Guest Article: Rod MacArthur on Isaiah #4– Filling the Measure of Sin

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In the first installment on Isaiah 4 Rod discussed the Book of Remembrance, a fascinating and important topic. We now present the continuation of his discussion of Isaiah 4f. Wonderful stuff, so, be sure to read!

<Now let’s focus on 44.

When Yahweh has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning, then He will create…

The filth and the bloodshed are those crimes, already discussed in Isa. 2–3. They were moral filth and murder, corruption in business and judicial corruption, as well as religious corruption. How were bloodshed and filth to be purged and washed away? He said, “By a spirit of judgment and a spirit of burning.” We’ve previously noted Deut. 3235–36 & 43 in which Moses promised vindication for God’s people, who were helpless to deliver themselves. He also promised vengeance to be poured out on His enemies. The process of pouring out vengeance would also double as the process of purifying what was left. Some people were purged away when they went through this process; it removed them. But God’s people would go through the same process and come out pure. It wouldn’t be pleasant; but it would leave them in a good place.

Jesus commented on this In Matt. 2332. He said, “Fill up then the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of Gehenna? Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes…” Just like God sent prophets and wise men to the former generations whom they killed, whose monuments they built; Jesus planned to send His apostles and prophets to them. They would treat them just as their fathers had. They were going to scourge them in their synagogues, and persecute them from city to city…“that upon you may fall all the righteous blood shed on the land, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation” (Matt. 2335–36). Be sure to get Don K. Preston’s Like Father Like Son, On Clouds of Glory, for an extensive discussion of filling the measure of sin.

Yahweh planned to purge away Zion’s filth “by a spirit of burning and judgment.” When the New Testament speaks of judgment and of burning, what conclusion is generally reached? Isn’t it often a scenario something like this? After the end of time there will be a great judgment in which all men will stand before God. Some will be invited into heaven and others will be thrown into hell to burn forever. There you have “judgment and burning.” Isn’t that the “popular” idea?

Unfortunately, this is just another example of how we have wrongly applied TN statements without examining the OT backgrounds and promises from which they derived. If one would turn to Isaiah (and all the other OT writers who predicted judgment and purging for Israel in her Last Days), take note of his context and see what he was talking about, they’d say: “Oh, I get it now. Judgment was not so much the process of being judged, but the penalty that was exacted as a result of the decision. It always involved an invasion and slaughter from an enemy army.”

So Isaiah’s “spirit of judgment” would be seen in the Roman Empire when it came upon Jerusalem and avenged the wrong. And what was the burning? That’s easy to answer: What happened after the Romans invaded Jerusalem? They left the city in flames. The spirit of judgment and burning—that process of siege from a foreign nation—would remove the wicked and purify the righteous. This is exactly what we see in every New Testament reference to The Judgment—purging and purifying.

Let me be clear and emphatic on this point. Judgment and purging are as ancient as Israel herself. They were not concepts introduced for the first time in the NT! They began with Moses in Deut. 3234­36 in which vengeance upon His enemies and vindication of His people was promised. They continued throughout the prophets to the last of them all, Malachi. In Mal. 33 His coming was to smelt and purify the sons of Levi (His priests). In Mal. 41–3 His coming was to remove the chaff and every evil doer, but to release His people like calves from the stall.

By the way, John the Baptizer referenced the Malachi passage when he warned of the impending wrath (Matt. 37–17); and the Hebrews writer cited Deut. 3246 when he warned of judgment in a very, very little while (Heb. 1030, 37). From these two references alone we can clearly see that The Judgment these NT prophets spoke of were nothing other than that which the prophets of old foretold. We should let it be so.

But, let’s examine Mal. 31–3 a little more closely in this regard:

Behold, I am going to send my messenger and he will clear the way before me. (That’s John, the Baptist.) And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple (that’s Jesus) and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight (again, that’s Jesus), behold, he is coming says Yahweh of hosts. Who can endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and a fullers’ soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, he will purify the sons of Levi, refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to Yahweh offerings in righteousness. See Don K. Preston’s formal written debate with Jerry McDonald where Preston develops the importance of John as Elijah.

