Joyful Now and Forever
“Exult, you people, and be joyful forever in what I am creating. For here I am creating Jerusalem a cause for joyfulness and her people a cause for exultation.”—ISAIAH 65:18.
1. How has true worship affected individuals over the centuries?
THROUGHOUT the centuries, countless numbers have found rich joy in serving the true God, Jehovah. David was but one who was joyful in true worship. The Bible relates that when the ark of the covenant was brought up to Jerusalem, “David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of Jehovah with joyful shouting.” (2 Samuel 6:15) Such joy in serving Jehovah is not a mere thing of the past. You can share in it. And even new measures of joy can soon be yours!
2. Beyond the original fulfillment of Isaiah chapter 35 on the Jewish returnees, who today are involved in another fulfillment?
2 In the preceding article, we examined the initial fulfillment of the stimulating prophecy recorded in Isaiah chapter 35. We can rightly call this a restoration prophecy because that is what it turned out to be for the Jews of old. It has a similar fulfillment in our time. How so? Well, beginning with Jesus’ apostles and others at Pentecost 33 C.E., Jehovah has been dealing with spiritual Israelites. These are humans anointed with God’s holy spirit who become part of what the apostle Paul calls “the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:16; Romans 8:15-17) Recall, too, that at 1 Peter 2:9, these Christians are called “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession.” Peter goes on to identify the assignment given to spiritual Israel: “‘You should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
A Fulfillment in Our Time
3, 4. What was the situation when Isaiah chapter 34 found a fulfillment in modern times?
3 There was a time early in this century when the remnant of spiritual Israel on earth were not consistently active in declaring such a message. They were not rejoicing fully in God’s wonderful light. In fact, they were in considerable darkness. When was that? And what did Jehovah God do about it?
4 It was in the World War I period, soon after God’s Messianic Kingdom was set up in heaven in 1914. The nations, with the backing of the clergy of the churches in various lands, were wrathful with one another. (Revelation 11:17, 18) God, of course, was as opposed to apostate Christendom with its elevated clergy class as he had been to the high-minded nation of Edom. Hence, Christendom, the antitypical Edom, is in line to feel the modern-day fulfillment of Isaiah chapter 34. This fulfillment by means of permanent extermination is just as certain as was the first fulfillment against ancient Edom.—Revelation 18:4-8, 19-21.
5. What sort of fulfillment has Isaiah chapter 35 had in our time?
5 What of chapter 35 of Isaiah’s prophecy, with its emphasis on joy? That has also undergone fulfillment in our time. How is that? It has been fulfilled in a restoration of spiritual Israel from a type of captivity. Let us examine the facts in what really is recent theocratic history, falling within the lifetime of many still alive.
6. Why can it be said that the remnant of spiritual Israel came into a captive condition?
6 For a relatively brief span during the World War I period, the remnant of spiritual Israel had not kept entirely clean and aligned with God’s will. Some of them were spotted with doctrinal errors and compromised by not taking a clear stand for Jehovah when put under pressure to support the warring nations. During those war years, they suffered all manner of persecution, their Bible literature even being banned in many places. Finally, some of the more prominent brothers were convicted and imprisoned on false charges. In retrospect it is not difficult to see that, in a sense, God’s people, rather than being free, were in a captive condition. (Compare John 8:31, 32.) They were seriously lacking in spiritual vision. (Ephesians 1:16-18) They showed a relative muteness as to praising God, with the result that they were unfruitful spiritually. (Isaiah 32:3, 4; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:11) Do you see how this parallels the situation of the ancient Jews in captivity in Babylon?
7, 8. What type of restoration did the modern-day remnant experience?
7 But would God leave his modern-day servants in that state? No, he was determined to restore them, in line with what was foretold through Isaiah. Thus this same prophecy in Isa chapter 35 finds a distinct fulfillment in our time, with the restoration of the remnant of spiritual Israel to prosperity and health in a spiritual paradise. At Hebrews 12:12, Paul applied Isaiah 35:3 in a figurative sense, bearing out the validity of our making a spiritual application of this portion of Isaiah’s prophecy.
8 In the post-war period, the remaining anointed ones of spiritual Israel came out of captivity, as it were. Jehovah God used Jesus Christ, the Greater Cyrus, to liberate them. Thus, this remnant could do a rebuilding work, comparable to the work of the remnant of ancient Jews, who went back to their land to rebuild the literal temple in Jerusalem. Furthermore, these spiritual Israelites in modern times could set about cultivating and producing a verdant spiritual paradise, a figurative garden of Eden.
