Reward for God's Servants and Indignation to His Enemies (Isaiah 66) May 26
In Acts 7:49-50, Stephen quotes from the first two verses of Isaiah 66. They are the last words he says before exasperation takes over and he says things that directly result in his being stoned. Jesus also referred to heaven and earth as God's throne and footstool (Matthew 5:34-35).
The contrast between those who obey God and those who don't continues. In verse 2, God says He is looking for those that are "poor and of a contrite spirit" (lowly and repentant in mind) and who tremble at His Word (properly fear to disobey God's instructions in Scripture). Service, gifts and prayers to God from those of a wrong heart and attitude are actually loathsome to God (verse 3). Those who "tremble at His word" will rejoice to see Christ appear, while those who don't will be ashamed (verse 5). Indeed, the rebellious in heart will see their worst fears become reality (verse 4).
Verses 7-9 use an analogy of Zion in childbirth. The time of birth pangs is seen elsewhere to symbolize the period of trial and tribulation on Israel leading up to Christ's second coming. With that in mind, notice that the "male child" is born before the time of pain and that the rest of Zion's "children" are born from "the earth" as a nation "at once" after she experiences the birth pangs. The "birth" here, then, appears to refer to the spiritual glorification of God's people, resurrected from the grave to immortality. The spirit birth of the "male child"—Christ's resurrection from the earth—occurred long before Israel's tribulation. But the rest of His brethren, the Church, will not be spiritually born (i.e., changed into Spirit beings like Him) until the time of the resurrection of the just at Christ's return.
God will reward His servants and destroy His enemies. All nations will at last learn to honor God. Israelites will be returned to God from around the world by nations that have not known Him before (verses 18-21). Verse 22 is perhaps a reference to the ultimate new heavens and new earth, which God "will make" after the Millennium and Last Judgment period—its permanence being used to parallel the permanence of God's redeemed people. In verse 23, "all flesh" of the Millennium and last judgment period will come to honor God according to His timekeeping scheme—the new moons (which define the beginning of months on His calendar) and Sabbaths.
The end of those who continue to transgress against God will see their flesh consumed by worms (maggots) and burned up by fire (verse 24; see also Mark 9:47-48). We will consider the specific wording here further when we come to the New Testament. Says The Nelson Study Bible: "Although the Book of Isaiah depicts God's coming salvation, it closes with a strong statement of the judgment of the wicked." Indeed, it is a rather sobering conclusion.