Reasons for National Happiness
1, 2. (a) What shows that Jehovah’s blessing was with this reborn nation for over 600 years after its rebirth? (b) How did Paul before Agrippa affirm that the Jews in his day indeed constituted a nation?
FOR more than 605 years after such a miraculous rebirth in 537 B.C.E. Israel continued its existence. During that period of time Jehovah God saw good to send further prophets to it, and almost to the end of that period the nation held a unique position of favor with him. Almost six hundred years after the nation’s rebirth a circumcised Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus, of the tribe of Benjamin, summed up the favored privileges of the nation of which he was a member by birth, saying: “What, then, is the superiority of the Jew, or what is the benefit of the circumcision? A great deal in every way. First of all, because they were entrusted with the sacred pronouncements of God.” “In behalf of my brothers, my relatives according to the flesh, who, as such, are Israelites, to whom belong the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the sacred service and the promises; to whom the forefathers belong and from whom Christ sprang according to the flesh.” (Rom. 3:1, 2; 9:3-5) What reasons for happiness!
2 Speaking of his people as being a “nation,” this same writer said to King Agrippa in the city of Caesarea: “Indeed, as to the manner of life from youth up that I led from the beginning among my nation and in Jerusalem, . . . according to the strictest sect of our form of worship I lived a Pharisee. And yet now for the hope of the promise that was made by God to our forefathers I stand called to judgment; whereas our twelve tribes are hoping to attain to the fulfillment of this promise by intensely rendering him sacred service night and day. . . . Why is it judged unbelievable among you men that God raises up the dead? . . . I continue to this day bearing witness to both small and great, but saying nothing except things the Prophets as well as Moses stated were going to take place, that the Christ was to suffer and, as the first to be resurrected from the dead, he was going to publish light both to this people and to the nations.”—Acts 26:4-8, 22, 23.
3. For what reasons could the reborn nation of Israel be happy?
3 Great and many, then, were the reasons for the reborn nation of ancient Israel to be happy. They had the pure worship of the one living and true God, Jehovah, their Life-giver, and were therefore protected by Him from the spirit demons under the “prince of the demons,” Satan the Devil. Jehovah was not only their God but also their heavenly Judge and Statute-giver. (Isa. 33:22) They were the natural descendants of Jehovah’s friend Abraham and of Isaac his son and of Jacob his grandson and of Jacob’s twelve sons. They were thus all interrelated according to the flesh and so were indeed one big family or nation of brothers and sisters, truly one “people,” one “nation.” Because they were directly descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, all of whom had God’s promise, and also because they had been ransomed by Jehovah God from slavery in the land of Egypt, this nation was his chosen possession or heritage. They really belonged to Jehovah God.
4. (a) What did being the “seed of Abraham” mean to this nation? (b) What other outstanding blessings were to come through this nation, culminating in what event in 33 C.E.?
4 They were directly in line to be the “seed of Abraham” by means of whom all the nations of the earth would forever bless themselves. (Gen. 22:18; 26:2-5; 28:13, 14) They alone were entrusted with the “sacred pronouncements” or oracles of Jehovah God, by having the Holy Scriptures of the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms. They had the privileged opportunity of being educated in all these “sacred pronouncements of God” with the wonderful divine promises and hopes contained in them. Through the prophet Moses they were in a national contract or covenant with their God; and through God’s special covenant with the royal line of faithful King David they had God’s promise of an everlasting kingdom under his Messiah or Christ. In fact, this Messiah or Christ was promised to come directly to them, being born into their nation. (Dan. 9:24-26) Their Messiah King was promised to come riding to their capital city Jerusalem, to bring peace and salvation to them. (Zech. 9:9) According to history, he actually did so and exactly on time, in the year 33 C.E.—Matt. 21:1-14; John 12:12-18.
5. What terrible thing happened to this nation in 70 C.E., raising what disturbing questions?
5 In spite of being so highly favored this nation according to the flesh was destroyed in the summer of the year 70 C.E. For the second time the capital city of Jerusalem was destroyed, its precious temple of worship was razed to the ground, and the land of Judea was desolated, this time by the military legions of Rome. The Jews surviving this disaster were carried off captive and sold into slavery into all nations. Why was this? Why did this nation of Israel according to the flesh come into such unhappiness?
