Signs and Wonders in the Time of the End
This is the keynote speech of the Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses, as delivered by the president of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania to an audience of 151,003 that packed out Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds of New York city that summer afternoon of Monday, July 28, 1958.
“Look! I and the children whom Jehovah has given me are as signs and as wonders in Israel from Jehovah of armies, who is residing in Mount Zion.”—Isa. 8:18.
1, 2. (a) Why was the Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1958 a sign and a wonder? (b) Of what was the international conference in San Francisco in 1945 a sign, but why did the 1958 gathering in New York city convene?
WHAT does it mean when more than 145,000 persons from all quarters of the globe daily come together for eight days and overflow two giant stadiums of New York city, not far from the capital of the United Nations, culminating in a public audience of 253,922 on the final day? Of what is this a sign in this day of world tension? That it is a wonder is certain, for here, in the midst of a world strained with international difficulties, representatives from 123 nations, territories and islands come together with a peaceful aim and mingle as members of one human family despite differences of race, color, language, national citizenship and native culture.
2 Thirteen years ago, on the opposite side of the continent, in San Francisco, California, there were met together in discussion and activity 10,000 men and women representing fifty political states, of which thirteen were European, fifteen were Asiatic, Pacific and African and twenty-two were American. That San Francisco conference was a sign of international planning and was a wonder portending the establishment of the organization known as the United Nations; for the conference finished its work on June 26, 1945, with the signing of the United Nations Charter by representatives of fifty nations. But in July and August of 1958 this far grander gathering of representatives from many more nations serves as a sign and a wonder of higher importance to all mankind. This gathering convenes to consider and serve, not the will of humankind, but the will of the Supreme One of the universe. The gathering is called the Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
3. Seriously, whose eyes were upon that assembly, and why?
3 Because of the publicity attached to it, the eyes of all the earth are on this assembly, for people from all parts of the earth are here. Still to be viewed far more seriously is the fact that the eyes of the Most High God of the heavens are upon this international assembly. This assembly meets when this Bible scripture is true: “The eyes of Jehovah are in every place, keeping watch upon the bad ones and the good ones.” “Jehovah is in his holy temple. Jehovah—in the heavens is his throne. His own eyes behold, his own beaming eyes examine the sons of men. Jehovah himself examines the righteous one as well as the wicked one.” (Prov. 15:3; Ps. 11:4, 5) To him the nations, including the United Nations, are as a “drop from a bucket.”—Isa. 40:15.
4. Why was what any reporters, critics or historians had to say about that assembly not anything to fear, and why could no nation or people do well to ignore that assembly?
4 What the political analysts or newspaper reporters and editors or religious critics of Christendom or secular historians may yet say of this Divine Will International Assembly does not concern us as being something to fear. It is not before mankind in general nor before the many nations here represented nor before the United Nations, whose capital is nearby, but before Jehovah God the Supreme Judge that this gathering must stand condemned or approved. Why? Because it is with the divine will as our theme that we 151,003 have assembled. If we concentrate on furthering the divine will throughout God’s green earth, this assembly will serve as a sign and a wonder from him, something that no nation or people on earth does well to ignore.
5. Why is this the most remarkable day of signs and wonders in all man’s history?
5 This is the most remarkable day of signs and wonders in all the history of mankind. We mean visible signs and wonders from the invisible God of the heavens, for all men to observe. His signs and wonders, understood, portend that we are standing at the threshold of a peaceable, happy and life-giving new world. This is the grandest of news, although it means that we are living at the end of this worry-filled, problem-racked, insane, loveless old world. We want the new. We are eager to leave the old.
6. How are men of today not different from what men of the Middle East were during Jesus’ presence on earth nineteen centuries ago?
6 Men of Christendom and Jewry have ideas of their own as regards the signs and wonders that God ought to provide if they are going to believe. Today such men are not different from what men of the Middle East were nineteen centuries ago. A man who gave evidence of being God’s only-begotten Son was there. His name was Jesus Christ, of the family line of King David of Jerusalem. The two Jewish religious sects, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, were doubters of who he actually was. They wanted supernatural proof different from the marvelous miracles that he was performing. Once he fed four thousand men, besides women and young children, from just seven loaves and a few little fish. Then, the eyewitness report tells us, “the Pharisees and Sadducees approached him and, to tempt him, they asked him to display to them a sign from heaven.” He told them the one sign that would be given them. On another occasion he said to crowds of people: “This generation is a wicked generation; it looks for a sign. But no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, in the same way will the Son of man be also to this generation. . . . The men of Nineveh will rise in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it; because they repented at what Jonah preached; but, look! something more than Jonah is here.” That “something more than Jonah” was Jesus Christ himself.—Matt. 16:1; Luke 11:29-32.
7. How was Jesus a sign greater than Jonah was, and how was Jesus a fulfillment of another sign in the days of King Ahaz?
7 By reason of his experiences and his preaching Jonah became a “sign” to the capital of the Assyrian Empire. To the Jews of his generation Jesus Christ was a still greater “sign.” Not only was he a fulfillment of Jonah when Jesus was in the belly of the earth, dead for parts of three days, and then resurrected, but he was also a fulfillment of another sign man of ancient times, the prophet Isaiah, who lived some years later than Jonah. It was during the reign of King Ahaz of Jerusalem that Isaiah called attention to himself as a sign from Jehovah God. At that time the very existence of the kingdom of Judah over which Ahaz reigned was in danger. In the crisis Isaiah announced that he was a “sign” of tremendous meaning. Isaiah’s name means “Salvation of Jehovah.” He said: “Look! I and the children whom Jehovah has given me are as signs and as wonders in Israel from Jehovah of armies, who is residing in Mount Zion.”—Isa. 8:18.
8. How did Jehovah use Isaiah as a sign and a wonder for three years against Egypt, and against what were the Israelites thus forewarned?
8 In Isaiah’s time Egypt and the Middle East were in the news, just as they are today. Jehovah wanted Isaiah to be a sign against Egypt, to whom the Israelites were then inclined to flee for military help. From up north the Assyrian king, Sargon, sent the commander Tartan against the Philistines, and Tartan captured their city, Ashdod. “At that time Jehovah spoke by the hand of Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying: ‘Go, and you must loosen the sackcloth from off your hips, and your sandals you should draw from off your feet.’ And he proceeded to do so, walking about naked and barefoot.” For three years Isaiah did that. Then Jehovah God explained this unusual conduct on Isaiah’s part. He said that Isaiah was a sign and a wonder to the Israelites, in these words: “Just as my servant Isaiah has walked about naked and barefoot three years as a sign and a token against Egypt and against Ethiopia, so the king of Assyria will lead the body of captives of Egypt and the exiles of Ethiopia, boys and old men, naked and barefoot, and with buttocks stripped, the nakedness of Egypt. And [the Israelites] will certainly be terrified and be ashamed of Ethiopia their looked-for hope and of Egypt their beauty. And the inhabitant of this coastland will be certain to say in that day: ‘There is how our looked-for hope is, to which we fled for help, in order to be delivered because of the king of Assyria! And how shall we ourselves escape?’” (Isa. 20:1-6) Those of God’s professed people who took heed to the sign and wonder that Jehovah gave in Isaiah to forewarn them of the defeat of Egypt and Ethiopia changed their mind about running down to Egypt instead of to Jehovah for help and salvation.
ISAIAH AND HIS SONS
9. Of what were Isaiah and his children signs to ancient Israel, and of what was his first son’s name a portent to Israel?
9 Isaiah’s children, as well as he himself, were signs and wonders in ancient Israel. Who were these children of Isaiah? Of two we can be certain. The first one was named Shear-jashub. That name was in itself prophetic. It meant “A mere remnant will return.” This son was a sign and his name was a wonder or token or portent; just as certain as that son was born to Isaiah and was called Shear-jashub, just that certain was the event that his name foretold to happen.
10. With what words did Isaiah call attention to this event prophetically?
10 Isaiah called attention to this event prophetically. He said: “It will certainly occur in that day that those remaining over of Israel and those who have escaped of the house of Jacob will never again support themselves upon the one [the Assyrian king] striking them, and they will certainly support themselves upon Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, in trueness. A mere remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God. For although your people, O Israel, would prove to be like the grains of sand of the sea, a mere remnant among them will return. An extermination decided upon will be flooding through in righteousness, because an exterminating and a strict decision the Sovereign Lord, Jehovah of armies, will be executing in the midst of the whole land.”—Isa. 10:20-23.
11. What did Shear-jashub’s name therefore mean, and so what experience befell the Israelites of the kingdom of Judah?
11 The name of Shear-jashub meant, therefore, that the kingdom of Judah would be overthrown; its capital city Jerusalem and its temple would be destroyed; the surviving Jews would be taken to Babylon as captives, and after a long period of time a mere remnant would return to their homeland and rebuild their capital city and its temple to Jehovah. So serious was the situation to become about the survival of the nation of Israel that Isaiah prophesied: “Unless Jehovah of armies himself had left remaining to us just a few survivors, we should have become just like Sodom, we should have resembled Gomorrah itself.” (Isa. 1:9) Sodom and Gomorrah had been burned down by a rain of sulphur and fire from the skies. In becoming filthy like ancient Sodom and Gomorrah the kingdom of Judah would likewise suffer a destruction, almost complete if it were not that Jehovah God spared a remnant of faithful Jews and, in due time, let them return to their homeland to rebuild Jerusalem and Jehovah’s temple. This experience actually did come upon the Israelites of the kingdom of Judah just as truly as the fact that Isaiah’s oldest son was born and was named Shear-jashub.
12. Who was Isaiah’s son that was named before his conception, and how was the meaning of his name fulfilled, to prove him a sign and a wonder?
12 Another son of Isaiah was named even before his conception, and the name was attested to by reliable witnesses. Isaiah tells us: “Jehovah proceeded to say to me: ‘Take for yourself a large tablet and write upon it with the stylus of mortal man: “Maʹher-shalʹal-hash-baz.” And let me have attestation for myself by faithful witnesses, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.’ Then I went near to the prophetess, and she came to be pregnant and in time gave birth to a son. Jehovah now said to me: ‘Call his name Maʹher-shalʹal-hash-baz, for before the boy will know how to call out, “My father!” and “My mother!” one will carry away the resources of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria before the king of Assyria.’” (Isa. 8:1-4) History records that Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, was made spoil of and destroyed by King Shalmaneser in 740 B.C., and the surviving Israelites were taken into exile in the land of Assyria and in cities of the Medes. (2 Ki. 17:1-6) The meaning of Isaiah’s son Maʹher-shalʹal-hash-baz was literally fulfilled. This boy had thus served as a truthful sign and wonder.
13, 14. (a) What other son did Isaiah possibly have, and under what circumstances was his name foretold? (b) Of what flooding of his land was this foretold one warned?
13 There was possibly another son of Isaiah, and this one was to be called Immanuel. At that time the king of northern Israel and the king of Syria had joined in conspiracy against the kingdom of Judah, to dethrone King Ahaz the descendant of King David and to put on the “throne of Jehovah” a certain son Tabeel, possibly a Syrian. This political conspiracy frightened King Ahaz. Wicked though King Ahaz was, Jehovah God was not going to let the conspiracy succeed. To assure King Ahaz of this, he said to Isaiah: “Go out, please, to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, . . . ‘This is what the Lord Jehovah has said: “It will not stand, neither will it take place. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is [King] Rezin; and within just sixty-five years Ephraim [the leading member of the kingdom of Israel] will be shattered to pieces so as not to be a people. . . . Unless you people have faith, you will in that case not be of long duration.”’”
14 Then Jehovah said to King Ahaz of Judah: “Ask for yourself a sign from Jehovah your God, making it as deep as Sheol or making it high as the upper regions.” Faithless Ahaz refused to “put Jehovah to the test.” Then Isaiah said: “Therefore Jehovah himself will give you men a sign: Look! The maiden herself will actually become pregnant, and she is giving birth to a son and she will certainly call his name Immanuel.” (Isa. 7:1-14) Later, when telling how the Assyrian armies would overrun Syria and Israel and even flood over into the land of Judah and threaten Jerusalem, Jehovah said to Isaiah: “Look! Jehovah is bringing up against them the mighty and the many waters of the River, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And he will certainly come up over all his stream beds and go over all his banks and move on through Judah. He will actually flood and pass over. Up to the neck he will reach. And the outspreading of his [military] wings must occur to fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel!” (Isa. 8:5-8) How was the name Immanuel fulfilled?
15, 16. (a) When and how was the name Immanuel fulfilled? (b) How did this one prove to us the meaning of his foretold name?
15 For a historical answer we must move forward more than seven hundred years to the birth of the one of whom Isaiah was a prophetic type. Joseph the carpenter of the Galilean city of Nazareth was hesitating about taking his fiancée Mary as a wife, for in some unexplained way she had become pregnant. In a dream Jehovah’s angel appeared to perplexed Joseph and said: “‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife home, for that which has been begotten in her is by holy spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you must call his name “Jesus”, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this actually came about for that to be fulfilled which was spoken by Jehovah through his prophet, saying, ‘Look! the virgin will become pregnant and will give birth to a son, and they will call his name “Immanuel”,’ which means, when translated, ‘With us is God.’” On waking up, Joseph proceeded to do as told.
