God Warns All the Earth of the Wrath to Come (Isaiah Sermon 36 of 80)
January 06, 2013 | Andy Davis
Judgement Day, Second Coming of Christ, Prophecy
Pastor Andy Davis preaches an expository sermon on Isaiah 34:1-17. The main subject of the sermon is God's guarantee that He will bring wrath on all the wicked to the ends of the earth.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
Well, 2012 is over and we made it, especially past December 21st, 2012, 3:21 Pacific time, that Mayan experts told us was when the end was going to come. I don't even know what I was doing at that point. I guess it would have been like 6:20 or so in the evening. I think I was just doing whatever I was doing on that day. Wasn't too troubled by the Mayan apocalypse. I guess I was convinced that God had not communicated his will for the future to the Mayans and not to us. For God has spoken through the Prophets by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. And this church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. And about that day and hour, Jesus said, “No one knows what's coming, not the angels in heaven, nor even the Son, but only the Father,” he said in the days of his incarnation on Earth. But it brings up this question of just the tendency that we have for an interest in doomsday scenarios, an interest in the future, a deep seeded yearning to know where are we heading? What's to become of us? And even deeper is the fear that it's not going to be good, that we're heading towards something really, really terrifying, something that really will bring the human race to an end, called doomsday scenarios.
Perhaps some monstrous meteorite is hurdling toward us, and there's nothing that we'll be able to do, to stop it, and it'll smash the surface of the Earth and change the climate so significantly that no human life will be able to survive. Or perhaps radiation blast from solar flares on the surface of the earth will heat up the core of the Earth so significantly that life on earth will be impossible. Or a gamma-ray burst somewhere in the galaxy, which cosmologists tell us is the most powerful event that there is in the cosmos, will make its way to the Earth and end at all. Or maybe the gradual destruction of the earth's ozone layer. Global warming will change the climate enough to make the human race become extinct. Or perhaps the eruption of a super volcano will do about the same thing, all those scenarios basically come from physicists and environmentalists and cosmologists. There are doomsday scenarios that come from the science of politics, as well, and military might. In my childhood, when I was growing up, it was the Cold War between the West and the Communist block, the Soviet Union, specifically United States and the Soviet Union. When I was an infant, I don't remember this, of course, but the terror of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and students were trained how to huddle under their desks or how to go to a fallout shelter. Sometimes you see in old urban areas, those fallout shelter signs.
In 1983, when I was a junior in college, there was a TV program called The Day After, some of you may remember it, in which the story line runs...it was a TV movie. Tensions between NATO and Warsaw Pact escalated to the point where there was a full nuclear exchange, resulting in nuclear holocaust. And the TV movie focused on what would happen specifically to citizens of two communities in Lawrence, Kansas and in Kansas City, Missouri. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, those kinds of expectations shifted a bit and moved over to the possibility of terrorist groups, irresponsible terrorist groups, getting hold of thermonuclear weapons and bringing an end to the human race, or perhaps the threats of biological, like an airborne pathogen that could just spread like wildfire through our race and bring us to extinction. Amazingly, some movies even depict the threat of robots of artificial intelligence, which will rise up against their creators and take over the planet, winning that war and ending the human race. Now, all of these doomsday scenarios and many others have been the fodder for movies and other things like that, showing the tremendous interest that people have for that, shows that the human heart is fixed on the future in a dark sort of sense.
What's interesting to me as I look at all of these things, I find that with all of these popular depictions of the end, they're leaving one thing out, and I think it's the greatest threat that there is to the human race, and that is the wrath of God. And frankly, the clearest, doomsday scenario that there is, is unfolded in the pages of the book you carried with you in here this morning, the Bible. There is a clear doomsday scenario unfolded for us in the pages of the book of Revelation, most specifically there. And that book is filled with the outpouring of the wrath of God on the sinful human race. Our dark fears about the future have their origins in the Garden of Eden, when Adam was told, as I prayed about a moment ago, that he must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and in the day that he ate of it, he would surely die. And Adam sinned, he ate from that fruit, and he heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and he was terrified, and he hid from God. And God cursed him and cursed the ground because of him, but he didn't kill him that day. Instead, God had a purpose, a plan for history to unfold, and God decided to defer the death penalty that Adam did experience later on. And so that's where it starts, the looking ahead with fear to a dark future and wondering when is it going to come?
