Joe: The most frightful + wonderful view from the OT?


, Joe"]Of particular interest to me recently (because of its relevance to Universalism), is the way that Isaiah 34 to 35 relates so directly to Isaiah’s concluding vision in chapter 66, in which he ends the book with a final sentence that leaves us fixed on an awesome picture of those who are permanently redeemed starring with abhorrence upon those rebels, having been slain by the sword of the LORD, whose destruction follows by means of a fire that continues without end: “For by fire will the LORD enter into judgment, and by his sword, with all flesh; and those slain by the LORD shall be many… And [the survivors] shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be abhorrence to all flesh” (Isaiah 66:16, 24).I’m glad you’re still interested in Universalism, even if it’s just to try to disprove it :slight_smile: We’ve debated Isaiah 66:16, 24 a lot without getting anywhere so I won’t comment on it here.

, Joe"]This vision has its introduction in Isaiah 34, including the metaphors of death by sword followed by destruction without end by fire. This chapter may perhaps be the hardest passage of Scripture to read in the whole Bible? Certainly some of the horrible imagery in the Book of Revelation, about the eternal torment of those who suffer everlasting destruction in the lake of fire, borrows directly from this passage. But here (and what makes it even harder to read?) the details are more slowly, carefully and clearly defined and elaborated upon with the un-escaping focus of a magnifying glass.In 34:10a the smoke rises for the age (owlam) not forever (the author could have easily used “netsach” as in 34:10b) and even if you translate it that way, it could be the same as the “eternal” fire that consumed Sodom, see Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46? . Furthermore, in the New Creation will there be this patch of land that we won’t be able to reinhabit because it’s still under God’s judgment? :confused:

Which bit of Revelation borrows directly from this passage?

, Joe"]Here we have an entire chapter within the Prophets dedicated to explaining and clarifying the definition and nature of the place of hell and the permanent situation of those who go there: “Night and day it shall not be quenched; its smoke shall go up forever… He has cast the lot for them; his hand has portioned it out to them with the line; they shall possess it forever; from generation to generation they shall dwell in it” (Isaiah 34:10, 17).The place “Night and day it shall not be quenched” will only be inhabited by animals so isn’t a good description of hell or ECT… Although given v12 “there is no one there to call it a kingdom” maybe it is :wink:

, Joe"]What is more, this terrifying vision is contrasted immediately with the comparison of the everlasting joy of the redeemed, and also accompanied by an emphatic denial that all without exception shall enter upon that way or dwell there among them, though at the same time maintaining without contradiction the very gladness of those ransomed whose sorrow has ended permanently: “No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:9-10). Humanity is intrinsically connected both in Adam and even more so now in Christ, therefore you can’t torture one person without it effecting the rest. Therefore the fact that the redeemed are rejoicing should be a hint that the destruction of their enemies is more akin to someone witnessing a childbirth or surgery, than a massacre.

, Joe"]But you need to read it all together as a whole to let its entirety, and its own internal consistency, interpret itself. In fact, to the modern mind (if you’re a reader anything like me) you’ll probably need several goes to get into the rhythm and paradigm of Isaiah’s genre.Like the Cross, we have a picture of grotesque death but a much greater resurrection/restoration following.

, Joe"]Isaiah 34:1-35:10 is perhaps the most staggering view from the entire Old Testament for its grandness, scope, and its clarity. It is also perhaps the most frightful and, at the same time, wonderful picture from the Prophets (In my limited estimation anyway).It’s certainly a full on passage.

, Joe"]I dare you to read it all together as one passage. I dare you to read it several times, and then re-read it again. After all, Isaiah dedicated himself to here give significant treatment to this subject for good reason: we need to hear this for our good. So here it is: Isaiah 34 and 35 together…But we are hearing too different messages. You’re hearing it as hopelessness for most people, I’m hearing it as a excruciating but eventual restoration for most people :neutral_face:



I’m rather perplex that he is stuck only Isaiah 34, 35. Because in fact if you go back one more chapter in Isaiah 33, you have this reading:

*"**Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble: your breath, as fire, shall devour you.

And the people shall be as the burnings of lime: as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire.**

Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge my might.

The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. **Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? **

He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;

He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.

Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off.

Thine heart shall meditate terror. Where is the scribe? where is the receiver? where is he that counted the towers?

Thou shalt not see a fierce people, a people of a deeper speech than thou canst perceive; of a stammering tongue, that thou canst not understand.

Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken.

But there the glorious LORD will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby.

For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us.

Thy tacklings are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail: then is the prey of a great spoil divided; the lame take the prey.

And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity." - Isaiah 33:11-24*

One can see that vs 11 is reminecient of this thread, where Lefien speaks about the wheat and the chaff coming from the same plant, but is not all consumed, and being subjected to the Holy Spirit’s Fire. Who is God speaking to in the above Isaiah passage? Well, one must assume that the “Ye” in “Ye shall conceive chaff” is speaking of the people of Zion, not only those that “are far off”, but also those that “are near” (vs 13). Indeed, these sinners of Zion are afraid (vs 14). Afraid of what? The Lord’s might.

Then it asks “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” And then answers the question from vs 15, “He that walketh uprightly…”

You can be sure that all that are in Zion will walk uprightly due to the Holy Spirit’s fire and prodding. These same in Zion are coming out of the fire and will “see the king in his beauty”.(vs 17) Indeed, “the LORD is our king; he will save us.” (vs 22)This is not a fire that consumes, but perfects, and will continue to do so until “the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.”(vs 24)

I’ve been reading through Isaiah these past week and see a recurring theme of the Lord’s mchastisement followed by the Lord’s redemption of Israel. I’ll agree on one thing Joes says; You’ve gotta look at all of the book of Isaiah as a whole.


