Rev. 11:3 – I will empower my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, dressed in sackcloth. 4These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5If anyone wants to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and consumes their enemies; if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way. 6These men have the power to close the sky so that it does not rain during the days of their prophecy. They also have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with any plague whenever they want.
My two witnesses
In verse 3 we are introduced to God’s two witnesses, who dress in sackcloth and prophesy for 1,260 days. They are described as “the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.” They are able to consume their enemies with fire from their mouths. They have the power to prevent rain during the days of their ministry, as well as the authority to turn the waters to blood and to strike the earth with plagues. The identity of these two witnesses is a matter of much debate among commentators. Noted biblical scholar Henry “Dean” Alford once said the 11th chapter of Revelation is the most difficult to interpret in all of the Apocalypse of John, and no doubt the identity of these two witnesses contributes to the difficulty.
There are many views.
Rev. 6:12 – Then I saw Him open the sixth seal. A violent earthquake occurred; the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair; the entire moon became like blood; 13 the stars of heaven fell to the earth as a fig tree drops its unripe figs when shaken by a high wind; 14 the sky separated like a scroll being rolled up; and every mountain and island was moved from its place. 15 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. 16 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, 17 because the great day of Their wrath has come! And who is able to stand?” (HCSB)
When Jesus opens the sixth seal, terrifying natural disasters take place on the earth and in the heavens. There is a violent earthquake. The sun turns black and the moon turns blood red. The stars – perhaps meteors – fall to earth. The sky parts and the land masses shift. But these are not merely natural calamities; they are God’s judgments, and the wicked on earth know this. Rather than repent of their sins, however, they hide themselves in the earth and call upon the rocks and mountains to shield them from the wrath of God.
When do these events occur? What is the great day of God’s wrath? And why do the wicked refuse to repent? How do John’s first-century readers understand this passage? And what does it mean to us today?
The sixth seal
The sixth seal matches a portion of Jesus’ Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24-25. Just as the second and third seals – portending sword, famine and pestilence – echo Jesus’ words in Matt. 24:6-7; and just as the fifth seal – describing martyrdom – matches our Savior’s prediction in Matt. 24:9-10; so the sixth seal – foretelling cosmic calamity – is eerily similar to Christ’s words in Matt. 24:29: “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not shed its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the celestial powers will be shaken.”
What follows in Matthew 24 is Jesus’ return “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (v. 30). The people of the earth will mourn, He says, a fitting match to the response of the wicked who know the day of God’s wrath has come. “Fall on us and hide us,” they cry to the rocks and mountains, “from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16).
The sixth seal previews the destruction of the first heaven and earth, some commentators say (see Rev. 20:11; 21:1). Others argue that this seal describes God’s judgment on Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans in 70 A.D. Perhaps both views are true since there are times when prophecies in scripture have both a near-term and long-term fulfillment. In any case, John’s words have terrifying relevance to his first-century readers. Most of the seven cities mentioned in Revelation 2-3 experienced devastating earthquakes in the century prior to John’s Apocalypse. Christians in these cities may graphically envision the day of God’s wrath. What’s more, earthquakes in scripture often announce the terrifying arrival of the Lord in His glory (Ex. 19:18; Ps. 97:5; Ezek. 38:19-20). But His final coming shakes both heaven and earth.
Let’s look more closely at what occurs:
- “A violent earthquake” (v. 12). While many commentators take this literally, as a great seismic shaking, some interpret this religiously (the destruction of the temple and the fall of Jerusalem) or politically (the crumbling of the once-unshakable Roman Empire).
- “The sun turned black like sackcloth make of goat hair” (v. 12). Again, some see this as a natural, God-ordained occurrence such as a total eclipse of the sun or, perhaps, the smoke from a violent earthquake masking the sun’s light. Others see this from a political posture as the light goes out on the leaders of Judaism and the Roman Empire.
- “The entire moon became like blood” (v. 12). Atmospheric conditions can change the color of the moon, making it appear a dark red. But for those viewing this event figuratively, this is a reference to “lesser lights” in Jewish and Roman leadership positions.
- “The stars of heaven fell to the earth” (v. 13). This could be a reference to a meteor shower – a spectacular night-time show that also results in dangerous debris falling to the earth. Or, as some interpreters insist, these are men of note in Judaism or the Roman Empire.
