Posts Tagged ‘end times’

Reflections on the Pandemic, and Signs of the Last Days

March 22, 2021 17 comments

What a year this has been.  It was a year ago, March 17, that I and co-workers first started working from home due to the pandemic lockdown, and we are still working from home for the foreseeable future.  As I reflect back on all the events of the last year, I frequently think of the term “apocalypse” in its broader, general meaning — as a “revealing,” and the revealing of the hearts and minds of people as a result of particular trials and afflictions, such as what the events of the last year have revealed.  

The people of Israel in Exodus 4:31 heard from Aaron and Moses, and believed them.  Yet one chapter later, in Exodus 5:21, the same people (a group within the overall group from Exodus 4:31) declared that the LORD should judge Moses and Aaron, for putting a sword in the Egyptians to kill them.  The different circumstance brought out a very different response. Likewise, in our day, the unusual events of the last year have been a revealing of people’s hearts under afflictions and difficulties.

A recent Wall Street journal article has considered how the pandemic has affected people — and the comments section at the Facebook posting also reveals the divide in the country and the experiences of many more.  A recent report from the Business Insider tells of at least a few cases where church pastors have left their congregations, due to radicalized conspiracy followers, and notes the high percentage of professing church-goers who hold to conspiracy ideas such as QAnon.  When fewer people returned to church services last summer and fall, it was speculated by those who were still attending (often at churches that considered face coverings optional) that the people at home viewing online would decide they preferred that instead of meeting in person.  Yet as noted in a recent survey, and observed locally, the vast majority, over 90%, do plan to return and already are returning to in person, now that a medical treatment, a vaccine, has become available.

A resource I’ve read from time to time over the last several years, the SGAT — the Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony — has published a booklet, based on a set of sermons delivered on January 3, 2021, called “Where Are We In God’s Calendar?”  The booklet can be ordered online (I received it in the postal mail along with the latest two newsletters), and the original sermons, with some of the same content are online here, part 1 and part 2.  From the booklet comes this observation, regarding the signs of the times, and Christ’s Return:

Creeping Awareness

Is there not a creeping, growing awareness of things prophetic amongst a remnant?  …  Is there not a growing consciousness amongst true believers of the deepening apostasy, the universal rejection of God’s Word amongst those nations privileged for centuries to hear it proclaimed, and a recognising that, as never before, men are embracing everything that is unholy and ungodly?
There was a slow awakening to the wickedness of the World Council of Churches amongst evangelicals and likewise to the wicked departures of Billy Graham but light did finally dawn!
The darkness reigning over the nations is seen in that nothing seems to have been brought home to the multitude by this ‘Coronavirus’ plague.
Only a few have noted the ‘spirit’ of this day!
In the midst of the pandemic, the deaths and sicknesses, there has been little or no public reference to God.  Political leaders have purposely avoided any mention of Him altogether while the so-called ‘church leaders’ in the mainline churches have made such scant and irrelevant mention of Him, silence on their part would have been more beneficial!
Pulpits in evangelical assemblies are also largely silent on the matter, many with contempt dismissing the Covid virus as a mere ‘flu!
I believe that the events that are revealed by the opening of the first seal indicate the great need of this hour–a revealing of the approach of the Saviour’s return.
It is something for which we ought to be praying!  I will not be dogmatic about this but I think that what I say is worthy of some consideration.  If I am correct in suggesting that we are near to the opening of the first seal and the revealing and emphasising afresh to God’s people the great doctrine of the Saviour’s return in glory, then soon there will follow the events shown us here under the likeness of the opening of the pages of a book.  

God’s word tells us we should not be surprised, when we see ever deepening and widening apostasy, as we continue in these general “last days” and as we approach the days just before Christ’s return.  Just as the Jews of Jesus’ day were more focused on Christ’s Second Coming, His coming to rule and reign, so the NT church has focused mostly on His First Coming.  In Luke 18 Jesus observed, ‘when the Son of Man comes [His Return], will he find faith on earth?’  As I’ve been studying through the gospel of Luke, it is refreshing to read J.C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke, which has many great observations concerning our attitude toward Christ’s Return, and how we should be living, in light of this great truth. 
As indicated in texts such as Luke 18, also other accounts that describe even the people of God as “sleeping” and unaware and not looking for Christ’s Return, as the time lengthens and He has been gone for a long time — so it has unfolded in church history, that most are not looking to Christ’s Return in glory, nor thinking about the things that must take place before then.  It is said that dispensationalism has an imminent return of Christ, that He could return at any time, nothing has to take place before the ‘rapture of the church;’ the dispensationalist has some awareness of end times things that must occur, such as Israel back in the land — but tends to think that he/she will not be around to see all of these things that will take place.  The post-millennialists (a rare group nowadays, unlike the pre-World War I era) are looking for the world population to come to Christ, to become a Christianized world, a ‘golden age’ before Christ returns.  The amillennialist, and particularly the common form of preterist amillennialist, is the one with a strong “imminent” any-moment return of Christ, since in this view most of the “prophetic texts” have already happened, in the first century, and — in an odd way they have this much in common with dispensationalist — Christ can return at any moment: and even more so for them, no reason to look for the “general season” of things that will occur shortly before the Second Advent. 
Historic premillennialism, the view I hold to, affirms a non-imminent return, that certain things must take place before Christ’s Return:  at first, such things as Peter’s death prophesied, and the gospel going forth to other lands, and time to allow for prophecies indicating wars and rumors of wars; then, other “stage-setting” events that are implied in the descriptions of texts about the Lord’s return:  Israel regathered in unbelief, and a world with great technology such as we now see for our own eyes.
Among the prophetic texts are some lesser known passages that describe things that, if taken in their normal, plain language sense, could very reasonably occur in our day, with our 21st century technology.  For example, Revelation 11’s description of the two witnesses laying dead for 3 1/2 days and their bodies observed by people from all over the world, and the people of the world rejoicing and exchanging gifts with each other, all in the space of 3 1/2 days, could very well occur in today’s instant worldwide communication, a literal fulfillment that Horatius Bonar thought, based on 19th century technology, could not really mean 3 1/2 days.  Likewise, Revelation 13’s description of technology that limits people’s ability to transact business, is already occurring in some form, for some types of transactions, in China and possibly other totalitarian government countries.  It’s also interesting that at least some evangelical leaders are also realizing at least this much — such as a clear statement from Al Mohler in a podcast interview last fall, stating his belief that the technology exists today for the literal fulfillment of the biblical prophecies.
Another interesting thing I’ve observed recently in the overall culture:  people who do not even recognize and acknowledge anything of the providence of God, of “acts of God” events — such as weather storms or the spread of new diseases around the world.  As one example, the recent winter storm here in the American South, of a severity not seen in a lifetime, was actually considered by some TikTok users a “fake” storm perpetrated by the “powerful left” who somehow created something that looked like but wasn’t really snow.  The fact that some people actually ascribe such powers over the weather, or at least the ability to create a “fake” snowstorm — to mere man, rather than recognize what society has always understood as an “act of God,” is telling.  It appears that, more and more, our technological age has brought about what has been called the “social imaginary,” to the point where some are denying the reality of actual events that have occurred — a pandemic that has caused soaring hospitalization rates and higher than normal levels of death, and even severe winter storms — instead ascribing these to “fake” events caused by mere human political actors.
These are just some thoughts to consider, regarding the times we now live in.  In closing, a few selections from J.C. Ryle, from his Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke:
The disciples and all the Jews of our Lord’s time appear to have seen only one personal coming of the Messiah. They expected a Messiah who would come to reign, but not one who would come to suffer.
The majority of Christians, in like manner, appear to see only one personal coming. They believe that Christ came the first time to suffer. But they seem unable to understand that Christ is coming a second time to reign. Both parties have got hold of some of the truth, but neither, unfortunately, has embraced the whole truth. Both are more or less in error, and the Christian’s error is only second in importance to that of the Jew.
It is well to know that He lived for us, and died for us, and rose again for us, and intercedes for us. But it is also well to know that He is soon coming again for us! … The course of this world shall not always go on as it does now. Disorder, confusion, false profession, and unpunished sin shall not always cover the face of the earth. … Let us wait patiently when we see wickedness triumphing in the earth. The time is short. There is One who sees and notes down all that the ungodly are doing!   
. . .
When the Lord Jesus left the world, He ascended up into heaven as a conqueror leading captivity captive. He is there sitting at the right hand of God, doing the work of the High Priest for His believing people, and ever making intercession for them. But He will not sit there always. He will come forth from the holy of holies to bless His people. He will come again with power and glory to put down every enemy under His feet, and to set up His universal kingdom on earth.
. . .
Jesus’ coming in person the first time to suffer, and Jesus coming in person the second time to reign are two landmarks of which we should never lose sight. We stand between the two. Let us believe that both are real and true.

What is ‘the Apostasy’ Mentioned in 2 Thess. 2:3?

November 6, 2013 7 comments

In discussions of futurist eschatology, sometimes questions come up regarding the apostle Paul’s statement in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, as to what is meant by the term ‘apostasy’:

For that day will not come unless the apostasy (translated ‘rebellion’ in ESV) comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.  (HCSB, note on ESV difference)

At least a few pre-trib teachers have put forth the idea that “the apostasy” (also sometimes translated “the departure”) really means the rapture itself.  More credible, scholarly sources dismiss that idea as eisegesis, something being read into the text.

Among historic (classic) premillennialists, the common view was simply that this is describing general and increasing apostasy:  apostasy both of Israel and the visible church (as also brought out in the reference to religious Babylon in Revelation 17), including with reference to the Roman Catholic church.  Certainly general apostasy of the church is taught in other New Testament passages, as for instance 2 Peter 2 and 1 Timothy 4.  But something else may be intended in 2 Thessalonians 2.

The weakness of the ‘general apostasy’ idea is that Paul is telling of specific events that must precede the Coming of the Lord.  If all that is meant is general apostasy, the Christian church has been experiencing this since the first century, and thus “the apostasy” has no specific prophetic meaning, since every generation of Christendom has observed increasing apostasy and the continuing breakdown of the visible church.  John MacArthur (as in this sermon) correctly recognizes that Paul must be referring to something specific here in this text, something beyond just general increasing apostasy including even the apostasy of the Catholic church.  After considering the problems with the general apostasy view, MacArthur equates the first phrase “the apostasy or rebellion” with the very next clause “and the man of lawlessness is revealed,” so that “the apostasy” is the event connected to the man of lawlessness, the act of his sitting in the temple, when he is revealed.

This interpretation at least recognizes that Paul is talking about something specific here – and yet this view makes the first clause redundant, saying the same thing as the second part; thus, both “the apostasy” and “the man of lawlessness is revealed” refer to the exact same event, spelled out more clearly in the second clause.

Another idea, which makes better sense of a specific apostasy and yet more than what the second part says, was brought out in Marv Rosenthal’s publication several years back (I don’t know if the original source is available online), a synopsis and excerpts of which are included in this blog article.  The “apostasy” or “rebellion” is the “covenant with death” that Israel makes with the antichrist at the beginning of the 70th week.

The word apostasy is used only twice in the entire New Testament; therefore, how it is used becomes exceedingly important.  Dr. Luke used the word apostasy in describing an important occasion in the Book of Acts when the apostle Paul met with the Jewish elders at Jerusalem.

Many Jews had accepted Christ, but they continued to adhere to the Mosaic Law (Acts 21:20).  They wanted to believe in Jesus but within the confines of Old Testament Judaism.  They did not understand the implications of the new covenant instituted by Jesus (Matthew 26:26-29).

Speaking of those recent Jewish believers, the elders in Jerusalem said to Paul, “And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake [“forsake” is the translation of apostasia meaning to “fall away” or “utterly abandon”] Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs” (Acts 21:21).  Here, then, is one of the only two times the apostasy is used in the Bible.  And it is used in the context of the apostle Paul being repudiated for supposedly asking Jews to totally abandon their Jewish culture, custom, and faith.  Of course, nothing could have been farther from the truth.

Rosenthal also looks at an extra-biblical source, I Maccabees, regarding the typical figure Antiochus Epiphanes and the term translated apostasy:

 1 Maccabees 2:15 The king’s officers who were enforcing the apostasy came to the town of Modein to make them offer sacrifice.

Rosenthal observes here:

This covenant, which many of the Jews entered into with Antiochus Epiphanes, prefigures the covenant which many from among Israel will enter into with the Antichrist in a soon-coming day.  The prophet Daniel spoke of that covenant in this way: “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease” (Daniel 9:27).

The circumstances surrounding Antiochus Epiphanes, his defilement of the Temple, and the apostasy of many of the Jewish people are among of the most conspicuous events in Jewish history.  It would, therefore, be appropriate and natural to use the same term (apostasy) concerning the same people (the Jews) regarding an event to occur at the same place (the Temple at Jerusalem) in describing a future day when many of the Jews will totally abandon the God of their fathers and the messianic hope in the same way they did in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, only to embrace a heathen religion and a false messiah.

The full article includes much more detail concerning this whole issue, good reading for anyone interested in reading more about it.

Zechariah 14 and God’s Divine Purpose

September 29, 2011 Comments off

I’ve just finished S. Lewis Johnson’s series through Zechariah.  Zechariah 14 is of course one of the great OT chapters with so much to say about the Second Coming and the Kingdom.  Dr. Johnson noted the problems of spiritualizing, and the importance of recognizing the difference between figures of speech used within a passage, and wholesale allegorizing or spiritualizing to alter the meaning to something else; Zechariah 14 is an especially difficult passage to spiritualize.

Here is a great quote from him, regarding the believers and the missionaries in Korea in the early 20th century  (from the later transcript, second series in Zechariah:

C. G. Trumbull who was at one time associated with the Sunday-School Times took a trip to Korea where a tremendous work of evangelization had taken place in the early part of this century.  In fact, there was a great revival there and Mr. Trumbull was interested in the way in which they had responded to the word of God concerning the second coming of Christ.  And so, he asked one of the Koreans whether the Korean Christians believed in the second coming of Christ.  And he received this answer, “Oh, yes, they believe the Bible.  It’s only when some missionaries come and tell them something different that they begin to have any doubts.”

When one reads the Bible and reads in its normal plain speaking then, I think, the answer usually is, we sense there’s going to be some great disturbances in the future, we see that the Lord Jesus Christ is going to come, we see that he is going to fulfill the promises that he has made to the nation Israel, and we see he’s going to rule and reign upon the earth.  That seems to be the simple reading of the word of God.

Actually, I agree that Zechariah 14 is difficult to spiritualize, and yet of course the allegorizers persist in doing so, since the imagination can come up with so much — yet such treatment leaves the text with nothing of its original plain meaning, becoming instead the inspired version of the “exalted” human teacher who tells us what God really meant to say.

Here are some great recent articles regarding Zechariah 14, from Michael Vlach:

As I’m finding out through a study through Hebrews (also with S. Lewis Johnson),  that book also has many references to the Second Coming, including the Kingdom age.  The OT scriptures quoted in chapter 1 are filled with references to the Davidic covenant and Israel’s future.  Hebrews 2 quotes Psalm 8, a great psalm regarding man’s intended dominion over the earth:  something begun in Genesis 1, but we do not now see it; we will see it in the kingdom.  S. Lewis Johnson specifically noted that in Hebrews 2:5 (which introduces the citation of Psalm 8 ) the words “the world to come” do not refer to this age (the church), and do not refer to the Eternal State, but to the kingdom of God upon the earth.

As Michael Vlach also noted in the third blog article link above:

These conditions of Zechariah 14 can only occur in an intermediate kingdom between the present age and the eternal state. While people from all nations are being saved in the church age, the nations themselves do not obey our Lord (see Psalm 2). In fact, they persecute those who belong to the Lord. In the coming kingdom Jesus will rule the nations while He is physically present on earth. The nations will obey and submit to His rule, but as Zechariah 14 points out, whenever a nation does not act as they should there is punishment. On the other hand, in the eternal state there will be absolutely no disobedience on the part of the nations. The picture of the nations in the eternal state is only positive. The kings of the nations bring their contributions to the New Jerusalem (see Rev 21:24) and the leaves of the tree of life are said to be for the healing of the nations (see Rev 22:2).

The “Little Horn” of Daniel’s Visions

January 13, 2011 Comments off

From studying Daniel with S. Lewis Johnson, I have learned of the different views concerning the identification of the “little horn” in chapters 7 and 8.  The “standard” explanation of the text, as taught in the Scofield Bible as well as by popular present-day teachers (for instance, John MacArthur and others associated with the Masters Seminary) is that the “little horn” in chapter 7 is the AntiChrist, but the same character in chapter 8 is Antiochus Epiphanes.  The position is well summarized by John MacArthur:

But you must keep a distinction for this reason. The little horn in chapter 7 comes out of the Roman Empire. The little horn in chapter 8 comes out of the Greek Empire. And so they are to be kept distinct. One is the antiChrist, and the other is one that prefigures the antiChrist. Now all of the commentators who study the Bible, with almost little or no exception, see this individual as a man named Antiochus. Antiochus Epiphanes. He was the eighth ruler of the Seleucids from General Seleucus’ area. And he reigned from 175 to 164 before Christ, BC, in what is known as the intertestamental period. The Old Testament shut down at 400 BC. The New Testament picked up at AD, the time Christ. In those 400 years, you have a Biblical time of silence. And it was in that time that this Greek power dominated the land of Israel. And at that time, this man Antiochus rose to a place of prominence.

That sounds fine at first glance — how can the same “little horn” come out of two different empires?  But S. Lewis Johnson brings out several more details from the relevant texts of scripture, to support an understanding of the same little horn.  As to the difficulty of each horn coming from a different empire, we also understand that Greece (third kingdom) was included within the overall fourth kingdom of Rome.  The Romans borrowed, or carried forward, the strengths of the Greeks:  their literature, their intellectual skills.

Scripture itself, though, adds additional support.  The interpretation itself, given by Gabriel later in chapter 8, tells us (in verses 17, 19 and 26) that the vision (just given) concerns the last days.  Consider verse 19,  “what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end” and verse 17, “that the vision is for the time of the end.”  Johnson notes that the Hebrew word translated “the indignation” is a technical term used elsewhere in the Old Testament to describe the Great Tribulation period, the special time of trouble for Israel — a word also used in Isaiah 10:24-25 and  26:20, in Ezekiel 21:31 and Daniel 11:36.  Antiochus Epiphanes, obviously, did not come at the time of the end.  In keeping with our understanding of Old Testament types (illustrations or examples), it is clear that Antiochus is a type, a foreshadowing of the future AntiChrist–but not the primary reference in Daniel 8.

Another strong indicator concerning the Grecian origin of the AntiChrist comes from Revelation 13. In Revelation 13:2 the beast is described as “like a leopard.”  The leopard is a reference to Daniel 7, the third kingdom (Greece).

From the book of Daniel we can understand that the prophecy hype about a European antiChrist, and a 10 nation confederacy in the European Common Market, is somewhat misguided.  As S. Lewis Johnson pointed out earlier in the Daniel series, that ten nation group is worldwide, not something focused solely within the western world or confined to Europe specifically.  We can also look for the AntiChrist to arise from the Middle East, rather than from Italy (Rome).

New Blog Feature — Our Blessed Hope

November 5, 2010 Comments off

I’ve just added a new feature to this blog — and a spin-off to a second blog, Our Blessed Hope.

At least a few times a week, the new category “Our Blessed Hope” will feature select quotes from several Christian names, including Charles Spurgeon, J.C. Ryle, Horatius Bonar, and others — concerning  eschatology, prophecy and its right interpretation, the future for Israel, the premillennial return of Christ, and more.

See the first post, C. H. Spurgeon:  Jesus the Ruler Over His People Israel,  as a sample, the first in this series.

Or stop by the new blog, a site dedicated to these quotes:

Straw Men Arguments and Last Days Topography

November 3, 2010 Comments off

One of the ways in which liberal, professing Christians like to ridicule the Bible, and what it literally means, is to take a part of what the Bible says, and then add that idea to their knowledge of how the world is today, and say “well, that’s ridiculous, it can’t mean that, so it must mean …. “.  Since they really don’t know the complete picture —  the full biblical teaching and all the verses related to that idea — they only show their own ignorance, and the truth of the laziness of human nature.  It’s always easier to just take a cursory look at what one Bible verse says, and then extrapolate something ridiculous that the Bible never said, to prove their own “straw man” that we can’t take the Bible literally.

One recent example I’ve heard is a preacher (discussing Psalm 48) who casually remarked that to take the Bible literally would mean that Mount Zion is going to be elevated up really high, above Mt. Everest.  Of course, he said, that’s ridiculous, so we should take this to be symbolic of the gospel going forth in this New Testament age.

Yes, the Bible does talk about Mount Zion being elevated higher than everything else — along with other great  physical changes to the planet at the time of our Lord’s Second Advent.  A comparison of Mount Zion to Mt. Everest simply betrays the speaker’s naturalistic, uniformitarian worldview, that the world will always continue the same as it is now, without any changes.  Such an idea is similar to that of secular, unbelieving scientists who declare that Noah’s flood could not have happened, because all the water available on the planet (the moisture in the skies, the rainfall, etc.) would only cover the world in about two inches of rain.  The apostle Peter denounced such philosophy over 1900 years ago — 2 Peter 3:4-6 .

While the Psalms make reference to Mount Zion being higher than everything around it, Zechariah 14 and Revelation 16 provide more of the details:

Zechariah 14: 4, 10  (ESV)

4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.  …
10 The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft on its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s winepresses.

and  Revelation 16:18-20

And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake.  The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath.  And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found.

The literal understanding of the Bible is simply that this planet will experience many catastrophic changes at the time of our Lord’s Second Advent — earthquakes and other unusual phenomena to reshape the current landscape, to flatten most of the land while raising up the mount Zion — much like the great topographical and climatic changes that took place at the time of Noah’s flood.

Interestingly enough, scientists have found a major fault system, the Great Rift Valley (see this webpage, which also gives some geographic details concerning the statements in Zechariah 14:10), which could do some interesting things to the landscape of the whole Mediterranean region in the event of such catastrophes as described in the Bible.

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Isaiah’s Little Apocalypse and Progressive Revelation

October 11, 2010 Comments off

In my study through Isaiah with S. Lewis Johnson, the book can be outlined (so far) as follows:

Isaiah 7-12 — The Book Of Immanuel
Isaiah 14-23 — Judgments against the Nations
Isaiah 24-27 — Isaiah’s “Mini-Apocalypse”
Isaiah 28-33 — The Book of Woe

SLJ dealt with each of these sections in its own sub-series within the overall Isaiah series.  I have previously blogged about the Book of Immanuel.  Now to a brief summary of the “Little Apocalypse” section (here in part 1 and part 2).

The mini-apocalypse is one of several parallel prophecies concerning the Second Coming of our Lord, and the progressive revelation of scripture is important at this point.  Revelation given in earlier books is less detailed, but later Old Testament revelation expands on earlier revelation, just as New Testament revelation expands further — and even some New Testament revelation expands with more details not found in earlier NT texts.  The book of Revelation, the final book of the New Testament, completes the progress of revelation.

Isaiah 24:5-6 make reference to an everlasting covenant that has been broken.  The next sentence relates, “a curse devours the earth.”  Which everlasting covenant has been broken?  The description suggests that the Noahic covenant is in view here, a covenant that provided basic law and order, human government.  Though God has been incredibly patient with mankind throughout history, the time will come when God finally says “enough!”  All government is after all under God, appointed by Him, and the final breakdown of government will result in God’s destruction of this world.

Verse 10 describes (in KJV) the “city of confusion”  (ESV translates it “wasted city”).  Though Isaiah’s text does not specify the city, and it could be taken in a general sense, S. Lewis Johnson saw this — in the light of later biblical revelation — as a reference to Babylon, the city of man always opposed to God.  Babylon does play that special role, the first city that rebelled against God (Genesis 11), which will be rebuilt and destroyed in the future, as described in Revelation 18.

Verses 14 and 15 describe the people, the remnant of Israel, as including those who live in the land as well as some in the east (verse 15) and some in the west. S. Lewis Johnson, reading from the KJV, noted that the phrase “glorify God in the fires” has the Hebrew word for “lights,” the word Urim — as also used in the phrase “Urim and Thummim” of the priest’s attire.

Isaiah 24:21 indicates that this judgment will be against both this world and the demons:  On that day the Lord will punish the host of heaven, in heaven, and the kings of the earth, on the earth.  Then verse 22 is a parallel to other, later, biblical texts:  in this case, another description of Satan and his angels being bound in the abyss (Revelation 20:1-3).  The phrase that begins with “after many days” refers to the thousand years and Satan’s subsequent release and final punishment, the lake of fire.

Isaiah 25-27 is a series of songs in response to the judgment of chapter 24.  Isaiah 26:3 is a familiar, oft-quoted verse — and I think of the scripture-song from George and Kathy Abbas here:   “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.”  The context, though, is a praise from Israel rejoicing in Christ at the Second Advent.  Consider further the verse’s meaning:  “whose mind” — the mind is kept by God’s word, and emphasizes the importance of staying in and seeking God in His word, the scriptures.

Isaiah 26:20 is another parallel reference to the Great Tribulation, and especially to Revelation 12, where the woman (Israel) flees to safety.  From the Revelation text, which agrees with Daniel’s prophecy as well concerning the time period, we also know that “a little while” is the 3 1/2 years  (ref. Revelation 12:14).

Isaiah 27:1 contains a symbolic reference to Assyria, Babylon and Egypt, the enemies of Israel who are referred to as Leviathan.   Isaiah 27:9 has a New Testament reference, in Romans 11:26, the time Paul speaks of when God will “turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”

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