Old Testament eschatology
- There is neither Jew nor Gentile in Christ
- The Old Covenant has been fulfilled and so superseded by the New Covenant
- The church is the flowering of God’s eternal purpose through Israel
- Any continuing purpose God has for Israel is dependent on her obedience to God
- What, if any, is the role of Israel in the events of the End Times?
~Biblical prophecy about the return of the Jews to Israel is being fulfilled
~What then is the role of Israel in the End Times?
- ~~Israel will return from exile throughout the world
- ~~Israel will turn to Christ
- ~~The Antichrist will arise and eventually be defeated in Israel
- ~~There will be an unprecedented time of “great distress”
- ~~There will be an international attack on Jerusalem
- ~~The Lord will return to the Mt of Olives
- ~~The Lord will bring judgment for the wicked and blessing for the obedient
- ~~The Temple will be rebuilt?
- ~~The nations will come to Jerusalem to worship?
- ~~Christ will reign on earth?
- ~~There will be a new heavens and a new earth
- There is a great deal of teaching on the End Times in the Old Testament and its influence on New Testament eschatology is very clear.
- One major issue needs to be addressed. What, if any, is the role of Israel in the events of the End Times? Some see Israel as totally and finally replaced by the church. Others see Israel as quite distinct from the church (the church age being a parenthesis or side issue). These people see the main player in the End Times as Israel, with the church safely removed from the scene in heaven. I have difficulty with both of those views.
- In approaching this subject, there are various important points to be borne in mind:
- We must not drive a wedge between God’s purposes for the church and his purposes for Israel, as some views of eschatology seem to do. We must recognise the organic unity between believing Gentiles and believing Jews.
- Jesus speaks of bringing Gentile ‘sheep’ into the fold and there being one flock (John 10:16). Paul teaches that both Jews and Gentiles are baptised by the Spirit into one body (1 Cor 12:13). He adds that God has made the two groups one [Jews and Gentiles] and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” Consequently, Gentiles “are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets …. the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. (Eph 2:14-16, 19-21).
- The NIV comments (on Eph 3:6): “That Gentiles would turn to the God of Israel and be saved was prophesied in the OT …. that they would come into an organic unity with believing Jews on an equal footing was unexpected.”
- Paul writes in Rom 10:11 “there is no difference between Jews and Gentile” and similarly in Col 3:11 “there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised.” Both believing Jews and believing Gentiles are children of Abraham (Rom 4:11, 16-17; Gal 3:29). It is significant that the New Jerusalem has the name of the 12 tribes of Israel on its gates and the names of the 12 apostles on its foundation (Rev 21:12-14).
- We must recognise that the old (Mosaic, Sinaitic) covenant is definitely and completely fulfilled and superseded according to the NT. God has finished with the sacrificial system, ceremonial foods and ritual washings. Some pro-Israel Christians seem not fully to appreciate this in their views of eschatology. It follows from this that God does not want the Jewish people to renew the sacrificial system (although they might actually do so, as some groups in Israel currently intend).
- The NT states that the old covenant (initiated at Sinai) with its animal sacrifices, ceremonial foods and ritual washings is “obsolete and outdated” (Heb 8:13). It only applied “until the time of the new order [covenant]” (Heb 9:10) of which it was a mere shadow (Heb 10:1). “The gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper” (Heb 9:9-10). “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb 10:4). The Law (although containing good teaching) was “weak and useless” because it “made nothing perfect” (Heb 7:18-19). It would “soon disappear” (Heb 8:13) and it did, in terms of its ritual aspects, in AD70. The old covenant has been set aside (He 10:9 cf 7:18).
- Paul makes it clear that “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value” (Gal 5:6). What is needed is “circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit” (Rom 2:29), “a new creation” (Gal 6:15) and “faith expressing itself through love” (Gal 5:6). We receive a spiritual circumcision when we are united with Christ whereby our old sinful self is “put off” and we are “raised with him through … faith” (Col 2:11-12). Even Abraham was justified by faith (which is what matters) before he was circumcised (Rom 4:9-11).
- We now have a new “better covenant” (Heb 7:22) which is “superior to the old one” (Heb 8:6). We have a new High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, who is from the tribe of Judah (Heb 7:11-17).
- The church is not some parenthesis or digression from God’s main purpose (which some say is his purpose for Israel). The NT is quite clear that it was God’s eternal plan to create the church (consisting of both Jewish and Gentile believers) and that it would be the means by which he will show his “manifold wisdom … to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (Eph 3:10-11). The NIV comments helpfully: “The fact that God had done the seemingly impossibly – reconciling and organically uniting Jews and Gentiles in the church – makes the church the perfect means of displaying God’s wisdom … It is a staggering thought that the church on earth is observed, so to speak, by these spiritual powers and that to the degree the church is spiritually united it portrays to them the wisdom of God.” J. Armitage Robinson comments: “Through the Church ‘the very-varied wisdom of God’ is made known to the universe.”
