Arise and Shine (Isaiah 60)
This is the seventh 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.
Since the prophetic texts I deal with are quite long, I have not reproduced them here. You will need to bring an open Bible to each blog. My hope and prayer is that you will enjoy them all.
Arise and Shine (Isaiah 60)
This stunningly beautiful prophecy of Jerusalem’s latter-day glory is held by premillennarians to be a photograph of life in the Kingdom Age; an age when, for one thousand years, Israel will be the head and not the tail among the nations. However, simply to read the text itself is to see immediately that this interpretation—and the prophetic literalism that underlies it—is impossible.
Consider some of the problems involved.
First, it requires a resurrection of such extinct nations or regions as Midian, Ephah, Sheba, Kedar, Nebaioth, and Tarshish (vv. 6-9). Similarly, it also requires an implausible return to ancient modes of transportation, such as ships and camels (vv. 6, 9).
Secondly, it repeatedly represents Jerusalem as the eternal habitation of God and his people: Its gates will be open continually (v. 11), it will be an everlasting pride (v. 15), it will have the LORD as an everlasting light (20), and its citizens will possess the land forever (21).
Thirdly, it conflicts with NT teaching on the eternal obsolescence of the ceremonial Law, declaring that the rams of Nebaioth will go up with acceptance (as bloody sacrifices) on God’s altar (v. 7).
Fourthly, it is filled with passages that loudly proclaim its symbolic character, passages that are meant to nudge us towards a typological, rather than a literal, interpretation of the whole prophecy (vv. 2, 3, 17, 18, 18).
And finally, its closing verses clearly envision the City of God as being situated, not in a millennial world, but in the New Heavens and the New Earth (vv. 19-22, 2 Peter 3).
We conclude, then, that Isaiah cannot possibly be speaking here of a temporary millennial kingdom. Commentator Derek Kidner therefore captures the true sense of the prophecy when he writes:
These glowing, exultant chapters (60-62) depict blessings that transcend the old order, and even, in places, the Christian era itself; but the language is that of the OT ordinances and of the literal Jerusalem. It will (therefore) need translating into terms of “the Jerusalem above” (Heb. 12:22) . . . Here the return of dispersed Israelites to Jerusalem is made the model of a far greater movement, the world-wide inflow of converts into the Church; and the vision repeatedly looks beyond this to the end, to the state of ultimate glory.
In so speaking, Kidner shows himself to be under the rule of the NCH. In other words, he sees Isaiah using covenantally conditioned language and imagery to speak “mysteriously” of both stages of the eschatological Kingdom introduced by Christ and the New Covenant.
A closer look at our text abundantly vindicates his approach, and also help us to see just how richly Isaiah speaks to the hearts of Christians everywhere, whether Jew or Gentile.
Arise and Shine (1-3)
These introductory verses sound the theme of the chapter. In words that would have comforted struggling OT saints, God promises that in the last days many nations will stream to Zion, there to worship the one true God in concert with his people.
According to the NT, this promise began to be fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost, when Christ first poured out his Spirit upon the New Jerusalem—the nascent Church—and seated her in heavenly places on the Zion above (Acts 2, Eph. 1:20, 2:6, Heb. 12:22). On that happy day, her light finally came, the glory of the Lord rose upon her, and she herself arose like a bright morning star shining in the dead of night (v. 3, Rev. 22:16).
Henceforth, she is a city set upon a hill (Mt. 5:14, John 7:39). And she has a mission to accomplish. Through the preaching of the Gospel, she sends out her light, calling people everywhere to forsake the Domain of Darkness and enter safely into the eternal City of God (John 1:5, 8:12, Phil. 2:15).
Throughout the entire Era of Proclamation and Preparation, many do so: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia; people from every tribe, tongue, family, and nation (Acts 2:9-11, Rev. 5:9). And they will continue to do so, even until the end of the age, when Christ returns to fully glorify the Zion of the Holy One of Israel, and to bring in the New Heavens and the New Earth (vv. 14, 19-22, Mt. 24:14, Acts 1:8, 2:9-11, Rev. 21:11).
Lift Up Your Eyes (4-9)
These verses elaborate on what has just preceded, using concrete imagery drawn from Israel’s life under the Law to depict the eschatological fulfillment of her mission to the nations; to depict God effectually calling his elect sons and daughters to Christ and into the Church (v. 4, John 6:37, 10:16, Rom. 8:30, 1 Cor. 12:13).
When they come, they will bring great wealth: not simply their material possessions, but also the true riches of gratitude, love, obedience, consecrated service, and other new believers in Jesus (v. 5, Mark 10:29-30, 12:28-30, John 14:15, Rom. 12:1, 15:16, Col. 3:15).
These precious spiritual sacrifices will come up with acceptance upon God’s altar (v. 6, 1 Peter 2:5, Heb. 13:15). As the Church offers them, she will grow in holiness; as she grows in holiness, she will be built up as a beautiful spiritual house, a house wherein the God of glory himself is pleased to dwell (vv. 7-9, Mt. 16:18, Eph. 2:22, 1 Peter 2:5).
They Will Bow at the Soles of Your Feet (10-14)
Here Isaiah continues to speak of the rise of eschatological Zion, but this time with special emphasis upon her relation to her enemies.
Those who previously were the instruments of God’s wrath towards Zion will be the very ones to build up her walls (v. 10); those who will not serve her will be utterly ruined (v. 12); and the sons of those who formerly afflicted her will come and bow themselves at her feet (v. 14).
These challenging verses speak not only to Jews, but also to Gentiles.
In the days of the Kingdom, Jewish Christians will marvel to see Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Romans, and other former oppressors coming to Christ, humbling themselves before the God of Abraham, and co-laboring with them for the growth of the Church.
However, Gentile Christians will also marvel as they watch God bringing “nations” of former persecutors into his City.
And at the end, both Jewish and Gentile believers will tremble at the eternal ruin of those who refuse to love and serve the Church, for failure to love and serve her Christ (vv. 12, 14, Mt. 10:40, Luke 19:27, John 20:23, Gal. 1:22-24, 1 John 4:20-21, Rev. 3.9).
An Everlasting Pride (15-16)
These two verses contrast the destiny of the former Jerusalem with that of the the latter.
The old Jerusalem, living under a Law that left her earthbound, was barren, and therefore trodden under foot by the Gentiles for her sins (Gal. 4:24-27, Heb. 7:19, 8:7ff).
The new, living under a Christ who translates her into heavenly places, is eternally fruitful, drinking the milk of multitudes of (converted) Gentiles. whom God, from the very beginning, purposed to bring into his City, Family, Nation, and Land (Gen. 22:18, John 10:16, Gal. 4:24-27).
Such is the redemptive power of the Mighty One of Jacob (v. 16)!
Walls of Salvation, Gates of Praise (17-18)
Here Isaiah launches the climactic description of the New Jerusalem pf the World to Come. The opening lines of v. 17 speak of the glorification of the Church (Rev. 21:9-21). Because of the Person and Work of Christ, the eternal City of God will enjoy peace, righteousness, security, salvation, and endless praise (1 Cor. 1:30-31).
Your God will be Your Glory (19-22)
In these verses we arrive at the eschaton, the New Heavens and the New Earth.
Here, sun and moon have given way to the glory of God, the true and everlasting light of the New Jerusalem (vv. 19-20, Rev. 21:23, 22:5).
Here, the days of the saint’s mourning are ended (v. 20, Rev. 21:4, 22:3).
Here, God’s people are perfectly righteous (v. 21, 2 Peter 3:13).
Here, they will live forever, eternally planted in the eschatological Promised Land (v. 21, Isaiah 66:22).
And here the little flock of Jesus—more than conquerors through him who loved them—will have become a great multitude and a mighty everlasting nation (v. 22, Luke 12:32, Rom. 8:37, Rev. 7:9f).
All this the LORD will hasten in its time (v. 22).
Even so, Lord Jesus, come (Rev. 22:20)!