“Be Joyful Forever”
1. (a) What is the “city” of Hebrews 11:10? (b) Till when must the “great crowd” await the “fulfillment of the promise”?
TRULY, we can be most joyful that the Messianic King, Christ Jesus, now reigns in a heavenly “Jerusalem.” This is the city “belonging to heaven” mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11, and for which Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ‘reached out.’ They “publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land” of Canaan, for they were earnestly seeking “the city having real foundations, the builder and maker of which city is God.” But as with the “great crowd,” who today have hope of everlasting life on earth, the “fulfillment of the promise” to those men of old must wait until anointed Christians have received their inheritance in the heavenly Kingdom.—Hebrews 11:8-16, 39, 40; Revelation 7:9.
2 Hebrews chapter 12 goes on to encourage anointed Christians to profit by the example of those faithful witnesses of ancient times, and also to “look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus,” who, after enduring, “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” until “the appointed times of the nations” should end. (Hebrews 12:1, 2) Then, emphasizing the Kingdom hope of these Christians, Paul describes the awesome demonstrations of Jehovah’s glory at Mount Sinai at the time of the inauguration of the Law covenant with fleshly Israel. It was then that Jehovah told Israel: “If you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, . . . you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”—Exodus 19:5, 6.
3. How have spiritual Israelites “approached” something more awesome?
3 However, spiritual Israelites—anointed Christians today—are in “a new covenant.” (Hebrews 8:8-11) And now they have “approached” something far more awesome. What is that? Paul answers at Hebrews 12:22: “You have approached a Mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem.” That approach had started with the Kingdom heirs of Paul’s day, as these were “built up a spiritual house” on the foundation, Christ Jesus, now laid in Zion. (1 Peter 2:4-9) Other anointed Christians would continue this approach to the heavenly Jerusalem until all 144,000 are gathered to the Lamb, to stand with him upon that heavenly Mount Zion.—Revelation 14:1-5.
4. In connection with the Messianic Kingdom, what other features have anointed Christians “approached”?
4 Here in Hebrews 12:22-24, Paul describes also other features to which Christians have “approached,” and which have a relation to the Messianic Kingdom and its purpose. He speaks of the presence of “myriads of angels,” which both Daniel 7:9-14 and Matthew 25:31 indicate are on hand when the One “like a son of man” receives the Kingdom. Paul refers also to “the congregation of the firstborn” who inherit the Kingdom. He magnifies God as “the Judge of all,” who declares these ‘firstborn sons’ righteous or just, that they may be taken into the new covenant that Jesus mediated by means of his own precious blood. (Hebrews 9:13-15; Romans 5:1, 9) And Paul mentions also ‘the spiritual lives of these righteous ones,’ the Kingdom heirs, who now walk in “a newness of life.”—Romans 6:4; 8:16.
5 That the “heavenly Jerusalem” of Hebrews 12:22 refers to the Messianic Kingdom to which anointed Christians “have approached” is further borne out by the following Heb 12 verses, 28 and 29, where Paul encourages these, saying: “Wherefore, seeing that we are to receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us continue to have undeserved kindness, through which we may acceptably render God sacred service with godly fear and awe. For our God is also a consuming fire.” Such admonition to zeal in ‘approaching’ the heavenly Jerusalem, or Messianic Kingdom, continues on to the end of Paul’s letter, as we read in the last chapter, namely, Hebrews 13:14: “We do not have here a city that continues, but we are earnestly seeking the one to come.” Now that Kingdom has come—in the epoch-marking year 1914! How earnest the remaining anointed ones on earth should be in ‘seeking first the kingdom’ and in always offering to Jehovah “a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name”!—Matthew 6:33; Hebrews 13:15.
The “New Jerusalem”
6. (a) What is the “New Jerusalem,” as described in Revelation? (b) Why should the “great crowd” be deeply interested in this “Jerusalem”?
6 What, then, of “the new Jerusalem,” first mentioned at Revelation 3:12? Here the glorified Jesus says of ‘the one who conquers’: “I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, . . . and I will write upon him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which descends out of heaven from my God.” Later, at Revelation 21:1, 2 and 10, John locates these conquerors in “a new heaven” and describes their composite group as “the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband,” Christ the bridegroom. This New Jerusalem is God’s agency through which he causes “water of life” to flow to obedient humans, as these are healed and brought to perfection of life here on earth. Thus God, the Author of this grand arrangement, will in a very literal way “wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.” How the “great crowd,” the companions of the remnant of the “bride” class, rejoice in that prospect!—Revelation 22:1, 2; 21:4.
7. How does the “New Jerusalem” differ from the “heavenly Jerusalem”?
7 However, there is a slight difference between the “New Jerusalem” described in Revelation and the “heavenly Jerusalem” of the book of Hebrews in that the “New Jerusalem” is made up of the 144,000 who are betrothed to the bridegroom, whereas the “heavenly Jerusalem” comprises 144,001, this “one” being the bridegroom King. Thus the Bible books of Hebrews and Revelation show a close identity between the “heavenly Jerusalem” and the “New Jerusalem.”
8, 9. (a) Who or what is “the Jerusalem above”? (b) In quoting from Isaiah 54, how does Paul describe her wifely function?
8 At Galatians 4:26 we read of still another “Jerusalem.” It is “the Jerusalem above.” And who is she? The apostle Paul says of her: “The Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.”—Compare Isaiah 54:13.
9 This “Jerusalem above” is Jehovah’s womanlike organization in the heavens. It is made up of the hosts of loyal angels, including now the glorified archangel, Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12:7) These serve in the role of “wife” to their Sovereign Lord. Concerning this “woman” Paul goes on to say: “It is written [that is, at Isaiah 54:1]: ‘Be glad, you barren woman who does not give birth; break out and cry aloud, you woman who does not have childbirth pains; for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous than those of her who has the husband.’”—Galatians 4:27.
10. How did “Jerusalem above” come to “cry aloud” with joy?
10 In fulfillment of this prophecy, Jehovah’s “wife,” his grand heavenly organization of spirit creatures, must have cried out with joy to see Christ Jesus brought forth as the primary “seed” at his baptism in 29 C.E. That joy must have overflowed when the integrity-keeping Jesus was raised from the dead in 33 C.E. and exalted to God’s right hand in the heavens. Then, what joy to see the “seed” become many as disciples of Jesus Christ were brought in also, to become her spiritual children! All of this was in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that He would ‘multiply his seed’ for the blessing of all nations of the earth.—Genesis 22:15-18; Galatians 3:29.
11. In modern times, how has “Jerusalem above” been made glad?
11 In 1914 C.E., the heavens rejoiced also to see God’s “woman” bring forth “a son, a male,” Christ’s Kingdom. And when Christ the King (also called Michael, meaning “Who Is Like God?”) answered Satan’s challenge by hurling the Devil and his angels out of the heavenly realm, no doubt the angelic host responded with great joy to the “loud voice” that declared: “On this account be glad, you heavens and you who reside in them!” They rejoiced, too, from 1919 onward, to see the remaining “sons” on earth of “the Jerusalem above” separated completely from Babylonish religion. (Revelation 12:1-12; 18:4, 5) And now, as these redeemed ones make their final approach to the “heavenly Jerusalem,” the Messianic Kingdom, what joy there must be among the throngs of loyal angels of “the Jerusalem above”!—Isaiah 62:11; Revelation 19:7.
“New Heavens and a New Earth”
12. (a) Which “Jerusalem” is referred to at Isaiah 65:17, 18? (b) How is “New Jerusalem” related to the “new heavens,” and what service does it perform?
12 “Jerusalem above,” God’s wifely organization, exults in all that her Sovereign Lord, Jehovah, is accomplishing. However, let us now examine Isaiah 65:17-19. Here the prophecy refers to Jehovah’s creating something new. Therefore, this “Jerusalem” must be the “New Jerusalem” that is now brought forth as “the daughter of Zion,” betrothed to the Bridegroom-King, Jesus Christ. (Isaiah 62:11) Jehovah says of this “bride”: “Here I am creating Jerusalem a cause for joyfulness and her people a cause for exultation.” Great is the joy of this heavenly “bride” in being brought to her full membership of 144,000, and in seeing also God’s creating of “a new earth”—a united theocratic society among mankind.—Revelation 21:1-5.
13, 14. (a) Why does the invitation to “exult” now go forth? (b) What glorious picture is given at Revelation 21:9-27? (c) What reason do we have for regarding “New Jerusalem” as “a cause for joyfulness”?
13 It is to all of God’s people that the invitation goes forth: “Exult, you people, and be joyful forever in what I am creating.” There is every reason to exult! For, shortly, Jehovah will vindicate his illustrious name by destroying all opposers. (Psalm 83:17, 18) Then, the “new heavens” will be in complete control! And what a glorious picture Revelation 21:9-27 gives of “the holy city Jerusalem [“bride” of the Lamb, Jesus] coming down out of heaven from God and having the glory of God”! Ablaze, figuratively, with every kind of precious gem, and lighted by the glory of God himself, this New Jerusalem serves wonderfully in its role of dispensing to the “nations” of mankind the “water of life,” which flows out “from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”—Revelation 22:1, 2, 17.
14 Logically, therefore, it is with regard to “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” brought with Christ, her bridegroom, into the governmental “new heavens,” that Jehovah says: “For here I am creating Jerusalem a cause for joyfulness and her people a cause for exultation.” (Isaiah 65:18) But how does the “new earth” enter into this joy?
“A New Earth” Rejoices
15. How have the foundations of “a new earth” been laid?
15 It is not only in the heavens but also right here upon this earth that Jehovah has brought forth “a cause for exultation.” For he has laid the foundations of “a new earth,” a godly society among humans that will expand until, in due course, it fills the entire globe, to Jehovah’s praise. (Isaiah 11:9) It was in the year 1919 that Jehovah caused his wifely “Jerusalem above” to bring forth a “land”—a most prosperous estate—into which he ushered the remaining ones of his spiritual Israel on earth. (Isaiah 66:8, 10, 22) This “land” has proved to be a spiritual paradise, and it is here that Jehovah’s people have been assembled as the nucleus of the “new earth.” There has been no need to wait until after the final tribulation to enter that spiritual paradise. It is already here!
16 Now that Jehovah’s people have been brought into this fruitful “land,” the grand prophecy of Isaiah chapter 62, relating to Zion, “the Jerusalem above,” has been fulfilled. “Her righteousness goes forth just like the brightness,” and is reflected to all nations of mankind by her people, whom Isaiah describes in these words: “Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have commissioned watchmen. All day long and all night long, constantly, let them not keep still. You who are making mention of Jehovah, let there be no silence on your part . . . until he fixes solidly, yes, until he sets Jerusalem as a praise in the earth.” Truly, Jehovah’s heavenly organization has become such “a praise in the earth” as his Witnesses preach throughout the globe. And the greater part of this praising is done now by the companions of the anointed “watchmen”—that “great crowd . . . out of all nations,” who stand before the throne of God, “rendering him sacred service day and night.”—Isaiah 62:1, 6, 7; Revelation 7:9, 14, 15.
17. (a) How has service “day and night” become a feature for Jehovah’s Witnesses? (b) What outstanding reason for joyfulness was there during 1982? (c) At what season does this joy overflow, and why is this appropriate?
17 This “day and night” service of the “watchmen” and of their companions of the “great crowd” moves forward apace! Such whole-souled service has always been the concern of faithful traveling overseers and their wives, missionaries, regular and special pioneers and Bethel workers. In recent times thousands of zealous Witnesses, young and old, have made sacrifices in order to share in auxiliary pioneer service for a month or more, spending an average of at least two hours in house-to-house and other field work each day. During 1982 this worldwide activity reached an all-time peak, with a grand total of 305,778 pioneers joyfully reporting service—ably supported by 2,000,000 and more other loyal Kingdom witnesses. Truly, Jehovah has been “creating Jerusalem a cause for joyfulness and her people a cause for exultation”—an exultation also that overflows each year at the season of celebrating the Memorial commanded by the Lord Jesus.—1 Corinthians 11:23-26.
“No More . . . the Sound of Weeping”
18. Despite hardships, what promise has been fulfilled toward the “great crowd,” and how?
18 Though there will be hardships and persecutions as long as Satan is permitted to bring woe to this earth, the “great crowd” of devoted worshipers no longer feel any “scorching heat” of God’s disfavor. Having made, and been granted, the request “for a good conscience,” these dedicated, baptized publishers of the Kingdom good news serve joyfully, as the Lamb, Christ Jesus, guides them to “fountains of waters of life.” Already the promise is fulfilled toward them in the spiritual paradise: “And God will wipe out every tear from their eyes.”—1 Peter 3:21; Revelation 7:16, 17.
19. (a) Why is no “plaintive cry” to be heard in “Jerusalem”? (b) What does Isaiah 65:21-25 indicate in line with the meaning of the name “Jerusalem”?
19 Closely paralleling this last scripture is Jehovah’s own statement at Isaiah 65:19: “I will be joyful in Jerusalem and exult in my people; and no more will there be heard in her the sound of weeping or the sound of a plaintive cry.” The remaining ones on earth yet to be resurrected into the “New Jerusalem” have experienced this joy, and now Jehovah showers like blessings on the “great crowd” of the “other sheep.” (John 10:16) How wonderfully the words following at Isaiah 65:21-25 describe the paradisaic condition of God’s “people” who have been gathered as the nucleus of the “new earth”! Surely, here is a “Foundation of Twofold Peace,”—peace now among Jehovah’s worshipers and extending on into the physical Paradise, when God’s will takes place in all the earth.—Revelation 21:3-5; Matthew 6:10.
20. Appropriately, what questions may we ask of ourselves?
20 Do you want to praise Jehovah eternally in the Paradise earth for the marvelous things that he accomplishes through “the Jerusalem above,” his devoted womanly organization? Do you want to see the “heavenly Jerusalem” with Christ its King, the Greater David, triumph over all unrighteousness? Do you want to see the bridal “New Jerusalem” extending its influence down from God and his Christ in heaven, so as to wipe away all tears of mankind?
21. How may we show appreciation for all that faithful Jerusalem symbolizes?
21 If that is your desire, then loyally continue your “sacred service” in support of all that was pictured by faithful Jerusalem of old, that city of “the grand King,” the Sovereign Lord Jehovah. (Revelation 7:15) Thus you may join in the joyful temple melody of Psalm 87:3, as you sing exultantly: “Glorious things are being spoken about you, O city of the true God.”
Having studied through the accompanying article, what do you understand by:
□ “Heavenly Jerusalem”—Hebrews 12:22
□ “New Jerusalem”—Revelation 21:2
□ “Jerusalem above”—Galatians 4:26
□ “New heavens and a new earth”—Isaiah 65:17, 18
[Picture on page 24]
New Jerusalem—“a cause for joyfulness”