[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.