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Turning the Hearts of the Jews to the Prophets and the Prophets to the Jews

B’nai Shalom Presentation by Avraham Gileadi, 3rd April 2014

As some of you may know, this year’s Feast of Passover, which occurs on April 15th through 22nd, coincides with the first of four consecutive blood moons or total lunar eclipses on the main Jewish feastdays of Passover 2014, Tabernacles 2014, Passover 2015, and Tabernacles 2015, with a total solar eclipse occurring at the Jewish New Year 2015. We may thus expect to see important developments for the Jewish people this year and the next. Back-to-back blood moons on Jewish feastdays occurred in 1492, when the Jews were expelled from Spain; in 1948, when the State of Israel was founded; and in the 1967 Six-day War, when Israel captured the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

Orson Hyde’s Dedicatory Prayer of the Holy Land

In 1840, in Nauvoo, Illinois, the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith sent Orson Hyde, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, to Palestine to dedicate the Holy Land for the return of the Jews. The Jewish return to Palestine and latter-day restoration was a prominent theme in the Book of Mormon and in Joseph Smith’s divine revelations. Orson Hyde’s long and arduous journey from Nauvoo to Palestine included stops in Amsterdam and other European capitals, where he sought to persuade Jewish rabbis that the time had come for Jews to resettle their land.

The Tribes of Israel

THE LOST TRIBES

722 years before the birth of Christ, the armies of the Assyrian Empire conquered the Kingdom of Israel (the land of the ten northern tribes) and carried the inhabitants off into captivity. The Kingdom of Judah in the south, was barely spared from the same fate by the strenuous efforts of the prophet Isaiah and their righteous king Hezekiah (and some large-scale, last minute repentance). Little more than 100 years later, the Assyrians, in turn, were conquered by the Babylonians. When their Assyrian overlords were subjugated, however, the Israelite “exiles” did not return as they were, by this time, already lost to history.

The Abrahamic Covenant

1. A Promise of Land

Specifically designated as the land between the River of Egypt in the south (now known as the Wadi El Arish in the northern Sinai) and the river Euphrates in the north. The western boundary is the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern boundary is undefined. See Abraham 2:6, Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 15:7, 13-14, 16, 18; 17:8. In the case of Joseph's descendants, it appears that this territory is expanded even further (i.e., America, from whence his descendants will conduct the work of the Gospel Restoration; see Genesis 49:22, 26; 1 Nephi 15:12; 3 Nephi 15:12).

The Prophet Zenos’ Allegory of the Olive Tree

Written by the ancient Josephite prophet Zenos, as recorded in the Book of Mormon, the following allegory of an olive tree predicts Israel’s division into three branches separated from their mother tree that God would plant in different parts of the world, as well as Israel’s latter-day reunification. The allegory was preserved in a scriptural record kept on brass plates by descendants of Joseph, who carried it out of Jerusalem with a party of Jewish émigrés traveling to the American continent around 600 B.C. It appears in Jacob 5:1–77 in the Book of Mormon.

Scriptural References about Joseph and Judah

Many references to Joseph and Judah appear in Jewish and Mormon scriptures, most of them prophesying Israel’s latter-day restoration and the dynamics of the relationship between these two divisions of the original twelve-tribed kingdom of Israel. They include the patriarch Jacob’s blessings upon his sons before his death, the Hebrew prophets’ predictions of Israel’s gathering and reunification, Book of Mormon predictions of Israel’s scattering and restoration, and revelations received by the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith on the role of the tribe of Ephraim.

America in the Prophecy of Isaiah, Part 2

By Avraham Gileadi Ph.D.

America’s place as head of the nations has always been a blessing pertaining to God’s covenant with his people Israel. If God’s people would keep the terms of his covenant, they would be the head of the nations, but if they broke his covenant they would be the tail (Deuteronomy 28:1, 13, 44). When America’s founding fathers established “one nation under God,” they resumed in modern times where ancient Israel left off. Although Israel broke God’s covenant and was exiled from its land, that didn’t mean God’s covenant was annulled. It simply waited for his people dispersed among the nations to again keep its terms and to be blessed of God. America’s extraordinary success and prosperity testify of that.

America in the Prophecy of Isaiah, Part 1

By Avraham Gileadi Ph.D.

Few people may suspect that the great superpower America appears in the prophecies of the Bible, especially in end-time prophecy. Yet there it is in plain sight, and just as prominent as America is in the world today. Where? In the prophecy of Isaiah under the codename of the great superpower of Isaiah’s day: Egypt. The two are a perfect match. We know they are the same because Isaiah’s prophecies have a dual fulfillment, one in his day and one in the end-time. Foretelling “the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10), Isaiah depicts both nations in a single prophecy. The Jews have traditionally taught such dual fulfillment. Only recently, however, has evidence come to light that supports the Jewish tradition.

The Literary Message of Isaiah

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION: THE BIFID STRUCTURE

The Book of Isaiah Divides into Two Parallel Halves
Major Discoveries in Isaiah’s Bifid Structure
How to Read this Literary Analysis

PART I: RUIN & REBIRTH (Isaiah 1–5; 34–35)

National and Universal Dimensions of Ruin and Rebirth
Discourse A: Edom as a Type (Synecdoche) of the Nations
Covenant Curses and a Reversal of Covenant Curses
Interpretive Motifs Linking Both Units of Material
Summary

PART II: REBELLION & COMPLIANCE (Isaiah 6–8; 36–40

Opposite Choices by Ahaz and Hezekiah and Their Peoples
Discourse B: Zion Ideology (1)—The Davidic Covenant
The King as Exemplar of the People
The Prophet as a Paradigm of the People
A Hierarchy of Ascending Levels
Summary

PART III: PUNISHMENT & DELIVERANCE (Isaiah 9–12; 41–46)

Typological Motifs in Common
A Composite Davidic Figure
Discourse C: Chaos and Creation (1)
A Composite Righteous Warrior Figure
A Composite Cyrus Figure
A Composite Servant Figure
Variations of the Ideal
Discourse D: Chaos and Creation (2)
Summary

PART IV: HUMILIATION & EXALTATION (Isaiah 13–23; 47)

Greater Babylon as a Composite Entity
Discourse E: Zion Ideology (2)—Deliverance and Destruction
A Babylon Ideology
The King of Babylon—A Composite Tyrant Figure
Discourse F: The Servant–Tyrant Parallelism (1)—The Structure
Summary

PART V: SUFFERING & SALVATION (Isaiah 24–27; 48–54)

Cumulative Concepts of the Bifid Structure
Discourse G: The Composite City
Universal Suffering and Universal Salvation
Suffering and Redemption
Agents of Redemption
Discourse H: The Servant–Tyrant Parallelism (2)—The Message
Redemptive Suffering
Summary

PART VI: DISLOYALTY & LOYALTY (Isaiah 28–31; 55–59)

A Covenant with Death
A Covenant of Life
Discourse I: The New Covenant
A Decisive Covenantal Allegiance
Summary

PART VII: DISINHERITANCE & INHERITANCE (Isaiah 32–33; 60–66)

A Contradistinction between the Wicked and the Righteous
A Decisive Covenantal Separation
Discourse J: The Woman Figure
A Glorious Covenantal Heritage
Summary

CONCLUSION

BIBLIOGRAPHY


Excerpts

In short, the nature of synchronous structures is to lift entities and events out of the realm of history in which they may originally have appeared. Isaiah’s seven-part Bifid Structure thus creates a new context for what is predicted. Within that context, Israel’s ancient history—as selectively presented by the prophet—forms an allegory of the end of the world. For someone who hasn’t experienced the step-by-step process I did over ten years of post-doctoral research, grasping that idea may require a considerable cognitive leap from what scholarship has taught in the past. In my dealings with Isaiah’s layered literary structures—linear and synchronous—I had to fundamentally adjust my thinking about this text many times. Thereafter, I came to regard it as indeed a “sealed book,” which, like other sealed books, was intended to be unsealed in the “end-time” (Isaiah 30:8). (Introduction, The Literary Message of Isaiah.)

