Like Father Like Son, Don K Preston

Paul and Isaiah 65-66: A Comparative Analysis- Part Two

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Paul and Isaiah 65-66- A Comparative Analysis – Part Two
Developing the Parallels

Be sure to read part one as we examine how Paul the apostle, in some of his key eschatological prophecies, drew directly on Isaiah 65-66- and specifically chapter 66. (He also drew directly from Isaiah 2-4, and that connection serves as irrefutably proof that Paul never envisioned and end of time, earth burning coming of the Lord. You can read my development of this in my Like Father Like Son, On Clouds of Glory book).

For now, let’s continue our investigation of Isaiah 66 and its prediction of the coming of the Lord in flaming fire, and how Paul draws directly from that prophecy.

In Isaiah 66, we find the prediction that Jews would persecute their brethren for heeding the call of the Lord. But the Lord promised the persecuted that He would “extend peace like a river” to the persecuted brethren (66:12)- and He would also call the nations / Gentiles: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream.” (We find here the restoration of Zion, spiritual Zion, which always included the restoration of “all Israel.” But in addition to that restoration of the righteous remnant of all Israel, we find the calling of the Gentiles, those who are described a bit later as those who had never known the Lord.

Notice now the reversal of roles. The persecutors cast the obedient out. They persecuted them, “in the name of the Lord.” But the tables would be turned, and the persecutors would become the persecuted:

So will I choose their delusions, And bring their fears on them; 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.

But they shall be ashamed.” The sound of noise from the city! A voice from the temple! The voice of the Lord, Who fully repays His enemies! (Isaiah 66:5-6).

This is a very clear and undeniable prophecy of the coming judgment on Old Covenant Israel for persecuting the followers of the Lord. It has nothing to do with an imaginary “end of time” or end of the Christian age. This is precisely the situation we find in 2 Thessalonians 1:

It is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us… (2 Thessalonians 1:6-7).

So, in Isaiah, the disobedient Jews who refused the call of the Lord were predicted to persecute the faithful, those who obeyed the Lord’s call. They “cast out” the humble, the contrite, the obedient, thinking they were doing the will of the Lord. As a direct result, the Lord would bring on them what they dreaded. He would “fully repay” His enemies. (Note how the Jews who would persecute the obedient are called “the enemies” of the Lord). That reversal of roles is graphically described: “But they shall be ashamed…” “The sound of noise from the city! A voice from the temple! The voice of the Lord, Who fully repays His enemies!” (Isaiah 66:5-6). Those who cast out the faithful would be cast out. The city and the temple are involved in the Lord fully repaying His enemies.

Likewise, in Thessalonians, Paul reiterates that theme: the persecutors would become the persecuted. Those who, as Paul once did, were persecuting the Christians, thinking they were doing it as a service to God, would become the persecuted! Not only that, they would, just as Isaiah shows, be cast out of the Presence of the Lord: “These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Because they persecuted the Lord’s faithful and refused to obey His call, they would become the enemies of the Lord. They would themselves be cast out.

Many, if not most, commentators agree with this assessment:

The phrase separated from the presence of the Lord serves to further define the meaning of eternal destruction. One may therefore introduce this expression as “this means they will be separated from the presence of the Lord.” In some languages, however, it is extremely difficult to use a passive expression such as separated without indicating precisely who does the separating and the mode of the separation. One must say in some instances “God will close them off from where the Lord will be.”” (Ellingworth, P., & Nida, E. A. (1976). A Handbook on Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians (p. 149). United Bible Societies, Logos Bible Program).

The presence of the Lord was traditionally associated with glory manifested as brilliant light (cf. Ezk. 1:26–28), and hence “the glory of his might” is simply a way of describing the glorious and majestic presence of the Lord from which the persecutors of the Thessalonians will forever be excluded. Paul does not describe the punishment of the godless here or anywhere else in graphic detail. Rather he focuses on exclusion from the glorious and majestic presence of the Lord with ἀπὸ having its normal spatial connotation here as in Is. 2:10. (Wanamaker, C. A. (1990). The Epistles to the Thessalonians: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 229). W.B. Eerdmans. Logos).

I think Nisbet, long ago, was accurate in his assessment of this text:

Destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power’ appear to me to have a singular propriety in them, when applied to the ruin of the Jewish nation; for God’s presence was the peculiar privilege of that people; which they could only forfeit by their wickedness, and their forsaking of the covenant of their God.” (N. Nisbett, The Prophecy of the Destruction of Jerusalem, (1787), 25. Reprinted by John Bray Ministries, P.O. Box 90129 Lakeland, Fl. 33804).

Some commentators, however believe that Paul was saying that it was the destruction that would come from the presence of the Lord, that Paul was not saying that the persecutors would be cast out of the presence of the Lord.

This punishment with everlasting destruction, beyond being permanent and irrevocable, also means being shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power. While the preposition that begins this clause in the Greek text (apo) is construed in the NIV as signaling that the judged will be excluded from the presence of the Lord, the thought is rather that the presence of the Lord is the source from which the judgment proceeds (Green, G. L. (2002). The letters to the Thessalonians (p. 292). W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos, Logos).

