Temple Vision 

Isaiah saw a vision "in the year that king Uzziah died," of the Lord, high and lifted up. By his own testimony he saw the LORD of hosts:

  • “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
  • “Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
  • “And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
  • “And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
  • “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
  • “Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
  • “And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
  • “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
  • “And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
  • “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.”
  • (Isaiah 6:1-10).

Isaiah saw the vision; John saw, and touched, and walked with, the very One whom Isaiah saw. Isaiah, according to John, spoke these words "when he saw his glory." Jesus, with John's astonishment at those who "believed not on him," is the topic under discussion, which brings up the sayings of Isaiah including this temple vision. The "glory" that Isaiah saw belonged to Jesus:

  • “These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:
  • “That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?
  • “Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again,
  • “He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.
  • “These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. ”
  • (John 12:36-41).

Whose glory did Isaiah see? The Lord's:

". . .when he saw his glory, and spake of him; when he saw, in a visionary way, the glory of the Messiah in the temple, and the angels covering their faces with their wings at the sight of him; and when he spake of him as the King, the Lord of hosts, whom he had seen, Isa_6:1, from whence it is clear that he had respect to the Jews in the times of the Messiah. The prophet says in Isa_6:1 that he "saw the Lord": the Targumist renders it, "I saw", את יקרא דיי, "the glory of Jehovah"; and in Isa_6:5 he says, "mine eyes have seen the King", Jehovah, Zebaot, the Lord of hosts; which the Chaldee paraphrase renders, "mine eyes have seen", את יקר, "the glory" of the Shekinah, the King of the world, the Lord of hosts. Agreeably to which our Lord says here, that he saw his glory, the glory of his majesty, the glory of his divine nature, the train of his divine perfections, filling the temple of the human nature; and he spoke of him as the true Jehovah, the Lord of hosts; and which therefore is a very clear and strong proof of the proper divinity of Christ." (John Gill, Exposition of the Whole Bible, John 12:41).

Isaiah saw the Lord Jesus Christ:

I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; not God essentially considered, whose essence is not to be seen; but personally, Father, Son, and Spirit, for all the three Persons appear in this vision, Isa_6:3 particularly Christ, as, is clear from Joh_12:41 who is the "Adonai", or Lord; he is Lord of all, of all men, even of the greatest among them, and of all the angels in heaven, and of the church of God, by his Father's gift, by his own purchase, in right of marriage, and through the conquest of his grace. This sight was not corporeal, but with the eyes of the understanding, in the vision of prophecy; and to have a sight of Christ as the Lord, and especially as our Lord, is very delightful and comfortable; for though he is a sovereign Lord, he is no tyrannical one, is very powerful to protect and defend, and has all fulness for supply; and particularly as "sitting upon a throne" as a king, for he having done his work as a priest, sits down on his throne as a king; and a lovely sight it is to see him enthroned at the right hand of the Majesty on high; and therefore is said to be "high and lifted up"; for this is to be understood not of his throne, as if that was high and lifted up in the highest heavens, as the Targum paraphrases it; but of himself, who is high and exalted above all creatures, as Aben Ezra observes; and this sense the accents determine for: the vision refers to the exaltation of Christ, after his humiliation here on earth; and to behold him crowned with glory and honor is very delightful, since he is exalted as our head and representative in our nature, and acts for us in this his exalted state; and we may be assured of being exalted also." (John Gill, Exposition of the Whole Bible, Isaiah 6:1).

But even before the "exaltation" this commentator describes, upon His ascension into heaven to reclaim His former portion, already He had said that He would be lifted up:

  • “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
  • “This he said, signifying what death he should die.”
  • (John 12:32-33).

  • “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
  • That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
  • (John 3:14-15).

He was lifted up on the cross: "Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high." (Isaiah 52:13).

All three persons of the Trinity are represented in this vision, as is suggested in Acts, where the Holy Spirit is quoted as the author of the words:

  • “And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,
  • “Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:
  • “For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”
  • (Acts 28:25-27).

The speaker's query, using the plural pronoun, "who will go for us," and also the seraphim's thrice-repeated cry of 'Holy, Holy, Holy,' suggest the presence of the Trinity.

Aptly do the angels sing 'Holy, Holy Holy;' the redeemed will join them in singing this great song through all eternity. "For what is nearer [God] than the Cherubim or the Seraphim? And yet they, not even seeing Him, nor standing on their feet, nor even with bare, but as it were with veiled faces, offer their praises, with untiring lips doing nought else but glorify the divine and ineffable nature with the Trisagion. . .For the fact of those venerable living creatures (Isaiah 6; Revelation 4:8) offering their praises three times, saying ‘Holy, Holy, Holy,’ proves that the Three Subsistences are perfect, just as in saying ‘Lord,’ they declare the One Essence." (Athanasius, On Luke 10:22, Section 6).

