“On Earth as it is in Heaven”
Fulfilled! Isaiah 65: A Preterist Commentary: Summary and Highlights
Isaiah wrote around 700 B.C. during the expansion of the Assyrian empire. Though the predictions in this chapter are initially fulfilled after the return of the Jews from exile in Babylon with the decree of Cyrus in 538 B.C., there is a dual fulfillment. These predictions are a type that ultimately points to events surrounding Israel’s war with Rome in the first century A.D. and its aftermath. After the Jewish War and the subsequent Bar Kokhba Rebellion, Jerusalem grew to become an almost exclusively Christian city which enjoyed a level of peace seemingly unrivaled in its recorded history.1 Having enjoyed great peace and prosperity during the thousand years between the Jewish War and the Crusades, Israel became a dark earthly shadow of heaven. For the complete fulfillment of this chapter in the first century see the following Preterist Commentary on Isaiah 65.
“On Earth as it is in Heaven”
“I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’ 2 All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations—3 a people who continually provoke me to my very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick; 4 who sit among the graves and spend their nights keeping secret vigil; who eat the flesh of pigs, and whose pots hold broth of impure meat; 5 who say, ‘Keep away; don’t come near me, for I am too sacred for you!’ Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day. 6 “See, it stands written before me: I will not keep silent but will pay back in full; I will pay it back into their laps—7 both your sins and the sins of your ancestors,” says the Lord. “Because they burned sacrifices on the mountains and defied me on the hills, I will measure into their laps the full payment for their former deeds.”
A Preterist Commentary on Isaiah 65:6-7:“I will Pay it back into Their Laps—both Your Sins and the Sins of Your Ancestors.”
In vs. 6 and 7, God threatens to punish the people for their sins and the sins of their ancestors. A similar warning is issued in Matthew 23:29-36. Here Jesus affirms and predicts that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. And like their fathers before them, they too will kill prophets, sages and teachers sent by Christ. In response, Jesus issues the following charge: “And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation (Matthew 23:35-36).” Jesus was right. From A.D. 66 to A.D. 74, that generation experienced arguably the worse war in Israel’s history, the war with Rome. During this war, Rome left much of Israel a desolate waste killing 1,100,000 people in the siege of Jerusalem alone.2
8 This is what the Lord says: “As when juice is still found in a cluster of grapes and people say, ‘Don’t destroy it, there is still a blessing in it,’ so will I do in behalf of my servants; I will not destroy them all. 9 I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah those who will possess my mountains; my chosen people will inherit them, and there will my servants live. 10 Sharon will become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a resting place for herds, for my people who seek me.
A Preterist Commentary on Isaiah 65:8-10:“I will not Destroy Them All.”
I believe the slaughter mentioned in v. 12 is the Jewish War mentioned above. The church historian Eusebius records an exodus of Jewish Christians out of Jerusalem before the start of the war.3 These Christians fled to Pella and returned to Israel after the war in fulfillment of v. 9.
11 “But as for you who forsake the Lord and forget my holy mountain, who spread a table for Fortune and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny, 12 I will destine you for the sword, and all of you will fall in the slaughter; for I called but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen. You did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me.”
A Preterist Commentary on Isaiah 65:11-12: According to the Midrash, First-Century Israel was Plagued with Idolatry in Fulfillment of vs. 11-12.
Like any first-century Roman province, Judaea had its share of idol worshippers which were not likely limited to just the Gentile occupants of the region. In the Midrash Lamentations, Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish expresses his conviction that the destruction of both the first and second temples was due to idol worship in Israel like that alluded to in vs. 1-7:
‘Woe unto them that join house to house’: ye have joined the destruction of the first Temple to that of the second Temple. As with the first Temple [‘]Zion shall be ploughed like a field[‘] (Jer. 26:18), so with the second Temple ‘Zion shall be ploughed like a field’. [sic.] ‘Till there be no place’: what caused the ‘place’ to be destroyed? Because they left no place where idolatry was not practiced by them.4
Rabbi Lakish then proceeds to list all the places the people of Israel worshiped idols like the secret places, the rooftops, the mountains, the fields and the streets.
13 Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “My servants will eat, but you will go hungry; my servants will drink, but you will go thirsty; my servants will rejoice, but you will be put to shame. 14 My servants will sing out of the joy of their hearts, but you will cry out from anguish of heart and wail in brokenness of spirit. 15 You will leave your name for my chosen ones to use in their curses; the Sovereign Lord will put you to death, but to his servants he will give another name.
A Preterist Commentary on Isaiah 65:13-15:“My Servants will Eat, But You will go Hungry.”
Verses 13-15 predict famine and drought for the wicked people of Israel. Though the Jewish Christians who fled to Pella escaped the sorrows of war, their non-Christian brethren did not. Concerning the famine induced by the siege of Jerusalem, Josephus writes:
Then did the famine widen its progress, and devoured the people by whole houses and families; the upper rooms were full of women and children that were dying by famine, and the lanes of the city were full of the dead bodies of the aged; the children also and the young men wandered about the market-places like shadows, all swelled with the famine, and fell down dead, wheresoever their misery seized them.5
A Preterist Commentary on Isaiah 65:13:“My Servants will Drink, but You will go Thirsty.”
The thirst mentioned in v. 13 appears to have been a consequence of the drought at the start of the siege of Jerusalem that nearly dried up the pool of Siloam as well as all the other springs around the city before the arrival of the Roman army.6
A Preterist Commentary on Isaiah 65:15:“You will leave Your Name for My Chosen Ones to use in Their Curses.”
Verse 15 states, “You will leave your name for my chosen ones to use in their curses.” This prediction echoes the warning issued in Deuteronomy 28:37: “You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule among all the peoples where the Lord will drive you.” After the city of Jerusalem was finally destroyed, 97,000 Jews were exiled throughout Rome.7 These exiles become an object of scorn and ridicule in all the nations in which they were driven. The strongest captives were reserved for the Triumph. Here humiliated Jews were forced to walk the streets of Rome in a pompous parade exhibiting their defeat. Upon the cessation of this festivity, the Law was placed in the royal palace8 and coins were minted throughout the Roman Empire depicting crestfallen Jewish slaves. Thus Jewish exiles could not buy or sell without handling the graven image of Caesar alongside the likeness of their defeat at the hands of their enemies. In fact antisemitism was so pervasive in the Roman world after the war with Israel that upon becoming Caesar, Titus, the former Roman general of the Jewish War, was forced to send away his Jewish fiancé, Queen Berenice, because of the intense Anti-Semitism prevalent among the Roman mob.9
A Preterist Commentary on Isaiah 65:15:“But to His Servants He will Give another Name.”
Verse 15 also states that God will give his servants a new name. The new name given to God’s people in v. 15 may be the new name given to each of the saints mentioned in Revelation 2:17: “To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.”
It is also possible that the new name of Isaiah 65:15 is Christian. Prior to the war and the resulting destruction of the Temple, Christianity was called the sect of the Nazarenes and was one of the major sects of Judaism included alongside the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes. The term Christian was coined in Antioch in A.D. 42 (Acts 11:26). From there, the title gained popularity. Then after the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, the Jews could no longer practice the Law; and Christianity and Judaism became two entirely distinct religions. This event served to further galvanize the use of this name in public discourse. And as a result, this relatively new title is still used today to describe the followers of Jesus.
16 Whoever invokes a blessing in the land will do so by the one true God; whoever takes an oath in the land will swear by the one true God. For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes. 17 “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. 20 “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reacha hundred will be considered accursed. 21 They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They will not labor in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them. 24 Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.
A Realized Eschatological View and Commentary of Isaiah 65:16-25:The New Earth . . .
