If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.
13 May, Isaiah chapters 64-66
The final climax of Isaiah’s prophecies continues in the apocalyptic style that I described yesterday, describing events that could be related to the immediate rebuilding of Jerusalem, or to its second destruction in 70CE and the subsequent spreading of Christianity as the new worldwide religion, or to the future and final ingathering of all God’s people on the last day.
Some interpreters would also add the renewal of the nation of Israel from 1947 as part of this vision. There remains controversy within the Church as to whether that was a fulfilment of prophecy, part of God’s plan, or merely a political phenomenon of our time. Was it part of God’s plan that there should be Jews living in Jerusalem in order that it can feature as the central location of his final act of redemption (whatever that might look like in practice)? Or is the worldwide church – messianic Jews as well as gentile Christians – the ‘new Israel’ with God’s presence in the risen Christ in all places, and Jerusalem no longer anywhere special except as a matter of historic interest? The site of the Temple, of course, is now a mosque, so God is still worshipped there but in a different way.
These are not easy questions, and Isaiah may have understood nothing of the circumstances of the 21st century. What we can say with certainty, though, is that these final chapters of the longest and most profound of the books of Biblical prophecy leave the reader in no doubt that what matters to God is not forms of worship or religious allegiance (66:1-4) but an openness to the work of God’s spirit in “making all things new”. Since the first day of creation the Spirit has been working, creating, constantly and restlessly seeking to bring all things to perfection, and only those who are open to the Spirit of God will have a place in paradise.