16 In due time Mary bore a son and his name was called Jesus. At the age of thirty years Jesus began to preach the kingdom of God. For his loyalty to God’s kingdom he was put to death. On the third day Almighty God raised him from the dead. Forty days later the Son of God ascended to heaven and sat down at God’s right hand. From there, by the use of his human sacrifice and by the use of his great power in heaven and in earth, he went ahead saving his people, his followers on earth, from their sins, that they might gain everlasting life in God’s new world. Thus he has proved, even till now, that “with us is God,” and thus the name Immanuel properly belongs to him.—Matt. 1:18-25.
17. Whom does Jehovah give to Immanuel, and in what close relationship?
17 For faith in this Immanuel, even to the point of dedicating themselves to Jehovah God and following in the footsteps of his faithful Son, Immanuel, Jehovah has begotten 144,000 of such faithful followers and made them sons of God, His children. He makes these spirit-begotten sons the joint heirs of Immanuel, Jesus Christ, in the promised kingdom of the heavens. In this way they become the spiritual brothers of Immanuel, God’s royal Son. Because Jesus became the means of their everlasting salvation, Jehovah God gives these children of His to Jesus as a bride class and as a “little flock” of sheep, to whom their heavenly Father has approved of giving the heavenly kingdom. (Luke 12:32; Rom. 8:14-17) Today, after these nineteen centuries, merely a remnant of them remains on earth.
18, 19. How do the names Isaiah and Jesus compare, and how do Jesus’ followers serve a certain function with Jesus, as proved by Hebrews 2:10-13?
18 Here let us remember that Jesus was a sign, just as Isaiah was a sign. (Luke 11:30) The names Jesus and Isaiah mean the same, except that in Jesus’ name God’s name Jehovah is put at the beginning and in Isaiah’s name it is put at the end, Jesus meaning “Jehovah is salvation” and Isaiah meaning “Saved has Jehovah.” Like their Savior and Leader, Jesus’ 144,000 followers are signs. The remnant of them are signs to the generation in this the “time of the end” of this distressed world. On what basis may we say this? On the basis of the prophet’s words in Isaiah 8:18. Under inspiration the Christian writer of the letter to the Hebrews quoted those words and applied them to Jesus and his 144,000 disciples, saying:
19 “It was fitting for the one [God] for whose sake all things are and through whom all things are, in bringing many sons to [heavenly] glory, to make the Chief Agent of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both [Jesus] who is sanctifying and those who are being sanctified all stem from one [Father], and for this cause he is not ashamed to call them ‘brothers’, as he says: ‘I will declare your name to my brothers . . . ’ And again: ‘Look! I and the young children whom Jehovah gave me.’”—Heb. 2:10-13.
20. Although termed “young children,” what are these given ones really to Jesus, and in what work are they associated with him?
20 These “young children” are not the great crowd of “other sheep” to whom Jesus Christ the King will become the “Father forever” in the “inhabited earth to come.” (Isa. 9:6; Heb. 2:5) The “young children” of God are those begotten of his spirit to become his spiritual children. These Jehovah has given to Jesus. In prayer to Jehovah God Jesus said: “I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me out of the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have observed your word. I make request concerning them; I make request, not concerning the world, but concerning those you have given me, because they are yours, and all my things are yours and yours are mine, and I have been glorified among them.” (John 17:6, 9, 10) The heavenly Father gives Jesus 144,000 of these “young children” of God to be his brothers in the spiritual family of God and to be his associates in God’s work. What work? That of being signs and wonders on earth. Jesus said that he was a sign. He also says that his spirit-begotten, spirit-anointed brothers must be signs and wonders also. To this very day they have been.
21, 22. (a) How did conditions develop for his remaining spiritual brothers to become a modern Shear-jashub? (b) How did the Greater Isaiah get his modern Shear-jashub class?
21 Hence they must be like Shear-jashub and like Ma’her-shal’al-hash-baz. Jesus Christ himself is the great Immanuel. His remaining spiritual brothers on earth today are a modern Shear-jashub. The meaning of that Hebrew name applies to them. During World War I they came into a captive state, under bondage to the warring nations of Christendom, in spiritual and physical ways. Even the president and the secretary-treasurer of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society were arrested and imprisoned as a result of the passions of that global conflict. These children of God were expecting that World War I would worsen into world revolution and world revolution would turn into world anarchy that would spell Armageddon for all the nations of this world. But had that proved true, and had God Almighty unleashed the foretold battle of Armageddon at that time, these spiritual brothers of the Greater Isaiah under their spiritual bondage to the worldly nations might have been destroyed with the nations. They might have been like Sodom and Gomorrah. But God long ago gave Isaiah a son named Shear-jashub, which name means “A mere remnant will return.” To fulfill that name, Jehovah had to give Jesus Christ the Greater Isaiah a remnant of “young children,” his brothers, who had returned to Jehovah’s organization.
