Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in issue no. 13 (weeks 49-52; December 8—December 29, 2019) of The Lookout magazine, and is also available online at www.lookoutmag.com.
Lesson Aim: Live in the sure hope of God’s promises.
By Mark Scott
Dr. James Strauss from Lincoln Christian University said, “Isaiah 60-66 is the greatest eschatological section of the Old Testament.” It would seem so. Isaiah 60 celebrates the future glory of Israel in the coming light of the Messiah. Isaiah 61 announces the year of the Messiah’s favor. Isaiah 62-64 expresses the desire for the Messiah to rend the heavens and come down to earth to grant salvation and to punish wrongdoing. Isaiah 65, 66 look forward to a new Heaven and new earth where the Messiah’s reign would never be questioned. The God of the Bible is all about making all things new (Revelation 21:5).
On the threshold of a new year it is good to be reminded of the promises of God. In many ways the Scripture is framed up with a theology of promise. Even the curses of Eden contain promises (Genesis 3:15). For sure, the promise made to Abraham finds its ultimate fulfillment in all the nations worshiping God around his throne (Revelation 7:9-12). At the end of the day it probably matters little whether Isaiah was describing a special literal 1,000-year kingdom in the old Jerusalem or whether he was describing the ultimate kingdom that started with Jesus’ first coming and flows into the New Jerusalem. Either way, the new life described here is glorious and allows the believers to experience new life in the sure hope of God’s promises.
Joyful Life | Isaiah 65:17-19
The God of the Bible lives in perpetual joy. Why should it surprise anyone to learn that as he creates a new Heaven and a new earth that one of the dominant aspects would be that of joy? Some form of joy appears five times in these three verses. When God creates (the same word used for God’s creativity in Genesis 1:1) this new world being envisioned, it will be so special that the old world will not be remembered. Gladness, rejoicing, and delight are to be expected in this new world of promise. Weeping and crying are out. Joy, not the absence of conflict but a quiet confidence that God is in control, reigns (Revelation 21:1-7).
Long Life | Isaiah 65:20-22
Life, the very thing forfeited in the Garden of Eden, is restored in gargantuan ways. The promise in the Ten Commandments attached to honoring parents was to live long in the land which God gave them (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16). The life being described in these verses is life on steroids.
Infants will not die just a few days after birth. Old men will live long. In fact, living to one hundred years will not be unusual. Such a one will be considered a mere child. If a person does not live to the ripe old age of 100 that person will be considered accursed. People will live long enough to enjoy living in the homes they had built and eating the fruit of their vineyards that they planted. They will enjoy the work of their hands as their lives will be like that of a tree (Psalm 1:3).
Blessed Life | Isaiah 65:23-25
Isaiah made it clear that people who experience what is being described here do not labor in vain. Their lives are filled with “purpose.” Their children are not subject to calamity (doomed to misfortune). When they pray to God for help, they receive help through specific answers. In fact, the Lord answers their “prayers” quickly (Luke 18:8).
The blessed life has “peace” written all over it. This is evident even in the animal kingdom. The wolf and the lamb will feed together. That is not normal, but it is affirmed in other texts (Isaiah 11:6-8; Hosea 2:18). (Woody Allen said, “Someday the lamb will lay by the lion . . . but it won’t get much sleep.”) The phrase, “Dust will be the serpent’s food,” takes one back to Eden and reminds God’s people that his promises—for good or ill—will have the last word. God’s holy mountain (a reference to his people) has no place for harm and destruction.
Parts of this passage sound like our ultimate future reserved for us in Heaven. But parts of this passage seem to imply that the believer experiences life at a new and better level, all the while having to build houses and labor away at one’s work. The tension might be resolved by realizing that, for the believer, one enters into eternal life in this life (John 5:24). God’s promises of a glorious future have already invaded us in the present in the first coming of Christ.
Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.