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The Reign of Christ. Book One. Chapter Three: Some More Eminent Passages Of Holy Scripture Concerning The Kingdom Of Christ, In The Light Of Which What We Have Proposed Can Be Better Understood

Isaiah, more an evangelist than a prophet of the Kingdom ofChrist, has described the properties of the Kingdom of Christ in many places with wonderful clarity, completeness, and gravity. The other prophets have also contributed their share. We shall mention only a few of the more obvious testimonies. We read, therefore, first of all in Isa. 2:2, “In the last days it will come about that there will be a mountain of the house of the Lord, solidly established on top of the mountains, and it shall be elevated above the heights of the earth, and all nations shall flow to it.” 

Because the Church of Christ was first instituted at Jerusalem, in the Scriptures it is therefore frequently called Jerusalem, Mt. Zion, and the Mountain of the Lord. In this we ought to recognize and see the firmly enduring stability of the Kingdom of Christ. For the kingdoms of the world are susceptible to constant changes. 

We learn further from the same text that there was to be established a mountain of the house of the Lord on top of the mountains, and elevated above the heights of the earth, that all nations and kingdoms must in the end be subject to the Church of Christ if they want to have a gracious God and desire to be partakers of eternal life. For as the same prophet later testifies (Isa. 60:12), speaking the word of the Lord: “All nations and kingdoms shall perish, and altogether be destroyed, which are unwilling to serve” the people of Christ. For forgiveness of sins is not granted, or eternal life received, except in the Church of Christ. 

What is added next, “all nations are to flow together to the mountain of the house of the Lord,” shows the eagerness for receiving the Kingdom of Christ with which the Gentiles were so remarkably inflamed as soon as it began to be preached to every creature. 

There follows in the same prophecy: “And so many peoples will go and say: Come, let us ascend to the mountain of the Lord, and the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us his ways, and we shall walk in his paths. For a law shall go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:3).

By this forthcoming event, in which he predicts that many peoples will invite each other to ascend the Mountain of the Lord, he teaches enthusiasm for true community in Christ and mutual concern for achieving salvation. For whoever really believes in Christ cannot but proclaim his Kingdom, and invite to it those whom he can. “I have believed” so it is sung in Ps. 116:10, “on account of which I have spoken.” Now because the Lord wants his own to be closely connected with one another as members of a body, and support each other in the life of God, he wants sacred assemblies to be held with great devotion for this very cause, in places consecrated to this purpose, not only at Jerusalem or on Mt. Gerizim (John 4:21), but all over the world. 

What comes next in the prophecy, “And he shall teach us his ways and we shall walk in his paths” (Isa. 2:3), shows mainly the need of a true Christian congregation to have good, solid doctrine and to live up to it. It must be observed that the Lord himself teaches his own, and he teaches them his ways. Although he uses his ministers for this purpose, it is he alone who makes the doctrine of his ministers efficacious (I Cor. 3:5), and who enables his ministers faithfully to indicate and recommend his ways from his Scriptures, as he commanded them when about to ascend to heaven (Matt. 28:18-20), and as the apostles set about doing on the Day of Pentecost. For this reason he adds, “A law shall go out from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:3). By this saying we are taught two things: that the doctrine of salvation is to be sought from Christ alone and only in his Church, and that it is that doctrine which the apostles first began to teach at Jerusalem. 

There follows in the prophecy: “And he will judge among the nations, and he shall rebuke many peoples, and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Isa. 2:4-5). 

Here it is taught that there ought to flourish in the churches a severity of judgment against sins, so that sins will be remitted for the penitent and believing through the preaching of repentance and forgiveness of sins, but the sins of those who despise the gospel of Christ will be retained. But then if anyone has already been received into the Church of Christ and is more gravely delinquent, the judgment of the Lord ought also to be exercised in regard to such persons that they may be moved to true repentance and urged to bring forth the true fruits of repentance. Those who will not hear the Church in these matters are to be held as Gentiles and publicans, separated from the fellowship of Christ (cf. Matt. 18: 15-18). 

