October 13, 2019
Isaiah 66, the closing chapter of the book of Isaiah, is a treatise on the character of God. It begins with God stating His supremacy, majesty, and splendor over the universe.
Thus says the Lord, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may find rest?”
As Supreme God of the Universe, He reveals to us that the only people who He will look to are those who recognize His supremacy over all things. The people who God relates to, who God looks upon, are those who are humble, contrite of spirit, and who tremble at His word.
God declares that those who He finds to be an abomination in His eyes are those who believe they are righteous and good and not needing the righteousness of God. They reject His salvation and His Messiah. God finds no delight in their hypocrisy and evil.
The middle of chapter 66 gives another picture of the character of God. The revelation is astonishing. The God who sits on a throne in heaven and places His feet on the earth as a footstool, is the God who brings intimate comfort to His people. God comforts His children like a mother who comforts her infant at her breast. God promises great joy and gladness to His people as He cares for them, nourishes them fully, and washes over them peace like a river.
With the closing of the chapter, we have yet another picture of the God of Israel. The God of Israel is the Supreme Judge of all mankind. As Judge, He advocates eternal condemnation to those who are evil and eternal life to those who worship Him as God.
The judgment of condemnation is for the self-righteous — those who claim not to need God. The judgment of life is for those who turn to God for their righteousness.
Main Idea: Hope in the Eternal Worship of God’s Glory
The main idea of this message is for those who know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. For those who look to God for salvation, we are to place our hope in the eternal worship of His glory.
This world, the heavens, and the earth are temporary. We live in an age that will come to an end. At the end of the age, God will judge the living and the dead. Those who put faith in Christ, God judges as worthy of eternal life and will live forever with joy and satisfaction basking in the presence of God.
Eternal worship consists of enjoying God. True worship is found in heart affections. We will recognize God as valuable. We will regard God with the utmost love and adoration.
Place your hope in knowing that one day, at the end of this age, our destiny is that of uninterrupted, holy, fulfilling worship of God’s glory.
The Fire of God’s Glory
15 For behold, the Lord will come in fire
And His chariots like the whirlwind,
To render His anger with fury,
And His rebuke with flames of fire.
16 For the Lord will execute judgment by fire
And by His sword on all flesh,
And those slain by the Lord will be many.
17 “Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go to the gardens,
Following one in the center,
Who eat swine’s flesh, detestable things and mice,
Will come to an end altogether,” declares the Lord. (Isaiah 66:15-17)
At the end of chapter 66, we read a poetic rendering illustrating the profound nature and character of the God of Israel. God sits on His throne in heaven. God holds His elect close to His bosom and cares for them as a mother holding an infant. And now we end with the poetic image of God as fire.
This is not the first time Isaiah describes God as fire. In Isaiah 30, we read that God’s anger is burning, and the smoke is dense. His lips are filled with indignation, and His tongue is like a consuming fire pouring forth as a cloudburst in a torrential downpour with hailstones. (Isaiah 30:27, 30).
In Isaiah 33, God promises that in His judgment, His breath will consume like a fire, and the peoples will be burned into the ash of lime. Godless sinners will be terrified and trembling as they cry out, “Who among us can live with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with continual burning?” (Isaiah 33;12-14)
Once again, Isaiah speaks of the fire of God’s glory. Three times the image of fire is evoked. The intent is that we see in our mind’s eye God coming from heaven riding a chariot like a giant whirlwind, a tornado of fire, flames, and swords slashing through the flesh of godless people.
The image serves multiple purposes. It is a warning to the godless. And it is a picture of what God’s people escape.
First, let’s speak upon the warning. If you are sitting here today and you have not put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, God is giving you a warning.
God is letting you know that sin is a matter of life and death. Sinning against God yields only one result; the fire of His wrath. There is no escape. God will come from the heavens on His chariot as a tornado of fire. There is no place to hide.
Your days of mocking God are numbered. Not taking God seriously has consequences. Not submitting to Him results in horrible, continual pains of death. You think you are good and righteous. You think I’m not that bad. Your lying tongue, blood-stained hands, and eyes that feast on vulgar impurities is fully exposed to the all-knowing God.
Attempts to cleanse yourself of sin will not work. Religious rituals, good works, useless prayers, and attempts to wash, sanctify, and purify yourself will be condemning proof God’s judgment is right and holy. Every attempt to make yourself pure without Christ results in nothing less than a hailstorm of fire and brimstone. The valuable treasure of the blood-soaked cross of Christ is forever outside of your grasp, and there is no hope of salvation.
