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Isaiah 53: Set Free and Made Righteous by the Lamb of God, Part 3

by Karl Kemp  
2/02/2018 / Bible Studies

We discuss Isaiah 53:7-9 verse-by-verse here in Part 3 and start a verse-by-verse study of 53:10-12. Verse 11 is the most important verse in this super-important chapter of Isaiah.  

6. ISAIAH 53:7-9. (Acts 8:32-33 have much in common with the Septuagint (Greek version) of Isa. 53:7-8, which is somewhat different than the Hebrew.) He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth [cf. Matt. 26:63; 27:12-14; Mark 14:61; 15:5; Luke 23:9; and John 15:5]; Like a Lamb [cf., e.g. John 1:29, 36; 1 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 5:6, 8, 12, 13; 6:1; 21:27; and 22:3] that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. [Although He, the Righteous One, was wrongfully oppressed and afflicted, He did not open His mouth to complain because He knew He was fulfilling the Father's will and was saving all believers as He took upon Himself, and bore, all of our sins (iniquities, transgressions), back to Adam, with the guilt AND THE PENALTIES. The penalties included His being oppressed and afflicted, and like a Lamb that is led to slaughter. (There is an emphasis on His bearing the penalties for our sins throughout this chapter.) He also knew that through His all-important atoning death He was accomplishing the total overthrow of Satan and all who stay aligned with him, which will be manifested at the right time. He also knew that He would be raised from the dead on the third day. I'll list a few of the many cross-references that could be mentioned here: 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 2:5-11; Heb. 9:11-10:18; 12:2.]] (8) By [Hebrew min] oppression and judgment He was taken away [[He, the Lord Jesus was taken away in the sense that He was put to death. He was, as it is stated later in this verse, cut off out of the land of the living. The Hebrew noun behind oppression is otser. The BDB Hebrew Lexicon has "restraint, coercion" in place of "oppression" here in 53:8. I prefer "restraint" or "coercion." By "restraint/coercion" and judgment He was arrested, tried and crucified. It is important to know that He voluntarily yielded Himself to do the Father's will (cf. Isa. 53:7; Matt. 26:47-56; John 10:11-18; and Phil. 2:8). It is also important for us to understand that He was taking our place. He took our judgment, which included the death penalty.]]; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For [(Hebrew min)] the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due?

I BELIEVE THE FOLLOWING EXPANDED TRANSLATION THAT CONTINUES FOR FOUR PARAGRAPHS COMMUNICATES THE INTENDED MEANING FOR THE REST OF ISAIAH 53:8 THAT COMES AFTER THE FIRST LINE, "BY RESTRAINT/COERCION AND JUDGMENT HE WAS TAKEN AWAY": And who shall consider [or speak of] His descendants [or "His generation"]? [[(This double bracket continues for two paragraphs.) The NIV has "And who can speak of his descendants?" The KJV has "who shall declare his generation ["His generation" NKJV]?" The Hebrew word that is translated "generation" or "descendants" is dor. Under #3, under dor, the BDB Hebrew Lexicon (page 190) has "generation characterized by quality or condition, class of men." The first listing they give under this heading is Deut. 32:5, which speaks of Israel being "a perverse and crooked generation." And they list several similar examples, including Deut. 32:20: "they are a perverse generation." BDB lists Prov. 30:11, 12, 13, 14 as examples of "diff[erent] classes of wicked." Much more relevant for Isa. 53:8, BDB goes on under this heading to speak of "the righteous, as a class." They list Psalm 14:5 [I'll quote 14:5b "For God is with the righteous generation"]; 24:6; 73:15; and 112:2, which I'll quote: "His descendants [literally, "seed"] will be mighty on earth; The generation of the upright will be blessed." As Deuteronomy chapter 32 continues it speaks of God's ultimate salvation, at the end of this age, of the repentant remnant of Israel. This has much in common with Isa. 53:8, where the "generation" or "descendants" refers to the remnant of Israel that will be saved and made righteous with new-covenant salvation through the Lord Jesus at the end of this age. As I have mentioned, Isaiah 53 is also broad enough in scope to include all the people who are saved through the Lord Jesus throughout this present age, Jews and Gentiles.

"His descendants" or "His generation" speaks of all of the spiritual offspring that will be born into eternal life through the all-important atoning death and resurrection of the Lamb of God. In Isa. 53:10 we read of "His offspring [literally "His seed"].]] For [The KJV, NKJV, and NIV have "For"; the NASB has "That."] He was cut off out of the land of the living [In other words, He was put to death, bearing our death penalty.] By [Hebrew min; we discussed the Hebrew preposition min as by above under 53:5] the transgression [Hebrew pesha] of my people with the guilt and the penalties [with the emphasis here on the fact that He was bearing the penalties for their transgression(s)] [[Hebrew pesha; As chapter 1 of my book Holiness and Victory Over Sin demonstrates, the Hebrew noun pesha (like awon and chet) includes the ideas of transgression, guilt, AND PENALTY(IES) FOR TRANSGRESSION. 

Initially, following the pattern of Isaiah chapter 53, the people of Israel were not considering (or speaking of) His offspring, seed, descendants, or generation. He died without having any offspring, and they thought He was bearing the penalties for His own transgressions (cf. 53:4-6). They did not realize that He was bearing their transgressions (sin and iniquity) with the guilt and the penalties, so they could be saved with a very full new-covenant salvation, or that He was also bearing the transgressions (sin and iniquity) with the guilt and the penalties for all people (not just for the people of Israel). Christ died for all people, and all are called to repent and submit to the gospel. 

Death (both spiritual death and physical death, which culminates in the eternal lake of fire, which is the second death [cf. Rev. 20:14]), is a big part of the penalty for sin that originated with the rebellious transgression of Adam. The Lamb of God bore the penalty of spiritual death (but He didn't die spiritually) and of physical death when He bore Adam's transgression with the guilt and the penalties. As we have discussed, He bore our spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons (along with the other penalties for sin), so we could be born again and made righteous with the righteousness of God. During this present age believers are born again. In the age to come (starting when the Lord Jesus returns) we will be born into the fullness of eternal life and be glorified and begin to reign with God the Father and the Lord Jesus.]] to whom the stroke [The stroke equals the penalty for transgression] was due? This concludes the expanded translation for the rest of Isa. 53:8 that I believe communicates the intended meaning.

Who Are "My People" of Isaiah 53:8? It isn't obvious who is speaking here in verse 8 when it mentions my people. Those words would be appropriate if God was the speaker, or Isaiah. Either one is possible. God speaks in 52:13-15 and 53:11-12, but it is quite possible that Isaiah doesn't speak for himself at all in 52:12-53:13, even though he was the one who wrote the book of Isaiah, by revelation: Much of the book of Isaiah went far beyond things that Isaiah knew or understood. 

As I mentioned, there is widespread agreement that the people of Israel are speaking in 53:1-6, at a time after they understood God's plan of salvation through the Lamb of God. It would make a neat package if they were speaking in 53:7-10 too. It would be reasonable for Israel/Judah, if the nation is speaking, to mention my people (the people of Israel/Judah) here in 53:8. Compare Isa. 10:22: "For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea, Only a remnant [speaking in context of a remnant of the people of Israel left after God's end-time judgment of Israel (cf. Rom. 9:27-29)] within them will return; A destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness." And Isa. 60:21: "then [speaking to (the remnant of) Jerusalem/Israel/Judah after they will have been saved at the end of this age] all your people will be righteous." And Isa. 65:18: "But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing and her people for gladness." 

I'll quote a sentence from what John N. Oswalt says under Isa. 53:8 (Book of Isaiah. Chapters 40-66 [Eerdmans, 1998], page 396}: "But as Alexander [referring to the Commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah by J. A. Alexander, first published in 1846] shows on the basis of 1 Sam. 5:10 and Zech. 8:21, 'my people' may indeed be synonymous with 'us,' perhaps used here as a poetic variant."  

Isaiah 53:9: His grave was assigned [to be] with wicked men [If God had not interceded through Joseph of Arimathea (Matt. 27:57-60), Jesus would have been buried with "wicked men." Many thought Jesus was wicked, but He, the Son of God, the God-man, always was PERFECTLY RIGHTEOUS.], Yet He was with a rich man in His death [through the intervention of Joseph of Arimathea who was "a rich man." The word "death" is plural in the Hebrew, which emphasizes the violent nature of His death. The plural in Hebrew is often used in ways totally different than English.], Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth [cf. 1 Pet. 2:22]. [These last two clauses explain (in part) why God the Father interceded in behalf of His Son (the Son of His love [cf., e.g., Col. 1:13, with a literal translation]) who had voluntarily submitted to be terribly mistreated and crucified in accordance with the will of the Father.] 

