Tagged: millennial kingdom

10 truths about the return of Jesus

200321147-001Few passages of scripture cause more controversy among evangelical Christians than Rev. 20:1-10, in which John mentions a 1,000-year period six times.  The main point of debate is whether the “millennium” should be understood literally or figuratively.

Generally, those who believe the 1,000 years are literal and in the future are called premillennialists. They look for Christ to return and establish a “millennial kingdom,” or a reign of 1,000 years, after which He puts down Satan’s final revolt, resurrects and judges unbelievers (Christians are judged before the millennium), and creates new heavens and a new earth.

Those who believe Christ is returning after the millennium are called postmillennialists. The 1,000 years are not necessarily a literal time frame, but they represent a period during which much of the world turns to faith in Jesus.

Those who see all references to the 1,000 years as figurative and without merit as a reference point concerning the timing of the Lord’s return are called amilllennialists.

There is diversity within each of these camps as to the order of events surrounding the second coming.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it’s important to follow a biblical principle for exploring tough passages: Start with the simple and straightforward teachings of scripture, and seek to understand the difficult passages in the light of the simpler ones.

With that in mind, let’s rally around 10 simple truths regarding the return of Jesus.

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Isaiah 35: The Return of the Ransomed

Isaiah 35: Listen to the audio

Isaiah 35: Download notes and a worksheet for further study

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

There is not sufficient information to know precisely when Isaiah delivers the prophetic messages of chapters 34-35. It is clear, however, that these prophecies anticipate the Day of the Lord, when He will judge the nations and deliver His people. Some commentators believe chapters 34-35 serve as an “eschatological conclusion” (and end-times wrap up) to the woe oracles of Isa. 28-33, which could place Isaiah’s prophecy in the reign of Hezekiah.

Key verse:

Isa. 35:10 – [T]he ransomed of the Lord will return and come to Zion with singing, crowned with unending joy. Joy and gladness will overtake [them], and sorrow and sighing will flee.

Quick summary:

“The glorious fact of the coming Millennium should serve as strength and comfort to all believers living in difficult times,” writes H.L. Willmington. “The deserts will bloom. The lame will walk, and the mute will shout and sing. The blind will see and the deaf will hear. A highway of holiness will be built” (The Outline Bible, S. Is 35:3-4).

Take note:

It’s important to keep in mind that while the millennium is a time of great prosperity and peace for the redeemed, it is not yet the new heavens and new earth promised in Scripture (for example, see 2 Peter 3:10-13 and Rev. 21-22). There is still the presence of “unclean” people, although they will not be permitted on the Holy Way (v. 8). There also are the foolish, even though they will be kept from going astray. And the animal kingdom is not yet totally tamed, despite the fact that God’s people are protected from the “vicious beast” (v. 9). We learn from other Bible passages that there will be sin and death during Christ’s earthly reign, although the human lifespan is significantly lengthened and Jesus will tolerate no rebellion (Isa. 65:7-25). The primary reasons for joy during this 1,000-year period are Christ’s righteous reign from the throne of David (Isa. 9:7) and Satan’s imprisonment (Rev. 20:1-3). In short, the millennium is the most glorious time in human history, and yet it is just a foretaste of what’s to come when God makes all things new (Rev. 21:5).

Life in the Perfect Age (Isa. 35:1-2, 5-10)

“The glory of this chapter is enhanced, if this is possible, by its setting as an oasis between the visionary wasteland of ch. 34 and the history of war, sickness and folly in chs. 36–39,” writes D.A. Carson (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 35:1). In a familiar pattern, Isaiah follows a graphic depiction of judgment with a glorious foretaste of the millennium. Both nature and humanity are restored. The redeemed return to Zion on the “Holy Way” and are overcome with joy.

