The Radical Transformation of the Kingdom:
I Will Give the Eunuchs a Place Within My House and Within My Walls
Isaiah 56 and It’s Fulfillment in Christ
Don K. Preston D. Div.
We have often commented on this site about the radical nature of much of what Jesus said. Unfortunately, modern readers far removed from the ancient culture and way of thinking often miss the nuances of what he had to say. When we know more of his world, culture and history however, we soon come to realize why it was that the Jews so often wanted to kill him. He challenged everything about their way of thinking. He turned their world upside down.
Furthermore, due to preconceived ideas about the nature of the fulfillment of prophecy, we have a tendency to either ignore, alter, or even overlook what Biblical prophecy has to say about the nature of the kingdom. I have personally stated that if we are attuned to it, the OT prophecies contain many indications, many predictions that tell us– and should have told the Jews themselves– that when Messiah came and established the kingdom, it would not be in any way at all like the Old Covenant kingdom. It would in fact, be radically different.
Our dispensational friends insist that in the millennial kingdom the Jerusalem temple will be restored. The exclusive Levitical, (Zadokite) priesthood will be established, and animal sacrifices will once again be offered. The wall of partition will be restored and the exclusionary nature of the temple will once again be established. (Dwight Pentecost, in Things To Come, Zondervan, 1980) says that Jew and Gentile distinctions will be restored in the kingdom!) This is fundamentally important to the dispensational view. However, the Old Testament prophets themselves indicated that this scenario is not accurate.
Isaiah 56 contains an incredible prophecy:
“Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD speak, saying, “ The LORD has utterly separated me from His people”; Nor let the eunuch say, ‘ Here I am, a dry tree.” For thus says the LORD: ‘To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, And choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, even to them I will give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.
Isaiah 56 tells us that the Messianic temple would be transformed in a way that was almost unimaginable. Under Torah, no man that was physically defective in his genitals was allowed to enter the temple to worship (Deuteronomy 23). Eunuchs therefore, were not allowed a place in the court of Israel and were considered “outsiders,” cut off from the assembly.
Do you see what YHVH said was to be true in the Messianic kingdom? Eunuchs would have a place in the temple! They would be allowed to offer acceptable sacrifices. They would be given a name better than sons and daughters! They would no longer be “dry trees.”
This last statement is incredible. Eunuchs would no longer be considered “dry trees.” What does this mean? Well, the Old Covenant kingdom was sustained and identified through the physical lineage, through marrying and giving in marriage. The land inheritance was determined through physical lineage. And, this is important: eunuchs could not produce “sons of Abraham” i.e. sons of God! Under Torah, “Children of God” were produced through the normal conjugal relations between man and wife. The eunuch’s inability to pro-create meant that they had no inheritance, no descendants– they were a dead end in regard to the Old Covenant kingdom!
But Isaiah 56 says that in the kingdom the eunuchs would no longer be called dry trees. How could this be? Would YHVH miraculously reverse their physical defects? Or, what? How could they produce sons? How could they participate in the kingdom? There is a wonderful answer in the book of Acts. For now, look a bit closer the promise to the eunuchs.
YHVH said that in the Messianic temple, eunuchs would have “a place.” This terminology commonly referred to the priests and their place in the temple. This is a subtle, but powerful way to say that eunuchs would themselves offer sacrifice– acceptable sacrifice– in the Messianic temple. They would be priests unto God!
Nothing could be more radical, nothing more revolutionary than such a promise. The very idea that eunuchs could enter the temple, much less be acceptable, even less that they could offer sacrifice, was simply incomprehensible under Torah. But such was the nature of Christ’s kingdom.
The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that Christ was the foundation stone of the Messianic Temple (Acts 4:11f; Ephesians 2:19f). The church was the promised “temple of God” (2 Corinthians 6:16), and the temple was comprised of “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5).
(Does not the fact that even the OT predicted that the foundation stone of the Messianic Temple would be a living stone, indicate the radical alteration in the nature of the kingdom? More on that later!)
With all of this in mind, consider the story of the conversion of the eunuch in Acts 8. Here is a man that loved the Lord, and had gone to Jerusalem to worship. But remember that according to Torah, he could only worship from afar. He could not even enter the Court of Israel! He was “cut off” (Isaiah 56:3). On his way home, he was reading from Isaiah 53. However, is it too difficult ot believe that he also had in mind the prophecy of chapter 56? And, is it hard to imagine that he had, many times, read that prophecy in wonder and amazement, pondering its implications?
When Phillip joined that chariot and began to expound the scriptures to that eunuch, wonder and joy took hold of him as he now heard– for the very first time– the unfolding story of Messiah! In my own mind, I find it difficult to believe that Phillip did not go onto Isaiah 56 and tell him that the Suffering Servant of chapter 53 was the one who was now offering this eunuch “a place and a name” in the Messianic Temple. He told him that his days of being a “dry tree” were over! Now, he could produce “sons of God” by sharing the marvelous news of Messiah, and bringing them to Him! He could now have a name “better than sons and daughters!
Is it any wonder that the eunuch responded as he did? Is it any wonder that he wanted to be known as a follower of this Jesus, who was offering him sonship, access, and life? Is it any wonder that after being baptized, in order to be identified as one with Him, that he went on his way rejoicing?
In the story of the conversion of the eunuch, we see the fulfillment of Isaiah 56. And in that fulfillment we see how radically different the Messianic kingdom truly was – and is.
Keep in mind that in the dispensational view of the kingdom, the conversion of the eunuch essentially could not happen, as described in Isaiah! In the dispensational view of the kingdom temple, the eunuch can never have a place in the temple! They can never offer acceptable sacrifices! But in the kingdom of Jesus the Christ (the Messiah) any person, and all believers can now “offer the sacrifice of praise unto God, that is, the fruit of our lips” (Hebrews 13:15), because Christ has created a “kingdom of priests” (Revelation 1:5). In Christ there are no dry trees, there are none who remain “cast out.” All those who believe have a place and a name! Praise God for His marvelous gift and for His faithful fulfillment of His promises!
If you want to know more about this marvelous subject, see my Acts and the Restoration of Israel Mp3 series, in which I discuss Isaiah 56 (and a host of other OT prophecies) and its fulfillment in Acts 8. The series contains over 50 lessons on Acts, demonstrating that Luke unfolds the wonderful story of the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel, including the calling of the Gent
iles. You will never look at the book of Acts in the same way! The series is available from this website.