What comes next, that “his people will beat their swords into plowshares,” etc., is said of those who have truly accepted the Kingdom of Christ, for they deny themselves and seek not their own but only what contributes to the salvation of their neighbor. In the saying, ”House of Jacob, come, and let us walk in the light of the Lord,” it is shown that no one is to be reckoned of the house of Jacob, that is, of the true Church of Christ, who does not enthusiastically frequent sacred assemblies and invite those whom he can to the same, that they may thus more clearly perceive and more earnestly follow the light of the Lord, that is, the pure doctrine of the gospel. 

A prophecy of the Kingdom of Christ from the eleventh chapter of Isaiah: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out from his root” (Isa. 11:1). 

By these words we are taught that Christ the Lord, as a man born of the seed of David, is the King and Savior appointed to us by the Father. For “he has given his authority to execute judgment because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:27); and because for us “he humbled himself and was made obedient even unto death, even unto death on a cross,” the Father “has exalted him above all things and given him a name which is above every name, so that to him every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess him Lord” (Phil. 2:8-11). 

There follows in the prophecy: “And there shall rest upon him the Spirit of the Lord, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord” (Isa. 11:2). 

By these words we are taught that as Christ our King did and taught nothing of himself but all according to the will and Spirit of his Father, so also no doctrine, no ceremony, no discipline can be attributed to Christ the King and to his Kingdom, which is the Church, except what has been instituted and come forth from the Holy Spirit by whom are moved all the sons of God (Rom. 8:14). This Spirit, both through the Scriptures and through hidden inspirations, leads his own unto every truth and instructs them in every good work. For he is the Spirit of wisdom, i.e., the one who gives a firm cognition of God and of his works and judgments. He is the Spirit of understanding, imparting a true and salutary understanding of the works and judgments of God. He is the Spirit of counsel, directing our love and judgment in what we have to do. He is the Spirit of fortitude, for he strengthens the hearts of his own against all the terrors of the world and of Satan and makes them seek always in all things the glory of God and the salvation of their neighbor. He is the Spirit of knowledge, enabling his own knowingly to will and prudently to accomplish the glory of God in all things. He is the Spirit of fear of the Lord, i.e., of true religion, by which the citizens of the Kingdom of Christ, as they worship God more and more ardently day by day, thus obtain from him these gifts of the Spirit more and more generously. There follows in the prophecy: “And he shall cause him to worship in the fear of the Lord nor shall he judge according to the sight of his eyes, nor reprove according to the hearing of his ears” (Isa. 11:3). 

And here we are taught that there ought to flourish in the Church the Lord’s judgment, by which those who really believe in Christ may be distinguished from the hypocrites who are insolent toward him; this judgment must be made (if indeed there ought to be a judgment of Christ) not by the mere exercise of human intelligence, nor only on the basis of what is seen and heard, although any tree should be known by its fruits, but religiously, with fear of the Lord, so that it may be a judgment not so much of the Church as of Christ himself, who alone “knows what is in man” (John 2:25) and has received from the Father the power to see and detect good and evil hidden in the hearts of men. The prophecy continues: “And he shall vindicate the poor with justice, and he shall judge with equity in favor of the afflicted of the land: he shall strike the land with the rod of his mouth, and with the spirit of his lips he shall kill the impious” (Isa. 11:4). This explains the nature of the judgment of Christ: for those who are poor and afflicted in this world, who feel the burden of their sins and the unbearable anger of God on fire against them, these, endowed with repentance and forgiveness of sins, Christ our King lifts up from the power of Satan and joins to his Kingdom, as he said: “Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mark 10:14; Matt. 5:3); and he so preserves them that nothing can hurt them but everything must work together with them unto salvation (Rom. 8:28) . The song of Ps. 72 (vs. 2-4) and many another prophetic announcement are concerned with this judgment, for the just consolation of all devout men. 

