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In a Sunday school class that I was guest teaching yesterday, I was asked about the significance of Isaiah 11 and its prophetic role in history. Modern-day prophetic theorists claim that the passage describes events that will take place during the “millennium” of Revelation 20. I believe Isaiah 11 has significance for what is happening in the Middle East at this very moment. While dispensationalists look for the prophetic inevitability of war—Armageddon—the Bible presents a different perspective rooted in the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ to bring warring peoples together in peace. (More about this tomorrow.)
There are several problems with the futurist interpretation of Isaiah 11 and its relationship with Revelation 20. The most obvious one is that Revelation 20 doesn’t say anything about a change in the animal creation. If fact, all the things necessary for a premillennial interpretation of Revelation 20 are absent from the chapter: a rebuilt temple, the reestablishment of the physical throne of David, Jerusalem as the earthly millennial capital of the world, and the most important feature, the physical presence of Jesus on earth.
Another problem is that Isaiah 11 begins with a prophecy about the first coming of Jesus Christ:
Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear; but with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, and faithfulness the belt about His waist (Isa. 11:1–5; see Rev. 5:5; 22:16).
At this point, dispensationalists insert one of their many gaps in time, even though there is no indication that there is a gap. While Isaiah 11:1–6 refers to the NT era, the following verses are yet to be fulfilled during the “millennium” of Revelation 20. This is pure conjecture and unnecessary to maintain the integrity of the Bible. John Gill’s comments are helpful at this point:
The wild and tame creatures shall agree together, and the former shall become the latter; which is not to be understood literally of the savage creatures, as if they should lose their nature, and be restored, as it is said, to their paradisiacal estate, which is supposed to be the time of the restitution of all things; but figuratively of men, comparable to wild creatures, who through the power of divine grace, accompanying the word preached, shall become tame, mild, meek, and humble; such who have been as ravenous wolves, have worried Christ’s sheep, made havoc of them, breathing out slaughter and threatenings against them, as did Saul, through converting grace, become as gentle and harmless as lambs, and take up their residence in Christ’s fold, and dwell with, yea, some of them even feed, Christ’s lambs and sheep, as the above mentioned person.
Lions and bears represent nations in opposition to the kingdom of God (Dan. 7:4, 5). But like David, who killed a lion and a bear (1 Sam. 17:34), the greater David, Jesus Christ, will subdue these animal-like nations in peace with the gospel. I’m optimistic enough to believe that peace can come to the warring factions in the Middle East because the gospel—not land or blood (John 1:13)—“is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). The church of Jesus Christ should be promoting Jesus Christ as the solution to war, both for Jews and Muslims, not some contrived end-time inevitable conflagration.