We continue the verse-by-verse study of Isaiah 66:9-24 here in Part 11, starting with Isa. 66:18.
(18) 'For I know their works and their thoughts; the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. [[Cf. Joel 3:2, 9-17; Mic. 4:11-13; Zeph. 3:8; Zech. 12:2-9; 14:1-4, 12-15; Rev. 16:12-16; and 19:19. ((I had a footnote: Before God gathers the nations to judge them toward the end of Daniel's 70th week (which will work for the good of true Israel and will lead to the salvation of the end-time remnant of the nations), there will be an earlier gathering of the armies of the nations against Israel (which will start about the time of the abomination of desolation) that will reduce Israel to a repentant remnant. We can see that earlier gathering against Israel in Zech. 14:1, 2 (also see Zech. 13:8). Some other verses where we can see the earlier gathering against Israel (I'm not saying that the only reason these armies gather is to come against Israel, far from it; the warfare of the short great tribulation will take place at that time) are Dan. 11:40-45; Joel 2:1-32; Matt. 24:15-22; Mark 13:14-20; and Rev. 9:13-21. Zechariah chapters 12-14 are discussed in chapter 15 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture." Daniel 11:36-45 are discussed in chapter 9 of the book. The verses from Matthew chapter 24 and some key verses from Joel chapter 2 are discussed in the book and other places in my writings, including in "Twenty-Four Articles on the Mid-Week Rapture" on my internet site, which covers a large number of key eschatological passages (including Dan. 11:40-44 and Rev. 9:13-21), and serves as a good introduction for my book. Matthew chapter 24 is discussed in my paper on Matthew chapters 24 and 25 on my internet site.))]]. And they shall come and see My glory. [[God's "glory" here very much includes His awesome power going forth in His end-time judgment of the world. The book of Revelation shows that God will gather the nations to Armageddon through the devil, Antichrist, and the false prophet in order to judge them (Rev. 16:12-16; 19:17-21; and 14:17-20). The book of Revelation also puts much emphasis on God's judgment of the great harlot Babylon before His judgment of Antichrist and his armies (Rev. 14:8; 16:18, 19; and 17:1-19:3). These two judgments combined constitute a large part of God's end-time judgment of the world. God's glory that is manifested in His end-time judgment of the nations will very much include the fact that He is fighting for, and is saving, His people (true Israel), in accordance with His promised salvation.]] (19) I will set a sign [The "sign" could be Christ Himself (cf. Isa. 11:10).] among them and will send survivors from them to the nations [[God will send "survivors" of the armies of the nations that gathered against Jerusalem/Israel back to the nations to tell them of the glory of God. (With our modern communication systems most of this literal returning to the nations apparently won't be necessary.) They will tell of the awesome power of God in destroying His enemies and in saving His people, in accordance with His prophetic word. He has proved that He, and He alone, is God. They will undoubtedly tell of His righteousness, holiness, truth, goodness, etc. From our perspective (now that the new covenant has been established in the Son of God and His atoning death), we can say that their message will center in God's saving and judging work through His Son, the Messiah, the Lamb of God.
A major feature of the message of the survivors that is sent to the nations will undoubtedly be that God, in His mercy, is inviting (the remnant of) the nations worldwide to turn to Him and be saved through His Son, and this too in accordance with His prophetic word given long before (cf., e.g., Isa. 45:20-25). I assume that essentially everyone left of the nations (the remnant) will jump at this offer. On top of everything else, God has left them alive when He could have easily destroyed them in His end-time judgment of the world. They will be thankful. Another factor is that God will have destroyed and removed all the wrong things that men have been living for (in the place of God) in His end-time judgments. (See on Revelation chapter 18 in my paper on Rev. 14:6-19:21.) Most importantly, those who will have been chosen by God to be left; He knows what He is doing! ((I had a footnote: One thing we can assuredly say about those who will left as a remnant of the nations to enter the millennial kingdom is that they, one way or another, will not have taken the mark of the beast (Rev. 13:14-18; 14:9-11). There will be room for rebellion by some of those left as a remnant of the nations, but such rebellion will be quickly dealt with (cf. Isa. 65:20; Zech. 14:16-19; and Rev. 20:7-10). The major rebellion at the end of the millennium spoken of in Rev. 20:7-10 could just involve offspring of those left as a remnant of the nations at the beginning of the millennial kingdom.))]]: Tarshish [cf. Isa. 2:16; 60:9], Put, Lud [cf. Ezek. 27:10], Meshech, Rosh, Tubal [cf. Gen. 10:2] and Javan [i.e. Greece], to the distant coastlands (I had a footnote: On the word "coastlands," see under Isa. 42:4 in this paper, including the footnote there.) [cf. Isa. 11:11; 24:15; 42:4, 10, 12; 49:1; 51:5; and 60:9] that have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they will declare My glory among the nations. (20) Then they [the remnant of the nations] shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering [better, "as an offering" NIV] to the LORD [to Yahweh], on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem [cf. Isa. 2:2, 3],' says the LORD [Yahweh], 'just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean [[The Hebrew noun used here ("tahor") means "ceremonially clean"; the NIV has, "ceremonially clean [vessels]." This word helps demonstrate that their offering is proper and it will be accepted by Yahweh.]] vessel to the house of the LORD [Yahweh]. [[It is a common prophetic theme that the humbled, repentant remnant of the nations will bring the scattered remnant of (true) Israel to God at Jerusalem after His end-time judgment of the world (Isa. 11:10-12; 14:2; 49:22; 60:4, 9; and Zeph. 3:8-11).]] (21) I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites,' says the LORD [Yahweh]. [[Most commentators agree that this means God will take some of the Gentiles (some of the remnant of the nations) for priests and Levites. I assume that these words, "priests" and "Levites," like the sacrificial offerings of Isa. 19:21; 56:7; and 60:7, are not to be understood in a literal old-covenant sense. Words that were appropriate for old-covenant worship are being used here (as they often are) to describe worship that supersedes that dispensation. ((I had a footnote: In the same way, we can be confident that the nations won't be limited to the forms of transportation listed in Isa. 66:20. The Old Testament prophecies couldn't be expected to speak of things and concepts not understood yet, and for which there were no words.)) All true Christians will be priests (Rev. 1:6; 5:10; and 20:6; cf. 1 Pet. 2:5, 9); all the members of true Israel will be priests (Isa. 61:6; cf. Ex. 19:6).
For God to take some of the remnant of the nations for priests and Levites would seem to mean, for one thing, that they would become part of true Israel. An easy way to understand these words is that these particular Gentiles had become part of true Israel (had become Christians) during the second half of Daniel's 70th week. One point that I have tried to emphasize in this paper is that the book of Isaiah (like the book of Revelation and other prophetic books of the Bible) makes a clear distinction between God's ultimate plans for true Israel and His ultimate plans for the elect of the nations. It wouldn't be impossible, but it seems unlikely, that some of the people of the end-time remnant of the nations would become part of true Israel, whether at the time the millennial kingdom begins, or at a later time.]] (22) For just as the new heavens and the new earth [[Isaiah 65:17 speaks of God's creating "new heavens and a new earth," but the words aren't used there in the same full sense they're used in Rev. 21:1 (where they're used of the eternal state that will follow the millennial kingdom and the great-white-throne judgment). Isaiah 65:20-25 ((I had a footnote: I assume that the death mentioned in those verses (and the bearing of children) will apply only to the people of the nations, since I assume that all the members of true Israel will have been glorified by the time the millennial kingdom begins. Isaiah 65:17-25 are discussed at the end of the chapter on Isaiah chapter 25 in my paper on Isaiah on my internet site.)) show that sin and death will not have been totally overthrown yet, as they will have been overthrown by the time we reach the eternal state of Rev. 21:1.
The words "the new heavens and the new earth" here in Isa. 66:22 (and in 65:17) apparently include the (partially) renewed earth of the millennial kingdom and the totally renewed earth of the eternal state. (As we discussed under Isa. 25:8 and in the last paragraph under Isa. 2:1, the Old Testament prophets didn't clearly differentiate between the millennial kingdom and the eternal state.) We had to wait for the book of Revelation to learn the details. The apostle Peter's mention of "new heavens and a new earth" in 2 Pet. 3:11-13 also lacks the more complete viewpoint of the book of Revelation.]] Which I make will endure before Me,' declares the LORD [Yahweh], 'So your offspring and your name will endure. [[True Israel will endure forever; their city will endure too. The last two chapters of the Bible speak much of true Israel and of new Jerusalem. The elect of the nations (the nations being distinct from true Israel) feature prominently in those chapters too.]] (23) And it shall be from new moon to new moon And from sabbath to sabbath, All mankind will come to bow down before me,' says the LORD [Yahweh]. [[Compare Isa. 19:21, 23; Zech. 14:16-18. The "new moon" (cf. Num. 28:9, 10; 1 Chron. 23:31; Isa. 1:13, 14; and Ezek. 46:1, 6) and the "sabbath" (cf. Num. 28:9, 10; Ezek. 46:1; and Col. 2:16) were days of special worship under the old covenant that included sacrificial offerings. The worship of God in the millennial kingdom and then more so in the eternal state will be quite different than under the old covenant. For one thing, sacrificial offerings aren't appropriate once the Lamb of God has been sacrificed. And in the eternal state there won't even be a moon to shine on the new earth (according to Isa. 60:19, 20; Rev. 21:23), much less a new moon to determine when the new month starts. The worship in the eternal state will be appropriate for the new realities - it will be full of glory. We Christians will enter the eternal state in a very real sense when we are glorified; we don't have to wait for the new heaven and new earth, with its new Jerusalem of Revelation chapters 21 and 22 to enter the fullness of eternal life. I assume, however, that we can be taken to higher levels of glory after we are glorified.
The last two verses of Isaiah (in common with the last two chapters of the book of Revelation, for example, but falling very far short of the height, depth, breadth, scope, and glory of those chapters) make is clear that, after God has completed His work of saving and judging, all the people who have repented (as required) and submitted to God (in faith) and stay faithful by His grace (the "all mankind" of verse 23) will end up in His (eternal) kingdom with the focus on worshiping God. And it is to be understood that for those who are truly submitted to God and worshiping Him from their hearts on His terms and by His grace will continue in a blessed existence. Verse 24, on the other hand, shows the fate, in very graphic terms, for all who continue in their rebellion, a fate that is quite the opposite of a blessed existence.]] (24) 'Then they will go forth and look On the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm [cf. Isa. 14:11; Mark 9:48] will not die And their fire will not be quenched [cf. Matt. 3:12; Rev. 20:14, 15; 21:8]; And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.' [[Compare Dan. 12:2. In this context (cf. Isa. 66:15-18), I first think of the rebels who God will have removed in His end-time judgment of the world, but there could easily be a greater application for these words by including all those from all other generations who followed the devil in his rebellion against God and never repented. Jesus' allusion to Isa. 66:24 in Mark 9:43-48 shows that the "fire" of Isa. 66:24 is eternal fire.
Those who are left after God's end-time judgment of the world (which, when understood in the fullest sense, includes all the elect [true Israel and the elect of the nations] who will have a place in God's eternal kingdom, which is pictured in Revelation chapters 21, 22) will get the message in a powerful way that rebellion against God is abhorrent and leads to abhorrent results and that it must be avoided with top priority. It will be obvious that mankind has only two options. Those who "go forth" from worshipping God, as pictured in Isa. 66:24, will be confronted with the only other option: We must worship God (which includes becoming faithful to Him and staying faithful to Him by His grace), or we must pay the eternal penalty. This verse doesn't mention how long the tormented transgressors will be visible, but I get the impression from these verses (Isa. 66:23, 24) that (in some ways) this will last forever. Anyway, it will be last long enough for everyone to get the message.
It is clear that there is much more involved here than just seeing literal corpses, but it is possible that literal corpses will be seen for some period of time. We know from the book of Revelation that God's final judgment of the nations won't take place until they are raised (resurrected) to stand before God at the great-white-throne judgment after the millennial kingdom (Rev. 20:5, 6, 11-15; cf. Isa. 24:21, 22). ((I had a two-paragraph footnote: Revelation 20:5 with 20:12, 13 show that the "rest of the dead" at the time the millennial kingdom begins will be raised at the end of the millennial kingdom to stand before God at the great-white-throne judgment. The "rest of the dead" won't include any members of true Israel; all the members of true Israel who will have died will have been resurrected and glorified to reign in the millennial kingdom.
Antichrist and the false prophet are an exception; they will be cast into the eternal lake of fire before the millennial kingdom begins (Rev. 19:20). They are the only two specifically mentioned in Rev. 19:20 (and Rev. 20:10), but it is quite possible, that those who follow them and take the mark of the beast will also be cast into the eternal lake of fire before the millennial kingdom begins (cf. Rev. 14:9-11; 19:21).)) Some other verses that speak of the eternal fire of God's judgment are Matt. 3:12; 13:40, 42, 50; 18:8; 25:41; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 3:17; Jude 1:7; Rev. 14:10; 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15; and 21:8.
Revelation 14:9 warns that those who worship Antichrist and his image and take his mark "will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb." The saints aren't mentioned in this verse (that is, it isn't mentioned here that those who worship Antichrist..."will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the saints"), but that doesn't prove that we won't be able to see what is happening in the eternal lake of fire. I doubt that we will, but if it is part of God's plan, it will work for good. God is good, and He doesn't do things that aren't good and necessary.
I'll quote part of what F. Delitzsch said under this verse ("Commentary on the Old Testament," Vol. 7 [Eerdmans, 1976 reprint], page 517). "The prophet [Isaiah] by the very mode of description adopted by him, precludes the possibility of our conceiving of the thing here set forth as realized in any material form in this present age. He is speaking of the future state, but in figures drawn from the present world. The object of his prediction [prophecy] is no other than the new Jerusalem of the world to come, and the eternal torment of the damned [Delitzsch believes in the millennial kingdom, as my quotation from him in the discussion of Isa. 65:17-25 earlier in this paper demonstrates, but that point doesn't come up in this present quotation.]; but the way in which he pictures it, forces us to translate it out of the figures drawn from this life into the realities of the life to come; as has already been done in the apocryphal books of "Judith" (16:17) and "Wisdom" (7:17), as well as in the New Testament, e.g. Mark 9:43-48, with evident reference to this passage. This is just the distinction between the Old Testament and the New, that the Old Testament brings down the life to come to the level of this life, whilst the New Testament lifts up this life to the level of the life to come [As Christians we already participate in eternal life, but in a preliminary stage.]; that the Old Testament depicts both this life and the life to come as an endless extension of this life, whilst the New Testament depicts it as a continuous line in two halves, the last point in this finite state being the first point of the infinite state beyond; that the Old Testament preserves the continuity of this life and the life to come by transferring the outer side, the form, the appearance of this life to the life to come, the New Testament by making the inner side, the nature, the reality of the life to come, the [powers of the age to come], immanent in this life. ... The new Jerusalem of our prophet has indeed a new heaven above it and a new earth under it, but it is only the old Jerusalem of earth lifted up to its highest glory and happiness; whereas the new Jerusalem of the Apocalypse [the book of Revelation] comes down from heaven, and is therefore of heavenly nature. ...."]]
I pray that God will be glorified through this paper and His people be edified to the fullest extent possible!