Tagged: day of reckoning
10 truths about the return of Jesus
Few passages of scripture cause more controversy among evangelical Christians than Rev. 20:1-10, in which John mentions a 1,000-year period six times. The main point of debate is whether the “millennium” should be understood literally or figuratively.
Generally, those who believe the 1,000 years are literal and in the future are called premillennialists. They look for Christ to return and establish a “millennial kingdom,” or a reign of 1,000 years, after which He puts down Satan’s final revolt, resurrects and judges unbelievers (Christians are judged before the millennium), and creates new heavens and a new earth.
Those who believe Christ is returning after the millennium are called postmillennialists. The 1,000 years are not necessarily a literal time frame, but they represent a period during which much of the world turns to faith in Jesus.
Those who see all references to the 1,000 years as figurative and without merit as a reference point concerning the timing of the Lord’s return are called amilllennialists.
There is diversity within each of these camps as to the order of events surrounding the second coming.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it’s important to follow a biblical principle for exploring tough passages: Start with the simple and straightforward teachings of scripture, and seek to understand the difficult passages in the light of the simpler ones.
With that in mind, let’s rally around 10 simple truths regarding the return of Jesus.
Isaiah 3: Stumbled and Fallen
Chart: Kings of Judah and Key Events during Isaiah’s Ministry (pdf)
Where we are:
Part 1: Judgment
Part 2: Historical Interlude
Part 3: Salvation
When this takes place:
Chapters 2-12 likely were written during the reign of King Uzziah. Some commentators believe this chapter was written before the Syro-Ephraimite War in 734-32 B.C.
Isa. 3:8: For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen because they have spoken and acted against the Lord, defying His glorious presence.
The Lord argues His case against Judah and Jerusalem and stands ready to execute judgment. He is particularly pointed in His wrath against corrupt leaders and haughty women.
Unlike chapter 2, which looks well into the future, chapter 3 focuses on the here and now for Israel, with an especially harsh assessment of the manner in which God’s people have squandered their wealth and privilege. The New Testament equivalent could be the words of Jesus in Luke 12:48: “Much will be required of everyone who has been given much. And even more will be expected of the one who has been entrusted with more.”
God will remove the leaders (Isa. 3:1-12)
Judah and Jerusalem are comfortable, given the peace and prosperity of King Uzziah’s day. But their wealth, economic stability and military security have led their leaders to become self-absorbed, complacent, and corrupt. Isaiah delivers a wake-up call, warning that the Lord God of Hosts is about to remove “every kind of security” (v. 1). The loss of food (“the entire supply of bread and water,” v. 1) and the removal of key leaders (“the hero and warrior, the judge and prophet, the fortune-teller and elder, the commander … dignitary, the counselor, cunning magician, and necromancer,” vv. 2-3) imply a military siege and captivity. Perhaps this describes the approaching Syro-Ephraimite War. The king and priests are not mentioned. It’s possible that Isaiah is speaking of the time when Uzziah would be separated from society because of his leprosy and a group of more than 80 priests would faithfully serve God (2 Chron. 26:16-21), although the text does not specifically say so.
The Lord then says He will make “youths” their leaders and place the “unstable,” or “mischief-makers,” in authoritative positions (v. 4). This could be understood literally, or it could be that the new leaders would be scraped from the bottom of the barrel – immature, unwise, mischievous, and strong willed. Gary V. Smith summarizes the situation well: “In a sense God seems to be saying, ‘If you want to trust in incompetent leaders then I will give you some really bad ones'” (The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, p. 146).
With biting mockery, Isaiah predicts the day in which the only qualification for leadership will be whether someone owns a coat (v. 6). But even with the bar set that low, people will avoid leadership responsibilities. As a result, the worst possible types of people will become leaders by default.
In verses 8-9, Isaiah makes it clear that Judah and Jerusalem are bringing disaster upon themselves. They have “stumbled” and “fallen” because they have “spoken and acted against the Lord, defying His glorious presence.” The people made no effort to hide their defiant behavior before God or one another. They openly paraded their sins in public like those in Sodom did prior to their destruction (v. 9; see Gen. 19-20).
The righteous in Judah are assured that it will go well with them, while it will go badly for the wicked (vv. 10-11). This is not a pitch for the prosperity gospel. Nor does Isaiah tackle the thorny issue of why the righteous suffer as Job and the writer of Ecclesiastes do. Isaiah simply is telling his countrymen what the apostle Paul later told the Galatians – there are consequences of our actions; that is, we reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7).
God will judge (Isa. 3:13-15)
In light of the evidence of Judah’s sinfulness and rebellion, the Lord warns that He may have to take the leaders to court. Specifically, He accuses the leaders of oppressing the people, leading them astray, plundering the poor, and crushing God’s people. Part of their responsibility was to defend the poor and helpless against powerful landlords and skillful lawyers. Instead, they allow youngsters to rise to the throne and permit women (maybe the queen mother or women in the harem) to rule the people (v. 12). This charge could be interpreted literally, or it could be a sarcastic remark comparing Judah’s leaders with silly boys or women. The Lord seems astonished at this behavior and asks why the leaders “crush” His people and “grind” the faces of the poor. They have utterly rejected the divine mandate to care for the people and have come to adopt a low regard for human life.
