Divine Judgment Against the False Prophets of Christendom
1, 2. (a) To what temptation does the prophesying of good things to come without foundation for it expose us? (b) What is the highest question for settlement now, and what has pushed it to the fore?
NATURALLY we all like to hear prophecies or predictions of good things to come shortly, within our lifetime. This exposes us to a great temptation. We may like to accept some prediction as the truth because we like it, but not because there is a solid foundation for it or an authoritative source for it. This might induce us to take an action that would result in harm to us. This is particularly the case when our eternal future is involved. Such is the case NOW! Why is this so now?
2 The reason is that the highest question for settlement is now squarely before all mankind. That question is, Who shall rule the world? What has pushed this predominant issue to the fore is not the endless contest between the free-enterprise, capitalistic nations and the socialistic, Communistic nations. Rather, the proclamation that Jehovah’s Christian witnesses have made about His kingdom by Christ is the factor that has done so. That kingdom deserves to rule since the Gentile Times ended in 1914.
3. (a) So the peoples have been obliged to take a stand regarding what question? (b) Why should the Gentile nations yield their sovereignty to Jehovah?
3 The people who heard the Kingdom proclamation in some 190 languages world wide have simply been obliged to take a stand. Are they now for Jehovah’s rightful rule by Christ or not? This earth on which we live is the property of its Creator, not of us creatures. According to the count of time in the Creator’s book, the Bible, the time that he allotted for world domination by the earthly nations, including those of Christendom, expired in early autumn of 1914. How did He mark the end of such Gentile Times? By taking over his “great power” to rule as King and by associating his heavenly Son, Jesus Christ, in his world government from heaven. (Rev. 11:15-18) So his Son now reigns. (Ezek. 21:25-27) Now is the time for Gentile nations to yield their sovereignty to Jehovah.
4, 5. (a) What menace to the Middle East existed back in 614 B.C.E.? (b) By then what had happened to the holy utensils of Jerusalem’s temple, and how only could Hananiah’s prediction concerning them come true?
4 Back in 614 B.C.E. a like state of affairs obtained in the Kingdom of Judah. There was then a world menace! From where? From what God called “the families of the north.” This meant the Babylonian World Power, which would make an invasion into the Middle East by a northern route. (Jer. 1:13-15; 25:9, 26) The Middle East was already under the domination of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. This was particularly so since 620 B.C.E., when Jehoiakim of Jerusalem became a vassal king to Babylon. His brother Zedekiah proved to be the last vassal king of the holy city, Nebuchadnezzar putting him upon the throne after demanding his sworn allegiance. When Nebuchadnezzar left Jerusalem for home, he took the deposed king Jehoiachin and Jewish nobles into exile. He also carried off sacred utensils from Jehovah’s temple, putting these into houses of the false gods in Babylon. How long were those holy utensils and other valuables from despoiled Jerusalem to stay in Babylon? That question was hotly disputed in the fourth year of Zedekiah’s reign.
5 A false prophet named Hananiah the son of Azzur presumed to speak in Jehovah’s name and specified, “two full years.” That could be only if by then Babylon was overthrown and Egypt returned to world power. By Hananiah’s prediction against Babylon he was bolstering up those who favored an international uprising against Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Thus this was against Jehovah’s decree and counsel as already declared by Jeremiah.
6. According to Jeremiah 28:8, 9, how did Hananiah’s prophecy differ from that of the prophets prior to Jeremiah himself?
6 Since Hananiah was raising false hopes for the land of Judah, Jeremiah closed his words of reply before all the priests and the people at the temple by saying: “As regards the prophets that happened to be prior to me and prior to you from long ago, they also used to prophesy concerning many lands and concerning great kingdoms, of war and of calamity and of pestilence. As regards the prophet that prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet comes true the prophet whom Jehovah has sent in truth will become known.”—Jer. 28:1-9.
7. What did Jesus Christ foretell for our times since 1914, and what question regarding truthtellers has arisen today?
7 Jehovah’s greatest prophet, Jesus Christ, foretold war, famine, pestilence, earthquakes and other calamities for our times since 1914, all of this to climax in a “great tribulation” without equal in all previous human history. (Matt. 24:4-22) Today Jehovah’s Witnesses point out how Jesus’ prophecy has progressively come to fulfillment since 1914. He foretold no lasting peace for this world in the immediate future, within this generation. Whom, then, did Jehovah send and who are the ones that speak in his name, Christendom’s clergy who prophesy oppositely, or the Jeremiah class of today? Future events will identify the truthtellers.
