Sunday, October 30, 2005

Unfaithful Jerusalem: Christendom or Jehovah's Witnesses?--Examining Joel 2

You have no doubt read the essays of many on the internet who denounce the interpretations of prophecies by Jehovah's Witnesses. They proclaim that unfaithful Jerusalem is actually God's modern day people, the corrupted and unfaithful Watchtower Society not Christendom. They determine that the prophecies foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem in 607BCE or 70CE are prophecies foretelling the destruction of the WTS at the start or immediately before the Great Tribulation and that a remnant of faithful ones will then be regathered and survive through Armageddon into the New World. One such prophecy used is found in the book of Joel chapter 2.

One would be interpreter of the future judgment to come upon Jehovah's Witnesses known as the E-Watchman had this to say: "Even a casual reading of Joel should impress the reader that God is foretelling a visitation of a unique and horrific catastrophe upon the world, and in particular how that calamity will impact those who are God's people."

He goes on to interpret the prophecy to show that the destruction of unfaithful Jerusalem, which corresponds to the unfaithful WTS, and the regathering of God's people will happen immediately before Armageddon and is definitely not being fulfilled now. And so it is determined that Joel 2:27-29 is fulfilled at the time of the regathering just before Armageddon during the Great Tribulation. Joel says: "And YOU people will have to know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am Jehovah YOUR God and there is no other. And my people will not be ashamed to time indefinite. 28 “And after that it must occur that I shall pour out my spirit on every sort of flesh, and YOUR sons and YOUR daughters will certainly prophesy. As for YOUR old men, dreams they will dream. As for YOUR young men, visions they will see. 29 And even on the menservants and on the maidservants in those days I shall pour out my spirit."

But is his timeline correct? Is this scripture fulfilled immediately prior to Armageddon, by the trampling of God's people by the nations, followed by their being regathered and Jehovah pouring out his spirit upon them so that they prophesy? Does this interpretation hold up to scrutiny when examining how the prophecy was fulfilled in the first century?

The First Century Fulfillment Upon God's People

Exactly how was the prophecy fulfilled in the first century upon God's people in the last days of the Jewish system of things? By determining this we will then be able to understand its fulfillment upon God's people in the last days of this system of things.

The Bible shows it was fulfilled at Pentecost when holy spirit was poured out upon those Christians gathered together in Jerusalem. As a result they preached and prophesied to unbelieving Jews about Jesus. Notice how Peter and the Apostles applied the fulfillment of the scripture in Acts 2:14-18, "But Peter stood up with the eleven and raised his voice and made this utterance to them: “Men and all YOU inhabitants of Jerusalem, let this be known to YOU and give ear to my sayings. 15 These [people] are, in fact, not drunk, as YOU suppose, for it is the third hour of the day. 16 On the contrary, this is what was said through the prophet Joel, 17 “And in the last days,” God says, “I shall pour out some of my spirit upon every sort of flesh, and YOUR sons and YOUR daughters will prophesy and YOUR young men will see visions and YOUR old men will dream dreams; 18 and even upon my men slaves and upon my women slaves I will pour out some of my spirit in those days, and they will prophesy."

The fulfillment of the prophecy does not wait to take place after the destruction of unfaithful Jerusalem at all. It takes place before the destruction. Peter showed the fulfillment began to take place in 33CE, many years before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70CE. It is not fulfilled at the very end of that Jewish system of things. Rather it has fulfillment with the establishment of the Christian congregation and the beginning of the gathering of God's people. It's fulfillment is upon that remnant of faithful follows of Jesus taken from among the Jews and later Gentiles in the first century. In view of this, it now becomes apparent when the scripture has fulfillment in the last days of this system of things.

Applying the Scripture Upon God's People in Modern Times

When did holy spirit began to be poured out in fulfillment of the prophecy for our day? Using the first century as a parallel, it becomes clear that it is not at the time of destruction of symbolic unfaithful Jerusalem. It is not at the end of this system of things, during the Great Tribulation immediately before Armageddon. No, just as it was applied in the first century when God's people began to be gathered as Christ's followers to preach the good news so likewise in modern times. The scripture could only find fulfillment when God began to gather his modern day worshippers into a congregation of faithful proclaimers of the good news of God's Kingdom early in the 20th century. And just as many years passed after Joel 2 began to have fulfillment before the destruction of the Jewish system, so likewise in modern times, many years would pass after the fulfillment of Joel 2 began to take place until the destruction of the entire system of things at Armageddon.

Additionally, it should be noted that the early Christians came out from the religions of that time (primarily the Jewish faith) to form the Christian congregation. God's modern day people also come out from the false religions of this world that have failed to bring praise to Jehovah in these last days (primarily being Christendom, which corresponds to unfaithful Jerusalem). And although God's people will no doubt have hard times during the Great Tribulation, as they did during the tribulation upon Jerusalem in 70 CE, the destruction of unfaithful Jerusalem (Christendom in our times) did not mean the destruction of Christ's followers because they obeyed him when they left Jerusalem.

As one brother correctly stated, "Jerusalem had already been rejected by Jehovah by 70 CE. They no longer had a claim to be God's chosen people. So their destruction at that time is meaningless, compared to the newly formed christian congregation." By the same token, symbolic unfaithful Jerusalem (Christendom) has failed to gain God's blessings today. They have rejected Jehovah, rarely if ever using his name and worshipping him as an unscriptural Trinity God. They no longer have a claim to be God's chosen people. Symbolic unfaithful Jerusalem is slated for destruction just like unfaithful Jerusalem in 70 CE. So their destruction has no direct bearing on God's people.

Really all that is necessary to expose the silly absurdity of E-Watchman's interpretation is a few simple questions. If unfaithful Jerusalem pictures Jehovah's modern day unfaithful organization then who do the true Christians who preached the good news of the kingdom from 33CE to 70CE picture? Since the true Christian congregation was established in 33CE then we must ask, when apostate Jerusalem was destroyed in 70CE what newly formed true organization of God came out of the desolated unfaithful Jerusalem at this time?

Future Judgment View Needs to be Readjusted

The same well known promoter of the future judgment view mentioned earlier reasons like this: "Since the apostle Peter quoted from the prophecy of Joel on the day of Pentecost, applying it to the Christian congregation, it is apparent that the "holy place" and "Jerusalem" have significance for Christ's congregation too, but during a latter time of judgment. And, as stated previously, since there has been no such devastation of the anointed congregation to date, the prophecy of Joel, as well as all the other prophets, await a future realization."

But all we need do is once again ask a few simple questions: What was the devastation that came upon God's people in 33 CE before the outpouring of holy spirit took place? Since there was no such literal physical devastation upon God's people at that time at the hands of outside forces, why was the prophecy fulfilled then according to Peter? Indeed why didn't the prophecy of Joel have to 'await a future realization' upon the first century Christian congregation at a 'latter time of judgment'? (For further evidence about what the devastation was that came in 33CE see: )

If proponents of the future judgment view that Jehovah's Witnesses represent unfaithful Jerusalem are correct, here is what should have happened in the first century in order for there to be a parallel application:

1. In 33CE Jehovah sends the northeners, the Roman armies, to punish God's people for their unfaithfulness, to devastate Jerusalem and God's people.

2. His people repent and come back to him.

3. He makes compensation for them by bringing faithful ones back to the fold.

4. He pours out his holy spirit at Pentecost and they prophesy thus fulfilling the scripture at Joel.

But the fact is, that is not what happened at all. Shouldn't the prophecy be applied today in the same way that Peter applied it? If we lived back then we could have argued with Peter that he is wrong in the way he applies the prophecy. 'Peter, first the calamity upon God's people must come for the blessings and holy spirit to be poured out. You are misapplying the prophecy.' But Peter was inspired. He can't be wrong. And we can only follow the pattern of understanding the prophecy that Peter set for us. In other words, the future judgment way of interpreting the scripture does not agree with Peter's way of interpreting the scripture. In order to prove that the WTS misapplies the prophecy you must at the same time prove that Peter misapplies the prophecy.

Paul's View of Unfaithful Jerusalem

Did the Apostle Paul have any problem in comparing faithful Jerusalem to God's people and unfaithful Jerusalem to those not God's people? Notice what Paul said at Galations chapter 4. Beginning in verse 25, "Now this Ha´gar means Si´nai, a mountain in Arabia, and she corresponds with the Jerusalem today, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 29 But just as then the one born in the manner of flesh began persecuting the one born in the manner of spirit, so also now."

Paul's conclusion:

1. Faithful Jerusalem = God's people.

2. Unfaithful Jerusalem = not God's people.

I am inclined to accept Paul's understanding over that of a self appointed modern day 'watchman prophet'. How about you?

The True Parallel

In 537BCE God's people were restored. But by the time 29CE rolled around they had again become apostate to a large extent. And that is when Jesus arrived. And so the new Christian congregation was established and holy spirit was poured out as prophecied by Joel 2 and the good news of the Kingdom was preached. The last days of the Jewish system began. The false religion of unfaithful Jerusalem was then destroyed in 70CE not to cleanse the true Christian congregation but to show God's disfavor on the false apostate religion that had once been true.

Did this mean hard times for God's people who left Jerusalem? Of course it did. It was 3.5 years of wilderness living. Did some apostasize and fall away from the truth and fail to listen to Jesus during that time? No doubt. Were JWs destroyed? By no means.

Many Christians were probably then expecting the destruction of the nations shortly thereafter. But it didn't happen.

In the last days we have a repeat of the events. So once again, by the time the 1900s rolled around apostate teachings had become firmly entrenched among God's people. And that is when Jesus arrived and the last days began. And once again, holy spirit was poured out upon God's people and the good news of the Kingdom was preached. And thats where we are now.

How did the story end in the first century? It must be the same today except this time Armageddon is really coming and the nations will really meet their destruction. So by examining the happenings of the first century what should we expect from here on out?

First, the destruction of unfaithful Jerusalem to clearly show who God has favored in these last days. Obedient ones will not meet their destruction when Babylon the Great is destroyed. Will we meet persecution before that destruction? Of course we will. And maybe again it will be 3.5 years. Will some apostasize and fall away from the truth during that time? No doubt. Will JWs be destroyed? By no means.

And then we will be expecting the destruction of the nations as foretold. And this time it will happen. This is the real parallel.

From this it is clear that Joel 2 began to have modern day fulfillment early in the 20th century with the gathering of Jehovah's modern day witnesses. In view of the foregoing, perhaps it is time for proponents of the future judgment view (that all the prophecies about unfaithful Jerusalem apply to the unfaithful and corrupt WTS) to go back to the drawing board.

For further proof that future adverse judgment upon God's people is unscriptural visit: