Isaiah’s New Creation
From Isaiah 40 onward, the content of the book is post-exilic and expresses hope and God’s fulfilled prophecies. However, Israel isn’t all that happy with God. The nation accuses God of having neglected them which led to the Babylonian gods defeat of Yahweh and Israel’s subsequent exile. God responds by explaining to Israel that He had not neglected them nor had He been defeated, but that He orchestrated the exile as punishment for Israel so that they would repent and eventually be able to return to their homeland. Israel remains rebellious, so God rejects them, but He still wants to bless all the nations so He reveals His divine plan to do so.
Beginning in Isaiah 49, God introduces us to His servant that is to fulfill the very mission He has in mind. This servant will accomplish all that Israel was meant to accomplish, and by so doing He would be a light to all the nations. This servant would accomplish God’s plan by dying as a sacrifice for sin and is presented alive once more to be able to declare people in a right relationship with God. Those who follow God’s anointed one shall inherit His kingdom, which begins to be spoken about in Isaiah 56. By the time we arrive at chapter 65, Isaiah informs us about the fulfillment of God’s kingdom—when heaven and earth are one rather than separate realities once more.
Isaiah 65:17–25 promises a cosmic renovation—the same Hebrew word used here for “create” is the same as in Genesis 1—accompanied by a renewed Jerusalem, the very same things we read about in John’s Revelation (21:1–5; cf. Matt. 19:28; Rom. 8:21–22; 2 Cor. 5:17; 2 Peter 2:13). The only other place in all the Hebrew Bible where we read of the new heavens and earth is in Isaiah 66:22. Though scarce in the Bible is the notion of new heavens and earth, it is clearly a Jewish hope from Isaiah’s time onward.
And the angel of the presence who went before the camp of Israel took the tables of the divisions of the years -from the time of the creation- of the law and of the testimony of the weeks of the jubilees, according to the individual years, according to all the number of the jubilees [according, to the individual years], from the day of the [new] creation when the heavens and the earth shall be renewed and all their creation according to the powers of the heaven, and according to all the creation of the earth, until the sanctuary of the Lord shall be made in Jerusalem on Mount Zion, and all the luminaries be renewed for healing and for peace and for blessing for all the elect of Israel, and that thus it may be from that day and unto all the days of the earth. (Jubilees 1.28)
In that day I will cause my Elect One to dwell in the midst of them; will change the face of heaven; will bless it, and illuminate it forever. I will also change the face of the earth, will bless it; and cause those whom I have elected to dwell upon it. But those who have committed sin and iniquity shall not inhabit it, for I have marked their proceedings. My righteous ones will I satisfy with peace, placing them before me; but the condemnation of sinners shall draw near, that I may destroy them from the face of the earth. (1 En. 45:4–5)
For there will be a greater trial than these two tribulations when the Mighty One will renew His creation. (2 Bar. 32.6)
Notice how “troubles” (Is. 65:16) will be replaced with gladness and rejoicing (Is. 65:18). Crying is no more (Is. 65:19). When you take the rest of the passage, it appears as a metanarrative that justice is finally accomplished in its full perfection and childhood illnesses and elderly infirmities are eradicated—a source of comfort for many so touched by them. Even animals return to be vegetarians (cf. Gen. 1:30) and the serpent eats the dust of the ground (cf. Gen. 3:14). What’s the takeaway of it all? Peace. Is this purely eschatological? I don’t believe so, but that it has already begun in Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15) and shall culminate at His second coming. A part of the preaching of the gospel in the earliest days consisted of Peter preaching that God would send Christ at the time of the restoration of all things, alluding to the words of the prophets (Acts 3:20–21). This wasn’t the first time Peter had made such a charge about Jesus being received in heaven only to return, but in Acts 2:34–35 he appealed to Psalm 110:1 to inform Israel that once His enemies were put under His feet, He’d return.