Jehovah’s House Lifted Up
1, 2. What words are inscribed on a wall at the United Nations plaza, and what is their source?
“THEY shall beat their swords into plowshares. And their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation. Neither shall they learn war any more.” These words are inscribed on a wall at the United Nations plaza in New York City. For decades the source of that quotation was not identified. Since the aim of the UN is to work toward global peace, it was easy to conclude that the quote originated with the founders of the UN, in 1945.
2 In 1975, however, the name Isaiah was chiseled into the wall below the quotation. It was then evident that the words were not of modern origin. They were, in fact, recorded as a prophecy over 2,700 years ago in what is now the 2nd chapter of the book of Isaiah. For millenniums lovers of peace have pondered over how and when the things Isaiah foretold would occur. There is no longer any need to wonder. Today we see before us the remarkable fulfillment of this ancient prophecy.
3. Who are the nations that beat their swords into plowshares?
3 Who are the nations that beat their swords into plowshares? Surely, they are not the modern-day political nations and governments. Until now these nations have developed swords, or weapons, both to wage war and to preserve “peace” through strength. If anything, the tendency has always been for nations to beat their plowshares into swords! Isaiah’s prophecy finds fulfillment in representatives from all nations, people who worship Jehovah, “the God of peace.”—Philippians 4:9.
The Nations That Stream to Pure Worship
4, 5. What do the opening verses of Isaiah chapter 2 foretell, and what underscores the reliability of those words?
4 Isaiah chapter 2 begins with these words: “The thing that Isaiah the son of Amoz visioned concerning Judah and Jerusalem: And it must occur in the final part of the days that the mountain of the house of Jehovah will become firmly established above the top of the mountains, and it will certainly be lifted up above the hills; and to it all the nations must stream.”—Isaiah 2:1, 2.
5 Notice that what Isaiah foretells is not mere speculation. Isaiah is directed to record events that “must occur”—without fail. Whatever Jehovah purposes has “certain success.” (Isaiah 55:11) Evidently to give emphasis to the reliability of his promise, God inspired the prophet Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah, to record in his book the same prophecy that is set out at Isaiah 2:2-4.—Micah 4:1-3.
6. When does Isaiah’s prophecy find fulfillment?
6 When is Isaiah’s prophecy to be fulfilled? “In the final part of the days.” The New International Version reads: “In the last days.” The Christian Greek Scriptures foretold features that would identify this period. Included among them are wars, earthquakes, pestilences, food shortages, and “critical times hard to deal with.”* (2 Timothy 3:1-5; Luke 21:10, 11) The fulfillment of such prophecies gives abundant evidence that we are living “in the final part of the days,” the last days of this present world system. Logically, then, we would expect to see fulfilled in our time the things that Isaiah foretold.
A Mountain in Which to Worship
7. What prophetic picture does Isaiah paint?
7 In a few words, Isaiah paints a vivid prophetic picture. We see a lofty mountain, crowned by a glorious house, the temple of Jehovah. This mountain towers above surrounding mountains and hills. Yet, it is not foreboding or intimidating; it is appealing. Peoples of all nations yearn to ascend to the mountain of the house of Jehovah; they stream to it. This is easy to visualize, but what does it mean?
8. (a) With what are hills and mountains associated in Isaiah’s day? (b) What does the streaming of the nations to “the mountain of the house of Jehovah” picture?
8 In Isaiah’s day hills and mountains are often associated with worship. For example, they serve as sites for idolatrous worship and for sanctuaries of false gods. (Deuteronomy 12:2; Jeremiah 3:6) However, the house, or temple, of Jehovah adorns the summit of Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. Faithful Israelites journey to Jerusalem three times a year and ascend Mount Moriah to worship the true God. (Deuteronomy 16:16) So the streaming of the nations to “the mountain of the house of Jehovah” pictures the gathering of many peoples to true worship.
9. What does “the mountain of the house of Jehovah” represent?
9 Today, of course, God’s people do not gather at a literal mountain with a temple of stone. Jehovah’s temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by Roman armies in 70 C.E. Besides, the apostle Paul made it clear that the temple in Jerusalem and the tabernacle that preceded it were pictorial. They represented a greater, spiritual reality, “the true tent, which Jehovah put up, and not man.” (Hebrews 8:2) That spiritual tent is the arrangement for approaching Jehovah in worship based on the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 9:2-10, 23) In harmony with this, “the mountain of the house of Jehovah” mentioned at Isaiah 2:2 represents the exalted pure worship of Jehovah in our time. Those embracing pure worship do not gather at any geographic location; they gather in unity of worship.
The Elevating of Pure Worship
10, 11. In what sense has Jehovah’s worship been elevated in our day?
10 The prophet says that “the mountain of the house of Jehovah,” or pure worship, would become “firmly established above the top of the mountains” and be “lifted up above the hills.” Long before Isaiah’s time, King David brought the ark of the covenant up to Mount Zion in Jerusalem, which was located 2,500 feet [760 m] above sea level. There the ark rested until it was transferred to the completed temple on Mount Moriah. (2 Samuel 5:7; 6:14-19; 2 Chronicles 3:1; 5:1-10) Thus, by Isaiah’s day the sacred ark had already been physically elevated and placed in the temple, in a position higher than the many surrounding hills used for false worship.
11 Of course, in a spiritual sense, Jehovah’s worship has always been superior to the religious practices of those who serve false gods. During our day, however, Jehovah has exalted his worship heaven high, above all forms of unclean worship, yes, far above all “the hills” and “the top of the mountains.” How so? Largely through the gathering together of those who want to worship him “with spirit and truth.”—John 4:23.
12. Who are “the sons of the kingdom,” and what gathering has taken place?
12 Christ Jesus referred to “a conclusion of a system of things” as a time of harvest when the angels would gather in “the sons of the kingdom”—those with the hope of ruling with Jesus in heavenly glory. (Matthew 13:36-43) Since 1919, Jehovah has empowered “the remaining ones” of these sons to share with the angels in the harvest work. (Revelation 12:17) Thus, to start with, “the sons of the kingdom,” Jesus’ anointed brothers, are the ones gathered. Then they share in a further gathering work.
13. How has Jehovah blessed the anointed remnant?
13 During this time of harvest, Jehovah has progressively helped the anointed remnant to understand and apply his Word, the Bible. This too has contributed to the elevating of pure worship. Though ‘darkness itself covers the earth, and thick gloom the national groups,’ the anointed are “shining as illuminators” among humankind, having been cleansed and refined by Jehovah. (Isaiah 60:2; Philippians 2:15) “Filled with the accurate knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual comprehension,” these spirit-anointed ones “shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”—Colossians 1:9; Matthew 13:43.
14, 15. In addition to the gathering of “the sons of the kingdom,” what ingathering has taken place, and how was this foretold by Haggai?
14 Moreover, others have streamed to “the mountain of the house of Jehovah.” Called by Jesus his “other sheep,” these have the hope of living forever on a paradise earth. (John 10:16; Revelation 21:3, 4) Starting in the 1930’s, they appeared by the thousands, then by the hundreds of thousands, and now by the millions! In a vision given to the apostle John, they are described as “a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.”—Revelation 7:9.
15 The prophet Haggai foretold the appearance of this great crowd. He wrote: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘Yet once—it is a little while—and I am rocking the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry ground. And I will rock all the nations, and the desirable things of all the nations [those who join anointed Christians in pure worship] must come in; and I will fill this house with glory,’ Jehovah of armies has said.” (Haggai 2:6, 7) The existence of this still-growing “great crowd” and their anointed companions elevates, yes glorifies, pure worship in Jehovah’s house. Never before have so many been recorded as united in the worship of the true God, and this brings glory to Jehovah and his enthroned King, Jesus Christ. King Solomon wrote: “In the multitude of people there is an adornment of a king.”—Proverbs 14:28.
Worship Exalted in the Lives of People
16-18. What changes have some made so as to worship Jehovah acceptably?
16 Jehovah deserves all credit for the elevating of pure worship in our time. Still, those who approach him are privileged to share in this work. Just as it requires effort to climb a mountain, so, too, it requires effort to learn of and live according to God’s righteous standards. Like Christians in the first century, God’s servants today have left behind life-styles and practices that are not compatible with true worship. Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, greedy persons, drunkards, and others have changed their ways and been “washed clean” in God’s sight.—1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
17 Typical is the experience of one young woman who wrote: “I once was lost with no hope. I lived a life of immorality and drunkenness. I had sexual diseases. I also sold drugs and just didn’t care about anything.” After studying the Bible, she made major changes in order to conform to God’s standards. Now she says: “I enjoy peace of mind, self-respect, a hope for the future, a real family and, best of all, a relationship with our Father, Jehovah.”
18 Even after coming to an approved standing before Jehovah, all must continue to elevate pure worship by giving it a place of prominence in their lives. Thousands of years ago, through Isaiah, Jehovah expressed his confidence that there would be multitudes today eager to make his worship the most important thing in their lives. Are you among them?
A People Taught Jehovah’s Way
19, 20. What are God’s people taught, and where?
19 Isaiah tells us more about those who embrace pure worship today. He says: “Many peoples will certainly go and say: ‘Come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion law will go forth, and the word of Jehovah out of Jerusalem.”—Isaiah 2:3.
