The book of Isaiah concludes with the promise of comfort for the faithful in a new heaven and a new earth and destruction for the wicked in a fire that shall not be quenched.
Isaiah Chapter 66
Lessons from the text
God’s Last Words
The book of Isaiah concludes with the fate of the wicked. Their worm (soul) shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they will be abhorred by all flesh. God is describing the lake of fire Christians call hell (Rev. 20:10, 14-15). Why would God leave the reader with the last though of eternal damnation? The answer is simple: God is warning us of the consequences of neglecting Him.
God does not want anyone to go to hell (II Pet. 3:9). He makes it explicit what will happen if you refuse to seek righteousness and instead chase after your own desires. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111:10, Prov. 1:7, 9:10). Everyone should have a fear of the consequences of rebelling against a holy, righteous God.
In our minds, every human knows that to do right is life and to do wrong will bring judgment, but we dismiss that fear of punishment and go ahead and do as we please. God wants to put us in remembrance that the end of sin is eternal fire and rejection. He wants us to fear to do evil that we may seek to do good all the days of our lives.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1-2 God is rebuking the Jews for their arrogance. They believe that they have done a special thing by building a temple to God, but God says that they have not even made the temple because God created all the materials they used to build it. The earth is a footstool to His thrown in heaven. That is, whatever earthly temple or altar is built to God is trivial compared to what exists in heaven. Instead of feeling like God should be ingratiated towards them because they built the temple, they should feel honored that God would even look to man at all.
3 In addition to having an erroneous perception of the privilege of the temple, the Jews’ offerings are defiled. While the priests of Isaiah’s day are fulfilling the requirements of the Mosaic law, they do so with disgust. The sacrifices should be given willingly or it is of no effect (Lev. 1:2-3). That is, God will not forgive someone of his sins if he does not want to be forgiven. One who is just going through the motions because he has to we'll be in the eyes of God as if he had never come for forgiveness.
The ablation is an offering made to God, specifically the first fruit of one's labor, the peace offering, or thanksgiving offering. The swine is an unclean animal under the Mosaic law (Lev. 11:7) and no Jew should have any part in swine.
The people abhorred God’s offering to the point that they wanted nothing to do with it. Nehemiah says that there is a time in Israel history when offerings stopped altogether, leaving the faithful priest without sustenance (13:10). The reason given for this neglect is that the people desire their own ways above God's ways.
4 God, through the prophets, Scriptures, and Holy Spirit, has called to the people to lead them in earthly and spiritual righteousness, but they have ignored him. In response, God will bring all of their fears upon them. This may seem harsh, but not listening to God in His ways means one is living in darkness and evil ways. Vengeance belongs to God (Deut. 32:35), and he will avenge Himself of one who chooses evil over good.
5-6 In the corrupt religious system, one who actually is faithful to God is excommunicated as a heretic or blasphemer. God will defend such a one and rebuke those who claim to represent God and are not truly doing so. See John 9:1-41 for an example.
7-9 What woman bears a child before experiencing labor pains? Part of the process is undergoing severe pain. God is asking Israel if they expect to attain the promises of blessings from God without first going through troubles and losses. God says that He will bring forth Israel as a nation, but it must first endure hardship. God promises that when the time comes, He will make then persevere. From a prophetic perspective, this may refer to the 1948 establishment of the State of Israel, for while the Jews had decades of labor in which they were returning to the Promised Land, it culminated in one day’s event when Israel both declared its independence and was recognized and established by the West as a nation.
10-11 Rejoice in Jerusalem because she is who God will bless. Through Abraham all nations will be blessed (Gen. 26:4). If one wishes to bask in God’s glory, delight in His people and be counted as one of Abraham’s seed (Rom. 4:16).
12-14 God has a blessing prepared for Jerusalem that surpasses human comprehension (Isa. 64:4). All those who delight in Jerusalem will one day be comforted in her, meaning that those who delight in God’s ways will one day be included in the blessings God has for the Jew. When the believer sees this glory bestowed on Jerusalem, he will rejoice and be filled with satisfaction knowing that God has exalted the faithful and brought justice to the wicked.
15-16 While the faithful will be comforted in Jerusalem, the wicked will perish by the fire and strength of God. Noteworthy is that God’s purpose in a grand display of power is to “plead with all flesh.” God is trying to make the wicked realize their lost condition so that they will repent and seek righteousness. Regrettably, not many will do so for the “slain of the Lord shall be many.”
17-19 To purify in the garden is to be sanctified as a priest to a false god as opposed to being sanctified in the courts of the Temple in Jerusalem as God commanded (Exo. 29:1-30). In addition to corrupting their spirits with idolatry, these people also corrupt their body with unclean animals and their minds with evil thoughts. God says that such will be gathered together and destroyed in a battle. See Rev. 19:19-21. At the end of this battle, those that escape will be a sign to the nations of the end of the wicked to encourage all humans to cease of evil and to do good. Interesting is that those who escape will be converted, declaring God’s glory to the world.
20-21 After the battle against the idolaters, the world will bring all the Jews back to Jerusalem. Instead of only the Levites serving in the Temple in Jerusalem, all the Jews will be cleansed and acceptable to God as holy priests for service to Him (Isa. 61:6). It is at this time that Christ will be reigning from Jerusalem (Isa. 24:23).
22 God promises that just as the new creation will remain forever, so shall Israel remain forever. As He told David that His mercy will never depart from his house, so too will God have everlasting mercy on Israel (Isa. 55:3).
23-24 At this time all the earth will come to worship in Jerusalem. Compare with Rev. 20:1-6. All those who rebelled against Jerusalem in this great battle will be abhorred by all those who remain and left as a witness to those who are still living. Noteworthy is that while the carcass, the physical body, of the idolaters are left, their spirits are in an everlasting fire. This is a warning to all flesh that the ultimate end to all the wicked is to be caste into a fire that shall not be quenched.
Thank you for your faithfulness in studying God’s word.
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