The prophet Isaiah wrote powerful prophecies not only of the events of Jesus’ first advent, but also about the events of that day, the final day when the glorified Jesus Christ, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the resurrected Lamb of God, returns from heaven on a white horse (Revelation 19:11ff) to judge all the earth.
It is Isaiah’s eschatology that I want to explore with this study, from one brief passage of four verses, Isaiah 26:19-27:1. Here the prophet tells us of things to come at the end of time. As we will see, Isaiah will tell us about the great final resurrection of the dead, about the time of tribulation of God’s people, about the coming of the Lord and about the destruction of Satan.
PART 1 – THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD – 26:19
“Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy.
For your dew is a dew of light,
And the earth will give birth to the dead.” – Isaiah 26:19
This verse is certainly a prophecy of the great and final resurrection that will occur when Jesus the Messiah returns to end time. The words that Isaiah uses here are very similar to words that other biblical writers will use later in the Bible. In fact, what is remarkable about these words and expressions of Isaiah written about 700 BC is that they express the same eschatology as that of the Lord Jesus Himself and the same eschatology as the apostle Paul and other New Testament writers. Those who wrote God’s word wrote under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit and so their theology is the same.
“Your dead shall live.” Surely this is as straightforward as it can be. When in human experience do dead people live? Dead people do not live. They have died, and their lives are over. Yet the prophet speaks of dead people living. The only possible explanation for the dead living is that they are resurrected, when those who were physically dead are raised to new life. This is not figurative, but literal. The dead shall live when they are raised to life by the command of Jesus Christ on the last day.
“Their bodies shall rise.” Now we can see that Isaiah is not talking about something figurative, for he mentions physical bodies. As biblical revelation unfolds, we will discover that, even if the bodies of believer’s ‘fall asleep’ and are buried and decay, yet they will be transformed into glorified bodies that will rise to meet Jesus Christ in the air (1 Thess. 4:14-18). At the last day, the glorified bodies of saints will rise. Isaiah speaks of this day and this event in this prophecy. The dead shall live, and their bodies shall rise.
“You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!” In this context, the phrase, “dwell in the dust,” refers to those who are dead and buried and whose bodies have gone back to the dust (Genesis 3:19; Psalm 103:14). Isaiah is saying the same thing that he said earlier in the verse using other words. Notice that this verse is a command. Those who dwell in the dust are commanded to “awake and sing for joy.” But how can “those who dwell in the dust” obey this command to awake and sing? The Lord Himself must cause their dead bodies to awake and to sing for joy. Isaiah is prophesying the resurrection of the last day. This is precisely what Jesus foretells in John 5:28-29, “when all who are in the tombs will hear the voice of the Son of Man and come out.” Jesus echoes the resurrection that Isaiah foretold. They are talking about the same event.
“And the earth will give birth to the dead.” Again, the imagery is unmistakable. Those who dwell in the dust of the earth will emerge and will live again. The earth will literally “give birth to the dead” as those who have been in the tombs and in the graves and in the caves and catacombs will rise. As the earth has received the dead, so there will come a time when the earth will yield up its dead. The tomb will become a womb as the earth gives birth to the dead. This is yet another phrase for describing the final, glorious resurrection of the dead at the end of time.
Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah made astonishingly accurate prophecies about events at the end of the age. We have looked at the prophet’s eschatology with regard to the final resurrection when the dead bodies will rise. Next time we will see that Isaiah also foretold a time near the coming of the Lord when God’s people would need to hide from the fury, which I see as a reference to the tribulation.
SDG rmb 12/01/2019