A reader wrote to me wanting to know the “true events of the last days,” and asked for my interpretation of Isaiah 2. What follows is the substance of my reply.
I’ll sum it up this way: To start with, I don’t agree with the idea that the return of Christ is “imminent.” I don’t believe the Bible teaches that. That’s a dispensational viewpoint, of which I obviously don’t share. I believe so much in the world has to be in place before Jesus comes back. I believe we’re given two major signs to look for that will indicate when His return is near:
First, the gospel of Jesus Christ must be preached to the whole world (Matt 24:14; Mark 13:10; Rev 14:6-13). Second, there will be worldwide persecution against the Church (Rev 11:7-15; Rev 20:7-10). In regard to the gospel to the world, there are still about 7400 people groups still unreached (Unreached People Groups). And while the world is becoming more and more anti-Christian, we aren’t even close to a worldwide assault against the people of Christ. It will take a long time before we get to that point. How long? Only the Lord knows.
I was a Dispensational Premillennialist (DP) most of my Christian life. In my younger years I read a large number of books on prophecy, all from the DP point of view. From where they stand, the world stage is always set for Christ’s “imminent” return. It goes in cycles. During WWI, Christians believed that the world stage was set for the rapture and the return of Christ. Same thing during WWII. Back in the 70s, books on prophecy were coming out of the woodwork. Christian movies were made about it. Everyone who held to Dispensational Premillennialism, truly believed that Jesus was coming back in those days. I was one of them. Christians were convinced that we would be raptured soon. The world appeared to be all set for that. Everyone was talking about it and looking up.
After so many years, when that didn’t happen, interest in end time prophecy died down for a while. And now it’s surging again. Everyone is reading prophecy with a Bible in one hand, and a “newspaper” in the other, just as we were doing in the 70s. Frankly, I think the DP position has made us a laughing stock. So many DP Christians with looney ideas. It’s a poor testimony for Christ before a watching world. But this is what happens when you allow the OT to interpret the NT regarding Israel and end time events.
That brings us to Isaiah, chapter 2. I don’t have anything on my website for that chapter. I’ve been planning to do a series on the OT, but all in good time.
In general, the OT always has Christ and His Church in view. For sure, there were prophecies about God’s judgment on Israel via Assyria and Babylon, which were fulfilled in their day. But generally, and ultimately, in regard to Israel and all the passages that DP Bible teachers use to interpret God’s plan for Israel in the “last days,” they should, rather, be interpreted as referring to Christ and His Church. Like the book of Revelation, the OT is filled with symbolism and figurative language—as well as types and shadows. DP can’t accept that idea as it relates to Israel. DP takes the position that everything regarding Israel must be taken very literally, which leads to a lot of assumptions and inconsistent interpretations regarding Israel and the NT.
When interpreting the OT relating to Israel, we have to keep in mind that it’s more important to see the general picture, than it is to figure out the fine details. It’s more important to be in the right ballpark, than it is to have every detail in that park figured out. In that regard, I don’t believe that DP is even in the right ballpark.
Isaiah 2 provides a good example of how we should interpret the OT. This chapter has Christ and His Church in view, as well as God’s judgment on the nation of Israel, and on the world when Jesus returns. Those are the things we should always be looking for when reading OT prophecy regarding Israel. Those prophecies are literally fulfilled in Christ and His Church. In regard to God’s final judgment on the nation of Israel, it began to be fulfilled during the time of Christ and the beginning of the Church era (by way of rejection, pronouncement and the establishment of the Church), but was completely fulfilled in AD 70. God’s plan for Israel is finished.
1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills and all the nations shall flow to it, 3 and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (ESV)
This whole passage refers to Christ and His Church. “House of the Lord” describes the Church (He 3:5-6; He 10:21; He 10:19-22; 1 Pe 2:4-10; Eph 2:19). The “latter days” refer to the latter days under the Old Covenant of Israel when Jesus comes to “teach us His ways” and to “establish” His Church of the New Covenant, which He does via the cross and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. God no longer reveals Himself just to the nation of Israel, but to “all the nations” of the world (Rev 5:9; Rev 7:9; Eph 2:11-22) through His Son and His message. “Zion” refers to the nation of Israel, or specifically to Jerusalem which represents all Israel, but is applied to the Church in the NT (Ro 9:32-33; 1 Pe 2:6; He 12:22). He “shall judge between the nations,” which the Lord does via the gospel of Christ.
“they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
Old Testament Israel, under the Old Covenant, were a people of war. New Israel in Christ (the Church) of the New Covenant, does not make war. We are a people of peace and grace. Jesus did not come as a warrior King, but as a King of peace (He 6:19-20; He 7:1-2). Jesus will not war with this world until He returns to judge the world (Rev 19:11). The whole message of the NT is a message of peace. We do not battle each other or with the people of the world, but instead we extend the gospel message of peace, in grace and love and humility. The nations in this verse refer to all the people of the nations of the world who are in Christ (Rev 5:9; Rev 7:9). Together we are a “holy nation” (1 Pe 2:9).
Isaiah 2:5 is a call for Israel to repent of her evil ways and to “walk in the light of the LORD.” But they did not. Therefore, God rejected them (Is 2:6). He revealed His full rejection of them in AD 70 when He judged them via the Roman armies in AD 70 (Lu 19:41-44; Lu 21:20-24; Matt 23:37-38), after they rejected His Son as their Messiah.
Isaiah 2:6-11 describes the pride and the idols and evil ways of Israel.
Isaiah 2:6-11 overlaps with Is 2:12-22, which describes God’s judgement on Israel and the whole world of unbelievers, which occurs at the time of Christ’s return as the “king of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev 19:11-16).
That’s it in a nutshell. As you go through the OT, be looking for direct references to Christ and His Church, as well as types and shadows. Keep in mind that OT ethnic Israel not only has its fulfillment in Christ, but is a type of the spiritual nation they were to become in Christ, as the true offspring of Abraham (Ro 4:13-18; Ro 9:7-8; Gal 3:16-19,29). Whenever the OT describes the future and final outcome and blessing upon Israel, it’s referring to all those who are in Christ, as spiritual Israel in Him, which is His Church.
May this brief example of how to interpret OT Israel in light of Christ and the teachings of the NT regarding Israel, be helpful as you seek to understand how the OT and NT relate to each other.
“to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph 3:21 – ESV)
“All generations” refer to life in this world until its very end, which eliminates the notion of a millennial kingdom. In other words, Christ’s Church is and always will be God’s focus, “forever and ever.” Not the ethnic nation of Israel.