The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
July 28, 2013


1) The Peaceful Coexistence of the Wolf and the Lamb (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


The Peaceful Coexistence of the Wolf and the Lamb
by Tom Edwards

Recently, a friend asked if the Bible has anything to say about man being able to lie down with lions, and lions and lambs also dwelling peacefully together.  Right away, this made me think of an idyllic scene that had been on the cover of a publication by the Jehovah's Witnesses many years ago, in which people were enjoying the outdoors on a beautiful day.  And right there in their midst was a large lion -- but appearing just as tame and harmless as a well-behaved house pet.  On another one of their covers of a similar scene, there is included a young boy with his right arm around a lamb -- while his left hand appears to be petting a tiger that is standing quite contently, right next to him.  

The above scenes portray a very tranquil world, but will there ever be a time when no lion would look upon a lamb as the prey?  Or when no animal would ever be vicious or predatory toward other animals or toward man?  That, instead, man and animals would be able to dwell together in peace and without even the threat of bodily harm from each other?  

The Jehovah's Witnesses think so; and they believe that the earth will exist forever, and that all the saved -- except for the 144,000 who are to be in heaven, according to their doctrine -- will dwell for all eternity on the earth, which will have been changed to a paradise-environment, likened to the Garden of Eden, in which even animals of all kinds will peacefully coexist.  From WWW.JW.ORG (their website): "There will be peace between humans and animals. Wild and domestic animals will feed together.  Even a little child will have nothing to fear from animals that are now dangerous. -- Isaiah 11:6-9; 65:25" (What Does the Bible Really Teach?  Chapter 3: What is God's Purpose for the Earth?).     

Perhaps others have also mistakenly come to a similar conclusion, based on Isaiah 11:6-9.  Let us hear that passage: "And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them.  Also the cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.  The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper's den.  They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea."

Notice in this passage that animals which we normally would not think of dwelling together, with one being the predator and the other the prey, are here portrayed as compatible: the wolf and the lamb; the leopard and the goat; the calf and the young lion; the cow and the bear.  There will even be a child with a cobra, and a young boy with a lion. And the lion will eat straw instead of flesh.  

But is all that to be taken literally?

Notice especially verse 9 for the answer: "They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain...."  That's where this peaceful, harmonious dwelling would be -- on God's "holy mountain"!

But what is God's "holy mountain"?  And who or what can come to it?  Is it a physical realm that animals can be a part of?  Or is it spiritual in nature?

Isaiah also spoke of this mountain in Isaiah 2:2-4: "Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it.  And many peoples will come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.'  For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war."

Again, we see of this "mountain" being characterized with peace, by the symbolism of swords hammered into plowshares; and spears, into pruning hooks.

But what is that "mountain"?  Is it a literal mountain that is higher than all other mountains?  Literally, no.  For though Mount Zion (a part of Jerusalem that came to stand for all of it) is referred to as being "Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth...the city of the great King," and within the city walls of Jerusalem its height climbed to about 2,581 feet, yet Mount Hermon (on the northern border of Palestine) is close to 9,500 feet in height.  So "the mountain of the house of the Lord," which would be "the chief of the mountains," is being used figuratively; and what it is actually representing is God's government, His rule.  That's what makes it so superior.  And that rule is revealed in the gospel -- of which those who submit to, the Lord will put into the church (Acts 2:47), which is referred to as "the house of God" (1 Tim. 3:15).  So that is "the house of the Lord" that rests securely on the Lord's "mountain" (Isa. 2:2).

The relation of the "mountain" and the "house" is also seen in two of the meanings of the Greek word for "kingdom" (basileia):  For Thayer shows that it primarily means, "royal power, kingship, dominion, rule...not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom"; and, thirdly, "used in the N.T. to refer to the reign of the Messiah."  So in this we see God's government, His rule, the "mountain" that is "the chief of the mountains."  And though God's rule is over all the earth, accountable people who have not submitted to His authority are shown to be in "the domain of darkness" -- rather than in "the kingdom of His beloved Son" (Col. 1:13).  Thus, they miss out on all the spiritual blessings that are for all who are in God's kingdom.  Here, then, we think of "kingdom" as being that territory (the church) that has submitted to God's rule; as Thayer goes on to show in an additional meaning for "basileia": It is also "a kingdom, the territory subject to the rule of a king."  And who are those during the Gospel Age who have become a part of that?  They are those who have heard God's word (Rom. 10:17), believed in Jesus (Jn. 8:24), repented of their sins (Luke 13:5), acknowledged their faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38), and were baptized (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3,4; 1 Pet. 3:21).  For by submitting to these steps, they became Christians who are in the church, God's spiritual kingdom (cf. Acts 2:47; Col. 1:13; Rev. 1:9) -- that "house of the Lord" that rests securely upon the "mountain" (Isa. 2:2).  And what a great place to be.  For as Isaiah indicates, there were other "mountains" (governments of the world), but God's kingdom or rule is far greater.  This is what King Nebuchadnezzar had come to learn from his dream that Daniel interpreted, in which there would be a succession of kingdoms (Babylon, the Medes and Persians, Greece, and Rome) that would each be a world-ruling empire; but while each of these kingdoms had a time of preeminence, they also had each eventually fallen from that state and held it no more.  But the God of heaven (during the days of the Roman empire) would "...set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever" (Dan. 2:36-44; Matt. 4:17).  So the Lord's mountain is seen as being "the chief of the mountains" (Isa. 2:2), far superior to all others.  

In seeing how important God's kingdom on earth is, how can so many folks say that it hasn't come yet?  They are still waiting for it.  Yet, God's word shows that the kingdom came when the church was established on the Day of Pentecost, 50 days after the Lord's resurrection, and 10 days after His ascension (Acts 2).  So that is the time that Isaiah 2:2-4 and Daniel 2:44 are both pointing to.  It is a spiritual kingdom (Rom. 14:17), entered upon meeting God's terms (as brought out in the previous paragraph).  And all who do so will have peace with God (Rom. 5:1), peace with others (1 Thess. 5:13), and peace with themselves (Gal. 5:22).  This peaceful harmony that characterizes those in God's kingdom, the church, is what Isaiah 11:6-9 is figuratively representing with the predatory and vicious animals that are now seen as being tame or docile.  And it is by His death at Calvary that Jesus made this peace and reconciliation possible for those who had previously been so incompatible in their relationship to one another, that peaceful harmony between them would seem no more likely than that between wolves and lambs.  Paul writes of this in the following passage: "remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit" (Eph. 2:12-22).

Notice the terms that are used to describe the former relationship between these two groups (the Jews and the Gentiles): the Gentiles were "excluded from the commonwealth of Israel" and "strangers to the covenants of promise."  There had been a "barrier of commandments" that separated the Jew from the Gentile and had caused "enmity" between them, which is defined as "hostility, hatred, and ill-will" (Webster).  But Christ was able to eliminate that by doing away with the old covenant and establishing the new (the gospel) by His death, through which peace and unity is made possible for the Jew and the Gentile who come to the Lord.  

So this is where the peace is to be found -- in God's spiritual kingdom, the church.  And that is what the normally hostile animals are depicting in Isaiah 11:6-9 that are now dwelling with each other harmoniously.  For in the world, fighting and wars will continue.  But God's spiritual kingdom is composed of "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17).  Think, too, of the qualities that the citizens of God's kingdom are to develop: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another" (Gal. 5:22-26).  

Consider also Paul's instruction in Romans 12:18: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men."

In addition, there are many other passages we could also cite that would refer to the nature that Christians of God's kingdom are to develop, which all would be very conducive toward living in peaceful hamony with one another, such as Philippians 2:3,4: "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others."  "So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith" (Gal. 6:10).  "...love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt. 5:44).  "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor" (Rev. 12:10).  We are to abound in these qualities that make for peace -- and do so earnestly.  As Paul writes, the saint is to be "diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3).  And let us not forget the Lord's Beatitude in Matthew 5:9: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." 

Though prior there had been enmity between the Jew and Gentile, now, in Christ, that enmity is removed.  And God makes no distinction between Jew and Gentile when it comes to having a relationship with Him: "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26-28).  Years prior to this statement, God had revealed to Peter the irrelevancy of racial background in gaining favor with God.  To Cornelius, who was a Gentile, along with his relatives and friends, the apostle Peter declares,  "...'You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.  That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for'" (Acts 10:28).  It was actually in Cornelius' home that Peter said this; and then also included the following: "...'I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him" (v. 35).

So the wolf and the lamb, and other animals of Isaiah 11:6-9 that are shown as being compatible, are not to be taken literally.  Rather, this passage is a prophecy symbolizing the peaceful and harmonious coexistence for those people (the Christians) who would become one in God's kingdom (the church) that began in Jerusalem, ten days after the Lord's ascension (Acts 2) and continued to grow, due to the word of the Lord being proclaimed in Jerusalem, then all Judea and Samaria, and then even "to the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).  Like a pebble dropped into a pond, God's word came from heaven to Jerusalem; and from there, rippled out through proclaimers of the gospel that all people might hear and be drawn to the Lord through that soul-saving message and, thus, become a part of God's peaceful kingdom by their submission to His way of salvation.


News & Notes

I am soliciting the prayers of the saints for the following people:

Terry MacDonald recently had 15 precancerous skin lesions removed.  There were also two, in addition, that were malignant.  

Virginia Fontenot has finally returned home August 3, though "much to the doctors' dislike," as her daughter writes.  They had "finally listed her antibiotic that she was on as having an allergy to it.  She was getting it 4 times a day and had delirium and agitation 30 minutes after taking it, for about 2 hours.  Her atrial fibrillation is now under control."
Peggy Lefort has not been feeling well over the last few weeks, due to headaches and stomachaches; and for the last several days, she has not been able to eat (though she can drink shakes), due to the pain food causes in the esophagus.  She has been seeing a doctor and is on medication.

Shirley Young had recent surgery on her foot and will be having to wear a cast for the next few weeks and be careful in walking about. 

Mozelle Robertson, who is now 92, has been having some trouble with short-term memory.
Cheryl Crews and Jean Calloway both continue with health problems.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (Gospel Observer website)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)