9 With the above in mind, let us consider once again Isaiah chapter 35, and look first at Isa 35 verses 1 and 2. What had seemed to be a waterless region truly began to blossom and be productive like the ancient plains of Sharon. Then, look at Isa 35 verses 5 to 7. The remnant, a number of whom are still alive and active in Jehovah’s service, had their eyes of understanding opened. They could see better the meaning of what had happened in 1914 and afterward. That has also had an influence on the many of us who make up the “great crowd,” now serving alongside the remnant.—Revelation 7:9.
Are You Part of the Fulfillment?
10, 11. (a) How have you been involved in the outworking of Isaiah 35:5-7? (b) How do you personally feel about these changes?
10 Take yourself for example. Before you came in contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses, did you read the Bible regularly? If you did, how much understanding did you have? You now know, for instance, the truth about the condition of the dead. Probably you could refer someone interested in the matter to relevant texts in Genesis chapter 2, Ecclesiastes chapter 9, and Ezekiel chapter 18, as well as many other passages. Yes, you likely understand what the Bible teaches on many subjects or issues. Simply put, the Bible makes sense to you, and you can explain much of it to others, as you undoubtedly have.
11 We each would do well to ask, though, ‘How did I learn all I know of Bible truth? Before studying with Jehovah’s people, had I located all the passages just mentioned? Had I made sense out of them and reached right conclusions as to their import?’ The frank answer to these questions is probably no. No one should take offense at such a statement, but it can be said that basically you were blind as to these texts and their meaning. Is that not so? They were there in the Bible, but you could not see them or grasp their significance. How, then, were your eyes opened spiritually? It was by what Jehovah has done in fulfilling Isaiah 35:5 upon the anointed remnant. In turn, you have had your eyes opened. You are no longer in spiritual darkness. You can see.—Compare Revelation 3:17, 18.
12. (a) Why can we say that this is not the time for miraculous physical healing? (b) How did the case of Brother F. W. Franz illustrate the way Isaiah 35:5 is fulfilled in our time?
12 Keen students of the Bible and of God’s dealings over the centuries know that this is not the period in history for physical miracles of healing. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10) So we do not expect Jesus Christ to be opening blind eyes in proving that he is the Messiah, the Prophet of God. (John 9:1-7, 30-33) Nor is he enabling all the deaf to hear again. As Frederick W. Franz, one of the anointed and then president of the Watch Tower Society, approached 100 years of age, he was legally blind and had to use a hearing aid. For some years he could no longer see to read; yet, who would think of him as blind or deaf in the sense of Isaiah 35:5? His acute spiritual vision was a blessing to God’s people earth wide.
13. What reversal or restoration did God’s modern-day people experience?
13 Or what about your tongue? God’s anointed ones may have been muted during their spiritual captivity. But once God reversed that condition, their tongues began to cry out in gladness over what they knew of God’s established Kingdom and his promises for the future. They may have helped you to untie your tongue too. How much did you speak Bible truth to others in the past? Maybe at some point you thought, ‘I enjoy studying, but I’ll never go and talk to strangers.’ However, is it not true that “the tongue of the speechless one” is now ‘crying out in gladness’?—Isaiah 35:6.
14, 15. How have many walked on “the Way of Holiness” in our time?
14 The ancient Jews liberated from Babylon had a long trip back to their homeland. What does that correspond to in our time? Well, look at Isaiah 35:8: “There will certainly come to be a highway there, even a way; and the Way of Holiness it will be called. The unclean one will not pass over it.”
15 Since their release from spiritual captivity, the anointed remnant, now accompanied by millions of the other sheep, have moved out of Babylon the Great on a figurative highway, a clean way of holiness that leads one into a spiritual paradise. We are making every effort to qualify for and remain on this Highway of Holiness. Think of yourself. Are not your moral standards and the principles you hold to much higher now than when you were in the world? Do you not put forth greater effort to conform your thinking and conduct to God’s?—Romans 8:12, 13; Ephesians 4:22-24.
16. What conditions can we enjoy as we walk on the Way of Holiness?
16 As you continue on this Way of Holiness, you basically are free of worry about beastly humans. Granted, in the world you have to watch that greedy or hateful people do not eat you alive figuratively. Ever so many are rapacious in how they deal with others. What a contrast among God’s people! There you are in a protected environment. Of course, your fellow Christians are not perfect; sometimes one makes a mistake or causes offense. But you know that your brothers are not out to hurt you or devour you. (Psalm 57:4; Ezekiel 22:25; Luke 20:45-47; Acts 20:29; 2 Corinthians 11:19, 20; Galatians 5:15) Instead, they show an interest in you; they have helped you; they want to serve with you.
17, 18. In what sense does a paradise now exist, and what is the effect of this on us?
17 So we can look at Isaiah chapter 35, having in mind the current fulfillment of Isa 35 verses 1 to 8. Is it not clear that we have found what is rightly called a spiritual paradise? No, it is not perfect—not yet. But it truly is a paradise, for here we can already, as stated in Isa 35 verse 2, “see the glory of Jehovah, the splendor of our God.” And what is the effect? Isa 35 Verse 10 says: “The very ones redeemed by Jehovah will return and certainly come to Zion with a joyful cry; and rejoicing to time indefinite will be upon their head. To exultation and rejoicing they will attain, and grief and sighing must flee away.” Truly, our having come out of false religion and our pursuit of true worship under God’s favor is joy inspiring.
18 The joy connected with true worship keeps on increasing, does it not? You see newly interested ones make changes and become grounded in Bible truth. You observe youths grow up and make spiritual advancement in the congregation. There are baptisms, where you watch ones you know get baptized. Are those not reasons for joy, for abundant joy, today? Yes, what joy to have others join us in our spiritual freedom and paradise conditions!
A Fulfillment Yet Ahead!
19. With what hopeful expectation does Isaiah chapter 35 fill us?
19 We have so far considered Isaiah chapter 35 as to its first fulfillment with the Jews’ return and as to the spiritual fulfillment going on today. But that is not the end. There is much more. It is connected with the Biblical assurance of a coming restoration of literal paradise conditions on earth.—Psalm 37:10, 11; Revelation 21:4, 5.
20, 21. Why is it logical and Scriptural to believe that there will be still another fulfillment of Isaiah chapter 35?
20 It would not be consistent for Jehovah to provide vivid descriptions of a paradise and then restrict the fulfillments to spiritual things. This, of course, is not to say that the spiritual fulfillments are insignificant. Even if a literal paradise were established, it would not satisfy us if amid the beautiful scenery and peaceful animals we were surrounded by spiritually corrupt men, humans acting like savage beasts. (Compare Titus 1:12.) Yes, the spiritual must come first, for it is most important.
21 Nevertheless, the coming Paradise does not end with spiritual aspects we enjoy now and will enjoy even more in the future. We have good reason to expect a literal fulfillment of prophecies such as Isaiah chapter 35. Why? Well, in Isa chapter 65, Isaiah foretold “new heavens and a new earth.” The apostle Peter drew on that when describing what follows the day of Jehovah. (Isaiah 65:17, 18; 2 Peter 3:10-13) Peter was indicating that the features Isaiah described would actually exist when the “new earth” becomes a reality. That includes descriptions you may be familiar with—building houses and occupying them; planting vineyards and eating the fruitage; long enjoying the work of one’s hands; a wolf and a lamb residing together; and no harm occurring earth wide. In other words, long life, secure homes, abundant food, satisfying work, and peace among animals and between animals and humans.
22, 23. What basis for joy will there be in the future fulfillment of Isaiah chapter 35?
22 Does not that prospect fill you with joy? It should, for that is how God created us to live. (Genesis 2:7-9) So, what does it mean as to the prophecy in Isaiah chapter 35 that we are considering? It means that we have added reason to cry out for joy. The literal deserts and waterless regions will blossom, causing us to rejoice. Then people with blue eyes, or brown eyes, or some other delightful shade, but who are now blind, will be able to see. Our fellow Christians who are deaf, or even those of us who are hard of hearing, will be able to hear clearly. What a joy to use that ability to hear God’s Word read and explained, as well as to listen to the sounds of the breeze in the trees, a child’s laughter, a bird’s song!
23 It will also mean that lame ones, including those afflicted with arthritis now, will move about painlessly. What a relief! Then literal torrents of water will gush through the desert. We will both see the surging water and hear the bubbling sound. We will be able to walk there and touch the green grass and papyrus plants. It truly will be Paradise restored. What of the joy to be around a lion or other such animal without fear? We do not have to begin describing that, for all of us have relished the scene already.
24. Why can you agree with the expression at Isaiah 35:10?
24 Isaiah assures us: “The very ones redeemed by Jehovah will return and certainly come to Zion with a joyful cry; and rejoicing to time indefinite will be upon their head.” So we can agree that we have reason to cry out for joy. Joy over what Jehovah is already doing for his people in our spiritual paradise, and joy over what we can expect in the literal Paradise near at hand. About joyful ones—about us—Isaiah writes: “To exultation and rejoicing they will attain, and grief and sighing must flee away.”—Isaiah 35:10.
Did You Note?
□ What second fulfillment has Isaiah chapter 35 had?
□ What corresponds spiritually to the miraculous changes Isaiah foretold?
□ How have you shared in a fulfillment of this prophecy?
□ Why can we say that Isaiah chapter 35 fills us with hope for the future?
[Picture on page 15]
The Raymond Street jail in Brooklyn, New York, where seven prominent brothers were detained in June 1918
[Picture on page 16]
Though legally blind in his later years, Brother Franz’ spiritual vision remained keen
[Pictures on page 17]
Spiritual growth and advancement are reasons for joy