Gladness & Rejoicing
Gladness and Rejoicing
Does our employer promise us that if we work for them, we will find purpose and satisfaction in life? Do universities promise that obtaining a degree from their institution guarantees an abundant life? Can politicians promise us the elimination of all war? Does Wall Street or the slick advertising of Madison Avenue promise that we will never hunger or thirst? Can the medical community guarantee long life or the elimination of pain or death?
We continually are bombarded by pundits, professionals, experts, authorities, specialists, gurus, commentators, and analysts who give their opinions on what to do, what to say, what to wear, what to eat, how to live, and how we ought to think. But, none of them can make the promises which God makes. And if they do make a claim to deliver what God says He can deliver; I suggest they are incapable and delusional.
Throughout the book of Isaiah, God promises to make things good. God promises to make things more than good; He promises to make things perfect.
Listen to the amazing promises which God makes to His servants:
- God promises no crime. The Messiah will stand in Jerusalem, and it will be glorious. There will be no corruption, and the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Chapter 11:9-10).
- God promises no sorrow. As the Holy One of Israel stands in their midst (Isaiah 12:6), the people in Zion will weep no longer. There is joyful shouting as the Lord brings comfort and compassion to the afflicted (Isaiah 49:13).
- God promises fruitful land! God’s Spirit is poured out on the land, and the wilderness becomes a fertile field where peace, justice, and righteousness dwell. Everyone lives in a peaceful, secure habitation (Isaiah 32:15-18).
- God promises great peace and harmony! Swords are made into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4). The gates of their city are continually open so men may bring the wealth of the nations with kings leading the procession (Isaiah 60:11).
- God promises the return of children to Israel! Tent pegs are stretched and enlarged because the descendants are like the number of grains of sand. They possess nations and are never cut off or destroyed from God’s presence (Isaiah 48:19; 54:2-3).
- God promises the elimination of hunger and thirst! (Isaiah 65:13).
- God promises creation is safe! The wolf and the lamb lie down together, and there is no threat of any harm from dangerous animals (Isaiah 11:6-9). As God’s people go forth, the mountains and the hills break forth into shouts of joy and the trees clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12).
- God promises abundance. The Lord of hosts prepares a lavish banquet of aged wine and choice meat for all people to enjoy on His holy mountain (Isaiah 25:6).
- God promises that troubles are forgotten (Isaiah 65:16)
- God promises eternal life. And on this mountain, He will swallow up the dark blanket covering all peoples; He will swallow up death for all time, wipe tears away from all faces, and remove the reproach of His people from all the earth. (Isaiah 25:7-8)
God makes promises that God can make happen. He is all-powerful and all-wise. God proves He is capable. He is the Supreme Authority of the universe.
It is time for God’s people to listen to what God has to say.
God is going to make more amazing promises in Chapter 65 of Isaiah. But, before we look into the text, we need to understand the nature of prophetic writing.
Isaiah often writes a double prophecy. Double prophecy combines two future truths into one passage. An example of double prophecy is found in Isaiah chapter nine. It reads:
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Within this passage, we understand Isaiah to prophecy of the first coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah of Israel, “unto us a child is born.” He also prophesies the second coming of Christ and speaks of how He will sit on the throne of David. “The government will rest on His shoulders and He will have a kingdom of peace and righteousness.”
Eternity and the Millennium
The reason to talk about double prophecy is that Isaiah includes another one in Isaiah 65. In this passage, Isaiah prophecies of the age of eternity and the age of the Millennium.
Eternity is our life in heaven with God. Much of what we know of eternity comes from Isaiah and John’s Revelation. In Revelation, John takes many of Isaiah’s passages and expounds upon them in more detail. John repeats Isaiah prophecy and says that in eternity, there is no crying or sorrow. Satan is defeated. Death and sin are forever destroyed.
Jesus tells us that in eternity, there is no marriage (Matthew 22:30). We are married to Him. He is our bridegroom and we, the church, are His bride.
In Isaiah 65, God speaks of people living long lives, but they eventually die. Isaiah 65 also speaks of having children, which implies marital relationships. Therefore, Isaiah must not be speaking about eternity, but something else. A different age. Theologians believe this chapter speaks about eternity and the Millennium.
The majority of what we know about the Millennium is from chapter 20 of John’s Revelation. It is called the Millennium because it is a 1,000-year period. It speaks of an age when Satan is bound, and Christ reigns on the earth as He sits on David’s throne.
The Millennium is very important to the Israelites. The Abrahamic, Palestinian, and Davidic Covenants all promise land, prosperity, and Messianic rule over Israel and the nations. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Zechariah, and Habakkuk prophecy of the Millennium.
The reason we need to understand the Millennium and how it relates to Isaiah 65 is that during the Millennium, people are born, and people die. Therefore, we believe Isaiah 65 speaks of both the age eternity and the age of the Millennium. If we approach the passage thinking Isaiah only speaks of eternity, we will not understand how people die or give birth, and it will contradict what we know of eternity.
Preaching Isaiah 65 in the church age
There is much to teach about the Millennium. However, teaching is best done in an interactive classroom (which I am happy to do if there is enough interest).
Many theologians have many interpretations of the Millennium because Scripture is limited and because of the figurative language.
Because of the many interpretations, speaking about the Millennium raises many questions. The most puzzling question is, “how literally are we to interpret figurative poetry?” (I believe Scripture reveals that there is a literal millennium, but it’s not a hill to die upon. My certainty is not rock-solid – more a “my best guess.” The fact that Jesus rose from the dead and will return to judge all people is a hill to die upon.)
Because there are often more questions than answers, it is best to slowly teach on the truths the Bible teaches about the Millennium while answering questions as they arise.
Therefore, we will not look at the details found in Scripture of the Millennium, but only what is found in Isaiah 65.
What we can know is that the good of the Millennium is also the good of eternity. And, eternity is better than the Millennium. What we learn in this passage is Jesus makes all things good.
In the Millennium and eternity, Jesus is Lord of all. He is Supreme. His government is one of peace. He establishes and upholds justice and righteousness. We have much to look forward to, whether it is in the Millennium and eternity, or just eternity.
Therefore, the main idea of this passage is that we need to place our faith and hope in being filled with gladness and rejoicing in the reign of Christ.
In this passage, the Lord God makes seven amazing promises. The first is utterly astounding.
The promise of a new creation
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.” (Isaiah 65:17)
For the past two-thousand years, ever since Jesus ascended into heaven, people have spoken about the truth that God is going to create new heavens and a new earth. It is difficult for us to think of hearing this truth for the very first time.
These words are spoken 1,000 years after Abraham and 750 years before Jesus is born. Think about it. Noah and Abraham are not told about a new heaven and earth. Neither is Moses or David. The prophets Samuel and Elijah are not told. Generation after generation of God’s people are born and die, and all of a sudden, in Isaiah’s day, God reveals a profound truth. He is going to create new heavens and a new earth.
Isaiah is the very first person to speak the words that God will create new heavens and a new earth. Before Isaiah, God’s makes promises of making things good. But we have to think that the assumption God’s people held was that God was going to make things better, not destroy everything and make all things new. Isaiah’s words are profound.
Look to Genesis and imagine all of God’s creative work happening once again. The description of creation in Genesis is remarkable. There are not enough superlatives in our language to equal the grandness and majesty of God’s handiwork. Every day we marvel at what God has created by speaking His word. We are amazed at God’s power and wisdom. God speaks, and all things come into existence.
God promises a recreation, and all the troubles of this world are forgotten. They are erased from memory. God’s servants are miraculously placed in the new creation, and we arrive with clean slates. For those of you who ask what we will remember, the answer is the former things will not come to mind.
We will not remember this world or sin. We will have no memory of corruption and evil. To think about these things is painful. In eternity, there is nothing to bring us sorrow or pain.
The promise of a new purpose
As God creates the new world, He creates things with a new purpose. Notice the wording of verse 18. Jerusalem is created for rejoicing. God’s people are created for gladness.
“But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing and her people for gladness.” (Isaiah 65:18)
The reason the city which we live is created is that it is made so rejoicing will take place. The inhabitants are created for the purpose of being glad. Imagine being created as a being with the intention of having perpetual gladness. In the new creation, God’s intent is to recreate us for gladness.
Why are you always happy? It’s because God made me this way. It will be our nature.
The promise of God rejoicing
The book of Isaiah begins with God announcing that He has had enough of His people. He is angry. They disgust Him. He takes no pleasure in them. When they enter His temple, He sees them as trampling in His courts. (Isaiah 1:11-12)
Throughout the book, God expresses His great anger and displeasure. Chapter 30 describes His anger as burning, and God’s lips are filled with indignation and His tongue is a consuming fire. His fierce anger will bring forth a flame of consuming fire in cloudburst, downpour, and hailstones (Isaiah 30:27, 30).
God says He will force His people to drink from His hand the cup of His anger until it is drained to the dregs. (Isaiah 51:17).
God’s anger in the new creation is of the past and forgotten. Instead of His anger, God joins with His people in gladness. He is forever glad in His people. They are a source of His joy. (Isaiah 65:19).
With God’s pleasure, comes the experience of never having to weep or cry. We may experience joy and gladness without having times of crying and mourning. It is hard to imagine having joy without ever having sorrow, but God promises it to be true.
