1, 2. (a) Why may it be difficult at times to see the Paradise as real? (b) What can help us to strengthen our faith in God’s promises?
A FAITHFUL brother arrives at the meeting, tired after a stressful day. He has faced mistreatment from a demanding boss, stress over the challenges of caring for his family, and anxiety over an illness afflicting his wife. As the music for the opening song begins, he breathes a sigh of relief, glad to be at the Kingdom Hall with his brothers and sisters. The song is about the hope of life in Paradise, and the lyrics ask him to picture that hope, to see himself in that setting. He has always loved this song, and as he sings it along with his family, hope stirs within his troubled heart.
2 Have you ever felt that way? Most of us have. Admittedly, though, life in this old system can make it very difficult for us to see the coming Paradise as a reality. These are “critical times hard to deal with,” and the world we live in is anything but paradisaic. (2 Tim. 3:1) What can help us to see our hope as real? Well, how do we really know that soon God’s Kingdom will rule all mankind? Let us consider a few of the prophecies from Jehovah that his people saw fulfilled in the ancient past. Then we will review how those and similar prophecies are undergoing a thrilling fulfillment right now. Finally, with our faith thus bolstered, we will focus on what such prophecies mean for our future.
How Jehovah Fulfilled His Promises in the Distant Past
3. What promise comforted the Jews living in exile in Babylon?
3 Imagine what life was like for the Jews living in exile in Babylon back in the sixth century B.C.E. Many grew up in exile, as did their parents, and life was hard. The Babylonians ridiculed them for their faith in Jehovah. (Ps. 137:1-3) Through the decades, loyal Jews kept clinging to this one bright hope: Jehovah promised to gather his people back to their homeland. Jehovah said that conditions would be wonderful there. He even compared the restored land of Judah to the garden of Eden—a paradise! (Read Isaiah 51:3.) Such promises were clearly designed to reassure God’s people, addressing doubts that might trouble their hearts. How so? Consider some specific prophecies.
4. How did Jehovah assure the Jews regarding security in their homeland?
4 Security. Those exiles would return, not to a literal paradise, but to a distant land that had lain desolate for 70 years, a land that few of them had ever seen. Lions were common in Bible lands back then, as were wolves, leopards, and other predators. A family man might wonder, ‘How will I keep my wife and children safe? What about the sheep and cattle—how will I protect them?’ Such concerns would be only natural. Think, then, of God’s promise recorded at Isaiah 11:6-9 and of how comforting it must have been. (Read.) With those lovely poetic words, Jehovah assured the exiles that they and their livestock would be safe. The lion would eat straw in the sense that it would not devour the Jews’ cattle. Faithful ones would have nothing to fear from such predators. Jehovah promised that his people would be safe in the restored land of Judah, even in the wilderness and in the forests.—Ezek. 34:25.
5. What prophecies helped the returning exiles to be confident that Jehovah would provide abundantly for their needs?
5 Abundance. Other concerns might arise. ‘Will I be able to feed my family in the restored homeland? Where will we live? Will there be any work, and will it be better than the drudgery of living in exile under the thumb of our conquerors?’ Through inspired prophecies, Jehovah considerately addressed those questions too. Jehovah promised that his obedient people would find the rains reliable; as a result, the ground would produce “abundant and rich” bread. (Isa. 30:23) As to shelter and meaningful work, Jehovah promised concerning his people: “They will build houses and live in them, and they will plant vineyards and eat their fruitage. They will not build for someone else to inhabit, nor will they plant for others to eat.” (Isa. 65:21, 22) Yes, in many ways life would be wonderful compared with their exile in pagan Babylon. But what about their most serious problems—the ones that led to their exile in the first place?
6. God’s people had long suffered from what kind of health problems, and of what did Jehovah assure the returning exiles?
