Tagged: millennium

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 34: There will be Blood

Isaiah 34: Listen to the audio

Isaiah 34: 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” (an end-times wrap up) to the woe oracles of Isa. 28-33, which could place this message in the reign of Hezekiah.

Key verses:

Isa. 34:2 – The Lord is angry with all the nations – furious with all their armies. He will set them apart for destruction, giving them over to slaughter.

Quick summary:

Isaiah describes the judgments of the Day of the Lord in detail, including miraculous wonders in the heavens. In all likelihood, Edom is symbolic of the world powers that have opposed Israel and now must face the Jewish people’s “Judge … lawgiver … and King” (Isa. 33:22). “In the Day of the Lord, the Gentiles will be repaid for the way they have treated the Jews and exploited their land (Joel 3:1–17). ‘Zion’s cause’ may not get much support among the nations today, but God will come to their defense and make their cause succeed” (Warren Wiersbe, Be Comforted, S. Is 34:1).

Take note:

Anyone who contends that Jesus is the consummate peace-love-and-joy hippie who taught “live and let live” and never spoke a harsh word or raised a hand in anger would do well to note how Isaiah, Jesus Himself and the New Testament writers depict the Messiah in both His first and second comings. Isaiah, for example, describes the Lord as “angry,” “furious,” setting the armies of the nations apart for “destruction” and “giving them over to slaughter.” The “stench of their corpses will rise,” the prophet reveals, and the mountains will “flow with their blood” (Isa. 34:2-3). Jesus often expresses anger, especially toward the religious leaders of His day, and twice he violently drives the money changers from the Temple. A reading of His “woes” against the “scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites” in Matthew 23 reveals stinging rebukes against the religious elite of His day, and His parables of the kingdom of heaven lay out a tragic end for those who oppose Him (see, for example, Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43, 47-50; 22:1-14) What’s more, His return will be violent and bloody as He punishes those who shake their fists toward heaven and fight against the rightful Heir to the world’s throne (see Rev. 19:11-21).

The Judgment of the Nations (Isa. 34:1-4)

The chapter opens with a call to the entire earth to “come here and listen.” No one is left out of this frightening message of God’s future judgment. He clearly beckons the “nations … peoples … earth … and all that fills it … the world and all that comes from it” (v. 1). What is so important that no one is exempted? “The Lord is angry with all the nations – furious with all their armies” (v. 2).  In His wrath, Yahweh will slaughter countless evil soldiers, leaving their blood to flow in the valleys and their corpses to rot on the hillsides.

There will be wonders in the sky as well. “All the heavenly bodies will dissolve,” Isaiah writes. “The skies will roll up like a scroll, and their stars will all wither as leaves wither on the vine, and foliage on the fig tree” (v. 4). Catastrophic events in the heavens will accompany the Messiah’s return to earth to establish His kingdom (see Joel 2:10, 30-31; 3:15; Zech. 14:6-7; Matt. 24:29). However, it is difficult to know with certainty exactly when and how these prophecies will be fulfilled. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck comment: “Isaiah 34:4 may refer to the judgment of the sixth seal in the Tribulation (Rev. 6:12-13), or to the eternal state, after the Millennium, when the sun will not be needed (Rev. 21:1). Or perhaps Isaiah was speaking figuratively of a change in the whole power structure in the Millennium when human kings will be done away with and God alone will be in control” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1084).

The Judgment of Edom (Isa. 34:5-17)

Isaiah uses Edom as an example of the world, which will come under God’s judgment. The Edomites are descendents of Esau, Jacob’s older brother, and are perpetual enemies of Israel (cf. Ezek. 35; 36:5). As such, they are an appropriate representation of what the Lord will do to all nations that oppose His people. The Lord’s slaughter of Edom is depicted as “a sacrifice in Bozrah,” the capital city of Edom (v. 6). Modern-day Buseirah is located about 25 miles southeast of the Dead Sea and is a place animals in Isaiah’s day are slaughtered for sacrifice. The Jews’ practice is to offer sacrifices to God, but in this passage it is God offering the wicked as sacrifices. The Lord depicts His enemies as animals, who are sacrificed along with the fat (Lev. 3:9-11). These nations often slaughtered and sacrificed God’s people, so now the Lord sacrifices them.

