Here are the final words of Isaiah's prophecy. Nothing earth shattering. Nothing newly profound. Simply a clear, final declaration of that which he has faithfully preached over and over and over. The righteous shall prosper. The wicked shall perish. There are blessings for those who repent and flee to Christ. There are curses for the hard-hearted rebels who scoff at His great mercy. Several final things jump out at me.
1) "For I know their works and their thoughts, the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory." God knows which of the two we are - righteous or wicked. He knows our works and our thoughts. Nothing can be hidden from Him. We won't pull the wool over His eyes. He will gather us all to His judgment seat and either Christ will be our advocate or our prosecutor. Which role will Christ assume on my/your behalf?
2) "And I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations." There is a redeemed remnant among these people. There are those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life and it is these who have been set apart as survivors of the fall's curse. Is the sign of survivor written on the doorpost of our lives?3) "For just as the new heavens and the new earth which I make will endure before Me, so your offspring will endure." The everlasting covenant continues. God has given promises to the children of His people. Are we being faithful with the responsibilities that accompany the promise?
4) "All mankind will come to bow down before Me." No created being shall escape the worship of God. Either we will bow the knee now with thankful hearts or we will bow the knee then undone hearts! Which will it be?
5) "Then they shall go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched; and they shall be an abhorence to all mankind." Just as their are gracious blessings given to the repentant so their are just curses given to the unrepentant. The wages of sin is death - and it is an eternal death. The wicked shall be always dying but never dead. Let that sink in. That is what you and I deserve because of our sin and yet through Christ, God has provided a way of escape. Where will I spend eternity? Where will you spend eternity?
God speaks of the eternal nature of hell in this passage. I have crossed paths with many in recent years who hold to a theory of anihilation where hell is concerned. Many simply can't fathom that God would allow anyone to suffer forever. They don't like to think of a God like that. Oh friends, we must think of a God like that for that is what He says about Himself. God is Holy, Holy, Holy. He is the Righteous Judge. Sin is serious - there is nothing trite about it and the fact that God speaks of its consequences as being an undying worm and an unquenchable fire simply illustrates the issue.
Several years ago, I ran across a striking word picture of the eternal nature of hell. It comes from Thomas Watson's great work "A Body of Divinity." He writes:
"Oh eternity! eternity! who can fathom it? Mariners have their plummets to measure the depths of the sea; but what line or plummet shall we use to fathom the depth of eternity? The breath of the Lord kindles the infernal lake (Is 30:33), and where shall we have engines or buckets to quench that fire?
"Oh eternity! If all the body of the earth and sea were turned to sand, and all the air up to the starry heaven were nothing but sand, and a little bird should come every thosand years, and fetch away in her bill but the tenth part of a grain of all that heap of sand, what numberless years would be spent before that vast heap of sand would be fetched away!
"Yet, if at the end of all that time, the sinner might come out of hell, there would be some hope; but that word 'ever' breaks the heart. The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever. What a terror is this to the wicked, enough to put them into a cold sweat, to think, as long as God is eternal, He lives for ever to be avenged upon them!"
Not the cheeriest of notes to end Isaiah on but this is the tone which God has been pleased to close this Romans of the Old Testament with. Isaiah has been full of Christ, full of hope, full of hard truth. It ends with a portrait of the antithesis between the righteous and the wicked and the wages that each will eternally bear. Beloved, flee to Christ the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 that you might mercifully drink of the eternal water of life rather than justly groan from the unquenchable fire of eternal death. He has made a way for sinners. Come to Jesus.