Where will we stand in that fateful day? Will we behave badly and end up lower on the ladder, or will we accept the challenges of those times and rise higher? We will either succumb to fear or exercise faith in God and perform nobly. Our beliefs alone won’t save us, nor will the props of the past support us. Isaiah’s scenario teaches that people ascend the ladder by meeting hardships head on—by passing tests of “loyalty” to God and “compliance” with his will. God permits these adverse circumstances for us to utilize as stepping-stones in our climb upward. World conditions in that day will provide a unique means for us to obtain “salvation” and “exaltation” and every blessing God has promised.
Our choices, moreover, will have an eternal, not just temporary impact. Time and eternity merge in Isaiah’s theology, one being a continuation of the other in a different dimension. How we act in the moment of crisis and where we arrive when it is over is largely determined by how we act as a rule—whether we are self-willed or do God’s will—because what occurs spiritually manifests itself physically, and vice versa. The time of trouble can actually help, not hinder, ascent on the ladder as our difficulties bear down on us. Those who qualify for spiritual deliverance from sin in that day will also qualify for physical deliverance from mortal danger. In Isaiah’s theology the two go hand in hand.
When we die, the level we end up on becomes our starting point in the next life. Isaiah teaches that loyalty to God through the midst of trials helps us ascend, in life or in death. In Isaiah’s day, King Hezekiah’s faithful suffering “unto death” during an apparent mortal illness lifted the king to the next highest level. Ultimately, it didn’t matter if he lived or died; his spiritual state would be the same. He passed the test of loyalty his God had set up for him, in that very hour. In his case God also chose to deliver him physically, but that was less important than his spiritual victory. What we lose or sacrifice in this life in the course of complying with God’s will, God always restores—with added blessings.
Isaiah foretells a glorious future for God’s people. Ancient prophets looked forward to that golden age we now call the “Millennium.” To them, that was a major purpose of the earth’s creation from the beginning. In the “last days”—in the brief period before the millennial age—many attain the highest levels on the ladder as they prove faithful to God under all conditions. Many will accept momentary trials cheerfully, knowing that such trials are a part of God’s plan. While some will do anything to avoid suffering, rejection, persecution, or death, many will accept these things, if necessary, as “more par for the course,” as doors to divinity, as opportunities for ascent—until they see God.
God never abandons those who trust in him. While he hands over into the power of the tyrant those who are determined to descend, to teach them the consequences of their actions, God protects those who ascend. As he has done in times past, God helps his people at the end of the world by raising up a righteous leader to lead them. God’s “servant” comes on the scene at a critical moment in history. Like Moses in Egypt, the servant delivers God’s people from forces seeking to take them over and enslave them. God empowers his servant and others in the category of seraphim to gather his people from the four directions of the earth and lead them in a new exodus to the Promised Land.
(From Isaiah Decoded, pp 34–36)