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It appears that the first chapter of Isaiah was written as if the prophet and his family were living in Jerusalem. Whether or not they had lived previously in Israel is unclear, but from a prophetic standpoint, it appears that this was so. Isaiah and his son, She’ar-jashub, “the remnant will return,” strongly suggests that he/they represented the preserving remnant, much like Lot had preserved Sodom from destruction.
Only when Lot was removed could God destroy Sodom. So also with Israel. Once the remnant left Israel, it was doomed to destruction at the hand of the Assyrians.
At the same time, however, this “remnant” went to Jerusalem, which preserved that city during the next wave of attacks, when Assyria attempted to conquer Judah. After the Assyrians surrounded the city and threatened its destruction, King Hezekiah sent word to Isaiah, who was in the city, to appeal to God (Isaiah 37:5). Subsequently, God destroyed the Assyrian army, because He could not allow the city to be destroyed while the remnant remained in the city.
In today’s world, the principle remains the same. The overcoming remnant is a preserving agent in the midst of Sodom and Gomorrah. Many years ago I came to see that America and the Western nations as well would become Sodom and Gomorrah in order to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy in the modern world.
In the 1960’s America began to erode the institution of marriage itself by allowing fornication and adultery with no penalty. If people can live together with no marriage commitment, then marriage becomes increasingly irrelevant. It was only a matter of time before homosexual marriages would also be approved. The underlying problem, which began more than a century earlier, was when government began to license marriages.
A license means that government allows that which is otherwise illegal. It also means that the government grants marriage licenses as a privilege, which removes it from God’s jurisdiction and exchanges a God-given right for a government-granted privilege. Once government usurped the right of God, the downward trend began which has now reached its culmination point.
Under the system of government privilege, marriage is now whatever each individual makes it. Now that homosexual marriages have been approved, the ungodly are now pushing to remove age limitations, so that pedophiles may practice their sin without fear of punishment. Others are pushing bestiality as a legal form of marriage, which is a violation of Leviticus 20:15.
The overcoming remnant, of course, does not appropriate government standards of morality but looks to the law of God as their authority. As society degenerates and as governments accommodate their degeneracy, it becomes increasingly important for the remnant to know who they are and which God they serve.
In the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, God removed Lot and destroyed those cities. In the days of Samaria and the House of Israel, it appears that God removed Isaiah and his son, She-ar-jashub, and then destroyed the nation and its capital, Samaria. But what about today’s remnant? Where can they go now to escape Sodom and Gomorrah? Sodom is now a universal city. Its laws are now near universal, and if any small nation tries to disagree, they are whipped into submission by the mainstream press and blackmailed by the threat of withdrawing “foreign aid.”
Mystery Babylon has become a world-wide empire. To what part of this empire can the remnant go to escape? No, the remnant has no choice but to remain in Sodom. That means God cannot destroy the city by fire and brimstone. The “fire” that is coming is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. What was literal fire in Genesis is now a spiritual fire under the provisions and promises set forth in the New Covenant.
I believe this is how God will overthrow modern Sodom. Those who have this hope and who believe the promises of God, as Abraham did, have no reason to fear for the future, no matter how bleak it appears. But such faith is rare, because most do not know the promises of God in the New Covenant, nor do they think that God will win this battle. To many, the “solution” is for the Christians to evacuate the earth in a “rapture.” In effect, they believe that Christians will be evacuated even as Lot was evacuated from Sodom before divine judgment hits the earth.
Personally, I do not subscribe to that view of prophecy, as I have explained elsewhere. See…
The Laws of the Second Coming, chapter 13, “The Real Rapture.”
The rapture doctrine is escapism rooted in fear. Those who believe that the church will go through “the seven-year tribulation” (which they believe is yet to come) only set forth greater fear, for they give no hope of escaping the horrible conditions under the rule of “Antichrist.”
My view, of course, is that the “tribulation” is not seven years but 7 x 360 years, dating from the fall of Jerusalem and now coming to an end. We have already lived through this tribulation, and now we have hope of deliverance. Babylon is not rising; it is falling. Times are indeed turbulent, but not because we are losing, but because we are winning.
The key, however, is to have a proper understanding of Daniel and Revelation. We must view these books as prophecies of what was then the future course of world history. Daniel focused on the first half of the tribulation (1,260 years), while John’s book of Revelation focused on the last half of the tribulation (1,260 years).
