Comfort Ye My People Is. 40 1-4 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
It is commonly taught that the Book of Isaiah matches the Bible in many respects. It has 66 chapters and the Bible has 66 books. There are 39 books in the Old Testament and there is a definite break in the Book of Isaiah after 39 chapters. Of course, the remaining 27 books match the 27 books of the New Testament. For example, Is 40:2-3 matches Matt 3:3, and the New Heavens and the New Earth of Is 66 match Rev 21 and 22.
So, we are at the break in Isaiah in chapter 40. In the first five verses of Is 40, we find words of comfort given to Isaiah by the Lord regarding Israel. The Lord said, Comfort ye my people. The reference to Jerusalem in verse 2 is a reference to Jerusalem in Israel and not New Jerusalem in heaven.
The chapter starts with a command to comfort God’s people. Israel will be comforted once:
She has no more war – v.2 – “her warfare is accomplished” – well, her warfare was not accomplished in Isaiah’s day; less than 100 years later, Nebuchadnezzar attacked and destroyed Jerusalem – her warfare wasn’t accomplished in Jesus’ day; following his ascension, Titus attacked in 70AD and destroyed Jerusalem again – her warfare still hasn’t been accomplished; we have had two world wars, Israel has had to fight numerous times since her statehood in 1948, and the worst war is still to come [Armageddon]. Israel will not be comforted until she has real, lasting peace [Is 2:4] at the Second Coming of Jesus.
Her iniquity is pardoned – v.2 – “her iniquity is pardoned” – see Jer 50:20 and the new covenant of Jer 31:31-34 [Heb 8:8-12]. This was nor accomplished during or just after the first coming of Jesus. Notice Rom 10:1-4, 21; 1 Thes 2:14-16 – their national salvation is still in the future [Rom 11:25].
She has finally received double for her sins – v.2 – “she hath received double for all her sins” – see Jer 16:18 and 17:18 – when the Lord spoke to Israel in Deut 28, he warned them in v.15-68 that he would bring upon them horrible curses if they would not hearken to his voice and do all his commandments – these curses have and will come upon them, particularly in the Tribulation, when they are ravished, spoiled, forced into cannibalism and reduced to a remnant, among many other things.
Her Messiah appears – v.5 – “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed” – when the Lord Jesus Christ returns he comes in his glory [Matt 24:30; 25:31] and he rules over Israel for ever upon the throne of David [Lk 1:31-33].
All of these prophecies above will be fulfilled in the future. None of them have been fulfilled yet. However, when you study these prophecies in the context of is 40:3-4, there is a problem that has to be reconciled. According to Lk 3:4-6, Is 40:3-4 was fulfilled at Jesus’ first coming when John the Baptist began his ministry. The problem is, obviously, the delayed fulfillment of the rest of the passage until the second coming of Jesus.
You see, there is an Old Testament prophecy that Elijah must be sent to Israel before the coming of the Lord [Mal 4:5]. As a matter of fact, following Jesus’ transfiguration [Matt 17:1-9], the three disciples who were with him asked him about this prophecy [Matt 17:10]. Jesus told them that John the Baptist had fulfilled the required prophecy concerning Elijah [Matt 17:11-13]. And so, it was possible that the comforting prophecies in Is 40:1-5 could have been fulfilled at the first coming of Jesus.
Their fulfillment was conditioned upon Israel receiving the kingdom of heaven and Jesus their King as preached by John the Baptist [Matt 11:7-14]. Had they received it John the Baptist’s ministry would have fulfilled Elijah’s ministry. Following the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, Jesus would have ascended into heaven and returned shortly thereafter, following Daniel’s 70th week. But they rejected their king in Jn 19:15 and they rejected him again when they stoned Stephen to death in Acts 7:54-60.
Consequently, the fulfillment of the comforting prophecies of Is 40:1-5 was postponed. They will not be fulfilled now until the Second Coming of Jesus. In the meantime, we are still going to have wars in the Middle East, the nation of Israel will still be awaiting their new covenant in which their sins will be forgiven and remembered no more, and they will still be looking for the coming of their Messiah, who unbeknownst to them, was here once before, 2,000 years ago.