Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Top Bible Prophecy #6 - Isaiah 53

Isaiah 52:15-17 Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted. 14 Just as many were astonished at you, My peopleSo His appearance was marred more than any man And His form more than the sons of men. 15 Thus He will sprinkle many nations, Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; For what had not been told them they will see, And what they had not heard they will understand.

Introduction to Top Bible Prophecy  - Isaiah 53
We once again will be looking at another passage that we are deeming: "Top Bible Prophecy".  Isaiah 53 is our sixth Top Bible Prophecy in this series in which we have been studying.  The other five Top prophecies have been: Psalm 110, 2 Samuel 7:8-16, Deuteronomy 30, Genesis 12 and Genesis 3:15.  As I have written in times past, the plan is to expose the reader to major passages that contain prophecies that span the entirety of scripture, history and eternity and of which bring Jesus Christ into sharper focus.  I would encourage the reader to look up the key word "Top Bible Prophecy" in the search engine of this blogsite to see what we have covered in past blogs on Top Bible Prophecies. 

The Book of Isaiah - A Telescopic look at Jesus Christ
Whenever you turn to the prophet Isaiah, you are struck by the numerous references made to the Person and Ministry of the Messiah.  Often Isaiah has been termed the greatest of the writing prophets due to his style of writing, His subject matter (predictive prophecy of major events in both the 1st and 2nd comings of the Messiah) and by virtue of the fact that other contemporary prophets and those thereafter drew from him.  Just as a telescope is designed to take a distant object and bring it into view as it really is, Isaiah by Divine inspiration and prophetic foresight is able to bring to the reader the Person, work and ministry of Jesus the Messiah. 

A few quick examples will confirm the above statement: Predictions concerning Christ's birth (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7); His earthly ministry (Isaiah 42, 49); His substitutionary death (Isaiah 52-53); the essential message concerning His current activity as Prophet, Priest and King and His future return and Millennial Reign. (Isaiah 11, 60-66)  In this blogpost today, I want us to zero in on one of those incredible chapters: Isaiah 53, to just see how it functions as another Top Bible Prophecy. 

The Predicted Servant of Isaiah
As we use the telescope of Isaiah's prophecies, we switch lenses to get a closer look at Whom is being predicted.  A series of four songs - called servant songs - occupy the latter half of Isaiah.  The theme of all these songs is of course the figure in question: "The Servant".  As will be briefly shown below. each Servant Song serves to reveal something particular about the Person and Work of Jesus Christ - 700 years from their composition!

1. Servant Song #1  Isaiah 42:1-25  The Servant of the Lord will bring about Justice to the nations. 

2. Servant Song #2 Isaiah 49:1-13 The Servant of the Lord will be born to be a light to Israel and the nations

3. Servant Song #3 Isaiah 50:1-11 The Servant of the Lord will experience rejection by those to Whom He is sent

4. Servant Song #4 Isaiah 52:12-53:12 The Servant of the Lord will experience suffering and be killed by manner of piercing through, only to live again to see the fruit of His work.

These summaries are admittedly very brief outlines, however the four servant songs look remarkably similar in their themes to the four Gospels.  Of the four servant songs, the final servant song is considered the greatest, since it gives the most prophetic detail.  In switching lenses one more time on our prophetic telescope, Isaiah by inspiration of the Holy Ghost gives us a very detailed prediction of the sufferings and triumphs of Jesus the Messiah in Isaiah 52:13-53:12.

Isaiah 53 - Predicting the Actor, Arrival, Act and Accomplishment of Salvation.
1. The Actor of Salvation Predicted - Isaiah 52:13-15
As a preface to this fourth song, Isaiah sees the predicted Actor of Salvation as He will be in His Second Coming.  As much as Isaiah 53 is about the Messiah in His First Coming, we are reminded of a fundamental truth in all Bible Prophecy - that God sees things as they are already completed.  Arno C. Gaebelien, that great prophecy teacher of the early 20th century, termed Bible Prophecy as "pre-history", meaning that God is giving the history of an event that in His mind is a done deal, however the event has not yet occurred.  Isaiah 52:13-14 states how the King will be crowned and reigning in the future.  Isaiah 52:15 describes the means by which He will have to undergo before the crown - namely the "sprinkling", a phrase used often in the New Testament to refer to His substitutionary death on the cross. (Hebrews 9:13 11:28; 12:24; 1 Peter 1:2).  Isaiah is switching topics, reminding us that the cross had to occur first in history before the crown.