What is added about the land being struck with the rod of the mouth of the Lord and the impious being killed through the Spirit of his lips expresses the property of the Kingdom of Christ by which its enemies are struck and killed not by external force of arms but by the word and Spirit of Christ, either for their correction through the gift of knowledge of the gospel and their ceasing to be godless enemies or for their removal from any association with the sons of God. 

The prophecy continues: “And righteousness will be the girdle of his loins, and faith the cincture of his reins” (Isa. 11:5). Here we are warned, if we are true members of Christ, that we ought to be girded with all righteousness and enclosed all about with the faith which the gospel makes known to us. There follows: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid. The calf and the lion and fat cattle shall abide together, and a little child shall lead them. The calf and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall rest together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the nursing child shall play on the hole of the asp; and the weaned child shall put his hand into the basilisk’s cavern. They shall not hurt nor harm in all my holy mountain, for the earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, like the all-covering waters of the sea” (Isa. 11:6-9). These words teach us three things: first, that we are in desperate condition when we are born into this world, uncultured and uncivilized, so that we deserve to be compared with lions, bears, leopards, wolves, and the most harmful serpents; secondly, if we are reborn in Christ and have become true citizens of his Kingdom, we ought to burn with such charity and eagerness to deserve well of others that no one would tolerate the discomfiture of anyone else but every individual would try, each according to all his capacity, to contribute as much as possible to the salvation and well-being of his neighbor; finally, that this humanity and love of the citizens of the Kingdom of Christ spring from faith and only from the knowledge of God (Gal. 5:5-6) . For faith shows its power through love, which always manages to benefit men, and to be injurious to no one (I Cor. 13:5). 

One must note carefully how great a knowledge of God is here promised to the Church, to be spread to all, far and wide. Hence it must be realized that those who wish the Kingdom of Christ to be restored among us ought to make it a primary concern that there be in the individual churches apt and faithful teachers to communicate richly to every baptized person a true knowledge of the Lord, that is, a firm faith in Christ, the only thing by which we live and are saved. They should do this both by sermons and explanations of Holy Scripture, by instructions of the unlearned, and by private admonitions and testimonies. 

There follows in the prophecy: “At that time, the root of Jesse shall stand as a sign for the peoples, and the nations shall seek it, and its repose will be glorious” (Isa. 11:10). 

Here the prophet foretells that the gospel must be preached effectively to all nations so that as many people as possible from all nations will go to Christ as a saving sign and find in him a glorious rest for their souls, both in this and in the future life, according to his promise (Matt. 11:28-30). 

And it must be noted that Christ the King should be made known to all men by the sincere proclamation of the gospel so that all the elect may earnestly seek him and eagerly receive and embrace him as their only Savior; just as the standard of the emperor is raised up high in the midst of his army for all the soldiers to see from far off, that they may readily rally round him if it be necessary. In vain, therefore, do they glory in being the Church of Christ, among whom the clear and constant preaching of the gospel to the people of Christ is not a matter of primary importance and energetic activity, just as we read that Christ himself and his apostles fulfilled this obligation among the multitudes and wherever they encountered those who would listen. From the thirty-second chapter of Isaiah: “All things will be a wasteland to the people of God, until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and out of the desert will come a cultivated land, and a cultivated land will replace the forest” (Isa. 32:15). From these words we learn that no one comes into the Kingdom of Christ and perseveres in it except by the inspiration and renewal of his Spirit. Before we are inspired and renewed, we are like some horrid desert, producing nothing but thorns and brambles, i.e., works that are burdensome to ourselves and to others. But when our King, after the sending of his gospel, also pours out upon us his Holy Spirit from heaven, we who were before like a sterile thing or a cactus of the desert, now like a cultivated, fertile field bring forth plentifully the fruits of all good works, with such an abundance that we resemble fruitful trees and crops of a field, so densely packed that this field might seem a forest. There follows: “And judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness shall take its seat in a fertile land” (Isa. 32:16). That is, among a people who before, without the Spirit of the Lord, were like a wasteland now shall prevail the judgment of the Lord, so that men will acknowledge and correct their sins and give themselves over entirely to living according to the law of God. And so righteousness will confirm and establish its seat among them; whence they shall be filled with every temporal and spiritual happiness, and they will truly be like an excellently cultivated field, pleasant and fruitful. 

