-by Pastor Ashley Brown
An Interpretive Question Regarding Isaiah 65-66
Prophecy can be tricky to interpret at times. Isaiah’s vision in Isaiah 65-66 is no exception. There have been two primary interpretations of Isaiah 65-66 throughout Church history. Both are completely acceptable and within the bounds of historical Christianity and the Authority of Scripture. Both have well-known, godly theologians who argue for them.
- Option A: Isaiah 65-66 contain elements of the New Creation (written about in Revelation 21-22), as well as elements of the Millennial reign of Jesus (written about in Revelation 20).
- Option B: Isaiah 65-66 address the New Creation (written about in Revelation 21-22).
The first option, Option A, requires a Premillennial understanding of the end times. However, Option B lends itself to every Christian understanding of the end times. As a result, only Premillennialists can hold Option A, whereas Premillennialists, Postmillennialists, and Amillennialists can all hold Option B. This means that a person’s interpretation of Isaiah 65-66 does not necessarily determine their approach to the end times. (Don’t feel as though you have to be totally familiar with these terms. However, if you would like to gain a better understanding of them, I recommend watching our Evening of Eschatology video from a few years ago or reading Wayne Grudem’s chapter on “The Millennium” in his Systematic Theology, which can also be found in our bookstore.)
The Argument for Option A
The primary argument for Option A comes from the last half of Isaiah 65:20,
“for the young man shall die a hundred years old,
and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.”
If this is the new heavens and new earth, then how can there still be sin and death? Sin and death will be no more in the new heavens and new earth. And yet, these two lines from the last half of Isaiah 65:20 speak of death and sin! Therefore, this must be speaking of a future time when dying young would mean dying at a hundred years old, but when there are still sinners running loose in the world. The only time this might be possible, Option A proponents argue, would be during a future 1000 year reign of Jesus on earth. Therefore, verse 20 must be speaking of a future Millennium, even though Isaiah introduces it a few verses before as the New Creation.
As a result, Option A proponents argue that Isaiah 65-66 blurs together things from both the future Millennium and the New Creation that follows it. Isaiah was looking at these future times as one looks at a distant mountain range. From a distance the individual peaks blur together, and we cannot see the valleys between the ridges. Likewise, Isaiah, looking from a distance, blurs the valleys and times between the various eras about which he writes in Isaiah 65-66. Thus, he has unknowingly intertwined both the Millennium and the New Creation (two separate future eras) in this vision.
The Argument for Option B
Option B takes a little more explanation because its primary argument builds on context – both the immediate context, as well as the overall biblical context.
In terms of immediate context: Isaiah himself states, in verses 17-18 that he is speaking of the new heavens and new earth that God creates at the end. This is not simply a rebuilt heavens and earth, or a rebuilt Jerusalem. This is an entirely new creation, in the same way that the Creation of Genesis 1 is a new creation. He reiterates this again at the end of chapter 66, in verse 22, when the LORD again speaks of this “new heavens and new earth” that He will make. Therefore, Isaiah himself states – at both the beginning and the end of this concluding section – that the subject of his final vision is the New Creation.
In terms of biblical context: it is striking that John does not allude to Isaiah 65-66 in any way in his description of the Millennium (Revelation 20). However, the moment he begins speaking of the New Creation (Revelation 21-22), John’s citations and allusions to Isaiah 65-66 explode! Both Isaiah 65-66 and Revelation 21-22 speak of God creating a “new heavens and new earth” and a New Jerusalem. Both say the former things will be removed and no longer brought to remembrance. According to both, there will be joy and no more weeping. Both describe the nations bringing offerings to the holy city. Both promise sin will be judged outside the city. Therefore, John explicitly links his vision of the New Creation (Revelation 21-22) with Isaiah’s vision of the same (Isaiah 65-66).
Proponents of Option B argue that Isaiah 65:20 poetically explains why there will no longer be weeping or distress in the New Creation (verse 19). Infants will not die, and everyone will live full lives. In fact, dying at 100 years old would be an untimely death akin to a young man dying in his prime. And yet, verse 19 says we won’t mourn that sort of untimely loss! Additionally, no hidden sin will exist in the New Creation. Currently, sin often goes undiscovered and unpunished, injustice reigns, and the evil prosper. However, in the New Creation sin will be dealt with and judged. Even if, hypothetically, someone was able to hide their sin for 100 years before it got discovered and judged, they would be considered accursed. They would be like the person whose life is cut off at an early, untimely age.
A Unified Conclusion
Regardless of which option you prefer, Isaiah 65-66 declare our current, broken world will one day be made right! Unlike the way things are now, there will be no untimely death for the righteous! The good will not die young! And evil will not prosper and go unpunished! Regardless of a Christian’s view on the end times and Millennium, all agree this is the way the story ends! Praise the LORD!