6 Spiritual health. Long before their exile, God’s people had grown spiritually sick. Through the prophet Isaiah, Jehovah said of his people: “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is diseased.” (Isa. 1:5) Spiritually, they were blind and deaf, for they kept stopping up their ears to Jehovah’s counsel and closing their eyes to the enlightenment he offered. (Isa. 6:10; Jer. 5:21; Ezek. 12:2) If the same problems were to plague the returning exiles, what security could they have? Would they not simply lose Jehovah’s favor again? How reassuring was Jehovah’s promise: “In that day the deaf will hear the words of the book, and out of the gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.” (Isa. 29:18) Yes, Jehovah would bring spiritual healing to his chastened, repentant people. As long as they remained responsive and obedient, he would provide life-giving direction and enlightenment.
7. How were God’s promises to his exiled people fulfilled, and why should we find that fulfillment faith-strengthening?
7 Did Jehovah live up to his promises? The answer is a matter of historical record. The Jews who returned to their homeland were blessed with security, abundance, and spiritual health. For example, Jehovah protected them from neighboring peoples who were stronger and more numerous than they. Predators did not wipe out the Jews’ livestock. True, those Jews saw only a limited fulfillment of the paradisaic prophecies that men such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel wrote down—but the fulfillment that God’s people saw was thrilling and just what they needed at the time. As we reflect on what Jehovah did for his people back then, our faith will grow stronger. If the initial, limited fulfillment of those prophecies was exciting, what would the greater fulfillment be like? Consider what Jehovah has done for us today.
How Jehovah Has Started to Fulfill His Promises in Our Own Time
8. God’s people today enjoy what sort of “land”?
8 Jehovah’s people do not now form a literal nation, nor do they occupy a single, physical land. Rather, anointed Christians make up a spiritual nation, “the Israel of God.” (Gal. 6:16) Their companions of the “other sheep” join them in a spiritual “land,” a realm of activity in which they worship Jehovah God unitedly. That worship is their way of life. (John 10:16; Isa. 66:8) And what kind of a “land” has Jehovah given us? It is a spiritual paradise. Here God’s promises about Edenic conditions have seen a wonderful spiritual fulfillment. Consider some examples.
9, 10. (a) How is the prophecy of Isaiah 11:6-9 being fulfilled today? (b) What evidence of peace do we find among God’s people?
9 Security. In the prophecy recorded at Isaiah 11:6-9, we find a delightful picture of harmony and peace—between wild animals on the one hand and humans with their domestic animals on the other. Does that picture find a spiritual fulfillment today? Yes! In verse 9, we learn why it is that such creatures will cause neither harm nor ruin: “Because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters cover the sea.” Does “knowledge of Jehovah” change the behavior of animals? No, it is people who are transformed by coming to know the Most High God and learning to imitate his peaceful ways. That is why in our spiritual paradise today, we can observe a heartwarming fulfillment of that prophecy. Under Kingdom rule, Christ’s followers are learning to put off their fierce, animalistic qualities and live in peace and harmony with their spiritual brothers and sisters.
10 For example, in this publication we have discussed the matter of Christian neutrality—both the Scriptural basis for our understanding and the resulting persecution that God’s people have faced for taking a neutral stand. Is it not remarkable that in this violent world, there is a sizable “nation” of people who refuse, even under threat of death, to take part in violence of any kind? What remarkable proof this is that the subjects of the Messianic King are indeed enjoying peace like that described by Isaiah! Jesus proclaimed that his followers would be known by the love they had among themselves. (John 13:34, 35) Within the congregation, Christ is patiently using his “faithful and discreet slave” to teach all true Christians to be peaceable, loving, and gentle.—Matt. 24:45-47.
11, 12. What kind of famine afflicts today’s world, yet how has Jehovah provided abundantly for his people?
11 Abundance. The world suffers from spiritual famine. The Bible warned: “‘Look! The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘when I will send a famine into the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but for hearing the words of Jehovah.’” (Amos 8:11) Do the citizens of God’s Kingdom suffer famine too? Jehovah foretold the following contrast between his people and his enemies: “My servants will eat, but you will go hungry. Look! My servants will drink, but you will go thirsty. Look! My servants will rejoice, but you will suffer shame.” (Isa. 65:13) Have you observed the fulfillment of those words?
12 Spiritual provisions flow to us like an ever-broadening and ever-deepening river. Our Bible-based publications—as well as recordings and videos, our meetings and conventions, and the material published on our Web site—together amount to an ongoing flood tide of spiritual sustenance in this spiritually starving world. (Ezek. 47:1-12; Joel 3:18) Are you not thrilled to see the fulfillment of Jehovah’s promises of abundance in your daily life? Do you make sure that you feed regularly at Jehovah’s table?
13. How have you seen fulfillment of Jehovah’s promise about blind eyes being opened and deaf ears unstopped?
13 Spiritual health. Spiritual blindness and deafness are pandemic today. (2 Cor. 4:4) Yet, Christ is curing infirmities and illnesses worldwide. Have you seen blind eyes opened and deaf ears unstopped? If you have seen people come to an accurate knowledge of the truth of God’s Word, letting go of the religious lies that once made them blind and deaf to the truth, you have seen this promise fulfilled: “In that day the deaf will hear the words of the book, and out of the gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.” (Isa. 29:18) Around the world, hundreds of thousands of people every year are finding such spiritual cures. Each person who leaves Babylon the Great behind and joins us to worship in our spiritual paradise is living proof that Jehovah’s promises have come true!
14. Meditating on what evidence will strengthen our faith?
14 Each chapter of this book contains powerful evidence that Christ has brought his followers into a genuine spiritual paradise in this time of the end. Let us keep meditating on the many ways in which we are being blessed in that paradise today. As we do, our faith in Jehovah’s promises for the future will continue to grow stronger.
“Let Your Kingdom Come”
15. Why may we be sure that the earth will become a paradise?
15 Jehovah’s purpose has long been to make the earth a global paradise. He placed Adam and Eve in a paradise garden, and he gave them the command to fill the earth with their offspring and to take care of all of its creatures. (Gen. 1:28) Instead, Adam and Eve followed Satan into rebellion and plunged all their offspring into imperfection, sin, and death. Yet, God’s purpose never changed. Once spoken, his words always find complete fulfillment. (Read Isaiah 55:10, 11.) We may be sure, then, that the descendants of Adam and Eve will fill this earth and subdue it, taking loving care of Jehovah’s creation in a global paradise. At that time, the prophecies originally given to the Jewish exiles about life in paradisaic conditions will reach their ultimate fulfillment! Consider the following examples.
16. How does the Bible describe the security we will enjoy in Paradise?
16 Security. At long last, the heartwarming word picture painted at Isaiah 11:6-9 will see a complete fulfillment even in a literal sense. Men, women, and children will be safe and secure wherever they go on earth. No creature, whether human or animal, will pose any threat. Imagine a time when you will see this entire planet as your home, where you can swim in the rivers, lakes, and seas; traverse the mountain ranges; and roam the grasslands in complete safety. And when night falls, you will not worry. The words of Ezekiel 34:25 will come true, so that it will even be possible for God’s people to “dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the forests.”
17. Why may we be sure that Jehovah will provide abundantly for our needs when the Kingdom is ruling over the whole earth?
17 Abundance. Picture a time when there will be no such thing as poverty, malnutrition, famine, or welfare systems. The spiritual plenty that God’s people enjoy today is a guarantee that the Messianic King will feed his subjects in every respect. When Jesus was on the earth, he demonstrated on a small scale that he can fulfill such promises, for he fed thousands of hungry people with just a few loaves and fish. (Matt. 14:17, 18; 15:34-36; Mark 8:19, 20) When God’s Kingdom is ruling over the whole earth, prophecies like this one will see a literal fulfillment: “He will give the rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the bread that the ground produces will be abundant and rich. In that day your livestock will graze in spacious pastures.”—Isa. 30:23.
18, 19. (a) What does the prophecy recorded at Isaiah 65:20-22 mean to you? (b) In what sense will our days be “like the days of a tree”?
18 Today many people can hardly imagine owning a comfortable home or having rewarding, satisfying work to do. In this corrupt system, many feel that they work long and hard with little real benefit to themselves or their family, while the rich and greedy reap all the rewards. Imagine what it will be like when this prophecy comes true worldwide: “They will build houses and live in them, and they will plant vineyards and eat their fruitage. They will not build for someone else to inhabit, nor will they plant for others to eat. For the days of my people will be like the days of a tree, and the work of their hands my chosen ones will enjoy to the full.”—Isa. 65:20-22.
