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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 34:1, 2, 3 continues this topic, saying,
1 Draw near, O nations, to hear, and listen, O peoples! Let the earth and all it contains hear and the world and all that springs from it, 2 for the Lord’s indignation is against all the nations, and the wrath against all their armies; He has utterly destroyed them, He has given them over to slaughter, 3 so that their slain will be thrown out, and their corpses will give off their stench, and the mountains will be drenched with their blood.
Here the prophet makes it plain that the overthrow of the Assyrian army set a precedent and a prophetic pattern for the overthrow of the godless nations at the end of the 2,520-year tribulation. He speaks of the time when the godless “beast” nations will lose their dominion, their contract to rule the earth, when the full sentence imposed upon Jerusalem has expired.
Isaiah’s terminology reflects the scene of destruction of the Assyrian army, the “slaughter,” complete with “their corpses will give off their stench and the mountains will be drenched with their blood.” However, this does not need to be repeated so literally in our time, nor should we interpret this as a mass genocide of billions of people.
In fact, if we were to study this parallel more carefully, we would see that the Assyrian army did not include all of the Assyrian people themselves. While the army was destroyed, the citizens of Assyria were unscathed, except, of course, for those who may have lost family members. Perhaps the most important thing was that although the king survived the slaughter and was able to return to his own country, he was later killed by his own sons (2 Kings 19:36, 37).
Hence, it is clear that the present rulers of Mystery Babylon will lose their power. Their armies of propagandists, media, intelligence, educators, and military generals will be destroyed, not necessarily losing their lives, but (I believe) will be converted to Christ. Old Testament types and shadows picture much death and destruction, but as a general rule, what is death in the Old Testament is life in the New. In other words, there is more than one way to die.
For example, when we crucify our “old man,” Paul does not mean to say that we commit suicide but that we come into “newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). God has made a way to fulfill the sentence of death in a merciful way without violating the original decree against Adam (Gen. 2:17; 3:17-19). By means of a second begetting, and by transferring our identity to that “new man,” we can crucify the “old man” and still live. We simply change our identity and allow the “old man” to die according to God’s sentence.
At the end of the age, God has promised a final outpouring of His Spirit that will cause most of humanity to take advantage of this merciful plan of God. Hence, they will do as we ourselves have already done and come into newness of life. They will be set free from the tyranny of the “old man” of flesh (Rom. 6:7). They will repent and seek to learn the laws of God, so that they learn the Kingdom way of life (Isaiah 2:2, 3).
The power structure of the nations, along with the fleshly lifestyles and man-made values of their various cultures, will be cast aside in favor of Kingdom culture and true moral values. This is the culture that we (as Kingdom people) have been learning and putting into practice even today. Though the “stone” crushes the image on its feet, this will not kill the people but will destroy the system of bondage itself. It will set the people free, ultimately extending to all creation, as Paul tells us in Rom. 8:19-21. Hence, the stone will grow until it fills the whole earth (Dan. 2:35).
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.
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.
Dan. 7:35 confirms this, speaking of the little horn, “He will speak against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One.”
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).
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. Dan. 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 Dan. 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 understanding of the prophecy’s 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, Lev. 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 Deut. 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. The word of God was, to them, a dust storm.
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 Cor. 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 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.
Isaiah 34:4 says that the sons of God (stars) will “wear down.” Dan. 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” (Dan. 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” (Lev. 26:18, 21, etc.), which turned out to be 7 x 360 years (2,520 years).
John writes in Rev. 6:9-11 about the martyrdom of the saints, corresponding to the wearing down of the saints in Isaiah 34:4 and Dan. 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. Some were executed for teaching false doctrine, others for teaching the truth.
Then John sees the opening of the sixth seal, which he describes in Rev. 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 Roman 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 momentarily 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.