Can an ancient scroll tell us something about today? Can we learn about the Messiah from something that was long buried in the desert thousands of years ago? We have an expert who is going to help answer these questions! Dr. Craig Evans is an expert on the book of Isaiah. He’s also an acclaimed archaeologist and a professor at Houston Baptist University.
Prophecies for Today
Nathan Jones: Dr. Evans, we’d like to know what great scrolls were found in the middle of the desert that both substantiate the Bible and tell us about the future from an eschatological perspective.
Craig Evans: The Isaiah Scroll is the most important scroll found at Qumran. The book of Isaiah provides some of the most important messianic prophecies found in the Bible. That’s often why people study Isaiah and why it is taken so seriously. That’s why there are umpteen commentaries written on it. Isaiah tells us so much about Israel’s history, but it also tells us a lot about the future. It’s a book whose treasures cannot be exhausted. As a matter of fact, I wrote my dissertation on the vision that Isaiah the prophet had. He actually saw God in chapter 6, as he describes Him. So, Isaiah is an incredibly important book.
Providence would have it that we have the whole book of Isaiah preserved. The great Isaiah Scroll from Qumran dates to perhaps as early as 200 BC.
Tim Moore: Qumran is in the region of the Dead Sea, so most people will recognize why the scrolls found there are called the Dead Sea Scrolls. When were the Dead Sea Scrolls found? And, is there any importance to the timing of their finding?
Craig Evans: The first cave was discovered in 1947 in the Dead Sea along the cliffs near the place called Qumran. It is located on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. Though we are not exactly sure exactly when in November of ’47, an Israeli scholar got to see a few of these long-hidden scrolls. Then, in early 1948, Professors John Trevor and William Brownlee saw the scrolls and began to photograph them. If you know your history, 1947-48 was the year the United Nations debated the question of Israel’s existence, and in May 1948, Israel became a nation once more. I’ve been to Israel in May many times to celebrate their Independence Day. So, this time was a historic moment in history on two levels, both political and concerning the rediscovery of this ancient biblical library. The timing just fascinates me, and I believe it to be providential.
Tim Moore: We certainly do as well. How the famous Dead Sea Scrolls were found is almost worthy of an Indiana Jones movie. Now these scrolls can be found on display today. I’m always amazed that small Israeli children can read these ancient texts in a language that they again speak and write in this day.
Craig Evans: Yes, the revival of the Hebrew language is astonishing! I’ve led many tours of the Shrine of the Book. The Isaiah Scroll that is on display there is, in truth, a facsimile. The original has been carefully put away so that it will last longer and it will be well preserved. But, the facsimile is still beautiful and it gives you a very good idea of exactly what the original looks like.
I’ve taken graduate students to see the Isaiah Scroll. We’ve gone to the very beginning the vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, and we actually start reading it right off of the scroll. We read along the parchment to column 44 where Isaiah 53 describes the Suffering Servant in a song. It’s an authentic song within the book of Isaiah that dates back hundreds of years before the Christian Church.
People who can read Hebrew are just astounded. I’ve actually seen people weep when they place their hands on the glass that protects the facsimile. They are deeply moved that the Hebrew language has been preserved for over 2,000 years of Jewish exile.
Prophecies for the Future
Nathan Jones: Not only does the Isaiah Scroll prophesy the way Jesus would die by crucifixion, and how He will come into His Kingdom, but there are other prophesies Isaiah made concerning the Messiah’s Second Coming, right?
Craig Evans: Isaiah envisions the Kingdom of God once the Messiah returns. The Son of God comes and the world is made anew. Isaiah envisions a New Heaven and a New Earth. The book of Revelation spells this out in further detail.
Isaiah 25 talks about the free food that will be made available in the Kingdom. Just tell this to people who are hungry. We Westerners, of course, do not understand that people around the world live in hunger. To be told there actually will be plenty of food, and it will be the best quality and at no charge, an all-you-can-eat buffet, and that it’s God’s buffet, bring such hope for the future.
All of our earthly needs being met is part of Isaiah’s vision, too. Every tear will be wiped away. Pain and suffering will cease. That’s quite a vision that Isaiah has! It’s inspired the greatest music that’s been produced too, along with poetry, and so on. Isaiah is a wonderful book, and I’m glad to be teaching it.
Nathan Jones: There’s a prophecy, I believe it is Isaiah 2:11 which reads, “In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from…”, that actually prophecies the return of the Jewish people — in our day and age — and which will kick off the return of Jesus and the start of His Kingdom.
Craig Evans: Yes, one of the prophecies found in Isaiah and other prophetic books focuses on how near when the Messiah comes the scattered people of Israel will be returned. Assyria smashed the Northern Kingdom in the 8th Century BC and then Babylon smashed the Southern Kingdom and Jerusalem itself at the beginning of the 6th Century BC. The Jewish people were gathered then scattered a second time around the world by the Romans in 70 AD. Even though in the time of Jesus half of the Jewish people lived in Israel, we estimate, one-half did not. We call them the Jews of the Diaspora, meaning the scattering of the Jewish people throughout the world.
One of the great hopes for the scattered Jewish remnant is that when the Messiah comes and the Kingdom of God on earth becomes a reality, then all of their people will finally be able to go home. What a wonderful vision as well! They’ll be able to go home and live in peace. The inhabitants of the world will take their swords and beat them into plowshares, the spears into pruning hooks, and there will be plenty of food. All people will be alive and reunited with their families. The prophets in the Old Testament clung to that vision and Isaiah above all. I think it’s because he saw God and he knew that God loves us and so can be trusted.
Tim Moore: The suffering Lamb of God will be returning as the Lion of Judah. Then, during the Millennial Kingdom, as Isaiah describes, the wolf will lie down with the lamb, and all creatures will live in harmony once more. After that, on into the Eternal State where there never will be a tear. We cry out like Isaiah in Isaiah 64:1 when he said, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down…” I’m ready for the Lord to come, even now, and that is why I call out every day, “Maranatha, come quickly, Lord Jesus!”