This is a painting by a Victorian artist, depicting a glorious vision of the future based on the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them’ (Isaiah 11:6).
If you read the whole chapter in Isaiah you’ll see that it’s describing the Kingdom of God, when Jesus Christ returns. Verse 6 is a picture of nature tamed, paradise restored, the earth returned to how it was when God first pronounced it ‘Very good’ (Genesis 1:31).
But it’s more than that – on another level, Isaiah is drawing a ‘cartoon’, using imagery which the Bible uses elsewhere. The animals represent the different nations of the world (for example Daniel 7), and the little child is Jesus Christ himself (for example Isaiah 9:6). It’s a picture of nature tamed, and also people tamed.
Jesus has the power and authority to rule the world. Following his resurrection from the dead he said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’ (Matthew 28:18).
And he will be unlike any other ruler the world has known: he will rule in power, peace and justice. ‘With righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins’ (Isaiah 11:4-5).
He once stood in a small boat in the middle of a raging storm, when the disciples feared for their lives. He ‘rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm’ (Mark 4:39). Thus he demonstrated that he even has power over the elements. When he returns, he will have the power to solve the environmental crisis. But again, on another level the Bible is drawing a ‘cartoon’, because the sea often represents peoples (for example Isaiah 57:20).
Our world is like an arena where animals fight, and the strong maul their neighbours. It’s like a raging stormy sea. When the King returns, he will end the savagery and still the storm.
Isaiah offers another vision of the Kingdom of God:
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it… He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (Isaiah 2:1-4).
These are just some of the many pictures of God’s Kingdom which the Bible shows us. Why not take out your Bible and read Psalm 72? What we should not miss is that God is inviting us to be there.
Picture credit: William Strutt (public domain)