[This post is by way of an essay, and I would very much appreciate getting feedback from regular readers of this forum to help in better understanding what Isaiah is referring to.]
In last week’s Watchtower study (w12 12/15 p. 24) titled “Temporary Residents United in True Worship” we were introduced to one of Isaiah’s Messianic prophecies. Chapter 61 opens with the words, “The spirit of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah is upon me, for the reason that Jehovah has anointed me to tell good news to the meek ones…” Jesus applied these words to himself to launch his preaching campaign stating to all in the synagogue that the prophet’s words were fulfilled in that very day. (Luke 4:17-21)
It seems clear that verse 6 has its fulfillment in spirit anointed Christians who serve as Kings and Priests in the heavens. The question being: Is it fulfilled when they are humans on earth, or only after their resurrection to the heavens? Since they are not called “priests of Jehovah” while on earth and since they have not eaten, nor do they currently eat of the “resources of the nations”, it would seem clear that the fulfillment of verse 6 is yet in the future.
Therefore, how can we understand the fulfillment of verse 5. The Watchtower article would have us believe that the foreigners are those of the “other sheep” class who have an earthly hope. (For the sake of this discussion, we’ll accept that the “other sheep” refers to a group of Christians with the hope of living on a paradise earth. For an alternate view, see “Who’s Who? (Little Flock/Other Sheep)”) The article states:
“In addition, there are many loyal Christians who have an earthly hope. These, though working with and associating closely with those who will serve in heaven, are foreigners, figuratively speaking. They happily support and work along with “the priests of Jehovah,” serving as their “farmers” and “vinedressers,” as it were.” (w12 12/15 p. 25, par. 6)
If that is true, then the fulfillment of verse 6 must already be taking place. That would mean that verse 6 applies to anointed Christians while on earth before they become the “priests of Jehovah” and before they can eat of the resources of all the nations. Fair enough, but consider this. Anointed Christians have been on earth since 33 C.E. That is almost 2,000 years. Yet the so-called other sheep have only made their appearance since 1935 by our theology. So where were the foreigners acting as “farmers” and “vinedressers” for the anointed during all those centuries? We have a 1,900-year fulfillment for verse 6 and an 80-year fulfillment for verse 5.
We again seem to be dealing with a round-peg-square-hole scenario.
Let’s look at it from another angle. What if the fulfillment of verse 6 happens when the anointed actually become priests of Jehovah; when they are resurrected to heavenly life; when they are Kings of the whole earth; when the resources of all the nations are truly theirs to eat? Then, at that point in time, there would come to be the foreigners of verse 5. That would put the fulfillment during the thousand-year reign of Christ. Rather than predicting a two-tier system within the Christian Congregation, Isaiah’s prophecy is giving us a vision of the New World.
One thing to examine closely is who is being talked about in each sentence of v5-9. Literally the YOU of v6 is being directed towards the Jews. However, we allow application only to the “Israel of God” from a position of hindsight on the basis that the arrangement for natural Israel to be a nation of priests was lost and replaced by a new arrangement. This leaves us needing to find a group outside of spiritual Israel to call “strangers and foreigners”. But note in v7 the use of “YOUR shame” and “they will cry out joyfully over their share”.… Read more »
A nice bit of reasoning, Apollos. Thank you. The switch back and forth between the second and third person is Intriguing, isn’t it? “The resources of the nations YOU people will eat” “In THEIR glory YOU will speak elatedly about YOURSELVES” “Instead of YOUR shame there will be a DOUBLE PORTION” “…THEY will cry out joyfully over THEIR share.” “…in THEIR land THEY take possession of a DOUBLE PORTION.” “Rejoicing to time indefinite is what will come to be THEIRS.” “I will give THEIR wages…” “…an indefinitely lasting covenant I shall conclude toward THEM.” “THEIR offspring will be known among… Read more »
Meleti- Thank you again for a thoughtful analysis of what Isaiah’s prophecy actually says. The WT consideration of “foreigner” overlooks that the concept of foreign was invented by Jehovah himself with the creation of “foreign” languages, and a division and dispersion of peoples into all the Earth. (Gen 10 & 11). Even before that, Jehovah put the first human pair “outside” the garden, making them foreign to himself (Gen 6.). At the same time, he established a pathway of restoration for their offspring. Thus in choosing Abraham and later Jacob (who became Israel), Jehovah set the distinction of “his people”… Read more »
Actually, anointed Christians CAN be viewed as kings-designate and priests-designate while still on earth. True, Revelation 20 shows that they will rule with Christ (as kings and priests) after their resurrection in heaven. However, says Peter: “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”. His words indicate that he was speaking in the present tense, “you are”. And although they did not actually ruled and acted as real priests in the… Read more »
Vassy I have to disagree with your claim that Jesus did not proclaim the “day of vengeance on the part of our God”. Isaiah’s prophecy does not seem to separate the messages at all. It is true that when Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah (as recorded in Luke 4:18) those words were apparently omitted. Did this mean that the message was to be omitted also, or was this just not the right time to emphasize this passage to his audience right at the start of his ministry? We also take firstly the “good news of the kingdom” to… Read more »
Another question is: Why would the citizens of the kingdom being called foreigners?
I believe you are working on an assumption that shouldn’t be taken for granted. To phrase it as a question, are there Christians who are not anointed and will any Christians dwell forever in heaven?
If they are in heaven, why do they have flocks, farms and vines to be dressed? While the accepted interpretation makes this symbolic, on what basis are we doing so and what evidence do we have for the interpretation derived?
Perhaps this describes the role of Christians vs. non-Christians in the kingdom.