And so history is unfolded in the Book of Revelation, you have one judgment after another, one seal of the seven seals being broken after another, one trumpet or one bowl being poured out on the surface of the earth after another, and phenomenon, just appalling, startling, terrifying phenomenon. The sun dark and the moon not giving its light, the stars falling from the sky and the earth being removed, shaken and terror striking the entire human race. And judgments on the fresh water and on all the oceans and everything in the sea, dying and all of the water turning to bitterness to wormwood and people dying, just huge, huge numbers of people dying—a third of mankind dying in some of these plagues. Just think about that! Billions and billions of people, several billion people dying at the same time, you just... We can't even conceive what that's like. Chapter after chapter of this doomsday scenario, which is portrayed as prophecy, it's going to come. The Bible says it's going to happen.
And as we come to Isaiah 34, we have in microcosm, some of the themes that are unfolded for us in the Book of Revelation. As a matter of fact, Revelation quotes Isaiah 34 for some of it. We see in miniature the themes of the terror of the wrath of God being poured out on all nations on the face of the earth, right here in Isaiah 34. Now, next week, God willing will have the chance to look at the other side of the equation, Isaiah 35, which talks about the joy and delights of the redeemed. Some pastors take the two together, but I've chosen to preach this week on Chapter 34, and next week on 35, so please come back next week. And I won't fail to give you the good news in Jesus this week as I desire to do every week.
I. God Summons the Nations to Listen (vs. 1)
But today we have the difficult business of looking at the wrath of God on all nations as depicted in Isaiah 34, and it begins in verse 1 with a summons, God gives a summons to all nations to hear him and to listen to him. Look at verse 1, “Come near, you nations, and listen; pay attention, you peoples! Let the earth hear, and all that is in it, the world, and all that comes out of it!” God is summoning the peoples of the world to listen to him and the pages of Scripture here, and he raises up people like me to proclaim it and to speak it so that you hear the sound of these words. And this is incredible, this is God's grace, his indescribable grace to his enemies. To say, “I want you to know what's going to happen. I wanna tell you what the future holds.” He's the only one that can do it. God doesn't have to warn us, doesn't owe it to us to warn us. He can merely wipe out the sinners as he chooses to in his own time and in his own way—he does not have to warn us. But here he does give a very clear warning. He's gracious and he summons the earth to listen to him. Just like at the very beginning of this book, in Isaiah 1:2, “Hear, O heavens; listen, O earth, for the Lord has spoken.” He wants people to hear him speak.
"God doesn't have to warn us, doesn't owe it to us to warn us. He can merely wipe out the sinners as he chooses to in his own time and in his own way—he does not have to warn us. But here he does give a very clear warning. "
We can also see in this word, the incredible patience of God toward his enemies, who are seething with hatred toward him, who are living in rebellion against him, and yet God so patient. This chapter written over 27 centuries ago, it's a long time for God to wait. He is very patient. Not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance, as it says in 2 Peter. Sadly, so many of the people are not mindful of the fact that God's kindness and tolerance and patience is meant to lead you to repentance. That's what it's for, God's grace. And the warning here of this chapter, what it's all about in the words of John the Baptist, as he called out to the sinners of his generation, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” That's what this is about, the coming wrath, the wrath to come. And he said, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”
We also see in this summons in verse 1, the power of the word of God to deliver our souls. It is by listening to God speak that you will be saved. If you will just here and believe his word, you will be saved. Faith comes by hearing God's word, and this scripture gives enough warning of what's to come. He's told us what's coming. And if we heed that warning, if we hear it and believe it. Remember how I said in Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, but also the [rebuke] of things not seen.” To be brought up short to be convicted, to be convicted of sin by things not seen, to deal seriously with Judgment Day and the wrath to come, that's a gift of faith, and God gives it by hearing the Word.
