Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentDIVISION III
PROPHECIES RELATING TO THE ETERNAL JUDGMENT OF THE LAST DAY (Isa. 24--27)
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE EARTH BY FIRE
God, having in previous prophecies denounced all of the great and powerful nations of the earth, "Now declares the judgments impending on the people of God themselves, for their wickedness and apostasy; and the desolation that shall be brought on their whole country."F1 Although some scholars still hold to this understanding of the chapter, our own opinion is that all four chapters of this division are a prophecy of the eschatological conclusion of the Christian dispensation, that is, the final judgment. Excellent reasons underlie this conclusion. First, there is the word `earth,' which occurs no less than "sixteen times in this very chapter."F2 Lowth and others have misunderstood this as a reference to Palestine only; but, Isa. 24:4 makes it certain that `earth' here must mean `the whole inhabited world,' and not merely `the land' of Palestine."F3
Hailey hesitated to apply this to the final judgment day and cited good reasons for not doing so. However, there is an undeniable reference here to conditions that elsewhere in the Bible are definitely associated with that Final Day. Although it may be freely admitted that the Final Day itself does not appear in the passage, many things undeniably "associated with that day" do indeed appear. For example, Isa. 24:10 states that "the waste city is broken down"; and in Rev. 16:19, the Lord revealed that in the near conjunction with the final judgment, "the cities of the Gentiles fell." Also, "The earth shall stagger like a drunken man" and is "shaken violently" (Isaiah 24:19,20). Now read the description of the onset of judgment in Rev. 6:12ff. Even the sun and the moon appear "confounded" here (Isaiah 24:23) even as in Revelation.
In the light of all this, it appears that the proper resolution of the problem would be to understand these four chapters as describing the conditions on earth that shall immediately precede the last day.
Behold, Jehovah maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof. And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the creditor, so with the debtor; as with the taker of interest, so with the giver of interest to him. The earth shall be utterly emptied, and utterly laid waste; for Jehovah hath spoken this word.
These words cover the same occasion mentioned by Zephaniah in the first three verses of his prophecy, where God declared that, "I will utterly consume all things from off the face of the ground, saith Jehovah. I will consume man and beast; I will consume the birds of the heavens, and the fishes of the sea ... and I will cut off man from the face of the ground, saith Jehovah" (Zephaniah 1:2-3). The last clause here is equivalent to: "I will wipe this Adamic race off the face of the earth." What Isaiah prophesies here might indeed be the prelude to the ultimate destruction promised. As Cheyne said, "The mysteriousness of the language ought to be no difficulty for those who recognize the eschatalogical nature of the prophecy."F4
Isa. 24:2 foretells the demolition of all class and social distinctions. Compare this with the seven classes of all men given in Rev. 6:15: "kings, princes, captains, rich, strong, every bondman, and every freeman." Both passages say simply that "Nobody, but nobody is going to escape the final judgment."
Isa. 24:3 speaks of the earth being utterly emptied and laid waste. Indeed this is not "the end"; but the earth shall indeed suffer as indicated here. "Rival armies have carried fire and sword all over it."F5 Environmentalists this very day are screaming that the pollution of the earth has already reached a danger point. Rawlinson pointed out that Jesus himself prophesied these very conditions: "Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of war, but the end is not yet ... all these things are the beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:6-8). We might indeed apply these last words of Jesus' prophecy, "the beginning of sorrows" to these prophetic chapters of Isaiah.
The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the lofty people of the earth do languish. The earth also is polluted under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are found guilty: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.
Isa. 24:5 here explains the reason why such terrible things are in store for the earth and its inhabitants. The inhabitants themselves are declared "guilty." They have: (1) transgressed God's laws, and (2) they are specifically guilty of breaking the everlasting covenant of Gen. 9:16.
On this latter violation, Peake has this:
"For the world's inhabitants have broken the covenant made with Noah, in which bloodshed was forbidden (Genesis 9:6,16). On bloodshed, the great empires have been founded, and they shall perish in the blood they have spilt."F6
We believe Peake's comment here is accurate; and we wish to add that the most terrible thing visible in the societies of mankind this very day is the utter disregard of this Divine Commandment in Gen. 9:6. It not only condemns and forbids bloodshed; but it also commands every society of mankind to "Put to death all murderers." "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man (society) shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man." This heavenly order to execute murderers is not an option given to human societies, but an order. Any human society stupid enough to ignore that heavenly commandment will soon find itself devastated by all kinds of violence, murder, and crime.
The mention of the inhabitants of the earth being burned (Isaiah 24:6), according to Barnes, "is evidently figurative";F7 but we do not accept that view. An apostle of Jesus told us that: (1) the world that then was overflowed with water and perished, and (2) the same world is now stored up for fire against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men (2 Peter 3:1-10). There is no hint whatever that the fire spoken of by Peter was otherwise than literal. Also, Peter mentioned the flood in the same breath with this picture of the final judgment; and we have exactly the same thing here. Isaiah mentioned "the windows on high" (Isaiah 24:18) and the burning of the inhabitants of the earth here.