Note the specifics of Isaiah’s vision of the perfect age:

  • “The wilderness and the dry land will be glad …” (v. 1). All of nature waits eagerly for the redemption in Christ’s return (Ps. 96:11-13; 98:7-9; Isa. 55:12-13; Rom. 8:19-22). The beauty that today bursts through the thorns and thistles of fallen nature bears testimony of God’s promise to free creation of the curse of sin (Gen. 3:17-19; Rev. 22:3). Verses 6b-7 provide further details of a redeemed plant and animal world.
  • “The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon” (v. 2). Isaiah names three of the most beautiful and fruitful locations in the land, and yet when Christ returns even the desert will produce an abundance that exceeds theirs. There will be no more “parched ground” (v. 7) because the land will become a plush garden that bears testimony of Messiah’s glory.
  • “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy …” (vv. 5-6). Jesus evidently refers to these verses to encourage the imprisoned John the Baptist that He is the promised Messiah (Luke 7:18-23). As Jesus’ miracles confirm His deity and Messianic authority, they also provide a foretaste of the coming kingdom, in which complete health is the norm.
  • “A road will be there and a way; it will be called the Holy Way” (v. 8). Isaiah often uses the theme of a highway (Isa. 11:16; 19:23; 40:3; 62:10). The highways are not safe to travel during the Assyrian invasion (Isa. 33:8), but in the coming kingdom age the Lord will make them safe and provide a special road called “the Holy Way.” Warren Wiersbe writes, “In ancient cities, there were often special roads that only kings and priests could use; but when Messiah reigns, all of His people will be invited to use this highway. Isaiah pictures God’s redeemed, ransomed, and rejoicing Jewish families going up to the yearly feasts in Jerusalem, to praise their Lord” (Be Comforted, S. Is 35:1).
  • “There will be no lion there, and no vicious beast will go up on it” (v. 9). No ferocious animals will hinder the redeemed from traveling the Holy Way to worship the Lord. Even the wild beasts will enjoy a unique period of God-ordained restraint during the millennium (Isa. 11:6-9; Ezek. 34:25; Hosea 2:18).
  • “Joy and gladness will overtake [them], and sorrow and sighing will flee” (v. 10). Matthew Henry writes, “When God’s people returned out of Babylon to Zion they came weeping (Jer. 50:4); but they shall come to heaven singing a new song, which no man can learn, Rev. 14:3. When they shall enter into the joy of their Lord it shall be what the joys of this world never could be: everlasting joy, without mixture, interruption, or period. It shall not only fill their hearts, to their own perfect and perpetual satisfaction, but it shall be upon their heads, as an ornament of grace and a crown of glory, as a garland worn in token of victory” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 35:5).

Life in the Present Age (Isa. 35:3-4)

Israel’s glorious future is the backdrop against which God’s people are called to live in the present. Although the Assyrians are besieging Jerusalem and the Babylonians will destroy it, the Lord promises vengeance, retribution and salvation. In light of these promises, God’s people are instructed to encourage the faint hearted and comfort those who are traumatized by Sennacherib’s invading hoards.

In much the same way, Christians today should live in the light of God’s glorious redemption. While we suffer pain, sickness, aging and death, the Lord has promised to redeem our mortal bodies and give us glorified ones (Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 15:51-58). Though we struggle with sin, He has predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). And even though many Christians around the world are persecuted for their faith, they will be vindicated at the return of Christ (Luke 21:28; Rev. 6:9-11; 19:11-21). And when it comes to the Lord’s chastening, Christians today, like the citizens of Judah in Isaiah’s time, are urged to “strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but healed instead” (Heb. 12:12).

Closing Thought

Gary V. Smith comments: “There is no doubt about the theological principle that God will have vengeance on the wicked and violently destroy them and the earth where they live. His judgment is real, it is devastating, and it is final. If one can conceive of a world without divine support and care, that is the world that awaits the nations that will receive God’s wrath…. [I]n chapter 35 God offers an alternative world of fertility, joy, and gladness where he will reveal something of his marvelous glory. The theological principle here is that everyone should be encouraged to experience the salvation of God, no matter how weak or blind they are. God is not only able to remove blindness and strengthen the weak; he will also miraculously open the eyes of many. His kingdom will have abundant water, great fertility, and a holy highway for his redeemed people to come to Zion to worship him. Only those who return to God, only the holy, and only the ransomed will experience the joy of that day” (The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, pp. 581-82).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips

Isaiah 11: The Righteous Branch

Listen to an audio file

Download a worksheet for further study

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Chapter 11 takes place during the reign of Ahaz, Judah’s wicked king.

