12. What fruitage did the cultivators of the typical national vineyard fail to offer, and so how would God make sure of receiving the right kind of fruitage?
12 What fruitage should the Israelite cultivators of Jehovah’s national “vineyard” have offered to his Son Jesus Christ? It should have been faith in the Son as the true, promised Messiah and the acceptance of him as the Son of the One who planted and owned the national “vineyard” of Israel. If they had rendered such kind of fruitage to the Son of God, it would have resulted in their being taken into the real Messianic kingdom of God. Because they did not produce the fruitage that should have marked the typical kingdom of God in Israel, the privilege of being God’s kingdom was to be taken from them as a nation. Hence, another nation of “vineyard” cultivators was to be created. This new nation would produce fruits suitable for God’s kingdom. Those cultivators would render the due fruits to the Divine Planter and Owner of this vineyard.
13. (a) What did the Jewish “vineyard” cultivators think they could do by seizing the inheritance of the Owner’s Son? (b) What did Jesus say would happen to the royal stone that the builders of a structure rejected?
13 In God’s determination of those who should enjoy the privileges of his Messianic kingdom, the important thing is “fruits.” The Jewish cultivators thought that, by withholding the rightly expected fruits and even killing Jesus the “heir” of God’s kingdom, they could grab his inheritance. They thought that they could maintain themselves in the rulership of the typical kingdom of God, under the covenant of the Mosaic law. (John 11:47-53) But not so, according to the conclusion drawn from Jesus’ parable. (Matt. 21:41) What did Jesus say about the royal Stone that the builders of a structure for God had rejected just the day previous after his triumphal ride into Jerusalem? It would be made the chief cornerstone in God’s new royal structure, the heavenly “kingdom of God.”
14. Why did Jesus not think it to be pointless for him to give the parable of the vine and the branches shortly before his arrest at Gethsemane?
14 As regards “the true vine” that Jehovah God had planted and was cultivating, Jesus knew that this could not be deadened, even though the Jewish cultivators of the typical national “vine” were allowed to put him to death later on Passover day. Hence, even though it was just before his going to the garden of Gethsemane and being arrested, Jesus did not think it to be pointless for him to give to his disciples the parable of the vine and the branches.
15. According to John 15:1-5, who is the cultivator of “the true vine,” and what does he do to the branches according to whether they bear fruit or not?
15 “I am the true vine,” said Jesus, “and my Father is the cultivator. Every branch in me not bearing fruit he takes away, and every one bearing fruit he cleans, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Remain in union with me, and I in union with you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains in the vine, in the same way neither can you, unless you remain in union with me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He that remains in union with me, and I in union with him, this one bears much fruit; because apart from me you can do nothing at all.”—John 15:1-5.
THE PLANTING AND CULTIVATING
16, 17. (a) When did Jehovah plant “the true vine,” and how? (b) How was Jesus Christ one greater than the patriarch Jacob, and when were “branches” produced on the “true vine”?
16 When did the great Vine Culturist plant this fruitful vine? It was in the year 29 C.E., at the time that he anointed the newly baptized Jesus with his holy spirit. (Isa. 61:1, 2) Then it was that Jehovah established the central stalk of the symbolic “vine” of the Messianic kingdom. Here we recall that the typical kingdom of Israel stemmed from the patriarch Jacob, who was surnamed Israel. He became father to twelve sons, from whom the twelve tribes of Israel sprang. (Acts 7:8-14) Thus Jesus Christ corresponded to Jacob.
17 This Greater Jacob was the central vine stalk. He chose twelve apostles, who became prospective “branches” for this spiritual “vine.” (John 15:16; 6:70) That is why, on that Passover night, he called them “branches.” But 51 days later, on the day of Pentecost, twelve faithful apostles were anointed with holy spirit. In this way they became twelve secondary foundations for the new nation of spiritual Israel. On them, the heavenly New Jerusalem is built. (Rev. 21:14; Eph. 2:20) However, on that day of Pentecost the others of that group of about 120 disciples were among the first to receive the holy spirit and speak in tongues, and by this they too were made “branches” in that spiritual “vine,” Jesus Christ.
18. What opportunity did natural Israel not seize, as set out in Exodus 19:6, 7, and to whom does Peter apply the words of that divine statement?
18 There the new nation, spiritual Israel, came into being. Natural Israel as a nation had not seized the opportunity that Jehovah, by means of his mediator Moses, had set before it according to Exodus 19:6, 7. So the words of that divine statement were applied by the apostle Peter to members of the new nation of spiritual Israel. Where? In his first inspired letter, at 1 Peter 2:9, 10, where it is written: “But you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies, of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. For you were once not a people, but are now God’s people; you were those who had not been shown mercy, but are now those who have been shown mercy.”
19. After Isaiah 5:5-7 was fulfilled, what happened to the nation of spiritual Israel, and why did Jehovah give it no less attention than he gave to the typical “vineyard” of Israel?
19 Happily, the Christian nation of spiritual Israel continued to flourish after Jehovah carried out his words of warning set out in Isaiah 5:5-7, upon the symbolic “vineyard” of natural Israel. As the Cultivator of what he planted, he gives the needed attention to the “branches” of the “true vine,” Jesus Christ, no less than he gave the former “vineyard” of natural Israel down till 33 C.E. He does so for the purpose of keeping a clean, productive set of “branches” that are disciples of Jesus Christ. Suckers and dead wood should have no place among those “clean” branches. That is why, in his parable, Jesus said to his faithful apostles: “Every branch in me not bearing fruit he takes away, and everyone bearing fruit he cleans, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.”—John 15:2, 3.
The Kind of Fruit Bearing That Glorifies God
1. By Jehovah’s words at Ezekiel 15:1-5, what did he indicate to be the primary purpose of a grapevine?
WHAT, really, is the purpose of a grapevine? Long ago the Planter of the first grapevine asked his prophet Ezekiel about this, in these words: “Son of man, in what way does the vine tree happen to be different from every other tree, the shoot, that has come to be among the trees of the forest? Is there taken from it a pole with which to do some work? Or do people take from it a peg on which to hang any kind of utensil? . . . Look! When it happens to be intact, it is not used for any work.” (Ezek. 15:1-5) Clearly, then, the primary purpose of the grapevine is to bear fruit, the luscious grapes from which wine is made.—Judg. 9:13.
2. In harmony with that purpose of the vine, what did Jesus say in John 15:16 was his thought in choosing those apostolic “branches”?
2 Wine entered into the celebration of the last Passover of Jesus with his apostles. After that supper he gave his own illustration of the “true vine” and its “branches.” With this in mind he could say to his eleven faithful apostles: “You did not choose me, but I chose you, and I appointed you to go on and keep bearing fruit and that your fruit should remain; in order that no matter what you ask the Father [the Planter of the vine] in my name he might [in view of your bearing fruit] give it to you.”—John 15:16.
3. Why is the pruning of a vine done seasonally, and what lesson should this convey to an appreciative “branch” in the “true vine”?
3 That it might bear fruit to the full, the grapevine is pruned every season. It is like what Jesus as the spiritual “vine” said: “Every branch in me not bearing fruit he takes away. . . . If anyone does not remain in union with me, he is cast out as a branch and is dried up; and men gather those branches up and pitch them into the fire and they are burned.” (John 15:2, 6) What lesson, then, does this convey to us? Well, if any one of us is a “branch” in the spiritual “vine” and values his privilege, he will not want to get pruned off. So it behooves him to bear fruit—much of it!
4. What is the “fruit,” as indicated in the case of Isaiah 5:7?
4 What, though, is the fruit? The fruit, the grapes, does not picture the disciples of Christ. The branches are what picture the spirit-begotten disciples. What the fruit borne by the branches does picture the inspired Scriptures indicate. For example, when Jehovah compared ancient Israel to a vineyard, he named the fruit for which he was looking. He said: “The vineyard of Jehovah of armies is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the plantation of which he was fond. And he kept hoping for judgment, but, look! the breaking of law; for righteousness, but, look! an outcry [like that of ancient Sodom].”—Isa. 5:7; Gen. 18:21; 19:13.
5. In Jesus’ day, what weightier things of God’s Law were the religious leaders neglecting, and what were they teaching as doctrines?
5 So, as part of the fruit of that typical “vineyard” of Israel, what was looked for by Jehovah the Planter was judgment (involving justice) and righteousness, the opposite of lawbreaking and scandalous conduct. Judgment and righteousness were missing in Israel in Jesus’ day. Shortly before he was martyred at Jerusalem he said to the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees: “You give the tenth of the mint and the dill and the cummin, but you have disregarded the weightier matters of the Law, namely, justice and mercy and faithfulness.” (Matt. 23:23) On the matter of the breaking of God’s Law, Jesus further said: “You [Pharisees and scribes] have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition.” “They teach commands of men as doctrines.”—Matt. 15:6, 9.
6, 7. (a) As in the case of natural Israel, what fruit should be looked for on the “branches” of the “true vine,” and how should this be demonstrated? (b) In Jeremiah’s day, how was Israel committing adultery in two ways?
6 Judgment and justice, mercy, faithfulness, righteousness, the keeping and not a twisting of God’s Law were part of the fruit that Jehovah looked for from the typical “vineyard” of Israel. To be consistent, should he look for fruit different from all that to be on the “branches” of his “true vine”? Not at all! The fruit that He desires as an adornment of those “branches” is Christlike qualities of personality. But there is more to the fruit than an idle personality.
7 The active expression of traits of personality is also required! For example, in the prophet Jeremiah’s day Jehovah voiced his disappointment at the fruit offered to him by the typical “vineyard” of Israel. He said: “Upon every high hill and under every luxuriant tree you were lying sprawled out, prostituting yourself. And as for me, I had planted you as a choice red vine, all of it a true seed. So how have you been changed toward me into the degenerate shoots of a foreign vine? . . . How can you say, ‘I have not defiled myself. After the Baals I have not walked’?” (Jer. 2:20-23) So another part of the fruit for which Jehovah looked from the “vine” of typical Israel was moral cleanness and the exclusive worship of Him. But, instead of finding such fruit upon its branches, Jehovah found the committing of fornication and adultery between individual Israelites, also spiritual adultery on the part of the whole nation through the making of friendly alliances with the pagan nations roundabout.—Compare James 4:4.
8. How were the Israelites not rendering to Jehovah exclusive worship?
8 Furthermore, instead of worshiping Jehovah exclusively as their covenant God, the nation was idolatrously running after the Baal images and worshiping them. In effect, the “grapes” of the “vine” of typical Israel were ‘the grapes of Sodom,’ so that its “clusters” were bitter. Hence, the fruit of the Israelite “vine” included homosexuality like that of ancient Sodom. (Deut. 32:32) The undesirable fruit stands out in contrast with what God wants.
9. How must the “branches” of the “true vine” keep from spiritual adultery, even if it incurs the world’s hatred?
9 The unchanging God does not want either such kind of fruit on the “branches” of his “true vine,” Jesus Christ. So the spiritual Israelites of the Kingdom class must keep themselves morally clean. They must not commit spiritual adultery by making friends with this world. Nothing less than exclusive devotion to Jehovah as God is what is absolutely required of them. What do they care if the world hates them for bearing such fruit? “Because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.” That was what Jesus told his eleven faithful apostles on the night that Judas Iscariot betrayed him.—John 15:19.
10. (a) The fruit of what kind of separateness and stainlessness must “branches” in the “true vine” bear, and what action does this call for on their part? (b) By not producing such kind of fruit, what loss did the nation of Israel suffer?
10 Their being no part of this world by keeping away from its politics and conflicts is the expression of the fruit of cleanness and stainlessness from this world. This fruit must characterize those who belong to Jehovah’s organization as represented by his Son, “the true vine,” Jesus Christ. They must demonstrate unqualified attachment to God’s kingdom in the hands of Jesus Christ. This calls for their open acknowledgment and acceptance of the Son of God as the long-promised Messiah, or Christ. Fruit of this kind was not presented to Jesus the Messiah by the typical “vine” of natural Israel. It failed to produce the “fruits” of the kingdom of God. This resulted in tremendous loss to them, for the kingdom of God was taken away from them and was given to the nation that would produce the required fruit, the spiritual Israel. (Matt. 21:43) This new nation is made up of the “branches” that prove their union with the “true vine” by not rejecting Jesus the Messiah as the Jewish nation did but by openly accepting him and walking in his footsteps.
11. (a) Because of the prophecy of Matthew 24:14, what is involved more than just ‘taking Jesus into one’s heart’? (b) What feature about the “true vine” is an obligatory one for the vine’s “branches”?
11 So this involves more than just acknowledging and accepting the Messiah in one’s heart, ‘taking Jesus into one’s heart,’ as Christendom’s evangelists say. There must be a confirming and disclosing of this by public action. (Rom. 10:10) There must be a personal taking part in the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” (Matt. 24:14) If a dedicated, baptized, spirit-anointed “branch” in the Christ “vine” is not taking an active part in that foretold work, how could he be producing the “fruits” of the kingdom of God? The obligatory feature in this regard is that they are “branches” in the one who was the first to be anointed with the spirit of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah to preach the good news of the Kingdom. (Isa. 61:1-3; Luke 4:16-21) As is the “vine” stalk, so the sap-imbibing “branches” should be also!
12. Since the year 1914, Matthew 24:14 must be fulfilled on how great a scale, and upon whom does it devolve to get “this good news” preached to such an extent?
12 The prophecy of Matthew 24:14 had a partial fulfillment in the first century C.E., from the time of Jesus’ ascension to heaven and appearance in God’s presence to the year 70 C.E., when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. But that fulfillment prefigured the full-scale fulfillment of the prophecy down here from 1914 onward. At the end of the Gentile Times in autumn of that year, God’s Messianic kingdom was born up in the heavens. Today, more than 19 centuries after the Christ “vine” began growing its “branches,” there is only a small remnant of those “branches” still alive and producing the “fruits” of the kingdom of God, inasmuch as there are to be at most 144,000 of such “branches” as joint heirs with Jesus Christ. (Rev. 7:4-8; 14:1-3) Upon this remnant the responsibility devolves to get “this good news of the kingdom” preached earth wide for all nations to hear.
13. So by the production of what “fruit” on the part of the remnant of the vine “branches” has Jesus’ Father been glorified earth wide?
13 The bearing of the fruit of obedience to the command to preach has resulted in glorifying Jehovah God. It is just as Jesus said for the encouragement of his “branches”: “My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples.” (John 15:8) In this time for the final fulfillment of Matthew 24:14, has the remnant of such “branches” borne “much fruit”? If we check up on the records that are available for the period from the postwar year of 1919 C.E., we must say Yes! By such “fruit” production Jehovah God has been glorified world wide.
IN UNION WITH THE “VINE”
14. How, in John 15:4-6, does Jesus show that unbreakable union with him was necessary for the remnant of the “branches” to produce so much fruit?
14 Unbreakable union of the “branches” with the Christ “vine” has been necessary for the producing of so much fruit during these turbulent times since the outbreak of World War I in 1914. To the remnant of productive “branches” the words of Jesus have certainly applied: “Remain in union with me [the True Vine], and I in union with you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains in the vine, in the same way neither can you, unless you remain in union with me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He that remains in union with me, and I in union with him, this one bears much fruit; because apart from me you can do nothing at all. If anyone does not remain in union with me, he is cast out as a branch and is dried up; and men gather those branches up and pitch them into the fire and they are burned.”—John 15:4-6.
15. (a) If the apostles had not stuck to him, what would Jesus never have appointed them to in association with him? (b) Why could not the remnant come out for the League of Nations and remain in union with “the true vine”?
15 Jesus Christ would not appoint to these “branches” a kingdom in association with him in heaven unless they stuck to him even through hardships. (Luke 22:28-30) To retain their anointing with the spirit of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, they have to remain in union with him, the “vine” stalk. Otherwise, their prospective place in the celestial kingdom would be taken away from them. (Rev. 3:5, 11) Consequently, when the Gentile Times ended in 1914 and it was revealed that God’s Messianic kingdom had been brought to birth in the heavens, what was the remnant of anointed “branches” obliged to do? Loyally hail the glorified Jesus Christ as God’s enthroned Messianic King! To remain in union with him, they could never renounce him in favor of a man-made substitute for the rightful kingdom over all the earth, such as the League of Nations. Since they remained in union with him, he did not break off union with them.
THE “GREAT CROWD” OF REVELATION 7:9-17
16. (a) How did World War II affect the relationship of the “great crowd” with the remnant of the vine “branches”? (b) With whom did the “great crowd” align itself as regards the United Nations, and why?
16 During the last four years of the life of the League of Nations as a peacekeeping organization the foretold “great crowd” began to form of men and women who were made glad by the Kingdom fruit that was held forth by the branches of “the true vine.” The cruel hardships and trials imposed on them during World War II because of their association with the anointed remnant did not force them to dissociate themselves from those bearers of Kingdom “fruit.” They knew that, to be loyal to the enthroned King who is “the true vine,” they had to be loyal to his “branches,” his spiritual brothers. (Matt. 25:31-40) Along with Christ’s “brothers,” they refused to accept the revived organization for world peace and security in the form of the United Nations organization. Instead of advocating this revived substitute for Jehovah’s Messianic kingdom, they kept on preaching along with the remnant of Kingdom heirs as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
17. (a) When it comes to dwelling under a “vine” in a figurative way, under which “vine” does the “great crowd” prefer to dwell on earth? (b) Under what “vine” had they been dwelling beforehand?
17 When it comes to dwelling safely on earth under one’s own vine and fig tree in a figurative way, what does that “great crowd” prefer? They prefer to dwell under “the true vine” and its “branches” because these represent Jehovah’s kingdom by Christ. (Mic. 4:1-4) Before learning the good news of Jehovah’s newly born kingdom under the control of Jesus Christ “the true vine,” they used to dwell under another vine—“the vine of the earth.” (Rev. 14:19) What kind of “vine” is that? It is the earth-wide political organization by means of which human rulers defiantly try to hold onto world domination, thereby competing with Jehovah’s Messianic kingdom.
18. Why have the “branches” of the “true vine” urged those of the “great crowd” to get out from under the “vine of the earth”?
18 The fruit-bearing “branches” of the “vine” that Jehovah has planted have urged those of the “great crowd” to get out from under “the vine of the earth.” No longer should they partake of its poisonous, death-dealing grapes and wine. Why so? Because that “vine” is doomed to destruction, as foretold in Revelation 14:18-20:
“Still another angel emerged from the altar and he had authority over the fire. And he called out with a loud voice to the one that had the sharp sickle, saying: ‘Put your sharp sickle in and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, because its grapes have become ripe.’ And the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and he hurled it into the great winepress of the anger of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress as high up as the bridles of the horses, for a distance of a thousand six hundred furlongs.”
Here it is the case of one symbolic vine against another, for the glorified Jesus Christ, who is “the true vine,” crushes the enemy vine, “the vine of the earth.” The “horses” used in the treading of the deep winepress 200 miles long are the war mounts of Jesus Christ and his angelic armies.—Rev. 19:11-15.
19. (a) Why is there no “winepress” of God’s anger reserved for his spiritual “vineyard”? (b) Why would it be hurtful to the “great crowd” for them to introduce things like “thornbushes and weeds” into that vineyard?
19 The “winepress” of God’s “anger” is reserved for the anti-Christian “vine of the earth.” On the other hand, ever since God restored the remnant of spiritual Israelites to his favor in the postwar year of 1919, there is no “rage” that he has against this symbolic or spiritual “vineyard.” He has watched over this “vineyard” of spiritual Israel to make it productive to his glory. There is no proper place in it for things similar to thornbushes and weeds that hinder and take away from the fruitfulness of this “vineyard.” (Luke 6:44) Hence, the “great crowd” now associating itself with Jehovah’s “vineyard” should not want to bring improper things like thornbushes and weeds into the fruitful “vineyard.” This would result in hurt to the “great crowd,” for Jehovah, in his unchangeable purpose to make his spiritual “vineyard” productive to the full, would war against such “thornbushes and weeds.” He would step on such to crush them and then burn them as with fire.—Isa. 27:4.
20. What kind of relationship should the “great crowd” seek with Jehovah, and what song to his “vineyard” should they join in singing?
20 Now is the time for the “great crowd” to make peace with Jehovah and to take hold on his “stronghold” or reservoir of strength so as to be empowered to do what is pleasing to him. It is timely for them to keep in mind the words of the song that is now being sung to his “vineyard” of spiritual Israel: “In that day sing to her, you people: ‘A vineyard of foaming wine! I, Jehovah, am safeguarding her. Every moment I shall water her. In order that no one may turn his attention against her, I shall safeguard her even night and day. There is no rage that I have. Who will give me thornbushes and weeds in the battle? I will step on such. I will set such on fire at the same time. Otherwise let him take hold of my stronghold, let him make peace with me; peace let him make with me.’ In the coming days Jacob will take root, Israel will put forth blossoms and actually sprout; and they will simply fill the surface of the productive land with produce.”—Isa. 27:2-6.
21. (a) To what extent must the remnant of spiritual Jacob, or Israel, show fruitfulness? (b) What shows that Jehovah has made the land productive for them?
21 Now is the “day” for the remnant of spiritual Jacob or Israel to show fruitfulness by filling the face of the earth with life-sustaining produce. Jehovah has made the land productive all around the globe, for hundreds of thousands have responded to the Kingdom witness given by the remnant and have sprung up in more than 200 lands to form a “great crowd” that hails Jehovah as Universal Sovereign and Jesus Christ as the one now authorized to rule as king over all the earth.—Rev. 7:9-17.
22. How has the fruitfulness of the remnant of “branches” of the “true vine” had an effect with regard to God, and how also the fruitfulness of the “great crowd”?
22 The fruit bearing on the part of the “branches” of the “true vine” has indeed been glorifying to Jehovah God, the Cultivator. As a result of their Christian labors the “great crowd” gives glory to this God who planted and cultivated such a grand thing as this royal “vine” and its branches. Taking a lesson from the fruitful “vine” and its “branches,” those of the “great crowd” likewise shun all barrenness and seek to be fruitful in cultivating all the qualities of godly personality and in actively expressing and displaying them to Jehovah’s glory.