  • "In attendance upon the throne, and as a living canopy for it, stood the seraphim. Their name ('burners') witnessed to the awful splendor that surrounded them, the radiance of that uncreated light before which they lived and ministered. . .Seraph cried to seraph, owning the holiness of the Lord, Jehovah of hosts. The threefold 'holy' of their homage was more than emphasis; it bore its own testimony to the Trinity of God. The title, 'Lord of hosts,' used in the Old Testament from 1 Samuel onwards, told of One at whose bidding there awaited the unnumbered armies of heaven. . .

  • "Of primary importance is the quotation in John 12 of a later verse in this sixth chapter of Isaiah. The apostle writes: 'These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.' Therefore, He whom the prophet saw in his vision was our  Lord Jesus Christ, throned in His rightful glory ere He came to effect redemption. From that majesty He stooped to humiliation and suffering and to the sorrows of the Cross.

  • "Who shall fathom that descending
    From His rainbow-circled throne,
    Down to earth's most base profaning,
    Dying, desolate, alone —
    From the Holy holy, holy,
    We adore Thee, O Most High,
    Down to earth's blaspheming voices,
    And the shout of 'Crucify'?

  • "The words of the seraph looked beyond the sufferings of Christ to the glory that should follow and to the time when earth, which saw His advent in lowliness, should see Him come in power and great glory. So certain are the purposes of God that Heaven could speak of the future as though already realized. . .

  • "Only the Lord could be enthroned in the temple; only His glory shall spread through the earth, 'for the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day' (Isa. 2:11). He can have no rivals. All dominion must be His. The house was filled with smoke, even as 'Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire' (Ex. 19:18). The holiness of God must have its way throughout His dwelling place; nought could be exempt from its searching claims. . .

  • "As Jeremiah said, 'Jehovah is the God of truth, he is the living God, and a king of eternity' (Jer. 10:10, marg.) Isaiah had seen him with his very eyes. . .Because he had seen Him, and had seen all loveliness radiant on His face, he could speak the words in later prophecy that have so stirred the longing of the redeemed and filled their hearts with gladness and awe: 'Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty' (Isa. 33:17).

  • "That which touched Isaiah's lips was a coal from off the altar, a live coal, i.e., with the altar fire burning brightly in it. . .The value of the live coal lay not in the fire as viewed in itself, but in the fact that it had first fed upon the sacrifice. It was the worth of the latter, as given to God in death, that could alone take away sin. Applied to Isaiah's lips, it dealt with their iniquity, for it was anticipative of the one sacrifice of infinite and eternal worth, even that of the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary. In that sacrifice, the holiness of God would be fully vindicated and fully satisfied, so that no stain of sin would remain upon those whose cleansing it would effect.

  • "The Christ of the throne is the Christ of the Cross. The Sovereign of the universe is the Sacrifice for sins. When Isaiah beheld His glory, more than seven hundred years were to pass before He should leave the throne for the lowliness of the manger, the loneliness of Judaea's hills, the sorrow of Gethsemane, and the forsakenenss of Golgotha, but even in the unfathomable woes of His sin-bearing, He was the same Person as when He reigned amid the seraphim."
  • (H. C. Hewlett, The Companion of the Way, pp. 86-91).

The setting of this vision is also worthy of note: the temple at Jerusalem. That the Lord Himself would appear in His temple was prophesied by Malachi:

"Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts." (Malachi 3:1)

. . .as indeed the Lord did. The medieval Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides was aware of this necessity, however 'shading' it a bit so that the Land is close enough to the Temple:

"As to the place where the Messiah will make his first appearance, Scripture intimates that he will first present himself only in the Land of Israel, as we read, "He will suddenly appear in His Temple" (Malachi 3:1). As for the advent of the Messiah, nothing at all will be known about it before it occurs. The Messiah is not a person concerning whom it may be predicted that he will be the son of so and so, or of the family of so and so. On the contrary he will be unknown before his coming, but he will prove by means of miracles and wonders that he is the true Messiah. Scripture in allusion to his mysterious lineage says, "His name is the Shoot, and he will shoot up out of his place" (Zechariah 6:12). Similarly, Isaiah referring to the arrival of the Messiah implies that neither his father nor mother, nor his kith nor kin will be known, "For he will shoot up right forth as a sapling, and as a root out of the dry ground." (53:2)." (Moses Maimonides, Letter to Yemen, Chapter xvii.)

The temple at Jersualem was sacred to none but the Living God:

  • “Furthermore King David said to all the assembly: My son Solomon, whom alone God has chosen, is young and inexperienced; and the work is great, because the temple is not for man but for the Lord God.”
  • (1 Chronicles 29:1).

The "Lord" who visited His temple, Jesus Christ, is the living God! He was carried there as a baby, disputed with the scholars as a child, cleansed the place as an adult and taught there unmolested. For any future Messianic claimant to meet these criteria, the temple will need to be rebuilt from scratch!