2. The Arrival of the Savior Predicted. Isaiah 53:1-3
Just as we see in Matthew and Luke, the Messiah arrives in history by way of birth.  Other passages in Isaiah reveal that this birth will be a virgin birth. (Isaiah 7:14).  The predicted servant of the Lord here in Isaiah 52-53 not only possesses an Eternal Divine nature (52:13-14) but will acquire a very human, albeit sinless nature (53:1-12).  As a man he will grow up tender in childhood, just as Luke 2:52 summarizes: "And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."  This section of the Top Bible Prophecy includes information of the nature of His earthly ministry - a ministry wherein he would experience rejection by his nation and isolation. (compare 1 Peter 2:21-24) 

3. The Act of Salvation Predicted.  Isaiah 53:4-10a
It is in this part of Isaiah 53 that we see the heart and main point of the Prophecy.  The Rabbis (teachers of Israel) by Jesus day had a difficult time harmonizing the information here in Isaiah with other prophetic texts that predicted a conquering Messiah.  In fact, the Rabbinic writings looked for two Messiahs: a Messiah ben David (a conquering Messiah) and a Messiah ben Joseph (a suffering one).  The Rabbis thought that maybe the first one would appear to overthrow empires like Rome, with the other Messiah appearing at another time.  However Isaiah 53 stared them squarely in the face. 

Adam Clarke, the able Bible commentator writes a wonderful summary of the predictive purpose of Isaiah 53 in his commentary, which I have included in the end notes at the end of this post. 1

Isaiah 53:4-10a is remarkable in that it predicts a form of suffering of the Messiah that would not be invented for over 300 years!  Isaiah writing in 700 b.c, predicted that the Messiah would be "pierced", a brutality devised first by the Persians and perfected by the Romans by the days of Jesus.  Acts 8:34-35 records a conversation wherein the questioner, having read Isaiah 53, gets the following response and interpretation: "The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him."  According to H.L Wilmington, Isaiah 53:7 is quoted 10 times in the New Testament.2  In my own studies of Isaiah 53 in the New Testament, I found over 40 occasions where various phrases are alluded to, revealing how much this Top Bible Prophecy shaped the New Testament understanding of the life and mission of Jesus Christ.3 

4. The Accomplishment of Salvation Predicted.  Isaiah 53:10b-12
Having looked at the predicted Actor, Arrival and Act of salvation predicted in Isaiah 53, we finally see the Accomplishment in Isaiah 53:10b-12.4 The Servant of the Lord predicted here will have the ability after His horrific death to "see His offspring" (53:10b); "justify the many" (53:11) and view His death as a past event. (53:12) 

Only an alive person can do that.  More specifically, only a resurrected Jesus can do those things!  Only a resurrected Jesus is able to see and ministry to his brothers and sisters according to the flesh. (Hebrews 2:14-15; 4:15; 7:24-25)  Only a resurrected Jesus Christ can be the basis for God's legal declaration of a sinner having Christ's righteousness credited to him at saving faith. (Romans 4:45-5:1)  Only a resurrected Jesus could view His death as a past event! (Revelation 1:18)


1. Adam Clarke's Commentary.  Volume IV.  Abington Press. Page 203.
"That this chapter speaks of none but Jesus must be evident to every unprejudiced reader who has ever heard the history of his sufferings and death. The Jews have endeavored to apply it to their sufferings in captivity; but, alas for their cause! they can make nothing out in this way. Allowing that it belongs to our blessed Lord, (and the best men and the best scholars agree in this), then who can read Isa 53:4, Isa 53:5, Isa 53:6, Isa 53:8, Isa 53:10, without being convinced that his death was a vicarious sacrifice for the sins of mankind?"

2. H.L Wilmington.  The Complete Book of Bible Lists.  Tyndale Publishers.  Page 37

3. The scripture index of the Nestle-Aland 27th Edition Greek New Testament lists every Old Testament Book alluded to or quoted in every New Testament Book.  This is where I looked to see how many authors actually utilized Isaiah 53.  It is a fascinating study in its own right.

4. The entire text of Isaiah 53:10b-12 reads - "He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. 11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors." 

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