Tuesday, September 21, 2010

OT Gospel Doctrine lesson 36 - The Glory of Zion will be a Defense- Isaiah 1-6

OT Gospel Doctrine lesson 36 - The Glory of Zion will be a Defense
Isaiah 1-6

Of all the writings in the Old Testament we’ve covered so far, these 6 chapters are perhaps packed with more doctrine and insight than most. As we cover Isaiah over the next few weeks, we’ll see just why Nephi and Christ considered Isaiah as such a great prophet.

Isaiah Foresees the Birth of Christ

The name Isaiah means “Yahweh/Jehovah is Salvation.” Isaiah was born in Judah’s royal family. He was given a special mission to prophesy to both Judah and Israel. As a prophet, his ministry probably began at the end of King Uzziah’s reign (around 740 BC) when he was about 20 years old. He lived through Hezekiah’s reign as king, and probably knew Manasseh (who may have been co-regent with his father). Isaiah’s prophetic mission lasted about 44 years. Tradition has it that the wicked King Manasseh sought after Isaiah, who hid in the trunk of a tree. Still, Isaiah is found, and by the king. Manasseh ordered the tree, and therefore, Isaiah, sawed in half. He would have died around 680 BC.

Repent or be Destroyed
Isaiah 1

A common theme in Isaiah is how open and acceptable sin has become, and that the only recourse to stay destruction is repentance. The prophet explained that oxen recognize their masters, but Judah did not recognize God. They were sick with putrid sores and malignancies, yet refused to recognize they were in need of a doctor.

“5 Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
6 From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.”

Judah and Israel had become impure, spiritual lepers. They were unclean, and refused to be cleansed of their sickness. For decades, their enemies had chipped away at their lands. Assyria would soon carry off Israel, and by the time of Hezekiah would leave the land of Judah barely larger than the city of Jerusalem. Yet, for most of Isaiah’s ministry, they would reject God and pretend they were healthy and happy. The only thing that differentiated them from Sodom and Gomorrah is that the Lord would save a remnant of Judah and Israel (vs 9).

And so the Lord calls the lands of Israel and Judah, Sodom and Gomorrah, and insisted that the rulers were no better than the rulers of those long-ago destroyed cities on the plain. God is tired of burnt offerings that mean nothing. The people provide lip service to God, going to the festivals and offering up animals for the burnt sacrifices. Yet, they would then return to their homes and worship Baal and other gods, rely upon the arm of flesh for their protection and deliverance, and ignore the commandments of God. Instead, the Lord gives them the key to proper worship under the Mosaic Law:

“16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

The washing referred to the basin of the temple, where the priests and people would wash themselves in a ritual bath to cleanse themselves prior to offering sacrifice in the temple. Here, God is calling on them to spiritually make themselves clean, not just bathe the body.

Isaiah instructs them to focus on the important things: doing good to others, especially the downtrodden. One of his major complaints will be the rulers are involved in trampling the poor and the widows. The terms “scarlet” and “crimson” are reminiscent of the sacrificial blood spilt upon the altar of the temple. Here, Isaiah is showing Judah that they will become spiritually pure through repentance, and not just outwardly seem clean because they sacrificed a lamb.
“21 How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.
22 Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water:
23 Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.”

Isaiah compares Jerusalem to a harlot. In a previous lesson, Hosea’s prostitute wife was compared to the people. They were called to repent and return. Yet, Isaiah sees that they have left behind their true love for filthy lucre. Jerusalem was an attachment to the temple, and righteousness (or God’s holiness) dwelt there in the temple. Yet now murderers lodged within the city and its temple. Christ himself would condemn those who corrupted Jerusalem and its holy center, the temple, by stating they had turned his Father’s house into a “den of thieves.”

So corrupt were the people that one could not trust the purity of their silver or the quality of the wine. Everyone sought to get gain, including those who should have watched out for the orphans and widows: the princes and elders of the people. Isaiah saw nothing but destruction for them.

Isaiah 2

“1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
5 O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

Latter-day Saints view this as a prophesy that is now being fulfilled. The mountain of the Lord’s house, the temple, was literally established in the top of the Rocky Mountains of Utah. People from many nations have moved there in order to receive the blessings of the modern temples, and where the God of Jacob can teach them through living prophets and apostles.