There follows: “And the work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness tranquillity and confidence forever” (Isa. 32:17). 

Our righteousness is faith, by which we believe that we have a gracious God through Christ the Lord.16 As we acknowledge that God has been appeased for us and considers us among his sons (Rom. 8:16), and stands by us against all adversities, we then also know from this faith that he alone “accomplishes all in all” (I Cor. 12:6) ; what then must we seem to fear from flesh and blood or even from spiritual and heavenly dangers (Rom. 8:31 ff.) ? Or what is there, finally, which is not to be undergone, undertaken, or done with grateful hearts, whatever the Lord has commanded or imposed on us, however much it might seem burdensome to our flesh? 

And so in this, our faith, i.e., our righteousness (cf. Rom. 9:30), as we enjoy peace with God, so also we are always concerned in regard to doing our share, to cultivate and preserve peace with all men, even our most bitter enemies. Thus we spend a life of wonderful serenity of spirit and divinely inspired confidence and we sanctify the name of the Lord, i.e., we enjoy that peace which Christ alone gives to his own (John 14:27) and the world can neither give nor take away, nor even know, “and which is beyond all understanding” (Phil. 4:6-7). 

There follows: “And my people shall sit in dwellings of peace and in tabernacles of confidence, and on serenely happy seats” (Isa. 32:18). 

These habitations, tabernacles, and seats of the Church of Christ are the sacred assemblies of those who believe in Christ, in which peace with God is daily offered to us and confirmed among us, and thence peace with every creature, through the gospel of peace and the sacraments of Christ. Whence we lead a confident and happy life in supreme security and contentedness. 

We sit, however, in these chosen habitations, tabernacles, and seats, the churches of Christ, when, renouncing every allegiance to the world and to its prince, Satan, we consecrate ourselves wholeheartedly to the fellowship of Christ with all the saints and to obedience to the gospel, and when we persevere with constancy in this blessed fellowship of Christ and obedience to his gospel, with ever greater progress and profit. 

And this must therefore be learned from the foregoing, first that before we are renewed in the Spirit of Christ, we can produce only evil and noxious works; secondly, that they have nothing in common with the Kingdom of Christ who are not renewed and driven by his Spirit to doing the works of righteousness, i.e., believing in the Son of God with a solid faith, and through that faith, by his will, beginning and completing all things. This righteousness alone engenders and sustains peace, serenity, and confidence of spirit in every life. Lastly, we cannot enjoy these great benefits unless we inhere in the Church of Christ and reverence with utmost zeal the communion of Christ, both in sacred assemblies and elsewhere. 

From chapter forty: “Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice, fear not; say to the cities of Judah: Behold your God” (Isa. 40:9). Here that property of the Kingdom of Christ is commended to us by which every church of Christ ought so to be a bearer of the good news that in every congregation of the saints the word of the gospel will sound constantly, with very great confidence and ardent zeal. Churches, therefore, where that voice is silent, call themselves in vanity churches of Christ. 

The most important point of the gospel is also here expressed, which is for us to show forth and offer as present the Son of God, and to say: “Behold your God,” in other words, the forgiver of sins and the giver of all good things and of eternal life. Any true church of Christ should preach and proclaim this indefatigably and as clearly as possible, not only to its own members but also to whatever peoples and manner of men that it can: “Behold your God.” 

There follows: “Behold the Lord God will come with might, and his arm will have dominion according to his good pleasure; and his reward will be with him, and his recompense will be with him” (Isa. 40:10). 