From Genesis to the end of the Bible, "God's cursing the ground for Adam's sake" is repeatedly evident. As the wickedness of mankind grows worse and worse, which is the normal growth-cycle of wickedness, it appears that the earth itself will become more and more hostile to the desires of men.
The new wine mourneth, the vine languisheth, all the merry-hearted do sigh. The mirth of tabrets ceaseth, the noise of them that rejoice endeth, the joy of the harp ceaseth. They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it. The waste city is broken down; every house is shut up, that no man may come in. There is a crying in the streets because of the wine; all joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone. In the city is left desolation, and the gate is smitten with destruction. For thus shall it be in the midst of the earth among the peoples, as the shaking of an olive-tree, as the gleanings when the vintage is done.
Moffatt's rendition of some of these verses is as follows:
"Towns fall to pieces, each man bolts his door;
Gladness is gone from the earth; and pleasure is no more;
The cities are left desolate, their gates are battered down.
Few are left on earth, as few as berries, once the olive boughs are shaken,
As grapes, when once the vintage has been taken."
The meaning of Isa. 24:12 is that, "Every city is abandoned to chaos, and citizens search hopelessly for food in the countryside."F8 This again reminds us of Rev. 16:19, indicating that prior to the end of time, the cities of mankind will decay and fall. Hailey pointed out that "wine" is mentioned three times in this paragraph, showing, "How much the world depends upon artificial stimuli for its joys and good times." He added, "The world depends upon alcoholic drinks, sports, revelings, sensuous music and entertainment for its pleasures. When these are gone, its shallow joy perishes."F9
These verses show how wretched and unhappy is the destiny of every man out of harmony with the will of God. It is quite opposite with the righteous remnant as indicated in the next paragraph.
Verses 14, 15
These shall lift up their voice, they shall shout; for the majesty of Jehovah they cry aloud from the sea. Wherefore glorify ye Jehovah in the east, even the name of Jehovah, the God of Israel, in the isles of the sea.
Here is a classic example of a pattern found over and over again in the prophecies, especially in Revelation. Right in the midst of the most terrible prophecy, there suddenly appears a kind of prolepsis, a looking away from the trials of the wicked, and a focus upon the saints singing in heaven, or upon the joyful happiness of the "righteous remnant." So it is here. The joy and praise represented here, according to Dummelow, belong to "The righteous remnant described figuratively in Isa. 24:13."F10
The latter half of Isa. 24:16 actually belongs in a separate paragraph, but we shall notice it here.
From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs: Glory to the righteous. But I said, I pine away, I pine away, woe is me! the treacherous have dealt treacherously; yea, the treacherous have dealt very treacherously.
Right in the midst of contemplating the joyful praise from "the righteous remnant," the Lord reminded Isaiah that before he would be privileged to join in such glorious praise, there remained the wicked world that was coming to pieces all around him. Treacherous and deceitful men would continue to do wickedly.
Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth. And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for the windows on high are opened, and the foundations of the earth tremble. The earth is utterly broken, the earth is rent asunder, the earth is shaken violently. The earth shall stagger like a drunken man, and shall sway to and fro like a hammock; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it, and it shall fall, and not rise again.
The first three verses here remind one of Amos 5:19 --
"Wherefore would ye have the day of Jehovah? It is darkness and not light. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him. Shall not the day of Jehovah be darkness and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it" (Amos 5:18b-20).
Perhaps a few words are here in order with reference to why the final judgment will be such a terrible time for the human race. It all goes back to the primeval sentence in the Garden of Eden, where God told Adam and Eve that they would surely die "in the day they ate of the forbidden tree." Of course Adam and Eve ate; and the sentence of God still stands against them. God did not change his mind. He did not commute or change their sentence. He did not repeal it. It stands yet like the sword of Damocles over the head of Adam's race; and it will yet be executed! Adam and Eve shall indeed die in the person of their total posterity upon the planet earth upon the occasion of the final judgment, the second advent of the Son of God.
The commentators are generally ignorant of the great truth that "Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree on the seventh day"; and, therefore, that day, "the seventh day" of creation, not the seventh day of the week, namely the present dispensation, is the occasion when Adam and Eve shall die in the person of their total posterity, the only exceptions being the redeemed of God, especially the redeemed in Christ. For further light on this, one should read the discerning article by the Bishop of Edinburgh in the Pulpit Commentary.F11
The fate of God's Operation Adam has already been decided, and the verdict has been announced. Amos and Isaiah are merely telling mankind what it is. Intelligent men should pay attention to it.
The great philosophers of our own day are not any more optimistic regarding the future of the human race on earth than were the inspired prophets of God. Our prospect is indeed darkness and not light, apart, that is, from the "Light of the World" who is Jesus Christ, our Lord.