- “The sky separated like a scroll being rolled up” (v. 14). For the literalist, God is moving the heavens with the ease of a scribe closing a scroll. For others, this is the end of Judaism’s great era, or the end of the Roman Empire’s chapter in world history.
- “Every mountain and island was moved from its place” (v. 14). All of creation is shaken violently in preparation for its renovation into new heavens and a new earth, although some see this in figurative terms as the dramatic end to the times of the Jews and/or the Roman Empire.
While there may be good reason to see these events in figurative terms, parallel passages in the Old Testament seem to favor a more literal interpretation. Note:
- Isa. 13:9-10: “Look, the day of the Lord is coming – cruel, with rage and burning anger – to make the earth a desolation and to destroy the sinners in it. Indeed, the stars of the sky and its constellations will not give their light. The sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will not shine.”
- Isa. 34:2-4: “The Lord is angry with all the nations – furious with all their armies. He will set them apart for destruction, giving them over to slaughter. Their slain will be thrown out, and the stench of their corpses will rise; the mountains flow with their blood. All the heavenly bodies will dissolve. The skies will roll up like a scroll, and their stars will all wither as leaves wither on the vine, and foliage on the fig tree.”
- Joel 2:30-31: “I will display wonders in the heavens and on the earth: blood, fire, and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and awe-inspiring Day of the Lord comes.”
Note how R.B. Sloan helps set the stage for the rest of Revelation: “The earthquake is a consistent sign in Revelation for the destruction that immediately precedes the end (see 8:5; 11:13, 19; 16:18–19) of history and the appearance of the Lord. The repeated references to the earthquake at strategic spots in Revelation do not mean that history itself repeatedly comes to an end but that John employed the well-known literary technique of ‘recapitulation’ (see Gen. 1–2), that is, the retelling of the same story from a different ‘angle’ so as to focus upon other dimensions of and characters in the same story.
“Thus, in Revelation we are repeatedly brought to the end of history and the time of Christ’s return. But John withheld his final (and fullest) description of this world’s end until the end of his document (19:1–22:5). In the meantime he used the literary technique (among others) of retelling to prepare his readers for both the traumas and hopes of human history” (“The Revelation,” in D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman Concise Bible Commentary, p. 672).
Next: The kings … hid in caves (Rev. 6:12-17)
Previously – I heard every creature: Rev. 5:13-14
Rev. 5:13 – I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say: Blessing and honor and glory and dominion to the One seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever! 14The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshiped (HCSB).
The four-fold doxology of all creatures borrows from the previous proclamation of the church and the angels – with one exception: the “dominion” of the One seated on the throne, and of the Lamb, is added to blessing, honor and glory. The Greek word translated “dominion” is kratos, which refers to might or mighty deed. It differs from other Greek words rendered “dominion,” such as kyriotes, used elsewhere in the New Testament and meaning lordship, and exousia, which in Acts 18, referring to the believers’ transfer from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God, emphasizes freedom of choice.
So why do the creatures focus on God’s might rather than His lordship or sovereignty over human choices? Perhaps it is because all creatures necessarily display the mighty acts of God in their very beings, while His lordship requires acknowledgement, and entrance into the kingdom of God requires choice.
While God rules over all creation, He delegates authority to people. This is not an afterthought but an integral part of God’s divine design for mankind. In Gen. 1:26 God says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the animals, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” David declares in Ps. 8:6, “You made him (man) lord over the works of Your hands; You put everything under his feet.”
But when Adam falls, he forfeits his dominion over the earth and concedes it to Satan. As a result, all of creation falls with Adam. The ground is cursed, and Adam must eat from it by means of painful labor (Gen. 3:17). Even more, the whole creation groans with “labor pains” beneath the weight of sin (Rom. 8:22). Still, there is hope in the Lamb. The apostle Paul writes joyously, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility – not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it – in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children” (Rom. 8:18-21).
Why do all creatures exalt the Lord’s dominion? Because their Creator is also their Redeemer. While the Lamb purchases man’s freedom from sin by His blood, He also sets the entire created order on a sure path to complete recovery from the corruption sin has caused. At Calvary, Jesus is consumed as a sin offering, but for the joy of what it will accomplish He endures the cross and despises its shame and today sits at the right hand of the Father (Heb. 12:2).
One day He will purge this world of sin, as Peter writes: “But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that [day] the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, [it is clear] what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be on fire and be dissolved, and the elements will melt with the heat. But based on His promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell” (2 Peter 3:10-13).
Warren Wiersbe comments, “All of heaven’s praise came because the Lamb took the scroll from the Father’s hand. God’s great eternal plan would now be fulfilled and creation would be set free from the bondage of sin and death. One day the Lamb will break the seals and put in motion events that will eventually lead to His coming to earth and the establishment of His kingdom” (The Bible Exposition Commentary, Re 5:1).
This breathtaking chapter ends with the four living creatures saying, “Amen.” The word is a transliteration of a Hebrew word signifying that something is certain, valid, truthful, or faithful. It often is used at the end of biblical songs, hymns, and prayers. The song of the elders, the proclamation of the church and the angels, and the doxology of every creature – their words of praise ring true and will be repeated throughout eternity. Where do such lofty words naturally lead? Take note of the elders, who, upon hearing the word “Amen,” fall down and worship.
Next: The first seal (Rev. 6:1-2)
Where we are:
Part 1: Judgment
Part 2: Historical Interlude
Part 3: Salvation
When this takes place:
There is not sufficient information to know precisely when Isaiah delivers the prophetic messages of chapters 34-35. It is clear, however, that these prophecies anticipate the Day of the Lord, when He will judge the nations and deliver His people. Some commentators believe chapters 34-35 serve as an “eschatological conclusion” (an end-times wrap up) to the woe oracles of Isa. 28-33, which could place this message in the reign of Hezekiah.
Isa. 34:2 – The Lord is angry with all the nations – furious with all their armies. He will set them apart for destruction, giving them over to slaughter.
Isaiah describes the judgments of the Day of the Lord in detail, including miraculous wonders in the heavens. In all likelihood, Edom is symbolic of the world powers that have opposed Israel and now must face the Jewish people’s “Judge … lawgiver … and King” (Isa. 33:22). “In the Day of the Lord, the Gentiles will be repaid for the way they have treated the Jews and exploited their land (Joel 3:1–17). ‘Zion’s cause’ may not get much support among the nations today, but God will come to their defense and make their cause succeed” (Warren Wiersbe, Be Comforted, S. Is 34:1).
Anyone who contends that Jesus is the consummate peace-love-and-joy hippie who taught “live and let live” and never spoke a harsh word or raised a hand in anger would do well to note how Isaiah, Jesus Himself and the New Testament writers depict the Messiah in both His first and second comings. Isaiah, for example, describes the Lord as “angry,” “furious,” setting the armies of the nations apart for “destruction” and “giving them over to slaughter.” The “stench of their corpses will rise,” the prophet reveals, and the mountains will “flow with their blood” (Isa. 34:2-3). Jesus often expresses anger, especially toward the religious leaders of His day, and twice he violently drives the money changers from the Temple. A reading of His “woes” against the “scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites” in Matthew 23 reveals stinging rebukes against the religious elite of His day, and His parables of the kingdom of heaven lay out a tragic end for those who oppose Him (see, for example, Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43, 47-50; 22:1-14) What’s more, His return will be violent and bloody as He punishes those who shake their fists toward heaven and fight against the rightful Heir to the world’s throne (see Rev. 19:11-21).
The Judgment of the Nations (Isa. 34:1-4)
The chapter opens with a call to the entire earth to “come here and listen.” No one is left out of this frightening message of God’s future judgment. He clearly beckons the “nations … peoples … earth … and all that fills it … the world and all that comes from it” (v. 1). What is so important that no one is exempted? “The Lord is angry with all the nations – furious with all their armies” (v. 2). In His wrath, Yahweh will slaughter countless evil soldiers, leaving their blood to flow in the valleys and their corpses to rot on the hillsides.
There will be wonders in the sky as well. “All the heavenly bodies will dissolve,” Isaiah writes. “The skies will roll up like a scroll, and their stars will all wither as leaves wither on the vine, and foliage on the fig tree” (v. 4). Catastrophic events in the heavens will accompany the Messiah’s return to earth to establish His kingdom (see Joel 2:10, 30-31; 3:15; Zech. 14:6-7; Matt. 24:29). However, it is difficult to know with certainty exactly when and how these prophecies will be fulfilled. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck comment: “Isaiah 34:4 may refer to the judgment of the sixth seal in the Tribulation (Rev. 6:12-13), or to the eternal state, after the Millennium, when the sun will not be needed (Rev. 21:1). Or perhaps Isaiah was speaking figuratively of a change in the whole power structure in the Millennium when human kings will be done away with and God alone will be in control” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1084).
The Judgment of Edom (Isa. 34:5-17)
Isaiah uses Edom as an example of the world, which will come under God’s judgment. The Edomites are descendents of Esau, Jacob’s older brother, and are perpetual enemies of Israel (cf. Ezek. 35; 36:5). As such, they are an appropriate representation of what the Lord will do to all nations that oppose His people. The Lord’s slaughter of Edom is depicted as “a sacrifice in Bozrah,” the capital city of Edom (v. 6). Modern-day Buseirah is located about 25 miles southeast of the Dead Sea and is a place animals in Isaiah’s day are slaughtered for sacrifice. The Jews’ practice is to offer sacrifices to God, but in this passage it is God offering the wicked as sacrifices. The Lord depicts His enemies as animals, who are sacrificed along with the fat (Lev. 3:9-11). These nations often slaughtered and sacrificed God’s people, so now the Lord sacrifices them.
Many Bible commentators believe this bloody scene depicts the battle of Armageddon in the last days. Warren Wiersbe writes: “Isaiah compares the Day of the Lord to the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah (Isa. 34:9–10; Gen. 18–19). This is a significant comparison because, just before the coming of the Lord, society will be ‘as it was in the days of Lot’ (Luke 17:28). Tar running like streams and sulfur like dust will keep the fires of judgment burning (Gen. 14:10; 19:24). The description in Isaiah 34:10 reminds us of the fall of Babylon (Rev. 14:8-11; 19:3). We should also remember that the fires of eternal hell, the lake of fire, will never be quenched (Mark 9:43–48)” (Be Comforted, S. Is 34:1).
“Edom symbolizes in Scripture the ungodly (cf. Heb. 12:16) and the persecutor (cf. Ob. 10–14), the opposite and adversary of the church,” writes D.A. Carson. “The metaphor in vs 5–7 is a grim variant of the banquet scene (cf. 25:6), dwelling on the butchery behind the sacrificial feast and using [a] current idiom to show that the whole people, from ‘young bloods’ and leading citizens (7a) to the least and lowest (6), is doomed (cf. 63:1–6)” (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 34:1).
As a result of God’s judgment, the land will seem to be ablaze – her streams turned to pitch (a flammable tar-like substance) and her soil to sulfur. The land will become desolate, inhabited only by creatures that seek out more solitary confines. Owls, ravens, jackals, ostriches, hyenas, wild goats and other animals will abound as the land becomes overgrown and uninhabitable for generations. Isaiah uses an interesting name in verse 14: The “night monster” (NASB) or “screech owl” (HCSB), literally Lilith, is noted in ancient mythology as a female night demon that inhabits desolate places. The imagery here is used to illustrate the total devastation of the heathen lands.
The theme of divine vengeance dominates chapters 34-35, prompting some people to withdraw from the “angry” and “vindictive” God of the Old Testament in favor of a kinder, gentler New Testament God. Some even argue the Bible cannot be true since it depicts two entirely different Gods in the Old and New Testaments. Yet God is immutable, or unchanging, as Scripture makes clear, and He alone is the rightful Author of vengeance. Both the Old and New Testaments affirm the truth that the Lord is the “God of vengeance” (Ps. 94:1). In Deut. 32:35 the Lord declares, “Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay.” Sometimes God’s vengeance is carried out through human agencies (cf. Num. 31:2-3; Josh. 10:13). “Yet no individual has God’s permission to take personal revenge,” writes Lawrence O. Richards. “The reason is that vengeance is a judicial concept. It is reserved for God, as moral and spiritual Judge of His universe, to punish those who persistently reject Him, abandon His ways, and oppress the righteous. Typically vengeance is reserved for history’s end (cf. Isa. 63:1–6), and any present time is marked by a divine forebearance that provides individuals and nations with every opportunity to repent and to believe” (The Bible Readers Companion, electronic ed., S. 428).