8. After Jeremiah’s reply, what dramatic action did Hananiah take, and what time prophecy did he then make?
8 The false prophet Hananiah must have had confidence in the success of an international uprising against Jehovah’s “servant,” for he now took dramatic action:
He “took the yoke bar from off the neck of Jeremiah the prophet and broke it. And Hananiah went on to say before the eyes of all the people: ‘This is what Jehovah has said, “Just like this I shall break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon within two full years more from off the neck of all the nations.”’”—Jer. 28:10, 11.
9. What did Jehovah now tell Jeremiah to say about yoke bars, and why?
9 However, would such a prophecy come true just because of its being declared in Jehovah’s name? No! Jehovah could not do what Hananiah prophesied and at the same time fulfill the opposite prophecy of Jeremiah. Hence, international revolt against Jehovah’s announced “servant” was doomed! “Go,” said Jehovah later to Jeremiah, “and you must say to Hananiah, ‘This is what Jehovah has said: “Yoke bars of wood you have broken, and instead of them you will have to make yoke bars of iron.” For this is what Jehovah of armies, the God of Israel, has said: “A yoke bar of iron I will put upon the neck of all these nations, to serve Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon; and they must serve him. And even the wild beasts of the field I will give him.”’” (Jer. 28:12-14) Consequently, no international plot fomented by Hananiah could succeed. Moreover, in order for Jehovah to give “even the wild beasts of the field” into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand, Jehovah would turn over to him the lands of the international plotters.
THE RELIGIOUS RINGLEADER GETS HIS DESERTS
10. What action is the Jeremiah class authorized to take with regard to the clergy who, like Hananiah, support the international conspiracy against Jehovah?
10 Today Christendom’s clergy-prophets outspokenly back up the international conspiracy against Jehovah’s kingdom by his Christ. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not authorized to pronounce the death sentence upon any of them. But they can take up the inspired utterance of Jehovah and apply it against the clerical false prophets, who, as a class, were prefigured by Hananiah. So, here now let us read of Jeremiah’s prophetic action:
“And Jeremiah the prophet went on to say to Hananiah the prophet: ‘Listen, please, O Hananiah! Jehovah has not sent you, but you yourself have caused this people to trust in a falsehood. Therefore this is what Jehovah has said, “Look! I am sending you away from off the surface of the ground. This year you yourself must die, for you have spoken outright revolt against Jehovah.”’”—Jer. 28:15, 16.
11. (a) How much longer did Hananiah last? (b) Of what are the clergy of Christendom likewise guilty, and so what must the Jeremiah class point out?
11 Hananiah, the advocate of outright revolt against Jehovah by the international plotters, lasted about two months longer. “So Hananiah the prophet died in that year [614 B.C.E.], in the seventh month.” (Jer. 28:17, 1) In the light of this prophetic drama of ancient times, what about the clerical false prophets of Christendom today? They support the political rulers in refusing to put their necks under the yoke of Jehovah’s Servant-King, who is far greater than Nebuchadnezzar of old. The Jeremiah class cannot go along with the clergy in this. They must continue to point out the calamity into which the clergy are leading the people.
12. For the Jews already exiles in Babylon, what message did Jeremiah have from Jehovah concerning the false prophets Ahab and Zedekiah?
12 In those ancient days of political unrest in the Middle East, even the already deported Jews in Babylon had false prophets among them. For those pseudoprophets who were building up false hopes among the Jewish exiles in Nebuchadnezzar’s land, God sent this message through Jeremiah:
“And as for you, hear the word of Jehovah, all you exiled people, whom I have sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon. This is what Jehovah of armies, the God of Israel, has said concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah and to Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying to you falsehood in my own name, ‘Here I am giving them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and he must strike them down before your eyes. And from them a malediction will certainly be taken on the part of the entire body of exiles of Judah that is in Babylon, saying: “May Jehovah make you like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire!” for the reason that they have carried on senselessness in Israel, and they keep committing adultery with the wives of their companions and keep speaking falsely in my own name the word that I did not command them. “And I am the One knowing and am a witness,” is the utterance of Jehovah.’”—Jer. 29:20-23.