19 What does it mean that our days will be “like the days of a tree”? When you stand at the base of a massive tree, do you feel a sense of awe sweeping over you as you contemplate how long that living thing has been there—perhaps since long before your great-grandparents were born? It might occur to you that if you were to remain in your present imperfect state, such a tree would likely outlive you, still stretching out its long, peaceful existence even after you had become a mere memory. How kind of Jehovah to assure us that in the Paradise to come, our own days will be long and peaceful! (Ps. 37:11, 29) The day will come when even long-lived trees will seem to us as transient as the grass, coming and going while we continue living forever!
20. How will loyal Kingdom subjects come to enjoy perfect health?
20 Perfect health. Today, sickness and death cast their grim shadows over every aspect of this world. In a sense, we are all sick—infected with a terminal illness called sin. The only cure is Christ’s ransom sacrifice. (Rom. 3:23; 6:23) During the Millennial Reign, Jesus and his corulers will fully apply the benefits of that sacrifice, gradually eradicating all traces of sin from faithful humans. Isaiah’s prophecy will come true in the fullest sense: “No resident will say: ‘I am sick.’ The people dwelling in the land will be pardoned for their error.” (Isa. 33:24) Imagine a time when no one will be blind, deaf, or crippled. (Read Isaiah 35:5, 6.) No illness will prove to be beyond Jesus’ ability to heal—whether physical, mental, or emotional. Loyal Kingdom subjects will enjoy perfect health!
21. What will become of death, and why do you find that promise comforting?
21 What, though, of the common outcome of sickness, the inevitable result of sin—death? That is our “last enemy,” the one foe against which all imperfect humans sooner or later prove powerless. (1 Cor. 15:26) But is death such a daunting adversary to Jehovah? Notice what Isaiah foretold: “He will swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will wipe away the tears from all faces.” (Isa. 25:8) Can you picture that time? No more funerals, no more cemeteries, no more tears of grief! Quite the contrary—there will be tears of joy as Jehovah fulfills his thrilling promise to bring back the dead! (Read Isaiah 26:19.) At last, countless wounds inflicted by death will heal.
22. What will happen when the Messianic Kingdom has finished carrying out God’s will on earth?
22 By the end of the Millennium, the Kingdom will have finished carrying out God’s will on earth, and Christ will hand the rulership over to his Father. (1 Cor. 15:25-28) Humankind, perfected at last, will be ready to face a final test when Satan is released from his abyss of inactivity. Thereafter, Christ will finally crush that vile serpent and all his supporters. (Gen. 3:15; Rev. 20:3, 7-10) But all who loyally love Jehovah will face a bright prospect. Perhaps no words could paint a better picture than the ones we find in an inspired phrase. It is the promise that faithful ones will have “the glorious freedom of the children of God.”—Rom. 8:21.
23, 24. (a) Why is the fulfillment of God’s promises a certainty? (b) What are you determined to do?
23 Those promises are not based on mere hopes, wishes, or dreams. Fulfillment of Jehovah’s promises is a certainty! Why? Remember the words of Jesus that we discussed in the opening chapter of this book. He taught his followers to pray to Jehovah: “Let your Kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also on earth.” (Matt. 6:9, 10) God’s Kingdom is not the product of someone’s imagination. It is a reality! It rules in heaven right now. For a century now, it has fulfilled Jehovah’s promises in ways that we can clearly see in the Christian congregation. We may be sure, then, that all of Jehovah’s promises will be fulfilled when God’s Kingdom comes to exert its full power toward the earth!
24 We know that God’s Kingdom will come. We know that Jehovah’s every word of promise will come true. Why? Because GOD’S KINGDOM RULES! The question for each of us to ask is, ‘Does the Kingdom rule me?’ Let us do all we can to live as loyal subjects of that Kingdom now, so that we may benefit from its perfect, just rule forever!
DRAW CLOSE TO JEHOVAH
Jehovah has already restored pure worship. What will he restore in the future?
THE WATCHTOWER—STUDY EDITION
Jehovah used a series of six covenants to guarantee that his Kingdom will accomplish his purpose. How can these covenants help us strengthen our faith?