By Christina M Wilson. Simultaneously published at Already/Not Yet in Isaiah 27:6-Devotional Journal 57 – justonesmallvoice.com
Isaiah’s Prophesy Fulfilled
Christians believe Isaiah to be a genuine prophet of the Lord God. They consider his words to be an important part of their Scripture. They also believe that Isaiah 27:6 has been at least partially fulfilled. This is the “already” aspect of “already/not yet.”
Many Christians believe in the already/not yet (1) fulfillment of the prophecies concerning “that day.” “That day” is the day of Jesus Christ. Fulfillment began with the Christ’s forerunner, John the Baptist, and Jesus’s own birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. It continued with the amazingly rapid spread of the Gospel message throughout most of the known world in the days of the apostles, including Paul. The Gospel and kingdom of Christ continue to spread to many peoples, nations, and languages throughout the world. This is the “already” of Isaiah’s fulfilled prophecy. Many of the Old Testament prophecies have already been fulfilled in Christ.
Obvious to everyone, our world continues in its chaotic, often evil ways. It is plain that all aspects of Old Testament prophecy have “not yet” been fulfilled. Perfect peace, harmony, health, and well-being have not yet arrived.
Is Isaiah 27:6 “Already” or “Not Yet?”
27:6 they that are coming are the children of Jacob. Israel shall bud and blossom, and the world shall be filled with his fruit. (CAB, Septuagint)
27:6 In days to come (1) Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit. (ESV) [ESV Note 1) Hebrew: In those to come]
1. If the reader apprehends this verse as limited to ethnicity and nation, then a strong argument could be made that this verse has “not yet” been fulfilled. Indeed, some might say that in the limited sense of ethnicity and nation, the verse does not even bear an “already” aspect. For example, the religious center of Israel, its temple, was destroyed in 70 CE. It has “not yet” been rebuilt. Whether or not an ethnic Israel has blossomed and filled the whole world with its fruit is plausibly arguable.
2. If the reader apprehends this verse in a broader context, then definitely, the “already” has been abundantly fulfilled in Christ and his kingdom. The “not yet” remains to be seen, since the end of the age has not yet come.
Isaiah’s Own Intention
Did Isaiah intend the statement in 27:6 to have the limited, ethnic and national meaning? Or, did Isaiah foresee the coming of a kingdom of God that would embrace the whole world? Our greatest recourse is to consider this verse in the context of the book of Isaiah in its entirety and in the context of all of Scripture. This is the Christian viewpoint.
Christians believe in Christ, who quoted Isaiah. The gospels amply quote Isaiah in the context of Jesus Christ. Further, the letters of the New Testament greatly expound the meanings of Old Testament prophets, including Isaiah.
No matter how great the biblical historian, no one but God knows what Isaiah held in his heart (1 Corinthians 2:7-14). Nor does anyone know what the hearts of Isaiah’s listeners may or may not have comprehended. Isaiah greatly complained that his listeners were hard of hearing, hard of heart, and disobedient to God. Christians should not interpret biblical truths according to their standard.
Scripture, however, is God-breathed. God knows both his own intention and what the heart of Isaiah contained. The totality of Scripture, therefore, is our final authority, not “grammar,” nor history.
What New Testament Authors Speak About “Spiritual” Interpretations
It is a fact that on the day of Pentecost, God gave the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is already here. Jesus said, “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things (John 14:26 ESV).
The Apostle Peter made good use of the fact of the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 1:19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (ESV)
Paul also appealed to the Holy Spirit to explain his understanding of the things of God.
1 Corinthians 2:7 Instead we speak the wisdom of God, hidden in a mystery, that God determined before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it. If they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But just as it is written, “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.” 10 God has revealed these to us by the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the things of a man except the man’s spirit within him? So too, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God. 13 And we speak about these things, not with words taught us by human wisdom, but with those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. 14 The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The one who is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is understood by no one. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to advise him? But we have the mind of Christ. (Co 2:7 NET)
How Can Today’s Readers Discern Isaiah’s Meaning?
The Apostles Paul and John taught that all Christians receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9 and context; 1 John 3:24). Therefore, God has made Scripture accessible to the understanding of all Christians (1 John 2:27). Since it is by the Spirit that Christians discern Scripture, then if the Spirit himself gives a “spiritual” interpretation to the words of the prophet, so be it. How does a reader know what Isaiah means? She know by prayerfully reading all of Isaiah and all of what the New Testament speaks about Isaiah and the same topics of which Isaiah speaks.
Many Christian commentators agree that Isaiah 27:6 refers to an “already” fulfillment in the current kingdom of Christ in the hearts of believers throughout the world. Others reserve this prophecy for an ethnic and national Israel at an unknown future moment. As a Gentile believer in Christ, my preference coincides with the New Testament viewpoint that Christ is himself the fulfillment of all prophecy. Based upon the entirety of Isaiah’s message (which, Lord willing, we will get to) and the entirety of the New Testament, I believe that Isaiah foresaw this kingdom of Messiah and rejoiced in it.
Reader, what about you?
1 “Already not yet” is a term used widely by many commentators and pastors. It did not originate in this blog. By Googling “already/not yet,” the reader can begin to find a multitude of references that use this descriptively apt phrase.