The literary message of Part I, therefore, has to do with a single stage of events, not with the separate historical scenarios that appear when these passages are viewed individually. Although Isaiah’s prophecies may have originated in different historical contexts, and may have dealt with the particular circumstances of their times, Part I’s struc­ture—without taking away from the text’s historical relevance—lends it a new dimension. It lifts the prophetic message of this material out of its original timeframe into an eschatological or end-time one. On a purely structural, and thus ahistorical, level, a scenario plays itself out that transcends the literal or historical message of the prophecy. On that ahistorical plane, the prophetic message deals with a reversal of circumstances between Zion and non-Zion and about the nature and timing of that event. Individual prophecies of perhaps diverse historical origins now gain new relevance as an integral part of a much larger scenario, becoming less relevant individually than when subsumed within a futuristic timeframe. (Part I, The Literary Message of Isaiah.)

The ruin of Jehovah’s people thus consists of a series of covenant curses that ensue upon a period of covenantal blessedness. However, Jehovah’s people don’t suffer these curses alone. As depicted in the second unit of Part I (Isaiah 34–35), the nations of the world also experience ruin. Ruin, in other words, occurs not just locally but throughout the earth. This suggests that humanity as a whole has degenerated to the point that both Israel and the nations share Jehovah’s common condemnation. Still, it isn’t the nations of the world who precipitate this universal ruin but Jehovah’s alienated people. In a real sense, therefore, Jehovah’s people act as a catalyst for what happens to humanity at large. (Part I, The Literary Message of Isaiah.)

Indeed, an entire hierarchy of spiritual categories is on display in this material. The pairs of parallel names Jacob/Israel and Zion/Jerusalem in the Book of Isaiah provide a clue to this differentiation of spiritual levels. Isaiah’s ascent from prophet, in the first unit, to angelic emissary, in the second, supplies another. As a paradigm of spiritual ascent, Isaiah represents a superlative category of Jehovah’s salvation. His celestial accession, which models itself on the seraphs, reflects his attaining an increasingly sanctified state. Such celestial accession, however, is held out as a spiritual goal for all: “Lift your eyes heavenward and see: Who formed these? He who brings forth their hosts by number, calling each one by name” (Isaiah 40:26; cf. Job 38:7). Jehovah’s naming or renaming a person or people occurs whenever they assume, or are urged to assume, a higher spiritual calling (cf. Isaiah 43:1; 45:3–4; 49:1; 56:5; 62:2; 65:15). (Part II, The Literary Message of Isaiah.)

As a spiritual category, Jacob/Israel nevertheless goes two ways: those who grow “faint” (‘yp) and “weary” (yg‘) in their allegiance toward Jehovah, who lack understanding (Isaiah 40:21, 27–30; cf. 6:10); and those who “hope in” (qwh) Jehovah and “ascend” (‘lh) (Isaiah 40:31). The first course constitutes spiritual descent, a path leading to the level of idolaters (cf. Isaiah 40:18–20). People in that category perish in Jehovah’s Day of Judgment (Isaiah 37:18–19). The second leads to higher spiritual realms. Beginning with rebirth as Zion/Jerusalem, ascent may proceed all the way to the seraph category, as with Isaiah. In that superlative state, individuals are “renewed in strength,” possessing the ability to “run without wearying and walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). They experience a condition of nonweariness akin to Jehovah’s own—the ability to “ascend as on eagles’ wings” (Isaiah 40:31). (Part II, The Literary Message of Isaiah.)

As we have seen, severe tests of loyalty in Part II evoke either rebellion or compliance toward Jehovah by king and people. These attributes surface when Jehovah tries Ahaz and Hezekiah and their respective peoples under the pressure of political expediency. In that regard, the two tests are similar, although one might argue that Hezekiah and his people undergo the greater trial of their faith. A striking feature of Part II is that the king’s covenantal rebellion coincides with his people’s in the first unit (Isaiah 6–8), even as the king’s covenantal com­pliance coincides with his people’s in the second (Isaiah 36–40). Such structuring casts each king in the role of an exemplar of his people: the people’s traits, whether of rebellion or compliance, mirror his own. (Part II, The Literary Message of Isaiah.)

While scholars have noted that the terms of agreement of ancient Near Eastern secular covenants match those of the Davidic Covenant, they have none­theless failed to see the full implications of the parallels. These include the significance of the covenant’s protection clause. The key role a vassal king plays in securing his people’s deliverance has a bearing not only on the nature of Zion but also on important concepts the Bifid Structure ultimately develops, such as proxy salvation from sin. A closer look at the king’s role as the protector of his people reveals the essence of these concepts. (Part II, The Literary Message of Isaiah.)

So far as Israel’s divine protection is concerned, the Davidic Covenant succeeds the Sinai Covenant but only because Israel has regressed in its loyalty toward Jehovah (cf. 1 Samuel 8:7). The king now stands as an intermediary between Jehovah and his people. For the people, the Davidic Covenant is thus a lesser covenant than the Sinai Covenant. Less is required of them in order to obtain Jehovah’s protection: they must simply remain loyal to their king. For the king, on the other hand, the Davidic Covenant is a greater covenant than the Sinai Covenant. More is required of him in order to obtain Jehovah’s protection: as his people’s proxy representative, he is answerable for their loyalties or disloyalties toward the suzerain. Still, so long as the king proves righteous before Jehovah—by keeping the terms of the covenant—this arrangement possesses many advantages over the Sinai Covenant. (Part II, The Literary Message of Isaiah.)

An idea flowing out of the king’s role as guarantor of his people’s protection, for example, is that of Zion/Jerusalem as a safe place (cf. Isaiah 37:33). Divine protection under the terms of the Davidic Covenant is guaranteed for those who are loyal to a righteous king, although such protection is not guaranteed for those who are disloyal to him. The conditional aspects of the Davidic Covenant—the king’s loyalty toward Jehovah and the people’s loyalty toward their king—account for a remnant of Israel surviving a mortal threat such as the one posed by the king of Assyria. The place where a righteous king and his loyal people abide, in other words, constitutes a safe or inviolable place because that is where Jehovah intervenes on their behalf. (Part II, The Literary Message of Isaiah.)

Accordingly, Isaiah 10 depicts the king of Assyria as a power of chaos: “I will commission him against the people of my wrath, to pillage for plunder and spoliate for spoil, to tread underfoot like mud in the streets” (Isaiah 10:6). “Mud” (homer), a chaos motif, signifies that the Assyrian king reduces Jehovah’s reprobate people to a powerless and disorganized state. As Jehovah’s instrument of punishment, the king of Assyria smites them and the nations of the world alike. He boasts, “I have done away with the borders of nations . . . I have vastly reduced the inhabitants . . . I have gathered up the whole world” (Isaiah 10:13–14; cf. vv 7–11). But Jehovah responds, “Shall an ax exalt itself above the one who hews with it, or a saw vaunt itself over him who handles it?” (Isaiah 10:15). The terms “axe” (garzen) and “saw” (massôr) thus add to the list of metaphorical pseudonyms that describe the king of Assyria and further identify this Tyrant figure as a power of chaos. (Part III, The Literary Message of Isaiah.)

