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Blog Series - Isaiah, Prophet of Salvation, Book 5View All Parts
In describing the heavenly Jerusalem in the millennial kingdom, Isaiah 33:21-24 says,
21 But there the majestic One, the Lord, will be for us a place of rivers and wide canals on which no boat with oars will go, and on which no mighty ship will pass— 22 for the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; He will save us— 23 Your tackle hangs slack; it cannot hold the base of its mast firmly, nor spread out the sail. Then the prey of an abundant spoil will be divided; the lame will take the plunder, 24 and no resident will say, “I am sick”; the people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity.
The prophet says that God Himself will be for Jerusalem “a place of rivers and wide canals,” referring to a great defensive moat to protect the city—something that the earthly Jerusalem did not have. This is not to say that the New Jerusalem would ever need such a moat in a literal sense. The prophet was again using metaphoric language to tell us that God’s own presence would defend the city.
Just as it was impractical to build ships on a moat to attack a city, so also no enemy would be able to besiege the city with a “boat with oars” or with a “mighty ship.” In those days warships were long and narrow, built for speed and equipped with oars. Merchant ships were much wider for carrying cargo.
The prophet speaks of both types of ship. No enemy will be able to lay siege to the city with a warship, and a merchant ship was pictured as being deprived of tackling and ropes by which the mast is sustained. Neither can it spread any sail. In fact, even a lame Israelite would be able to “take the plunder” from such a ship.
The Spoils of War
No doubt the prophet had Assyria in mind, for its ship of state had run aground on the shore of Jerusalem, so to speak. The “abundant spoil” from the Assyrian army was divided among the remnant that had taken refuge in Jerusalem. We do not know if the 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold, which Hezekiah had sent to the king of Assyria, was among the spoils of war, but this is likely.
Whatever the case, later King Hezekiah had sufficient wealth to show the envoys of Babylon. We read in 2 Kings 20:13,
13 Hezekiah listened to them, and showed them all his treasure house, the silver and the gold and the spices and the precious oil and the house of his armor and all that was found in his treasuries. There was nothing in his house nor in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them.
Where did all this wealth come from? Recall that Hezekiah had emptied his treasury earlier, giving it to the Assyrians (2 Kings 18:15, 16). What was in his treasury was insufficient, so he even had to strip the gold off the temple doors to meet the demand. And yet afterward, when the friendly Babylonian envoys came to wish him well, Hezekiah had a huge amount of wealth in his treasury. No doubt it came from the Assyrian army that had been destroyed, leaving great wealth to replenish the treasury.
When we view this miraculous deliverance as a prophetic type foreshadowing our own final deliverance at the end of the age, it seems to indicate a great transfer of wealth that is to take place. Assyria as a nation is long gone and has been replaced with successors in this long captivity.
Daniel foresaw four beast empires with various extensions (“horns”), ending with the “little horn” (Daniel 7:8). John described this “little horn” in Revelation 13:5, 6, 7, calling it “a beast coming up out of the sea” (Revelation 13:1). But he saw also a second beast, one which was not revealed to Daniel, “another beast coming up out of the earth” (Revelation 13:11). This was described as a financial beast, which prophesied of the modern banking system that arose at the same time that the first beast received its fatal wound that was healed (1798-1804).
The two beasts were to work together (Revelation 13:12, 14) at the end of the age until the time came for the saints to receive the dominion (Daniel 7:21, 22). To this prophecy, then, we can add that of Isaiah, where the spoils of war are taken from the overthrown Assyrian army to replenish the treasury of the Lord and to refresh the saints who are given dominion. Isaiah’s prophecy supports the idea of a great transfer of wealth, along with a warning not to show off that wealth.
The Judgment of the Nations
Isaiah 34:1, 2, 3 continues this topic, saying,
1 Draw near, O nations, to hear, and listen, O peoples! Let the earth and all it contains hear and the world and all that springs from it, 2 for the Lord’s indignation is against all the nations, and the wrath against all their armies; He has utterly destroyed them, He has given them over to slaughter, 3 so that their slain will be thrown out, and their corpses will give off their stench, and the mountains will be drenched with their blood.
Here the prophet makes it plain that the overthrow of the Assyrian army set a precedent and a prophetic pattern for the overthrow of the nations at the end of the 2,520-year tribulation. He speaks of the time when the godless “beast” nations will lose their dominion, their contract to rule the earth, when the full sentence imposed upon Jerusalem has expired.
Isaiah’s terminology reflects the scene of destruction of the Assyrian army, the “slaughter,” complete with “their corpses will give off their stench and the mountains will be drenched with their blood.” However, this does not need to be repeated so literally in our time, nor should we interpret this as a mass genocide of billions of people.
In fact, if we were to study this parallel more carefully, we would see that the Assyrian army did not include all of the Assyrian people themselves. While the army was destroyed, the citizens of Assyria were unscathed, except, of course, for those who may have lost family members. Perhaps the most important thing was that although the king survived the slaughter and was able to return to his own country, he was later killed by his own sons (2 Kings 19:36, 37).
Hence, it is clear that the present rulers of Mystery Babylon will lose their power. Their armies of propagandists, media, intelligence, educators, and military generals will be destroyed, not necessarily losing their lives, but (I believe) will be converted to Christ. Old Testament types and shadows picture much death and destruction, but as a general rule, what is death in the Old Testament is life in the New. In other words, there is more than one way to die.
For example, when we crucify our “old man,” Paul does not mean to say that we commit suicide but that we come into “newness of life” (Romans 6:4). God has made a way to fulfill the sentence of death in a merciful way without violating the original decree against Adam (Genesis 2:17; 3:17, 18, 19). By means of a second begetting, and by transferring our identity to that “new man,” we can crucify the “old man” and still live. We simply change our identity and allow the “old man” to die according to God’s sentence.
At the end of the age, God has promised a final outpouring of His Spirit that will cause most of humanity to take advantage of this merciful plan of God. Hence, they will do as we ourselves have already done and come into newness of life. They will be set free from the tyranny of the “old man” of flesh (Romans 6:7). They will repent and seek to learn the laws of God, so that they learn the Kingdom way of life (Isaiah 2:2, 3).
The power structure of the nations, along with the fleshly lifestyles and man-made values of their various cultures, will be cast aside in favor of Kingdom culture and true moral values. This is the culture that we (as Kingdom people) have been learning and putting into practice even today. Though the “stone” crushes the image on its feet, this will not kill the people but will destroy the system of bondage itself. It will set the people free, ultimately extending to all creation, as Paul tells us in Romans 8:19-21). Hence, the stone will grow until it fills the whole earth (Daniel 2:35).
Blog Series - Isaiah, Prophet of Salvation, Book 5View All Parts