20 Jehovah does not let his people wander about like lost sheep. Through the Bible and Bible-based publications, he imparts to them his “law” and his “word” so that they learn his ways. This knowledge equips them to “walk in his paths.” Out of hearts filled with appreciation and in harmony with divine direction, they speak to one another about the ways of Jehovah. They gather together at large conventions and in smaller groups—at Kingdom Halls and in private homes—so as to listen to and learn the ways of God. (Deuteronomy 31:12, 13) Thus they imitate the pattern of the early Christians, who met together to encourage and incite one another to abound in “love and fine works.”—Hebrews 10:24, 25.
21. In what work do Jehovah’s servants share?
21 They invite others to “go up” to the exalted worship of Jehovah God. How well this harmonizes with the command Jesus gave to his disciples just before his ascension to heaven! He told them: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) With divine backing, Jehovah’s Witnesses obediently go throughout the earth, teaching and making disciples, baptizing them.
Swords Into Plowshares
22, 23. What does Isaiah 2:4 foretell, and what did one UN official say about it?
22 Now we come to the next verse, part of which is inscribed on the wall at the UN plaza. Isaiah writes: “He will certainly render judgment among the nations and set matters straight respecting many peoples. And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.”—Isaiah 2:4.
23 To achieve this would be no small accomplishment. Federico Mayor, director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, once said: “All the obscenities of war, brought home to us nowadays by audio-visual equipment, do not seem able to halt the advance of the huge war machine set up and maintained over many centuries. Present generations have the almost impossible, Biblical task of ‘beating their swords into ploughshares’ and making the transition from an instinct for war—developed since time immemorial—to a feeling for peace. To achieve this would be the best and most noble act that the ‘global village’ could accomplish, and the best legacy to our descendants.”
24, 25. In whom do Isaiah’s words find fulfillment, and in what way?
24 The nations as a whole will never achieve this lofty goal. It is simply beyond their reach. Isaiah’s words are fulfilled by individuals from many nations, who are united in pure worship. Jehovah has “set matters straight” among them. He has taught his people to live at peace with one another. Truly, in a divided and strife-ridden world, they have figuratively beaten their “swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears.” How?
25 For one thing, they do not take sides in the wars of the nations. Shortly before Jesus’ death, armed men came to arrest him. When Peter lashed out with a sword to defend his Master, Jesus said to him: “Return your sword to its place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52) Since then, Jesus’ footstep followers have beaten their swords into plowshares and have refrained from taking up weapons to kill their fellow man and from supporting war efforts in other ways. They “pursue peace with all people.”—Hebrews 12:14.
Pursuing the Ways of Peace
26, 27. How do God’s people “seek peace and pursue it”? Give an example.
26 The peace of God’s people goes far beyond a refusal to engage in warfare. Though they are found in more than 230 lands and represent countless languages and cultures, they enjoy peace with one another. In them is found a modern fulfillment of the words of Jesus, who said to his disciples in the first century: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) Christians today are “peacemakers.” (Matthew 5:9, footnote) They “seek peace and pursue it.” (1 Peter 3:11) Sustaining them is Jehovah, “the God who gives peace.”—Romans 15:33.
27 There are dramatic examples of those who have learned to be peacemakers. A young man writes of his early life: “Hard experience taught me how to defend myself. It made me tough and angry about life. I would always end up in fights. Each day, I would fight a different kid in the neighborhood, sometimes with fists, sometimes with rocks or bottles. I grew up being very violent.” Eventually, however, he responded to the invitation to go to “the mountain of the house of Jehovah.” He learned God’s ways and became a peaceable servant of God.
28. What can Christians do to pursue peace?
28 Most of Jehovah’s servants do not come from such a violent background. Still, even in relatively small things—acts of kindness, forgiveness, and empathy—they strive to promote peace with others. Although imperfect, they endeavor to apply the Bible’s counsel to “continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another.”—Colossians 3:13.
A Future of Peace
29, 30. What prospect is there for the earth?
29 Jehovah has done a marvelous thing in this “the final part of the days.” He has gathered from all nations people who want to serve him. He has taught them to walk in his ways, ways of peace. These are the ones who will survive the coming “great tribulation” and pass into a peaceful new world in which war will be abolished forever.—Revelation 7:14.
30 Swords—weaponry—will be no more. The psalmist wrote of that time: “Come, you people, behold the activities of Jehovah, how he has set astonishing events on the earth. He is making wars to cease to the extremity of the earth. The bow he breaks apart and does cut the spear in pieces; the wagons he burns in the fire.” (Psalm 46:8, 9) In view of such a prospect, Isaiah’s following exhortation is as appropriate today as it was when he wrote it: “O men of the house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of Jehovah.” (Isaiah 2:5) Yes, let Jehovah’s light illuminate our path now, and we will walk in his way for all eternity.—Micah 4:5.
See the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? chapter 9, “Are We Living in ‘the Last Days’?” published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.