After Destruction of Organized Religion, Which Way?
The reader will find it beneficial to read Jeremiah chapters 40 to 49 before examining this and the following article.
“Cursed be the one that is carrying out the mission of Jehovah neglectfully; and cursed be the one that is holding back his sword from blood.”—Jer. 48:10.
1. What problem will the destruction of Organized Religion pose for the survivors?
“ORGANIZED Religion of the world has fallen!” Such words we may expect haters of all popular religion to shout out jubilantly, when organized religion of today goes down in violent destruction. In which way will the survivors of that almost unbelievable event go? What will there be for them to turn to then? We ask these questions in all seriousness.
2. What question was raised because of Jeremiah’s prophesying, and after nearly 40 years of such prophesying, where did he find himself?
2 In unbelief some who have stuck to a form of popular religion till now may ask, ‘Will the Creator of heaven and earth permit such a thing?’ This question is like that raised about 2,625 years ago because of a Jew of the priestly line, the young prophet Jeremiah of the city of Anathoth in the Middle East. He appeared to be prophesying against the religion practiced by his own people at that time. According to Jeremiah, their temple, the only one allowed by religious law, was to be burned down. Their temple city, Jerusalem, was to be reduced to a rubbish heap. The practicers of the popular form of religion were to be carried off into exile in the land of their conquerors, to stay there for 70 years. Jeremiah’s prophesying of such calamities roused strong protest. Near the end of 40 years of such prophesying Jeremiah found himself imprisoned in Jerusalem, under the reign of the last king of the royal family of David to sit on the throne, Zedekiah.
3. By permitting such a religious calamity, was Jehovah destroying his own worship, or what?
3 The God whose name was called upon the temple of Jerusalem did permit such a religious disaster to occur. In fact, Jerusalem got the message of such doom right from this God himself, Jehovah. What? Was he going to destroy his own religion, the worship of him as the true God? Not at all! He simply purposed to destroy the polluted, distorted form of his worship then being carried on in the temple that bore his name, to the disgrace of that sacred name. Jehovah’s word through Jeremiah’s mouth won out! Those stubbornly objecting to it lost out. In the summer month of Ab, the fifth month of their calendar year, from the seventh through the 10th day of that month, the temple was torn down, and the battered, famine-stricken city of Jerusalem was wiped out. Prior to this the king, Zedekiah, was captured in flight and the emaciated thousands of Jewish survivors were marched off as prisoners, headed for wearisome exile in Babylon, now the mistress of the world.
4. Is all such ancient history of importance and concern to us today?
4 Well, now, is all such ancient history of real concern to us today? Yes! For what reason? For the reason that it was prophetic, and so it needed to be recorded and preserved on the pages of the Sacred Bible in many living languages down to our day. A deep student of that ancient history, a Jew whose people were directly tied in with that tearful history, stressed the importance of such ancient history by writing these words in the first century of our Common Era: “Now these things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.”—1 Cor. 10:11.
5. Before what religious calamity did Paul write 1 Corinthians 10:11, and why will there not be a repeating of such a thing?
5 Those portentous words were what the Christian apostle Paul wrote, about 15 years before the rebuilt city of Jerusalem was destroyed, together with its temple, in 70 C.E., that time by Roman legions. There will be no third time for such a thing to occur, for no Jewish temple crowns the Jerusalem of today. Now three great religions claim an interest in that historical city, that of Christendom, that of Islam and that of Jewry.
6. What will be the first part of Organized Religion to be wiped out, and then what will going over to other parts of Organized Religion mean?
6 There are religions that are older than that of Christendom. And yet, according to what Jeremiah of the first Jerusalem indicated, Christendom will be the first section of Organized Religion to be destroyed. Ah, yes, Jerusalem was prophetically pictorial of Christendom, for she claims to practice the religion that was started in the second Jerusalem in 33 C.E. After this modern counterpart of the doomed Jerusalem of Jeremiah’s day is wiped out, then in which way will any surviving adherents of her go? Over to any surviving non-Christian religions? Their doing so would mean their taking refuge in other parts of what is destined to eternal destruction, namely, Organized Religion.
7. After Jerusalem’s fall, where did the Babylonians allow Jeremiah and his secretary to live, and what festival was then approaching?
7 Let us note how this was portrayed after the first Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 B.C.E., in Jeremiah’s day. Some of the poor Jews of the land were allowed to stay behind in the conquered land of Judah under Gedaliah, whom the victorious King Nebuchadnezzar had appointed to be governor over the land. That took place in the fifth lunar month (Ab) of 607 B.C.E. Jeremiah and his secretary Baruch had been spared alive, and the Babylonian army commander granted Jeremiah his choice of remaining behind with the poor of the land under Governor Gedaliah. What now? The season for the autumnal harvest in the seventh month (Ethanim, or Tishri) was drawing near. Thus the appointed time for celebrating the festival of ingathering, or of booths, for seven days (Tishri 15-21) was approaching. But, alas! there was no temple of Jerusalem at which to celebrate the feast with rejoicing.—Deut. 16:13-16.
