A “Disgusting Thing” Fails to Bring Peace
“When you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies . . . then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains.”—LUKE 21:20, 21.
1, 2. (a) Why will man never bring peace through organizations such as the United Nations? (b) How will God bring peace to the earth?
HOWEVER hard men try to bring peace and security through institutions such as the United Nations, they will never succeed. Why? Because mankind today is not at peace with God, and lasting security can be based only on man’s being at peace with his Creator. (Psalm 46:1-9; 127:1; Isaiah 11:9; 57:21) How can this problem be solved? Happily, Jehovah himself already has the matter in hand. Peace and security will finally be brought to this earth through God’s Kingdom by his Son, Jesus, at whose birth angels sang: “Glory in the heights above to God, and upon earth peace among men of goodwill.”—Luke 2:14; Psalm 72:7.
2 In the first century, Jesus announced God’s Kingdom and offered peaceable ones the opportunity to become sons of God and corulers with him in that Kingdom. (Matthew 4:23; 5:9; Luke 12:32) The events that followed were very similar to events in our own century. Examining them will teach us much about the future course of man’s “peace and security” organization, the United Nations.
The Jews Make a Choice
3. Who was trying to maintain international peace and security in Jesus’ day, and why could this never succeed completely?
3 In Jesus’ day, the Roman Empire ruled much of the earth and had its own ideas about peace and security. It had, by means of its legions, enforced the Pax Romana (Roman Peace) throughout much of the known world. But the Pax Romana could never be a permanent peace, because pagan Rome and its legions could never bring about a reconciliation between man and God. Hence, the Kingdom that Jesus announced was far superior.
4. How did most Jews react to Jesus’ preaching? Nevertheless, what gradually developed in the first century?
4 Nevertheless, the majority of Jesus’ fellow countrymen rejected God’s Kingdom. (John 1:11; 7:47, 48; 9:22) Their rulers, viewing Jesus as a threat to national security, handed him over to be executed, insisting: “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 11:48; 19:14, 15) Some Jews, however, and later many Gentiles, gladly recognized Jesus as God’s chosen King. (Colossians 1:13-20) They preached about him in many lands, and Jerusalem became the center of an international association of Christians.—Acts 15:2; 1 Peter 5:9.
5, 6. (a) How did the relationship between the Jews and Rome develop? (b) What warning did Jesus give, and how did it save the lives of Christians in 70 C.E.?
5 Despite the fact that the Jews had chosen Caesar over Christ, relations between Jerusalem and Rome soon deteriorated. Jewish Zealots conducted guerrilla campaigns against the empire until finally, in 66 C.E., open warfare erupted. Roman troops tried to restore Pax Romana, and soon Jerusalem was under siege. For Christians this was significant. Many years before, Jesus had warned: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near. Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains, and let those in the midst of her withdraw.” (Luke 21:20, 21) Jerusalem was now surrounded, and the Christians waited for an opportunity to flee.
6 This came quickly. The Romans were undermining the temple wall, and many Jews were ready to surrender when the Roman commander, Cestius Gallus, unexpectedly withdrew his troops and left. The Zealots seized the opportunity to reorganize their defenses, but the Christians abandoned the doomed city. In 70 C.E., Roman legions were back, encamped around the walls of Jerusalem, and this time the city perished. How does this historical tragedy affect us? In this: Jesus’ warning that saved his followers’ lives also has meaning for us today.
More Than One Fulfillment
7-9. (a) How do we know that Jesus’ prophecy about the surrounding of Jerusalem by armies would have more than one fulfillment? (b) How does reading the book of Daniel with understanding support this?
7 This warning was part of a long prophecy uttered by Jesus in response to an important question. His followers had asked: “When will [the destruction of the Jewish temple] be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” In answer, Jesus gave a sign made up of many features, including the besieging of Jerusalem. (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21) In the years following Jesus’ death, many of the features of this prophecy were fulfilled, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish system of things in 70 C.E.—Matthew 24:7, 14; Acts 11:28; Colossians 1:23.
8 However, the disciples had also asked about Jesus’ “presence,” which the Bible associates with the end of a whole world system of things. (Daniel 2:44; Matthew 24:3, 21) Since Jesus’ spiritual presence and the end of the worldwide system of things did not happen in the first century, a future, greater fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy could be expected, with those first-century events providing a pattern for the larger fulfillment. This would include a larger fulfillment of Jesus’ warning about the destruction of Jerusalem.
9 This becomes more evident if we examine the way this warning was recorded in the other two Bible books where it appears. In Matthew the besieging troops are described as “the disgusting thing that causes desolation, as spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in a holy place.” (Matthew 24:15) In Mark’s account “the disgusting thing” stands “where it ought not.” (Mark 13:14) Matthew’s account says that “the disgusting thing” was also mentioned in the book of Daniel. In fact, the expression “disgusting thing” appears three times in that book: once (in the plural) in Daniel 9:27 where it is part of a prophecy fulfilled when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 C.E., and then, in Daniel 11:31 and Daniel 12:11. According to these latter two scriptures, a “disgusting thing” was to be set in place during “the time appointed,” or “the time of the end.” (Daniel 11:29; 12:9) We have been living in “the time of the end” since 1914; hence, Jesus’ warning applies today too.—Matthew 24:15.
10, 11. How have events in our century resembled those in the first century?
10 In our century, events have followed a pattern similar to that of the first century. Today, as then, there is an empire dominating the world scene. The modern one is the Anglo-American world power, which tries hard to impose its own ideas about peace and security on mankind. In the first century, fleshly Israel rejected Jesus as God’s anointed King. In 1914 Jesus’ “presence” as Jehovah’s enthroned King began. (Psalm 2:6; Revelation 11:15-18) But the nations, including those of Christendom, refused to acknowledge him. (Psalm 2:2, 3, 10, 11) In fact, they got involved in a vicious world war for international sovereignty. The religious leaders of Christendom—like the Jewish leaders—have taken the lead in rejecting Jesus. Since 1914 they have consistently acted in the political arena and have opposed the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom.—Mark 13:9.
11 Nevertheless, as in Jesus’ day, many individuals today have gladly recognized Jehovah’s King and have spread the good news of his Kingdom around the world. (Matthew 24:14) Over two and a half million of Jehovah’s Witnesses now express loyalty to God’s Kingdom. (Revelation 7:9, 10) Neutral as to this world’s politics, they have full faith in Jehovah’s arrangements for bringing peace and security.—John 17:15, 16; Ephesians 1:10.
“The Disgusting Thing” Today
12. What is the modern-day “disgusting thing”?
12 What, then, is the modern “disgusting thing that causes desolation”? In the first century it was the Roman troops sent to reimpose Pax Romana in Jerusalem. In modern times, however, the nations that fought in World War I became disillusioned about the usefulness of all-out war in imposing peace and experimented with something new: an international organization to preserve world peace. This began life in 1919 as the League of Nations and still exists as the United Nations. Here is the modern “disgusting thing that causes desolation.”
13, 14. (a) What flattering statements have been made by Christendom about “the disgusting thing”? (b) Why was this idolatry, and where did it place “the disgusting thing”?
13 Interestingly, the Hebrew word translated “disgusting thing” in Daniel is shiq·qutsʹ. In the Bible, this word is used principally of idols and idolatry. (1 Kings 11:5, 7) With this in mind, read some comments by religious leaders about the League:
“What is this vision of a world-federation of humanity . . . if it be not of the Kingdom of God?” “The League of Nations is rooted in the Gospel.” (Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America) “Every one of [the League of Nations’] objects and activities may be claimed as fulfilling the will of God as made known in the teaching of Jesus Christ.” (Bishops of the Church of England) “The meeting therefore commends to the support and prayers of all Christian people the League of Nations as the only available instrument for attaining [peace on earth].” (General Body of Baptists, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians in Britain). “[The League of Nations] is the only organised effort which has been made to carry into effect the repeated wishes of the Holy See.”—Cardinal Bourne, Archbishop of Westminster.
14 When the nations not only rejected God’s Kingdom but also established their own organization to bring peace, that was rebellion. When religious leaders of Christendom identified that organization with God’s Kingdom and the Gospel, proclaiming it to be “the only available instrument” for bringing peace, that was idolatry. They were putting it in the position of God’s Kingdom, “in a holy place.” Certainly, it was “standing where it ought not.” (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14) And religious leaders continue to support the League’s successor, the United Nations, rather than point men to God’s established Kingdom.
The Danger to Christendom
15, 16. How are relations developing between Christendom and the nations supporting “the disgusting thing”?
15 Although Christendom’s religions chose the League of Nations and its successor over God’s Kingdom, their relations with the member nations of these organizations have deteriorated. This is similar to what happened between the Jews and Rome. Since 1945 the United Nations has included more and more countries that are either unchristian or antichristian, and this does not bode well for Christendom.
16 Moreover, in many lands there is friction between Christendom’s religions and the State. In Poland the Catholic Church is seen as an opponent of the regime there. In Northern Ireland and Lebanon, religions of Christendom have exacerbated the problems of peace and security. Additionally, Christendom’s religions have produced some who, like the Jewish Zealots, encourage violence. Thus, the Protestant World Council of Churches has made donations to terrorist organizations, while Catholic priests fight in the jungles as guerrillas and serve in revolutionary governments.
17. (a) What is modern-day Jerusalem? (b) What will finally happen to it?
17 Time alone will reveal how far relations will deteriorate between Christendom’s religions and the nations, but events in the first century have already foreshadowed how all of this will end. As Jesus foresaw, in the first century Rome’s armies finally destroyed Jerusalem with much tribulation. True to the prophetic pattern, the nations along with the United Nations will attack and destroy “Jerusalem,” that is, Christendom’s religious structure.—Luke 21:20, 23.
Flee to the Mountains
18. What should meekhearted ones do when they discern that “the disgusting thing” is in place?
18 In the first century, after “the disgusting thing” appeared, Christians had the opportunity to flee. Jesus counseled them to do so instantly because they did not know how long that opportunity would last. (Mark 13:15, 16) In the same way, when meekhearted people today discern that “the disgusting thing” exists, they should immediately flee from the religious domain of Christendom. Every second they stay therein their spiritual lives are in danger, and who knows how long the opportunity to flee will be open to them?
19, 20. (a) What did first-century Christians do when they saw Jerusalem surrounded by Roman armies? (b) What is represented today by “the mountains,” and what should prompt meekhearted ones today to flee there?
19 Luke’s gospel warned Christians of his day to flee when they saw “Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies.” As already noted, those armies came in 66 C.E., and the opportunity to flee arose that same year when Cestius Gallus withdrew his troops. After the Christians fled, war continued between the Jews and the Romans—although not around Jerusalem. Vespasian was sent by Emperor Nero to Palestine, and successful campaigns were conducted there in 67 and 68. Then Nero died, and Vespasian got involved in the Imperial succession. But after he was made emperor in 69 C.E., he sent his son Titus to finish the Judean war. In 70 C.E., Jerusalem was destroyed.
20 Christians, though, did not wait in Jerusalem to see all of that. As soon as they first saw the besieging armies, they knew the city was in deadly danger. Likewise today, the instrument of Christendom’s destruction has appeared. Hence, as soon as we discern the danger that Christendom is in, we should ‘flee to the mountains,’ Jehovah’s place of refuge with his theocratic organization. Other prophecies give no basis for believing that there will be a breathing space between the initial attack on Christendom and her final desolation. In truth, there will be no need for such a pause in hostilities. Meekhearted ones are wise to flee from Christendom now.
Jerusalem and Christendom
21. Why did “the disgusting thing” appear at the end of Jerusalem’s time of the end, whereas in this century it appeared toward the beginning of this system’s time of the end?
21 Should we be surprised that in the first century “the disgusting thing” appeared just before the destruction of Jerusalem, whereas today it appeared right at the beginning of this world’s time of the end? No. In each case, “the disgusting thing” appeared at the moment Jehovah wanted his people to flee. In the first century, Christians had to remain for a time in Jerusalem in order to preach there. (Acts 1:8) Only in 66 C.E., when destruction was imminent, did a “disgusting thing” appear, warning them to flee. But to be “in” modern-day Jerusalem means to be part of the religious domain of Christendom.* It is impossible to serve Jehovah acceptably in such a corrupt and apostate environment. Hence, early in this world’s time of the end “the disgusting thing” appeared, warning Christians to flee. The flight out of Christendom is ongoing, each person having a warning to flee as soon as he discerns that “the disgusting thing” is in place.
22. What questions remain to be answered?
22 We may ask, though, what leads to this most unexpected act, the destruction of Christendom by militarized elements from within the United Nations? When will it happen? And how can this possibly contribute to peace and security on our earth? We will discuss these questions in the next article.
A somewhat similar comparison could be made between the city of Babylon, from which the Jews fled in 537 B.C.E., and the modern Babylon the Great, from which Christians flee today.—Isaiah 52:11; Jeremiah 51:45; Revelation 18:4.
Do you remember?
□ Why must Jesus’ prophecy about “the disgusting thing” have a modern-day fulfillment?
□ What is “the disgusting thing” today, and since when has it been in place?
□ What is the modern-day Jerusalem of Jesus’ prophecy?
□ How does Luke 21:20, 21 help us to see the urgency of fleeing?
□ What are “the mountains” to which meekhearted ones flee?
[Blurb on page 11]
When the religious leaders of Christendom identified the United Nations with God’s Kingdom and the gospel, that was idolatry