Relevant Bible Verses: Isaiah 65-66
Leading Question: What are the main differences between Isaiah’s vision of the New Earth and the one in Revelation?
Probably the most significant difference between Isaiah’s vision of the New Earth and the one in Revelation 21-22 is that Isaiah’s points to the gradual end of evil instead of the sudden one portrayed in Revelation.
Probably nothing in the Bible is more divisive than the topic of eschatology (= “the study of last things.”) In today’s Christian world, there are four major perspectives on eschatology. These are briefly summarized below. The first one on the list, historicism, is the classic reformation view generally held by Adventists.
Eschatology: Four Perspectives
- “All-time Road Map.” HISTORICISM: A single road-map through history leads up to end-time events. This is the traditional Adventist perspective, rooted in Daniel 2 and 7 and shaped by the teaching of the great reformers.
- “Yesterday.” PRETERISM: “End-time” events are not predictions at all, but were based on events in the author’s own day. In its pure form, this view is held by “liberals” who deny the predictive element in prophecy or any “real” end of time.
- “Tomorrow.” FUTURISM: “End-time” events are yet to come. In its pure form, this view denies conditional prophecy. It is the most popular view of eschatology among conservative Christians today (cf. “Left Behind” [movie]). Unfulfilled events in the Bible (especially from the OT) are predicted to take place at some future point to a literal and restored Israel. The temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem at the site of the Moslem mosque, Dome of the Rock. The best-known modern form of futurism is Dispensationalism. Note the seven-fold division of history (fully developed in the Scofield Bible notes):
- Innocence: Before the fall
- Conscience: Before the flood
- Human government: Before Abraham
- Promise: Before Sinai
- Law: Before the Cross
- Grace: Before Second Advent
- Kingdom: 7 years and millennium.
Note: The seven year period falls between the secret coming of Christ (“rapture” [parousia]) and the public coming [epiphaneia]; the saved spend the next 1000 years on earth, during which there is birth, death, and animal sacrifice.
- “Today, Today, Today!” IDEALISM/APPLIED HISTORICISM. Major “End-time” historicist applications are retained, but are re-applied to new situations. From an Adventist perspective, this approach suggests that there were several points in history when Christ could have come. It builds on the concept of “conditional” prophecy. Note the summary of God’s “original” plan for Israel, based on SDABC 4:25-38:
- On-site Evangelism. The world would be attracted to God by Israel’s witness and prosperity. Many would ask to become part of Israel.
- Salvation through the Messiah. God’s anointed one (the messiah) would have come, died, and risen again, but would have been accepted by his own people.
- Jerusalem as Missionary Headquarters. The present city of Jerusalem would have become a center for outreach into the whole world.
- Final Confrontation but the Gradual Elimination of Evil. A confrontation would finally take place between good and evil; God’s rule would be established; but the marks of evil would gradually disappear.
Note: The phrase “applied historicism” is one that I have used as a bridge between traditional historicism and so-called idealism, i.e. multiple applications. And it is an approach suggested in the book of Revelation itself. Virtually all scholars agree that “Babylon” in Revelation is a code word for Rome. But because it was too dangerous to refer to Rome by name, the author used the ancient label, “Babylon,” a power long since gone, but which was useful for designating the new “beast.”
In Adventism, something like applied historicism was used by Morris Venden in the 1970s when he would say, “Now we all know who the beast is historically. But now let’s look in the mirror. Are you acting like the beast? If the shoe fits, wear it!”
Another familiar application in Adventist history appears in connection with the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3. All scholars would agree on the “preterist” application, i.e. seven literal churches in the first century. Adventism, following the historicist pattern assigned each church to an era of history. Something close to applied historicism could happen at the personal level, with each person deciding whether they were more like, Ephesis, Smyrna, or Thyatira. Interestingly enough Adventists originally saw themselves as belonging to the Philadelphian church, with the nominal Adventists being Laodicea. Suddenly, in the mid 1850s James White dropped a bombshell: Guess what, he said. Adventists are the church of Laodicea!
The seven churches are not the ideal example because I know of no attempt to apply the seven churches from a futurist perspect and envision seven literal churches in the future.
Question: What specific aspects from Isaiah would differ from the NT view of the restored earth?
Comment: Isaiah 65:20 indicates that there will still be death, but no premature death in the restored earth: “No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.”
Comment: Another difference is the evidence of sin that still lingers after the earth has been restored. The last three verses of the book (Isa. 66:22-4) make the point:
Isaiah 66: 22: For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, says the Lord; so shall your descendants and your name remain. 23 From new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, says the Lord.
24 And they shall go out and look at the dead bodies of the people who have rebelled against me; for their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.
The one clear point that stands out in the comparison between Revelation is restoration. That would also be the common ground with Isaiah’s vegetarian kingdom as described in 11:6-9:
Isaiah 11:6-11: The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea. (NRSV)
Finally, one of the jewels of Ellen White’s writings come in the closing three paragraphs of her book, The Great Controversy. These lines are quoted in the official study guide and they make a fitting close to our lessons on Isaiah:
And the years of eternity, as they roll, will bring richer and still more glorious revelations of God and of Christ. As knowledge is progressive, so will love, reverence, and happiness increase. The more men learn of God, the greater will be their admiration of His character. As Jesus opens before them the riches of redemption and the amazing achievements in the great controversy with Satan, the hearts of the ransomed thrill with more fervent devotion, and with more rapturous joy they sweep the harps of gold; and ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of voices unite to swell the mighty chorus of praise.
“And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever”– Rev. 5:13.
The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love. – The Great Controversy, 678