22 Jehovah God did so. In 1918 he stopped the great tribulation that had begun upon the enemy organization of Satan the Devil. Along with it World War I ended on November 11 of that year. His time for Armageddon, “the war of the great day of God the Almighty,” was still future. In this way he cut short the days of that tribulation upon Satan’s organization invisible and visible. Then in the spring of 1919 he brought to his “young children,” to the remnant of those whom Jesus Christ confesses as his brothers, release from their captivity to modern Babylon. By means of their oldest brother, Jesus Christ, God caused them to return to his theocratic organization and its work. Thus a mere remnant of truly dedicated, anointed “young children” of God did return, and God gave them to the Greater Isaiah, Jesus Christ. Jesus foretold that this would occur in the “time of the end” of this world. (Matt. 24:21, 22, 30, 31) It did, and the Greater Isaiah got his Shear-jashub class. For some years during the postwar period the returned remnant increased; but recently their numbers have been getting less as many of them finish their earthly walk in Jesus’ footsteps.
23. How many does this spiritual remnant number now, and yet why are they not to be despised or considered insignificant?
23 Today the remnant numbers less than sixteen thousand, according to the records of the year 1958. However, let no nations of the world despise them and consider them as of no significance. Let not the sheeplike people look upon them as of no special meaning within the purpose of Jehovah God. This spiritual remnant stands forth as a sign to all the world. Like Isaiah’s son Shear-jashub of old, this spiritual minority is a visible proof from the Most High God that the remnant has returned. They are physical, tangible evidence that Jehovah God is faithful to his word and has fulfilled the prophecy long ago pronounced in his holy name. All men should watch this spiritual remnant as a sign from the Most High God.
24. Why must they serve as a certain evidence, and so on what mission has he sent this remnant, and to where?
24 Since they were liberated as a sign, they must serve as evidence, as indicators of something to all the nations in this time of the world’s end. They must stand forth as living proof that Jehovah is able by his holy arm of strength to deliver and save his people from the power of the enemy. It is true today: “Jehovah has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth must see the salvation of our God.” (Isa. 52:10) To this end he had to send the remnant, to make them known to the ends of the earth. This he declared he would do, in order that he might carry out a great global gathering of sheeplike people from the four quarters of the earth. He said: “‘I am coming in order to collect all the nations and tongues together, and they will have to come and see my glory. And I will set among them a sign, and I will send some of those who are escaped to the nations, . . . the faraway islands, who have not heard a report about me or seen my glory, and they will for certain tell about my glory among the nations. And they will actually bring all your brothers out of all the nations as a gift to Jehovah, . . . up to my holy mountain, Jerusalem,’ Jehovah has said, . . . ‘For just as the new heavens and the new earth that I am making are standing before me,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘so the offspring of you people and the name of you people will keep standing.’”—Isa. 66:22.
25-27. (a) Whom has Jehovah thus gathered to the Greater Isaiah? (b) What has Jehovah commanded them to do, and so who have associated themselves with Jehovah’s signs and wonders today?
25 By thus setting his liberated remnant among the nations as a sign, Jehovah has now gathered to Jesus Christ the Greater Isaiah the remainder of his remnant class to fill up the foreordained number of 144,000 joint heirs of his Son. In harmony with their function as signs and wonders, Jehovah has commanded his remnant through his Greater Isaiah: “Pass out, pass out through the gates, you men. Clear the way of the people. Bank up, bank up the highway. Rid it of stones. Raise up a signal for the peoples.” (Isa. 62:10) The signal that they raise up is the message of God’s kingdom. Already among 170 nations this Kingdom signal has been raised. Hundreds of thousands of sheeplike persons, “other sheep” of Jehovah’s Right Shepherd Jesus Christ, have beheld this upraised “signal.” With joy they have hailed it They have assembled under it, giving their undivided support to God’s kingdom by Christ and placing themselves under its protection and under its commands. They have taken up the only religion or only worship that this heavenly kingdom authorizes and permits, the lofty worship of Jehovah God at his spiritual temple. Their gathering is a world-wide sign of the “last days” of this world, for in its “time of the end” is when Isaiah foretold that this would occur, saying:
26 “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. And 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. And 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 any more. O men of the house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of Jehovah.”—Isa. 2:2-5.
27 So they associate themselves with Jehovah’s signs and wonders.