Isaiah is not alone in warning sinners. Hear the words of Jesus. He says that there is a fiery hell whose flames bring great agony. In the furnace of fire, there is only weeping and gnashing of teeth. The soul and body are destroyed. Jesus says you are better to cut off your foot, or hand, or pluck out an eye rather than be cast into hell with two feet, two hands, or two eyes. Jesus warns that sons of disobedience, hypocrites, those who commit lawlessness, and His enemy Satan will be cast forever into hell’s outer darkness (Mt. 5:22; 8:12; 10:28; 13:39-42, 50; Mk. 9:43-47; Lk. 16:24).
These verses in Isaiah and all other verses of God’s fire in the Bible are a warning. Bend your knee to Jesus as Lord and Savior or face the wrath of God.
If you put your faith in Christ, these verses reveal the depth of salvation. This is what we escape when we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. He is our sanctification. He makes us pure. When we read these verses, we shout with praise and thanksgiving. We escape the wrath to come.
The reason we are not cast into the lake of fire is that Jesus took the punishment for us. The amazing truth is that Jesus spoke more on the fires of hell than any other person in the Bible. He fully understood God’s wrath. And, with complete understanding, He willingly endured the wrath of God on our behalf. He willingly stood between us and the fiery whirlwind of God’s anger. He takes our place, washes us, purifies us, makes us holy and blameless, and presents us before God’s throne as innocent and above reproach.
The time Of God’s Glory
18 “For I know their works and their thoughts; the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory. (Isaiah 66:18)
Verse 19 reveals the great wisdom of God. God knows the works and thoughts of all people. We might fool one another playing church. We might fool people in this world into thinking we are good people. But nobody fools God. Some people appear outwardly as holy and godly, but God sees the thoughts of their hearts.
God rightly judges because He is all-knowing. We can trust His judgment to be right. He knows if our faith is in Christ, or if we are trusting in our good works to save us.
Isaiah says, “The time is coming.”
When Isaiah writes, the time is not yet come for the gathering of people from all nations and tongues to God. Isaiah writes his book 700 years before the day of Pentecost when the Apostles begin the Great Commission. Imagine what people in his time, and for the next 700 years, think when Isaiah prophecies of this great gathering of people who come to see God’s glory.
We now live in the time of people gathering to see God’s glory. It is just as God says.
When God says that a time will come to pass, it will. Noah believed God when He said a time is coming to flood the earth. Moses believed God when He said a time coming for the Israelites to be freed from Egypt. Rahab believed in the coming time when the walls of Jericho will tumble. Jesus knew of the time coming when He will hang on a cross offering the forgiveness of sins.
Now is the time of gathering people to hear of God’s glory. There is a time coming when God will create new heavens and a new earth. There is a time coming when Jesus will come again, and He will fetch His bride to bring her to His kingdom. There is a time coming of great judgment.
The Declaration Of God’s Glory
19 I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations: Tarshish, Put, Lud, Meshech, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they will declare My glory among the nations. (Isaiah 66:18-19)
“I will set a sign among them.”
The gathering of all the nations is accomplished by setting a sign among people. A sign is like a banner, or a flag, which signals people to come.
Multiple times in Isaiah, the Messiah is spoken of as a sign. Isaiah 49 tells us the root of Jesse, will stand as a signal for the peoples, and a few verses later, as a standard (banner) for all the nations (Isaiah 49:10-12).
Later in Isaiah, God’s people are called to go through the gates, clear the way for the people; build a highway, remove stones and roadblocks, while lifting the standard (the sign) and proclaiming to the end of the earth, “your salvation comes” (Isaiah 62:10-12).
Jesus tells Nicodemus that as Moses raises the bronze serpent in the wilderness for the Israelites to look upon, even so, He is lifted for the world to see (John 3:14). The cross of Jesus Christ is the sign, the banner, the standard, the signal of God’s glory.
The glory of God is displayed on the cross. The cross fully displays that God is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth. The cross proves that God extends lovingkindness for thousands and forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin (Exodus 34:6-7).
And, the cross displays that God will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. All who refuse to put their faith in the cross of Christ will suffer the fiery wrath of God.
For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4:6).
The time is come to gather all the nations to see the glory of God as it is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. The time is come to let those who have neither heard of God’s fame nor seen His glory to hear the declaration of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Isaiah speaks of the farthest reaches of the world known in his day. He speaks of lands beyond the land he knows by name, the distant coastlands.
We partner with people in the far reaches of the world. Today, people we know and love, are proclaiming the gospel in Canada; Jordan; Niger; Greece; Serbia; South Africa; India; Europe; Albania; and Brooklyn, New York.
We are the distant coastlands. We are the far country of which this prophecy speaks. We are 5513 miles from Jerusalem. Today, we proclaim the glory of Christ. We point people to the sign. We have the sign at the center of where we worship. Each week we sing and proclaim of the glory of God with a giant sign on the wall for all to see. We put the sign of God’s glory on the road outside of our building.
The People of God’s Glory
20 Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the Lord, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the Lord, “just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. 21 I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 66:20-21)
As we declare the glory of God to people of all the nations, the sons of Abraham, those who are blood descendants, will have their eyes and ears opened. They will see the sign and recognize Jesus as the Holy One of Israel.
The Gentiles of the world will bring Jews to God as a grain offering. A grain offering is not an offering for sin and atonement. It is an offering of thanksgiving to God.
Isaiah repeats a truth found earlier in his book of prophecy. It reads:
And He (God) will lift up a standard for the nations, “Behold, I will lift up My hand to the nations and set up My standard to the peoples; and they will bring your sons in their bosom,
and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders. (Isaiah 49:12)
It will be a time of great rejoicing as Jews and Gentiles celebrate repentance and forgiveness of sins offered by Jesus Christ.
Isaiah also prophecies of the New Covenant in which Gentiles participate in the same way as the Jews. In Isaiah’s day, the phrase, “I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites,” must sound like blasphemy. The Mosaic Covenant strictly forbids Gentiles as priests. Only those who are Levites, blood descendants of Aaron, are priests. In the New Covenant of Christ, we are as Peter says, “A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION” (1 Peter 2:9).
We are all priests because the veil in the temple is torn in two. Every believer in Christ offers a sacrifice of praise. We bring to God the incense of prayers. We carry to the throne room of God, our faith in the blood atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross.
The Worship of God’s Glory
22 “For just as the new heavens and the new earth which I make will endure before Me,” declares the Lord, “So your offspring and your name will endure.
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.
24 “Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.” (Isaiah 66:22-24)
In the new heavens and the new earth, there will no longer be rebellion against God. The Apostle Peter, after healing the lame man, told people at Solomon’s portico, that the prophets speak of a time when God will bring the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21).
Peter is talking about these final verses (and other verses), when God creates the new heavens and new earth as the restoration of all that is lost in the fall, in the Garden of Eden. During the fall, we lost life, we lost the abundance of good things, the ground became cursed, and sorrow and misery gave way to joy and gladness.
God restores life. He brings a time of complete joy. The curse of the land is removed, and it is a time of plenty.
Isaiah ends with a hard but truthful verse. The final verse of Isaiah, if not understood rightly, is difficult. It’s hard to imagine looking upon slain people as an abomination. We must put the verse into perspective.
Here are two illustrations that help me.
- What will we prefer to help us understand God and the gospel? Will we prefer five minutes of hell or five minutes of heaven?
Five minutes of hell will have us look upon God as a monster. We will ask, how can God destine people to such horror and suffering? How can we serve such a God who will have people whose worm will not die, and they will forever be in the torment of fire with weeping and gnashing of teeth?
But, if we have five minutes of heaven, we will look into the eyes of Christ, we will feel His love and adoration. We will be held to his bosom as an infant held in the comfort of its mother. We will ask, “who could reject such a good, holy, loving Savior”? All who reject His salvation deserve such a fate.
- If someone were to brutally murder our loved ones, parents, children, or friends, and they receive the due punishment, we will look upon them as an abhorrence to all mankind. We may not feel that way now, but when we are holy, we will see them as God sees them.
Please, let’s warn all we know, God will bring great condemnation to those who reject the free salvation of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Savior. We are now in the age of lifting the sign for all to see. There is eternal life in Christ. Look to the cross.
Main Idea: Hope in the Eternal Worship of God’s Glory
We are to place our hope in the eternal worship of His glory.
This age will come to an end. All who put their faith in Christ will live forever with joy and satisfaction basking in the presence of God.
We look forward to our eternal worship of enjoying God. We will say, “I have now understood why I am created. My purpose is to enjoy my God. God is the source of all my pleasure and gladness. My soul is full. My heart leaps with passion. I need not turn anywhere, but to look into the face of My Savior who loves me. I am content, consoled, and filled with peace as I am held close to His bosom.”
Place your hope in knowing one day, at the end of this age, our destiny is uninterrupted, holy, fulfilling worship of God’s glory.