I'll quote a paragraph that John L. Mackay has at the end of his discussion of Isa. 53:9-11, under the heading "Reflection" (Study Commentary on Isaiah, Vol. 2: Chapters 40-66 [EP Books, 2009], page 357): "Jesus was not a martyr in that he was a helpless victim of circumstances, or of the furious opposition of mankind [or Satan]. He could truly say of his life, 'No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord' (John 10:18). He could testify to Pilate, 'You would have no authority at all over me except that it had been given to you from above (John 19:11). What led him unresistingly to the cross was not weakness; it was loving commitment to overcome this havoc that sin [and Satan] had introduced into the world. He left the world of heavenly glory to become a servant (Phil. 2:6-7). He abjured the sword and violence of earthly rebels and lived the life of heaven's wisdom to overthrow the hold of Satan (cf. Matt. 26:52-52; 1 Cor. 1:18; 1 Pet. 2:22-24)."


7. ISAIAH 53:10-12. But the LORD [Yahweh] was pleased to crush Him [[to crush the Lamb of God. See Isa. 53:5. He was crushed by our iniquities with the guilt and the penalties (awon [plural]), with the emphasis on His bearing the penalties for our iniquities in His all-important atoning death, which crushed Him to death.]], putting Him to grief [Literally "He made Him sick" (margin of the NASB); see Isa. 53:4]; If [Or, we could translate "When" with some translators. We have already been informed that the Servant of God, the Lamb of God, would do what this verse goes on to say.] He would render Himself as a guilt offering [[(This double bracket goes on for two paragraphs.) Apparently the verb here is 3rd person, feminine, singular and the words "His soul" in the Hebrew (which is a feminine noun) is the subject of the verb. The other option is 2nd person, masculine, singular; it could be translated "When You [God the Father] make His soul and offering for sin," with the NKJV and ESV, or the equivalent; the NIV has "and though the LORD makes His life a guilt offering." 

