Revelation Conference, Session 1 – Dr. G.K. Beale – Making Sense of the Symbols. The Old Testament Background to the Book of Revelation (Part I)


Isaiah 6:1-13

Children imitate and reflect what they see.  Adults do too.  In high school and jr. high you reflected and imitated your peer group with which you identified.  We reflect things that are around us in our culture.  We’ll see what Israel reflected in their culture.  We’ll need to see how we relate to Israel in terms of what we reflect as God’s image-bearers. 

Verse 9ff. begins with commands: Do not perceive.  Make their hearts dull.  Make their ears heavy.  What if God gave you these verses before you preached a sermon or Bible lesson?   You probably haven’t heard a pastor say that.  Some of us, if we did hear it, would attribute it to the demonic.  But this is from God.  But it is from God.  Then how can he be good and a loving shepherd?

Isaiah 6:1-4 is the first part.  God is holy.  He is set apart to do his sovereign plan. 

Isaiah 6:5-7 is the second part.  God selects a man.  Isaiah sees God’s holiness, he is convicted of sin, he is declared holy (in contrast to being “made holy”).  This ultimately goes back to justification by faith, but we won’t get into that right now.  He reveres God and it results in his justification.

Isaiah 6: 8-10 Is the third part.  This is what happens when you refuse to conform to the image of God.  Israel has sinned repeatedly.  God is not judging them out of the blue.  Israel is being judged for their unrepentant sin.  Whenever the prophets use “sensory organ malfunction language,” it describes only one sin: idolatry.  This is crucial as we move to the book of idolatry.

Why are idolaters described with this way with sensory malfunction language?

Isaiah 42:17-20

17 They are turned back and utterly put to shame,
who trust in carved idols,
who say to metal images,
“You are our gods.”

18 Hear, you deaf,
and look, you blind, that you may see!
19 Who is blind but my servant,
or deaf as my messenger whom I send?
Who is blind as my dedicated one,
or blind as the servant of the Lord?
20 He sees many things, but does not observe them;
his ears are open, but he does not hear.

Isaiah 44:17 – this is a description of the religious construction of idols (44:11-16).  Vv. 17-20.

17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”18 They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. 19 No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” 20 He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

 They worship the idols, but they cannot see or hear or do anything.

Why are the idolaters blind and deaf?  Because they are idolaters.  But why are they described with this unique description?  Psalm 135:15-18.  We have a description of the idols of the nations. 

15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
16 They have mouths, but do not speak;
they have eyes, but do not see;
17 they have ears, but do not hear,
nor is there any breath in their mouths.
18 Those who make them become like them,
so do all who trust in them!

  Emphasize v. 18.  The principle: You worship idols, you become like idols.  And that conformity will ruin you.  Israel’s problem was idol worship (cf. Isaiah 2).  So God says in Isaiah 6, they are so unrepentant in their idolatry, so God gives them an eye for the eye (lex taliones), and makes them like the idol.  God is punishing Israel by means of their own sin.  Idols have eyes and ears physically, but they could not spiritually see or hear but the idols were empty and vain.  Behind the idols stood demonic activity.  Israel is judged to be as spiritually inanimate as the idols they worship.

Isaiah 6:11-13 is the fourth part.  How long will the judgment last? 

11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
12 and the Lord removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.

  The land will reflect the spiritual emptiness of the people.  So God sends them in the exile.  So the Lord has moved his people far away. 

13 And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains
when it is felled.”
The holy seed  is its stump.

Here in v. 13, there are connections to the NT and Revelation, though there are connections already to be made. 

Isaiah 1:28-31 Israel will become empty and

Go back to 6:13 – when the remnant, the tenth return, they will still be unbelieving.  The remnant is still in unbelief when Jesus comes.  Now remember, even within this there is a remnant that will be unbelieving.    The end of v. 13 is usually seen as the stump.  This Hebrew word, which is used about 36 times in the OT and it never means stump.  About 21 times it is translated “idol.”  In v. 13, God is saying that the holy seed is its idol.  So the remnant is not looked at here as something positive and hopeful, but as negative and idolatrous (cf. Ezra 9:2).  V. 13 is saying, when Israel returns, it will be idolatrous and unbelieving.  By the way, when the remnant returns, it is only Judah and Benjamin. 

