“They shall see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.”
~Isaiah 35:2e-f (NRSV).
The Joy of the Redeemed, or, The Return of the Redeemed to Zion, are the chapter titles of Isaiah 35. Yet, there really are glimpses of heaven strewn through the ten verses of it.
It’s a passage of culminations — where “the Redeemed” end up. And the Redeemed, here, anyone in their right minds would want to become. All human disability is whitewashed, replaced with a supernatural capacity above what we could imagine possible in the physical realm.
Chapter Themes of Heaven
The Presence of the Lord shall cohabit eternally with all of Redeemed creation.
This extends, according to Isaiah, to the blossoming of deserts. This is about the reversal of much creational cursing — that brought about by the original sin of the fall.
Fear and weakness are addressed with the coming of heaven (verses 3-4). Physical limitations of disability feature next (verses 5-6) and these, too, are healed. Whether these are physical or spiritual impairments is not clear, but the Redeemed are in view — those who are ‘enshrined’ in their disability will soon be leaping like deer and singing with great joy.
Redemption is a pilgrimage, and the road is a safe highway; “the [spiritually] unclean shall not travel on it” (verse 8c). If we consider ourselves on this road, already we have this protection.
“Gladness” is a key bookend connecting both 1a and 10d — the first and the last. We know it’ll be the gladness of praise that will fill our eternal spirits on the day of Redemption.
We look forward to that.
What’s missing in our lives and what of heaven do we still yearn for?
Signs of heaven reveal this gap. The more we’re reminded of the perfection of God’s intended creation, the more teasingly this gap manifests itself.
But instead of frustration, infused is our hope, for there is state and a place we long for that is off at a distance.
Heaven Here on Earth
There are many salient reminders of the joys of heaven here on earth, for instance, when we see God’s will come to pass. It’s also the ever-present reality of material blessing: food, water, shelter, clothing, and other realised needs.
When we feel both safe and free, and able to be our truest selves, we’re living a glimpse of earthly heaven.
The mere fact of the fullest realisation of anything should remind us of what heaven’s like.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.
General Reference: J. Alec Moyter, The Prophesy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1993), pp. 272-73.