Sunday, April 17, 2011

Isaiah 66:17-24 - The Culmination of a Glorious Vision

Contextual Notes:
Isaiah's Lips Anointed with FireImage via Wikipedia
Isaiah's lips touch with the coal
In this magnificent journey through Isaiah, we have seen an incredible vision of the Messiah. Isaiah is considered the most Messianic of the Prophets. Isaiah prophesies about one Royal, Priestly, Suffering, Divine Son of David. After 39 chapters as the King coming to judge sin, at chapter 40, He is the coming Comforter, the Servant who will suffer, die, and rise again (chap. 53), fulfilling all His covenants (54-55), transforming our sinful present into a glorious future (56) by way of repentance (57), to make us like Himself (58).

Despite sin’s destruction of relationships with God and others (59:1-15a), this Redeemer’s intercession (59:15b-21) provides hope, honor, and transformation (60) of a relationship with this royally, righteously, priestly, matrimonially robed Redeemer Himself, who proclaims favor, prosperity, and joy over his people (61), and calls his bridal people (62:1-5) to be prayer watchmen for Messiah’s purpose, people, and proclamation (62:6-12). These watchmen see coming the Warrior, righteous and mighty (63:1-6), the Savior, compassionate and kind (63:7-14), the Redeemer, zealous and mighty (63:15-19). His grace (64:1-5a) overpowers sin (64:5b-7) in response to watchman intercession (64:8-12).

At chapters 65-66 we reach the culmination of Isaiah’s glorious vision, the wondrous promise that God will one day create a new earth and heavens as the home of the righteous. The End-Times will bring Messiah’s fellowship for the humble (66:1-6), Messiah’s joy in the future (66:7-11), and Messiah’s peace on Judgment Day (66:12-16).

Isaiah’s powerful poetry ends in prose. God pledges that all nations (66:17-19) along with the Jewish people (66:20-21) will see his glory at history’s end. The new heavens and new earth will endure, and all the nations will bow down before him (66:22-23) while the bodies of those who rebelled against the Lord will be remain as a testimony to his wrath against sin (66:24).

Key Truth: Isaiah wrote Isaiah 66:18-24 to proclaim to Israel his Vision of the culmination of the great covenants and Great Commission of Messiah, ending with His triumph.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about the faithfulness of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Key Verse: Isaiah 66:23
Pray and Read:  Isaiah 66:18-24 by sections

Sermon Points:
1.   The culmination of Messiah’s Mission (Isaiah 66:18-19)
2.   The culmination of Messianic Israel (Isaiah 66:20-21)
3.   The culmination of Messiah’s Triumph (Isaiah 66:22-24)

Exposition:   Note well,

a.   Messiah will send for and gather all the nations of the known world, from Tarshish, a Phoenician colony in Spain (Isa 2:16), at the western Mediterranean, to Libya in North Africa (Gen. 10:6), to Lydia in Turkey, and to Tubal in the Caucasus of the north (Pul/Put & Lud, Gen. 10:2; Ezekiel 27:13; 32:26; 38:2-3; 39:1), and to Greece (Javan; Gen 10:2; Dan 8:21; Zech 9:13) and the distant islands, i.e., the rest of the world. He will send God’s people (the survivors, i.e., Peter, Acts 2:40) to the nations of the world to travel to all those places to proclaim him – the missionary enterprise of the church (66:19).
b.   For what purpose? So that they will come and see his glory 66:18. The primary aim in missions and all preaching is not to make the hearer better but the glory of God. The phrase is reminiscent of Isa 2:2-4, to a spiritual Jerusalem. Perhaps Matt 24:31 reflects on this passage, and Heb 12:22-24, in comparing the two mountains, shows us the glory of God. It is about his glory.
d.   APPLICATION: The purpose that we send missionaries is for Christ’s glory, and that includes going to the hardest places on earth to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. You might say, “We have a lot of people here who do not have a relationship with Jesus. We have a lot of needs here. Why should we spend the money and time and personnel to go to the ends of the earth? That’s simple. Here anyone who wants to can drag their body out of bed on Sunday morning and go to a church and hear a gospel message. In fact, they don’t even have to get out of bed. They can hit the remote and watch Charles Stanley or David Jeremiah give a clear and concise presentation of the Good News of Jesus. They can listen to the radio. They can access on the internet and find a world’s worth of Christian content in their language.
e.   On the frontier of Christ’s mission around the world, there is little or nothing written or spoken in their language they can access. There are no churches. The only believers are fearful for their family’s safety if they talk too much. There are no opportunities to hear about Jesus. They are groups that are called unreached (less than 2% evangelical) AND unengaged (no agency working among them). There couldn’t be that many people left right?

a.   Faithful Jews, Messianic Jews, (your brothers) will stream back to Jerusalem (66:20). Here brothers may also include all those others whom God has extended his salvation (see Isaiah 49:6; 52:15; 56:2).
b.   There will remain particularly Jewish influence in worship. They will be Messianic Jews, Jews who have recognized and submitted to the Holy One of Israel born in Bethlehem. They will make aliyah – they will come home to Israel. In the last three decades we have seen a strong aliyah movement of Jews going home to Israel, and a growing Messianic movement among them. Some of them in that Day Messiah will appoint priests and Levites, to serve God in the Temple (66:21; 61:6).
d.   APPLICATION: God is not finished with the ethnic nation of Israel. He made promises to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, and to David. How could we trust him to keep his promises to us if he won’t keep his promises to his own chosen people? That is what Romans 9-11 is all about. God did not replace Israel with the Church, and Isaiah agrees with that here. Paul does too, in Ephesians 2:15-16 in describing the One New Man, Jews and Gentiles together.
a.   In the new heavens and new earth (Isa 49:19; 53:2), his Jewish Sabbaths and festivals will be celebrated with joy by all the people of God, Jew and Gentile, one New Man (Eph 2:15-16), according to Isaiah. It is a place that will endure, a place prepared for the redeemed (66:22-23; Exodus 23:20; 1 Chronicles 15:3, 12; John 14:2-3; Rev 22:12-21).
b.   It will be done by your seed (the descendants of Israel) and your name (reputation). Could this be a reference to Christ the Seed and the Name? It certainly is possible that this verse can be interpreted
c.   Isaiah sounds a warning about hell (66:24; Matt 8:12; 13:24-30). His aim is to encourage people to shun hell and choose heaven. This last verse of Isaiah so upset the medieval rabbis that in the public reading of this passage in the synagogue, they required the reader not to stop reading at verse 24 but to go back and read verse 23 again to end on a kind note. Look at the characteristics:
                i.    The suffering and punishment continues forever (“their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, see Isa 66:15-16; Jer. 7:32ff). There are those who say that after a time, the punishment will end because the punishment will be completed, but Isaiah disagrees with good reason. How can sin against an infinitely pure and holy God be punished finitely?
              ii.    It will be unpleasant to all nations, demonstrating the punishment for sin. Its presence forever will proclaim why Messiah had to come and suffer and die and rise again to defeat death – this stench of death.
e.   APPLICATION: There is a hell. It is real, and it is reserved for anyone who rejects Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The punishment will go on forever. What about you?