By these words we are taught that Christ alone implants us in his Kingdom, once we have been rescued by his might from the captivity and servitude of Satan, and he alone accomplishes the work of our salvation. Men, even though they sometimes begin many good works, and work very strenuously to complete them, are, nevertheless, not rarely frustrated from reaping any fruit from their own labors, so that neither they nor others receive any reward or recompense which they seek from their labors. But our King and Lord always presents the completed work of our salvation and an eternity to be enjoyed. For “the Father has handed over all things into his hands, and has given to him all power over all flesh, to be the giver of eternal life,” and to perfect in all things those whom the Father has given to him (John 13:3 and 17:2). There follows: “As a shepherd will he feed his flock, and he shall gather up the young lambs in his arms, and carry them on his breast, and he shall gently watch over those that are with young.” (Isa. 40:11). 

That quality of the rule of Christ is here commended to us by which he administers it with utmost gentleness and mercy toward those in the Church who are somewhat weak in faith. We are, then, here taught that even though Christ uses his own personally chosen ministers in order to care for and feed his flocks, yet the actual administration of salvation is in every case properly the product of his own personal working. Finally, we are warned, if we are truly of Christ, that as sheep we ought to know and follow the voice of our shepherd (John 10:3-4, 27), and to have no confidence in ourselves or in any other creature. 

For as a sheep of the fold among other sheep is stupid and helpless and cannot care for or find pasture for itself, so that unless it is taken care of and fed by a good shepherd it will die, we also cannot know or arrange for ourselves anything at all that pertains to our salvation, and we are the certain prey of ravenous wolves unless our King and Good Shepherd himself introduces us to his sheepfolds, the churches, and in these cares for and feeds us. When he does this, then what is praiseworthy in sheep prevails among us—insofar as they are not at all quarrelsome, they contribute in every way to the utility of mankind, not only by giving their wool but also by patiently offering their lives, and, lastly, they are not only contented with more arid pastures but actually feed better on them than on more fertile ones: so that we never take revenge for ourselves, but do everything for the utility and salvation of our neighbor, ready to pour out our property and our very souls for this purpose, and we contribute toward the wellbeing of those who would parsimoniously render to us the things which are pleasing to the flesh; indeed, we advance that much the more in the new life, the life of God, the less we have of those things which are desirable to the flesh. 

From the forty-second chapter of Isaiah: “Behold my servant, on whom I depend, my chosen one, who pleases my soul; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or lift up his voice; nor will he make his voice heard in the streets. The broken reed he will not break, and the smoking flax he will not extinguish; he will make justice a reality. He will not be cast down in spirit or broken until he has established justice on the earth, and the islands shall attend his law” (Isa. 42:1-4). 

Here the prophet teaches, first, that only Christ our King is pleasing to and approved by the eternal Father in all things, as one who has committed no sin, and who has shown himself in all things an obedient servant to him, i.e., a most faithful executor of what he has commanded. That God is said to depend on him is analogous to the kings and great princes who, to a large extent, are accustomed to lean on the shoulders of those who are their special favorites. Secondly, that which is just and equitable, i.e., true justice, comes forth for all the nations from Christ alone through the proclamation of the gospel and by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this we are again taught that the proclamation of the gospel is the main task of Christ the King and all his citizens, and most especially of those who have received a particular calling for this in his Church. Thirdly, the prophet teaches the wonderful clemency, indulgence, and tolerance of our King in bearing with, caring for, and saving the weak. It is also necessary for his ministers to exhibit all these qualities; otherwise, Christ does not live and act in them, nor are they true ministers of Christ. From the fifty-third chapter of the same prophecy: “Thus it pleased the Lord to bruise him and plunge him into infirmity, that when he offered his soul as a victim for sin, he might see a long-lived seed, and the good pleasure of the Lord would be revealed to prosper through him” (Isa. 53:10). 