These verses (Isaiah 24:17-20) also entail the account of cosmic disturbances that shall mark the final judgment. The great earthquake that shall move every mountain and every island out of its place (Revelation 6:14), resulting, as Isaiah reveals here, in the "fall of the earth," which shall "not rise again," thus supporting Peter's revelation that we shall indeed look for "A new heaven, and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13)." To us, it appears absolutely mandatory to view this portion of Isaiah as applicable to the final judgment.
Note the reference to the opening of the "windows on high," obviously the same as the "windows of heaven" that were opened during the Great Deluge; and because that judgment is connected with the final judgment (2 Pet. 3), we feel that this prophecy implies the same thing.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that Jehovah will punish the host of the high ones on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.
Moffatt's rendition here should be noted: "And then shall the Eternal punish the hosts of the high heaven above and the kings on earth below." Who are those hosts of heaven above who shall be punished on "that Day?" Jude gave us this inspired answer: "Angels that kept not their own principality, but left their proper habitation, he (God) hath kept in everlasting bonds under darkness unto the judgment of the great day" (Jude 1:5). That, of course, is the day when Satan and his angels, along with all who have chosen to serve Satan, shall be finally disposed of by God Himself.
And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison; and after many days shall they be visited.
The "pit" and the "prison" might refer to the fate of two different groups. The pit in which the kings of the earth shall await the Great Day is the tomb; and "the prison" could be a reference to the "chains of darkness" in which the fallen angels are contained unto the judgment. Since there were two groups mentioned in the preceding verse, it appears to be reasonable that the two groups are still visible here.
On the "many days," see under the next verse.
Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed; for Jehovah of hosts will reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem; and before his elders shall be glory.
This verse again points squarely at the Great Day. "And the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the whole moon became as blood" (Revelation 6:12). It appears here that the same cosmic disturbances mentioned by Isaiah were also foreseen in the revelation to John. There is little doubt that both visions contemplate the final judgment and second advent of Christ.
After many days shall they be visited
(Isaiah 24:22). This indicates a very long period of time to elapse between the time when the ones to be punished were either in the pit (dead) or in prison (the chains of darkness) and the time of the final judgment. We agree with Hailey that these many days are the same as, the symbolic thousand years of Rev. 20:1-6).F12 Amazingly, a number of the time designations in Revelation all have the same meaning, that being, all of the time between the first advent and the second advent of Christ, namely, the whole current dispensation of the grace of God. Note the following references from the Book of Revelation: (1) The souls of the martyrs were promised that before the judgment they would rest for a little time (Revelation 6:11); (2) Christ's church will be nourished in the wilderness (her probation) for one thousand, two hundred and sixty days (Revelation 12:6); (3) Satan is wroth against God's people, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time (Revelation 12:12); (4) God's church will be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time (Revelation 12:14); (5) The beast had authority to oppose the church for forty and two months (Rev, 13:5). (6) It is obvious that 42 months, 1,260 days, and time and times and half a time are all exactly the same amount of time, i.e., three and one-half years. (7) It is just as obvious that the thousand years of Rev. 20:1-6 refer to exactly the same time as indicated in the other symbolical expressions, namely, the whole dispensation of Christ.
In view of the tribulations, sorrow and death that are clearly foretold in passages such as these chapters of Isaiah, one can understand why the Son of God had compassion and pity upon the children of men. Twelve times, the New Testament states that "Jesus had compassion ..." No one who studies the Bible can be unaware of our human need for Divine mercy and compassion. Every thoughtful person on earth may join in the prayer of the publican, "O Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner" (Luke 18:13). Our poor world, following the leadership of arrogant, conceited, but ignorant men, ignoring the "Light that has come into the world through Christ," and blundering along in the darkness of human wisdom, is inevitably headed for a disaster. Our sinful world, in rebellion against God, is on a collision course with the inevitable reckoning. All mankind moves toward that awful moment described by John Milton, "When God shall cast his throne in middle air, and all receive their sentence there." On that occasion, God will appear in righteous wrath and cast evil out of his universe.
Before leaving this last verse, there are two or three more observations which we wish to include:
"The thought here passes to the final convulsion of nature, and the manifestation of Jehovah's kingdom in all its glory.F13 If sun and moon are to lose their luster, it is only as outshone by the Light itself, by the Lord reigning in full state, This is essentially the same vision as Rev. 21:22ff.F14 The mount Zion and Jerusalem mentioned here can only mean the spiritual Zion and the New (heavenly) Jerusalem, because the earth is no more (Isaiah 24:20) at the time indicated here."F15
Footnotes for Isaiah 24
1: Robert Lowth's Commentary, p. 262.
2: Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), p. 260
3: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 626
4: T. K. Cheyne's Commentary, p. 144.
5: The Pulpit Commentary, p. 384
6: Peake's Commentary Series, p. 453.
7: Albert Barnes' Commentary p. 391.
8: The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 787.
9: Homer Hailey, p. 200.
10: J. R. Dummelow's Commentary, p. 433.
11: H. Cotterill, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. I, p. xxvii.
12: Homer Hailey, p 203.
13: J. R. Dummelow's Commentary, p. 433.
14: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 604.
15: The Pulpit Commentary, p. 386.