Today, the Lord still has high standards for people in positions of authority in the family, government, business, and the church (see Matt. 24:45-51; 2 Tim. 4:1-2; James 3:1). Since all governing authority is given by God (Rom. 13:1), all those in leadership positions ultimately are accountable to God, and there is a day of reckoning.
Judah’s women denounced (Isa. 3:16 – 4:1)
Since the time of Uzziah is a period of peace and prosperity, the wives of many government officials, businessmen and military leaders have the financial resources to pamper themselves and dress lavishly. It’s clear from the context that God is condemning the pride of the wealthy women of Jerusalem. He calls them “haughty,” meaning self-engrossed or proud. Isaiah notices these arrogant, well-dressed women in the temple area of Jerusalem, where God should be exalted and humility should be the prevailing attitude of the people. The Lord describes their behavior: they walk pompously, with their noses in the air, giving flirtatious glances, walking provocatively with short hops or steps that caused the jewelry on their ankles to jangle, thus drawing attention to themselves.
But God is determined to remove everything these women hold so dear, bringing them to the point of humiliation and shame, and making their appearance repulsive to others. Even though these verses do not say exactly how God will accomplish this, the description of the women indicates it may very well be as a result of the rape and savagery that comes with defeat in warfare. If they do not repent, their opulent world will come crashing down on them. Verse 24 uses the word “instead” five times:
- Instead of perfume (derived from the balsam tree) there will be a stench, probably from decaying flesh and festering wounds;
- Instead of fashionable belts, their clothes will be secured with a rope, or perhaps they will be bound as prisoners;
- Instead of beautifully styles hair, baldness;
- Instead of the finest fashions, sackcloth, symbolic of grief and mourning;
- Instead of beautiful clothes and makeup, a brand pressed into their flesh by conquering soldiers.
Added to this will be the shame of living without husbands or children, probably as a result of the death of many husbands and sons in warfare. The death of these males will take away the women’s income, security and social status, to the point where they will desperately grab hold of a man, vow to share him with other women, and even take care of their own needs in exchange for the opportunity to have children.
Gary V. Smith comments: “This passage challenges people to test their own heart to see if that tattoo, that new pair of shoes, that new job, that new house, or the purchase of that new car was motivated by pride or if it will result in a prideful attitude. Although pride differs from self-esteem, the concern for my rights, my opinions, my way, and my honor is a sign of a sick self-centered society that fails to give complete honor and glory to God” (The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, p. 153).
Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips
Isaiah 2: A Day of Reckoning
Where we are:
Part 1: Judgment
Part 2: Historical Interlude
Part 3: Salvation
When this takes place:
Some commentators believe this chapter was written during the reign of Jotham or Ahaz because of the description of Judah in verses 6-8. But it may be better to consider King Uzziah’s reign, which was noted for its prosperity, power and pride. More specifically, Isaiah’s sermons in chapters 2-12 likely happened some time after the Syro-Ephraimite War in 734-32 B.C. In any case, this prophecy was given during the early years of Isaiah’s ministry.
Isa. 2:12: For the LORD of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty and against everyone who is lifted up, that he may be abased. (NASB)
The Lord will establish His kingdom on earth in “the last days,” and will executive judgment in a “day of reckoning.”
It’s clear that chapter 2 addresses the future, particularly the last days. Note how Isaiah identifies this time:
- “the last days” (v. 2)
- “on that day” (v. 11)
- “a day belonging to the Lord of Hosts is [coming]” (HCSB) / “the Lord of Hosts will have a day of reckoning” (NASB) (v. 12)
- “the Lord alone will be exalted on that day” (v. 17)
- “On that day” (v. 20)
- “when He rises to terrify the earth” (v. 21)
The city of peace (Isa. 2:1-4)
The first four verses of this chapter describe a future day in which a final and lasting peace comes to the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. At least two things are clear: God is the One who establishes and maintains this lasting peace, and He does it in “the last days,” or, from a New Testament perspective, in the days encompassing the first and second comings of Christ.
The term “last days” is used at least 13 times in the Bible (HCSB) and describes the final period of the world as we know it. In the Old Testament, the last days are anticipated as the age of Messianic fulfillment (Isa. 2:2; Micah 4:1), while the New Testament writers consider themselves living in the last days – the era of the gospel (Acts 2:17; Heb. 1:2). “The last days, then, are the days of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They are preliminary to and preparatory for the last day of final judgment of unbelievers and the dawn of eternal glory for believers” (Tyndale Bible Dictionary, p. 800).
