(Today's post by James Rooks)
There are certain times when reading a passage of scripture that the contact requires you to sit up in your chair and take notice. Isaiah 2 gets off to a quick start in this direction:
Now it will come about that
In the last days
The mountain of the house of the LORD
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it. [Isaiah 2:2 NASB]
My curiosity is piqued as my mind tries to grasp the images described by Isaiah. There's no getting around it. Isaiah is referring to the future here. Is he seeing a vision of things that will literally unfold or possibly something metaphorical? Look ahead to Daniel 9, and you will see the famous “70 Weeks” prophecy that accurately predicted, to the day, the triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. There's some good stuff in Daniel 9, but I just wanted to use it as a reference for how one might view fullfilled prophecy vs. unfulfilled prophecy.
In attempting to breakdown Isaiah 2 and subsequent chapters 3 and 4, it's easier to start by gaining an understanding about verses that serve as an indicator or starting point for the rest of the writing. You hope that by having some idea of what the lead in verse is referring to, you might get better clarity on the writing as a whole. So verse 2 begins with: “Now it will come about that in the last days.” Some believe we are in the last days now. Whether figurative or literally speaking, I'd say this is pretty accurate. We stand in between the empty grave and the return of Christ. History will show that this time period is indeed the last days. What this beginning phrase tells us is that what follows is prophesy and one that would fall under the category of unfulfilled prophesy. “The mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it.” This describes a time in which the LORD has established rule over the earth. Interesting to note that there are several times in Scripture that the word “mountains” is used to describe the word “nations”. Isaiah 2:4 goes on to describe a time of peace, no war, and purity of rule. If these events are to be played out literally, then we can easily say that none of this has happened yet. I tend to interpret unfilled prophesy in the same way that I interpret fulfilled prophesy … literally. In this case it appears that Isaiah's vision is of a time in the future (future for him and for us) where God will establish His reign on earth.
Most BIble study folks agree that God will establish His kingdom. The differences come when trying to figure out whether it's a literal reign on earth, a figurative reign, or something else. Even within groups that agree on that, you have groups that differ on the placement of the Church in all this and where Israel stands. When you start talking about things like the Rapture, the Millennial Reign, Tribulation, etc … it can be pretty fun. But it can also be hotly contested. One thing I try to keep in mind about all this is that if unfulfilled prophesy were easy to figure out, then all the Jews would have known who Jesus was when He came the first time. There were TONS of prophesies about Jesus' first coming. We have the benefit of hindsight when looking at those passages that refer to Jesus' birth, death, and resurrection.
I do look at passages like Isaiah 2-4 with great anticipation as I hope for His kingdom to come soon. When we look around and see political corruption, wars, and rumors of wars … I take comfort knowing that God will establish a righteous rule, and there will one day be an end of wars. Though we don't have it all figured out right now, one day we will have perfect clarity. I'll end with a passage from Revelation 15. One day …
4 “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU, FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED.” [Rev 15:4 NASB]