In the New Testament, the doctrine of God’s vengeance is expressed in the Greek words dike and dikesis. The primary meaning is “justice” and communicates the fact that justice is a judicial function reserved for God alone (Rom. 12:19). As in the Old Testament, vengeance in the New Testament often looks toward the end of human history (Rom. 2:1-11) and is sometimes graphically described (2 Thess. 1:5-10; Rev. 19:11-21). “The real wonder is not that God will certainly punish the unrepentant, but that He chose to vent His anger against sin on Christ rather than on us. Christ’s sufferings for us forever disprove the notion that a God of vengeance could not also be a God of love” (Richards, S. 428).
Matthew Henry comments: “As there is a day of the Lord’s patience, so there will be a day of his vengeance; for, though he bear long, he will not bear always…. There is a time prefixed in the divine counsels for the deliverance of the church and the destruction of her enemies, a year of the redeemed, which will come, a year of recompences [sic] for the controversy of Zion; and we must patiently wait till then, and judge nothing before the time” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 34:1).
Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips
Where we are:
Part 1: Judgment
Part 2: Historical Interlude
Part 3: Salvation
When this takes place:
Isaiah 24-27 forms a single prophecy. While it’s difficult to pinpoint the time in which it is given, it seems best to place it a short time before the attack by Sennacherib, king of Assyria, on Jerusalem in 701 B.C.
Isa. 24:21-22 – On that day the Lord will punish the host of heaven above and kings of the earth below. They will be gathered together like prisoners in a pit. They will be confined to a dungeon; after many days they will be punished.
This section of Isaiah begins with an end-times perspective explaining how the Lord will judge the whole world and set up His kingdom on earth (Isa. 24:1-3, 19-23). “These prophecies reveal how God will finally deal with the rebellious nations of chaps. 13-23 so that he can bring an end to the pride and violent sinfulness that has polluted the earth. God will destroy the wicked and establish peace on the earth, and then the holy people who remain will worship God alone and sing songs to exalt him” (Gary V. Smith, The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, p. 405). Because of their description of the Tribulation and Millennium, chapters 24-27 are known as “Isaiah’s apocalypse.”
Notice Isaiah’s description of end-time events that are reinforced in New Testament prophecies. For example, the earth will be stripped completely bare and its inhabitants scattered (vv. 1-3; cf. Rev. 8:6 – 9:21), and the sun and moon will darken in preparation for the full revelation of Messiah’s kingdom (v. 23; cf. Matt. 24:29-30; Rev. 21:23).
The Tribulation (Isa. 24:1-13, 16b-22)
While the immediate context of this chapter may refer to the Assyrian invasion of Judah, or to the Babylonian captivity that will occur more than 100 years later, it seems to have its ultimate fulfillment in the Great Tribulation yet to come. H.L. Willmington offers the following observations:
A. The Great Tribulation–what it is (24:1-4, 6-13, 16b-22)
1. God himself will lay waste to the entire earth (24:1): The earth will become a great wasteland, and the people will be scattered.
2. All people and fallen angels will be judged (24:2-4, 21-22): No one will be spared from God’s wrath, and the fallen angels will be put in prison.
3. Very few will survive (24:6): A curse will consume the earth and its people, who will be destroyed by fire.
4. Happiness will no longer exist (24:7-13): All joy in life will be gone.
5. Evil and treachery will be everywhere (24:16b-18): People possessed by sheer terror will flee from one danger only to be confronted with something even more horrifying.
6. The earth will stagger like a drunkard (24:19-20): It will fall and collapse like a tent, unable to rise again because of the weight of its sins.
B. The Great Tribulation–why it occurs (24:5): Humanity has twisted the laws of God and has broken his holy commands (The Outline Bible, S. Is 24:5).
