The Birth of a New Nation
19. Why must it be said that Isaiah’s prophecy has only a limited fulfillment in the sixth century B.C.E.?
19 Of course, in the sixth century B.C.E., the fulfillment of Isaiah chapter 35 is limited. The paradisaic conditions enjoyed by the repatriated Jews do not last. In time, false religious teachings and nationalism contaminate pure worship. Spiritually, the Jews again experience grief and sighing. Jehovah eventually rejects them as his people. (Matthew 21:43) Because of renewed disobedience, their rejoicing is not permanent. All of this points to a further, greater fulfillment of Isaiah chapter 35.
20. What new Israel came into existence in the first century C.E.?
20 In Jehovah’s due time, another Israel, a spiritual one, came into existence. (Galatians 6:16) Jesus set the stage for the birth of this new Israel during his earthly ministry. He restored pure worship, and with his teachings, waters of truth began to flow once again. He healed the sick, both physically and spiritually. A joyful cry went forth as the good news of God’s Kingdom was proclaimed. Seven weeks after his death and resurrection, the glorified Jesus established the Christian congregation, a spiritual Israel made up of Jews and others redeemed by Jesus’ shed blood, begotten as God’s spiritual sons and brothers of Jesus, and anointed by holy spirit.—Acts 2:1-4; Romans 8:16, 17; 1 Peter 1:18, 19.
21. Regarding the first-century Christian congregation, what events may be viewed as a fulfillment of certain features of Isaiah’s prophecy?
21 When writing to the members of spiritual Israel, the apostle Paul referred to the words of Isaiah 35:3 by saying: “Straighten up the hands that hang down and the enfeebled knees.” (Hebrews 12:12) Evidently, then, in the first century C.E., there was a fulfillment of the words of Isaiah chapter 35. In a literal sense, Jesus and his disciples miraculously gave sight to blind ones and hearing to deaf ones. They enabled ‘lame ones’ to walk and speechless ones to regain their speech. (Matthew 9:32; 11:5; Luke 10:9) More important, righthearted ones escaped from false religion and came to enjoy a spiritual paradise within the Christian congregation. (Isaiah 52:11; 2 Corinthians 6:17) As in the case of the Jews returning from Babylon, these escapees found that a positive, courageous spirit was essential.—Romans 12:11.
22. How did sincere, truth-seeking Christians in modern times come into Babylonish captivity?
22 What of our day? Does the prophecy of Isaiah have another fulfillment, a more complete one involving the Christian congregation today? Yes. After the death of the apostles, the number of true anointed Christians greatly diminished, and false Christians, “weeds,” flourished on the world scene. (Matthew 13:36-43; Acts 20:30; 2 Peter 2:1-3) Even when during the 19th century, sincere individuals began to separate themselves from Christendom and seek pure worship, their understanding remained tainted with unscriptural teachings. In 1914, Jesus was enthroned as Messianic King, but soon thereafter, the situation looked bleak for these sincere truth seekers. In fulfillment of prophecy, the nations ‘made war with them and conquered them,’ and the attempts of these sincere Christians to preach the good news were stifled. In effect, they went into Babylonish captivity.—Revelation 11:7, 8.
23, 24. In what ways have Isaiah’s words been fulfilled among God’s people since 1919?
23 In 1919, however, things changed. Jehovah brought his people out of captivity. They began to reject the false teachings that had earlier corrupted their worship. As a result, they enjoyed a healing. They came to be in a spiritual paradise, which even today continues to spread throughout the earth. In a spiritual sense, the blind are learning to see and the deaf, to hear—becoming fully alert to the operation of God’s holy spirit, constantly aware of the need to stay close to Jehovah. (1 Thessalonians 5:6; 2 Timothy 4:5) No longer mute, true Christians are eager to “cry out,” declaring Bible truths to others. (Romans 1:15) Those who were spiritually weak, or “lame,” now display zeal and joy. Figuratively, they are able to “climb up just as a stag does.”