Isaiah 65:17ff is a wonderful picture of the future restoration of God’s people. It’s a passage that demonstrates the greatness of the blessings that come to God’s people from his bountiful hand. It’s an even greater picture once we consider the spiritual condition of the original recipients of this promise.
This promise came to a nation that had fallen from glory. At one point, they were the pride of all the nations. They had tremendous wealth and power and they put fear into all their enemies. But after years and years of sin and faithlessness, God punished them.
The prophet Isaiah writes about the wickedness of the nation and the purpose behind the various judgments they faced. The people’s hearts had become far from God. This once great nation had become corrupt and rebellious. But even in the midst of their rebellion, the Lord promised a Messiah—one who would redeem His people and usher in a new creation where He will rule as King, judge the wicked, and establish eternal peace. He would establish a new creation where everything would be set right.
And this is where we are in Isaiah 65. We see the promise of the new heavens and new earth, and we read of the Lord’s provision for his people in spite of their sin. It’s a passage that sets our hope on Him.
Longing for the New Creation
In many ways, the fall of Israel and Judah parallels the fall of Adam into sin. This helps us to understand what is promised in our passage. God established a covenant with Adam. If he obeyed the covenant, he would receive the covenant blessings. He would have received eternal life and fellowship with God. But if he disobeyed, he would be cursed.
We see a similar thing with the nation of Israel. God instituted a covenant with them as well. It had stipulations. If they obeyed, they would receive the covenant blessings. But if they disobeyed, they would experience the covenant curses. These are described in Deuteronomy 28:15. Reading portions, it says
You shall build a house, but you shall not dwell in it. You shall plant a vineyard, but you shall not enjoy its fruit . . . Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, while your eyes look on and fail with longing for them all day long, but you shall be helpless. A nation that you have not known shall eat up the fruit of your ground and of all your labors.
The nation failed to keep the covenant, and so they experienced these covenant curses. They can be summed up under the main headings of death and futility. But the good news is that the Lord makes all things new by ushering in an everlasting blessing of life and fruitfulness.
This is the wonderful message of grace of Isaiah 65, which is nothing less than the reversal of these curses. What we find in Deuteronomy 28 as a curse for disobedience is taken away in the new creation. The covenant curses are replaced with covenant blessings.
Verse 20 declares, “No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed” (v. 20).
In effect, Isaiah is saying that this new creation is so great that if a young man were to die at 100 years, he would be accursed. It’s a poetic way to speak. There will be no death and everyone will enjoy a long and fruitful life. The greatest curse will be taken away.
But the Lord also reverses the curse of futility. Much of the language here is similar to the message of Ecclesiastes. The covenantal curses point to the futility of sin and living a life focused on this fallen world. It is vanity—a chasing after the wind. Living according to this world is futile.
We see this starting in verse 21, which says, “They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat.” Most of the joy in gardening is getting to enjoy the fruits of our labors. When we plant flowers, we want to see them and smell them. When we plant food, it always tastes a little bit better because we’ve put our labor into it. We all want to enjoy the fruits of our labors. No one wants to plant and then not enjoy what he or she planted.
We all work and strive for prosperity. But everything we do, according to this fallen world, is a striving after the wind. In our sin we’re all heading toward death. And even if we manage to make some gains in this world, what will we do with them when we die? It’s futility.
But the new heavens and new earth are different. This is something for which we should long: “for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain . . .” And then in verse 23, “They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.”
In the new creation we will all enjoy the fellowship and blessings of family. It’s a place where fellowship and blessing extends throughout creation. Even, “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox . . . They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.”
God promises peace and rest in the new heavens and new earth. No longer do we fear death or the futility of our labors. No longer do we fear our enemies, because the Lord comes in justice and establishes peace in the new creation. We won’t have to struggle anymore. Indeed, “. . . the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind” (v. 17).
And so the Lord says, “. . . be glad and rejoice forever in that which I created; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.” Jerusalem, the city of God and the place where he put his favor, had become unfaithful. It had fallen to become the city that represented the wickedness of God’s people. But God would redeem them. No longer would Jerusalem be a place where injustice and sadness reign, but it would be a place that is joyful—a place that finds peace in her Lord—a heavenly Jerusalem.
