Continued from previous post
It’s often helpful to study a larger section of Scripture by examining the use of a certain word or concept. I did this with the word “Jerusalem” in this second part of Isaiah. I was tempted almost to say “second Isaiah” because the theme from chapter 40 onward is somewhat different than the previous, just the same as the theme of book 40 in the Bible (Matthew) is different from the first 39 books (the Old Testament). In this sense Isaiah’s 66 chapters seem to actually be prophetical of the completed Bible’s 66 books. But I don’t refer to the second half of Isaiah as “second Isaiah” because there are actually people who believe that there were two – or three! – Isaiah’s. I don’t. They believe this because otherwise they would have to believe in inspired prophecy – which they don’t. Much of modern scholarship is merely a new face put on ages-old unbelief.
So what did I find out about ”Jerusalem”? The meaning of the word is slightly controversial, but probably means either “in it is peace” or “possession of peace”. Interestingly, this last half of Isaiah has twenty occurrences of the word:
* Ten in chapters 40 through 52.
* None in the Messianic section and following chapters, 53 – 61.
* Ten in chapters 62 through 66.
I don’t necessarily put spiritual significance to the interesting pattern (10 – 0 –10) but it is helpful to keep in mind.
Jerusalem: Physical and Spiritual
The first thing I noticed, tying this in with Daniel 9, is that the passage is certainly about Jerusalem. It is, in fact, addressed to Jerusalem:
“’Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ says your God.
Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her,
That her warfare is ended,
That her iniquity is pardoned;
For she has received from the Lord’s hand
Double for all her sins.”
See verse 9:
O Zion, you who bring good tidings,
Get up into the high mountain;
O Jerusalem, you who bring good tidings
Note, there are both usages of the word “Jerusalem” in these chapters, physical and spiritual. Some are clearly physical, but others are obviously spiritual. Those who claim that we “spiritualizers of Scripture” are not taking the Word literally, do the very same thing – only with different verses. They certainly understand the above verses to refer to more than just physical Jerusalem. To not do this is to imagine a ridiculous interpretation, a city climbing a mountain!
Temple 1 one morphs into Temple 2!
But what about the Daniel passage? Do we spiritualize those too? Yes and no. We actually do both. First comes the physical fulfillment. Through many trials and temptations the physical Israelites finally build their physical city, temple and walls. But as they do so, they are already being assured by the new breed of prophets (post-exilic) that there is more going on here than meets the eye. The older temple builders were especially saddened by what they saw, because they remembered the previous grand temple of Solomon’s. But Haggai encouraged them:
“’The glory of this latter house shall be greater than the former’, says the Lord of hosts. “And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts.” Haggai 2:9
But how can this be? It was a smaller temple. Surely God didn’t mean the self-aggrandizing additions that Herod made? No, the “glory” referred to here – and the “peace” – is Christ Himself, “the Messenger who suddenly comes to His temple”, Mal. 3:1. Paul speaks of this “Peace”, teaching us that “He himself is our peace, who has made both [Jew and Gentile] one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,” Eph. 2:14. He goes in to say that we, believing Jews and Gentiles, are being “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone [that is, main foundation], in Whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you are also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” Eph. 2:20 – 22.
But how does this temple in Haggai have a greater glory?
1. The spiritual is more glorious than the physical. (Though it is necessarily after, 1 Cor. 15:46).
2. The outreach to the world is greater than that of physical Israel, so the works are greater, John 10: 16; 14:12.
3. Christ has come to the temple, fulfilled all requirements, signs and prophecies that pointed to Him, and has become our once-for-all temple Sacrifice. He is also our High Priest, entering into the Holy of Holies on our behalf.
God is, of course, not just a temple builder. His deeper aim is to build a people up, to gather them together and grow them as His own unique people. That is why the temple passages in the Bible eventually give way to the Zion or Jerusalem passages, until finally we see in the last book the heavenly Jerusalem, a city without a temple. It has no need for one, because we have Christ and are in Christ.
Temple & City
But these verses are all about the temple. What about the city? The same Paul who writes about the temple uses the city metaphor elsewhere. He says that the true children of Abraham are citizens of “the Jerusalem above”. Gal. 5:26. In Hebrews we are pointedly told that we have not come to Sinai (a fact that is lost on some Reformed folks) but we have “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem”, Heb. 12: 18, 22- 23. This is the very same heavenly Jerusalem that is pictured descending from heaven in Rev. 21:2!
But wait, you might say, that’s all future! But how do you know that that particular verse is future? As we continue looking into Isaiah we will see a lot of apocalyptic (assumingly future) elements put to historical use (historical from our standpoint).
This topic is not just hazy history or fuzzy futurism. This is where we live now, Christian brothers and sisters! We are citizens of the greatest nation in the world – greatest in extent, greatest in Foundation, most glorious in outlook! What a thrilling prospect we have in Christ Jesus our Saviour, Prophet, Priest, and King!