So Isaiah 34 has the power to lift up in your heart the themes you need to deal with, so that you don't go in for the satanic illusion that things are always gonna go on is they always have. It's a lie. There's going to come an end. God himself will be the one to bring it about. But the good news in the center of all of this, faith in the crucified and resurrected Lord, has the power to deliver you from the wrath to come. If you will flee to Christ, he will welcome you. “All [that] the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me, I will never drive them away….[But] I will raise them up [on] the last day.” So you flee to Christ, and he will protect you from the wrath to come. You know why? 'Cause he is the wrath to come. He is the wrath to come, he is the wrath of God. And if you flee to him, he will deliver you. So that's a summons and he wants everyone to hear... And we're part of that, we're part of the world, we're part of the nations on earth. We who are living here in the United States of America, we here in North Carolina in Durham, we're part of the Earth. And God's summoning us to listen to him today in verse 1. What does he say?
"There's going to come an end. God himself will be the one to bring it about. But the good news in the center of all of this, faith in the crucified and resurrected Lord, has the power to deliver you from the wrath to come."
II. God’s Wrath is On All Nations and Their Armies (vs 2-4)
Well, look at verse 2-4, “The Lord is angry with all nations; his wrath is upon all their armies. He will totally destroy them, he will give them over to slaughter. Their slain will be thrown out, their dead bodies will send up a stench; the mountains will be soaked with their blood. All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; [and] all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree.” That's the message. And so there are two shocking kind of themes or ideas in this chapter. First is that God is a God of overpowering wrath. He's a passionate being, and he is angry about sin. It's very disturbing to people. Secondly, the fact is that God is angry with all nations—not just some of them, but with every single nation on the face of the earth. His wrath is against all their armies. And why is this? Why? What's the cause of this? Well, the Bible's answer is very clear: God is angry about sin. It makes him angry when we sin, and “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23. And why are there no exceptions? Why are there no exceptions? Well, it's because there's not a single political nation on earth that exists solely and exclusively for the glory of God in Jesus Christ—not one. That's why.
It's very black and white, very simple, Jesus made it black and white, “He who is not with me is against me, and [whoever] does not gather with me scatters.” It's really that simple. What does he mean? Whoever “does not gather with me scatters.” What is he gathering? Well, as I said before, sin had a scattering effect on the universe an explosive effect, like a fragmentation grenade just blowing up this beautiful, orderly, perfect world that God made, and God in Christ is bringing all of those pieces back together and making them one under one head, God himself. And so he is gathering together all the scattered children of God and making them one, he says in John chapter 11, and in Ephesians 1:10, he is bringing “all things in heaven and earth together under one head, even Christ.” Is there a political nation on earth that's interested in those things, that's exerting its time and treasure and talents and efforts toward doing that? There's not one. And therefore they're against him, you see? If you're not gathering with them, you're scattering.
Now, this chapter also gives stark pictures of judgment and wrath, armies, armies given over to slaughter, literally dedicated to destruction, there's a Hebrew word that's very significant theologically, it's related to the word for harem in English. The giving over, almost in a sacred...a solemn sacred ceremony, a giving over to something, for a sacred purpose. In this case, it's for the purpose of destruction. And so God in his holiness wants the toxic waste in one place and he wants to destroy it, and so it's given over to destruction. He uses the same word with Joshua when they crossed the Jordan River and he put the harem, he put that devotion to destruction on the city of Jericho and everything in it. He said, “Don't take any of it, it's all devoted to destruction, all of it.” Or again, the command that God gave to Saul with the Amalekites, they were under the same thing. Well, here he's doing it to all nations and all their armies; they're all given over to destruction in his mind. Verse 3 is horrible, it's horrible. Dead bodies, giving up a stench, mountains soaked with blood. This is not metaphorical, this is talking about dead people, lots of them, and the stench that comes from them.