Isaiah uses the word “earth” 16 times in this chapter to emphasize the global impact of God’s intervention in human affairs, wielding judgment and exalting His glory. No stratum of society is spared and no portion of the earth escapes unscathed. The reason for God’s plundering of the earth is provided in verse 5: “The earth is polluted by its inhabitants, for they have transgressed teachings, overstepped decrees, and broken the everlasting covenant.” That covenant “probably refers not to the Abrahamic or Mosaic Covenants but to the covenant people implicitly had with God to obey His Word. Right from the very beginning mankind refused to live according to God’s Word (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:1-6; cf. Hosea 6:7). And throughout history people have refused to obey God’s revelation” (John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1072). Robert B. Hughes and Carl J. Laney add, “The ‘everlasting covenant’ must refer to the moral law of God revealed in his word and written in man’s heart (cf. Rom. 2:14-15)” (Tyndale Concise Bible Dictionary, S 263).
It cannot be emphasized too strongly that God is the one wreaking havoc on the earth. While people are responsible for their sinful actions, and these actions often produce great hardship for the perpetrators and for others in the process, the Lord of Hosts clearly is demonstrating His holiness and power in events that otherwise might be interpreted as a scorched-earth policy. After all, if God created the present heavens and earth out of chaos (Gen. 1:2) and judged the earth by water in the great flood (Gen. 6-9), He has every right to judge mankind’s sin in the latter days by reintroducing chaos to the created order. Ultimately, He will purge the heavens and earth of the last vestiges of sin by fire and create new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 3:5-13; Rev. 21-22). Even the imagery of Isaiah in verse 18 harkens back to the flood: “For the windows are opened from above, and the foundations of the earth are shaken” (cf. Gen. 7:11).
Matthew Henry summarizes well:
The Lord that made the earth, and made it fruitful and beautiful, for the service and comfort of man, now makes it empty and waste (v. 1), for its Creator is and will be its Judge; he has an incontestable right to pass sentence upon it and an irresistible power to execute that sentence. It is the Lord that has spoken this word, and he will do the work (v. 3); it is his curse that has devoured the earth (v. 6), the general curse which sin brought upon the ground for man’s sake (Gen. 3:17), and all the particular curses which families and countries bring upon themselves by their enormous wickedness. See the power of God’s curse, how it makes all empty and lays all waste; those whom he curses are cursed indeed (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 24:1).
One final note should be made before moving on. Isaiah writes that the Lord will punish “the host of heaven above and the kings of the earth below” (v. 21). The “host of heaven” may refer to the spiritual forces opposed to God, specifically Satan and demons. The “kings of the earth below” no doubt are the earthly political forces facing God’s judgment. “Those powers in the heavens and on the earth will become like cattle when the Lord herds them together and places them like prisoners . . . in a dungeon. Their punishment after many days refers to the great white throne judgment after the Millennium when all the unrighteous will have to stand before God and be judged for their evil deeds and lack of faith in Him (Rev. 20:11-15)” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, S. 1:1072).
The Promised Kingdom (Isa. 24:14-16a, 23)
A few will escape these terrible judgments, just as a few olives or grapes may be gleaned after the harvest (v. 13). The survivors will rejoice, raising their voices in songs of praise that may be heard from “the ends of the earth” (v. 16). This singing seems to come out of the scattered remnant, which in the light of the gospel may be seen as Jews and Gentiles alike (cf. John 11:52). “Out of this terrible devastation … will come the glorious light of Christ in his millennial kingdom (24:23; see 60:19-20; Rev. 21:23; 22:5)” (Willmington’s Bible Handbook, S. 365). If the sun and moon are to lose their luster in comparison with the Messiah, what a surpassing vision of glory awaits all who trust in Him (see Rev. 21:22-27).
It’s important to keep in mind that the concept of a remnant is central to Isaiah’s teaching (see Isa. 1:9; 10:20-22; 11:11, 16; 14:22, 30). The believing remnant will view the earth’s devastation as the righteous act of a holy God; it will not be viewed in the way the people of Isaiah’s day see the Assyrian invasion – as cruel and unjust punishment. Those who receive Christ by faith today may joyfully anticipate His future physical and visible manifestation of power, glory and holiness.
Matthew Henry writes: “Those who through grace can glory in tribulation ought to glorify God in tribulation, and give him thanks for their comforts, which abound as their afflictions do abound. We must in every fire, even the hottest, in every isle, even the remotest, keep up our good thoughts of God. When, though he slay us, yet we trust in him-when, though for his sake we are killed all the day long, yet none of these things move us-then we glorify the Lord in the fires” (S. Is 24:13).
Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips