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Lowell Brueckner

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Universal Judgment


23. An expository study of Isaiah, chapter 24

Isaiah is the spokesman for the Lord in local judgment against Jerusalem, first of all, and Judah, the southern kingdom, and then against the ten isolated tribes to the north, called Israel. He has sent the word of the Lord to Moab. Ethiopia, Egypt and Tyre. He showed the world powers of that day, Assyria and Babylon, of their coming humiliation. In effect at the same time, he was pointing toward the future empires of Greece and Rome.

A Message to all the world

This chapter calls the attention of the entire world to its coming destruction. This is a prophecy of doom that leaves no one out. It stretches beyond the nations of the Middle East and touches every continent on planet Earth. The translation of the Bible into hundreds of major languages and tribal tongues makes it possible for this message to go forth in our day to every corner of creation. Universal judgment is in the future; let every human pay attention!

Seven seals will mark man’s self-destruction, effecting one quarter of the global population (Rev.6:8). Then seven trumpets will arouse the creation to the reality of the spiritual world by the worst outpouring of demonic wrath ever experienced in world history. It will destroy one-third of the planet (Rev.8:7-12). Finally, the bowls of the wrath of God will be poured out in their fury, causing the total devastation portrayed in this chapter (Rev.chap.15-16). “The Lord will empty the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants” (v.1).

No one will escape. The mighty and the lowly alike face destruction. Money and power will deliver no one. In the religious world first of all, people and priest will fall. In the realm of production, the slave and the master will experience ruin. In the home, the maid will be shamed along with her mistress. In the economy, the buyer and the seller will be without products to offer or obtain. In the banking system, the lender and the borrower, the creditor and the debtor, will go bankrupt (v.2).

This age comes to an end in ruin and devastation. This is not the vision of a spiritual fortune teller. It is not the prediction of global warming, the astuteness of the financial giants or, the point-of-view of the domestic experts. The Lord has spoken and nothing is left to question or doubt. This is the final word over the final state of the earth (v.3). When will men learn to lean resolutely on His word?

The problem is sin

The pursuit of happiness is a futile race. Not only the individual, but his society, and the very planet on which we exist, is subject to the law of aging. There is nothing here on which we can build or rely. This verse (v.4) declares that it withers and later on in the book in a messianic prophecy, the Word reminds us that all those, who oppose the purposes of God are destined for the grave: “All of them will wear out like a garment…” (50:9), and so it is. The high priest and his Sanhedrin, Pilate and his centurions are all in the grave, while the Son of God lives on. In the next chapter (51:6), the aging process of earth is confirmed. The writer of Hebrews 1:11 quotes the Psalmist from102:26: “They will all wear out like a garment” and only the ageless one from eternity endures…    

Our faith must be placed in God, because He is eternal and is the hope of eternal life that we can experience with Him. The Bible gives a pessimistic future of life on earth: “The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant” (v.5). The Creator has declared His law as binding to every individual in the human race and based on these laws, He has pronounced sentence against the law breaker. We must look to that fact, in order to determine our state before the eternal Judge.

You can look at the Ten Commandments in Exodus20:1-17, written with the finger of God. In case you become very literal in viewing these commandments, Jesus gives us the spirit of the law in Matthew 5:17-48. This is God’s law and after you have read these two passages, you can come to an honest conclusion, as to whether or not you are guilty before Him. If you are guilty, then you should know that your sentence will be painful and eternal. The sentence should be dreadful enough to send you to the only remedy… the cross of Christ.

The problem on this planet is the sin of its inhabitants. They have perverted and cursed it by disobeying God’s law, thereby turning away from the normal purpose for which all things were created. They have counterfeited truth and broken down the foundations. The curse upon the earth reduces its population to a few (v.6).

 An end in gloom and depression

All the things on earth that give men joy are removed, wine being one of those causes, which is stressed in the Bible. Man’s physical constitution, which normally carries the necessary ingredients that produce happiness, has been crushed (v.7). Music no longer accomplishes its purpose and song, laughter and joyful shouts are silenced (v.8-9).

The destruction of Borovo
What an absolutely dismal time this is, when not a small percentage, but the whole of society is under depression. There is no will to party and natural appetites and tastes are spoiled, because of spirits that are broken. “The wasted city is broken down; every house is shut up so that none can enter” (v.10). This verse brings to mind an account that I heard given by a lady from Borovo, Croatia. After the population had evacuated the city, the Serbian army came in with tanks, firing upon the buildings. None were left undamaged and most were totally destroyed, including a factory, which was the lifeblood of the city’s economy.

She and her husband returned to forage through the ruins, coming across dead bodies, as they searched for food for their children. “Not a bird could be heard singing in the streets,” she related. Both she and her husband succumbed to a devastating depression. I personally witnessed this destruction in village after village, in towns and the largest city of the territory, Osijek. But the prophet is not predicting the future of Eastern Croatia; he is speaking of universal destruction and the breaking of the human soul from pole to pole, from east to west. There is no relief, nothing to break the gloom (v.11-13). Hear the prophetic language, meant to penetrate and move the heart of the reader: “For thus it shall in the midst of the earth among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten, as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is done.”

The personal effect on Isaiah 

But now, Isaiah takes us a step farther, as voices once again sing for joy. He briefly breaks through the gloom to call to the earth’s remnant, from east to west, to give glory to God. Those who have survived, trusting in the Lord through the severest tribulation ever to fall upon the earth, now have more reason than any people before “to sing songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One” (v.14-16). They have been in exile around the world, hidden and kept by God, as the unrepentant followers of the Antichrist, did their worst upon all who refused the mark of the beast. They can see it clearly; the Judge of all the earth has done right to rain judgment upon the whole earth.

However, Isaiah in vision is looking upon the horror and what he has seen is more than can easily be cast aside. The office of a prophet is a costly calling, as was the calling of an apostle in New Testament times. The outward man perishes (2 Co.4:16). He is dismayed at the indifference and hardness of the sinner, who does not respond to the warning. “Terror and the pit and the snare are upon you, O inhabitant of the earth!” (v.17). There is no escape, for to flee away, only will be to fall into a pit, and to climb out of the pit, will mean to be caught in a snare. It’s the case expressed by the old saying, “from the frying pan into the fire.” Isaiah is fully captivated by the hopelessness of the entrapment of the human race. The fury of a majestic heaven is being poured upon a puny earth that shakes under it (v.19).

The Tribulation and the Millennium

John’s Revelation speak of these unprecedented earthquakes as Daniel’s 70th Week comes to an end. Let’s read it; let’s think about it and try to feel a little of the effect that the prophet experienced. These things are written, so that they will move us, as members of this human race. Have you read of the revivalists of the past, who were moved to look into the flames of hell, so that their preaching would be fired with passion? Christ will not have us be unfeeling observers of the condemnation of the wicked. Feel the force of divine utterance: “The earth staggers like a drunken man; it sways like a hut; its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls, and will not rise again” (v.20). John MacArthur comments here: “Two more comparisons picture the ultimate collapse of the presumably strong and dependable planet earth; a staggering drunkard and a flimsy lean-to shack.”

The writer of Hebrews states, “Now he has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens’” (Heb.12:26). The high hosts of angels in heavenly places and the political giants of earth will together be judged (v.21). Here Isaiah brings the doctrine of Hades to the reader’s attention and clearly depicts it: “They will be gathered together as prisoners in a pit; they will be shut up in a prison, and after many days they will be punished” (v.22) There is a literal holding place for conscious human souls (Lk.16:19-31), as well as for demon powers (2 Pt.2:4). This is the place that is commonly termed Hell, but it is not the final destination. After many days, the souls and bodies of human beings will come together for the White Throne Judgment. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev.20:14-15).  

The Bible speaks several times, in the Old and the New Testament, of the sun and moon being darkened. Jesus said clearly when this would happen: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light…” (Mt.24:29), and then Christ will reign during the Millennium. However, that seems to be a prelude to the eternal state in the New Jerusalem, when the sun and moon will be shamed by the glorious light of God and the Lamb. How often has it happened already in this great book of prophecy that we are led into the Millennium? “The Lord of hosts reigns on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and his glory will be before his elders” (v.23). The elders of His people will be before Him on Mount Zion and the whole nation of Israel will surround Him, as He sits in their capital, Jerusalem.