When Paul referred to the Jerusalem above as the mother of us all, in Galatians 4:26, he did not mean the church is the mother of Christians only, but the spiritual mother of all humanity. He wrote, "But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all." Paul considered Abraham's wife Sarah to be a type or symbol of the church. His statement, "Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise" [Galatians 4:28] implies Christians have the same mother as Isaac, in a spiritual sense. In the same passage, Paul identified Hagar, the Egyptian bondwoman, with the earthly Jerusalem.
For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
Paul may have understood the prophetic significance of Abraham's family, whose women represent the heavenly and the earthly Jerusalem, from a prophecy of Isaiah, which identifies Abraham as the father, and Sarah as the mother of those who worship Israel's God. And eventually their number wold become as the sand of the sea. In Isaiah's prophecy, the faithful are called Zion, which is the hill in Jerusalem on which the temple of God was built.
Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.
Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.
For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.
Paul discussed Abraham's role as the "father of the faithful" in Romans 4. Abraham's wife Sarah was barren until the birth of Isaac. Paul recognized she was a type of the church, and her bondmaid Hagar represented the earthly Jerusalem. These interpretations were accepted by the other apostles too. Peter calls the women in the church the "daughters" of Sarah, in 1 Peter 3:6. Paul's identification of the church with a "mother" and with "Jerusalem" was probably based on the above prophecy, as well as Isaiah 66.
In Revelation there is a contrast between the saints, and the people of the world, but eventually, the church is to be the spiritual mother of a vast multitude, "which no man can number," as shown in Revelation 7, and 21. The contrast between the saints on the one hand and the world on the other, in Revelation, is illustrated by the table below. The church is called the "firstfruits" of God's creation, but there is a much greater harvest to come.
|saints, servants of God, brethren, those who overcome, those who keep the commandments of God, virgins, in whom is no guile||peoples, nations, tongues|
|144,000 who are sealed in their foreheads||a great multitude that no man can number|
|the 12 tribes of Israel||Gentiles; those who say they are Jews, and are not|
|firstfruits to God||nations of those who are saved
|temple of God||outer court|
|woman in heaven, mother, Lamb's wife, bride, woman in the wilderness||whore, woman who rides the beast|
|those who are victorious over the beast||those who worship the beast|
|those who dwell in heaven||those who dwell on the earth|
|holy city, new Jerusalem, holy Jerusalem, camp of the saints, beloved city, city of God||great city, Babylon
|names are in the book of life||names are not in the book of life|
|rewarded at the 7th trumpet||angry at the 7th trumpet
|stars||stars drawn by the tail of the dragon and cast to the earth
Isaiah 66 is a prophecy about Zion, which refers to the temple of God. In the New Testament the temple of God is identified with the church. [Ephesians 2:20-22]
The remainder of this article contains a commentary on Isaiah 66, viewed as a prophecy about the church.
Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?
For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.
This scripture was quoted by Stephen, just before he was martyred.
Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,
Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?
Hath not my hand made all these things?
Stephen, who was "full of the Holy Spirit," [verse 55] showed that God's house is not a building made with hands.
He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.
God does not require us to perform those religious rituals today.
I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.
One way in which God chooses the delusions of men is through the symbolic language of prophecy. Isaiah said, "For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people." [Isaiah 28:11] Prophecy was given in a language of symbols, metaphors, and parables. Taking it literally leads to predictable delusions.
Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name's sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.
A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of the LORD that rendereth recompence to his enemies.
The "city" and the "temple" are metaphors of the church. [Ephesians 2:20-22]
Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child.
Jesus identified the church as his "mother." [Matthew 12:50, Mark 3:35]
For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.
The travail of the church is pictured in Revelation 14:2, where the woman in heaven cries, and "pains to be delivered." The earth bringing forth, and a nation being born at once, refers to the resurrection. Paul's teaching about the resurrection is likely based on this prophecy. "Zion" is the church, Hebrews 12:22-23.
The saints are the woman's children, who are to be brought forth into the kingdom of God, at the resurrection.
Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the LORD: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God.
The church is pictured as a woman in travail in Revelation 12.
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
The sun that clothes the woman represents the gospel. This is because the gospel is the "great light" that Jesus brought.
And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;
The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
The gospel brings light and truth about death, and the ultimate destiny of man.
In the parable of the tares, Jesus said, "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear." [Matthew 13:43] Some think this was originally a quote from Daniel 12:3. The sun is a great light and so represents the gospel, which brings spiritual light to man.
Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her:
The New Testament shows that the "Jerusalem" of prophecy is not the earthly city, but the church, which is the bride of Christ, the heavenly Jerusalem, and the "mother of us all." [Galatians 4:26] The earthly city of Jerusalem was a type or figure of the church of Christ, and a "bondwoman," or a handmaid to the church, who was eventually cast out.
That ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory.
The "milk" that Isaiah refers to is not literal milk, but the "milk of the word." [1 Peter 2:2]
For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream: then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees.
The earthly Jerusalem has only a fragile and dubious peace. But peace is upon those who are new creations in Christ. This is the "Israel of God."
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
The "river" Isaiah spoke of is the Spirit of God that flows like a river from the church, as Jesus promised.
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) But the true church trusts in God.
A river of living water flowing from Jerusalem, described in Zechariah's prophecy, also pictures the Spirit of God:
And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.
And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.
Christ is the "glory of the Gentiles," and their saviour. Jesus said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." [John 12:32]
Simeon said, when he saw the infant Jesus,
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
The church is our "mother." [Galatians 4:26] Those who believe this are comforted.
And when ye see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like an herb: and the hand of the LORD shall be known toward his servants, and his indignation toward his enemies.
All those who seduce Christians are among God's enemies!
For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.
False teachings will be consumed in the fire, which is the truth of God's word.
For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many.
The fire and sword are both metaphors for God's word. Flawed interpretations, and false doctrines are "killed."
They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the LORD.
This probably refers to religious people, who rely on their own righteousness. Their attitude is shown in Isaiah 65:3-5:
A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my
sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick;
Which remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments, which eat swine's flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels;
Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.
Clearly, a "holier than thou" attutude characterized these people.
For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory.
God knows what the delusions of men are.
And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles.
And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the LORD out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the LORD, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD.
This is not referring to the return of Jews to Palestine, but the return of many to the church, which is called "Sion," (or Zion) and "the heavenly Jerusalem."
But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the LORD.
The saints are called a "holy priesthood," in the New Testament.
1 Peter 2:5, 20
Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain.
And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.
Christ's kingdom will encompass the earth, and he reigns over all now.
And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.
Jesus referred to this as Gehenna. It represents the condition of those who are rejected from his kingdom.
Copyright © 2010, 2011, 2013 by Douglas E. Cox
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