The Eternal Kingdom of the Prince of Peace
For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isa 9:6)
Main Idea: The deity and humanity of Jesus Christ and the nature of his kingdom are clearly predicted.
- A Light in Darkness (9:1-2)
- The Source of Joy: A Stunning Victory (9:3-5)
- The Surprising Conqueror: Natural, Yet Supernatural (9:6)
- The Kingdom of Christ (9:7)
- The identity of the King: Jesus Christ
- The wealth of his kingdom: increase and peace
- The nature of his kingdom: prophetic, secure, holy, and eternal
- The power of his kingdom: the zeal of the Lord Almighty
In every epoch of history, humanity has sought a righteous form of government, but the depravity in every nation has made it impossible. The pharaohs of Egypt enslaved people to build their pyramids. The Assyrians introduced new depths of human brutality into government, leaving piles of corpses behind them. The Greeks under Alexander the Great sought to spread the fruits of Greek wisdom, but the despotic Greek kings that followed him left a trail of defilement in the pages of history. The Roman Empire brought stable government and a great road system, propped up with the overwhelming power of their legions. The barbarian hordes swept across Europe from the icy northland and the steppes of Asia and put out the lights of culture and of government for centuries. The “divine right of kings” dominated Christendom in Western Europe during the Middle Ages with its feudal system, but the government was only as good or bad as the king’s moral character. The American Revolution sought to break away from monarchy and establish a government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” in Abraham Lincoln’s famous words; but the government established here has proven to be far from perfect, corrupted as it is by the sinful hearts “of the people.” The twentieth century saw an experiment in governmentally forced sharing for the supposed benefit of the poor, called Communism, and it has proven a gross economic, social, and moral failure all over the world. Representative democracy, with all of its weaknesses and corruptions, still remains the best the human race has developed; but as Winston Churchill said famously, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time” (By Himself, 574).
Isaiah 9:6-7, one of the most famous passages in the entire book, answers these hopes and dreams of the world, for it predicts a perfect ruler who will reign forever and ever over a prosperous and peaceful realm. This is Jesus Christ, the perfect Ruler of the world, and the government will be on his shoulders.
A Light in Darkness
Isaiah 8 ended in the darkness and gloom of a corrupt and wicked people who were seeking occult wisdom from mediums and rejecting the wisdom of God, people who were roaming the earth in angry despair and cursing God. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali, Galilee of the nations (Gentiles), is called a humbled land, a “people walking in darkness,” a people living “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12).
Suddenly, God says, “Let there be light!” and there is light! This was nothing less than the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor 4:6). Jesus came in the power of perfect teaching and of signs and wonders, beginning in the dark region of Galilee. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light” (Isa 9:2), and Jesus called himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12). He revealed himself first in the synagogue in Galilee, saying that the Spirit of the Lord was on him, not only to be a light shining in a dark place but to recover sight for the blind by releasing prisoners from darkness, in direct fulfillment of the messianic prophecy of Isaiah 61. He also performed his first miracle in Cana of Galilee, changing water into wine. After that, Jesus poured out a river of miracles in Galilee (Matt 4:23-25), the beginning of the unquenchable light of Jesus radiating out into Satan’s dark world.
The Source of Joy: A Stunning Victory
Because of this light shining into darkness, the people respond with overpowering joy. The nation is enlarged, and the people rejoice as on a day when a great war has ended in total victory, with abundant plunder for everybody. The joy is likened to the day of Midian’s defeat, a famous story from the era of the judges, when Gideon defeated the overwhelmingly oppressive Midianites without a sword in his hand (Judg 6–7). At that time Israel was powerless to save itself and was enslaved by the Midianites. God caused the terror of the Lord to come on them when the light from Gideon’s scant “army” of three hundred men ripped through the darkness. The evil forces of Midian turned on themselves and imploded, destroying one another. As a result, the “oppressive yoke and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor” was shattered (Isa 9:4), and all trampling boots and bloodied garments were destined for the fire (v. 5). In the same way, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has defeated Satan’s seemingly unbreakable yoke of sin and death. Satan’s dark kingdom has been routed by implosion—Satan turned his evil weapon of death on Jesus and by killing him destroyed his own kingdom. And we who were enslaved by Satan through fear of death have been released to serve God in joy (Heb 2:14).
The Surprising Conqueror: Natural Yet Supernatural
This one verse contains perfect proof of the deity of the Messiah, the doctrine of the incarnation, which was the stumbling block for the Jewish opponents of Jesus. The surprising conqueror who works the stunning victory of verses 1-5 is revealed to be a child given, a son born, described unforgettably in a string of four couplets that mingle his humanity and deity in marvelous balance. The humanity of the Savior is established in the first words: “For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us” (emphasis added). The fact that he has come “for us,” to benefit us, is also established in these words. As the glorious angel said to those shepherds outside Bethlehem, “Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you” (Luke 2:11; emphasis added). So the surprising conqueror will be a child born, a son given. The mingling in Christ of weakness like a lamb and power like a lion is also revealed in Revelation 5:5-6, the infinite mystery of the “frailty” of the incarnate God.
On the shoulders of this child is laid the weight of the government of his people. He at last is the answer to the quest for a perfect and lasting government. His shoulders will bear that weight, and they will not buckle. As Jesus said, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matt 28:18).
Next comes the mysterious series of four couplets, four pairs of two words linked, a mingling of supernatural and natural, of God and man.
Wonderful Counselor: the word translated “wonderful” refers to the ability to work supernatural signs (Exod 3:20); the word counselor refers to the giving of wise advice, as advisors to the king would do (2 Sam 16:23). Jesus came both to do signs and wonders and to give wisdom by his teachings.
Mighty God: the word God ascribed to someone who is a child born absolutely clinches the doctrine of the incarnation—Jesus was a human baby who was also called “Mighty God.” The word translated “mighty” was a common one for powerful men, warriors who could carry the day by the power of their military prowess (Judg 11:1); it is a natural word but still descriptive of great power. But the word translated “God” (Hb el) was absolutely divine, the most common word in the Hebrew Bible for deity. These words show the infinite power of Jesus Christ, our Savior, who is an omnipotent warrior and who will someday return to earth to slay all his enemies with the sword coming out of his mouth (Rev 19:11-16).
Eternal Father: Again, a mingling of the natural with the supernatural. The title father is obviously an everyday word, but to couple it with the word eternal makes it supernatural—a father whose going forth is from eternity past (Mal 5:2) and who will continue a father forever. Ascribing fatherhood to Jesus is unusual, given that we usually reserve it for God the Father; but Jesus does play a fatherly role toward his disciples, for he often used “son” or “daughter” when addressing others affectionately (Matt 9:2; Mark 5:34).
Prince of Peace: Jesus reigns as a prince, a common word for a government official (Isa 34:12; 49:7), but he will be a ruler who brings peace and is characterized by peace. This is the very thing that most warlike conqueror kings can never bring about, but Jesus speaks peace to his disciples after his resurrection victory (John 20:19,21,26) and previously had said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful” (John 14:27). Most of all, Jesus gives eternal peace with God by his death on the cross (Rom 5:1).
The Kingdom of Christ
So this is the supernatural yet natural conqueror who comes to rule. What is the nature of his perfect kingdom? Verse 7 describes it magnificently! The CSB says, “The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end.” That is a fine translation, but perhaps more dynamic is the more famous KJV: “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end” (emphasis added). What is the “increase” of Christ’s government? How is it that it will never end? The Hebrew word translated “increase” (or “vast”) gives a sense of ever-growing abundance (7:22), of multiplication (Gen 1:28). So Christ’s kingdom will be characterized by the never-ending multiplication of its prosperity. How can that be true in heaven, especially because there will no longer be babies born or any form of procreation (Matt 22:30)? I think that in heaven Christ’s subjects will be morally perfect and will not forget anything they have learned; but they will still be learning, constantly growing in their estimation of the greatness of Christ’s person and achievements. We will never stop increasing in our love for him and our passionate, knowledgeable worship of him.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, in direct fulfillment of the promises made to David (2 Sam 7:13,16). God promised David that a son from his own body would have a throne that God would establish forever. Jesus fulfills that by reigning as the Son of David (Matt 1:1) forever. And David himself will be on his face before his infinitely greater Son, worshiping him with the rest of the redeemed forever. Jesus will “establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness.” His kingdom will be a perfect reflection of his own character, of which it is said in Hebrews 1:8-9, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of justice. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness.” In other words, a perfectly righteous King who loves righteousness and hates wickedness will make sure that those attributes will characterize his kingdom forever, protecting the poor and needy rather than exploiting them.
This kingdom was established the moment Christ came to earth, and it will never end. And what guarantees that these things will most certainly come to pass? “The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this.” God’s zeal for the glory of his Son will make this happen forever, and no power in heaven or earth or under the earth can stop it.
Understand now, by faith, that the victory of Jesus Christ over sin and death is total and complete. He did it alone, no one helped him, so that all the glory would go to him. As in the day of Midian’s defeat, he caused Satan’s kingdom to destroy itself. He gives us the plunder forever: eternal life, peace, righteousness, good counsel. Rejoice greatly in this! Be certain that you are restoring your joy in Christ’s victory over sin and death every single day. Say to your soul, “Why, my soul, are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil? Rejoice in the victory Christ has won for you!”
Meditate on the awesome titles given to Jesus Christ in this chapter: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Allow each word to have a time in your meditation. Worship Jesus for each aspect of these titles.
Resolve to obey Jesus as your King more and more. This is by faith and by the power of the Spirit. Jesus is a ruler who has saved sinners from their rebellion against his rule. Submit fully to his authority.
Look forward to an eternity of learning more and more about Jesus: “of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end” (9:7 KJV). Heaven will not be a static, boring place but a place of rich discoveries of Jesus forever and ever.
Finally, share the gospel with others so that his kingdom might increase now, on earth, before the end of time comes.
Reflect and Discuss
- How does this prophecy help prove the deity of Christ?
- How is Jesus a light for a people walking in darkness? What is the nature of that darkness? How does Jesus shine in this dark world?
- How is the defeat of Midian under Gideon a prophetic picture of Christ’s victory over Satan at the cross (Judg 6–7; Heb 2:14)?
- How does Jesus’s resurrection victory bring joy like a harvest or military conquest? What is the spoil Jesus gives for his victory?
- How does the combination of son/child and “Mighty God” prove the deity of Christ in verse 6?
- What is the significance of the title “Wonderful Counselor”? How does it point to the two great aspects of Jesus’s earthly ministry: mighty words and amazing deeds?
- Does it seem strange to you to call Jesus “Everlasting Father”? How is Jesus like a father?
- How is Jesus the “Prince of Peace”? How would you relate this to Romans 5:1? How about Philippians 4:6-7?
- What does verse 7 teach you about the nature of Jesus’s kingdom?
- What is the significance of the statement in verse 7 that “the zeal of the Lord” will bring this about? What is zeal? How is God the Father zealous to establish the kingdom of his Son? What does this teach you about their relationship?