A CLOSER LOOK AT ISAIAH 45:22-24
I was recently asked to comment on the statements made by the author in the attached photo.
It’s good to be an optimist when dealing with our God. He “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph 3:20). I think the Lord is doing a much better job at rescuing the lost than many give Him credit for. “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Lk 14:23) says the Master. “Filled,” He says, and I understand it’s a very big house!
When John takes his tour of heaven, after seeing 144,000 male Jews who are the Lord’s, he sees “a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” (Rev 7:9) and finds out “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (v 14). This is astounding! An unnumbered host saved from among the nations in the darkest chapter in the world’s history (Jer 30:7), with only two official gospel witnesses (Rev 11:3)!
The 144,000 are not the only Jews saved. They are representative male virgins, 12,000 from each tribe. When the Lord reveals Himself to the remnant Jews hiding from Antichrist in Edom (see Isa 63:1), then Isaiah’s question is answered: “Shall a nation be born at once?” (66:8). Yes, says Ezekiel, having learned the lesson in the valley of dry bones! The Lord says, “I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it, says the Lord” (Ezek 37:14). This meeting is the moment when Isaiah 53 is fulfilled, when the remnant fall at the feet of their once-rejected Messiah and say, “We esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions” (vv 4-5).
The New Testament reveals just three groups of people in the world: “the Jews,…the Gentiles,…the church of God” (1 Cor 10:32). In this present age, during “the dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph 3:2), when either a Jew or a Gentile turns to the Lord, that individual is “added to the Church” (Acts 2:47) by the Lord. “The Church” is not a Gentile thing, to be spurned by believing Jews. In fact, the Church’s Bible was written by Jews; the Church’s foundation (the apostles and prophets, Eph 2:20) were all Jews; it’s early evangelists, shepherds, teachers, and martyrs were all Jews; and of course the Chief Corner Stone is a Jew, the Lord Jesus Himself.
At present, Jews and Gentiles are received on an equal basis into the Church, something difficult for some 1st Century (and some 21st Century) Jews to accept. But it was for this reason Paul “withstood him (Peter) to his face, because he was to be blamed” (Gal 2:7). Because all Jews who turn to the Lord at present become part of the Church, I believe the Church must be removed for the earth before the Lord can restore His ancient people as an entity in themselves. His purpose is not only to bring “Jacob” back to Jerusalem but back to Jehovah, and there is only One Way back to Jehovah! (See Jn 14:6.) Thus Jeremiah writes: “…it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it” (Jer 30:7). Israel, when away from the Lord, is called Jacob.
Let’s look at how Isaiah 45:23 is used in the NT. Of course we know this passage is quoted twice, in Romans 14:11 and Philippians 2:11. In Romans 14, as already pointed out, it is applied to Christians standing at the Bema, the “Judgment Seat” of Christ. Paul’s point is this: be careful how you judge your brother, because you’re not the judge—Jesus is. And remember that He takes personally anything done for or against one of His own (see Mt 25:40-45). Some day we will all have to appear before Him and give account, not for our sins, but for our work (see 1 Cor 3:13). Unsaved sinners appear at the Great White Throne (Rev 20); saved servants appear at the Bema.
Philippians 2 has a different scene in mind. Here Paul is encouraging self-humbling. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (v 5). The apostle traces the steps of Christ’s self-humbling from His glory with the Father to the lowest place—His death of shame at Golgotha. But then he follows Christ up, up, up to the highest place in the universe. There he looks forward to the day when, with a mighty rustle, all God-conscious creatures (humans, angels and demons) bow their knees—you and me, believers, unbelievers, Confucius, Richard Dawkins, Hitler, Mao, Trump, Muhammad, the members of the “Freedom From Religion Foundation,” the Pope, and the devil himself. And, for once in all of history, every God-conscious creature “in heaven, and…on earth, and…under the earth” agrees about one thing. They “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (v 11). In other words, they all admit that God picked the right Man for the job, that He did what He said He would do, and—note this—for that one moment, every God-conscious creature fulfills the purpose for their existence: they bring glory to God!
But now let’s look at this statement in it’s original context in Isaiah 45. Here is our passage:
22 “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.
