Isaiah 24–27. A Small Book of Revelation.
Key Note: Lament for the destruction of the earth. A joyous psalm for the Millennium. Physical and moral pollution of the planet.Why are we troubled with bad news? Futurologists. While Israel was in decay, other religions were flourishing.
To review what we have learned so far,
Isaiah 1–5 was the prophet's indictment of Judah, God's vineyard, that produced bitter grapes.
Chapter 6 was Isaiah's personal vision of Christ the King and his call to prophesy the downfall off Judah.
Isaiah 7–12 was occasioned by Ahaz's painful trilemma, the Israel / Syria alliance against him, Assyria as the ally that hurt him, and God, whom he refused to acknowledge.
In response to the question "Does God care about peoples other than Israel?", Isaiah 13–23 covers God's word to ten surrounding nations: Babylon, Assyria, Philistia, Moab, Damascus / Syria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Edom, Arabia and Tyre.
In these early chapters we found seven references to the Messiah:
Judge of the nations. 2:4
The glorious Branch .4:2
King on the throne. 6:1–6
Immanuel, born of the Virgin. 7:14
The Stone, a sanctuary or a rock of stumbling. 8:14
Incarnate Son, sent to Galilee, whose name is Wonderful, and whose destiny is to rule the nations .9:1–7
The Shoot from the root of Jesse, uniquely endowed by the Holy Spirit, judging in righteousness, striking the earth with the word of His mouth. In His time, the order of nature will return to the original creation.11:1–6
An outline of Isaiah 24–27 covers events of the End-times—a kind of mini-apocalyse. It is a very difficult section, oscillating back and forth between grim warnings and praise. Revelation does a series of similar abrupt reversals.
24:1–20. This is a description of the end of the world. It is a lament. Everything is wasted and abandoned.
24 :1–12 emphasizes the social and political side of the calamity.
24: 13–20 describes physical changes in the earth. In the middle of this section (:14–16a), there is a praise to God from all parts of the world, prophesying the preservation of the remnant. This is followed at once by Isaiah’s personal grief. Then the terror, the pit and the snare assure us that no one will escape.
24:21–23 The host of heaven, in heaven, and the kings of the earth, on the earth, will be captured and punished. Revelation 12:7–8 describes Satan and His angels being cast out of heaven. Although the earth, the moon and sun will be disturbed, God will be glorified on Mt. Zion
25:1–5 A psalm for the Millennium celebrates God's victory and His care for the poor. He has been a strong-hold for the needy, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.
25:6–12 "On Mount Zion the Lord of Hosts will make a feast for all the peoples. He will put away unbelief --"the veil that is spread over all nations"-- destroy death and wipe away tears from all faces. He will take away the reproach of His people and humble the proud". Moab is singled out as an example, perhaps an extreme example. "The reproach of His people" is probably the anti-semitism that has plagued Israel since its foundation and especially since the Exile.
26:1–21 This is a classic psalm of rejoicing for God's victory in spite of Israel's spiritual failure. It begins with "in that Day" indicating that we are looking into the distant future when there will be a righteous nation that keeps faith. Here are some famous quotations.
"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You." 26:3
"God is an everlasting Rock", a Rock of Ages. 26:4
26:17–19 Israel’s sufferings have not brought salvation to the world. Israel was to be the “city on the hill”, a shining example of what God’s law would produce in an obedient people. They did not have to be evangelistic; they only had to exhibit the effects of obedience to the Law of God.
“Keep them and do them; for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, who, when they hear all these statutes will say ‘surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a God so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has statues and ordinances so righteous as all this law which I set before you this day?” (Deut.4:6–8)
26:19 Please note a prophecy of the resurrection of the body.
"Your dead shall live, their bodies shall rise. O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy."
26:20–21 Isaiah gives advice to the faithful of his generation to hide until the “indignation”—temporally, the Assyrian invasion—is past.
27:1 The Serpent called Leviathan and The Dragon will be destroyed. These words refer to Satan whom God will finally conquer.
