In this installment we’ll see the awful fate of the nations as foretold in chapter 34, followed by the glorious restoration of Israel in chapter 35. The contrast couldn’t be greater.
Isaiah 34, Judgment Against the Nations
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! 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. (Isaiah 34:1-3)
There’s no doubt about it. This passage directed toward the people on Earth at the End of the Age. Remember, the Lord had Jeremiah write that one of His objectives in the Great Tribulation was to completely destroy the nations. (Jeremiah 30:11) Depending on whose interpretation you favor, up to half the world’s post rapture population will perish during the 7 years of Daniel’s 70thweek. The worst case scenario calls for an average of over 1 million deaths each day for 7 years as the most devastating time in Earth’s history takes its grizzly toll. To say that chapter 34 is an intense passage would be to make one of the great understatements of all time. Even the Revelation will be hard pressed to surpass it.
All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree. (Isaiah 34:4)
There’s both an astronomical and a spiritual component to this verse. True, the stars will disappear from the night sky, but the angels who rebelled with Satan will finally be defeated as well. Speaking of the time right after the Great Tribulation, our Lord 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.’ “ (Matt. 24:29)
In the KJV the phrase translated “the heavenly bodies” above is rendered “the powers of the heavens” which is closer to the original Greek. Paul described them as “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephes. 6:12) Satan’s warriors will be rounded up, and he himself will be bound in chains to begin his 1000 year prison term. (Rev. 20:2-3)
My sword has drunk its fill in the heavens; see, 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 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. Their land will be drenched with blood, and the dust will be soaked with fat. (Isaiah 34:5-7)
Revelation 12:7-17 tells of the war in Heaven, when Satan and his forces will be expelled and driven to Earth. Now the Lord comes charging after them to finish the job. The Kingdom of God is invading Earth to dethrone the usurper and take possession of that which was redeemed on the cross. It wasn’t just for sinners that the Lord gave His life, but for the Creation as well. (Romans 8:19-21)
When the Lord speaks of Edom as the people He has completely destroyed, it means He’s talking about the land they once occupied before Nebuchadnezzar forever ended their national identity. Bozrah is the region in the land of Edom where Petra is located, just south and East from the south end of the Dead Sea. This will be the home of the Jewish remnant who will have followed the Lord’s warning of Matt. 24:15 and escaped from the anti-Christ at the beginning of the Great Tribulation. The slaughter Isaiah refers to here is the utter defeat of the enemy forces that will come after the remnant with the intent of wiping them out. Instead they them selves will cease to exist. We’ll see this event described again in Isaiah 63:1-6
For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion’s cause. Edom’s 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.
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, nettles and brambles her strongholds. She will become a haunt for jackals, a home for owls. (Isaiah 34:8-13)
The land East of the Dead Sea will become an area of total devastation, consisting only of burning tar and sulfur. In the past, pitch seeped up through cracks in the mantle of the earth to cover the surface of the nearby Dead Sea where the cold water caused it to solidify. When lightning struck, the pitch would ignite, giving the ancient world a graphic model of the Lake of Fire. And in the ash that is all that remains of Sodom and Gomorrah the distinctive smell of sulfur still permeates the air. According to experts, it too was gathered beneath the surface and then shot into the air as balls of liquid fire that rained down on those cities, completely destroying them. Both these actions will be repeated, and this time it will be permanent.
This area will be an uninhabitable ruin that will blaze forever. So how do wild animals dwell there? As it was in Isaiah 13:21-22 the Hebrew words here originally referred to demons. Translators substituted animal names to accommodate a society that no longer believes in demonic beings. A good study Bible will carry a footnote saying that the true meaning of the Hebrew words is uncertain, but some have been rendered as howling one, dragon, daughter of screaming, satyr, specter, female demon, arrow snake, or vulture in ancient writings.
The Hebrew words translated chaos and desolation in this passage are also found in Genesis 1:2 where they’re translated formless and void. These two Hebrew words are only used in the Bible to describe the after effects of a judgment, lending credence to the view that Earth was made desolate between the first two verses of Genesis as the result of Satan’s rebellion, and may have lain in darkness for eons before God said “Let there be light”, and it was so.
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; there also the falcons will gather, each with its mate.
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. They will possess it forever and dwell there from generation to generation. (Isaiah 34:14-17)
The demonic horde will dwell here through out the generations, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.
Isaiah 35. The Joy of the Redeemed
The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.(Isaiah 35:1-2)
Each of my trips to Israel has been different, and in the process I’ve seen nearly all of the country. I’ve also seen dramatic evidence of how this prophecy will be fulfilled. On my first trip, we arrived just after the worst snow storm in 100 years. Except for the high places on Mt. Hermon, Israel doesn’t usually get any snow. Jerusalem had been brought to a standstill because they don’t have any snow removal equipment. But within a couple of days it warmed up and the snow melted. When we arrived at the Dead Sea a few days later even our experienced guides were speechless. Almost overnight, the normally barren area had blossomed into the most elaborate confusion of grasses and wildflowers any of us had ever seen. It was an absolutely miraculous transformation that was never repeated on my subsequent trips. But when the Lord returns, it will be like that all the time.
On another trip we went to an observatory atop Mt. Carmel where Elijah had taunted the priests of Baal. Looking eastward we saw a seemingly endless forest, and were told that every single tree had been planted since 1948.
Later we continued into the far north to the national forest of Dan, next to Syria and Lebanon. We hiked for hours through the serene forest in one of the most peaceful days of all my trips there. I reflect on these experiences often as I read passages like this and am thankful that the Lord provided these glimpses of the way His land will be in the Kingdom Age.
Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow. (Isaiah 35:3-7)
In that day God’s people won’t just have little glimpses of His Glory. Once the curse is gone, they’ll be immersed in it. The land will spring forth in glorious array, finally freed from the bondage of decay. And so will His people spring forth in the restoration of their health and happiness.
And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. (Isaiah 35:8-10)
The endless line of Israel’s redeemed from ages past, glorious in their resurrection bodies, will be home at last. And the Lord will be there and will dwell with them forever.
“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.” (Isaiah 55:12-13)
Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.