Bible Question:

Is Isaiah 65:17-25 about the millennial kingdom or heaven?

Bible Answer:

Isaiah 65:17-25 is a very interesting and important Old Testament prophecy. Amillennialists claim this gives us more information about the eternal heaven described in Revelation 21-22. But premillennialists say it describes the millennial kingdom over which Christ will reign as the Messiah. The purpose of this brief study is to demonstrate  to which one does the passage refer? Is Isaiah 65:17-25 about the millennial kingdom or heaven? Visit “God’s Timeline For The Future” for an overview of the timeline of the future.

Is Isaiah 65:17-25 about the millennial kingdom or heaven?

The first verse of the prophecy in Isaiah 65:17-25 says,

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.
Isaiah 65:17 (NASB)

Revelation 21:1 is very similar to this verse. It refers to “a new heaven and a new earth.” While the two verses are similar, they are also different. Revelation 21:1 refers to a singular “heaven” while Isaiah 65:17 refers to plural heavens. This may indicate that Isaiah 65:17 intentionally anticipates both the millennial kingdom and the eternal state. Amillennialists claim that Isaiah 65:17-25 is a description of the eternal heaven, or the eternal state, since they reject the concept of a millennial kingdom. But even though the wording of Isaiah 65:17-25 is similar to the wording in Revelation 21:1, it cannot describe the eternal state for several reasons. As we will soon discover, the prophecy of Isaiah 65:17 indicates that a partial blessing of the eternal state (Revelation 21-22), will be realized during the millennial kingdom (Revelation 20:4-6). In theology this is called  an example of “already but not yet.”

The same principle is found in 1 John 2:18. “Already, but not yet” is also evident in Isaiah 61:1-2. Verse 1 refers to Christ’s first coming, and verse 2 refers to Christ’s second coming. But the two events are thousands of years apart. Isaiah 65:17-25 is the near term event and the future complete fulfillment is described in Revelation 21-22. Now there are seven reasons why Isaiah 65:17-25 refers to the millennial kingdom.

First, the statement “And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind” in verse 17 must mean that past events will not be remembered since it cannot have the same meaning as Revelation 21:4-5. It cannot include death and grief described in verse 20.

Second, notice that verse 18 says God encourages us to rejoice in what He creates. Then verses 18-25 describes that to which He referred. It describes people being born and dying, and peace among people and animals. Also notice that verse 25 says this at the close,

“They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,” says the LORD. Isaiah 65:25 (NASB)

That is, this prophecy is about events on His Holy mountain which is Mount Zion or Jerusalem. We should remember that the Messiah will be ruling in Jerusalem (Micah 5:2; Zechariah 14:9; Acts 1:6-7). Therefore, “create” refers to the establishment of the conditions that will exist during the millennial kingdom. It could also refer to the eternal state.

The third reason why Isaiah 65:17-25 refers to the millennial kingdom is that verses 18-19 and 25 promise peace. That will exist during both the millennial kingdom and the eternal state. Isaiah 65:17-25 refers to the conditions in Jerusalem. A good example of this is in Joel 3:17-21 and Zechariah 14:16-21. So the conditions described in Isaiah 65:17-19 could refer to the millennial kingdom and the eternal state.

The fourth reason the prophecy refers to the millennial kingdom is that verse 20 says that infants will be born, and youths will die before they are at the age of one hundred.

No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days,
Or an old man who does not live out his days;
For the youth will die at the age of one hundred
And the one who does not reach the age of one hundred
Will be thought accursed.
Isaiah 65:20 (NASB)

We are told long life is expected. Those who die before the age of one hundred are considered accursed. That will not occur in the eternal kingdom or heaven. This can only refer to the millennial kingdom for Revelation 21-22 says that mortals will not exist in the eternal state (Revelation 21:4).

The fifth reason the prophecy refers to the millennial kingdom is that verse 21 says they will build houses,

They will build houses and inhabit them;
They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
Isaiah 65:21 (NASB)

But Jesus told the disciples in John 14:1-3 that he would go and prepare a place for them. So, we will not be building houses in the eternal state. But this verse says they will be building houses and vineyards. Why? Because this is about the millennial kingdom.

The sixth reason is that verse 22 says the people will have the “lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of My people.” That is, the mortals who will live in the millennial kingdom will be expected to live a long time, but not forever. The Hebrew word for eternal is olam, and it was not used here. It could have been used, and if so, it would have described the eternal state.

The seventh reason the prophecy refers to the millennial kingdom is that verse 23 reveals that children will be born, and every child will have a successful birth. No child will be still-born. Notice the reason given is that the children are the offspring of “those blessed by the Lord.”

They will not labor in vain,
Or bear children for calamity;
For they are the offspring of those blessed by the LORD,
And their descendants with them. Isaiah 65:23 (NASB)

So, the prophecy says they will “bear children.” This is not possible in the eternal state when everyone is immortal.

In conclusion, amillennialists, postmillennialists, and preterits claim that this prophecy refers to heaven cannot be supported. So, they interpret it symbolically or focus exclusively on verses 17-18 to argue for their view of the future. They ignore the rest of the passage. They allow their theological view of the future to govern how they interpret this prophecy. We have discovered that Isaiah 65:17-25 describes the one thousand-year millennial kingdom, and cannot refer to the eternal kingdom in heaven.

Suggested Links:

What happens to those with mortal bodies who are in the millennium?
When and where does the Sheep and Goat judgment occur?
God’s Timeline For The Future
What is the meaning of “already, but not yet”? — Biblical Pre-fulfillment