Yet this will also be fulfilled by the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple in the last days. Both of these events are in anticipation of the Millennium, a time when the Lord will judge all nations, and when there will no longer be wars or rumors of wars.

But before that day, the Lord condemns Jacob for their apostasy. They have adopted the ways of the world: seeking soothsayers instead of prophets, collecting treasure and wealth beyond measure without caring for the poor and needy, “Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made” (vs 8). Even today, we see how faith and materialism do not easily go hand in hand. In a world of excess, many are willing to allow others to suffer, or to give them crumbs in an effort to appease their guilt. Governments often dribble funds to the poor, while handing great wealth over to the rich. When corrupt banks too big to fail are bailed out with taxpayer money, while the poor watch their homes being foreclosed upon, we can easily see how Isaiah’s warning applies today during the current Great Recession.

Isaiah then shares a chiasmus, or inverted prose, to explain what will occur to the wicked on the day of the Lord’s Coming:

(a) 10 Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty.
(b) 11 The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.
(c) 12 For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low:
(c’) 13 And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan,
(d) 14 And upon all the high mountains, (d’) and upon all the hills that are lifted up,
(e) 15 And upon every high tower, and (e’) upon every fenced wall,
(f) 16 And upon all the ships of Tarshish, (f’) and upon all pleasant pictures.
(b’) 17 And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.
18 And the idols he shall utterly abolish.
(a’) 19 And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.
20 In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats;
21 To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.

Alma also explained that when the wicked stand before the Lord, they will wish the rocks could fall upon them, so they would not have to stand in his presence (Alma 12), and Mormon explained:

“1 And now, I speak also concerning those who do not believe in Christ.
2 Behold, will ye believe in the day of your visitation—behold, when the Lord shall come, yea, even that great day when the earth shall be rolled together as a scroll, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, yea, in that great day when ye shall be brought to stand before the Lamb of God—then will ye say that there is no God?
3 Then will ye longer deny the Christ, or can ye behold the Lamb of God? Do ye suppose that ye shall dwell with him under a consciousness of your guilt? Do ye suppose that ye could be happy to dwell with that holy Being, when your souls are racked with a consciousness of guilt that ye have ever abused his laws?
4 Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell.
5 For behold, when ye shall be brought to see your nakedness before God, and also the glory of God, and the holiness of Jesus Christ, it will kindle a flame of unquenchable fire upon you” (Mormon 9:1-5).

No one will deny that Jesus is the Christ on the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord. Alma the elder explained:
“Yea, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him. Yea, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is God; then shall they confess, who live without God in the world, that the judgment of an everlasting punishment is just upon them; and they shall quake, and tremble, and shrink beneath the glance of his all-searching eye” (Mosiah 27:31).

Daughters of Zion in Ruins
Isaiah 3

“1 For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water“

Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6) and the Living Waters (John 4). Without God, Judah is both physically and spiritually starving and thirsting to death. They have gone without true nourishment for such a long time that they are starving and do not realize it. And when the final destructions come, suddenly no one among the wicked wishes to take responsibility for the desolation that remained:

“4 And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.
5 And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable.
6 When a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father, saying, Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler, and let this ruin be under thy hand:
7 In that day shall he swear, saying, I will not be an healer; for in my house is neither bread nor clothing: make me not a ruler of the people.
8 For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory.”

Amazingly, in good times, all wicked people wish to rule. They impose themselves upon their families, neighborhoods, cities and nations. As long as they can get gain and get away with their ill gotten gains, the wicked wish to oppress. Only when absolute destruction occurs do the wicked refuse to lead. As before, they seek to hide out in the caves and under rocks, rather than take responsibility for the ruin. When governments and people use coercion and bribery to get gain, and then kick the financial can down the road for future generations to deal with, eventually it catches up to everyone. And while the wicked may not wish to be accused of the destruction, they will find that when you pick up one end of the stick, you pick up both ends. They will still have to stand before God in that day of ruination and confess before Him.

“14 The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
15 What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord God of hosts.”

The Lord will first judge the rulers. The ancients (elders) of the people and the powerful will be judged. They have caused the desolation by squandering the good of the land. They have taken from the poor and given it to themselves, thinking they do a good work by parsing out a little bread to the poor on occasion. Yet, in truth, they trample on the poor.

In Isaiah 5, the prophet adds this condemnation to Judah’s sister, Israel:
“8 Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!“

Previously, we read where Israel’s King Ahab had desired a piece of land next to his palace in Jezreel, belonging to the man Naboth. Since Naboth would not sell his inheritance, Jezebel killed him and told her husband to seize the land for a garden. Isaiah seems to suggest that such wicked activities were becoming more and more common, as the wealthy sought greater power and wealth by owning large parcels of land.

“16 Moreover the Lord saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:
17 Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts.”

Isaiah compared the daughters of Zion (not the daughters of the heathens) to the type of women who went around dressed in fine attire and looked down upon the little people. Often, women dressed like this were harlots. Others were the high fashioned wealthy women, who sought to stand apart from the common and poor people. We could say that while not all women are harlots, those who dress as Isaiah describes, are acting as harlots. The Book of Mormon notes frequently that one of the first signs of apostasy is the wearing of costly clothing. In fact, Nephi contributes their dress as a key reason why they persecuted others: “They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up” (2 Nephi 28:13).

Rich and costly clothing represents pride. In the case of Jerusalem and the daughters of Zion, they are flirting with other gods, other material things, and worshiping at another altar. While they look spectacular on the outside with their tinkling ornaments, headbands, earrings, vails and multiple changes of clothing, they are putrid and rotting on the inside. In Hebrew belief, the feet represent the lowest part of the body, and therefore is considered the basest body part. Here, the daughters of Zion are making their feet tinkle and glitter so as to not seem debased. Yet while they are prettying up their feet, the Lord puts leprous scabs on their heads.

“24 And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.
25 Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war.
26 And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground.”

The Lord will replace their pride and outer appearance for what is truly inside. They shall spiritually stink. Instead of true beauty that comes from within, there shall be burnt flesh. She will be desolate and have nothing left. The ground involved the dust, which was below one’s feet. It was filled with fleas and filth. Only one who had nothing, the truly humbled, would sit directly upon the ground.

The Millennial Day
Isaiah 4

“1 And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach. “

While some suggest this means polygamy will one day be restored, it really is a metaphor. The daughters of Zion have been left desolate and sitting on the ground alone. Zion will do anything it possibly can in order to redeem itself. In ancient days, it was better for a woman to be married than single. Even if only marrying for the name alone, a woman would be better off and viewed by others as acceptable.

So with Israel and all people today. If they wish to have their reproach taken from them, they must take hold of one man, even Jesus Christ, and take upon them his name. Today we do this through developing faith in Christ, repenting of our sins, receiving the ordinance of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, and then receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost as an internal sign that we are Christ’s people.

Israel’s Demise
Isaiah 5

In chapter 5, Isaiah focuses on the northern nation of Israel. He begins with an allegory of the tame and wild grape vines. This compares well with Zenos’ Allegory of the Tame and Wild Olive Trees that Jacob expounded upon (Jacob 5). Here we see that the Lord has created a vineyard with the hopes of a good harvest. However, instead of providing rich and luscious grapes, the vines brought forth shriveled wild grapes. In both allegories, the Lord sadly asks, “What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? (Is 5:4)”

All that God can do is gather in the few good fruit, and destroy the rest. God will take away the hedge and wall, which protect the vineyard from intruders and weeds from the outside. He will allow the place to become desolate. Crops will not grow. They will have their feasts, but because they do them in order to become drunk, rather than worship God, they are ruined.

“13 Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.“

Isaiah describes their sins in a poetic way:
“18 Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope....
20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!
22 Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink:
23 Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!”

They drag their sins along with them as a thing of vanity. Just as wicked people today think it cool to display their evil methods on television shows, Facebook or Twitter, the people of Israel displayed their evils in public. Today as then, many call “evil good and good evil” in order to justify their lifestyles.In his epic book, “1984”, George Orwell called it “Newspeak.” Today we can see politicians and regular people all using special terminology to make their ideas and lifestyles seem not only acceptable, but laudable. People do not commit fornication or adultery today, instead they live together. It is okay to cheat, steal or plunder as long as it helps you to get ahead.

In explaining Isaiah’s condemnations of Israel, Nephi commented: “And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God” (2 Nephi 28:8).

But in the last days there would be a trumpet sound to call people back to the true God:
“26 And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly:
27 None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken:
28 Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind:
29 Their roaring shall be like a lion, they shall roar like young lions: yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey, and shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it.
30 And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea: and if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof.”

The ensign is the latter day Restored Gospel and its standards of righteousness. Its message will “hiss” or move throughout the earth, and the humble and elect shall hear the call and gather to Zion. They shall travel eagerly, almost as if without ever sleeping, in order to arrive. Verse 28 seems to describe modern transportation, as cars and trains both seem to have hoofs of “flint, and wheels like the whirlwind.” This standard will shine in a world of darkness and sorrow, inviting all to repent and come unto God.

Isaiah and the Divine Council
Isaiah 6

Isaiah’s lips are cleansed

“1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.”

Isaiah had a theophany, or a vision of God on his throne. This is a common event among the ancient prophets, as discussed in previous lessons. In his theophany, Isaiah sees God and his divine council of seraphim, high ordered angels. It is possible these were the archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Metatron and others. While Isaiah describes their wings, the term for wing can also mean “covering” or “veil.” So here we have angels covered in veils, which represented their power and authority.

Why would the seraph state that the “whole world is full with his (the Lord’s) glory, when Isaiah could see that his world was on the verge of destruction for its evils? Because Isaiah is viewing himself as part of the premortal divine council. The seraph has seen the world, which was just created, is holy and beautiful, indeed.
“5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.
6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.”

Isaiah realized that he dwelt among a sinful people. The fact that he stood in the holiest place in the universe caused him to realize he was not worthy to stand on such holy ground, or to see God, the Lord of the hosts, or armies/councils of heaven. It is possible that the seraph that brought the coal from the altar, taking away Isaiah’s sins, was Jesus Christ. Anciently, Jehovah was known as the chief son of God Almighty (El Elyon/Elohim) and was given Israel as his kingdom. It is Christ’s responsibility as Savior and Mediator to purge mankind of their sins. It is Christ who has the power to take away iniquity, because of his great sacrifice upon the heavenly altar.

“8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.”

This event directly ties into the story of the premortal council found in Abraham 3:

“22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
24 And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
25 And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
26 And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.
27 And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first.
28 And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him.”

In both Isaiah and Abraham’s accounts, God Almighty oversaw the development of the world by the divine council. In both, God must decide who to send as his authorized representative. In Abraham’s story, Christ was chosen to be the Savior of the world. In Isaiah’s version, he was called to be a Christ-like being to go among the people and call them to repentance and faith in God.

Today, the key purpose of the LDS temples is to prepare mankind to enter into the presence of God, to have their own theophany. Temple ordinances prepare people and are a sign of them becoming holy, even as Isaiah was made holy in God’s heavenly temple. The temple endowment’s main purpose is to prepare us to enter into God’s kingdom and be in his presence. It is a practice of the actual upcoming event in each of our lives. In fact, it has been the goal of prophets since early on. Moses sought to take the children of Israel upon Mt Sinai in order to see God (D&C 84:19-26). Paul explained that Abraham continually sought after the heavenly city, so he could also see God’s face once more (Hebrews 11:8-16). This should be the standard for every Christian: to seek the face of God, even while dwelling in a strange land.

Ascension of Isaiah

The ancient text, “Ascension of Isaiah” has two key parts to it. The first part (chapters 1-5) discusses his martyrdom at the hands of Manasseh (as discussed above). The second part (chapters 6-11) includes a remarkable vision of the heavens. Most scholars believe it was originally a Jewish work, but was updated later by Christians.

In studying Isaiah’s ascension into heaven (chapters 6-11), I’ve noted some key parallels to the theophany that Lehi received in 1 Nephi 1 and in the Vision of the Tree of Life that Lehi and Nephi both received (1 Ne 8-11). It also has direct ties to LDS temple themes, such as ascending through the heavens to the throne of God, being clothed in a garment of holiness, and the importance of tokens or passwords to enter the heavens.

