Birth of the Royal Nation on a Newborn Land
“Will a land be brought forth with labor pains in one day? Or will a nation be born at one time? For Zion has come into labor pains as well as given birth to her sons.”—Isaiah 66:8.
1. On July 26, 1931, what action was taken by the International Bible Students at their convention in Columbus, Ohio, and what corresponding action followed worldwide?
MORE than half a century ago—on Sunday afternoon, July 26, 1931, to be precise—a people stepped out on the world stage of action, championing a name. On that unforgettable day the thousands of International Bible Students, as met together in general convention at Columbus, Ohio, USA, unanimously adopted a resolution by which they chose to be called henceforth by the Bible-based name “Jehovah’s witnesses.” (Isaiah 43:10-12) In short order all the congregations of International Bible Students around the globe followed suit and formally adopted the unique name. The new name has stuck!
2. (a) What have the bearers of that Bible-based name endured ever since? (b) What reassuring words do they find at Isaiah 66:5?
2 By reason of that honorable name those witnesses of the Most High God have incurred the hatred of the world, even of Christendom, the members of which claim to be the religious brothers of all those who profess to be disciples of Jesus Christ. This religious hatred has gone so far as to express itself in violent persecution, with death resulting to many. For the encouragement of those bearers of the name who are living up to the dignity of that name there come ringing down through more than 2,500 years of time these reassuring words as preserved for us by one of the most outstanding prophets of the Bible: “Hear the word of Jehovah, you men who are trembling at his word: ‘Your brothers that are hating you, that are excluding you by reason of my name, said, “May Jehovah be glorified!” He must also appear with rejoicing on your part, and they are the ones that will be put to shame.’”—Isaiah 66:5.
3. How do Jehovah’s Witnesses demonstrate that they tremble at his Word, and, besides being hearers of it, what are they?
3 Jehovah’s Witnesses of today are the ones who “are trembling at his word.” They fear to act contrary to his written Word. That is why they are continually studying the inspired Scriptures. They recognize the Author of the Bible to be the God and Father of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. They accept as the word of Jehovah all thirty-nine books of the Hebrew Scriptures and all twenty-seven books of the Christian Greek Scriptures, of which they must be both hearers and doers.
4. (a) What was the basic reason for Christendom’s hating and excluding their brothers? (b) What motive did they give for doing so?
4 Basically, why is it that Jehovah’s Witnesses are hated by Christendom, by people who claim to be in the brotherhood of Jesus Christ? Why is it that Christendom excludes them from the ranks of those recognized as Christians, and does not want to have anything to do with them because of having nothing in common with them? Jehovah himself gives the reason for this, saying: “By reason of my name.” And yet those doing the hating and excluding give the loftiest of reasons for acting that way by exclaiming: “May Jehovah be glorified!” Or, using Bible translations that avoid the use of the divine name, they exclaim: “Let the Lord be glorified.” However, the Lord God does not look upon their hating and disassociating themselves from his witnesses as something glorifying to him.
5. (a) When Jehovah puts in appearance by some manifestation on his part, who are the ones then made to rejoice? (b) What does the putting of the others to shame mean for them?
5 When he puts in appearance by making some manifestation on his part to express his approval of certain ones and his disapproval of others, who are the ones made to rejoice at such an appearing? Who are the ones then made to feel ashamed? To those hated and excluded by reason of their real respect for his name, Jehovah says: “He must also appear with rejoicing on your part, and they are the ones that will be put to shame.” That meant dire trouble for those indulging in hatred and exclusiveness. The ancient trouble upon them foreshadowed the greatest of all troubles that is shortly to come upon the haters and excluders of Jehovah’s Witnesses in this “time of the end.” (Daniel 12:4) In his next further words the prophet Isaiah goes on to refer to this, saying: “There is a sound of uproar out of the city, a sound out of the temple! It is the sound of Jehovah repaying what is deserved to his enemies.”—Isaiah 66:6.
6. What was the city out of which there was the “sound of uproar,” and what was the reason for such a sound?
6 The unnamed city out of which there was to come “a sound of uproar” is, of course, Jerusalem, for there the temple for the worship of Jehovah stood. The idea here is that Jehovah comes to the temple of his worship to make an inspection, and the way that he finds his worship being carried on is not to his liking. The worship is merely outward, formal, hypocritical. This resulted in reproach for his sacred name. What would show Jehovah’s disapproval of this would be an “uproar” caused by the invasion of the world-conquering Babylonians, whom Jehovah would use as his instruments in “repaying what is deserved to his enemies,” the practicers of hypocritical worship that degraded his temple. These were Jehovah’s enemies for the reason that they were hostile haters of those really “trembling at his word” and were excluding them, as he said, “by reason of my name.”—Isaiah 66:2, 5.
7. When was Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled, what happened to Jeremiah, and who saw that Jehovah’s word was true?
7 So, in the following century, during the days of the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, Jehovah used the armies of Babylonia as his agents in “repaying what is deserved” to the covenant-breaking Israelites. What an “uproar” that created in Jerusalem in 607 BCE when the whole city was destroyed, not even the gorgeous temple built by wise King Solomon being spared! The surviving Jews were deported to Babylon. The few Jews that were left behind in the land finally fled down to Egypt, dragging the prophet Jeremiah along with them. In this way his prediction was fulfilled in the utter desolation of the land. Thus, too, the territory once occupied by a nation ceased to be the homeland of a living nation with Jehovah God as its heavenly King. Faithful Jews who ‘trembled at God’s word’ saw that his word was true.
8, 9. (a) What is the modern antitypical Jerusalem? (b) According to Jesus’ prophecy, what will happen to her, and why?
8 Shocking events far surpassing those of 607 BCE are in store for the haters and shunners of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the ones who today are trembling at Jehovah’s Word. All those tragic things that happened away back there in the days of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel “went on befalling them as examples [or, as types], and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.” (1 Corinthians 10:11) Then indeed there will issue “a sound of uproar out of the city,” the antitypical Jerusalem under divine condemnation, namely, Christendom. Like Israel of old, she, too, claims to be in a covenant with God, in the “new covenant” with Jesus Christ as its Mediator. (Hebrews 8:7-9) But she has not lived up to her claimed covenant relationship with God. So a “great tribulation,” as foreshadowed by that upon ancient Jerusalem, awaits Christendom, according to Jesus’ own prediction:
9 “Then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again. In fact, unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved; but on account of the chosen ones those days will be cut short.”—Matthew 24:21, 22; Mark 13:19, 20.
10. Whom, besides Christendom, will that tribulation engulf, and who will be the ones to make up the “flesh” surviving?
10 This great tribulation without equal is impending. It comes from the hand of the God of “the chosen ones,” Jehovah. It will engulf, not just Christendom, the antitypical Jerusalem, but also that with which Christendom has been a good friend, the whole system of things. (James 4:4) The dedicated, baptized Christians of today who tremble at Jehovah’s Word will be the “flesh” surviving.
An Unpreventable, Accelerated Birth
11. (a) Human birth is preceded by what period, but was something like that to occur in the case of a rebuilt Jerusalem? (b) By whose order was another Jerusalem to be built on site? (c) Did Isaiah foretell how long the site of old Jerusalem would be a desolate emptiness?
11 Now, back to Isaiah’s thrilling prophecy! As a relief to the gloomy prospect that he had just presented under inspiration, he now foretells a joy-inspiring event. Birth of legitimate offspring is something that the duly wedded parents await with great eagerness and the highest of hopes. With human creatures birth has to be preceded by the divinely prescribed time for the full development of the desired offspring. But in this connection the Great Author of the birth process foretold something unusual according to his own arranging. His prophet Isaiah had foretold the destruction of the defiled city of Jerusalem, and thus the original city built upon Mount Zion would cease to exist. But another city was to come into existence on the same Mount Zion by order of the Persian conqueror, Cyrus the Great, the servant of Jehovah who was to overthrow the Babylonian Empire. (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1) But Isaiah did not predict how long old Jerusalem would be out of existence and thus be without “children,” or citizens. Nor did Isaiah predict how long Mount Zion and all the land associated with her would be an avoided, desolate emptiness.
12. How was a new land to be shown on the map of the ancient world, and of what was it to be the motherland?
12 Yet, in the days of Cyrus the Great, another Jerusalem was to arise and become the mother of many “sons,” that is, many citizens and subjects, living on her assigned domain. Did that mean that a “land” would appear on the map of the ancient world that would serve as the motherland of people who were once not a “nation”? The prophetic answer of Jehovah God to this question was Yes!
13, 14. (a) When the next regular Jubilee year came around after their deportation, were the Jewish captives to be restored to their land? (b) Was Jerusalem again to become a mother of “sons” by extraordinary efforts on the part of Jewish captives, and what did Isaiah 66:7, 8 prophesy about this?
13 So the question was, When and how? By his prophet Jeremiah Jehovah foretold that the land of the onetime “nation” would lie desolate for seventy years, a time lapse twenty years longer than the Jubilee period of fifty years. So, when the regular Jubilee year 573 BCE came, there would be no Jubilee celebration on the former homeland, and there would be no Jerusalem, or Zion, coming into existence to mother a body of citizens as her “sons,” or “children.” First in the year 537 BCE were any surviving Jewish deportees to get back to their former homeland. Such a thing was to occur without unusual, strenuous self-exertions on the part of the Jewish captives of Babylon. It was to be an act of God, in line with his prophetic promise. Most unlikely as it might have seemed, a postexilic “nation” was to come into being on a land reserved by Jehovah God for this “nation.” Looking ahead beyond the national calamity of 607 BCE, Jehovah implied the happening of such a thing, when he next moved Isaiah to say:
14 “Before she [that is, another Jerusalem] began to come into labor pains she gave birth. Before birth pangs could come to her, she even gave deliverance to a male child. Who has heard of a thing like this? Who has seen things like these? Will a land be brought forth with labor pains in one day? Or will a nation be born at one time? For Zion has come into labor pains as well as given birth to her sons.”—Isaiah 66:7, 8.
15. How does that birth-time experience compare with that described in Revelation 12:1-17?
15 Such an extraordinary birth is just the opposite of that description of the birth of a male child given in the last book of the Holy Bible. There, in Revelation 12:1-17, we read: “And a great sign was seen in heaven, a woman arrayed with the sun, and the moon was beneath her feet, and on her head was a crown of twelve stars, and she was pregnant. And she cries out in her pains and in her agony to give birth. And another sign was seen in heaven, and, look! a great fiery-colored dragon, with seven heads and ten horns and upon its heads seven diadems; and its tail drags a third of the stars of heaven, and it hurled them down to the earth. And the dragon kept standing before the woman who was about to give birth, that, when she did give birth, it might devour her child. And she gave birth to a son, a male [she brought forth a man child, Authorized Version], who is to shepherd all the nations with an iron rod. And her child was caught away to God and to his throne. . . . And the dragon grew wrathful at the woman, and went off to wage war with the remaining ones of her seed, who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.”
16. We must identify that “sign” woman and her “son, a male,” as being what or whom?
16 Since no woman on earth has the moon beneath her feet and a circlet of twelve stars about her head like a crown, the above-described “sign” woman must be symbolic. As her child was accepted and acknowledged by God, He must be the one who made her pregnant. So she is, as it were, married to him. All things considered, the “sign” woman in heaven must symbolize God’s wifelike organization of heavenly spirit creatures, among whom his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, is the chief one. The woman’s child, “a male,” must likewise be symbolic, and it symbolizes God’s kingdom, inasmuch as the male child was caught away to God’s throne. So as to make the kingdom more than a mere abstract, theoretical thing, there has to be a live person to serve as the royal ruler. That real person must be the one with whom Jehovah God made a covenant for the kingdom.
17. So how did the only-begotten Son of God become the rightful one to occupy the throne at his Father’s side?
17 Yes, that one was his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who, by reason of his miraculous human birth in Bethlehem and in the family line of King David of Israel, was the natural heir to the kingdom. (Isaiah 9:6, 7; Luke 22:29, 30; Matthew 1:17-25) Rightly, then, in connection with the heavenly “woman” it was emphasized that her child was a “male,” forasmuch as the kingly office was reserved for a male offspring in the royal line of David.
18. So how do the circumstances surrounding the producing of that symbolic man-child line up with those set out in Isaiah 66:7, 8, as shown by the American Standard Version?
18 All those circumstances surrounding the birth of a “son, a male,” of the heavenly “woman” differ from those set out in Isaiah’s prophecy, particularly with regard to the matter of pregnancy and the labor pains and birth pangs. Thus there are important reasons for concluding that the “male child” of Isaiah 66:7 relates to a different situation prophetically than does the “son, a male,” at Revelation 12:5. Evidently the “male child” refers to the “nation” produced in the “land” in Isaiah’s prophecy. Moreover, in the case of the restored Israelites, kingship, or rulership, was not the prominent feature in their getting reestablished at Jerusalem in 537 BCE. A king in the line of David was not placed on the throne again. Judea being a Persian province, they were under the rule of King Cyrus who had issued the decree to rebuild the temple and restore true worship at Jerusalem. Nevertheless, restoration came suddenly, unexpectedly. According to the American Standard Version, Isaiah 66:7, 8 reads: “Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man-child. Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? shall a nation be brought forth at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.”
19. (a) To whom did it seem that the birth of the postexilic nation of Israel had been accelerated, and for what reason? (b) How was it a brand-new generation that took up dwelling on the land of their forefathers, and in what sense was it a newborn land?
19 True to the prophecy, the birth of the postexilic nation of Israel, was, so to speak, speeded up. It came with surprising suddenness for the ancient world, in 537 BCE. The pagan world never expected the long-dead nation of Israel to come alive again, on its own God-given land. It was really a new Zion that came into being, giving birth to a new nation. We recall that Israelites were deported to Babylon at various times, the Bible record showing that 10,000 were deported at the first captivity in 617 BCE. Hundreds were later deported. (2 Kings 24:14; Jeremiah 52:28-30) However, those who were released from that pagan land in 537 BCE and who took up residence upon the land of their forefathers included 42,360 males, besides many slaves and professional singers. The Israelites included a number of old men who had seen the temple that King Solomon built at Jerusalem. (Ezra 2:64, 65; 3:12) Thus, for the most part, it was a brand-new generation that took up dwelling in the land with the object of building a new temple. A new Zion arose upon a newborn land. She became the mother to a new, postexilic nation. It occupied the new Persian province of Judea.
20. How did the modern counterpart of that take place in the case of the International Bible Students in the first postwar year of 1919?
20 Is there a modern counterpart of the “birth” of the restored Israelites as a “nation” in 537 BCE? Yes, for in the year following the first world war of 1914-1918 a spiritual “nation” was born, under the Greater Cyrus, the enthroned King Jesus Christ! How so? Well, during the war the headquarters of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, the publication agency of the International Bible Students, had been dismantled at Brooklyn, New York, and moved back to smaller quarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Its latest pieces of literature had been banned in Canada and the United States of America, and the Society’s president, its secretary-treasurer, and six other members of the headquarters’ staff of workers had been sentenced in 1918 to long terms of imprisonment. The intent of the enemies behind all of this was like that expressed in Psalm 83:4: “Let us efface them from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.” But in the spring of 1919, to the shocking surprise of Christendom, there came release! That same year the persecuted International Bible Students held their first postwar convention in Cedar Point, Ohio. To the conventioners the publication of a new magazine, in addition to the Watch Tower magazine, was announced, namely, The Golden Age (now called Awake!).
21. Thus, five years after the end of the Gentile Times, what was born, to serve in what capacity, and how so on a newborn “land”?
21 Thus, five years after the end of the “times of the Gentiles” in 1914, and the establishment of God’s kingdom in the hands of the Greater Cyrus, Jesus Christ, a new “nation” came into existence, a spiritual “nation.” The members of this new “nation” were to serve as ambassadors of God’s kingdom newly born in the heavens and as witnesses bearing his name. He has put the “nation” in its rightful “land,” its earthly realm of activity, its symbolic “land,” now that the Gentile Times for trampling his visible organization underfoot have ended.—Luke 21:24, AV.
22. What questions did Jehovah raise as to his ability to become Father to the “nation,” and, in answer, how did he act in the ancient type and in the modern antitype?
22 Jehovah God the Almighty was responsible for that remarkable birth, and he was determined that nothing should obstruct it. In Isaiah 66:9 he had said: “‘As for me, shall I cause the breaking through [the amnion or amniotic sac] and not cause the giving birth?’ says Jehovah. ‘Or am I causing a giving birth and do I actually cause a shutting up [of the womb]?’ your God has said.” His first response to those challenging questions was his releasing his people from Babylon in 537 BCE and then causing Jerusalem to be built and to teem with Jewish residents as her children. God’s modern-day, antitypical response to his own questions was his making the antitypical Jerusalem, his heavenly organization, fruitful so that she brought forth a spiritual “nation,” on earth. This was under the direction of the Greater Cyrus, the newly enthroned King in heaven. This birth took place in the postwar year of 1919, and it produced a people, the “sons” of Zion, who were wholly devoted to the interests of God’s established kingdom and who maintained strict neutrality toward the political governments of this world. Almighty God has allowed nothing to obstruct the complete outworking of his purpose from 1914 onward till right now!
After this study of Isaiah 66:5-8, can you answer the following questions:
Isa 66 Verse 5: How do “brothers” hate and exclude true worshipers? How are these “brothers” put to shame?
Isa 66 Verse 6: In what way was there “a sound of uproar out of the city” in ancient times? In the modern day?
Isa 66 Verse 7: What is the “male child” produced by a “woman” without “birth pangs”? Is this the same as “a son, a male,” at Revelation 12:5?
Isa 66 Verse 8: In what way was a “nation” and a “land” born suddenly and unexpectedly in 537 BCE?
[Pictures on page 13]
The kingdom, like a newborn babe, was produced by God’s “woman” in 1914
In 1919, spiritual Israel was “born” suddenly into its “land”