Question: Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?

Usual answer: the wicked will dwell in eternal fire.

Isaiah’s answer: the righteous will dwell in eternal fire.


:astonished: Good point Dondi.

I agree that that was a very interesting observation.

:open_mouth: :confused: I guess it depends on if we link the question to the preceding or proceeding sentence.


"]Passages such as Revelation 14:10-11, 20:10-15 and others borrow direct from Isaiah 34 in order to set it as the background and context for reading those visions. Those phrases used in Revelation that are almost identical to Isaiah are meant to be a ‘mental queue’ that links us back to these original visions, which form the background to these ‘NT equivalent’ visions. For example:

Revelation 14:11 “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever” and Revelation 19:3 “The smoke from her goes up forever and ever” borrow direct from Isaiah 34:10 “…its smoke shall go up forever.”

And the references to ‘day and night’ in Revelation 14:11 “…they have no rest, day or night,” and Rev 20:10 “they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” borrow direct from the same phrase in Isa 34:10 to “Night and day…”

There are others, for example Revelation 6:14 “The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up” borrows direct from Isaiah 34: 4, “the skies roll up like a scroll”.

There is also the more subtle allusion in Revelation 18:2 to Isaiah 34:11: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast. ”

In Isaiah 34:11 the owls and ravens are unclean animals (Deut 14:14-17) and would also have been found in the ruins of Babylon, linking also the reference in Isaiah 34:14 (hyenas, wild goats) also links back to Isaiah 13:21. ‘Wild goats’ is a term connected with demons.

Of course also the Lake of fire in Revelation 20:10, 15 is actually the lake of “burning sulfur”, which among other OT contexts, is a link too to Isaiah 34:9, (‘Edom’s dust will be turned into burning sulfur’).

"]You realize also that in Isaiah 34:11 the references to “chaos” and “desolation” are the same as in Genesis 1:2 to the earth as “formless” and “empty”. In contrast and in parallel to the New Creation, here what is being described is a Reversed Creation.

"]And as you know I also want to highlight a clear connection with Isaiah 66:24 “their fire shall not be quenched” which refers back directly to Isaiah 34:10 “burning pitch… it shall not be quenched…” Accordingly Jesus’ description of hell when he quotes Isaiah 66:24 in reference to hell also has its background in Isaiah 34.

"]Together we have direct references between Isaiah 34 and Isaiah 66:24 and Mark 9:48 and Revelation 14:10-11 and Revelation 20:10, 15. Together these links leave no doubt that both Isaiah 34 and 66:24 do describe hell, the lake of fire, the final state, the second death, the last judgment.

And they all describe the “eternal” conscious torment involved. Note the repetition of 3 sets of different pairs of Hebrew words in Isaiah 34:10, to make there description of ‘eternal’ punishment unavoidable:

Isaiah 34:10 It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever (H5769, olam olam – always): from generation to generation (H1755, dor dor – age to age) it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever (H5331 netsach netsach – ever and ever).

We have “olam olam” and “dor dor” and “netsach netsach”… 3 sets of different pairs of Hebrew words, all used to make it absolutely emphatically clear that eternity is in view here.

This is why later references such as Isaiah 66:24 (applied in Mark 9:48 by Jesus to hell) and Revelation 14:10-11 + Revelation 20:10, 15 refer back to Isaiah 34:10 when they describe hell, thus making their references to “for ever and ever” unmistakably a description of eternity.

"]And then just in case we still didn’t get it, we have a further repetition in Isa 34:16-17 :

Notice here we get:

2 x ‘none’ : “not one missing… none without…” (the negative tense)

  • 2 x forever : “forever… from generation to generation” (the positive tense).

(16) "Seek and read from the book of the LORD: Not one of these shall be missing; none shall be without her mate. For the mouth of the LORD has commanded, and his Spirit has gathered them. (17) He has cast the lot for them; his hand has portioned it out to them with the line; they shall possess it forever; from generation to generation they shall dwell in it.

"]Thanks for clarifying the links between Isa & Rev. It was a genuine question, and I appreciate your genuine answer :slight_smile:

The link between Isaiah 34:11 is also very interesting Genesis 1:2, as it’s something my Dad has been talking about a lot recently and he even did a sermon on it last Sunday, where he also linked it into Rev.

I’ll have to pass your thoughts on the Hebrew to someone more knowledgeable then me but it’s certainly interesting.

What do you make of Isa 33:14b-15 (ESV)?

Q.“Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?”

A. "He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil,"Please could someone who knows Hebrew help me out with answering Joe’s points above?


Regarding the Hebrew here: olam does not repeat, it only appears one time (I’m reading in the BHS which is the standard critical edition). Dor la dor means “from generation to generation” so it is not a repetition indicating emphasis, it is just a phrase parallel to the English translation. The last one netsach netsachim is indeed an emphatic repetition which is basically the same as our idiom “for ever and ever.”

All of these words do mean “forever” and “always” but it really depends on how the author intends them. There is nothing in any language (whether that is Hebrew or Greek or English) that would make any word “absolutely emphatically clear” on their own. My daughter could say “I am never ever going to eat these noodles” and while her words would technically mean “forever” she really is just being dramatic. In the case of Isaiah, a pretty strong argument could be made that he means “always in this life” and is not thinking of eternity at all (since that is a concept that is pretty foreign to the Hebrew mindset). One can legitimately debate that of course, but it just isn’t true that one can clearly determine the meaning of any passage based on the words alone.


Thanks (I’m really glad you were able to stick around :slight_smile: ). I agree with what you have said. It’s a particular challenge in the OT, a culture and language foreign to us, add to that that this seems like an apocalyptic section! :confused: