Liberation and Survival of Christendom’s Fall
1, 2. (a) When and during whose prophetic career should the last Jubilee for the Jews have taken place? (b) What did Jehovah’s law through Moses command the Jews about the Jubilee?
IN JEREMIAH’S day the sabbath year should have been a time of liberation for Jewish slaves. The last such sabbath year ended in 609 B.C.E. on Tishri 9, a day before the Jewish Day of Atonement. Jeremiah’s people had been required to celebrate sabbath years ever since they entered the land of Canaan in 1473 B.C.E. Every 50th year from then was to have been observed as a Jubilee year, each Jubilee beginning on the Day of Atonement. The 17th Jubilee would prove to be the last one. It ended in 623 B.C.E., during Jeremiah’s prophetic activity. As a priest at the temple Jeremiah should have heard the trumpet blast announcing the beginning of that Jubilee, a special year of liberation. Jehovah’s law as given through the prophet Moses commanded:
2 “You must sanctify the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty in the land to all its inhabitants. It will become a Jubilee for you, and you must return each one to his possession and you should return each one to his family. A Jubilee is what that fiftieth year will become for you.”—Lev. 25:10, 11.
3. What was God’s law concerning every seventh year between Jubilees, and how long could Hebrew buyers hold Hebrew slaves?
3 Like the weekly sabbath, every seventh year between Jubilees was to be a sabbath year. (Lev. 25:1-9) In a similar arrangement, Jehovah’s law said: “In case you should buy a Hebrew slave, he will be a slave six years, but in the seventh he will go out as one set free without charge.” (Ex. 21:2) “In case there should be sold to you your brother, a Hebrew or a Hebrewess, and he has served you six years, then in the seventh year you should send him out from you as one set free.”—Deut. 15:12.
4. So, in the sabbath year of 610-609 B.C.E., what would it be fitting for Hebrew slave owners to do, but how did they give God added reason for punishing them?
4 So, in Jeremiah’s day, in that lunar sabbath year of 610-609 B.C.E., it was good in Jehovah’s eyes for slaveholding Jews to conclude a covenant before him in the temple at Jerusalem to let their Hebrew slaves go free. In spite of the international situation so threatening to Jerusalem, this was the obedient course for Jeremiah’s people to take. However, before that year of liberation ran out, those former slaveholders broke their solemn covenant and forced their former menservants and maidservants back into slavery. This displeased the covenant-keeping Jehovah and added another reason for him to punish them.—Jer. 34:8-16.
5. (a) What aliens then in Jerusalem were not implicated and yet were in danger? (b) How is Jerusalem’s modern counterpart likewise in danger, and from what source?
5 Happily that disregard for a covenant solemnly made before God was not shared in by certain persons then in Jerusalem who were known as Rechabites, the descendants of Jonadab the son of Rechab. (Jer. 35:6-11) Still, they were put in danger because of the punishment that was deservedly coming upon Jerusalem’s Jewish inhabitants. But they were in a position to be shielded from what Jehovah God went on further to predict in view of the selfish unfaithfulness of the Jews. As in the case of Jerusalem of Jeremiah’s day, Jehovah’s further words should be of extreme interest to modern-day Christendom. Like Jerusalem then, Christendom is in the last days of her long existence. The final world power foretold in Bible prophecy, the eighth world power, is now with us. It is in the form of the United Nations. It has a death-dealing role to play toward Christendom, Jerusalem’s modern counterpart. The U.N. and its predecessor, the League of Nations, have now had a combined life of 60 years. (Rev. 17:7-11) Before it perishes it will act!
6. How has Christendom, though claming to stand for freedom, brought her church members into slavery?
6 Christendom, because of claiming to be Christian, should stand for freedom from bondage to this sin-enslaved world. In actuality, though, she has brought her church members into slavery to this world, for her own interests. This is because she has made herself a friend of this world but the enemy of God.—Jas. 4:4.
7. (a) Christendom’s churchgoers have been led into slavery to what and into opposition to whom? (b) What next in Jeremiah’s prophecy is she called upon to hear?
7 Christendom’s spiritual slaves are slaving, not for God’s kingdom by Christ, but for the doomed world and its ruler and god, Satan the Devil. (1 John 2:15-17; Eph. 2:2) Christendom leads churchgoers into opposing those Christian witnesses of Jehovah who were prefigured by Jeremiah. So let her hear what he next said:
“‘Therefore this is what Jehovah has said, “You yourselves have not obeyed me in keeping on proclaiming liberty each one to his brother and each one to his companion. Here I am proclaiming to you a liberty,” is the utterance of Jehovah, “to the sword, to the pestilence and to the famine, and I shall certainly give you for a quaking to all the kingdoms of the earth. And I will give the men sidestepping my covenant, in that they did not carry out the words of the covenant that they concluded before me with the calf that they cut in two that they might pass between its pieces; namely, the princes of Judah and the princes of Jerusalem, the court officials and the priests and all the people of the land who went passing between the pieces of the calf—yes, I will give them into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those seeking for their soul; and their dead bodies must become food for the flying creatures of the heavens and for the beasts of the earth. And Zedekiah the king of Judah and his princes I shall give into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those seeking for their soul and into the hand of the military forces of the king of Babylon who are withdrawing from against you men.”
“‘“Here I am commanding,” is the utterance of Jehovah, “and I shall certainly bring them back to this city, and they must fight against it and capture it and burn it with fire; and the cities of Judah I shall make a desolate waste without an inhabitant.”’”—Jer. 34:17-22; compare Genesis 15:10-18.
8. In the light of that prophecy of Jeremiah, what is foreshadowed for Christendom of today?
8 Does that prophecy presage Christendom’s fall before the worldly forces that Jehovah lets lay siege against her? What else could it foreshadow in the light of what befell Jerusalem? The capture of King Zedekiah and his deportation to Babylon, to die there, had been obediently foretold to him by Jeremiah. (Jer. 34:1-7) Certainly, then, in a major fulfillment of that prophetic event of Bible times, no good is in store for the rulers of Christendom!
9. When after the sabbath year did the siege of Jerusalem begin, how long did this last, and how did the city become an object at which to quake for fear of suffering a like end?
9 In 609 B.C.E. the sabbath year ended on the 9th day of the 7th lunar month (Tishri), the day before Atonement Day. After that, on the 10th day of the 10th lunar month (Tebeth) of that same year, Emperor Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian military forces opened up their siege of Jerusalem. (2 Ki. 25:1, 2) Eighteen months dragged on till Jerusalem fell, that is, on the 9th day of the 4th lunar month (Tammuz), in 607 B.C.E. In his trying to escape and thus defeat Jehovah’s prophecy, King Zedekiah got only as far as the city of Jericho, and then his Babylonian pursuers caught him. Then they brought him back for a face-to-face meeting with Nebuchadnezzar and to hopeless exile in idolatrous Babylon. (Jer. 34:2, 3) In the following lunar month, or on Ab 7, 607 B.C.E., Jerusalem was looted and burned down. Its desecrated temple of Jehovah did not save it. (2 Ki. 25:3-17) Truly the horrible destruction of Jerusalem was something to make other nations quake in fear of like treatment at the hands of Babylon.
10. Does Christendom quake at that ancient spectacle, and with what will her own destruction start?
10 However, centuries later the power of the spectacle of Jerusalem in ruins to inspire horror has been lost on Christendom. She does not quake. She sees in the ancient spectacle no prophetic illustration warning her of her own fast approaching destruction on a worldwide scale. This will start off the destruction of all false religion in the greatest tribulation ever to come upon this anti-Jehovah world. It will be as foretold in Matthew 24:15-22.
11. When was Jerusalem’s land left desolate without man or domestic animal, and were Jeremiah and Baruch the only ones to survive under Jehovah’s favor?
11 Well, then, how will any human survive such a tribulation? Similarly to how Jeremiah and his secretary Baruch survived Jerusalem’s ordeal of sword, famine, pestilence and conflagration! Later, in the seventh lunar month of that disastrous year, Jeremiah was carried down to Egypt by those panic-stricken men who had rebelled against domination by Babylon. Thus the whole land of the kingdom of Judah became desolate without man or domestic animal. (2 Ki. 25:22-26) Thus the land came to enjoy an unbroken sabbath of 70 years. (2 Chron. 36:20, 21) But, besides Jeremiah and his secretary Baruch, others under Jehovah’s favor also survived Jerusalem’s destruction and the desolation of the land of Judah. This had been guaranteed to them through Jeremiah. We today should be interested in the case of those survivors, if we want to survive the coming tribulation.
