1, 2. How is the prophecy at Isaiah 2:2-4 being fulfilled in our day?
ISAIAH chapter 2 is much more than a prophecy about the return of the Jewish people to Jerusalem after 70 years of Babylonian captivity. Indeed, the prophecy refers to nothing less than the turning of peoples of all nations to the pure worship of the only true God, Jehovah. It implies the forming of an international brotherhood rendering sacred service acceptable to God.
2 A transformation of such magnitude, encompassing people in every part of the world, would be not only dramatic but also visible, as if happening on a mountain in full view of everyone. This is exactly what is happening today among Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. Millions from Christendom’s religions have learned that God is one and have stopped worshiping the Trinity. In India, Hindus have abandoned their pantheon of gods and myriads of idols for the one true God. The same is true of people in Africa, on faraway islands, and in the Middle East. Those who have gone up to Jehovah’s holy mountain, his pure worship, have put away all racial, tribal, and political hatreds; they literally ‘learn war no more.’—Isaiah 2:2-4.
Messiah’s Identity—A Source of Controversy
3. According to Isaiah 11:10, what effect would the Messiah have on the nations?
3 This international brotherhood is also related to the fulfillment of God’s purpose for all mankind: that people of all nations would bless themselves by means of a promised “seed,” a descendant of Abraham, and so worship God in truth and unity. (Genesis 3:15; 22:18, JP) Later prophecies indicated that this “seed” was also to be the ‘prophet like Moses,’ who would mediate a new covenant that would serve as the legal basis for sincere people of all nations to worship God in unity. (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18, 19; Jeremiah 31:31-34) In addition this very one was to be the Messiah, a ruler from the line of David, whose throne God would establish forever. (1 Chronicles 17:11, 12) According to the prophet Isaiah, the Messiah would be the rallying figure who would unite people out of all nations (Hebrew, Goh·yimʹ). Isaiah 11:10 says: “It shall come to pass in that day, that the root of Jesse, that standeth for an ensign [“as a signal,” NW] of the peoples, unto him shall the nations seek; and his resting-place shall be glorious.”—JP.
4. What did one rabbi state regarding Jesus’ effect on the human race?
4 The identity of the Messiah has been debated for centuries. According to Isaiah 11:10 and other texts, he would be a Jew, a descendant of King David (Jesse’s son), and people of all nations would accept him as the legitimate Messiah sent by God. Referring to the first-century Jewish teacher Jesus, Rabbi H. G. Enelow wrote: “No sensible Jew can be indifferent to the fact that a Jew should have had such a tremendous part in the religious education and direction of the human race.”10 What other Jew have so many Gentiles accepted as the Messiah? Could some other Jew receive wider acceptance? Still, there are those who find the idea that Jesus may be the Messiah very disturbing. Their reasons are worth examining.
5-7. Why do many find the very names of Jesus and of Christianity offensive?
5 For the majority of non-Christians, it is Christendom, whose adherents supposedly follow Christ’s teachings, that has caused an aversion to the very name of Jesus. In the name of Jesus, many nations have suffered at the hands of Christendom, but without a doubt the Jewish people have suffered more than any of them.
6 In our own time, anti-Semitism in Christendom culminated in the Nazi Holocaust. Though many factors were involved, religious hatred cannot be ignored as one of the main ones. And if some in Christendom would deny this, the fact that “Christians,” both Catholics and Protestants, were among the ones that did the killing or condoned it is undeniable. Elie Wiesel sums up the Jewish view in his book A Jew Today: “How is one to explain that neither Hitler nor Himmler was ever excommunicated by the church? That Pius XII never thought it necessary, not to say indispensable, to condemn Auschwitz and Treblinka? That among the S.S. a large proportion were believers who remained faithful to their Christian ties to the end? That there were killers who went to confession between massacres? And that they all came from Christian families and had received a Christian education?”11 Therefore, just how much faith could Jewish people be expected to demonstrate in someone whose name was for centuries connected with every humiliation and blow that they received?
7 Aside from outright persecution, what kind of moral example have the “Christian” countries given to the rest of the world? Little more than wars, Crusades, and “holy” Inquisitions. Even World War I and World War II were begun in “Christian” lands. Could it be said that “Christian” morality has been exemplary? AIDS for example, is rampant in countries where the majority of the population profess Christianity. The scandals among Christendom’s clergy are notorious. Immoral televangelists who rake in millions of dollars and live like kings as well as homosexual clergy, some of whom have even been sued for committing sexual abuses against male minors, are just a few of the things that non-Christians feel characterize Christianity—fruitage that besmirches the name of Jesus, whom “Christians” claim to follow.
8-10. (a) Why cannot Christendom rightly claim to represent Jesus and true Christianity? (b) What warning did the Scriptures give about an apostasy from Jesus’ true teachings?
