Isaiah 2-4– The Mountain of the Lord’s House Shall Be Establish
This installment in our examination of Isaiah 2-4 centers on the promise of the establishment of the Messianic Temple of YHVH. In verses 2-3 the promise was that the “mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established.” The mountain of the Lord’s house is a parepatetic manner of saying “Zion.” The Mountain of the Lord in Torah was Zion.
From the very beginning of the Temple’s existence it was to be a focus of attention and admiration, even among pagans. In 1 Kings 8:41f Solomon prayed to YHVH. He asked that if a foreigner, (anyone not of the seed of Abraham) came to the temple and prayed there, asking anything of YHVH, that his prayer would be answered and the Lord would bless him. Thus, while the temple was a center of worship for the twelve tribes, from its very inception, it was to also be a beacon and source of blessing to foreigners.
When the ten northern tribes departed through apostasy they built their own temples / altars to prevent the children of the ten tribes from traveling back to Jerusalem (1 Kings 12:26f). Eventually, a temple was built on Gerazim, and became the chief counterpart of the controversy between the Samaritans and the Jews (see John 4) even though that temple was destroyed hundreds of years prior to Jesus’ appearance. So, the temple concept was perverted, at least among the northern tribes, from the time of the apostasy.
The temple of YHVH likewise became a source of perversion to the two southern tribes. In Jeremiah 7, YHVH condemned Jerusalem for her perverted temple worship, and false reliance on that physical edifice. In the time of Malachi, Israel continued to pervert the true worship at the temple. Likewise, the Jews of Jesus’ day continued to have a distorted and unhealthy reliance on the physical temple.
There was, seemingly among the remnant, the idealistic hope of a future, purified Temple, where God would dwell with His people, and the perversions foisted on the people by a profane, ungodly priesthood would be replaced by a new priesthood that would offer pure, acceptable sacrifices. One thing is certain however. The vision of the nature of that Temple is unclear. What is obvious is that worship in the Messianic Temple would be radically different from the Old Covenant form, that is, for those paying close attention to what the prophets actually said. More on this later.
The promise of the Temple of the Lord being established in the last days was one that held special place in the heart and mind of the Jews. Isaiah’s prediction gave substance to that hope, describing the time and nature to a certain extent. Take a quick look at some of the salient issues surrounding the promised Temple.
It would be established in the last days. We have already established that the promised last days, the crucial framework for the fulfillment of God’s eschatological drama, were present in the first century. Peter said that all of the Old Covenant prophets spoke of the restoration of all things, and “they spoke of these days” i.e. Peter’s days, (Acts 3:23f). See my book, The Last Days Identified, for a clear demonstration that the “last days” is referent to the last days of Old Covenant Israel.
Peter’s affirmation that the last days foretold by Joel were present in Acts 2 is determinative and fatal for those like Sam Frost who now want to define the last days as the entire span of time from the first century until the end of time, i.e. “The last day” of John 6. Frost likewise divorces the “last days” as the framework for the fulfillment of God’s OC promises to Israel– Israel after the flesh– positing the fulfillment of all prophecy at the end of the Christian age. See my book The Last Days Identified for a refutation of this kind of thinking. There is simply no way to divorce the last days from Israel’s covenant promises. Period.
Second, the Temple of the Lord would be finished at the Day of the Lord, at the revelation of the Glorious Branch of the Lord (4:1), when YHVH avenged the blood guilt of Jerusalem and saved the righteous remnant (Isaiah 4:3-6). It would be “in that day” that the Lord would establish the tabernacle for a shelter, (v. 5-6). When one follows the “in that day” referents in Isaiah 2-4, this is inescapable and irrefutable. And there are other prophecies of the last days Temple that we can only briefly note. One thing that becomes more than apparent in these texts is that the Messianic Temple and its worship would be radically different from the Old Covenant Temple
Isaiah 56: When the Messianic Temple would be established, even eunuchs and foreigners would be welcomed to worship there as children of God! See my series on “Acts and the Restoration of Israel” for a discussion of the fulfillment of this great prophecy.
Side bar here: In Deuteronomy 23:3-8, the Lord made provision that the third generation of the descendants of the Egyptians that left Egypt with the children of Israel would be accepted as part of the congregation of Israel! In other words, an Egyptian (or any other race) would become a “naturalized” Israelite, which demonstrated from the very beginning that “blood and race” were not the basis of true worship of YHVH!
Isaiah 60: The Lord promised that in the restoration of Israel, the foreigners would minister to them and acknowledge the God of Israel. Then, in a remarkable and startling prediction, YHVH predicted that the foreigners of Midian, Ephah, Kedar Nabioth, etc. would “minister unto thee” i.e. to Israel, but then, catch the power of this, “they shall come up with acceptance on my altar and I will glorify the house of my glory” (v. 7). Notice that the nations would minister to Israel, but, in addition to ministering to Israel, they, the foreign nations, would offer acceptable sacrifices on the altar! What an incredible prediction of a radically new priesthood!
Isaiah 65-66: The exaltation of Zion in these great prophecies likewise pointed to a radical new Temple system. In fact, Isaiah 65:17f says the old creation would be forgotten, not “remembered” any more. This word “remembered” is a covenantal term. The old covenant world would be forgotten and the Lord would be exalted in Zion– the locus of the New Temple.
Jeremiah 3:14f: This great prophecy is incredibly bothersome for the modern Zionists who constantly speak of a rebuilt Jerusalem, Temple and a restored Ark of the Covenant. The prophet speaks of the restoration of Israel, but, he says that men would no longer travel to Jerusalem to worship and that the Ark of the Covenant would no longer be “remembered” and, catch this, it would never be built again! So, once again, the radical new nature of the Messianic Temple and cultus is revealed. To predict that the City, the Temple and the Ark of the Covenant would no longer be the focal point of the worship of YHVH was staggering! And yet, we see Jesus predicting this very thing in John 4, saying the time of fulfillment had arrived. Incredible!
Ezekiel 37: One of the most famous of all OT prophecies of the Temple. The Lord would restore the twelve tribes, who had been “dead” and in the graves. He would make the New Covenant with them, and establish His tabernacle among them, so that the nations would glorify God. Just as in Isaiah 56, 60, we find the promise of the “inclusion” of the nations into the blessings of the Temple. There are other major prophecies of the last days temple, but, this brief survey shows several things.
Jesus and the NT writers were clear in their statements that their eschatological hope was nothing but the hope of the fulfillment of those OT prophecies, given to Israel.
Second, they are equally clear that the time for the fulfillment of those prophecies was present in the first century.
Third, the nature of the promised Messianic Temple, as suggested above, would be radically and totally different form the Old Covenant Temple.
Fourth, they posited the fulfillment of Israel’s prophecies of the “house of the Lord” in the church, the body of Christ.
The upcoming Preterist Pilgrim Weekend, July 18-20, Ardmore, Convention Center, Ardmore, Ok., will feature six speakers who will develop the theme of the Temple of God. Make your plans to be with us! It promises to be a wonderful time of fellowship and learning.