There are a number of Old Testament prophecies in the book of Isaiah that carry a dual fulfillment. Chapters 13 through 23 tell of the woes that would come to the Gentile persecutors of Israel, many of which have already seen the first fulfillment, and these countries will also suffer terribly along with Israel in the time of the Great Tribulation.
Chapter 24 is identified with the Babylonian captivity and exile from Judah and Jerusalem which was still pending at the time Isaiah wrote this and it ends with what is sometimes called “Jacob’s Troubles,” the Great Tribulation that is sure to come.
As with many Old Testament prophecies, Isaiah 24 starts with a promise of severe judgment and ends with a reference to the blessings of the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth. When the Lord comes to cleanse the earth of all non believers, those signs in the heavens that Christ referred to in Matthew 24 will be followed by the appearance of the glorified Son of Man to cleanse the world of non believers and establish the age of righteousness. All believers, Jewish and Gentile, of all the dispensations, will be included in the age of righteousness.
I want to just mention one incident that proves how true and accurate Bible prophecy is. Isaiah revealed that a Persian King named Cyrus would allow and assist the faithful remnant of captive Jews in Babylon to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple and to resettle the city and the land. This was about one hundred and fifty years before this man was born, and likely one hundred years or more before the Babylonian captivity. Only a faithful few did return, the rest remained subject to a Gentile ruler. Isaiah 44:28. He says of Cyrus, 'He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure, Saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,” And to the temple, "Your foundation shall be laid." Isaiah 45:1 & 5. "Thus says the LORD to His anointed: To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held - to subdue nations before him; for Jacob My servant's sake, and Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me.”
During the Jewish captivity, Persia conquered Babylon and, in 538 BC, the Persian king named Cyrus did issue an edict that would allow the faithful remnant of Jews in Babylon to return to Jerusalem, and Ezra chapter 1 confirms they did return. Isaiah had been divinely inspired to write this prophecy.
Rest assured, Bible prophesy will be fulfilled. God can use a Gentile who worships another god or He may use the Jewish Messiah, but His Word will come to pass.
Incidentally, Cyrus wasn’t an idol worshipper. Persia is modern day Iran, and the Persians believed in a supreme god, not the God of Jacob, however. At that time, they worshipped a god who was a god of light and identified with the sun. They did not worship the sun but they contrasted their god of light with the spirit of darkness which they saw as an evil spirit that we might liken to the devil.
Since they, like the Jews, were monotheists, believers in one supreme god, their rulers sometimes looked favorably on the Jews because of their belief in one supreme God. The God of Jacob that the Christian embraces certainly lays His groundwork carefully!
Isaiah chapter 24 describes a scene of destruction and desolation, and it’s closely linked with the similar passage in Jeremiah 4:23-29. “I beheld the earth, and indeed it was without form, and void; and the heavens, they had no light. 24. I beheld the mountains, and indeed they trembled, and all the hills moved back and forth. 25. I beheld, and indeed there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens had fled. 26. I beheld, and indeed the fruitful land was a wilderness, and all its cities were broken down at the presence of the LORD, by His fierce anger. 27. For thus says the LORD: "The whole land shall be desolate; yet I will not make a full end. 28. For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black, because I have spoken. I have purposed and will not relent, nor will I turn back from it. 29. The whole city shall flee from the noise of the horsemen and bowmen. They shall go into thickets and climb up on the rocks. Every city shall be forsaken, and not a man shall dwell in it.”
Many different interpretations have been given to this, some of which propose that the whole earth will be like the earth as referred to in Genesis 1:2, when it was in a state "without form and void" after falling from the glory of its original creation. But Jeremiah is referring primarily to the land of Palestine in the dark and awful period of the Great Tribulation yet to come. I do not think it will include the lands included in Biblical prophecy as a whole, nor the region once occupied by the Roman Empire until the last days of the Great Tribulation period.
Also, in the early part of Isaiah 24, it’s not the world as such that’s in view but the land of Palestine that he sees as empty and desolate because of the terrible experiences God’s covenant people will pass through in the last days. However, no matter how you view these passages, we know from the book of Revelation that the whole world will be involved during the last stages of the Tribulation.
ISAIAH 24:1-3. “Behold, the LORD makes the earth empty and makes it waste, distorts its surface and scatters abroad its inhabitants. 2. And it shall be: as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, 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. 3. The land shall be entirely emptied and utterly plundered, for the LORD has spoken this word.”
Palestine is often described in Scripture as a land flowing with milk and honey, but here we see it as the very opposite, a dry, thirsty land, no longer able to sustain its inhabitants and they are going to flee in terror because of the judgments of the Lord.
Notice the expression, "the Lord . .distorts its surface." Everything that unbelieving Israel has trusted in will be shattered.
All the hopes they have held for so many centuries will prove to be just idle dreams. At that time, Israel will have returned to their own land in unbelief, just as they are doing right now. They believe that through their own ability and determination and strength, they will be able to build a great nation again in the land God gave their forefathers.