Now go to Isaiah 11:1 – This is applied to Jesus in the NT.  Jesus will be the remnant stump within the remnant.  Jews and Gentiles will come together on the basis of the root of Jesse.  It is a New Israel.  Look at Isaiah 49:3 refers to Jesus as Israel some other time.  Vv. 9-10 of Isaiah 6 are reminiscent of Deuteronomy 29:4, which developed from Deuteronomy 4:28.  The generation in Isaiah’s time is just like the first generation with Moses.   Israel is becoming like the idolatry it is committing.   What you revere you resemble, either for ruin or restoration.  This is what we might call the irony of idolatry. 

How do we relate this to our culture’s idolatry?  Anything your heart clings to for security is idolatry (he admits he got this from Luther).  When you substitute false views of Jesus, you are an idolater.  The Revelation calls unbelievers “earth-dwellers” (a five-word phrase in Greek).    We are looking to the New Heavens and the New Earth as believers.  The destruction of the earth is inevitable because of the idolatry of the old world order and old Earth.  The idol of economic prosperity and financial security today is something to be aware of.  When your identity is bound up with your material possessions, you become like them.  What we commit ourselves to is our god.  And “what you revere, you resemble, either for ruin or restoration.” 

One other way we become idolaters.  The idolatry of the media.  Most Christians don’t have a daily awareness of God’s sovereignty and plan in the real world.  We watch TV and the media and turn off our minds, ignore God, and are taking in the filth and God-ignoring worldview of the world.  Then we feel unnatural to keep in mind God’s sovereign plan in our daily lives.  “Worldliness is what any particular culture does to make sin seem normal and righteousness seem strange” (David Wells).  That’s why it is so important to go to church and meet together and encourage each other that we are normal and the world is weird.   What Israel revered, she resembled, and was ruined.   What Isaiah revered, he resembled and was restored. 

Isaiah 6 is quoted repeatedly.  The NT writers talk about the judgment of Israel.  Beale contends that they’d worship tradition.  We better make sure that we are not putting human tradition in the place of God’s word.  The remnant that returned and continued for 400 years continued in Israel.  Jesus is not the replacement of Israel, he is the continuation of the true remnant of Israel, reconstituting Israel on a new basis.  If Jesus is true Israel, and the church identifies with Jesus, then we are true Israel and that is why we must

The church is the eschatological temple.  The inaugurated millennialist (amillennialist) out literalizes the dispensationalist in Ephesians 2 speaking of the church as the eschatological temple.  Gentiles will be made Levitical priests (read Isaiah 66).  There’s a future for ethnic Israelites, they will be saved, the remnant who will be saved identifying with Christ after the cross.  They are this remnant. 

The majority of Israel is the way they are because of what?  Because of Isaiah 6:13, they are given over to their idolatry.  The Jews cannot accept Jesus interpretation.  The promises and fulfillment is staggered.  The promises are fulfilled beginning in Jesus.  Jesus went behind Rome to the demons and defeated them and will defeat all on the earth in the end.  The problem is false teaching.

The churches are numbed by their giving into idolatry.

What you revere you resemble, for your ruin or your restoration.  And this is already happening to the churches in Revelation.  Four churches already fell and 3 were on their way.  So the church needs to be vigilant against idolatry.  When you begin to resemble the world, you don’t realize it and are unaware of the idolatry one imbibes.  They were becoming anesthetized like the frog boiled slowly because the frog doesn’t realize what is going on because it is a cold-blooded animal.  Our alarm system goes out

That is why Revelation is a symbolic.  If your careful in exegeting Revelation 1, then you interpret symbolically and then interpret literally if you are forced into it.


About pjtibayan

I love Jesus Christ and live to share life and share Jesus together with First Southern Baptist Church of Bellflower primarily to Southeast Los Angeles County.
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