Keywords in the Prophecy of the Coming Kingdom

Matterhorn mountain

Isaiah prophesied of a kingdom that was to come “in the last days” – the age that was ushered in following the coming of Christ into the world (cf. Hebrews 1:2). There are several keywords in this prophecy that we must understand if we are to appreciate what the passage teaches.

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 nations will stream to it.

And many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.’ For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

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 2:2-4).

Let us briefly consider each of these key terms:

Mountain – When Isaiah said “the mountain…of the Lord will be established,” he was obviously not talking about a literal mountain. This term signifies government or authority. This prophecy was about a coming kingdom. This kingdom would be the chief of the mountains (governments, authorities). As Daniel said, it would destroy the existing world empires but would itself endure forever (Daniel 2:44). Jesus told Pilate that this kingdom was a spiritual kingdom and that He was its King (John 18:36-37). As King, Jesus has “all authority” (Matthew 28:18). Those who would be part of His kingdom must respect His authority in all that they do (Colossians 3:17).

House – Paul explained to Timothy that the house of God was “the church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:15). This prophecy helps prove to us that the church was part of God’s plan. It was not just an afterthought, established temporarily because Jesus failed to set up His kingdom the first time (as premillennialism teaches). Isaiah’s prophecy clearly ties the church and the kingdom together – “the mountain of the house of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:2). Jesus used the terms kingdom and church interchangeably (Matthew 16:18-19), referring to the same thing. We are not waiting for a future kingdom. It is here today (Mark 9:1; Colossians 1:13).

Nations – The term “nations” refers to the Gentiles. This kingdom that would be established would be open to all – not just the physical descendants of Abraham. Peter told the Jews on the day of Pentecost that the promise was “for you and your children and for all who are far off” (Acts 2:39). This referred to the Gentiles “who formerly were far off [but] have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). Jesus came to bring Jews and Gentiles together by reconciling them both to God (Ephesians 2:16).

Come – The invitation would go forth: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:3). Though the invitation would be spread far and wide (Mark 16:15), only those who chose to answer the call would be saved (Mark 16:16). This reminds us of our individual responsibility. Paul told the brethren in Philippi, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). God does not force anyone to follow Him; we must be willing to do so (cf. Matthew 23:37). It is also not good enough to simply be associated with those who follow. We will each “appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10). There we will be judged as individuals, not as families, congregations, nations, etc. We must decide on our own to follow Christ.

Teach – Why are we going to the mountain or house of the Lord? Our initial answer may be to worship. While worshiping God is certainly important (John 4:23-24), something else was emphasized here – teaching. Why was there an emphasis on teaching? It is because we need to know God’s will. We must have faith to please God and be justified before Him (Hebrews 11:6; Romans 5:1). That faith “comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). This is why we continue to emphasize teaching today. Alien sinners must hear the gospel (Mark 16:15). Christians need to be built up in the faith (Acts 20:32). The house of God to which we are all coming is the “pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Faithful churches will continue to preach and teach the word, even though it may not always be popular.

Walk – When it comes to the word of God, learning what is taught is not (or should not be) merely an academic exercise. We learn so that “we may walk in His paths” (Isaiah 2:3). Those who would be part of Christ’s kingdom need to conduct themselves in a certain way. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter” (Matthew 7:21). This concept runs contrary to the popular doctrine of salvation by faith alone. We must do more than just hear God’s word and believe in Jesus. James wrote, “Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22).

Law – Many people misinterpret passages in the New Testament in an attempt to defend their assertion that in Christ we are not under law today. Yet we are under a law. It is called by various terms in the New Testament – the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), the law of the Spirit (Romans 8:2), the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25), and so on. Because the word of God constitutes a law, we must follow it. Previous points about Jesus’ authority and our need to walk in His teachings reinforce this point.

Judge – When the kingdom would be established, Isaiah said that Christ would “judge between the nations” (Isaiah 2:4). When we read about judgment, we may immediately think of the final judgment when the Lord returns. Christ will certainly judge us then (2 Corinthians 5:10), but there is another point we should take from this as well. Jesus is able to “judge between the nations and…render decisions for many peoples” because there is one standard for all nations. That standard is His word which will ultimately judge us (John 12:48). The gospel was to go forth “to all creation” (Mark 16:15) because all people are amenable to the law of Christ.

Peace – This word is not stated, but it is certainly implied. Under the reign of Christ, the nations “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). One may ask: If peace was to come with Christ’s kingdom, and His kingdom is now in existence (Mark 9:1; Colossians 1:13), why are there still wars between the nations? We must understand that this verse is not talking about some utopian paradise on the earth enjoyed by all people (Christians and non-Christians). There are two points in this verse about peace that we should remember. First, violence is not to be used to advance the cause of Christ (Matthew 26:51-53; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Second, all of Jesus’ followers should be united (John 17:20-21). He came to bring us to peace with God and, as a result, peace with one another (Ephesians 2:13-16).

There are important lessons to be learned from passages like this one. But we must understand the terms that are being used or else we will miss the point. Christ’s kingdom – the church – is open to all who will come to Him, learn His will, and live according to His law. It is a great privilege to be part of His kingdom and be able to look forward to the eternal reward He offers. Let us be sure to take advantage of the salvation that has been offered to all those who will follow Him.

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