Key verse:

Isa. 11:2:  The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him – a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

Quick summary:

The day is coming when Messiah, a descendent of Jesse, will reign with righteousness, uniting Israel, bringing justice to the oppressed, and striking the wicked. No harm will come to any creature, even animals, because “the land will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the sea is filled with water” (v. 9).

Take note:

Isaiah refers to the Holy Spirit more times than any other Old Testament prophet: Isa. 11:2 (four times); 32:15; 34:16; 40:13; 42:1; 44:3; 48:16; 59:21; 61:1; 63:10-11, 14).

Righteous reign of the branch (Isa. 11:1-10)

The Lord will cut down the tall trees and clear the forests (Isa. 10:33-34), that is, the armies invading Israel, but God’s kingdom will arise from a shoot coming up from the stump of Jesse, David’s father (see Rev. 22:16). No doubt, Isaiah has in mind God’s promise to David that one of his descendents will rule over his kingdom forever (2 Sam. 7:16; see also Isa. 9:7). His rule will be unique in that the ruler himself is both divine and divinely endowed, being gifted in three ways: with “wisdom and understanding for government (cf. 1 Ki. 3:9-12), counsel and power for war (cf. 9:6; 28:6; 36:5), and knowledge and the fear of the Lord for spiritual leadership (cf. 2 Sa. 23:2)” (D.A. Carson, New Bible Commentary, S. Is 11:1). The giver of these gifts is the Holy Spirit, who falls on Messiah on the day of His baptism to inaugurate His earthly ministry and empower Him for His work of redemption (Matt. 3:16-17).

Warren Wiersbe observes: “The four Gospels describe ‘the Branch’ for us as follows: Matthew – David’s righteous Branch (Jer. 23:5); Mark – my servant the Branch (Zech. 3:8); Luke – the man whose name is the Branch (Zech. 6:12); and John – the Branch of Jehovah (Isa. 4:2). Thus Jesus Christ will one day fulfill the OT promises God gave to the Jews and will reign over His kingdom in glory and victory (Rom. 15:8-12)” (Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament, S. Is 7:1).

The title “Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6) is illustrated beautifully in verses 6-9 of chapter 10 as all God’s creatures live together harmoniously. But peace is hard won; it follows judgment and flows from Messiah’s righteousness. Just as Christ today transforms the human heart through the new birth, so one day He will restore the entire creation to its pre-Fall perfection (Rom. 8:19-25). There is some debate as to whether the animal kingdom will experience this full transformation during the millennial kingdom or after the creation of the new heavens and earth. In any case, we may be assured that God will fully reverse the effects of the Fall and restore His creation to sinless perfection one day (2 Peter 3:10-13; Rev. 21-22).

Verse 10 features several key truths:

  • One day Messiah “will stand as a banner for the peoples.” While this likely pictures Jesus in His kingly role after His return, it is based on His finished work at Calvary, where He was “lifted up” (see John 3:14-16; 12:32).
  • The Messiah is the Savior of the whole world, not only the Jews, and the day is coming when Gentiles (“nations”) will seek Him.
  • “His resting place will be glorious.” Some see this as a reference to His work on the cross; others to His ascension, after which He sat down at the right hand of the Father; still others as the church, the body of believers over whom He is Head. In any case, it will be glorious because He has made it so.

The restored remnant (Isa. 11:11-16)

Some commentators find the phrase “a second time” significant (v. 11). Many Jews returned to Israel after the Babylonian captivity, but a far more devastating dispersion, known as the “Diaspora,” occurred in 70 A.D. with the destruction of the Temple and the sacking of Jerusalem. So when Isaiah says “the Lord will extend His hand a second time to recover,” this could be a reference to the re-establishment of Israel as a sovereign nation in 1948 as well as the blessings the people will enjoy when Christ returns and rules from the throne of David.

Isaiah looks forward to the day when the animosity between Israel’s northern and southern kingdoms will cease. Ephraim and Judah will live harmoniously as does the once-combative animal world (vv. 6-9). What’s more, the reunited Jews will defeat their neighboring enemies to the south and east. Finally, when the Jews return to their homeland at the beginning of the Millennium, God will dry up the Gulf of Suez and divide the Euphrates River into shallow canals to hasten their return from Africa and the lands to the east. They will be reminded of God’s work in ancient times, parting the waters of the Red Sea and enabling the Jews to escape captivity in Egypt.

Closing Thought

Warren Wiersbe comments: “When Isaiah looked at his people, he saw a sinful nation that would one day walk the “highway of holiness” and enter into a righteous kingdom. He saw a suffering people who would one day enjoy a beautiful and peaceful kingdom. He saw a scattered people who would be regathered and reunited under the kingship of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught us to pray, ‘Thy kingdom come’ (Matt. 6:10); for only when His kingdom comes can there be peace on earth'” (Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament, S. Is 9:1).

 

Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips

Isaiah 9: Prince of Peace, and Scorched Earth

Listen to the audio file

Download a worksheet for further study

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

 When this takes place:

Chapter 9 takes place during the reign of Ahaz, Judah’s wicked king. While Isaiah’s ministry focuses on the southern kingdom, this chapter speaks to the northern kingdom of Israel as well. Even though the Israelites will face the darkness of military defeat, the day is coming when they will see “great light” as the Messiah lives and ministers in Galilee.

Key verse:

Isa. 9:6:  For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

Quick summary:

This chapter highlights God’s Son and God’s sovereignty. Verses 1-7 give us additional information about Immanuel (Isa. 7:14), who will be a gift from heaven, God incarnate, and a light to all people. Verses 8-21 describe the punishment God is about to inflict on His own people, even though their defeat at the hands of the Arameans and Philistines will not lead to repentance.

Take note:

Verse 6 is one of the clearest Old Testament passages affirming the deity and the humanity of the Messiah. He will be born a male child, yet is from age to age Mighty God and Eternal Father.

The Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:1-7)

The devastation of Israel at the hands of Assyria eventually will give way to an age of universal peace. In fact, the very lands about to experience darkness and death will be the first to see the light of a new day with the coming of the Messiah. As Matthew’s gospel makes clear, the region of Israel referred to in Isa. 9:1 is the first to rejoice in the light brought by Christ’s preaching (Matt. 4:12-17).

While Isa. 7:14 focuses on Messiah’s birth and 11:1-16 on His kingdom, verses 6-7 of chapter 9 lay great emphasis on His person. The first three titles imply deity:

  • The word “wonderful” as in “Wonderful Counselor” regularly means “supernatural” in scripture. See, for example, Judges 13:18. In addition, Isa. 28:29 describes Yahweh as “wonderful in counsel” (KJV).
  • “Mighty God” is a term ascribed to “the Lord, the Holy One of Israel” in Isa. 10:20-21.
  • “Everlasting Father” has no exact parallel but is significant. “Father signifies the paternal benevolence of the perfect Ruler over a people whom he loves as his children. Peace in Hebrew implies prosperity as well as tranquility” (D.A. Carson, New Bible Commentary, 21st Century Edition, S. Is 9:1). While Messiah is a distinct person from God the Father, Jesus clearly claims to be both Messiah and co-equal with the Father (John 10:30). “Father of Eternity” is a better translation, according to Warren Wiersbe. “Among the Jews, the word ‘father’ means ‘originator’ or ‘source.’ For example, Satan is the ‘father [originator] of lies’ (John 8:44, NIV). If you want anything eternal, you must get it from Jesus Christ; He is the ‘Father of eternity'” (Be Comforted, S. Is 9:1).

The fourth title, “Prince of Peace,” speaks to Messiah’s character. Luke 2:14, John 14:27, Acts 10:36, Rom. 5:1-10, and Eph. 2:14-18 are a few of the New Testament passages that point to Jesus as the One who brings peace to human hearts and to a sin-sick world. Matthew Henry comments: “As a King, he preserves the peace, commands peace, nay, he creates peace, in his kingdom. He is our peace, and it is his peace that both keeps the hearts of his people and rules in them” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 9:1).

Finally, verse 7 emphasizes the scope of Messiah’s kingdom. It will be vast and never-ending (see Dan. 7:14, 27; Micah 4:7; Luke 1:32-33; Rev. 11:15). He will maintain righteousness as His rule conforms to God’s holy character. “This will all be accomplished by the zeal of the Lord Almighty. The coming of the millennial kingdom depends on God, not Israel. The Messiah will rule because God promised it and will zealously see that the kingdom comes. Without His sovereign intervention there would be no kingdom for Israel” (John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1053).

God’s anger, Israel’s arrogance (Isa. 9:8-21)

The rest of the chapter warns that God is about to punish Israel at the hands of the Arameans and Philistines. Even though Israel will be destroyed, she will not repent and turn to the Lord. Lawrence O. Richards writes, “Isa. 9:6-7 describes the universal reign of the Messiah. Then the rest of the chapter suddenly shifts to describe the judgment about to be visited on the Northern Kingdom, Israel (vv. 8-21). How are these linked? Jesus’ reign is marked by universal allegiance to God. Israel’s tragic history was marked from the beginning by rebellion against Him (1 Kings 12). Those who will not submit to the Lord will surely experience not the blessing of messianic times, but the havoc and ruination that crushed Israel” (The Bible Readers Companion, Electronic edition, S. 417).

Verses 9-10 describe the arrogance with which the northern kingdom regards God’s wrath. Though their sun-dried bricks will not stand, the people plan to rebuild with more expensive and durable cut stones. And though sycamores are abundant and used for their antiseptic qualities, which induced the Egyptians to use sycamore to encase their mummies, the northern tribes boast that they will rebuild with the aromatic, knot-free, and more valuable cedar.

Verses 11-12 describe what is about to happen. The foes of Rezin, king of Aram and an ally of Israel, will consume the northern kingdom. Specifically, the foes are other Arameans and the Philistines. While this is the Lord’s doing, it does not bring Israel to repentance and therefore does not quench the wrath of God. Verse 12 ends with a refrain that is repeated three more times in the following verses: “In all this, His anger is not removed, and His hand is still raised to strike” (see Isa. 9:12, 17, 21; 10:4).

The words in verse 14 – “So the Lord cut off Israel’s head and tail, palm branch and reed” – comprise a merism, a figure of speech using opposite extremes to include the whole spectrum.  Verses 15-17 provide the needed detail. The elders (the head) and the false prophets (the tail), the leaders and those who are misled – even the fatherless and widows will reap judgment because “everyone is a godless evildoer” (v. 17).

Verses 18-21 describe the wickedness of God’s people as a consuming fire, with the people themselves as fuel. As God directs punishment against them, they are destroyed by enemies from without and rivals from within. “Ephraim’s own wickedness was destroying the nation, the way a fire destroys a forest or a field,” writes Warren W. Wiersbe. “But the sinners would become fuel for the fire God could kindle! In their greed, the people of the Northern Kingdom were devouring one another (v. 20) and battling one another (v. 21); but they would soon be devoured and defeated by Assyria” (Be Comforted, S. Is 9:1).

Closing Thought

Matthew Henry writes: “The reason why the judgments of God are prolonged is because the point is not gained, sinners are not brought to repentance by them. The people turn not to him that smites them, and therefore he continues to smite them; for when God judges he will overcome, and the proudest stoutest sinner shall either bend or break” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 9:8).

 Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips