Isaiah's Little Apocalypse, Chapters 24 through 27, Part 2
by Karl Kemp
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We continue this verse-by-verse study of Isaiah chapters 24-27 here in Part 2, starting with Isaiah chapter 25.
ISAIAH CHAPTER 25.
"O LORD [Yahweh], You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness. [[This verse (and the following verses) was written from the point of view that the end-time day of judgment is over. Daniel's 70th week has come to an end. Isaiah thanks God for what He has accomplished through His end-time acts of saving and judging. God had made His plans known (they were made known in some detail through prophets like Isaiah), and He has now done - with perfect faithfulness - all that He said He would do (and more).]] (2) For You have made a city into a heap, A fortified city into a ruin; A palace of strangers is a city no more, It will never be rebuilt. [[This city/fortified city is a symbol for the world system (as in Isa. 24:10; 26:5; cf. 32:19; Babylon is symbol for the world in the book of Revelation), whose god is the devil. God's kingdom cannot be established as the only kingdom until the kingdom of this world has been totally removed by His end-time judgment. On never being rebuilt, compare Isa. 24:20; Rev. 18:21; and 19:2, 3.]] (3) Therefore a strong people will glorify You [cf. Isa. 24:13-16a]; Cities [[The Hebrew noun is singular; the KJV has "the city"; the NKJV has "The city." It seems far better to translate "The city"; this fits perfectly with the idea that this city (as in Isa. 24:10; 25:2; and 26:5) is a symbol for the world. The same Hebrew noun for city is used in Isa. 24:10; 25:2 (for the second use of the word city of the three uses in that verse); 25:3; and 26:5.
I'll quote part of what J. Alec Motyer said under 25:2, 3 ("Isaiah" [Inter-Varsity Press, 1999], page 170). "The people of God have been dominated by foreigners, strong and ruthless power groups. ... Peoples...cities are both singular [in the Hebrew] and this must be restored [in the translation]. [Motyer was using the NIV, which has both peoples and cities in the plural.] Isaiah is speaking of the city of 24:10, the world structured without reference to God. The citizens of this world city are one people though composed of many nations, for they are one in ideology: the 'I can cope' syndrome that marks a fallen race, coupled with the 'Who needs God?' of the self-sufficient."]] of ruthless nations will revere You. [[This entire chapter is poetry in the Hebrew, as is much of the book of Isaiah. The format of the NASB (and the NIV, NKJV, and some other translations) shows that this is poetry by printing each line separately. I'm not able to print each line separately with the format I'm using in this paper, but the fact that the word Cities is capitalized by the NASB helps show that this word starts a new line in the NASB. The two lines of verse 3, in a way that is very common with Hebrew poetry, say essentially the same thing using different words. The "strong people" are the same as the people of the "[City] of ruthless nations." Glorifying God is parallel in meaning with revering Him.
These people are the remnant of the city of ruthless nations (not that all the people of the nations had been ruthless) that will be left after God's end-time judgment of the world. The people of the nations that are left by God as a remnant were formerly ruthless (at least some of them were), but now, through His end-time acts of saving and judging, they have been humbled and have repented of their former ruthlessness; so too regarding their former pride (cf., e.g., Isa. 2:11-22; 13:11; and 26:9). Revelation 15:3, 4 are verses of key significance regarding the humbled, repentant remnant of the nations glorifying God after His righteous acts of saving and judging have been manifested. (These verses are discussed in my paper on Revelation 14:6-19:21 on this Christian article site.)
Verses like the one we are discussing (Isa. 25:3) and Rev. 15:3, 4; 20:3 (and there are many more similar verses) sound quite a bit more optimistic regarding the number of people that will be left as a remnant of the nations than verses like Isa. 24:6, 13-16a.
I'll quote two paragraphs from what Geoffrey W. Grogan says under Isa. 25:1-5 ("Expositor's Bible Commentary," Vol. 6 [Zondervan, 1986]). "In our comment at 24:10-13, we accepted the view that references to a city of destruction in chapters 24-27 do not have any particular city in view but are general designations of society organized apart from any reference to God, a concept not unlike 'the world' as it so often appears in a depreciatory sense in the NT. ..." (pages 158, 159).
"The logical word 'therefore' in v. 3 should be especially noted. God's judgment of these cities [The NIV, which Grogan was using, has "cities" in Isa. 25:3, as does the NASB.] leads the strong and ruthless nations to honor and revere the Lord. Young ("Book of Isaiah," in loc.) comments, 'We must not overlook the profound theological teaching that if the Gentiles are to worship God their own united power must be destroyed. As long as the Gentile nations, represented in Isaiah's day by the Assyrians and Babylonians, sought to control the world and to incorporate the theocracy within their own kingdom, there could be no hope for their salvation. Babylon and all that it represented must first be destroyed.' The destruction of every hope in man makes way for penitent hope in God" (page 159).]] (4) For You have been a defense for the helpless, A defense [The NIV translates the Hebrew noun "maoz" "refuge" here and earlier in this verse, instead of "defense," which seems better in this context.] for the needy in his distress, A refuge ["shelter" NIV] from the storm, a shade from the heat; For the breath of the ruthless Is like a rain storm against a wall. (5) Like heat in drought, You subdue the uproar of aliens [or, foreigners.]; Like heat by the shadow of a cloud, the song of the ruthless is silenced. [[Note that the word "storm" (Hebrew "zerem") is used twice in verse 4; the two uses help explain one another. So too for the word "heat" (Hebrew "choreb"), which is used once in verse 4 and twice in verse 5. And note that the word "shade" in verse 4 is matched by the word "shadow" in verse 5. (The same Hebrew noun, "tsel," is translated "shade" and "shadow.") The words "the ruthless" are also used twice in these verses. Like a refuge/wall protects from the driving storm, and like a cloud blocks out the heating rays from the sun, so God becomes a refuge/wall and a cloud that stops the ruthless oppression through His end-time judgment of the world.
God will completely subdue and totally remove all (unrepentant) ruthless oppressors from the earth in His end-time judgment. The remnant of the nations will understand that one major reason that God has done this is for the good of His people, who were, in some ways, "helpless" and "needy in [their] distress" before the nations. The people who were "helpless" and "needy in [their] distress" are to be contrasted with the "strong" and "ruthless." (Looking at it from the point of view of Isaiah's day, God's people would be the believers of the nation Israel. Most of the ruthless oppressors were "aliens/foreigners." Looking at it from a New Testament point of view, God's people are the believers from all nations, true Israel.)
This prophecy may include the idea (many prophecies do include this idea) that God, by destroying the ruthless oppressors, is working for the good of all those being wrongly oppressed, not just the oppressed believers (cf., e.g., Isa. 11:4; 29:19-21). ((I had a footnote: Zechariah chapter 11 is an important prophecy that deals with God's end-time judgment that includes this point. See my discussion of Zechariah chapter 11 on pages 203-219 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture." I'm not suggesting, of course, that being oppressed ensures that a person will be included in God's salvation plans. God knows the hearts of all people; He knows, for one thing, who will truly repent and submit to Him from their hearts.)) Many such people will undoubtedly be part of the end-time remnant of the nations.]] (6) The LORD [Yahweh] of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain [On "this mountain," compare Isa. 2:2; 24:23.]; A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, And refined, aged wine. [Compare Matt. 8:11; 26:29; Luke 22:18, 29, 30. In context with Isa. 24:1-25:5 and 25:9-12, we expect this banquet for all peoples (for true Israel and the remnant of the nations) to take place about the time the millennial kingdom begins.] (7) And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, Even the veil which is stretched over all nations. [[I agree with the widespread viewpoint that "the covering which is over all peoples, even the veil which is stretched over all nations," refers to death. The next verse says, "He will swallow up death for all time." Although it is true that all people (not just the elect) will be resurrected (see, for example, Dan. 12:2; John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15; and Rev. 20:5, 6, 13), Isa. 25:7, 8 just speak of the people who will be resurrected unto life to have a place in God's eternal kingdom (true Israel and the elect of the nations).]] (8) He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces [[Isaiah 25:6-8 with Isa. 26:18, 19 complicate the picture substantially - but it is a glorious complication - by mentioning that God will swallow up death for all time. The book of Revelation shows that death won't be swallowed up for (the elect of) the nations until after the millennial kingdom. It isn't all that surprising that verses dealing with things that will take place after the millennium are included with verses that deal with things that will happen about the time the millennial kingdom begins. God's revelation is progressive. The prophets could only prophesy what God gave them, and they could only know and understand what He chose to reveal to them. There were many details that He didn't fully reveal to the Old Testament prophets. ((I had a footnote: For example, the Old Testament prophets didn't understand that the Messiah was to be God (God the Son) and man. (Nor did they understand that the Son of God/the Logos eternally existed as a Person distinct from God the Father.) And they didn't understand that Christ was to have two very different comings to the earth. Sometimes His two comings are included in one passage with no apparent recognition that there would be two (very different) comings (e.g., Isa. 9:6, 7; 61:1-3; and Zech. 9:9, 10). It was necessary for God to keep some things hidden or at least somewhat obscure (cf., e.g., 1 Cor. 2:8). This same principle applies to some of His plans that are still future for us.))
The prophets didn't understand (at least they didn't fully and adequately understand) that there is to be an intermediate kingdom before God establishes His eternal kingdom. (I had a footnote: see under Isa. 24:22; and see the last paragraph under Isa. 2:1 in the 112 paper on Isaiah on my internet site.) So, although it is true that most of the things mentioned in Isaiah chapters 24, 25 relate to the time of God's end-time judgment of the world and the beginning of the millennial kingdom, the covering of death which is over all peoples will not be swallowed up for the elect of the nations (who are distinct from the people of true Israel) until after the millennial kingdom. It seems that all the people of God's true Israel will be glorified and reigning by the time the millennial kingdom begins.
In a separate section at the end of this study of Isaiah chapter 25, I'll quote Isa. 65:17-25 and comment on those important prophetic verses. Those verses are quite relevant to our present discussion because, for one thing, they speak of the continuance of death (but with increased longevity) in God's new heaven and new earth (referring to the time of the millennial kingdom) that follow His end-time judgment of the world. Those verses also speak of the continuance of the bearing of children. The discussion there, which includes some quotations from other commentators, will help confirm the important point that the Old Testament prophets didn't clearly distinguish between the millennial kingdom and the eternal state.
As I mentioned in the last paragraph under Isa. 19:25 in the 112 page paper on Isaiah that is on my internet site (see that paragraph, including the cross-references), I believe it is quite probable that the names of some of the people of the nations (who will be resurrected to be judged at the great-white-throne judgment after the millennium) will be found in the book of life of the Lamb. ((I had a footnote: We probably shouldn't be too surprised that the New Testament has so little to say regarding God's salvation plans for the nations (the nations being distinct from true Israel). For one thing, it would have tended to dilute the message of the gospel if the apostle Paul, for example, had called the Gentile world to repent and submit to the gospel, but also carried the message that many Gentiles will ultimately be saved as part of the nations. I'm not speaking of people who were clearly confronted by God with the gospel and rejected it. Revelation 21:27 makes it clear that all the elect of the nations will be saved through the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning death.)) Assuming that there will be such people, they will join the remnant of the nations who were left at the end of Daniel's 70th week (along with their offspring, who were born during the millennium) in God's eternal kingdom. That remnant and their offspring (excluding, of course, those that rebel against God [cf. Rev. 20:7-10]) will be transformed (glorified) to a state appropriate for living in God's eternal kingdom of glory when they enter that kingdom, (apparently) as part of the nations, who are pictured in Revelation chapters 21, 22.
In 1 Cor. 15:54 the apostle Paul said that when we Christians have been resurrected/transformed into the fullness of eternal life at the last trumpet, these prophetic words regarding death being swallowed up will be fulfilled. They will be fulfilled for all the members of true Israel at that time, except for those who will become Christians after the mid-week sounding of the last trumpet. Those who become Christians after the rapture will be glorified and will start to reign with Christ and the other members of true Israel by the time the millennial kingdom begins. Both spiritual death and physical death will have been totally swallowed up for those who have been glorified. Death, "the last enemy" (1 Cor. 15:26), won't be cast into the lake of fire until the great-white-throne judgment after the millennium (Rev. 20:14).
Revelation 21:1-22:3, verses that speak of the eternal kingdom that will begin after the great-white-throne judgment at the end of the millennium, are a very important cross-reference for Isa. 25:6-8. Those verses in Revelation have a lot to say about (the elect of) the nations having a place in God's eternal kingdom. ((I had a lengthy footnote: Revelation 21:1-22:3 are discussed in a verse-by-verse manner in my paper on Revelation chapters 20-22 on this Christian article site. As discussed there, I believe the "peoples/nations" pictured in Rev. 21:1-4 and Rev. 21:24-22:3 are to be distinguished from true Israel. (All the members of true Israel will have been glorified and will be reigning with Christ by the time the millennial kingdom begins. It is clear that true Israel will reign over the nations throughout the millennial kingdom. We will probably also reign over the nations in the eternal state. Revelation 22:5 shows that true Israel will reign forever and ever.) I believe (without being dogmatic) that the names of some (or many) of the people of the nations who will be resurrected to be judged at that the great-white-throne judgment of Rev. 20:11-15, will be found in the book of life. They, along with the people of the nations who stay faithful to God during the millennium will enter the eternal state, as pictured in Revelation chapters 21, 22. Revelation 21:27 shows that the elect of the nations (as with true Israel) are saved by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.))
I'll quote Rev. 21:2-4 and briefly comment on these verses. "And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. (3) And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them and they shall be His people(s), and God Himself will be among them, (4) and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.' "
The "tabernacle of God," as the words are used in Rev. 21:2, is new Jerusalem; new Jerusalem is the city of God and of the people of true Israel - they reign there. ((I had a footnote: We could say that (in some ways) new Jerusalem in Rev. 21:2 is a symbol for true Israel (cf. Rev. 3:12; 13:6; and 21:9, 10). True Israel is the BRIDE of Christ (cf., e.g., 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:22-33; and Rev. 19:7-9); note that it says new Jerusalem is "made ready as a BRIDE adorned for her husband" in Rev. 21:2, and that after saying "I will show you the BRIDE, the wife of the Lamb" in 21:9, the angel showed him "the holy city, Jerusalem" in 21:10. Revelation chapters 21, 22 use a lot of symbolic language.))
When God comes to dwell among the nations (as pictured in Rev. 21:2-4), He comes in/with new Jerusalem. At the time He comes to the nations, at the beginning of the eternal state, all the members of true Israel will have been glorified and reigning with Him for the duration of the millennium; the people of true Israel are to be distinguished from the peoples of the nations that God comes to dwell among in Rev. 21:2-4. (It is undoubtedly better to translate "and they shall be His peoples," instead of "people" in Rev. 21:3. The United Bible Societies' "Greek New Testament," fourth revised edition, gives a "B" rating to the plural, "peoples," which means, from the editors point of view, that that reading "is almost certain.")
The people of true Israel will not need to receive the things mentioned in Rev. 21:4; they will have received these things long before ((cf. Rev. 7:16, 17 (I had a footnote: Revelation 7:16, 17 speak of the members of true Israel who will be raptured from the earth in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. It is significant that Rev. 7:17 mentions that "God will wipe every tear from their eyes." And although Rev. 7:17, 18 do not mention that there will no longer be any death for them, that point is obvious, and Rev. 7:18 mentions the equivalent with the words about the Lamb of God "[guiding] them to the springs of the water of life" [cf. Rev. 21:6].); Rev. 15:2 (I had a footnote: Revelation 15:2 speaks of the members of true Israel who will become Christians after the mid-week rapture. We see them in heaven in this verse, having been glorified. I believe that all of them will be there, those who had been martyred and those who remained alive at the end of Daniel's 70th week.); and Rev. 20:4-6).))
It is significant that the two things mentioned in the first two lines of Isa. 25:8 (God's swallowing up death and His wiping tears from all faces) are both mentioned in Rev. 21:4.]], And He will remove the reproach of His people [true Israel] from all the earth [[Throughout the history of mankind, since the fall (starting with Cain against Abel), there has been rather consistent reproach against the people of God (cf., e.g., Matt. 5:11, 12; 1 Pet. 4:14). Those from the nations who will have a place in God's eternal kingdom (the elect of the nations) will no longer have any inclination to reproach true Israel. They will know the truth; they will have been humbled and will have repented; they will know that the God of true Israel IS GOD, the only God. From the time the millennial kingdom begins, there will be no more reproach for God's people, except for those times when there is brief rebellion. (We know that there will be a major rebellion at the end of the millennium [Rev. 20:7-10].)]]; For the LORD [Yahweh] has spoken. [What Yahweh has spoken will come to pass.] (9) [The words of verses 9-12 fit best with a time after God's end-time judgment of the world has begun, not long before the beginning of the millennial kingdom.] And it will be said in that day, 'Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD [Yahweh] for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.' [[On waiting for God, compare, for example, Gen. 49:18; Psalms 25:3, 5, 21; 37:9; Prov. 20:22; Isa. 26:8; 40:31; 49:23; Rom. 8:23, 25; Gal. 5:5; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 1:10; and Jude 1:21. God's people must wait (in faith, with a trusting, confident expectation) for His predetermined time(s) to arrive. The believers from Old Testament days had to wait for God to raise up Moses to deliver Israel from Egypt; they had to wait for Him to overthrow Babylon and set the captives free; they had to wait for Messiah to come and then for Him to complete His mission. And now, even though new-covenant salvation has become available through the death and resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we believers must still wait for Christ to return and complete His work of saving and judging. We are waiting for God to do the things He said He will do (in accordance with His plans, which He has made known to us [see Isa. 25:1]).]] (10) For the hand of the LORD [Yahweh] will rest on this mountain, And [I would translate "But" with the NIV.] Moab will be trodden down in his place As straw is trodden down in the water of a manure pile. (11) And he will spread out his hands in the middle of it As a swimmer spreads out his hands to swim, But the Lord will lay low his pride [cf. Isa. 2:10-22] together with the trickery of his hands. (12) The unassailable fortifications of your walls He will bring down, Lay low and cast to the ground, even to the dust. [[God's hand of blessing will rest upon His holy mountain (His city/kingdom), but His hand of judgment will rest on Moab. Moab represents all the proud, unrepentant enemies of God and of His people, true Israel. The walls of Moab will come down when the walls of the city of the world come down (cf. Isa. 24:10, 12; 25:2; and 26:5). There will, however, be room for a humbled, repentant remnant of Moab in God's eternal kingdom (cf. Isa. 11:14; 16:1-5; and Jer. 48:47).]]
We will continue this verse-by-verse study of Isaiah chapters 24-27 in Part 3. We will start with a lengthy study of Isa. 65:17-25 that I included under Isa. 25:12.
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