This is truly something for which to long. It’s the promise and hope for all who believe. Our spiritual forefather Abraham longed for this blessing in Christ by faith. Hebrews 11 says that he looked at the things promised from afar and desired a better country—one that was heavenly.
But it’s not only something Abraham longed for. It’s something that all of creation longs for. We read earlier in Romans 8:19–21, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” So if creation itself waits for this new creation—for the revealing of the sons of God—how much more should you long for it?
What we all long for is something greater than anything we have ever seen. It’s a permanent place of gladness. And we have confidence and a guarantee that our longings will be satisfied, because the Lord has promised that we will spend our days worshiping Him in the new heavens and the new earth.
This is a consummation that we see off in the distance. It’s a guaranteed blessing that is secured by Christ, but it can be easy to think of this heavenly reality strictly as a future blessing. We also need to recognize that this heavenly reality has broken into the present through the resurrection of our Lord from the dead. We become partakers of heaven even now by faith in Jesus. This wonderful truth comes through in verse 25.
Enjoying the New Creation
Verse 25 reads, “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food.” That last phrase might sound familiar to you. This is nothing less than the fulfillment of the promise in Genesis 3:15. It’s the promise that the Messiah would come from the seed of the woman to redeem His people. And he would crush the head of the serpent. Isaiah calls Him the shoot that will come forth from the stump of Jesse. Christ is the faithful remnant—the one who succeeds where everyone else has failed. He’s the one who brings in the new creation.
This salvation is found in none other. It’s in Jesus Christ alone. In Isaiah 36:14ff, the commander of the Assyrian army came before the people of Judah. He passed on a message from the Assyrian king telling them not to listen to Hezekiah, the King of Judah.
Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you. Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord by saying, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ Do not listen to Hezekiah. For thus says the king of Assyria: Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink water of his own cistern . . .
He promises the people the very things God promised as covenant blessings. But what the commander didn’t realize is that these blessings only come through one person: not the king of Assyria, but the King of Kings. If you are not found in Christ, you are stuck in the old creation. You are bound up with the death and decay of that world and there is no hope for you. You cannot enjoy the new creation outside of Christ.
It is Jesus Christ, the Servant-King who brings the new creation about. It’s Christ who will destroy the wicked. He is the one who ushers in eternal peace. And it’s through Him that we also become part of it.
It’s tempting to think about the new heavens and new earth as just a place. We can think of it as something God prepares for us so that we can worship and enjoy Him forever. And it is a place—he does create a new heavens and new earth, but it’s more than a place.
The new creation doesn’t simply involve the land, but the people as well. God doesn’t simply bring about a new creation for his people, he includes his people as part of the new creation. Verse 18 reads, “For behold I create Jerusalem to be a joy and her people to be a gladness.”
Through Christ, you are part of this new creation. This begins when we believe in Christ. The Spirit calls us out of darkness. He enlightens our minds and renews our wills—replacing our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. At that instant, we become citizens of heaven. We have a new identity belonging to Christ and the new heavens and new earth.
But the blessing of our new creation comes to consummation when the Lord returns. Paul tells us that Christ is the firstfruits of those born from the dead. He’s the guarantee that His people will be resurrected. And you’ve been given the Spirit as a pledge and as a seal on this promise. If you trust in Christ, you can rest assured that you are part of that new creation.
This isn’t just something in the future; it’s something you can enjoy even now. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul also writes “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Paul is speaking about the fact that through Christ, you belong to this new creation. You have been renewed and belong in this new creation, because you are part of it.
You should long for the new heavens and the new earth and look forward to its coming. But you must also rest on the sure foundation of Christ’s work. Knowing that you already are part of the new creation—that you have been renewed in the inner man. You have come to the heavenly Jerusalem.
We enjoy the fellowship we have with the Father and with Christ through the Spirit. We enjoy the fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ—because we’re part of the new creation. We’re being built together into Christ’s very body.
Since this is the case, we find our hope in Him—now and in the future. We have hope:
- That the infirmities of this life will pass away.
- That justice will prevail.
- That peace will be established.
- That everything that has gone wrong because of our sin will find its resolution in Jesus Christ.
So let us enjoy this new creation and look to the day when our King will bring it to consummation.