Lord’s Library contributor Bill Furioso offers commentary on the Eternal Father Scripture found in Isaiah 9:2, 6-7. Check out his ministry At Christ’s Table for additional Bible studies and resources.
The third name given to Christ by Isaiah is: “Eternal Father.” This is, admittedly, the most enigmatic of the names Isaiah attributed to the coming Messiah. We don’t usually think of Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, in terms of “Father.” This is a title we usually reserve for the first Person of the Trinity. The idea of Jesus Christ being in some way a “Father” is not something lying on the surface of the Scriptures, as it were. We need to investigate deeper in order to understand what Isaiah could have possibly meant by this, and what the relationship is between this “Eternal Father” and those who are His children.
Only His children can know Him as “Father” – and to know Him as such, we must believe and receive Him as such. To explain what I just said, we will look at a passage of Scripture now, and then will return to it again later. Let’s consider John 1:12-13: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
In this passage, the apostle John is saying that the people who “believe and receive” Jesus Christ have the privilege of being “born of God,” that is, being “children of God.” This is to say that in order to be a child of God, one has to believe and receive Christ as a Father. So, it is crucial that we understand what is meant by the concept of Christ as the “Eternal Father.”
Eternal Father Scripture in Isaiah 9
Let’s start with the idea of “Eternal.” The Hebrew word translated “eternal” is ad, and in other places is translated as everlasting or forever and ever. The Old Testament Scriptures (Psalm 110:4, Isaiah 9:7, Ezekial 37:25) teach that the Messiah would live forever, as do the New Testament Scriptures (John 12:34, Hebrews 7:24, 13:8); and Jesus made this claim about Himself in Revelation 1:18: “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”
- Psalm 110:4: “The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”
- Isaiah 9:7: “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”
- Ezekial 37:25: “And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.”
- John 12:34: “The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?”
- Hebrews 7:24: “But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.”
- Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”
But how are we to understand the concept of Jesus as “Father?” This, of necessity, brings us to the mystery of the Trinity – One God revealed to us through three Persons. Beginning in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, the God of the Bible refers to Himself and reveals Himself in a plurality, through the words, “Let us” (Editor’s note: See Genesis 1:26 and Genesis 11:7) coupled with the Hebrew word translated “God”, which is Elohim – a plural word.
- Genesis 1:26: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”
- Genesis 11:7: “Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
Both Isaiah and John saw heavenly visions and heard the angels cry “Holy, holy, holy…” – three exclamations – one for the Father, one for the Son, and one for the Holy Spirit. See Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8:
- Isaiah 6:3: “And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.”
- Revelation 4:8: “And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.”
This was confirmed when the Godhead spoke in Isaiah 6:8: “Whom shall I send, and who will go fo us?” – One God, three Persons. Jesus also confirmed this when he spoke in John 14:23: “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” So we have great the mystery of the Trinity. But significant to our purpose here is that Jesus also said in John 14:9: “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father;” and “I and My Father are one.” in John 10:30. The name “Eternal Father” is fitting for Jesus in that He and the Father are one.
But Jesus is also “Father” in other distinctive ways. The apostle John, the apostle Paul, and the writer of Hebrews all concur that Jesus is the Father of Creation according to John 1:3, Colossians 1:16, and Hebrews 1:2:
- John 1:3: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
- Colossians 1:16: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:”
- Hebrews 1:2: “Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;”
Jesus is also the Father of the New Creation the Father of Eternal things. This is the Biblical theology: The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:45: “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.” Jesus became the Father of Eternal life – the Father of a new human race – those who have received His Eternal life. Jesus began to explain this miracle by saying: “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.” in John 6:57.
He was speaking to people who were already living – biologically; He was referring to a different kind of life – spiritual life – His divine life – Eternal life – the life of the Eternal One. As the apostle John explained in 1 John 5:11-12: “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” Even the more conventional interpretation of Isaiah’s “Eternal Father” name is also true and edifying, and that is this:
A “father” is obviously a “life-giver” – biologically or spiritually; but the Hebrew word, ab, is a word showing respect and honor, meaning the head of a household, family, tribe, clan, or group. I have particular memories of our years in South Africa. We helped a man named Cyril Ngulu in the planting and establishing of the church he pastors today. Every time he would have occasion to introduce me, he would say, “This is my (or our) ‘father”…” It took me some time to understand his use of the word. In the African culture, the title “father” was associated with the head of a tribe.
Cyril was showing respect and honor towards me by introducing me as the one who, in his mind, was the one who helped to lead his church family. Associated with this title are the ideas of provision and protection – the way a “chief” would provide both aspects of provision and protection for his tribe. In the Hebrew culture, a good and godly king would have these “fatherly” traits of provision and protection, and like in the African culture, this king would be regarded as a “father.”
The Scriptures ascribe these fatherly traits to the Messiah. The apostle Paul wrote of Christ’s headship and preeminence in Colossians 1:18: “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” Isaiah spoke of the Messiah’s nurturing qualities in Isaiah 40:11: “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”
There is another thought connected with Christ being our “Eternal Father”: It has to do with the idea of being “a chip off the old block.” It’s natural for the traits and qualities of fathers to be seen in their children. This is also God’s intention in Christ – “His Son”, but our “Eternal Father.” The apostle Paul explains in Romans 8:29: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” The image of our “Eternal Father”:
- 2 Corinthians 3:18: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
As it was stated earlier: Only Christ’s children can know Him as “Father” – and to know Him as such, we must believe and receive Him as such (John 1:12-13): “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
If we “believe and receive” Jesus Christ, we have the privilege of being “born of God,” that is, being “children of God.” In order to be a child of God, one has to believe and receive Christ as our “Eternal Father.”
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