Dear reader, please forgive the length of this post. It is much longer than any of the other ones. However, if we are ever to examine the doctrine of hell and eternal punishment as it now exists this passage plays an important role. Especially in view of Isaiah 66:24 and Jesus’ midrashic reference in Mark 9:44-48. While not exhaustive, this post is necessary in looking at Jesus teaching on hell. He made references that are translated hell in the King James Version but each of the references are actually the Greek word gehenna. It is clear to me that whenever Jesus used the word gehenna he referred to the impending judgment on the Jews for rejecting him as their Messiah. The eschatological references to hell in his view all point to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Therefore, I offer this brief commentary.
It must be remembered that the entire sixty-sixth chapter of Isaiah is a prophecy looking forward to the New Covenant and the Messianic New Heaven and Earth. So then, the timing and fulfillment is really the main question to consider. In the book, The Message of Isaiah by Barry G. Webb, Webb divides the New Covenant part of Isaiah, that is, Chapters forty through sixty-six in the following way: Isaiah 40:1 – 51:11 Comfort my people; Isaiah 51:12 – 55:13 Triumphant Grace; Isaiah 56:1 – 66:24 Waiting for a New World. It is little wonder that the sixty-sixth chapter deals with the New Covenant and the New Heaven and Earth since it is the very last chapter of Isaiah.
Isa 66:1-24 (1) Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? (2) For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist," Says the LORD. "But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word. In verses one and two the Lord is telling Israel through the Prophet Isaiah that his temple is already the earth. In other words, the temple that they built was for them to commune with him (Ex 25:8.) During the New Covenant, God would be building a new temple.... one made of lively stones. The reason for this is that they did not show a poor and contrite spirit when John the Baptist and Jesus came on the scene. This idea was restated in acts by Paul on Mars Hill. Act 17:24 "He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since He is Lord of heaven and earth, He doesn't live in man-made temples,
(3) "He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man; He who sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dog's neck; He who offers a grain offering, as if he offers swine's blood; He who burns incense, as if he blesses an idol. Just as they have chosen their own ways, And their soul delights in their abominations, (4) So will I choose their delusions, And bring their fears on them; In this passage Isaiah is telling them that he only desires a person with a poor and contrite spirit and that the sacrifices of the temple are not going to be effective or effectual. Remember what Hosea said, (Hosea 6:6.) Hos 6:6 I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know Me more than I want burnt offerings.
(4a)Because, when I called, no one answered, When I spoke they did not hear; But they did evil before My eyes, And chose that in which I do not delight." He is prophesying the reason that he will be unhappy with them. It is because they will reject and kill the Messiah that he will send to them. The evil that they will be doing in the Lord’s eyes will be to reject and crucify Jesus of Nazareth. Look at Psalm 51:16. Psa 51:16-17 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. (17) The sacrifice You desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
(5) Hear the word of the LORD, You who tremble at His word: "Your brethren who hated you, Who cast you out for My name's sake, said, 'Let the LORD be glorified, That we may see your joy.' But they shall be ashamed." Here is the clincher... it is those who would not believe Jesus, who would hate him and throw him out in the name of the Lord. Jesus expresses that those who killed his followers will be said to be doing God a favor (John 16:1-2) and, the Pharisees asked if anyone who knows the Law believes in him (John 7:48-49?)
(6) The sound of noise from the city! A voice from the temple! The voice of the LORD, Who fully repays His enemies! Here again, just like in verse one is a reference to the temple in Jerusalem. Here is how the Lord will repay his enemies. He will destroy the temple and their city. He will put an end to the sacrifice system in one day. (Matt 24:2, Mk 13:2, Luke 21:6)
(7) "Before she was in labor, she gave birth; Before her pain came, She delivered a male child. The male child is the kingdom of God, the New Creation made up of both Jews and Gentiles. This is the one new creation, neither male nor female and, neither Jew nor Greek. It is described in Gal 4:26. This male child is made possible by the death burial and resurrection of Jesus and was available from the resurrection forward; brought to fruition on the day of Pentecost for the Jews and later, at Cornelius’ house for the Gentiles.
(8) Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, She gave birth to her children. What is it that will be born in one day? It is the kingdom of God, the New Heaven and Earth... the New Covenant. Here are examples of this one day… the resurrection… the New Covenant was inaugurated in one day…. Pentecost… the New Covenant was manifested in one day… and… the destruction of the temple… the New Covenant was consummated in one day. One must remember that there was a forty year period where it looked like the two covenants were concurrent. The reason for this was still in operation, but the temple will be thrown down in a day. The sacrifices will end in a day and then manifestly, only the New Covenant will remain. The New Covenant was in force from the cross forward however, the Old Covenant was allowed to hobble along beside it for forty years for the sake of the Jews. Hebrews 9:8 promises that the destruction of the temple will be the manifest sign of the full force of the New Covenant.
(9) Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?" says the LORD. "Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?" says your God. The time of birth is the destruction of the temple the abolishment of the old system of sacrifice. He is asking the question here should he destroy the old and not give complete birth to the new? Of course not!
(10) "Rejoice with Jerusalem, And be glad with her, all you who love her; Rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her; (11) That you may feed and be satisfied With the consolation of her bosom, That you may drink deeply and be delighted With the abundance of her glory." This is a cry to join the Jerusalem from above... the free woman with all of her children. This is a glorious assembly without spot or wrinkle and it is made that way by the blood of the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world.
(12) For thus says the LORD: "Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. Then you shall feed; On her sides shall you be carried, And be dandled on her knees. (13) As one whom his mother comforts, So I will comfort you; And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem." (14) When you see this, your heart shall rejoice, And your bones shall flourish like grass; The hand of the LORD shall be known to His servants, And His indignation to His enemies. All of the promises are to the New Jerusalem, the Jerusalem coming down out of heaven; the mother of the free one. Gal 4:26; But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother.
(15) For behold, the LORD will come with fire And with His chariots, like a whirlwind, To render His anger with fury, And His rebuke with flames of fire. (16) For by fire and by His sword The LORD will judge all flesh; And the slain of the LORD shall be many. This is the impending judgment of the Jews that will fall upon the city and the temple mentioned in verse six. This will be the source of all the sound from the city. The siege engines of Rome slung fiery stones day and night on the city and the temple. Also, Josephus and Tacitus reported that at around dusk the Roman Army saw chariots in the clouds... gleaming in the sun.
(17) "Those who sanctify themselves and purify themselves, To go to the gardens After an idol in the midst, Eating swine's flesh and the abomination and the mouse, Shall be consumed together," says the LORD. Notice that the key word is sanctify themselves and purify themselves; God had just sanctified and purified everyone by the blood of Jesus just forty years earlier.
(18) "For I know their works and their thoughts. It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory. (19) I will set a sign among them; and those among them who escape I will send to the nations: to Tarshish and Pul and Lud, who draw the bow, and Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off who have not heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles. Paul is one who escaped... he was persecuting the church and then the Lord called him on the road to Damascus. Certainly, he was sent to the Gentiles to declare God’s glorious gospel to all the Gentiles.
(20) Then they shall bring all your brethren for an offering to the LORD out of all nations, on horses and in chariots and in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem," says the LORD, "as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD. There is a remnant of believers that is brought into the New Jerusalem from all over the known world. The offering of the clean vessel is themselves cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
(21) And I will also take some of them for priests and Levites," says the LORD. Peter tells the scattered believers.... that is the believing Jews in the dispersion that they are a royal priesthood and an holy nation.
(22) "For as the new heavens and the new earth Which I will make shall remain before Me," says the LORD, "So shall your descendants and your name remain. (23) And it shall come to pass That from one New Moon to another, And from one Sabbath to another, All flesh shall come to worship before Me," says the LORD. The New Heavens and Earth is a metaphor for the New Covenant just as the old heavens and earth was a metaphor for the old covenant. God called heaven and earth as a witness for his covenant.
(24) "And they shall go forth and look Upon the corpses of the men Who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, And their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh. This is definitely a reference to the judgment that will result against the temple. The scene is one of having the judgment be so horrendous that it will always be remembered. This is definitely not a reference to eternal punishment of all men nor, is it even a reference to eternal punishment of some men. It is a direct reference to the fiery end of the temple as predicted earlier in Isaiah 66 and then predicted in detail by Jesus.