What Does Isaiah Mean When He Says the Wolf Will Lie Down With the Lamb?

Will wolves literally lie down with lambs? What does Isaiah’s prophecies mean?
By Wayne Jackson | Christian Courier

Seven centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ, the prophet Isaiah peered into the future and depicted the glorious nature of the Messianic era for those who seek refuge in Christ.

In vivid symbolism, he wrote:

And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea (Isa. 11:6-9).

To what does this remarkable passage refer?

It is rather well-known that premillennialists allege that this context “describes conditions on the earth in the coming kingdom age after Christ returns to Earth” (Morris 1994, a; emphasis added).

This viewpoint, though widely accepted by sincere and respected scholars, is erroneous for several reasons.

The Kingdom Age Now, Not Then

First, the kingdom age is not in the future. Those who have obeyed the gospel of the Son of God are in the Lord’s kingdom now.

Jesus declared that the new birth introduces one into the kingdom (Jn. 3:3-5). Early saints were described as being citizens in God’s kingdom (Col. 1:13; Rev. 1:9). The communion supper was to be observed in the kingdom (Lk. 22:29, 30).

Also note that the second coming of Christ will terminate the Lord’s kingdom reign, not commence it (1 Cor. 15:24, 25).

Symbolic Language Regarding the Kingdom

The language of Isaiah 11:6ff is obviously symbolic and not a prophecy of literal changes to the animal kingdom following the second coming of Christ.

One of the rules for determining when a passage is figurative is when it involves an impossibility. This context has lions eating straw! Lions are carnivorous. They can’t digest straw.

Is the Lord going to redesign the entire animal kingdom for the alleged millennium? The premillennial theory is replete with these kinds of gross literalisms that ignore sound interpretative methods.

The symbols of this context represent the converted disposition of those who enter the church of Christ (cf. Isa. 11:9; Dan. 2:35).

Selective Blindness

The premillennial view totally ignores the New Testament explanation of this Old Testament prediction.

The prophet declares that the gospel will flow throughout the entire earth (Isa. 11:9b; cf. Hab. 2:14; Lk. 24:47; Acts 1:8), which was accomplished even before the first century had expired (Acts 17:6; Rom. 10:18; Col. 1:6, 23).

In verse ten, Isaiah speaks of the Gentiles seeking rest in “the root of Jesse” (Christ). Read what it says:

And it shall come to pass in that day, that the root of Jesse, that standeth for an ensign of the peoples, unto him shall the nations seek; and his resting-place shall be glorious (Isa. 11:10).

Now here is the clinching point. The inspired Paul quotes this passage in his letter to the Romans (Rom. 15:12). He applies it to the Gentile reception of the gospel in this age, not in some future era following Christ’s return.

Premillennialists are wrong in their view of Isaiah 11:6-9. We encourage them to study this matter more carefully.

  • Morris, Henry M. 1994. Back to Genesis, September.