6. What relation was there between the reason for the first destruction and the second one?
6 Well, why did the first national disaster of such kind come upon them? Since the happiness of the nation had been due to their having Jehovah as their God, it was because they had drawn away from the worship of this God, Jehovah their Savior, Blesser and Protector. So the second disaster to the same nation was due to the same cause. Under the influence of human traditions and precepts of men, they hardened their hearts in unbelief and rejected the “sacred pronouncements of God.” As a crucial climax to this they refused the promised Messiah, the Son of God. Thus they lost their basis for being the “happy” nation of Jehovah.
7. (a) Now what critical questions are posed? (b) Why is there no need for a reborn nation of natural Israel?
7 Now the critical questions arise, For the fulfillment of the divine promises of the Holy Bible, must there be a rebirth again of this fleshly nation of Israel, of natural circumcised Jews? Is the birth of the Republic of Israel on May 15, 1948, the modern fulfillment of the prophecy, and is Jehovah’s promise made to Abraham concerning the blessing of all the families and nations of the earth to be fulfilled in this democratic Republic of Israel? According to the Holy Scriptures, the answer is No! There is no need for such a rebirth of the nation of natural, circumcised Israel. Why not? Because thirty-seven years before the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in the year 70 C.E. Jehovah God had already brought forth the real nation in whom the further prophecies of his “sacred pronouncements” are to be fulfilled with benefit to all mankind, living and dead.
THE BIRTH OF SPIRITUAL ISRAEL
8, 9. (a) When did the birth of spiritual Israel take place? (b) Relate the events that occurred in Jerusalem from and after Zion’s King, Christ Jesus, rode into the city in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9?
8 The birth of this nation took place at Jerusalem on the 6th day of Sivan of the year 33 C.E., the day that the natural circumcised Jews call “Shabuoth” (meaning “Weeks”), but which the Greek-speaking Jews called “Pentecost” (meaning “Fiftieth”).
9 In harmony with the meaning of the name Pentecost, the birth of that nation came on the fiftieth day from the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah or Christ from the dead, from a tomb very close to Jerusalem. He was Zion’s King who had ridden into Jerusalem in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, but several days later the unbelieving religious leaders of Jerusalem had him killed at the hands of the Roman soldiers. Yet, on the third day from his death, Almighty God Jehovah resurrected him and exalted him to heavenly life as the Messiah or Christ, the everlasting Heir to the kingdom of David with whom God made the Kingdom covenant. Before ascending to heaven, Jesus the Messiah or Christ told his faithful disciples to remain in Jerusalem until the holy spirit of God should descend upon them.—Acts 1:1-15.
10. (a) How was the prophecy of Joel 2:28, 29 fulfilled on the festival day of Pentecost, and of what was the fulfillment an evidence? (b) What firstfruits did Jesus Christ now offer to Jehovah?
10 The disciples had to wait only ten days from then, till the festival day of Pentecost. On that day about one hundred and twenty of them were met together in an upper room in Jerusalem. All of a sudden God’s holy spirit was poured out upon them, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel 2:28, 29. Besides the noise as of a rushing wind and the tongues of fire that were seen to hover above their heads, they all began speaking in foreign languages that they had not learned before. This was evidence that Jesus Christ had arrived in God’s heavenly presence and was now seated at God’s right hand as “Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:1-36) This being the prophetic day of Pentecost, when the high priest of Israel at the temple in Jerusalem offered to God the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, Jesus Christ as God’s High Priest offered to God spiritual firstfruits. What? The Christian congregation as represented by those 120 disciples assembled that day in Jerusalem. (Ex. 34:22-24; Lev. 23:15-21) They were begotten by God’s spirit to “be a certain first fruits of his creatures.”—Jas. 1:18.
11. How do we know that these events marked the birth of a new nation, and whose place did it take?
11 In this way, on the day of Pentecost of 33 C.E., the new nation was born, with the heavenly Lord Jesus Christ as its King. (Col. 1:13) The apostle Peter, who was there that day and who gave the opening speech under the power of the outpoured spirit, calls it a nation. Writing his first letter to members of this spirit-begotten congregation, Peter said: “These [fleshly circumcised Jews] are stumbling because they are disobedient to the word. To this very end they were also appointed. But you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy NATION, a PEOPLE for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Pet. 2:8, 9) Since Jehovah God rejected the nation of natural, circumcised Israel because of their rejection of Jesus as Christ and Lord, this new Christian nation took the place of it with God.
12. After the first three years and four months of this nation’s existence, who began coming into it as citizens of that nation?
12 For the first three years and four months of its existence, this “holy nation” was composed exclusively of persons who were natural Jews or persons who had Judaized and been circumcised and become adopted into natural Israel, so-called “proselytes.” (Acts 2:5-11, 33-42) But in early autumn of the year 36 C.E. Jehovah God began showing no further partiality to the circumcised Jews and proselytes, but sent the apostle Peter to Caesarea to convert the Italian centurion Cornelius and his God-fearing friends to faith in Jesus as Jehovah’s Messiah or Christ. These believing Gentiles then received holy spirit from heaven and began prophesying under its operation upon them. (Acts 10:1 to 11:18) From then on those who were uncircumcised Gentiles and who became believers in Jehovah’s Messiah were taken into the “holy nation,” thus enlarging the membership of this new nation, “the Israel of God.”—Gal. 6:16.
13. Show how Paul viewed the Gentile believers who became citizens of this “holy nation.”
13 In explaining that these Gentile believers became fellow citizens in this “holy nation,” the apostle Paul wrote: “You were people of the nations as to flesh; ‘uncircumcision’ you were called by that which is called ‘circumcision’ made in the flesh with hands—that you were at that particular time without Christ, alienated from the state of Israel and strangers to the covenants of the promise, and you had no hope and were without God in the world. But now in union with Christ Jesus you who were once far off have come to be near by the blood of the Christ. For he is our peace, he who made the two parties one and destroyed the wall in between that fenced them off. . . . And he came and declared the good news of peace to you, the ones far off, and peace to those near, because through him we, both peoples, have the approach to the Father by one spirit. Certainly, therefore, you are no longer strangers and alien residents, but you are fellow citizens of the holy ones and are members of the household of God, and you have been built up upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, while Christ Jesus himself is the foundation cornerstone.”—Eph. 2:11-20.
14. What were the ties that bound this new nation together, and where was their citizenship?
14 Since race and nationality of a person according to the flesh no longer determined whom God could induct into this new nation, the ties that bound these members together as fellow citizens of one nation were spiritual. It was a spiritual nation. It was not only anointed with God’s holy spirit to proclaim everywhere the good news of God’s kingdom but also begotten of God’s spirit to be God’s spiritual children, with the hope and promise of membership in God’s heavenly kingdom with Jesus Christ. For that reason the apostle Paul could write to them and say: “As for us, our citizenship exists in the heavens, from which place also we are eagerly waiting for a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 3:20) This “holy nation,” therefore, is the spiritual Israel of God.
15. Why was there no need for Jehovah to give another rebirth to natural Israel after 70 C.E.?
15 By the year 70 C.E., thirty-seven years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the members of this spiritual nation of Israel had multiplied by the thousands in and outside the Roman Empire. Consequently, when the Roman legions under General Titus destroyed Jerusalem and its temple and devastated the land of Judea and thus the nation of natural, circumcised Israel was destroyed, there was no need for Jehovah God to give a rebirth to that rejected nation, either back there or today. At the destruction of the Jewish nation in the year 70 C.E. Jehovah God had already had for thirty-seven years his “holy nation” of spiritual Israel.
16. Upon whom, then, are Bible prophecies being fulfilled today, bringing what to the “nation whose God is Jehovah”?
16 It is upon this spiritual Israel and through it that the Bible prophecies continue to be fulfilled, down till today. Till this present day natural, fleshly Jews of the destroyed nation of Israel have survived, and so how much rather should not members of the true spiritual “Israel of God” have survived till today? To the praise and glory of Jehovah God and owing to his protection and preservation, a remnant of this spiritual “Israel of God” does exist today, and it is experiencing the unspeakable happiness of the “nation whose God is Jehovah.”—Ps. 33:12; Gal. 6:16.
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On the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., the new nation was born