Summary: Bringing the hope of salvation into an otherwise dismal prospect.
THE EASTER APOCALYPSE
This small passage lies at the heart of the so-called ‘Isaiah Apocalypse’ of chapters 24-27 and brings hope into an otherwise dismal prospect.
Chapter 25 itself begins with praise for God’s ‘plans formed of old, faithful and sure’ (Isaiah 25:1) - which include His acts of judgment as well as of deliverance.
Our present section invites us to a banquet (Isaiah 25:6); casts away a shroud, pronounces death vanquished, wipes away tears, and takes away disgrace (Isaiah 25:7-8); and leaves us with the hope of salvation (Isaiah 25:9).
1. An Invitation to a Banquet (Isaiah 25:6).
“In this mountain” speaks of Mount Zion, Jerusalem (cf. Isaiah 24:23). The junction between heaven and earth. The place where the LORD meets with man. Here the LORD Himself is setting a table for a mighty feast. It is “a feast of fat things, of well-aged wines, of marrow with the fat, of well-aged wines well refined” (I believe it sounds almost as poetic in English as it does in the Hebrew). And “all people” are invited.
It appears that Jesus used this passage as the basis for His parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-24).
The first people to be invited did not even have the courtesy to reply to the invitation: but when the Master still graciously sent His servant to bring them when the feast was ready, ‘They all with one accord made excuses’ (Luke 14:18). For example, one had just bought some real estate and must needs go to inspect it; one had just bought five teams of oxen and must needs go and prove them; and one had just got married, and therefore had other priorities.
All these excuses disqualified them from ever attending the Messianic banquet, ‘for I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste of my supper,’ said Jesus (Luke 14:24). Hearers of the Gospel must not be like the people in Jesus’ parable. ‘Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith in the earth?’ (Luke 18:8).
2. A Shroud Cast Away (Isaiah 25:7-8).
It is here in this mountain, at this feast, that the LORD promises to cast away a shroud.
First, there is the shroud in which Jesus was wrapped at His death.
In the death of Jesus, God “destroyed” what the shroud represents (i.e., Death), and “swallowed up” Death forever. It is, first and foremost, in the Resurrection of Jesus that ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’ (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:54).
Second, the veil over the hearts of “all people” is removed (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:15-16).
And fourthly, “reproach” - i.e., ‘condemnation’ - is removed (cf. Romans 8:1).
Paul also builds on this passage in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57, adding in the taunt song of Hosea 13:14. Because of the death of Death in the death of Christ, Death has lost its sting for all who believe. Because He has indeed risen, we too shall rise and go to be ‘forever with the Lord’ (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
3. The Hope of Salvation (Isaiah 25:9).
Now this all leaves us with the hope of our salvation. On one hand, the death of and resurrection of Christ, and their consequences - the forgiveness of sin, and a right relationship with God (cf. Romans 4:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21) - are already realised in the life of the Christian. We are already ‘seated in the heavenly places in Christ’ (Ephesians 2:6).
On the other hand, we have not yet ‘shuffled off this mortal coil’ and must live yet in this body. The text calls us to “wait” for the fulness of our salvation (Romans 8:23), which will be fully manifested when Jesus returns (Titus 2:13).
This short passage ends with praise. When the feast is spread, we shall say, “This is our God, we have waited for Him… We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”
Christ has risen - and if we are His, we will be there!