A Spiritual Paradise on a Polluted Earth
1, 2. To what extent have man’s efforts to cut down on the polluting of the earth met with success?
THERE are still some spots on this earth that are like a miniature earthly paradise. However, their continued existence is threatened. Within the last twenty years the scientific study of the polluting of all mankind’s natural environment has been given serious consideration. Efforts have been made to cut down on the polluting of earth, water and air, but the process of pollution still continues and increases.
2 Certain ecological plans have been found to be impractical or economically out of the question. Various projects for preserving the beauty and healthfulness of nature in selected areas have had to give way to the needs created by the energy crisis. The whole earth is becoming more unhealthy as the habitat for fish, bird, land animal and man to live in. Due to man’s manner of life and his mismanagement of the earth, the survival of all live creature existence on our planet is threatened by environmental pollution alone.
3. Despite the polluting of the natural environment, what paradise is spreading out, and since what year?
3 Unaffected by such blighting pollution earth wide, a spiritual paradise flourishes and extends itself out farther and farther. As it expands, more and more spiritually minded persons are enjoying it and leading happier lives. They are even entertaining hopes of living forever in an unpolluted earthly paradise. The earthly natural paradise is still future, of course; otherwise, the present polluting of man’s natural environment would not be allowed to continue. It is beyond man’s own ability and wisdom to restore man’s original paradise home to this earth. But since the first year of peace after World War I, a spiritual paradise has been planted here at the earth. Doubtless this is the paradise about which the Christian apostle Paul writes in his second letter to the first-century congregation in Corinth, Greece.
4. Concerning this paradise, what did the apostle Paul say in his second letter to the Corinthian Christians?
4 Writing near the middle of the first century, about the year 55 C.E., he said to this congregation of fellow believers: “I have to boast. It is not beneficial; but I shall pass on to supernatural visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in union with Christ who, fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know; God knows—was caught away as such to the third heaven. Yes, I know such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body, I do not know, God knows—that he was caught away into paradise and heard unutterable words which it is not lawful for a man to speak. Over such a man I will boast, but I will not boast over myself.”—2 Corinthians 12:1-5.
5. (a) Who is the “man in union with Christ” to whom Paul refers? (b) In view of that, what did he mean when he said, “Over such a man I will boast, but I will not boast over myself”? (c) As regards his condition when having the experience, why did he say, “whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know”?
5 The apostle Paul was here talking, not about some other man, but about himself. However, he speaks of himself, when having the above-described unique experience, as a man specially favored of God; and about the man that he was when in that highly favored position he can rightly boast. But of himself as an ordinary man minus such rare privileges from God he cannot properly boast. His experience was so realistic that it was as if he were right there in his physical body, but reasonably his physical body stayed on the earth and what he experienced was a trance and what he heard was when he was in this trance. If this experience occurred fourteen years before he wrote his second letter to the Corinthian congregation, then it occurred about the year 41 C.E., which was before his first missionary trip with Barnabas, which was about 47/48 C.E. Whether what he heard was in Hebrew or Greek, languages known to him, or in some foreign language that cannot be translated in known human languages, the apostle Paul does not specify.
6. His reference to the “third heaven” indicates what?
6 In being caught away to the third heaven, Paul was not caught up and carried down the stream of time to the third of a series of heavens that followed one another in succession. He was caught up and borne vertically, and, as the number three or third is used in the Bible as a mark of intensity or emphasis, the “third heaven” would indicate the height of his elevation, the exalted quality of it. It did not acquaint him with the things in the heavens of spirit persons in the sense that Jesus Christ, who came down from heaven and returned to the spirit heavens, is acquainted with the invisible heavenly things. Figuratively, Paul was already seated with fellow Christians on earth “in the heavenly places in union with Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6) So his being caught away to the “third heaven” would indicate a spiritually exalted elevating of Paul above the spiritual position of his fellow Christians. It doubtless gave him insight such as he had not had before, and this would evidence itself in how he spoke and wrote.
7, 8. (a) Why is the “paradise” to which Paul refers not the same as the one mentioned in Revelation 2:7? (b) Why was that “paradise” to which Paul was caught away not the “garden of Eden”?
7 As for his being caught away to “paradise,” this is here associated with the “third heaven.” This would suggest something spiritual. But this would not indicate that the paradise to which Paul was caught away was the one referred to in the message sent by the glorified Jesus Christ to the congregation in Ephesus, Asia Minor: “Let the one who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the congregations: To him that conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7) This “paradise of God” is a figurative one in the invisible spirit heavens, into which flesh and blood cannot enter and into which fleshly eye cannot see. (1 Corinthians 15:50) Nor is there any intimation that the apostle Paul saw symbols of things that are in the invisible spirit heavens in the way that the apostle John saw such, of which John gives us a description in Revelation, chapter four. So it is very unlikely that the apostle Paul was caught away to the “paradise of God” to see its “tree of life.”
8 As far as the original earthly paradise, the “garden of Eden,” is concerned, there is nothing mysterious to human creatures about such a paradise. It is nothing beyond human experience, and the restoration of it to earth under God’s Messianic kingdom has long been understood according to the Bible prophecies. (Genesis 3:8-24) Hence, the apostle Paul would not have to receive “supernatural visions and revelations of the Lord” in order to learn and know that.—2 Corinthians 12:1.
9, 10. (a) The vision given to the apostle Paul was concerning what paradise, existing at what time? (b) The “unutterable words” that Paul heard involved what, and speaking those words would have meant what?
9 There is, however, another paradise that the Holy Scriptures picture prophetically, even giving us a historic prototype of this, in the land of Judah after the Babylonian exile of the Jews. This paradise is the spiritual one in our day, nineteen centuries after the apostle Paul was caught away to the “third heaven” and to “paradise” in a supernatural vision. What Paul heard during that realistic experience, the “unutterable words which it is not lawful for a man to speak,” were about this then future spiritual paradise. This blessed estate of Christ’s true disciples would come into existence during his “presence” or parousia at the “conclusion of the system of things.”—Matthew 24:3.
10 Paul was inspired to foretell the religious “apostasy” that would befall the Christian congregation before the “presence of our Lord Jesus Christ,” but it was not lawful for him as a man to speak about this spiritual paradise, about which he heard in “unutterable words.” To do so would have meant for him to interpret the Bible prophecies that have to do with this spiritual paradise.—2 Thessalonians 2:1-3; 2 Corinthians 12:1-4.
THE “WAY OF HOLINESS” TO THE SPIRITUAL PARADISE
11. (a) When did the “presence” of Jesus Christ begin? (b) At that time Jesus Christ became like what ancient ruler, and in what sense?
11 In earlier publications of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society it has been Scripturally proved that the “presence of our Lord Jesus Christ” began at the end of the Gentile Times in 1914, when God’s Messianic kingdom was brought to birth in the invisible heavens. (Revelation 12:1-10) At that time the newly enthroned Jesus Christ became like God’s ancient anointed “servant,” Cyrus the Great, the conqueror of imperial Babylon and the liberator of the captive Jews and their loyal non-Jewish companions. Acting that part in modern style, Jesus Christ liberated the anointed remnant of his faithful followers who had been taken captive by Babylon the Great and her worldly paramours during World War I of 1914-1918 C.E. Breaking the power of that world empire of false religion, he brought about the restoration of the remnant of spiritual Israelites in the year 1919 C.E. This astonished and chagrined the entire religious world of that time.—Revelation 11:7-13.
12. What questions are here raised as to the spiritual paradise?
12 It may well be asked by many of our readers, Why and how does it come that Jehovah’s anointed remnant of spiritual Israel entered into the spiritual paradise first from 1919 C.E. forward? Were they not in a spiritual paradise on earth prior to the outbreak of World War I in 1914 C.E.? Were they not enjoying such a blessed spiritual estate in God’s favor from, say, the publication of Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence in July of 1879 C.E. onward? We oldsters who were living for some time prior to World War I and who were then part of the remnant of spiritual Israel can answer No! to such questions. On what basis?
13. Prior to 1919, what was the only paradise that God’s servants on earth were thinking about?
13 Well, such a thing as a spiritual paradise for the remnant of spiritual Israel on earth was unheard of. The only future paradise that was thought of was the literal, material paradise that was to be restored to our earthly planet during the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ and into which there was to be a resurrection of the impaled sympathetic evildoer to whom Jesus said: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43) Even the paradise to which the apostle Paul referred in 2 Corinthians 12:4 was understood to be that paradise, ‘the restored earth.’—See paragraph 2, page 648, of the book The Battle of Armageddon, published in 1897.
14. (a) How were the prophecies regarding a paradise that had an application to the ancient nation of Israel understood during those years? (b) So what application of these prophecies was not then discerned?
14 Also, Bible prophecies that had an ancient miniature fulfillment on the nation of Israel in the sixth century before our Common Era were expected to have a modern final fulfillment upon the natural circumcised Jews by a regathering of them to the land of Palestine. (For example, see page 63 of the issues of The Watch Tower of 1892, on Ezekiel 36:22-36.) Or, prophecies that were fulfilled upon ancient Israel in miniature were thought to have their major, complete fulfillment during the thousand-year reign of Christ after the binding of Satan the Devil and the imprisoning of him in the bottomless pit. (Take, for instance, Isaiah, chapter thirty-five.) So it was that the modern-day fulfillment of such prophecies upon the remnant of spiritual Israel was entirely missed, obscured, not discerned—just as is the case with the churches of Christendom down till now. In fact, down into the year 1932 the Christian witnesses of Jehovah were themselves under the impression that the restoration of fleshly Jews to Palestine and the setting up of a Jewish State would be a fulfillment of divine prophecy.
