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Isaiah tells the nations to gather around him so that he might tell them about “the Lord’s indignation against all the nations” (Isaiah 34:2). He then speaks of a great battle in the future, where these armies will be destroyed. This future battle was fulfilled in part when the Assyrian army was destroyed, but this occasion was only a type and shadow, a confirming sign, of a greater battle yet to come. Hence, this is an end-time prophecy that is yet to be fulfilled when God deals with all of the nations.
The Host of Heaven
Isaiah 34:4 says,
4 And all the host of heaven will wear away, and the sky will be rolled up like a scroll; all their hosts will also wither away as a leaf withers from the vine, or as one withers from the fig tree.
The “host of heaven” is a poetic reference to the stars. The stars, in turn, represent “the sons of God” (Job 38:7), who at times represent angels and at other times represent people (saints). In those days the common belief was that men fell from the stars through seven stages that were represented by the seven planets and that the purpose of religion was to show them how to ascend back to the stars.
The prophet says that these stars “will wear away.” (maqaq, “pine away, consume away, rot away, dwindle”). In other words, this would be a time when the number of the sons of God would dwindle down to a relatively few people. Perhaps this is why Jesus asked the question, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).
Sealing the Heavens
Isaiah also tells us that “the sky will be rolled up like a scroll.” This was a metaphoric way of picturing the revelation of God being like a closed book. Daniel 12:4 says,
4 But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.
Again, we read in Daniel 12:8, 9,
8 As for me, I heard but could not understand; so I said, “My lord, what will be the outcome of these events?” 9 He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time.
There is a time for every revelation. Though Daniel was given remarkable understanding of the nations that were yet to arise, any significant meaning was “sealed up,” leaving him without much understanding. It remains for us today to understand the prophecies, for I believe that we are living in the time of the unsealing of end-time prophecies.
The law tells us more about this, putting it in terms of “rain” falling from the sky. Rain is not only a metaphor for the Holy Spirit but also the Truth which the Spirit brings. Yet when God’s people turned aside from the truth and rebelled against His law, Leviticus 26:19 says,
19 I will also break down your pride of power; I will also make your sky like iron and your earth like bronze.
This metaphor is reversed in Deuteronomy 28:23, 24,
23 The heaven which is over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you, iron. 24 The Lord will make the rain of your land powder and dust; from heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed.
Obviously, the sky would not literally be turned to either iron or bronze. The explanation given is that their “rain” would be a dust storm, not a rainstorm. This was a metaphorical way of telling Israel that if they persisted in disobedience to God’s laws, He would withhold the physical rain as a sign of something worse—withholding the revelation of truth. One cannot continually reject truth without sealing up the heavens for a season.
So also Amos 8:11, 12 prophesies,
11 Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine in the land, not a famine for bread or thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord. 12 People will stagger from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.”
The prophet was interpreting the law of tribulation, showing how the lack of rain meant “a famine…of hearing the words of the Lord.” Both Isaiah and Daniel lived in such days of famine. Though they spoke the words of God, the people did not understand it, for it was like a foreign tongue.
This time of “famine” was broken temporarily by the latter rain at the feast of Pentecost in Acts 2. On that occasion, everyone heard the words of God in their own language. Yet twenty years later, when Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthian church, we find a very different situation. The word of God was again coming largely through unintelligible tongues, and for this reason the interpretation was needed to enlighten the people (1 Corinthians 14:9, 13, 18, 19).
Tongues is not a bad thing, but we need to recognize that it is evidence of divine judgment upon the carnal mind for its refusal to hear the word of God. This applies as much to believers as much as to unbelievers, because the law applies equally to all men. Hence, when Pentecost was renewed in the early 1900’s, we again find that the movement restored the gift of unintelligible tongues that still needed interpretation. Only a partial understanding of truth was imparted, for the church was moving into its Laodicean phase—the church of the captivity and blindness.
The good news, however, is that the captivity has ended (legally) and we are transitioning into the Kingdom. We are ready to receive the rain of truth, and, in fact, we are already seeing evidence that God is gradually unsealing many truths that have been rejected in the past. This has given us time to welcome the showers while we wait for the downpour of rain.
Wearing Down the Saints
Isaiah 34:4 says that the sons of God (stars) will “wear down.” Daniel 7:21, 22, and 25 describes the little horn, telling us that it will “wear down the saints.” We read,
21 I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them 22 until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom... 25 He [the little horn] will speak out against the saints of the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One…
Daniel does not picture a short blitz but a long war of attrition that gradually wears down the saints, killing them off little by little. Isaiah 34:4 says that the wearing down of the sons of God is also “as one withers from the fig tree.” Normally, leaves do not wither suddenly.
So we see that this prophecy was specifically applied to the time of the “little horn,” which, in our other studies, we showed to be a period of 1,260 years from Emperor Justinian’s Corpus Juris Civilis (529-534 A.D.) until the French Revolution (1789-1794). It began when Justinian made “alterations in times and in law” (Daniel 7:25), first by changing the Roman calendar to begin with the birth of Christ and then by rewriting Roman law to reflect church law.
Isaiah 34:4, then, is a brief prophecy that is explained more completely in Daniel 7. Both prophets essentially expound upon the law of tribulation in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 in regard to the withholding of the rain of truth. Amos calls it a famine “for hearing the words of God.” This tribulation was not to be a mere seven-year cycle, as many today think. The tribulation was to be for “seven times” (Leviticus 26:18, 21, etc.), which turned out to be 7 x 360 years (2,520 years). See chapter 6 of my book, Daniel’s Seventy Weeks.
John’s Application of Isaiah 34:4
John writes in Revelation 6:9-11 about the martyrdom of the saints, corresponding to the wearing down of the saints in Isaiah 34:4 and Daniel 7:25. This is said to be the time of the fifth seal, which, when opened, gives us understanding of how the little horn was to wear down the saints. Those who have studied history know how this was fulfilled in the Roman church, which removed the right of the people to hear God independently of papal decrees.
Then John sees the opening of the sixth seal, which he describes in Revelation 6:12-14,
12 I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. 14 The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
There are too many elements in this prophecy to explain here. You can read more about this in my book, The Revelation, Book 3, chapter 5. The prophecy of the sixth seal as a whole applied to the change in Romans government from a pagan empire to a Christian empire, which gave power to the church (“little horn”) to wear out the saints (overcomers). Hence, the “stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.” The “fig tree” in this case represents the saints being worn down and falling to the earth. They are pictured as “unripe figs,” because they were martyred before reaching old age.
Because the sixth seal was being opened to allow John to see this word of truth, he sees the sky “split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up.” In other words, the rolled-up scroll was opened to allow him to see things to come and to gain some understanding of what he saw. Even so, the scroll of truth remained sealed to the church as a whole, so it was both sealed and unsealed at the same time.
The sixth seal set the scene for the seventh seal, wherein the overthrow of the nations was to occur at the end of the age. The fall of Mystery Babylon in the book of Revelation is where we learn more details about that which Isaiah was writing in a brief way.