When we look at Bible passages, it is extremely important to recognize the sorts of double messages that exist in them. Let us take as our text Isaiah 66:5-11, a text which looks at the consolation of Zion: “Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at His word: “Your brethren who hated you, who cast you out for My name’s sake, said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy.’ But they shall be ashamed.” The sound of noise from the city! A voice from the temple! The voice of the Lord, Who fully repays His enemies! Before she was in labor, she gave birth; before her pain came, she delivered a male child. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, she gave birth to her children. Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?” says the Lord. “Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?” says your God. “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her; rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her; that you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom, that you may drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory.””
What does this passage mean? As is frequently the case in the Bible, what this particular passage means depends a great deal on what level of Bible understanding one is focused on. And when we view multiple layers at the same time, we can gain some understanding of the parallels and connections that exist between those layers, so let us consider this verse as it refers to physical matters. Can nations be born in one day, physically speaking? It so happens that this was not once the way these things happened. In a world where statehood was weak, most of the time empires and kingdoms were formed based on the acquisition of territory and power steadily over a period of years or decades or generations until some massive battle shifted the position between one dynasty or one people and another and various mop-up battles helped to consolidate those victories. In such a case one cannot say that the nation was born in a day because there was a clear process extending a long time that led to that nation’s birth and flowering and rise to power. On the other hand, since the birth of the United States in 1776, it has become increasingly common for nations to be born on a day, as plebiscites and UN resolutions have given a far more definitive start to national existence than was the case in the past.
A case in point is the birth of Israel, which is the most obvious physical fulfillment of this particular prophecy, as has been noted by some. In this level of fulfillment, there are a few ways in which the passage in Isaiah 66 matches with the experience of Israel’s birth as a nation in 1948 after more than 2000 years of domination of the area of Israel by foreign powers like Rome, various Muslim polities, and the Crusaders, and lastly by the British Empire. Israel’s birth was thanks to UN action and the expiration of the British mandate over the area and Israel was born in a day. As was prophesied in Isaiah, Israel’s birth preceded the labor pains (namely the War of Independence) that followed it, when Israel’s Arab neighbors sought to destroy Israel immediately after birth, only to be foiled as Israel gained more territory than it had been originally promised. And here too, those who love God rejoice in the well-being of God’s people, the Israel of God, whether they be physical descendants of Israel or have been adopted into Israel through conversion to God’s ways.
It should be noted, though, that this particular passage has an obvious spiritual application as well, and that is in the birth of a nation, namely the Israel of God, upon the return of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of the saints. All those who believe in God are counted as citizens of Jerusalem (see, for example, Psalm 87, among other places), and so it is that an entire nation will be born in one day when Jesus Christ returns and these believers are either resurrected from the grave (the birth into the spirit happening before the earth has time to have birth pangs) or are changed into the Spirit while they are physically alive. So it is that, at least spiritually speaking, all believers who are raised into eternal life with Jesus Christ upon His return will have the same birthday, which is one of the more egalitarian aspects of God’s plan, in that all of His believers through time will have the same age as God-beings, thus eliminating one of the main sources that we have of conflict over seniority.
Let us also ponder, at least briefly, the connections we can find between these two layers. Both of them involve something that benefits Jerusalem, either being freed from domination by non-Jewish powers (that is without getting into the question of the Israelite origins of Britain, it should be noted), or being freed from rule by corrupt and fallen human beings to be ruled by Jesus Christ and His eternal brethren. In both cases we find a nation being born in a day, whether through a UN resolution followed by warfare or a resurrection from death (or transformation from life) that follows a long period of judgment and tribulation upon mankind. In both cases this change is to be rejoiced by those who are friends of Jerusalem, because who in their right mind would prefer Muslim domination of Jerusalem to Jewish self-rule, and who would prefer that humans rule than that God rules? And in both cases the glory that comes to Jerusalem through the birth of a promised nation gives reflected glory to all who are friends of Jerusalem, whether we are looking at the physical or spiritual fulfillment of this prophecy.