Judgment for the Earth, Joy for the Righteous, Glory for God (Isaiah Sermon 25 of 81)
September 02, 2012 | Andrew Davis
Judgement Day, Judgment, Prophecy
We come this morning to Isaiah 24, which you heard John read a moment ago. It’s a truly awesome chapter, a chapter that proclaims plainly the end of the world. This world and all that we know in it is temporary. It will come to an end. Last evening, as I was going out with Calvin and Daphne to do a little errand, I wasn’t satisfied yet with the sermon. I was still thinking about applications. So I put in my iPhone and played the text, Isaiah 24. I prayed it. I played it in the NIV. I played it in the King James Version. I played it again in the ESV. It was sunset, and it was getting darker. I looked around and little by little, the more I listened to the text, the more awe came over me and this one central lesson: this world is going to come to an end.
Everything in it is temporary. All flesh is grass and all of the glory of man is like the grass of the field, the flower that shines, that is bright for a while, but then withers when the breath of the Lord blows on it. It’s all temporary. Specifically, I was thinking about applications. I was thinking, how then should we live if this world is temporary? We’ll get to that at the end, but little by little I started seeing what an explosive thought this is. We as Christians, as Bible believers, we are those that have this message, this apocalyptic message. This world is going to come to an end. There will be an Omega Day. It will not be like this forever. It has nothing to do with the Mayan calendar, December 21, 2012, or any of that kind of stuff. Friends, just because there are false warnings and false doctrines does not mean the truth can be removed. Isaiah 24 says very plainly that this world will come to an end.
And so we come to an awesome section of the Book of Isaiah. We reach the end of a major subsection. Isaiah 13 through 23 was the oracles against the nations. Isaiah the prophet speaks one message or oracle of warning after another to the nations. And the message is clear. The Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is ruler of all the earth. He is the sovereign king of all nations. He can utter through Isaiah the prophet oracles concerning Babylon; concerning Damascus, the capital of Syria; Moab; the Philistines; Egypt; Ethiopia; and Arabia; Jerusalem and Judah. He can speak against the city of Tyre one oracle after another. But now He’s going to sum it all up. We turn a corner a bit with Isaiah 24 through 27. This really kind of is the capstone, these four chapters, the capstone of this entire section.
Isaiah 24 speaks of God’s judgment coming generally on the whole earth. Isaiah 25 through 27 deals with the joy and delight of the righteous in the salvation of God. Isaiah 25 talks about the delight and the feast that the Lord will spread for all nations. We will talk about this, God willing, next week, and about the destruction of death, that God is going to swallow up death forever. Then Isaiah 26 is a hymn of thanksgiving for those that have been delivered, a hymn of praising God. We have salvation as a fortress, strong walls that surround us, and we can celebrate. Isaiah 27 speaks of the redemption of Israel, of God’s people, and how the fruitfulness of God’s people will reach to the ends of the earth. That’s where we’re heading. But today we have a look at a very complex, deep, powerful, and detailed chapter.
It covers the destruction of the whole earth and the establishment of God’s open reign in Jerusalem, in Zion, at the end of the chapter, gloriously. Because of the themes that are in this chapter, it’s sometimes called Isaiah’s Apocalypse. Now, I agree that those themes are in this chapter. Overarching, that’s what this chapter is about. But I also think that there are applications in every generation from Isaiah 24. There are many judgments laid out that I think are described in this chapter. So let me open to you, again, one of my major pillars of understanding eschatology, or the doctrine of future things, the study of future things. I believe that there are many dress rehearsals in history for the final drama that will happen right before the return of Christ. I get this from Matthew 24:37. Jesus said, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” As it was, so it will be. What you have already seen, you will see again one more time, or maybe, to a lower level, many, many times.
