I received the following questions:

Isaiah 14: and 24: are they figurative or literal,or are they half figurative and half literal. I have trouble understanding them because they seemed apocalyptic like Revelation 16:

Regarding Isaiah 24: I also checked Bullinger and my Seller’s notes where he says that Is.24: is a poetic song of Israel for today. Sellers says that Israel today is living under a curse due to their past sins. And that the effects of Israel’s sins and curse are being felt today. I believe that this may be true but I am personally uncomftible with this opinion under grace by Sellers. I am looking for a more plausable explanation, Maybe Nathan can help us here? Seller’s goes on to say that this curse will be lifted in the kingdom of God and they will be restored and blessed. In Ezekiel 11:16 God promises to be a little sanctuary to Israel in the nations where they are scattered. Is that little sanctuary graciousness on God’s part? But a curse sounds ungracious to me. Help Nathan what do you say?

First of all, are they figurative or literal. I tend to dislike using the term “figurative” in regards to a passage, since it is usually seems to be used as a “get out of believing the passage free card.” I do not believe that God wrote passages in some kind of mysterious code language that only some clever preacher with certain esoteric knowledge can interpret. Passages are not “figurative.” If a passage is a parable, it is a parable. If it is full of figures of speech, then it is full of figures of speech. But I don’t think any passage in the Bible is “figurative” in the way many people use that word.

As for Isaiah 14, it is most certainly poetic, as almost the entire book of Isaiah is poetry. In poetry, much colorful language is used to describe ideas and concepts. Yet I do think it is describing actual events by these figures. I do think it refers to Babylon, as the first verse claims. Verses 17-22 sound very much like the destruction of Babylon that took place in the past, of which we have very brief mention in Daniel 5. However, the remainder of the passage calls this somewhat in question, leading me to believe that this passage might have a fuller fulfillment in the destruction of the future Babylon of the tribulation period, as it is described in Revelation 17-18.

Isaiah 24 describes, I believe, the punishment that first came upon Israel (especially Judah Israel) at the destruction of the land by Babylon. Important for understanding this passage is to remember that the words “earth” and “land” are the same word in Hebrew, ‘erets. Therefore, the decision to translate this word by “earth” in most places in this chapter was more or less arbitrary by the translators. Consider how different the passage appears if one substitutes “land” in for every occurrences of the word “earth” in this passage. If one would do so, I believe he would be arriving much closer to the truth than he would by reading most of our current English versions. This passage is talking about the land of Israel, and not the earth as a whole.

You have to realize that the scattering of Israel from their own land into all the nations round about them was a curse upon them, a curse in clear fulfillment of Deuteronomy 28, that came upon them because of their sins, particularly rebelling against the Lord. The curse that came upon them then has never been fully reversed, in that they have never been all returned to the land. It is true that some did return, and even today some have wandered back, but this is not the same as the curse being reversed and the people being brought back to the land. This is something that the LORD has promised that He will do in passages like Ezekiel 20, Ezekiel 37, Ezekiel 39:25-29, etc. So what I believe Mr. Sellers is saying is this: that they are under a curse that has never been reversed. Now this is not to say that God is actively cursing them now today. He is not acting to curse anyone, for that would not be consistent with His work in grace. But the results of this curse He brought upon them in the past still remain.

For example, I think we would both agree that the flood God brought upon the earth was a terrible punishment, and was definitely the result of God judging men on the earth. God would never do something like the flood in the dispensation of grace. Yet certainly when the dispensation of grace began, all the physical evidence on earth that the flood happened did not suddenly disappear, and the earth restore itself to the way it was before the flood in that instant. In the same way, the results of God’s curse upon Israel did not disappear the moment the dispensation of grace began. The people did not suddenly materialize back in the land, suddenly knowing the language, understanding the culture, and being happy and comfortable living there, even though they had been born and grown up in a different place and culture altogether. No, the dispensation of grace did not erase the results of God’s past curse on them. So that is what Mr. Sellers means when he says they are under a curse. It is a curse that was instituted long ago, before this dispensation ever got its start. Its effects continue to this day, even though God isn’t currently enforcing it or actively making it work among Israel.

God certainly is a little sanctuary to Israel in all the nations where they are scattered, if they will trust in Him. This is indeed God’s grace to them in action. In this dispensation, that sanctuary does not necessarily include physical protection from all harm, however, as it might have done in the past. They need to trust in Christ for their salvation, and then they can enjoy the same benefits and blessings in Him as anyone else can. The special privileges they had in times past are gone now that all nations are joint and equal in His sight (Ephesians 3:6.)

I pray these things help.