SURVIVORS OF CHRISTENDOM’S FALL PREFIGURED
12. Those survivors of the coming tribulation were prefigured by what alien nomadic people, and how did Jeremiah happen to find them in Jerusalem?
12 Upon whom will the Great Preserver of human life have his eyes during the impending tribulation in which this doomed system of things will perish? Upon those dedicated, baptized Christians whom he used a certain band of alien refugees in Jerusalem to prefigure. These friends of the Jews felt obliged to leave their nomadic life and take up life temporarily in Jerusalem because they did not want to join the camp of the enemy who were advancing to the siege of Jerusalem under the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. Their forefather was Jonadab or Jehonadab, the son of Rechab. However, they were not called Jonadabs, for King David had had a nephew named Jonadab. But they were called Rechabites, this name marking them as non-Israelites. They were well known to Jeremiah.
13. How did the covenant keeping of the Israelites compare with the vow keeping of the Rechabites, and what was Jeremiah told to do with the Rechabites?
13 For more than 250 years they had been faithful to the vow imposed upon them by their well-known ancestor Jonadab. The Israelites could not match such a record as regards faithfulness to the Law covenant into which their forefathers had entered through Moses as their mediator with Jehovah God, back in 1513 B.C.E. So now the God whose covenant they had violated purposed to show the difference between these Israelites and the vowkeeping Rechabites. Accordingly the Rechabites were now to be put to a test in a place holy to Jehovah, his temple in Jerusalem. So he told Jeremiah: “Go to the house of the Rechabites, and you must speak with them and bring them into the house of Jehovah, to one of the dining rooms; and you must give them wine to drink.” (Jer. 35:1, 2) This, even though it was well known that the Rechabites were “teetotalers.”
14. How did the Rechabites explain their refusal to drink wine at Jeremiah’s hand, and also their dwelling in a city?
14 Jeremiah did as commanded. (Jer. 35:3-5) Yet, even at the prophet’s hand the Rechabites refused to drink. They explained:
“We shall drink no wine, because Jonadab the son of Rechab, our forefather, was the one that laid the command upon us, saying, ‘You must drink no wine, neither you nor your sons, to time indefinite. And no house must you build, and no seed must you sow; and no vineyard must you plant, nor must it come to be yours. But in tents you should dwell all your days, in order that you may keep living many days upon the surface of the ground where you are residing as aliens.’
“So we keep obeying the voice of Jehonadab the son of Rechab our forefather in everything that he commanded us by drinking no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons and our daughters, and by not building houses for us to dwell in, so that no vineyard or field or seed should become ours. And we keep dwelling in tents and obeying and doing according to all that Jonadab our forefather commanded us. But it came about when Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon came up against the land that we began to say, ‘Come, and let us enter into Jerusalem because of the military force of the Chaldeans and because of the military force of the Syrians, and let us dwell in Jerusalem.’”—Jer. 35:6-11.
15. In what way was the vow laid upon the Rechabites a protective one, and how were they provided for in the Mosiac Law covenant?
15 The vow laid upon the Rechabites was a protective one. It kept them leading a simple life as aliens in the land and apart from the corruption of the cities. As they were not Israelites under the Mosaic Law covenant, they were like strangers within the gates of the Israelites and afforded no trouble to their Israelite hosts. They did not interfere with the Israelites in carrying out their covenant with Jehovah, but, rather, went along with the Law covenant as far as it applied to them. Yet, when it came to drinking alcoholic beverages, they were like Israelite Nazirites. By remaining sober, they kept their senses. Invasion of the land of Judah by the armies of King Nebuchadnezzar was about to affect their simple nomadic life. Naturally, at the advance of the invading Chaldeans, the Rechabites fled into Jerusalem.
16. How did the vow-keeping Rechabites furnish Jehovah with an example to use against the covenant-breaking Israelites, and what did he find it needful to bring upon them?
