The Little Apocalypse
“On that day the Lord will punish the host of heaven, in heaven, and the kings of the earth, on the earth” (v. 21).- Isaiah 24
Today we come to a section of Isaiah that commentators refer to as “the little apocalypse.” Isaiah 24–27 uses apocalyptic imagery heavily as the prophet records what he foresaw happening after the people of Israel and Judah returned from their exiles in Assyria and Babylon. The subjects of Isaiah’s attention include not only God’s people but the whole world, as he looks at the final ramifications of human sin.
Chapter 24 begins with the Lord’s emptying of the earth (v. 1). The picture presented in verses 1–3 reveals that when God brings about the end of the present fallen era, wealth will not protect anyone. Rich men and women (the slavemaster, mistress, seller, lender, and creditor) will experience the desolation of the planet as much as the poor (the slave, maid, buyer, borrower, and debtor). Earth and its inhabitants will be “utterly plundered” (v. 3), a phrase that likely indicates unnatural devastation is in view. That is to say, the prophet probably speaks of carnage and destruction that come from warfare, from human beings doing their worst to one another. Thus, this passage fits well with others in Scripture about the wars between human powers and between God and the nations that accompany the last days (Ezek. 38:1–39:20; Rev. 16:12–16).
Isaiah goes on to describe the mourning of the earth, lying as it does under the defilement of sin (24:4–6). Human sin affects not only men and women but also the rest of creation itself, and it is groaning in longing for release from death and decay (Gen. 3:17–18; Rom. 8:20–23). Before this release occurs, however, the creation must be judged. The results of this judgment are likened to an olive tree and grapevines after the harvest (Isa. 24:13). Just as precious few olives and grapes are left on the plants at the end of the harvest, only a few parts of the earth will remain. This is likely a reference to the remnant that will survive judgment, a faithful people who will rejoice in the Lord’s verdict against unrighteousness (vv. 14–16). God’s final judgment will be for His people as much as it is against sin and death. The faithful remnant will be vindicated as our Creator judges thoroughly and righteously, even toppling those who hold the most power among creatures—the kings of the earth and the rebellious members of the heavenly host (vv. 21–23). God will set all things right for His children, which means bringing an end to Satan and his demonic horde (Rev. 20:7–10).
The final judgment in today’s chapter was predicted to come after the exile of Israel and Judah. We live on the other side of this exile, though the New Testament does not foresee it coming to its full and final end until the return of Christ. Nevertheless, we are closer to the day of judgment today then we were yesterday, and we will be even closer to it tomorrow. Are you ready to endure that great day by resting in Christ’s righteousness alone?
Passages for Further Study