The Glorious Eternal Kingdom of the Lord
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version,
Â©Â 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All emphasis added.
Isaiah 11:1-16 (text); 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Colossians 2:1-3
May 29, 2011 â€¢Â Download PDF sermon
â€œWe are not righteous people, only they will go to heaven, the others will stay here on Earth to go through terrible sufferings,â€ she wrote. â€œI donâ€™t want to die like the others. Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™ll die now.”–a Russian girl who committed suicide on May 21, 2011, the day that Harold Camping predicted that the Rapture would happen. Another man, from Antioch, California (near San Francisco), jumped into a water reservoir convinced that God would meet him on the other side during the Rapture. A mother tried to kill her two children and herself because the tribulation was coming. Many others sold all their possessions and quit their jobs to wait for the day. Relationships between families and friends were strained by this prediction.
After the date passed just like any other normal day on this earth, did Camping take any responsibility for these deaths and troubles? “I don’t have any responsibility. I can’t take responsibility for anybody’s life. I’m only teaching the Bible,â€ he answered. But he should feel responsible for causing these untimely deaths, loss of homes and jobs, and strained relationships. After all, God made preachers and teachers more accountable than any others in the church, â€œNot many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictnessâ€ (Jas 3:1). Mr. Camping is accountable to God because he has misled so many. The consequences of his errors are very serious: false prophets and teachers who â€œsecretly bring in destructive heresies â€¦ [will bring] upon themselves swift destructionâ€Â (2 Pet 2:1).
These are the fruits of date-setting so common among various false prophets today. Unwittingly, even those who do not set exact dates are also guilty of date-setting whenever they say that their generation is the â€œterminal generationâ€ and they will see the Rapture in their lifetime. Many who believe that Biblical prophecies are mostly about Israel are vulnerable to date-setting because major events in Israel’s history are easily dated. So it is all too tempting to make calculations and pin down dates. For example, they believe that the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 is a very important date, ushering in the â€œlast days,â€ so we are the generation who will see the Rapture. But they do not see the plain teaching of the New Testament that the â€œlast daysâ€ began during the first advent of Christ, e.g., â€œin these last days he has spoken to us by his Sonâ€
(Heb 1:2; cf Acts 2:16-17; 1 Cor 10:11; 1 Tim 4:1; 2 Tim 3:1; Heb 9:26;1 Pet 1:20-21).
The Secret Rapture is only one of these erroneous teachings prevailing in the church today. Another popular teaching about the last days is the so-called millennium, a period of 1,000 years when Christ will reign from Jerusalem. Isaiah 11 is usually read by many with this millennial lens, believing that it describes the millennial kingdom in spite of the evidence to the contrary. As we shall see later, the kingdom described in this text is not a temporal, earthly thousand-year kingdom, but the glorious eternal kingdom of peace and security in the new earth.
Three qualities of perfection mark this eternal kingdom. First, it will be ruled by a faithful and righteous King. Second, the kingdom will be full of the knowledge of the Lord. Third, its citizens will come from all nations of the earth.
Ruled in Faithfulness and Righteousness
Previously in Chapter 6, Isaiah tells us how God had commissioned him to proclaim a message of judgment against the kingdom of Judah until the nation is destroyed. Because King Ahaz did not trust the Lord and disobeyed, the Lord brought the Assyrians to oppress the nation, so in Chapter 8, Isaiah prophesies an Assyrian invasion of Israel. But through all of God’s judgments, there is always a promise of grace. In Chapters 7 and 9, God promises a miraculous child of a virgin who will rule forever from David’s throne. In Isaiah 7:4, the name of this ruler is Immanuel, God with us, and in Isaiah 9:6, â€œWonderful Counselor, Mighty God,Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.â€ Then in Chapter 10 we read that in his mercy and grace, God will destroy the Assyrians and a remnant of Israel will return from exile.
Here in Isaiah 11, this coming King has another name: â€œStump or Branch or Root of Jesse.â€ Jesse is David’s father, but why trace the line of this Ruler from an unknown peasant named Jesse rather than from the mighty warrior David, or even wise and pompous Solomon? Verses 1-10, which describes this King and his kingdom, are bookended by Jesse’s name. In using Jesse’s name, God is placing the emphasis on his grace alone in saving his people, rather than David’s might or Solomon’s glory. He is called a Stump because only he remains of the burned-out land of Israel (Isa 6:13). Other prophets also call him â€œa righteous Branchâ€ (Jer 23:5; also Zech 3:8).
Unlike King Ahaz and most of the other kings of Judah, the Stump of Jesse will â€œbear fruitâ€ because he will be obedient to the Holy One of Israel. How is he able to bear fruit when the other kings could not? It is because God himself enables him by his Spirit, just as he endowed David with the Spirit (1 Sam 16:13). But unlike David who still bore the corruption of sin, the Branch of Jesse will be fully empowered by the Spirit and will be given perfect wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord. These are qualities that King Ahaz and the other wicked kings did not possess because they did not have the Spirit of God. These qualities are what enable this King to wisely plan and execute God’s will perfectly, so he could lead and judge his people in complete justice, righteousness and integrity, looking only for the interest of his people and not his own.
Because the Spirit rests upon him, he fully knows God, and his delight is in fearing the Lord. His wisdom comes from the fear and knowledge of the Lord (Prov 9:10). He finds joy in obeying and respecting God’s will, and by his example, he will promote obedience to and reverence for God. As a ruler, he will not carry out his decisions based on outward appearances, by what he sees and what he hears. Instead, the basis of his rule is his righteousness and justice; he will treat all his citizens with equality and fairness, especially the poor, the widows and orphans, the meek and the weak. His decisions will be made without regard for politics, friendships and business interests, but only with regard to God’s holiness and righteous commandments.
How different this Ruler is from all the other wicked kings of Israel! How different he is from wicked leaders, kings and presidents in our world today! They only look out for their own good, coveting, stealing, murdering, lying, committing sexual immorality, and being proud of their wicked deeds! But vengeance is the Lord’s. When the Righteous Ruler comes, â€œhe shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.â€ Just as God destroyed all wicked people in Noah’s day and all the wicked empires of Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, he will finally punish and destroy all wicked kings, armies and peoples of the earth. He will do this with the Word that comes out of his mouth, a two-edged sword that brings both salvation and judgment.
Empowered by the Spirit of God, he is also clothed with the belt of righteousness and faithÂfulness. He is righteous and faithful because he has the truth of God’s Word. God’s righteousness and faithfulness are two attributes that he wants his people to possess as well. Because he rules with justice and righteousness and with perfect knowledge of God’s Word, the Branch of Jesse will in turn fill the whole earth with the knowledge of the Lord.
Full of the Knowledge of the Lord
Thus, in verses 6-9, we find the results of the earth being full of the knowledge of the Lord: it is a picture of a land in complete peace and security only equaled in the paradisaical life in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve’s fall into sin.
In most of Israel’s history, the nation was a prey to predators. It was enslaved by Egypt, attacked by its neighbors in the Promised Land, and by powerful Assyria and Babylon. But when the Branch of Jesse comes, there will be no more prey and predators. The picture in these verses is one of complete peace and security in the whole earthâ€”represented by the animal kingdomâ€”where strong, fierce carnivorous animals like leopards, lions and bears will cease to be carnivorous and will not attack weak and meek lambs and cows.
Humansâ€”including infantsâ€”and fierce and poisonous animals will live together in peace and harmony. Amazingly, innocent, weak children will even lead those once-ferocious animals. Could it be that Isaiah is looking forward to an innocent, weak, and humble Servant of the Lord who will one day come to transform formerly wicked sinners into God’s holy people and lead them to a place of complete peace and security?
Will there be a future age wherein this picture will become a literal reality? It is possible that even wild animals will be transformed from a fierce to a meek state, but given the figurative, symbolic language common in visionary literature such as Isaiah, a literal fulfillment is not likely. What is more likely is that this is a figurative image of complete peace and security under the rule of the Branch of Jesse. Isaiah was using symbols and metaphors to express things he sees in the future that he could not fully grasp by using things he knows from experience in his context.
During his reign, the evil and insecurity in this world will be transÂformed into complete peace and security. The curse of Genesis 3:16-19 that God pronounced upon the earth will be lifted, and human beings will be transformed from sinners to holy and righteous images of God (Eph 4:24; Col 3:10). Paul looks forward to this restoration of both man and creation, â€œthe creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.â€ (Rom 8:21).
Because the Righteous King will strike rebellious kings, no one will â€œhurt or destroy in all my holy mountainâ€â€”his peopleâ€”and they will dwell in perfect peace and security. Thereafter, nations â€œshall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks â€¦ neither shall they learn war anymoreâ€
(Isa 2:4). The image of peace is typified by nations ceasing to build destructive weapons of war, and making only things that will benefit the world, such as farming tools.
How will this transformation take place? The Righteous Branch will first subdue and destroy rebellious kings and nations, but afterwards, he will fill the righteous remnant of the earth with the knowledge of God and his Word. All people will know God’s Word, as he says, â€œI will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts… they shall all know me.â€ The whole world will be God’s people, and he will be their God
(Jer 31:33-34). God’s Edenic purpose for his mandate to Adam and Eve to â€œbe fruitful and multiplyâ€â€”to make the whole earth as his holy sanctuary where all nations worship himâ€”will finally be accomplished.
How different is the peace and security that results from a world full of the knowledge of the Lord! Ever since creation, individuals, kingdoms and nations have made peace treaties, but only to be broken repeatedly. The cycle of peace treaties and wars never ends. It is only when the Righteous Branch comes and fills the world with the knowledge of God and his Word will war cease and peace and security prevail without end.
Millennium or New Heavens and New Earth?
When will this happen? Most Christians believe that this state of world peace between individuals, nations, and the animal kingdom will occur when Christ returns and establishes his millennial reign on earth for a thousand years. But is this what we see in this text?
The answer, in the first place, is found in the second to the last chapter of Isaiah’s book, Isaiah 65:17, where God tells him of the end of the world:
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.
But this is the same vision that John sees in Revelation 22:1-2 eight centuries later:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away â€¦ And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Isaiah was clearly talking about eternity when God creates a new heaven and a new earth. At the end of the same chapter, Isaiah 65:25 describes what he sees in this new earth:
The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.â€
The parallel description in our text, Isaiah 11:6-9, is unmistakable:
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb â€¦ The cow and the bear shall graze â€¦ and the lion shall eat straw like the ox â€¦ The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra.
If Isaiah 65:17-25 and Revelation 22:1-2 are both about the eternal state in the new heaven and new earth, and if Isaiah 11:6-9 describes the same scene, it is absolutely clear that the latter is about the eternal kingdom of heaven, and not merely a temporary, earthly thousand-year reign.
In the second place, most premillennialists believe that the millennium is a half-heaven, half-earth state, a â€œheaven on earth,â€ but not really. But what kind of existence is this? At the Second Coming of Christ (actually, the Third Coming, since the Second Coming is merely the Secret Rapture), he will bring glorified saints from heaven whom he raptured from earth seven years earlier. Then he will establish the millennial kingdom headquartered in a rebuilt Jerusalem Temple. But alas for these poor glorified saints! They will be sorely disappointed, because in the millennial kingdom under the Righteous and Faithful Branch, there will not be complete peace and security. Why? Because there will be sinners among them!
This, again, is another impossibility for three reasons. First, when Christ returns (in the actual Second Coming), no inhabitants on earth will be left alive; the beast and the false prophet will be cast into the lake of fire, and all the armies and peoples of the world will be slain by the Faithful and True King (Rev 19:21). Second, nowhere in the Bible is the absurd idea that glorified saints will co-exist with sinners, whether in heaven or on earth.
The third reason why sinners cannot exist after the Second Coming is the answer to this question: From where will these sinners come? Millennialists believe that they will be children born from the same glorified saints who came down from heaven, another idea that is nowhere found in Scripture. First, in the resurrection, there will be no marriage, and therefore, no births (Matt 22:30; Luke 20:35). Second, even if there is marriage and births in the millennium, how can perfected, glorified saints produce sinners, not a few, but â€œtheir number is like the sand of the seaâ€ (Rev 20:8)! According to this scenario, a great rebellion by this wicked horde will occur at the end of the thousand years. This rebellion, after the millennial reign of the powerful Righteous Branch who slew all the wicked with the word of his mouth at the beginning of the millennium.
Lastly, Isaiah 11:9 precludes sinners in the age to come. No one â€œshall hurt or destroy in all my holy mountainâ€â€”the new earthâ€”deeds that only sinners are able to do. And if â€œthe earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the seaâ€â€”indicative of universal righteousnessâ€”during the millennium, how could there be sin?
The whole earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord, because the citizens of the kingdom of the Root of Jesse will come from the four corners of the earth.
Citizens from Four Corners of the Earth
On the day of his coming, the Root of Jesse will reveal the glory of the Lord. The whole earth will be full not only of the knowledge of the Lord, but also of his glory (Isa 6:3). When he comes, he will send a signal or a banner to all the nations to come and meet him. In Isaiah 5:26, the Lord sends a signal to the nations of the earth to come and accomplish his judgment on his rebellious people. This time, the Lord will raise a banner as a signal to all the nations, not to use them in punishing Judah, but for them to send the remnant of God’s people from the north, south, east and west to assemble together as a people to worship God in the new heavens and new earth.
The first time that God gathered his people, Israel was gathered from the exodus from Egypt to Mount Sinai to worship God. This second regathering of God’s people will not be just Israelites from Egypt, but all of God’s people from all nations. Rather than Israel and Judah competing with one another in jealousy, God’s people will unite against evil kings.
Just as the Pharaoh tried to use his power and might to prevent Israel from getting their freedom from slavery, the wicked kings of the earth will try with all their might to prevent the Righteous King from gathering his remnant citizens into his kingdom. They will enact laws to prevent the preaching of the gospel of the King. They will harass and persecute believers, send them to prison, burn their Bibles, homes and churches, and even murder them for their faith. But the Root of Jesse will destroy all his enemies, represented by the enemies of Israelâ€”the Philistines, Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites.
Just as no power could stay God’s hand from gathering his people, no mountain or valley, river or sea will be able to prevent God’s hand from their final resting place in peace and security. He will cut and straighten a highway through the sea, the wilderness, and the mountains to make way for all his people to come to his holy mountain. Isaiah sees an image of the same mighty power of God in accomplishing this gathering together. Just as the Red Sea and Jordan River were dried up with a great east wind, even the great river Euphrates will be divided into small channels so shallow that the people will be able to wade through in their sandals.
God’s holy mountain will be a magnet to the nations who will worship in his temple in heaven, â€œall the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: â€˜Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord’â€
(Isa 2:2-3). Even people who were formerly God’s great enemies, represented by Egyptians and Assyrians, will make their way to the holy mountain, â€œIn that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria â€¦ and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyriansâ€ (Isa 19:23).
Paul confirms that Christ is the â€œroot of Jesse [who] will comeâ€ (Rom 15:12; Acts 13:22-23). He came down from heaven to earth as a humble child and not a pompous king. At his baptism, Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit, and through the Spirit, â€œall the treasures of wisdom and knowledgeâ€ are hidden in him
(Col 2:3). He inaugurated his Kingdom when he came preaching the gospel, and he will complete it at his Second Coming. All people marveled at his authoritative teaching, because he had complete mastery of God’s Word. With this Word, he saves his people from sin. But with the same Word, he will subdue and destroy all his enemies at his coming.
Because he is full of the knowledge of the Lord, he is righteous, faithful and true. In fact, his name is â€œFaithful and Trueâ€ (Rev 19:11), and he wears the â€œbelt of truthâ€ and the â€œbreastplate of righteousnessâ€
(Eph 6:14). He is called the Prince of Peace and the Righteous Branch because his kingdom will be a kingdom of perfect peace, security and righteousness.
When he was lifted up on the cross, he was raised as a banner for all the remnant of Godâ€™s people, weary pilgrims from all four corners of the earth, to assemble at his call to repent and believe in him, so they may worship him united in spirt and in truth.
Paul also saw that Christ is the hope of all the nations of the earth, â€œIn him will the Gentiles hopeâ€
(Rom 15:12). You who believe in him have the same hope. This world may be full of sin, evil and tribulations, but do not despair. When Christ returns, he will transform you, and this groaning under the curse of sin and death will end. Like him, you will have perfect wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and fear of the Lord. And the world will at last have perfect peace and security.