Isaiah: Prince of Prophets—“Judgment on the Whole Earth”

Notes & Transcripts

Over the last several decades dozens of movies and hundreds of books have been produced and written about the end of the world. Many doomsday scenarios exist as to how the world may cease to be: errant meteors, nuclear annihilation, pandemic mutant viruses, global warming, another ice age, a series of huge natural disasters, robots from the future, and last-but-not-least, malevolent aliens. Over the course of the centuries thousands of individuals—some of them outright crackpots, others highly esteemed—have stepped up and prophesied about the end of the world.

Because of the over-abundance of messages about the end of the world the Bible’s message about impending “final judgment of the world” is being drowned out, scoffed at, and foolishly ignored. It’s not a new problem:

“Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.” (2 Peter 3:1–6, NIV)

The Bible has a very clear message as it pertains to the end of this world: a Day of Judgment for Sin Is Coming. If you are not reconciled to God, they will be difficult days to survive.

In Isaiah 13 through 23 God’s judgment is announced upon a number of nations and cities: Tyre, Babylon, Arabia, Edom, Egypt, Cush, Damascus, Moab, the Philistines, and Syria. In Isaiah 24, the prophet concludes his oracles of judgment notices by proclaiming that not only will these nations be judged for their sins but the whole world will be judged because of her rebellion against God.


            1. while the immediate context here most likely refers to the devastation of Judah following the Babylonian captivity, it would seem to have its ultimate fulfillment during the Great Tribulation
                1. the description here is simply too terrible and to all-encompassing to only be considering Babylon’s attack of Israel
            2. here in Isaiah chapter 24, then, is an Old Testament portrait of the end of days beginning with a period of great tribulation
                1. in stark, prophetic language, Isaiah reveals four essential truths about this period of earth’s history


    • “Behold, the LORD will empty the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants. And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the slave, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the creditor, so with the debtor. The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered; for the LORD has spoken this word. The earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers; the highest people of the earth languish. The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left.” (Isaiah 24:1–6, ESV)
            1. Isaiah made a shocking announcement—behold!
                1. behold is a demonstrative verb and calls for our explicit attention—God is about to reveal something really important, and for our own sake we had better listen!
            2. Yahweh is going to one day cleanse the earth as a man might clean a dirty vessel
                1. six time in six verses Isaiah refers to the earth
                    1. it’s hard to believe that he is referring merely to a localized judgment of Israel’s enemies
                2. literally, he will empty the earth and make it desolate
                  • ILLUS. The picture is of a vineyard where every vine is shriveling and dying due to a lack of moisture.
                    1. here is a prophetic picture of the end of days for mankind
                    2. the earth’s population will be devastated by the righteous judgment of God
                    3. this picture corresponds with the picture painted by the Apostle John as the Trumpet Judgments are unleashed upon the earth, the Great Tribulation begins, and men begin dying in amazingly large numbers
                      • “The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.” (Revelation 8:10–11, NIV)
                      • “And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind.” (Revelation 9:15, NIV)
                      • “I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one “like a son of man” with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested. Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.” The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.” (Revelation 14:14–20, NIV)
                      • ILLUS. Most of you are familiar with the Mediaeval historical event called “The Black Death.” It was one of the deadliest pandemics in world history, peaking in Europe between the years 1348 and 1350. In a mere four years the plague killed an estimated 50% of Europe’s inhabitants. It took 150 years for Europe’s population to recover.
                    4. now, imagine that within days or weeks, God’s wrath will empty the earth and made it desolate
                3. in His wrath, Yahweh will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants
                    1. literally, God will turn the world upside down
                    2. those peoples who are left will scatter
                4. the natural earth will be as a city that has been plundered by an enemy, left in ruins, and its citizens carried off into captivity v. 3
                5. what inhabitants are left will languish—they will bemoan their hopeless condition
            3. that all of this will take place is certain—for the LORD has spoken this word
            4. all classes and ranks of people throughout the world will be affected by the judgment
                1. it will be the same ...
                    1. ... for priest as for people
                    2. ... for master as for servant
                    3. ... for mistress as for maid
                    4. ... for seller as for buyer
                    5. ... for borrower as for lender
                    6. ... for debtor as for creditor (Isaiah 24:2, NIV)
                2. there will be no escape
                    1. regardless of how much money, education, what job you have, what color you are, where you live; all who are on the Earth will be affected
            5. why has God poured out such wrath and unmitigated suffering upon the peoples of the Earth?
              • “The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.” (Isaiah 24:5–6, NIV)
                1. we have defiled the Earth (v. 5)
                    1. it is rather curious that there are many who would agree with this statement, but with a major twist
                    2. most environmentalists would agree that we have defiled the Earth, but what they mean is that we have wrecked it by not being environmentally responsible
                2. this is not what the text has in mind
                    1. it is by our vileness, by our wickedness, by our selfishness, by our hearts given over to rebellion, that we have defiled this world and polluted it with our sinfulness
                    2. this is why God is going to judge the inhabitants of the earth—not because we haven’t hugged a tree today!
                3. the prophet lists three crimes that the inhabitants of Earth’s are guilty of
                    1. we have transgressed God’s laws
                    2. we have violated God’s statutes
                    3. we have broken the everlasting covenant
                    4. this is the prophet’s way of saying that we have transgressed against and sinned against God in every way possible
                4. according to the Word of God we are all lawbreakers—we are all guilty of breaking his Commandments
                  • “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20, NIV)
                  • “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, NIV)
                  • “But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, ... ” (Galatians 3:22, NIV)
            6. the inhabitants of earth stand condemned—they live under the curse of God—and few will survive the fire of God’s judgment (24:5f)


            1. the impact of God’s judgement will be felt throughout the whole earth
                1. in the rural areas the vineyards would be ruined
                2. when judgment comes upon the world all the sources of joy and gladness are destroyed (24:7–9)
                    1. the festivals and holidays that men celebrate with toasting, and merriment, and family, and music are no longer a source of joy
                    2. even “strong drink” will not diminish the horror of God’s judgment that has been poured out upon the inhabitants of the earth
            2. in the typical city chaos would reign
                1. to express the desolate condition of the city Isaiah uses the Hebrew word tohu which we translate as desolation
                    1. it is the same world which is used in Genesis 1:2 described the unformed condition of the earth
                    2. the idea is that it was uninhabitable
                2. it is an apt word to characterize a city that has suffered the ravages of war, and consequently lies desolate
                    1. houses would be boarded up
                    2. gloom would hang over the place
                    3. the city gates will be battered down and lawlessness will rule the streets
                      • ILLUS. A lot of people of my generation remember seeing the pictures and the movies of Nazi Germany immediately following the end of World War II. Virtually every large city in the nation had been devastated by Allied bombing and artillery fire. Now, for those of you who have seen those pictures and movies, try to imagine every city of the world in a similar condition. This is the devastation unleashed by God’s wrath. No city, no town, no Hamlet, no “bend in the road,” escapes.
            3. desolation would follow (24:10–12)
                1. Isaiah’s prophecy paints a very grim picture


            1. like terrified animals fleeing from a relentless hunter, sinners will attempt to escape the wrath of God
                1. the phrase sound of terror refers to the work of beaters who beat the bushes and shout aloud to terrify wild game and drive them into either into the hunter’s pit or his snare
                    1. if, by some chance, they escape one, they will be trapped by the other (24:17–18a)
                    2. apart from faith in the Lord, there will be no place of escape in that great day of judgment
                    3. no matter where sinners go, they will not be able to hide from the wrath of God
                      • “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 of the mountains. 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 their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Revelation 6:15–17, NIV)
            2. God’s judgment will also be like a great rainstorm and or a violent earthquake
                1. the earthquake will cause great crevices to open in the earth and swallow up people
                2. in the earthquake the earth will reel like a drunkard and will sway like a temporary unsturdy hut in a field, blowing in the wind
            3. no one is safe anywhere—no one except God’s people


            1. the word they of v. 14 probably refers to the righteous who will be left after God's judgment on the earth
                1. in verses 13–15 we see that the saints are preserved through the Great Tribulation Period
                2. in our day, there is great debate about who these
                    1. what we cannot deny is that God’s people will be in the earth during this terrible ordeal
                    2. God will, I believe, protect us from this catastrophic judgement just like He protected the Hebrews from the judgement He poured out upon the Egyptians in the Book of Exodus
            2. though few in number they will delight in the fact that the earth is cleansed from people’s sin
                1. they will lift up their voices and they will sing for joy v. 14
                    1. from all corners of the world—from the west (v. 14), from the east, and from the coastlands (v. 15), and from the ends of the earth (v. 16) they will lift up their voices in praise


            1. Isaiah has already hinted at the coming of a great future King in his oracles against Philistia and Edom
                1. now he reveals more
                2. from the New Testament, we know of course that this Great King is non other than the Lord Jesus Christ
            2. when Yahweh brings universal judgment on the world, He will also punish all unfaithful authorities beginning in the heavenly realm
                1. the Day of the Lord will affect not only the earth and its people but also Satan and his hosts
                2. the phrase host of heaven refers to spiritual forces, not residing upon this earth but on high who have influenced the rulers on this earth to turn against God and to transgress His laws
                3. these are the spiritual forces that the Apostle Paul refers to in Eph. 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.” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV)
            3. in addition to the host on high the kings upon the ground are to feel the judgment
                1. the kings of the earth have waged war against the Lord
                  • “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.’ Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.” (Acts 4:26–27, NIV)
                2. and in that great battle the Bible refers to as Armageddon, the kings of the earth will attempt one last coup de’ tat against our Lord
                  • “They will make war against the Lamb, 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.” (Revelation 17:14, NIV)
            4. the prophet declares that both the armies of heaven and the kings of the ground will be imprisoned, and then, after many days, will be visited by God in punishment
                1. in this passage we have a glimpse of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom followed by the Final Judgement when all the unrighteous will have to stand before God and be judged for their evil deeds and lack of faith in Him (Rev. 20:11-15)
            5. Isaiah ends with good news—God wins!

III. Lessons from Isaiah Chapter 24

            1. if you are a follower of Jesus, you should not be afraid
                1. you are the children of God
                2. as Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
            2. if you are not a follower of Jesus, you should be greatly distressed
                1. you are in grave and eternal danger
                2. the time to repent and come to Christ is now
            3. if you are a servant of Jesus you should warn people of the danger they are in
              • “if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others;” (2 Peter 2:5, NIV)
            4. the Apostle Peter tells us that Noah was a preacher of righteousness during the 100 years it took him to build the Ark
                    1. we are to urge and persuade and implore sinners to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20)
            5. if you are a servant of Jesus you ought to be living righteous lives
              • “Since everything will be destroyed 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 its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” (2 Peter 3:11–13, NIV)

The sad news—from our perspective—is that those who will be judged will deserve what they get. It’s sad news because that will include co-workers, and neighbors, and spouses, and children and parents—anyone who does not name the Name above all names. The glorious news is that all those in Christ will have nothing to fear.

In view of this evening’s topic, I need to ask you, are you right with God? Have you asked Jesus to be your Savior? Have you committed your life to Him? Have you renounced what the Bible defines as sin and purposed in your heart to live in a manner that pleases God?

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