One thing I've never understood about JW eschatology is how it views Armageddon and the end times. The leaders and writers have evolved in their understanding of what's supposed to happen in the timeline. Below are Bible scriptures relating to biblical Armageddon. As most scholars read them, they don't point to a global destruction at all, but to a war between good and evil based in the Middle East. For example, all the prophets have agreed on various points.
- Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it. (Zechariah 12:2-3)
- After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them. Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee. Thus saith the Lord God; It shall also come to pass...thou shalt think an evil thought: And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, to take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land. (Ezekiel 38:8-12)
- And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes. (Ezekiel38:16)
- In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. (Zechariah 12:8-9)
- And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord God, that my fury shall come up in my face. For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken, surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel ... [and] every man's sword shall be against his brother. And I will plead against [Gog] with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. (Zechariah 12:19-22)
- Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy bands, and the people that is with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. Thou shalt fall upon the open field: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord God. (Ezekiel 39:4-5)
- For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. (Zechariah 14:12)
It's clear that these two prophets are speaking of the same event. Both are in the latter days, both concern massive military operations against Judah and Jerusalem, and in both cases the Lord comes out of his hiding place to destroy Judah's enemies and saves them. So why did the Lord let Judah fall to the Romans? Why did he let them be dispersed throughout the nations? Why did he let them suffer at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition, the Italians, Nazis and other nations?
The Lord explained it to Ezekiel:
...the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity: because they trespassed against me, therefore hid I my face from them, and gave them into the hand of their enemies: so fell they all by the sword. According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions have I done unto them, and hid my face from them. Therefore...now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for my holy name; after they have borne their shame and all their trespasses whereby they have trespassed against me, when they dwelt safely in their land, and none made them afraid. (Ezekiel 39:23-26)This is the battle of Armageddon. I'm not sure how the WTBTS came to its present understanding of this great event, but I've never spoken to even one JW who has studied what Armageddon is supposed to be from a biblical standpoint, or where it's supposed to be and how it's supposed to end. They know what the Watchtower says, but nothing about what the Bible states.
But what is even more confusing to me is: who is it who is supposed to come during the battle? The sectarians call it "the Second Coming" (and by this is meant the Christ), but Zechariah says that it's Jehovah. Zechariah also writes:
And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. (Zechariah 12:9-12)Although the text says "they shall look upon ME whom they have pierced," the text says "they have looked unto Me whom they pierced." Either way, the one who comes is Christ. This is especially significant to those who believe that Jesus and Jehovah are the same.
But who is it that the JWs believe is coming?