God's Kingdom Ministries
Serious Bible Study



Isaiah 48-53: The Great Redeemer: Chapter 18: Entering New Jerusalem

In Isaiah 52:1, 2 God again tells Jerusalem to awaken,

1 Awake, awake, clothe yourself in strength, O Zion; clothe yourself in your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for the uncircumcised and the unclean will no longer come into you. 2 Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, O captive Jerusalem; loose yourself from the chains around your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

The garment theme runs throughout Scripture from the beginning to the end. In Isaiah 61:10 the prophet tells us that “He has clothed me with garments of salvation.” These are not literal garments, but they represent the glorified bodies of the saints. Paul uses this terminology in 2 Cor. 5:1 and 4,

1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens… 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.

This clothing is also pictured as a “house” and a “tent.” It is the body in which we live. We are presently clothed in mortality, but God is safeguarding for us an immortal body with which we will be clothed when the feast of Tabernacles (“tents”) is fulfilled. The example of this is seen in the glorified body of the resurrected Christ.

Isaiah instructs Jerusalem to “clothe yourself in your beautiful garments.” This will be fulfilled at the proper time in history, for we read in Rev. 19:7, 8,

7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. 8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

This was not speaking of the earthly Jerusalem, for later John tells us in Rev. 21:2,

2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.

The earthly Jerusalem was also called “the holy city” (Neh. 11:1, 18). Isaiah 48:2 says, “they call themselves after the holy city and lean on the God of Israel,” but yet they were “obstinate” (Isaiah 48:4) and idolatrous (Isaiah 48:5). The earthly Jerusalem was named “City of Peace,” for that was its calling. But when it failed to live up to its calling, the prophets renamed it “The Bloody City” (Ezekiel 22:2; 24:9; Nahum 3:1).

As “The Bloody City,” it is rejected and cast out, because “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 15:50).

The true “City of Peace” is thus the New Jerusalem. This is the city that is adorned as a bride for the Son of God. Paul says that the earthly Jerusalem is Hagar and that the heavenly city is Sarah. These are the two wives of Abraham, and they serve as types and shadows. Hagar is to be cast out, while Sarah represents the true bride of Christ that produces the heirs.

No Entry for the Unclean

Isaiah’s instruction to “clothe yourself in your beautiful garments” was not followed by the earthly Jerusalem but only by the heavenly city. This, then, is the city referenced in Isaiah 52:1 as “Jerusalem, the holy city.” It is not the city that religious men called the holy city. It is the city that God called the holy city. It is the city where “the uncircumcised and the unclean” are not allowed to enter.

Circumcision in this case is defined by God through the Apostle Paul in Rom. 2:28, 29,

28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

By God’s definition, “circumcision is that which is of the heart,” not “in the flesh.” In other words, those whose hearts remain uncircumcised will not have access to the holy city.

The same applies to “the unclean.” While religious Jews are obsessed with ritual cleansing, God’s people are cleansed by the word, for Jesus said in John 15:3, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” The water of the word is our cleansing agent, for it alone can change the heart.

Referring to the New Jerusalem, Rev. 21:27 affirms,

27 and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Again, John says in Rev. 22:14, 15,

14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter by the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

In practice, the earthly Jerusalem could not possibly keep out those who were unclean. The priests of Bethphage were responsible for the ashes of the red heifer that was stored near the base of the Mount of Olives. As the people entered the city, those in need of cleansing were supposed to sprinkle themselves with water mixed with the ashes. Yet the priests could not possibly know if someone were unclean, except perhaps the well-known lepers.

Cleansing was, therefore, largely voluntary, and there is no doubt that many came into the city (including Roman soldiers) who were unclean from a ritualistic standpoint. The standard of holiness only increased to a higher level under the New Covenant, where the hearts of men had to be cleansed by the washing of the word to gain entrance to the New Jerusalem.

The Captive Daughter of Jerusalem

Isaiah 52:2 instructs the captive daughter of Jerusalem to rise from the dust and loose her chains. In reality, however, she could not do this by her own strength, because Babylon had taken the city captive. It would require a strong deliverer to set her free.

In the gospel in the stars, we find Perseus coming with a great club to kill the sea monster and set free the captive woman, Andromeda, who was chained to the rock. Persia was named after Perseus, and so King Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon and set captive Jerusalem free to return to her own land.

The greater fulfillment of this prophecy is when Christ conquers Mystery Babylon, sets the captives free worldwide, and frees the New Jerusalem to take her place as the bride coming down from heaven, so that the will of God may be on earth as it is in heaven.

Sold for Nothing

Isaiah 52:3 says,

3 For thus says the Lord, “You were sold for nothing [chinnam, “for nothing, free, without cost”] and you will be redeemed without money.”

In other words, God did not require the Babylonians to pay Him anything for this slave. Jerusalem was given to Babylon without any cost, a free slave, so to speak. On the other hand, we read in Isaiah 55:1, “Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” The wine of the Spirit and the milk of the word are given free of charge as well, for these are made available by His grace.

This idea of a no-cost slave is repeated in the next verses, although this is obscured by the NASB rendering of Isaiah 52:4, 5,

4 For thus says the Lord God, “My people went down at the first into Egypt to reside there; then the Assyrian oppressed them without cause [ehfes, “end”]. 5 Now therefore, what do I have here,” declares the Lord, “seeing that My people have been taken away without cause [chinnam, “for nothing”].

