The Kingdom and “a Holy Place”
“This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come. Therefore, 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.”—Matthew 24:14-16.
1. Zealous proclaimers of God’s established kingdom are interested today in what?
ARE YOU one who has been sharing zealously in preaching “this good news of the kingdom”? If so, you are anticipating eagerly the ‘coming of the end.’ In that connection, you are deeply interested, also, in discerning what is meant today by “the disgusting thing that causes desolation” and its “standing in a holy place.” You will want to know the modern-day application of what the prophet Daniel said about these things and how, today, you may be among those who find salvation by “fleeing to the mountains.”—Matthew 24:3-16.
2. (a) What are some scriptures that help us to identify the “holy ones” of Daniel’s prophecy? (b) What other group has appeared recently, and what common interest do these two groups have?
2 Daniel’s prophecy has much to say about the “holy ones” who inherit the kingdom. (Daniel 7:27) These make up the small group of “born again” Christians, spiritual Israelites, who have kept integrity under Satan’s assaults, thus proving worthy of a place in the kingdom of the heavens. (John 3:3; Luke 12:32) In recent years, the remaining ones of these anointed witnesses of God have been joined by “a great crowd . . . out of all nations,” who hope to live forever in a paradise earth. Do you belong to one or the other of these groups? If so, you are privileged now to render God “sacred service” in the earthly sanctuary of his spiritual temple. This is a holy service, performed in “a holy place” that corresponds to the sanctuary of Jehovah’s temple in ancient Jerusalem.—Revelation 7:4, 9, 15; Romans 12:1, 2.
3, 4. (a) What three ‘Jerusalems’ now come to our attention? (b) How does God’s Word describe each of these ‘Jerusalems’?
3 Because of the apostasy of the Jews, who murdered even the Son of God, the earthly Jerusalem was cast off, abandoned by God. (Matthew 23:37, 38) However, a far grander Jerusalem continued to be favored by Jehovah. Galatians 4:26 calls it the “Jerusalem above.” It is Jehovah’s “woman,” his own heavenly wifelike organization. It was this Jerusalem that brought forth God’s spiritual Son, Jesus Christ, who, in the year 33 CE, gave “his [human] soul a ransom” in behalf of mankind.—Matthew 20:28.
4 After Jesus’ resurrection in the spirit, he was exalted to the right hand of his heavenly Father. At the appointed time, in 1914 CE, Jehovah installed him in his kingdom, which Hebrews 12:22 also associates with the name Jerusalem, calling it the “heavenly Jerusalem.” This kingdom would, in due course, destroy Satan’s wicked system and restore paradise to our earth.—Matthew 6:9, 10.
Desolating “a Holy Place”
5. (a) What did Jesus say about the earthly Jerusalem? (b) This led to what question and prophecy?
5 Shall we open our Bibles now to Matthew, chapter 23 vs. 38? There in verse 38 you will note Jesus’ statement that Jerusalem’s “house is abandoned.” Then, to his surprised disciples, Jesus speaks the words of Matthew 24, verse 2, concerning that earthly Jerusalem’s temple: “Truly I say to you, By no means will a stone be left here upon a stone and not be thrown down.” This leads to four of the disciples asking Jesus the question of Mt 24 verse 3: “Tell us, When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” Jesus next gives his well-known prophecy that extends through to the end of Matthew, chapter 25.
6, 7. (a) In fulfillment of the prophecy, what now came under threat? (b) How was the “disgusting thing” thus seen to be “standing in a holy place”?
6 What interested Jesus’ disciples back there in 33 CE was the end of the Jewish system, centered in the earthly Jerusalem and its temple, a religious system that had become apostate. But despite its apostasy, Jerusalem continued to be known as “the holy city,” even after Jesus died. (Matthew 27:53) In fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy, distresses multiplied in Jerusalem and Judea and other nations nearby. Then, in 66 CE, the Roman legions under General Gallus attacked Jerusalem. As Jesus foretold (according to Luke 21:20), Jerusalem was “surrounded by encamped armies.” As stated by the historian Josephus, these even entered the city with their idolatrous standards and started to undermine the wall of the temple.
7 Those Roman armies were surely standing in “a holy place.” They were poised to desolate that “city of Jehovah,” the city that had for centuries been associated with Jehovah’s worship. (Psalm 101:8) “Disgusting,” indeed, from the viewpoint both of Jewish apostates and of Jewish Christians! However, only the Christians recognized that this was the situation concerning which Jesus had prophesied. Not only were the “holy city” and its temple of worship threatened but so were Christians inside who were loyal to Jehovah and his word of truth. How could these survive?
