Whom do the man with the secretary’s inkhorn and the six men with smashing weapons described in Ezekiel’s vision symbolize?
They picture heavenly forces that were involved in the destruction of Jerusalem and that will also be involved in the destruction of Satan’s wicked system at Armageddon. Why is this adjusted understanding reasonable?
After Ezekiel saw the wicked things being done in apostate Jerusalem prior to its destruction in 607 B.C.E., he was given a vision of the events leading up to that destruction. He saw six men with smashing weapons. He also saw a man among them who was “clothed in linen” and had “a secretary’s inkhorn.” (Ezek. 8:6-12; 9:2, 3) This man was told: “Go through the city, . . . and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who are sighing and groaning over all the detestable things that are being done in the city.” Then, the men with the smashing weapons were told to kill all those in the city who did not have the mark. (Ezek. 9:4-7) What does this vision teach us, and who is the man with the secretary’s inkhorn?
This prophecy was given in 612 B.C.E., and its initial fulfillment refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian army—something that was to occur just five years later. Although the pagan Babylonians were allowed to bring about that destruction, they were serving as Jehovah’s executioners. (Jer. 25:9, 15-18) This was because Jehovah used them to punish his apostate people. However, the destruction was not to be indiscriminate. The righteous would not be destroyed along with the wicked. Jehovah lovingly made provision to save those Jews who did not agree with the detestable things happening in the city.
Ezekiel was not involved in either the marking work or the destruction itself. Instead, the execution of judgment would be directed by the angels. So by means of this prophecy, we are allowed to see behind the scenes, as it were, into the heavenly realm itself. Jehovah had commissioned his angels not only to organize the destruction of the wicked but also to separate the righteous for survival.*
In the past, we have explained that in the modern-day fulfillment of this vision, the man with the secretary’s inkhorn represented the anointed remnant. It was thought that those who respond favorably to the message being preached are now marked for survival. In recent years, however, it has become clear that an adjustment needs to be made to this explanation. According to what is stated at Matthew 25:31-33, Jesus is the one who judges people. He makes his final judgment during the time of the great tribulation, separating the sheeplike ones, who will survive, from the goatlike ones, who will be destroyed.
So in light of this adjusted understanding, what lessons do we learn from Ezekiel’s vision? There are at least five:
During the time leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem, Ezekiel served as a watchman along with Jeremiah, just as Isaiah had previously done. Today, Jehovah is using a small group of his anointed servants to feed his people and warn others before the outbreak of the great tribulation. In turn, all of Christ’s domestics have a share in sounding the warning.—Matt. 24:45-47.
Ezekiel was not involved with the actual marking of people for survival; neither are God’s servants today. They simply convey Jehovah’s message, which is a part of their preaching work, done under angelic direction.—Rev. 14:6.
In Ezekiel’s day, no one received a literal mark on his forehead. The same is true today. What do people need to do to be symbolically marked for survival? They need to react favorably to the preaching work that is taking place, put on the Christian personality, dedicate themselves to Jehovah, and loyally support Christ’s brothers. (Matt. 25:35-40) Those who do these things will receive the mark of survival during the coming great tribulation.
In the modern-day fulfillment, the man with the secretary’s inkhorn represents Jesus Christ, the one behind the scenes who marks those who will survive. The great crowd will receive their mark when they are judged as sheep during the great tribulation. This will put them in line to receive everlasting life here on earth.—Matt. 25:34, 46.*
In the modern-day fulfillment, the six men with smashing weapons represent Jesus’ heavenly armies with Jesus himself at the head. They will soon destroy the nations and all wickedness.—Ezek. 9:2, 6, 7; Rev. 19:11-21.
Understanding these valuable lessons strengthens our confidence that Jehovah does not destroy the righteous along with the wicked. (2 Pet. 2:9; 3:9) We are also reminded of the importance of the preaching work in our day. Everyone needs to hear the warning before the end comes!—Matt. 24:14.
Although not receiving a visible mark on their foreheads, people such as Baruch (Jeremiah’s secretary), Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, and the Rechabites were saved. (Jer. 35:1-19; 39:15-18; 45:1-5) They received a symbolic mark for survival.