I have been told by many Bible commentators that the passage in Isaiah 65:17-25 refers to a Millennium period on Earth when Christ rules the nations directly before the Final Judgement of all men. They say that this is a period when nothing shall kill or hurt on Earth in the animal of human realms because God will directly be ruling the earth. Satan will be bound and have no influence on humans or the animal kingdom. Often the picture is shown of a lion and lamb sitting together. It portrays the idea of the Garden of Eden before the Curse.
I believed this idea for a long time. But is that really what these verses refer to? I held that view when I believed in the futurist eschatological view that the thousand-year period in Revelation chapter 20 was a reference to some sort of millennial rule of Christ on Earth before His Final Judgement on the unsaved. I no longer believe such ideas.
Now I believe the (so-called) Millennium is symbolic of the Church age — the period of time beginning with the Lord Jesus Christ and His work on the Cross and ending with the Final Judgement called the Great White Throne Judgement (Revelation 20:11-13). There are no others but the saved (in the new heaven and new earth) and the damned (sent to Hell). All are judged at the Great White Throne of God.
Now let’s look at these verses.
Isaiah 65:17-25 (KJVER) For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. 18 But be you glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. 19 And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. 20 There shall be no more there an infant of days, nor an old man that has not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. 21 And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. 22 They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of My people, and My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them. 24 And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat [food]. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, says the LORD.
So these verses are introduced by verse 17 with a new heaven and new earth.
Isaiah 65:17 For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.
The Reformers wrote (in the footnote on this verse in the Geneva Bible) that this is a spiritual reference to a change in the Church so new and fresh that it will seem like a new world.
Isaiah 65:18,19 But be you glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. 19 And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.
The reference to Jerusalem is a spiritual reference to the kingdom of God which spiritually began with Christ. He introduced the heavenly kingdom with His death on the Cross. “It is finished” He said. The covenant that God made with man is complete. And
… except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. … except a man be born again he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. John 3:3,5.
The verse 3 uses the word ‘see’ in English but according to the Greek εἴδω eido word used it means to ‘have personal knowledge of’. The phrase ‘enter in’ in verse 5 from the Greek εἰσέρχομαι eiserchomai has the meaning of ‘come (in, into), enter in(-to), go in (through)’. These verses refer to the ‘new birth’. And the Jews have an expression “one that is made a proselyte, כקטון שנולד דמי, “is like a child new born”.”
Remember also Jesus said:
Matthew 3:9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say to you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham.
Thus these verses are fulfilled in the Church Age from Christ onwards, ending with the Final Judgement. It can’t be after the Final Judgement in the new heaven and new earth, because it mentions sinners who are cursed and sent to hell. Nor is this a statement about a literal 1000 year Millennium on Earth after some secret Rapture with Jews setting up a kingdom on Earth. This was promoted by the Brethren leader John Nelson Darby in his dispensationalism doctrine. It is definitely gross error because it undermines the entire book of Romans. The message of Paul there is that there is no Jew or Greek (Gentile) in God’s Church; all have the same status in Christ.
Darby’s idea is that there are two groups of the saved. One group is the non-Jewish believers who are secretly raptured, taken to heaven before some Great Tribulation period. See elsewhere why that is wrong also. And the other group is the reformed tribes of physical nation of Israel (Jews) who set up a 1000 year reign of God on Earth. They allegedly are saved as a nation because they are the offspring of Abraham. [See comments below.]
J.N. Darby’s dispensationalism doctrine promoted two separate dispensations: one on the non-Jews (Gentiles) and one on the nation of Israel. Both individual Jews and Gentiles could be saved through grace prior to the Jewish dispensation. But Darby taught that the way of salvation was closed to Israel as a nation until the way would be opened to the nation of Israel and then Israel, the nation, would be recognised by other nations as favoured by God. However the point remains is that the Jews as a nation are treated differently to the non-Jews (Gentiles) who are saved prior to the “secret Rapture” under Darby’s doctrine. Darby’s doctrine hinges on a distinction between the Church, as the heavenly people of God (allegedly raptured before the Millennium rule on Earth by Israel), and the nation of Israel, as the earthly people of God. I contend no such distinction exists in God’s Word. Jesus in His parables of the Final Judgement made no such distinction. He only returns once, and that is to gather the faithful for heaven and the damned for Hell.
The only consistent and realistic interpretation of the one thousand years (the so-called Millennium) of Revelation 20:3-7 is that it is symbolic of the new testament Church Age. One thousand years is not literally 1000 years but is symbolic of a period of time.
