Isaiah is one of the longer books of the OT and chapter 66 is its last chapter. Isaiah lived and prophesied during the last years of the Northern Kingdom (~740-722 BC) and on to about the end of that century. His name means Lord is Salvation. This is poignant since Isaiah’s overall message combines a warning against unbelief with some of the most beautiful word-pictures in scripture of Jesus (Yeshua) in his first coming as well as his glory. Isaiah 66 touches on all of these and more.
God is God
Is 66:1-2 Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. People of all walks of life came to Jesus. They came for healing of their bodies and healing of their broken hearts. In every case those who approached him, though they may not have understood the theology of it all, acknowledged he had the authority of God. They trusted him to be whoever or whatever he claimed to be. The first step to salvation, whether from the physical or the spiritual, is admitting God is God and we are not. This first couple of verses in this chapter make a fitting start to Isaiah’s closing summary.
Is 66:5-6 Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at his word: “Your brothers who hate you and cast you out for my name’s sake have said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy’; but it is they who shall be put to shame. “The sound of an uproar from the city! A sound from the temple! The sound of the Lord, rendering recompense to his enemies! This passage echoes into the last sentence of the chapter: “He who has an ear let him hear.” This phrase is used many times in the New Testament. Here we read very specifically what it is we are supposed to hear. Verses 3-6 and 15-17 are the warning so many “fire and brimstone” preachers use to scare people into submitting to the church and its authority. God isn’t asking people to submit to any church. When you read these verses in context you can see for yourself through Isaiah God is warning the leaders not to lord over the people and cast out believers who threaten the establishment. The Lord favors those who seek Him instead of organized religion. Woe to the preacher (anyone in authority in any sort of church or organized religion) who drives away one who might believe (Lk 17:1-4). This isn’t just limited to those in authority, either. Anyone who looks down their nose at someone else seeking or serving God is held in God’s contempt (James 2:1-13).
Is 66:17-18 “Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following one in the midst, eating pig’s flesh and the abomination and mice, shall come to an end together, declares the Lord. “For I knowtheir works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, This passage includes both comfort and caution. The last sentence here is reminiscent of Isaiah 43:23 which Paul later quotes and explains further in Romans 14:10-12. Everyone, believer or otherwise, will have God’s Glory revealed to them in such a way they are unable to deny it. This is in conjunction with and seems to be at the time of or immediately following the end of human life on this earth. This passage seems to indicate both the righteous and the condemned will be gathered at the same time. God knows which is which. At the time of this gathering all will see His Glory.
Or Not the End?
Is 66:19 and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. Any verse taken out of context can do vastly more harm than good in trying to understand the Word. The preceding verses seem to paint a picture of apocalyptic glory, yet this verse indicates there will be survivors sent out to declare God’s glory to the nations or, as KJV puts it, to the Gentiles. In this light we can go back to the preceding verses and see them in a new way. Verses 15-16 speak of God coming with fire in anger to render judgment, with the sword on all, and many slain. Perhaps this speaks of the impending fall of Israel to the Assyrians and ultimately the fall of the Southern Kingdom to Babylon. Perhaps the glory “they all will see” in verse 18 specifically means God’s judgment on Israel executed in 722 BC.
New Covenant Predicted
Is 66:20-21 And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the Lord, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the Lord. Verses 19-20 indicate that from a remnant in Jerusalem will come those who will go out to the rest of the world declaring the glory of God. Perhaps I am mistaken, but this looks a lot like the fulfillment of the Great Commission starting with the first century missionary journeys. The fire of God’s judgment (V15-16) could also foreshadow the Holy Spirit coming in power as flames at Pentecost (Acts 2). Here in verses 20-21 we see that when the word goes out to the rest of the world some will be brought in from outside to become priests and Levites. 1 Pe 2:9-10 fulfills this very utterance of Isaiah.
Our Hope – The Good News
Is 66:22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain. Regardless of whether the earlier verses foretell the collapse of Israel in 722 BC or the end of all human life on this earth yet to come, this passage leaves little doubt Isaiah prophesies something we hope for. Is 60:19-20 elaborate, as does Is 65:17-25 and again see Isaiah 11:1-10. These glories are seen through different eyes throughout scripture, but few places more clearly than Rev 19-22. Now matter how you picture heaven, the Kingdom of God, the new Earth or New Jerusalem or whatever you want to call it, there is eternal life in a wonderful place promised to those who believe and live their faith in YHWH.