The New Covenant for New Creatures Isaiah 59:20-21 - The Gospel according to Isaiah & Paul Some Bible topics are hard to write about because they are obscure and based on difficult Scripture. Others -like this topic - are also hard to write about, but for a different reason: The topic is a rich one. The temptation to overflow the outline is a real one. In fact this very passage has its own inspired commentary, Romans 11:25-36. Paul, combing over this very theme of the New Covenant, ends the chapter with his exuberant doxology, v.33-36: "Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" Also - and getting to the point of this article - Paul drew from Isaiah 59:20 and made applications that are often overlooked today. Here is Isaiah 59:20-21: “The Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,” Says the LORD. "As for Me,” says the LORD, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,” says the LORD, “from this time and forevermore.” Paul's quotation in Romans 11:25-27: For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “ The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” Coming or Going? This is a good question. In Isaiah we have Christ, Redeemer, coming to Zion. In Romans we have Christ, the Deliverer, coming out of Zion. The answer is - yes. Both. The fact that Paul quoted from the somewhat variant LXX (Septuagint) shouldn't distract us here. Both are true. The Messiah will come to His own, suddenly coming to His Temple. But He will also, through His earthly ministry, resurrection and presence (Parousia) come out of Zion. He will - through the instruments of those who are His - bring the Gospel message to the four corners of the Earth, gathering His elect. These are the "greater works" which Christ promised His followers would achieve - certainly greater in geographic scope. Christ will come to Zion, says Isaiah, to those in Jacob who "turn from their transgression". This can easily be misunderstood by those who are not well-read in the Bible as "God helps those who help themselves". But there are many passages that show that we are unable to turn from transgression unless God already has been convicting us. The verse in Isaiah just means Christ will come to His own elect. More on this later in Isaiah. And how does the Redeemer turn us from our transgression? By His Spirit and His words. The next verse shows us that His Spirit and His words will never depart from us. The Word of God frees us from ourselves, cleanses us, strengthens us, forms Christ in us. This verse in Isaiah has several cross-references: some earlier in the Old Testament, like Joshua 1:8; others in the New Testament, like John 6:63;17:17; Eph. 5:25-27; Heb. 4:12; 1 Pet. 2:2-8. Christ will come out of Zion, says Paul, and He will - and here is a closer look at our salvation than even Isaiah gave us - turn ungodliness away from Jacob. This is much more than the false notion that "God helps those who help themselves". This is: God helps us to desire to help ourselves ourselves. Or, to use another of Paul's verses: He "works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure", Phil. 2:14, and "the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age", Titus 2:11-12. All of Zion will be saved. Paul's passage is very often misconstrued, as if to say that there will come a time when all of physical Israel will be saved. "But", you might protest, "doesn't Scripture say exactly that?" Yes, it does. But three hermeneutic principals must be kept in mind: Concept, context, cross-reference. 1. Concept (Or Definition, but that would mess up my alliteration!): What "Israel" did Paul mean when he said "All Israel will be saved"? There are times when he refers to physical Israel, like in Rom. 9:3, "my brethren according to the flesh" but more often he refers to spiritual Israel. Consider these two passages: Rom. 9:6b-7a and, especially, Rom. 2:27-29 "For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham" " And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God." This last passage from Rom. 2 shows us most clearly who Paul has in mind when he refers to Israel: those who are circumcised in heart, who live according to the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, not the letter that kills. 2. Context: This is where many, many translations and paraphrases do us a great disservice. How? Well, they effectively isolate "All Israel shall be saved" from the rest of the sentence! Did you know that the original sentence extends both before and after that more famous sound bite? The NIV and others especially separate the previous thought, cutting the sentence up. The sentence should read: "For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, and so [that is, in this manner] all Israel will be saved..." There are two clarifications as to all of Israel's being saved. A. It will be "in this manner" - the manner just described in the previous phrase: It will consist of both Jew and Gentile, the latter taking advantage of a blindness of the former. These two groups, Jews and Gentiles will thus make up the total number of the redeemed, the Israel of God. B. It will be "as it is written" - according to the the two passages cited by Paul. This brings us down to the third hermeneutic principle. 3. Cross-reference: This brings us back, first of all, to our original passage in Isaiah as well as to Jeremiah 31:33-34. Actually, some Bibles see the second part of Paul's quotation to be drawn from Isaiah 27:9, but that passage in Jer. 31 seems to fit better. At any rate, whether from Isaiah or Jeremiah, the topic is always the New Covenant. This New Covenant is the Spirit of God breathed into us, the words of Christ, enabling ever-growing discernment and joyful obedience. It is Christ in us, the hope of glory. The Word of God dwelling in us richly not only brings out in us not only cheerful, God-praising songs with grace in our hearts, but also enables us to put on Christ more and more completely. This nothing more nor less than our wonderful Christian new life, growing in grace and faith. I write all this to show that there is no room in this passage, Romans 11:26a, for this strange notion of all of physical Israel being saved in some future event, by some future stimulus that would have to be contrary to God's usual New Covenant dealing. The Gospel has always been received by faith. There will never be a time when a multitude of Jews will be so moved by the supposed sight of the nail-prints our Saviour and then mourn so completely that all will pass over from death unto life. God will not go contrary to His Word. This was the very truth the damned rich man stumbled upon too late: If one is unpersuaded by Moses and the prophets they will not be convinced by One coming from the dead. Whether the One comes from the grave or heaven is actually moot. The treasures of our new life in Christ are invisible. That is why they are of faith, 2 Cor 3:18 "while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." The spiritual Zion that we have been studying in Isaiah is invisible but, for all that, it is even more glorious. This Heavenly Jerusalem in the pages of Scripture grows greater and greater, even as the physical one fade and disappears in a cloud of age-ending judgment. Our Zion today is still growing worldwide. Think of it: The greatest city in the world - and it has only one Door - Christ. And there is only one way to this heavenly city and that is through Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We don't need to see nail-prints. His word has already pierced our conscience and His Word has healed us and is growing us.