“A bruised reed He will not break, And a faintly burning wick He will not quench
He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged
Till He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands wait for His law.”
– Isaiah 42:1-4
This lesser-known passage from the prophets depicts our Lord coming to establish justice. It depicts Him as One Who does not grow weary but continues the fight until justice is established in the earth. There are a few things that we see here that is important for us as Christians as we consider eschatology, that is, our beliefs about where all of this is going. Far too often, people in the modern protestant church are keen to pick up ideas from Left Behind and presume that the state of things will be very bad at the end of things, and that Christians will have to be raptured away before a dark and terrible tribulation. Such readings of the text are hardly justified and require hyper-literal readings of texts that seem by the author to be imagery, and on the other hand a non-literal reading of texts that seem by the author to be quite literal (think of the passage when Christ says “these things will happen before this generation passes away” in Mark 13:30.
Yet such beliefs can be comforting to the believer who looks out at this world and sees only darkness and destruction. Their hope is to be rescued. Of course, no Christian denies the bad things in this world. Sin fills this world, and more than that, the modern American culture has not been so kind to Christians as of late. Yet is such a view, that things are continuing to get worse and worse, justifiable? From history, it is difficult to make such a claim. Much less people die on average than they did. They live far healthier lives and live like kings in comparison with actual kings of old. Even in a spiritual sense, the claim remains difficult to prove, as the Gospel has spread around the world to millions. Nations that were once devoid of knowledge of the true God now are filled with many citizens who follow Him, and the rest of them still know of Him! And the Gospel still spreads, and the Church still grows. No, to use history to be so pessimistic would be to truncate history to only our time and place. Even then, it would seem incredibly awkward to outsiders looking in at our cushy lifestyles and still near total freedom to worship and evangelize.
But we do not get our theology from history. So let’s go to the Scriptures. Do they justify such a view of things getting worse and worse? Unfortunately for dispensationalism (Left Behind’s view), they do not. And this passage in Isaiah shows us a beautiful picture of the contrary. Christ has come. His kingdom has been established. He said so on multiple occasions and said before He left that all authority was given to Him on heaven and on earth. Isaiah here predicted this, centuries before it occurred. And Christ is establishing justice. Some may jump to say that He will do this after He returns, but read the surrounding context. Justice is being established, an ongoing event. He will not grow weary until the job is done. If this were in paradise, justice would be established already. There would be no need for an ongoing fight. But here, there is. Christ reigns now, and as the letter to the Corinthians says, He is putting all His enemies under His feet. This does not happen all at once.
Like our souls being sanctified over time, so too is the world. Nations are not brought in all at once, but they shall be brought in. The wheat and the tares still grow together, but this is a wheat field, not a tare-field. Things have gotten better, and they will get better. Enemies will continue to be subdued. Elect will continue to be regenerated. Justice shall continue to be established. So take heart, dear Christian, for you are on the winning side. Let us go farther up and farther in, for there are “far better things ahead than any we have left behind.”
Take up your sword, and follow Christ, for the gates of hell are up ahead, and they shall not prevail.