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Isaiah’s Little Apocalypse and Progressive Revelation

October 11, 2010

In my study through Isaiah with S. Lewis Johnson, the book can be outlined (so far) as follows:

Isaiah 7-12 — The Book Of Immanuel
Isaiah 14-23 — Judgments against the Nations
Isaiah 24-27 — Isaiah’s “Mini-Apocalypse”
Isaiah 28-33 — The Book of Woe

SLJ dealt with each of these sections in its own sub-series within the overall Isaiah series.  I have previously blogged about the Book of Immanuel.  Now to a brief summary of the “Little Apocalypse” section (here in part 1 and part 2).

The mini-apocalypse is one of several parallel prophecies concerning the Second Coming of our Lord, and the progressive revelation of scripture is important at this point.  Revelation given in earlier books is less detailed, but later Old Testament revelation expands on earlier revelation, just as New Testament revelation expands further — and even some New Testament revelation expands with more details not found in earlier NT texts.  The book of Revelation, the final book of the New Testament, completes the progress of revelation.

Isaiah 24:5-6 make reference to an everlasting covenant that has been broken.  The next sentence relates, “a curse devours the earth.”  Which everlasting covenant has been broken?  The description suggests that the Noahic covenant is in view here, a covenant that provided basic law and order, human government.  Though God has been incredibly patient with mankind throughout history, the time will come when God finally says “enough!”  All government is after all under God, appointed by Him, and the final breakdown of government will result in God’s destruction of this world.

Verse 10 describes (in KJV) the “city of confusion”  (ESV translates it “wasted city”).  Though Isaiah’s text does not specify the city, and it could be taken in a general sense, S. Lewis Johnson saw this — in the light of later biblical revelation — as a reference to Babylon, the city of man always opposed to God.  Babylon does play that special role, the first city that rebelled against God (Genesis 11), which will be rebuilt and destroyed in the future, as described in Revelation 18.

Verses 14 and 15 describe the people, the remnant of Israel, as including those who live in the land as well as some in the east (verse 15) and some in the west. S. Lewis Johnson, reading from the KJV, noted that the phrase “glorify God in the fires” has the Hebrew word for “lights,” the word Urim — as also used in the phrase “Urim and Thummim” of the priest’s attire.

Isaiah 24:21 indicates that this judgment will be against both this world and the demons:  On that day the Lord will punish the host of heaven, in heaven, and the kings of the earth, on the earth.  Then verse 22 is a parallel to other, later, biblical texts:  in this case, another description of Satan and his angels being bound in the abyss (Revelation 20:1-3).  The phrase that begins with “after many days” refers to the thousand years and Satan’s subsequent release and final punishment, the lake of fire.

Isaiah 25-27 is a series of songs in response to the judgment of chapter 24.  Isaiah 26:3 is a familiar, oft-quoted verse — and I think of the scripture-song from George and Kathy Abbas here:   “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.”  The context, though, is a praise from Israel rejoicing in Christ at the Second Advent.  Consider further the verse’s meaning:  “whose mind” — the mind is kept by God’s word, and emphasizes the importance of staying in and seeking God in His word, the scriptures.

Isaiah 26:20 is another parallel reference to the Great Tribulation, and especially to Revelation 12, where the woman (Israel) flees to safety.  From the Revelation text, which agrees with Daniel’s prophecy as well concerning the time period, we also know that “a little while” is the 3 1/2 years  (ref. Revelation 12:14).

Isaiah 27:1 contains a symbolic reference to Assyria, Babylon and Egypt, the enemies of Israel who are referred to as Leviathan.   Isaiah 27:9 has a New Testament reference, in Romans 11:26, the time Paul speaks of when God will “turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”

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