The promise of a long life
In verse 20, it appears the prophecy of Isaiah shifts from eternity, to the Millennium, when Christ will reign for 1,000 years. The reason we believe there is a shift is that right before the new heaven and earth are created, the book of Revelation, says that death is destroyed in the lake of fire. But, in this passage, death is still present.
The point Isaiah is making in this verse, and the ones following, is that there is no longer futility to life. God promises to remove futility and frustration from the lives of His people. There will no longer be a long period of pregnancy only to have a baby die after living a few days. No miscarriages. No infant deaths. No children dying. No teens dying. No twenty-year-old dying. God says that those who don’t live to be at least one hundred will be thought of as being accursed (Isaiah 65:20). God promises that His people will experience the enjoyment of long-life without a premature death.
The promise of fruitfulness
God promises the end of the futility of labor (Isaiah 65:21–23).
No longer will people plant a garden, only to have an enemy or someone else eat all the food. People will not lose their homes because of invading armies. When people make a tool to use in their labor, the tool will wear out before the man wears out. Men will outlive their hammer.
God promises an end to the problem of vain labor. The satisfaction of building will not be accompanied by the fear of destruction and conquest. We will build, and enjoy that which we have made.
The promise of answered prayer
Listen to the contrast between what God says at the beginning of Isaiah, and what He says in the end. In chapter one, we hear God say:
So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. (Isaiah 1:15)
However, God completely changes. He says there is coming a day when, before His people cry out to God, while they are still speaking, He will hear and answer (Isaiah 65:24).
Imagine speaking, and God answering our prayers before we have a chance to say, amen. It is an amazing promise worthy of our meditation.
With this promise, and with all the promises, the difference between the beginning of the book and the end is what comes in the middle, and that is the salvation of Jesus Christ. Without the salvation of Christ, we have no standing before God. But, because we are purchased with the blood of Christ, we are adopted as God’s children. Jesus makes us acceptable and good in the eyes of God, the Father. It is because of the righteousness of Jesus that God rejoices over us. It is because of Jesus our life will be fruitful. And, it is because of Jesus that God will be listening and attentive to our needs.
The promise of a good creation
The passage finishes with a similar promise that is found in chapter 11 (Isaiah 11:6-9). In that passage, the focus is the righteous reign of the Messiah. Again, we see the thoroughness of Christ’s work.
Imagine politicians of any political party promising that if they are in power, the animals will stop being harmful!
We look at these verses far too quickly. For thousands of years, people have needed to be careful when walking through jungles and the wilderness. There are hundreds of animals that want to do us harm. But, when Jesus Christ sits on the throne in the Millennium or in eternity, the animals submit to His authority.
There will be great joy to see the animals living in harmony, nations no longer at war, people living in perfect obedience, and God answering prayer even before we have the chance to say, amen.
There is more to life than this life.
As we contemplate these great and precious promises, we understand why the Apostle Paul prays for the eyes of our heart to be enlightened, so that we will know what is the hope of His calling, and what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe (Ephesians 1:18-19).
The question we must ask is, “In light of these amazing promises for the future, how are we to live today?” In other words, how does this passage of Scripture impact our lives? When we leave the church building, are we to live, think, and speak differently, or does God desire that we only be amazed, but live the same?
So, if God says that his servants will be blessed, as he does throughout the book of Isaiah, either he is a liar, or there is more to life after we finish in this world.
Are you living as though God is telling the truth or as though God is a liar, and we can ignore Him?
The answer is that these promises for the future are to shape the way we live today.
God gives us commands and principles for us to obey. If we ignore God’s word, it reveals that we don’t believe His promises. In other words, the extent that we believe God’s promises are revealed in the way we live our lives.
Our life is to reflect our belief in God’s future promises. The bible teaches that the effects of our choices today are not all experienced in this life. The choices we make today will affect our life in eternity.
The choice to reject the salvation offered by Jesus has consequences. Justice is not entirely served here, as any of us can relate. All the good that is done here is not rewarded here, and all the evil that is done here is not punished here. Not all bad people are punished, in this life. God promises there is more than this life. There are a new heaven and a new earth, but only those who put their faith in Jesus may enjoy the new creation.
Live, looking for the blessed hope
Here is a passage telling us how to live based on our future hope.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:11-13)
There are other passages which give more instruction, but this is enough to start. Three commands are given.
- Deny ungodliness and worldly desires.
- Live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age.
- Look for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.
When we strive to live according to these commands, we are giving evidence that we believe God’s word. We have a glorious future. Let’s live today demonstrating we believe one day we will be filled with gladness and rejoicing in the reign of Christ. Let’s live in such a way that others will ask us about the hope that is within us; for our joy, and God’s glory.