I'll quote part of what E. J. Young says here (Book of Isaiah, Vol. 3, pages 353-355).First I'll give his translation, "when his soul shall place an offering for sin." "If we permit the Hebrew text to stand as it is, the words his soul are to be construed as the subject of the verb will place. Some would take the verb as the second person masculine and render thou shalt place. The objection to this, however, is that God is not addressed in this passage but rather is spoken of in the third person both before and after this verb. Furthermore sacrifices were offered up not by God but to Him. Although the Lord [God] does bring about the death of the servant, He is not the Offeror. In verse 12 the servant receives the reward for his work, which proves that it is he himself who offers the sacrifice. His soul is not a mere substitute for himself, but shows that the very life is to be the oblation [sacrifice]. ... ...the very life of the servant will be made an expiatory sacrifice. So in the New Testament Christ is said to be our Passover. ...."  Delitzsch translates "if His soul would pay a trespass-offering."]] He will see His offspring [Hebrew zera. This is super-important! He will see all of us who are saved through His all-important atoning death.], He will prolong His days [He will be resurrected and live forever. The New Testament confirms that He will be resurrected and live forever.] And the good pleasure of the LORD [Yahweh] will prosper in His hand [All of the details of God the Father's salvation plans will be fully accomplished - will fully prosper - through the work of the Lamb of God that He accomplishes after His resurrection, but based on His all-important atoning death. Ultimately all believers will have a place in God's New Jerusalem in His new heaven and new earth, and all who continue in rebellion will be totally removed from God's kingdom and have their place in the lake of fire.] (11) [I believe this is the most important verse in the super-important chapter (Isaiah 53) that we are studying. However, I must admit that the way this verse is very often interpreted, where the meaning is limited to the idea that we can now be forgiven and declared righteous in a narrow, strictly legal, positional righteousness sense (or to say that Christ's righteousness is imputed to us in a strictly legal sense) that enables us to be accepted by God, it loses much of the - what I am sure is - THE GLORIOUS FULL SALVATION THAT SOLVES THE SIN AND SATAN PROBLEM AND MAKES US RIGHTEOUS WITH THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD THAT HE WAS PROPHESYING ABOUT HERE. We will spend a lot of time here.] As a result of the anguish of His soul [We must understand that the physical suffering that the Lamb of God bore for us was a small part of the suffering that He bore when He took upon Himself all of our sins with the guilt and the penalties back to Adam. For one thing, who can comprehend the depth of suffering behind the words, "My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me?" (Matt. 27:45; Mark 15:34; also compare Matt. 26:38-39; John 12:27).], He will see it [What will He see? He will see His offspring" (53:10). Isa. 53:10 and 11 use the same Hebrew verb for "He will see," and I believe the use of this verb in verse 11 builds on its use in verse 10. As I mentioned, "His offspring" embraces all those born into the fullness of eternal life through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus. "His offspring" is the equivalent of the "many" of verses 11 and 12. And "His offspring" undoubtedly is the equivalent of His "generation" or "descendants" of 53:8. He will see "His offspring"] and be satisfied ["The good pleasure of the LORD [Yahweh, God the Father] will prosper in His hand" (53:10), and He will be satisfied.]. By His knowledge [The Hebrew can be translated "By His knowledge" or "By knowledge of Him," as in the margin of the NIV. I prefer "By knowledge of Him." People are saved by knowing the Lord Jesus, experientially knowing Him person to Person, by the indwelling Holy Spirit, in accordance with the truth of the gospel, by faith and in Spiritual reality.] the Righteous One My Servant will justify [will make righteous] [[(This double bracket goes on for thirty-eight pages before I quote the super-important last line of Isa. 53:11.) The words the Righteous One and will justify [or, will make righteous, which I prefer], which are side-by-side in the Hebrew, are extremely important. The Lord Jesus is the Righteous One. He always was and always will be Righteous in everything that He is, and thinks, and says, and does. He never has, or ever will, sin in any way. I will be speaking a lot more about this as we continue, but it seems super-clear to me that He came and died TO MAKE US RIGHTEOUS, WHICH (BASED ON THE TYPICAL MEANING OF THE WORD "RIGHTEOUS" IN THE OLD TESTAMENT OR THE NEW TESTAMENT) IS A LOT MORE THAN BEING FORGIVEN AND DECLARED RIGHTEOUS IN A NARROW, STRICTLY LEGAL RIGHTEOUSNESS SENSE THAT ENABLES US TO BE ACCEPTED BY GOD BUT DOESN'T INCLUDE HIS MAKING US RIGHTEOUS IN A WAY THAT INCLUDES OUR WALKING WITH THE VICTORY OVER SIN AND DEMONS AND IN ACCORDANCE WITH GOD'S WILL. As I mention on occasion in this paper, there is a very definite limit to how much we can "be accepted" by God or reconciled to Him while we continue to live in sin. In the ideal, as we appropriate and walk in all of the grace available, we will be walking by the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:16), by grace through faith, in the imparted righteousness of God, with the victory over all sin and demons. This is so important because God hates sin and paid this infinite price so we could have the full victory over sin and demons. THIS IS VERY GOOD NEWS! However, large numbers of Christians (based on what I have observed over the years, a large majority) don't believe that this verse includes God's actually making us righteous with His imparted righteousness. Getting this right is super-important to our understanding of the gospel! 

I'll speak more on this important point as we continue, but it is important to know that in the Hebrew of Isa. 53:11, the adjective (tsaddiq) translated "the Righteous One" stands side-by-side with the verb (yatsdiq; this is the form of the verb used in Isa. 53:11) that I would translate "will make righteous." And it is significant that both Hebrew words have the same three consonant root. ("ts" represents one consonant in the Hebrew along with "d" and "q.") So too for the Hebrew nouns tsedeq and tsedaqah that are often translated "righteousness." I will comment in some detail on the meaning of all four of these Hebrew words as we continue. One reason that this is so important is that these same meanings carry over to a significant extent into the New Testament. 

7.1 I'LL QUOTE THE DEFINITION OF "RIGHTEOUS" FROM MY WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD DICTIONARY, which is the same as the most recent edition of this dictionary on the internet: "1. acting in a just, upright manner; doing what is right; virtuous [a righteous man] 2. morally right; fair and just [a righteous act] 3. morally justifiable [full of righteous anger]." Note that there is nothing here about being forgiven or having a  strictly legal, right standing before God that would make us acceptable to Him.


8. SOME VERY RELEVANT PROPHECIES FROM THE BOOK OF ISAIAH ON GOD'S OUTPOURED, IMPARTED RIGHTEOUSNESS THROUGH NEW-COVENANT SALVATION (These prophecies demonstrate that God does a lot more than forgive believers and declare them righteous. He actually makes them righteous with His imparted righteousness, as they appropriate His saving grace by faith. As I will demonstrate, the New Testament confirms this super-important fact.):

ISAIAH 32:15-18. Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high [through new-covenant salvation in Christ], and the wilderness becomes a fertile ["fruitful" ESV] field, and the fertile ["fruitful" ESV] field is considered as a forest [Compare Isa. 29:17. Apparently the meaning is that the grace of God will turn the wilderness of today into a fertile/fruitful field, and that the fertile/fruitful field of today (before God has transformed it) will seem, by comparison with the fruitful field of the future, like an unfruitful forest.]. (16) Then justice will dwell in the wilderness [the transformed "wilderness"] And righteousness [Hebrew tsedaqah] will abide in the fertile field [the transformed fertile/fruitful field]. [[The New Testament shows that this righteousness, which is at the heart of what new-covenant salvation is all about, has been provided for us now. God sets us free from spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons and imparts His righteousness to us through the all-important atoning death of His Son and by pouring out the life-giving, sanctifying, Righteous, Spirit who dwells in all true Christians. Of course we must walk in God's righteousness by the Spirit, by grace through faith, on a continuous basis, or the righteousness of God will not be adequately manifested in our daily lives. On the righteousness of God being manifested in our hearts and lives now, see Rom. 1:16-17 for a start (The apostle Paul speaks of the righteousness of God being manifested in Rom. 1:17); ROMANS 1:16-17 ARE DISCUSSED IN BOTH OF MY RIGHTEOUSNESS/HOLINESS BOOKS (Holiness and Victory Over Sin and Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin). As I'll mention on occasion, I believe we must understand the importance of being forgiven (or an equivalent expression) in our becoming righteous by the righteousness of God in new-covenant salvation, but that the emphasis is on our being set free from spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons and actually being made righteous with the imparted righteousness of God. We will not be able to walk in the imparted righteousness of God, by the Righteous, Holy Spirit if we do not have a solid faith that God has called us to this walk.]] (17) And the work ["fruit" (NIV)] of righteousness [Hebrew tsedaqah] will be peace [cf. Rom. 5:1], and the service ["effect" (NIV)] of righteousness [tsedaqah], quietness and confidence forever. (18) Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation, And in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places. I believe it is very clear that this prophecy goes very far beyond speaking of God's forgiving people and declaring them righteous in a narrow, strictly legal, positional righteousness sense. And, again, I believe the New Testament shows that these things are available to Christians now, to be received and walked in on a continuous basis by grace through faith. The fact that we, as beings who though fallen were created in the image of God, must cooperate with God's grace by faith, doesn't lessen the fact that we are saved one-hundred percent by grace and that God must receive all of the glory for our salvation, which includes God's imparted righteousness.  

I believe it is also clear that this prophecy extends beyond the new-covenant salvation that is available to us now (the heart of which salvation deals primarily with being born again, set free from bondage to sin and demons, and made righteous with the imparted righteousness of God), now before Israel is saved as a nation and God's end-time judgment of the world. This prophecy extends to include the glory of the millennial kingdom and the eternal state that will take place after God's end-time judgment of the world (see, for example, Isaiah chapters 2, 11, 25, 26, and 65:17-25).  

ISAIAH 45:8. Drip down, O heavens, from above, And let the clouds pour down righteousness [Hebrew noun tsedeq]; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, And righteousness [Hebrew noun tsedaqah] spring up with it [especially being manifested in the hearts and lives of believers]. I the LORD, have created it. I believe it is very clear that this prophecy goes very far beyond speaking of God's forgiving people and declaring them righteous in a narrow, strictly legal righteousness sense, or imputing Christ's righteousness to them in a strictly legal sense. For one very important detail, as I will demonstrate later, the meaning of the two Hebrew words translated righteousness here don't fit the idea of righteousness through being forgiven and having righteousness in narrow, strictly legal sense. 

ISAIAH 46:12-13. Listen to Me, you stubborn minded, who are far from righteousness [tsedaqah]. (13) I bring near My righteousness [tsedaqah], it is not far off; and My salvation will not delay. [God's righteousness and His salvation are comparable in meaning here (Hebrew poetic parallelism) and in other passages in Isaiah. For one thing, His salvation makes His people righteous, and when He manifests His righteousness He brings salvation to His people, believers.] And I will grant salvation in Zion, and My glory for Israel. I believe it is very clear that this prophecy goes very far beyond speaking of God's forgiving people and declaring them righteous in a narrow, strictly legal righteousness sense.  

ISAIAH 56:1. Thus says the LORD [Yahweh], "Preserve justice and do righteousness [tsedaqah] [[Here's another strong confirmation that righteousness is something the old-covenant believers were required to do; they were required to be righteous; they were required to love God with their hearts and to live according to His covenant. (Being righteous involved a lot more than just being forgiven through sacrificial offerings: Some years ago I did a rather thorough study on the use of the words righteous and righteousness in the Old Testament. Out of many hundreds of uses, I didn't find one clear example where a person was called righteous because they had been forgiven. I confirmed this conclusion in the study on the meaning of these four Hebrew words (tsaddiq [Hebrew adjective usually translated "righteous"]; tsadeq, tsadoq [Hebrew verb]; and tsedeq and tsedaqah [Hebrew nouns typically translated "righteousness."] that is included later in this paper; I used the BDB Hebrew Lexicon as the foundation for that study. We must understand, however, that the New Testament makes it clear that believers had to wait for new-covenant salvation, which includes the new birth and the indwelling Spirit of life and righteousness, before they could walk in the righteousness of God in an adequate, full sense. God is prophesying of new-covenant salvation and righteousness in the passages we are looking at here]], For My salvation is about to come And My righteousness [tsedaqah] to be revealed [manifested; His righteousness is to be manifested, for one super-important place, in the hearts and lives of those who are saved through new-covenant salvation in the blood of the Lamb and the outpoured Righteous, Holy Spirit. Note that the words righteousness and salvation are used in a way that they are comparable in meaning (but not equal in meaning) here too.] 

ISAIAH 60:21. Then all your people will be righteous [Hebrew adjective tsaddiq (plural)]; They will possess the land forever, The branch of My planting, the work of My hands, That I may be glorified. [New-covenant salvation, which, for one super-important thing, makes God's people (all believers) righteous with His imparted righteousness, is the work of His hands, and He must receive all the glory for our salvation, which includes being made righteous by God's imparted (implanted) righteousness. EPHESIANS 2:10 is an important cross-reference: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works [which equals Christians living a righteous, holy fruitful lives by grace through faith], which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." God's imparted righteousness is available to all true Christians, but the New Testament shows that some are slow to appropriate the full righteousness that is available (being righteous isn't always easy and it certainly isn't automatic; for one thing, the world, the flesh, and the devil are against us, but the enabling grace of God is sufficient), and the New Testament shows that, although it isn't God's will, believers can become unbelievers and lose their salvation. (See my paper Once Saved, Always Saved? that is on my internet site; Google to Karl Kemp Teaching.)  

ISAIAH 61:1-3 (Includes a discussion of LUKE 4:18-19). The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me [Me, referring to the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Hebrew word "Messiah" means "the Anointed One"; the Greek word "Christ" means "the Anointed One." It is very significant that Jesus quoted Isa. 61:1-2a in Luke 4:18-19 (see Luke 4:16-21), but not in the exact form included here: He said these prophetic words were fulfilled in Him, the Messiah, the One anointed in a VERY SPECIAL sense by the Holy Spirit: He, unlike Christians was anointed without measure (John 3:34).], Because the LORD [(Hebrew) Yahweh] has anointed me [Me] To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me [Me] to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives [[(This double bracket continues for twenty-nine paragraphs before we come to the next words of Isa. 61:1, "and freedom to prisoners." The words "and freedom to prisoners" were not included in the Septuagint, the Hebrew Old Testament translated into Greek, or in the New Testament of Luke 4:18, which was originally written in Greek.) 

We will discuss the last words, To proclaim liberty [or release, or freedom] to captives. The Greek noun aphesis was used in the Septuagint of Isa. 61:1 and in Luke 4:18; it could have been translated "release," or "liberty," or "freedom." I prefer "release." These prophetic words, "To proclaim release to captives," are very important for more than one reason. For one thing, they prophesy of Jesus setting people free from being in spiritual death and in bondage to sin and demons, which is at the heart of new-covenant salvation. For another thing, Isa. 61:1 and especially Luke 4:18 enable us to better understand the meaning of the Greek noun aphesis. This is extremely important in that this information regarding the meaning of aphesis enables us to rightly interpret several super-important verses in the New Testament that use aphesis. Aphesis is used twice in Luke 4:18, as I will demonstrate, but it is not used twice in the Septuagint of Isa. 61:1. 

I'll briefly discuss the extreme importance of understanding the meaning of aphesis here, but I'll refer the reader to a more complete discussion of this topic in both of my holiness books. The first book, Holiness and Victory Over Sin, even has a chapter that deals with this extremely important topic: The seventh chapter of that book is titled "A Study on the Meaning of the Greek Noun 'Aphesis ' " (pages 141-167). It will become obvious that this study on the meaning of aphesis has a whole lot in common with the primary topic of this present paper on Isaiah chapter 53: We need to see that although new-covenant salvation very much includes forgiveness, the greater emphasis is on being set free from spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons and being made righteous with the imparted righteousness of God through the atoning death of the Lamb of God and the outpoured, indwelling Righteous, Holy Spirit of God. I'll quote (but not always word for word) the first four paragraphs of the seventh chapter of my book: 

"The Greek noun aphesis, which is used seventeen times in the New Testament, is translated 'forgiveness' fifteen times by the NASB. The KJV translates if as 'forgiveness' or 'remission' fifteen times. The only place where the NASB and KJV translate aphesis other than 'forgiveness' or 'remission' is Luke 4:18, which uses this Greek noun two times. The NIV has 'forgiveness' or the verb 'forgiven' in all the fifteen uses that exclude Luke 4:18. The BAGD Greek Lexicon (second edition, 1979) lists each of these fifteen uses under 'forgiveness' and equates forgiveness with the 'cancellation of the guilt of sin.'  

Although 'forgiveness' (or the equivalent) is widely accepted as the normal translation for aphesis in the New Testament [except for Luke 4:18], I don't believe this is an adequate translation in quite a few very important verses in the New Testament. In my opinion, if forgiveness is understood in the typical sense of the cancellation of the guilt of sin, then this translation frequently communicates very far less that what was intended by the Author/author. I believe a translation like 'release [from sin(s) with the guilt and the penalties, including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons]' is required in quite a few verses. 

A translation like 'release [from sin(s) with the guilt and the penalties, including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons]' says very much more that forgiveness [of the guilt of sin], though that is included. This suggested translation also includes the ideas of being set free from the kingdom of spiritual death and lawlessness, and being made alive and made righteous (sanctified).

I believe there is far too little emphasis placed on the gospel truth of being made righteous (sanctified) in the Christian church of our day. An understanding of this much fuller sense of aphesis will serve as an important step in the solution to this problem."  

Now I'll quote the three paragraphs that I have under the heading "The Meaning of 'Aphesis' As It Is Used in the Septuagint" (This excerpt serves to strongly confirm that aphesis need not always be translated "forgiveness" or the equivalent): 

"The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. It was widely used by the early Christians and is frequently quoted in the New Testament. The Septuagint helped prepare many Greek words to communicate the Christian gospel, which spread across the Roman world in the Greek language. 

Aphesis is used approximately forty-five times in the Septuagint, BUT I DIDN'T FIND ONE CLEAR EXAMPLE WHERE IT IS USED OF FORGIVENESS: It is used about twenty-five times of the release of Jubilee. (Some fifteen of these uses are found in Leviticus chapter 25.) Approximately ten uses deal with the seventh year release, which is different than the release of Jubilee (cf. Deut. 15:1-18). Other uses are fountains of water (Joel 1:20; 3:18) and the torrents of water coming from the eyes of Jeremiah (Lam. 3:48). 

I am not suggesting that aphesis should never be translated forgiveness in the New Testament, but a translation like release is often required."    

We will continue this study of aphesis in Part 4 of this paper. 

Copyright © by Karl Kemp Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

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