Here’s another look at the Great Tribulation, the Lord’s promise to preserve Israel through it, and a beautiful picture of the future glory of Zion. By now you understand that this is a recurring theme in Isaiah, but each time we look at it we get some new information and this time is no exception.
Isaiah 51:17-23, The Cup Of The LORD’s Wrath
Awake, awake! Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger. (Isaiah 51:17)
This is a reference to the Great Tribulation, during which the third and final cycle of God’s wrath will be poured out upon the Earth. Recall once again that the dual purpose of the Great Tribulation is to completely destroy the nations and to discipline (but not destroy) Israel. (Jeremiah 30:11)
Of all the sons she bore there was none to guide her; of all the sons she reared there was none to take her by the hand. These double calamities have come upon you—who can comfort you?— ruin and destruction, famine and sword— who can console you? Your sons have fainted; they lie at the head of every street, like antelope caught in a net. They are filled with the wrath of the LORD and the rebuke of your God.
Therefore hear this, you afflicted one, made drunk, but not with wine. This is what your Sovereign LORD says, your God, who defends his people: “See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again. I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who said to you, ‘Fall prostrate that we may walk over you.’ And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked over.”(Isaiah 51:18-23)
None of Israel’s modern day leaders will have done what is required to spare Israel from the Great Tribulation. The Lord told us that this time of judgment will be so severe that if He allowed it to run its course, no one would survive. But for the sake of His elect, He’ll put a stop to it at the appointed time, (Matt. 24:22) which is 1260 days after it begins. Just before the end, the Lord will pour out upon His people a spirit of grace and supplication. They will finally recognize their Messiah, the one they have pierced (Zechariah 12:10) and that will put an end to their problems forever. By the time it’s all over the unbelieving nations who have oppressed and tormented Israel will have been totally defeated.
Note: Some may wonder why I haven’t included Isaiah 52 here, especially since the reference to Assyria in Isaiah 52:4 is currently being used to support the position that the anti-Christ will be an Assyrian. If you read Isaiah 52 carefully, you’ll see that the context of the chapter is the Babylonian captivity, a 70 year judgment that began in 586 BC. In effect the Lord was looking back from the time of the Babylonian captivity saying, “First it was Egypt, then lately (recently) it was Assyria who oppressed my people. And now what do I have here?”(Isaiah 52:4-5)
The unspoken answer is Babylon, who would subject His people to a third round of oppression. We know this because as Isaiah was writing, Assyria was about to conquer the Northern Kingdom and 100 years after that Babylon would carry the Southern Kingdom away. And, verses 8-9 speak of watchmen standing among the ruins of Jerusalem spotting the returning captives. In Verse 10 the Lord says that because of their return all the nations of the world would see His salvation (the Hebrew word is Yeshua). Had the Lord not freed the Jews to return and rebuild their nation, Jesus could not have come to preach the gospel on the mountains of Israel (Isaiah 52:7). Finally, verses 11 and 12 refer to the newly freed captives leaving Babylon in an orderly manner with the Temple vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had taken for his museum, and that Cyrus had returned to the Jews when he released them.
To say that Isaiah 52:4 identifies the anti-Christ as an Assyrian is incorrect for two reasons. First the language refers to the nation of Assyria, not a person of Assyrian descent. And second, there is no Biblical justification for lifting that one verse out of the historical context of the chapter, and claiming it points to the End of the Age. Although Isaiah 52 was written as prophecy, it was fulfilled in history and is not meant for our future.
Isaiah 54, The Future Glory Of Zion
“Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the LORD.
“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. (Isaiah 52:1-3)
This is another indication that God’s people will have no idea how far and wide they’ve been dispersed, nor how great in number they’ve become. The nation will expand to finally fill the boundaries originally assigned to them but never permanently inhabited, and in the process neighboring nations will have to move over to make room. Lebanon and Syria are examples of countries whose borders will shift, and of course the Palestinian state, so ardently desired by world leaders today but never a part of history, will not exist at all.
“Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband— the LORD Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit— a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God. (Isaiah 54:4-6)
Ever have a rift between you and a child or loved one drag on and on just because he or she wouldn’t admit there was a problem? In Hosea 5:15 the Lord said He was going back to where He came from until His people admitted their sin (singular). He’s been waiting for 2000 years. Just before the end of the Great Tribulation, at a point when they’re on the brink of defeat, He’ll finally open their minds to understand what they’ve done and they’ll look to Him in deep mourning. (Zech 12:10)
In Matt. 27:25 they had accepted responsibility for the Lord’s death, saying, “Let His blood be on us and on our children.” Since then, all they’ve had to do is to admit their sin. As soon as they do, they’ll be forgiven. Joel 3:21 says, “Their blood guilt which I have not pardoned I will pardon.” Their sin will immediately be forgotten and they’ll be restored to their former glory, like an estranged wife who’s been welcomed back into the marriage.
“For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer.
“To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:7-10)
As always, when the Lord forgives, He also forgets, and the past ceases to exist. For Israel, the very sin that estranged them made possible the forgiveness that will restore them. The Blood of Jesus is sufficient to wash away even the sin that caused it to be shed, and it will be like it never happened. But more than that, His blood purchased a promise that never again will He look upon them in anger, never again will He rebuke them. Think about that, because that’s exactly what God promised you when you accepted His death as payment for your sins. The New Covenant will have finally come to Israel just as Jeremiah promised. (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
“O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones. All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children’s peace. In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you. (Isaiah 54:11-15)
The Holy City will be beautiful beyond description, a true work of art. They will all know the Lord and will be taught by Him personally. Their peace will be so real they’ll be able to feel it. Never again will tyrannical leaders betray them. Terrorist attacks will be a thing of the distant past, to be feared no more. If anyone does dare to attack them, such as will happen at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:9), the result of their folly will be certain defeat.
“See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc; no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD.(Isaiah 54:16-17)
Since the Lord controls the weapons maker, He can also ensure that any weapons made for use against Israel will not be equal to the task. True to the prophecy, this has been the heritage of the Lord’s servants where Israel is concerned. Here’s just one remarkable example among many.
In 1917, the British army was determined to capture Jerusalem from the Turks. General Edmond Allenby, the British commander and a passionate believer, asked the Lord to help him take the city without a battle, in order to avoid the bloodshed and destruction that would otherwise occur. In response, the Lord gave him Isaiah 31:5 “Like birds hovering overhead, the LORD Almighty will shield Jerusalem; he will shield it and deliver it, he will ‘pass over’ it and will rescue it.”
General Allenby set about to gather up every airplane he could find (in those days there weren’t many) and had leaflets that said, “Surrender the city today. Allenby.” dropped over Jerusalem. Unbeknown to him, when the leaflets were printed the Arab interpreter got the translation of his name wrong, so the message was signed Alla Bay, which to a Moslem means “Son of God.” Thinking they had received a message from God, the Arabs fled the city and the British troops took it without a battle.
Over and over again the Israeli military has defeated the combined forces of their substantially larger enemies, sometimes in ways that have never been explained to everyone’s satisfaction. Could it be God? Isaiah would surely say, “Yes.” In the coming Battle of Ezekiel 38, Israel and the world at large will finally be certain of the identity of the Jewish nation’s powerful ally.
“I will make known my holy name among my people Israel. I will no longer let my holy name be profaned, and the nations will know that I the LORD am the Holy One in Israel. It is coming! It will surely take place,” declares the Sovereign LORD. (Ezekiel 39:7-8)
We’re nearing the end of this series, but there’s lots more good stuff coming before we get there.