8 Additionally, both Judaism and Islam are rightly repelled by the idolatry rampant in Christendom. Many of Christendom’s unscriptural doctrines, such as the veneration of Mary as the “Mother of God,” are also objectionable to these religions. The Trinity doctrine is especially viewed with disdain by Jews as a clear contradiction of the essence of Judaism—the monotheistic concept embodied in the words “HEAR O ISRAEL: THE LORD OUR GOD, THE LORD IS ONE.”—Deuteronomy 6:4, JP.
9 The persecutions perpetrated by Christendom, its wars, immorality, hypocrisy, and blasphemous doctrines are unpardonable not only in the eyes of non-Christians but also in the eyes of God Almighty. For this reason, Jehovah’s Witnesses, though followers of Jesus Christ, are no part of Christendom. Christendom, on the other hand, is no part of true Christianity. Virtually the only similarity between Christendom and the first Christians is the use of the name Jesus. But if Jesus’ teachings were so outstandingly good and practical, how did such an apostasy come about?
10 Actually, that false Christians would arise and that there would be an apostasy from Jesus’ true teachings were prophesied by Jesus himself as well as by the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures, incorrectly referred to as the New Testament. (Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Peter 2:1, 2) According to Matthew 7:21-23, the Messiah himself would judge these apostate ones for what they are and would say to them, “I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”—NW; compare Matthew 13:24-30, 37-43.
Why Were Additional Scriptures Needed?
11, 12. (a) What are the Christian Greek Scriptures? (b) Who wrote these Scriptures? (c) Why was God’s inspiration necessary for these writings?
11 At first, all the followers of Jesus were Jews. In fact, thousands of Jews in the first century, including “a great crowd of priests,” accepted Jesus as the ‘prophet like Moses,’ the Messiah. (Acts 2:5, 37, 41; 4:4; 6:7; Deuteronomy 18:18) These same Jews became the foundation of a new international group of worshipers of Jehovah God, legally established on the basis of “a new covenant,” mediated by this prophet like Moses.—Jeremiah 31:31-34.
12 With a new covenant came the need for further inspired writings that would provide necessary additional information for those who would serve God under this new-covenant arrangement. These writings, the Christian Greek Scriptures, were all written by Jews. They report on Jesus’ life and teachings, fill in details concerning many prophecies recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures, and clarify points concerning the Messiah and his role in the divine purpose. Additionally, they include letters that serve as counsel and encouragement for the new international body of worshipers.a
Was Jesus the Promised Messiah?
13-16. What convinced many first-century Jews that Jesus was the Messiah?
13 But wasn’t Jesus rejected by the religious leaders of his day? Yes, and these in turn influenced the masses. But were not Jeremiah and other prophets also rejected by the religious leaders of their day? (Jeremiah 7:25, 26; 20:1-6; 2 Chronicles 36:15, 16) Those of Jesus’ generation who believed in him, who had a firsthand opportunity to examine his teaching and his works as well as the prophecies concerning him, were not dissuaded by the opposition of the religious leaders, who saw their religious monopoly threatened. What those sincere Jews had personally witnessed convinced them that the Messianic prophecies had been fulfilled in Jesus. What were the powerful proofs that made those first-century Jews willing to risk everything, even death, by declaring belief in Jesus as the promised Messiah?—John 9:22; 16:2.
15 Secondly, the man himself was right. He was from the tribe of Judah and a descendant of King David. (Genesis 49:10; 1 Chronicles 17:11-14; compare Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-31.) Also, he was born in Bethlehem, which was commonly understood among first-century Jews to be the designated birthplace for the Messiah.c (Micah 5:1 [5:2, NW]; compare Matthew 2:4-6; Luke 2:1-7; John 7:42.) All of these were important credentials that Jews of Jesus’ day expected the Messiah to have as a means of identification.
16 Then, the teaching of the man was right. It was not political or legalistic but spiritual and ethical.d Quite simply, he got to the heart of matters. Furthermore, he dared to appeal solely to the Scriptures as his final authority, not to the sayings of previous religious leaders, as was the custom. This astounded the crowds, for “he was teaching them as a person having authority, and not as their scribes.” (Matthew 7:29, NW) The accounts of Jesus’ life reveal a personality so powerful, and a teaching so clear, that historians cite this as one of the reasons that it can be asserted that he was no mythical character.e
17-20. (a) What prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures spoke of the time of the Messiah’s coming and of his sacrificial death? (b) Why was it necessary for the Messiah to die?
17 Various prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures, long accepted as Messianic, were fulfilled through the suffering and death of Jesus. Such prophecies link the Messiah’s death with the forgiveness of sins. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, this atonement provided by the death of the Messiah is referred to as the ‘ransom sacrifice.’ (Matthew 20:28; Romans 3:24) What were some of these prophecies?
