These chapters continue God’s words of comfort and promise of restoration for his people. I want to focus primarily on chapter 65 where Isaiah speaks of the new creation. This passage is often used as a prooftext for the premillennial view of Christ’s return. This position holds that Christ’s return precedes (hence, pre-) an earthly reign of 1000 years when Satan is bound and inactive. At the conclusion of the 1000 years, Satan is released to instigate a failed rebellion, Christ banishes him eternally to the lake of fire, and he establishes the new heavens and new earth.
There are other views that harmonize the relevant passages differently. Postmillennialism argues that this current age ends with a period of heightened churchly influence, and Christ returns at the conclusion of that time. Amillennialism argues that the millennium is not literal but is how Revelation 20:1-6 describes the current age. Therefore, Christ simply returns at a point in the future, and that is the end of this age.
I affirm premillennialism, but if we interpret this passage the way the New Testament apostles do, this passage must be referring to the eternal state and not the millennium. It’s better to stick to the primary texts than scour the Bible for a prooftext and skew the meaning to fit our predetermined interpretation.
Both Peter and John reference Isaiah 65:17 (“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind”). 2 Peter 3:13 says, “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” Immediately before this, Peter says that “the heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:10). These things take place not before but after the millennium. The new heaven and the new earth come after the current heaven and earth is gone.
John writes in Revelation 21:1, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” John places the new heaven and new earth after the conclusion of the millennium of Revelation 20:1-6. Both of these New Testament authors reference the Isaiah passage and apply it directly to the eternal state.
One reason (we) premillennialists often apply Isaiah 65:17-25 to the millennial reign of Christ is that Isaiah speaks of things that will eradicated in the eternal state, primarily death, and yet a young man will die at age 100. What’s going on here? Isaiah also says that former things will not be remembered (v.17). In the context of there being no weeping or crying or death, we should not interpret this to mean that our memories are wiped clean but that we will no longer remember our sins, just as God has done.
If we consistently apply the principle that Scripture interprets Scripture, and if we see that the New Testament applies this passage specifically to the eternal state and not the millennium, then we must interpret the verses concerning long life in a corresponding manner. Instead of just saying that death will be no more, much like the apostle Paul would do, the prophet Isaiah speaks metaphorically. Metaphor does not negate or preclude interpreting the text based on grammar and historical context. In fact, metaphor springs forth naturally from reading the text according to the rules of grammar and history.
We read about long life, peace and security, enjoying our work, peace in the animal kingdom, and the presence of God in our midst. This is all about the return to the state of things before death entered the picture. Could this be anything other than a call back to Eden? If not, what is the overwhelming amount of Edenic allusions pointing to? We have to reconcile verse 19 with verse 20. There will be no more weeping or crying in verse 19, but the age of 100 will be considered young in verse 20. They are easily harmonized if Isaiah is speaking metaphorically. Again, that interpretation rises naturally from the next, not from an exaggerated imagination.
The prophet Jeremiah is a prophet of the southern kingdom of Judah from the tribe of Benjamin. He ministers to Judah before the exile begins, and his ministry of one of warning. Jeremiah lives between the splitting of the kingdoms between north and south and the beginning of the Babylonian exile. The northern kingdom of Israel fell to Assyria in 721 BC. Shortly after, Babylon conquered Assyria. By 586 BC, Babylon had conquered the southern kingdom of Judah. Jeremiah died in roughly 570 BC, so he saw a little over a decade of the seventy-year exile and prophesied for about forty years.
Early in the book we read a clear description of the work of a prophet. “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth” (Jeremiah 1:9). Jeremiah, as well as every other true prophet, is not speaking his own words but the words given him to speak from God. Therefore, when prophet speaks, it is the same as if God himself were speaking. Jeremiah’s prophecies are common to all the major prophets: Israel’s failure to keep the covenant, the consequences of that failure, and God’s mercy in the giving of a new covenant.
Israel is a nation that resembles a lot of the spiritual life: a lot of energy and commitment in the beginning but a dwindling amount as time goes on. Chapter 2-3 are a series of charges levied against Israel for all the various ways they have broken the covenant. Worship is idolatrous and marriages are broken. But in his mercy, God calls his people to repentance instead of destroying them. God calls them to acknowledge their evil ways. He is merciful, so why do they continue to wait? Repentance is characterized as circumcision, which in the ancient world was indicative of separation. Typically, only the priests of any given religion, and therefore the most pure, were circumcised. God is calling for even greater purity by a circumcision of the heart. In chapter 6, God will call for circumcised ears so that the people will listen (v.10).
God specifically calls for the invasion of enemies from the north in chapter 4. It is Judah’s own sin that has brought this about. They have no one to blame but themselves; it has “reached their very heart” (4:18). Such judgment is painful to Jeremiah to watch. He knows that what God says will happen is about to come true, and he’s watching the people continue in their way of life. He has a broken heart (4:19). He will later again comment on his grief (8:18-9:26).
And yet, the people continue in their defiance of the covenant. In all the ongoing displays of God’s mercy, the Jews refuse to repent and receive God’s overflowing mercy. Not only that, but the Jews refuse to believe that God will be true to his word and judge them (5:12). They can refuse to turn to him, and yet, God will be merciful anyway. God has a plan for his people, and nothing they do will thwart his plan. “But even in those days, declares the Lord, I will not make a full end of you” (5:18). Our sin does not override God’s eternal plan. God tells the people to flee because of what the people will experience if they stay (6:1). The land will face great devastation.
God sends Jeremiah to the temple (ch. 7). The people and the priests have an objective view of the temple, meaning that they think if they follow the letter of the law when it comes to sacrifices and offerings that God will owe them his protection and provision. That is not the case. God tells them, “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever” (7:5-7). Keeping the covenant goes far beyond religious rites; it is a spirit of love and obedience to God and his covenant. As God told their forefathers at Mt. Sinai, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you” (7:23). Any sense of obedience is a pretense (8:8).
Judah is following in the idolatrous paths of the surrounding nations. God compares lifeless idols to “scarecrows in a cucumber field” (10:5). They were placed there by humans and offer the humans nothing in return but a false sense of security. God’s wrath brings the earth to its knees while the idols are sitting there doing nothing.
God sends Jeremiah throughout the kingdom of Judah urging the people to return to the covenant (11:6). The people have created as many idols as their neighbors. The Jews will turn to the idols and wonder why they aren’t doing more to help the people from their suffering, but they will not turn to the one, true God. Their sin is so great and God’s will is so decisive that God tells Jeremiah, “Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf” (11:14). That seems harsh, but it is an appropriate response to generations of idolatry. Is God worthy of perfect worship apart from all idolatry, or is he not?
Philippians is a special letter where both Paul and Timothy are shown to have had a hand in writing it. The letter reads like Paul, so the writing process probably looked like Timothy writing as Paul dictated. Philippians is one of Paul’s four letter written in prison (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians). Though Paul is in prison, Philippians is often called the letter of joy because of its content. His primary concern is that regardless of what happens to him, whether life or death, that the gospel remains the primary concern of the Christians at Philippi.
This letter is not the first appearance of Philippi in Scripture. In Acts 16, Paul is in Philippi and leads several to Christ. We meet Lydia, a possessed girl, and a jailor. Philippi would be the site of the first church in Europe. Paul begins by urging the Philippians to be thankful regardless of their circumstances. He wants them to be sober, awake, and ready when Christ returns (“the day of Christ”, 1:10). Even in a prison cell, Paul’s theology of God and his sovereignty keeps him focused on what lies ahead. What has happened to him increases the spread of the gospel (1:12). Even those who preach from a place of greed and self-interest are actually serving to promote the gospel. Even if that’s the case, the Philippian Christians should live holy lives themselves (1:27).
