of the nations to this “cup.” By giving the nations such advance notice, the Jeremiah class has been figuratively handing out Jehovah’s cup to the nations. This was prophetically pictured in Jeremiah, chapter 25. There the prophet said:
“For this is what Jehovah the God of Israel said to me: ‘Take this cup of the wine of rage out of my hand, and you must make all the nations to whom I am sending you drink it. And they must drink and shake back and forth and act like crazed men because of the sword that I am sending among them.’
“And I proceeded to take the cup out of the hand of Jehovah and to make all the nations drink to whom Jehovah had sent me: namely, Jerusalem and the cities of Judah and her kings, her princes, to make them [the cities] a devastated place, an object of astonishment, something to whistle at and a malediction, just as at this day.”—Jer. 25:15-18.
13. What was the “sword” that Jehovah was to send among all the nations?
13 What was the “sword” that Jehovah was to send among all the nations that are listed in Jeremiah 25:18-26? It was the war of conquest that he permitted his “servant,” Nebuchadnezzar, to wage against all those nations.
14. At what did the “sword” strike first, and what kings did this affect, and how?
14 The symbolic “sword” struck first at Jehovah’s typical kingdom in the land of Judah. (Jer. 25:29) The “kings” of Jerusalem who felt the “sword” strokes were (1) Jehoiakim the son of Josiah; (2) Jehoiachin (Jeconiah) the son of Jehoiakim; and (3) Zedekiah the son of Josiah and uncle of Jehoiachin. The first stroke, inflicted upon King Jehoiakim in 620 B.C.E., four years after Jeremiah’s prophecy about the “sword” and the “cup,” made him a sworn vassal king under Nebuchadnezzar. The second sword stroke was inflicted in 617 B.C.E. and removed young Jehoiachin from his kingship over Jerusalem and put him in exile in Babylon. The third and final stroke destroyed Jerusalem and its temple in 607 B.C.E. and deported the oath-breaking King Zedekiah to Babylon to die there as a sightless, sonless prisoner. By the middle of the lunar month Tishri of 607 B.C.E., Jerusalem and the cities of Judah became desolate.
15. Who also were to drink the “cup” at Jehovah’s hand, and who last of all of these?
15 Jerusalem was not to be alone in drinking a bitter potion from God. In Jeremiah 25:19-26 the prophet names more than 20 kings or kingdoms to which he hands Jehovah’s “cup of the wine of rage.” He starts with Pharaoh of Egypt and his servants and goes down the list of national rulers and ends up by saying: “And the king of Sheshach himself will drink after them.” Students regard “Sheshach” as the cryptic name for Babel (Babylon). Its doomed king proved to be the last one of Nebuchadnezzar’s dynasty, namely, Nabonidus, along with his coregent son Belshazzar. This Belshazzar was made to drink Jehovah’s “cup” in 539 B.C.E., when he was killed after Babylon’s fall to Cyrus the Persian. By using the cryptogram Sheshach, Jeremiah avoided mentioning Babylon directly at that time.
16. How might some refuse to drink the “cup,” but what was Jeremiah to say?
16 Some of the kingdoms mentioned may have put up a resistance to the aggressive Nebuchadnezzar in order to keep Jehovah’s decree from being carried out. But for their instruction the prophet Jeremiah was told to say: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said: ‘You will drink without fail. For, look! it is upon the city [Jerusalem] upon which my name is called that I am starting off in bringing calamity, and should you yourselves in any way go free of punishment?’” Answering his own question, Jehovah says: “‘You will not go free of punishment, for there is a sword [of Babylonian military conquest] that I am calling against all the inhabitants of the earth,’ is the utterance of Jehovah of armies.”—Jer. 25:28, 29.
17. How have the nations shown their refusal to drink the “cup,” but how effective has this been?
17 Since the year 1919 C.E. nations have refused to drink the symbolic “cup” of Jehovah’s message of divine rage at the hand of the Jeremiah class. So they have taken action against Jehovah’s Witnesses, both the Jeremiah class and a “great crowd” of cooperating companions, even banning them and the free distribution of their printed Bible messages. But all of this in vain! Moved by Jehovah’s spirit, his obedient witnesses carry on their meetings and Kingdom preaching underground. They thus obey God rather than men who resist God. (Acts 4:19; 5:29) In the not distant future such political resisters will learn that driving Jehovah’s Witnesses underground will never prevent worldly rulers from drinking the “cup” at God’s own hand in “the war of the great day of God the Almighty” at the place symbolically called Har–Magedon.—Rev. 16:13-16.
18. For whom will that day be a “great” one, and so what do the Jeremiah class refuse to do?
18 That day will be “great” for Jehovah. It will be a joyful occasion for him, because then he will fight for the cause of his universal sovereignty. As Commander-in-Chief, he will send his own world-conquering Son Jesus Christ into battle, to gain a victory that far exceeds any victory won by ancient King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. (Rev. 19:11-21) This will give Jehovah cause for shouting more exultingly than the joyful treaders of the winepress do as they prepare the wine that will gladden the heart of both God and man. (Rev. 19:11-15; Judg. 9:12, 13) The Jeremiah class are certain about Jehovah’s victory at Har–Magedon. So they refuse to keep still about this coming vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty, even though the rulers of worldly nations are displeased at such a bitter potion.
19. Courageously the Jeremiah class publish how much of what Jehovah tells them?
19 Courageously the Jeremiah class of today obey the command given to the prophet back there in the first year of the reign of Emperor Nebuchadnezzar over Babylon: “And as for you [Jeremiah], you will prophesy to them all these words, and you must say to them, ‘From on high Jehovah himself will roar, and from his holy dwelling he will give forth his voice. Without fail he will roar upon his abiding place. A shout like that of those treading the winepress he will sing out against all the inhabitants of the earth.’”—Jer. 25:30.
THE POTION THAT MAKES NATIONS ACT “LIKE CRAZED MEN”
20. Should the Jeremiah class be called ‘mere calamity howlers’ because of what Jehovah’s victory will mean for the nations?
20 Jehovah’s victory shout will resound throughout heaven and earth. The Jeremiah class and their companions keep pointing ahead to this, although victory for Jehovah means calamity for all nations. Should the Jeremiah class therefore be called ‘mere calamity howlers’? No! Otherwise, Jehovah God, who gives them their message, should also be called a calamity howler. In merciful warning he says: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘Look! A calamity is going forth from nation to nation, and a great tempest itself will be roused up from the remotest parts of the earth. And those slain by Jehovah will certainly come to be in that day from one end of the earth clear to the other end of the earth. They will not be bewailed, neither will they be gathered up or be buried. As manure on the surface of the ground they will become.’”—Jer. 25:32, 33.
21. Why could Jehovah rightly take the responsibility for those slain because of Nebuchadnezzar’s expansion of the empire?
21 In such language Jehovah foretold Nebuchadnezzar’s march to victory over the nations that were to be absorbed into the Babylonian Empire. So he would let Nebuchadnezzar sweep from nation to nation, putting down all resistance by the executional sword that Jehovah put in his hand. On this account Jehovah took the responsibility for those slain by the Babylonian conquerors. He himself called these victims of Babylonian aggression “those slain by Jehovah.” He was the One who made the nations drink from the “cup” the potion that made them act “like crazed men.” Whether men credit it to Jehovah God or not, secular history exists in abundance to show that King Nebuchadnezzar expanded the Babylonian Empire over an area greater than that of previous world powers. Jehovah must have had something to do with that, for, in the very first year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, He foretold such an expansion of the Babylonian Empire.—Jer. 25:1, 2; 32:1, 2; 52:29; 2 Ki. 25:8; Jer. 52:12; Dan. 2:37, 38; 4:20-25.
22. Why should we not want to be among those slain by Jehovah in the coming “great tribulation”?
22 What, now, about “those slain by Jehovah” in the approaching “great tribulation” that will culminate in the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Har–Magedon? Do we want to be among them? No! For to be slain by him then would mean the judicial execution of us by him.
23. How was it typically shown which section of this system of things would go down first in the “great tribulation,” and why it first?
23 At the outbreak of the “great tribulation” all the doomed nations will be lined up against the God of the Jeremiah class. That lineup will include the nations of Christendom, for they are among the opposers and persecutors of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Christendom will be the first part of this system of things to go down, for she is the modern-day counterpart of the apostate kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem. To typify that, the kingdom of Judah was made the first to drink the “cup” that contained “the wine of rage.” Jehovah said that it was with “the city upon which [his] name is called” that he would start off in bringing the international calamity. (Jer. 25:29) Unchristlike Christendom is the most accountable religious section before God and Christ, and so from her the world calamity would go, as in a chain reaction. It will be a symbolic “tempest” that no seed-sowing of the clouds from airplanes can dissolve.
24. The tempest’s being roused up “from the remotest parts of the earth” indicates what, and how many victims will there be?
24 “From the remotest parts of the earth” this symbolic “tempest” is to come, for it will be roused up from outside the realm of the doomed nations. (Jer. 6:22) In the modern fulfillment, this means, really, from an invisible, heavenly Source, so that it will be indeed “an act of God.” Sweeping around the whole globe, just as the deluge of Noah’s day flooded the whole earth, it will, without fail, pile up the “tempest” victims from one end of the earth to the other. How could the surviving Jeremiah class and the “great crowd” of their companions ever bury them all? Jehovah will need to use his powers to dispose of the carcasses.—Rev. 19:11-21.
25. In view of Jeremiah 25:34-38 what kind of “howlers” is it better to be?
25 In that “day of vengeance on the part of our God,” it will be better to have been among those whom ridiculers called “calamity howlers” than among those who will howl because of the “great tribulation.” (Isa. 61:2; Rev. 7:14, 15; Matt. 24:21-30) “Howl, you shepherds, and cry out!” says Jehovah through Jeremiah. “And wallow about, you majestic ones of the flock, because your days for slaughtering and for your scatterings have been fulfilled, and you must fall like a desirable vessel! And a place to flee to has perished from the shepherds, and a means of escape from the majestic ones of the flock. Listen! The outcry of the shepherds, and the howling of the majestic ones of the flock, for Jehovah is despoiling their pasturage. And the peaceful abiding places have been rendered lifeless because of the burning anger of Jehovah. He has left his covert just like a maned young lion, for their land has become an object of astonishment because of the maltreating sword and because of his burning anger.”—Jer. 25:34-38.
26. In that prophecy, who are the “shepherds” and the “majestic ones of the flock”?
26 Does that prophecy make us think of clergymen who have been called pastors or spiritual shepherds and of their church congregations who have been called “flocks”? Likely so, but Jehovah is not here addressing himself to the religious leaders of the nations. In the Hebrew Scriptures the governmental rulers are spoken of as shepherds and their peoples or subjects are called their flocks. So “the majestic ones of the flock” would be the princes or the royally favored ones of the national flock. This must be the case in Jeremiah 25:34-38, for where in the whole chapter is there any mention of priests and Levites? Those to whom Jeremiah is ordered to hand Jehovah’s “cup” are described as “kings,” “princes,” and “kingdoms.” (Jer. 25:18-26) The approaching world “calamity” and “tempest” will strike, not just the clergy and other religious leaders, but also, finally, the political governmental elements of this system of things.
27. What representative of Sheshach is to drink the “cup” last of all?
27 So it is “the king of Sheshach” who will drink the “cup” after them all. The prophecy set out in Jeremiah 51:41 speaks of this as though already accomplished, saying: “O how Sheshach has been captured, and how the Praise of the whole earth gets to be seized! How Babylon has become a mere object of astonishment among the nations!”—Jer. 25:26; 27:7.
28. For whom are the “shepherds” and the “majestic ones” more concerned, and how is their pasturage despoiled?
28 For mere selfish reasons those political “shepherds” and “majestic ones” will “howl,” yes, roll about on the ground. As the Sovereign Lord Jehovah calls them to account during the “great tribulation,” they will grimly realize that the day has come for them to be slaughtered and scattered. If there was a way of escape or a place of refuge to which to flee, they might not feel so disposed to “howl.” They do not care so much about what happens to the national “flock,” but are more concerned about being executed themselves. Their fat-paying jobs and high position must go! Their “pasturage,” the system of things by means of which they exploited their national flocks, gets despoiled, ruined. What was previously so “peaceful” an abiding place for them to enjoy living with profit to themselves—it has been rendered lifeless. The silence of death settles down over the enclosures for their “flocks.”
29. How will Jehovah then be like a maned young lion, and to what effect will the “sword” be wielded?
29 To produce such a worldwide “object of astonishment” Jehovah’s anger must be burning very hotly. Never could he be then like a river-valley lion forced out of his lair by the flooding waters of the Jordan River. No, but “Jehovah of armies” must then be like a bold lion leaving his “covert” on the offensive despite the sheepherders of the pasturelands. By means of his Son-Servant, Jesus Christ, he wields the “sword” of the “war of the great day of God the Almighty.” (Jer. 25:30, 38) From the lethal blows of his “maltreating sword” worldly shepherds and majestic ones will never recover!
30. By reason of what we hear by the ear of faith in Jehovah’s prophecy, what should we do now?
30 Listen! With the ear of faith in Jehovah’s prophecy, do you hear it growing louder and louder? Down through the sound-collecting corridors of this “time of the end” we hear coming, from the foretold future, the howling of all the national “shepherds,” along with the pained outcries of “the majestic ones” of the flock of sheeplike humans. What, then, shall we listeners do? This: While the way of escape is still open and while there is still one place of refuge to which to flee, let us act! Let us find our haven of security and preservation in Jehovah’s kingdom by his appointed Shepherd, Jesus Christ.—Ezek. 34:23, 24; Jer. 23:5, 6.
(This series of articles on Jeremiah’s prophecy will be resumed in the November 1 issue of The Watchtower.)
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Through the modern Jeremiah class, Jehovah mercifully warns of the coming global “tempest”