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Isaiah 2:2 In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

Did the writer of Isaiah think that those last days הַיָּמִ֗ים בְּאַחֲרִ֣ית ,will be in the near future, or the far future (e.g. thousands of years later or more)...?

I think he (and other bible writers) imagined the last days to be very near.... but would like to read your opinions.

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This question is a thorny issue with many for two reasons:

  1. Isaiah's prophecy might have been fulfilled IF Israel had been faithful. Unfortunately, Israel was not and rejected Messiah when He came by (among other things) saying, "Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!" "Shall I crucify your king?" Pilate asked. "We have no king but Caesar," the chief priests answered. John 19:15.
  2. Through out the NT, "the last days" is the term given to the time after Jesus resurrection - see appendix below.

Thus, it is entirely possible that Isaiah's prophecy in Isa 2:2 will be fulfilled at some time as we are still in "the last days" ever since our Lord's resurrection.

I will not speculate about what Isaiah thought as this is not recorded.

APPENDIX - “Last Days”

It comes as a surprise to some that the New Testament calls the time after Jesus’ resurrection, the “last days”, or “last hour”, or similar. Note the following:

  • Acts 2:17 – Peter calls the day of Pentecost the “last day” in fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel. Compare v29-32.
  • 2 Tim 3:1 – perilous times in the “last day” which Paul discusses as already at his time.
  • Heb 1:2 – “These last days” God is revealed in Jesus.
  • James 5:3 – warning against rampant materialism and worship of money in the “last day”, that is, the time of James himself.
  • 1 Peter 1:5 – Christians reveal God and are miraculously preserved in the “last time”.
  • 1 Peter 1:20 – Jesus revealed in these “last times”.
  • 2 Peter 3:3 – Peter writes about his time as the fulfilment of that spoken by the ancient prophets about the “last days”.
  • 1 John 2:18 – Twice, John calls his time the “last hour”.
  • Jude 18 – Jude describes his time as the fulfilment of ancient prophecies about the “last time”.
  • Rev 2:16, 3:11, 22:7, 12, 20 – Jesus says, “I am coming soon/quickly”.
  • Even in a passage like John 6:39, 40, 54 where Jesus refers to the resurrection at the “last day” (see below) that time began with His death, Matt 27:50-53.

It should not be surprising that eschatology is defined in terms of Jesus – four times in the book of Revelation (1:11, 17, 2:8, 22:13) Jesus is called “the first and the last”. Thus, Bible eschatology, is the study of the time after Jesus inaugurated His Kingdom of Heaven (Matt 3:2, 4:17, 23, 5:3, 10, 19, etc).

Add to this that many NT writers wrote with some urgency because time was short.

  • 1 Peter 4:7 – the end of all things is near
  • James 5:8 – the Lord’s coming is near
  • Heb 10:37 – He who is coming will come and not delay
  • 1 Thess 4:15 – Paul talks about the second coming and “we who are still alive”; thus he believed he would live to see the Lord return
  • 1 Cor 7:29 – time is short
  • Rom 13:11, 12 – salvation is nearer than when we believed.
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There are theological arguments for rendering this as a reference to the present day, or to the interval between the resurrection of Jesus & the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, and so on.

But from a strictly theologically neutral standpoint, Isaiah does not indicate how much time will pass, rather, he points out signs by which the fulfilment of the prophecy may be recognized (so a different but related question, perhaps best suited for SE-Christianity, would be what views people hold regarding the fulfilment of the specific details of this prophecy).

Chronological precision is in fact quite foreign to most of Isaiah's prophecies--he (and other Hebrew writers) are known for frequently making a prophetic statement that has multiple applications or multiple fulfilments--such as a first & second coming of the Messiah (see discussion by Ludlow in Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet pp. 53-54). The Septuagint translators themselves understood this by taking Isaiah 7:14 (one of the most contested passages in all scripture!) to refer not merely to a young woman, but specifically to a virgin.

So if Isaiah made a prophecy that would be fulfilled once ~7 centuries later, and again ~27+ centuries later, it wouldn't make sense for him to give a date.

אַחֲרִית ("acharith")

The Hebrew word of focus here is "acharith", which can be used to refer to the end of all things, but it has a wider semantic range than this. It can also refer to the end of a person's life (e.g. Job 42:12), or just to posterity, which is not bound by a single point in time in the future, and more. It is not on its own a technical term with a single, explicit meaning.

Last

We should be cautious about assuming that anytime the Hebrew אַחֲרִית or the Greek ἔσχατος appear, that they are referring the same, specific time period. Sometimes the "last days" are used by the speaker/author to refer to the present; sometimes the "last days" are used to refer to the future. Acts 3 is an interesting example and I see that a separate question has been raised to discuss it specifically.

Consider some possible usages of the English word "last" (semantically similar but not identical to אַחֲרִית or ἔσχατος):

  • I was there in the last week
  • I will be there in the last week

In the latter case (pun intended), the last week of what? The last week of the month, the year, the century, all time? Without a predicate, the "last days" can be--in a non-technical sense--the most recent events prior to whenever someone is speaking. In a technical, theological sense, the "last days" has been most commonly used to refer to the time period preceding the second coming of Christ--a time period to which no precise chronological delimitation is ever applied in the Bible.


The interpretation of Isaiah 2:2 that I personally find most compelling is described here.

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Isaiah pronounced oracles on many nations. He was aware of how international and global his prophecies were. He was talking about the rise of fall of nations. These oracles would take many years to be completely fulfilled. In particular,

Isaiah 40:

3 A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
4Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.

Centuries later, this prophecy was partially fulfilled in John the Baptizer.

Isaiah 2:

2 In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

Note the "last days" and "all nations". This is global and epic. He was not talking about the near future and he knew it.

Did the writer of Isaiah think that those last days, will be in the near future, or the far future?

By the end of Isaiah's life, I think Isaiah realized that the last days referred not to the near future but to an indefinite far future.

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How near - the last days in Isaiah 2:2

Isaiah 2:2 In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

In the last days:

When is Isaiah’s prophecy to be fulfilled? In the Christian scriptures, we read foretellings, that would identify this period, among them wars, famines, food shortages, pandemics, difficult times to come. ( Luke 21:10-11 ESV. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 NASB, Matthew chapter 24)

Luke 21:10-11 ESV

Jesus Foretells Wars and Persecution

10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 NASB

Difficult Times Will Come

3 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, slanderers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, [a]haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness although they have denied its power; avoid such people as these.

Conclusion:

Seeing such prophesies being fulfilled in our days, gives abundant evidence that we are living in the final part of the days. I believe that the prophecy of Isaiah has dual fulfillment, due to the many appeals to Israel by various prophets to return to the true God. (Jeremiah 2:20; 17:1-3; Ezekiel 6:13; 20:28; Hosea 4:13 ) Further evidence to this was when Peter spoke to the natural Jews and proselytes saying to them that they were "living in the last days",(Acts 2:17) so it must have had the initial fulfillment involving them. The expression "last days" refers to the Jewish system that had its center of worship in Jerusalem. The destruction took place in 70 CE. Peter said:

Acts 2:17 NASB

‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour out My Spirit on all [a]mankind; And your sons and your daughters will prophesyAnd your young men will see visions, And your old men will [b]have dreams;

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