9 Sheol below is getting excited over you, to welcome your entrance, it wakes dead spirits for you, all of the leaders of the land. It raises all of the kings of the nations from their “thrones.” 10 All of them will respond and say to you, ‘You yourself were also made weak like us! You have become the same as us!’ 11 Your pride is brought down to Sheol, along with the sound of your harps; the maggot is spread out beneath you like a bed, and your covering is the worm. 12 How you have fallen from the sky, morning star, son of dawn! You are cut down to the ground, conqueror of nations! 13 And you yourself said in your heart, ‘I will climb the sky; I will raise up my throne above the stars of God; and I will sit on the assembly mountain on the northern summit. 14 I will ascend to high places where only a cloud goes. I will make myself like the Most High.’ 15 But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the pit.
Waking to taunt Babylon
Sheol is the Hebrew term most used for the intermediate state – the state between death and resurrection. Isaiah pictures the dead rulers who had been put there by Babylon waking up from their sleep in Sheol and rejoicing that now their destroyer has been destroyed: the one who put them to death has now died. They exult over the fact that the king of Babylon who had such high ambitions for himself has been brought low – down to the dirt depths of Sheol.
Isaiah is not actually saying that people are awake in Sheol. He’s saying the exact opposite. In his vision, he saw those spirits who were asleep being woken up so that they could taunt Babylon. So, the point of this text is not to prove the unbiblical doctrine of innate immortality and a conscious intermediate state. Isaiah is predicting the death of Babylon. He would not be predicting death and denying it at the same time. In fact, he asserts the reality of death to all – even mighty Babylon.
When was the last time you thought about the reality that death comes to all? It is important to think about that, because no matter how great you are, or how successful you become, death awaits. Since we cannot escape it, it behooves us to approach the one who promises a resurrection unto eternal life. We can plan to succeed, but we must be aware that staying alive forever is not something that human beings are capable of doing. Only God has immortality, so if we want to overcome the death problem, we had better seek a relationship with him.
LORD, we confess our inability to survive this life. We trust your grace to raise us to a new, eternal life when you return.