Take note that Green agrees that the meaning of the text is that the persecutors were to be “shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.” He then shifts gears somewhat to say that Paul was only speaking of the punishment coming from the Lord.

This claim overlooks several facts:

Paul is directly citing Isaiah 2:19-21 here in Thessalonians. I will not take the time to exegete that text. I will simply say that Isaiah 2-4 is a unified prophecy of Israel and her last days. See my discussion of this in this article. It is not about “the nations” i.e. the Gentiles. That means that in Thessalonians, Paul is anticipating the fulfillment of Isaiah 2-4, the prediction of the coming judgment of Israel.

In Luke 23:28f Jesus specifically and undeniably applied Isaiah 2:19f to the coming A. D. 70 judgment of Jerusalem. Likewise, in Revelation 6:12f, John cites the very verses from Isaiah 2:19f that Jesus applied to the coming judgment of Jerusalem, to speak of the imminent judgment of the city “where the Lord was crucified” (Revelation 11:8). All of this virtually demands that this coming of the Lord foretold by Paul, was the time when the Lord’s enemies – would be cast out from His Presence. This is Israel being cast out!

In Acts 3:21f we find the following:

For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’

The language here is very graphic. Peter is warning his audience that to reject Jesus as Messiah was to align themselves with those whom Paul, in Romans 10:20f, said were fulfilling Isaiah 65-66 in not obeying the call of God and thus, becoming the enemy of God. Peter was drawing from Deuteronomy 18:18f and Leviticus 23:29. In Leviticus especially, the threat was direct and foreboding: “For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people.” That context is about scorning the Day of Atonement. The irony here is that Peter is almost certainly implying that Christ was the ultimate Atonement and that to reject him was to bring the Covenant threat on themselves!

As John B. Polhill says:

Leviticus 23:29 originally dealt with those in Israel who refused to observe the Day of Atonement. They were to be “rooted out,” totally “cut off” from the community. The application to Christ means that those who do not listen to him and turn to him in repentance will no longer be a part of the people of God (v. 23b; cf. Heb 2:3). (Polhill, J. B. (1992). New American Commentary, Acts (Vol. 26, p. 136). Broadman & Holman Publishers. Logos).

T. E. Page observes the force of the Greek:

The LXX, following the Hebrew, ἐ?γὼ? ἐκδικήσω ἐξ αὐτο?, ‘I will require it of him ‘that soul shall be cut off (ἐξολεθρ.) from his people’, which indicates separation from among the chosen people, (2) sentence of death. (Page, T. E. (1897). The Acts of the Apostles (pp. 102–103). Macmillan. Logos).

The force of Peter’s words cannot be missed. He is saying the same thing in Acts that Paul is saying in Thessalonians. To reject Jesus was to become his enemy, the enemy of God. To become His enemy was to no longer be “the people.” It was to no longer dwell in the Presence of God. It was to lose their “election.” This is stunning!

Paul, in another epistle closely tied to Thessalonians chronologically, spoke of the same problem confronting the Galatians churches that was being experienced by the Thessalonians, persecution at the hands of the Jews:

For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are [a]the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— 26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written:
“Rejoice, O barren,
You who do not bear!
Break forth and shout,
You who are not in labor!
For the desolate has many more children
Than she who has a husband.”
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. 29 But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. 30 Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free. (Galatians 4:22-31).


☛Isaiah 2-4, God threatened the rebellious of Israel (who would be guilty of shedding innocent blood, 4:4) that they would be punished by being cast out of the Presence of the Lord.

☛ In Acts 3, Peter warned that to reject the Gospel of Jesus as Messiah, would result in being cast out of the Presence of the Lord and being “utterly destroyed.”

☛ In Galatians 4 Paul is concerned that the Jews were rejecting the Gospel. Those who did so were called “the children of the flesh,” and were persecuting the “children of the promise.” As a result of that rejection of the Gospel and the persecution of those who accepted him, Paul said, “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.”

Each of these texts (and there are more, compare Jesus’ parables in Matthew 21-22) show us that in Thessalonians Paul was stating a common theme: The Jewish persecution of the day was leading to the coming judgment – and rejection of Israel. The Jews were about to be cast out of the Presence of God.

With all of this information before us I find it impossible to take the view of Steve Gregg and others and claim that in 2 Thessalonians 1 Paul was not concerned with Jewish persecution but rather some “generic” or pagan persecution. If Paul was doing that, he was stating something totally different from what these other texts – including the prophetic source of his text – all taught. Yet, the tenets and constituent elements of all of these texts are the same. The chronology is the same.

I have taken the time to develop this theme and motif a good bit, to show how Paul’s use of Isaiah virtually demands that he was discussing the coming rejection of the nation of Israel for her rejection of the Gospel and the persecution of the followers of Jesus. Just as Isaiah presents the idea that some would persecute the faithful, casting them out of the Temple / Synagogue, thereby becoming the enemy of God, now, the enemy is to be cast out. This is precisely what we find in 2 Thessalonians 1. The parallels are powerful, direct, undeniable and probative.

We will conclude this series in our next installment. In the meantime, get a copy of my book, Like Father Like Son, On Clouds of Glory, for even more on Paul’s extensive reliance on Isaiah.