16 Their doggedly sticking to their vow against wine drinking, even when invited by the prophet-priest Jeremiah, furnished Jehovah with an example to use against the covenant-breaking Israelites. The Rechabites kept their vow, even though it was imposed upon them by a mere man, their forefather. The Israelites broke their Law covenant, even though it was established, not with a mere man, but with the Most High God. Opportunely Jehovah now told Jeremiah:
“Go, and you must say to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Did you not continually receive exhortation to obey my words?’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘There has been a carrying out of the words of Jehonadab the son of Rechab, that he commanded his sons, to drink no wine, and they have drunk none down to this day, because they have obeyed the commandment of their forefather. And as for me, I have spoken to you men, rising up early and speaking, but you have not obeyed me. And I kept sending to you all my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, “Turn back, please, each one from his bad way, and make your dealings good, and do not walk after other gods to serve them. And keep dwelling on the ground that I have given to you and to your forefathers.” But you did not incline your ear, nor did you listen to me. But the sons of Jehonadab the son of Rechab have carried out the commandment of their forefather that he commanded them; but as for this people, they have not listened to me.’”
“Therefore this is what Jehovah the God of armies, the God of Israel, has said, ‘Here I am bringing upon Judah and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the calamity that I have spoken against them, for the reason that I have spoken to them but they did not listen, and I kept calling to them but they did not answer.’”—Jer. 35:13-17.
17. Why must the apostasy of the Israelites be classed as willful, and so what was inescapable for them?
17 It is plain from this comparison of Rechabites with Israelites that the highly favored Israelites were, with the help of God’s prophets, capable of keeping their covenant with Jehovah their God. He had provided his temple and its priesthood to offer up sacrifices to offset their unwilling sins that they committed due to the weaknesses of their flesh. In spite of this, they chose additional gods, particularly Baal, and incorporated into their worship all sorts of wickedness that were forbidden by Jehovah’s law through Moses. So their apostasy from God’s Law covenant that called for pure worship was willful. It showed no respect either for the one living and true God or for their solemn vows to him. This bespoke nothing but calamity for such apostates. For like reasons inescapable calamity impends over all Christendom!
ESCAPE FROM DESTRUCTION UPON ALL FALSE RELIGION
18. From what words of Jeremiah to the Rechabites does the “great crowd” draw assurance of surviving the destruction of Christendom and her friend, the world?
18 Who today wants to escape being destroyed with Christendom and her intimate friend, this God-dishonoring system of things? “We do!” say those of the “great crowd” foretold in Revelation 7:9-17. They draw strong assurance from Jehovah’s promise made to the vow-keeping Rechabites, as set out in Jeremiah 35:18, 19, where we read: “And to the household of the Rechabites Jeremiah said: ‘This is what Jehovah of armies, the God of Israel, has said, “For the reason that you have obeyed the commandment of Jehonadab your forefather and continue keeping all his commandments and doing according to all that he commanded you, therefore this is what Jehovah of armies, the God of Israel, has said: ‘There will not be cut off from Jonadab the son of Rechab a man to stand before me always.’”’”
19. (a) What was Jonadab’s attitude toward Baal worship? (b) Of whom do the names Jonadab (Jehonadab) and Jaazaniah take note, and what position did they take toward wine?
19 Thus Jonadab the son of Rechab, although not an Israelite, would not fail to have a descendant to stand approved in Jehovah’s presence here on earth forever. Let us recall that this Jonadab had been heart and soul with King Jehu in destroying Baal worship out of the apostate Kingdom of Israel. (2 Ki. 10:15-28) The name of this son of Rechab, that is, Jonadab or Jehonadab, takes note of the only living and true God, for it means “Jehovah Is Liberal.” The Rechabite to whom Jeremiah stated the divine promise was Jaazaniah, and his name means “Jah [that is, Jehovah] Hears.” (Jer. 35:3-5) True to their vow, Jaazaniah and his brothers had refused to drink wine at the hand of Jeremiah in Jehovah’s temple. There in Jehovah’s presence they demonstrated integrity toward their vow.
20. Although we have no direct Biblical evidence, of what may we be sure about the Rechabites when Jerusalem was destroyed, and after that?
20 Jehovah respected the faithfulness of those Rechabites and promised that they would not be wiped out during the coming destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. We can be sure that the Rechabites were not then cut off from Jehovah’s presence, for he respected his word of promise just as much as those Rechabites respected their vow with regard to wine. There may be historical evidence of their survival in the person of a Malchijah the son of Rechab, who repaired a gate of Jerusalem in the days of Governor Nehemiah. (Neh. 3:14) Whether any Rechabites survived till the days of Jesus Christ and became his disciples is not recorded in Jehovah’s Word. But it would have been most appropriate!
21. What national disaster did the Rechabites survive, and so what is it fitting for their modern counterparts to survive?
21 Natural Rechabites are not identifiable today, but there are modern counterparts of them. They are the close associates of the spiritual Israelites, who were pictured by Jeremiah. The Rechabites of old survived apostate Jerusalem’s destruction. Since they typified the “great crowd” of Christ’s “other sheep,” it is appropriate for these counterparts of the Rechabites to survive the world’s “great tribulation,” the first feature of which will be the destruction of Christendom, the counterpart of Jerusalem.
22. (a) When was it first set out that Jonadab pictured a sheeplike class that would survive the “great tribulation”? (b) To what did the Watchtower issue of April 15, 1935, invite them especially to come?
22 Volume III of Vindication, released Monday, July 18, 1932, in Brooklyn, N.Y., was the first to set out (on pages 77-83) that Jonadab of old pictured a class of God-fearing people who, under God’s protection, would pass alive through the “great tribulation” into the New Order under Christ’s kingdom. (Pp. 230-233 of the Watchtower issue of August 1, 1932) The interesting subject for discussion “Millions Now Living Will Never Die” was thought to apply to them. Logically, then, the Watchtower issue of April 15, 1935, made this announcement:
Again The Watchtower reminds its readers that a convention of Jehovah’s witnesses and Jonadabs will be held at Washington, D.C., beginning May 30 and ending June 3, 1935. It is hoped that many of the remnant and the Jonadabs may find it convenient to attend this convention. Heretofore not many Jonadabs have had the privilege of attending a convention, and the convention at Washington may be a real comfort and benefit to them.—P. 114.
23. What was revealed to those Jonadabs at that Washington (D.C.) convention, and so the water baptism next day included many of whom?
23 It did prove to be so, for there on Friday, May 31, it was revealed to them that the Jonadab class was identical with the “great multitude” foreseen in Revelation 7:9-17 (Authorized Version). Likely most of the 840 conventioners baptized in water next day proved to be Jonadabs or antitypical Rechabites.
24. In surviving Jerusalem’s destruction in 607 B.C.E., whom did also Jonadab’s descendants prefigure today?
24 The original Jonadab lived in the 10th century B.C.E. and did not see Jerusalem’s destruction in 607 B.C.E. But his descendants, the Rechabites, whom Jeremiah put to a test on vow keeping, did experience Jerusalem’s downfall and survived it indefinitely. Because of descent from Jonadab, they too prefigured the “great crowd” destined to survive Christendom’s downfall.—See You May Survive Armageddon into God’s New World, pages 64-67.
25. In view of the outstanding features about Jonadab and the Rechabites, what exhortation is given their counterparts of today?
25 Ho, then, you dedicated, baptized Christians who were typified by those ancient Rechabites! You, like them, must keep away from overindulgence, from false worship and from getting mixed up with this world, making it your friend. (Jas. 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17) Keep imitating Jonadab the son of Rechab in displaying zeal for Jehovah and opposition to modern Baal worship, that you may see Jehovah by means of his Greater Jehu, Jesus Christ, destroy Christendom and all other false religions. With Rechabite-like faithfulness, carry out your dedication to the Sovereign Lord Jehovah and take your part in furthering the interests of his glorious kingdom by Christ. This will aid you to hold onto the liberation from this doomed world that you have gained, until it is no more. Using your blessed freedom according to God’s will, you will not be “cut off” when he expresses his vengeance against this wicked world and all its friends, but you will stand approved before him and be rewarded with life on a paradise earth under his Son’s kingdom. Great will be the joy with which the remnant of the Jeremiah class will elatedly rejoice over you!
(Further consideration of the prophecy of Jeremiah will be taken up in The Watchtower of February 1, 1980)
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Survival Of Christendom’s Fall