They seem to utterly ignore the Old Testament prophets who warned them that greater disasters than they have ever known in the past lie ahead for their unfaithfulness.
The Babylonian captivity came for Judah and Jerusalem not many years after Isaiah wrote these verses and at a time yet to come they are going to face “Jacob’s Troubles,” the Great Tribulation.
Their hopes and dreams can’t be realized until they turn to the Lord and look on "Him whom they have pierced" and accept Him as their Messiah. Until that time, they are doomed to one terrible disappointment after another, and this will be shared by all classes of their people.
Verses 4-12. “The earth mourns and fades away, the world languishes and fades away; the haughty people of the earth languish. 5. The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. 6. Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left. 7. The new wine fails, the vine languishes, all the merry-hearted sigh. 8. The mirth of the tambourine ceases, the noise of the jubilant ends, the joy of the harp ceases. 9. They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink is bitter to those who drink it. 10. The city of confusion is broken down; every house is shut up, so that none may go in. 11. There is a cry for wine in the streets, all joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone. 12. In the city desolation is left, and the gate is stricken with destruction.”
The reason such desolation will come to the people is that they are not living as they should, they have ignored God, and have defiled the earth. When God created the world He said it was “very good.” Man’s sin defiled the good earth by disobeying God’s laws, violating His statutes, and breaking His everlasting covenant.
I believe the everlasting covenant in verse 5 refers to the implicit covenant to obey God and His Word. It is evident in nature itself, it is not a written covenant. Cain, the first person born on earth, killed his brother, and, inherently knowing right from wrong, tried to cover his sin by hiding the body in the sand. (Genesis 4). He transgressed the universal laws of moral conduct implied in that covenant. The apostle Paul, in Romans 1, tells that those laws are instilled in the conscience of all men, and, in spite of that, mankind in general has turned away from God. Romans 1:18-21. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, neither were thankful but became vain in their imagination and their foolish heart was darkened.”
Paul wrote this to the Gentiles and Isaiah was writing to the Jews, but certainly they all had broken the everlasting covenant so far as it was in their power, but God didn’t break it.
All mankind has broken the moral laws of God consistently, particularly the everlasting covenant. For that reason, we see in verse 6, the curse will devour, or cover, the earth and their guilt before God will be the basic cause of the terror and suffering for Israel and the Gentile Nations during the Tribulation.
The everlasting covenant is the foundation of God’s other covenants. God’s covenant with Noah included the whole human race. The Abrahamic and the Davidic covenants were made specifically with His people, Israel, but God has extended the blessings of those covenants to all mankind through His Son, Jesus, and His death on the cross for our sins.
The everlasting covenant is not the law of Moses and the ten commandments given at Sinai. Nowhere is it declared to be an everlasting covenant. Over the centuries the Jews have added new statutes and changed it, and have in fact, if not in form, repealed the laws of Moses and introduced their own set of rules.
The ten commandments came to show us that of ourselves we could not attain righteousness. In Galatians 3:24, we find that the law was our schoolmaster to bring us the understanding that God gave the law as a means of proving to men the full manifestation of man's sinfulness and universal need of man for a Savior.
The everlasting covenant doesn’t refer to the covenant made with Abraham either, because it is impossible for man to break that covenant, inasmuch as God Himself is the only party to it.
The Messiah came in accordance with the promises God made to Abraham and confirmed to David, but He was rejected and cut off, as Daniel 9:26 predicted. Later in history, Israel is going to enter into one more covenant, this one with the head of the Gentile world, rejecting any allegiance to their Messiah. That covenant will be broken by the maker, the Antichrist, at the end of three-and-a-half years. That Man of Sin will declare himself to be God and demand that he be worshipped by all men as their God.
We find nothing in Genesis about a human government in the chapters before the flood, but under Noah, God set up human government. God was to be acknowledged as man’s supreme ruler by all the inhabitants of the earth, but this is the very thing that not only Israel but the Gentile Nations as well have failed to acknowledge. Man's responsibility in human government has become meaningless because of unbelief and willful disobedience, consequently every effort of men to establish stable government and peace among the nations has been and still is doomed to failure.
Our Lord's own words come to mind here. When He described the horrors of the Great Tribulation and the rise of nation against nation in bloody warfare, He says, "Except those days be shortened, there should no flesh be saved."
We know something today of the terribly destructive power of modern weapons of warfare. We have seen large cities blotted out in World War II in a few moments of time. In the Gulf War, we saw a missile fired from the deck of a warship three hundred miles from its target. It flew down the correct street in Baghdad and made a left turn into a second story window of a building and exploded. And, after the war, it was revealed that the United States was using obsolete armament in that war so as not to reveal our more modern weapons to any potential enemy.
From the things we know today, we should have no difficulty in accepting that Palestine will experience the ravages of more terrible warfare literally, probably to a greater extent than any other country because she knew not the time of her visitation by her Messiah. But in the day when these judgments are falling on that land and the surrounding territory, a remnant will separate from the rest of the people and they will turn to the Lord and acknowledge their sins and trust in Him. The grace of God will be revealed to them in a world that is without hope, and it will bring them to dwell in peace in their own land.
Verses 13-15. “When it shall be thus in the midst of the land among the people, it shall be like the shaking of an olive tree, like the gleaning of grapes when the vintage is done. 14. They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing; for the majesty of the LORD they shall cry aloud from the sea. 15. Therefore glorify the LORD in the dawning light, the name of the LORD God of Israel in the coastlands of the sea.”
God's judgment of the earth will be like the olive harvest where they shake the tree until all but a few of the olives fall off, or like the grape harvest where all but a few of the grapes are taken. A few people will be left at the end of God’s harvest; believers that will survive and go into the Kingdom Age alive, rejoicing in the Lord. They will “glorify the LORD in the dawning light” and praise God and cry out aloud from the lands bordering the sea.
One writer stated that the Gentile Nations were the coastlands of the sea who would praise Him, and they will be the people farthest from Israel. Different translations use different words in these three verses. They still state that God’s praise from the saved remnant will be universal and His praise will be heard far and wide.
The dark days of the tribulation are the prelude to the coming day of blessing for the believing remnant of Israel and the great multitude of Gentiles saved out of the nations at that time. They’ll be looking forward to the Second Advent of the once rejected Messiah and I’m certain they’ll rejoice when they enter into the blessings of the kingdom age.
Verse 16. “From the ends of the earth we have heard songs: Glory to the righteous!" But I said, "I am ruined, ruined! Woe to me! The treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously, indeed, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously."
Isaiah is thinking about the coming suffering of his people and the desolation of the land during that time of the trouble. He takes it very personally and his soul can’t help but cry out in anguish.
We know that Isaiah had prophetic vision and could see the glory that will follow these horrible days, but he still realizes the sufferings his people are going to go through before they are brought back to God and to their land. Another rendition of his expression, “I am ruined, ruined!” is "My misery, my misery."
At any rate, it’s clear that Isaiah is in great mental anguish thinking about the results of Israel's departure from God and their breaking of His covenant.
In verses 17 and following, Isaiah goes back to the conditions he foresaw coming to the land at the beginning of this chapter. Verses 17-20. “Fear and the pit and the snare are upon you, O inhabitant of the earth. 18. And it shall be that he who flees from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit, and he who comes up from the midst of the pit shall be caught in the snare; for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth are shaken. 19. The earth is violently broken, the earth is split open, the earth is shaken exceedingly. 20. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall totter like a hut; its transgression shall be heavy upon it, and it will fall, and not rise again.”
The woes of the last days are graphically spelled out here. There seems to be no way of escaping God’s judgment. No matter how hard one tries to run and hide, God is watching from the windows on high and there is no escape from the disaster that will befall the earth. Everything that men have considered stable and lasting will be shaken to pieces. The land will reel to and fro like a man who is drunk. This seems to speak of the great earthquakes of Revelation that are going to add to the terror of the Great Tribulation.God, in His mercy, has provided a wonderful way for the individual to escape these terrible end times. He sent His sinless Son, Jesus, to shed His blood on the cross and pay the penalty for your sins and mine. His only requirement for salvation is that you truthfully confess to Him that you are a sinner and in simple and sincere faith accept Him as your Savior. When you do this, He you will save you from the wrath to come.
Zechariah wrote that when Christ returns, Jerusalem is going to be split open and Christ will stand with one foot on each side of the divided Mount of Olives and direct the final battle. Zechariah 14:3-4. “Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. 4. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley...”
God will deal with all the human powers on earth at that time as well as unseen principalities and powers that have dominated the hearts and minds of men in authority and the rulers of Israel and the nations who have defied God. All these will be dealt with in judgment, including those described in Ephesians 6 as the "rulers of darkness."
Verses 21-23. “It shall come to pass in that day that the LORD will punish on high the host of exalted ones, and on the earth the kings of the earth. 22. They will be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and will be shut up in the prison; after many days they will be punished. 23. Then the moon will be disgraced and the sun ashamed; for the LORD of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem and before His elders, gloriously.”
The phrase "the LORD will punish on high the host of exalted ones," evidently refers to evil spirits that are allowed in the heavenlies and who attempt to control the minds of men in a way that sets them in opposition to God. Satan himself has access to heaven as evidenced in Revelation 12:7. Satan’s servants will be shut up together in hell (2 Peter 2:4) until the time when the Lord will deal with them in the final judgment, most likely at the close of His Millennial reign here on earth.
The Lord is going to shake the earth fiercely and display the frightening signs in the heavens that Christ referred to in Matthew 24, and those will be followed by the appearing of the glorified Son of Man descending to cleanse the world of sin at the battle of Armageddon and establish the long-awaited age of righteousness.
Verse 23 tells us that His glory will be so great and shining that the sun and moon will seem pale by comparison.