The new heaven and earth is also mentioned in Revelation 21:1. In Isaiah 65, the New Jerusalem is pictured in much the same way as it is at the end of the Book of Revelation.10 That being said, it is important to notice in v. 20 that despite the great joy and peace described in vs. 16-25, people still die in the New Jerusalem. This is because the New Jerusalem is the church. But it is also post-war Jerusalem which grew to become a Christian city during the thousand years between the Jewish War and the Crusades. People still die in the New Jerusalem according to vs. 20 because these verses describe the state of church and that of Jerusalem after the return of the Jews from exile in the sixth century B.C. and the war with Rome in the first century A.D. After the war there is no more crying in fulfillment of v. 19; people do not die prematurely by sword, famine and plague in fulfillment of v. 20; and people can once again enjoy the fruits of their labor without having to worry about their possessions being seized as plunder in fulfillment of vs. 21-23. Depicted metaphorically as a wolf and lamb feeding together and a lion eating straw in v. 25, this post-war peace is described in hyperbole and metaphor in order to contrast the strife of war with the joy of peace. But I believe this use of metaphor and hyperbole has an additional purpose: It is meant to point to heaven.
A Covenant Eschatology Interpretation and Commentary of Isaiah 65:25: People are often Represented by Animals in the Bible. The Peace Between Animals in v. 25 is Peace Between People.
It should be noted that the peace between animals in v. 25 need not be interpreted literally. Psalm 49:12, Psalm 49:20, Psalm 57:4, Psalm 22:1-13, Psalm 68:29-31, Psalm 73:22, Psalm 74:19, Jeremiah 12:9, Ezekiel 39:18, Daniel 7:11, and Micah 5:8 are a few examples in which people are symbolized by various animals. Furthermore, false prophets are said to be wolves in sheep’s clothing in Matthew 7:15. And the Pharisees are called “a brood of vipers” in Matthew 12:34.11
The “A.D. 70 Doctrine” View, Interpretation, Exposition and Commentary of Isaiah 65:16-25:The New Heaven . . .
In Isaiah 65, Revelation 21 and Revelation 22, the Jerusalem that is on earth is described in a similar euphoric state to that of the Jerusalem that is in heaven mentioned in Hebrews 12:22 and Galatians 4:26. Hebrews 12:22 reads, “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,” Galatians 4:26 also mentions a Jerusalem that is in heaven: “But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.” In Isaiah 65:16-25 I believe hyperbole and metaphor are used to describe the peaceful bliss of post-exilic and post-war Jerusalem so as to depict the Jerusalem that is on earth as a dark shadow of the post-resurrection euphoria and glory of the Jerusalem that is in heaven. See The Destruction of Heaven and Earth and the New Heaven and Earth Explained!
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Interested in THE PRETERIST VIEW OF ESCHATOLOGY, or are you a PRETERIST struggling with a prophecy or verse? It DID happen just like the Bible says! If you liked this essay, see PRETERIST BIBLE COMMENTARY for a detailed explanation of the FULFILLMENT OF ALL MAJOR END TIME PROPHECIES IN THE BIBLE. The more unbelievable the prophecy, the more amazing and miraculous the fulfillment!
Also see Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century. For an explanation of how the end of the age and its fulfillment during the Jewish War mirror Genesis 1-3; how the Bible teaches that the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection of heavenly bodies to heaven, not a resurrection of perfected earthly bodies; and how the resurrection is a mirror opposite of the fall see How the Jewish War and Resurrection to Heaven Mirror Genesis and the Fall; and How Preterism fixes the Age of the Earth Problem and unravels the Mysteries in Genesis.
Fulfilled! Isaiah 65: A Preterist Commentary: Conclusion
As indicated in the above Preterist commentary on Isaiah 65, all the predictions in this chapter seem to accurately describe events leading up to and including Israel’s war with Rome and its aftermath.
- Teddy Kollek and Moshe Pearlman, Jerusalem: A History of Forty Centuries (New York: Random House, 1968), 149.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.9.3.
- Eusebius The History of the Church 3.5.
- Midrash Rabbah Lamentations Proems 22.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 5.12.3.
- Ibid., 5.9.4.
- Ibid., 6.9.3.
- Ibid., 7.5.7.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 66.15.
- See Revelation 21: A Preterist Commentary and Revelation 22: A Preterist Commentary.
- Brian L. Martin, Behind the Veil of Moses: Piecing Together the Mystery of the Second Coming, (USA: Xulon Press, 2009), 355.