Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent
“And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.” (Isaiah 2.4 NASB1995)
Once upon a time, my family and I shared a condo in Hinesville, Georgia. It was 1989. Life in a condominium was…interesting. Aside from the paper-thin walls, strangers were coming and going at all hours. Unfortunately, some of those strangers were individuals proselytizing for their religious beliefs. One lazy Saturday, a couple knocked on my door and started talking to me, eventually directing my attention to Isaiah 2.4 and asking what I thought of it.
I was only 14 then, and my knowledge of the Scriptures was still immature. However, a glance revealed it seemed too idyllic to be related to earth, so I responded with “heaven.” My visitors agreed that I was on the right track with my interpretation and explained how it referred to the Millennial Kingdom that Christ would establish on Earth one day. I politely listened but knew that their explanation, at the very least, did not match what my parents and teachers had shown me in the Bible.
I’m an adult “of a certain age” in 2022, and I’ve had more time to study the Scriptures. Nonetheless, I wish I had known what I know now in 1989 so that I could have tried to persuade my solicitors where they went wrong in their understanding. My initial response had been partially incorrect. What God revealed to Isaiah was heavenly in origin but established on earth in the first century AD. Verse two gives an obvious hint by stating that the events of verse four will happen in the “last days.”
The Holy Spirit descended on Peter and the other apostles on Pentecost, around 33 AD. They started preaching the first Gospel message. People wondered if Peter and his companions were inebriated, but Peter assured them that they had witnessed the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy about the end times (Acts 2.17-21; Joel 2.28-32). God was pouring out His Spirit on men, heralding the arrival of the end times, the final dispensation governed by Christ’s Covenant.
On Pentecost, Peter used the keys entrusted to him by the Lord to unlock the kingdom God promised (Matthew 16.18-19; Daniel 2.44-45). The fact that it was the promised kingdom is also evident in Jesus’ statement in Mark 9.1. He stated that those to whom He spoke would be alive to witness the kingdom’s arrival with power (i.e., the Holy Spirit). Unless 2,000-year-olds are walking around, the kingdom has already arrived.
However, take note of the end of Isaiah 2.2: “…all the nations will stream to it.” This statement refers to Abraham’s Messianic promise (Genesis 22.18). Through Abraham’s seed, God would bless the nations of the earth. So, we have Jacob or Israel through Abraham’s seed, and through Israel, we have Judah. David was born of Judah’s lineage, to whom God promised an heir to establish His kingdom, build a house for God’s name, and establish His throne forever (2 Samuel 7.12-13).
God’s promise to Jehoiakim, a descendant of David, that none of his descendants would sit on David’s throne in perpetuity shows that this cannot refer to the same earthly throne on which David sat (Jeremiah 36.30-31). Indeed, no son of David would reign over Israel after their return from captivity. Descendants of Levi ruled the Hasmonean kingdom until the Romans conquered it about six decades before Christ’s birth. The Romans made Herod the Great, an Idumean who had married into the Hasmoneans, a vassal king over Judah.
When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, Pilate asked Jesus if He was a king. Jesus informed Pilate that He was, but that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18.36-37). Instead, Jesus declared Himself to be the ruler of a spiritual kingdom whose subjects heeded His voice of truth. Jesus’ answer prompted Pilate to ask the age-old question, “What is truth?” (John 18.38) Before ascending to the Father, Jesus told His apostles to preach the forgiveness of sins to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem, where they would wait until clothed with power from on high (Luke 24.44-49). Take note of the word “power” (24.49) and Jesus’ statement in Mark 9.1.
So, the church is the kingdom. We could have determined this without reading these Scriptures by looking at Matthew 16.18-19, where Jesus uses the terms “church” and “kingdom” interchangeably. However, false beliefs about Christ’s kingdom and premillennialism seriously threaten generic Christendom. As we’ve seen, Jesus intended His followers to preach the Gospel to all nations, so He would also save Gentiles. In Acts 10, Peter converted a Gentile and his family. From that point forward, God’s kingdom included non-Jews.
Previously, a barrier separated Jews and Gentiles. That wall was the Mosaic Law. In the second chapter of the epistle bearing their name, Paul explains to the Ephesian brethren that enmity existed while the wall stood. Jesus tore down that barrier, making Jews and Gentiles one in the body of Christ (Ephesians 2.11ff). Jesus brought peace through this act. Let us return to Isaiah 2.4. The prophecy’s poetic language points to a time when warring parties living under the auspices of one Judge would transform their weapons of war into peacetime tools. Despite being on Earth, it sounds like heaven because the church is a heavenly place (Ephesians 1.3).
So, the church is this wondrous place where we turn swords into plowshares. The church has “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free man, male nor female” because we are all one in Christ (Galatians 3.28). As a result, rather than fighting one another, we must focus our efforts on our common foe, the devil (Ephesians 6.10ff).