15. What expectations did the remnant have concerning the year 1914, and, later, the year 1918?
15 Furthermore, the remnant of spiritual Israel had for decades, yes, since the year 1876, been looking forward to the ending of the Times of the Gentiles in the autumn of 1914. They were expecting God’s Messianic kingdom to be fully established in the heavens by then and also for the remnant of spiritual Israel to be glorified with Jesus Christ in the heavenly kingdom at that time. All understanding of the Holy Scriptures was slanted in that direction or adjusted to that idea. And when the year 1914 ended amid the flames of World War I and the remnant of spiritual Israel found themselves still here on earth, then they were inclined to think that they would be glorified in the year 1918, three and a half years after the end of the Gentile Times. (Luke 21:24; Daniel 4:16, 23, 25, 32) Their hard experiences under ban and persecution during World War I were not viewed as a Babylonian exile from which they were to be liberated after World War I. They did not expect a restoration to Jehovah’s full favor on earth for a witness work world wide.
16. What developments since the year 1919 did the remnant not foresee prior to that year?
16 Thus, prior to their liberation in the year 1919, the remnant of spiritual Israel was conscious of no spiritual paradise. Such a work as has been carried on since that year to the farthest reaches of the earth was farthest from their thoughts! They had not yet discerned by their study of the Bible that the time had come for Jehovah to make a name for himself. (Isaiah 63:14; Jeremiah 32:20; 2 Samuel 7:23) They did not realize that they themselves were the ones to be used to make the personal name of God known to the far corners of the earth and to announce the established Messianic kingdom of God to all the nations inside and outside Christendom. (Matthew 24:14) They did not foresee the marvelous fulfillments of Bible prophecy that they would witness and the continually growing comprehension of the Holy Scriptures that they would gain. They did not anticipate that they would be used to gather a “Great crowd” of sheeplike believers out of all nations to their blessed state of God’s favor.—Revelation 7:9-17.
17. (a) So did the remnant have any awareness of being in a spiritual paradise prior to 1919 C.E.? (b) Now, however, what fulfillment of Isaiah chapter 35 do they appreciate?
17 Awareness of being in a spiritual paradise did not flood the minds of the remnant of spiritual Israel at once in that year of liberation and restoration—1919 C.E. But today, at this late date in the “time of the end” of this system of things, they can appreciate how grandly the prophecy of Isaiah, chapter thirty-five, has been fulfilled upon them in a spiritual sense since 1919. As pictured in that glowing prophecy, they have come over a ‘highway of holiness’ into a spiritual paradise despite man’s polluting of the earth.
THE PARADISAIC PROPHECY COMES TO LIFE
18. What contrast greatly enhances the beauty of the prophecy in Isaiah chapter 35?
18 The prophecy of Isaiah, chapter thirty-five, beautiful in itself, has its beauty greatly enhanced for the reason that it comes immediately after a solemn prophecy of extreme, never-ending desolation and wildness. That mournful state was to come as an expression of divine vengeance upon a certain reprehensible nation, a brother nation of the Israelites. That nation was descended from Esau, the older twin-brother of the patriarch Jacob or Israel. Because of selling his birthright to Jacob for a helping of red stew, Esau was given the nickname Edom (meaning “Red”), and this name stuck to the nation that descended from him. (Genesis 25:30) The ancient land of Edom lay between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of ‘Aqaba and straddled the Arabah.—Isaiah 34:5-17.
19, 20. (a) The transformation of whose land is foretold in Isaiah 35:1, 2, and what shows this? (b) Upon whom did the prophecy have its first fulfillment?
19 A far different “wilderness” is referred to in Isaiah chapter thirty-five as with poetic beauty it opens up and says: “The wilderness and the waterless region will exult, and the desert plain will be joyful and blossom as the saffron. Without fail it will blossom, and it will really be joyful with joyousness and with glad crying out. The glory of Lebanon itself must be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and of Sharon. There will be those who will see the glory of Jehovah, the splendor of our God.”—Isaiah 35:1, 2.
20 Here the transformation of a land is foretold, the recovery of a land to paradise-like loveliness. Whose land? The land of those of whom it is said in the closing verse of the chapter: “And the very ones redeemed by Jehovah will return and certainly come to Zion with a joyful cry; and rejoicing to time indefinite will be upon their head. To exultation and rejoicing they will attain, and grief and sighing must flee away.” (Isaiah 35:10) In the first fulfillment, or ancient fulfillment, of the prophecy, the redeemed ones who returned to Zion or Jerusalem were the prophet Isaiah’s own people, the people of the land of ancient Judah. In Isaiah’s time an anointed king still sat on what was called “Jehovah’s throne” at Jerusalem. In fact, Isaiah prophesied during the successive reigns of four Jewish kings, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah.—Isaiah 1:1.
