Bible Question:

Is Isaiah 66:15-17 passage actually saying that believers or non-believers also will be destroyed by the Lord if they are eating swine's flesh or any unclean meats in Leviticus 11? And is this referring to the second coming at all?

Bible Answer:

Isaiah 58-66 is a prophecy that looks forward to the end times upon the earth. It covers from the tribulation period to Christ’s one thousand year kingdom. It does not include the eternal state which is described in Revelation 21-22. A brief outline of Isaiah 58-66 is as follows:

Isaiah 58:1-14: Type of man and woman God seeks.
Isaiah 59:1-19: Israel’s sins described and a call to repent.
Isaiah 59:20-61:11: Promise of the coming Redeemer and His kingdom.
Isaiah 61:12-63:6: The Redeemer’s first advent and future tribulation.
Isaiah 63:7-64:12: Prayer of repentance and plea for Israel’s restoration.
Isaiah 65:1-16: Sinful Israel punished but the kingdom is coming. 
Isaiah 65:17-66:24:
The tribulation and the future kingdom of Christ.

This brief outline gives us an outline of the future which ends with tribulation and millennial kingdom. It also reveals that God will punish unbelievers, especially those who hate Israel. Now the questions that we are concerned with are: “Does Isaiah 66:15-17 actually say that believers or non-believers also will be destroyed by the Lord if they are eating swine’s flesh or any of the unclean meats forbidden in Leviticus 11? If so, when does this occur?

High Place at Dan

Overview of Isaiah 66

Now that we understand the timing of the events in Isaiah 58-66, we will focus on Isaiah 66. In the first two verses of Isaiah 66, God declares that He has made everything: heaven and earth. It reminds us that our God is our powerful Creator. Then He indicates that those who are humble and contrite of heart receive His special attention.

To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word. Isaiah 66:2 (NASB)

Character of Unbelievers and Hatred For Israel

Then in Isaiah 66:3-4 God contrasts the character of unbelievers to believers. Verses 3-4 illustrate the heart and character of unbelievers. They are not sincere and ignore God. They live as they desire.

But he who kills an ox is like one who slays a man;
He who sacrifices a lamb is like the one who breaks a dog’s neck;
He who offers a grain offering is like one who offers swine’s blood;
He who burns incense is like the one who blesses an idol.
As they have chosen their own ways,
And their soul delights in their abominations,
So I will choose their punishments
And will bring on them what they dread.
Because I called, but no one answered;
I spoke, but they did not listen.
And they did evil in My sight
And chose that in which I did not delight.
Isaiah 66:3-4 (NASB)

This is a description of sinful, self-centered people whose worship is ritual. Their hearts are far from God. They go through the form of worship, but they are not sincere. Therefore, their sacrifices and grain offerings are as if they had murdered people. They did not choose what delighted in.

Unbelievers Will Be Punished

Verses 5-6 describe the attitude of unbelievers toward the believing remnant of Israel. The unbelievers hate the believing remnant of Israel and, therefore, God declares He will punish those who hate Israel. In verses 7-9 God promised Israel that He would make Israel a nation again and it would happen quickly. Israel will be restored inspite of the unbelievers.

Tribulation and Millennial Kingdom

Verses 10-17 begins by describing the future millennial kingdom. Then in verses 15-17 God tells us that He will establish this future millennial kingdom by destroying the unbelievers. He says, “For behold . . .” and then describes the result of the Tribulation that is described in numerous scriptural passages (Ezekiel 38:1-16; Daniel 9:27; 11:40-44; Joel 3:1-16; Zechariah 12:1-14; 14:1-7; Matthew 24:29; Revelation 6:1-19:21). Verses 15-17 is a break in the description of the millennial kingdom. It is a a parenthesis.

For behold, the LORD will come in fire
And His chariots like the whirlwind,
To render His anger with fury,
And His rebuke with flames of fire.
16 For the LORD will execute judgment by fire
And by His sword on all flesh,
And those slain by the LORD will be many.
Isaiah 66:15-16 (NASB)

Notice that verses 15-16 refer to the Lord rendering anger with fury and executing judgment by fire and people being slain. Therefore, this cannot refer to the millennial kingdom because the kingdom will be a time of peace. This refers to the slaughter of unbelievers that will occur at Christ’s Second Coming.

Finally, verses 18-24 describe the millennial kingdom.  Notice verse 20 refers to “My holy mountain.” This expression refers to Jerusalem during the millennial kingdom (Psalm 2:6; Joel 2:1; 3:17). Verse 22 reveals that the new heavens and new earth is yet future.

Meaning of Isaiah 66:15-17

Now we understand 66:15-17 is a brief description of the tribulation and the deception of unbelievers.

“For behold, the LORD will come in fire
And His chariots like the whirlwind,
To render His anger with fury,
And His rebuke with flames of fire.
For the LORD will execute judgment by fire
And by His sword on all flesh,
And those slain by the LORD will be many.
Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go to the gardens,
Following one in the center,
Who eat swine’s flesh, detestable things and mice,
Will come to an end altogether,” declares the LORD.
Isaiah 66:15-17 (NASB)

Therefore, this means that verse 17 describes events that will occur in the tribulation period. The verse teaches us that God will be justified in destroying unbelievers because they worship idols or pagan gods. Notice that Isaiah 1:28-29 and 65:2-4 help us understand verse 17 refers to false worshippers or to those who worship false gods or idols. They are sinners who offer sacrifices in gardens that they have chosen.

But transgressors and sinners will be crushed together,
And those who forsake the LORD will come to an end.
Surely you will be ashamed of the oaks which you have desired,
And you will be embarrassed at the gardens which you have chosen.
Isaiah 1:28-29 (NASB)

Isaiah 65:2-4 adds that they sacrifice in gardens and burn incense and then eat the pig meat that they sacrificed. They did not offer sacrifices in the temple and they violate the Mosaic Law.

I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people,
Who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts,
A people who continually provoke Me to My face,
Offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on bricks;
Who sit among graves and spend the night in secret places;
Who eat swine’s flesh,
And the broth of unclean meat is in their pots.
Isaiah 65:2-4 (NASB)

It is important to understand that during the tribulation Israel will reestablish the priesthood, sacrifices and the entire Mosaic system. For example, both Daniel 9:27 and Jesus in Matthew 24:15 state that during the tribulation the sacrificial system will be operating (see 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8). That is, Israel will restore the Mosaic system. Another example can be found in Daniel 9:27.

And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate. Daniel 9:27 (NASB)

Daniel 9:27 is a one verse summary of the tribulation. Notice that it says the animal sacrifices and grain offerings will be stopped in the middle of the tribulation or after 3.5 years. Therefore, we should understand that Isaiah 66:17 is especially serious since they also violated the Mosaic Law that will be reestablished during the tribulation period.

We should understand the reference to eating pigs and mice not only reveals pagan worship is being described but, in addition, they will violate the Mosaic dietary law.

That is, the unbelievers will pretend to be godly. Yet, the fact that they all ignore the Mosaic law reveals they are deceivers. In summary, Isaiah 66:15-17 refers to unbelievers who violate the Mosaic dietary laws.

Conclusion:

Isaiah 66:15-17 is a reminder that God looks at a person’s heart and the actions of a person reveal the heart. Throughout Scripture God calls us to be holy or as Isaiah 66:2 states He looks for those who are humble and have a contrite heart. But since we so easily deceive ourselves (Jeremiah 17:9), God describes our sinful behavior in order to help us understand our sinfulness. Do you have a contrite spirit and are you humble?

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