In Verse 4, even the host in the heavens will in some sense come under the judgment. In the ESV in verse 4, it says, “All the host of [the] heaven shall rot away, and the skies roll up like a scroll. All their host shall fall as leaves fall from the vine, like leaves falling from the fig tree.” Part of this I think is just in some amazing way, the end of the cosmos, as we know it. Copernicus is right, the sun doesn't revolve around the earth, the other way around. But this doctrine teaches that the earth is still the center of God's attention, and when events on Earth come to their end, the stars will fall from the sky. Now, that may seem like mythology to atheistic cosmologists, but the Scripture says it multiple places, not one or two. And so the stars will come to an end, when events on Earth come to an end, when God decrees it. Perhaps, and by the way, it says they shall rot away or dissolve, John Newton picked up on this in one of the not as commonly sung verses of “Amazing Grace.” They'll dissolve like snow. The sense is that all the elements in 2 Peter will melt in the heat, they will come apart and cease their present existence, they'll dissolve.
So the stars—but this could also in some way, and I think prophetic language can do double duty, that there's a physical side, but there's also a spiritual side. And the host in the heavens could also refer to Satan and his armies as well. Because it says in Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” And so there are hosts in the heavenly realm, Satan and his demons and all that, and they're going to get judged, God has spiritual enemies in the heavenly realms, and he has been very tolerant of them to allow them to continue to roam about the Earth and cause trouble and to tempt, and to accuse and to do all kinds of wickedness and evil. The heavens themselves, both physical and spiritual, are coming to an end. Hebrews 1, “They will perish….they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed.”
III. Edom Represents God’s Human Enemies (vs. 5-15)
Now, in verses 5-15, we turn our attention to the nation of Edom, to the Edomites, and I believe that Edom represents not only an actual physical nation that lived near Israel, but also, spiritually, they represent all of the reprobate human beings. These are people who hate God, who rebel against him, who stumble over the stumbling stone, which is also what they were destined for, as it says in Peter, 1 Peter. These are the rebels seething with hatred against God and against Christ. So it's not just that God is gonna do all this punishing of Edom, it's that the language just soars above that, and Edom then represents sinful humanity on mass, all those nations. Edom is all the nations. Does that make sense? So it's representation here. So we go from universal talking about the universe, to have focused on not just all the nations and all their armies, but zeroing in on Edom. Look at verse 5, “My sword has drunk its fill in the heavens; [behold], it descends in judgment on Edom, the people I have [devoted to destruction].” Do you see that? They're given over to destruction, the people of Edom. Again, in verse 6, “The sword of the Lord is bathed in blood, [and] it is covered with fat—the blood of lambs and goats, fat from the kidneys of rams. For the Lord has a sacrifice in Bozrah and a great slaughter in Edom.” Bozrah is the capital, a city of Edom. Again, in verse 9, look at it, “Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch, [and] her dust into burning sulfur; her land will become a blazing pitch!”
So Edom as I have said, is both a historical nation and they are a spiritually representative nation, both in the Bible. Edom was made up of the descendants of Esau, Jacob's brother. Esau was the twin brother of Jacob; in the Bible, he is a symbol of the reprobate man, the godless man who sold his birthright for a bowl of stew, who has no faith at all. No interest in redemptive history, no interest in a birth right, no interest in a blessing, except that it meant a good relationship with his dad. Loved meat, loved the good life, that's Esau. He's a representation of the reprobate, there are many prophecies of judgment against his descendants, the Edomites. Amos chapter 1 says, “For three sins of Edom, [and] even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because he pursued his brother with a sword, stifling all compassion because his anger raged continually and his fury flamed unchecked, I will send fire upon Teman that will consume the fortresses of Bozrah [capital city].” The whole little book of Obadiah is given over to a prophecy of destruction of Edom, who set their city up on a high place and thought that they could never be destroyed. God said, “I'm gonna bring you down.”
But the most significant Old Testament prophecy about Esau is in Malachi 1:2-4. There God says to the Jews, to the Jewish people, “I have loved [you].” He says to the descendants of Jacob, “I have loved [you].” And they answer back, as they do throughout the book of Malachi, they answer back, “How have you loved us?” So he's gonna give an answer to that question, “‘Was not Esau Jacob's brother?’ says the Lord. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated.’” So how have I loved you? Because I elected you, because I chose you and chose not to treat you the way I treated Esau. That's how I loved you. Not because you're so great, because you're not. But just because I chose you. So how have you loved us? Answer, I loved you in election, unconditionally. So to continue, “‘Was not Esau Jacob's brother?’ the Lord [said]. ‘Yet I loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated. And I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.’” Same language as Isaiah 34. Do you see it? The desolation language. Edom may say that we have been crushed, we will rebuild the cities. But this is what the Lord Almighty says, “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the Lord.”
Now, the Apostle Paul takes that quote and drops it right into Romans chapter 9 to talk about God's sovereignty and salvation. You're familiar with the quote in Romans chapter 9, he uses this quote to talk about reprobates, or non-elect people, whom God has devoted to destruction. Romans 9:10-13, he says, “Not only that, but [Rebekah,] Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works, but by him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” Well, I'm not preaching through Romans 9, I've done that, you can listen on the internet, but basically, the lessons of that is unconditional election. God's purpose in election is that he would get the glory for human salvation, and that no one who ends up in heaven will boast against him for anything. And so he makes the election before they do anything or can boast about anything, good or bad. God's sovereign purpose, that's why that God alone would be glorified in salvation, that's the whole lesson of Edom of the descendants of Esau. So here in Isaiah 34, Edom is a real nation, they're facing real judgments from God, but they're also representative nation standing in the place of all of the reprobates mentioned in Romans chapter 9.
"God's purpose in election is that he would get the glory for human salvation, and that no one who ends up in heaven will boast against him for anything. And so he makes the election before they do anything or can boast about anything, good or bad."
In verse 5-7, it speaks of the sword of God's wrath. It says there, “My sword has drunk its fill in the heavens; [behold], it descends in judgment on Edom, the people I have totally destroyed. The sword of the Lord is bathed in blood, it is covered with fat—the blood of the lambs and goats, fat from the kidneys of rams, for the Lord has a sacrifice in Bozrah and a great slaughter in Edom. And the wild oxen will fall with them, the bull calves and the great bulls. [And] their land will be drenched with blood and the dust will be soaked with fat.” So the sword of the Lord is his judgment against his enemies, and he does battle up in the heavenly realms and wins and then descends down to do battle on Earth with his human enemies.
And the language here is very bloody, it's very sacrificial, there's a real sacrificial feel here, so I was meditating, what are the bulls and the oxen and the fat from the kidneys and all that. That's all sacrificial language. And I guess as I am meditating on this is how it works: basically, the whole purpose of animal sacrifice was to teach the lesson of substitution, right? The animal died, and the man or the woman didn't. You see? And all of that points to the cross. Don't you see that Jesus died and we don't. That's what animal sacrifice was to teach, but here, what's getting sacrificed, it's not animals. I know it's all talking about animals, but it's not animals. It's not the blood of animals, that's making the dust in the sand of Edom red with blood. These are people, because they would not follow him and they would not believe in him, and there was no substitution for them. It’s a great sacrifice, a terrible slaughter performed by the sword of God's wrath.
In verse 8 it says there is a day of the Lord in which he will uphold Zion's cause. It says, “For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion's cause.” So here we come to the idea of the day of the Lord, deferred judgment. It's not here yet. And so for all the Edoms there are in the world, it's just not here yet. Just God's patient and he's bearing with great patience, it says, the objects of his wrath prepare for destruction. Same teaching in Romans 9, he's patiently bearing with them, but he does have a day of vengeance, he has a day of the Lord that is coming, and people think as it goes on and saying, “It's not coming, nothing's gonna come. Everything's gonna go on as it always has.” That's what they think, but it's not true, because God has a day in store for judgment and for wrath. And it says specifically he is gonna take vengeance on the enemies of his people to uphold Zion's cause he's going to beat up on those who have beat up on his people. He's going to kill or shed the blood of those who shed the blood of his people. I think that's the home base of understanding, verse 8, “The Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion his people, to uphold their cause.”
