28. Thus Jehovah’s choice was to be made manifest to whom, and what was it that Jehovah chose?
28 The divine time for reconstruction had arrived. Nothing was now going to stop it. The divine choice had been made of his visible earthly organization. That choice was to be made manifest by divine favor, whether the worldly nations that were at ease resented it or not. No secret was to be made of the divine choice. To show that public attention was to be called to the divine decision and choice, the command was issued in the hearing of the prophet Zechariah: “Call out further, saying, ‘This is what Jehovah of armies has said: “My cities will yet overflow with goodness; and Jehovah will yet certainly feel regrets over Zion and yet actually choose Jerusalem.”’”—Zechariah 1:17.
29. (a) So what did Jehovah claim as his possession, and how was he to show his choice of such? (b) By what other name was Jerusalem called and why, and who would reside there?
29 Let us note that Jehovah of armies calls the cities of the Persian province of Judah “my cities.” He has chosen them. He claims them as his possession. He will give proof that these reconstructed cities were his by filling them with goodness from him. Consequently they would prosper. Each of these cities would have its body of elders for their local government. Such reorganized cities would not be without their earthly capital. That chief city would be the one of Jehovah’s choice. It would be the one that had been the preexile capital of Jehovah’s people, namely, Jerusalem, rebuilt by his own people. That was no democratic choice, nor any imperial choice. It was the theocratic choice. This city chosen by the heavenly Theocrat Jehovah of armies was also called Zion, because Mount Zion had been the location of King David’s palace alongside of which David had pitched the tent for the temporary residence of Jehovah’s Ark of the Covenant. In rebuilt Zion or Jerusalem was to be the location of the provincial governing body. So Governor Zerubbabel resided here.
30. How and when did Jehovah “feel regrets over Zion”?
30 Because of the persistent disobedience of its inhabitants, Jehovah had decreed that Zion or Jerusalem should be destructed by the Babylonians and that it would lie desolate for seventy years. At his due time Jehovah felt regrets for desolate Zion. Not that he had done wrong or made a mistake in having Zion destructed, but that his will had been carried out and his purpose had been served and he had vindicated himself. Now his indignation could subside and he could comfort himself. He could now feel sorrow for the object of his indignation and now feel free to show pity toward it and comfort it. Thus, without having to admit any mistake, Jehovah felt regrets for Zion at the end of the seventy years of desolation. Without having to undo any misdeed on His part and without having to make reparations for any unwarranted injuries on His part, Jehovah mercifully brought his exiled people back and had them reconstruct Zion. The time of destruction was past; the time of construction was here! What a display of divine pity!
31. (a) What nation had called out for Jerusalem to be razed to the ground, and in what belief? (b) When was it the time to call out the choice of Jehovah as to a city?
31 At the time of the razing of Zion or Jerusalem in the year 607 B.C.E., the enemy Edomites had egged on the Babylonian conquerors by saying: “Lay it bare! Lay it bare to the foundation within it!” (Psalm 137:7) The gloating enemies thought that its God, Jehovah, had cast off the city forever, and, like them, He would never choose Jerusalem again. But Jehovah could not forget or deny his gracious prophecies concerning Jerusalem. In faithfulness he did “actually choose Jerusalem,” and that choice held good years later, in 519 B.C.E., at the time of the first vision of Zechariah. Not only was Jerusalem constructed again by his own people, but the foundation of his temple was laid there and work on the superstructure was already begun. When that temple was fully constructed, then Jehovah would put his own name there, his presence by his spirit would be there, his full worship would be resumed there. This would prove to all the nations that Jehovah had chosen Jerusalem. So, even in 519 B.C.E., it was time to call out his choice!
32. Why can we not look to modern-day Jerusalem for a fulfillment of Zechariah 1:17 today?
32 Has there been anything similar to this in modern times? Certainly not so with regard to modern Jerusalem over which the Arabs and the Israelis fought both in 1948 and in 1967. The orthodox Jews wail or recite prayers down below at the Western Wall (Kótel Maʽarabí), whereas on the platform about sixty feet above them the Mohammedans worship at the Dome of the Rock and the Mosque el-Aksa. To the south of this the Biblical Mount Zion lies desolate outside the present city walls. With all due regard for the facts of the situation, Jehovah has not chosen this earthly Jerusalem as a place for his name and worship. We must look elsewhere for the modern-day fulfillment of Zechariah 1:17.
33. (a) What today corresponds with Zerubbabel governing over ancient Jerusalem? (b) What about those over whom this one governs?
33 On earth today there is no temple-building being carried on by Zerubbabel as governor of Jerusalem. But there is the Greater Zerubbabel, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ glorified in the heavens. In Jehovah’s name he governs at what Hebrews 12:22 calls “Mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem.” At the close of the Gentile Times in 1914 he was installed as reigning King there and he governs over those who are his true and faithful disciples on earth. Such disciples do not make up any part of Christendom, by any means, for she is made up of hundreds of conflicting religious sects and adheres to the United Nations as the preserver of world peace and security and her hands are full of bloodshed from the unchristian wars of this world. The heavenly Greater Zerubbabel governs over those who worship the same God that he does, namely, Jehovah of armies. These worshipers are also under obligation to be the Christian witnesses of this God, Jehovah. (Isaiah 43:10-12; 44:8) They are the ones identified with the “heavenly Jerusalem,” the seat of government of the Greater Zerubbabel.
34. During World War I of 1914-1918, how did it appear as if Jehovah had abandoned his spiritual Zion or Jerusalem?
34 Because of all these Scriptural connections, such Christian witnesses of Jehovah on earth represent the Mount Zion up above and the “heavenly Jerusalem.” What has happened to them has been like happening to the figurative Zion or Jerusalem. In the turmoil of World War I (1914-1918) they were persecuted by the so-called Christians of Christendom for trying to hold fast to the Kingdom of the Greater Zerubbabel, Jesus Christ. Their public witnessing to Jehovah’s Messianic kingdom was obstructed and reduced to a minimum. They were not fighting against one another with carnal weapons by fighting on the opposing sides of war-mad Christendom, but their international cooperation with one another was broken up by the enemies in breaking up their international organization. Because of the worldwide affliction upon them, it was as if Jehovah their God had abandoned the spiritual Zion or Jerusalem.
35. At the beginning of the postwar period, Jehovah’s choice as to who should represent his spiritual Zion or Jerusalem was between what groups?
35 Quite suddenly World War I came to an end by an armistice in November of 1918. The postwar period set in. Peacetime activities could now be resumed. In December of that year the religionists of Christendom began taking their stand in favor of an international organization for world peace and security. This was notably made publicly clear by the declaration of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America that the proposed League of Nations is “the political expression of the kingdom of God on earth.” This even though all the nations of the proposed League were stained with the blood of the millions of war dead. Was the Federal Council correct in its high-sounding declaration, so piously religious in its wording? For a certainty it was the time for Jehovah of armies to make an expression of Himself. Whom would he choose as his representatives of spiritual Zion or Jerusalem? Christendom with her bloodstained persecutors, or the persecuted adherents to the kingdom of his Greater Zerubbabel, Jesus Christ? Whom would he organize as His witnesses?
36. What questions do we ask today to prove whether Christendom was Jehovah’s choice as his organization right after World War I?
36 Does the religious disorganization and deterioration of Christendom today overwhelmingly prove that back there in the postwar year of 1919 she was the choice of Jehovah of armies? Do the facts of today prove beyond all contradiction that He has filled her “cities” with His goodness to overflowing? Does his spiritual temple stand rebuilt within her as a house of worship, that is to say, is she through her hundreds of religious sects worshiping Jehovah as God at his spiritual temple? Who will come forward as the witnesses of Christendom to offer the unequivocal answer Yes? In the absence of such witnesses we look elsewhere.
38. Who on earth in the postwar period has proved to be Jehovah’s choice, and by what identifying features?
38 The historical facts since World War I of 1914-1918 identify them. Their role on the international scene today marks them out in bold relief. They are the Christian witnesses bearing the name of the God whom they worship and serve, Jehovah. From the religiously crippled state in which the postwar year of 1919 found this internationally despised group, this remnant of dedicated, baptized, spirit-anointed Christians stepped forth in Jehovah’s service upon the world stage of action. When the world, political, religious, military and social, was going over to the espousal of the League of Nations, this anointed remnant stood firm for Jehovah’s Messianic kingdom as the only hope for all humanity and entered upon a course of preaching “this good news of the kingdom” as never before in their earthly career. Their preaching of “this good news” has by now proved to be just as Jesus Christ in Matthew 24:14 foretold that it would be: “in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” Yes, in 165 languages!
39. (a) This exploit is due to the fact that Jehovah has returned where and with what? (b) To what have these approached, and where do they render sacred service, being now joined by whom?
39 This noteworthy exploit in world annals has been accomplished not by human strength, ability, ingenuity, courage and fortitude on their part alone. It is primarily because Jehovah of armies has chosen them for foretold service and witness. Nor just because they were wholly dedicated to him as disciples of Jesus Christ, but because he had shown mercy upon them through Jesus Christ and had now “returned” to them with “mercies.” By faithfully following in Christ’s footsteps they are approaching “Mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem.” With greater understanding and discernment than ever previously they appreciate Jehovah’s spiritual temple and they are worshiping him there, rendering service as spiritual underpriests under their heavenly High Priest Jesus Christ. In their worship there they have now been joined by an innumerable “great crowd” of peaceable sheeplike persons out of all nations, peoples, tribes and languages. Just as foretold! (Revelation 7:9-17) In 207 countries and island groups we find them.
40. (a) Why may Jehovah call these congregations “my cities,” and how are they organized? (b) In what way do those “cities” “overflow with goodness”?
40 They do not have political communities such as cities. Their figurative “cities” are religious congregations of dedicated, baptized disciples of Jesus Christ, the Greater Zerubbabel. (Matthew 28:19, 20) These are organized according to theocratic rule as outlined in the inspired Holy Scriptures, and, like the cities of ancient Israel, these congregations have each a local presbytery or “body of elders.” There are also “ministerial servants” (diákonoi) to assist each body of elders. (1 Timothy 3:1-13; 4:14; Titus 1:5-9; Philippians 1:1; 1 Peter 5:1-4) Jehovah can appropriately call these Christian congregations “my cities,” because he is really responsible for their organization and growth and they are unreservedly dedicated to Him through Jesus Christ. An investigation of these figurative “cities” of Jehovah reveals that they “overflow with goodness” from Him, in a spiritual sense. To judge from all the accumulated evidence, Jehovah of armies has chosen them as representative of his heavenly Jerusalem. Praise to Him, for the prophecy of Zechariah 1:16, 17 has had such fulfillment!