woman walking in the city with shadows

When GOD cast the people of Judah from His presence, they spent 70 years exiled in Babylon.

Afterward, a fraction of those who remained made the long journey to their homeland.

GOD gathered a remnant of Israel back to the land He gave them.

Continuing our theme of shadows and substances, this post examines how this physical gathering foreshadowed a second, later gathering. This second gathering is a key concept that is often overlooked.

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Welcome to the 10th post in my series on rethinking Christian eschatology. Because these posts build upon each other, if you've not already done so, I invite you to read the previous posts in this series before continuing here.

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In the last post, I gave an overview of what led to the Israelites being scattered from their homeland.

In short, they failed to wipe out the Canaanite people when they conquered the land and, as a result, they fell into idolatry and wickedness until GOD cast them from His presence.

GOD had foretold these events through Moses.

58 If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name—the Lord your God— 59 the Lord will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses. 60 He will bring on you all the diseases of Egypt that you dreaded, and they will cling to you. 61 The Lord will also bring on you every kind of sickness and disaster not recorded in this Book of the Law, until you are destroyed. 62 You who were as numerous as the stars in the sky will be left but few in number, because you did not obey the Lord your God. 63 Just as it pleased the Lord to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess.

64 Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known. 65 Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the Lord will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. 66 You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life.
(Deut. 28:58:58-66 NIV)

And GOD had also revealed through Moses that some Israelites would be gathered again, when they repented.

1 When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, 2 and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, 3 then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.
(Deut. 30:1-3 NIV)

GOD later told Jeremiah that the length of the Babylonian exile would be 70 years (see Jer. 25:11; 29:10; 2 Chron. 36:21).

Once the 70 years were over, a remnant were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the temple. This group was led by Ezra and later Nehemiah returned to oversee the wall reconstruction.

But the majority of the Israelites never returned to live in their homeland. The prophets make it clear that the majority did not repent and seek GOD, such as in the passage we read from Daniel in the previous post:

13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.
(Dan. 9:13-14 NIV)

The remnant of Jews who returned to Jerusalem beginning in 538 B.C. form a physical fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy in Deut. 30:1-3. And in so doing, they also became a shadow for a second “gathering” spoken of by Isaiah.

1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.

Note:Earth” can be translated “land,” and I think “land” is the more accurate translation here. This is discussing the land promised to Abraham.

He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

10 In that day [i.e., in the time of Jesus, per v.1] the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. 11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean.

12 He will raise a banner for the nations
and gather the exiles of Israel;
he will assemble the scattered people of Judah
from the four quarters of the earth.
13 Ephraim’s jealousy will vanish,
and Judah’s enemies will be destroyed;
Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,
nor Judah hostile toward Ephraim.
14 They will swoop down on the slopes of Philistia to the west;
together they will plunder the people to the east.
They will subdue Edom and Moab,
and the Ammonites will be subject to them.
15 The Lord will dry up
the gulf of the Egyptian sea;
with a scorching wind he will sweep his hand
over the Euphrates River.
He will break it up into seven streams
so that anyone can cross over in sandals.
16 There will be a highway for the remnant of his people
that is left from Assyria,
as there was for Israel
when they came up from Egypt.
(Isa. 11:1-16 NIV)

Isaiah 11 is an important prophecy and its context is very clear about the timeframe of its fulfillment.

  • “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse”

  • “with righteousness he will judge the needy…he will give decisions for the poor of the earth” (Remember: the word ‘earth’ can, and often should, be translated ‘land.’)

  • “He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth…he will slay the wicked.”

  • “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him”

Each of these things would happen in the timeframe of Jesus.

Before His crucifixion, Jesus said:

31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
(John 12:31-33 NIV)

His crucifixion and resurrection is the fulfillment of Isa. 11:10.

Lest there be any doubt, Paul quotes Isa. 11:10 and applies it to the first century timeframe in Romans 15:

7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written:

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;
I will sing the praises of your name.”
10 Again, it says,

“Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.”
11 And again,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles;
let all the peoples extol him.”
12 And again, Isaiah says,

The Root of Jesse will spring up,
one who will arise to rule over the nations;
in him the Gentiles will hope.
(Rom. 15:7-12 NIV)

Recall in the earlier post about the promises to Abraham how I noted that the promises were only partially fulfilled physically, that there was a spiritual fulfillment also? Well, that is exactly what Paul is referring to in v.8 here.

So the physical gathering is a mere shadow of the spiritual gathering in the time of Jesus, described in Isaiah 11.

Even the high priest who condemned Jesus, Caiaphas, seemingly without realization of the impact, prophesied about this spiritual gathering in the time of Jesus.

John wrote:

45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. 46 But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. 48 If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.”

49 And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.

53 Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death.
(John 11:45-53 NIV)

As always, the physical precedes the spiritual. The first gathering was physical; the second gathering, spiritual.

Remember, the promises to the patriarchs were fulfilled spiritually, because of Jesus.

Now, check this out.

Let’s look again at Moses’ prophecy in Deut. 30 where the gathering was first foretold:

1 When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, 2 and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, 3 then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.

4 Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. 5 He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors. 6 The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. 7 The Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you. 8 You will again obey the Lord and follow all his commands I am giving you today. 9 Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, 10 if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
(Deut. 30:1-10 NIV)

Did the physical remnant who returned to Jerusalem experience the blessings of Deut. 30:4-10?

Did they prosper in everything and become more numerous than their ancestors?

Did they love GOD with all their hearts and carefully obey GOD’s law?

No!

They toiled in difficult times, constantly fighting enemies seeking to stifle the rebuilding process.

They were so few in number that they had to cast lots to see who would remain in the city of Jerusalem instead of returning to the territory of their respective tribe.

They were half-hearted in devotion to GOD, such that He had to chide them into completing the rebuilding of the temple, after they had been back in the land many years.

Therefore, the gathering Moses refers to in Deut. 30:1-10 must be the second gathering, the one of Isa. 11.

This is an example of GOD using physical metaphors to refer to spiritual blessings. The exact same thing is found throughout the Prophets, including Isa. 11.

When Isaiah wrote:

6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

14 They will swoop down on the slopes of Philistia to the west;
together they will plunder the people to the east.
They will subdue Edom and Moab,
and the Ammonites will be subject to them.
15 The Lord will dry up
the gulf of the Egyptian sea;
with a scorching wind he will sweep his hand
over the Euphrates River.
He will break it up into seven streams
so that anyone can cross over in sandals.
16 There will be a highway for the remnant of his people
that is left from Assyria,
as there was for Israel
when they came up from Egypt.
(Isa. 11:6-9, 14-16 NIV)

GOD wasn't talking about a physical petting zoo or a physical drying up of the Egyptian sea and Euphrates River, nor was He speaking of a physical highway. And Jesus wasn't a physical shoot or branch and He didn't have a physical banner raised up.

Rather, GOD used this language to refer to spiritual events that would occur hundreds of years after these prophecies were given. The original recipients would never have understood if He had given a more literal explanation of what was going to happen.

What, exactly, is this second spiritual gathering discussed in Isa. 11 which would happen in the time of Jesus?

We’re going to get there. That is definitely a key question we must answer. But not yet.


Continue to the next post, where we examine what the prophets have to say about 'the last days.'

By now, you may be noticing how some of the principles from the first posts in this series are coming together like pieces to a puzzle. If that isn’t clear yet, however, don’t fret. It will become more clear as we progress.

Got comments or questions? Drop them below.

Tim Harris
Author: Tim Harris

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