Here the prophet teaches, first, that Christ our King has by his own death won back for himself his people, whom he calls “a longlived seed.” For this our King regenerates us by his Word and Spirit, so that we are his seed, and he regenerates us unto eternal life. The perpetuity of the church is also foretold as a long-lived seed. It adds that “the good pleasure of the Lord is to be revealed to prosper through him.” For the Father wills all the saving of the elect in the whole world to be dispensed through him, by his death and resurrection, with wonderful success among all peoples. There follows: “Because he has undergone trouble and labor, his spirit shall see glad things, and be satisfied with all good things, and he my righteous servant shall justify many by a knowledge of himself, and he will bear and wipe away their iniquities” (Isa. 53:11) The prophet here more fully explains the fruit of the death of Christ, for because he has undergone this in obedience to the Father, he has seen the tyranny of Satan destroyed, and he has seen him “falling like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18); he has seen that the gospel bears his fruit in the whole world; and thus, thirsting for human salvation, he has been abundantly satisfied. Next he teaches how our King reconciles to the Father and justifies those whom he has rescued from the tyranny of Satan, i.e., brings it about that the Father forgives their sins and remits their deserved condemnation. 

Here the prophet introduces the Father, witnessing concerning his Son, the more to arouse and strengthen our faith. He makes the Father call his Son his “servant,” because he is about not his own but his Father’s business. He calls him “righteous,” because he alone has fulfilled the law of God and has not committed any sin; hence he has been appointed mediator between God and us and made the author of our justification. He brings this about in us, as a gift to be tested by us, when he illumines us with knowledge of himself, i.e., the sure faith of the gospel, by which we truly acknowledge him as our Savior and Redeemer, who has taken our sins upon himself and expiated them by his blood lest the Father impute them to us. 

Hence, therefore, let us note it is characteristic of our King that “when we were his enemies, he underwent death for us,” to restore us to the grace of his Father and make us blessed partakers of his Kingdom (Rom. 5:8-10). Accordingly, let us also here find confirmation of that true doctrine of our justification, namely, that doctrine which consists for us only of faith in Christ. Finally, let us observe that we are here also taught that no one belongs to the Kingdom of Christ and is a true member of the Church of Christ who is not made strong through faith in Christ, and that a justifying faith. 

From the fifty-fourth chapter of Isaiah: “Be jubilant, O barren one, who did not bear; burst forth in a jubilant cry and raise up a voice of exultation, you who have not been in travail. For the sons of the desolate one will be more than of her that was married, says the Lord” (Isa. 54:1). 

Here the prophet teaches that the citizens of Christ’s Kingdom are procreated by a unique regeneration by their exalted King, and that this had been remarkably begun among the holy ones of the Jews when that people externally deprived of their King were like a barren widow. For by the ministry of a few Jews the world has been filled with Christians inasmuch as it was in Judea alone that once upon a time God was openly proclaimed and known, and the Lord did not manifest this blessing of eternal life to any other nation (Ps. 76:2; Deut. 4:7; Ps. 147:19-20). Also, here it must be observed with what zeal we should burn to gain as many as possible for Christ. For this is so important for true Christians that when they see many converted to the Kingdom of Christ, with joy and exultation of spirit they burst forth in jubilation and a voice of exultation; and rightly so, in view of the fact that even the angels rejoice if only one sinner is converted to the Lord (Luke 15:10). 

From the sixtieth chapter of Isaiah: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and mist the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the splendor of your rising” (Isa. 60:1-3). 

By these words the prophet teaches two things: that God, as he is more fully revealed in the Kingdom of Christ, i.e., in the churches of the New Testament, is more clearly proclaimed and more reverently worshiped than before; secondly, when the Lord makes this light of life, i.e., the proclamation of the gospel, shine forth so brightly among his own, all peoples who despise this light seem by comparison to be the more oppressed by the weight of the darkness of their impiety. Furthermore, all the glory and dignity of the people of Christ consists in this, that they truly acknowledge God in Christ their King and worship him with a firm faith (John 3:19-20; 9:39 and 12:48). 

There follows: “Lift up your eyes round about and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried in the arms and nourished. Then you shall see and be radiant, your heart shall thrill and rejoice. For to you shall come a multitude of those who live on the seacoast, and the enormous strength of the nations shall come to you. An abundance of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come, they shall offer gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praises of the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you; they shall come up with acceptance on my altar, and I will adorn the house of my glory. Who are these that fly like a cloud, and like doves to their windows? For the islands shall attend me, and the ships of Tarshish shall bring your sons from afar, their silver and gold will be with them, to celebrate the name of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, because he will adorn you. Alien sons shall build up your walls, and their kings shall serve you, because in my wrath I have struck you, and according to my benevolence I have had mercy upon you. Your gates shall be open continually, nor shall they be shut by day or by night, that the power of the nations might be brought to you, together with their kings. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish, and nations of this kind shall be completely destroyed. The glory of Lebanon shall come to you, the cypress, the plane, and the pine, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I shall glory the place of my feet. But the sons of those who have afflicted you will come to you humbled, and prostrate themselves at the soles of your feet, they who have insulted you, and they shall call you the city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel” (Isa. 60:4-14). 

The prophet here rather magnificently describes the supreme happiness and glory of the Church of Christ; first, by the multitude of the nations which were eager to flow from all parts of the world to the Church of Christ, beginning with the Jews of the Dispersion, rightly called the sons and daughters of the earliest Church, who had a will and way of life most ready for this service; secondly, by the eagerness of the nations to dedicate and consecrate themselves and all that they had to the Church. For by what he foretells about the camels of Midian and Ephah, the gold and frankincense of Sheba, the flocks of Kedar and Nebaioth, in this he signifies by synecdoche that certain nations would be most eager to offer the Lord whatever was important and dear to them. Whence he afterward says: “Their silver and gold is with them.” He amplifies his account of the ardor of this zeal with which the nations were on fire to come to the Church, when he compares the nations and the Jews they were to bring with them to skimming clouds and doves seeking the security of their own window perches. Lastly, the prophet magnifies the glory and happiness of the Kingdom of Christ when he foretells that aliens shall build its walls and kings shall serve it, and that the nations which will not serve the Church will perish. In the end even the enemies of the Church of Christ will humble themselves before it. It must be observed, however, that in this passage it is foretold by the prophet that Christ, our Lord and King, will effect all these things for the glory of his own name, in order that he may have a kingdom and a holy city on earth, i.e., the Church, adorned with all piety and virtue. He calls it the place of the feet of the Lord because only in the Church does God manifest himself as truly present proportionately to the mode of our capacity in this life. Otherwise ”heaven” is his “abode,” where he fully reveals himself; but “earth” for the saints is “the footstool of his feet” (Isa. 66:1), by which he manifests himself to us in part, insofar as we here have the capacity of receiving this gift. 

It must also be noted that the prophet attributes to the nations who will come to the Church the duty of announcing the praises of the Lord; for this is the proper and main task of every Christian man. And for this purpose sacred congregations have mainly been instituted, as the Lord says in this same prophet, above, in the forty-third chapter: “Everyone who is called by my name I have created for my glory” (Isa. 43:7). Likewise, a little later: “This people, which I have formed for myself, will announce my praise” (Isa. 43:21). It must, therefore, be seen from this that people among whom the praises of the Lord are not proclaimed with continuous and vigorous enthusiasm have no right to call themselves the people and churches of Christ. 

From the sixty-first chapter: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, for the Lord to anoint me; to evangelize the meek he has sent me, and to heal the brokenhearted, to announce liberty to captives and the opening of prison to those who are bound. To announce the year of the good pleasure of the Lord, and the day of the vengeance of our God, to console those who mourn. To propose consolation to the mourners of Zion, to give them a glory instead of ashes, an oil of gladness instead of mourning, to mantle them with praise instead of a grieving spirit, to call them trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord for glory. They shall build up the places which have been waste for ages, and they shall raise up buildings which have been from their beginning desolate, and they shall restore cities which have been waste and desolate for many generations. And foreigners shall stand and feed your flocks, and aliens shall be your farmers and vinedressers. But you will be called the priests of the Lord; they shall say that you are the ministers of our God; you shall enjoy the wealth of nations, and in their esteem you shall be lifted up” (Isa. 61:1-6). 

Here the prophet explains eight qualities of the Kingdom of Christ. First: like Christ our King, all suitable preachers of the gospel ought to be inspired to this duty and office by the Holy Spirit, and as athletes in the Kingdom of Christ anointed and strengthened for that combat with the holy anointing of this Spirit.

Second: it is the sum and substance of the gospel to proclaim the forgiveness of sins through Christ to the penitent, for those who do not yet have this in faith are captives of Satan, detained in the prison of eternal perdition. 

Third: only those who have a contrite heart, i.e., regret their sins with true repentance, receive the gospel of salvation.

Fourth: when the gospel is clearly proclaimed, this is a time of the singular benevolence and mercy of God but only to those chosen for the Kingdom of Christ, but to the rest it is a time of wrath and vengeance., For when they reject the gospel of grace, they strike Christ as a rock of scandal and are broken (Matt. 21:44), so that they are deprived of all right reason and salutary counsel in their affairs; a little later this stone falls on them and demolishes them, i.e., destroys them completely. For our King “is set for the rising and fall of many in Israel,” and in all other nations (Luke 2:34). 

Fifth: whoever are true citizens of the Kingdom of Christ should plainly manifest that they are trees of righteousness and plantings of the Lord, planted to show forth his glory, so that all may see this clearly and proclaim accordingly. For the true Church of Christ cannot be hidden, wherever it is; for it is “a city set on a mountain” (Matt. 5:14); and “the Kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power” (I Cor. 4:20). And so the light of faith should shine forth in every church of Christ from every Christian, so that all, “seeing their good works, may glorify the Father, who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Therefore, later in the same chapter, the prophet gives this testimony about the people of Christ: “And their seed shall be noble among the nations, and their offspring in the midst of the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed and offspring to whom the Lord has given a blessing” (Isa. 61:9). 

Sixth: it is the proper duty of the citizens of the Kingdom of Christ that they restore all the old ruins that have lain waste for many ages, i.e., that they lead many peoples who for generations have been deprived of any knowledge and love of God to faith in Christ and the development of righteousness. 

Seventh: this too is characteristic of the Kingdom of Christ, that those who are truly its citizens are all likewise true priests of of God, i.e., by the confession of their lips and of their whole life they announce “his virtues, who has called them from darkness into his marvelous light” (I Peter. 2:9). Likewise, that those who feel themselves too little disposed to or trained for the preaching of the praises of Christ ought to render service to these external ways. For in the Church of Christ, men ought to be so ordered and distributed that those who are better at spiritual things should not be much occupied with temporal things, and those who are less instructed in and inclined toward spiritual matters proper to the Kingdom of Christ should be of service to them in the provision of the necessities of life. Human reason teaches, as can be verified by a reading of the philosophers, that those who have stronger muscles than minds should by the law of nature serve those who have the better minds (Plato, Republic II; Aristotle, Politics I) ,19 This applies also to what the Holy Spirit testifies about the Macedonian and Achaian brethren when they had decided to go beyond friendly communication and send alms to the needy saints at Jerusalem. They decided to go beyond this and yet they were their debtors, as the Holy Spirit there clearly testifies; to which statement he adds this explanation: ‘For if,” he says, “the Gentiles have shared in the spiritual things of the Jews, they ought in turn to minister to them in regard to carnal things” (Rom. 15:26-27). 

Eighth: all the riches and glory of the nations are to be dedicated to the Church of Christ; concerning this, the prophet speaks here eloquently and at sufficient length, and also above in chs. 45 and 49, and likewise below in ch. 66.