Many Bible commentators believe this bloody scene depicts the battle of Armageddon in the last days. Warren Wiersbe writes: “Isaiah compares the Day of the Lord to the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah (Isa. 34:9–10; Gen. 18–19). This is a significant comparison because, just before the coming of the Lord, society will be ‘as it was in the days of Lot’ (Luke 17:28). Tar running like streams and sulfur like dust will keep the fires of judgment burning (Gen. 14:10; 19:24). The description in Isaiah 34:10 reminds us of the fall of Babylon (Rev. 14:8-11; 19:3). We should also remember that the fires of eternal hell, the lake of fire, will never be quenched (Mark 9:43–48)” (Be Comforted, S. Is 34:1).

“Edom symbolizes in Scripture the ungodly (cf. Heb. 12:16) and the persecutor (cf. Ob. 10–14), the opposite and adversary of the church,” writes D.A. Carson. “The metaphor in vs 5–7 is a grim variant of the banquet scene (cf. 25:6), dwelling on the butchery behind the sacrificial feast and using [a] current idiom to show that the whole people, from ‘young bloods’ and leading citizens (7a) to the least and lowest (6), is doomed (cf. 63:1–6)” (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 34:1).

As a result of God’s judgment, the land will seem to be ablaze – her streams turned to pitch (a flammable tar-like substance) and her soil to sulfur. The land will become desolate, inhabited only by creatures that seek out more solitary confines. Owls, ravens, jackals, ostriches, hyenas, wild goats and other animals will abound as the land becomes overgrown and uninhabitable for generations. Isaiah uses an interesting name in verse 14: The “night monster” (NASB) or “screech owl” (HCSB), literally Lilith, is noted in ancient mythology as a female night demon that inhabits desolate places. The imagery here is used to illustrate the total devastation of the heathen lands.

The theme of divine vengeance dominates chapters 34-35, prompting some people to withdraw from the “angry” and “vindictive” God of the Old Testament in favor of a kinder, gentler New Testament God. Some even argue the Bible cannot be true since it depicts two entirely different Gods in the Old and New Testaments. Yet God is immutable, or unchanging, as Scripture makes clear, and He alone is the rightful Author of vengeance. Both the Old and New Testaments affirm the truth that the Lord is the “God of vengeance” (Ps. 94:1). In Deut. 32:35 the Lord declares, “Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay.” Sometimes God’s vengeance is carried out through human agencies (cf. Num. 31:2-3; Josh. 10:13). “Yet no individual has God’s permission to take personal revenge,” writes Lawrence O. Richards. “The reason is that vengeance is a judicial concept. It is reserved for God, as moral and spiritual Judge of His universe, to punish those who persistently reject Him, abandon His ways, and oppress the righteous. Typically vengeance is reserved for history’s end (cf. Isa. 63:1–6), and any present time is marked by a divine forebearance that provides individuals and nations with every opportunity to repent and to believe” (The Bible Readers Companion, electronic ed., S. 428).

In the New Testament, the doctrine of God’s vengeance is expressed in the Greek words dike and dikesis. The primary meaning is “justice” and communicates the fact that justice is a judicial function reserved for God alone (Rom. 12:19). As in the Old Testament, vengeance in the New Testament often looks toward the end of human history (Rom. 2:1-11) and is sometimes graphically described (2 Thess. 1:5-10; Rev. 19:11-21). “The real wonder is not that God will certainly punish the unrepentant, but that He chose to vent His anger against sin on Christ rather than on us. Christ’s sufferings for us forever disprove the notion that a God of vengeance could not also be a God of love” (Richards, S. 428).

Closing Thought

Matthew Henry comments: “As there is a day of the Lord’s patience, so there will be a day of his vengeance; for, though he bear long, he will not bear always…. There is a time prefixed in the divine counsels for the deliverance of the church and the destruction of her enemies, a year of the redeemed, which will come, a year of recompences [sic] for the controversy of Zion; and we must patiently wait till then, and judge nothing before the time” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 34:1).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips


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The Tribulation and the Millennium: Four Views

Going through Isaiah’s “shorter apocalypse” (chapters 24-27) led our Sunday school class to take stock of four major views on what the Bible teaches about the tribulation and the millennium. The views are: post-millennalism, amillennialism, historic premillennialism and dispensational premillennialism. Notes and audio from the April 19 lesson are available under “Isaiah” from the drop-down topics menu.

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

Isaiah 2: A Day of Reckoning

Listen to the audio file

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:

Some commentators believe this chapter was written during the reign of Jotham or Ahaz because of the description of Judah in verses 6-8. But it may be better to consider King Uzziah’s reign, which was noted for its prosperity, power and pride. More specifically, Isaiah’s sermons in chapters 2-12 likely happened some time after the Syro-Ephraimite War in 734-32 B.C. In any case, this prophecy was given during the early years of Isaiah’s ministry.

Key verse:

Isa. 2:12: For the LORD of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty and against everyone who is lifted up, that he may be abased. (NASB)

Quick summary:

The Lord will establish His kingdom on earth in “the last days,” and will executive judgment in a “day of reckoning.”

Take note:

It’s clear that chapter 2 addresses the future, particularly the last days. Note how Isaiah identifies this time:

  • “the last days” (v. 2)
  • “on that day” (v. 11)
  • “a day belonging to the Lord of Hosts is [coming]” (HCSB) / “the Lord of Hosts will have a day of reckoning” (NASB) (v. 12)
  • “the Lord alone will be exalted on that day” (v. 17)
  • “On that day” (v. 20)
  • “when He rises to terrify the earth” (v. 21)

 

The city of peace (Isa. 2:1-4)

The first four verses of this chapter describe a future day in which a final and lasting peace comes to the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. At least two things are clear: God is the One who establishes and maintains this lasting peace, and He does it in “the last days,” or, from a New Testament perspective, in the days encompassing the first and second comings of Christ.

The term “last days” is used at least 13 times in the Bible (HCSB) and describes the final period of the world as we know it. In the Old Testament, the last days are anticipated as the age of Messianic fulfillment (Isa. 2:2; Micah 4:1), while the New Testament writers consider themselves living in the last days – the era of the gospel (Acts 2:17; Heb. 1:2). “The last days, then, are the days of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They are preliminary to and preparatory for the last day of final judgment of unbelievers and the dawn of eternal glory for believers” (Tyndale Bible Dictionary, p. 800).

Gary V. Smith adds a cautionary note: “The phrase ‘in the last days’ cannot be associated with the millennium or with the church age in Isaiah’s thinking, because such concepts were not known to the prophet. He is simply talking about the last events in human history, when the kingdom of God would begin. New Testament readers must be careful not to read later NT information back into earlier texts and make them say things that God did not reveal to the prophets” (The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, p. 129).

The plural use of “days” implies a sustained length of time. While those living in Old Testament times may have viewed the coming Messianic age as singular and continuous, New Testament revelation shows us that the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah are to be fulfilled in two stages. First, Messiah will come as the Suffering Servant (Isa. 53), or Lamb of God (John 1:29). Then He will return one day as the Lion of Judah to defeat the wicked and establish His earthly kingdom (Rev. 19:11 – 20:6).