8. How then did Jehovah maneuver things, and with what result?
8 Miraculously Jehovah maneuvered events. Suddenly the Roman army withdrew, opening the way for the Christians to obey Jesus’ prophecy. And obey they did, “fleeing to the mountains” of Gilead! Then, in 70 CE, the “disgusting thing” returned. In just four months, the Roman army under General Titus desolated Jerusalem, reducing its supposed “holy place” to a pile of rubble. More than a million Jews died in that holocaust, with few survivors. (Daniel 9:26) But the Christianized Jews were safe! Why? Because they obeyed the prophetic word of truth as spoken by the Great Teacher, Jesus Christ.—Mark 13:1, 2, 14.
9. Why should those first-century events interest us today?
9 Those first-century events have vital meaning for us today. Why so? Because they have a striking parallel in this twentieth century. It is in our day that Jesus’ great prophecy comes to its final, world-shattering fulfillment! However, this time not just the city of Jerusalem and the land of Judea but all the inhabited earth, with its tens of thousands of cities, its hundreds of national and tribal groups and its 4,400 million people—the entire world system of things—is involved.
10. (a) What time period ended in 1914, and how? (b) Why is there now unprecedented “woe” in the earth?
10 Even worldly historians have noted that the year 1914 CE brought an epoch-marking change. Indeed, the “appointed times of the nations” ended in that year. (Luke 21:24-28) No longer would Jehovah permit the Gentile powers to rule as they pleased. So the prophecy was fulfilled toward the Lord Jesus: “The rod of your strength Jehovah will send out of Zion [the “heavenly Jerusalem,” the messianic kingdom], saying: ‘Go subduing in the midst of your enemies.’” (Psalm 110:2) Obediently, the enthroned king hurled Satan and his demon hordes out of heaven down to the vicinity of the earth. So, for a “short period of time,” it is “woe for the earth.” (Revelation 12:7-12) Now, from 1914 on, Jesus’ great prophecy of Matthew chapters 24 and 25 is having its earth-wide fulfillment.
11. What have you yourself observed in fulfillment of Jesus’ great prophecy?
11 Have not all of us been eyewitnesses of the “sign . . . of the conclusion of the system of things”? Have not we ourselves observed the major wars, the food shortages, the pestilences, the earthquakes and other “fearful sights” that Jesus foretold? Have we not experienced the persecution of Christians, and shared in preaching “this good news of the kingdom . . . in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations”? Truly many of us have! (Matthew 24:3-14; Luke 21:10-12) But what of Jesus’ words, at Matthew 24:15, 16, about “the disgusting thing that causes desolation”?
A Global Fulfillment
12. How will the “great tribulation” differ from Jerusalem’s destruction?
12 The first-century fulfillment of this prophecy provides a pattern of what we may expect today. But some details do not run exactly in parallel. For example, at Mt 24 verses 21 and 22 Jesus says: “Then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again. In fact, unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved; but on account of the chosen ones those days will be cut short.” The climactic “great tribulation” will not be confined to Jerusalem or any other city. It will be the biggest calamity ever to strike our earth, and it will be global in scope.—Jeremiah 25:30-33; Matthew 24:30.
13. In contrast to the “flesh” that survived Jerusalem’s destruction, what “flesh” will be saved through the “great tribulation”?
13 Moreover, the “flesh” that survives will not be that of a few apostate Jews, destined for slavery, as at the destruction of the earthly Jerusalem. Instead, it will be the “flesh” of the “chosen ones,” those representing on earth the “heavenly Jerusalem,” along with the “flesh” of their companions of the “great crowd” out of all nations, of whom Revelation 7:14 states: “These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” How, then, are we to understand Matthew 24:15, 16 in its modern-day fulfillment?
“Let the Reader Use Discernment”
14 Jesus here refers to “Daniel the prophet,” and adds: “Let the reader use discernment.” It was “in the first year of Belshazzar the king of Babylon” that Daniel was given a vision of the Ancient of Days, Jehovah God, and his judging of the worldly nations through Messiah’s kingdom. This was to be when “the definite time arrived that the holy ones took possession of the kingdom itself.”—Daniel 7:1, 9-14, 21, 22, 27.
15 Daniel saw a further vision in the third year of Belshazzar’s kingship. Here, in Daniel 8:3-9, the prophet uses figurative language in describing a succession of “wild beasts” and powerful “horns” that grow out of the heads of those “beasts.” Daniel 8:20-25 helps us to identify these as world powers of the past 2,500 years, starting with Medo-Persia, then Greece, Rome and finally—as ‘a small horn that grows until its power becomes mighty’—the British Empire, with which the republic of America later became associated. In this way a dual world power was established.
16. (a) What “definite time arrived,” and what followed in the experience of the “holy ones”? (b) Why were the June 1938 issues of The Watchtower important to God’s people?
16 In 1918 CE “the definite time arrived” for the “holy ones” to receive the kingdom. From the year 1919 the “holy ones” yet remaining on earth were organized to make a grand global proclamation of Messiah’s established kingdom. (Matthew 24:14) Soon they became known worldwide as “Jehovah’s witnesses” and a “great crowd” of companion workers began to join them. (Isaiah 43:10, 12; Revelation 7:9) However, during the 1930’s dark clouds of persecution gathered. Jehovah braced his people to meet this threat by reorganizing them theocratically. The Watchtower issues of June 1 and 15, 1938, featured study articles on “Organization” that gave God’s people the theocratic structure that would serve as a basis for their activity during the second world war.—Isaiah 60:17.
17. Toward whom was Daniel 8:10, 11 now fulfilled?
17 It was during World War II that Daniel 8:10, 11 went into fulfillment. The ‘small horn’ acted in defiance of Jehovah God, “the Prince of the army.” And what “army” is this? Is it the army of adherents to the multiplicity of Christendom’s religious sects? No. These are not “objects of hatred,” for they make themselves a part of Satan’s world. (Matthew 24:9; John 15:18-20) Daniel here refers to a much smaller army, comparable to Gideon’s fighting force that was very small in comparison with the hordes of Midian. (Judges 7:8, 12) It is the remnant on earth of the “army” of 144,000 “holy ones” who will reign with the Lamb, Christ Jesus, on Mount Zion of the “heavenly Jerusalem.”—Revelation 14:1-5.
Occupying “a Holy Place”
18. (a) Where do the Scriptures show “a holy place” to be located? (b) According to Daniel 8:12, what happens at this location?
18 Today these remaining ones occupy “a holy place,” and they represent on earth the “heavenly Jerusalem” and its temple arrangement. Daniel describes this (in Da 8 verse 11) as “the established place of [Jehovah’s] sanctuary” here at His “footstool,” the earth. (Isaiah 66:1) He says: “From him [Jehovah] the constant feature was taken away, and the established place of his sanctuary was thrown down. And an army itself was gradually given over, together with the constant feature, because of transgression; and it kept throwing truth to the earth, and it acted and had success.” (Daniel 8:11, 12) How was this fulfilled?
19. (a) What do we here understand by the ‘small horn’s transgression’? (b) How did it keep “throwing truth to the earth”?
19 Well, what was the experience of faithful Bible students—Jehovah’s Witnesses—during World War II? Intense persecution! This amounted to a “transgression,” an effort to desolate God’s “sanctuary” class, and so take away from Jehovah the “constant feature” of daily public worship. It started in Nazi-Fascist countries. But soon ‘truth was being thrown to the earth’ throughout the vast domain of the ‘small horn whose power became mighty.’ The “army” of kingdom proclaimers and their work of preaching kingdom truth was banned in almost all of the British Commonwealth. When these nations conscripted their manpower they refused to grant exemption as ministers to Jehovah’s Witnesses; they showed no respect for their theocratic appointment as ministers of God. Mob violence and other indignities were heaped upon Jehovah’s faithful servants in the United States.
20. (a) What assurance does Daniel 8:14 give us? (b) How did the ‘holy place emerge victorious’? (c) As World War II drew to a close what developments were there in Jehovah’s organization?
20 However, according to Daniel 8:13, 14, after a period of ‘twenty-three hundred days’ (six years, four months and twenty days), the “holy place” would be brought again “into its right condition,” or would “emerge victorious” (New English Bible). Indeed, Jehovah’s Witnesses had been fiercely persecuted because of their insistence on ‘obeying God as ruler rather than men.’ (Acts 5:29) But during the closing months of World War II they reaffirmed their determination to magnify Jehovah’s rulership and to adhere to it within their organization. To that end, a rearrangement of the work and governing structure of Jehovah’s Witnesses was initiated in 1944. The Watchtower of October 15, 1944, took as its theme “Organized for Final Work.” This and other service-oriented articles of the same period showed that the “holy place” was again in its “right condition” from Jehovah’s viewpoint.*
21. Up to this point, how had the kingdom triumphed?
21 The enemy’s vicious attempt to desolate and destroy the “holy place” completely had failed. The remaining “holy ones” on earth, along with their companions of the “great crowd,” had come off victorious. The kingdom of the Supreme One, Jehovah, and of his Christ, had triumphed! What would follow, according to Jehovah’s prophetic word? We shall now see.
WHAT DO YOU ‘DISCERN’ BY—
Daniel 7:22: “the definite time arrived”?
Daniel 7:27: “the holy ones,” “the kingdom”?
Daniel 8:9: “another horn, a small one”?
Daniel 8:10: “the army of the heavens”?
Daniel 8:11: “the Prince of the army”?
Daniel 8:12: “throwing truth to the earth”?
Daniel 8:14, NEB: “the Holy Place shall emerge victorious”?
[Box on page 14]
In 1965 Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of Germany declared: “Thoughts and pictures come to my mind, . . . thoughts from before the year 1914 when there was real peace, quiet and security on this earth—a time when we didn’t know fear. . . . Security and quiet have disappeared from the lives of men since 1914.”
[Box on page 15]
In 1980 former British prime minister Harold Macmillan stated: “Everything would get better and better. This was the world I was born in. . . . Suddenly, unexpectedly, one morning in 1914 the whole thing came to an end.”