If you read about it in Daniel chapter 7, there are these four beasts that come up out of the sea, and they represent vast empires, human nations, organized and terrifying, and the fourth one, the terrible beast, not even described, we don't know what kind of beast it is, but it's worse than all the others. And there are these horns and there's this final horn, and it says that the saints were given over to the horn, he wages war on them and he conquered them, He shed their blood, he killed him, he was allowed to win for a while. Daniel says, “for a time, times and half a time.” Now, many scholars believe this is talking about the Antichrist, the final world ruler who will organize the world in one government and use all of that political power and military might against the people of God. And I think that's true, but I also think John says, “You've heard that there is an Antichrist coming, and many Antichrists have come,” so there's been lots of them. I think Hitler was one, I think he organized a nation, military power, and governmental structure against the people of God. He crushed them and killed them, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer for example. But when they die, when they get separated from their bodies and they go up, according to Revelation chapter 6, they go up and say, “OK, God, how long? How long until you avenge our blood?” Revelation 6, “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who'd been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. [And] they called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the Earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer until the full number of their fellow servants and brothers who would be killed as they had been was completed.” Patience, more people have to die.
But there is a day of vengeance that will come later in Revelation, “The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and in the springs of water, and they [turned into] blood…. [And] the angel in charge of the waters [said]: ‘You are just in these judgments, you who are and who were. the holy One, because you have so judged,” that's enough, but there's a reason too, “‘for they shed the blood of your saints and prophets, and you have now given them blood to drink as they deserve.’ And I heard the altar respond: ‘Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments.’”
Now, Edom's judgments are a foretaste of hell, look at verses 9-10. It says, “Edom streams will be turned into pitch, her dust into burning sulfur; her land will become blazing pitch! It will not be quenched night and day; its smoke will rise forever. From generation to generation it will lie desolate; no one will ever pass through it again.” If you know what to look for, this sounds a lot like hell, lot like hell. Revelation 14, it speaks of those that receive the mark of the beast and worship the image. And it says, if anyone does that “he, too, will drink the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest, day or night.” It's almost the exact same expression. And so, Edom's judgment, in Isaiah 34 is a foretaste, a picture of hell of eternal judgment, unquenched fire, smoke rising, burning sulfur, unresting aspect day and night, etcetera.
And in Verses 11-15, The once flourishing land of Edom is turned into chaos and emptiness, a picture of complete desolation and rejection by the Lord. Look at the verses, it says, “The desert owl and screech owl will possess it; the great owl and the raven will nest there. God will stretch out over Edom the measuring line of chaos and the plumb line of desolation. Her nobles will have nothing there to be called a kingdom, all her princes will vanish away. Thorns will overrun her citadels, [and] nettles and brambles her strongholds. She'll become a haunt for jackals, [and] a home for owls. Desert creatures will meet with hyenas, and wild goats will bleat to each other; there the night creatures will also repose and find for themselves places of rest. The owl will nest there and lay eggs, she will hatch them, and care for her young under the shadow of her wings; [and] there also the falcons will gather, each with its mate.” Many times Isaiah speaks in this kind of language, natural language of desolation, desert life, etcetera, coming on the land as an active judgment from God.
So I think in space and time in history, God judged the people of Esau, the Edomites and turned their land into this. But look at some of the details, it says, “[I'm going to measure] out over Edom, the plumb line of chaos and the measuring line of desolation.” These are the exact words that God uses to describe the creation after Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Verse 2, “Now the earth was formless and empty.” Same words used here, so what God's saying is, “I'm going to deconstruct what I have constructed. It's the opposite, I'm going to take my power and go the opposite direction, not building up into beauty and order, but breaking down into chaos and desolation.” And he says, “I'm gonna use a measuring line and a plumb line.” It's a very meticulous careful work. He knows what he's doing. It's not accident, he knows what he's doing. And he speaks in the language of thorns. Thorns is the language of God's curse. It's gonna overrun her citadels, and nettles and brambles her strongholds, and desert creatures will live there undisturbed from generation to generation.
So summary, Edom represents not merely one nation of God's enemies, but all nations, ultimately. Nations that fought against the people of God and persecuted them and oppose God's glory in the world, God will judge them completely, in effect speaking them out of orderly created existence, not annihilation, but just the end of that beauty of creation that they have known, and their land will become desolate because all of them will be dead.
IV. God’s “Book” Is Written, and Every Line Shall Be Fulfilled (vs. 16-17)
Now finally, in verses 16-17, we have the book of the Lord referred to here, “Look in the scroll of the Lord and read: None of these will be missing, not one will lack her mate. For it is his mouth that has given the order, and his Spirit will gather them together. He allots their portions; his hand distributes them by measure. [And] they will possess it forever and dwell there from generation to generation.” So this is God's scroll, it refers to his sovereign plan. He has worked all this out, “All the days are ordained for [the world] were written in [God's] book before one of them came to be,” according to Psalm 139. And so you look in the scroll and it's all been figured out, all of it, and not only that, but we have his Spirit moving out to take what was written in the scroll to make it happen.
So as you had early on Isaiah 14, you have God's plan and God's hand, as we've talked about before, God's plan and in his hand, God's plan plus his hand equals the future. Isaiah 14:26-27, “This is the plan determined for the whole world; [and] this is the hand stretched out over all nations.” See plan and hand. “For the Lord Almighty has purposed,” that's planned, “and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out,” there's his power, “and who can turn it back?” So there's gonna be a lot of wild animals there, and desolation will be there, and judgment, and that really happened, I think, to the Edomites, it happened to their nation, and all of it according to the purpose of God. Paul had it right in Athens, when he said, speaking of all of human history, “From one man [God] made every nation of men…and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. [And] God did this so that [people] would seek him and…reach out for him and find him, though, he is not far from [each] one of us.”
V. How Isaiah 34 Prepares Us for the Second Coming of Christ
Now, how does this chapter prepare us for the second coming of Christ? Well, it's going to happen, these things are going to happen. Jesus quoted this in Matthew chapter 24. Matthew 24, he said, “Immediately after the distress of those days ‘“the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” ‘[And] at that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all nations…will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” It's going to happen. It's not a metaphor, it's a prophecy.
Revelation 6 picks up in the same language, “I watched as he opened the sixth seal. [And] there was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red…the stars in the sky fell to the earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. [And] then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks and the mountains. [And] they called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of that the their wrath has come, and who [is able] to stand?” They're gonna be looking for a refuge, like a cave at that point, there's no cave that will be a refuge. Oh, but there is a refuge. It’s right now today, it’s faith in Jesus is the refuge.
Finally, at the end of the Book of Revelation, there is the the dragon, the great dragon, that gets thrown down in Revelation 12, because he's defeated in the heaven, comes down to the earth, and he calls forth this beast from the sea. As I've said the Antichrist, he comes forth, and in Revelation 17, sub-rulers, 10 Kings come together to give him their power and to make him chief among them. And it says in Revelation 17:14, “They will make war against the Lamb.” Think about that. They will war against Jesus. They'll have a war against Jesus. Can I just say bad idea, bad idea. They're gonna war against the Lamb and against his followers, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and with him will be his called, chosen, and faithful followers.
And so Revelation 19 depicts that final battle, and that's the fulfillment of Isaiah 34, that's the sword of the Lord, that descends. Jesus is the sword of the Lord, he is the wrath of God descending in Revelation 19. He comes back, the heavens are open, and he comes down with the armies from heaven, and they descend on the Antichrist and on the dragon and the false prophet and all of the armies of people that are assembled there together against the Lord and against His followers. In Revelation 19:19 and following says, “I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs in his behalf. [And] with these signs, he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.” Does that sound like Isaiah 34? It's exactly the same, Revelation 19.
Now, that's the second coming, that's that final battle. But, friends, the deeper issue is deliverance from hell itself. It's just one day when the sword comes down and lots of people die, but the real danger is the second death. Now, I just wanna stop and say, I know for a fact, many people struggle with this doctrine, they struggle with the picture of God as a wrath-filled being. They do, it's repulsive to them. I even know some that have walked with the Lord for a while, very conspicuously and fruitful, who have recently turned away from evangelical Christianity because of a hatred of the doctrine of the wrath of God and hell, they just can't accept it, and other theologians and writers, people like Rob Bell and all that, try to come up with what they consider to be a better story than this. What arrogance to think that we can come up with a better end of human history than this one, we can't. God knows what he's doing, God knows what he's doing. And those people forget some things, they forget, for example, the very nature of God, that “God is light; [and] in him there is no darkness at all.” And he will have the darkness out of his universe, he will get rid of it, 'cause he hates it, and frankly, if he didn't hate the darkness, he wouldn't be good.
"The deeper issue is deliverance from hell itself. It's just one day when the sword comes down and lots of people die, but the real danger is the second death."
Secondly, all sin is an affront directly to his glory, and sin is proportional to the glory of the individual you sin against. It's weightier to spit in the face of your father than to spit in the face of your brother. It just is. It just has to do with the weight of glory and what is due, what honor is due to that individual. Well, how much honor is due to God? How much honor should he get from us? Therefore, sin against him is of infinite weight and value.
Thirdly, and most significantly, Christ himself received the descending sword of God's wrath on our behalf, he took it inside himself, he died under the wrath of God as our substitute. He is the cave you'll be looking for when that sixth seal is broken, but you won't find any refuge then. Flee now. When I began, I prayed that God would give you faith. Now is the time. Believe that these things are coming. And flee to Jesus. Jesus died not for his own sin—he committed no sin, there was no deceit in his mouth—he died in our place, he bore, he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. By his wounds, we have been healed. That's what Jesus has done. He is our refuge. This is the gospel, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as [a propitiation,] a sacrifice of atonement, [in our place] through faith in his blood.” Trust in him, come to him. Flee the wrath to come.
And if you've already fled the wrath to come, if you have already listened to that and your heart was moved with fear, and you know that you early, long time ago, perhaps even fled, the wrath to come, then know this, you have fled successfully. The wrath will not come on you, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. But you are surrounded by people who haven't fled yet, you live among them every day, you work with them, they may be relatives, they may be neighbors, warn them to flee the wrath to come. Tell them about it.
Understand this, understand the universality of God's wrath against all nations, all nations, and all their armies. Now, where does that leave? Patriotism and nationalism. Oh, now Pastor, don't go there. Don't touch that one. I mean, this sermon is already too long anyway, and you're gonna start patriotism and nationalism, I just wanna say this one thing, if Isaiah 34:2 is true, don't exempt the United States of America from it, don't. I do believe that there are incredibly powerful witnesses, godly men and women infiltrating—and that's a good word for it—the federal, state, and local governments of this country and are salts in a very corrupt place and light in a very dark world and are doing an awesome job. Like Daniel, they are messengers of the king, like Daniel said, “Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that [God will let you] continue.” That's a great witness for a government official who loves Jesus, but I'm speaking of the political entity, the nation itself. I think there is a right place and a right scope for patriotism and love for your country, but idolatry usually takes a proper affection and pushes it beyond boundaries, you see what I'm saying? Don't go too far. Don't go too far. Our citizenship is in heaven, and we're waiting for our true king to come from heaven, and that's Jesus, and we're waiting for the city that he's building right now. The city that is to come with whose architect and builder is God? This end is coming. It's coming. All right, let's do the work that God's called us to do. Put sin to death by the power of the Spirit and share the gospel with lost people. Close with me in prayer.
Father, we thank you for the warning that we've had in Isaiah 34 of what is to come. I pray that we would tremble with it, that we would take it seriously. I pray that it would bring us to tears as Jesus wept over Jerusalem. I pray that we would be deeply troubled by the concept of just the bloodshed that is coming, and Father, I pray that you would please give us power to put sin to death as Peter put it, “Since everything [is going to end] in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed it's coming.” O God, help us to be pure and holy and to speed the day of God by evangelism, by missions, by proclamation of the message. In Jesus' name, I pray, Amen.