Isaiah’s reference to the “mountain of the Lord” (v. 2) points to His kingdom, authority or rule. One day the kingdoms of men will become the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:24). Isaiah also draws an analogy between the kingdom of God and the Temple on Mount Moriah, which towers above the countryside in Isaiah’s day. The kingdom of God will rise above, overshadow, and nullify the arrogant, warring and fleeting kingdoms of men. The prophet Daniel makes reference to these days when interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of the statue, which symbolized earthly kingdoms: “Then the iron, the fired clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were shattered and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors. The wind carried them away, and not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (Dan. 2:35; emphasis mine).

The Lord Himself will settle disputes between nations. Ruling in majesty, power, justice and wisdom, He will so change the nature of worldly authority that people will “turn their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives” … “and they will never again train for war” (v. 4). These opening verses of chapter 2 are almost identical to Micah 4:1-5.

 

The Day of the Lord (Isa. 2:5-22)

Verse 12 warns that a day of reckoning is coming. Various translations describe it as:

  • “a day belonging to the Lord of Hosts” (HCSB)
  • “the day of the Lord” (KJV)
  • “a day of reckoning” (NASB)
  • “a day against all that is proud and lofty” (ESV)
  • “a day in store” (NIV)

“The day of the Lord” is different from the previous reference to “the last days.” Specifically, it refers to God’s supernatural intervention in human history, usually with reference to events that will take place at the end of time. “Most often,” according to Wilmington’s Bible Handbook, “it relates to the Tribulation preceding the return of Christ” (Isa. 2:12).

Isaiah catalogues the reasons God has abandoned His people:

  • They have adopted religious superstitions from their neighbors (v. 6).
  • They have formed national alliances for strength rather than relying on God (v.6).
  • They have accumulated wealth and built up huge armaments rather than trusting God for their provision (v. 7).
  • And they have embraced idolatry, worshiping the creature rather than Creator (v. 8; see also Rom. 1:25).

Since Israel has made itself look and act like the heathen nations around it, God will judge Israel in a manner appropriate for the heathen. It’s likely that Isaiah does not see the lengthy time frame of repeated judgment, stretching out more than two millennia into the future, yet he is clear that Judah has been sufficiently rebellious to attract God’s wrath now. “The Lord alone,” he proclaims, “will be exalted on that day” (v. 11). He will break down the arrogance of all people, specifically:

  • “cedars” and “oaks” – a reference to haughty nobles and princes (v. 13; see also Amos 2:9; Zech. 11:2).
  • “high mountains” and “lofty hills” – an image of government and society (v. 14).
  • “every high tower” and “every fortified wall” – a picture of military might (v. 15).
  • “every ship of Tarshish” and “every splendid sea vessel” – a reference to commerce (v. 16).
  • “human pride” and “the loftiness of men” (v. 17).
  • “idols” (v. 18).

While these appear to be figurative references, it’s probable that the people of Judah in Uzziah’s day literally took pride in their fortified cities, tall towers, large ships and beautiful trees.

There is a parallel in Rev. 6:15-17 to how the wicked are seen responding to God’s wrath in Isa. 2:19-21:  “Then the kings of the earth, the nobles, the military commanders, the rich, the powerful, and every slave and free person hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of Their wrath has come! And who is able to stand?'” Just as God will bring judgment on His people for their rebellion in Isaiah’s day – through the Assyrian and Babylonian empires – the Lord Himself will execute judgment directly on the whole earth on “the last day.”

 

Closing thought

There is hope for Judah in Isaiah’s day, as there is for us today. “Come and let us walk in the Lord’s light,” the prophet urges in verse 5, adding in verse 22, “Put no more trust in man, who has only the breath in his nostrils. What is he really worth?”

Gary V. Smith summarizes: “This sermon provides two unmistakable theological choices to any reader/listener. One can follow the path of proud leaders like Uzziah, or a person can ‘stop trusting in man’ now and exalt God alone. The theological choice is clear and presented as two opposite alternatives with two opposite consequences: life with God in his glorious kingdom (2:1-5), or frightful humiliation and destruction (2:6-22). There is no middle ground for people to hide” (Smith, p. 142).

Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips