Isaiah's Little Apocalypse, Chapters 24 through 27, Part 3
by Karl Kemp
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We continue the verse-by-verse study of Isaiah chapters 24-27 here in Part 3. We will start with a study of Isaiah 65:17-25 that is included under Isaiah 25:12.
A Study of Isaiah 65:17-25:
These are important prophetic verses. I'll comment on all these verses to some extent, but the primary reason we are considering these verses here is because they speak of God's people continuing to experience death (even though there is longevity) and continuing to have children in the new heavens and new earth.
"For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth [[On these words see under Isa. 66:22 in the 112 page paper on Isaiah on my internet site. The words "new heavens and a new earth," as they are used here in Isa. 65:17, apparently include a preliminary stage (a stage that follows God's end-time judgment of the world) that will have a partially glorified new heavens, new earth, and new Jerusalem. After the preliminary stage, which (based on Revelation chapter 20) can be called the millennial kingdom, the fully glorified new heavens, new earth, and new Jerusalem of the eternal state (pictured in Revelation chapters 21, 22) will be created. The Old Testament prophets (very much including Isaiah) didn't clearly distinguish between the eternal state and the millennial kingdom. (See below under Isa. 65:20; see the last paragraph under Isa. 2:1 in the 112 page paper on Isaiah; see under Isa. 25:8 [in this present paper]; and under Isa. 66:22-24 [in the 112 page paper]).]]; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. (18) But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing And her people for gladness. (19) I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people [[God's people here at least includes glorified true Israel, but based on verses like Isa. 19:25 (cf. Rev. 21:3), we could see the end-time remnant of the nations included here too. The remnant of the nations will come to Jerusalem (e.g., Isa. 2:2-4); Jerusalem will be the center of God's worldwide kingdom. That point of view would make these verses easier to understand in that the bearing of children and the potential for sin and death will still be a reality for the nations during the millennial kingdom, but not for glorified true Israel. We will discuss these things further as we continue with these verses.]]; And there will no longer be heard in her The voice of weeping and the sound of crying. [The voice of weeping and the sound of crying are part of the "former things" (Isa. 65:17) that will pass away (cf. Rev. 21:4).] (20) No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, Or an old man who does not live out his days; For the youth will die at the age of one hundred And the one who does not reach the age of one hundred will be thought accursed. [[First I'll quote the Amplified Bible on the second half of this verse; I believe it better communicates the intended meaning: "for the child shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner who dies when only a hundred years old shall be [thought only a child, cut off because he is] accursed."
The important information contained in Isa. 25:6-8, that death will be swallowed up in God's coming kingdom, has not been incorporated here in Isa. 65:20 (and 65:22). Isaiah 65:20, 22 speak of great longevity, but death still is a reality. (Isaiah may have received the prophetic revelation contained in Isa. 25:6-8 later than the one he received here in 65:17-25.) Those verses in Isaiah chapter 25 even include the elect of the nations, along with true Israel, in that glorious promise that there will be no more death.
As I have discussed in some detail in my previous writings ((I had a footnote: See under Rev. 20:4 in my paper on Revelation chapters 20-22 on this Christian article site. One of the most important passages where we can see true Israel in her entirety is the woman and her offspring of Revelation chapter 12. Revelation chapter 12 is discussed verse-by-verse in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture." It is also discussed in articles 7-12 in "The Mid-Week Rapture" series on this Christian article site; click on my name besides any of my articles and it will take you to a listing of all of my articles on this site.)) I believe the book of Revelation shows that all the members of true Israel will be glorified and reigning with Christ by the time the millennial kingdom begins. Assuming this viewpoint is accurate, the people of true Israel won't be subject to sin or death from that time on, and they won't continue to bear children (see Luke 20:34-36). Isaiah 65:23 (and Isa. 60:22) also seem to say that the members of true Israel will continue to bear children in the kingdom that follows God's end-time judgment of the world. Although Isa. 65:20, 23 could be understood to include the remnant of the nations, Isa. 65:17-25 give the impression that these verses deal first and foremost with the people of (true) Israel. Also, Isa. 60:22 seems to speak of the people of true Israel themselves (in the midst of the peoples of the nations) continuing to have children (see 60:15-22).
As I mentioned (see above under 65:17), the Old Testament prophets didn't clearly distinguish between the millennial kingdom and the fully glorified eternal state that is to follow. Although the book of Revelation shows that death will have already been swallowed up for all the members of true Israel by the time the millennial kingdom begins, it also shows that death won't be swallowed up for the nations until after the millennial kingdom, and there is nothing in the book of Revelation to suggest that the nations won't continue to bear children throughout the millennial kingdom (see Revelation chapters 20, 21).