23 “I have sworn by Myself; the word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath.
24 “He shall say, ‘Surely in the Lord I have righteousness and strength. To Him men shall come, and all shall be ashamed who are incensed against Him’.”
So Point 1: everyone needs salvation, and on the list of saviors, there’s only one (v 21). If God doesn’t save us, we’re lost. The next point is very interesting (v 23). Here in Isaiah 45, the One to whom every knee bows is God, Jehovah (see v 21). In Philippians 2, it is the Lord Jesus! Yes, without doubt, the Jesus of the New Testament is the Jehovah of the Old.
Now we also notice from v 23 that the statement from Php 2:11 rendered “that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” is given here simply as “every tongue shall take an oath.” But v 24 explains that the “oath” includes the words, “Surely in the Lord I have righteousness and strength.” Amazing, isn’t it! This could be the title of the book of Romans! The epistle is written to explain how we (both Jews and Gentiles) can not only be judicially declared righteous (justified), but, by daily availing ourselves of the Lord’s strength, be actually made righteous (sanctified)!
But now here’s the catch (and where the author of the book goes wrong in writing, “All of humanity is to be saved; not lost”). Notice the last statement in v 24: “and all shall be ashamed who are incensed (charah, furious, hot with anger) against Him.” Ah, there’s the rub! How I wish the author was right. How GOD desires the author was right! Or so it says in many places in Scripture. “The Lord is…not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). “God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4-5). But—to use an old-fashioned word for which there is no decent modern equivalent—alas! it will not happen. Some people will perish.
But why? Why, if God desires them to be saved, if Christ died to save them, if the Holy Spirit—tirelessly, night and day—is convicting people of their sin and shining the light of truth into their souls? Why aren’t all people saved? It isn’t for lack of light: “the true Light…gives light to every man coming into the world” (Jn 1:9). In fact, says Jesus, it’s rejection of the light that condemns people! “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (Jn 3:19). It isn’t for lack of conviction of sin and righteousness, either: The Spirit is busy convicting “the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (Jn 16:8). And it isn’t because some people aren’t given the faith to believe (a popular notion based on a grammatically unlikely interpreting of one verse). No, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom 10:17). People perish, according to Jesus, because they refuse to believe what God says.
God is a perfect Gentleman. He gives them that option. Many of the nation of Israel in Jesus’ day did just that: “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (Jn 1:11-12). But the Lord didn’t give up on His own nation. The gospel was sent “to the Jew first” (Rom 2:10). When they obstinately continued to reject Jesus as Sin-bearer, however, Paul sadly said at the end of the book of Acts, “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, saying, ‘Go to this people and say: “Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you will see, and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.”’ Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” (Acts 28:25-28). Notice “their eyes THEY have closed.” This is a self-inflicted wound. As Paul put it earlier, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles” (13:46).
Even then, Paul, motivated by the Spirit, persisted. He says, “I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them” (Rom 11:13-14). In other words, the more Gentiles saved, the more possibilities of Jews being saved through seeing their Gentile neighbors enjoying the Jews’ Scriptures and the Jews’ Messiah!
So how will it be for the Jews in the end? Will the “time of Jacob’s trouble” be effective in bringing the Jews home to the Lord? Yes! “And so all Israel will be saved,” writes Paul (Rom 11:26). But wait! To what time does this actually refer? See the beautiful words at the end of Isaiah 59. In vv 16-18, the Lord sees that no one cares about His earthly people, Israel, so He comes down Himself to rescue them. This is the scene in Revelation 19:11ff. And again, here’s the tragedy for Israel. There is a competitor for their loyalty (think David and Absalom). He is the Anti-messiah. His message is very different: bow to me and I will give you world peace and prosperity. According to Zechariah 13:8 (see 13:7–14:21), two-thirds of the Jews will align themselves with the one-world government of the Antichrist, and will perish in the mother of all battles. One third, loyal to Jehovah, will be preserved through this final pogrom. Then, with their discovery of the Savior—“then they will look on Me whom they pierced” (12:10), a nation will be born in a day, “And so all Israel will be saved.”