I think in Isaiah 24 we see depicted judgments, plural, of God on the wickedness of man on the whole surface of the earth, all over the world. Because of human sin, in Isaiah 24 humanity, the human race, is likened to a walled city. Look at verse 10. “The ruined city lies desolate; the entrance to every house is barred.” Again, in verse 12, “The city is left in ruins, its gate is battered to pieces.” We’re going to see this theme again and again. Many times over the next few weeks, I’m going to mention Saint Augustine’s great work, “The City of God” which depicts the City of God and the City of Man, kind of competing visions of human history. The City of God is the kingdom of Christ, that advancing kingdom of Christ, which will come to consummation at the end of the world with the New Jerusalem coming and the new heaven, the new earth, the City of God. It’s already here now. It’s growing and developing through the advance of the gospel.
The City of Man then represents the sum total of human society and experience, the world in city terms. Now I think it’s more and more understandable for us as we see history develop, why God uses this term “city.” In the year 2008, census takers tell us that for the first time over 50% of the human race dwelled in urban settings. That number is actually only going to increase. They think that by the year 2050, over 70% of the human race will be in cities. But whether in an urban setting or rural, still the city image is all-encompassing for the human race. Isaiah 24 depicts the fall, I think, again and again and again of aspects of the City of Man, usually by people invading them and destroying them.
In the 5th century, when Attila the Hun was sweeping through Europe and destroying one village, one town, one walled city after another, he was called the scourge of God. He was seen to be a judgment of God. So also were the Vikings, in their time, in the 10th century. Then Genghis Khan and the Mongol horde swept across the earth in the 13th century, conqueror after conqueror sweeping in to batter gates and walls down and come in and bring terror to the populus. People giving up joy and music and revelry because the day of their death has come. The Day of Judgment has come and they’re cowering behind the closed doors of their houses. But this doesn’t in any way mean that there will not be one final cataclysm at the end of the world. There will be. It will be resolved by an invasion. But not an earthly invasion, dear friends, an invasion from heaven. An army of glory from heaven, and Jesus Christ himself, the righteous King of Kings and Lord of Lords, will ride at the head of that army. He will sweep down and He will take on the antichrist, the beast and his armies.
It says in Revelation 19:19 that the beast and the kings of the earth will have arrayed themselves against the Lord and against His anointed one, to take Him on. No chance, dear friends, no chance. Jesus will come back and He will rule them with a rod of iron. He will sweep them away and destroy them with the sword coming out of His mouth. Thus, this phase of human history will come to an end. I believe Isaiah 24 covers that as well, the destruction of the earth because of the wickedness of human sin.
The Judgments of God on the Whole Earth (vs 1-6)
God’s Judgments Extend to All Nations… the Whole Earth (v 1)
Let’s look at verses 1-6, the judgments of God on the whole earth. “Behold, the Lord is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it; he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants – it will be the same for the priest as for people, for master as for servant, for mistress as for maid, for seller as for buyer, for borrower as for lender, for debtor as for creditor. The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered. The Lord has spoken this word. The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the exalted of the earth languish. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.” We see God’s judgments extending to all the nations, the whole earth. “Behold the Lord is going to lay waste the earth,” he says, “and devastate it; he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants.” These are extreme statements made concerning the future of the planet that we live on. It begins with some dramatic words in the Hebrew, two words: “Behold the Lord.” Behold the Lord. When I think of the word “behold,” I think of it like in the apocalypse or Revelation, an unveiling, something that can be seen only by faith. You can’t see the events of Isaiah 24 with your own eyes. You have to see it by faith.
The ministry of the Word of God comes in here to take away the veil from the eyes of our hearts so that we may see two great things. We may see the Lord, “Behold the Lord, the greatness of his character and his holiness and his sovereign power.” Behold the Lord. We may also see the future. “Behold the future, behold what is coming.” We can only see these by faith. Through the power of the ministry of the Word of God, you trust in the word to cause the veil to come back off of your eyes, so that you can see what you cannot see with your normal sight, only by the eyes of faith. So, behold the Lord. We’re going to see God’s sovereign power, this display of awesome power by the holy judge of all the earth.