The process of purification by smelting always develops slag and dross, which must be thrown away. Peter spoke of the identical purging when he told of the “fiery trial” which would purify those who endured it. Here’s what he wrote in 1 Pet. 15–7:

(You) are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

At the time Peter wrote this, had Jesus already died on the cross? Yes, of course He had. But look, though Jesus had already gone to the cross, Peter said that salvation was about to be revealed, ready to be revealed in the Last Days, at the time Jesus was revealed. They were anticipating a salvation that was just about to be revealed even though Jesus had already died.

Jesus had started the salvation process, but it was not completed until His return. He says, the genuineness of your faith is being proved by various trials. It is more precious than gold, even though tested by fire. Peter knew this: The rigors that would remove the wicked would also put the righteous into a crucible. Those rigors would test and purify their faith. But this is what Malachi and all his predecessors foretold. This is why Peter told them not to be surprised at the fiery trial as though it were a strange thing (1 Pet. 412). It is also why Jesus said in Matthew 2413, “He who endures to the end shall be saved.” They had to go through the process to be part of the remnant (what was left after purging!).

Now let’s push forward in our text. After saying He would purge away the filth, He promised a new creation, of sorts. Let’s read Isa. 45:

Then Yahweh will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy.

What would Yahweh “create” as a result of the judgment and burning? The text suggests and environment in which He would be with His people. There would be a cloud over them by day and flaming fire over them by night. Doesn’t that remind us of their wandering through the wilderness?

But look again: “For over all the glory will be a canopy.” Doesn’t this call us back to Exod. 249­11, for example, when Moses and Aaron with the 70 elders went upon the mountain? Yahweh appeared to them, but there was a firmament, some kind of platform that separated. It was clear, but it separated them. And so, back then, God was with his people, but he was separated from his people. We see the same separation theme in the tabernacle. Within it there was a veil that separated the holy place from the most holy place. Men didn’t have access to God. He was “with them,” but isolated from them. (This continues the separation which began in the Garden.) Be sure to make your plans to attend the Preterist Pilgrim Weekend, July, 2013, in Ardmore, Ok.. The theme this year is The Tabernacle of God Is With Man. We have six speakers lined up. This promises to be a fantastic seminar!

Notice in each of these examples, Yahweh was with His people but separated from them. In contrast, when the Branch appears in the Last Days, the veil or canopy does not separate God from man any longer! Over all the glory will be a canopy. So there won’t be a canopy over the people separating the glory from the people; but a canopy that includes the glory with the people. This canopy enfolds both Yahweh and man together; which is also the point of Rev. 211–4.

Finally, let’s note Isa. 46:

There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain.

After The Judgment and purging, Yahweh would provide shelter and refuge and protection for His people. That’s such a beautiful picture. Re-read Rev. 211–5. His protection is all-encompassing and His presence is real. And, if Isa. 24 can be trusted, this dwelling together of Yahweh with His people will never be disrupted.

It’s becoming clearer and clearer that the New Testament is more than some tack-on to the Old, connected simply by a few thin strands, as it were. The New does not flop around, connected to but different from the Old, citing key phrases but with different intent. It is the on-going continuation of the Old. It is proof that Yahweh fulfilled His promises in the Old. It is the natural consequence of our promise-keeping God.

With the passing of the Old (Heb. 813), the New continues. With the taking away of the Old, the New is established (Heb. 109). It’s a seamless transition. It’s the glorious extension and culmination of all Yahweh had promised. It’s as though the Old were the tree, and the New is the blossom on the tree. They are not disconnected; not separate entities. The New is indeed bringing into full glory, full fragrance, full beauty, all the promises that God made to Israel in the Old. And we Gentiles, as we look at the beauty of it, are drawn to it. Israel wasn’t done; Israel had a remnant that God would fully save. And Gentiles could come and be part with them. My view of the playing-out of God’s promises is blossoming, too. It’s really exciting.