6. The Grand Visions
There are some well-known passages from the Bible that speak of a future time when the world will be a better place. Some of these just allude to the time, but others are quite specific about the conditions. These quite clearly fit in with the concept of the “age to come” in the two-age model, and also the Kingdom of God.
The Book of Isaiah is a collection of prophecies relating to Israel, and the part of Israel known as Judah. One of the early passages relates to a time known as the “latter days”.
Isaiah 2:1.: The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2. Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD's house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. 3. Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall 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 rebuke many people; 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. NKJV
This passage speaks of time that has never yet come on the Earth during recorded history. It may be the dream of the United Nations, but world peace is still a long way from being a reality. This passage promises a time when people will be willingly following the leadership of God, and when nations will be at peace.
There is quite strongly the idea of a Kingdom of God here, because there is the kingly leadership of God over the whole world. There is a vision of all nations flowing to the mountain of God to worship and obey him. This speaks of the political aspect of the Kingdom of God actually being a kingdom. There is also the vision of world peace, which is another aspect of the age to come that is seen in both the old and new testaments.
The Reformed Earth
Isaiah 65:17: For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. 18. But be you glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. 19. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people; and there shall be heard in her no more the voice of weeping and the voice of crying. 20. There shall be no more there an infant of days, nor an old man who has not filled his days; for the child shall die one hundred years old, and the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed. 21. They shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. 22. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree shall be the days of my people, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for calamity; for they are the seed of the blessed of Yahweh, and their offspring with them. 24. It shall happen that, before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. 25. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and 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 Yahweh. WEB
The introduction of a “new heavens and a new earth” is also described in the New Testament in 2 Peter 3:13 under the same terminology. In that case it is associated with the “coming of the day of God”, and links the event with the 2nd coming of Jesus. So that means that Isaiah gives a picture of life in that new earth.
There is a focus here of the joy being centred on Jerusalem. Isaiah 2 states that Jerusalem is to be the ruling centre of the “latter days” where the world is peaceful. Although this is stating a blessing for national Israel, it would be viewed in the context of the promise to Abraham in Genesis 22:18 stating that in his “seed will all the nations of the earth be blessed”. Although the primary blessing is in the redemption offered by Jesus, the plan is still worked out visibly in the context of the Abrahamic origins. That means a role for the physical nation of Israel, but the blessing and saving is for people regardless of their nationality.
This new heavens and new earth require such a transformation of the earth that it can only be associated with the “age to come” of the New Testament terminology. Strong evidence for this is the changes brought about in the nature of animals, and the idyllic conditions that have been unachievable under human rule.
However, compared against the “age to come”, there are some possibly surprising aspects to this prophecy of Isaiah. In particular sinners are mentioned as if they still exist in that world, even though they might be accursed. People would also still be mortal, as death is still included as an expectation, “for the child will die one hundred years old”. So although it is a vastly improved world, it does not contain all the elements that we would expect after hearing the teachings of Jesus.
The result is that this passage can only be viewed literally in the pre-millennialism model. The period of the millennium would be the time after the return of Jesus and the creation of the new earth, but while there is still mortality and sin present on the earth. Just as an inaugurated eschatology has a “now, but not yet” view of the kingdom, Isaiah and Revelation demand a “done, but not complete” view of the age to come during the millennium.
The “done, but not complete” philosophy means that with the return of Jesus, the kingdom of God arrives on earth, and the age to come is entered. In that sense it is “done”. However, the transformation at that stage is not complete. There still remains the complete removal of sin and death. Revelation indicates that the completion would not occur until after 1000 years of rule in the kingdom. After that, the process would then be complete, and the role of Jesus' reign would be complete, as described in Corinthians,
1 Cor 15:25: For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. .. 28. When all things have been subjected to him, then the Son will also himself be subjected to him who subjected all things to him, that God may be all in all. WEB
There is really very little detail on the specifics of the age to come through the Old Testament and the gospels. The focus of the message is more that the Kingdom will come, and that it will cause the world to be so changed that it is considered a “new earth”. The mention of the 1000 years period at the end of Revelation though, does provide the avenue for this view of the kingdom presented in Isaiah to fit in with Kindgom gospel of the New Testament.
Chapter 11 of Isaiah contains a very similar vision to that of chapter 65, but but goes even further. It also detailing a time when there will be no violence. There is a similar change to peacefulness in the animal kingdom, but here there is a focus on a particular leader of this kindgom,
Isaiah 11:1.: There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 2. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. 3. His delight is in the fear of the LORD, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears; 4. But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth; ... 6. " The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. 7. The cow and the bear shall graze; Their young ones shall lie down together; And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. ... 9. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea. NKJV
The person referred to as the “Branch” is understood to be referring to a promised Messiah. Christians believe that this Messiah is Jesus Christ, while the Jewish people believe he is yet to appear. Under the just rule of the Messiah, people are promised peace and prosperity. This is the sort of world that many people have hoped for, and are still hoping for.
The book of Daniel also contains many prophecies and promises of future times. Daniel is a particularly useful book in our times because the prophecies cover a wide range of time-scales. In chapter 2, a vision is shown that describes the progression of world empires from 600BC to present times. It identified Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman and a divided empire. In the end, however, it described how these empires would be replaced by a kingdom of God.
Daniel 2:44.: "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. NKJV
This kingdom corresponds well with the images given by Isaiah. It is an everlasting kingdom of God with universal acceptance.
This is consistent with a promise given in the early days of Israel, while they were in the wilderness between Egypt and the promised land of Israel. After the people rebelled against God on one occasion, Moses asked God for their forgiveness, and received a far-reaching reply from God. Moses said,
Numbers 14:19.: "Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now." 20. Then the LORD said: "I have pardoned, according to your word; 21. "but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD -- NKJV
In this case God was promising that the earth would be filled with His glory. This is the message that is consistent with the other prophecies, and the central hope of Christianity.