THOUGHTS FROM ISAIAH

THE MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD [1]

After Isaiah’s devastating indictment of Judah in Chapter One there is an amazing change of tone in Chapter Two. Here Isaiah looks far ahead to ‘the last days’ – beyond the judgement that is about to fall on Judah and Jerusalem, beyond the restoration that will follow the seventy years of exile in Babylon, beyond the focus on the nation of Israel, beyond the physical, symbolic and temporal to the spiritual, real and eternal.

Isaiah tells us in 2:1-4 that ‘in the last days’:

The mountain of the LORD’S temple will be established as the most important of all.
All nations, many peoples, will come to it.
They will come to it seeking instruction from the Lord.
Their desire is to walk in his paths.
The law, the word of the LORD, will go out from it (from Zion, from Jerusalem).
Peace will be established between the nations.

An important question is ‘what does Isaiah mean by “the last days”’? The only other Old Testament reference to ‘the last days’ is an almost identical statement in Micah 4:1-3. In the New Testament there are five references to ‘the last days’.

Peter, in Acts 2:17, quotes from Joel 2:28 about the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit, replacing Joel's 'afterward' with ‘in the last days’. Regardless of Peter’s change of wording, he is obviously referring to the period of time ushered in by the events of the incarnation and continuing to the present.

Paul, in 2Timothy 3:1, wrote ‘There will be terrible times in the last days’. His comments on this indicate that these times had already come, as he instructed his readers to have nothing to do with the godless people whose actions make these times terrible.

The writer to the Hebrews states in 1:2 that ‘in these last days’ God has spoken to us through his Son, indicating, as Peter did in Acts, that ‘the last days’ began with the incarnation.

James, in 5:3 accuses his readers of having ‘hoarded wealth in the last days’, which assumes that the ‘last days’ were already present.

Peter, in 2Peter 3:3, states that ‘in the last days scoffers will come’ deriding the Christian belief in the return of Christ … then goes on to encourage his readers with the certainty of Christ’s promise, as though those who mocked this hope were already active.

On the basis of these references to ‘the last days’ it is reasonable to conclude that the phrase ‘the last days’ refers to the era between the first and second comings of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is during this period that Isaiah’s statements in 2:1-4 about the ‘mountain of the LORD’ [the temple, Zion, Jerusalem] are fulfilled.

There are four New Testament verses which indicate that Isaiah is here speaking, not of the physical Jerusalem, on the physical mountain, but of the spiritual Jerusalem:

Hebrews 12:22: ‘But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to … the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven ….’

Revelation 3:12: ‘I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God …’

Revelation 21:2: ‘I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.’

Revelation 21:9-10: ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he … showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.’

Here in Chapter Two, Isaiah, unknowingly, speaks of the church. In the church, in fulfilment of Isaiah’s words, people from every tribe and nation and language and people are united under the headship of Jesus Christ and serve the living God [Ephesians 1:9,10; 3:6; Revelation 5:9,10]. This multi-national church is the real, spiritual temple, in which God dwells by his Spirit [1Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:21,22]. From this church the Word of God is proclaimed. In this church the blood of Christ has made peace, demolishing the previous antagonisms and divisions [Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:14-17; Colossians 3:11].

The church, the ‘new Jerusalem’, is the spiritual reality to which Isaiah is referring when he speaks here of waht happens on ‘the mountain of the LORD’.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2014