Isaiah’s Prophecy of the Church
Seven centuries prior to the birth of Christ, Isaiah proclaimed:
“And it shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of Jehovah’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many peoples shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem. And he will judge between the nations, and will decide concerning 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 any more” (Is. 2:2–4).
Let us explore some of the magnificent truths contained in this Old Testament prophecy, e.g., the: what, when, where, who, why, and how.
What Is under Consideration in this Prophecy?
The reference is not to a “temple,” supposedly constructed for the “millennial reign” of Christ, as some religionists allege. Rather, the oracle concerns the establishment of the Lord’s church under the figure of the “house” of God.
In the New Testament, the church is referred to as the “household of God” and as “a holy temple” for the Lord’s habitation (Eph. 2:19-22). Elsewhere Paul declared that “men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Tim. 3:15). Peter also described the church as “a spiritual house” wherein God is now served (1 Pet. 2:5).
When Was this House to Be Established?
The prophetic expression is: “in the last days.” The phrase “the last days” depicts the final dispensation of time, i.e., the Christian age. It represents that era from the day of Pentecost until the ultimate return of the Lord. Observe this line of reasoning.
Joel had prophesied that the Holy Spirit would be “poured forth” in “the last days” (2:28ff). The apostle Peter, in his inspired sermon on Pentecost Sunday, quoted Joel’s declaration in connection with the outpouring of the Spirit that very day. He announced:
“[B]ut this is that which has been spoken through the prophet Joel: And it shall be in the last days” (Acts 2:16-17).
Note the connection between “this is that” and “the last days.” Clearly, on the day of Pentecost, “the last days” had begun.
The last days were “the days of the Messiah” (Barnes, 31). This is further supported by Peter’s reference to Pentecost in Acts 11. There, in explaining the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles (Acts 10), the apostle suggested that this event represented a “like gift” (11:17), even as the apostles had received “at the beginning” (15). This is an allusion to the beginning of the Christian age, or “the last days.”
Presbyterian commentator J.A. Alexander observed: “This is here called the beginning of the Christian dispensation” (425).
Baptist scholar Everett Harrison has commented that since the church was to be built upon a “rejected” stone, all attempts to find “the origin of the church at some point in the pre-cross ministry of Jesus” are futile (83).
Where Was the Church to Be Established?
The prophet indicates that the location was to be in Jerusalem, which is where the apostles were when they proclaimed the facts of the gospel, and a multitude obeyed the truth (Lk. 24:47-49; Acts 1:4-5; 2:1ff).
I once debated with a friend, a Baptist minister, who contended that the church was established in Galilee during the Lord’s personal ministry. In response I noted that Isaiah declared that the “foundation” of the Lord’s house was to be laid in “Zion,” i.e., Jerusalem (Isa. 28:16). I further observed that it would be something of an oddity for a builder to lay the foundation in one place (Jerusalem) and then erect the superstructure elsewhere (Galilee). The “Galilee” theory creates a difficulty for the biblical symbolism.
Exactly Who Is to Enter into the “House of God”?
Or, to say the same thing in another way, who is to constitute the church? Under the Old Testament economy, only priestly Jews could enter the “house of God.” Gentiles were restricted to the “court of the Gentiles,” an outer region of the temple compound. Separating the “court of the Gentiles” from the sacred enclosure was a stone wall about four and one-half feet high. Upon it was written a warning, in Greek and Latin, that no Gentile should proceed beyond the barrier upon the penalty of death. Paul, symbolically alluding to this wall, called the law of Moses a “middle wall of partition” that separated the Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:14).
By way of contrast, Isaiah indicated that “all nations would flow unto” the new house of God. This refers to the fact that the church would be open to both Jews and Gentiles. Any movement which seeks to nationalize access to God is wrong.
Why Was this New System to Be Inaugurated?
So that men might “walk in his [God’s] paths,” enjoying the blessings thereof. It is the inclination of man to walk according to his own desires. In the days of the judges, “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Jdg. 21:25). Man does not have the ability to direct his own steps (Jer. 10:23).
Until a person is able to divest himself of his arrogance, and submit to the will of God, there is no hope of redemption.
How Does One Access the “House of God”?
First, he must exercise the personal initiative to know the will of God. Those who aspire to salvation exercise personal initiative, saying: “Come ye, let us go.”
One need not wait for some compelling operation of the Spirit which will mysteriously sweep him into union with God; that will not happen. Rather, conversion occurs by allowing the Lord to “teach us of his ways.”
Christ declared: “And they shall all be taught of God. Every one that has heard from the Father, and has learned, comes unto me” (Jn. 6:45). The Christian Way is a taught and learned religion, and those who are not willing to invest the time and energy to investigate the claims of this divine system, will not be able to access the spiritual blessings provided by God.
Carefully study Isaiah 2:2-4 and absorb the rich truths of this prophecy.
- Alexander, J. A. 1956 Reprint. Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
- Barnes, Albert. 1956 Reprint. Acts. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.
- Harrison, Everett. 1975. Acts—The Expanding Church. Chicago, IL: Moody.