I’ve been winding through the book of Isaiah for the past two months. For me and for many Christians, Isaiah can seem rather daunting due to its length (a whopping 66 chapters!) and convoluted content. Despite its many themes, complicated historical context, and intra-scripture references, one prominent idea that peppers the entire book is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Relevancy in Today’s Age
I’m choosing to write on the Kingdom of Heaven because as I grow more familiar with society, the traces of humans’ brutality grows more tangible.
A few years ago, cloistered in my safe, tight-knit, affluent community with church, high school, and a few extracurriculars as my main social outlets, the world was peaceful. The world was good. People were kind. Anything scarier than a local robbery belonged to worlds across the Pacific or on the other side of the country in some dingy backwater city.
Now, that former rose-tinted lens is crumbling as reality steadily solidifies around me. Needless to say, reality is quite heart-wrenching. Any news story, documentary, twitter feed will tell you so. The very visible, very real, very sad effects of covid-19 will tell you so. If you want to read a Biblical analysis of the virus, check out this article here.
History is cratered with pain, anger, fear, condemnation, injustice, hatred, amorality, cruelty, and so on. These things characterize our present times, and they’ll characterize our future too. Sin is indelible to humankind’s story.
Which is why I’m writing today on the Kingdom of Heaven as a reminder to myself and to you about its significance in Christian life.
This life, this body, the pains that saturate history, the pains buried inside you are not the end. Even physical death is not the end. There is something far greater than what our mortal minds are able to comprehend and describe. And it’s coming. Soon. Whether you or I or the next person over believe a hundred percent faith or not, for God has never relied on human validation for His power. He is “I am”. He is who He is. He is self-sufficient.
If you’re reading this as someone who’s not a Christian or who’s someone confused about faith, don’t walk away. This post is for you too. You don’t have to be Christian to contemplate life’s big questions such as your priorities, what do you believe about death, why are you here, and in what do you hope.
Scripture all throughout the Bible calls people to look ahead to God’s coming kingdom. Over and over again, it portrays that kingdom and God’s reign as cause for our joy, our celebration, our motivation for perseverance through this life. The next few Isaiah verses on the Kingdom of Heaven caught my attention over the course of two months and have remained with me since. Keep reading. Perhaps they will affect you just as profoundly as they have affected me.
Like all other books in the Bible, background knowledge is imperative for a deeper grasp of Isaiah’s message and purpose.
Written approximately between 700-600 BC, it encapsulates a time when Israel had neglected God’s covenant promises and was indulging in excessive idolatry. Belonging to the category of prophetic books, much of what Isaiah expounds are events predicted to occur in Israel’s future.
Isaiah opens with God’s declaration that He’s going to use Israel’s neighboring kingdoms to destroy Israel for their idolatrous ways as a form of purification. In the midst of such harsh language and imagery, God plants this seed of hope for His people. He promises that despite their iniquity, He will raise up a future messianic king, pour out His blessings onto the earth, and establish a new kingdom unlike any the world has ever known.
From the line of David, He will raise to up a king empowered by God’s Spirit to rule the world with peace. Near the middle of the book, Isaiah contrasts the “lofty” city against the new Jerusalem. The former, an archetypal representation of humankind’s corrupt rule, will end in annihilation whereas the latter, aka the Kingdom of Heaven, will stand forever.
Isaiah 40 onward delves deeper into the figure of God’s special servant. Tasked with bringing God’s reign over all the nations, it’s clear from the onset that this servant is the messianic king who will be a light to all nations.
To lay the foundation for His kingdom, the servant must die on behalf of His people’s sins. Isaiah 53 explicates in detail that his death creates a way for people to enter into a right relationship with God, something God has sought for us since the beginning. People of all nations may either respond with humility and repentance, thus gaining inheritance of the Kingdom of Heaven, or they may reject God’s servant and His people, condemning themselves among the “wicked”.
Isaiah closes with a warning that God will judge the wicked and deny them access to His new kingdom. As for his servants, those who choose to repent and follow the messianic king, Isaiah underscores that they will dwell in the new kingdom (aka the new creation) forever. All of this is in fulfillment of God’s covenant promises.
1. Isaiah 9:6-7
“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 Counselor, 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 kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
A few weeks back, I’d written a post that melds the big ideas of Plato’s Republic with Biblical principles to outline why Jesus is the perfect king humanity has been searching for since the beginning. You can read it here, if you’re interested.
Some Noteworthy Points
- “a child is born”–The messianic king arrived on earth in the frail frame of an infant. He didn’t plant the seed for His rule as a human emperor or the wealthy owner of a business conglomerate. He began it as an average human being (a carpenter of a backwater little fishing town, to be exact), to show that His power and plans are not constrained in the way humans’ often are.
- “there will be no end”–Not only did this seemingly innocuous carpenter from an unremarkable town found God’s kingdom, it actually flourishes. And not just flourish but last forever without end.
- “The zeal of the Lord Almighty”–Zeal here refers to the zeal (or love) of God for His people. Really, there is nothing that can oppose the love and power of God. Whatever He wills, will come to pass.
2. Isaiah 11:6-9
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, 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.
Some Noteworthy Points
- The imageries and the tone juxtapose each other. The thought of the wolf and the lamb living together should induce anxiety. The thought of a little child, of all creatures, leading ferocious beasts should make you double-take. And whoever has heard of an infant playing near the cobra’s den? (That part made me the most uncomfortable.) Yet a tone of peace blankets the entire scene.
- “They will neither harm nor destroy”–God promises that all these things are possible under His reign. From the new order this passage describes, we can infer that the Kingdom of Heaven will be radically better than everything we know now.
- “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord”–Ah, finally, an explanation for the inexplicable. The Kingdom of Heaven is so radically different because, simply put, God reigns. In our current age, the earth falls under Satan’s dominion, accounting for the many atrocities we hear of and experience. But you can bet, upon the credibility of God’s promises, that Satan’s rule will not last.
3. Isaiah 25:7-8
On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.
Some Noteworthy Points
- “shroud that enfolds all people”–The image of the shroud (also referenced in 2 Corinthians 3:16) suggests a lack of understanding of the Lord. There’s no doubt that our world suffers from such a condition when you contrast the peace in Isaiah 11:6-9 with the chaos of today. Our hope and joy stems from the fact that God will destroy that shroud. No longer will people doubt His existence, blindly curse at His name, or pridefully suppose themselves to be God. In the Kingdom of Heaven, knowledge of Him will fill the earth.
- “He will swallow up death forever”–No matter how triumphant any human has ever been, death has always triumphed over him. Death is the reality of life. Yet, Isaiah states that God has already established an expiration date for death, a time when death will no longer claim any power over creation. That time is coming with the Kingdom of Heaven.
- “will wipe away the tears from all faces”–What’s amazing (well, one of the amazing things) about God is that though He is the infinitely big, omnipotent, and omniscient creator of the universe, He is also a personal God. He knows our pains, our anger, the injustices committed against us, and He mourns with us. In the Kingdom of Heaven, God will personally wipe away all our tears as a father would to a weeping child. No longer shall we mourn or hurt standing in the glory of God as a new creation.
4. Isaiah 35:5-10
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
And a high way will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Some Noteworthy Points
- “eyes of the blind be opened…water will gush forth”–Imagery of renewal saturates the first part of the passage. When Christ comes to establish the Kingdom of Heaven, the spiritually blind will receive sight and the spiritually deaf will respond when called. The verses portray salvation with creation related language, likening salvation to the transformation of old creation into new. I like Anathea Portier Young’s explanation best: “God’s arrival transforms every inability into ability and every lack into miraculous abundance.”
- “the Way of Holiness”–God designated the road that leads to the Kingdom of Heaven for His chosen people alone, and it is a safe road. Those in Christ have no fear of separation from God’s love as promised in Romans 8. God will see us safely through our pilgrimage on his high way of Holiness. The main urgency is that we keep to this high way and do not stray from it. To do so, we must always fix our eyes ahead on the destination, on the Kingdom of Heaven. Temptations lurk on every side; therefore, we must not lose sight of why we are walking this road of Holiness.
5. Isaiah 60:18-20
No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.
This was the passage that inspired this post. Inundated with stories of violence between groups of people across America, these words are like a cool sponge against feverish skin.
Some Noteworthy Points
- “No longer will violence be heard in your land”–Here, the speaker addresses the Kingdom of Heaven. His comfort towards Zion doubly serves to comfort all of Gods people as they look eagerly ahead to their new home. To live in a land where violence, ruin, and destruction will be unknown…sounds impossible, doesn’t it? But what is impossible with man, is possible with God.
- “The Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end”–One of the many sorrows of this life is that due to the impure, sinful state of the world, a separation exists between God and the world. In the Kingdom of Heaven, God will be with us without hindrance. With Him as our king, violence will meet its end and so will our days of sorrow. Justice will finally reign uninhibited across the land. No more will brother slay brother, or sister slander sister. No more will people raise blood-stained hands and hide darkened hearts, for in the Kingdom of Heaven, the old is gone, the new is here. This is the inheritance God promises His followers will receive. This is why though the world darkens day by day, Christians continuously find the strength to give thanks and rejoice.
Hey there, it’s Macy! If you’re new to macythoughts, I encourage you to check out my About page to learn more about who I am and what macythoughts is all about. If you’re new to Christianity and would like to learn more about just what the heck Christians really believe, this article should clear things up. Also feel free to connect with me via social media. I love meeting people and would always cherish a new friend.