8. Did fugitive Jews come back to Judah in order to celebrate the festival of ingathering?
8 Except for a detachment of occupation troops, the Babylonian army had left the land, dragging with it many surviving Jews as captives. So Jewish fugitives began filtering back from neighboring lands roundabout into the land of Judah. Were they returning to their homeland in order to obey their Lawgiver, Jehovah, by celebrating the festival of booths, or of ingathering even without Jerusalem and its temple? As matters turned out, they did not do so.
9. Why was there a question as to which way the returnees and the poor of the land of Judah would go?
9 In which way did the returnees and the poor of the land go? They were not obliged to leave the land. But Jeremiah had foretold 70 years of utter desolation of the land, without man and domestic animal, as due to befall the land. Still Jeremiah told the occupants of the land to stay there in peace, with nothing to fear from the departed Babylonians. Their governor, Gedaliah, was a Jew like themselves, only now subject to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Thus Jehovah their God was not forcing them out of their God-given land, even though he had inspired Jeremiah to predict 70 years of total desolation of the land of Judah.
AN ASSASSIN STRIKES!
10. Why was the religious condition that confronted the “poor of the land” there in the land of Judah a deplorable one?
10 What a deplorable religious condition confronted those “poor of the land” who were left in the territory of Judah! No temple in Jerusalem toward which to pray to Jehovah! With the exception of Jeremiah, no priest, no Levite! No altar on which to have their sacrifices offered up! Yes, and no golden “ark of the covenant” surmounted by two angel images, toward which the high priest could sprinkle the blood of Atonement Day sacrifices on Tishri 10. It had vanished to a location no human knows to this day!—Hos. 3:4.
11. Why did Ammonite King Baalis consider Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to be a good tool in putting Gedaliah, the Jewish governor, out of the way?
11 Here there stepped upon the stage of action a villain! He appeared in the person of Ishmael the son of Nethaniah. Likely King Baalis of the Ammonites to whom Ishmael had fled from before the Babylonians felt Ishmael a good one to hire to assassinate Gedaliah, whom King Nebuchadnezzar appointed to be the provincial governor of Judah. Why so? Because Ishmael was “of the royal offspring.” So through Eliakim, his grandfather, Ishmael had royal connections and was one of the “principal men of the king.” (Jer. 41:1) Hence, this official associate of deposed King Zedekiah could resent it that Gedaliah was made governor despite his not being “of the royal offspring.” So Ammonite King Baalis, who had rejoiced at Jerusalem’s destruction, made Ishmael his tool in putting Gedaliah out of the way.—Ps. 83:7, 8; Jer. 40:14.
12. How did Ishmael carry out his foul play, and yet why was he finally obliged to flee?
12 Despite the warning of Johanan the son of Kareah, Gedaliah hosted Ishmael and his 10 associates at a meal in the new governmental city of Mizpah, some miles north of the ruins of Jerusalem. Though some Babylonian soldiers were present, Ishmael and his band took by surprise all those at the meal and nearby and foully murdered them all. (Jer. 41:2, 3) Still others fell victim to Ishmael and his treacherous band. This occurred in the seventh lunar month, Tishri, the month that was usually marked by the celebration of the booths for seven days. The people of Mizpah now inclined to follow this usurper of power as his captives. However, when Johanan the son of Kareah put in appearance and opposed Ishmael, then Ishmael and eight of his men made their escape to the land of Ammon, which had not yet been subjected by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.—Jer. 41:10-15; 49:1-5.
13. At the request of Johanan and his followers, what message did Jehovah inspire Jeremiah to give to them? With what reaction?
13 Because of what had happened to the provisional government set up by the Babylonians, Johanan and the people felt that they had reason to fear the new world power, the Babylonian Empire, which Jehovah God was using as his executioner in the Middle East. In which way were they now to go? Formally Johanan and his chiefs approach Jeremiah, who had been accurate in prophesying Jerusalem’s ruin. They promised that, whether Jehovah’s message by Jeremiah turned out to be to their liking or not, they would follow it. Ten days after their consulting Jeremiah Jehovah’s message came through him. They should not yield to fear, but should remain in the land in subjection to Babylon. But if they faithlessly moved south into Egypt, they would there be overtaken by the victorious sword of the king of Babylon, and by famine and by pestilence. Except for a small remnant, they would perish in the doomed land of Egypt. They would not return in peace to the province of Judah after the overthrow of the Babylonian Empire. Did Johanan and his followers heed this divine message? No, indeed! They branded it a falsehood. They called Jeremiah a liar.—Jer. 42:1–43:3.
14. Who proved to be the ones not holding to their word, and why did the festival of ingathering not get to be celebrated in 607 B.C.E.?
14 Yet who was the liar, if not each one of them, for they had vowed to follow the message imparted to them by Jeremiah even if it was not to their liking? They were already on their way southward to Egypt, and now they were determined to keep pushing ahead until they got into the land of the Nile. They did not want to submit to domination by the Third World Power, that of Babylon. Formerly Egypt had been their ally against the expanding world power of Babylon. So now that the land of Judah had come under Babylon’s domination, they were determined that no one should be left in the land to offer submission to Babylon. The advocates of submission to Babylon, namely, Jeremiah and his secretary Baruch, were not to be left behind. So they dragged these servants of Jehovah with them. Without their aiming to time it that way, but just about the time when the land of Judah should be celebrating the festival of ingathering, or of booths, with rejoicing, on Tishri 15-21, 607 B.C.E., those rebels against Jehovah’s will left the land just as he had foretold, desolate of resident man and domestic animal.—Jer. 43:4-7.
15. How did those events of Jeremiah’s day tie in with the affairs of our own day and prove of concern to us?
15 Never can the will of Almighty God be successfully blocked. Never can his word of prophecy be proved inaccurate. With the exit of the insubordinate Jews from the land of Judah, the foretold 70 years of desolation of the land without resident Israelite and domesticated beast started off. Then, also, the symbolic “seven times” about which Jehovah caused King Nebuchadnezzar to dream and the prophet Daniel to offer an explanation began to run their course of 2,520 years. (Dan. 4:13-27; Luke 21:24) So it was not accidental that World War I erupted upon a peaceful world, to mark the end of those “seven times” in the lunar month of Tishri in 1914 C.E. Truly, then, events of Jeremiah’s day did have a tie-in with our times. The meaning of those events is of deep concern to us now!
16. Why did the fleeing of those unbelieving Jews down to Egypt not turn out to be the right way, and for what does the course of those Jews cause us to look ahead?
16 After the religion as organized by the Law-defying Jews at Jerusalem fell in 607 B.C.E., did those Jews who fled into Egypt avoid what they detested? Did they choose the best way, the right way? Hardly so, if they became a horrifying spectacle of what happens to religious people who refuse to obey Jehovah’s Word. Jeremiah, although forced to reside in Egypt, did not stop his prophesying down there. Jehovah’s spirit continued to move Jeremiah to prophesy, yes, to the unbelieving Jewish refugees and against their chosen land of residence. His inspired writings survive till this critical time. They serve as a warning to the modern counterparts of those rebellious Jews of Jeremiah’s day. In view of this, what may we expect in the days just ahead?
17. What action may we not expect on the part of surviving eyewitnesses of Christendom’s destruction, and why not?
17 We are to expect the destruction of the most influential section of Organized Religion, namely, Christendom with all its babel of religious sects and denominations. This will occur at Jehovah’s unchangeable time. Therefore, the question is, When that does occur, then to which course will all witnesses of that astonishing occurrence commit themselves? According to the pattern set in 607 B.C.E. by Ishmael and Johanan and their followers who refused to heed Jehovah’s counsel, we may not expect a numberless great crowd of such eyewitnesses to turn to true Christianity as practiced by the modern Jeremiah class and their loyal companions. The true Christianity takes into account the worship of Jeremiah’s God, Jehovah, the heavenly Father of Jesus Christ. He spoke of the worship of Jehovah when he said to the woman at the well in Samaria: “The hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him. God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.”—John 4:23, 24.
18. Of whom was Jesus Christ when on earth a witness, and who now must be witnesses like him?
18 Even a Christian cannot brush aside the worship of Jehovah as God. In Revelation 1:5 the Son of God called himself “Jesus Christ, ‘The Faithful Witness.’” When on earth as a man he was a Jew, an Israelite, to whose nation the words of Isaiah 43:10 were written: “‘You are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘even my servant whom I have chosen.’” Jesus demonstrated that he was a faithful and true witness of Jehovah God. His genuine disciples today must be the same kind of witnesses, Jehovah’s.
19. After Christendom’s downfall, will surviving eyewitnesses flock over to Jehovah’s Witnesses, and what hope do other religious systems offer for survivors?
19 We can refer to no prophetic Bible scriptures to show that, after the modern counterpart of ancient Jerusalem goes down in the oncoming “great tribulation,” unnumbered former adherents of Christendom will get converted and line up with those persecuted Christians known as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many persons might wail over what advantages they have lost due to the fiery destruction of materialistic Christendom, like those merchantmen whom Revelation, chapter 18, pictures as wailing over the burning down of Babylon the Great. They had lost self-enriching business with her. Possibly some religiously minded persons might flock to whatever non-Christian religions outlive Christendom for a short while. Such will just be going into another religious system that is doomed, for they all belong to Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. All parts of her are slated for destruction!
20. How can we know in which way those who survive the destruction of Babylon the Great will go?
20 Where or in which way will survivors of the destruction of Babylon the Great then go? What do the inspired prophetic Scriptures indicate? Will they go, can they go, to the side of those pictured by Jeremiah and his secretary Baruch? The prophetic events during the final days of those worshipers of Jehovah give answer.
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Let us not be like the law-defying Jews of Jeremiah’s time