The New Testament Repeatedly Applies Isaiah 65-66 To This Present Age


Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the Book of Revelation”

This post serves as a follow-up to my last post, “We Now Live in the New Heavens and the New Earth” (which explored Matthew 5:17-18, Matthew 24:35, II Peter 3:7-13, portions of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and more). There is one Scripture text on the subject of the old/new heaven and earth which I didn’t explore in that post: 

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God‘” (Revelation 21:1-3).

We do, however, have a detailed study on this text in our series on the book of Revelation. In that study we highlighted an excellent observation made by Steve Gregg in his book, “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary).”  

Revelation 21:1

Isaiah 65-66 clearly provides a background to Revelation 21:1, most notably Isaiah 65:17-19 and 66:10-13, 22.

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. but be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people; The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying” (Isaiah 65:17-19).

“‘For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before Me,’ says the Lord, ‘so shall your descendants and your name remain‘” (Isaiah 66:22).

Gregg shows that this portion of Isaiah is not awaiting future fulfillment — not according to Jesus, Luke, John, and Paul. On page 489 of his book, Gregg writes,

“[The] specific promise of ‘new heavens and a new earth,’ found exclusively in Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22, fall within a portion of Isaiah which New Testament writers applied to the present age.”

On page 506, Gregg gives the following comparisons to illustrate what he is saying here:

[a] Isaiah 65:23 with I Cor. 15:58
[b] Isaiah 65:25 with Luke 10:19
[c] Isaiah 66:1f with I Tim. 3:15
[d] Isaiah 66:8 with Gal. 4:26
[e] Isaiah 66:11 with Matt. 5:6
[f] Isaiah 66:12 with John 14:27
[g] Isaiah 66:15f with Matt. 22:7
[h] Isaiah 66:18 with Matt. 8:11
[i] Isaiah 66:19 with Eph. 3:8 and Col. 1:27
[j] Isaiah 66:20 with Rom. 15:16

Let’s observe these comparisons in the form of a chart, and with these passages written out:

Passages from Isaiah 65 – 66
Corresponding New Testament Passages
“They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth children for trouble; For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them” (Isaiah 65:23).
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58).
“’The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 65:25).
“Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke 10:19).
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest?’” (Isaiah 66:1)
“…but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Timothy 3:15).
“Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, she gave birth to her children” (Isaiah 66:8).
“…but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:26).
“…that you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom, that you may drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory” (Isaiah 66:11).
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. Then you shall feed; On her sides shall you be carried, and be dandled on her knees” (Isaiah 66:12).
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
“For behold, the Lord will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire” (Isaiah 66:15).
“But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city” (Matthew 22:7; see also Matt. 16:27-28, II Thess. 1:6-8, Jude 14-15).
“For I know their works and their thoughts. It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory” (Isaiah 66:18).
“And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11; see also Acts 2:5-12).
 “I will set a sign among them; and those among them who escape I will send to the nations: to Tarshish and Pul and Lud, who draw the bow, and Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off who have not heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles” (Isaiah 66:19).
“To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…” (Ephesians 3:8); “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
“’Then they shall bring all your brethren for an offering to the Lord out of all nations, on horses and in chariots and in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,’ says the Lord, ‘as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord” (Isaiah 66:20).
“…that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16).

So we can see that Isaiah was given a vision of the coming new covenant age, the age in which we now live, and the fiery passing away of the old covenant age (I believe this occurred in 70 AD with the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem; see especially II Peter 3:7-13). Kenneth Gentry adds these thoughts on this subject:

“Isaiah’s prophecy clearly portrays the coming new covenant order established by Christ, which Paul calls a ‘new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; cp. Ephesians 2:10; 4:24… We know that Isaiah was not speaking of the consummate order, for he includes aspects of the present fallen order in his description: ‘No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his days; For the youth will die at the age of one hundred and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred shall be thought accursed‘ (Isaiah 65:20). The eternal order will not include infants, death, aging, and curse.”

Kenneth Gentry, “Navigating the Book of Revelation: Special Studies on Important Issues,” GoodBirth Ministries: Fountain Inn, SC, 2009, p. 169.

Presbyterian Pastor David Lowman agrees, saying:

“[It] is best to understand the NHNE [new heavens and new earth] covenantally as a picture of the promised New Covenant that finds origination in the Old testament, institution in the Gospels, unfolding in the [book of] Acts and explanation in the rest of the New Testament.”

Revelation 21:2

In Revelation 21, John goes on to speak of New Jerusalem, “the holy city,” coming down out of heaven as Christ’s bride. Recall the promise that Jesus made to the first century church in Philadelphia:

The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from My God out of heaven, and my own new name” (Rev. 3:12).

The temple of which Christ spoke, of course, is the Church:

“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building (I Corinthians 3:9).

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (I Cor. 3:16-17).

“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (I Cor. 6:19)

“And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people'” (II Cor. 6:16).

“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-21).

The author of Hebrews not only refers to the heavenly Jerusalem as a reality in the first century, but he also equates it with the new covenant:

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24).

Revelation 21:3

Before concluding, let’s look briefly at one more proof that Revelation 21 is speaking of this present age. In verse 3, God declared that His tabernacle would be with men, and that He would “dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.” This promise was first given in Exodus 29:45 and Leviticus 26:11, but it was conditional, only to be true as long as the Israelites walked in His statutes and kept His commandments (Lev. 26:3). In Revelation 21:3, this promise is unconditional.

Revelation 21:3 mirrors the description of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34, and identical language is also used in Ezekiel 37:27-28, a passage connected to the new covenant promises in Ezekiel 36:24-28. In Ezekiel’s own vision of a holy city, he was told that this city would be the place where God would dwell with His people (Ezekiel 43:7, 48:35). As we already observed above, Paul quoted Exodus 29:45 and Leviticus 26:11 as a present reality for the Church in his own day (II Corinthians 6:16).

Conclusion

Revelation 21 applies Isaiah 65-66 to the present new covenant age in which we now live. However, it does not carry out this application alone. As we have seen, multiple New Testament authors have done the same. What a blessing it is to live under the new heavens and the new earth.

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Our study on the entire chapter of Revelation 21 can be seen here (verses 1-4 and verses 5-27).

Galatians 4 Shows That Isaiah 66 Is Not About Modern Israel


I grew up in a church where Christian Zionism and dispensationalist theology was (and still is) taught. In that setting, and in others, I was repeatedly taught that Bible prophecy was fulfilled when Israel became a nation in 1948. Furthermore, I was told, this event “restarted God’s prophetic time clock.” Two passages of Scripture allegedly foretold that event, Isaiah 66:7-9 and Matthew 24:32-33. In neither case does this ring true, and both passages carry an entirely different message.

Isaiah 66:5-13

Many believe that Isaiah was looking ahead about 2700 years to the political events of 1948 when he wrote the final portion of his book. They often point to verses 7-9 in particular, and insist that Isaiah foresaw the birth of national Israel “in one day.” Before looking at what this passage says, let’s consider Isaiah’s patterns and themes in the final eight chapters of his book:

  • Isaiah 59 concludes with a Messianic prophecy (“The Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob…”). This prophecy, quoted in Romans 11:26-27, foretold Christ’s work on the cross as a sacrifice for sin.
  • Isaiah 60 is filled with prophetic decrees of the coming new covenant age (this present age), when the nations come to the light of the gospel.
  • Isaiah 61 contains a prophecy about the Lord’s anointed One and the good news, healing, and liberty He would bring; Jesus said this was fulfilled during His earthly ministry (see Luke 4:18-19).
  • Isaiah 65 speaks of new heavens and a new earth, in which sin, death, childbearing, and labor would continue (this makes sense if his prophecy is viewed as the establishment of the new covenant age rather than an overhaul of this planet and the galaxy). Our study on Matthew 24:35 discusses more fully the view that the Bible sometimes uses covenant language when speaking of “the heavens and the earth.”
  • From these and other examples in the final chapters of Isaiah, we see that Isaiah looks repeatedly to what we know were first century events. Let’s look now at Isaiah 66:5-13.

5 Hear the word of the Lord, You who tremble at His word: “Your brethren who hated you, who cast you out for My name’s sake, said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy.’ But they shall be ashamed.”  6 The sound of noise from the city! A voice from the temple! The voice of the Lord, who fully repays His enemies!  7 “Before she was in labor, she gave birth; before her pain came, she delivered a male child.  8 Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, she gave birth to her children.  9 Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?” says the Lord. “Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?” says your God.  10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her; rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her;  11 that you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom, that you may drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory.”  12 For thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. Then you shall feed; on her sides shall you be carried, and be dandled on her knees.  13 As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

Verse 5: This is clearly the Lord’s comfort for those who would be persecuted, hated, and cast out for His sake. Albert Barnes (1834), John Gill (1763), and Matthew Henry (1710) all taught that Isaiah was referring to the first century when Jesus, the apostles, and the early church preached the gospel and were opposed by the religious leaders of Israel.