We have no other example of that than Christ. Like our own day, the culture in which Paul finds himself is selfish and proud. That is not the way of Christ. We don’t simply aim for high ethics, but we ground our ethics in the attributes of God. Philippians 2:7 mentions that Christ “emptied” himself. Some argue that means Christ laid aside his divinity during the incarnation and picked it back up again at his exaltation. That’s simply out of bounds according to many other clearer passages. Christ had a human nature and a divine nature in one person. Those natures never mixed to form a third nature, and neither did he go between the natures at different times.
Paul even tells us exactly what “emptied” mean for Christ. He continues by saying that Christ “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (2:7-8). The Greek kenoō actually has a range of meaning, and in context, there is no reason to define it as a casting aside of his divinity but rather of his divine rights.
We also see Paul’s genuine love for his brothers. Timothy is like a son to him. They have been through thick and thin, besides their common faith. Epaphroditus is also called a brother. He is someone like Timothy, someone who is almost like an aide de camp for Paul. Paul exhibits what he teaches, which is a deef affection for his fellow believers.
Paul rehearses the gospel, as he often does in his letters. In this case, Paul reminds us that, because of the gospel, we are not to boast one iota in our works. If anyone has a good reason to boast, it’s Paul. His heritage was a prime example of a man who should have been the upper echelon of Jewish society. But a true understanding of the person and work of Christ as the culmination of the ages sets aside all reasons to boast. We should therefore follow Paul’s example of his humility.
Paul closes his letter urging the Philippians to remain unified in this great truth. Practically, that means unity in striving for excellence in the work of the Lord. Think about these things, and you will have the peace of God. The Philippians have supported Paul spiritually but also financially, and he is expressing his thanks. He goes as far as calling it an “acceptable sacrifice” (4:18). In the same way that the Philippines have met Paul’s needs, God will meet all of their needs. It is always God who fulfills the needs of his people, regardless of the means by which they are met.
Starts with a major thanksgiving section, 1:1-14
Colossians is another of Paul’s four letters which he wrote in prison. As is common among most of his letters, he begins with a lengthy thanksgiving. The Colossians have prayed for him, and he has prayed often for them.
Colossians reads much like the other prison letters. They are relatively short, and they speak of many of the same topics. What sets Colossians apart is its incredibly high view of Christ. We would do well to imitate Paul in this. God has rescued us from a kingdom of darkness into the kingdom possessed by his Son. Then 1:15-23 is simply a beautiful, elevated description of who Christ is. He is the reason for all of creation, and he himself is the creator. He is eternal. He is the head of the church. He is the first of the resurrection. He is the fullness of God. Everything is about him and for him. There is no such thing as overstating the eminence of Christ. Therefore, Christ is the God of all people, not just Israel. Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles is rooted in that truth.
There will always be people trying to undermine the gospel. The same was true in Paul’s day. Wolves had infiltrated the church and were urging people to turn back to the rules and regulations of Judaism in order to be fully pleasing to God. That much is clear by Paul mentioning “what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day” (2:16). Those are Jewish distinctives. The old covenant and all of its components are not conditions of the new covenant. The impositions upon the Christians have the appearance of wisdom, but they are not able to contribute in any meaningful way to one’s holiness. If we want self-control and holiness, we look to Christ, not the law. We look to “things above, where Christ is” (3:1).
Under the law of Christ, we put the earthly nature to death. All men, because we are all fallen, must fight the same spiritual battles. That is what Paul means when he writes, “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (3:11). As we put sin to death, we take up a holy life that consists of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and peace” (3:12). That takes form in relationships, from marriages, families, and households.
Paul ends by listing several names and what they are doing in the ministry. Christians support each other in their various ministries. We are all each a hand, a foot, or an eye. We need each other, and the body grows when each part is working at full capacity, not trying to be another part.