21, 22. (a) Was the land of Judah a desolate wilderness in Isaiah’s day? (b) When was it that the land was desolated, and for how long?
21 In Isaiah’s day the land of Judah had not been reduced to the state indicated in the thirty-fifth Isa chapter 35 of his prophecy. True, the Assyrian emperor, King Sennacherib, had invaded the land and had reduced a number of cities and caused considerable devastation. When this pagan invader boastfully threatened to capture Jerusalem, Jehovah miraculously caused him to flee back home in disgrace. Though badly damaged, the land of Judah was not left depopulated by the Assyrian, so that, in course of time, its former occupants would have to return from a land of exile and come to a rebuilt Zion.
22 Also, the “rejoicing” that the Jews experienced over the marvelous expulsion of the Assyrian from the land of Judah was not “to time indefinite.” Why not? Because in the following century Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, “Jehovah’s throne” as occupied by Jewish kings was overturned, and the whole land of Judah became desolate without human inhabitant and domestic animal. The deported survivors mourned heavily in the foreign land of Babylon as their beloved homeland lay thus desolate for seventy years. So their return from exile in Babylon was what Isaiah had foretold.
23. (a) When did the prophecy regarding beautification of the land have its miniature fulfillment? (b) When did the larger fulfillment of the prophecy begin to take place, and what parallel is evident in a comparison of the land of ancient Israel and the spiritual estate of the remnant of spiritual Israel?
23 It was after the exiled Jews returned from Babylon in 537 B.C.E. that the prophecy of the beautification of the Judean “wilderness,” “waterless region” and “desert” had a miniature fulfillment. The larger and final fulfillment, the spiritual fulfillment, began to take place upon the remnant of spiritual Israelites after they returned from their exile from God’s favor in Babylon the Great in the year 1919 C.E. Besides suffering the ill effects of the religious and political influence of Babylon the Great prior to the first world war, the spiritual estate of the spiritual Israelites was reduced to a desolate wilderness and desert by World War I, for which Babylon the Great was primarily responsible and which war she used against the remnant of spiritual Israelites. But when Almighty God Jehovah began conducting his remnant of worshipers out of Babylonian bondage in the year 1919, what a transformation of their spiritual estate on earth set in!
24. Why had the “land” of spiritual Israel become parched and unproductive during World War I?
24 During World War I the lack of rainfall of God’s blessings and expressed approval had resulted in parched, unproductive areas in their privileges and the carrying out of their spiritual obligations to Jehovah God. He was in no position to bless the measure of fear of men that they displayed and the religious restraints that this imposed upon them. He could not bless the measure of contamination with the warring world with which they allowed themselves to be infected, especially by not taking the course of absolute neutrality toward the international wrangles of this world. He could not bless their being preoccupied more with their promised glorification in the heavenly kingdom than with the worldwide witness work that he had for them to do on earth in behalf of his newborn Messianic kingdom. Under such faulty conditions they could not produce the “fruits” of the Kingdom at the due time for fruits.—Matthew 21:43.
25. What change was possible for the remnant, however, as indicated in the Scriptures?
25 However, the delinquent remnant of spiritual Israelites could repent of their faulty course, when once it came to their attention. They could take note of their shortcomings and failings with regard to doing the divine will and could then proceed to correct matters as soon as they discerned the right course to take. Their doing this would remove the reason for God’s disapproval and for his withholding of timely blessings for them. The ancient prophecy regarding the restoration of Jehovah’s chosen people had said: “And I will make them and the surroundings of my hill a blessing, and I will cause the pouring rain to descend in its time. Pouring rains of blessing there will prove to be.”—Ezekiel 34:26.
26. (a) So what had to occur before there could be a spiritual paradise? (b) How does the promise that “the glory of Lebanon itself must be given to it” help us to appreciate the condition of the spiritual estate of Jehovah’s restored remnant?
26 This downpour of blessings would have to occur before there could be any transformation in the estate of the restored remnant, whose estate had become like a “wilderness,” a “waterless region,” a “desert plain.” The grandeur of the spiritual estate of Jehovah’s restored remnant can today be appreciated by the prophetic comparisons that are made. For instance: “The glory of Lebanon itself must be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and of Sharon.” (Isaiah 35:1, 2) A person merely has to think of the mountains of Lebanon that were clothed at that ancient time with magnificent evergreen trees, concerning which Jehovah inspired his prophet to say: “To you [Zion] the very glory of Lebanon will come, the juniper tree, the ash tree and the cypress at the same time, in order to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I shall glorify the very place of my feet.” (Isaiah 60:13) Ancient Lebanon was so beautiful that Jehovah compared it to the Garden of Eden, saying to the king of Tyre, which city is located in Lebanon: “In Eden, the garden of God, you proved to be.”—Ezekiel 28:11-13.