God is the One who sold Jerusalem into slavery to Babylon. He did not do so “without cause,” as the NASB would have us believe. The “cause” was the idolatry and continual disobedience of the city. In fact, when Isaiah 52:3 says, “You were sold for nothing,” the Hebrew word used is chinnam, the same word that the prophet used two verses later in Isaiah 52:5, where the NASB rendered it “without cause.”

The word chinnam has a broad meaning. In some contexts, it can indeed mean “without cause,” but here it means “for nothing, without cost.” How do we know? Because the prophet has issued one call after another for the people to repent throughout the entire book of Isaiah. Neither would God send them unjustly into captivity. The people themselves may have thought that God was treating them unjustly, but I, for one, will never side with them against the verdict of God.

Speaking of Israel’s captivity, verse 4 in the NASB reads, “the Assyrian oppressed them without cause.” The prophet used a different word here to convey a different idea. The word ehfes means “end, finality.” We ought to read this to mean that “the Assyrian oppressed them continually,” or without letup. In other words, they remained slaves without a Sabbath and without a Jubilee to end their oppression.

The Unredeemable Slave

In the law, all sin is reckoned as a debt. The judge was to calculate the debt owed, according to the principles of restitution in Exodus 22:1-4. The greater the sin, the greater the debt. If the debtor did not have enough assets to pay his debt, he was to be sold to the highest bidder. The bidders, in legal terminology, were potential redeemers. The one who won the bid agreed to pay the debt of the debtor in exchange for the debtor’s labor as a slave for a specified time.

Isaiah’s scenario is of a judge giving an unwanted slave to a slave master free of charge. In other words, no one had the assets to take on himself the responsibility to pay this slave’s debt. The slave’s debt was beyond the means of any earthly redeemer.

In this case, Israel was the debtor being sold at auction. Her sin-debt was unpayable. No prospective buyer had sufficient funds to redeem her. When the Judge asked, “Who will buy this slave for 10,000 talents of gold?” there was dead silence in the court. She was simply not worth it, nor could anyone in the world afford to assume her debt.

The Judge in the divine court then sold Israel to Assyria without money at no cost. The Judge could do this, because the Judge Himself was Israel’s creditor. God was the victim of Israel’s crimes. That gave God the rights due to any victim of crime. The Law of Victims Rights gave the victim the right to collect on a debt or to forgive any portion of it. In this case, God sold Israel to Assyria without cost, essentially agreeing to suffer the loss Himself. This suggests that Christ would pay Israel’s debt by His own blood. And since His blood was worth far more than Israel’s debt, He took the occasion to pay the debt for the sin of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

Israel’s Time of Slavery

Because Assyria paid nothing to obtain its Israelite slave, the situation was quite unusual. The legal question arises: How long should a slave serve if the new slave master paid nothing for the slave? Technically, if the Judge agreed to take the loss upon Himself, the debt was written off, and hence, there was no way to calculate the time that the slave should serve.

Yet the Law of Victims Rights gave the Judge the right to decide how much of the debt to forgive and to what extent the sinner should be held accountable. The actual outworking of Israel’s sentence can be seen in history and by studying the law.

Israel was sentenced to serve “seven times,” according to the law (Lev. 26:18, 21, 24). Dan. 7:25 shows us that 3½ “times” was a specific period of time. John clarifies this in Rev. 13:5 as “forty-two months,” the equivalent of 1,260 “days.” The Hebrew word yom can mean either a “day” or a “year.” In this case the captivity is measured in years.

Hence, the full “seven times” judgment was 2,520 years.

Israel’s tribulation, then, was not a mere seven years. The key to understanding the time of tribulation is to understand the laws of tribulation in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 and to interpret these laws in the way the prophets reveal.

The point is that Israel’s time of slavery was no longer tied to the normal application of the law of Jubilee. History shows that Israel was not set free from Assyrian bondage after just 49 years. The main cycle would last 2,520 years, and this time frame was set through the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem. God determined that the “seven times” of tribulation would apply both to Israel and to Judah, each in its own unique way.

How this actually worked out in history is a study too long for us here. Those who are interested in those details should read Secrets of Time or my three books on Daniel: Prophet of the Ages.

Judah and Jerusalem also provided the “seventy weeks” prophetic timeline for the solution to these captivities (Dan. 9:24). These seventy weeks are calculated in weeks of years, that is, seventy sabbath years, or 490 years.

After the Babylonian captivity of Judah, when the nation was revived from its legal state of death, the Edict of Cyrus freed the people in 534 B.C. to return and rebuild. But before Judah’s prophetic calendar could be re-established, the nation had to undergo 76 years of cleansing. Hence, a second decree was required at the end of 76 years to jump start Judah’s calendar. That occurred with the Edict of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:11) in 458 B.C.

This was when Daniel’s “seventy weeks” began the countdown, culminating when Jesus died on the cross in 33 A.D. His death provided the solution to the entire problem, as it satisfied the law’s demands by paying the debt of the whole world. This was how God applied the law of Jubilee (10 x 49 years). Though it was given to Judah, the cycle applied also to Israel and to the world.