Isaiah is in the presence of King Hezekiah and other righteous men, when he has a vision. An angel from the seventh heaven comes to him. Ancient Jews believed there were anywhere from three to forty levels of heaven, with ten being very common. Many Christians claim that the early Jews and Christians were only focusing on heavenly bodies (planets, constellations, etc) however we will see from Isaiah that they are literally levels of heaven.

Isaiah asked the angel who he was, as he had never seen such a glorious being before. “And he said unto me: "When I have raised thee on high [through the (various) degrees] and made thee see the vision, on account of which I have been sent, then thou wilt understand who I am: but my name thou dost not know” (ch 7:4).

An angelic being’s name was often secret, because the name held the powers of the being. Here we see that the angel was to take Isaiah up through the various levels or degrees of heaven. The angel first showed him the earth, where he saw Sammael (Satan) and his beings causing war upon the earth. Then they ascended up to the first heaven (vs 13), showing that earth was not considered a part of the heavens. While in the first, or lowest heaven, Isaiah tells us:

“14 And there I saw a throne in the midst, and on his right and on his left were angels.
15. And (the angels on the left were) not like unto the angels who stood on the right, but those who stood on the right had the greater glory, and they all praised with one voice, and there was a throne in the midst, and those who were out he left gave praise after them; but their voice was not such as the voice of those on the right, nor their praise like the praise of those.
16. And I asked the angel who conducted me, and I said unto him: "To whom is this praise sent?"
17. And he said unto me: "(it is sent) to the praise of (Him who sitteth in) the seventh heaven: to Him who rests in the holy world, and to His Beloved, whence I have been sent to thee. [Thither is it sent.]."

Even in the lowest heaven there is a throne for its ruler. Yet those who praise extend their grattitude to God in the seventh heaven. Yet, even in this heaven, there is a division between those who barely squeaked into the heaven and those with greater glory.

The angel that conducts Isaiah is a very common theme in theophanies. Lehi and Nephi have angels (or the Holy Spirit) guide them in their Vision of the Tree of Life, which includes a theophany. John the Revelator had angelic guidance through his great Apocalypse. And in the Apocalypse of Paul, the Holy Spirit as a small child, guided him through the ten levels of heaven. Having a guide clearly is an important thing in such a theophany, as we also learn from modern temples.

“27. And I wished to learn how it is know, and he answered me saying: "When I have raised thee to the seventh heaven whence I was sent, to that which is above these, then thou shalt know that there is nothing hidden from the thrones and from those who dwell in the heavens and from the angels. And the praise wherewith they praised and glory of him who sat on the throne was great, and the glory of the angels on the right hand and on the left was beyond that of the heaven which was below them.”

As Isaiah and his guide ascend through the layers of heaven, he sees that the glory of the people is greater. In most of the lower levels, they are divided on the right and left hands of the one sitting in the throne for that level of heaven. However, we find in chapter 8, upon arriving to the sixth level, he sees they are now of the same glory and righteousness, and are guided by the throne in the seventh heaven.

Isaiah sees that the angels are but fellow servants of his. As he rises through the heavens, he is given power and glory to be equal with them, and is able to give praise and glory as they can.

In chapter 9, Isaiah ascends in the air of the seventh heaven, where his garment awaits him. The garment is a special white clothing that symbolizes the person’s purity, glory and power.

“1 AND he took me into the air of the seventh heaven, and moreover I heard a voice saying: "How far will he ascend that dwelleth in the flesh?" And I feared and trembled.
2. And when I trembled, behold, I heard from hence another voice being sent forth, and saying: "It is permitted to the holy Isaiah to ascend hither; for here is his garment."
3. And I asked the angel who was with me and said: "Who is he who forbade me and who is he who permitted me to ascend?"
4. And he said unto me: "He who forbade thee, is he who is over the praise-giving of the sixth heaven.
5. And He who permitted thee, this is thy Lord God, the Lord Christ, who will be called "Jesus" in the world, but His name thou canst not hear till thou hast ascended out of thy body."
6. And he raised me up into the seventh heaven, and I saw there a wonderful light and angels innumerable.”

Isaiah learns that the person on the throne of a heaven is a sentinel (see the Apocalypse of Paul), who guards the way to the higher levels of heaven. Only those permitted can bypass the sentinel and ascend further. On the seventh heaven, Isaiah sees Abel, Enoch and many others of the righteous.

“9. And there I saw Enoch and all who were with him, stript of the garments of the flesh, and I saw them in their garments of the upper world, and they were like angels, standing there in great glory.
10. But they sat not on their thrones, nor were their crowns of glory on them.
11. And I asked the angel who was with me: "How is it that they have received the garments, but have not the thrones and the crowns?"
12. And he said unto me: "Crowns and thrones of glory they do not receive, till the Beloved will descent in the form in which you will see Him descent [will descent, I say] into the world in the last days the Lord, who will be called Christ.”

The holy prophets and righteous people have been stripped of their mortal flesh and clothed in holy garments. They have yet to obtain their thrones and crowns, as Christ has yet to fulfill his mission. As John the Revelator would note, Christ will make us “kings and priests unto God and his Father” (Revelation 1:5-6). The angel explained the earthly mission of Christ to defeat Satan, and when Christ returned to the heavens, they would receive their thrones.

Isaiah wished to know where this information was kept, and was shown a book. This is similar to the book that Lehi received and read (1 Ne 1). Upon reading the book, both Lehi and Isaiah speak marvelous things and praise God for the prophesy within the book.

Isaiah then sees both God the Father, Christ, and the Holy Ghost. And with the righteous, praise them both. Isaiah was then given the opportunity to see Christ descend to the earth for his mortal ministry. He descended through each of the levels of heaven. As he arrived in a level of heaven, he emptied himself of glory, so that the angels on that level could stand in his presence. Because he did not show forth his glory, he seemed like another angel to them, and so did not praise or worship him.
“27. And again I saw when He descended into the first heaven, and there also He gave the password to those who kept the gate, and He made Himself like unto the form of the angels who were on the left of that throne, and they neither praised nor lauded Him; for His form was like unto their form.
28. But as for me no one asked me on account of the angel who conducted me.
29. And again He descended into the firmament where dwelleth the ruler of this world, and He gave the password to those on the left, and His form was like theirs, and they did not praise Him there; but they were envying one another and fighting; for here there is a power of evil and envying about trifles.
30. And I saw when He descended and made Himself like unto the angels of the air, and He was like one of them.
31. And He gave no password; for one was plundering and doing violence to another.”

Here we see that passwords were required to go between the heavens, and even to enter earth. The sentinel of the heaven no doubt would receive the password, as we learn in the Apocalypse of Paul. Now on earth, the angel showed Isaiah the birth of Christ, and told him that he would be born of a virgin Mary. Nephi had a similar explanation given to him as he saw Mary with child in his vision (1 Nephi 11).

Isaiah then saw the life of Christ, his crucifixion and ascending back into the heavens, until he reached the seventh heaven. Nephi also saw the life of Christ, the crucifixion, and the resurrection of the Son of God. No wonder Nephi loved the words of Isaiah so much, as it seemed they both received very similar visions and experiences.


Isaiah - wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaiah

Isaiah - Catholic New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08179b.htm

Isaiah - Jewish Virtual Library: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Isaiah.html

Newspeak - wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspeak

Head Coverings - Dr Alan Ingalls: http://www.bbc.edu/journal/volume4_2/Head_Coverings-ingalls.pdf

Ascension of Isaiah: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/ascension.html

Apocalypse of Paul: http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/ascp.html

Ascension in Ancient Documents by David Larsen: http://davidjlarsen.wordpress.com/tag/isaiah/

Ascension of Isaiah by David Larsen: http://davidjlarsen.wordpress.com/2008/06/09/isaiahs-heavenly-ascent-to-see-the-father-son-and-holy-spirit/

1 comment:

rameumptom said...

A very great article that includes Isaiah's theophany is from Joe Spencer's treatment of the Book of Mormon quotation of Isaiah.
Definite read:

Joe Spencer's Book of Mormon lesson 9 at Feast Upon the Word blog