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Isaiah is the prophet of Salvation. He is also known as the truly "Universalist" prophet, by which is meant that He makes it clear that salvation is extended equally to all nations and not just to Israel. He lived to see the fall of Israel and the deportation of the Israelites to Assyria, and he prophesied of their "return" to God (through repentance). He is truly a "major prophet" whose prophecies greatly influenced the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.
Category - Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 13:9 says that in the day of the Lord, He will “make the land a desolation” and “exterminate its sinners.” In the original desolation of Israel, many were killed and the rest were deported to Assyria. However, this prophecy was about a future “the day of the Lord.” Because there is more than one way to fulfill a prophecy, the question is how God intends to fulfill His word in today’s context.
Isaiah’s prophecy of the day of the Lord (Isaiah 13:6, 9, 10) comes within the context of the oracle against Babylon (Isaiah 13:1). Jesus, however, applied it to Jerusalem in Matt. 24:29, 30 as part of the prophecy of His second coming. John understood the connection when he wrote in Rev. 11:8,
8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city [Babylon] which mystically [pneumatikos, “spiritually”] is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified [Jerusalem].
See how the earthly Jerusalem has become Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon. It is Sodom on account of its lawlessness, Egypt (Hagar, the bondwoman) on account of its oppressive slavery, and Babylon because in the last days Jerusalem succeeded in secretly becoming the ruling city of Mystery Babylon. I covered this in greater detail in my commentary on The Revelation, Book 4, chapter 10.
Isaiah 13:12 says,
12 I will make mortal man [enosh] scarcer than pure gold and mankind [awdawn] than the gold of Ophir.
The Hebrew word enosh is from the root word anash, “to be weak, sick, frail,” hence, it is man in his mortal state. The Israelites’ frailty was seen in their vulnerability to the sword of the Assyrians; but this actually refers back to Adam, whose sin caused all men to become mortal. Hence also, Enosh, the third descendant from Adam, was named to reflect this condition (Gen. 5:6). Perhaps he was the first to become sick, which highlighted the weakness of his flesh.
In the day of the Lord, mortal men will be “scarcer than pure gold.” The parallel statement says “and awdawm [scarcer] than the gold of Ophir.”
There are at least two ways to fulfill this prophecy. First, the people may be killed or they may be removed (exiled) from the land. Either way, these Babylonian mortals would become scarcer than the gold of Ophir. On a positive side, mortals could transfer their citizenship to the Kingdom of God, resulting in a depopulation of Babylon.
Finally, mortals could cease from the land if they were given immortality.
There will probably be an element of all three, depending on the character of each individual. Ultimately, of course, the world will be saved when every knee bows and every tongue swears allegiance to Christ (Isaiah 45:23). Hence, there is more than one fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 13:12, each in its own season.
Isaiah was describing the time of the end, because the day of the Lord coincides with the end of the beast empires and the rise of the Stone Kingdom (Dan. 2:35). When the Stone crushes the feet of the image, this will no doubt result in some people being killed in the conflict or executed by justice. Hence, we see in the fall of Babylon in Daniel 5:30, King Belshazzar was killed when the Medes and Persians took the city. Yet the city itself was taken intact, and it appears that only the king was executed. The inhabitants of Babylon were spared and simply changed their citizenship from Babylon to Persia.
I have often pondered the prophetic significance of this and its implication for the fall of Mystery Babylon today. While many assume that there will be widespread death and destruction, Scripture describes this “city” as a world-wide empire. The city is thus the system of governmental control which rules over the people of the earth.
When the city is cast into the sea, as Rev. 18:21 tells us, it is not the people who are cast out, but the system itself. The people, once set free, will be claimed by Christ for His Kingdom, even as the Persians claimed the Babylonians for their own kingdom in Daniel 5.
But what does it mean to change men’s citizenship from Babylon to the Kingdom of God? The Scriptures make it clear that it is a matter of faith in Christ. It is a matter of changing allegiance from earthly kings having the heart of a beast to the heavenly King who has the heart of God. The prophet tells us that when “the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high… then justice will dwell in the wilderness and righteousness will abide in the fertile field, and the work of righteousness will be peace” (Isaiah 32:15-17).
When the Spirit is poured out, men everywhere will repent, for that is the work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8). The earth has already seen multiple examples of this in past revivals. In the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles in 1905, men would be walking past the building on the street and suddenly find themselves compelled by the Holy Spirit to rush into the meeting confessing their sins and repenting—all without hearing an invitation from a preacher.
I believe that the day will come when this will be repeated on a larger scale. Babylonian citizens today, who follow the ways of the world, will be convicted of sin but will also find forgiveness and grace as they turn to Christ. In this way, Babylon will become without inhabitant (Isaiah 13:20), for the people will leave Babylon to join the Kingdom of God.
Likewise, about this time the first resurrection will occur as an event in history, where the overcomers will no longer be mortal, or enosh. The first of the first fruits will be presented to the Father on the eighth day of Tabernacles of some year. A thousand years later, the first fruits of a second great harvest will be presented to the Father, and these too will receive immortality and no longer be enosh. The rest of creation will be presented in its turn at the Creation Jubilee at a later time appointed by the Father.
The positive, long-term side of Isaiah’s prophecy pictures enosh becoming “scarcer than pure gold” as they come into immortality—not as they are killed or executed.
Another way to fulfill this prophecy is by removing them from the Kingdom of Light into “outer darkness” (Matt. 22:13). Revelation 20:7, 8 tells us that the Kingdom will not cover the entire earth until the thousand years are completed. There will still be land inhabited by those who remain outside of the Kingdom.
Only after a final battle will Christ lay claim to the entire earth, and then the earth will enter a new phase of history, where the rebellious are summoned to the Great White Throne and sentenced to slavery (Exodus 22:3) to be under the authority of the overcomers, who will teach them righteousness (Isaiah 26:9).
So there are three ways that Isaiah 13:12 will be fulfilled. A few will be executed and will thus await trial at the Great White Throne judgment. Others will be exiled, if they still refuse to bow to King Jesus. A few—that are overcomers—will be given immortality at the first resurrection, more at the general resurrection, and the rest of humanity at the Creation Jubilee, where all are restored fully.
Isaiah’s metaphor about men being scarcer than pure gold implies a refinement theme. This is a theme that other prophets mention as well. Zech. 13:9 says,
9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them; I will say, “They are My people,” and they will say, “The Lord is my God.”
Again, we read in Malachi 3:3,
3 He [Christ] will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness.
Finally, we read in 1 Peter 1:6, 7,
6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
So we see that the theme of refining gold and silver applies to men, as Christ tests men’s faith. Such tests are His way of refining our faith, so that we may become pure gold, which represents the divine nature.
This is suggested in Isaiah 13:12 by telling us that mortal men will become scarcer than pure (i.e., refined) gold. It means God will refine men through trials and testing, in order to bring them out of their enosh state and give them the nature of Christ.
Isaiah 13:13 continues,
13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken from its place at the fury of the Lord of hosts in the day of His burning anger.
This is a theme that Haggai uses as well. Hag. 2:6, 7 says,
6 For thus says the Lord of hosts, “Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. 7 I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the Lord of hosts.
This is interpreted in Heb. 12:26-29 saying,
26 And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” 27 This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.
The author tells us that the first shaking was seen at Mount Horeb when the consuming fire came down upon the mount to give the law to the people (Exodus 19:18). The second shaking, described by Haggai, is greater than the first, for this time even the heavens are shaken. The purpose is to cleanse all things, casting to the ground anything that is not built upon the foundation of Christ.
As with the first shaking, this involves the “consuming fire,” which is another metaphor of cleansing and purification. Hence, the “fiery law” (Deut. 33:2, KJV) was given at Mount Horeb.
Isaiah speaks of this shaking in terms of literal judgment upon Babylon. Isaiah 13:14-16 says,
14 And it [the earth that is being shaken] will be that like a hunted gazelle, or like sheep with none to gather them, they will each turn to his own people, and each one flee to his own land. 15 Anyone who is found will be thrust through, and anyone who is captured will fall by the sword. 16 Their little ones also will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be plundered and their wives ravished.
Isaiah prophesies in Old Covenant terms, where the Babylonians were to be chased down and killed by physical swords. But with the advent of the New Covenant, new weapons are given, “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (Eph. 6:12). The sword we are given is “the word of God” (Eph. 6:17), which is much more effective in carrying out the will of God.
Hence, the manner of fulfillment in previous times is different today, for the word of God is a sword that puts the “old man” (KJV) or “old self” (NASB) to death (Rom. 6:6).
Physical swords lack the power to give life; the sword of the Spirit, however, raises men from the dead after putting to death the old self. As Hebrews 12 puts it, this is part of the shaking that is meant to destroy lawlessness and to bring men to Christ by the power of His word or law.