Shedding Forth Light Amidst Earth’s Gloom
“Look! darkness itself will cover the earth, and thick gloom the national groups; but upon you Jehovah will shine forth, and upon you his own glory will be seen.”—ISAIAH 60:2.
1. What positive answer can be given to the questions here raised?
THESE are indeed glorious days in which to be alive! ‘Glorious days?’ someone may ask. ‘How can you say that, when the entire world flounders in political, economic, and religious disunity, amidst the nuclear-age gloom that envelops the nations?’ But glorious days these are—because of the good news that is now being proclaimed in all the earth, enlightening truth-hungry humans concerning the meaning of our times and the happy prospect of even more glorious days that they may live to see!
2 The Source of our marvelous hope is none other than the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, the grand Creator of heaven and earth. (Isaiah 45:12, 18) He it is who gives the command recorded at Isaiah chapter 60, verse 1: “Arise, O woman, shed forth light, for your light has come and upon you the very glory of Jehovah has shone forth.” Who is this “woman”? She is no lifeless Statue of Liberty; nor is she any fleshly female campaigning for women’s liberation. Rather, she is the dynamic, forward-moving, heavenly organization of Jehovah God, his devoted helpmate made up of myriads of loyal angels and now including resurrected “holy ones”—those who have proved themselves faithful even to death as anointed Christians here upon earth.—Revelation 11:18; 2:10.
3. How has God’s woman (a) ‘arisen,’ and (b) “shed forth light”?
3 “Arise, O woman,” commands Jehovah. Obediently, God’s heavenly organization has arisen from a centuries-long barren, desolate condition to a state of fruitful productivity. In 1914 she gave birth to the Messianic Kingdom. (Revelation 12:1-5) Since 1919 she has brought the remaining ones of her anointed sons on earth into a “land,” or condition, of glorious spiritual prosperity. (Isaiah 66:8) Furthermore, God’s heavenly organization has “shed forth light” on marvelous Kingdom prophecies. Her numerous sons are being “taught by Jehovah.”—Isaiah 54:1, 13.
Light Amidst Thick Gloom
4. Jehovah tells of what contrast between God’s people and the nations of earth?
4 “Your light has come,” declares Jehovah. Indeed, “the very glory of Jehovah has shone forth” upon his heavenly organization, and this has been reflected in a wonderful way by Jehovah’s restored people on earth. However, Jehovah next draws a contrast, saying: “Look! darkness itself will cover the earth, and thick gloom the national groups.” (Isaiah 60:2) Does that not well describe global conditions since 1914?
5. Why can false religion find no solution to nuclear-age problems?
5 Christendom in particular has rejected the prophetic ‘sign of Jesus’ presence and of the conclusion of the system of things.’ Therefore, she stumbles around in thickening spiritual darkness. Christendom’s religions have shown themselves to be part and parcel of the world empire of false religion, Babylon the Great—far, far removed from the light of truth. (Matthew 24:3-14; Revelation 17:3-6) Worldly religion has supplied no solution for the problems of this nuclear age, nor can it dispel the heavy gloom, the sickening hopelessness, that has engulfed mankind. False religion’s involvement in the affairs of the political nations will lead ultimately to her own devastation.—Revelation 17:16, 17.
6, 7. (a) How did Jehovah’s glory “shine forth” during the years 1919-31? (b) What climax did this reach in 1931?
6 In contrast, Jehovah goes on to say of his heavenly organization: “Upon you Jehovah will shine forth, and upon you his own glory will be seen.” (Isaiah 60:2) This glory is reflected to anointed Christians here on earth, so that they in turn may ‘let their light shine before men.’ (Matthew 5:16) The years 1919 through 1931 were glorious years for the shining forth of Kingdom light, with God’s people casting off completely the remaining shackles of Babylonish doctrine, thinking, and customs. During those years, the small remnant of true Christians began to give a positive answer to the question “WHO WILL HONOR JEHOVAH?”—this being the title of the study article in the January 1, 1926, issue of The Watch Tower.
7 Then, in 1931, Jehovah’s glory came more fully to be seen upon his “servant,” as they accepted the name that he himself had given them—JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES. (Isaiah 43:10, 12) During 12 fruitful, action-packed years up until 1931, Kingdom proclaimers increased from a handful to tens of thousands of zealous witnesses.
Further ‘Shining Forth’
8, 9. (a) In 1931, what other group did The Watch Tower bring into focus? (b) According to the Scriptures, how are these ‘marked’?
8 However, would Jehovah “shine forth” only in behalf of the anointed ones of the ‘little flock of Kingdom heirs’? (Luke 12:32) No, for the years 1931 through 1938 proved to be a grand period of further enlightenment, as The Watch Tower began to focus clearly on another group. The study article in its issue of September 1, 1931, was entitled “MAN WITH THE WRITER’S INKHORN,” this being based on Ezekiel 9:1-11. After identifying the ‘writer’ as the anointed remnant, The Watch Tower made this comment:
9 “The commandment is given to put a ‘mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and that cry, for all the abominations that be done in the midst’ of Christendom. . . . The Lord tells of a class of persons whom he will ‘deliver in a time of trouble and keep alive and bless upon the earth.’ (Ps. 41:1, 2) This must be the class of persons that are often described as ‘the millions now living that will never die’.” Today, it is thrilling actually to see millions of these being marked for preservation, as they put on the true Christian personality, in a dedicated relationship to Jehovah through Christ Jesus.—Genesis 22:15-18; Zephaniah 2:1-3; Ephesians 4:24.
10, 11. (a) How did Jehu foreshadow Jesus? (b) Identify the modern-day “Jehonadab.”
10 Especially noteworthy were study articles in the Watchtower issues of July 1 through August 1, 1932. Referring to Second Kings chapters 9 and 10, these showed how King Jehu foreshadowed Jehovah’s Executioner, the King Jesus Christ, represented on earth by the anointed remnant, who warn others about Jehovah’s coming execution of judgment. But who was pictured by Jehu’s companion, Jehonadab? The Watchtower answered:
11 “Jehonadab represented or foreshadowed that class of people now on the earth during the time that the Jehu work is in progress who . . . are out of harmony with Satan’s organization, who take their stand on the side of righteousness, and are the ones whom the Lord will preserve during the time of Armageddon, take them through that trouble, and give them everlasting life on the earth.” The Watchtower next showed these to be the ones ‘blessed by the Father’ in Jesus’ parable of ‘the sheep and the goats.’ (Matthew 25:31-46) It said: “These constitute the ‘sheep’ class that favor God’s anointed people, because they know that the anointed of the Lord are doing the Lord’s work.”
12. What thrilling revelation of divine truth was made in 1935?
12 These flashes of prophetic light prepared the ground for the historic discourse on “The Great Multitude,” given May 31, 1935, by the president of the Watch Tower Society, J. F. Rutherford, at the Washington, D.C., convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. What a revelation of divine truth that was! Presented at that time was conclusive proof identifying the “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9 with the Lord’s “other sheep” of John 10:16, with the Jehonadab class, with those marked in the forehead for survival, with the millions now living who will never die, and with “the sheep” that are separated from “the goats” and will inherit everlasting life in the earthly realm of God’s Kingdom. All of this was covered in The Watchtower, August 1 and 15, 1935.
13. What further suggestion was made in 1938?
13 In the years that followed, God’s organization proceeded to give much attention to the “great crowd” and their grand hope of surviving into the restored Paradise on earth. During September 9-11, 1938, Jehovah’s Witnesses met in convention in London, England, two principal talks being conveyed by direct telephone tie-ins to other conventions around the world. On the basis of previous mandates given to humans, one of these discourses, entitled “Fill the Earth,” suggested that the “Jonadabs” surviving the great tribulation may, at least for a time, marry and bring forth children in the New Order after Armageddon.—Genesis 1:28; 9:1, 7; see The Watchtower, October 15 and November 1, 1938.
14. How did Jehovah prosper his people during those years?
14 During those years, “the Master of the harvest,” Jehovah God, proceeded to gather and send out more workers. Thus publishers in the field grew to about 50,000 in 1938.—Matthew 9:37, 38.
“Kings” and “Nations”
15, 16. How did “kings” share in the fulfillment of Isaiah 60:3-10 (a) in ancient times, and (b) in modern times? (c) How do “foreigners” now serve with the “kings”?
15 This gathering work is beautifully described in Isaiah chapter 60, verses 3 through 10. There Jehovah speaks of “kings” who appear in connection with Zion’s “shining forth” and who minister to that wifely organization. When God’s people of ancient times returned from Babylonian captivity, King Darius the Mede and King Cyrus of Persia took the lead in making provision for the restoration of Jehovah’s worship at Jerusalem. (Daniel 5:30, 31; 9:1; Ezra 1:1-3) In this, they aptly pictured the Almighty King, Jehovah, and his associate King, Jesus, who have directed the restoration of true worship among Jehovah’s people of modern times. (Revelation 11:15, 17) Moreover, an anointed remnant of true worshipers—prospective “kings,” “joint heirs with Christ”—have been taking the lead in the modern-day witness work. Serving with them are “foreigners”—those not of spiritual Israel, but who will become earthly subjects of the Kingdom and who share even now in building up theocratic activity earth wide.—Romans 8:17; compare Isaiah 61:5, 6.
16 Jehovah himself invites us: “Raise your eyes all around and see!” The gathered Kingdom heirs are now being joined by that “great crowd . . . out of all nations”! (Revelation 7:9; Zechariah 8:23; Isaiah 2:2, 3) ‘The praises of Jehovah they announce,’ in zealous ministry. They also expend themselves on such projects as building Kingdom Halls for worship—some of these erected in only two days. They “minister,” in wholehearted support of the global expansion of Kingdom interests.—Isaiah 60:4-7.
17, 18. (a) Happily, what thrilling ‘flight’ is now taking place? (b) How does a seasonal event in Palestine appropriately illustrate this ‘flight’?
17 Jehovah next asks this pertinent question: “Who are these that come flying just like a cloud, and like doves to their birdhouse holes?” First to come to God’s organization are her “sons from far away,” separating completely from all Babylonish religion. These anointed ones bring precious things, dedicating their all “to the name of Jehovah,” their God. As “the Holy One of Israel,” he has put his name upon them and beautified them with the privilege of serving him as his witnesses. They take the lead in exalting the name of their Sovereign Lord, Jehovah, as the grandest, the most illustrious, the most glorious name in all the universe.—Isaiah 60:8, 9.
18 Happily, the anointed remnant have not been alone in this. It could be quite difficult if they were! This aging group grows smaller, as one by one they finish their earthly course in integrity. About 9,000 now remain. But others, numbering into the millions, are flocking like doves to their “birdhouse holes,” or “dovecotes,” finding refuge in God’s organization. (NW; The New English Bible) They are like the flocks of doves seen in Palestine at certain seasons—flying just like a cloud, so numerous that they actually darken the sky.
19. Why do the “gates” of Jehovah’s organization remain open, and what response do “kings” and “foreigners” make?
19 Mercifully, Jehovah has opened wide the gates of his organization, which he now addresses in these words: “Your gates will actually be kept open constantly; they will not be closed even by day or by night, in order to bring to you the resources of the nations.” It is that way now as the peace-loving “great crowd” ever increases in number. Joyfully, these “foreigners” contribute their resources of time, energy, and means in “sacred service day and night.” They avail themselves of the “large door that leads to activity” and share with the prospective kings in bringing beauteous praise to Jehovah’s name.—Isaiah 60:10, 11; Revelation 7:4, 9, 15; 1 Corinthians 16:9.
20. (a) Who will “come to devastation”? (b) What happy contrast do we here note?
20 Next, Jehovah addresses his organization, saying: “Any nation and any kingdom that will not serve you will perish; and the nations themselves will without fail come to devastation.” All prideful worldly nations and other opposers will be humbled at Armageddon. In contrast, Jehovah beautifies his own sanctuary of worship. He ‘glorifies the very place of his feet,’ the earthly courtyards of his great spiritual temple of worship, as he gathers there the ever-increasing numbers of the great crowd. By means of another prophet, Jehovah declares: “I will rock all the nations, and the desirable things of all the nations must come in; and I will fill this house with glory.” (Haggai 2:7) But persecutors, apostates, and other disrespectful opposers will be compelled to ‘bow down’—acknowledging in chagrin that Jehovah’s Witnesses do indeed represent God’s organization—“the city of Jehovah, Zion of the Holy One of Israel.”—Isaiah 60:12-14.
21, 22. (a) What reassurance does Jehovah here give? (b) How, representatively, do his people “suck the milk of nations”? (c) What further thrilling study awaits us?
21 Jehovah will never abandon his wifely helper however much the opposers revile her ‘sons and daughters’ here on earth. Rather, he tells his loyal organization: “I will even set you as a thing of pride to time indefinite, an exultation for generation after generation. And you will actually suck the milk of nations.” In a figurative way the earthly representatives of God’s organization thus use all available resources in advancing true worship. They make practical use of modern facilities of communication, transport, and printing to get the good news preached. Jehovah’s watchcare and guidance have been with Jehovah’s Witnesses in this work. These, too, in serving on behalf of Jehovah’s heavenly organization, rejoice at the fulfillment of his promise: “You will be certain to know that I, Jehovah, am your Savior, and the Powerful One of Jacob is your Repurchaser.”—Isaiah 60:15, 16.
22 What further encouragement does Jehovah give us at Isaiah 60:17-22? That will be the thrilling subject of our next study.
Questions in Summary
□ What contrast between light and gloom is apparent today?
□ What progressive ‘shining forth’ was there during 1919-38?
□ How is Isaiah 60:8 being fulfilled in modern times?
□ How do “kings” and “foreigners” enter ‘wide-open gates’?
[Box on page 13]
“Weapons of terrifying destructiveness are piled up at an increasing tempo. . . . The arms race today extends into the oceans of the world and into outer space. In fact it is ironic that the accumulation of arms is one of the few expanding industries in a period of economic depression and gloom.”—UN Secretary-General, Mr. Javier Perez de Cuellar
“There, under the door at home the other day, was another familiar message in the form of a religious leaflet. ‘Are we nearing Armageddon?’ read the words superimposed over a lowering sky and a bolt of jagged lightning bearing down on us. There was a time when that sort of message would bring indulgent smiles. Suddenly, it no longer seems funny.”—Haynes Johnson, The Washington Post