We have seen how Isaiah shows us Christ and His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation that He earned for all people. This is the Gospel.
The Gospel is incomplete, however, if it does not include the gifts of Jesus being given. The Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed, which is about the Holy Spirit and the Christian Church, also is the Gospel. This shows the salvation of souls: not being won by Christ (that is the Second Article), but actually being carried out in the Church.
Isaiah preaches this Gospel, too. He is allowed to see the glory of Christ’s Church. This was a great comfort to Isaiah the preacher himself because he lived among people who were turning away from God and His Word; they would be led into captivity in Babylon within the next 100 years because of their refusal to heed the prophets God sent.
As he looked around him, Isaiah could not see the glory of Christ’s Church – just as we cannot. The glory of the Church is always hidden, that God’s Word prospers when it goes forth. The devil knows this. He sees what is hidden and keeps the glory of the Church hidden. But the failings of the Church, the problems and difficulties, are evident. You see the sins. You see disappointing results. You see human weakness. You see conflict. The devil works so you see and dwell on nothing but that. He tries to discourage us with that.
Isaiah, the preacher of comfort, is shown the glory of Christ’s Church so that as we are tempted to despair about the Church, we can hear these promises and believe.
We conclude this series by hearing Isaiah’s Gospel concerning the Church, organized under three main points:
- Christ’s kingdom, His Church, is glorious! It is a kingdom of perfect peace, realized here only by faith, but seen in heaven. The Church’s children are many – a multitude no one can count – and come from afar. When you are tempted to despair about the church, these promises of what the Church actually is are for you. “I believe in the holy Christian Church…” We cannot judge by outward results and what we see.
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb… The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord…” (Isaiah 11:6-9, New King James Version).
“Arise, shine! For Your [the Church’s] light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. … His glory will be seen upon you. Lift up your eyes all around, and see: They all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be nursed at your side” (Isaiah 60:1-4).
- The Church is the Bride of Christ, sorrowful as the “Daughter of Zion” in the world, but eternally joyful and made glorious by Him as multitudes are brought in by His grace. When His Church is sorrowful, sad, persecuted, and troubled by its (mis)fortunes in the world, the Lord comforts His Bride with His enduring love. We would be surprised if we knew all who hold onto faith in Christ. This is the work of the Holy Spirit through His Word and Sacraments.
“Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing O mountains! For the Lord has comforted His people, and will have mercy on His afflicted. But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.’ – ‘…I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me. Lift up your eyes, look around and see, all these gather together and come to you. The children you will have, after you have lost the others, will say again in your ears, ‘The place is too small for me; give me a place where I may dwell.’ Then you will say in your heart, ‘Who has begotten these for me…? There I was, left alone; but these, where were they?’” (Isaiah 49:13-21).
- He shall come again with glory, and His Church Triumphant will be seen by all! There will be no sin or sorrow, but only joy and praise there. Let these promises of eternal life bring comfort to you – and the sure hope of everlasting life!
(There is only room here for a few words; if you like, read Isaiah 2:1-4; 25:6-9; 35:1-10; 65:17-25; and 66:22-24.)
He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces (Isaiah 25:8).
The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away (Isaiah 35:10).
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy. 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” (Isaiah 65:17-19).
“For as the new heavens and the new earth which I shall make shall remain before Me,” says the Lord, “so shall your descendants and your name remain” (Isaiah 66:22).
Reverend Jerry Gernander
Bethany Lutheran Church