Today’s article is the fifth blog post since I started studying Isaiah 40-66. In the first post, I made a list of key themes that I want to study more extensively in this section of scripture. The list included (among other things) the message that God is doing and making something new. This theme is very closely connected to the one we discussed in last week’s post about looking toward the Messiah. It’s also connected with another point we touched on a few weeks ago; that one way God proves He is God is by revealing His new plans to the prophets before they happen.
I can only imagine how awed Isaiah must have been to receive this revelation. How encouraging it must have been to learn that God has such an amazing plan to set things right; to realize that a Messiah would soon come to usher in the salvation of the world! I wonder how much of the timing he understood. Did Isaiah know we’d still be reading these words thousands of years later, joining him in marveling at all that God has done in the past and will do in the future? Peter seems to think he did.
Concerning this salvation, the prophets sought and searched diligently. They prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching for who or what kind of time the Spirit of Christ, which was in them, pointed to, when he predicted the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that would follow them. To them it was revealed, that they served not themselves, but you, in these things, which now have been announced to you through those who preached the Good News to you by the Holy Spirit sent out from heaven; which things angels desire to look into.1 Peter 1:10-12, WEB
Here, Peter tells us that people like Isaiah did know they were speaking to us–we who know the Messiah and have received His salvation. Peter was also among those to whom Jesus said “many prophets and kings desired to see the things which you see, and didn’t see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and didn’t hear them” (Luke 10:24, WEB; see also Matthew 13:14-17). The prophets didn’t see everything as clearly as we do know. God has revealed to us things so glorious that the angels desire to look into them. We see His future plan for “glories that would follow” more clearly, particularly as we look back on the prophets’ words about the new things God still has in store for us.
Declaring a New Way to Save
At the end of the first Servant Song prophecy, God says, “Behold, the former things have happened and I declare new things. I tell you about them before they come up” (Is. 42:9, WEB). That’s one of the main things that God is doing in this section of Isaiah. There’s so much emphasis on the Messiah and on the new things God will do through Him. Jesus’s coming changed things dramatically for God’s people. Once we were sinners condemned to death, now we’re redeemed from that penalty. Once we were under the Law as a “guardian” of our conduct; now we keep the Law from the heart on a spiritual level (Gal. 3:23-25; Rom. 8:1-14). Once we saw God’s plan only dimly, now He’s revealed it to His people more clearly (Matt. 13:10-11; 1 Cor. 2:9-10; Eph. 3:4-6; 1 Pet 1:10-12).
When Isaiah’s original readers heard God “declare new things” about the Messiah, Jesus’s first coming was still in the future. At this time, God told Israel “from this point on I am announcing to you new events” (Isa. 48:6, NET). Knowing there’s a Messiah bringing a new way to save isn’t news for us anymore–from our perspective, He arrived here on earth nearly 2,000 years ago. However, we can still get excited for what His coming meant for us and for other new things that God is planning.
Look, I am about to do something new.Isaiah 43:19-21, NET
Now it begins to happen! Do you not recognize it?
Yes, I will make a road in the wilderness
and paths in the wastelands.
The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and ostriches,
because I put water in the wilderness
and streams in the wastelands,
to quench the thirst of my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself,
so they might praise me.
The context for this passage is redemption. God is revealing that He will rescue Israel from the Babylonians, but then the language shifts to declaring a future redemption as well. The “road in the wilderness” and God’s work with the wild animals foreshadows Millennial imagery in Isaiah 65 (which we’ll get to later in this post). God began His new work of bringing peace to earth with Jesus’s first coming, and He’s still working on that exciting project today as we–and all of creation–await Jesus’s second coming.
For I consider that our present sufferings cannot even be compared to the coming glory that will be revealed to us. For the creation eagerly waits for the revelation of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly but because of God who subjected it—in hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children.Romans 8:19-21, NET
Something New For Us
In addition to God’s new revelations about how He plans to save and transform the world, He also revealed something new that’s happening in each of us. He promises He’ll give His people new names as He does the part of His new work that takes place inside each of them.
For the sake of Zion I will not be silent;Isaiah 62:1-4, NET
for the sake of Jerusalem I will not be quiet,
until her vindication shines brightly
and her deliverance burns like a torch.
Nations will see your vindication,
and all kings your splendor.
You will be called by a new name
that the Lord himself will give you.
You will be a majestic crown in the hand of the Lord,
a royal turban in the hand of your God.
You will no longer be called, “Abandoned,”
and your land will no longer be called “Desolate.”
Indeed, you will be called “My Delight is in Her,”
and your land “Married.”
For the Lord will take delight in you,
and your land will be married to him.
Here, we’re told two of the new names God gives to the people He’s working with. We’re also told “you will be called by a new name that the Lord himself will give you.” If we were just looking at this verse on its own, we might think that refers to the new names Hephzibah (“My Delight is in Her”) and Beulah (“Married”). However, we also learn more about other new names in the book of Revelation. Jesus mentions two of His letters to the seven churches.
To the angel of the church in Pergamum write the following: … The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will give him some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and on that stone will be written a new name that no one can understand except the one who receives it.’Revelation 2:12, 17, NET
To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write the following: … The one who conquers I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never depart from it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God (the new Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven from my God), and my new name as well.Revelation 3:7, 12, NET
The first new name mentioned is highly individual; only the person who receives the name even knows what it is. The second new name is one that we’ll share with Jesus Christ. I don’t want to get too off-track from today’s topic, so we’ll keep this discussion about names brief. For now, let’s remember that names in Hebrew thought are closely tied to a person’s reputation and character. When God puts His name on us, He’s trusting us with His family’s reputation and claiming us as people who are like Him.
God also has a long history of giving new names to people He works closely with, including Abraham, Sarah, Israel, Peter, James, John, and Paul (Genesis 17:4-5, 15-16; 32:28; Mark 3:16-17; Acts 13:9). There’s something very special about getting a new name from God, and it seems that it has to do with receiving a new position in life. New names come with a new way of living or a new attainment of something that God is working on in us. It’s fitting, then, that we’re told we’ll get new names when God is handing out rewards to faithful people after Jesus returns to this earth. That’s also when we’ll be revealed as the glorious children of God (Rom. 8:18-24).
New Heavens and New Earth
Isaiah has a lot to say about the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ and the new earth which will follow. In Revelation 20, we’re told that after Jesus’s second coming Satan will be locked away for a thousand years, the faithful will rise from the dead, and they’ll “be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with him one thousand years” (Rev. 20:6, WEB). Then in Revelation 21-22, we learn of “a new heaven and a new earth” that will come after that. We don’t get many details about what the Millennium or the world after that will look like here in Revelation, but we learn more through God’s descriptions through Isaiah of His future holy mountain (Isaiah 2:1-4; 11:1-10).
“For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;Isaiah 65:17-25, WEB
and the former things will not be remembered,
nor come into mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create;
for, behold, I create Jerusalem to be a delight,
and her people a joy.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;
and the voice of weeping and the voice of crying
will be heard in her no more.
“No more will there be an infant who only lives a few days,
nor an old man who has not filled his days;
for the child will die one hundred years old,
and the sinner being one hundred years old will be accursed.
They will build houses and inhabit them.
They will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They will not build and another inhabit.
They will not plant and another eat:
for the days of my people will be like the days of a tree,
and my chosen will long enjoy the work of their hands.
They will not labor in vain
nor give birth for calamity;
for they are the offspring of Yahweh’s blessed
and their descendants with them.
It will happen that before they call, I will answer;
and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb will feed together.
The lion will eat straw like the ox.
Dust will be the serpent’s food.
They will not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain,”
Isn’t this an incredible picture of the future? This is what we have to look forward to after Jesus returns to earth. It’s this future that we’ll be picturing when we observe Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) in just a few months. Given the connection between Sukkot and the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ, it’s fitting that the last thing the Lord says in Isaiah about His new heavens and new earth relates to God’s holy calendar and His Sabbath days. This verse also connects to our post about Sabbath-keeping in Isaiah 40-66.
“For just as the new heavens and the new earth I am about to make will remain standing before me,” says the Lord, “so your descendants and your name will remain. From one month to the next and from one Sabbath to the next, all people will come to worship me,” says the Lord.Isaiah 66:22-23, NET
These verses promise that in the midst of all this newness, there will also be a reliable stability. God is still on His throne. His character and the way He wants to do things are not going to change. We’ll still have patterns of worship to follow. We’ll still have relationships with Him, though they will then be closer than ever before.
We know Jesus is coming back, but it’s easy to let that slip our minds as we go through our day-to-day lives. But if we hold onto the vision in Isaiah and other future-pointing passages of scripture, we can also hold onto the excitement of being part of the “new thing” God is doing. And that can help us stay encouraged and joyful as we move forward into the future.
Featured image by Inbetween from Lightstock
Song Recommendation: “The Holy City” by Stanford Olsen and The Tabernacle Choir
Bonus song I found while searching for a different “New Heaven, New Earth” song: “Новое небо” by Simon Khorolskiy