18 Notice the words of the prophecy at Daniel 9:24, 25 (JP): “Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sin, and to forgive iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness . . . unto one anointed [“Messiah,” Hebrew, Ma·shiʹach], a prince.” One cannot avoid noticing the link established in the text between the “Messiah” (the Anointed One) and the ‘finishing of transgression and making an end to sin.’ Verse 26 goes on to state that “after the threescore and two weeks shall an anointed one [“Messiah,” Hebrew, Ma·shiʹach] be cut off,” in other words, be killed. (See the box “Who Was the ‘Anointed One’? When Would He Come?”)
19 Another text that is related to the Messiah’s being “cut off,” or killed, as an atonement sacrifice, is found at Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12. (See the box “‘My Servant’—Who Is He?”) Rabbis in the first century applied this text to the Messiah, as did Rambam and others in the Middle Ages. The text makes it perfectly clear that forgiveness is linked with the Messiah and his death.
20 For the above reasons, the teaching that the Messiah’s death would make possible the complete forgiveness of sin in God’s sight was readily understood by many first-century Jews. They knew that the Scriptures spoke of man’s inherent imperfection. (Ecclesiastes 7:20) The need for sacrifice to atone for sin was a lesson perceived daily; it was implicit in the very framework and nature of the Law covenant. The events described in the accounts of Jesus’ life present him as a perfect man whose death could bring atonement for mankind’s sin.f (Matthew 20:28; Luke 1:26-38) When the Christian Greek Scriptures highlighted that the various sacrifices under the Law foreshadowed this one final and complete sacrifice, fuller meaning was given to the entire framework of the Law, as well as to other portions of the Scriptures.g—Hebrews 10:1-10.
Like Moses—A Reliable Prophet
21, 22. (a) How do historical events regarding the destruction of Jerusalem prove that Jesus was a true prophet? (b) How do historical events regarding our day also prove this?
21 In addition to explaining Jesus’ death as a ransom sacrifice, the Christian Greek Scriptures also highlight his role as a ‘prophet like Moses.’ (Deuteronomy 18:18; see the section “What Is God’s Purpose for Mankind?,” paragraphs 17-19.) As such, he prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and instructed his disciples to flee the city when they would see it surrounded by armies. (Matthew 23:37–24:2; Luke 21:20, 21) But how can one flee a city when it is besieged by troops? The Jewish historian Yoseph ben Mattatiyahu (Josephus), himself an eyewitness of these events, records the answer: “Cestius [the Roman commander, 66 C.E.] . . . suddenly called off his men, abandoned hope though he had suffered no reverse, and flying in the face of all reason retired from the City.”13 That was the opening the Christians needed to flee the city. Four years later, in 70 C.E., the Roman troops, now under General Titus, returned and again besieged the city. Jesus had prophesied of the city that the enemy would build ‘a fortification with pointed stakes and would encircle the city and distress it from every side.’ (Luke 19:43, NW) Josephus confirms that Titus built such a fortification of pointed stakes, nearly five miles (8 km) long, denuding the countryside of trees for a radius of about ten miles (16 km). Jesus’ prophecies gave precise instructions on how to avoid destruction at the hands of the Romans, and their veracity is proved by the fact that the lives of all those who heeded them were saved.—Luke 21:20-24.
22 Jesus also prophesied about the future destruction by God of all wickedness and those who cause it. At Luke 21:24 (NW), he referred to “the appointed times of the nations,” showing that God had a limit as to how long he would tolerate human rule.h Jesus also foretold that the last days of man’s rule would be marked by wars, famine, earthquakes, pestilence, crime, and violence, and that before the end of man’s rule, a worldwide educational work would be carried out to inform people of all nations that God’s government was ruling from the heavens. (See Matthew 24:3-14; Luke 21:10, 11.) Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that this great composite sign has been in evidence since 1914, when “the appointed times of the nations” came to their end. Long before that time they had been announcing that 1914 would be a marked date in human history. When the first world war began in August of that year, their expectations on that were confirmed. In reality, none of the Witnesses had received any divine visions; it was their diligent study of the Holy Scriptures that led them to this conclusion.
Nations Educated in the Ways of Peace
23. How could Jesus become the appointed King of God’s Kingdom?
23 However, the Messiah’s role in providing a ransom sacrifice and in being a prophet like Moses would have only limited value if the final aspect of his role in the outworking of God’s purpose was not fulfilled—his becoming the appointed King of God’s Kingdom. (Isaiah 9:5, 6 [9:6, 7, NW]) But how could Jesus hold this position if he died? In harmony with prophecies regarding the Messiah, God resurrected Jesus on the third day after his death. (Psalm 16:8-11; Isaiah 53:10, 12; compare Matthew 28:1-7; Luke 24:44-46; Acts 2:24-32; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.) God restored him to life, not as a man, since he had offered his perfect human life in sacrifice, but as a powerful spirit creature, waiting at God’s right hand for further instructions.—Psalm 110:1; Acts 2:33-35; Hebrews 10:12, 13.
24-26. How are Jehovah’s Witnesses having a share in the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy?
24 King David wrote that at the time that the Messiah would begin to rule, ‘God’s people would offer themselves willingly.’ (Psalm 110:3) Although world conditions have progressed from bad to worse since that marked year of 1914, there has also been a fulfillment of the positive aspect of the prophecy; God’s people have willingly volunteered their time to preach ‘the good news of the kingdom in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.’ (Matthew 24:14, NW) For example, every year the Witnesses spend hundreds of millions of hours in speaking to people about God’s Kingdom and conducting free home Bible studies with those interested in examining the facts.
25 All this time is given free of charge. The ones doing the work are from every walk of life, of all ages, and from about every profession imaginable. These are the ones described at Isaiah 2:3 by the words: “The many peoples shall go and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the Mount of the LORD [Hebrew, יהוה, Jehovah].’” This is no mere campaign to “win souls.” It is a worldwide educational program with two objectives: (1) Inform people in every nation that God’s Kingdom is ruling and tell them exactly what it will soon do, and (2) educate, free of charge, all those who want to examine the facts and serve the living God according to his wishes. The success of the work and the fulfillment of the prophecy are assured. Why? Because Jehovah God himself is backing it.—Zechariah 4:6.
26 Is it not reasonable to see the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses as fulfillment of this prophecy at Isaiah 2:3? Do you know of anyone else who is doing this work? Or do you think it is just a matter of coincidence that millions of people make time in their lives to speak about a message prophesied some two thousand years ago, a message that was to be heralded during a time of unprecedented upheaval? Yes, in these last days, it is Jehovah’s Witnesses who have become ‘a light to the nations.’ (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6) They are the only international brotherhood serving Jehovah God unitedly and peacefully under the direction of the Messiah, “the root of Jesse,” whom they proclaim to be the ‘signal’ for the nations.—Isaiah 11:10, NW, JP.
a Some allege that these writings are self-contradictory or that they contradict the Hebrew Scriptures. However, examination of these supposed contradictions proves that this is not the case. In fact, the same principle applies here that applied to supposed contradictions within the Hebrew Scriptures themselves. (See the section “The Bible—Inspired by God?,” paragraphs 9-12.) Since all the first Christians, including those who wrote the books making up the Christian Greek Scriptures, were Jews, they did not foment anti-Semitism any more than did the Jewish prophets before them who denounced the religious leaders of their own day.
b Among the first-century Jews, there was a general understanding that this prophecy would be fulfilled in their own time. (Luke 3:15) In his work De Termino Vitae (Concerning the End of Life), a 17th-century rabbi, Menasseh ben Israel, wrote: “Some would accept those 70 weeks as meaning that after their end the Messiah would come who would constitute them rulers of the whole world. Indeed, all who took up arms against the Romans at that time held that opinion.”
d Jewish historian Joseph Klausner wrote: “A man like Jesus, for whom the ethical ideal was everything, was something hitherto unheard of in the Judaism of the day. . . . Thus, his ethical teaching, apparently goes beyond that of Pirkē Aboth and of other Talmudic and Midrashic literature. It is not lost in a sea of legal prescriptions and items of secular information.”12
e For a complete account of the life and ministry of Jesus, see the book Jesus—The Way, the Truth, the Life.
f The apostle Paul referred to Jesus as the ‘second Adam,’ whose death brought atonement for sin inherited from Adam. (1 Corinthians 15:45-47; Romans 5:12, 15-19) For more information on why such an arrangement was essential, see the section “What Is God’s Purpose for Mankind?,” paragraphs 15-16 and footnote.
g In this light the entire story of Abraham takes on new meaning. God was not asking Abraham to kill his son just to test his faith but also to act out a pictorial drama so that men could understand that God himself was going to provide a sacrifice, someone dear to him, for the eternal benefit of mankind. The One provided would be the very Seed of Abraham, by means of whom God had promised that “all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves.” (Genesis 22:10-12, 16-18; compare John 3:16.) The similarity and concept are too clear and specific for this to be a coincidence or a clever invention of men.
h In mentioning “the appointed times of the nations,” Jesus was evidently referring to the prophecy at Daniel 4:10-34 (4:10-37, NW). For an in-depth explanation of this prophecy, see the appendix article “How Daniel’s Prophecy Foretells the Messiah’s Arrival” in the book What Does the Bible Really Teach?