In our previous studies, we discussed the concept of “Sorting Prophetic Material,” suggested by Otis Q. Sellers in his pamphlet of the same name. We talked about creating “bins” into which we could sort the prophecies of Scripture predicting events in the future. We had used the book of Revelation to establish four future time periods that are set forth in Scripture. From this study, we constructed four bins to sort prophecies. However, by examining other evidence, we concluded that there was a fifth time period, coming before all these, and which we called, as a working title, the “last days.” Once we had established this fifth time period called the “last days,” we went through all the Scriptural occurrences of it to get an idea in our minds of what this term means. We concluded that this phrase does not speak of only one time, but that none of the time periods of which it speaks fit into that time period called “the millennium.” We concluded that the word “last” in this case means “result” or “outcome,” and the phrase “last days” indicates a time period that is the result of all that came before it. Thus, the last days of Isaiah 2:2 and Micah 4:1 are the result of God’s great work to bring in His order upon the earth through His government.

I had been bold in saying that the “last days” of Isaiah 2:2 cannot be the millennium. One reason I believe this is because of what the Bible says must happen “before the day of the LORD.” In our last issue, we examined this phrase, “the Day of the Lord.” An examination Revelation 1:10 led us to the conclusion that the “Lord’s Day” of Revelation is the same thing as the “Day of the Lord,” and so that all of Revelation takes place in that Day. However, the “last days” take place before the Day of the Lord, so they are a time period not found at all in Revelation, and that precede all the prophecies made there, including Daniel’s Seventieth Week, the Millennium, the Little Season, and the New Heavens and New Earth.

Now, let us move on to examine even more Bible prophecies, to see if we can find more to sort into this “last days” bin. First, let us consider a passage from the New Testament that relates directly to this new bin we have identified. Let us look at Matthew 12:15-21.

15. But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. 16. Yet He warned them not to make Him known, 17. that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: 

This passage tells us about a time when the Pharisees were plotting to destroy Him. The Lord’s response to this was to withdraw. Still, the multitudes followed Him, and He was not without compassion upon them, for He healed all their sick. Yet we read that He warned them not to make Him known, that is, not to let the Pharisees know where He was. Then we find out that this was not just a wise and necessary policy, but was actually in accordance with a prophecy spoken by Isaiah the prophet. Notice that this prophecy was not only spoken, but is also written down for us in Isaiah 42:1-3. Let us now examine this prophecy, as it is quoted in the New Testament of Matthew 12:18-21.

18. “Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen,
My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased!
I will put My Spirit upon Him,
And He will declare justice to the Gentiles.
19. He will not quarrel nor cry out,
Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.
20. A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench,
Till He sends forth justice to victory;
21. And in His name Gentiles will trust.”

The first thing I want to make note of is how this prophecy relates to what the Lord is doing. Some have suggested that the Lord was fulfilling this prophecy at the time Matthew 12 describes, because it is quoted here. Yet this cannot possibly be, for the things stated in this prophecy did not happen in Matthew 12. The Lord Jesus did not send forth justice to victory. The Gentiles did not trust in His name. If the Lord telling the multitudes not to let the Pharisees know where He was is the same as Him sending forth judgment to victory and the Gentiles trusting in Him, then we might as well give up the study of Scripture in despair, since it is obvious we will never be able to understand its statements. Yet I think no such drastic actions will be necessary. There is no statement here that what the Lord did fulfilled this prophecy. Matthew does not say that what Isaiah said was fulfilled at this time. Rather, he says that the Lord did this so that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet. If the Lord hadn’t done this, what Isaiah said could not be fulfilled. Because He did this, it will be fulfilled. Yet it was not fulfilled at that time. That is most clear.

Now let us examine what this prophecy actually says.

18. “Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen,
My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased!

First of all, it is spoken of God’s Servant. It is clear to us that this is a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. If it were not clear enough from the Isaiah passage, Matthew applies it to Him. God had chosen the Lord Jesus. He was His beloved, and His soul was well pleased with Him. None of these statements about Christ surprise us. God’s Spirit was put upon the Lord Jesus. We see this in many places, one of which is His baptism by John, when the Spirit descends upon Him in the form of a dove. All these things were true in the past. But now a statement is made which will not be true until the future. He will declare justice to the Gentiles. The Lord never did this during His earthly ministry. He never declared anything to any nation other than Israel, for that was how He was sent. Matthew 15:24. “But He answered and said, ‘I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’” So He declared nothing to any nation but Israel. And even to Israel, His ministry was not to declare justice to them. This is something that will not happen until God does a work in some future time.

19. He will not quarrel nor cry out,
Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.

Now we learn how the Lord declares justice to the nations. He does this while not quarreling or crying out. No one hears His voice in the streets. This does not seem to fit at all with His earthly ministry, for we know very well that He did quarrel with the Pharisees, many times, in fact. He did cry out, and you could hear His voice in the streets. This is not talking about the Lord’s ministry in the past, but about how He will send forth judgment unto victory in the future. This must be so, for if we try to apply it to His past ministry, it does not fit. That would not be a proper bin to sort this predictive prophecy into. We must reserve this for some time point in the future.

20. A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench,
Till He sends forth justice to victory;

He does not break a bruised reed or quench smoking flax. This is a little hard for us to understand, perhaps. If you think of some plant that is a reed, like a cattail, if you have ever bent such a reed over without breaking it, so that there was a bend in the reed and the top hung over, then what you did is bruise that reed. In fact, there is a woodsman’s trick using bruised reeds to mark a trail. One bends the reed in the direction one following the trail is to walk. The one following the trail walks this way until he comes to another bruised reed pointing him in a new direction.

Now, once a reed is bruised, it is very easy to break it. All one has to do, in many cases, is just to bend the reed back the other way, and it will snap right off. There is really not much effort at all required to break a bruised reed.

Let us consider smoking flax. This is similar to what we use for a candle wick. When you blow out a candle, the wick often continues to glow and smoke for a short period after you put the candle out. This too is easy enough to quench. You don’t have to do anything as drastic as throwing water over the candle. Really all that you need to do to put out a smoking candle wick is to pinch it between your fingers, and it will go out immediately. Similarly, there is nothing hard about quenching smoking flax.

 I believe what this means is that the Lord will do no violence until He sends forth judgment unto victory. Remember that judgment does not mean punishment. That is a great error of modern theology. Judgment is to declare what is right regarding a thing, and to enforce what is right, and to set things right according to a certain order. When the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Servant, sends forth judgment unto victory, the result of this will be the kingdom of God, the very government of God upon earth.

Now we know what usually happens in this world when one government is taken over by another. Most coups are not bloodless. When governments are overturned, there is usually much bloodshed and violence. Men do not relinquish power readily, and those who take over governments often seek to wipe out those from the previous government that might oppose them. Thus, changes in government are generally loud, violent, bloody affairs. One interesting exception to this is actually our own government in the United States, where one administration will take over power from another without any bloodshed. Yet even then we cannot say that there is not striving, or crying, or voices in the streets when this occurs. And certainly if anyone ever tried to overthrow our constitutional republic and set up some other form of government, it would never happen without some bloodshed.

Yet how different will God’s government be when it takes over! This passage assures us that He will not strive, and He will not cry. You will not hear His voice in the streets. He will do no violence, to the point where He will not even break a bruised reed, or quench smoking flax. We might think of these as the most weak or most vulnerable among men. There are many such who hover even between life and death, and it would seem even the slightest influence the wrong way would push them over the edge and take them away from life. Then there are those who derive their power from the governments of this world, whom it would seem would have to be removed if another government were ever to take the current one’s place. And yet this passage assures us that this will not be the case. When our Lord takes control of this world, He does not do so with violence and bloodshed. His takeover is so peaceful that even a bruised reed will not be broken, and even smoking flax will not be quenched. Even the weakest or the most vulnerable among us will not be injured by that takeover at all.

21. And in His name Gentiles will trust.”

This is the result of such an amazing, bloodless revolution. All the nations will come to trust in His name. Remember, your name is not just the word people use when they are calling you. Rather, it means your reputation in the minds of others, and the character they ascribe to you. It is the great reputation that God gains by the way His government takes over that causes the nations to trust in Him.

So this is the glorious way that Isaiah and Matthew tell us that Jesus Christ will take over the governments of this world. And yet, a greater contrast with the second coming of Jesus Christ as described by II Thessalonians 1:7-10 cannot be imagined. Remember what that passage declared.

7. and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8. in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10. when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.

Do you see the contrast? Read these two passages again, and consider it. In Matthew 12, Christ attains the victory while not hurting anyone. But in II Thessalonians 1, Christ hurts everyone who does not already know and obey Him. In Matthew 12, Christ does not fight, quarrel, or cry out. But in II Thessalonians 1, Christ takes vengeance in flaming fire. Only one conclusion is possible: these two passages cannot be talking about the same thing! How does Christ get the victory first: by hurting all His enemies or by hurting no one? By taking vengeance, or by enlightening? In flaming fire, or in peaceful revelation? Both of these cannot be true at the same time. One of them must take place before the other.

Now if we tried to limit future events to the four bins I described initially in this study, that is, to Daniel’s seventieth week, the millennium, the little season, and the new heavens and new earth, we would have no place to fit these two very different descriptions of Christ getting victory over His enemies. Yet if we include the fifth bin I suggested above, one that comes before all the others, and one that we called the “last days,” then we can place the Matthew 12 account of Christ getting victory over the earth at the beginning of this fifth bin. This is how Christ will get the victory over the earth. He cannot get the victory this way once He has already taken flaming vengeance upon His enemies. He cannot send forth judgment unto victory once those who do not know Him and who do not obey His gospel have already been wiped out. This peaceful victory that our Lord wins has to be accomplished before the millennium and before the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Now let us move on to examine just one more prophecy to sort it into the proper bin before we draw this study to a close. Let us look at Isaiah 65:17-25.

17. “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; 
And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. 

This describes a glorious new heavens and new earth. The former shall not be remembered or come to mind. If any of my readers thinks this means everyone in future time will forget about their lives lived in this world, then I would say that you need to read my article on “Remembrance in the Afterlife,” for I do not believe that that is what this means at all. But let us not get sidetracked unto that issue here. I would refer all to that former article who desire to study this issue.

Since this describes a new heavens and a new earth, we are at first inclined to place the fulfillment of this passage into the “new heaven and new earth” bin we created above. Yet let us examine the entire passage before we decide this for certain.

18. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; 
For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, 
And her people a joy. 

This prophecy, like so many others of its kind in Scripture, centers the blessings that it predicts for the future around what will be happening to the land and people of Israel. No longer at that time will Jerusalem be desolate, or overrun by war. She shall be a rejoicing, and her people will be a joy.

19. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, 
And joy in My people; 
The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, 
Nor the voice of crying. 

The joy of Jerusalem and her people will be complete, and no more will sorrow take place in her.

20. “No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, 
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; 
For the child shall die one hundred years old, 
But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed. 

No more shall children die in their infancy, and no more shall older men die before they have lived out their days. One who dies at one hundred years old will be considered just a child, and the sinner who dies at one hundred years old will be considered accursed because he died so early.

21. They shall build houses and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 

It has been a sad truth regarding Israel that all throughout history what they have made and worked for has been taken from them and stolen by others. They have built houses and others have inhabited them. They have planted vineyards and others have eaten their fruit. This will not be so in that future day to come. All that they work for will belong to them, and no one will be able to take it away from them, for the LORD Himself will be watching out for them.

22. They shall not build and another inhabit; 
They shall not plant and another eat; 
For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, 
And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 

The first half of this statement is continuing what was said in the previous verse, that what they work for shall not be taken away from them. Then, it is declared that the days of God’s people would be as the days of a tree. We know that trees live for a long time, and generally do not die unless something external happens to bring an end to their lives. So it will be in that future day, when God’s people shall live for many days, far longer than any of us live in this time. And so they shall long enjoy the fruits of their labors, for even death will not step in to remove them from what they have built.

23. They shall not labor in vain, 
Nor bring forth children for trouble; 
For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD, 
And their offspring with them. 

Oftentimes in this world our labors are for naught, for what we work for is taken away from us. Yet in that day, no Israelite shall spend his labor in vain. In this world, we often bring forth children only to experience the troubles and woes of this life. Yet in that time, children will be brought forth into blessing, not hardship. In that day, both the parents and the children of every Israelite will be living in blessing. What a wonderful condition of things that will be!

24. “ It shall come to pass 
That before they call, I will answer; 
And while they are still speaking, I will hear. 

In the day this was written, God often seemed slow to answer the cries of His people, and often did not seem to hear their pleas. How much more is this true in our day, when the heavens are silent! Yet God will not be slow to answer at that time. He promises that before they even call upon Him, He will already answer them, and while they are still speaking their request, He will hear their words and act on their behalf. No more will God be silent. No more will troubles and sorrows follow men from which God seems reluctant to deliver them. Deliverance and help from God will be immediate.

25. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, 
The lion shall eat straw like the ox, 
And dust shall be the serpent’s food. 
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,” 
Says the LORD.

Here we read that the animal kingdom too shall be affected by the glorious things that are happening on earth. This is the passage from which the song about the “lion and the lamb” comes from. “Lion” and “lamb” are not mentioned together, but the alliteration must have sounded better to the songwriter. At any rate, what is declared here is that the wolf and the lamb will feed together. Of course, this is not the way it is in our day, when the wolf would rather eat the lamb than feed with it. Why the wolf is willing to eat with the lamb we can learn from the next line, for even the lion will be eating straw at that time like the ox. God will reprogram His creation back to being vegetarians, even as it was before the flood.

Then, this passage declares that dust shall be the serpent’s food. I believe this moves from describing animals, to describing what happens to Satan, the evil “shining-one,” at this time. He is made to eat dust, that is, he is totally defeated and humiliated. All his wicked schemes and evil desires come to an end. For at that time, no one, not even any animal or Satan himself, shall hurt or destroy anyone in all the LORD’s holy mountain. I believe that a “mountain” in the Bible symbolizes a government. This is the way it will be in all God’s holy government: nothing shall hurt or destroy. No man and no animal will arise to hurt another. All will be in harmony and peace.

Now the passage we just read describes a glorious new creation. Yet, though it is called a “new heavens and a new earth,” this cannot be the new heavens and the new earth of Revelation 21. There are several reasons for this. First of all, in this passage, men still die (verse 20,) though longevity is restored to them. Yet there is no death in the new heavens and new earth of Revelation 21, as we read in verse 4. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Emphasis mine) Also, we see that there are “sinners” in this new heavens and new earth (again verse 20,) and that the “serpent” is there (verse 25,) though he is humiliated and eating dust. Yet in the new heaven and new earth of Revelation 21, Satan is long gone, being destroyed in the lake of fire in Revelation 20:10. Thus, it seems that this is a very different “new heavens and new earth” than that of Revelation.

So this passage describes a time when 100 years old is still a child, yet a sinner could still die at 100. This means longevity is restored, but death is still possible. This can only fit a period of blessing before the Millennium or the new heavens and new earth of Revelation 21 wherein God greatly blesses the earth, but some accursed men still sin and die. Notice, though, that this sets this time period as covering many centuries of time. No one would call 100 years old “young” unless many were already much older than that. A 23-year-old would be unlikely to think of a 20-year-old as a child. Yet an 80-year-old certainly might. So, if men are going to think of 100 years old as a “child,” it follows that those who are thinking this must be much older. Therefore, this extends this time period out to last at least long enough for 100 years old to seem like a child, which would have to be many hundreds of years.

I believe that the phrase “new heavens and new earth” here speak of a heavens and earth that are renewed, not just made new from scratch. All the things that we make in this world are made from materials that already exist. We do not truly create things out of nothing. We call things “new” all the time, yet we know the materials they are made of have not just come into being. So, when God makes the earth new, He does not need to burn up the old one and start with all new matter. He can simply renew the earth that now exists. And there certainly is no time that would more fitly constitute such a renewal than the beginning of His coming kingdom, His government on earth. The earth that emerges once He has begun His rule will be a far different earth than that which existed before that time, though He does not burn it up and start over to make it new. I believe the same thing happens to the heavens at this time, so the beginning of the “last days” will truly constitute a “new heavens and new earth.”

Now, having set forth my beliefs regarding future events, I am sure that some of my readers have various questions about what I have written. What am I really saying will come next in God’s plan? And does the order of things I have set forth really make sense? We will discuss some questions that might arise about what I have suggested so far in my next message.