I'll quote part of what John A. Martin said under Isa. 65:17-25 ("Bible Knowledge Commentary," Old Testament [Victor Books, 1985], page 1120). "In these verses the Lord described the millennial kingdom, which is seemingly identified here with the eternal state ('new heavens and a new earth'). In Revelation, however, the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21:1) follow the Millennium (Rev. 20:4). Most likely Isaiah did not distinguish between these two aspects of God's rule; he saw them together as one. After all, the Millennium, though 1,000 years in duration, will be a mere pinpoint of time compared with the eternal state."
I'll quote part of what Gleason L. Archer said under Isa. 65:17-25 ("Wycliffe Bible Commentary" [Moody Press, 1962], page 653). "Here is given a foreview of the Millennial felicity of earth after it has been purged of unbelievers. The designation new heavens and a new earth is applied to the Millennial kingdom only as a stage preliminary to the eternal glories of heaven (the New Jerusalem of Rev. 21; 22)...."
I'll quote part of what H. C. Leupold said under Isa. 65:20 ("Exposition of Isaiah" [Baker, 1971], page 367). "Verse 20 is concerned with another blessing that shall stand forth prominently - longevity on this new earth. This passage as such does not rise to the level of maintaining that there will be an eternal life, but merely a long continuation of life on this earth enabling man to taste to the full this pleasant existence. Therefore the level of 25:8 [where death is swallowed up] is not achieved here. The truth concerning the eternal blessedness of God's children was, in the providence of God, but slowly revealed through the centuries. ... With the light on this whole issue glowing but dimly, a new measure of long life is promised."
And I'll quote two sentences from what F. Delitzsch said under Isa. 65:20 and then part of what he said under 65:25 ("Commentary on the Old Testament," Vol. 7 [Eerdmans, 1976 reprint]). "We cannot maintain with Hoffmann ("Schriftbeweis," ii. 2 567), that it is only in appearance that less is here affirmed than in chapter 25:8. The reference there is to the ultimate destruction of the power of death; here it is merely to the limitation of its power" (page 490). "But to what part of the history of salvation are we to look for a place for the fulfillment of such prophecies as these of the state of peace prevailing in nature around the church, except in the millennium? ... The prophet here promises a new age, in which the patriarchal measure of human life will return, in which death will no more break off the life that is just beginning to bloom, and in which the war of man with the animal world will be exchanged for peace without danger. And when is all this to occur? Certainly not in the blessed life beyond the grave [for those who have been resurrected/glorified], to which it would be both absurd and impossible to refer these promises, since they presuppose a continued mixture of sinners with the righteous, and merely a limitation of the power of death, not its utter destruction. ((I had a footnote: Delitzsch's comments under Isa. 26:19 show that he understands that in the millennial kingdom the resurrected saints will "form one glorious church with those who are still in the [natural] body" (page 452). Delitzsch certainly understands the words of Isa. 65:20 about longevity (and the words about bearing children) to refer to those who are still "in the body." Some Christians believe that the end-time remnant of the nation Israel, speaking of those that will still be alive at the end of Daniel's 70th week, will enter the millennial kingdom in their natural bodies, along with the end-time remnant of the other nations. I assume that Delitzsch held that viewpoint.)) ... But one objection may be made to the supposition, that the prophet is here depicting the state of things in the millennium; viz. [namely] that this description is preceded by an account of the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. The prophet appears, therefore, to refer to that Jerusalem, which is represented in the Apocalypse [Rev. 21:2, 10] as coming down from heaven to earth after the transformation of the globe. But to this it may be replied, that the Old Testament prophet was not yet able to distinguish from one another the things which the author of the Apocalypse separates into distinct periods. From the Old Testament point of view generally, nothing was known of a state of blessedness beyond the grave. ((I had a footnote: Even with his word "generally," Delitzsch overstates this point; so too for his next sentence (cf., e.g., Gen. 5:24; 2 Kings 2:9-11; Psalm 23:6; Isa. 25:6-9; 26:19; Dan. 12:2, 13; John 8:56; Acts 23:6-8; 24:14, 15; and Hebrews chapter 11), but God's revelation is progressive, and they didn't know nearly as much in the days of Isaiah, or even in the days that Jesus was born, as we know now.)) Hades lay beyond this present life; and nothing was known of a heaven in which men were blessed. Around the throne of God in heaven there were angels and not men. And, indeed, until the risen Saviour ascended to heaven, heaven itself was not open to men, and therefore there was no heavenly Jerusalem whose descent to earth could be anticipated then. Consequently in the prophecies of the Old Testament the eschatological idea of the new Cosmos does unquestionably coincide with the millennium. It is only in the New Testament that the new creation intervenes as a party-wall between this life and the life beyond ((I had a footnote: A "party-wall" between two buildings is a wall common to both buildings. What Detitzsch apparently means is that we new-covenant believers have already been born again and in a very real sense we (unlike the old-covenant believers) already participate to some extent in the eternal life of the world to come.)); whereas the Old Testament prophecy brings down the new creation itself into the present life, and knows nothing of any Jerusalem of the blessed life to come, as distinct from the new Jerusalem of the millennium. We shall meet with a still further illustration in chapter 66 of this Old Testament custom of reducing the things of the life to come within the limits of this present world." (I had a footnote: I'll quote part of what Delitzsch said on this topic under Isa. 66:24 in this paper. Isaiah chapter 66:9-24 is discussed in the 112 page paper on Isaiah on my website.)]] (21) They will build houses and inhabit them; They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit. (22) They will not build and another inhabit, They will not plant and another eat [Compare Isa. 62:8, 9. Things like these are contrasted with what had often happened in their former state (before God's end-time judgment of the world).]; For as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of My people, And My chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands. (23) They will not labor in vain, Or bear children for calamity; For they are the offspring of those blessed by the LORD [Yahweh], And their descendants with them ["for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them" (NIV).]. (24) It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. (25) The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox [cf. Isa. 11:6-8]; and dust will be the serpent's food [Compare Gen. 3:14; Mic. 7:17. Revelation 20:1-3 show what will happen to Satan, the serpent, throughout the millennial kingdom; Rev. 20:7-10 show what he will do for a short time at the end of the millennial kingdom and then of his eternal destiny in the eternal lake of fire.]. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,' says the LORD [Yahweh]." [[Isaiah 11:9 says, "They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD [Yahweh] As the waters cover the sea." God's holy mountain will be centered in Jerusalem (cf. Isa. 2:2), but His millennial kingdom will be worldwide. A mountain can symbolize a kingdom (cf. Dan. 2:35). The city, etc. that Ezekiel was shown was on a very high mountain (Ezek. 40:2), and (based on Rev. 21:10) new Jerusalem of the eternal state can be pictured the same way.]]
ISAIAH CHAPTER 26
"In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah [[The time setting for singing this song will be right after God has completed His end-time judgment of the world, about the time the millennial kingdom begins. God will have removed all the enemies of His people (including their enemies in the spiritual dimension, starting with Satan [cf. Isa. 24:21, 22; 27:1; and Rev. 20:1-3]). Although it is not especially clear from the prophecies of Isaiah (though there are quite a few verses in Isaiah that fit the idea [cf., e.g., Isa. 25:6-8; 26:18, 19; 60:1, 2, 19; and 66:7, 8], I believe (based on the New Testament, especially the book of Revelation) that all the members of true Israel will have been glorified and begun to reign with Christ by the time the millennial kingdom begins. (I had a footnote: For a start, see under Rev. 20:4 in my paper on Revelation chapters 20-22 that is on this Christian article site.) All the members of true Israel will have begun to experience salvation in the full (glorified) dimension.]]: 'We have a strong city; He sets up walls and ramparts for security [or, salvation]. [[The "strong city" is glorified Jerusalem, the city of God. ((I had a footnote: It is clear that Jerusalem will be glorified to some extent in the millennial kingdom, but its glory then will undoubtedly be far less than the glory of new Jerusalem of the eternal state (that follows the millennial kingdom), as it is pictured in Revelation chapters 21, 22.))]] (2) Open the gates, that the righteous nation may enter, The one that remains faithful. [[Compare Psalm 118:19-21. Taken in the fullest sense (incorporating what we know from the New Testament), the "righteous nation" embraces all the members of true Israel of all generations. Each of them remained faithful to God (at least to some significant extent) in their generation. This verse and the next few verses (along with a multitude of other verses) serve to encourage the people of God of all generations to remain faithful to Him at all times (by His grace) - His day of judgment is coming, and He will make things right (and much more) for those who are faithful to Him. He always takes care of those who are faithful to Him; they will have a place in His eternal city (new Jerusalem), reigning with Him forever.
The remnant of the nation Israel will be converted and submit to the Lord Jesus Christ in the last days after intense judgment (cf., e.g., Zech. 13:8-14:4 with 12:10; Rom. 9:27-29; 11:25-27; and Rev. 11:13). ((I had a footnote: Zech. 12:10; 13:8-14:4; and Rev. 11:13 are discussed in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture." The verses from Romans are discussed in the 112 page version of the paper on Isaiah that is on my internet site. They will remain faithful to Christ/God (by the grace of God) throughout the very difficult days of the second half of Daniel's 70th week. They won't be converted in time to be taken in the mid-week rapture.))]] (3) The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace [The Hebrew behind the translation "perfect peace" is "shalom shalom."], Because he trusts in You. [["Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace - in peace because they trust in you" (NRSV). I believe it is better to understand the words of verse 3 (and verse 4) as applying to the people of God in the days before God has fully saved them and judged their enemies and made everything right at the end of this age. God keeps His people in peace in the midst of very difficult circumstances as they look to Him and trust Him (cf. Phil. 4:6, 7). The hearts and minds of God's people are fixed on Him; they are not divided in their loyalties. They have faith in Him; they trust Him. His truth and righteousness are top priorities for them. These characteristics go with the being righteous and faithful mentioned in the last verse.]] (4) Trust in the LORD [Yahweh] forever [We shouldn't need much exhortation to trust in Yahweh after we are glorified, but knowing what He is going to do in the future is an anchor for our souls now. It is also true that our confidence in God is based in part on what He has already done.], For in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock [a Rock of salvation, of protection, of refuge; cf. Isa. 44:8]. [GOD IS WORTHY OF OUR TRUST!] (5) For He has brought low those who dwell on high, the unassailable [cf. Isa. 25:2, 12] city; He lays it low, He lays it low to the ground, He casts it to the dust. [[As we have seen in these chapters, God will totally bring down the proud, ungodly city of this world in His end-time judgment of the world, the city that seemed so strong, the city that seemed so unassailable. All the unrepentant will be removed in judgment when the city is judged and destroyed. All that will remain of that city after God's end-time judgment of the world will be the humbled, repentant remnant of the nations, who will no longer have any loyalty to that city. Instead of being against God and His people, they will be submitted to Him.]] (6) The foot will trample it, The feet of the afflicted, the steps of the helpless.' [[The NIV has, "trample it down." The apparent viewpoint of this verse is that these feet will trample this city after God has already destroyed it and reduced it to dust (note that the emphasis of this chapter is on God's saving work in behalf of His people; compare verses 5, 20, 21). It is also true, however, that many verses show that God's people (true Israel) will play a role in judging the city of this world (cf., e.g., Psalm 110:3; Mic. 4:11-13; 5:4-9; Zech. 12:3-9; 14:14; Rom. 16:20; Rev. 2:26, 27; 12:5; 17:14; and 19:14, 19). ((I had a footnote: The verses listed here from the Old Testament are discussed in chapters 15, 17, 19 of my book "The Mid-Week Rapture." The entire book of Revelation has been discussed in a verse-by-verse manner in my previous writings. All of the book of Revelation, except for 11:1-14:5, is discussed on this Christian article site. Revelation 11:1-14:5 and many other prophetic passages are discussed in detail in my book, The Mid-Week Rapture. Revelation chapters 11-13 and many other very important prophetic passages are discussed in my "The Mid-Week Rapture" series on this Christian article site. See the contents at the beginning of my paper "Twenty-Four Articles on the Mid-Week Rapture" on my internet site to see a listing of the passages discussed.))] Most of the warfare by the people of true Israel against Satan's kingdom will take place after Christ's mid-week return, after we have been glorified and begun to reign with Him.]] (7) The way of the righteous [[The believers under the old covenant were righteous, but only in a relative sense. The most righteous of them will be quick to admit (along with all true Christians) that they are dependent on the righteousness of God (the imputed righteousness and the imparted righteousness of God) that comes to believers through Jesus Christ. They are saved by God's grace in Christ Jesus, not through their works or merit.]] is [will be] smooth; O upright One, make [You will make] the path of the righteous level. [[This verse isn't easy, and the translations and interpretations differ substantially. This verse, which speaks of the "way" and "path" of God's righteous people, probably builds on the "foot/feet" of His righteous people trampling the city of this world in the preceding verse. I assume that this verse (along with verse 6) is looking to the future when God (after His end-time judgment) will make their "way/path" "smooth" and "level." With this viewpoint we should translate "will be" (instead of "is") and "You will make level." ((I had a footnote: There is no verb in the Hebrew corresponding with "is" here; a verb must be supplied in the English translation. I would supply "will be." The Hebrew verb translated "make level" by the NASB and "you make smooth" by the NIV is the imperfect "tense," which would most often be translated "You will make level." A very relevant example of a Hebrew verb in the imperfect "tense" (which is a very common "tense") is close at hand: the Hebrew verb at the beginning of verse 6 that was translated "will trample it.")) The righteous (the believers) look forward to the day of judgment; they know that the judgments of that day are not coming against them [cf. Rev. 3:10; Isa. 26:20, 21]) and that the day will work for the glory of God and for their good - they pray for that day to come (e.g., Matt. 6:10).
In Isaiah's day (and often in old-covenant days and the days of the new covenant) the righteous frequently suffered at the hands of the city of this world (including at the hands of the unrighteous [unbelievers] of Judah/Israel and of the Christian church). In the days before God saves them by His end-time judgment, they are often oppressed by the nations (and other ways too). The ways/paths they walk are often difficult roads to travel, far from being smooth, level, or easy. But they are not complaining (I don't mean that they are never tempted to complain, or that no believer ever [temporarily] yields to such temptation); they know what the end result is going to be (based on God's revelation); they believe that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.]] (8) Indeed, while following the way [The Hebrew noun translated "way" in the preceding verse is used here too.] of Your judgments [[Apparently the idea here is that the righteous of the nation Israel (the believers/those who were part of true Israel) suffered (to some extent at least) God's chastening judgments, which came on a rather consistent basis, along with the nation. ((I had a footnote: Chapters like Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 in the Mosaic Law made it clear that Israel would suffer greatly for being unfaithful to God; they would have curses instead of blessings. But Leviticus chapter 26 (in agreement with many other passages) made it clear that God wouldn't forget His covenant with Israel and totally destroy the nation. The time would come when He would save the humbled, repentant nation.)) God used these judgments to help maintain a righteous, believing remnant in the nation. ((God also chastens Christians when/if chastening is required [cf., e.g., Heb. 12:4-13]. [I had a footnote: I certainly don't want to leave the impression that the trials and hard places of Christians always fall in the category of God's chastening judgments. For one thing, many of the trials of Christians come because of spiritual warfare and the attacks of Satan and his kingdom (cf., e.g., 2 Cor. 2:11; 11:13-15; Eph. 6:10-20; 1 Thess. 2:12; 2 Tim. 2:26; Rev. 2:9, 10; and 12:3-13:12). God is glorified when Christians stay faithful (by grace) through trials; Christians grow and come out of trials better than they entered them as they stay faithful (by grace) through the trials (cf. Rom. 5:3-5; James 1:2-4); they are proved genuine, to the glory of God, and they will be rewarded (cf. Matt. 5:10-12; 1 Pet. 1:3-9). These things were also true, at least to some extent, for the believers of Old Testament days.)) Israel had a covenant with God, which included having His laws; when they were unfaithful to Him (which happened on a rather consistent basis), they were chastened (very often they were chastened by Him through the nations/the city of this world). God dealt much more severely with Israel than He did with the nations; He had given Israel much more, and He expected much more of them. (This same reality applies even more for new-covenant believers, Christians.) God has judged the peoples of the nations to some extent throughout the ages, but much of their judgment is reserved for the future.
Much Scripture confirms that Israel was "following the way of [God's] judgments" (cf., e.g., Isa. 26:6 ("afflicted" and "helpless"), 8, 9a, 13a, 16; and 40:1, 2). But the righteous knew that this way/path would not last forever; they knew that their faithfulness would be rewarded when God judges the world at the end of this age. The people of true Israel (Jews and Gentiles) who become Christians before the mid-week return of Christ will be rewarded before His end-time judgments fall on the world (cf. Rev. 3:10).]], O LORD [Yahweh], We have waited for you eagerly; Your name, even Your memory, is the desire of our souls. [God's people continue to live for Him and to eagerly wait for His coming and His promised salvation (cf. Isa. 25:9). He is the desire of their souls/hearts, and they live like it (by His grace).]
We will continue this verse-by-verse study of Isaiah chapters 24-27 in Part 4, starting with Isaiah 26:9.
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