27:2–11 The Vineyard will be restored. God prophesied its destruction (Isa.5) by exile but not its final doom. In the immediate future, the sins of Israel will be expiated by exile and the destruction of the city and its idols.
27:12–13 The regathering of Israel. After the Assyrian conquest of Samaria / Ephraim it was common to speak of the “ten lost tribes.” However, God knows who they are and will bring back “those who were lost in the land of Assyria”.
Are these events in the order of their occurrence? No. Prophetic events seen at a distance appear two-dimensional. The concept is called the telescoping of prophecy. It is confirmed by, among other things, the fact that the prophet's description of Christ's two advents overlap in ways we can plainly see in retrospect.
There are few places where we can plainly discern an order to the events of the Last Days. One is IIThes.2:2–4 which says that the Day of the Lord will not come until after the Lawless One has been revealed. Another inference is that the Final Battle over Jerusalem (Zech.14:1–5) cannot occur until Israel is there to fight, i.e. her second regathering has occurred.
What will become of the earth?
Its surface will be desolate, twisted (Isa.24.1) and its inhabitants scattered, and scorched (24:6). The windows of heaven will be opened (?rain ?fire) and the foundations tremble (earthquake). (24:18). The earth will collapse like a mud hut. 24:20
It is first spiritual, then political, and finally physical ruin. Revelation describes fiery material falling from heaven in The Seven Trumpets (Rev.8:7–12) as well as war, famine and pestilence. (Rev.6:1–9)
Why would God ruin His creation, our world?
"The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt." (24:5,6)
Pollution is physical as well as moral.
*Destruction of the Amazon rain forest
*Loss of deep wells and spring waters
*Strip-mining and abandonment of mining machinery
*Toxic products in the land, water and air: lead, mercury, arsenic, sulfur dioxide, PCB's, dioxin, atrazine
*Loss of sea fish and large animals--whale, elephant, rhinoceros, tiger
*3.4 billion disposable diapers are put into land-fills in US alone each year. They are 10% of the volume of land-fills. Degradation time is 500 years
*Land-mines and unexploded bombs
*Rapid consumption of fossil fuels
*Manufacture of junk.
But is this overt sin, or the result of inertia, stupidity and too many people? In any case we cannot stand idly by and let it happen. "The world was not made to sustain our life-style."
*Official lies; hateful propaganda (Moslem problem)
*Teaching secular materialism by movies, and other power media (our problem)
*Worship of Mars (war, violence), Venus (sexuality), Bacchus (alcohol, drugs)
*Cults and false religions
*Blood of 100 million people slain in the 20th century. Hitler and the scourge of two world wars.
Isaiah says that we have transgressed the Laws. Transgression is crossing the line, overstepping the bounds. Adultery is so common, that the average life-time number of sexual partners for women in America was six years ago.
Isaiah says we have altered the statutes. (24:5). Christians alter the Law, thinking we are not breaking it, when we make images to be venerated, but not worshipped; or we say minced oaths that subtly take God's name in vain, or we "forget" income for tax purposes. We praise God but keep back our tithes and offerings.
But what is breaking the everlasting covenant? (24:5). The term "everlasting covenant" is mentioned several times:
The Covenant with Noah. Gen.9:16
The Covenant with Abraham "an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you." Gen.17:7
The Covenant with David. IISam.23:5
The New Covenant does not include the term "everlasting" but says "I will be their God and they will be my people." (Jer.31:31)
The covenants are made by God's initiative and with human beings' consent. In their various forms they convey the central idea that God will be our God and we will be His people. Breaking the everlasting covenant is saying the opposite: You are not our God and we are not your people. That is a theme of Hosea. (Hos.1:9)
A remnant will be saved in the Day of Wrath. But how? God knows how.
..."God knows how to rescue the godly from trial and to the keep the unrighteous under punishment...." (IIPet.2:9)
Hints are given in Matt.24:40 when Jesus said one will be taken and the other left.
IThes.4:15 says ..."We who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air...." We call this the Rapture.
But why would God trouble us, His Children, with horrendous events that we can do nothing about? There are many reasons.
*Isa.26:20–21 "Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the wrath is past." This sounds like advice for the coming Assyrian invasion.
•Part of Jesus' prophecy in the Olivet Discourse was to protect the believers from the coming Roman invasion. (Matt.24:15–20). They were told to run for the hills when they saw the City being surrounded, and they escaped.
•The Revelation was written for the endurance and faith of the persecuted Church. (Rev.13:10). She would be consoled by the collapse of the Roman Empire.
•We are warned not to be involved in the sins of Babylon (Rev.19:2) lest we be the recipient of her plagues. We are sinners ourselves, and part of the world system. We must beware.
•We are pilgrims and strangers in the earth. "Here we have no lasting city but we seek the city which is to come." (Heb.13:14). We have a hope and a future.
•The destruction of the world confirms the sovereignty of God. Ultimately, it is God's world, to do with as He sees fit.
Christians are the real futurologists. We know the future by revelation, although with limitations regarding time, order and sometimes even content of events. Secular futurologists are only guessing, although biblical knowledge of the future may be more widespread that we think. Henry Kissinger knew the prophecies about Israel in the Last Days. Does the European Community not know about the prophecy of the revived Roman Empire?
While Israel was in decay, the pagan world was in something of a renaissance:
*The Parthenon was completed in 450BC. The temple to Artemus at Ephesus and the temple to Zeus in Athens were also built in this period.
•Zoroaster of Persia (630–553 BC) founded a world religion (Zoroastrianism) based on a dualism between the god of light and the god of darkness. It did not capture a large number of adherents but has influenced much other religious thought.
•Buddha (550–480 BC) would receive his enlightenment (522 BC) that desire is the root of evil, to be overcome by right meditation and right living. A major world religion would be founded on his teaching, agnostic about God and hostile to the Gospel.
•Hinduism would have a resurgence with the appearance of the Ramayana, an epic religious poem~500 BC. Jainism, a reform movement of Hinduism that emphasizes the sanctity of all life would be founded by Vardhamana. (d.477 BC).
•Confucius (551–479 BC) wrote the "Analects", teaching respect for family and civil authority which influenced Chinese thought for two millennia. It is also non-theistic, agnostic and man-centered.
•Socrates (470–399 BC) and Plato, his disciple, brought Greek philosophy and rational thinking to a level that has not been exceeded. Greek art, poetry and philosophy were at their zenith.
No other major religious development would occur until Mohammed emerged in the 700's AD.
“In Confucius, Buddha, Zoroaster, Lao Tse, the Jewish prophets, the Greek poets, artists, philosophers [Socrates and Plato] and scientists, the sixth century BC reaches a zenith of human wisdom and achievement.” (The Timetable of History. B.Grun; Touchstone,’91, p.10)
It is as if God retreated from the world for four-hundred years until He burst forth as Jesus the Christ, bringing salvation to the world, and changing the way God relates to human society. Acts 17:30
Israel fell into a sink-hole, and when it emerged, it was surrounded by the Greco-Roman culture which Christianity itself has not overcome. It is appalling to think that “while men slept” the Evil One spread attractive weeds that continue to compete with the Kingdom to this day. [Some philosophers think Neoplatonism is Christianity.] Why did God allow Israel’s collapse and the ascendency of paganism?
But He did not leave Himself without a witness. About 250 BC the Jewish fathers published a translation of the Hebrew Bible in Greek, called the Septuagint (LXX). It exposed the Greco-Roman world to the Old Testament and its remarkable Gospel proclamation, as the Apostles noted. (Acts3:25; Acts 8:32Gal.3:6–9). The Septuagint was embraced by the Jewish community and was the Bible of Christ and the Apostles. From there it spread over the known world. Just a little Seed.