Question: In Isaiah 26:14, the prophet Isaiah seems to indicate that the dead will not be resurrected. However, we know that Jesus Christ taught the hope of the resurrection. To what, then, was Isaiah referring?
Answer: The Bible in many places describes the resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15:50–54; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–17; John 5:28–29; Revelation 20). However, Scripture also explains that a time will come when the incorrigibly wicked will be burned up, never to be resurrected again (Malachi 4:3; Revelation 21:8; Revelation 20:4–15). Therefore, when Isaiah describes the dead not being resurrected, he is describing the future condition of the incorrigible.
Isaiah wrote: "They are dead, they will not live; they are deceased. They will not rise. Therefore You have punished and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish" (Isaiah 26:14). Understanding the context of Isaiah’s words will help us understand the identity of these incorrigible ones.
In Isaiah 24:1, God says: "Behold the Lord makes the earth empty and makes it waste, distorts its surface and scatters abroad its inhabitants." Notice, also, that the "inhabitants of the earth are burned (v. 6)—culminating in a great earthquake (vv. 19–20). Here, Isaiah is describing the "day of the Lord"—the day of God’s "wrath and fierce anger" when He will shake heaven and earth (Isaiah 13:13; Joel 3:16). This is the same "day of the Lord" that Jesus Christ describes in Revelation 16, during which seven "bowls" of divine judgment will be poured out on unrepentant mankind.
Notice further the end-time context of Isaiah’s prophecy: "It will come to pass in that day that the Lord will punish on high the host of exalted ones, And on the earth the kings of the earth. They will be gathered in the pit, and will be shut up in the prison" (Isaiah 24:21–22). Could these "exalted ones" be Satan and his demons, who have deceived and held captive all nations throughout the course of human history? Yes, indeed (see Isaiah 14:12–17; Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:1–3)!
The Apostle Paul clearly identifies the "host of exalted ones," calling them the "rulers of darkness of this age" and "spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12). Satan and his demons, at the end of this age, will be delivered into "chains of darkness" (2 Peter 2:4). They will be shut up in tartarus (a Greek word meaning "place of restraint"), until their time of judgment (Jude 6, 13). God will also punish "the kings of the earth" (Isaiah 24:21). This will occur when the Beast and the False Prophet will be thrown alive into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 19:20)—and all others that fight Jesus Christ at His return will be killed and given to birds to consume (Revelation 19:21).
It is significant that the word "they" in Isaiah 26:14 refers to the "masters besides You" who "have had dominion over us," mentioned in verse 13. Indeed, these end time "masters"—the Beast and False Prophet—will be burned up in the Lake of Fire reserved for the incorrigible. "They are dead, they will not live; they are deceased, they will not rise." The incorrigible Beast and False Prophet will not be resurrected after they are sent into the Lake of Fire; they will be dead forever. As the Amplified Version renders it: "They are dead, they shall not live and reappear; they are powerless… they shall not rise and come back. Therefore, you have visited and made an end of them, and caused every memorial of them to perish." This could only occur if the Beast and False Prophet, burned up in the Lake of Fire, were completely annihilated forever, never experiencing the resurrection to which all true Christians look forward.