Author: Ron Graham
This lesson combines five passages from Isaiah that are quoted in the New Testament, and which lead us to think about the uncertainty of this life compared to the certainty of what lies beyond.
Many people take a superficial and careless attitude toward life. Their philosophy is, "eat, drink, and be merry" Pleasure and leisure has its place in life. We ought to make a place for it, and not work ourselves to death (Ecclesiastes 8:15). Pleasure, however, is not the point and purpose of life. God condemns "gaiety and gladness" when people should be regarding their sins with sorrow and their God with fear. Their attitude toward life, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die" is foolish. Instead, they ought to lay aside eating and drinking, and they should fast and pray and be in sorrow until they have made themselves right with God (Isaiah 22:13). Paul quotes this passage in Isaiah as an appropriate attitude toward life only if there is no resurrection of the dead, only if death is the end of everything (1Corinthians 15:32-34).
But death is not the end of everything, rather it is more like the beginning. Paul goes on to teach about the "resurrection of the dead" and at the end of his marvelous lesson he quotes another passage from Isaiah, "He will swallow up death for ever" (Isaiah 28:5, 1Corinthians 15:54).
This is a most beautiful statement. In full it reads, "He will swallow up the covering over all peoples, the viel stretched over all nations. He will swallow up death for ever. And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, and he will remove the reproach of all peoples from all the earth. For the Lord has spoken."
It seems that death is swallowing up life, for someone dies every second of every day and of every night. Death never sleeps and it never stops eating up the peoples of the world as one by one they fall into its cavernous mouth. Yet God says that he will swallow up death with life. So instead of taking a short sighted view of life, and trying to wrest some pleasure from life before the jaws of death consume us, we take a long sighted view of life. It is not life that is temporary and death that is permanent, but the other way around. It is life that is permanent and death that is temporary. Whilst death swallows up life for a moment, life will swallow up death forever.
When the dead are raised by the power of Jesus Christ, all mankind will recognize him as the Ruler of all and to him "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess..."
Paul quotes this passage in his letter to the Romans and applies it to the final judgment of all mankind (Romans 14:10-12). He also alludes to it in his letter to the Philippians (Philippians 2:9-13).
The thing to think about here is not only the generality that every knee shall bow, but the inclusion of your own knee in that. Take a look at your knee right now. Sooner or later that knee is going to bend before the Lord Jesus Christ in all his power and glory. Why not bend it now and acknowledge Jesus as your Lord before he comes? Then on that day you can worship Jesus with joy unspeakable rather than with the utmost terror and regret.
We are assured by Isaiah that those who believe in Christ as the well-laid cornerstone of their lives, will "not be in haste" (Isaiah 28:16). Paul translates this verse to say that those who believe "will not be disappointed" (Romans 9:33, 10:11). Those who have not believed, when they see Jesus coming, will try to run away in terror. However those who believe will see him with joy and be transfixed. They will not want to run away. He is their everything, he is their all. He will bring all his promises to pass, and they will not be disappointed in a single thing nor find anything lacking. They will want to stay with him, and be blessed by him, for ever more. And so they shall.
The hardest thing for some people to accept is that anything is eternal. Yet God reveals that there is an eternity. Isaiah tells us that "the word of our God abides forever" (Isaiah 40:6-8). Flesh fades and withers like the flowers of the field, he says. But God’s word never fails.
Peter quotes this passage when making the point that we have been born again through the imperishable and abiding word of God. That means therefore that we who have believed and obeyed that word have been born again to everlasting life (1Peter 1:13-25).
James alludes to this passage when he speaks of people who trust in earthly wealth being humiliated because like the flower of the grass they fade and wither. He comes back to this theme of the transience of earthly life, and encourages us to live our lives humbly in the everlasting will of God (James 1:9-11, James 4:13-17).