He’s going to lay waste, it says, to the entire earth. He’s going to devastate its inhabitants. So God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Israel, as He’s called even in this chapter, is not merely a tribal deity. He’s not just the God of the Jews. He’s the God of all the earth. He’s going to bring judgments on all the earth. Yes, there have been ten oracles against specific nations, but they’re just a sampling. God rules over all the earth. He has planned judgments on this planet. He will lay waste the earth. He will devastate it. He will ruin its face. He will scatter its inhabitants. Verse 3 says, “The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered.” Look down at verses 18-20. It says, “The foundations of the earth shake. The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder, the earth is thoroughly shaken. The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls – never to rise again.”
Back to Genesis
This is a judgment on the whole earth for the wickedness and sins of man. This solid earth, this rock under our feet as we walk, this pull of gravity, pulls us down and the earth feels solid under our feet. Jesus even likened it to building on a rock that cannot move and that’s the ministry of the Word of God. But the Word, in its fullness, tells us that even the earth is going to be shaken and laid waste. So in some sense, we ask, “Where does God get this kind of power? The God of the Jews can do this to all the earth? Where did this power come from?” Friends, go back to the beginning of the Bible to know the answer to that question. Genesis 1:1-2 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and void.” Jeremiah, teaching the same kind of doctrine here, actually says that the judgments of the earth go back to creation. Jeremiah 4:23-26, “I looked at the earth, and it was formless and empty; and at the heavens, and their light was gone. I looked at the mountains, and they were quaking; all the hills were swaying. I looked, and there were no people; every bird in the sky had flown away. I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert; all its towns lay in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger.” God gets this kind of power because He created it all to begin with. He is the creator of the ends of the earth and He is the judge of the ends of the earth. He has this kind of power.
Judgment Universal: No One Escapes (v 2)
The judgment is universal. No one will escape. Look at verse 2. “It will be the same for priest as for people, for master as for servant, for mistress as for maid, for seller as for buyer, for borrower as for lender, for debtor as for creditor.” The high and mighty of society will come under this judgment, so also the meek and lowly. It will be the same for the high as for the low. Everyone is under the gaze of this holy God. This is the great leveling of society. All social roles will be gone. It doesn’t matter whether you are a king or a pauper. It doesn’t make a difference if you are the mighty of the earth or the weak of the earth. It’s the same for everybody, the verse says. There’s no escape. God is not impressed at all by our positions. He’s not impressed at all by our talents or our achievements. None of it is impressive to Him at all.
Why is the Earth Devastated? Answer: Human Sin
Verse 4 says, “The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the exalted of the earth languish.” Why? Why this judgment on everyone? Why this judgment on the planet itself? The answer is very plain: because of human sin, because of our sins, dear friends. You want to know an application for this sermon? Stop sinning. That’s really what it is. Hate sin. Fight it. Be pure and holy. I’ll get to it again at the application section. That’s the application. The end of everything is coming so be holy like the God who’s going to bring the judgment. That’s the application. It’s because of wickedness and sin that this is coming. Look at verses 5-6. “The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore the earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.”
The judgments of the earth come on the people because of our sins, because of wickedness. Isaiah says that the earth is defiled or polluted by its people. He specifically cites the rebellion against God’s laws and statutes. He says, “They have broken the everlasting covenant.” Now, what is this? What is this everlasting covenant? A covenant is an agreement between two or more persons. It has certain stipulations and requirements, certain benefits that come. That’s a covenant. God makes many covenants in the Bible. What is this covenant? How have the people of the earth broken it? How have they broken this everlasting covenant? Some scholars think this is referring to the covenant of Noah. That after the flood, after the universal flood, God made a covenant with the people, and in that covenant, He said He would never again destroy the world by a flood.
There’s also some implication of a moral requirement. “If any man sheds blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” There’s a sense of moral reform. So the scholars say this is the everlasting covenant, the covenant with Noah. And it may be. There are other covenants, like the covenant with David, for example, that He would set one of David’s descendants on His throne forever. But there’s nothing for us to violate about that. It’s a unilateral covenant that God’s making with David. There’s the Mosaic covenant, but that was for the Jewish nation. It could definitely be violated. It could definitely be broken. But it was not an everlasting covenant. As a matter of fact, the Book of Hebrews tells us it was temporary, obsolete and aging. It would soon disappear. That’s not everlasting. For me, I’m going to go with something that’s never called directly a covenant in the Bible. I think it has to do with the moral code written by God on the heart of every human being. This is referred to in Romans 2:15, where it says very plainly, “[Gentiles] show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.”
So the basic sense of moral uprightness, of right and wrong, is grafted into, or imprinted on our hearts at creation. It is imprinted by the fact that we’re created in the image of God and the fact that we have violated our conscience and done wrong things. Any person you talk to all over the earth, they don’t know anything about Jesus, but they have a sense of sinfulness. It says in Romans 1:21, “Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him.” A few verses later, in Romans 1:25, it says, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the creator – who is forever praised. Amen.”
So I think this is the everlasting covenant that the people have broken. Just by their wickedness, by their violation of their consciences, they have sinned. This violation of God’s internally written moral code is universal, friends. It’s universal. Thus, we can say of both Jew and Gentile alike, there is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands. There is no one who seeks God. All have turned away. They have together become worthless. There is no one who does good, not even one. So that’s what I think is the reason for the judgment of God coming on all the earth, because of our sinfulness, because we have violated it. This is the everlasting covenant. It produces defilement. As a result of that, the judgment comes.
Strong Link Between Creation and Man
You may wonder, what did the earth do? Why does the earth get beat up? Why does the creation get pounded? Friends, in God’s sight, the earth and its inhabitants are linked together. When Adam fell, the earth itself was cursed. There’s a strong link made between the human race and this planet we live on. It says in Romans 8:20-21, “The creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” But creation is groaning. Creation is cursed. And creation will be judged because of human sin.
Still… In Wrath, God Remembers Mercy
Still, in all of this terrifying judgment, in all of this terrifying wrath, God still remembers mercy. Amen! How sweet is that? There is a remnant protected from the wrath of God. Look at verse 6. It says, “Therefore, earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.” Oh, there’s an alternative. Earth’s inhabitants are burned up and NONE are left. How’s that? Very few are left. The Bible calls this the remnant. Notice that they are proportionally very few in number. Now, how they got to be there we’ll cover in a moment. Where they came from, how they got delivered, we’ll cover that in a moment. I just want you to notice at this point that they’re there.
The End of Worldly Joy (vs 7-12)
People Always Seek Escape in Worldly Pleasure
Verses 7-12 cover the end of worldly joy. Because of the judgments on the earth, people stop throwing parties. It’s not time to party any more. Look at verses 7-12. “The new wine dries ups and the vine withers; all the merrymakers groan. The gaiety of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the revelers has stopped, the joyful harp is silent. No longer do they drink wine with the song; the beer is bitter to its drinkers. The ruined city lies desolate; the entrance to every house is barred. In the streets they cry out for wine; all joy turns to gloom, all gaiety is banished from the earth. The city is left in ruins, its gate is battered to pieces.”
We talked about this a few weeks ago. People always seek escape in worldly pleasures. They’re seeking escape from their guilt and escape from the coming judgment. They’re seeking to numb themselves with that morphine that I mentioned a few weeks ago, so that they don’t know of the judgments that are coming on the earth. They seek to dull their senses with wine and with beer, with partying, with hobbies, and with pleasures. They seek to escape. But there’s going to come a time that the judgment will be so poignant, so clear, so in your face, that it won’t be the time any more for gaiety. Verse 11 says, “All gaiety is banished from the earth.”
People have such an instinct for doing this. We talked about this a few weeks ago in Chapter 22. God called on Israel to weep and wail and tear out their hair and put on sackcloth. Instead they had a party. They slaughtered sheep and cattle and drank and sang, just like in Daniel 5 with Belshazzar’s feast. Belshazzar threw a big party as the walls of Babylon were surrounded by the Medo-Persian army that was about to conquer them that very night. And they’re throwing a party. So it was in May of 1945 in Berlin, in Hitler’s bunker. They’re throwing a wild party when the Red Army is bearing down on them, about to destroy the whole city. This is what people do.
Here… God Shuts the Pleasure Down (v 11)
But there comes a point at which that’s over. The time for drinking is over. No one wants to rattle the tambourine today. Nobody’s wanting to drink anymore. It’s a time of terror, a time of judgment. God shuts it down. All joy turns to gloom and all gaiety is banished from the earth.
The Destruction of the City of Man, a Constant Cycle of Invasion/Destruction (v 10-12)
The time has come for the destruction of the City of Man. Verse 12 says, “The city is left in ruins, its gate is battered to pieces.” As I’ve said before, this happens again and again and again in history. I have already listed three of them. It happened to Jerusalem. The gate was battered down and people swept in. It happened to Babylon. They got under the gate. They opened it. They came in and killed people while they slept and burned the city. It happened to Berlin. All you have to do is look at the pictures. You see what happened in Berlin, what the Red Army did to Berlin. It’s happened again and again and again. I think Isaiah 24 covers it: it’s the judgments of God. They say, “Can we really say that? Are we really saying that when a city is destroyed and devastated, it’s the judgment of God on them?”
All Suffering on Earth in Some Sense a Judgment from God
God’s wrath is on all the earth. His wrath is against all their armies. There are no righteous political nations, do you understand that? There are no righteous armies that take the field except God’s army. The best way to respond to this is to say, “Except for God’s grace in the gospel, that is me. That’s us. We deserve that.” Do you remember in Luke 13, when some people came and told Jesus about these Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their offerings? They said, “Boy, they must have been really bad sinners. They’re making an offering to God and Pilate slaughtered them. They must have been really wicked. God was saying, ‘So much for your offerings.’”
”Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.’” (Lk 13:2-3) There are no accidental conquerings of cities on the face of the earth, guys. All of it is judgment from God. What we should do is what Jesus said to do in Luke 13: take a lesson from history, repent, and deal seriously with the God who is bringing the judgments. That’s the biblical answer.
The Reactions of the Righteous (vs 13-16)
The Godly Remnant (Olives and Grapes) (v 13)
All right. In the middle of this terrifying chapter, we have this sudden outbreak of praise. It’s a bit odd, actually. As you’re looking at the judgments and all gaiety is banished from the earth, right in the middle of it, we have this song of celebration. Look at verses 13-15. “So will it be on earth and among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten, or as when gleanings are left after the grape harvest. They raise their voices, they shout for joy; from the west they acclaim the Lord’s majesty. Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord; exalt the name of the Lord, the God of Israel, in the islands of the sea. From the ends of the earth we hear singing: ‘Glory to the righteous one.’”
So we have this godly remnant preserved and protected in the midst of this history that I’m describing. They are preserved and protected by the sovereign grace of God. They’re like olives that are left when the tree is beaten out, just a few of them. Or like grapes that are left when the harvest is taken, and there’s some left in the field, just a very few.
That’s proportional, friends. There’s actually going to be a huge multitude, more than anyone could count, around the throne. Amen! Jesus will have a huge army of people praising Him from every tribe, language, people, and nation. I’m just saying proportionally very few. Does that make sense? As it says in verse 13, “So it will be on the earth and among the nations.” Throughout the world, this song of celebration is coming. All around the world there are going to be some people celebrating God in the midst of all this. Where do they come from? Well, I think Romans 11:5 tells us where they come from. It says in Romans 11:5, “So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.” The sovereign grace of God goes ahead of His judgments and works in the lives of the elect, transforming them and rescuing them from His own wrath to come.
Tell the Righteous It Will Go Well for Them (Isaiah 3:10)
Like it said in Isaiah 3:10, “Tell the righteous it will be well with them.” Amen! “Tell the righteous it will be well with them.” My question is, where did the righteous come from?
The Reactions of the Righteous… two very different reactions
The first reaction of the righteous is to celebrate, sing for joy, and praise the Lord for His grace, His mercy, His power, and His judgments, for they are perfect in all of their ways. But where did these righteous people come from? I thought we said that there is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands. There is no one who seeks God. Where have these righteous seekers of God come from?
Friends, you know where they came from. They came from the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the gospel is preached to the ends of the earth, people repent of their sins. They turn away from wickedness. They get an imputed gift of righteousness and they are seen by God to be righteous. They’re given a new nature and they start to celebrate the God of Israel. They praise the God of Israel, as it says in this text. Why would they do that? Why would Gentiles, why would barbarians and Scythians praise the God of Israel? Why would they praise the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Why would they be happy to call themselves adopted sons of Abraham? Because salvation comes from the Jews, dear friends.
God’s not a tribal deity, but He started with the Jews. To the Jew first, and then to the Gentile, comes the gospel. This is the cross. This is the fruit of the cross of Jesus Christ. God sent His son into the world, His only begotten son, who lived a sinless life in this world, and who died in our place, taking this kind of judgment on Himself and creating a city of refuge to which we can flee. Like Noah’s ark, we can get into this place of refuge. This judgment will pass us by and we will not be swept away by the wrath of God.
My question to you is this: does that include you? You came here today to hear a sermon. Maybe you’ve never been to this church before. You think, “They’re preaching through Isaiah 24. What an interesting church.” Here it is, Isaiah 24. In the middle of it, you hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. You have the cross, the cross of Christ right here, right now. Preach the cross. That’s the only way that from the east and from the west and from the distant islands there is this remnant that will praise the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Believe in the Lord Jesus and you’ll be forgiven. Trust in Him. Call on the name of the Lord, and you’ll be saved. All your sins will be forgiven. That’s what God sent His son into the world to do.
That’s the first reaction of the righteous: celebration, praising God for His judgments, praising God for His salvation. But there’s a second reaction too. Look at it in verse 16. This is Isaiah’s lamentation. “But I said, ‘I waste away. I waste away! Woe to me! The treacherous betray! With treachery, the treacherous betray!’” Clearly, Isaiah is very distraught, distressed about something. There are two possible explanations. One is that he has grieved over those that are perishing, that they’re going to end up in hell. That’s a biblical grief. Paul shows it in Romans 9, as he says, “I speak the truth in Christ. I’m not lying. My conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit. I have great sorrow and I have unceasing anguish in my heart, for I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of these perishing among my people.”
So it’s possible, just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem. But I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. Instead, I think Isaiah is saying, “God, I wish you’d bring it sooner. Because in the meantime, the wicked people are doing really, really wicked things on the earth. They’re causing an awful lot of treachery and wickedness and suffering. Oh God, that you would slay the wicked and make it end!” It reminds me of the time that Elisha was dealing with Hazael, who was soon to become, though he knew it not, the King of the Arameans. Elisha’s telling him some things. At one point he just stares at him, and keeps staring and staring until the guy becomes ashamed. Then Elisha begins to weep, and Hazael says, “Why are you weeping?” He said, “I’m crying for all the damage you’re going to do to my people. That’s why I’m weeping. You’re going to slaughter the men. You’re going to rip open pregnant women. You’re going to kill children in the streets.”
Hazael has an odd reaction. He says, “How can I, a mere dog, do such great things?” What a sicko. I think that’s why Isaiah’s weeping here, saying an awful lot of wickedness still has to happen on earth. He’s looking forward to the purging of all of this wickedness.
Outside of Christ… Judgment is Inescapable (vs 17-22)
They Will Run… But They Cannot Hide… and They Cannot Escape
Judgment is coming in verses 17-22, and it’s inescapable. God is bringing judgment on the earth. “Terror and pit and snare await you, O people of the earth. Whoever flees at the sound of terror will fall into a pit; whoever climbs out of the pit will be caught in a snare. The floodgates of the heavens are open, and the foundations of the earth shake. The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder, the earth is thoroughly shaken. The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls – never to rise again. In that day the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below. They will be herded together like prisoners bound in a dungeon; and they will be shut up in prison and punished after many days.”
Friends, they will run, but they cannot hide. They’ll try to hide, but they cannot escape. Do you see it? There’s something like a fine filter here. There’s terror. Then there’s a pit. Then there’s a snare. And if the terror doesn’t get you, the pit will get you. And if you’re able to climb out of the pit, then the snare will get you. There’s no escape. We’re dealing with the omniscient God of all the earth. You can’t escape Him, not that way.
As It Was in the Days of Noah… No One Escaped (v 18)
Outside of Christ, there is nowhere to escape. Isaiah uses language of the flood. Verse 18 says, “The floodgates of the heavens are open.” Do you see that? “The foundations of the earth shake.” That happened as it did in the days of Noah. The foundation was shaken as it was in the days of Noah. “The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder.” As it was in the days of Noah, so it will happen again. He’s not going to deluge the world with water. But the earth is going to reel like a drunkard, like a hut.
I get the picture of the medieval era. A bunch of highway robbers have been harried and chased. They’re running for their lives and they end up for refuge in some flimsy hut somewhere. The king’s soldiers have surrounded the hut and they’re all in there. It’s like, “Burn it and pull it down.” That’s the picture I get here. The earth is like a swaying hut, and God just pulls it down on top of the evildoers. It’s a picture of weakness. They tried to run, but they couldn’t. They can’t hide and they can’t escape.
The Whole Earth Will Be Destroyed (vs 19-20)
The language, as I said at the beginning of the sermon, speaks of the end of the earth as we know it. We’ve seen this in Hebrews 1:10-12. It says, “In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” 2 Peter 3:10 says, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.”
The Satanic, Heavenly Powers Judged… and so are Their Earthly Puppets (v 21)
One poet, I think his name was Elliot, said, “This is how the end comes, this is how the end comes, this is how the end comes, not with a bang, but with a whisper, with a groan.” No. No. That’s wrong. For eschatology, go the Bible okay? Not to a poet. For the future, let’s find out what the Bible says. It says, “It will disappear with a roar.” God’s judgment will not be quiet. “The earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” “In that day the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below.” What is that? The powers in the heavens above, they get punished, so I guess they’re wicked. Right? What are the wicked powers in the heavens above? They’re satanic. They’re demonic. It’s Satan and his kings up there, his rulers and authorities and powers of this dark world. It says in Ephesians 6:12 that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against those satanic forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Yes, but here in Isaiah 24:21, they meet their end. He’s going to judge them. He’s going to herd them together and punish them.
The powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below, it says they’re going to be herded together and punished after many days. What is that talking about? I’m not entirely sure. But I think 2 Peter 2 takes a crack at it. The Lord knows how to judge people temporarily and hold them in punishment while waiting for a future punishment that’s yet to come. You read about it in 2 Peter 2. The Lord knows how to do that while rescuing the righteous at the same time. He knows how to do that. There were some demons back in the day who did specifically wicked things. The Lord herded them together and put them in Tartarus, in this pit. They’re held there for future judgment.
I think this is throughout history. The Lord has herded together these wicked ones and they are waiting for final punishment. Do you see what I’m saying? After many days, they will be punished. By the way, this is what the demoniac Gadarenes, Legion, were afraid was going to happen to them. They said, “Jesus, have you come here to torture us before the appointed time? Are we going to get herded up and thrown in the pit?” Jesus didn’t do it at that point. He let them go into the pigs.
The Finale: God’s Glorious City (v 23)
The “New Jerusalem”: Mt Zion and Jerusalem Become Truly One
Now look at the glorious finale, verse 23. All of this judgment, all of this wrath towards the powers in the heavens above, the kings on the earth below, the surface of the earth, but the final word here is glorious, isn’t it? Glorious. “The moon will be abashed, the sun ashamed; for the Lord Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders, gloriously.” God’s going to set up His city, the New Jerusalem. That’s Mount Zion. Mount Zion, I think, represents God and man together in perfect fellowship. That’s how it is, God reigning in the midst of His people. Jerusalem was a dress rehearsal of that, but the people weren’t pure. So God left, but Mount Zion and Jerusalem became one.
Revelation 21:1-4 says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’” That’s what verse 23 is about. I think it’s so wonderful that the sun and moon get fired, don’t you?
The New Universe Has a New Light Source: The Glory of God
Basically, they’re getting let go. They can’t do the job, not the way God can do it, and so their days are done. The sun is ashamed and the moon is abashed. They will not get to light the new heaven and the new earth. Who’s going to light the new heaven and new earth? We don’t need the sun for that. We don’t need the moon and don’t need the lamp, because the glory of God will give it light. The Lamb, Jesus, will be its light. We will be radiated at every moment with the glory of God. Then we (the elders represent us, the redeemed), we will shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father.
So, applications. After my Kroger errand, what were my applications, as I watched the sun set on another day here in this present earthly age, and as I thought, “It’s all going to go away. It’s all going to go. It’s going. It’s temporary. This world is temporary.” The first application, I’ve already given you. Flee to Christ. There is no other ark for this coming flood. Flee to Jesus. Don’t think to yourself, it’s not coming just because you don’t see any evidence that it’s coming. It’s coming. God’s word says it’s coming. So flee to Christ. As it says in 1 Thessalonians 1, He rescues us from the coming wrath. It’s interesting. He also brings the coming wrath. He is the only rescue from the wrath He’s coming to bring. Flee to Jesus.
Secondly, look at everything differently. Please immerse your minds in this: this is all temporary. Don’t live for this stuff. Don’t live for the money. Don’t live for the accolades. Don’t live for ambitions. It’s all temporary. Look at it differently. The vast forests are temporary. The seemingly unshakeable mountains are temporary. They’re going to go into the depths of the sea. The sea itself is temporary. Look at things differently.
Thirdly, I don’t think we can do any better on application of this very point than 2 Peter 3. He says very plainly that since everything will be destroyed like this, what kind of people ought you to be? All right, that’s application of this very point: how should we live? Well, you ought to live holy and godly lives. Hate sin. Be pure. Be holy. Purify yourself just as He is pure. 1 John 3 says to purify yourself from the evils that is bringing this judgment on the earth. Purify yourself from sin. Fight the battle of sanctification.
Look forward to the day of God. Look ahead. Say, “I’m yearning for the day when God will dwell amongst us gloriously. I’m yearning for that.” Speed it’s coming. Speed the coming of the Day of the Lord. How do you do that? By evangelism, by missions, by taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. The distant islands are going to sing praise for the God of Israel. Tell them. Be involved in missions. This church needs to be involved in missions. We need to be a mission launching pad. You guys need to care about unreached people groups. You need to care about missionaries that are on the field. We need to pray for them. You need to be one as God calls you, or to support them vigorously with everything you have.
Do missions here at home. Be willing to be weird this week. Say, “Did you know that the world’s going to end?” “Oh really? Soon?” “Yes, soon. Jesus said, ‘I’m coming soon.’” “How soon?” “Don’t know. But it’s coming. Are you ready?” So go ahead and be weird this week. Tell your fellow classmates or coworkers or neighbors or relatives, “This world is going to end. Are you ready? Are you ready? Flee the wrath to come.”
Close with me in prayer.
Father, we thank You for this complex, detailed, full chapter. There’s a lot here, and I pray that we’d be able to take in all of its themes. But the central message is clear. This world is temporary. This world is going to end in judgment and wrath from God because of our sins. Lord, thank You for the deliverance that Jesus has worked through the cross. Help us to flee, evermore flee to that cross, cling to it, and know that our salvation is secure and complete in Him through justification, but incomplete through sanctification. We must purify ourselves for the day that’s coming. God help us to be faithful in evangelism, to urge our friends and neighbors to flee the wrath to come. So in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.