Through Christ the Jews are who are saved become part of the Church. In Isaiah 65:19 we read there is ‘no more weeping’. This is because they are saved, and they then have personal knowledge of the kingdom of God. This is like when the scales fell from Paul’s eyes. He was a Jew who was saved; a Jew who becomes a new creature in Christ. At salvation all those early church Jews not only saw but entered into the kingdom of God, which is new Jerusalem. That is the spiritual beginning. I am not denying a physical fulfilment like the Garden of Eden after the Final Judgement in the new earth but initially it begins with a spiritual new birth when one is saved and regenerated in Christ.
Isaiah 65:20a There shall be no more there an infant of days, nor an old man that has not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old;
Of this the Reformers wrote (in Geneva bible footnote 1 on this verse): No weakness of young or infirmity of age but all are fresh and flourishing in the new Jerusalem because sin has ceased and tears are wiped away. So this is not about physical strength but about spiritual life. When a young or old person is saved they are ‘born again’ and become a child in God’s eyes. He or she becomes a child of God. The ‘child shall die at a hundred years’ is a statement about a mature Christian who dies in the Lord. He is a child of God even though aged. The ‘hundred years’ is symbolic of physical maturity.
Isaiah 65:20b but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.
By the same token a sinner (unsaved person) though physically mature shall still be accursed meaning he will still go to Hell after death. The Reformers agreed with this.
Isaiah 65:21 And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them.
This also is symbolic. Building houses and planting vineyards is symbolic of growing the Church and missionary efforts spreading the gospel throughout the world. They ‘eat the fruit’ means they will be enjoying the spiritual fruit of their labours as they see new souls won for Christ. The ‘houses’ being built are new local churches (not buildings) but gatherings of believers.
We can get the meaning of the Church from Matthew 16:18.
Matthew 16:18 That you are Peter, and upon this rock [the statement of Peter that Jesus is the Christ] I will build My church [Greek: ἐκκλησία ekklesia – called out assembly]; and the gates of hell shall not prevail [Greek: κατισχύω katischuo – overpower] against it.
This is not a building or a building program, but an assembly of believers who war against Satan.
Matthew 16:19 And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
And from Matthew 16:19 it is clear that the kingdom of God was opened for the disciples to enter in. Jesus said he would give Peter the keys to the door; symbolic of course.
Isaiah 65:21,22 They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of My people, and My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them.
The reference to ‘My people and My elect’ means those chosen of God, His chosen people. These verses are also about the work of the Church. The building and planting are largely spiritual references to the spreading of the gospel, though those efforts involve physical planting of new assemblies (churches). The seed of the Lord and their offspring are those born again, spiritual Israel, not flesh and blood Jews. It includes all Messianic believers. They too are Christians now.
Isaiah 65:24 And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.
We are given access to the Father like never before. He promises to hear our prayers and answer them. In Christ we now have that close relationship with God.
Isaiah 65:25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat [food]. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, says the LORD.
This one is interesting because it is the verse that many use to argue for a millennial rule of Christ on Earth and some (particularly John N Darby) include a period of rule of the Jews on Earth after the Rapture of the Church, in their futurist eschatology. The animals are interpreted literally. Now compare this verse 25 with Isaiah 11:6-9.
Isaiah 11:6-9 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp [an adder], and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ [a viper] den. 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain [God’s kingdom]: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
These verses refer to the same animals, some dangerous and some safe for humans. The view is given that there is nothing dangerous anymore in the heavenly kingdom. Also that the knowledge of the Lord shall be metaphorically spread as waters that cover the sea. That refers to the complete spread of the gospel around the Earth, not that all will be saved. The gospel has been spread now for two thousand years and particularly since the 17th century. So these verses are a reference to the state of the Church and its work on Earth. The kingdom of God is spiritual not an earthly rule of Christ and tribes of Jews on Earth. That is what the zealots of Jesus day thought he had come to bring. The saved are automatically members of the kingdom; they enter the moment of their regeneration in Christ.
Isaiah 11:6 here is compared to Isaiah 65:25 by the Geneva Bible translators. Of it they wrote:
“Men because of their wicked affections are named by the names of beasts, wherein the like affections reign: but Christ by his Spirit shall reform them, and work in them such mutual charity, that they shall be like lambs, favouring and loving one another and cast off all their cruel affections, Is 65:25.”
Here the wolf, lion, snakes, and bear are symbolic of the characters of unsaved humans. Through Christ they are changed and so ‘the wolf and the lamb shall feed together’ is a reference to those in the Church who once were adversaries in the world are made one in Christ; they are made friends through the transformation of their nature from beast to human. In the Church those born again believers are no longer brute beast operating under sin. Sucking and weaned children are very young. These are the born-again believers who fellowship with those who were once in nature like dangerous beasts (e.g. poisonous snakes), but because they now have a new nature they are no longer a danger.
These verses are all consistent with the period of the Church on Earth beginning with Christ. It all begins with our Lord and any fruit is due to the power of the Spirit in our lives.