Gary V. Smith adds a cautionary note: “The phrase ‘in the last days’ cannot be associated with the millennium or with the church age in Isaiah’s thinking, because such concepts were not known to the prophet. He is simply talking about the last events in human history, when the kingdom of God would begin. New Testament readers must be careful not to read later NT information back into earlier texts and make them say things that God did not reveal to the prophets” (The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, p. 129).
The plural use of “days” implies a sustained length of time. While those living in Old Testament times may have viewed the coming Messianic age as singular and continuous, New Testament revelation shows us that the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah are to be fulfilled in two stages. First, Messiah will come as the Suffering Servant (Isa. 53), or Lamb of God (John 1:29). Then He will return one day as the Lion of Judah to defeat the wicked and establish His earthly kingdom (Rev. 19:11 – 20:6).
Isaiah’s reference to the “mountain of the Lord” (v. 2) points to His kingdom, authority or rule. One day the kingdoms of men will become the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:24). Isaiah also draws an analogy between the kingdom of God and the Temple on Mount Moriah, which towers above the countryside in Isaiah’s day. The kingdom of God will rise above, overshadow, and nullify the arrogant, warring and fleeting kingdoms of men. The prophet Daniel makes reference to these days when interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of the statue, which symbolized earthly kingdoms: “Then the iron, the fired clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were shattered and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors. The wind carried them away, and not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (Dan. 2:35; emphasis mine).
The Lord Himself will settle disputes between nations. Ruling in majesty, power, justice and wisdom, He will so change the nature of worldly authority that people will “turn their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives” … “and they will never again train for war” (v. 4). These opening verses of chapter 2 are almost identical to Micah 4:1-5.
The Day of the Lord (Isa. 2:5-22)
Verse 12 warns that a day of reckoning is coming. Various translations describe it as:
- “a day belonging to the Lord of Hosts” (HCSB)
- “the day of the Lord” (KJV)
- “a day of reckoning” (NASB)
- “a day against all that is proud and lofty” (ESV)
- “a day in store” (NIV)
“The day of the Lord” is different from the previous reference to “the last days.” Specifically, it refers to God’s supernatural intervention in human history, usually with reference to events that will take place at the end of time. “Most often,” according to Wilmington’s Bible Handbook, “it relates to the Tribulation preceding the return of Christ” (Isa. 2:12).
Isaiah catalogues the reasons God has abandoned His people:
- They have adopted religious superstitions from their neighbors (v. 6).
- They have formed national alliances for strength rather than relying on God (v.6).
- They have accumulated wealth and built up huge armaments rather than trusting God for their provision (v. 7).
- And they have embraced idolatry, worshiping the creature rather than Creator (v. 8; see also Rom. 1:25).
Since Israel has made itself look and act like the heathen nations around it, God will judge Israel in a manner appropriate for the heathen. It’s likely that Isaiah does not see the lengthy time frame of repeated judgment, stretching out more than two millennia into the future, yet he is clear that Judah has been sufficiently rebellious to attract God’s wrath now. “The Lord alone,” he proclaims, “will be exalted on that day” (v. 11). He will break down the arrogance of all people, specifically:
- “cedars” and “oaks” – a reference to haughty nobles and princes (v. 13; see also Amos 2:9; Zech. 11:2).
- “high mountains” and “lofty hills” – an image of government and society (v. 14).
- “every high tower” and “every fortified wall” – a picture of military might (v. 15).
- “every ship of Tarshish” and “every splendid sea vessel” – a reference to commerce (v. 16).
- “human pride” and “the loftiness of men” (v. 17).
- “idols” (v. 18).
While these appear to be figurative references, it’s probable that the people of Judah in Uzziah’s day literally took pride in their fortified cities, tall towers, large ships and beautiful trees.
There is a parallel in Rev. 6:15-17 to how the wicked are seen responding to God’s wrath in Isa. 2:19-21: “Then the kings of the earth, the nobles, the military commanders, the rich, the powerful, and every slave and free person hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of Their wrath has come! And who is able to stand?'” Just as God will bring judgment on His people for their rebellion in Isaiah’s day – through the Assyrian and Babylonian empires – the Lord Himself will execute judgment directly on the whole earth on “the last day.”
There is hope for Judah in Isaiah’s day, as there is for us today. “Come and let us walk in the Lord’s light,” the prophet urges in verse 5, adding in verse 22, “Put no more trust in man, who has only the breath in his nostrils. What is he really worth?”
Gary V. Smith summarizes: “This sermon provides two unmistakable theological choices to any reader/listener. One can follow the path of proud leaders like Uzziah, or a person can ‘stop trusting in man’ now and exalt God alone. The theological choice is clear and presented as two opposite alternatives with two opposite consequences: life with God in his glorious kingdom (2:1-5), or frightful humiliation and destruction (2:6-22). There is no middle ground for people to hide” (Smith, p. 142).
Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips