#45 – Every Knee Will Bow and Every Tongue Confess (Phil.2; Isa. 45)

So far we have seen that it is God’s plan and intention to save all men; and in the last blog we saw that there are Scriptures that prophecy about God actually accomplishing this glorious plan of His!  In this blog we are going to look at THE most blatant and clear Scripture in the Bible concerning the salvation of all mankind.  It’s actually found twice in Scripture, once in the Old Testament and then quoted again in the New.  I will start with Paul’s quote in Philippians,

“…so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10,11)

Despite the clarity of what is being prophesied here, there is still some confusion concerning its actual meaning.  This is mostly due to the fact it is not crossed examined with the Old Testament verse that it originates from, as well as failing to connect it to certain other scriptures concerning “confessing Jesus Christ as Lord.”   When one examines this verse in relation to both of these things an amazing picture begins to take form.

But before we start getting into that, lets do a quick recap.

In the previous 2 blogs we saw how Scripture reveals that #1 – it is God’s will, intention and plan to save all men and #2 – that Scripture prophesies that all mankind will be made alive in Christ even as all mankind died in Adam.  We know that Christ Himself declared that “the Scriptures cannot be broken” (John 10:35) and it is recorded 5 times in the Gospels that “heaven and earth will not pass away until every jot and tittle of Scripture (every Word of God) is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18, 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 16:17, 21:32).  Therefore we can be confident that God will accomplish this great plan of His to reconcile and save all mankind.

But God doesn’t stop there, He wants to make absolutely sure that we don’t miss what He is saying.  So even though His direct Word on a subject ought to be enough for us to believe, God yet knows that we are extremely opinionated creatures and impossibly stubborn (not to mention a little bit blind).  Therefore God, in His infinite humility and mercy, chooses to further bind Himself to an oath in order to give us more confidence in trusting that – what He says He will do – HE WILL ACTUALLY DO!

So as you can probably guess, the verse in question that we are looking at in this blog involves a vow that God took (an oath He swore) to save all mankind!  Seems drastic for God to have to do something like that, I know, but He has to get it through our hardened hearts somehow!  Here is the verse in the Old Testament that Paul was quoting above,

Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.  I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” (Isaiah 45:22-23)

What an incredible statement!  This comes on the heels of a chapter that is replete with statements about God being the one and only God, the creator of heaven and earth, the only One who is sovereign over all of creation.  And then He declares that all the ends of the earth will turn to Him and be saved!  That phrase “turn” means “to repent.”  So all the ends of the earth will repent and return to God and be saved, just as we have seen, is indeed, His intention.  So after making this amazing declaration, God THEN swears by Himself that this will be accomplished!

Principles of Swearing an Oath/Making a Vow

In order to truly understand the weight of this statement we need to understand exactly what Scripture has to say about making vows, or swearing an oath, especially as it pertains to God swearing an oath.

“For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute.  In the same way God, desiring even more to show the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by 2 unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.”  (Hebrews 6:17)

It says here that if a man promises to do something, that an oath is all he needs to prove, to the one he makes the promise to, that he will actually make good on his promise.  The difference between God and man is that God cannot and will not lie; God doesn’t need to promise anything.  If God says it, then its going to happen.  He is not afflicted with our fallen nature, He doesn’t suffer from the character flaws that mankind does.  He therefore doesn’t need to promise us that He will do what He says.  And yet, mystery of mysteries, He does!  God subjects Himself to man’s standards in order to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that we CAN trust Him!  It reveals such a humility and mercy and love about God that it boggles the mind!

Paul declares here in the book of Hebrews that when humans make a vow/promise (swear an oath) that they swear by someone greater than themselves – usually God.  Kind of like how when we want to convince someone that we are telling the truth we say, “I swear to God!”  In the Hebrew culture they would say, “As the Lord lives…” It is how they bind themselves to fulfill a promise/vow.

“And although they say, ‘As the LORD lives,’ surely they swear falsely.” (Jeremiah 5:2)

“Though you, Israel, play the harlot, do not let Judah become guilty; also do not go to  Gilgal, or go up to Beth-aven and take the oath: ‘As the LORD lives!’” (Hosea 4:15)

There are literally dozens of examples of this phrase being used to swear oaths in the Old Testament.  We don’t have the time or space to look at them all, but one could very easily look them up if they were so inclined.  I can however give you a couple of examples for clarities sake.  One instance is when Boaz had promised Ruth that he would redeem her: Boaz used this phrase saying, “As the Lord lives, I will redeem you.” (Ruth 3:13)  Also, when King Saul’s son Jonathan was guilty of breaking a foolish rule that Saul himself had previously made, Saul makes a vow to spare Jonathan saying, “As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.”  (1 Samuel 19:6).

So men swear by God b/c He is greater than them, and so bind themselves to fulfill their vow.  But since God has no one greater than Himself to swear by He must swear by Himself.  That is why Paul says in Hebrews,

“since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself.”  (Hebrews 6:13)

All this is further compounded when you consider God’s Law concerning vows,

“If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”  (Numbers 30:2)

“When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the LORD your God will surely require it of you.” (Deuteronomy 23:21)

“When you  make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools.  Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.”  (Ecclesiastes 5:4,5)

According to God’s own standard, as He has revealed in His Law, if He does not fulfill His vow it would be a sin in Him.  The Bible says that in Him there is no sin (1 John 3:5) so He MUST fulfill His vow.  And by His Law he MUST “do according to all that proceeds out of His mouth.”  We could almost say that by 3 things God is obligated to fulfill His promises: 1 – the fact that He spoke it means that He will do it b/c He cannot lie, 2 – that when He makes a promise He is swearing an oath and therefore must accomplish His Word, 3 – that He is bound by His own Law to fulfill any oaths/vows He makes.  We could also give a 4th reason being that b/c it is recorded in Scripture it must also surely come to pass.

So we see that Scripture declares that when God swears an oath, makes a promise or vows to do something, etc.. that we have 4 solid pillars upon which to rest our faith.  4 firm bedrocks upon which to trust that God will do what He says.  4 things in which it is impossible to be deceived by!  It seems like God really wants us to get it when He swears an oath!  One of the most wonderful studies in all of the Bible is looking at the few things that God has sworn an oath about!  We will be looking at a few of them later on in this series b/c they almost all involve Universal Reconciliation, but for now we are just focusing on the one.

Every Tongue Will Swear Allegiance

Having seen all that concerns swearing an oath, lets look at those verses in Isaiah one more time,

Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.  I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” (Isaiah 45:22-23)

So here we actually have two oaths being sworn.  One by God and one by man.  The oath sworn by man is one of allegiance to God, but greater than this is God’s oath that He will be the One who brings this about.  This is highly reminiscent of the New Covenant, where God promises that HE WILL change our heart, He will cause us to obey, He will cause us to fear Him, and He will make us love Him with our whole heart (see Jeremiah 31:31-34, 32:38-40; Hebrews 10:15-17; Ezekiel 11:19-20).  The New Covenant is pretty amazing!  But more on that in a later blog.

Here God has sworn that every knee will bow and every tongue will swear allegiance to Him.  This isn’t just saying that people will pay lip service to Him before they are cast into hell.  No!  This is saying that they will swear allegiance, they will take an oath to align themselves with Him and Him only.  Allegiance means to be on someone’s side.  These people, all people, will eventually come over to God’s side and serve Him and Him only.  They will acknowledge Him as their Lord by bowing their knee, and they will promise to serve Him alone by swearing their allegiance to Him with their own tongues!

Even though the New Testament translates the Hebrew “swear allegiance” as “confess” the word still means the same. Louw and Nida Lexicon has this to say about this word “confess,”

It is often extremely difficult, if not impossible, to translate ὁμολογέωa, ὁμολογία, and ἐξομολογέομαιa by the usual expression for ‘confess,’ since this would usually imply that one has done something wrong. It is [p. 420] normally necessary, therefore, to employ quite a different type of relationship, usually involving a public utterance and an expression of confidence or allegiance. For example, in Mt 10:32 it may be necessary to translate ‘whoever tells people publicly that he is loyal to me, I will tell my Father that I am loyal to that person.’”

To confess Jesus Christ as Lord is to publicly declare your loyalty to Him! This certainly gives us a very different concept than people uttering words in spite.

Now lets take a look again at this verse as Paul quotes it in the New Testament.

“so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10,11)

Paul obviously expands what Isaiah declares in order to make is absolutely certain that we grasp what is being said here.  Paul defines what exactly “every knee” means.  He says that it applies to 1 – everyone who is in heaven, 2 – everyone who is on earth and 3 – everyone who is under the earth.  That really doesn’t leave much wiggle room!  When he refers to those who are in heaven he means the angels, the principalities and powers, the spiritual forces of wickedness.  When he refers to those on earth he is referring to those of who are alive.  And when he refers to those under the earth he is referring to those who have previously died and are buried in the grave (a.k.a under the earth).

Confessing Jesus as Lord

We have now seen the context in which this verse originates, which ought to be enough to establish its veracity.  But for the sake of argument lets take a look at the second aspect of this verse that is often overlooked – what Scripture has revealed elsewhere about “confessing Jesus Christ as Lord.”  Most people, I admit, agree that every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as Lord.  However, what many fail to realize is that Scripture also declares that,

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord…you will be saved.”  (Romans 10:9)

This is the Scriptural context with which we ought to read the verses in question.  This is how all the ends of the earth will be saved, by confessing Jesus as Lord.  And the Bible does not give a deadline for this as so many believe.  Instead it says,

“All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

What’s even more interesting is the fact that Scripture also says,

“No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)

Are you hearing what the Spirit is saying?!!!  I get flabbergasted when I contemplate this!  Aside from all the evidence we have looked at in the previous blogs in the previous 3 series (41 in total) which give a solid foundation for Biblical Universal Reconciliation, these few verses we are looking at in this single blog ought to be enough to convince us that All Mankind will be saved!

Lets just highlight what we’re looking at here; #1 – no one can confess Jesus as Lord except by the Spirit; #2 – if you confess Jesus Christ as Lord you will be saved; #3 – God has sworn that Every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as their Lord (and swear allegiance to Him).  It seems that all men will turn to God (repent) receive the Holy Spirit and confess Jesus as Lord and be saved and serve Him and His Kingdom alone!  Sounds a lot like a conversion experience to me.

All To the Glory of God the Father

The last thing that I want to point out is that when all people confess Jesus as their Lord it will be “to the glory of God the Father.” In other words, it will bring Him glory.  I have heard some people speculate that people will be forced by angels to confess Jesus as Lord against their will, spitting the words out in spite and bitterness before they are hauled off cursing and fighting to be thrown into the never ending furnace of hell.  I have also heard some people speculate that the great mass of humanity will confess Jesus as Lord in a sort of state of shock as they finally realize that they were wrong their whole lives after which they are then carted off in silent horror to burn forever in unimaginable agony; as it heart wrenching-ly dawns upon them the unimaginable ramifications of rejecting God during their earthly life.

Neither of those scenarios sound very “glorifying” to God.  You see, when someone has an enemy, he does not get glory by overpowering his enemy.  Nobody has ever truly praised strength, b/c power violates, it can take what it wants and therefore has nothing worthy of worshiping.  People want to be on the side of power, for sure, but it doesn’t inspire praise, it inspires fear.  Wisdom and love, however, are praised.  So when an enemy is won over by love such that the enemy is no longer an enemy but a friend; when an enemy is converted by love into being a friend, then the humility and love by which the enemy was won over is praised.  When you cause your enemy to repent and come over to your side without the use of force, it inspires admiration.  God is glorified by making his enemies into His friends!  He loves them to death and they end up agreeing with Him and coming over to His side.

This is exactly the sense of what God’s statement means about “every tongue swearing allegiance.”  He converts His enemies into friends by His wisdom and love!  THAT is how every tongue confessing Jesus as Lord will bring God glory.

There is another section of Scripture very much related to what we have looked at here that deals specifically with God being glorified in the end, and ‘coincidentally enough’ (wink) it has to do not only with Him swearing another oath but it also involves “all the earth.”  But that must wait for another blog.

Conclusion:

Due to the weakness of our flesh and the slowness of our hearts to believe all that God has spoken in His Word, God swears an oath that He will save all mankind.  He does this to convince us of His heart and intention.  We therefore can take much comfort and stand in confidence that Universal Reconciliation is a well founded and established Biblical truth.

In the next blog we will look at the timing of all of this; for I am sure anyone reading this would be asking themselves at this point, “If God is going to save everybody, why hasn’t He done it already?  What is the point of believing in God in this life and/or evangelizing?”

About Luke Kessler

Luke Kessler has a bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies (not that that matters to God) and spent some time as a missionary in Asia. It was there, through unique circumstances that God began to reveal His glorious plan to save all men. God brought his time of missions to an end and Luke now works in Construction on the Central Coast in California. He enjoys spending his free time studying God's Word and the signs of the times, and sharing what God has shown him every opportunity he has. If you can figure the following out, feel free to contact him by email (his Yahoo account spelled out so as to avoid spam is "luke" then "land" then the number "7") :)
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