Verse 6: Noise and a voice are heard from the city and the temple, and the voice is the Lord’s as He repays His enemies. Who are His enemies here? The text doesn’t say, at least not explicitly. However, if verse 5 is about the religious (temple) authorities persecuting the followers of Christ, then they are the enemies being repaid here at the time of the temple’s downfall; and Matthew 23 and I Thessalonians 1 also foretell this event:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! …you are sons of those who murdered the prophets… I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth… all these things will come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:29-36).

For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost” (I Thessalonians 2:14-16).

Verses 7-8: Isaiah sees a woman, identified as Zion (verse 8), in labor. She delivers “a male child” (verse 7) and gives birth to “children” (verse 8). A nation is born “in one day” and “at once” (verse 8). Matthew Poole (1683) and John Gill (1763) are among those who taught that Isaiah foretold what would happen on the day of Pentecost, when 3000 Jews heard Peter preach the gospel and believed (Acts 2:41).

Verses 9-11: For those who love Jerusalem, this birthing is cause for rejoicing (verse 10). They are invited to “feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom” and to “drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory”  (verse 11).

Verses 12-13: This woman is given “peace like a river,” and she is filled with “the glory of the Gentiles” (verse 12). [Interestingly, those who insist that this is a prophecy of Israel becoming a nation in 1948 are often fixated on the goal of “a Jewish state,” and sound as if they would be happy to see each and every non-Jew exiled from Israel. The Jerusalem Isaiah saw would be marked by the glory of Gentiles – of Gentiles finding salvation in Christ.] Those who feed from this woman would be carried on her sides and dandled on her knees. God would comfort them in Jerusalem as one is comforted by his own mother.

Where else does Scripture depict Jerusalem as the mother of God’s people? And which Jerusalem is that, the earthly one or the heavenly one?

For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— but the Jerusalem ABOVE is free, which is THE MOTHER OF US ALL” (Galatians 4:24-26; see verses 21-31 for a fuller context).

In the next verse Paul quotes from Isaiah 54:1, a passage which is parallel to Isaiah 66:

For it is written, ‘Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor. For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband’ (Galatians 4:27).

Observe how Paul goes on to interpret Isaiah 54:1.

Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.’ So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman” (Galatians 4:27-31).

Isaiah 66:8 is parallel to Isaiah 54:1, and it ought to be seen in the same way that Paul made application of Isaiah 54:1 in Galatians 4. Isaiah foresaw the birthing and the breaking forth of the heavenly Jerusalem (66:8-10), even as earthly Jerusalem met her demise (66:6). Ironically, Isaiah 66 does not speak of the restoration of earthly Jerusalem into the hands of mostly unbelieving Jews in 1948. Rather, it mirrors the taking away of the earthly kingdom from unfaithful Israel (in 70 AD), and the giving of the heavenly kingdom to God’s holy nation, the Church, just as Jesus predicted (Matthew 21:43-44; cf. Daniel 7:18, 22, 27). It speaks of the establishment of the new Jerusalem for the bride of Christ, and the dissolving of the old covenant in favor of the new covenant (which was established at the cross). This is the point of both Isaiah and Paul.

Matthew 24:32-33

Matthew 24:32-33 reads this way: “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that He is near—at the doors!” In part 4 of our series on the Olivet Discourse, we noted that dispensationalists are fond of saying that the fig tree represents Israel, and that when Israel became a nation in 1948, the world’s final generation was unveiled. We also noted at least four problems with this view:

[1] When Paul speaks of Israel in his epistle to the Romans (11:17, 24), he uses the illustration of an olive tree, not a fig tree.

[2] In Luke’s account, Jesus speaks of not only the fig tree, but “all the trees” (See Luke 21:29-31).

[3] Jesus does speak of a fig tree elsewhere in Matthew, but observe closely what He says about it: “In the morning, as He was returning to the city, He became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, He went to it and found nothing on it but leaves. And He said to it, ‘May no fruit ever come from you again!’” (Matthew 21:18-19). In light of what Jesus said to that fig tree, one ought to think twice about what it means if national Israel is represented by the fig tree.

[4] In Matthew 24:34 Jesus says, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” This certainly included the branches of the fig tree, so to speak, bringing forth leaves. James saw the signs and declared, “Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand… Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:8-9; compare with Matt. 24:33).

Modern Israel is not in view in either of these passages which are so often cited as predicting the events of the mid-20th century. Some of those who thunder the loudest against what they call “replacement theology” have attempted to take Isaiah’s prophecy about the birth of the new covenant church, and make it about the (re-)birth of national Israel instead. Scripture interprets Scripture to demonstrate that, while God cast out earthly Jerusalem, He chose new Jerusalem to be the nurturing mother of the church.