Isaiah’s method of prophesying draws on events from ancient times as building blocks for predicting end-time events. Whatever set a precedent in the past may serve as a type of what happens in the future. Thirty such types show how history repeats itself at the end of the world.
A primary event from antiquity Isaiah draws on when predicting the end of the world is the apostasy of God’s people—that is, of those who profess to be God’s covenant people in that day. Because Isaiah’s Seven-Part Structure transforms the entire Book of Isaiah into an apocalyptic prophecy, his writings may be read on two levels, the first pertaining to his own day or soon thereafter, and the second to “the last days” or end-time (’aharit hayyamim). Indeed, the world’s end-time scenario is set in motion by the apostasy of God’s people in that day—they are its catalyst.
Other Hebrew prophets besides Isaiah bewail Israel’s ancient apostasy. Like Isaiah, Amos and Hosea prophesy in the eighth century B.C., declaring, “They have despised the law of Jehovah and have not kept his commandments. Their falsehoods have made them go astray the same way their ancestors did” (Amos 2:4); “Ephraim, you are committing whoredoms; Israel has become defiled. They won’t align their actions so as to turn to their God, because the spirit of whoredom is among them and they haven’t known Jehovah. Israel’s pride testifies to its face” (Hosea 5:3–5).
The clearest evidence of Israel’s historical decline, however, appears in Isaiah’s prophecy itself. Because Isaiah lived at a pivotal point in Israel’s history—when God’s people as a whole had become spiritually corrupt—he uses that historical precedent as the type or pattern of an end-time corruption, showing how their drifting into a condition of spiritual atrophy over two generations ends in outright apostasy: “Hear, O heavens! Give heed, O earth! Jehovah has spoken: I have reared sons, brought them up, but they have revolted against me. The ox knows its owner, the ass its master’s stall, but Israel does not know; my people are insensible. Alas, a nation astray, a people weighed down by sin, the offspring of wrongdoers, perverse children: they have forsaken Jehovah, they have spurned the Holy One of Israel, they have lapsed into apostasy” (Isaiah 1:2–4).
The people’s biggest problem, ancient and end-time, is their idolatry—their infatuation with the things of this world: “Their land is full of silver and gold and there is no end to their wealth; their land is full of horses and there is no end to their chariots. Their land is full of idols: they adore the works of their hands, things their own fingers have made” (Isaiah 2:7–8; compare 2:20; 17:7–8; 27:9; 30:22; 31:7; 44:15; 48:4–5).
As it grows widespread, this preoccupation with material things generates spiritual blindness, an inability by God’s people to discern the new reality—that their religion has morphed from what God had revealed—that it has made a fundamental shift into a belief system that displaces the power of God with the precepts of men, thereby failing to fulfill people’s spiritual needs. Of this generational backsliding, the people and their leaders are thus entirely unaware: “Jehovah has poured out on you a spirit of deep sleep: he has shut your eyes, the prophets; he has covered your heads, the seers” (Isaiah 29:10); “Those who trust in idols and esteem their images as gods shall retreat in utter confusion. O you deaf, listen; O you blind, look and see! Who is blind but my own servant, or so deaf as the messenger I have sent? Who is blind like those I have commissioned, as uncomprehending as the servant of Jehovah—seeing much but not giving heed, with open ears hearing nothing?” (Isaiah 42:17–20).
A kind of delusion sets in among ecclesiastical leader as the people subscribe to the new narrative that merely perpetuates the status quo: “These too have indulged in wine and are giddy with strong drink: priests and prophets have gone astray through liquor. They are intoxicated with wine and stagger because of strong drink; they err as seers, they blunder in their decisions. For all tables are filled with vomit; no spot is without excrement. Whom shall he give instruction? Whom shall he enlighten with revelation? Weanlings weaned from milk, those just taken from the breast? For it is but line upon line, line upon line, precept upon precept, precept upon precept; a trifle here, a trifle there” (Isaiah 28:7–10); “Their watchmen are altogether blind and unaware; all of them are but dumb watchdogs unable to bark, lolling seers fond of slumber. Gluttonous dogs, and insatiable, such indeed are insensible shepherds. They are all diverted to their own way, every one after his own advantage. ‘Come, [they say,]let us get wine and have our fill of liquor. For tomorrow will be like today, only far better!’” (Isaiah 56:10–12).
When a spirit of self-sufficiency follows the people’s prosperity, spiritual standards grow lax and predatory practices prevail: “How the faithful city has become a harlot! She was filled with justice; righteousness made its abode in her, but now murderers. Your silver has become dross, your wine diluted with water. Your rulers are renegades, accomplices of robbers: with one accord they love bribes and run after rewards; they do not dispense justice to the fatherless, nor does the widow’s case come before them” (Isaiah 1:21–23); “The godless utter blasphemy; their heart ponders impiety: how to practice hypocrisy and preach perverse things concerning Jehovah, leaving the hungry soul empty, depriving the thirsty [soul]of drink. And rogues scheme by malevolent means and insidious devices to ruin the poor, and with false slogans and accusations to denounce the needy” (Isaiah 32:6–7).
God responds by calling his people to account, subjecting them to the curses of his covenant instead of pouring out his blessings: “He will bring to trial the elders of his people and their rulers, [and say to them,] ‘It is you who have devoured the vineyard; you fill your houses by depriving the needy. What do you mean by oppressing my people, humbling the faces of the poor?’ says Jehovah of Hosts” (Isaiah 3:14–15); “But the people do not turn back to him who smites them, nor will they inquire of Jehovah of Hosts. Therefore Jehovah will cut off from Israel head and tail, palm top and reed, in a single day; the elders or notables are the head, the prophets who teach falsehoods, the tail. The leaders of these people have misled them, and those who are led are confused” (Isaiah 9:13–16).
While in Isaiah’s day Assyria destroys the Northern Kingdom of Israel and transports its people into Mesopotamia, the Southern Kingdom of Judah—through the righteous influence of King Hezekiah—reforms and reinstitutes the pure worship of Jehovah (2 Chronicles 29–31). That too establishes a type for the end-time. By juxtaposing those two scenarios within parallel units of material, Isaiah’s Seven-Part structure treats them as two contemporary end-time events, not as events divided by time the way they occur historically. Only later, near the end of the seventh century B.C., does the Southern Kingdom of Judah, too, fully apostatize and is taken captive into Babylon.
In each instance of Israel’s ancient apostasy, moreover, a militaristic power from the North arises that conquers and destroys much of the known world. Whereas the Northern Kingdom’s apostasy is followed by Assyria’s becoming a world power and destroying both it and the other nations of the world, the Southern Kingdom’s apostasy more than a century later is followed by Babylon’s becoming a world power and repeating that scenario.
Jeremiah predicts this second event: “Has a nation changed gods into what aren’t gods? Thus have my people changed their glory for what doesn’t profit [them]” (Jeremiah 2:11); “‘The house of Israel and house of Judah have dealt very treacherously against me,’ says Jehovah. They have belied Jehovah and said, ‘Not him! No evil will come upon us. We won’t see the sword or famine.’ The prophets have become wind; [his] word is not in them—so it is with them. Therefore, thus says Jehovah God of Hosts, ‘Because you say such a thing, see, I will make my words in your mouth as fire and these people the wood and it will devour them. Lo, I am bringing a nation upon you from afar, O house of Israel,’ says Jehovah. ‘It is a mighty nation, an ancient nation, a nation whose language you don’t know nor understand when they speak. Their quiver is as an open sepulcher; all are mighty men. And they will consume your harvest and food, which your sons and daughters should eat. They will consume your flocks and herds, and they will eat up your vines and fig trees’” (Jeremiah 5:11–17).
This prophetic pattern of God’s judgments coming upon his people and upon the ancient world at the hands of an invading power from the North as a consequence of his people’s apostasy accords with the apostasy of God’s end-time people similarly being the catalyst of a world conquest and destruction by an invading power from the North, except that this time it heralds the end of the world.
People’s vain imaginations get the better of them at the time they build the Tower of Babel in an attempt to create a world utopia: “The whole earth was of one language and one speech. And it happened that as they journeyed from the east they found a plain in the land of Shinar and dwelt there. And they said one to another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and fire them thoroughly.’ (For they had bricks for stone and cement for mortar.) And they said, ‘Come, let us build a city for ourselves and a tower whose top reaches heaven. And let us make a name for ourselves in case we disperse over the whole face of the earth.’ And Jehovah came down to see the city and tower the sons of men were building. And Jehovah said, ‘See, the people are one; all have a single language. Now that they have started this, they will stop at nothing that they imagine they can do. Come, let us go down there and confound their language so they won’t understand each other’s words.’ Jehovah therefore scattered them from there over the face of the whole earth. So they left off building the city. And hence its name is called Babel because there Jehovah confounded the language of the whole earth, and from there Jehovah scattered them over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4–9).
The idea of a “city” with a “tower” whose top reaches the “sky” or “heaven” (samayim) is not unfamiliar in today’s world. Modern cities and their skyscrapers in many ways duplicate the ancient “Babel” or “Babylon” (babel) society with its materialistic socio-economic structure. As people today are indeed “scattered over the face of the whole earth,” God’s plan is to bring them back together. But that event occurs on his terms as in the end it is his elect according to his covenant who thus reunite (Deuteronomy 30:1–6; Jeremiah 31:10; Ezekiel 11:16–17; 20:33–44; Matthew 24:31). At that time, God gives his people “a pure language so that all may all call on the name of Jehovah and serve him with one accord” (Zephaniah 3:9).
Meanwhile, the earth’s wayward inhabitants—those who follow the vain imaginations of their hearts in the modern world—God destroys in his Day of Judgment: “You have made the city a heap of rubble, fortified towns a ruin. Heathen mansions shall no more form cities, nor ever be rebuilt!” (Isaiah 25:2); “He has put down the elite inhabitants of the exalted city by casting it to the ground, laying it even with the dust. It is trodden underfoot by the feet of the poor, by the footsteps of those impoverished” (Isaiah 26:5–6); “[Mourn]for all the amusement houses in the city of entertainment, for the palaces shall lie abandoned, the clamorous towns deserted. High rises and panoramic resorts shall become haunts for ever after, the playground of wild animals, a browsing place for flocks. . . . For by a hail shall forests be felled, cities utterly leveled” (Isaiah 32:13–14, 19)—on “the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall” (Isaiah 30:25); “Jehovah of Hosts has a day in store for all the proud and arrogant and for all who are exalted, that they may be brought low. [It shall come]against . . . every tall tower and reinforced wall. . . . The haughtiness of men shall be abased, and man’s pride brought low; Jehovah alone shall be exalted in that day” (Isaiah 2:12–14, 17).
The Babylonian captivity of Israel’s Southern Kingdom occurs in the days of the prophet Jeremiah, more than a century after Isaiah: “In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem and besieged it. And in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, the ninth day of the month, the city was broken up. . . . And the Chaldeans burned the king’s house and the houses of the people with fire and broke down the walls of Jerusalem. Then Nebuzar-Adan, captain of the guard, carried away captive to Babylon the remnant of the people who were left in the city” (Jeremiah 39:1–2, 8–9).
Although Babylon’s destruction and captivity of the Southern Kingdom of Judah occurs long after Isaiah’s day, Isaiah nevertheless predicts it and additionally uses it as the type of an end-time event. Because Assyria has already set a precedent of a world power that destroys the Northern Kingdom, Isaiah doesn’t cast Babylon in that end-time mold, only Assyria. He does, however, use the Babylonian captivity of God’s people of the Southern Kingdom as the type of an end-time captivity because for that Babylon sets a precedent. While Assyria conquers the people of the Northern Kingdom, it doesn’t subjugate them the way Babylon does. Assyria simply transports the nations they conquer to different parts of their empire, removing them from their native lands to destroy their patriotism so they can more easily govern them.
To the Harlot Babylon—who represents an idolatrous materialistic world empire in the Book of Isaiah—Jehovah says, “I was provoked by my people, so I let my inheritance be defiled. I gave them into your hand, and you showed them no mercy; even the aged you weighed down heavily with your yoke” (Isaiah 47:6). Historically, the Babylonian captivity is the third occasion God’s people become subject to a foreign world power: “Thus says my Lord Jehovah: ‘At first my people went down to Egypt to sojourn there. Then the Assyrians subjected them for nothing. Now what have I here?’ says Jehovah. ‘My people are taken over without price; those who govern them act presumptuously,’ says Jehovah, ‘and my name is constantly abused all the day long’” (Isaiah 52:5).
As an end-time event, involving those who claim to be God’s people in that day, the new “Babylonian Captivity” resembles the old except that this time it isn’t limited to the ancient Near East but encompasses the entire world. Although it comes as a covenant curse on the heels of the apostasy of God’s people just as it does in the past, this coercive new world order impacts not only them but nations and peoples everywhere.
When Abraham’s people, including his own father, worship idols and a famine sweeps the land, God commands Abraham to leave: “Jehovah said to Abram, ‘Move from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to a land I will show you. And I will make you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse he who curses you. And in you shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ So Abram left, as Jehovah had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son and all their goods that they had gathered up, and the souls they had won in Haran, and they went forth to go into the Land of Canaan and entered the Land of Canaan” (Genesis 12:1–5; compare Joshua 24:2–3).
Jehovah rewards Abraham for leaving his native land and his extended family to enter the unknown by promising him a land of inheritance and a numerous posterity: “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18); “My covenant is with you; you will be a father of many nations. You will no more be called Abram but your name will be Abraham, for I am making you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful and make you into nations, and kings will come out of you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to you and to your offspring after you” (Genesis 17:4–7).
Isaiah predicts a time when Abraham’s end-time descendants face the same choice as Abraham—whether to leave or stay in Babylon. Jehovah thus reminds them that what he did for Abraham he will do for them if they heed his call. As Abraham came from the ends of the earth and received a Promised Land, so would they: “You, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, offspring of Abraham my beloved friend, you whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, called from its farthest limits—to you I say, ‘You are my servant; I have accepted you and not rejected you. Be not fearful, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will also succor you and uphold you with my righteous right hand’” (Isaiah 41:8–10); “Jehovah will have compassion on Jacob and once again choose Israel; he will settle them in their own land, and proselytes will adhere to them and join the house of Jacob” (Isaiah 14:1).
Isaiah nevertheless sees that only persons who are righteous as Abraham was righteous heed Jehovah’s call: “Hear me, you followers of righteousness, seekers of Jehovah: Look to the rock from which you were cut, to the quarry out of which you were hewn; look to Abraham your father, to Sarah who bore you. He was but one when I called him, but I blessed him by making him many” (Isaiah 51:1–2); “So shall justice inhabit the desert, and righteousness abide in the farmland. And the effect of justice shall be peace, and the result of righteousness an assured calm forever. My people shall dwell in peaceful settlements, in safe neighborhoods, in comfortable dwellings. Blessed are you, who shall then sow by all waters, letting oxen and asses range free” (Isaiah 32:16–18, 20). As with Abraham, the lands of inheritance and blessed offspring God promises his elect are theirs by an everlasting covenant (Isaiah 61:7–9).
When God destroys the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by a rain of fire and brimstone on account of their consummate wickedness, he sends two angels to deliver Lot, Abraham’s nephew. Abraham had pled with God whether he would destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if only fifty, forty, thirty, twenty, or even ten righteous men inhabited them. The answer was no—there were not even ten (Genesis 18:23–32). So great was the wickedness of the Sodomites, in fact, that they attempted to sexually violate even the angels who came to rescue Lot:
“In the evening, two angels came to Sodom as Lot sat at Sodom’s gate. And Lot, seeing [them], rose up to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the ground. And he said, ‘See now, my lords, turn in, I beg you, into your servant’s house and tarry all night, and wash your feet. Then shall you rise up early and go on your way.’ And they said, ‘No, we will stay in the street the whole night.’ But when he insisted they turned in to him and entered his house. So he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread and they ate. But before they lay down the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, old and young, persons from every quarter, and called out to Lot and said to him, ‘Where are the men who came in to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we may know them.’
“Then Lot went outside to them and shut the door behind him, saying ‘I beg you, brothers, don’t do so wickedly. See, I have two daughters who haven’t known man. Let me, I beg you, bring them out to you and do to them as seems good in your eyes. Only to these men do nothing who have come under the shadow of my roof.’ And they said, ‘Stand back!’ and said, ‘This chap came here to live and he wants to play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.’ And they pressed hard on the man Lot and almost broke the door. But the men put forth their hand and pulled Lot into the house after them and shut the door. And they smote the men at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out to find the door.
“Then the men said to Lot, ‘Have you any others here? Your sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or whoever you have in the city bring out of here because we are going to destroy this place. Their clamor has become great before Jehovah, and Jehovah has sent us to destroy it.’ So Lot went and spoke to his sons-in-law who were betrothed to his daughters and said, ‘Get up and get out of here. Jehovah will destroy this city.’ But to his sons-in-law he seemed like a person who was joking. And when morning came the angels hastened Lot, saying, ‘Arise, take your wife and two daughters who are here or you will be consumed in the iniquity of the city. And while he lingered the men laid hold on his hand and on the hand of his wife and the hand of his two daughters (Jehovah being merciful to him) and brought him out and put him beyond the city. And when they had brought them out [the man] said, ‘Escape for your life! Don’t look back and don’t stay in the plain. Escape to the mountain or you will be consumed” (Genesis 19:1–17).
Because Lot was Abraham’s nephew—the son of Abraham’s brother Haran who had died—Abraham acted as a father to Lot and as his protector. It was for Abraham’s sake, therefore, that God delivered Lot: “And it happened when God destroyed the cities of the plain that God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow at the time he overthrew the cities in which Lot lived. So Lot went up from Zoar and lived in the mountain with his two daughters, for he was afraid to live in Zoar. And he and his two daughters lived in a cave” (Genesis 19:29–30).
Abraham’s role toward Lot, in effect, was that of a proxy savior—as was the case when “God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” and delivered their descendants out of bondage in Egypt (Exodus 2:24; emphasis added). Thus, while God delivered Lot for Abraham’s sake, he delivered Lot’s daughters for Lot’s sake, Lot acting as their proxy savior. When the angels asked Lot whether he had any others whom he would like to bring—“whoever you have in the city”—they even left open the possibility that God would deliver others for Lot’s sake as Lot was a righteous man for whom God had respect.
In the end-time version of these events, when wickedness peaks to the degree it did in Sodom and Gomorrah, God again rescues his elect while many others of his people perish for corrupting their lives: “The sinners in Zion are struck with fear; the godless are in the grip of trembling: ‘Who among us can live through the devouring fire? Who among us can abide eternal burning?’ They who conduct themselves righteously and are honest in word, who disdain extortion and stay their hand from taking bribes, who stop their ears at the mention of murder, who shut their eyes at the sight of wickedness. They shall dwell on high; the impregnable cliffs are their fortress. Bread is provided them, their water is sure” (Isaiah 33:14–16); “The righteous disappear, and no man gives it a thought; the godly are gathered out, but no one perceives that from impending calamity the righteous are withdrawn. They who walk uprightly shall attain peace, and rest in their beds” (Isaiah 57:1–2).
Just as Abraham acted as a proxy savior to Lot when God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, so God’s end-time servants act as proxy saviors to those whom God delivers from an end-time Sodom and Gomorrah type of destruction: “Thus says Jehovah: ‘As when there is juice in a cluster of grapes and someone says, “Don’t destroy it, it is still good,” so I will do for the sake of my servants by not destroying everything: I will extract offspring out of Jacob, and out of Judah heirs of my mountains; my chosen ones shall inherit them, my servants shall dwell there’” (Isaiah 65:8; emphasis added); “Had not Jehovah of Hosts left us a few survivors, we should have been as Sodom, or become like Gomorrah” (Isaiah 1:9).
God’s desolation of Sodom and Gomorrah by a hail of fire and brimstone in the days of Abraham wiped out all vestiges of human habitation in that place even to this day. Thereafter, Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction became synonymous with a curse God pronounces on any people whose depravity resembles theirs:
God “turned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, damning them by overthrowing them, hence making an example of them to those who live wickedly. And he delivered the just [man] Lot, who was vexed by the filthy conversation of the ungodly. For that righteous man, dwelling among them, seeing and hearing, was roiled in his righteous soul day after day by their lawless acts. The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and how to reserve the unjust to the Day of Judgment to be punished—those who go after the flesh in their defiling lusts and who despise self-discipline. Presumptuous are they, and self-willed, unafraid to speak evil of nobleness. Whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, dare bring no railing accusation against them before the Lord. But [such as] these, like carnal brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speaking evil of things they don’t understand, shall utterly perish in their corruption, receiving the reward of [their] unrighteousness like those who count it a pleasure to brawl for the day. A stain [are they], and blemishes, sporting themselves in their deceitfulness while they feast among you, their eyes full of adultery, unable to cease sinning—beguiling, unstable souls, their hearts preoccupied with covetous acts. A cursed progeny [are they]” (2 Peter 2:6–14).
The severity of God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah thus match the degree of wickedness to which their inhabitants had sunk: “The sun had risen upon the earth when Lot entered Zoar. Then Jehovah rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities and the entire plain and all those cities’ inhabitants and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him and became a pillar of salt. And when Abraham arose early in the morning [and went] to the place where he stood before Jehovah, he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah and the entire land of the plain. And he observed the smoke of that region ascending like the smoke of a furnace” (Genesis 19:23–28).
Although God had commanded Moses that “there shall be no whore among the daughters of Israel nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel” (Deuteronomy 23:17), the sin of homosexuality nevertheless manifested itself from time to time in Israel, causing the prophets to chasten the people: “Judah did evil in the sight of Jehovah. They provoked him to resentment by the sins they committed beyond what their fathers had done. For they also built shrines for themselves and images and groves on every high hill and under every green tree. And there were sodomites in the land, who did according to all the abominations of the nations Jehovah had cast out before the people of Israel” (1 Kings 14:22–24);
“‘The land is full of adulterers. Because of blasphemy the land mourns; the wilderness oases have dried up. Their conduct is evil, their aggressiveness unconscionable. Prophets and priests are both profane. Even in my house have I found their wickedness,’ says Jehovah. ‘Therefore shall their ways become slippery to them and in the dark. Becoming coercive, they will fall thereby. For I will bring evil upon them—the day of their judgment,’ says Jehovah. ‘I have seen foolishness among the prophets of Samaria, They prophesy by Baal and cause my people Israel to err. Among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something awful: they commit adultery and live a lie. They strengthen the hands of evildoers so that no one turns from his wickedness. They are all like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.’
“Therefore thus says Jehovah of Hosts concerning the prophets: ‘See, I will make them eat bitterness and drink polluted water because from the prophets of Jerusalem has ungodliness spread throughout the land.’ Thus says Jehovah of Hosts, ‘Don’t heed the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you vain; they speak a vision from their own heart, not from the mouth of Jehovah. They still say to those who despise me, ‘Jehovah has said [it]; you will have peace.’ So say they to everyone who walks after the imagination of his own heart: ‘No evil shall come upon you’” (Jeremiah 23:10–17).
These portrayals of wickedness among God’s people typify Isaiah’s end-time scene. Jehovah’s calling his own people by the names Sodom and Gomorrah indicates they have become as ungodly as those cities’ ancient inhabitants. Therefore they must suffer the same fate: “The look on their faces betrays them: they flaunt their sin like Sodom; they cannot hide it. Woe to their souls; they have brought disaster upon themselves!” (Isaiah 3:9); “Hear the word of Jehovah, O leaders of Sodom; give heed to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah!” (Isaiah 1:10).
Even though God delivers a righteous few among his end-time people as he did Lot and his daughters from Sodom and Gomorrah, many end up perishing in the inferno: “Wickedness shall be set ablaze like a fire, and briars and thorns shall it consume; it shall ignite the jungle forests, and they shall billow upward in mushrooming clouds of smoke. At the wrath of Jehovah of Hosts the earth is scorched, and people are but fuel for the fire” (Isaiah 9:18–19); “Her streams shall turn into lava and her earth into brimstone; her land shall become as burning pitch. Night and day it shall not be quenched; its smoke shall ascend forever. It shall remain a wasteland from generation to generation; through endless ages none shall traverse it” (Isaiah 34:9–10).
Paul, too, warns against God’s coming “day of wrath” (Romans 2:5), when those who knew God would fall away and wilfully transgress with the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness, because that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath shown it to them. For the invisible things concerning him from the creation of the world have been clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made—even his eternal power and Godhead—so that they are without excuse. Because when they knew God they glorified him not as God, nor were thankful but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image resembling corruptible man, birds, four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Therefore, God gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies among themselves, who changed the truth of God into a lie and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator who is blessed forever. Amen.
“For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections, for even their women changed their natural use into what is against nature. And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another—men with men, doing what is unseemly and receiving in their persons a fitting reward of their evil practices. And as they desired not to retain God in their awareness, God gave them over to a reprobate mind to do things inexpedient, being filled with every [form of] unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, malevolence, being full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, viciousness, [becoming] gossipers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, conceivers of evil, disobedient to parents, devoid of understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, unbending, unmerciful, who, knowing God’s judgment—that those who commit such things are worthy of death—not only do those things but have pleasure in those who do them” (Romans 1:18–32).
Because such wickedness by God’s end-time people is the catalyst of a worldwide Sodom and Gomorrah type of desolation, they experience what Babylon does. When “Babylon, the most splendid of kingdoms, the glory and pride of Chaldeans, shall be [thrown down]as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah” (Isaiah 13:19), they are destroyed with it.
During the earth’s formative stages, the heavens and the earth witness horrendous upheavals. Influenced by heavenly bodies around it and by cosmic debris, the earth experiences cycles of regression into more chaotic states followed by its regrouping and regenerating to the point that it can sustain life or higher forms of life. These cosmic disturbances are observed by visionaries such as King David:
“The earth tottered and trembled. The foundations of heaven moved and shook, for he was enraged. A smoke arose from his nostrils, from his mouth a devouring fire of kindled coals. He bowed the heavens and came down; darkness was under his feet. He rode on a cherub and flew. He was seen on the wings of the wind. He made darkness a pavilion round about himself, murky waters and dense clouds in the sky. Through the brightness before him appeared lighted coals of fire. Jehovah thundered from heaven; the Most High uttered his voice. He sent forth arrows and scattered them; lightnings discomfited them. The sea troughs appeared and the substratum of the world was exposed at Jehovah’s rebuke, at the blast of his nostrils’ breath” (2 Samuel 22:8–16).
Other instances of disturbance of the natural order are experienced by God’s people themselves, as occurs during Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land: “And it came to pass as they fled from before Israel in the descent to Beth-horon that Jehovah cast great stones from heaven upon them as far as Azekah. And they died. And those who died from the hailstones outnumbered those whom the people of Israel slew with the sword. Then spoke Joshua to Jehovah in the day Jehovah delivered up the Amorites before the people of Israel, saying, in the sight of Israel, ‘Sun, stand still upon Gibeon, and, Moon, in the Valley of Ajalon.’ And the sun stood still and the moon stayed until the people had avenged themselves on their enemies. Isn’t this written in the Book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven and hastened not to go down about an entire day. And there was no day like it before or after in which Jehovah heeded the voice of a man, for Jehovah fought for Israel” (Joshua 10:11–14).
Isaiah predicts similar end-time instances of cosmic upheaval as an integral part of God’s cleansing of the earth of its wicked inhabitants: “When the windows on high are opened, the earth shall shake to its foundations. The earth shall be crushed and rent; the earth shall break up and cave in; the earth shall convulse and lurch. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, sway back and forth like a shanty; its transgressions weigh it down, and when it collapses it shall rise no more” (Isaiah 24:18–20); “Lift up your eyes to the heavens; look on the earth beneath: the heavens shall vanish as by smoke, the earth wear out like a garment—its inhabitants shall die in the manner of vermin” (Isaiah 51:6); “I clothe the heavens with the blackness of mourning; I put up sackcloth to cover them” (Isaiah 50:3);
“The Day of Jehovah shall come as a cruel outburst of anger and wrath to make the earth a desolation, that sinners may be annihilated from it. The stars and constellations of the heavens will not shine. When the sun rises, it shall be obscured; nor will the moon give its light. . . . I will cause disturbance in the heavens when the earth is jolted out of place by the anger of Jehovah of Hosts in the day of his blazing wrath” (Isaiah 13:9–10, 13); “Men will go into crevices in the rocks and fissures in the cliffs, from the awesome presence of Jehovah and from the brightness of his glory, when he arises and strikes terror on earth” (Isaiah 2:21);
“Jehovah’s rage is upon all nations, his fury upon all their hosts; he has doomed them, consigned them to the slaughter. Their slain shall be flung out and their corpses emit a stench; their blood shall dissolve on the mountains, their fat decompose [on the hills]—when the heavens are rolled up as a scroll, and their starry hosts shed themselves with one accord, like withered leaves from a vine, or shriveled fruit from a fig tree. When my sword drinks its fill in the heavens, it shall come down on Edom in judgment, on the people I have sentenced to damnation” (Isaiah 34:2–5). Isaiah’s end-time version of cosmic disturbance thus coincides with God’s Day of Judgment coming upon the earth’s unrepentant inhabitants, including those of his own people.
“In the beginning”—when “God created the heavens and the earth”—“the earth was formless and unorganized (tohu wabohu), and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1–2). The words tohu wabohu express the chaotic or disorganized state of the elements from which God formed the earth.
Isaiah’s portrayal of the earth’s creation best depicts God’s organization of the basic elements of “dust” and “waters” from their preexistent state into a place fit for human habitation: “Who measured out the waters with the hollow of his hand and gauged the heavens by the span of his fingers? Who compiled the earth’s dust by measure, weighing mountains in scales, hills in a balance? . . . Are you so unaware, that you have not heard? Have you not been told before, that you do not understand [by whom]the earth was founded? By him who sits enthroned above the earth’s sphere, to whom its inhabitants are as grasshoppers, who suspends the heavens like a canopy, stretching them out as a tent to dwell in” (Isaiah 40:12, 21–22).
The chaotic condition of the earth during its formation from cosmic debris in the beginning is nevertheless repeated in the end as its inhabitants’ wickedness leads to a similar dissolution of elements into a disorganized state. This time, however, the earth’s face is marred as its human establishments and elite institutions are demolished. Scattered throughout the Book of Isaiah we thus find the chaos motifs of dust, waters/hail, mud/mire/clay, mist/darkness, clouds/smoke, wind/vapor/tempest, fire/flames, chaff/stubble, refuse/litter, and dross/alloy. All depict God’s end-time de-creation of chaotic entities as he reduces the wicked of his people and the nations to nothing or non-entities:
Dust: “He has put down the elite inhabitants of the exalted city by casting it to the ground, laying it even with the dust. It is trodden underfoot by the feet of the poor, by the footsteps of those impoverished” (Isaiah 26:5–6; emphasis added); “As a blazing fire consumes stubble, and as dry weeds wane before the flame, so shall their roots decay away and their blossoms fly up like dust. For they have despised the law of Jehovah of Hosts and reviled the words of the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 5:24; emphasis added).
Waters/hail: “I will make justice the measure, righteousness the weight; a hail shall sweep away your false refuge and waters flood the hiding place” (Isaiah 28:17; emphasis added); “For by a hail shall forests be felled, cities utterly leveled” (Isaiah 32:19; emphasis added); “Jehovah will cause his voice to resound, and make visible his arm descending in furious rage, with flashes of devouring fire, explosive discharges and pounding hail” (Isaiah 30:30; emphasis added).
Mud/mire/clay: “The wicked are like the raging Sea, unable to rest, whose waters heave up mire and mud” (Isaiah 57:20; emphasis added); “I will commission him against a godless nation, appoint him over the people [deserving]of my vengeance, to pillage for plunder, to spoliate for spoil, to tread underfoot like mud in the streets” (Isaiah 10:6; emphasis added); “I have raised up one from the north who calls on my name, who shall come from the direction of sunrise. He shall come upon dignitaries as on mud, tread them as clay like a potter” (Isaiah 41:25; emphasis added).
Mist/gloom/darkness: “He shall be stirred up against them in that day, even as the Sea is stirred up. And should one look to the land, there [too] shall be a distressing gloom, for the daylight shall be darkened by an overhanging mist” (Isaiah 5:30; emphasis added); “They will look to the land, but there shall be a depressing scene of anguish and gloom; and thus are they banished into outer darkness” (Isaiah 8:19–22; emphasis added).
Clouds/smoke: “Wickedness shall be set ablaze like a fire, and briars and thorns shall it consume; it shall ignite the jungle forests, and they shall billow upward in mushrooming clouds of smoke” (Isaiah 9:18; emphasis added); “Wail at the gates; howl in the city! Utterly melt away, you Philistines! From the North shall come [pillars of] smoke, and no place he has designated shall evade it” (Isaiah 14:31; emphasis added).
Wind/vapor/tempest: “When you cry out in distress, let those who flock to you save you! A wind shall carry all of them off; a vapor shall take them away” (Isaiah 57:13; emphasis added); “You shall thresh mountains to dust and make chaff of hills. As you winnow them, a wind shall take them away, a tempest dispel them” (Isaiah 41:15–16; emphasis added).
Fire/flames: “Your land is ruined, your cities burned with fire; your native soil is devoured by aliens in your presence, laid waste at its takeover by foreigners” (Isaiah 1:7; emphasis added); “Who is it that hands Jacob over to plunder and Israel to despoilers, if not Jehovah, against whom we have sinned? For they have no desire to walk in his ways or obey his law. So in the heat of his anger he pours out on them the violence of war, till it envelopes them in flames—yet they remain unaware—till it sets them on fire; yet they take it not to heart” (Isaiah 42:24–25; emphasis added).
Chaff/stubble: “Suddenly, in an instant, your crowds of evildoers shall become as fine dust, your violent mobs like flying chaff” (Isaiah 29:5; emphasis added); “Who has raised up Righteousness from the east, calling him to [the place of]his foot? Who has delivered nations to him, toppled their rulers, rendering them as dust to his sword, as driven stubble to his bow?” (Isaiah 41:2; emphasis added); “Nations may roar like the roaring of great waters, but when he rebukes them they will flee far away; they will be driven before the wind like chaff on the mountains, or as whirling [dust]in a storm. At evening time shall be the catastrophe, and before morning they shall be no more. This is the lot of those who plunder us, the fate of those who despoil us” (Isaiah 17:13–14; emphasis added).
Refuse/litter: “The mighty shall be as refuse, and their works a spark; both shall burn up alike, and there shall be none to extinguish” (Isaiah 1:31; emphasis added); “Therefore the anger of Jehovah is kindled against his people: he draws back his hand against them and strikes them; the mountains quake, and their corpses lie like litter about the streets” (Isaiah 5:25; emphasis added).
Dross/alloy: “Your silver has become dross, your wine diluted with water. . . . I will restore my handover you and smelt away your dross as in a crucible, and remove all your alloy” (Isaiah 1:22, 25; emphasis added).
Because Isaiah’s Seven-Part Structure transforms the entire Book of Isaiah into an apocalyptic prophecy, ancient Assyria’s conquest of the then-known world typifies an end-time world conquest by an end-time “Assyria.” Historically, Assyria’s brutal subjugation of nations and peoples involves the destruction of much of their agriculture and infrastructure: “You have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, utterly destroying them” (2 Kings 19:11).
Because Assyria’s world conquest occurs in Isaiah’s day, Isaiah provides the best source both for its historical documentation and for its prophetic transformation into an end-time scenario. According to the way Isaiah nuances Assyria’s world conquest, the mastermind of that grand exploit is its tyrannical king, whom Jehovah appoints to that task on the heels of the apostasy of Jehovah’s own people: “Hail the Assyrian, the rod of my anger! He is a staff—my wrath in their hand. I will commission him against a godless nation, appoint him over the people [deserving]of my vengeance, to pillage for plunder, to spoliate for spoil, to tread underfoot like mud in the streets. Nevertheless, it shall not seem so to him; this shall not be what he has in mind. His purpose shall be to annihilate and to exterminate nations not a few” (Isaiah 10:5–7).
An evil alliance of nations rallies to Assyria’s standard to accomplish the job of conquering the world: “Hark! A tumult on the mountains, as of a vast multitude. Hark! An uproar among kingdoms, as of nations assembling: Jehovah of Hosts is marshaling an army for war. They come from a distant land beyond the horizon—Jehovah and the instruments of his wrath—to cause destruction throughout the earth. . . . Whoever is found shall be thrust through; all who are caught shall fall by the sword. Their infants shall be dashed in pieces before their eyes, their homes plundered, their wives ravished. See, I stir up against them the Medes, who do nor value silver, nor covet gold. Their bows shall tear apart the young. They will show no mercy to the newborn; their eye will not look with compassion on children” (Isaiah 13:4–5, 15–18).
Because of his remarkable success, the Assyrian archtyrant attributes all to his own genius, not to Israel’s God who empowers him (here, the pronoun “I” appears seven times, reflecting his unbounded egotism): “But when my Lord has fully accomplished his work in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, he will punish the king of Assyria for his notorious boasting and infamous conceit, because he said, ‘I have done it by my own ability and shrewdness, for I am ingenious. I have done away with the borders of nations, I have ravaged their reserves, I have vastly reduced the inhabitants. I have impounded the wealth of peoples like a nest, and I have gathered up the whole world as one gathers abandoned eggs; not one flapped its wings, or opened its mouth to utter a peep’” (Isaiah 10:5–14).
After he serves Jehovah’s purpose of punishing a wicked world, the Assyrian boaster himself comes to an end: “Whom have you mocked and ridiculed? Against whom have you raised your voice, lifting your eyes to high heaven? Against the Holy One of Israel! By your servants you have blasphemed my Lord. You thought, ‘On account of my vast chariotry I have conquered the highest mountains, the farthest reaches of Lebanon. I have felled its tallest cedars, its choicest cypresses. I have reached its loftiest summit, its finest forest. I have dug wells and drunk of foreign waters. With the soles of my feet I have dried up all Egypt’s rivers!’ Have you not heard how I ordained this thing long ago, how in days of old I planned it? Now I have brought it to pass. You were destined to demolish fortified cities, [turning them]into heaps of rubble, while their timorous inhabitants shrank away in confusion, becoming as wild grass, transiently green, or like weeds on a roof that scorch before they grow up. But I know where you dwell, and your comings and goings, and how stirred up you are against me. And because of your snortings and bellowings against me, which have mounted up to my ears, I will put my ring in your nose and my bit in your mouth and turn you back by the way you came” (Isaiah 37:23–29).
Passing himself off as the god of this world, the archtyrant’s self-exaltation finally leads to his utter humiliation: “You said in your heart, ‘I will rise in the heavens and set up my throne above the stars of God; I will seat myself in the mount of assembly [of the gods], in the utmost heights or Zaphon. I will ascend above the altitude of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High!’ But you have been brought down to Sheol, to the utmost depths of the Pit. Those who catch sight of you stare at you, wondering, ‘Is this the man who made the earth shake and kingdoms quake, who turned the world into a wilderness, demolishing its cities, permitting not his captives to return home?’. . . . How the tyrant has met his end and tyranny ceased! Jehovah has broken the staff of the wicked, the rod of those who ruled—him who with unerring blows struck down the nations in anger, who subdued peoples in his wrath by relentless oppression” (Isaiah 14:13–17, 4–6). (Note: Although the above passage references the “king of Babylon,” Assyrian conquerors of Babylon, as in this case, named themselves “King of Babylon.”)
The worldwide deluge God brings upon the earth in the days of Noah, which destroys men and beasts, is a consequence of humanity’s corruption and violence: “God saw that the wickedness of man on the earth was great and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And Jehovah regretted he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And Jehovah said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth—men and beasts, crawling creatures, and the birds of the air—for I regret that I made them.’ But Noah found grace in the eyes of Jehovah. . . . And God looked on the earth, and verily it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted its way on the earth. And God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before me, for the earth is filled with violence by them. See, I will destroy them with the earth’” (Genesis 6:5–8, 12–13);
“In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day all the wellsprings of the mighty deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And rain came on the earth for forty days and forty nights. . . . And the flood stayed forty days on the earth. And the waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose above the earth. And the waters prevailed and greatly increased on the earth, and the ark [floated] on the water’s surface. The waters on the earth predominated until all high hills under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed fifteen cubits high until the mountains were covered. And all flesh died that moved upon the earth—both fowl and cattle, beasts and crawling creatures that crawl on the earth, and all men. All in whose nostrils was the breath of life and all that was upon the dry land died. Every living thing was destroyed that existed on the face of the ground. Men and cattle, crawling creatures, and the birds of the air were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah remained and those with him in the ark” (Genesis 7:11–12, 17–23).
The new Flood that Isaiah predicts, on the other hand, although similarly destructive of men and beasts, is manmade. Using flood imagery to depict Assyria’s end-time conquest of the world, Isaiah links this new Flood to the old. By comparing the Assyrian archtyrant and his alliance of nations to the sea in commotion and to a river in flood, Isaiah draws on ancient Near Eastern mythology to tell us that the new Flood is as devastating as the old and serves the same purpose. Beginning with his own people, Jehovah permits the powers of chaos to predominate until the earth is cleansed of wickedness:
“My Lord has in store one mighty and strong: as a ravaging hailstorm sweeping down, or like an inundating deluge of mighty waters, he will hurl them to the ground by his hand” (Isaiah 28:2); “My Lord will cause to come up over them the great and mighty waters of the River—the king of Assyria in all his glory. He will rise up over all his channels and overflow all his banks. He will sweep into Judea [like] a flood and, passing through, reach the very neck; his outspread wings will span the breadth of your land, O Immanuel” (Isaiah 8:7–8); “He shall be stirred up against them in that day, even as the Sea is stirred up” (Isaiah 5:30).
When the new Flood has served its purpose, Jehovah relents and receives back his people who repent: “This is to me as in the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would no more flood the earth. So I swear to have no more anger toward you, never again to rebuke you” (Isaiah 54:9).
Assyria and its alliance meet the same fate they impose on the world they destroy and subjugate: “Woe to the many peoples in an uproar, who rage like the raging of the seas—tumultuous nations, in commotion like the turbulence of mighty waters! Nations may roar like the roaring of great waters, but when he rebukes them they will flee far away; they will be driven before the wind like chaff on the mountains, or as whirling dustin a storm. At evening time shall be the catastrophe, and before morning they shall be no more. This is the lot of those who plunder us, the fate of those who despoil us” (Isaiah 17:14); “At that time shall tribute be brought to Jehovah of Hosts from a nation perpetually on the move, from a nation dreaded far and wide, a people continually infringing, whose rivers have annexed their lands, to the place of the name of Jehovah of Hosts: Mount Zion” (Isaiah 18:7).
The fact that Assyria’s invasion of both the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel occurs during Isaiah’s lifetime—not before, as with other events of which he predicts new versions—allows him to use that event, too, as a type of future invasion of the lands of God’s people. Indeed, Assyria’s conquest of the Promised Land greatly impacts the course of Israel’s history and becomes a key typological component of Isaiah’s end-time scenario:
“It happened in the fourth year of King Hezekiah—being the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel—that Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria and besieged it. And at the end of three years they captured it. In the sixth year of Hezekiah, which was the ninth year of Hoshea, king of Israel, Samaria was taken. . . . And in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the walled cities of Judea and captured them” (2 Kings 18:9–10, 13).
The end-time Assyrian alliance acts much the same as its ancient counterpart when Jehovah summons it to invade his people’s lands. Contrasting Jehovah’s own people, who have sunk into a lax and licentious state (Isaiah 28:13; 29:10; 43:22), is the well-disciplined Assyrian alliance: “He raises an ensignto distant nations and summons them from beyond the horizon. Forthwith they come, swiftly and speedily. Not one of them grows weary, nor does any stumble; they do not drowse or fall asleep. Their waist-belts come not loose nor their sandal thongs undone. Their arrows are sharp; all their bows are strung. The tread of their warhorses resembles flint; their chariot wheels revolve like a whirlwind. They have the roar of a lion; they are aroused like young lions: growling, they seize the prey, and escape, and none comes to the rescue” (Isaiah 5:26–29).
The king of Assyria’s unstoppable military machine advances into country after country, his ultimate goal being the conquest of God’s elect: “He advances on Aiath, passes through Migron; at Micmash he marshals his weaponry. They cross over the pass, stopping overnight at Geba. Ramah is in a state of alarm, Gibeah of Saul is fleeing. Cry out, O Daughter of Gallim! Hear her, Laishah; answer her, Anathoth! Madmenah has moved out of the way, the inhabitants of Gebim are in full flight. This same day he will but pause at Nob and signal the advance against the mountain of the Daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem” (Isaiah 10:28–32).
In the end, however, Assyria’s armies are defeated in two major battles: “At the voice of Jehovah the Assyrians will be terror-stricken, they who used to strike with the rod. At every sweep of the staff of authority, when Jehovah lowers it upon them, they will be fought in mortal combat” (Isaiah 30:31–32); “‘And Assyria shall fall by a sword not of man; a sword not of mortals shall devour them: before that sword they shall waste away and their young men melt; their captain shall expire in terror and their officers shrink from the ensign,’ says Jehovah, whose fireis in Zion, whose furnace is in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 31:8–9). Following these major defeats, Assyria’s scattered garrisons are mopped up by God’s end-time servant as he and the armies of God reconquer the earth on behalf of God’s people.
Israel’s ancient bondage in Egypt comes about when a new Egyptian dynasty fears the populous Israelites who had taken up residence in Egypt in the days of Joseph the son of Jacob, whom an earlier Pharaoh had made ruler of all Egypt: “Now there arose a new king over Egypt who didn’t know Joseph. And he said to his people, ‘See, the people of Israel are more and mightier than we are. Come, let us deal wisely with them lest they multiply and it come to pass that, when there is a war, they join our enemies and fight against us and then get out of the land.’ So they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the people of Israel. And the Egyptians made the people of Israel serve rigorously and made their lives bitter with hard bondage, with mortar and brick and with all kinds of servitude in the field, all their employ in which they made them serve being rigorous” (Exodus 1:8–14).
Although the end-time versions of ancient events are much briefer in duration—all being compressed into a period of just a few years—their reality matches what occurred in the past: “Thus says my Lord Jehovah: ‘At first my people went down to Egypt to sojourn there. Then the Assyrians subjected them for nothing. And now, what have I here?’ says Jehovah. ‘My people are taken over without price; those who govern them act presumptuously,’ says Jehovah, ‘and my name is constantly abused all the day long’” (Isaiah 52:4–5).
This passage compares Israel’s bondage in Egypt to its later subjection to Assyria, then uses both to predict an end-time bondage or captivity in which the political leaders of God’s people “take them over” and lord it over them as did the Egyptians and Assyrians anciently. Assyria’s conquest of the world, moreover, maintains and perpetuates this bondage, so that from the time God’s end-time people apostatize, they begin to continuously suffer the covenant curse of bondage to enemies.
Those of his people who repent, on the other hand, God releases from bondage after the curse serves its purpose of restoring them to a covenant relationship with him: “Thus says my Lord, Jehovah of Hosts: ‘O my people who inhabit Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrians, though they strike you with the rod or raise their staff over you, as did the Egyptians’” (Isaiah 10:24); “I will break Assyria in my own land, trample them underfoot on my mountains; their yoke shall be taken from them, their burden removed from their shoulders” (Isaiah 14:25); “In that day their burdens shall be lifted from your shoulders, their yoke [removed] from your neck: the yoke [that wore away your fatness] shall by fatness wear away” (Isaiah 10:27).
After successive pharaohs enslave the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in Egypt and make them serve in hard bondage, God raises up Moses to deliver them: “Then said Jehovah to Moses, ‘Now shall you see what I will do to Pharaoh. For with a strong hand will he let them go, and with a strong hand will he drive them out of his land.’ And God spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘I am Jehovah. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by [the name of] God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah I wasn’t known to them. I have also established my covenant with them to give them the Land of Canaan, the land of their sojourn in which they were strangers. And I have heard the groanings of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered my covenant. Therefore say to the people of Israel, “I am Jehovah. I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians and will rid you of their bondage. I will redeem you with a stretched-out arm and with great judgments. And I will take you to myself for a people; I will be a God to you. And you will know that I am Jehovah your God when I bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land I swore to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for an inheritance. I am Jehovah”’” (Exodus 6:1–8).
After Jehovah brings ten plagues on the land of Egypt, and Pharaoh finally lets the Israelites go, he and his army nevertheless corner them at the Red Sea in a last attempt to once again enslave them. So Jehovah says to Moses, “Raise your rod and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it so that the people of Israel may go through the midst of the sea on dry ground” (Exodus 14:16). When Moses, therefore, “stretched out his hand over the sea, Jehovah caused the sea to retreat with a strong east wind all that night, making the sea dry ground as the waters divided. Then the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. But the Egyptians pursued and went after them into the midst of the sea with Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and horsemen. And it happened in the morning watch that Jehovah looked at the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud and troubled the Egyptian host and took off their chariot wheels when they drove them heavily. So the Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from the face of Israel, for Jehovah battles for them against the Egyptians.’
“Then Jehovah said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may return over the Egyptians and over their chariots and horsemen.’ So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its strength as the morning appeared. And the Egyptians fled against it, and Jehovah overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. And the waters returned and covered the chariots, horsemen, and the entire host of Pharaoh who came into the sea after them. There remained not so much as one of them. But the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. Thus did Jehovah save Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians. And Israel beheld the Egyptian dead on the seashore and saw the great work Jehovah had done against the Egyptians. And the people feared Jehovah, and they believed Jehovah and his servant Moses” (Exodus 14:21–31).
In the same way Jehovah intervenes in his people’s affairs when he raises up Moses and empowers him to deliver Israel from bondage anciently, so he intervenes again when he raises up and empowers his end-time servant—his mighty arm—to deliver his people at the end of the world. This time, however, it appears that Jehovah’s servant, who is elsewhere called “the angel of his presence” (Isaiah 63:9), was directly involved in delivering Israel in Moses’ day: “Awake, arise; clothe yourself with power, O arm of Jehovah! Bestir yourself, as in ancient times, as in generations of old. Was it not you who carved up Rahab, you who slew the dragon? Was it not you who dried up the Sea, the waters of the mighty deep, and made of ocean depths a way by which the redeemed might pass? Let the ransomed of Jehovah return! Let them come singing to Zion, their heads crowned with everlasting joy; let them obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing flee away” (Isaiah 51:9–11; emphasis added).
Israel’s end-time exodus, however, instead of being from a single land—Egypt—is out of Babylon, which Isaiah identifies as the world at large on the eve of its destruction (Isaiah 13:1, 9, 11, 19). At the new exodus, the name “Babylon” thus functions as a codename of the world in its corrupt state: “Go forth out of Babylon, flee from Chaldea! Make this announcement with resounding voice; broadcast it to the end of the earth. Say, ‘Jehovah has redeemed his servant Jacob.’” (Isaiah 48:20). Just as the angel of Jehovah accompanies Israel’s ancient exodus, so on this occasion Jehovah himself accompanies them: “Turn away, depart; touch nothing defiled as you leave there. Come out of her and be pure, you who bear Jehovah’s vessels. But you shall not leave in haste or go in flight: Jehovah will go before you, the God of Israel behind you” (Isaiah 52:11–12).
Exiting end-time Babylon, God’s people thus arrive from the four corners of the earth: “Do not fear, for I am with you. I will bring your offspring from the east and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, ‘Give up!’ to the south, ‘Withhold not!’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth’” (Isaiah 43:5–6). As before, no armies or elements stand in their way: “Thus says Jehovah—who provides a way in the Sea, a path through the mighty waters, who dispatches chariots and horses, armies of men in full strength; they lie down as one, to rise no more, they flicker and die, snuffed out like a wick” (Isaiah 43:16–17); “When you cross the waters, I will be with you; [when you traverse]the rivers, you shall not be overwhelmed. Though you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; its flame shall not consume you” (Isaiah 43:2).
So great an event is the new, end-time exodus of God’s people that only the new, not the old, is celebrated in the millennial age: “‘The days come,’ says Jehovah, ‘that it will no more be said, “Jehovah lives, who brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,” but “Jehovah loves, who brought the people of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where he had driven them.” For I will bring them again into the land I gave their fathers’” (Jeremiah 16:14–15).
After the Israelites escape Egypt under Moses, they dwell forty years in the Sinai wilderness before inheriting the Promised Land. Several accounts record their trek: “The entire assembly of the people of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin in their travels according to the commandment of Jehovah. And they encamped in Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So the people chided with Moses and said, ‘Give us water so we may drink.’ And Moses said to them, ‘Why do you chide with me? Why do you tempt Jehovah?’ And the people thirsted there for water. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, ‘Why is it that you have brought us up out of Egypt to kill us and our children and cattle with thirst?’ And Moses called to Jehovah, saying, ‘What shall I do for these people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ And Jehovah said to Moses, ‘Go before the people and take with you of the elders of Israel. And the rod with which you smote the river, take in your hand and go. See, I will stand before you there upon the rock in Horeb. And you will smite the rock and water will come out of it so that the people may drink.’ And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel” (Exodus 17:1–6);
“And the people of Israel took their journey out of the wilderness of Sinai, and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran. From the first, they took their journey according to the commandment of Jehovah by the hand of Moses” (Numbers 10:12–13); “And the people of Israel set forward and encamped in Oboth. And they journeyed from Oboth and encamped at Ije-abarim in the wilderness before Moab toward the sunrise. And from there they moved and encamped in the Valley of Zared, and from there they moved and encamped on the other side of Arnon, which is in the wilderness that approaches the borders of the Amorites” (Numbers 21:10–13).
Although the end-time sequel of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness is much briefer in comparison, it has the same purifying and sanctifying effect on God’s people in preparing them to inherit promised lands as Israel’s ancient dwelling in the wilderness: “‘I will bring you out from among the peoples and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered, with a mighty hand and with a stretched-out arm and with fury poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face. As I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you,’ says the Lord God. ‘And I will cause you to pass under the rod and bring you into the bond of the covenant. I will purge out from among you the rebels and those who transgress against me. I will bring them forth out of the country where they dwell and they won’t enter into the Land of Israel. Then will you know that I am Jehovah’” (Ezekiel 20:34–38).
Isaiah predicts that God appoints his end-time servant to lead the new exodus and new wandering in the wilderness just as Moses does in antiquity: “He said: It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore those preserved of Israel. I will also appoint you to be a light to the nations, that my salvation may be to the end of the earth. . . . Thus says Jehovah: ‘At a favorable time I have answered you; in the day of salvationI have come to your aid: I have created you and appointed you to be a covenant of the people, to restore the Land and reapportion the desolate estates, to say to the captives, “Come forth!” and to those in darkness, “Show yourselves!” They shall feed along the way and find pasture on all barren heights; they shall not hunger or thirst, nor be smitten by the heatwave or the sun: he who has mercy on them will guide them; he will lead them by springs of water. All my mountain ranges I will appoint as roads; my highways shall be on high. See these, coming from afar, these, from the northwest, and these, from the land of Sinim’” (Isaiah 49:6, 8–12).
Not only does God provide water in the wilderness for his people as before, he also regenerates the wilderness so that its trees provide shade: “When the poor and needy require water, and there is none, and their tongue becomes parched with thirst, I Jehovah will answer their want; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open up streams in barren hill country, springs in the midst of the plains; I will turn the desert into lakes, parched lands into fountains of water. I will bring cedars and acacias, myrtles and oleasters in the wilderness; I will place cypresses, elms and box trees in the steppes—that all may see it and know, consider it, and perceive that Jehovah’s hand did this, that the Holy One of Israel created it” (Isaiah 41:17–20);
“See, I do a new thing; it is now springing up. Surely, you are aware of it: I am making roads through the desert, streams in the wasteland. The wild beasts do me honor, the jackals and birds of prey, for bringing water to the wilderness, streams to the dry land, that I may give drink to my chosen people, the people I formed for myself to speak out in praise of me” (Isaiah 43:19–21); “They thirsted not when he led them through arid places: he caused water to flow for them from the rock; he cleaved the rock and water gushed out” (Isaiah 48:21); “You shall depart in joy and be led back in peace; the mountains and hills shall sing at your presence and the trees of the meadows all clap their hands. In place of the thorn bush shall come up the cypress, in place of nettles, the myrtle. This shall serve as a testimony of Jehovah, an everlasting sign that shall not be done away” (Isaiah 55:12–13).
The new wandering in the wilderness has a way of leveling the playing field for God’s end-time people as they anticipate Jehovah’s coming to reign on the earth: “A voice calls out, ‘In the desert prepare the way for Jehovah; in the wilderness pave a straight highway for our God: every ravine must be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the uneven ground must become level and rough terrain a plain’” (Isaiah 40:3–4).
God’s repentant people who survive the earth’s cleansing to inherit the Promised Land receive instruction in the wilderness, just as the Israelites do anciently: “In that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book and the eyes of the blind see out of gross darkness. The lowly shall obtain an increase of joy in Jehovah, and the poorest of men rejoice in the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 29:18–19); “And a man shall become as a shelter from the wind or refuge from the storm, like brooks of water in a desert place, or the shade of a large rock in arid country. The eyes of those who see shall not be shut, and the ears of those who hear shall listen. The minds of the rash shall learn understanding, and the tongues of the stammerers master eloquence” (Isaiah 32:2–4).
Isaiah nuances the end-time exodus and wandering in the wilderness of God’s repentant people by comparing it to a pilgrimage patterned after Israel’s ancient pilgrimages to the temple. Annually or bi-annually, Israel’s tribes gathered from throughout the Promised Land to Jerusalem to renew their covenants with Jehovah and bring offerings to the temple. Those were joyous occasions, when the people sang hymns along the way and fellowshipped with friends and loved ones:
“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of Jehovah.’ Our feet will stand within your gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is built as a city compacted together. There, the tribes go up—the tribes of Jehovah—to the testimony of Israel, to give thanks to the name of Jehovah” (Psalm 122:1–4); “I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the name of Jehovah. Now will I pay my vows to Jehovah in the presence of all his people, in the courts of Jehovah’s house, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise Jehovah” (Psalm 116:17–19). Even the vassal kings of David’s and Solomon’s empire participated in Israel’s pilgrimage: “Because of your temple in Jerusalem, kings will bring presents to you” (Psalm 68:29).
In the end-time version of these events, when the rest of the world is suffering God’s judgments, those who love Jehovah rejoice in taking part in the great gathering to his temple: “But for you there shall be singing, as on the night when a festival commences, and rejoicing of heart, as when men march with flutes [and drums and lyres] on their way to the mountain of Jehovah, to the Rock of Israel” (Isaiah 30:29); “There shall be highways and roads which shall be called the Way of Holiness, for they shall be for such [as are holy]. The unclean shall not traverse them; on them shall no reprobates wander. No lions hall be encountered there, nor shall wild beasts intrude. But the redeemed shall walk them, the ransomed of Jehovah shall return; they shall come singing to Zion, their heads crowned with everlasting joy. They shall have won joy and gladness when sorrow and sighing flee away” (Isaiah 35:8–10).
Because during several millennia of Israel’s exile many descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob assimilate into the nations of the Gentiles, many who return from dispersion in the end-time exodus and wandering in the wilderness reclaim their Israelite identity and renew their covenant with Jehovah: “I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, my blessing upon your posterity. They shall shoot up like grass among streams of water, like willows by running brooks. One will say, ‘I am Jehovah’s,’ and another name himself Jacob. Yet others will inscribe on their arm, ‘To Jehovah,’ and adopt the name Israel” (Isaiah 44:3–5).
From among Israel’s lineages who have assimilated into the Gentiles, too, return certain kings and queens, fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that kings would come out of their loins (Genesis 17:6, 16; 35:11). Jeremiah predicts this: “There shall enter in by the gates of this house kings sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, he, and his servants, and his people” (Jeremiah 22:4). These kings and their queens assist Israel’s scattered remnants to return from dispersion: “Thus says my Lord Jehovah: ‘I will lift up my hand to the Gentiles, raise my ensign to the nations; and they will bring your sons in their bosoms and carry your daughters on their shoulders. Kings shall be your foster fathers, queens your nursing mothers’” (Isaiah 49:22–23);
“Nations will come to your light, their kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look about you! They have all assembled to come to you: your sons shall arrive from afar; your daughters shall return to your side. Then, when you see it, your face will light up, your heart swell with awe: the multitude of the Sea shall resort to you; a host of nations shall enter you. A myriad of camels shall cover your land, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and frankincense and heralding the praises of Jehovah. All Kedar’s flocks will gather to you, the rams of Nebaioth will serve you; they shall be accepted as offerings on my altar, and so I will make glorious my house of glory” (Isaiah 60:3–7).
God provided divine protection for Israel when it came out of the land of Egypt by placing his cloud of glory over them to shield them from the elements and to separate them from their enemies: “The angel of God who went before the camp of Israel moved and went behind them. And the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel, being a cloud and darkness [to them] but giving light by night [to these], so that one didn’t come near the other the entire night” (Exodus 14:19–20); “And they took their journey from Succoth and encamped in Etham at the edge of the wilderness. And Jehovah went before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, going by day and by night, not taking away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people” (Exodus 13:20–22).
God’s cloud of glory led the Israelites throughout their travels: “On the day the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the tabernacle or tent of testimony. And in the evening it appeared on the tabernacle as fire until morning. So it was continuously. The cloud covered it [by day] and it appeared as fire by night. And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle the people of Israel traveled, and in the place where the cloud stayed, there the people of Israel pitched their tents. At Jehovah’s command the people of Israel traveled, and at Jehovah’s command they pitched their tents” (Numbers 9:15–18).
As in the past, Jehovah’s cloud shields his end-time elect from their enemies and provides them with light during a time of darkness: “Although darkness covers the earth, and a thick mist the peoples, upon you Jehovah will shine; over you his glory shall be visible” (Isaiah 60:2); “Over the whole site of Mount Zion, and over its solemn assembly, Jehovah will form a cloud by day and a mist glowing with fire by night: above all that is glorious shall be a canopy. It shall be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, a secret refuge from the downpour and from rain” (Isaiah 4:5–6).
In the midst of enemy assaults, God’s cloud of glory protects his elect people from harm: “You were a refuge for the poor, a shelter for the needy in distress, a covert from the downpour and shade from the heat. When the blasts of tyrants beat down like torrents against a wall, or like scorching heat in the desert, you quelled the onslaughts of the heathen: as burning heat by the shade of a cloud, you subdued the power of tyrants” (Isaiah 25:4–5). And as the angel of God accompanied his people in the past, so Jehovah accompanies their end-time travels: “Jehovah will go before you, the God of Israel behind you” (Isaiah 52:12).
Assyria’s siege of Jerusalem in Isaiah’s day set another historical precedent that typifies an end-time such event by an end-time Assyria: “In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria marched against all the fortified cities of Judea and seized them. And the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh with a large army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. And he took up a position by the aqueduct of the Upper Reservoir, on the road to the Laundry Plaza” (Isaiah 36:1–2).
While demanding the city’s surrender on pain of death, the military commander vilifies King Hezekiah and attempts to win the people over: “Then Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in Judean, ‘Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! Thus says the king: “Do not let Hezekiah delude you! He cannot deliver you. Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in Jehovah by saying, Jehovah will surely save us; this city shall not be given into the handof the king of Assyria. Do not listen to Hezekiah!” Thus says the king of Assyria: “Make peace with me by coming out to me. Then every one of you will eat from his own vine and his own fig tree and drink water from his own cistern, until I come back and take you to a land like your own, a land of grain and wine, a land of grain [fields]and vineyards.”’ But they remained silent, replying nothing, for the king had commanded them not to answer him” (Isaiah 36:13–17, 21).
The king of Assyria himself follows the same tactic: “And the king of Assyria “sent messengers to Hezekiah, telling them, ‘Speak thus to Hezekiah king of Judah: “Let not your God in whom you trust delude you into thinking that Jerusalem shall not be given into the handof the king of Assyria. You yourself have heard what the kings of Assyria have done, annexing all lands. Shall you then escape? Did the gods of the nations my fathers destroyed deliver them? [Did they deliver] Gozan and Haran, Rezeph and the Edenites in Tel Assar? Where are the kings of Hamath and Arpad and the kings of the cities of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah?”’
“And Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then Hezekiah went up to the house of Jehovah and unrolled it before Jehovah. And Hezekiah prayed to Jehovah and said, ‘O Jehovah of Hosts, God of Israel, who sits enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. It is you who made the heavens and the earth. O Jehovah, give ear and hear; O Jehovah, open your eyes and see. Listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to mock the living God. O Jehovah, the kings of Assyria have indeed destroyed all peoples and their lands, committing their gods to the fire. For they were no gods, but mere works of men’s hands, of wood and of stone, and so they could destroy them. But now, O Jehovah our God, deliver us out of his hand, that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone are Jehovah’” (Isaiah 37:9–20).
Because the people prove loyal to their king and the king proves loyal to God, Jehovah answers Hezekiah through the prophet Isaiah: “To you shall this be a sign: This year eat what grows wild, and the following year what springs up of itself. But in the third year sow and harvest, plant vineyards and eat their fruit: the remnant of the house of Judah that survives shall once more take root below and bear fruit above. For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, and from Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zealof Jehovah of Hosts will accomplish it. Therefore, thus says Jehovah concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He shall not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He shall not advance against it with armor, nor erect siegeworks against it. By the way he came he shall return; he shall not enter this city,’ says Jehovah. ‘I will protect this city and save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.’ Then the angel of Jehovah went out and slew a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. And when men arose in the morning, there lay all their dead bodies!” (Isaiah 37:30–36; compare 2 Kings 19:32–34).
Just as King Hezekiah performs the spiritual role of a proxy savior to his people, so does God’s servant in the end-time sequel to these events. As Hezekiah suffers a mortal illness to pay the price of his people’s deliverance (Isaiah 38:1–20), so does God’s servant when he is “marred beyond human likeness” by his enemies (Isaiah 52:14).
Having passed God’s test of their loyalty, King Hezekiah and his people ascend to the next highest spiritual level: “O my Lord, by means of such [trials] comes [a newness of] life, and throughout them all the renewal of my spirit. Surely, for my own good I am in such dire distress; [by its means] you draw my soul out of the Pit of Dissolution. For you have cast all my sins behind you, restoring and reviving me (Isaiah 38:16–17); “‘Comfort and give solace to my people,’ says your God; ‘speak kindly to Jerusalem. Announce to her that she has served her term, that her guilt has been expiated. She has received from Jehovah’s hand double for all her sins’” (Isaiah 40:1–2). Having proven loyal to Israel’s God under the threat of death—the king individually, and the people collectively—he and they experience parallel rebirths as in the principle of the one and the many.
Perhaps one reason God commanded the Israelites to observe the Passover “throughout your generations” (Exodus 12:14, 42) was to foreshadow what he would do at the end of time when Jehovah would once again “pass over” his elect people while he destroyed their enemies. An ordinance centered around Jehovah’s proxy salvation of his people, moreover—typified by “a yearling lamb without blemish” (Exodus 12:5)—would have meaning in later generations when “the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world” would be slain by Israel’s high priest at Passover (John 1:29; 18:1–19:42). Ultimately, it was the Passover lamb that freed Israel from bondage in Egypt when all else failed:
“Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, ‘Pick out and take a lamb according to your families and kill the Passover. And take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood in the basin, and strike the lintel and two side posts with the blood from the basin. And let none of you go outside the door of his house until morning. For Jehovah will pass through to smite the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and two side posts, Jehovah will pass over the door and won’t let the destroyer come into your houses to smite [you]. And you will perform this as an ordinance for you and your children forever. And it will be when you come into the land Jehovah gives you as he hath promised, that you will perform this ceremony. And it will be when your children say to you, “For what purpose is this ceremony?” that you will say, “It is the sacrifice of Jehovah’s Passover, when he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, and when he smote the Egyptians and delivered our houses.”’ And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.
“So the people of Israel went and did as Jehovah had commanded Moses and Aaron, and they performed it. And it happened at midnight that Jehovah smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and also all the firstborn of cattle. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great outcry in Egypt for there wasn’t a house where there wasn’t one dead. And he called for Moses and Aaron by night and said, ‘Rise up and go forth from among my people, both you and the people of Israel, and go and serve Jehovah as you have said. Also take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also.’ And the Egyptians urged the people to send them out of the land quickly, for they said, ‘[Otherwise] we are all dead men’”(Exodus 12:21–33).
Harking back to Israel’s ancient Passover, Isaiah predicts an end-time Passover in which those who rely of Jehovah’s proxy salvation escape his wrath upon a wicked world: “Come, O my people, enter your chambers and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves a little while until the wrath is past. For now will Jehovah come out of his dwelling place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquities; the earth will uncover the blood shed upon it and no more conceal its slain” (Isaiah 26:20–21); “As birds hover over [the nest], so will Jehovah of Hosts guard Jerusalem; by protecting it he will deliver it, by passing over it, preserve it” (Isaiah 31:5).
Isaiah additionally depicts Jehovah as “a lamb led to slaughter” in the course of fulfilling his role as a proxy savior of his people: “He bore our sufferings, endured our griefs, though we thought him stricken, smitten of God, and humbled. But he was pierced for our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; the price of our peace he incurred, and with his wounds we are healed. We all like sheep had gone astray, each of us headed his own way; Jehovah brought together upon himself the iniquity of us all. He was harassed, yet submissive, and opened not his mouth—like a lamb led to slaughter, like a sheep, dumb before its shearers, he opened not his mouth. By arrest and trial he was taken away. Who can apprise his generation that he was cut off from the land of the living for the crime of my people, to whom the blow was due?” (Isaiah 53:4–8).
After Jehovah himself becomes “an offering for guilt (Isaiah 53:10), no further Passover Lamb is needed to symbolize his atonement for transgression: “I required not that you bring me offerings from your flocks or pay me homage by sacrificial slaughter; I have not burdened you with oblations or wearied you with burning incense. [Nor have I burdened you] to buy me the fragrant calamus or sate me with the fat of immolations. Yet you have burdened me with your sins, wearied me with your iniquities. But it is I myself, and for my own sake, who blot out your offenses, remembering your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:23–25). In the earth’s millennial age, any animal sacrifice will be an abhorrence: “Whoever slaughters an ox is as one who kills a man, and whoever sacrifices a lamb, as one who breaks a dog’s neck” (Isaiah 66:3).
Jehovah’s descent on Mount Sinai anciently put the Israelites in awe of him as they witnessed his display of power after being warned by Moses not to approach: “Jehovah said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and sanctify them today and tomorrow. Let them wash their clothes and be ready the third day, for on the third day Jehovah will come down in the sight of all the people on Mount Sinai. Set bounds for the people round about, saying, “Take care not to go up the mountain or to touch the perimeter. Whoever touches the mountain will be surely be put to death”’” (Exodus 19:10–12);
“And it happened on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain. The sound of the trumpet was very loud so that all the people in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. And Mount Sinai was altogether clouded over because Jehovah had descended on it with fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace and the entire mountain quaked tremendously. And after the sound of the trumpet had rung out a long time, growing louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him by a voice. Jehovah came down on Mount Sinai on top of the mountain, and Jehovah called to Moses to climb to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up. And Jehovah said to Moses, ‘Go down and charge the people not to break through to Jehovah or to gaze [upon him] lest many of them perish’” (Exodus 19:16–21).
To the masses gathered at Mount Sinai, Jehovah appeared as a larger-than-life reality: “All the people saw the thunderings and lightnings, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking. And when the people saw it they moved away and stood at a distance. And they said to Moses, ‘You speak with us, and we will hear. But don’t let God speak with us lest we die.’ And Moses said to the people, ‘Don’t be afraid, for God has come to prove you in order that his fear may be before you, so that you will not sin.’ And the people stood at a distance, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:18–21).
To his elders who ascended with Moses on Mount Sinai, on the other hand, Jehovah was a personable and accessible God in whose presence they ate and drank: “Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. And under his feet was, as it were, a paved work of a sapphire stone and as it were the firmament of heaven in its clarity. On the nobles of the people of Israel he did not lay his hand, but they saw God and ate and drank. And Jehovah said to Moses, ‘Come up to me in the mountain and stay there, and I will give you tablets of stone—a law and commandments, which I have written, so that you may teach them.’
“So Moses arose, and also Joshua his minister, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. And he said to the elders, ‘Stay here for us until we return to you. See, Aaron and Hur are with you. If anyone has a matter to deal with, let him come to them.’ And Moses went up into the mountain, and a cloud covered the mountain. The glory of Jehovah abode on Mount Sinai and the cloud covered it for six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. And the sight of the glory of Jehovah was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the people of Israel. And when Moses got up into the mountain he went into the midst of the cloud. And Moses was in the mountain forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 24:9–18).
In the end-time version of these events, the enemies of God’s people are the ones who quail and quake before him, though these may include the evildoers of his own people: “O that you would rend the heavens and descend, the mountains melting at your presence—as when fire is lit for boiling water, which bubbles over from the heat—to make yourself known to your adversaries, the nations trembling at your presence—as when you performed awesome things unexpected by us: your descent [of old], when the mountains quaked before you!” (Isaiah 64:1–3); “Thus said Jehovah to me: ‘As a lion or a young lion growls over the prey when the shepherds muster in full force against him, and is not dismayed at the sound of their voice nor daunted by their numbers, so shall Jehovah of Hosts be when he descends to wage war upon Mount Zion and upon its heights’” (Isaiah 31:4); “Jehovah will cause his voice to resound, and make visible his arm descending in furious rage, with flashes of devouring fire, explosive discharges and pounding hail” (Isaiah 30:30).
Jehovah’s appearance to the elders of his people on Mount Sinai has a sequel in his end-time appearance to his elders at the time he comes to reign on the earth: “The moon will blush and the sun be put to shame, when Jehovah of Hosts manifests his reign in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and [his] glory in the presence of his elders” (Isaiah 24:23). Jehovah’s end-time descent on the mount thus parallels that in Moses’ day, while the spiritual categories of people who experienced Jehovah’s manifestation of his presence in different ways in the past match the ones who do so in the future.
There were times during Israel’s wilderness wandering when God’s consuming fire burned up the offenders among his people. While some of their leaders misused their authority, others murmured against Jehovah and against Moses, his prophet: “When the people complained, it displeased Jehovah. Jehovah heard it and his anger was kindled, and the fire of Jehovah burned among them and consumed those who were in the farthest parts of the camp” (Numbers 11:1); “The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up together with Korah, when that company died at the time the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men. And they became a sign” (Numbers 26:10).
When Jehovah’s end-time coming to the earth draws near, his fire burns up both the offenders among his own people and his people’s enemies alike: “See, Jehovah comes with fire, his chariots like a whirlwind, to retaliate in furious anger, to rebuke with conflagrations of fire. For with fire and with his sword shall Jehovah execute judgment on all flesh, and those slain by Jehovah shall be many” (Isaiah 66:15–16); “Whole nations have been burned like lime, mown down like thorns and set ablaze. Take heed what I have done, you who are far off; you who are near, be apprised of my might! The sinners in Zion are struck with fear; the godless are in the grip of trembling: ‘Who among us can live through the devouring fire? Who among us can abide eternal burning?’” (Isaiah 33:12–14).
Jehovah’s agent for burning up the wicked of his people and the nations is the king of Assyria and his alliance, who personify the fire that consumes them: “Your land is ruined, your cities burned with fire; your native soil is devoured by aliens in your presence, laid waste at its takeover by foreigners” (Isaiah 1:7); “In the heat of his anger he pours out on them the violence of war, till it envelopes them in flames—yet they remain unaware—till it sets them on fire; yet they take it not to heart” (Isaiah 42:25).
The very fate the king of Assyria brought upon others, however, he himself suffers when Jehovah makes an end of him: “Therefore will the Lord, Jehovah of Hosts, send a consumption into his fertile lands, and cause a fire to flare up like a burning hearth, to undermine his glory: the Light of Israel will be the fire and their Holy One the flame, and it shall burn up and devour his briars and thorns in a single day” (Isaiah 10:16–17); “Tophet has been prepared of old, [a hearth]indeed, made ready for rulers; broad and deep is its fire pit and ample its pyre; Jehovah’s breath burns within it like a river of lava” (Isaiah 30:33); “And they shall go out and look upon the corpses of the people who transgressed against me, whose worms do not die and whose fire shall not be extinguished. They shall be a horror to all flesh” (Isaiah 66:24).
As the earth was “baptized” with water in the days of Noah, so it is “baptized” with fire at the end of the world when it undergoes the same cycle of purification and sanctification as Israel does collectively and as his holy ones do individually in their respective phases of spiritual ascent.
After the Israelites learn to keep his law in the wilderness, God empowers them to conquer the land he promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as a covenant blessing. Joshua leads Israel’s battles against the peoples of the Land of Canaan who had corrupted themselves to the point that “their iniquity was full” (Genesis 15:16). Their idolatries had so degraded them that the younger generation had little chance of overcoming their societal dysfunctions (Leviticus 18:24–27; Deuteronomy 9:4):
“Joshua smote all the country of the hills and of the south and of the valleys and springs, and all their kings. He left none remaining but utterly destroyed all that breathed as Jehovah God of Israel had commanded. And Joshua smote them from Kadesh-barnea to Gaza and all the country of Goshen as far as Gibeon. All these kings and their lands Joshua captured at the same time because Jehovah God of Israel fought for Israel” (Joshua 10:40–42);
“And it happened that when Jabin king of Hazor heard those things, he sent to Jobab king of Madon and to the king of Shimron, to the king of Achshaph and to the kings north of the mountains and of the plains south of Chinneroth and in the valley and in the vicinity of Dor on the west, to the Canaanites on the east and on the west, and to the Amorites and Hittites and Perizzites, the Jebusites in the mountains and the Hivites below Hermon in the land of Mizpeh. And they went forth, they and all their hosts with them, as many people as the sand on the seashore in number, with an abundance of horses and chariots. And when all these kings were met together they came and encamped together at the waters of Merom to fight against Israel.
“And Jehovah said to Joshua, ‘Don’t be afraid of them, for tomorrow about this time will I deliver them all up slain before Israel. You will slough their horses and burn their chariots with fire.’ So Joshua and all the men of war with him came against them by the waters of Merom and fell upon them unexpectedly. And Jehovah delivered them into the hand of Israel, who smote them and pursued them to greater Zidon and Misrephoth-maim and to the valley of Mizpeh on the east. And they smote them, leaving none remaining” (Joshua 11:1–8); “Thus Joshua captured the whole land according to all that Jehovah had told Moses. And Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Then the land rested from war” (Joshua 11:23).
Isaiah predicts that at the time Israel’s end-time tribes gather from the four directions of the earth (Isaiah 11:11–12), Judah and Ephraim unite to conquer their enemies: “They will swoop on the Philistine flank toward the west, and together plunder those to the east; [they will take Edom] and Moab at hand’s reach, and the Ammonites will obey them” (Isaiah 11:14).
In that day, Jehovah again fights for them as he did in the past: “Jehovah will come forth like a warrior, his passions aroused like a fighter; he will give the war cry, raise the shout of victory over his enemies” (Isaiah 42:13); “‘Those who gather into mobs are not of me; whoever masses against you shall fall because of you. It is I who create the smith who fans the flaming coals, forging weapons to suit his purpose; it is I who create the ravager to destroy. Whatever weapon is devised against you, it shall not succeed; every tongue that rises to accuse you, you shall refute. This is the heritage of the servants of Jehovah, and such is their vindication by me,’ says Jehovah” (Isaiah 54:15–17);
“See, all who are enraged at you shall earn shame and disgrace; your adversaries shall come to nought, and perish. Should you look for those who contend with you, you shall not find them; whoever wars against you shall be reduced to nothing. For I, Jehovah your God, hold you by the right hand and say to you, ‘Have no fear; I will help you. Be not afraid, you worms of Jacob; O men of Israel, [be not dismayed]: I am your help,’ says Jehovah; ‘your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. I will make of you a sharp-toothed threshing sledge of new design, full of spikes: you shall thresh mountains to dust and make chaff of hills. As you winnow them, a wind shall take them away, a tempest dispel them. Then will you rejoice in Jehovah and glory in the Holy One of Israel’” (Isaiah 41:11–16).
God’s people whom the tyrannical king of Assyria takes captive, too, are freed from his power: “Can the warrior’s spoil be taken from him, or the tyrant’s captives escape free? Yet thus says Jehovah: ‘The warrior’s spoil shall indeed be taken from him, and the tyrant’s captives escape free: I myself will contend with your contenders, and I will deliver your children. I will feed your oppressors with their own flesh; they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine. And all flesh shall know that I Jehovah am your Savior, that your Redeemer is the Valiant One of Jacob’” (Isaiah 49:24–26).
As the millennial age dawns, God’s people spread throughout the earth: “Your ruins and ravaged places, and your land laid waste, shall now be too small for your inhabitants, despite the departure of your devourers. The children born during the time of your bereavement shall yet say in your ears, ‘This place is too cramped for us; give us space in which to settle!’” (Isaiah 49:19–20); “Expand the site of your tent; extend the canopies of your dwellings. Do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you shall spread abroad to the right and to the left; your offspring shall dispossess the nations and resettle the desolate cities” (Isaiah 54:2–3). Ultimately, the entire earth becomes the heritage of the people of God.
When the Midianites become a grave threat to Israel in the days of the judges, God raises up Gideon to defeat them: “There came an angel of Jehovah who sat under an oak tree in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abi-ezrite. His son Gideon was threshing wheat by the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of Jehovah appeared to him and said to him, ‘Jehovah is with you, you mighty man of valor.’ And Gideon said to him, ‘Oh my Lord, if Jehovah is with us why then has all this befallen us? Where are all his miracles our fathers told us about, saying, “Didn’t Jehovah bring us up out of Egypt?” But now Jehovah has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.’ And Jehovah looked at him and said, ‘Go in this your might and you will save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Haven’t I sent you?’ And he said to him, ‘Oh my Lord, with what will I save Israel? See, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.’ And Jehovah said to him, ‘Surely, I will be with you and you will smite the Midianites as one man’” (Judges 6:11–16).
Still uncertain of success, Gideon asks for signs until he is convinced Jehovah is with him (Judges 6:17–22, 36–40; 7:9–15). Although Gideon gathers an army of thirty-two thousand men to fight a hundred and twenty thousand Midianites and Amalekites, God reduces their numbers to just three hundred (Judges 7:1–8)—in case the Israelites attribute their victory to themselves: “Jehovah said to Gideon, ‘The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel boasts against me, saying, “My own hand saved me”’” (Judges 7:2). As the battle approaches, “the Midianites and Amalekites and all the people of the east lay spread out in the valley like grasshoppers in number, their camels as countless as the sand by the seashore for multitude” (Judges 7:12).
Using a scare tactic, Gideon’s men frighten their enemies so that they slay one another: “Gideon and his hundred men came outside the camp at the start of the middle watch just as they had set the new guard. And they blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers in their hands. All three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers, holding the lamps in their left hands and the trumpets in their right to blow [them]. And they cried out, ‘The sword of Jehovah and of Gideon!’ And as they stood each man on his spot surrounding the camp, the entire army ran and cried out and fled. And while the three hundred blew the trumpets, Jehovah set every man’s sword against his neighbor throughout the army. And the army fled to Beth-shittah in Zererath and to the border of Abel-meholah toward Tabbath.
“And the men of Israel gathered themselves together out of Naphtali, out of Asher and all of Manasseh and pursued after the Midianites. And Gideon sent messengers throughout Mount Ephraim, saying, ‘Come down against the Midianites and take them at the waters toward Beth-barah and Jordan. Then all the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together and took them at the waters toward Beth-barah and Jordan. And they captured two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb and slew Oreb on the rock Oreb and slew Zeeb at the winepress of Zeeb. And they pursued Midian and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan” (Judges 7:19–25).
Isaiah predicts similar such miraculous victories over an Assyrian alliance that threatens God’s end-time people in which Jehovah’s servant plays the role of Gideon: “When they cry out to Jehovah because of the oppressors, he will send them a savior, who will take up their cause and deliver them” (Isaiah 19:20); “Jehovah of Hosts will raise the whip against them, as when he struck the Midianites at the Rock of Oreb” (Isaiah 10:26); “You have smashed the yoke that burdened them, the staff of submission, the rod of those who subjected them, as in the Day of Midian” (Isaiah 9:4). As the type of a righteous judge and warrior in Israel, Gideon forms an integral part of a composite of types Isaiah draws on that depict God’s end-time servant.
The Persian monarch Cyrus, who captured Babylon in 539 B.C. and thereafter ruled its extensive territories, set a precedent of a benevolent ruler from the east who conquers an idolatrous world empire and rules over “all the kingdoms of the earth” (Ezra 1:2). In Isaiah’s end-time version of that event, God’s servant fulfills the role of Cyrus, retaking all the territories the king of Assyria’s alliance of nations captures when it conquers the world. Because Isaiah’s Seven-Part Structure identifies those territories as an integral part of Greater Babylon—a conglomerate of nations under Babylon’s influence comparable to John’s Babylon the Great (Isaiah 13–23; 47; compare Revelation 17:5), Cyrus’ historical role as conqueror of the Babylonian empire makes him a suitable type of God’s end-time servant.
Under the pseudonym of Jehovah’s Righteousness—alluding to Abraham, who was a model of righteousness (Genesis 15:6)—God’s servant, too, conquers all the kingdoms of the earth: “Who has raised up Righteousness from the east, calling him to [the place of]his foot? Who has delivered nations to him, toppled their rulers, rendering them as dust to his sword, as driven stubble to his bow? He puts them to flight, passing on unhindered by paths his feet have never trod. Who is at work accomplishing [this], foreordaining dynasties? I, Jehovah, first and last, am he. . . . I have raised up one from the north who calls on my name, who shall come from the direction of sunrise. He shall come upon dignitaries as on mud, tread them as clay like a potter” (Isaiah 41:2–4, 25).
Isaiah’s actual mention of Cyrus by name in two instances that follow (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1), on the other hand, accords with his use of names in general, which occurs only when the person who is named sets a precedent that acts as the type of an end-time person who fulfils a similar role. The two historical precedents in whose connection Isaiah cites the name of Cyrus are (1) of a world conqueror empowered by God who releases God’s people from captivity in Babylon (Isaiah 45:1–3, 13); and (2) of one who commands the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its temple (Isaiah 44:28). In neither instance, however, is Isaiah speaking solely of Cyrus the Persian. In one instance, Isaiah combines the type of Cyrus with that of Moses, Jehovah’s “shepherd,” who led Israel through “the deep” (Isaiah 44:27–28; compare 63:11–13). In the other, he combines the type of Cyrus with that of David, Jehovah’s “anointed” (Isaiah 45:1; compare 1 Samuel 16:13).
The second of these instances pertains to the type of Cyrus the Persian’s universal conquests: “Thus says Jehovah to his anointed, to Cyrus, whom I grasp by the right hand, to subdue nations before him, to ungird the loins of rulers, opening doors ahead of him, letting no gates remain shut: ‘I will go before you and level all obstacles; I will break in pieces brazen doors and cut through iron bars’” (Isaiah 45:1–2). As noted, by combining the type of Cyrus with that of David, Jehovah’s “anointed” (1 Samuel 16:13), Isaiah here creates a composite of types that isn’t limited to Cyrus.
Although Cyrus set historical precedents that Isaiah draws on, we thus see that Isaiah’s Cyrus figure was never intended to simply depict the historical Cyrus. Rather, by combining his description of Cyrus with that of others, Isaiah creates a composite figure. That figure—God’s end-time servant—resembles Cyrus, Moses, David, Abraham, and others in the various roles he performs. His universal mission is “for the sake of my servant Jacob and Israel my chosen” (Isaiah 45:4)—that is, for the sake of the twelve-tribed kingdom of Israel—not for the sake of the Jews Cyrus the Persian released from captivity in Babylon. Having seen both the time of Cyrus and the end of the world in a vision, Isaiah nevertheless includes both the historical scenario and its end-time sequel in a single prophecy.
The institution of kings in Israel comes in response to repeated threats to the nation from the surrounding peoples during the reign of Israel’s judges. When Israel regresses in it allegiance to its God, it begins to lose his divine protection. Exacerbating the situation is that no unifying societal structure exists that governs people’s actions: “In those days there was no king in Israel, and every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). On various occasions, judges such as Gideon are able to rally some of the Israel’s tribes to meet these enemy threats. But when the Philistines and other nations imperil Israel’s very existence, Israel’s elders come to the prophet Samuel and demand a king, one who can command all of Israel’s tribes to defend their land: “Make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5).
Under the terms of the Sinai Covenant, Israel as a whole has been required to keep God’s law in order for the people to receive his divine protection. Under the terms of the Davidic Covenant, on the other hand—which God institutes in response to Israel’s demands for a king—he requires only that the king to keeps his law while the people are required to keep the king’s law. Both covenants follow the pattern of ancient Near Eastern emperor–vassal covenants, in which Israel’s God plays the role of emperor and the people or their king play the role of vassal. For the people of Israel, the Davidic Covenant thus constitutes a lesser law—they now merely need to obey their king to obtain God’s protection. For the king, however, the Davidic Covenant is a higher law as he is now answerable for his people’s disloyalties to Israel’s God in order for God to extend his protection.
As all subsequent messianic prophecies and their fulfillment are based on these covenant patterns, it is important to gain a clear understanding of them or the idea of a messiah can lead to confusion. Why do Jews and Christians, for example retain such divergent messianic hopes—Jews anticipating a messiah who obtains his people’s divine protection or temporal salvation, and Christian adhering solely to the idea of a spiritual messiah, one who obtains his people salvation from sin? In Isaiah’s repeat scenario of ancient events, God’s raising up a Davidic king—his end-time servant—follows the type of his raising up King David in response to his people’s need for divine protection. That occurs at a time when his people’s enemies are imperiling their very existence, just as their enemies did anciently.
God’s end-time servant, in other words, fulfills Jewish expectations of a temporal messiah, one who answers for his people’s disloyalties to Israel’s God in the pattern of ancient Near Eastern emperor–vassal covenants. The idea of a Christian messiah, on the other hand—of a spiritual savior as vested in Jesus of Nazareth—has no precedent in the past that repeats itself in the end-time. Jehovah/Jesus doesn’t come to do physical battle in wars with Israel’s enemies in the pattern of King David—God’s servant does. Nor is the role of redeeming God’s people from their sins an end-time role. Rather, in an end-time context, Jehovah comes on the earth to reign as King of Zion after his servant has prepared a people to meet their God. In the interim, Jehovah gives his servant the victory over his enemies as he did King David. As a forerunner of Jehovah’s coming to reign on the earth, the servant gathers and reunites Israel’s tribes, builds the temple in Jerusalem to which Jehovah comes, and establishes the political kingdom of God on the earth over which Jehovah reigns. Each messianic individual, in other words, plays a separate but complementary role.
King David and his righteous heirs, notably King Hezekiah, nevertheless act as types on a temporal level of Jehovah/Jesus’ proxy role on behalf of his people in obtaining their spiritual salvation. When projecting the idea of a spiritual messiah, Isaiah creates a composite of types: (1) of a Davidic king who is prosecuted on account of his people’s disloyalties to God in the pattern of emperor–vassal covenants (Isaiah 53:4–6, 8); and (2) of a sacrificial lamb that acts as “an offering for guilt” (‘asam) under the Law of Moses (Isaiah 53:7, 10). That is different from what most messianic prophecies depict, which deal with the redemptive mission of a latter-day David. As noted, moreover, Isaiah doesn’t predict the earthly mission of a spiritual messiah as an end-time event, only as one that God’s arm—his servant—points to it when seeking to renew end-time Israel’s allegiance to its God (Isaiah 53:1).
David’s rise to kingship—on the heels of Saul’s demise—provides a type of the rise of God’s end-time servant from an obscure background to prominence to displace a fallen leader. We observe this when God commands the prophet Samuel to anoint a son of Jesse: “When Jesse made seven of his sons pass in front of Samuel, Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Jehovah hasn’t chosen these.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your children here?’ And he said, ‘There is still the youngest and he is keeping the flock.’ Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and fetch him, for we won’t sit down until he comes here.’ So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and altogether of a comely appearance and goodly to look upon. And Jehovah said, ‘Arise and anoint him for this is the one.’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of Jehovah came upon David from that day forward” (1 Samuel 16:10–13).
After David has ruled seven years over Judah and shown himself victorious over Israel’s enemies, the northern tribes ask that he rule also over them: “Then all the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and spoke, saying, ‘See, we are your bone and flesh. Also, in times past, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led out and brought in Israel, and Jehovah said to you, “You will feed my people Israel and you will be a captain over Israel.”’ So all the elders of Israel came to the king in Hebron, and King David made a compact with them in Hebron before Jehovah, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years over all of Israel and Judah” (2 Samuel 5:1–5).
Among David’s many accomplishments on behalf of Israel are his slaying the giant Goliath when the Philistines are about to overwhelm Israel (1 Samuel 17:31–51); slaying Israel’s enemies the Philistines with a great slaughter (1 Samuel 19:8; 23:5; 2 Samuel 5:18–25); delivering Israelite cities from the power of the Philistines (1 Samuel 23:5); suffering trials and afflictions on account of Saul, Israel’s first king, who makes him an outlaw and numbers him with criminals—while he remains loyal to Saul at all times (1 Samuel 18:10–11; 19:9–12; 20:34–41; 21:10–13; 22:1–5, 14; 23:6–26; 27:1); sparing Saul’s life on two occasions when Saul seeks to kill him (1 Samuel 24:3–19; 26:7–25); slaying Israel’s enemies the Amalekites and dividing their spoil among the people (1 Samuel 30:8–31); and conquering many nations and peoples of his empire and ruling them with justice and righteousness (2 Samuel 8:1–18; 10:1–19; 12:26–31). These typify many things God’s end-time servant does.
After David proves loyal to Israel’s God at all times, Jehovah makes an unconditional covenant with him after the pattern of ancient Near Eastern emperor–vassal covenants: “I have found David my servant. With my holy oil I have anointed him. With him my hand will be established. My arm also will strengthen him. The enemy will not coerce him, nor the sons of wickedness afflict him. I will beat down his foes before his face and plague those who hate him. But my faithfulness and my mercy will be with him, and in my name will his horn be exalted. I will set his hand in the sea and his right hand in the rivers. He will cry to me, ‘You are my father, my God, the rock of my salvation.’ And I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep with him evermore and my covenant will stand fast with him. I will make his offspring endure forever and his throne as the days of heaven” (Psalm 89:20–29; compare Jeremiah 33:19–26).
These things typify God’s dealings with his end-time servant. Part III of Isaiah’s Seven-Part Structure (Isaiah 9–12; 41–46) depicts the servant undergoing a descent phase of trials and afflictions in the pattern of King David that is the prelude to his ascent phase. Acting as a proxy savior of his people as did David, the servant obtains their divine protection—at which point God exalts him and makes with him an unconditional covenant as he did with David. Jehovah first anoints his servant, an aspect that Isaiah covers under the servant’s Cyrus persona: “Thus says Jehovah to his anointed, to Cyrus, whom I grasp by the right hand” (Isaiah 45:1; emphasis added). An emperor’s grasping of a vassal by the right hand signifies his appointing the vassal to a particular task—in this instance, the overthrow of nations and peoples in order to release Israel’s captives (Isaiah 45:1–4, 13). Upon God’s anointing his servant, the Spirit of Jehovah comes upon him as it did upon David: “My servant whom I sustain, my chosen one in whom I delight, him I have endowed with my Spirit” (Isaiah 42:1).
A person’s anointing, on the one hand, and his Spirit endowment, on the other, however, are two inseparable messianic traits, as was the case with King David (1 Samuel 16:13). The fact that Isaiah separates them under two different messianic personas means that each exemplifies a particular aspect of the servant’s end-time mission, one spiritual, the other physical. Both ideas, for example—(1) of the servant’s “anointing,” and (2) of his endowment by Jehovah’s “Spirit”—come together in a passage Jesus quotes in part in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:16–21), which passage he applies to himself: “The Spirit of my Lord Jehovah is upon me, for Jehovah has anointed me to announce good tidings to the lowly; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the eyes to the bound, to herald the year of Jehovah’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God” (Isaiah 61:1–2).
The part that Jesus omits from his reading—“and the day of vengeance of our God”—points to a key difference between the role of Jehovah/Jesus and that of his servant. As God’s “day of vengeance” is an end-time event, the fuller context of the passage depicts the messianic mission of God’s end-time servant, not that of Jehovah/Jesus (Isaiah 61:3–9). Both individuals, however, fulfill the redemptive parts of the prophecy, Jesus on a spiritual level and the servant on a temporal level. These things show that while God’s servant follows closely the pattern of King David, his end-time role as a temporal messiah and that of Jesus as a spiritual messiah are similar in nature and overlap in many of their messianic attributes.
The end-time context of Isaiah’s prophecy as a whole that Isaiah’s Seven-Part Structure establishes nevertheless determines that the servant’s mission is an end-time mission, one that exhibits two distinct phases: (1) a conditional or descent phase, in which the servant answers to Israel’s God for the disloyalties of his people under the terms of the Davidic Covenant in order to obtain their divine protection when enemies threaten; and (2) an unconditional or ascent phase, in which the servant is crowned king as was King David by Israel’s tribes. The first emphasizes the servant’s “servant” phase, in which he fulfills the spiritual role of a proxy savior to God’s people in the pattern of King Hezekiah. The second emphasizes his “son” phase, in which he fulfills the physical role of reconquering the world from the Assyrian alliance in the pattern of King David’s conquest of the ancient Near East and of Cyrus the Persian’s conquest of the Babylonian Empire.
The servant’s proving loyal to Israel’s God under all conditions in both his spiritual role as a proxy savior and his physical role as a world conqueror follows the pattern of ancient Near Eastern emperor–vassal covenants. While a vassal was known as the emperor’s “servant” during the conditional phase of his covenant, after he proved loyal to the emperor under all conditions the emperor adopted him unconditionally as his “son.” This same transition from servanthood to sonship, moreover, applies to all end-time servants of God who fulfill roles as proxy saviors to God’s people under the terms of the Davidic Covenant. Part III of Isaiah’s Seven-Part Structure’s conjoining of its two units of material into a single whole (Isaiah 9–12; 41–46)—one dealing with the servant’s “son” phase (Isaiah 9:6), the other with his “servant” phase (Isaiah 42:1; 44:26)—means that these messianic prophecies are to be perceived as inseparable depictions of the same end-time individual. That accords with emperor–vassal covenants in general, in which the terms “servant” and “son” together, not separately, designate a vassal king who proves loyal to an emperor (2 Kings 16:7).
It is only in the light of these historical patterns and precedents that messianic prophecies can properly be understood. Simply latching on to any messianic prophecy and applying it to Jesus regardless of its end-time context—ignoring what the prophecy’s words actually say, and neglecting its historical background—merely creates stumbling blocks and generates confusion. The idea of an end-time servant of Israel’s God called David, who reigns with him during the earth’s millennial age of peace, takes nothing away from the messianic mission of Jehovah/Jesus, the King of Zion. In fact, many other servants of God reign with him in that glorious age, all of whom follow the same pattern of serving God’s people as kings and priests under the terms of the Davidic Covenant (Isaiah 32:1; 49:23; 60:3–4, 10–11; 61:6–9). They, too, therefore, are “anointed” and endowed with God’s “Spirit” (Isaiah 59:21; 61:3).
Because Isaiah’s Seven-Part Structure transforms the entire Book of Isaiah into an end-time scenario, as noted—in which even biographical material typifies or foreshadows things that repeat themselves—Isaiah’s messianic prophecies primarily portray the end-time mission of God’s servant. Those same messianic prophecies, however, may additionally apply on another level in part to Jehovah/Jesus, as in the passage from Isaiah 61:1–2 that Jesus applied to himself. They may even characterize the redemptive missions of others who serve as kings and priests to God’s people under the terms of the Davidic Covenant. The end-time reestablishment of the Davidic monarchy, however, as typified by the establishment of the Davidic monarchy in the days of King David, applies solely to God’s end-time servant and forms an integral part of “the restoration/restitution of all things” (Matthew 17:11; Mark 9:12; Acts 3:21). That restoration—as characterized by the series of ancient events that repeat themselves at the end of the world—precedes Jehovah/Jesus’ coming to reign on the earth and prepares the way before him.
In the course of acting as a proxy savior to God’s people in order to obtain their divine protection when their lives are imperiled, God’s servant suffers at the hands of vindictive and accusatory enemies from among his own people: “My Lord Jehovah has endowed me with a learned tongue, that I may know how to preach to those grown weary a word to wake them up. Morning by morning he wakens my ear to hear, as at study; my Lord Jehovah has opened my ear, and I rebel not, nor back away: I offered my back to smiters, my cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I hid not my face from insult and spitting. Because my Lord Jehovah helps me, I shall not be disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing I shall not be confounded. He who vindicates me is near me. Who has a dispute with me? Let us face one another! Who will bring charges against me? Let him confront me with them! See, my Lord Jehovah sustains me. Who then will incriminate me? Surely all such shall wear out like a garment; the moth will consume them. Who among you fears Jehovah and heeds the voice of his servant, who, though he walk in the dark and have no light, trusts in the name of Jehovah and relies on his God? But you are lighters of fires, all of you, who illuminate with mere sparks. Walk then by the light of your fires and by the sparks you have kindled. This shall you have from my hand: you shall lie down in agony” (Isaiah 50:4–11).
Like King Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:1–20), God’s servant “pours out his soul unto death” when answering for the disloyalties of God’s people under the terms of the Davidic Covenant, but when God empowers him he “divides the spoil with the mighty” as did King David: “He shall see the toil of his soul and be satisfied; because of his knowledge, and by bearing their iniquities, shall my servant, the righteous one, vindicate many. I will assign him an inheritance among the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the mighty, because he poured out his soul unto death, and was numbered with criminals—he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:11–12). In each case, the proxy savior’s descent phase leads to his ascent phase: “My servant, being astute, shall be highly exalted; he shall become exceedingly eminent. His appearance was marred beyond human likeness, his semblance unlike that of men. Yet shall he yet astound many nations, kings shutting their mouths at him—what was not told them, they shall see; what they had not heard, they shall consider” (Isaiah 52:13–15).
After the servant is “despised as a person” and “abhorred by his people” (Isaiah 49:7)—yet proves faithful to God under all conditions in ministering to God’s people—Jehovah exalts and empowers him: “For now Jehovah has said—he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to restore Jacob to him, Israel having been gathered to him; for I won honor in the eyes of Jehovah when my God became my strength—he said: ‘It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore those preserved of Israel. I will also appoint you to be a light to the nations, that my salvation may be to the end of the earth’” (Isaiah 49:5–6);
He becomes a power of salvation to God’s exiled peoples: “Give ear and come unto me; pay heed, that your souls may live! And I will make with you an everlasting covenant: [my] loving fidelity toward David. See, I have appointed him as a witness to the nations, a prince and lawgiver of the peoples. You will summon a nation that you did not know; a nation that did not know you will hasten to you—because of Jehovah your God, the Holy One of Israel, who gloriously endows you” (Isaiah 55:3–5); “In that day the sprig of Jesse, who stands for an ensign to the peoples, shall be sought by the nations, and his rest shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10).
Upon the servant’s vanquishing the enemies of God’s people and dividing their spoil as did King David, he is crowned king by Israel’s tribes as was David: “The people walking in darkness have seen a bright light; on the inhabitants of the land of the shadow of death has the light dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased its joy; they rejoice at your presence as men rejoice at harvest time, or as men are joyous when they divide spoil. For you have smashed the yoke that burdened them, the staff of submission, the rod of those who subjected them, as in the day of Midian. And all boots used in battle and tunics rolled in blood have become fuel for bonfires. For to us a child is born, a son appointed, who will shoulder the burden of government. He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, One Mighty in Valor, a Father for Ever, a Prince of Peace—that sovereignty may be extended and peace have no end; that, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, [his rule]may be established and upheld by justice and righteousness from this time forth and forever” (Isaiah 9:2–7; emphasis added).
Although historically the above passage depicts the enthronement of King Hezekiah, it too typifies an end-time event—the enthronement of God’s servant upon his vanquishing the enemies of God’s people. As Jehovah’s “son”—denoting an emperor’s unconditional covenant with a vassal who proves loyal under all conditions—God’s servant reestablishes the Davidic monarchy. (Handel’s Messiah, based on a mistranslation in the King James Version of verse 6, as well as on a misreading of the context of the passage—in which God’s servant’s subdues the Assyrian power and gathers Israel’s tribes—cannot be construed as a literal fulfillment of this messianic prophecy. No corroborating scriptural source, therefore, applies it to Jesus of Nazareth.)
The reestablishment of the Davidic monarchy appears a second time as an event connected to the servant’s vanquishing his people’s enemies in the pattern of King David: “When oppressors are no more and violence has ceased, when tyrants are destroyed from the earth, then, in loving kindness, shall a throne be set up in the abode of David, and in faithfulness a judge sit on it who will maintain justice and expedite righteousness” (Isaiah 16:4–5).
That judge—God’s servant—prepares end-time Israel to meet Jehovah/Jesus at his coming by clearing away his people’s stumbling blocks: “A voice calls out, ‘In the desert prepare the way for Jehovah; in the wilderness pave a straight highway for our God: every ravine must be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the uneven ground must become level and rough terrain a plain.’ For the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed and all flesh see it at once” (Isaiah 40:3–5); “Pass on, go through gates; prepare the way for the people! Excavate, pave a highway cleared of stones; raise the ensign to the nations! Jehovah has made proclamation to the end of the earth: ‘Tell the Daughter of Zion, “See, your Salvation comes, his reward with him, his work preceding him.’” They shall be called the holy people, the redeemed of Jehovah; and you shall be known as in demand, a city never deserted” (Isaiah 62:10–12).
Finally, common messianic attributes of Jehovah/Jesus and his servant in messianic prophecies should be discerned in how they apply to each savior figure individually. Separated by time and location, the arena in which each fulfills his mission is personal to him and distinguishes one from the other. As in the following messianic passage, for example, linking ideas to other parts of Isaiah’s prophecy—such as an endowment of God’s Spirit (Isaiah 42:1; 48:16; 61:1; 63:11), the attributes of counsel, valor, and righteousness (Isaiah 9:6–7; 28:29; 46:11–13; 49:26), and key words that act as codenames such as righteousness, mouth, and lips (Isaiah 41:2; 46:11–13; 49:2; 57:18–19)—designate mostly God’s servant in an end-time context as the subject of the passage but in a generic sense may apply to Jehovah himself, whom his servant and fellowservants seek to emulate:
“A shoot will spring up from the stock of Jesse and a branch from its graft bear fruit. The Spirit of Jehovah will rest upon him—the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of valor, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah. His intuition will be [guided] by the fear of Jehovah; he will not judge by what his eyes see, nor establish proof by what his ears hear. He will judge the poor with righteousness, and with equity arbitrate for the lowly in the land; he will smite the earth with the rod of his mouth and with the breath of his lips slay the wicked. Righteousness will be as a band about his waist, faithfulness a girdle round his loins” (Isaiah 11:1–5).
Jehovah’s coming to the earth to reign as King of Zion indeed constitutes the culminating fulfillment of the servant’s end-time reestablishment of the Davidic monarchy and completes Jehovah’s ascent phase. As with all who serve as proxy saviors under the terms of the Davidic Covenant, that ascent phase must be seen as inseparable from his descent phase in which he answers for his people’s disloyalties to the Most High God. His descent below all during his earthly ministry—when paying the price of his people’s spiritual salvation (Isaiah 53:1–10)—accords with his glorious ascent above all as King of Zion (Isaiah 52:7).
Based on the interplay between God’s justice and mercy—in which justice must be served before mercy can operate—Jehovah’s fulfilling his proxy role on behalf of his people establishes the theological premise that makes possible humanity’s long-awaited reversal of covenant curses, including death, and constitutes the singular event Jehovah alone can accomplish from which all salvation derives (Isaiah 25:7–8; 26:19; 44:22; 52:1–3; 53:5; 65:19–25). The redemptive mission Jehovah thus performs, though it is central to God’s entire plan of humanity’s salvation, nonetheless receives much less prominence in Isaiah’s and other messianic prophecies than that of his end-time servant. That testifies to the divine modesty of Israel’s King, who, besides passing through a multitude of other deprecating ordeals, is willing to be “despised and disdained by men, a man of grief, accustomed to suffering” (Isaiah 53:3) in the course of delivering his people from evil: “Truly you are a God who dissembles himself, O Savior, God of Israel” (Isaiah 45:15).
Sadly, as entire messianic constructs built up in people’s minds on faulty interpretive foundations inherited from the Dark Ages of apostasy mislead the masses even to this day, it seems apparent that God’s end-time servant and those servants of God who act of proxy saviors under the terms of the Davidic Covenant in restoring his end-time people and preparing them to meet Jehovah/Jesus at his coming must experience their descent phases of trials and afflictions at the hands of those very same misled masses who refuse to invest their time in analyzing Isaiah’s and other messianic prophecies to determine for themselves what they actually say, but who instead are content to parrot back what they are led to believe they say. Such is the paradox of God’s people’s interpersonal relationships: that those who are most “vigilant for his word” (Isaiah 66:5)—as evidenced by their searching the scriptures to see “whether those things are so” (Acts 17:11)—should suffer most at the hands of ecclesiastical brethren who, to their own condemnation, hold fast to popular but scripturally unsupported “precepts of men” (Isaiah 29:13; 51:7; 61:7; 65:13–15; 66:5).
The event in Israelite history of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem—for which Cyrus king of Persia sets a precedent—signifies the end of the Jews’ seventy years’ captivity in Babylon that Jeremiah had predicted (Jeremiah 29:10) and begins what is called the Second Temple Period. After Cyrus conquers Babylon and the Persian Empire replaces the Babylonian Empire, Cyrus issues a decree authorizing the Jews to return to their homeland to reestablish themselves and to rebuild Jerusalem and its temple:
“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘Jehovah, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms on the earth and charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judea. Who among you of all his people [is willing]? His God be with him to go up to Jerusalem in Judea to build the house of Jehovah the God of Israel (for he is the God) in Jerusalem. Whoever remains [of his people] wherever he lives, let the men of that place help him with silver and gold, with goods and beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.’ Then arose the chief elders of Judah and Benjamin, the priests and Levites, and all those whose spirit God raised up to go up and build the house of Jehovah in Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:1–5).
On their return to their homeland, “some of the chief elders, when they came to [the site of] the house of Jehovah at Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God to be erected in its own place, giving for the work into the treasury according to their means sixty-one thousand drams of gold, five thousand pounds of silver, and a hundred priestly garments. So the priests and Levites and some of the people—including the singers, porters, and Nethinim—dwelt in their cities as did all Israel” (Ezra 2:68–70).
After laying the temple’s foundation, the Jewish returnees celebrate the occasion: “When the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of Jehovah, they appointed the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise Jehovah according to the ruling of David king of Israel. And they sang together in their courses, praising and giving thanks to Jehovah—because he is good, for his mercy toward Israel endures forever. And all the people shouted with a great shout in praising Jehovah that now the foundation of the house of Jehovah had been laid. But many of the priests and Levites and chiefs of the elders—aged men who had seen the first house [of God]—when the foundation of this house had been laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice. And many [others] shouted aloud for joy, so that the people couldn’t discern the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people. For the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard from far away” (Ezra 3:10–13).
Not all goes well with rebuilding the city and temple because “the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah and troubled them in building” (Ezra 4:4). Opposition grows so intense that half of the workers labor in rebuilding while the other half protects the workers, and everyone carries a weapon (Nehemiah 4:16–17). God sends help, however, as a second wave of Jews returns from Babylon to complete the work: “Jehovah stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judea, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people, and they came and worked in the house of Jehovah of Hosts, their God” (Haggai 1:14).
Under his Cyrus persona, God’s end-time servant likewise announces the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem: “Thus says Jehovah, your Redeemer . . . . who fulfills the word of his servant, who accomplishes the aims of his messengers, who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be reinhabited,’ and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be rebuilt, their ruins I will restore,’ who says to the deep, ‘Become dry; I am drying up your currents,’ who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd; he will do whatever I will.’ He will say of Jerusalem that it must be rebuilt and its temple foundations relaid” (Isaiah 44:26–28; emphasis added). Identifying the servant’s Cyrus persona as God’s “servant” and “shepherd” links the rebuilding of the temple to Israel’s exodus out of Egypt under Moses, Israel’s “shepherd,” who led Israel through “the deep” (Isaiah 63:11–14). The conjoining of these two events thus compares God’s servant to a new Moses and implies that the rebuilding of the temple occurs at the time God’s end-time people return in the new exodus to their homeland.
The rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, as magnificent a structure as it may be, nevertheless falls short of providing an actual dwelling for Israel’s God. The God who created the heavens and the earth cannot be contained in an earthly tabernacle: “Thus says Jehovah: ‘The heavens are my throne and the earth is my footstool. What house would you build me? What would serve me as a place of rest? These are all things my hand has made, and thus all came into being,’ says Jehovah. ‘And yet I have regard for those who are of a humble and contrite spirit and who are vigilant for my word” (Isaiah 66:1–2). In other words, Israel’s God dwells also with his humble, repentant people: “Thus says he who is highly exalted, who abides forever, whose name is sacred: ‘I dwell on high in the holy place, and with him who is humble and lowly in spirit—refreshing the spirits of the lowly, reviving the hearts of the humble” (Isaiah 57:15). Living in his presence when he comes to reign on the earth, his holy ones regenerate physically, as does all nature: “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
Israel’s reign of the judges anciently is an extension of a system Moses sets up at the suggestion of Jethro, his father-in-law, when Moses can’t handle all the people’s legal and moral cases alone: “And it came to pass on the morrow that Moses sat down to judge the people, the people standing by Moses from morning to evening. And when Moses’ father-in-law saw all he was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is it that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone and all the people stand by you from morning to evening?’ And Moses said to his father-in-law, ‘Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a matter, they come to me and I judge between the one and the other and acquaint them with the statutes and laws of God.’
“Then Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘What you are doing isn’t good. You will certainly wear yourself out, you and these people with you. This is too burdensome a thing for you. You can’t undertake it all by yourself. Listen to me as I counsel you, then God will be with you. You be there for the people as God, bringing their causes to God. You teach them the ordinances and laws and show them the way they should go and the works they should do. But in addition arrange for able men from among the people—those who fear God, men of truth, who hate covetousness—and appoint them over them as rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. Let them judge the people at all times. Let them bring every serious matter to you, but let them judge every small matter themselves. Then will it be easier for you, and they will bear [the burden] with you. If you do that, and if God commands you [to do] so, then you will be able to endure it, and also all these people can go to their place in peace.’
“So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads of the people—rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And they judged the people at all times. The hard cases they brought to Moses, but every small case they judged themselves” (Exodus 18:13–26).
After Moses and Joshua pass away, judges continue to judge the causes of the people, often acting as deliverers when enemies threaten: “Jehovah raised up judges, who delivered them out of the hands of those who plundered them. And yet, they wouldn’t listen to their judges but went whoring after other gods, bowing themselves down to them. They quickly turned out of the way in which their fathers had walked who had obeyed Jehovah’s commandments, they not doing so. And when Jehovah raised up judges for them, Jehovah was with the judge and delivered them out of the hands of their enemies all the days of the judge. For Jehovah deplored their groanings on account of those who oppressed and vexed them” (Judges 2:16–18).
At the time he restores end-time Israel, Jehovah once again raises up judges to judge his people. In that day—Israel’s darkest hour—certain “servants” of Jehovah act as his people’s proxy saviors, Jehovah saving them from destruction “for the sake of his servants,” their deliverers: “Why, O Jehovah, have you made us stray from your ways, hardening our hearts so that we do not fear you? Relent for the sake of your servants, the tribes that are your inheritance. But a little while had your people possessed the holy place when our enemies trod down your sanctuary. Now we have become as those whom you have never ruled and who have not been known by your name” (Isaiah 63:17–19); “Thus says Jehovah: ‘As when there is juice in a cluster of grapes and someone says, “Don’t destroy it, it is still good,” so I will do for the sake of my servants by not destroying everything’” (Isaiah 65:8).
Israel’s end-time judges assist in purifying and sanctifying the establishment of God’s people so that Jehovah may reconstitute all institutions that once existed: “I will restore my handover you and smelt away your dross as in a crucible, and remove all your alloy. I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counsellors as in the beginning. After this you shall be called the City of Righteousness, a faithful city” (Isaiah 1:25–26). In the millennial age that ensues, both king and judges govern God’s people in the pattern of Moses and Israel’s judges: “Moses commanded us a law, the inheritance of the community of Jacob. He was king in Jeshurun when the heads of the people and Israel’s tribes gathered together” (Deuteronomy 33:4–5); “A king shall reign in righteousness and rulers rule with justice” (Isaiah 32:1).
Jehovah’s millennial covenant consists of a composite of all previous covenants God has made. While the Bible makes no mention of a covenant in connection with Adam and Eve, it is nevertheless clear that one existed: (1) because all commandments God gives, including those he gave Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:28; 2:15–17), constitute the terms of a covenant; and (2) because the paradisiacal state Adam and Eve inherited was a covenant blessing. Those who live into the earth’s millennial age, for example, similarly inherit a paradisiacal state as a covenant blessing. Their spousal relationships—which form an integral part of their covenant relationship with God—parallel Adam’s and Eve’s.
God also made a covenant with Noah: “See, I of myself bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh from under heaven in which is the breath of life. And everything in the earth will die. But with you I will establish my covenant, and you will come into the ark, you and your sons, your wife and your sons’ wives, with you” (Genesis 6:17–18).
After the Flood, God made a second covenant with Noah, promising that humanity would never again be destroyed by a Flood: “God said, ‘This is the token of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you for perpetual generations: I will set my bow in the clouds as a token of the covenant between me and the earth. And it shall be when I bring clouds upon the earth that the bow will be seen in the clouds. And I will remember my covenant between me and you and every living creature of all flesh, that the waters will no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. The bow will be in the clouds, and I will look upon it that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh upon the earth.’ And God said to Noah, ‘This is the token of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh upon the earth’” (Genesis 9:12–17).
With Abraham, God made a covenant also—the Abrahamic Covenant—in which he promised to multiply him and make him fruitful, granting him and his descendants the Land of Canaan as an everlasting inheritance: “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, Jehovah appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am Almighty God. Walk before me and be perfect, and I will make my covenant between me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly.’ And Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, ‘As for me, see, my covenant is with you, and you will be a father of many nations. Nor will your name be called Abram anymore, but your name will be Abraham, for a father of many nations have I made you. And I will make you exceedingly fruitful. I will make nations of you, and kings shall come out of you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give you and your offspring after you the land in which you are a stranger—all the Land of Canaan, for an everlasting inheritance. And I will be their God’” (Genesis 17:1–8).
God further promised Abraham that his posterity would be innumerable: “In blessing I will bless you and in multiplying I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sands on the seashore. Your offspring shall inherit the gates of their enemies. And in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed because you have obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:17–18). Those two blessings—a Promised Land and an endless posterity—constitute the two basic blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant. For Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and others after them, God promised those blessings unconditionally after they had proven loyal to him under all conditions.
Centuries later, God made a collective covenant with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—a covenant with Israel as a nation—called the Sinai Covenant: “When Moses went up to God, Jehovah called to him out of the mountain and said, ‘Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob and tell the people of Israel: “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I bore you on eagles’ wings and have brought you to myself. Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then shall you be a peculiar treasure to me above all peoples, for the whole earth is mine. And you will be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words that you will speak to the people of Israel.’ So Moses came and called for the elders of the people and in their presence presented all these words as Jehovah had commanded him. And all the people responded as one and said, ‘All that Jehovah has spoken, we will do.’ So Moses returned [and conveyed] the words of the people to Jehovah” (Exodus 19:3–8).
Under the terms of the Sinai Covenant, God’s promise of land and posterity were conditional: “It will be that if you will diligently heed the voice of Jehovah your God and observe to keep all his commandments that I command you this day, that Jehovah your God will set you on high above all nations on the earth. And all these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you will heed the voice of Jehovah your God: Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the fruit of your ground, the fruit of your herds, the increase of your cattle and flocks of sheep. Blessed shall be your basket and storage. Blessed shall you be when you come in and blessed shall you be when you go out. Jehovah will cause your enemies who rise up against you to be smitten before your face. They will come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways. Jehovah will command the blessing upon you in your storehouses and in all that you set your hand to do, and he will bless you in the land Jehovah your God gives you” (Deuteronomy 28:1–8);
“But it will be that if you won’t heed the voice of Jehovah your God and observe to keep all his commandments and statutes that I command you this day, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: Cursed shall you be in the city and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be your basket and storage. Cursed shall be the fruit of your body and the fruit of your land, the increase of your cattle and flocks of sheep. Cursed shall you be when you come in and cursed shall you be when you go out. Jehovah will send upon you cursings, vexations, and rebukes in all that you set your hand to do until you are destroyed and have swiftly perished on account of the wickedness of your actions in which you forsake me. Jehovah will make the pestilence cleave to you until he has consumed you out of the land to which you are going to inherit it” (Deuteronomy 28:15–21).
In spite of covenanting with Jehovah to keep his law and word—the terms of the Sinai Covenant—his people already start breaking the covenant during their wilderness wandering. It is the younger generation, born in the wilderness and schooled by Moses in God’s law and word, that in the end inherits the Promised Land. When their parents who have come out of Egypt commit whoredoms with the Midianites, Phinehas of the tribe of Levi and the other Levites side with Jehovah against the evildoers. For their valor, Jehovah makes an unconditional covenant with Phinehas and the tribe of Levi—the Levitical Covenant—of an everlasting priesthood: “Jehovah spoke to Moses and said, ‘Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away my wrath from the people of Israel, being zealous among them for my sake so that I didn’t consume the people of Israel in my jealousy. Therefore say, “See, I give him my covenant of peace. It is his and his offspring’s after him—the covenant of an everlasting priesthood—because he was zealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel”’” (Numbers 25:10–13).
With King David and his heirs, too, Jehovah made a covenant—the Davidic Covenant—through which the king and his people could obtain God’s divine protection, provided the king kept God’s law and the people kept the king’s law. Of the king’s role as a proxy savior of his people, King Hezekiah, David’s illustrious descendant, proved exemplary. After David had shown himself loyal under all conditions, Jehovah made his covenant unconditional, promising that his descendants would rule over Israel throughout endless generations: “I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn to David my servant: ‘Your offspring will I establish forever. I will build up your throne to all generations’” (Psalm 89:3–4). At Israel’s exile from its Promised Land, David’s descendants inherited thrones and dominions in Israel’s lands of exile. European and other monarchies, for example, trace their lineage to King David.
The prophet Jeremiah affirms that even with Israel’s exile the Davidic and Levitical covenants would remain in effect: “The word of Jehovah came to Jeremiah, saying, ‘Thus says Jehovah: “If you can break my covenant of the day and my covenant of the night, that there should not be day and night in their appointed times, then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant that he should not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levites the priests, my ministers. As the hosts of heaven can’t be numbered, nor the sands of the sea be measured, so will I multiply the offspring of David my servant and of the Levites who minister to me.”’ And the word of Jehovah came again to Jeremiah, saying, ‘Haven’t you considered what these people have spoken, saying, “The two families Jehovah chose he has now cast off?” So they despise my people that to them they should no more be a nation.’ Thus says Jehovah: ‘If my covenant isn’t with the day and the night, and if I haven’t appointed the regulations of heaven and earth, then will I cast off the seed of Jacob and of David my servant so that I won’t take of his offspring to be rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’” (Jeremiah 33:19–26).
As noted, the millennial covenant Israel’s God makes incorporates all the positive features of his former covenants. Unlike the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants, which he made with persons individually, the new covenant he makes is with his elect people collectively, as was the Sinai Covenant. Unlike the Sinai Covenant, however, which is a conditional covenant—dependent on whether God’s people keep the terms of his covenant—the new covenant is unconditional. It follows his elect’s proving loyal to Israel’s God under all conditions as did Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and Phinehas the son of Aaron.
Under the metaphor of a wife whom he remarries, Jehovah establishes his covenant: “‘Sing, O barren woman who did not give birth; break into jubilant song, you who were not in labor. The children of the deserted wife shall outnumber those of the espoused,’ says Jehovah. ‘Expand the site of your tent; extend the canopies of your dwellings. Do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you shall spread abroad to the right and to the left; your offspring shall dispossess the nations and resettle the desolate cities. Be not fearful, for you shall not be confounded; be not ashamed, for you shall not be disgraced. You shall forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For he who espouses you is your Maker, whose name is Jehovah of Hosts; he who redeems you is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth.
“‘Jehovah calls you back as a spouse forsaken and forlorn, a wife married in youth only to be rejected,’ says your God. ‘I forsook you indeed momentarily, but with loving compassion I will gather you up. In fleeting exasperationI hid my face from you, but with everlasting charity I will have compassion on you,’ says Jehovah, who redeems you. ‘This is to me as in the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would no more flood the earth. So I swear to have no more anger toward you, never again to rebuke you. For the mountains shall be removed and the hills collapse with shaking, but my charity toward you shall never be removed, nor my covenant of peace be shaken,’ says Jehovah, who has compassion on you.
“‘Poor wretch, tempest-tossed and disconsolate! I will lay antimony for your building stones and sapphires for your foundations; I will make your skylights of jacinth, your gates of carbuncle, and your entire boundary of precious stones. All your children shall be taught by Jehovah, and great shall be the peace of your posterity. You shall be firmly established through righteousness; you will be far from oppression and have no cause to fear, far from ruin, for it shall not approach you’” (Isaiah 54:1–14).
The above unconditional covenant blessings—(1) of a land endowed with a paradisiacal glory; (2) of offspring divinely protected; and (3) made after a cataclysmic destruction as in the days of Noah—are further complemented by God’s commissioning his elect as his priests and ministers in the pattern of the Levitical Covenant: “You shall be called the priests of Jehovah and referred to as the ministers of our God. You shall feed on the wealth of the nations and be gratified with their choicest provision. Because their shame was twofold, and shouted insults were their lot, therefore in their land shall their inheritance be twofold and everlasting joy be theirs. . . . I will appoint them a sure reward; I will make with them an eternal covenant. Their offspring shall be renowned among the nations, their posterity in the midst of the peoples; all who see them will acknowledge that they are of the lineage Jehovah has blessed” (Isaiah 61:6–9).
As God endowed his priests and Levites anciently with his holy Spirit, so he does his end-time elect: “‘As for me, this is my covenant with them,’ says Jehovah: ‘My Spirit which is upon you and my words which I have placed in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of their offspring,’ says Jehovah, ‘from now on and forever’” (Isaiah 59:21). God’s promise to ancient Israel to make his people “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6), he thus fulfills with his end-time elect—with all those who, for the first time in Israel’s history, collectively prove loyal to him under all conditions.
That “nation” of God’s elect consists of those who respond positively to his end-time servant, whom Jehovah appoints to minister to them: “I Jehovah have rightfully called you and will grasp you by the hand; I have created you and appointed you to be a covenant of the people, a light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:6; emphasis added); “Thus says Jehovah: ‘At a favorable time I have answered you; in the day of salvationI have come to your aid: I have created you and appointed you to be a covenant of the people, to restore the Land and reapportion the desolate estates’” (Isaiah 49:8; emphasis added). As mediator of God’s covenant in the pattern of Moses, the servant personifies God’s covenant with his people—that is, God makes his unconditional covenant with his elect through the agency of his servant: “Give ear and come unto me; pay heed, that your souls may live! And I will make with you an everlasting covenant: [my]loving fidelity toward David. See, I have appointed him as a witness to the nations, a prince and lawgiver of the peoples. You will summon a nation that you did not know; a nation that did not know you will hasten to you” (Isaiah 55:3–5).
In sum, God’s new covenant with his millennial people—with an end-time “nation” comprised of his elect—forms a composite of all previous covenants God has made. As an unconditional and collective covenant, it incorporates the positive features of the Adamic, Noachian, Abrahamic, Sinaitic, Levitical, and Davidic covenants when those with whom he covenants prove loyal under all conditions. On the heels of God’s end-time servant’s being “born”—being empowered of God to minister to his people (compare Isaiah 9:6)—so is “born” the nation of God’s elect : “Before she is in labor, she gives birth; before her ordeal overtakes her, she delivers a son! Who has heard the like, or who has seen such things? Can the earth labor but a day and a nation be born at once? For as soon as she was in labor, Zion gave birth to her children. ‘Shall I bring to a crisis and not bring on birth?’ says Jehovah. ‘When it is I who cause the birth, shall I hinder it?’ says your God. Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all who love her; join in her celebration, all who mourn for her” (Isaiah 66:7–10; emphasis added). The nation of God’s people born in a “day”—God’s Day of Judgment—thus consists of those whom his servant rallies to God’s highest covenantal standard at the time God cleanses the earth of the wicked (Isaiah 11:10–12; 49:22; 51:9–11; 55:3–5).
Whether referencing a celestial city or a sacred city on the earth, “Zion” was known as the abode of Israel’s God Jehovah: “The mighty God Jehovah has spoken and called the earth from the rising of the sun to its going down. Out of Zion—the perfection of beauty—God has shined. Our God shall come and not keep silent. A fire devours before him, it is turbulent round about him. He calls to the heavens from above and to the earth that he may judge his people: ‘Gather my saints together to me, those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.’ The heavens declare his righteousness” (Psalm 50:1–6); “Great is Jehovah and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for location, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion, on the perimeters of the north, the city of the Great King. God is known in her palaces as a refuge” (Psalm 48:1–3); “Jehovah has chosen Zion. He has desired it for his dwelling place” (Psalm 132:13).
Jehovah is first seen to dwell “in Zion” in the Promised Land when Solomon builds and dedicates the temple in Jerusalem and Jehovah’s cloud of glory rests upon it: “Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel—all the heads of the tribes and the chief fathers of the people of Israel—to King Solomon at Jerusalem that they might bring up the Ark of the Covenant of Jehovah out of the city of David, which is Zion. And all the men of Israel assembled themselves to King Solomon at the Feast [of Tabernacles] in the month Ethanim, the seventh month. All the elders of Israel came and the priests took up the ark. And they brought up the ark of Jehovah, the tabernacle of the congregation, and all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle. These, the priests and Levites brought up.
“And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel who were assembled to him were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen that couldn’t be counted or numbered for multitude. And the priests brought in the Ark of the Covenant of Jehovah into its place in the holy of holies of the temple—into its most holy place under the wings of the cherubim. . . . And it happened, when the priests had come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of Jehovah so that the priests couldn’t stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of Jehovah filled the house of Jehovah” (1 Kings 8:1–6, 10–11).
At the end of the world, when he comes to institute his millennial reign of peace, Jehovah again manifests his presence as he did to Solomon and Israel’s elders at the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem and as he did to Moses and Israel’s elders on Mount Sinai: “The moon will blush and the sun be put to shame, when Jehovah of Hosts manifests his reign in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and [his]glory in the presence of his elders” (Isaiah 24:23); “In this mountain will Jehovah of Hosts prepare a sumptuous feast for all peoples, a feast of leavened cakes, succulent and delectable, of matured wines well refined. In this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the shroud that shrouds all nations, by abolishing death forever. My Lord Jehovah will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the reproach of his people from throughout the earth. Jehovah has spoken it. In that day you will say, ‘This is our God, whom we expected would save us. This is Jehovah for whom we have waited; let us joyfully celebrate his salvation!’” (Isaiah 25:6–9).
Following an end-time war to end all wars, Zion and Jerusalem gain prominence as the source of Jehovah’s law and word—the terms of his covenant—that go forth to all nations: “In the latter days the mountain of Jehovah’s house shall become established as the head of the mountains; it shall be preeminent among the hills, and all nations will flow to it. Many peoples shall go, saying, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, that we may follow in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and from Jerusalem the word of Jehovah. He will judge between the nations and arbitrate for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks: nation will not lift the sword against nation, nor will they learn warfare any more” (Isaiah 2:2–4).
To the city of God come even former enemies of his people when Jehovah glorifies his dwelling place in the sight of all nations: “The splendor of Lebanon shall become yours—cypresses, pines, and firs together—to beautify the site of my sanctuary, to make glorious the place of my feet. The sons of those who tormented you will come bowing before you; all who reviled you will prostrate themselves at your feet. They will call you the City of Jehovah, Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Although you had been forsaken and abhorred, with none passing through [your land], yet I will make you an everlasting pride, the joy of generation after generation” (Isaiah 60:13–15); “Shout and sing for joy, O inhabitants of Zion, for renowned among you is the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 12:6).
God’s sequential creation—from his organizing of raw materials into celestial bodies to his forming living creatures from those same elements—points to his final molding of man into his own image and likeness: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1); “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven to divide the day from the night, and let them be for signs and seasons, for days and years.’ . . . And God said, ‘Let the waters abundantly bring forth moving creatures that have life, and fowls that fly above the earth in the open skies.’ . . . And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind—cattle and creeping things and the beasts of the earth after their kind.’ . . . And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the fowl of the air, over cattle, over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image—in the image of God he created him: male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:14, 20, 24, 26–27);
“And Jehovah God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul. And Jehovah God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there he put the man whom he had formed” (Genesis 2:7–8); “And Jehovah God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helpmeet for him’” (Genesis 2:18); “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve because she was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20); “In the day God created man, in the likeness of God did he make him: male and female he created them” (Genesis 5:1–2).
From these depictions, one can nevertheless not assume that God created all of humanity in his image and likeness—only Adam and Eve. The fact that Adam and Eve inherited “all the earth” and attained a paradisiacal glory in the Garden of Eden puts them on a higher spiritual plane than humanity in general. The covenant blessings of inheriting the earth and attaining a paradisiacal glory that accompanied Adam’s and Eve’s creation—which humanity in general has thus far not received—limits the idea of God’s creating man in his own image and likeness to Adam and Eve and to those who at some point similarly inherit the earth and attain a paradisiacal glory as covenant blessings.
Additional scriptures, for example, affirm that not all of humanity inherits the earth, only certain elect individuals: “What man is there who fears Jehovah? Him will he teach in the way that he should choose. His soul will dwell at ease, and his offspring will inherit the earth. The secret of Jehovah is with those who fear him, whom he will show his covenant” (Psalm 25:12–14); “Evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait upon Jehovah, they will inherit the earth. For in just a little while shall the wicked be no more. Indeed, you will earnestly consider their place, yet it won’t be [there]. But the meek shall inherit the earth and delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Psalm 37:9–11).
Nor does all of humanity attain a paradisiacal glory on the earth, only those who inherit the earth’s millennial age of peace. Rather, Isaiah’s concept of God’s creation as “re-creation”—of both the heavens and the earth, and of humanity upon the earth—defines an ongoing process. That process started long before God created Adam and Eve in his own image and likeness, and it continues long after many of their descendants ascend to higher spiritual planes and similarly attain his image and likeness. Because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever and is no respecter of persons (2 Samuel 14:14; Acts 10:34; Hebrews 13:8), he will not do for one what he doesn’t do for another. As God didn’t create the man in the Garden of Eden but put him there afterwards, Adam and Eve must have had prior experience through which they qualified for inheriting the earth and attaining a paradisiacal glory. Similarly, we may compare God’s elect—those whom God re-creates, who qualify to inherit the earth and attain a paradisiacal glory in the earth’s millennial age of peace—to new Adams and Eves, souls who continue God’s cyclical creations throughout the eternities.
Isaiah’s concept of God’s creation as “re-creation” throws light on this unbroken process. By depicting God’s entire creation as a sequential phenomenon—one that becomes progressively more refined—Isaiah reveals its ultimate intent. First, there occurs the creation of the heavens and the earth out of preexisting materials: “Who measured out the waters with the hollow of his hand and gauged the heavens by the span of his fingers? Who compiled the earth’s dust by measure, weighing mountains in scales, hills in a balance?” (Isaiah 40:12). God’s creation has a divine purpose: “Thus says Jehovah who created the heavens, the God who formed the earth—who made it secure and organized it, not to remain a chaotic waste, but who designed it to be inhabited . . .” (Isaiah 45:18; emphasis added). In accordance with his divine plan, God creates man: “It is I who made the earth and created man upon it” (Isaiah 45:12; emphasis added). Next, there comes the creation of nations and isles or continents: “The nations are but drops from a bucket, counting no more than dust on a balance; the isles he displaces as mere specks” (Isaiah 40:15).
The creation of a people of God follows: “Thus says Jehovah—he who formed you, O Jacob, he who created you, O Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name; you are mine’” (Isaiah 43:1; emphasis added). Although they are his people, those on the Jacob/Israel level tend to love idols and forget their God: “They are followers of ashes; their deluded minds have distracted them. They cannot liberate themselves [from them]or say, ‘Surely this thing in my hand is a fraud.’ Ponder these things, O Jacob, and you, O Israel, for you are my servant. I have created you to be my servant, O Israel; Do not disregard me. I have removed your offenses like a thick fog, your sins like a cloud of mist. Return to me; I have redeemed you” (Isaiah 44:20–22; emphasis added).
Jehovah’s redeeming his people involves his intervening on their behalf: “I fashion light and form darkness; I occasion peace and cause calamity. I, Jehovah, do all these things. Rain down from above, O heavens; let the skies overflow with righteousness. Let the earth receive it and salvation blossom; let righteousness spring up forthwith. I, Jehovah, create it” (Isaiah 45:7–8; emphasis added). Upon his people’s repenting of transgression, they ascend spiritually to the Zion/Jerusalem level. At that point, Jehovah re-creates them, as it were, “from the dust”—from a chaotic or cursed condition—and empowers them: “Awake, arise; clothe yourself with power, O Zion! Put on your robes of glory, O Jerusalem, holy city. No more shall the uncircumcised and defiled enter you. Shake yourself free, rise from the dust; sit enthroned, O Jerusalem. Loose yourself from the bands around your neck, O captive Daughter of Zion” (Isaiah 52:1–2).
As they covenant with him and keep his law and word, Jehovah re-creates them on the son/servant level and brings them home from their places of exile to the Promised Land: “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth—all who are called by my name, whom I have formed, molded and wrought for my own glory” (Isaiah 43:6–7; emphasis added). Accompanying his people’s re-creation is God’s re-creation of the cosmos: “See, I create new heavens and a new earth; former events shall not be remembered or recalled to mind. Rejoice, then, and be glad forever in what I create. See, I create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy” (Isaiah 65:17–18; emphasis added).
These redemptive events occur at the time the Creator of heaven and earth reverses the adverse circumstances of his end-time servant by re-creating him on the seraph level and empowering him to restore his people: “Thus says Jehovah, God, who frames and suspends the heavens, who gives form to the earth and its creatures, the breath of life to the people upon it, spirit to those who walk on it: ‘I Jehovah have rightfully called you and grasp you by the hand; I have created you and appointed you to be a covenant for the people, a light to the nations, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from confinement and from prison those who sit in darkness’” (Isaiah 42:5–7; emphasis added);
“Thus says Jehovah: ‘At a favorable time I have answered you; in the day of salvationI have come to your aid: I have created you and appointed you to be a covenant of the people, to restore the Land and reapportion the desolate estates, to say to the captives, “Come forth!” and to those in darkness, “Show yourselves!” They shall feed along the way and find pasture on all barren heights; they shall not hunger or thirst, nor be smitten by the heatwave or the sun: he who has mercy on them will guide them; he will lead them by springs of water. All my mountain ranges I will appoint as roads; my highways shall be on high. See these, coming from afar, these, from the northwest, and these, from the land of Sinim’” (Isaiah 49:8–12; emphasis added).
Many others at that time also ascend to exalted spiritual levels, fulfilling the ultimate purpose of God’s creation: “They who hope in Jehovah shall be renewed in strength: they shall ascend as on eagles’ wings; they shall run without wearying, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Isaiah compares those whom God re-creates on the highest levels to celestial bodies whom he names individually when their covenants with him become unconditional: “Lift your eyes heavenward and see: Who formed these? He who brings forth their hosts by number, calling each one by name. Because he is almighty and all powerful, not one is unaccounted for” (Isaiah 40:26; emphasis added); “‘And as the new heavens and new earth which I make shall endure before me,’ says Jehovah, ‘so shall your offspring and name endure’” (Isaiah 66:22; emphasis added).
The Paradise Adam and Eve inherited as a covenant blessing informs us of the Paradise their descendants may inherit during the earth’s millennial age of peace: “Jehovah God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And Jehovah God made grow out of the ground every tree pleasant to the sight and good for food, the Tree of Life, also, in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it was parted and became four headwaters. . . . And Jehovah God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and keep it. And Jehovah God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you will surely die’” (Genesis 2:8–10, 15–17).
At the inception of the millennial age that precedes Jehovah’s coming to reign on the earth, a regeneration of the earth’s natural environment occurs, commencing in Zion: “Jehovah is comforting Zion, bringing solace to all her ruins; he is making her wilderness like Eden, her desert as the garden of Jehovah. Joyful rejoicing takes place there, thanksgiving with the voice of song” (Isaiah 51:3); “I will open up streams in barren hill country, springs in the midst of the plains; I will turn the desert into lakes, parched lands into fountains of water. I will bring cedars and acacias, myrtles and oleasters in the wilderness; I will place cypresses, elms and box trees in the steppes—that all may see it and know, consider it, and perceive that Jehovah’s hand did this, that the Holy One of Israel created it” (Isaiah 41:18–20).
In parallel with a regenerating wilderness, the bodies of God’s elect also regenerate as Jehovah’s coming draws near: “Wilderness and arid land shall be jubilant; the desert shall rejoice when it blossoms like the crocus. Joyously it shall break out in flower, singing with delight; it shall be endowed with the glory of Lebanon, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon. The glory of Jehovah and the splendor of our God they shall see [there]. Strengthen the hands grown feeble, steady the failing knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Take courage; be unafraid! See, your God is coming to avenge and to reward; God himself will come and deliver you.’ Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then shall the lame leap like deer, and the tongue of the dumb shout for joy. Water shall break forth in the wilderness and streams [flow] in the desert. The land of mirages shall become one of lakes, the thirsty place springs of water; in the haunt of howling creatures [shall marshes break out], in the reserves shall come rushes and reeds” (Isaiah 35:1–7).
At Jehovah’s coming in glory, Zion and its stakes become established as the joyful abode of God’s elect: “Your eyes shall behold the King in his glory and view the expanse of the earth. . . . Behold Zion, the city of our solemn assemblies; let your eyes rest upon Jerusalem, the abode of peace—an immovable tent, whose stakes shall never be uprooted, nor any of its cords severed. . . . None who reside there shall say, ‘I am ill’; the people who inhabit it shall be forgiven their iniquity. May Jehovah cause us to dwell there, a country of rivers and broad streams” (Isaiah 33:17, 20–21, 24); “In that day, sing of her as of a delightful vineyard of which I, Jehovah, am keeper. I water it constantly, watch over it night and day, lest anything be amiss” (Isaiah 27:2).
Wild animals become tame and all creatures on the earth live in peace: “Then shall the wolf dwell among lambs and the leopard lie down with young goats; calves and young lions will feed together, and a youngster will lead them [to pasture]. When a cow and bear browse, their young will rest together; the lion will eat straw like the ox. A suckling infant will play near the adder’s den, and the toddler reach his hand over the viper’s nest. There shall be no harm or injury done throughout my holy mountain, for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the oceans are overspread with waters” (Isaiah 11:6–9); “Blessed are you, who shall then sow by all waters, letting oxen and asses range free” (Isaiah 32:20).
Every vestige of disharmony and oppression disappears from the earth: “I will delight in Jerusalem, rejoice in my people; no more shall be heard there the sound of weeping or the cry of distress. No more shall there be infants alive but a few days, or the aged who do not live out their years; those who die young shall be a hundred years old, and those who fail to reach a hundred shall be accursed. When men build houses, they will dwell in them; when they plant vineyards, they will eat their fruit. They shall not build so that others may dwell, or plant so that others may eat. The lifetime of my people shall be as the lifetime of a tree; my chosen ones shall outlast the work of their hands. They shall not exert themselves in vain, or bear children doomed for calamity. For they are of the lineage of those Jehovah has blessed, and their posterity with them. Before they call I will reply; while they are yet speaking I will respond. The wolf and the lamb will graze alike, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; as for the serpent, dust shall be its food: there shall be no harm or injury done throughout my holy mountain” (Isaiah 65:19–25).
Zion’s beauty surpasses previous experience as the earth’s millennial inhabitants partake of the spiritual and temporal salvation God promises those who prove loyal to him through the evil time: “In place of copper I will bring gold, in place of iron, silver; in place of wood I will bring copper, in place of stones, iron. I will make peace your rulers and righteousness your oppressors: tyranny shall no more be heard of in your land, nor dispossession or disaster within your borders; you will regard salvation as your walls and homage as your gates. No longer shall the sun be your light by day, nor the brightness of the moon your illumination at night: Jehovah will be your everlasting light and your God your radiant glory. Your sun shall set no more, nor your moon wane: to you Jehovah shall be an endless light when your days of mourning are fulfilled. Your entire people shall be righteous; they shall inherit the earth forever—they are the branch I have planted, the work of my hands, in which I am glorified. The least of them shall become a clan, the youngest a mighty nation” (Isaiah 60:17–22).