Isaiah 9:6 is quoted frequently at Christmastime. You may have seen the passage on Christmas cards, oftentimes along with a manger scene. The well-known (but usually not fully understood) verse reads,
To us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Notice that the first three phrases correlate to three distinct events in the ministry of Jesus, each separated by time.
First, he was born.
Then 33 years later, the Son of God was given as a sacrifice for sin (John 3:16).
Then one day yet future, the government will be on his shoulders. He will reign over all the nations of earth during the millennial kingdom as the Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:7 continues the kingdom theme, saying,
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
The incredible prophecies in Isaiah about the first coming, the tribulation period, and the millennial kingdom should get our attention.
Many believers understand the import of Isaiah 9:6 at Christmastime but fail to interpret literally what Isaiah 9:7 says about a future kingdom in which the government of the entire world will be on the Messiah’s shoulders.
This twofold pairing of prophecies occurs in the book of Isaiah as well as in other prophetic books.
Getting a clear comprehension of the twofold prophecies related to the first and second advents of Jesus is key to understanding God’s plan for the ages.
Now, let’s see how Jesus himself distinguished these two advents.
We discover 2 songs or poetic writings in Luke chapter 1. The first is by Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the second is by Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. Both sections contain chronological details of the first and second advents of Christ.
In Luke 1:46-49, Mary highlights details related to the first advent. In verses 50-55, she highlights details of the second advent. Of course, she did not realize at the time that there would be a gap between them.
46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
In Luke 1:68-69 Zechariah highlights details related to the first advent. In verses 71-75 he highlights details of the second advent. Then in the final 4 verses of his song (76-79) Zechariah highlights the future (at the time) ministry of his son, John the Baptist.
68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
Apparently, not even John the Baptist understood at the time that there would be a gap between the two advents (read Luke 3:7-9). But Jesus knew. In Luke chapter 4, Jesus went into the synagogue in Nazareth and read from Isaiah 61. Then he told his hearers that this prophecy was fulfilled in their hearing that day.
In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus read this direct quote from Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Then in verse 20-21 we read, “Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
What you won’t realize unless you read that passage from Isaiah is that Jesus stopped mid-sentence when he rolled up the scroll. He was quoting Isaiah 61:1-2 but skipped the final phrase, “…and the day of vengeance of our God.”
So Jesus told them that the first part (which was full of grace and proclaiming the good news to the poor, etc.) was fulfilled that very day. But, he hit the pause button on the day of vengeance—the future Day of the Lord (ie. the tribulation period).
In fact, a careful reading of the passage from Isaiah 61 highlights the 1st coming (1-2a), the 2nd coming (2b-3a), and the future millennial kingdom (3b) in chronological order.