Commissioning of Witnesses in the Time of the End
1, 2. (a) What questions concerning Jehovah’s witnesses does the temple vision answer? (b) When did the call to service come? How?
WHEREAS the “appointed times of the nations” ended in 1914, it is now 37 years that we have been in the “time of the end” of Satan’s world. (Dan. 12:4; 11:40) During all this time Jehovah’s witnesses have become increasingly active and prominent. Why? Who commissioned them and gave them their message? Has their witness accomplished its purpose after all these years? Or must it be classed as a failure? All this was answered in Isaiah’s vision at the temple. It was after he had been cleansed of his unclean-lip condition that he heard a call to service, not from human sources, but from divine. “And I heard the voice of the Lord,a saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Isa. 6:8, AS) It was a call from the Most High God, whose name alone is Jehovah. The call came in 1919, the first postwar year following World War I, and it came through the Bible which Jehovah at his temple was making understandable to his devoted people.
2 The call was rendered specially sharp in the two-part article in The Watchtower of August 1 and 15, 1919, entitled “Blessed Are the Fearless”.b It was sounded with still more emphasis at the international assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses at Cedar Point, Ohio, September 1-8, 1919. The invitation to service from Jehovah at his temple was given as a general call, and the opportunity was opened for anyone who heard to respond. Like Isaiah, the remnant were free to respond in 1919. Just why the religious clergy of Christendom failed to see the vision, hear the divine invitation to service, and respond, Isaiah’s vision makes very clear.
3. “Whom shall I send?” Who asks this, and why?
3 “Whom shall I send?” It is Jehovah that asks this, because he is the One that does the sending of his witnesses and ambassadors. He was the One that sent Jesus his Son to this earth to prove himself “the faithful and true witness”. On many occasions Jesus testified to his being sent. (John 3:17, 34; 5:36; 7:28, 29; 8:42) So Jehovah the Sender was greater than Jesus the one sent forth. (John 13:16; 14:28) Isaiah of old had children. Jesus is the Greater Isaiah to whom Jehovah has given children, namely, his anointed followers, and these, too, Jehovah sends forth to preach and bear witness. To carry the genuine divine message to others they must be sent or commissioned by Jehovah. Hence Paul, who was one of those sent, asks: “How, in turn, will they hear without someone to preach? How, in turn, will they preach unless they have been sent forth?” (Rom. 10:14, 15, NW) Without the ordination with which the Most High God sends his representatives a person does not come in God’s name. But being sent by God’s authorization he does not have to ask permission from anyone to preach.
4. Who are meant by “us” in his words, “Who will go for us”? Why?
4 Jehovah links someone else up with him at the temple when he adds: “And who will go for us?” The pronoun “us” here includes the same ones as are meant when God spoke at creation and said: “Let us make man.” Also: “The man is become as one of us.” And at Babel: “Let us go down, and there confound their language.” (Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7) So by the plural pronoun “us” Jehovah was meaning, not himself and the seraphim at the temple, but himself and his only-begotten Son who became the man Christ Jesus and by whom He had created all things. Hence the glory which Isaiah saw at the temple represented primarily the glory of Jehovah and secondarily that of his Son. This glory the Son shows forth when Jehovah sends him as His “messenger of the covenant” to the temple for judgment work. As it is written: “The Lord, whom ye seek, will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant, whom ye desire, behold, he cometh, saith Jehovah of hosts. And he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, and refine them as gold and silver; and they shall offer unto Jehovah offerings in righteousness.” (Mal. 3:1, 3, AS) At his glorious coming to the temple in 1918 he took up the work of judging and cleansing his devoted remnant upon the earth, that these might go for him and for Jehovah with the “pure language”.
5. How did Isaiah respond? Who responded like him? When? Why?
5 The service is not forced upon anyone, but is open for volunteers. The type of service is not disclosed at first, but whatever it turns out to be, it is Jehovah’s service and is at his ordination. As a proper example to us Isaiah responded: “Then said I, Here am I; send me.” (Isa. 6:8) So, too, in 1919, the “faithful and discreet slave” class volunteered their service. It was then a case of acting dead to divine service, like the leprous King Uzziah, or of rousing oneself to activity and answering the invitation and being sent. It took faith, love and courage to answer the divine call to service in this world’s “time of the end”. As Isaiah with lips cleansed felt qualified to respond, so the cleansed, forgiven remnant felt qualified and humbly offered their services.—Matt. 24:45-47, NW.
“GO, AND TELL THIS PEOPLE”
6. Did God require them to be ordained by clergy? What shows whether?
6 Did Jehovah turn down the volunteers for this final witness to the world because they were not ordained by the clergy of Christendom? Not if judged by his ready acceptance of Isaiah’s services. He did not ask whether Isaiah was a priest, a Levite, a single or a married man, a schooled man or a common laboring man. He let him hear the open invitation and then respond with appreciation of his purification for God’s use. Likewise he accepted the voluntary services of the remnant now purified with the Kingdom message. The facts to date show he has wondrously used them as his anointed witnesses to the nations, so that all the world marvels at them, even though it hates and persecutes them.
7, 8. What were they commissioned to do? How do they rightly do this?
7 Check now with your own observations and see whether they have done what Isaiah was commissioned to do: “And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn again, and be healed.”—Isa. 6:9, 10, AS.
8 Isaiah was sent to the people, that is, the people of Israel. To go he must get away from home, wife and family, although one instance is reported of where he took his son Shear-jashub along at God’s command. (Isa. 7:3) The divine service had a claim higher than family obligations. And so as he could arrange his domestic affairs he would leave his home and go to the people and tell them what God told him to tell. He built up a company of disciples or pupils. (Isa. 8:16) The people were not sent for, but God sent his spokesman to them. The Greater Isaiah and his disciples, that is, Jesus and his apostles, showed that it is the right way for those sent by God to go to the homes of the people. So the Isaiah class remnant today do not stand on invitation by the people, nor are they sought out by the people of Israel’s modern counterpart, Christendom. Jehovah takes the initiative and sends and commands them to go to the people. Since they are under a vow of dedication to him and since they have volunteered, they must go, and the authorities of Christendom have no right to stop them.
9. Did what Isaiah was told to say contain the gist of the message, or show what? What recording of it shows its importance?
9 What Isaiah was here told to tell the people was not really the content of his message but was to be the effect of it. What he actually told them is contained in the remaining sixty chapters of his prophecy. The Greater Isaiah, Jesus Christ, applied to himself what Isaiah was here told to tell. Explaining why he talked to the people in parables of the Kingdom, Jesus informed his disciples: “Looking, they look in vain, and hearing, they hear in vain, neither do they get the sense of it; and toward them the prophecy of Isaiah is having fulfillment which says: ‘By hearing, you will hear but by no means get the sense of it; and, looking, you will look but by no means see. For the heart of this people has grown thick, and with their ears they have heard with annoyance, and they have shut their eyes; that they might never see with their eyes and hear with their ears and get the sense of it with their hearts and turn back, and I heal them.” (Matt. 13:13-15, NW) One of Jesus’ apostles, Paul, applied this same prophecy to himself to show how it foretold the effect of his work upon the people of natural Israel. (Acts 28:25-28) The fact is, this commission to Isaiah is quoted six times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. So all together it occurs seven times in the entire Bible, which makes it a significant statement of prophecy for our own day.—Matt. 13:14, 15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; Acts 28:25-27; Rom. 11:8; John 12:39, 40.c
10. Does our not winning over Christendom spell failure? What does the commission answer on this?
10 If, after these 31 years since 1919, Jehovah’s witnesses have not succeeded in winning Christendom to their side, they are not to be blamed and their work is not to be summed up as a failure. In the first century Jesus and his disciples did not win the people of Israel to Christianity; they won only a small percentage, a few thousand. But this does not spell failure for their work, but spells rather the exact fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Jehovah’s words at the temple sound as if his witnesses must command the people not to understand what they hear and not to perceive what they see; and as if his witnesses are commanded to make the people’s hearts fat, make their ears heavy and shut up or besmear their eyes. But Jehovah does not force the people this way; otherwise, he would be responsible for their dire fate. He merely makes the people hear and see his witnesses in action. Then by his prophecy he foretells the effect of it upon the people or how they will not respond favorably. In support, see how Matthew 13:14, 15 quotes it. (Page 216, ¶ 9)
11. How have the remnant been used to fulfill the commission?
11 In the same way the remnant in this time of the end do not force the people of Christendom into this unfeeling, unresponsive spiritual state. What the remnant really do is, not make, but show up the people or prove the people to be just as Jehovah foretold at Isaiah 6:9, 10.d So today, 31 years after Jehovah’s witnesses were revived and sent forth in 1919, how many people of Christendom see and hear and believe? Not the vast majority, by any means! Nor millions! Failure this? No! But surely cause for discouragement and quitting? Contrariwise, the prophecy of Isaiah 6:9, 10 has proved true. If Jehovah’s witnesses had compromised their message and tickled the people’s ears, they would not have realized the fulfillment of the prophecy toward their witness work.
12. Had Christendom responded to the message, what would have resulted? But since not, what?
12 Had Christendom acted favorably upon their testimony she would have turned to Jehovah and his kingdom and had been healed. But today the conditions in Christendom show she has not received divine healing. She is in a most malignantly diseased condition, mentally, morally and spiritually. She faces a destruction and desolation as inescapable as that which came on ancient Jerusalem both in 607 B.C. and A.D. 70. It is not for failure on the part of Jehovah’s witnesses to tell his straightforward message. In sending his witnesses Jehovah had a kindly purpose, namely, to announce the Kingdom of salvation and to give advance warning of the evil to follow a rejection of that kingdom. This shows how vitally important the message we bear is. Rather than be healed by it, Christendom rebels against it and, like the rich man in Haʹdes, she feels tormented by it. Just as to Babylon, we can now say to her: ‘We would have healed Christendom, but she is not healed.’ (Jer. 51:9) Doomed as surely as plagued King Uzziah, she hastens away from Jehovah God to her doleful death.
13. Who get the good effect of the message? So what do they do?
13 All the same, the message does have a good effect too, just as it is written: “He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” (Ps. 107:20) The spiritual remnant themselves have been affected by the Word this way, and now, too, a great flock of “other sheep” of the Right Shepherd. With softened hearts they receive the message proclaimed by the witnesses. They let it sink deep into open ears of understanding, and with eyes of faith they see how Jehovah is using his witnesses to accomplish his work. So they abandon doomed Christendom, turn to Jehovah and associate with the theocratic organization of His witnesses and get healed.
FOR HOW LONG?
14. What question did Isaiah ask? How did God answer for him and for us?
14 Would you not wonder how long you should go on witnessing in the face of the hardheartedness of Christendom? Isaiah got the answer for us. “Then said I, Lord,e how long? And he answered, Until cities be waste without inhabitant, and houses without man, and the land become utterly waste, and Jehovah have removed men far away, and the forsaken places be many in the midst of the land.” (Isa. 6:11, 12, AS) Thus without setting a date, Jehovah does set the practical limit for our work amid the people of unhealed Christendom. We must carry on until Christendom is reduced to the devastated state described here prophetically and which was illustrated in the devastation of Jerusalem and Judah in 607 B.C. Isaiah did not personally bear witness until that event. He died over a hundred years before then. But his fellow witnesses did testify till then, Jeremiah continuing to prophesy in prison in Jerusalem even while the city was under siege by the Babylonians. Released at the city’s fall, Jeremiah continued to preach after that until the remaining people fled in terror to Egypt, taking him forcibly along, so leaving the land forsaken of man and domesticated beast.
15. (a) How will Christendom be thus desolated? (b) What must we do till then and thereafter?
15 The time is getting closer when the “ten horns” of the beast, backed by the whole body of that beast, will turn on Christendom’s whorish system of Babylonish religion and will wreck it. All her religious systems will be affected. Their adherents will be taken captive or destroyed by the worldly elements that fight against religion and God’s kingdom, so leaving organized religion desolate. That will be the beginning of the battle of Armageddon, but at the grand climax Jehovah’s heavenly hosts under his King Jesus Christ will execute his righteous judgments against all the ungodly elements, religious, political, social and commercial. This divine execution will rid the earth of them. This is what Christendom will have come on her for shutting her eyes, dulling her ears and fattening her heart toward the testimony of the witnesses whom Jehovah sent. So despite the siege conditions which the anti-God forces may bring upon Christendom, we must carry on with the Kingdom message and declare the “day of vengeance of our God”. After she falls at Armageddon, we must do like Ezekiel, preach the Kingdom and the divine vengeance upon all systems outside of Christendom, till the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” destroys them and his universal sovereignty stands vindicated forever. By his help, strength and protection there will be no stopping us till then. His command to us will be carried out fully.
16, 17. What did Jehovah finally say regarding a tenth in the land, and how is this fulfilled?
16 After such a message of divine vengeance, our stirred emotions impel us to ask, Will any get through alive? Jehovah through Isaiah gives us the assurance of such. In the closing words of his commission to that prophet at the temple he says: “Yet still shall there be in it a tenth, though it again be consumed,—like an oak and like a terebinth which, when felled, have a stock in them, a holy seed shall be the stock thereof.”—Isa. 6:13, Ro; AS.
17 That “tenth” appears to be the faithful spiritual remnant of Jehovah’s witnesses, who were pictured by the faithful Jewish remnant that returned to the land of the formerly unfaithful Judah and Jerusalem and renewed the pure worship of God there. The remnant, who are the last of God’s “holy nation” on earth, are a “holy seed”, “a sacred race” (Mo). Just as an oak or a turpentine tree which is felled leaves a stump that will sprout again at the scent of water, so this holy seed will remain like a stock in the earth and will sprout again after the devastations of Armageddon. (Job 14:7-9) Surviving with them will be the great flock of “other sheep”, who have turned to Jehovah and his kingdom by Christ and who have been healed, to correspond with Ebed-melech and the Rechabites who survived Jerusalem’s first destruction with Jeremiah. Thus Jehovah’s pure worship will sprout again under most favorable conditions after Armageddon and will spread to the ends of the earth. Then ‘the whole earth will be full of Jehovah’s glory’, just as the seraphs at the temple foretold.
18. In view of His commission, what is the course for us?
18 In view of our divine commission from the temple there is no stopping for us as his witnesses until Armageddon strikes Christendom and the opportunity for her adherents to repent is up. On we go, then, proclaiming the message, while we “consider the patience of our Lord as salvation”, both for ourselves and for those who hear us.—2 Pet. 3:15, NW.
a Another of the 134 cases where the Sopherim altered the primitive Hebrew text to read Adonaiʹ, My Lord, instead of Jehovah. Of the old Hebrew manuscripts collected, 44 by Kennicott and 46 by DeRossi here read Jehovah. Also see the footnote of Rotherham’s translation.
b The August 15, 1919, issue contained also the article “Opportunities for Service” (pages 250-253).
c At John 12:39 the apostle quotes Isaiah’s prophecy in connection with Jesus’ work and then adds: “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory, and he spoke about him.” (NW) The trinitarian clergy say that this proves the doctrine of the trinity and that the Jehovah whom Isaiah saw in glory in the temple was the prehuman Jesus, the Word of God. But this is a hasty conclusion on their part, as appears from John’s full account, which we here quote: “Jesus spoke these things and went off and hid from them. But although he had performed so many signs before them, they were not putting faith in him, so that the word of Isaiah [53:1] the prophet was fulfilled which he said: ‘Jehovah, who has believed our report, and to whom has the arm of Jehovah been revealed?’ The reason why they were not able to believe is that again Isaiah [6:10] said: ‘He has blinded their eyes and he has made their hearts hard, that they should not see with their eyes and get the thought with their hearts and turn around and I should heal them.’ Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory, and he spoke about him.”—John 12:36-41, NW.
What “things” did Isaiah say “because he saw his glory”? Well, John quotes Isaiah here twice, first quoting Isaiah 53:1 concerning the “arm of Jehovah” and then quoting Isaiah 6:10 concerning the temple vision. At Isaiah 53:1 the “arm of Jehovah” is Christ Jesus. At Isaiah 6:10 the speaker at the temple is Jehovah, but he includes his Son with him when he says: “Who will go for us?” that is, for me and my Son. Thus we see that the prehuman Jesus was associated with Jehovah in his glory at the temple, and hence John could rightly say Isaiah here saw his glory and spoke about him, “the arm of Jehovah.” Certainly Jesus the Greater Isaiah had not sent himself, but Jehovah at the temple did so, for John here applies Isaiah 6:10 to Jesus as the Sent One toward whom this prophecy was first fulfilled, after Jesus had ridden into Jerusalem and offered himself as King and had cleansed the temple. At that time Jesus was not in “his glory”, but the Jewish leaders had vilified him and had conspired to kill him.
The same was true where Matthew 13:14, 15 applies Isaiah’s prophecy to Jesus, for there, too, the religious leaders had formed a conspiracy to destroy him. (Matt. 12:14; John 11:57) The glory of Jesus with his Father at the temple comes at the final and complete fulfillment of Malachi 3:1-4 in the year 1918, when Jehovah sends him as his Messenger of the covenant to judge and purify His consecrated people. Especially since his resurrection, Jesus is the reflection of Jehovah’s glory.—Heb. 1:2, 3; 2 Cor. 4:6. Also see page 215, ¶ 4.
d The prophecy is worded like Jeremiah 1:9, 10 (AS) where God declares Jeremiah to be set over the nations and kingdoms, “to pluck up and to break down and to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Not that Jeremiah was himself actually to do such things to the nations and kingdoms, but he was to utter prophecies that these things would happen to them. It is worded also as when Ezekiel 43:3 says, “I came to destroy the city.” Not that Ezekiel himself destroyed Jerusalem, but that he came to foretell the destruction.
e Another of the 134 places where the Sopherim changed Jehovah to Adonaiʹ. Even the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (DSIa) found in the early spring of 1947 reads “Jehovah” here; also 33 Kennicott MSS, and many of DeRossi.