27. What does the expression “the splendor of Carmel” add to the picture?
27 Other beautiful scenes with which comparisons could be made by Isaiah were “the splendor of Carmel and of Sharon.” The mountain range of Carmel runs westward to terminate in an impressive headland that almost drops into the Mediterranean Sea at Haifa. Very fittingly the admiring lover in the Song of Solomon could say to his beloved Shulammitess: “Your head upon you is like Carmel.” (Song of Solomon 7:5; compare Jeremiah 46:18.) The name Carmel means “orchard,” or, “fruitful land.” The mountain well matched its name when it was adorned with vineyards and orchards, as in the days of King Uzziah of Jerusalem.—2 Chronicles 26:10.
28. When we hear that the spiritual estate of the restored remnant is like the “splendor . . . of Sharon,” what should come to our mind?
28 Indeed, anciently, the “splendor of Carmel” was widely known. But what about the “splendor . . . of Sharon”? Mention of the name stirs up a mental vision of the coastal plain that stretched northward from the seaport city of Joppa (meaning “beautiful”) and that was studded with colorful flowers. (Acts 9:35) There come also to mind the words of the beloved Shulammite girl: “A mere saffron of the coastal plain [or, of Sharon] I am.” (Song of Solomon 2:1, margin) Or, as The Jerusalem Bible quotes her words: “I am the rose of Sharon.” And The New English Bible: “I am an asphodel in Sharon.” (Also, NW, margin) Truly ancient Sharon had a “splendor” of its own.
29. Thus, by means of the prophet Isaiah, what kind of picture is painted of the restored estate of the remnant?
29 When, to all this visualizing of the beautiful, we add the opening words of the prophet Isaiah: “The wilderness and the waterless region will exult, and the desert plain will be joyful and blossom as the saffron,” a picture of sheer beauty is painted for us, in well-chosen inspired words. (Isaiah 35:1) Such is the transformed appearance that the once-desolate spiritual estate of the remnant of spiritual Israel is to take on after their restoration to Jehovah’s favor.
30. (a) To whom is credit due for this marvelous transformation? (b) Who are the ones that see the prophecy’s fulfillment and give glory to God for it?
30 Whose marvelous doings will this transformed appearance of an estate reflect? The inspired Isaiah answers with the words: “There will be those who will see the glory of Jehovah, the splendor of our God.” (Isaiah 35:2) Only the God with the highest sense of beauty, the Creator, could do such a thing, change the mournful sight of seventy years of desolation to a scene of loveliness by means of a restored nation. The repatriated Israelites of ancient times saw the fulfillment of this prophecy in miniature. Those of today who have seen the prophecy carried out on a major scale that embraces the entire globe have been the Christian worshipers of Jehovah restored from religious bondage to Babylon the Great back to their proper spiritual estate on earth. In the eyes of the ancient frustrated Babylonians the beautification of the land of Judah that they had desolated was not a delightful sight. In the eyes of modern Babylon the Great the beautification of the spiritual estate of the anointed remnant of spiritual Israelites is not a happifying sight either.
31. How else might that expression “There will be those” be understood?
31 It may be, however, that by the expression “There will be those” we are to understand “the wilderness and the waterless region . . . and the desert plain” of the desolate state of God’s people. These places had lain in their sorry condition for so long, for seven decades, that they never expected to see better things for themselves once again. But by being altered in their condition and being given the glory and splendor like those of Lebanon and Carmel and Sharon, these places saw in their own transformed state “the glory of Jehovah, the splendor of our God.”
32. Since when have the remnant seen in the transformation of their spiritual estate “the splendor of our God”?
32 What words of hope, then, Isaiah’s prophecy contained for God’s people with a temporarily desolated estate! At the time of their devastated state during World War I of 1914-1918 C.E., the captive remnant of spiritual Israelites did not discern the proper application of the prophecy and so did not draw from it the comfort that was in it for them. But now, especially since the explanations of prophecy as given in the book Vindication, Volume II, published in the year 1932 C.E., they see in the transformation of their spiritual estate “the glory of Jehovah, the splendor of our God.”
STRENGTHENED FOR THE POSTEXILIC KINGDOM WORK
33. What made the exhortation recorded at Isaiah 35:3, 4 especially appropriate?
33 The hope-kindling words of the prophet Isaiah would naturally be hard for God’s afflicted people to believe. Particularly so, as the fixed time for fulfillment of those words drew near, and the need arose to prepare for action. Hence, the exhortation that now interrupts the prophetic delineation of the beautiful restoration picture is very much in place: “Strengthen the weak hands, you people, and make the knees that are wobbling firm. Say to those who are anxious at heart: ‘Be strong. Do not be afraid. Look! Your own God will come with vengeance itself, God even with a repayment. He himself will come and save you people.’”—Isaiah 35:3, 4.
34, 35. (a) When the apostle Paul quoted that prophecy, where was a strengthening work needed? (b) What kind of experiences had those Christianized Hebrews been undergoing?
34 Away back in the first century of our Common Era, the apostle Paul quoted from that prophetic exhortation when writing to the Christianized Hebrews in Jerusalem. He said: “Hence straighten up the hands that hang down and the enfeebled knees, and keep making straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather that it may be healed.” (Hebrews 12:12, 13) Those Christianized Hebrews then needed to do this strengthening work among themselves. They had passed through experiences as Christians that were quite disciplinary. Paul speaks of this when he says:
35 “Keep on remembering the former days in which, after you were enlightened, you endured a great contest under sufferings, sometimes while you were being exposed as in a theater both to reproaches and tribulations, and sometimes while you became sharers with those who were having such an experience. For you both expressed sympathy for those in prison and joyfully took the plundering of your belongings, knowing you yourselves have a better and an abiding possession.”—Hebrews 10:32-34.
36. How is such treatment at the hands of persecutors like discipline from the heavenly Father, and with what objective in view?
36 The apostle Paul likens such rough treatment at the hands of the persecutors to discipline that the heavenly Father, by his permission of such persecution, administers to his devoted children on earth. Even Jesus Christ, as our Exemplar, received such discipline from his heavenly Father. (Hebrews 12:1-6) In further explanation, Paul goes on to say: “It is for discipline you are enduring. God is dealing with you as with sons. For what son is he that a father does not discipline? But if you are without the discipline of which all have become partakers, you are really illegitimate children, and not sons. Furthermore, we used to have fathers who were of our flesh to discipline us, and we used to give them respect. Shall we not much more subject ourselves to the Father of our spiritual life and live? For they for a few days used to discipline us according to what seemed good to them, but he does so for our profit that we may partake of his holiness. True, no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but grievous; yet afterward to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.”—Hebrews 12:7-11.
37. Why, then, were they being encouraged to strengthen one another?
37 Because of the severe disciplining that those Christianized Hebrews had been receiving, the apostle Paul next quotes from Isaiah 35:3 and applies it to them. By thus strengthening one another, they would not give up on their endurance of discipline, but would enter into their reward in God’s due time.—Hebrews 12:12.
38. Following World War I, why was there a special need for the anointed remnant to strengthen weak hands and make wobbling knees firm?
38 Likewise, in modern times, by enduring persecutions and hardships at the hands of Babylon the Great and her worldly accomplices, the anointed remnant of spiritual Israelites went through severe disciplinary experiences. Naturally, when World War I ended on November 11, 1918, and they entered into a postwar period, the length of which they did not then know, they needed to strengthen the weak hands and make the wobbling knees firm. The greatest work in the history of the Christian congregation since Pentecost of 33 C.E. was now to be taken hold of. They needed to enter into the postwar work with a firm step, not limping between two opinions, but convinced that God was leading them in the right direction. The Times of the Gentiles had ended in 1914 C.E. The Messianic kingdom had been born in the heavens, and all the foretold signs that were accumulating lent proof to that fact. Now was the time to march forward, unitedly, as witnesses of Jehovah’s Messianic kingdom.
39, 40. (a) How, in 1919, were the anointed remnant told: “Be strong. Do not be afraid”? (b) In the public talk at the Cedar Point assembly, what evidence of fearlessness was there?
39 As we oldsters well know, something amazing was happening with this remnant of joint heirs of Christ’s kingdom, something wholly unexpected according to our then understanding of the Bible prophecies. We were inclined to be “anxious at heart.” But to us it was indeed said: “Be strong. Do not be afraid.” (Isaiah 35:4) This exhortation was mightily conveyed in the two-part article entitled “Blessed Are the Fearless,” which was published in the issues of The Watch Tower for August 1 and 15, 1919. On top of this the holding of the eight-day general assembly at Cedar Point, Ohio, on September 1-8, 1919, was a rousing experience, and the challenging assertion “Blessed Are the Fearless” was emphasized there.
40 Quite differently from what was the case with the regional four-day assemblies that were held by the anointed remnant during 1918 C.E. while World War I was still raging, at which no public discourses were advertised and delivered, the high feature of the 1919 Cedar Point Convention was the open-air public talk delivered by the Watch Tower Society’s president, J. F. Rutherford, on the subject “The Hope for Distressed Humanity.” Fearlessly, in that lecture, the public speaker declared that the League of Nations that was then proposed for establishing world peace and plenty would have God’s displeasure. It was not “the political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth,” that the clergy of Christendom claimed it to be. Those individuals in that audience of 7,000 at Cedar Point, Ohio, who survived to the outbreak of World War II in September of 1939 saw that the public speaker had told them the truth. The League of Nations as sponsored by the religious clergy had failed as a protector of world peace. World War II dealt it a deathblow and shoved it into an abyss. But the true Messianic kingdom that had been born in the heavens in 1914 continues to reign and to be advertised on earth by Jehovah’s Christian witnesses.
41. So, in 1919, what did the evidence indicate had taken place in the case of Jehovah’s remnant of spiritual Israel?
41 So, in 1919, the time had come for Jehovah’s remnant of spiritual Israel to demonstrate to the world that they had been liberated from Babylon the Great. The evidences began to accumulate that they had been reinstated in His favor and that He had designated them to be his Christian witnesses. On the other hand, the evidences of God’s displeasure at Babylon the Great began to multiply, finally massing up even to heaven. Never again would she be able, even in wartime, to take Jehovah’s Christian witnesses into exile and silence their Kingdom testimony.
42. (a) Against whom was it now time for God to come with “vengeance,” and why? (b) What part would the remnant of spiritual Israel have in this?
42 The strengthening exhortation from Isaiah’s prophecy carried with it the assurance: “Look! Your own God will come with vengeance itself, God even with a repayment. He himself will come and save you people.” (Isaiah 35:4) The first postwar general convention at Cedar Point, Ohio, in 1919, and the resumption of the public witness work in that same year, constituted a plainly visible symbol that Jehovah God had saved his remnant of spiritual Israelites from fearful bondage in Babylon the Great. It was now the occasion for Him to come with vengeance against that world empire of the false religion that comes from Satan the Devil through ancient Babylon on the Euphrates River. The time was now due for Jehovah to come with a repayment to Babylon the Great for what she had done to his nation of spiritual Israel down through the centuries of our Common Era. The remnant of spiritual Israel he would now use in declaring the day of His vengeance and the way in which He would make repayment to Babylon the Great and her political, military accomplices.—Isaiah 61:1, 2; 2 Thessalonians 1:6.
THE TRANSFORMING OF THE RELIGIOUSLY CRIPPLED ONES
43. What effect of God’s action on behalf of his people did the prophet Isaiah foresee?
43 What response did the prophet Isaiah foresee to the rousing exhortation that he was used to convey to Jehovah’s worshipers whose religious estate had for a time been made like a “wilderness,” a “waterless region” and a “desert plain”? What would be the effect upon them of God’s coming and saving them, whereas at the same time he was bringing vengeance and a repayment to their oppressors and desolators? “At that time,” replies the prophet, “the eyes of the blind ones will be opened, and the very ears of the deaf ones will be unstopped. At that time the lame one will climb up just as a stag does, and the tongue of the speechless one will cry out in gladness. For in the wilderness waters will have burst out, and torrents in the desert plain. And the heat-parched ground will have become as a reedy pool, and the thirsty ground as springs of water. In the abiding place of jackals, a resting-place for them, there will be green grass with reeds and papyrus plants.”—Isaiah 35:5-7.
44. What is meant by opening “the eyes of the blind ones,” and how was this done in 537 B.C.E.?
44 Release from the darksome dungeon—that was what the opening of the eyes of the blind ones meant! Such lightening of the eyes that comes through liberation was the work for which Jehovah reserved his Messianic Servant at the due time, saying to him: “I kept safeguarding you that I might give you as a covenant [or, pledge] for the people, to rehabilitate the land, to bring about the repossessing of the desolated hereditary possessions, to say to the prisoners, ‘Come out!’ to those who are in the darkness, ‘Reveal yourselves!’” (Isaiah 49:8, 9) So in the year 537 B.C.E., after ancient Babylon had fallen to the Persian conqueror Cyrus the Great, God brought forth his exiled people from their long imprisonment in Babylon, to see the light of freedom in their “hereditary possessions,” their beloved homeland.
45. What opening of “the eyes of the blind ones” took place in 1919?
45 Likewise, in the year 1919 C.E., Jehovah brought forth his anointed remnant whose eyes had been blinded by imprisonment in Babylon the Great in order for them to see the light of his favor in their restored spiritual estate. More and more, as time went on, their eyes took in the increasing beauty of their spiritual estate.
46. In what way were their ears ‘deaf,’ but in what has the unstopping of their ears resulted?
46 As regards their ears of spiritual understanding, these had been deafened to the Bible prophecies about a restoration for them and about a worldwide witness work for them after their release from Babylon the Great. They had not heard explained to them the correct meaning of those prophecies. Now, after their return to their revived spiritual estate, they began to hear such prophecies as explained through God’s organization and to get the sense of such prophecies now undergoing fulfillment. Faithfully has been fulfilled the divine promise: “In that day the deaf ones will certainly hear the words of the book, and out of the gloom and out of the darkness even the eyes of the blind ones will see. And the meek ones will certainly increase their rejoicing in Jehovah himself, and even the poor ones of mankind will be joyful in the Holy One of Israel himself.” (Isaiah 29:18, 19) To this day the ears of Jehovah’s Christian worshipers remain unstopped to the messages that come from the unfolding prophecies. They keep their ears unstopped to the divine commands that come from his written Word with respect to the Kingdom work now to be done throughout the earth.
47. (a) What kind of lameness had the remnant experienced? (b) As foretold, how do they “climb up just as a stag does”?
47 A spiritual miracle has also taken place with regard to the “lame one.” The remnant of spiritual Israel had been lamed by Babylon the Great and through her use of the political, judicial and military authorities of the land. Their going about in full public and with the fullest freedom of religion had been seriously hampered. But when God’s exhortation through Isaiah was heard and the strengthening of the weak hands and the making firm of the wobbling knees took place, steady, firm and sure-footed walking was restored to the responding spiritual Israelites. As it had been foretold: “At that time the lame one will climb up just as a stag does.” Uphill kinds of work in Jehovah’s Kingdom service were vigorously undertaken. There was a leaping, a bounding, into the work to be done in the preaching of “this good news of the kingdom . . . in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” (Matthew 24:14) Figuratively speaking, it was a climb to organize all the restored spiritual Israelites for preaching the Kingdom message from house to house.
48. When did the “tongue of the speechless one” begin to “cry out,” and what caused this?
48 “And the tongue of the speechless one will cry out in gladness.” (Isaiah 35:6) This, too, came into fulfillment at the restoration of the remnant of spiritual Israel to their proper spiritual estate in the postwar era. They had much for which to praise the God of their salvation as they beheld the transformation of their station on earth. Rather than continuing to pine for their heavenly home, they found life more livable in their spiritual estate on earth. “For in the wilderness waters will have burst out, and torrents in the desert plain.” Life in God’s Kingdom service here on earth became refreshing to them spiritually. Water of life started flowing forth from the Holy Bible as God’s spirit made it more understandable, and the meaning of its prophecies became fuller and thrillingly encouraging. So, was this not a stimulating reason for Jehovah’s restored worshipers, whose tongue had been “speechless” because of the spiritual desolation that had previously confronted them, to “cry out in gladness”? Yes, indeed!
49. As foretold in Isaiah 35:7, what else was to result from Jehovah’s blessing upon his people?
49 As a result of the showers of blessings that God caused to pour down upon his restored remnant of spiritual Israel, the further gladdening features of Isaiah’s prophecy came to life in a figurative sense before their eyes: “And the heat-parched ground will have become as a reedy pool, and the thirsty ground as springs of water. In the abiding place of jackals, a resting-place for them, there will be green grass with reeds and papyrus plants.”—Isaiah 35:7.
50. (a) What is suggested by the mention of “jackals”? (b) The appearance of “green grass with reeds and papyrus plants” indicates what change?
50 The mention of jackals calls to mind scenes of desolation. The jackal is a sort of scavenger wild dog that frequents lonely, wild regions and even areas that resemble deserts. Their presence would suggest dry regions, barren-looking. If left in such a dry state, the abiding place and resting-place for jackals would not be a desirable place for humans to live. They would cry out and pray for water, for springs, for rainfall. With such irrigation supplied, there would form reedy pools in depressions. Even papyrus plants would grow there. And carpets of green grass would cover the onetime desert plain. Humans would move in, and no longer would the wailing and yelping of the jackals add weirdness to the gathering gloom of night. A remarkable change of that kind began in 537 B.C.E.
51, 52. (a) How was this portion of the prophecy fulfilled in the case of the homeland of the exiled Jews? (b) In a similar manner, what has occurred since 1919 C.E.?
51 Before the desolating of the land of the kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians, who came down by the northern route, the prophet Jeremiah foretold what their coming would lead to, saying: “Listen! A report! Here it has come, also a great pounding from the land of the north, in order to make the cities of Judah a desolate waste, the lair of jackals.” Also, as the mouthpiece of Jehovah, he says: “I will make Jerusalem piles of stones, the lair of jackals; and the cities of Judah I shall make a desolate waste, without an inhabitant.”—Jeremiah 10:22; 9:11.
52 Consequently, when the exiled Jews left Babylon and came back to their homeland after it had lain as an uninhabited wasteland for seventy years, there were lairs, abiding places, resting-places of jackals that needed to be transformed to grassy areas, with placid pools at the edges of which reeds and papyrus plants could grow. So the repatriated Jews conquered the wasteland, and the jackals moved out. In a similar manner, figuratively speaking, there began a change in outward aspects of the spiritual estate of the liberated remnant of spiritual Israel from 1919 C.E. onward. From then on, any pollutants of their spiritual estate that were discovered were purged away. But as regards the worldly nations, they went on polluting the earthly globe as never before. In spite of this world pollution, behold! a spiritual paradise has been cultivated by Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, under His blessing and to the honor of His name.
[Picture on page 147]
J. F. Rutherford addressing convention at Cedar Point, Ohio, in 1919