Isaiah 59:17-20 - The Redeemer of all Creation

The Messiah in Isaiah Bible Study

Isaiah 59:17-20 - The Redeemer of all Creation

by I Gordon


This study will look at Jesus as the redeemer of all things. Now it is fair to say that there are quite a few scriptures to look at in exploring this topic and we will have to do a mini-Bible survey involving passages in Genesis, Revelation and a few more in-between! Biting off too much you say? True. But it will be good for you! Some sermons and studies are light and fluffy. This isn't one of them. Now last time we read in Isaiah 59 about the conditions leading up to the return of Jesus Christ. We saw that 'Justice' has fallen, and her good friends 'righteousness' and 'truth' have stumbled and are nowhere to be found.

In this study we will read the remaining verses in the chapter as they mention Jesus as the redeemer. As I studied this and read some interesting books on it [1] , it led to light being shed upon some other great scriptures from the start and end of the Bible. So I want to look at a different aspect of Jesus' redemption in this study. We normally talk about redemption in terms of people and of Jesus being their 'kinsman-redeemer'. And, well, yeah ok... I guess an argument could be made to say that people are important. But I want to look at redemption in terms of all of creation. A redemption that restores all that was lost at the fall and puts this planet back in the rightful hands of its true owner. Now, it's ok... I'm not going all green on you and won't be suggesting that the salvation of trees and cute little seals is God's highest goal. No no no no. But it is interesting that redemption involves a reversal of all that occurred at the fall. Because of this, scripture reveals that even creation itself longs to be set free from its current bondage. And it will be set free when the redeemer returns. Let's have a look.

Definition of the 'Christianese' terms used

Now I've already used enough 'Christianese' to confuse some. Most notably 'redeem', 'redemption', 'kinsman-redeemer'. So what does 'redeem' mean? It means to 'buy back'. And a 'kinsman-redeemer' was a person, normally a close relative, that paid a debt to purchase back something that was lost.

What was required for someone to be a redeemer? Well, they had to be willing to pay, have the ability to pay and sometimes the power to take possession of that bought.

Backing the bus right up... All the way to Leviticus!

Before even reading the remaining verses in Isaiah, we need to do some ground work. So let's put the bus in reverse and look at the laws of redemption in terms of the land in one of your favourite books in the Bible. That's right... the one you spend quite a bit of time in - good old Leviticus.

Leviticus 25:23-28 'The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me. (24) 'Thus for every piece of your property, you are to provide for the redemption of the land. (25) 'If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his relative has sold. (26) 'Or in case a man has no kinsman, but so recovers his means as to find sufficient for its redemption, (27) then he shall calculate the years since its sale and refund the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and so return to his property. (28) 'But if he has not found sufficient means to get it back for himself, then what he has sold shall remain in the hands of its purchaser until the year of jubilee; but at the jubilee it shall revert, that he may return to his property .

It is fair to say that God's rules concerning real estate back then differ to what you get in the local 'Property Press' today. Here is a quick sum up - God gave His people, the Israelites, the land of Israel. Each tribe of Israel was given a portion and each family within those tribes was allotted a portion. Yet look what He says about that land... it can't be sold permanently because, well, the land is actually God's! Now God knew that people, through difficulties and hardship may lose their land. And so He put three measures in place to protect them. So for example, let's say I lived in Israel at that time and I lose my land having fallen into hard times. That thought is certainly not outside the realms of possibility.

  1. Should I later have the means to re-purchase the land, I could do so. That was my right - Yes I've lost the land and sold it to someone else. But if I ever got the means back to be able to purchase it, I could.
  2. A close relative, called a kinsman-redeemer, could pay the price to purchase the land back for me. I could say to my brother, come on... cough up. If he had the means and willingness to pay, the land could be redeemed and purchased back.
  3. If my brother wasn't willing or didn't have the means [2] and there was no other relative that would step up to pay the price, then there was a year of jubilee that came around every 50 years when the land was returned to its original owner... Me! Of course, I may not even be alive when the next 50 year jubilee came about so if that was the case then the land was returned to my closest relative still alive.

Now why these laws? Obviously God cared about His people and put laws in place to make sure that the poor were taken care of. [3] Yet this law concerning the redemption of the land points to something far greater. That is, the redemption of planet earth and all of creation through placing its care under its rightful owner once more!

The Leviticus passage in light of the redemption of this entire planet.

1. Just as the land of Israel is God's, scripture tells us that this entire planet is God's. He is the ultimate owner. He made it, He owns it. Psalms 24:1-2 'The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.'

2. Just as God gave dominion and possession of the land of Israel (but not ultimate ownership) to His people, so He gave dominion and rulership to mankind over this earth. Again, ultimate ownership remained with Him as its creator, but man ruled over the earth and had dominion. Genesis 1:26-28 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

3. Just as the Israelites sometimes lost their possession through bad luck or bad management, so mankind disobeyed God, followed the enemy's lie, and lost dominion over this earth. Adam fell, Eve fell and all of creation with them. Disharmony and contention has resulted ever since. From the first man born, Cain, who murdered his own brother to the chaos that is seen in so many nations of this world today, the evidence is seen that it is a fallen humanity living out and witnessing to the fact that our fall was so great.

4. And yet, just as God provided a way through a redeemer to buy back the land that had been lost, so He has provided a redeemer to pay the price to purchase all things back to God once more. The price was paid on the cross for all humanity to be redeemed if they would believe and accept that provision made on their behalf. The price was also paid to redeem all of creation and undo the consequences of the curse that where placed upon it. That involves the ground, the plants and trees, the animal kingdom as well as humanity. It shall all be redeemed and returned to what God intended when the true King rules.

Just one wee small problem...

It was possible that when a close-relative redeemed some property that they would not actually take possession of that property for some time. They may decide to leave it and at a future date take control of it. Of course, others may have started or carried on using the land unlawfully in the mean time so when the true owner returned, sometimes he had to use force to get them to leave. This is where we pick up the story again (finally!) back in Isaiah. This is what is portrayed in the closing of Isaiah 59.

Here comes the redeemer!

Isaiah 59:17-20 He put on righteousness like a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head; And He put on garments of vengeance for clothing And wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle. (18) According to their deeds, so He will repay, Wrath to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies; To the coastlands He will make recompense. (19) So they will fear the name of the LORD from the west And His glory from the rising of the sun, For He will come like a rushing stream Which the wind of the LORD drives. (20) "A Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob," declares the LORD.

Now anytime you see 'vengeance' in a passage such as this, you know it is talking about the time when Jesus returns. If it just said that He put on 'righteousness like a breastplate' and 'a helmet of salvation' it could be talking about Jesus' first coming. But when He slips on the clothing prepared for the last days - the 'garments of vengeance', then you know you're on 'second coming' ground. This passage shows Jesus preparing to take back His possession from His enemies. He is the redeemer, coming to Zion, with wrath and recompense for His enemies! I said earlier that a redeemer had to be able to pay the price, they had to be willing to pay the price, and they had to have the power to take possession of that redeemed. Well Jesus Christ was willing and able to pay the price and did so when He came 2000 years ago. And this scripture reveals that He also has the power to take possession of that which He redeemed... even if it means taking it by force. And again, that includes not only people but this entire earth. It is His. He will come to take possession of it again. Only then, as Revelation tells us will 'the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God'.

Confirmation that the Lamb is worthy...

Let's look at a similar passage that gives us a glimpse into heaven in the days leading up the second coming of Jesus Christ. It shows us who the true owner of this world is.

Revelation 5:1-6 I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. (2) And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?" (3) And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. (4) Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; (5) and one of the elders *said to me, "Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals." (6) And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.

Alright... so what does that all mean? What is this book (or more correctly, this scroll) that needed to be opened? And why is it sealed? Why can't just anyone break the seals and peak inside? And what is inside anyway? And why would it be so important as to make John weep when it looked like no one was worthy enough to look inside? Oh, so many questions! Scripture always interprets scripture so if you want to know the background to this passage to answer what this scroll contains, I encourage you to read this footnote [4] and the associated passage. For those of you wanting answers quick smart we'll proceed!

So here we have a scroll, written on the front and back but sealed with seven seals. We asked earlier what is the sealed scroll all about? Well, just as we have seen in the book of Jeremiah, it is a title deed to property. Except this one is the title deed to the whole earth and all of creation. And it is stored, as you can see, in a very secure place for it is 'in the right hand of Him who sits on the throne'. No losing that title deed now is there? But who is worthy to take this title deed? Who has the right as the redeemer to open this deed? Who has paid the price to buy back this world and all it contains?

There seems like there is no one... there is no that can step forward to take possession of this world. And the Apostle John, as he sees this, starts to weep. Why was he weeping? Because there seemed like there was no one that could right the wrongs that had taken place on this planet. There was no one that could save it from its fallen lost condition. John would have been thinking 'you mean to tell me that everything just has to carry on like this? With disharmony, despair, destruction & death? Is there no one who can put things back to how they were meant to be?' [5] Is there no one? No wonder John began to cry.

Dry those tears John! No need to blubber...

Revelation 5:5-6 Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals." (6) Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

The command goes forth... Stop weeping. There is someone! Someone with the title of 'the Lion of Judah' has triumphed! He is worthy to open the seals. Yet as John looked he saw not a lion... but a lamb. This of course is Jesus Christ. When he came the first time, 2000 years ago, He came as a lamb. 'Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.' He came to die... for that was the price required to pay for your sin and mine. Yet before leaving He promised to return! And when He does return he will come not as a lamb, but as the lion of Judah - the king of Kings... the ruler and redeemer. The one who has the right to take possession of this earth!  

Conclusion - The Last Verse!

Matthew 19:27-30 Then Peter said to Him, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?" (28) And Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones , judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (29) "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. (30) "But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.

In looking forward to the time when He returns to earth and puts all things right, Jesus used a very interesting word. He said 'In the regeneration...' This English word means:

1. The act or process of regenerating or the state of being regenerated.
2. Spiritual or moral revival or rebirth.
3. Biology - Regrowth of lost or destroyed parts or organs.

But when you look at the Greek word used it becomes far more instructive. The Greek word used is


This is derived from two Greek words - Palin - meaning 'once more or again', and Genesis.

So how Jesus described the conditions that exist when He sets up His kingdom on this Earth is 'Genesis Again' or 'Genesis Once More'. That is what it will be like during the Kingdom rule of Jesus Christ. No more curse. No more disharmony. All of creation liberated from its current bondage into that which it was initially created to be like.

So to sum it all up, God gave laws to the nation of Israel concerning the redemption of lost property because they give us a picture of the greater spiritual principle whereby a redeemer will come and redeem all that Adam lost. He is the only one who is worthy. That is why we sing worship to His name. There was no one to help, no one to intervene so His own hand brought salvation. And while we currently live in the age where we worship a King in exile, He will soon return to claim that which is His possession. And only one word that you can say to that... Maranatha!

[1]  I need to note straight away that I was greatly helped by Renald Showers' book 'Maranatha'. My understanding of the Leviticus passage concerning the redemption of the land under Jewish law was particularly helped through this book and much of what I write concerning this has been 'gleaned' from his book. You probably don't know what I'm talking about yet. Sorry... it should become clear later. And if it sounds a tad boring... well, all you need to know at this stage is that within that old Jewish law for the redemption of the land is a principle that God will use in returning all of the earth back to Himself. So don't drift off... it's actually pretty cool!

[2]  Or, more likely with my brother, both of these conditions wouldn't be met! : )

[3]  Easton's Bible dictionary has the following points about the Year of Jubilee itself. Contrast the benefits of this with what happens in our society today! Concerning the Year of Jubilee:

1. It would prevent the accumulation of land on the part of a few to the detriment of the community at large.
2. It would render it impossible for anyone to be born to absolute poverty, since everyone had his hereditary land.
3. It would preclude those inequalities which are produced by extremes of riches and poverty, and which make one man domineer over another.
4. It would utterly do away with slavery.
5. It would afford a fresh opportunity to those who were reduced by adverse circumstances to begin again their career of industry in the patrimony which they had temporarily forfeited.
6. It would periodically rectify the disorders which crept into the state in the course of time, preclude the division of the people into nobles and plebeians, and preserve the theocracy inviolate.

[4]  Firstly, you need to grab that Bible of yours and read Jeremiah 32:1-15. This is the key passage for helping us understand what Revelation 5 is all about. Do that now. I'll wait...

Right. So Judah was under siege by the mighty Babylonians led by their king, Nebuchadnezzar. Zedekiah, king of Judah, doesn't really like that Jeremiah, the Lord's prophet, says that they are going to be defeated and that Zedekiah himself will be led away. So he does what most kings do when they don't like the message. He attacks the messenger and has Jeremiah locked up! While locked up, Jeremiah's cousin comes and asks him to buy his property! J.Vernon McGee comments:
'At the darkest hour in Judah's history, Jeremiah buys real estate - this was the time to be selling real estate! I imagine that the real estate men in Jerusalem and the surrounding country were dumping all the real estate they possibly could. Why did Jeremiah buy this piece of land at this time? It was to show the people he believed God when He said that they were going to return to the land. This is very remarkable.'

Jeremiah's cousin comes and says 'have I got a deal for you Jerry! A fantastic property, low maintenance, great views... you are a close relative - you redeem it, you buy it.' God had already instructed Jeremiah to buy it and thus express his faith in that though they were getting attacked by the Babylonians and would be exiled, through his actions Jeremiah would show that he had faith that God would one day bring them back to this land. Now verses 10-15 hold the important part for us. When the redeemer paid the price for the land, a deed on a scroll was written and it was sealed up. This is the title to the property. Normally on the inside was written what the purchaser had redeemed - that is, what they would take possession of. On the outside were the conditions that were to be meet to take possession. Now this document was very important because it proved who had the right to the land. So it had to be protected and stored in a safe place. Now remember Jeremiah's current situation - the Babylonian army is about to take control of the city and it is likely that the inhabitants will be killed or taken into exile. Jeremiah himself was later taken into exile down in Egypt... so he never got to use this land for himself. But he commanded the deeds to be put in a safe place, in an earthenware jar, so they would last a long time and even if he didn't get to take possession, a close relative could. This then is the background to understanding Revelation chapter 5. The scroll or book that is opened in heaven contains the title deed to this earth! Before all the judgements can begin, we get this scene in heaven where the true owner of this world has to be found. Is there a redeemer? Is there someone who can legitimately step forward and take possession of the title deed to this earth? We shall see!

[5]  You can imagine asking some of the great 'names' of the Bible whether they could step up and be the redeemer.
'Adam , Son of God - what about you? Will you redeem?'
'I'm sorry, I'm the one who followed the lie and started this whole mess.'

'Abraham , Father of Israel - what about you?'
'I can't... I couldn't even wait for God to bring about His promise and produced an Ishmael and all the centuries of conflict that followed... I'm sorry'

'Moses , the great deliverer - what about you?'
'I'm Sorry... I was angry, disobeyed God in my anger and struck the rock. I wasn't even allowed into the Promised Land. I cannot redeem. I needed redemption myself.'

'David , mighty King David, what about you?'
'Um, one word, Bathsheba. It is true what I wrote- 'Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.'

'Paul , the great Apostle... what about you? Will you redeem?'
'I spent the early part of my life persecuting and putting God's people to death. I am the greatest of all sinners.'

No wonder John wept. It seemed like there were none that could redeem this earth!