A Glorious Remnant Covered by Christ
This is the fourth in a short series of posts dealing with the proper interpretation of Old Testament Kingdom Prophecy (OTKP). If you’re new to this subject (or to my blog), you will want to read the essay with which I introduced the series (just click here).
My goal in this eschatological adventure is two-fold.
First, I want to open up something of the Christ-centered truth and beauty of OTKP to my brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Secondly, I want to reason a little with my premillennial brethren. In particular, I want to make the case that we all will best understand, enjoy, and profit from OTKP when we see that its true sphere of fulfillment is: 1) Christ, 2) the New Covenant he instituted by his blood, 3) the two-staged spiritual Kingdom he has already introduced (and will soon consummate), and, 4) the New Covenant community he is creating out of elect Jews and Gentiles: the Church.
In short, I would like my premillennial brothers to reconsider the amillennial approach to the interpretation of OTKP.
Since the end of the age will soon be upon us, it is important that we stand together as much as possible. Seeing eye to eye on eschatology would definitely help. These essays—and the book in progress from which they are extracted—represent my best effort at contributing to that worthy goal.
Viewed in NT perspective, this short, picturesque OTKP speaks powerfully of the election, redemption, regeneration, sanctification, and glorification of the Church. Alas, premillennarians like C. I. Scofield bar the way to such panoramic vistas, asserting that these rich promises belong exclusively to a latter-day Jewish remnant that will enter the Millennium immediately after Christ’s second coming.
Now this conclusion would be reasonable enough, if we could approach the text literally. We have seen, however, that the NT disallows it. Moreover, as soon as we do approach it literally, telltale problems immediately arise.
One is that Isaiah himself says nothing here about a millennium, or even a temporary stage of the kingdom. To the contrary, he seems clearly to be depicting the eternal Messianic Kingdom.
Another problem is that there is no mention of the Gentiles. Here the Kingdom appears to be geographically confined to Zion and Jerusalem, and anthropologically confined to a Jewish remnant. To judge solely—and literally—from this OTKP, Jews and Jews alone will inhabit the Kingdom of God.
Happily, the NT opens the way of escape from these unwelcome results, giving us eyes to see that this lovely prophecy is fulfilled in the two-fold Kingdom of Christ. It also gives us ears to hear what Isaiah so comfortingly says to the Christian citizens of that Kingdom. A moment or two with the prophecy itself will enable us to discover just how fruitful this approach can be.
Verse 2 opens with the phrase “In that Day,” an eschatological marker signifying that what follows will be fulfilled in one or both stages of the Kingdom. In this case, I believe it is largely fulfilled in both.
The Branch of the LORD is Jesus Christ, the Messiah (Isaiah 11:1-5, Jer. 23:5, Zech. 3:8). In the days of his flesh he was beautiful and glorious, and now all the more so, seeing that he, like fruit springing up from the earth, has risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, and entered his eternal glory, there to serve as the High Prophet, Priest, and King of his people (Luke 24:26, Phil. 2:9f).
Whether by faith (now) or by sight (then, at his Coming), believers gaze upon him as their pride and joy, as their one and only boast before God (1 Cor. 1:30-31, 2 Cor. 3:18, Gal. 6:14).
He is also their adornment, this One who by imputation clothes them with his own righteousness (Mt. 22:11-14, 2 Cor. 5:21, Phil. 3:9, Rev. 7:13-15), and who, by sanctification, conforms them to his own character (Rom. 8:29).
Speaking typologically, Isaiah calls the glad heirs of these great eschatological gifts the “survivors of Israel.” They are a people like Jacob of old, who, by faith, have prevailed with God for salvation, and who are therefore survivors of the wrath to come (John 5:24, 1 Thess. 1:10).
Verse 3 tells us still more about them: They are “recorded for life in Jerusalem.” That is, they were chosen in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:10), written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 17:8), and pre-destined to become the inhabitants of the eternal City of God (1 Peter 2:4-10, Gal. 4:26, Rev. 3:12). They are the elect remnant of sinful humanity—Jews as well as Gentiles—called in Christ to be holy in the sight of God (Rom. 1:7, 8:30, 9:22-25, Eph. 1:4, 5:27).
Verses 4-7 crown the prophecy, speaking of all that God will do for the Church in his two-staged Kingdom. Likening her to a woman in her uncleanness, God promises to rinse away every stain—both from her record and her heart—through the washing of regeneration, and the renewing (work) of the Holy Spirit, whom he will pour out richly, through Christ, upon all who are justified by faith in him (v. 4, Eph. 5:26-27, Titus 3:4-7).
Then, recalling the visible tokens of his presence and protection among the OT saints of the Exodus (v. 5, Ex. 32:32-33, 40:34-38, Num. 9:15-23), God promises that he will yet again give his glory to the far-flung assemblies of Christ’s Church. Even now, these are are situated upon the Zion above; and will be, all the more so, when Christ returns to transform the whole earth into the glorious Mountain of the LORD (v. 5, John 17:22, Col. 3:4, Heb. 12:22, Rev. 21:1-4, 11).
Moreover, he will cover their glory—i.e., keep it forever safe—with his own presence and power. To all eternity, the holy canopy (which is Christ himself) will enfold the people of God in his blessings, even as it serves as an abiding shelter from the heat, storm, and rain of his judgments (v. 6, 2 Thess. 1:3-10, Rev. 3:10, 22:3).
So once again we find the teaching of our Lord thoroughly vindicated: These words—and all the words of OTKP—are they that testify of Him, and of the glorious spiritual Kingdom he won for the saints through the New Covenant (John 5:39).