Jehovah’s “servant,” Nebuchadnezzar, doubtless had good political reason for roasting Zedekiah and Ahab in the fire, for, contrary to Jehovah’s counsel, they were acting against the interests of imperial Babylon.
13. Were the Jewish exiles to expect an early deliverance from Babylon, and so what did Jeremiah’s letter instruct them to do?
13 The above-quoted words were part of the letter that Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the exiled elders, priests, prophets and people in far-off Babylon, using as his mail carriers Elasah the son of Shaphan and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, when King Zedekiah of Jerusalem sent these two emissaries to King Nebuchadnezzar at Babylon. (Jer. 29:1-3) In that letter of Jeremiah, Jehovah told the exiles to expect no early deliverance from Babylon, but to settle down there and marry and multiply. Instead of scheming to revolt, “seek the peace of the city to which I [Jehovah] have caused you to go into exile, and pray in its behalf to Jehovah, for in its peace there will prove to be peace for you yourselves. . . . For this is what Jehovah has said, ‘In accord with the fulfilling of seventy years at Babylon I shall turn my attention to you people, and I will establish toward you my good word in bringing you back to this place.’”—Jer. 29:4-10.
14. Like the prophet of old, what does the Jeremiah class admonish baptized Christians to be wherever they are situated?
14 True to Jeremiah’s image, the Jeremiah class of today admonish all dedicated, baptized witnesses of Jehovah to be law-abiding, peacekeeping citizens of the lands in which, spiritually speaking, they are “aliens and temporary residents.” (1 Pet. 2:11-15) By their relative subjection to “the superior authorities” they also keep peace with God.—Rom. 13:1-4.
15. What had Shemaiah the false prophet in Babylon done, and what complaint did he make to the “grand overseer” of Jerusalem’s temple?
15 Before the letter of Jeremiah had even been composed and sent on its way, a false prophet then in exile in Babylon, namely, Shemaiah of Nehelam, had sent letters to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the “grand overseer” of Jerusalem’s temple. And so in Jeremiah’s letter to the Babylonian exiles, Jehovah referred to this and went on to say:
“And to Shemaiah of Nehelam you will say, “This is what Jehovah of armies, the God of Israel, has said: “For the reason that you yourself have sent in your name letters to all the people who are in Jerusalem, and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the priest, and to all the priests, saying, ‘Jehovah himself has made you priest instead of Jehoiada the priest, in order to become the grand overseer of the house of Jehovah toward any man maddened and behaving like a prophet, and you must put him into the stocks and into the pillory; now, then, why have you not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth, who is behaving as a prophet to you people? For that is why he has sent to us at Babylon, saying: “It is long drawn out! Build houses and inhabit them, and plant gardens and eat their fruitage,—”’”’”—Jer. 29:24-28; compare Jeremiah 29:4-6.
16. What did the temple’s “grand overseer” do with the letter from Shemaiah, and what was Jeremiah then inspired to prophesy about Shemaiah?
16 However, on receipt of Shemaiah’s letter, the priest Zephaniah did not, as “grand overseer” of the temple, put Jeremiah into the stocks and the pillory. He first read the letter to Jeremiah. (Jer. 29:29) Now what?
“Then the word of Jehovah occurred to Jeremiah, saying: ‘Send to all the exiled people, saying, “This is what Jehovah has said concerning Shemaiah of Nehelam: ‘For the reason that Shemaiah has prophesied to you people, but I myself did not send him, and he tried to make you trust in falsehood, therefore this is what Jehovah has said, “Here I am turning my attention upon Shemaiah of Nehelam and upon his offspring. He will not come to have a man dwelling in the midst of this people; and he will not look upon the good that I am doing for my people,” is the utterance of Jehovah, “for he has spoken outright revolt against Jehovah.”’”’”—Jer. 29:30-32.
17. Why was revolt against Babylon as fomented by Shemaiah also a revolt against Jehovah?
17 By what Shemaiah prophesied and wrote he was fomenting revolt on the part of King Zedekiah of Jerusalem with the backing of Pharaoh of Egypt, which was the unrelenting opposer of the Babylonian World Power. But such a revolt would be against more than against Babylon. It would also be against Jehovah, who was then using the king of Babylon as his “servant.” So Jehovah was the heavenly Master of the king of Babylon. Consequently, revolt against Babylon would be primarily revolt against Jehovah.
WAIT UPON JEHOVAH IN CHRISTIAN NEUTRALITY
18. How was Shemaiah trying to run ahead of Jehovah, with what consequences to himself and his offspring?
18 Shemaiah in Babylon did not want to wait upon Jehovah to bring deliverance to the Jewish exiles, of whom he was one. He did not believe the earlier prophecy of Isaiah 44:28 through 45:4 about Khoresh, or Cyrus the Persian, who was to overthrow Babylon and restore the Jewish exiles to their homeland. Hence, Shemaiah wanted to run ahead of Jehovah. He schemed to work out salvation for himself and fellow exiles in his own way. He favored a course that would bring a “yoke of iron” from the king of Babylon upon the neck of the vassal Kingdom of Judah. (Jer. 28:13, 14) Hence, no deliverance at all would come to Shemaiah the revolter. His offspring would be cut off, not sharing in Israel’s restoration!
19. What course has the modern-day counterpart of Shemaiah pursued since 1914?
19 We today do well to heed the counsel given in Jeremiah’s letter as set out in Jeremiah 29:8, 9. In this way we shall not be following the modern-day counterpart of that ancient pusher for revolt against Jehovah’s arrangement, Shemaiah of Nehelam. The clergy of Christendom, who have not listened to the Jeremiah class since the Gentile Times ended in 1914, have proved themselves now to be like “the burst-open figs that cannot be eaten for badness.” The clergy have had their attention called to the features of the “sign” foretold by Jesus Christ and fulfilled since 1914, that is to say, the “sword” of war even on a global scale, also devastating “famine” and uncontrollable “pestilence” and the ‘dispersing’ of helpless populations, even in Christendom that claims to be Christian. (Jer. 29:16-19; Matt. 24:4-20) Still the clergy demonstrate that they do not believe the Scripturally explained meaning of the “sign,” and so they do not urge the nations to turn over their national sovereignty to Jehovah’s now reigning Servant-King, Jesus Christ, who, since 1914, shares with his heavenly Father in the “kingdom of the world,” something far grander than Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian Empire. Rather, the clergy approve of man-made schemes and support the United Nations, not God’s rule.
20. What deserved punishment is executed upon revolters against rulership, and so how shall we attain to lasting salvation?
20 Today, among worldly nations, revolt against duly constituted rulership is punished with death to the revolters. Likewise, unchristian revolt against Jehovah and his Servant-King earns destruction for so-called “Christian” religious leaders who speak “outright revolt against Jehovah.” (Jer. 29:32) Their destruction was foreshadowed by that executed upon the false prophet Shemaiah and his offspring, who never saw the “good” that Jehovah purposed to do for the submissive ones of his exiled people. So it is not our assignment to work out our own immediate salvation by man-made means. Our attainment of lasting salvation lies in patiently and trustfully waiting upon Jehovah for deliverance by a “servant” greater than Khoresh, or Cyrus the Persian, namely, Jesus Christ.
21. What course as foretold by Jehovah at Jeremiah 29:12-14 concerning the submissive exiles should we imitate today?
21 Our trying to run ahead of Jehovah will never bring the deliverance that we ardently desire. Instead of turning our backs upon Jehovah and leaving him out of consideration, we do well to imitate those who saw the salvation by Jehovah and were restored to their homeland in his own chosen time. Their course worthy of our imitation Jehovah foretold in these words: “You will certainly call me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. And you will actually seek me and find me, for you will search for me with all your heart. And I will let myself be found by you.”—Jer. 29:12-14.
22. In view of Jehovah’s “year of goodwill,” we should act upon what hope for the future?
22 We are now near the end of “the year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah.” (Isa. 61:2) So, in our favor, his words still apply to us: “‘I myself well know the thoughts that I am thinking toward you,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘thoughts of peace, and not of calamity, to give you a future and a hope.’” (Jer. 29:11) The “future” that Jehovah has thought out for us is the most desirable one, if we now submit to his universal sovereignty, that of everlasting life with peace, prosperity and happiness through his King-Servant, Jesus Christ. This is the hope that Jehovah sets before us. With full appreciation, let us act in harmony with it.