Unfortunately, about 150 years ago men began to set forth the Futurist view of Revelation, wherein most of the events described in the book were said to take place within a mere seven-year period in the future. This view showed remarkable ignorance of history and has contributed greatly to the present condition of the blind church of Laodicea that dominates the scene today.
Appearing Before God’s Face
Isaiah 1:11, 12 says,
11 What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” says the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. 12 When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts?
Isaiah’s view was a radical departure from the temple system in Jerusalem. No doubt the priests were very displeased with his assessment of their religious system. After all, had not God, through Moses, commanded them to offer “the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats”? See Leviticus 4:4, 23, 32. Had not God Himself commanded all the men of Israel to “appear before Me” three times in the year? Exodus 34:23, 24 says,
23 Three times a year all your males are to appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel. 24 For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders, and no man shall covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the Lord your God.
God said that if they appeared before Him three times a year that He promised to give them victory over their enemies, enlarge their borders, and that other nations would not even “covet your land.” In other words, they would not even have the desire to conquer Israel.
Hence, if any nation desired to conquer Israel, it was only because the people failed to appear before God three times in the year. When Isaiah wrote this, both Israel and Judah were being threatened by Assyria. Therefore, we may say confidently that this law was being violated.
In the case of the Israel, Jeroboam had set up the golden calves in Bethel and Dan specifically to prevent the people from appearing before God’s presence that dwelt in the temple of Jerusalem (1 Kings 12:28, 29). Hence, most of the Israelites were appearing before other gods in alternate locations in their worship of the golden calves.
This was the spiritual cause of Assyria’s coveting the land of Israel.
As for Judah, the priests and people went through the religious motions without really appearing before God in the way that God intended. This problem was more subtle, because it was a matter of the heart. Religion sets forth external rituals and practices, whereas God’s intent is to set up a family relationship and to bring forth sons of God.
The command to “appear before the Lord God” literally reads, “to appear before the face of the Lord God.” The Hebrew word paniym, “face,” seemed redundant to English translators who did not understand the doctrine of God’s face that Paul explained in 2 Corinthians 3:13-18; 4:6. God’s face is His presence. The Hebrew paniym is rendered in Greek as prosopon, which we must understand according to the definition of its Hebrew counterpart.
In other words, to appear before the face of God, Paul explains, is to be transfigured, even as Moses’ face was transfigured when He appeared before God in the Mount. The whole idea of appearing before God three times in a year was to establish the intent of God to bring His glory into earthly faces. This can occur only when we have a face-to-face encounter with God, whereby He transfers the glory of His face to our own face. Hence, Paul says, we are changed by beholding Him (2 Corinthians 3:18), and Paul says this can only occur when the veil of the Old Covenant is removed from our face so that it is truly a face-to-face encounter.
These things Isaiah prophesied and Paul explained. There are three steps toward transfiguration because these are the steps toward becoming the fully-mature sons of God. The first step is the feast of Passover, where we are first to appear before His face. Passover gives us justification by faith in the blood of the Lamb. Then comes Pentecost, which gives us the infilling of the Holy Spirit, who begins to write the law in our hearts. The third and final step is Tabernacles, after the Holy Spirit has completed His work to bring us to spiritual maturity, where these sons of God are now ready to be “manifested” in the earth.
Isaiah saw the problem in the temple in Jerusalem. The people were coming to the feast in a physical manner but were not truly appearing before God’s face. The reason, Paul says, is because they were appearing before Him with face masks. They came with an Old Covenant veil over their faces, which prevented them from seeing God face to face.
For this reason, their rituals were inadequate. God did not really care if they made the trip to Jerusalem three times a year. He did not really care if they offered the blood of bulls, lambs, and goats. These things were just Old Covenant accommodations, types and shadows of a greater reality that God intended for them. These rituals had failed to teach the people the greater truths that God had in mind, so what was the point in going through the motions of religion?
So Isaiah 1:13, 14 continues,
13 Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assembly. 14 I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts; they have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them.
Isaiah had a remarkable understanding of the New Covenant. His perspective differed sharply from that of the priests in his day. He knew that keeping new moons, sabbaths, assemblies, and appointed feasts were all to be kept in a New Covenant manner—otherwise, they were “a burden” to God Himself. God was “weary of bearing them.” He was tired of such activity.
The purpose of the feasts were to teach men the path to sonship. If the feasts failed to accomplish that, then they were religious acts of futility giving men a false sense of religious satisfaction.