To sum up, Part IV creates the idea of a Greater Babylon or arch Babylon—an entity antithetical to Zion—that builds upon several cumulative concepts of the Bifid Structure. These include a reversal of circumstances between Zion and non-Zion developed in Part I, the coexistence of two peoples with opposite covenantal allegiances established in Part II, and the formation of a single, composite entity consisting of a number of historical types developed in Part III. This Greater Babylon—an ahistorical entity that is the contemporary of Zion—ultimately perishes in the “Day of Jehovah” (cf. Isaiah 13:6, 9; 47:9). Babylon’s humiliation in that day paves the way for Zion’s exaltation. (Part IV, The Literary Message of Isaiah.)

Babylon’s king figure in Isaiah 14 epitomizes a Babylon ideology pursued, consummately, to its ignominious end. The archtyrant’s sudden passing from a state of unbridled self-exaltation to one of unmitigated damnation here receives dramatic expression. When the king of Babylon ascends, godlike, in the heavens—to the “utmost heights of Zaphon” (vv 13–14)—Jehovah thrusts him down to Sheol, to the “uttermost depths of the Pit” (v 15). After he rises gloriously as the morning star, he falls, ingloriously, from the heavens (v 12). After he commands the nations, Jehovah hews him down to earth (ibid.), his corpse moldering, unburied, in a bed of maggots (vv 11, 19–20). After he makes the earth shake and kingdoms quake, dead men mock and revile him (vv 10, 16). The king of Babylon, hewer of the cedars of Lebanon, Jehovah lays low (v 8). (Part IV, The Literary Message of Isaiah.)

In sum, Zion’s intensified suffering isn’t just infused with hope but portends an imminent reversal of covenant curses leading to Zion’s salva­tion and exaltation. The very context of covenantal malediction upon the wicked, through which Jehovah’s people suffer, turns, for Zion, into covenantal benediction when it endures its trials as a refiner’s fire. Zion’s suffering provides the setting in which Jehovah redeems her, while non-Zion’s suffering proves irrevocable so long as those who comprise non-Zion fail to repent/return. (Part V, The Literary Message of Isaiah.)

The homiletic and exhortative content of Part VI (Isaiah 28–31; 55–59) lends itself to the emergence of two juxtaposed ideas—a Covenant of Life and a Covenant with Death. An inherent covenant relationship of people or peoples with Israel’s God thus divides in two: one springs from loyalty, the other comes of disloyalty; one accounts for Jehovah’s redeemed people, the other marks apostates. Because Jehovah’s redemption and retribution occur universally and concurrently, all peoples, Israelite or non-Israelite, fall into one or other covenantal category. In the first unit, Jehovah “cuts off” those who covenant with death, who rely on human counsel, who were his people. Yet he delivers those who receive his living word. In the second unit, Jehovah grants a covenant of life and peace to those from among the nations who heed the ideal vassal’s summons, while those who reject Jehovah’s righteousness incur a state of no peace. (Part VI, The Literary Message of Isaiah.)

When Jehovah shuts the eyes of the prophets and seers (Isaiah 29:10), all-encompassing or “apocalyptic vision” (hazut hakkol) becomes a “sealed book” to the learned and unlearned alike (Isaiah 29:11–12). The unsealing of the book, which contains Jehovah’s “constitution” (huqa) for the last day and an everlasting “testimony” (‘ed) (Isaiah 30:8), causes Jehovah’s blind and deaf remnant to “see” and “hear” his words (Isaiah 29:18). Despite that positive result, the lip service and rote commandments Jehovah’s reprobate people offer as homage (Isaiah 29:13) cause Jehovah to overturn their human wisdom and learning (Isaiah 29:14). At such a time of his people’s apostasy—when life and death hang in the balance—Jehovah proceeds wondrously to perform things they did not expect (ibid.). (Part VI, The Literary Message of Isaiah.)

The main elements of four biblical covenants in the Book of Isaiah appear in variously linked combinations that make up the new covenant. The first is Jehovah’s promise to Abraham of a numerous posterity and inheritance of land (Isaiah 51:2–3; 61:7–9; cf. Genesis 17:1–8): Jehovah blesses the followers of righteousness (Isaiah 51:1)—Jehovah’s people who repent/return (Isaiah 51:11)—as he blesses Abraham, their progenitor and type (Isaiah 51:2–3; 60:21–22). Second, Jehovah addresses Zion by the covenant formula, “You are my people” (Isaiah 51:16). That collective dimension pertains to the Sinai Covenant, Jehovah’s covenant with Israel as a nation (cf. Leviticus 26:9, 12). Third, as we noted, Jehovah endows the righteous and their offspring with his Spirit (Isaiah 32:15; 44:3; 59:21) and places his words in their mouth (Isaiah 51:16; 59:21). This feature of the Levitical covenant reflects Jehovah’s empowerment of Israel’s priests and Levites to teach his law (cf. Malachi 2:4–7). Fourth, Jehovah protects Zion “in the shadow of my hand” (Isaiah 51:16; emphasis added; cf. 41:10–13), reflective of the Davidic Covenant and its protection clause. (See Discourse B: Zion Ideology [1]—the Davidic Covenant.) (Part VI, The Literary Message of Isaiah.)

Lastly, Jehovah’s “creation” or “re-creation” (br’) of the heavens and the earth (Isaiah 65:17), coupled with his “creation” or “re-creation” (br’) of Zion/Jerusalem (Isaiah 65:18), sums up Jehovah’s redemption. The parallelism of these ideas shows that the ultimate pur­pose of Jehovah’s cosmic creation is the creation of a redeemed people of Jehovah. That creation is realized when the present world ends and the new begins: “‘As the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall endure before me,’ says, Jehovah, ‘so shall your offspring and name endure’” (Isaiah 66:22). Jehovah’s re-creation of the righteous, on the other hand, contrasts his de-creation of the wicked—temporally as well as spiritually—when “the corpses of the people who transgressed against me” return to chaos amid unquenchable fire (Isaiah 66:24). (Part VII, The Literary Message of Isaiah.)

Isaiah Decoded: Ascending the Ladder to Heaven


Hitherto unseen literary evidence reveals a new dimension to Isaiah’s prophecy that uses Israel’s ancient history as an allegory of an end-time scenario. Isaiah’s Hebrew gospel preempts the New Testament by teaching the path through which God empowers his children to ascend to the highest heaven.

CONTENTS

FIGURES

PREFACE

INTRODUCTION

1. THE LADDER TO HEAVEN

Living a Higher Law Leads into God’s Presence
The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah Contains a Clue
Humanity Divides into Seven Spiritual Categories
Isaiah Presents Models on Each Level of the Ladder
The Past Provides a Sure Pattern of the Future
Isaiah Predicts Two Separate and Distinct Scenarios
Ancient Names Are Codenames of End-Time Powers
We Determine Our Own Level on the Ladder
Isaiah Sees a Glorious New Era for God’s People
Postscript

2. THE ARCHTYRANT, CANDIDATE FOR PERDITION

A Return to Chaos Is the Prelude to a New Creation
The Tyrant and the Servant Are Our Role Models
Humiliation Is Essential for Attaining Exaltation
God’s People Are the Object of Assyria’s Aggression
End-Time “Assyria” Conquers and Destroys the World
America Has a Double Role in Isaiah’s Prophecy
The King of Assyria/Babylon Seeks to Displace God
Postscript

3. BABYLON, REBELS AND WORSHIPERS OF IDOLS

Ancient Zion and Babylon Are Types for Today
Zion and Babylon Are Two Peoples and Places
Babylon Is the Antithesis and Adversary of Zion
A Worldwide Conglomerate Asserts Itself over All
The Harlot Babylon Persecutes the Virgin Zion
A False Socio-Economic System Sustains Babylon
Modern Idolatry Mirrors Ancient Counterparts
The Rebellious among God’s People Join Babylon
Postscript

4. JACOB/ISRAEL, BELIEVERS IN A CREATOR–GOD

Ambivalent Believers Awaken to Their Identity
God’s Servant Fulfills a Mission to the Nations
Spiritual Conversion Precedes Physical Return
God’s Curses Are a Prelude to God’s Blessings
Ascent to Zion/Jerusalem Can Be Sooner or Later
Repentance/Return Leads to Healing/Salvation
Postscript

5. ZION/JERUSALEM, GOD’S COVENANT PEOPLE

Cosmic Parallels Reflect Our Spiritual Journey
God’s People Receive the Servant’s Message
Analogies Occur between the One and the Many
People Pass or Fail the Three Tests of Loyalty
People at Home and Abroad Face the Archtyrant
Zion/Jerusalem Assumes a Paradisiacal Glory
Postscript

6. GOD’S SONS/SERVANTS, PROXY DELIVERERS

God’s Sons/Servants Overcome Sin and Iniquity
Jehovah Ministers Personally to His Sons/Servants
“Son” and “Servant” Imply a Covenant Relationship
God’s Sons/Servants Secure Divine Protection
Proxy Salvation Proceeds from the Highest Levels
Service and Suffering Qualify God’s Chosen Ones
Sons/Servants Have Male and Female Dimensions
Sons/Servants Become New “Adams” and “Eves”
The Son/Servant Level Defines a Female Paradigm
Postscript

7. SERAPHIM, GOD’S ANGELIC MESSENGERS

Seraphim Serve as God’s Angelic Emissaries
Seraphs/Saviors Minister among All Nations  
The Hebrew Prophets Corroborate One Another
God’s Seraph/Servant Fulfills an End-Time Mission
The Servant Endures Suffering and Humiliation
Covenant Curses Turn into Covenant Blessings
Humanity Rediscovers the Path to Exaltation
God Manifests Himself to Humanity by Degrees
Postscript

8. JEHOVAH, THE GOD OF ISRAEL, KING OF ZION

Isaiah Defines the Nature of God as a “Father”
Creation and Re-Creation Are a Cyclical Process
God’s “Oneness” Implies Unity, Not Singleness
Jehovah Fulfills the Function of “Father” and “Son”
The Most High God Reverses the Curse of Death
Jehovah Serves as Savior and Sacrificial Victim
The Door Opens beyond Salvation to Exaltation
Jehovah Is His People’s Judge, Lawgiver, and King
Jehovah Provides a Pattern for Life after Death
Jehovah Comes in Glory to Reign on the Earth
Postscript

9. ASCENDING THE LADDER TO HEAVEN

All Prophecies of the “Last Days” Are Fulfilled
Ascending the Ladder Is a Step-by-Step Process
The Tabernacle Is a Type of Ladder to Heaven
Human Traditions Impact the Worship of God
Pure Religion Answers Life’s Tough Questions
Reaching Out in Love Is the Vehicle for Ascent
Covenant Keeping Is a Key to Spiritual Ascent
Postscript


Excerpts

Using his own day as a jumping-off point, Isaiah predicts a future world conquest and destruction involving a new king of Assyria/Babylon whom God empowers for the job. That king will resemble the ancient kings of Assyria and Babylon who conquered and destroyed much of the old world. Isaiah predicts this end-time scenario using a simple but effective technique: he organizes his writings using two entirely different kinds of literary structures simultaneously. The way the individual parts of these structures interrelate conveys its own prophetic message over and above what we read on the surface. That way of prophesying is more sophisticated than most, concealing multiple levels of meaning. (Chapter One, Isaiah Decoded.)

In that end-time setting the names Assyria, Babylon, and others function as codenames of end-time entities. Isaiah uses ancient names to depict future world powers based on the prophetic idea of “types,” a literary term that describes a thing in the past that resembles something in the future. Anciently the militaristic kings of Assyria, who came from the North, were the first to conquer the known world; by so doing they set a precedent. For that kind of thing, therefore, they became a type. Kings of Babylon, on the other hand, set a precedent of world rulers promoting an idolatrous ideology, a belief system all its citizens were compelled to accept. For that kind of thing they became a type. (Chapter One, Isaiah Decoded.)

Isaiah also shows that the way people acted in the events of old is how they will act again when the events roll around a second time. And how God dealt with people in the past—in delivering the righteous and punishing the wicked—is how he will deal with them in the future. Times may have changed—they may be radically different—but God hasn’t changed. That keeps things on the same footing they have always been on. In Isaiah’s end-time scenario the future is a mirror of the past, both in the events themselves and in the way God acts in history. I find that idea comforting because it affords us incredible hindsight. We can turn such hindsight into foresight as the end of the world draws near. (Chapter One, Isaiah Decoded.)

Isaiah provides a yardstick by which we can measure ourselves. If we want to know what level we are on, we can compare ourselves with the people on Isaiah’s ladder. We don’t need to wait until we are dead to discover how far we have ascended or descended. Knowing exactly where we stand puts to rest any false notions of grandeur we may have about ourselves. On the other hand, it may surprise us to learn we are not as low down the ladder as we might have thought. We can discern a lot about our standing with God from how we match up with the heroes or villains in Israel’s history. On whatever spiritual level we find ourselves, our challenge is to advance from there all the way to God. (Chapter One, Isaiah Decoded.)

In that end-time scenario the king of Assyria/Babylon is a key player. When he arrives on the scene we will know the end is near. Because his appearance is one of the first things to occur among Isaiah’s new versions of ancient events, he heralds the end of an era for humanity but also the beginning of a new one. In his days political evil escalates more than ever before, much as happened with Hitler in Germany prior to World War II. In response, many people either go over to him or renew their commitment to God. Things come to a head as people realize that the world’s days are numbered, that they face a point of no return. The world will never be the same again after the archtyrant appears. (Chapter Two, Isaiah Decoded.)

Just as with ancient Assyria and Babylon, so end-time “Assyria” rises to power in the world as God’s people decline into a state of spiritual decay. That correlation works as predictably as a mathematical equation. You recall that Moses outlined the blessings and the curses of the Sinai Covenant, telling God’s people that if they proved loyal they would receive certain blessings. But if they were disloyal they would be cursed or plagued (Deuteronomy 28). One such blessing was that God’s people would become the “head of the nations”—in other words, the leading nation in the world. And its opposite: if cursed, they would be the “tail”—foreign nations would dominate and oppress them. (Chapter Two, Isaiah Decoded.)

We need opposition to ascend because that is how we grow—with God’s help. We ascend the ladder in stages in direct proportion to God’s fortifying us against evil (see Figure 34). God empowers all who comply with his will so that they can overcome their troubles. He allows us to experience adversity, often letting it run its course so we can learn to rise above it. In fact, God makes us equal to each challenge—to whatever opposition we receive—so long as we stay loyal to him by keeping his law and word. Unless we again transgress against him, his empowering us is cumulative. In other words, God’s grace remains with us from that time forth, increasing our capacity to manage adversity. (Chapter Three, Isaiah Decoded.)

It isn’t difficult to see parallels of ancient image worship in our modern society. Our images may be more sophisticated than those of our forebears but we love them equally well. Today’s movie theaters resemble “houses of Baal,” where people worship at his shrine and lust after likenesses. TV sets parallel personal shrines at which we adore pictures of the elite of Babylonian society, images in color, of people attired in its finest fashions (see Figure 41). Our attention easily gets distracted from the true God to such substitutes, as we worship the creature rather than the Creator. The images arouse our baser natures; the more we give them license, the more corrupt we become—like the images themselves. (Chapter Three, Isaiah Decoded.)

Today, after nearly three millennia of exile, God’s people are most likely so far dispersed that every nation, kindred, tongue, and people is infused with the lineages of Israel as the prophets foretold. That assimilation sets the stage for a key part of Isaiah’s end-time scenario to commence: Jacob/Israel—a worldwide category of God’s people—renews its allegiance to Israel’s God and prepares to return home at the end of the world. Jehovah will “assemble the exiled of Israel and gather the scattered of Judah from the four directions of the earth” (Isaiah 11:12). A reawakening of peoples to their Hebrew roots in that day causes some to name themselves “Jacob” and others “Israel” (Isaiah 44:5). (Chapter Four, Isaiah Decoded.)

Our journey through life, then, is not just cyclical—passing through experiences that repeat themselves—it is also climactic, passing through experiences that intensify. By their very nature they demonstrate our divine potential as children of God. The history of God’s people in general, of individuals born on the earth, and of the earth itself, continues in ever-expanding and more elevated circles unless one chooses to descend. The ancient Maya understood the inseparable relationship of humanity to the cosmos. They saw human history as cyclical, not linear. What happened in the past would happen again but on a larger scale. The past thus serves not just as a type but as a microcosm of the future. (Chapter Five, Isaiah Decoded.)

Isaiah’s three tests resemble those of Greek legend and appear also in the literature of ancient Mesopotamia. Odysseus, on his return home from Troy, for example, faces three similar such tests, each of which he passes. Cyclops, the angry one-eyed giant, does battle with him, intent on killing him. The Sirens, sensuous females on a “pleasure island,” seek to seduce and capture him. And false suitors woo his wife in his absence and wantonly squander his inheritance. Isaiah’s version of these tests are the king of Assyria/Babylon, idolaters or idolatry, and false brethren (see Figure 62). By passing the tests, God’s people ascend to Zion/Jerusalem, but by failing them they descend to Babylon. (Chapter Five, Isaiah Decoded.)

The prophets use the terms “son” and “servant” in both a general and specific sense. Against the ancient Near Eastern background of the Bible, these terms express a covenant relationship as between an emperor and a vassal king. When seeking to establish such a covenant relationship with the Assyrian emperor Tiglath-Pileser, for example, the Jewish King Ahaz says to him “I am your servant and your son” (2 Kings 16:7). In that sense the words “servant” and “son” are legal terms that reflect an agreement between a superior and inferior party. By making that statement, Ahaz assumes the role of a vassal king to Tiglath-Pileser, thereby turning his back on his covenant relationship with Israel’s God. (Chapter Six, Isaiah Decoded.)

Our very definition of God links us inseparably to him. Yes, he is the Creator of the cosmos—the heavens and the earth. But as Isaiah makes clear that cosmos exists solely for its occupants “as a tent to dwell in.” God’s “throne” is there (Isaiah 40:22). And as he continues to “stretch out the heavens” it would indeed be ethnocentric of us to assume that ours is the only “tent” God is concerned with. The Hubble Telescope’s pictures of deep space show the existence of billions of galaxies stretching out in all directions as far as space can be detected. Obviously, God’s creation has been going on since long before we arrived on the scene, and it will go on long after the millennial age is over. (Chapter Eight, Isaiah Decoded.)

Because re-creation occurs on every level of the ladder, God’s creation is an unbroken, cyclical process that ensures that those lower may ascend higher. The many cycles or sequences of creation going on simultaneously on different spiritual and physical planes enable those whom God has created to pass through different phases of ascent and descent. From Isaiah’s perspective God’s creation could not have started with Adam and Eve, nor can it end with the millennial age. Compared with the ever-expanding cosmos and its countless hosts that God has created, what he has revealed of this earth is but a detail of a much bigger picture, a brief “moment in time” within an endless continuum. (Chapter Eight, Isaiah Decoded.)

Traditional Christianity has deviated from the teachings of Jesus no less than traditional Judaism has from the Law of Moses. While pious people in these religions live God’s precepts the best they know how—forming the backbone of their sects—their institutions have no power to take one through heaven’s gate. What person practicing modern Judaism has ascended to see God as the elders of Israel did with Moses on the mount? Who, by observing the current code of Christianity, has seen Jesus transfigured, has seen Israel’s God in his glory, as did Jesus’ three disciples? If what is missing from this scenario isn’t restored, things will go on as they are and Jehovah/Jesus cannot come. (Chapter Nine, Isaiah Decoded.)

Apocalyptic Commentary of the Book of Isaiah

Renowned Hebrew scholar and literary analyst, Avraham Gileadi presents an informed and enlightening interpretation of the most important prophecy in the Bible. He shows how the writings of the prophet Isaiah, though grounded in the history of the ancient Near East, make use of literary devices to predict the end of the world.  

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION                                                                                                                      

ISAIAH 1 — Israel’s ancient apostasy typifies an end-time apostasy, with salvation reserved for some who repent
ISAIAH 2 — The end-time restoration of Zion/Jerusalem contrasts Jehovah’s judgment of the world at his coming
ISAIAH 3 — Wickedness in society leads to anarchy, internal collapse, destitution, and invasion by enemies
ISAIAH 4 — In his Day of Judgment Jehovah preserves alive those whose names are inscribed in the Book of Life
ISAIAH 5 — Jehovah’s vineyard yields bad fruit, leading to Assyria’s invasion and covenant curses on offenders
ISAIAH 6 — Jehovah appears to Isaiah in the temple and sends him as a prophet to warn of imminent judgments
ISAIAH 7 — King Ahaz’ transgression of the terms of his covenant leads to a hostile world power gaining supremacy
ISAIAH 8 — A new Flood in the form of Assyria’s world conquest awaits all but those who find refuge in Jehovah
ISAIAH 9 — A fiery holocaust engulfs the land as leaders and people apostatize and Jehovah empowers his servant
ISAIAH 10 — Jehovah appoints the king of Assyria to despoil and destroy the wicked of his people and the nations
ISAIAH 11 — As an ensign to the nations Jehovah’s servant gathers a remnant of Israel and Judah in a new exodus
ISAIAH 12 — Songs of Salvation and exultation follow Jehovah’s deliverance of a remnant of his people in Zion
ISAIAH 13 — The Assyrian alliance destroys the wicked world that is Babylon as God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah
ISAIAH 14 — The king of Assyria/Babylon conquers the world and ascends the heavens but his soul descends to Hell
ISAIAH 15 — Moab, a kindred people, suffers calamity in Jehovah’s Day of Judgment, their prayers to no avail
ISAIAH 16 — Moab’s prideful people receive three years’ warning before Jehovah destroys them and their land
ISAIAH 17 — Disaster overtakes the people of Ephraim and their allies for forgetting Jehovah and loving idols
ISAIAH 18 — People’s dread of Assyria’s world conquest is unfounded as Jehovah has prepared a way of escape
ISAIAH 19 — Although the world’s superpower Egypt suffers internal collapse Jehovah delivers his covenanters
ISAIAH 20 — Assyria subjugates the superpower Egypt after Jehovah’s prophet–servant gives three years’ warning
ISAIAH 21 — Jehovah appoints a watchman to warn of Babylon’s imminent fall at the hands of the Assyrian alliance
ISAIAH 22 — Sports and amusement addicts suffer enemy invasion; Jehovah appoints his servant in place of another
ISAIAH 23 — Tyre, the world shipping empire with its magnates, comes to a sudden end in Jehovah’s Day of Judgment
ISAIAH 24 — Wickedness by the earth’s inhabitants leads to a cataclysmic destruction and collapse into chaos
ISAIAH 25 — Survivors of the earth’s catastrophic destruction sing praises when Jehovah does away with death
ISAIAH 26 — Unlike their oppressive rulers, the righteous survive the earth’s desolation while others resurrect
ISAIAH 27 — At his harvest of the earth’s wicked Jehovah gleans out individually his people who bear good fruit
ISAIAH 28 — Ephraim and its prophets reap disaster for being delusional and for rejecting divine revelation
ISAIAH 29 — Unsealing the sealed Book of Isaiah overturns the learning of academics and exposes spiritual error
ISAIAH 30 — At Jehovah’s coming the rebellious suffer destruction but those who prove loyal enjoy deliverance
ISAIAH 31 — Those who trust in Egypt’s military might rely on an arm of flesh as Jehovah alone is all-powerful
ISAIAH 32 — Jehovah guides and protects the just but he turns the tables on perverse preachers and complacent women
ISAIAH 33 — Jehovah preserves the righteous at his coming but the wicked of his people And the nations burn up
ISAIAH 34 — The nations are slaughtered and their lands laid waste in Jehovah’s day of vengeance on behalf of Zion
ISAIAH 35 — At the new exodus to Zion the righteous regenerate and the desert blooms, heralding Jehovah’s coming
ISAIAH 36 — The king of Assyria invades many lands and lays siege to a remnant of Jehovah’s people in Jerusalem
ISAIAH 37 — As King Hezekiah intercedes on behalf of his people Jehovah delivers them from the besieging Assyrians
ISAIAH 38 — When interceding with Jehovah on behalf of his people against Assyria Hezekiah suffers nearly to death
ISAIAH 39 — Upon his recovery from illness and Jehovah’s victory over Assyria Hezekiah gains notoriety
ISAIAH 40 — Having spiritually ascended, Zion/Jerusalem declares good tidings to those who have yet to ascend
ISAIAH 41 — Jehovah’s righteous servant, who hails from the east, leads Jacob/Israel’s returnees in a new conquest
ISAIAH 42 — Jehovah’s appointing his servant as a light to the nations leads to a new exodus or to captivity
ISAIAH 43 — Jehovah’s people who repent of idolatry return in a new exodus from the four directions of the earth
ISAIAH 44 — Jehovah’s servant resembles Moses and Cyrus in dissuading people from idols and rebuilding the temple
ISAIAH 45 — Jehovah’s servant resembles David and Cyrus in restoring Jehovah’s people and routing their enemies
ISAIAH 46 — Jehovah sends his servant as a bird of prey to turn his errant people from idolatry to righteousness
ISAIAH 47 — The Harlot Babylon, who rules as Mistress of Kingdoms, descends into the Dust in Jehovah’s Day of Judgment
ISAIAH 48 — Jehovah’s servant calls on Jacob/Israel to forsake its idols and return in a new exodus out of Babylon
ISAIAH 49 — Jehovah empowers his servant after he is rejected to restore his people and to implement their new exodus
ISAIAH 50 — Jehovah’s servant meets hostility from those who sell themselves, who light their way with mere sparks
ISAIAH 51 — Jehovah empowers his servant as an arm of righteousness to deliver his people in an exodus to Zion
ISAIAH 52 — Jehovah’s servant and Zion’s watchmen accomplish Zion’s restoration beginning with a new exodus
ISAIAH 53 — Jehovah’s descent phase as a sacrificial lamb (before his ascent as King of Zion) atones for transgressors
ISAIAH 54 — Jehovah’s millennial covenant is a composite of all covenants he made with his people and with individuals
ISAIAH 55 — As a witness and lawgiver to the nations Jehovah’s servant mediates the new covenant with his people
ISAIAH 56 — Jehovah curses the blind watchmen of his people but exalts his servants who hold fast to his covenant
ISAIAH 57 — Jehovah gathers the righteous from among the wicked whose practices turn cultic and perverse
ISAIAH 58 — Relieving the oppressed and observing the Sabbath sanctifies fast days and begets covenant blessings
ISAIAH 59 — Jehovah’s coming spells retribution for deceivers and predators but deliverance for those who repent
ISAIAH 60 — At the return to Zion of kings and peoples Jehovah transforms the land and the millennial age begins
ISAIAH 61 — For having endured shame those whom Jehovah’s servant endows receive a twofold millennial inheritance
ISAIAH 62 — Zion/Jerusalem’s watchmen cry to Jehovah day and night as they prepare the way for Jehovah’s coming
ISAIAH 63 — At his coming Jehovah takes vengeance on those wh om he had redeemed but who yet rebelled against him  
ISAIAH 64 — As Jehovah’s coming draws near transgressors suffer for their misdeeds at the hands of their enemies
ISAIAH 65 — As the millennial age approaches blessings and curses separate Jehovah’s servants from their oppressors
ISAIAH 66 — Cultic practices and persecution by ecclesiastical leaders coincide with Zion’s rebirth before Jehovah comes

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Introduction to the Apocalyptic Commentary of the Book of Isaiah 
by Avraham Gileadi Ph.D. published by Hebraeus Press 

As you delve into the Apocalyptic Commentary of the Book of Isaiah, preconceived ideas you may have about Isaiah’s prophecy may require a second look. Written in a cryptic code from a primordial age, the Book of Isaiah will most likely be different from anything you have studied before. To comprehend this enigmatic prophecy, moreover, will require you to devote as much time to it as if you were learning a new language. The understanding of all sacred texts that you will gain, on the other hand, will more than compensate you for your efforts.

To that end, a foremost principle you will need to apply when searching Isaiah’s words for meaning is to diligently analyze what Isaiah says on a particular subject, not what others say he says. While Isaiah provides ample check and balances by which to verify any interpretation, he also warns against the teachings of the learned of the day who have perverted his words. The fact that many occupy the highest echelon of society may make disregarding their explications a challenge, particularly as you may already have internalized them as the truth.

Without seeing the need to apply the Jewish methodology of eliciting from a sacred text what God is telling his people—taking into account the many interconnections Isaiah has layered into his book such as literary structures, typologies, and words links—many who speak in God’s name fall into the trap of using Isaiah’s words as just proof text for what they believe. Isaiah’s prophecy far transcends such a self-serving and manipulative approach. Its spiritual riches can’t reveal themselves except to those who draw near to its message with humility.

While the many layered literary structures that govern the Book of Isaiah entirely change the rules for interpreting it—transforming it from a historical prophecy to an apocalyptic or end-time prophecy—care needs to be taken in determining how what is historical prefigures the end-time. Without diminishing the significance what happened in Isaiah’s day, for example, Isaiah’s use of historical types and codenames requires that we match up the ancient nations and persons he mentions with their modern counterparts if we want to know who is who.

For the end-time look-alikes, however, former names lose their use. Ancient Assyria, for example—a militaristic world power from the North that conquered the ancient world—and its rival superpower, Egypt, don't compare with any nations in the Middle East today. When read as an end-time prophecy, the Book of Isaiah is about events that aren’t confined to the Middle East. To match up the ancient nations and persons in his prophecy with their end-time counterparts, in fact, we must be guided by how Isaiah characterizes them, not by their names.

In cases where historical types of nations and persons don’t adequately portray what takes place in the end-time, moreover, Isaiah develops composites of types or resorts to imagery from life or nature to round out the end-time scene. Having seen the end from the beginning, he thus manages to capture both the past and the future in a single prophecy. Still, not all that happened historically interests him, only what foreshadows the end-time. Isaiah’s worldview is typological, not always logical. In his writings, the old is also new and the new is also old.

If Isaiah uses types from the past to prophesy the end-time, therefore, then which ancient nation do we suppose matches up with modern America? And what will happen to this nation in the end, especially as until now America has been such a major world player? Using Isaiah’s key of matching up his characterization of a world superpower that resembles America, we find that ancient Egypt matches modern America almost precisely, allowing only for several major events to develop. Of course, Isaiah speaks also of the Jews and other tribes of Israel.

Although scriptural concepts that are familiar to us appear in the Book of Isaiah—such as God’s destruction of the wicked and his deliverance of the righteous at the end of the world—we shouldn’t simply take for granted what these mean. Isaiah tells us precisely what he means in the context of his end-time scenario. His literary structures that stretch from one end of his book to the other, for example, systematically develop a Hebrew gospel that not only preempts the New Testament gospel of Jesus but sustains and elucidates it as an ancient theology.

Here too we must set aside sectarian ideas—that if our religion doesn’t teach something, or if we haven’t heard it before, then it can’t be true. Going back to Isaiah, the idea of ascending spiritual levels that he develops which are grounded in the terms of covenants God makes with his people and with individuals, completely modifies creed-bound concepts of heaven and hell that stem from misinterpretations of the scriptures. If some things you read thus seem controversial, wasn’t God’s word always so? If not, why did God’s people kill the prophets?

As typified by the many layered literary structures and patterns on which Isaiah builds his prophecy—each of which carries its own message over and above what we read on the surface—the Book of Isaiah contains many layers of divine truth that don’t reveal themselves all at once. His linear structure of Trouble at Home, Exile Abroad, and Happy Homecoming, for example, is layered over that of Apostasy, Judgment, Restoration, and Salvation, which overlays Three Tests of Loyalty and others, including Isaiah’s synchronous Seven-Part Structure.

Although this book barely touches on these underpinnings of the Book of Isaiah, the fact that they deeply impact Isaiah’s prophetic message demands respect for his words, showing that there is far more to his writings than meets the eye. Isaiah’s covenant theology of proxy salvation that functions on higher and lower spiritual levels on which people operate similarly permeates his writings. Differences between spiritual and temporal salvation, including God’s protection in an end-time setting, make perceiving Isaiah’s message an inviting prospect.

As the inner workings of the Book of Isaiah disclose their secrets, therefore, you may be tempted to feel offended at your religion for not correctly informing you. Or for not telling you that, according to the prophet Isaiah, your end-time religion has become degraded and that its adherents are the very catalyst of God’s judgments coming upon the world. Consider, however, that a loving God foresaw these things and that in his divine wisdom he made provision for that eventuality by giving us the Book of Isaiah and also keys for understanding it.

To participate in events ushering in a glorious age of peace could under no circumstances come cheaply. Those who are willing to pay the price of learning Isaiah’s message will thus have so much more the advantage over those who attempt to glean such knowledge from superficial sources. As God operates solely within the covenant relationships he establishes with his people and with individuals, their knowledge of those covenants, which Isaiah teaches, empowers them to align their lives with God through the end-time events that Isaiah predicts.

Even so, the Apocalyptic Commentary of the Book of Isaiah provides but basic insights into Isaiah’s prophecy that introduce the novice to his awe-inspiring vision. Those who wish to deeply investigate Isaiah’s message or acquaint themselves with the research that supports this commentary I refer to my book The Literary Message of Isaiah and its synopsis Isaiah Decoded. Although God grants his elect remarkable visions, I know of no one besides Isaiah who captures the entire end-time scene and interweaves it with the “good news” of Messiah.

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The End From the Beginning

CONTENTS

PREFACE

INTRODUCTION

Current Views on Ancient Writings
Evidence for One Author of the Book of Isaiah
Overlooked Themes and Theologies
A Complex Message Made Simple

1. VISIONS OF THE END OF THE WORLD

A Pattern of Hebrew Prophecy
The Prophetic Pattern in Israel’s History
Core Ideas of Classical and Apocalyptic Prophecy
Ancient Names Act as Codenames
Types of a Future Worldwide Judgment
Assyria and Egypt—Types of Superpowers
The Dual Relevance of Classical Prophecy

2. MESSAGES ENCODED IN STRUCTURE

Structure and Content—Two Dimensions
Trouble at Home, Exile Abroad, Happy Homecoming
A Distinction between History and Prophecy
Apostasy, Judgment, Restoration, Salvation
Threat One, Threat Two, Threat Three
The Curses and Blessings of God’s Covenant
Destruction of the Wicked/Deliverance of the Righteous
Isaiah’s Literary Structures Reveal a Divine Plan

3. A CYCLICAL REPETITION OF HISTORY

The Past Foreshadows the Future
A Future Chronology of Past Events
Israel’s Ancient Apostasy as a Type
The End-Time—Doomsday for the Wicked
Millennial Peace for the Righteous
What Has Been Shall Be Again

4. GOD’S COVENANT WITH ISRAEL

Conditional and Unconditional Covenants
The Meaning of Covenant Making
Israel Is Responsible for Herself
The Role of the King in Israel
God’s Covenant with King David
Israel in Exile among the Gentiles
God Makes a New, Millennial Covenant

5. ZION AND BABYLON IDEOLOGIES

Isaiah’s Seven-Part Literary Structure
Both a Prophecy and a Theology
Ruin & Rebirth (Isaiah 1–5; 34–35)
Rebellion & Compliance (Isaiah 6–8; 36–40)
Punishment & Deliverance (Isaiah 9–12; 41–46)
Humiliation & Exaltation (Isaiah 13–23; 47)
Suffering & Salvation (Isaiah 24–27; 48–54)
Disloyalty & Loyalty (Isaiah 28–31; 55–59)
Disinheritance & Inheritance (Isaiah 32–33; 60–66)
Isaiah’s Structures Establish Two Timeframes
Zion and Babylon—Opposing Archetypes

6. THE TYRANT AND THE SERVANT

The Tyrant Conquers the World
Personifications in Metaphor
Isaiah’s Subliminal Messaging
The Servant Possesses Many Types
A Righteous Heir of King David
Jewish Messianic Expectations

7. ISAIAH’S LADDER TO HEAVEN

Isaiah—Prophet and Theologian
An Ascending and Descending Order
Passing God’s Tests
Symbolic Names of Three Sons
The Saving Role of God’s Servants and Sons
Unimpeded Progress Upward
Descent before Ascent

8. THE SAVIOR-GOD OF ISRAEL

God Is Bound by Covenant Relationships
Death—The Common Enemy
God’s Covenant Lays the Groundwork
Jehovah Becomes Israel’s Proxy Savior
Animal Sacrifice—A Type of Jehovah’s Sacrifice
Jehovah Assumes Multiple Saving Roles
Jehovah’s Earthly Mission as Humanity’s Savior
Israel’s Savior Fulfills the Law of Justice
A Reversal of Circumstances at the End of the World

9. THE END-TIME “DAY OF JEHOVAH”

Parallel New Testament Prophecies
A Polarization of All People
The Literal Fulfillment of Prophecy
Righteousness Precedes Salvation
The Past—A Pattern of the Future
Distinct Roles of Men and Women
A Brief Warning before the End

THE BOOK OF ISAIAH

SELECTED REFERENCE WORKS

Excerpts

The core ideas of apocalyptic prophecy—prophecy about the end of the world—in fact, form essentially the same pattern as those of classical prophecy: when God’s people and the nations of the world turn to wickedness and don’t repent, they suffer destruction and captivity at the hands of a world power from the North; those who repent of wrongdoing, on the other hand, God delivers from enemies and they live on into a millennial age of peace. The positive aspects of prophecy, in other words, never stand alone; there are always two sides to the story. (Chapter One, The End from the Beginning.)

The pattern of prophecy—the core ideas all Hebrew prophecies have in common—tells us there is but one “Day of Jehovah” or “Day of the Lord” that fulfills all prophecy. That “Day of Jehovah,” a day still future, has precedents in ancient times that foreshadowed what would happen again. The great future “Day of Jehovah” will be like the times of destruction and deliverance in the days of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others. That one “Day of Jehovah” alone, however, will fulfill all prophetic expectations, negative and positive. This is what John saw and encoded in his book. (Chapter One, The End from the Beginning.)

When we apply classical prophecy in general to the end of the world just as we do apocalyptic prophecy, certain paradoxical problems disappear. So-called “failed prophecies,” or those that were fulfilled only partially in the past, are prophecies actually awaiting an end-time fulfillment. Prophecies of a millennial peace don’t exist in isolation but are inseparable from prophecies of God’s worldwide judgment. World powers called by ancient names are types of modern world powers who fulfill similar roles as those in the past. (Chapter One, The End from the Beginning.)

Names of particular nations may not help much in understanding a prophet’s vision, especially a vision of the end of the world. The prophets can’t tell us the literal names of end-time world powers—America, Russia, China, and so forth. That would be too easy, leaving no room for people to exercise faith. In fact, in our day the world powers the prophets mention no longer exist. While there may be a modern Persia, Greece, or Egypt, such nations resemble the old only in name, location, and possibly some ethnic identity. Today, they are relatively insignificant political powers on the world stage compared to the ones the prophets saw. The prophets’ visions of the future reflect those nations’ ancient roles as major world powers, not the roles, if any, of their modern namesakes. So if we try to identify modern Egypt with ancient Egypt or modern Iraq with ancient Babylon, for example, we are bound to get confused. We need to find another way to interpret these names of nations. (Chapter One, The End from the Beginning.)

Like all good literature, Hebrew prophecy isn’t one-dimensional. It uses multiple means to communicate the word of God, and it consists of more than just predictions about the future. The writings of many Hebrew prophets are carefully structured. In no instance is this more apparent than in the Book of Isaiah. In his writings, Isaiah has captured the past and the future, the earthly and the heavenly, prophecy and theology all in one. (Chapter Two, The End from the Beginning.)

Central to helping you understand Isaiah is that a literary structure of the book conveys its own message, over and above what you read on the surface. Just as we use a different form for a letter than for a poem, a short story, or a contract, so the different ways in which the prophet organizes his material tells us something about his intent. A structure that progressively develops one idea upon another is different from a simple sequence or chain of ideas. A structure that consecutively alternates themes, like chaos and creation, differs from a series of themes that are linked together domino fashion. Another kind of structure, called a chiasm, may have a central idea to which the surrounding ideas relate in some way. (Chapter Two, The End from the Beginning.)

Parallels between God’s covenant with Israel and ancient Near Eastern emperor–vassal covenants provide added insights into the nature of God’s covenant. Ancient Near Eastern covenant documents spell out many things that are taken for granted in the cultural background of the Bible. In covenants made between Near Eastern emperors and their vassal kings, for example, an emperor served as his vassal kings’ “lord” and “father,” while a vassal served as the emperor’s “servant” and “son.” Under this feudal system, the emperor granted the vassal king a land—a promised land—over which to rule. When the vassal kept the emperor’s law or terms of the covenant, good fortune or covenant blessings would result. (Chapter Four, The End from the Beginning.)

Covenants that God makes define his relationship with his people and with individuals. As God expects of Israel, he himself acts at all times within the framework of the covenants he has made. In fact, God does nothing, either anciently or in the end-time, unless it conforms with the covenant relationships within which he operates. Even when God intervenes in human history, his actions stem from covenant relationships that create the occasion for such intervention. (Chapter Four, The End from the Beginning.)

Isaiah’s seven-part and other holistic structures add an entirely new dimension for interpreting the prophecy of Isaiah. Linear and synchronous structures establish two different timeframes for things once thought to relate only to the past. While linear structures, such as Trouble at Home, Exile Abroad, and Happy Homecoming, deal with events that take place over long periods of time, synchronous structures, such as Isaiah’s Seven-Part Structure, deal with a single timeframe—the “Day of Jehovah” or “Day of the Lord” at the end of the world. (Chapter Five, The End from the Beginning.)

Isaiah’s Seven-Part Structure depicts the two main human actors in Israel’s end-time drama as God’s servant or vassal, on the one hand, and the king of Assyria—also called the king of Babylon—on the other. (Assyrian conquerors of Babylon anciently titled themselves “king of Babylon.”) One establishes Zion, preparing a people for the coming of their God and King. The other destroys Babylon, the very world he epitomizes and represents. Isaiah’s structure depicts these two human actors as powers of creation and chaos, respectively—one acts as a force for good in the world, the other of evil. They resemble two arch-opponents pitted against each other, like Horus and Seth of Egyptian mythology, or like a latter-day David and Goliath. (Chapter Six, The End from the Beginning.)

Chaos and creation patterns in Isaiah’s structure show that chaos will prevail briefly in the earth. Chaos will overwhelm the world as a consequence of wickedness. The king of Assyria/Babylon may burn up cities and destroy the nations of the wicked. He may plunder peoples’ wealth and confiscate their riches. In reality, however, he acts as God’s instrument to pay the wicked their due. He has one purpose—to rule the world. But God has another. This tyrant of tyrants will serve God’s purpose and then he and his chaotic works will come to an end. (Chapter Six, The End from the Beginning.)

Adding to this use of pseudonyms, Isaiah selects an entire array of metaphors to reveal, subliminally, more details of the archtyrant’s end-time activities. Thus, God chooses the king of Assyria as his rod and staff to punish the wicked of the world. The archtyrant is God’s axe and saw that hews down evildoers who oppress God’s people. Isaiah likens the proud and arrogant peoples of the earth to lofty cedars and mighty oaks, which the archtyrant lays low. Cities resemble dense forests, and proud nations resemble high mountains, which the archtyrant levels to the ground. (Chapter Six, The End from the Beginning.)

Isaiah develops his theology of spiritual ascent by means of literal persons and events of his day, thus providing us with role models of a spiritual hierarchy. Just as Isaiah uses literary devices to prophesy the end of the world, so he uses them to develop important theological concepts, demonstrating these concepts with actual characters out of history. Living persons, in effect, illustrate different spiritual levels, and different spiritual levels reveal Isaiah’s theology of ascent. It is a pity and not a little surprising, therefore, that scholars have not discerned Isaiah’s prophecy for what it is. Nor have they discerned his theology. What they have seen has been the exterior, the persons and events themselves. On that basis, they have attempted to interpret Isaiah’s writings and have missed the essence of what the persons and events represent. (Chapter Seven, The End from the Beginning.)

All covenant contracts entered into are binding upon the parties to the covenant, whether those parties are individuals or God’s people as a whole. But they also bind God himself. When God makes a covenant to deliver his people from a mortal threat, he must do so when his people keep the covenant’s terms. Examples include God’s intervention in the days of Moses, Joshua, Gideon, David, and Hezekiah—when they and their peoples proved faithful to God. In each case, God delivered his people, even in the face of overwhelming odds. (Chapter Eight, The End from the Beginning.)

A great polarization of the righteous and the wicked will occur in that day. As in the vision of John, Isaiah’s Seven-Part Structure identifies Babylon as all that is not Zion, or that is not affiliated with Zion. People in each camp will be compelled to choose for or against God as all middle ground vanishes. Their own choices will seal upon them their deliverance or destruction. As God took Lot out of Sodom and the Israelites out of Egypt, as he delivered King Hezekiah’s people from the Assyrians, so he will prepare a way of escape for his covenant people from the calamities that will come. (Chapter Nine, The End from the Beginning.)

Outside of these covenant agreements, wherever life exists, there is no salvation. In other words, “deliverance” and “salvation” don’t just happen when we try to be good. Just as there are different kinds of salvation—from the many predicaments we find ourselves in—so there are different requirements for salvation, depending on what spiritual level we live. Covenant blessings increase dramatically as we ascend the ladder, and divine protection is one of them. As those on higher levels meet with escalating challenges, so the need for deliverance grows greater. To deliver or save others, however, itself aids a person’s ascent. Thus, those already delivered deliver others, who deliver others; and so forth. (Chapter Nine, The End from the Beginning.)
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