- This was no afterthought but an “eternal purpose” of God (Eph 3:11). “The purpose was there in the treasury of heavens secrets; but it was a secret ‘kept in silence.’”
-  It is a secret which is “old as eternity, yet new in its disclosure to mankind.” It is a “mystery hidden for long ages past” (Rom 16:25) “which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Eph 1:9-10 cf. Col 2:24-27).
- It is important therefore that our eschatology does not divide up Jew and Gentile, Israel and the Church.
- We shall look at whether God still has a purpose for the Jewish people as an entity later but it is very clear from the OT that Israel’s possession of the land depends on her obedience to God. He said: “If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex 19:5-6). The Exodus generation didn’t even enter the promised land because of their disobedience. At one point, when they were disobedient the Lord said: “Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way” (Ex 33:3). He warned them that if they were disobedient he would scatter them among the nations (Lev 26:33-34; Deut 4:25-27; 32; Jer 9:13-16; 13:20-27). Moses added about such exile: “There the Lord will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life” (Deut 28:65-66).
- I am strongly against all anti-Semitism and unfair negativism towards Israel. But we must remember that Israel is in very serious disobedience today. She has rejected God’s Son and her Messiah. That is why she was exiled for so long from the land. Israel is certainly in no state to be used by God as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
- It is true that, despite this disobedience, she is back in her ancient land – a truly remarkable event. What are we to make of that? Some will say it is merely a political matter brought about by pressure from Zionists and a Western world feeling very bad about the Holocaust. Others will say that it is a merciful provision by God for a people which has been dreadfully persecuted (not least by the Church) over two millennia, culminating in the Holocaust, but has nothing to do with God’s End Time purposes. In the next section we shall look at the third view which does see an eschatological purpose.
- Another important related aspect is that the New Covenant changed the emphasis from corporate to individual relationship with God
- Jeremiah writes:
- “In those days people will no longer say, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes – their own teeth will be set on edge. ‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the Lord. ‘This is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, “Know the Lord,” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the Lord. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’ (Jer 31:29-34 cf. Ezek 18; 36:25-27).
- The main emphasis in Israel had been on the corporate nature of the chosen people. Israel stood or fell as a nation. God’s purposes were mainly worked out through the nation as a whole. Now Jeremiah and Ezekiel were emphasising that the new covenant emphasised individual responsibility. The law would be written in people’s hearts and minds rather than on stone tablets. It was about individuals, from the least to the greatest, knowing the Lord personally. (This is not to deny the importance of the corporate aspect which is also stressed in the NT teaching on the church).
- Prof R K Harrison comments: “In acclaiming this new form of covenantal relationship both Jeremiah and Ezekiel saw that it changed the older concept of corporate relationship completely by substituting the individual for the nation as a whole … Probably the most significant contribution which Jeremiah made to religious thought was inherent in his insistence that the new covenant involved a one-to-one relationship of the spirit. When the new covenant was inaugurated by the atoning work of Jesus Christ on Calvary, this important development of personal, as opposed to corporate, faith and spirituality was made real for the whole of mankind.”
- It is important therefore that, in our eschatology, we remember this individual emphasis and do not just emphasise Israel as a nation. We must be careful to speak about an Israel in which individuals know the Lord personally and have the law written on their hearts and minds. It must be Israel which has turned to Christ. So it seems clear to me that those who say God still has a purpose for Israel (in the End Times) must face up to the fact that this cannot be fulfilled until the time when “all Israel will be saved” as Paul puts it in Rom 11:26. It should be noted that, at that point, Israel would be part of the Body of Christ, the church. We shall return to this subject.
- Bearing in mind those four important points, we can approach the question:
- I believe that God has not finished with Israel, the main teaching about this being made clear by St Paul in Romans 11. He writes that God has not rejected Israel (vv 1-2). They have not fallen beyond recovery (v 11). He speaks of their future “full inclusion” (v 12) and acceptance which will be like life from the dead (v 15). Gentile believers must not feel superior to Israel because Israel is the spiritual root which supports them (vv 17-18). God has removed the Jewish branches but “if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again” vv 19-24). He then writes:
- “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: ‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’ As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all” (vv 25-32)
- I have also written at length about why I believe the predictions of the OT prophets about the return of Israel to its ancient homeland are basically literal. See http://www.prayerforpeace.org.uk/christianzionismbiblebias.html. I believe the recent re-establishment of the State of Israel to be part of that process (despite the current widespread lack of faith in Christ and the secular nature of the state).
- In this outline of OT eschatology I shall organise this material in chronological order as I understand it, relating it to NT chronology. However, I am not being dogmatic over this chronology because it is not always clear from the OT text.
- The fact that the prophecies about a return to Israel by the Jewish people have begun to be literally fulfilled in the most remarkable re-establishment of the State of Israel suggests other prophecies could be literal too.
- Also the continuation of the world’s longest hatred: anti-Semitism, shows that Satan is aware that God has a purpose for the Jewish people even if some Christians are not.
- The Jewish people and Israel/Jerusalem figure prominently in NT prophecy of the End Times as well as OT prophecy. There is symbolism inspired by the OT, including in titles such as the Lamb of God, but I do not think it is credible to treat all this prophecy as symbolical of, for example, the church. I have written above that one principle of interpretation of Scripture should be that the text is literal unless there is very good reason that it cannot be. However, we also need to avoid speculative literalism.
- Here, briefly, is on outline of the main teaching of the OT on eschatology.
- 1. Israel will return from exile throughout the world
- As stated above, I have written at length elsewhere on this. There are many references to this that scholars accept refer to the End Times (rather than the return from exile in Babylon) including Isa 51:11; Jer 30:10-20; Ezk 36:22-28, 33; 37; Zeph. 3:9-20. One interesting aspect is that various passages say that the nations will bring back Israelites and support them - including with their riches Isa 60-62 (Isa 14:2; 43:6; 49:22-23; 60:9). Jesus himself predicts that the Jewish people would regain control of Jerusalem in the End Times (Luke 21:24).
- 2. Israel will turn to Christ
- Zechariah prophesies this: “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be as great as the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves …. ‘On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity” (Zech 12:10-13:1). Joyce Baldwin considers various alternative interpretations but concludes that this seems to point to Christ.
- Some people believe that after the terrible war on an international scale Zechariah prophesies, which leads to the death of two thirds of the population of Israel, it is the remaining one third who turn to Christ (Zech 12-13), and this is followed by further war (Zech 14). There seems to be some evidence of this, but the main thing is that Israel turns to Christ.
- It seems clear to me that this is related to what Paul predicts: “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: ‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins’ (Rom 11:25-27).
- It follows from this that the nation of Israel, after it has (largely) turned to Christ, can have a corporate purpose within the overall purpose God has for the Church. It would be part of the Church. But the impact on the world of so many hundreds of thousands of Jewish people turning to their Messiah would obviously be huge.
- 3. The Antichrist will arise and eventually be defeated in Israel
- We have looked at this above but a summary will be helpful here.
- Daniel prophesies about a “little horn” (symbol of political power) which “had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully” (Dan 7:8). This is associated with “one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Dan 7:13-14). The NIV is surely right to see the horn as “The antichrist, or a world power sharing in the characteristics of the antichrist.” It is clearly associated with the time of the Messianic kingdom.
- Daniel also predicts that a ruler will “set up an abomination that causes desolation” which Jesus relates to the End Times in Matthew 24:15. Similarly he speaks of a king who “will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods” (Dan 11:36).
- In addition to the prophecy of Jesus in Matt 24, Paul predicts the “man of lawlessness” who “will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thess 2:4). This is the Antichrist.
- 4. There will be an unprecedented time of “great distress”
- The common term for this is “The Great Tribulation.” Jeremiah calls it “a time of trouble for Jacob” (30:7). I have given my reasons elsewhere for believing that the 70th seven of Daniel’s prophecy is quite separate from the other 69 sevens and belongs in the End Times and that it is not wild speculation to regard the coming great tribulation as lasting seven years although I am not dogmatic on the issue. Joyce Baldwin writes that it has a future as well as a historical reference. We have already seen that this teaching is paralleled in the NT (e.g. Matt 24:21-22).
- 5. There will be an international attack on Jerusalem
- Again I have written above in some depth about the battle of Armageddon. Ezekiel predicts the invasion of Israel by Gog (ch. 38). Zechariah predicts that all the nations will attack Jerusalem (12:1-3; 14:1-2) and two thirds of the people will be struck down (13:8-9).
- 6. The Lord will return to the Mt of Olives
- In his vision Daniel sees “one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Dan 7:13-14). There are various interpretations of this passage and some say it has nothing to do with the Second Coming. However it seems to me that Jesus’s words: “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory” (Matt 24:30) refer to Daniel’s prophecy and relate them to the Second Coming.
- Zechariah foretells all the nations attacking Jerusalem and then says (referring to the Lord): “On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem…” (Zech 14:4). It seems clear that this refers to the Second Coming.
- 7. The Lord will bring judgment for the wicked and blessing for the obedient
- The Second Coming is the Day of the Lord which is foretold
by various prophets (although sometimes they use the phrase to refer to
traumatic days in Israel’s history).
Isaiah foretells that “the Branch” (the Messiah”) will “will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath
of his lips he will slay the wicked” (Isa 11:4 cf. 24:1-12,
17-23; 26:20f; 27:1; 34:1-4; 63:1-6; Obad.15-16; Zech. 14:3, 12-15). Ezekiel
prophesies that when Gog attacks Jerusalem the Lord will judge him severely
(Ezk 38:18-23) and destroy him (Ezk 39). Joel prophesies that when the Lord
restores the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, he
will “gather all nations and bring them down to
the Valley of Jehoshaphat” (Jerusalem) to judge them for their maltreatment of
Israel. It is the Day of the Lord (Joel 3:1-16). Zephaniah says that the Day of
the Lord will be “a day of wrath – a day of distress and anguish, a day of
trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness”
(Zeph. 1:15). Haggai writes: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the
heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land’” (Hag 2:6). The theme is taken
up in 2 Thess 1:5-10; 2:1-5; Rev 19:11-21.
- However, Amos foretells that the Day of the Lord will also be a day of judgment on those who are disobedient in Israel. He gives a warning to those in Israel who long for the Day of the Lord as a judgment on the nations but who are religious hypocrites: “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:21-24). Similarly, Zephaniah prophesies that the Lord will stretch out his hand against Judah and Jerusalem to destroy idolatry (Zeph. 1:4-13).
- On the other hand, the Day of the Lord will bring freedom and blessing for Jerusalem. The Branch [Messiah] will provide justice for the poor (Isa 11:3-5). After the Day of the Lord he will “dwell in Zion.” Jerusalem will be holy and never invaded again (Joel 3:17-21). He “will keep a watchful eye over Judah …. Then the clans of Judah will say in their hearts, ‘The people of Jerusalem are strong, because the Lord Almighty is their God … The Lord will save the dwellings of Judah first, so that the honour of the house of David and of Jerusalem’s inhabitants may not be greater than that of Judah. On that day the Lord will shield those who live in Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the Lord going before them.” (Zech. 12:4-5, 7-8 cf.14:10-11; Obad. 17-21).
- 8. The Temple will be rebuilt?
- Ezekiel has a vision of a new temple which is to be built (Ezekiel 40-48) and I have written above in some detail on the various interpretations of this.
- Paul talks about Antichrist setting himself up in God’s temple (2 Thess 2), which sounds literal. Ezekiel prophesies in great detail about the new temple. But he also says David will be king, a river will flow out from under the temple to the Dead Sea, the land is divided amongst the 12 tribes (yet 10 have been lost) and that God will dwell in the temple for ever (whereas the ‘temple’ is now the church 1 Peter 2:4ff). Many people would not see these predictions as literal.
- More important, as we have noted, God would not want the sacrificial system to be re-established because it has been replaced by Jesus. However the Temple Institute in Jerusalem is working hard to achieve it and it is not beyond the bounds of credibility that the Jewish people will rebuild the temple (though it would involve many difficulties and dangers), and although not blessed by God, this would be used in his purposes.
- 9. The nations will come to Jerusalem to worship?
- Isaiah’s words are typical: “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’ The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa 2:2-3 cf. Mic. 4:1-2). Foreigners will bind themselves to the Lord (Isa 56:3-8 cf. 60:1-2; 66:18-19, 22-23; Zech. 2:11; 8:23). Those nations who do not go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles will be punished (Zech 14:16-19). Jesus quoted from Isa 56:7 when he cleansed the Temple court: “He said, ‘Is it not written: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations”? But you have made it “a den of robbers” (Mark 11:17). He was angry because the outer court of the Temple, the Court of the Gentiles, had become a place of commerce rather than the place of prayer for Gentiles it was meant to be.
- No doubt the reference to Mt Zion being the highest mountain is symbolical but what of the rest of the prophecies? We have to bear in mind what Jesus said to the Samaritan women in John 4:21-24: “A time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem …. a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth.” However Jesus’ comment is really about the change that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit would bring, rather than a comment on geography.
- Prof Otto Kaiser holds to a symbolical interpretation and writes: “In the Old Testament, the idea of the pilgrimage of the nations to Zion occupies the same position as the idea of mission in the New Testament.”
- As I wrote above, it may be that the temple will be rebuilt and there would be no difficulty in it being a centre for worship, so long it did not involve a renewal of the sacrificial system. Perhaps when Israel turns to their Messiah they will abolish the sacrifices but keep the temple. However, the idea of the whole world literally coming to Jerusalem to worship is totally impractical. I suppose it could be representative leaders from all the nations. Some Christians would see this as symbolical of the nations coming to embrace the Gospel which came from Jerusalem.
- We should note that John, in his vision, speaks of the nations coming to the New Jerusalem. He writes: “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it” (Rev 21:22-26).
- 10. Christ will reign on earth?
- This is another controversial subject. Some people believe
in a literal Millennium (a literal rule of Christ on earth). Others see it as
symbolical of his ultimate victory over evil and his spiritual rule on earth.
The prophets predict such a Millennium. Again, Isaiah is typical “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government
will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty
God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government
and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (Isa 9:6-7). Christ reign’s on David’s throne, but it is for ever. See also Ezk 37:24-28; Mic 5:2-4; Zech 14:9. The Lord will reign on Mt Zion (Isa 24:23).
- John writes about a millennium rule of Christ in Rev 20:1-6. Satan is bound for a thousand years, so could no longer deceive the nations. Saints and martyrs reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
- The Lord will establish peace on earth. “He
will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more” (Isa 2:4 cf. Mic 5:2-4). There will be harmony in nature: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa 11:6-9). There will also be supernatural fertility in nature: “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy” (Isa 35:1-2 cf 32:15-20; Ezk 34:25-31; Ezk 36:29-30, 34-36; Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13-14).
- Skinner comments on Isa 65:17-25: “The blessings reserved for the people of God in the Messianic age: an entire transformation of the conditions of human existence, compared to the creation of ‘new heavens and a new earth’ (v 17); Jehovah’s delight in his handiwork dissipating the sorrows of earth (18, 19); patriarchal longevity (20); undisturbed possession of the land (21-23); immediate answer to prayer (24); and harmony in the animal world (25) are the features of this captivating picture of the latter days.”
- Will this idyllic scene be literally worked out in a millennial reign by Christ on earth? There is symbolism in the prophecies and a possibility that it is referring to the new heavens and new earth. But I’m inclined to believe there will be a literal Millennium, which is certainly the emphasis of the Prophets. My reason for saying this is that it seems to be appropriate for Jesus to be totally vindicated before all nations in this present world before a final rebellion, the destruction of the Antichrist, death and hell. Another aspect is that it would be a final correction of anti-Semitism, vindicating and fulfilling God’s choice of the Jewish people by displaying his rule over believing Israel within the wider Body of Christ.
- 11. There will be a new heavens and a new earth
- The Lord says: “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more …. The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain” (Isa 65:17-19, 25).
- It is true that this is similar to the passages which I have related to the Millennium and relates to Jerusalem and Mt Zion. But it also relates strongly to Revelation 21 where John described the new heaven and earth in terms of the New Jerusalem descending from heaven. He describes it in similar terms to Isaiah (he is quoting Isaiah 25): “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev 21:4).
- We must bear in mind the NT teaching that there is neither Jew nor Gentile in Christ, the Old Covenant has been superseded by the New Covenant, the church is the flowering of God’s eternal purpose through Israel and any continuing purpose God has for Israel as a nation is dependent on her obedience to God and turning to Messiah.
- However it is also clear that God has not finished with Israel. Biblical prophecy about the return of the Jews to Israel is being fulfilled. The OT teaches (in harmony with the NT) that Israel will return from exile throughout the world and
- will turn to Christ. The Antichrist will arise and be defeated in Israel and there will be an unprecedented time of “great distress” culminating in an international attack on Jerusalem. The Lord will return to the Mt of Olives and will bring judgment for the wicked and blessing for the obedient.
- It is possible that the Temple will be rebuilt and that representatives of all the nations will come to Jerusalem to worship. It seems likely that Christ will have a literal millennial reign on earth. Ultimately there will be a new heavens and a new earth.
 J Armitage Robinson, St Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, Macmillan London 1928, p. 77
 Ibid., p. 78
 R K Harrison, Jeremiah and Lamentations, Tyndale OT Commentaries, Tyndale Press London 1973, p 140.
 Joyce Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Tyndale OT Commentaries, Intervarsity Press Leicester, 1972, pp 190-192, 194.
 Joyce Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Tyndale OT Commentaries, Intervarsity Press Leicester, 1972, pp 174-6
 Otto Kaiser, Isaiah 13-39 Old Testament Library, SCM London 1974, p. 200
 J Skinner, the Book of the Prophet Isaiah chapters XL-LXVI, Cambridge University Press 1922, p. 230.
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