Dwellers Together in a Restored “Land”
“As for you, the priests of Jehovah you will be called; the ministers of our God you will be said to be.”—ISAIAH 61:6.
1, 2. (a) What was the situation of proselytes in Israel? (b) What spirit have members of the “great crowd” shown in modern times?
IN ANCIENT times, Israel when faithful served on the world scene as a witness to Jehovah’s glory. (Isaiah 41:8, 9; 43:10) Many foreigners responded and came to worship Jehovah in association with His chosen people. In effect, they said to Israel what Ruth said to Naomi: “Your people will be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16) They submitted to the terms of the Law covenant, the men getting circumcised. (Exodus 12:43-48) Some of the women married Israelites. Rahab of Jericho and Ruth the Moabitess became ancestresses of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 1:5) Such proselytes were part of the congregation of Israel.—Deuteronomy 23:7, 8.
2 Similar to proselytes in Israel, the “great crowd” today have said to the anointed remnant: “We will go with you people, for we have heard that God is with you people.” (Revelation 7:9; Zechariah 8:23) They recognize that these anointed Christians are Jehovah’s “faithful and discreet slave,” and they work so closely with them that the anointed and the “other sheep” are “one flock, one shepherd.” (Matthew 24:45-47; John 10:16) What will happen to the great crowd when all their anointed brothers receive their heavenly reward? They need have no fear. Throughout these “last days,” Jehovah has made preparation for that time.—2 Timothy 3:1.
A Spiritual “Land”
3. What are the “new heavens” prophesied by Peter, and when were they established?
3 The heavenly governing arrangement of which the 144,000 anointed Christians will be a part was prophesied by the apostle Peter. He said: “There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Peter 3:13) These “new heavens” were established in 1914, when Christ was enthroned as King in the heavenly Kingdom. But what of the “new earth”?
4. (a) What unexpected event occurred in 1919? (b) What was the ‘nation born at one time,’ and what was the ‘land brought forth with labor pains’?
4 In 1919, Jehovah brought the anointed remnant out of captivity to Babylon the Great. (Revelation 18:4) For the leaders of Christendom, this dramatic event was totally unexpected. Regarding it, the Bible says: “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?” (Isaiah 66:8) When the anointed congregation suddenly appeared before the nations as a liberated people, it was indeed a nation “born at one time.” What, though, was the “land”? In a sense, it was a spiritual equivalent of the land of ancient Israel. It was the realm of activity granted to the newborn “nation,” a place where the Paradise prophecies of the book of Isaiah have a modern, spiritual fulfillment. (Isaiah 32:16-20; 35:1-7; compare Hebrews 12:12-14.) Wherever a Christian may be physically, he is in that “land.”
5. What nucleus came to exist in 1919? Explain.
5 What had this to do with the “new earth” prophesied by Peter? Well, that new “nation,” born in 1919 in a restored “land,” was to develop into a worldwide organization made up of anointed and nonanointed praisers of Jehovah. This organization will survive Armageddon into God’s new world. In this way that nation could be viewed as the nucleus of the righteous human society, the new earth, that will exist after the destruction of Satan’s world.* By the mid-1930’s, the anointed, as a group, had been gathered into the restored land. Since then, the emphasis has been on gathering the great crowd of other sheep, which today numbers almost five million. (Revelation 14:15, 16) Is the “land” overpopulated? No, its boundaries can be extended as widely as necessary. (Isaiah 26:15) Indeed, it is thrilling to see its population growing as the anointed remnant fills the “land” with “produce”—healthful, invigorating spiritual food. (Isaiah 27:6) But what is the position of these other sheep in the restored “land” of God’s people?
Foreigners Active in the “Land”
6. How have foreigners been active in the “land” of God’s people?
6 Just as proselytes in the land of Israel submitted to the Mosaic Law, the great crowd today in the restored “land” obey Jehovah’s commandments. Educated by their anointed brothers, they abstain from false worship in all its forms and observe the sanctity of blood. (Acts 15:19, 20; Galatians 5:19, 20; Colossians 3:5) They love Jehovah with their whole heart, mind, soul, and strength and love their neighbor as themselves. (Matthew 22:37; James 2:8) In ancient Israel proselytes helped with the building of Solomon’s temple and supported restorations of true worship. (1 Chronicles 22:2; 2 Chronicles 15:8-14; 30:25) Today, the great crowd also share in building projects. For example, they help to build up congregations and circuits, to say nothing of undertaking material construction projects, such as Kingdom Halls, Assembly Halls, and branch facilities.
7. What happened in postexilic Jerusalem when there were not enough Levites to carry out temple services?
7 In 537 B.C.E., when Israel returned from exile in Babylon, they set about organizing service on the temple site. However, the Levites who returned were not very numerous. Hence, the Nethinim—circumcised alien residents who previously were assistants of the Levites—were given increased privileges in temple service. They were not, however, equals of the anointed Aaronic priests.*—Ezra 7:24; 8:15-20; Nehemiah 3:22-26.
8, 9. How have the other sheep taken on an increasing share of the work of rendering sacred service during the last days?
8 Anointed Christians today have followed this pattern. As “the time of the end” has progressed, the remaining ones of the anointed have become fewer and fewer in the “land” of God’s people. (Daniel 12:9; Revelation 12:17) In view of this, the great crowd now accomplish most of the work of rendering “sacred service.” (Revelation 7:15) Following the lead of their anointed brothers, they “offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” They “do not forget the doing of good and the sharing of things with others,” knowing that “with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”—Hebrews 13:15, 16.
9 Moreover, with the great crowd increasing by the hundreds of thousands each year, there is an ever-growing need for oversight. At one time this was handled exclusively by anointed Christians. Now, oversight of most congregations, as well as circuits, districts, and branches, has of necessity been entrusted to the other sheep. In 1992 a few of these were given the privilege of attending meetings of committees of the Governing Body and serving as nonvoting helpers. Still, the other sheep remain loyal to their anointed fellow Christians and feel privileged to support them as Jehovah’s faithful and discreet slave.—Matthew 25:34-40.
“Like a Sheik”
10, 11. Following the pattern of some Philistines, how have some former enemies of God’s people had a change of heart? With what result?
10 The way the faithful and discreet slave has used other sheep in positions of responsibility was prophesied at Zechariah 9:6, 7. There we read: “I shall certainly cut off the pride of the Philistine. And I will remove his bloodstained things from his mouth and his disgusting things from between his teeth, and he himself also will certainly be left remaining for our God; and he must become like a sheik in Judah, and Ekron like the Jebusite.”* The Philistines were sworn enemies of Jehovah’s people, as Satan’s world is today. (1 John 5:19) Just as the Philistines were finally annihilated as a people, so this world, with its religious, political, and commercial elements, will soon experience Jehovah’s destructive rage.—Revelation 18:21; 19:19-21.
11 However, according to the words of Zechariah, some Philistines had a change of heart, and this foreshadowed that some worldlings today would not remain at enmity with Jehovah. They would cease religious idolatry with its abominable rites and disgusting sacrifices and be cleansed in Jehovah’s eyes. In our day such reformed “Philistines” are found in the great crowd.
12. In modern times, how has “Ekron” become “like the Jebusite”?
12 According to the prophecy, the major Philistine city of Ekron would become “like the Jebusite.” The Jebusites too were once enemies of Israel. Jerusalem was in their hands until David conquered it. Nevertheless, some of those surviving the wars with Israel evidently became proselytes. They served in the land of Israel as slaves and even had the privilege of working on the construction of the temple. (2 Samuel 5:4-9; 2 Chronicles 8:1-18) Today, “Ekronites” who turn to worshiping Jehovah also have privileges of service in the “land” under the oversight of the faithful and discreet slave.
13. What were sheikhs in the ancient world?
13 Zechariah says that the Philistine would be like a sheikh in Judah. The Hebrew word ʼal·luphʹ, when translated “sheikh,” means “leader of a thousand” (or, “chiliarch”). It was a very high position. The early nation of Edom apparently had only 13 sheikhs. (Genesis 36:15-19) The word “sheikh” is not often used when speaking of Israel, but the expression “head (or, chief) of a thousand” appears frequently. When Moses summoned representatives of the nation of Israel, he called on “the heads of the thousands of Israel.”* There were 12 of these, evidently subordinate only to Moses. (Numbers 1:4-16) Similarly, in the organization of the army, chiefs of thousands were second only to the general or the king.—2 Samuel 18:1, 2; 2 Chronicles 25:5.
14. How today has the “Philistine” become like a sheikh?
14 Zechariah did not prophesy that the repentant Philistine would actually be a sheikh in Israel. That would not be proper, since he was not a natural-born Israelite. But he would be like a sheikh, occupying a position of authority comparable to a sheikh. And so it has proved to be. As the remnant of anointed Christians decrease in number and many of those who survive are limited by age, well-trained other sheep take up the slack, as it were. They do not want to supplant their anointed brothers. But the faithful and discreet slave gives them authority as needed in the “land” so that God’s organization can continue to move ahead in an organized way. Such a progressive process is seen in yet another prophecy.
Priests and Farmers
15. (a) In the fulfillment of Isaiah 61:5, 6, who are “the priests of Jehovah,” and when do they serve in this capacity in a complete sense? (b) Who are the “strangers” who do Israel’s agricultural work, and—in a spiritual sense—what does this work involve?
15 Isaiah 61:5, 6 reads: “Strangers will actually stand and shepherd the flocks of you people, and the foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers. And as for you, the priests of Jehovah you will be called; the ministers of our God you will be said to be. The resources of the nations you people will eat, and in their glory you will speak elatedly about yourselves.” Today, “the priests of Jehovah” are anointed Christians. In a final and complete sense, they will serve as “priests of Jehovah . . . , ministers of our God,” in the heavenly Kingdom. (Revelation 4:9-11) Who are the “strangers” responsible for agricultural work? These are the other sheep, who dwell in the “land” of the Israel of God. What are the shepherding, farming, and vinedressing that are entrusted to them? In the important spiritual sense, these tasks have to do with helping, nurturing, and harvesting people.—Isaiah 5:7; Matthew 9:37, 38; 1 Corinthians 3:9; 1 Peter 5:2.
16. Who will eventually handle all the work in the “land” of God’s people?
16 At present, a small number of spiritual Israelites remain on earth sharing in the spiritual shepherding, farming, and vinedressing. When the anointed congregation in its entirety is finally united with Christ, all this work will be left to the other sheep. Even the human oversight of the “land” will then be in the hands of qualified other sheep, who in the book of Ezekiel are designated as a chieftain class.—Ezekiel, chapters 45, 46.*
The “Land” Endures
17. What preparations has Jehovah been making throughout these last days?
17 Yes, the great crowd need have no fear! Jehovah has made ample preparations for them. A most important development on earth during these last days has been the gathering and sealing of anointed ones. (Revelation 7:3) While seeing that this is done, however, Jehovah has brought the other sheep into association with them in a restored spiritual land. There they have been spiritually fed and trained in Christian living. Further, they have been well grounded in sacred service, including oversight. For this they are deeply grateful to Jehovah and their anointed brothers.
18. Through what events will the other sheep stay loyally in the “land” of spiritual Israel?
18 When Gog of Magog makes his final assault on God’s people, other sheep will stand firm with the anointed remnant in “the land of open rural country.” Other sheep will still be in that “land” when they survive the destruction of the nations and enter into God’s new world. (Ezekiel 38:11; 39:12, 13; Daniel 12:1; Revelation 7:9, 14) Continuing faithful, they will never have to leave that delightful location.—Isaiah 11:9.
19, 20. (a) In the new world, what grand oversight will inhabitants of the “land” enjoy? (b) To what do we look forward with great anticipation?
19 Israel of old was ruled by human kings and had Levitical priests. In the new world, Christians will have far grander oversight. Under Jehovah God, they will be subject to the great High Priest and King, Jesus Christ, and to the 144,000 associate priests and kings—some of whom they formerly knew as their Christian brothers and sisters on earth. (Revelation 21:1) Faithful inhabitants of the spiritual land will live on an earth restored to a literal paradise, delighting in the healing blessings channeled down through New Jerusalem.—Isaiah 32:1; Revelation 21:2; 22:1, 2.
20 As Jehovah’s grand celestial chariot moves unstoppably forward to achieve his purposes, all of us look forward with keen anticipation to fulfilling our assigned part. (Ezekiel 1:1-28) When those purposes are finally accomplished, think with what joy Jehovah’s triumphant sanctification will be celebrated! The mighty anthem recorded at Revelation 5:13 will then be sung by all creation: “To the One sitting on the throne and to the Lamb be the blessing and the honor and the glory and the might forever and ever”! Whether our place will be in heaven or on earth, do we not long to be there, joining our voices in that magnificent chorus of praise?
See “New Heavens and a New Earth,” published in 1953 by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., pages 322-3.
For a full discussion, see the article “Jehovah’s Provision, the ‘Given Ones’” in the April 15, 1992, issue of The Watchtower.
See Paradise Restored to Mankind—By Theocracy!, published in 1972 by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., pages 264-9.
Hebrew: raʼ·shehʹ ʼal·phehʹ Yis·ra·ʼelʹ, translated khi·liʹar·khoi Is·ra·elʹ “chiliarchs of Israel” in the Septuagint.
How Do You Answer?
□ What “land” was restored in 1919, and how was it filled with inhabitants?
□ How have other sheep been given increased responsibilities in the “land” of God’s restored people?
□ In what way are members of the great crowd “like the Jebusite”? “like a sheik in Judah”?
□ How long will faithful other sheep remain in the “land”?
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The modern Philistine will be “like a sheik in Judah”
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The anointed and the other sheep serve together in the spiritual land