Most people love new things.
Maybe you’re one of those people who always has to have the newest piece of technology. I have a friend who is usually the first one in line to get the new iPhone when it comes out.
Maybe it’s new clothes or the feel of a “new look.” You might be one of those people who just loves changing the color of their hair. I’m finding that my hair color is changing without having to do anything to it at all!
Whether it’s the “new car smell” or the latest episode of our favorite show, neuroscientists say that novelty opens up the reward center in our brains. I love it when my favorite band puts out new music while my wife insists that we need a new couch.
Most people love new things.
And here’s the thing: God likes new things, too.
We’re studying through the book of Isaiah together right now and the prophet makes this point quite clearly. In passage after passage, we see how God was at work in Isaiah’s day to make all things new. Isaiah receives a vision of what is to come — the afterlife, we might call it. But Isaiah uses language like “new heavens and new earth” to describe this glorious vision of the eternity we’ll enjoy with God. Most Christians shorten this vision of eternity down to a single word: heaven. But in the spirit of “calling Bible things by Bible names,” we would do well to note Isaiah’s language. Some Christians picture heaven as a place residing up in the clouds somewhere but the biblical hope of eternity is resurrected bodies in a renewed creation — the earth made new. That’s what “new heavens and new earth” (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21:1) means.
And part of this renewed earth includes a New Jerusalem, the holy city of God. One of the ways we can know what heaven will be like is by looking at what Isaiah has to say about the New Jerusalem. Interestingly, Isaiah receives this vision of New Jerusalem in the midst of some really difficult days in earthly Jerusalem. And if you’re troubled by some of the things you see happening in our day, then I think this vision of New Jerusalem and eternity can bring you hope just like it brought hope to Isaiah’s original audience.
The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.Isaiah 2:1
Interesting — this is the word Isaiah “saw.” How do you see a word? Well, this is a clue that something transcendent is going on here. This is a vision Isaiah receives. He calls it a “word” because it has been spoken by God. And as Isaiah will say elsewhere, God’s word does not return to Him empty but it accomplishes the purposes for which He sends it. So Isaiah receives this word from the Lord, but it unfolds in the form of a vision.
And it concerns Judah and, more specifically, Jerusalem. Listen to what Isaiah sees.
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.Isaiah 2:2-4
Isaiah receives a vision of something that will come to pass in the “latter days.” This is a phrase that you find in a lot of biblical prophecy. Many times it refers to what God is going to do “at the end” which is why it is translated as “the end of days” in some Bibles.
Isaiah sees a day when God will do something new: when God will transform Jerusalem. Jerusalem is located in the hill country of Israel but Isaiah sees a day when Jerusalem will be made new and lifted up above all other mountains. This is the vision of the New Jerusalem, which Isaiah will return to repeatedly in his preaching. New Jerusalem will be situated on Zion, the highest of mountains because it will bear the name of the One who has been given the name above all names (Philippians 2), Jesus the Messiah. This is a picture of what we often refer to as “heaven.”
Hundreds of years before Isaiah, Moses had ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, to receive instruction from God Himself. New Jerusalem is pictured as a New Mount Sinai — only this time, instead of Moses climbing the mountain to receive the word from God, Isaiah says many peoples and nations will flow to it. They will say, Let’s go up to the mountain of the Lord…that he may teach us his ways. Although Isaiah delivers this message to the people of his day, the New Jerusalem will not be exclusive to Judah or Israel. This text is yet another reminder that God has always determined that the work of the Messiah would be for all people — including the Gentiles.
God’s Word goes out from New Jerusalem and her citizens are peaceable. Because they have heard the word of the Lord, the citizens of New Jerusalem will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Humanity will have no need for weaponry there, because we will learn war no more in that place. May the Lord hasten the day when all human bickering and fighting comes to an end in the New Jerusalem.
This is quite a vision. And it gives us just the slightest glimpse into God’s eternal purposes.