Isaiah 13 (continued)
Before we leave this chapter on the "oracles against Babylon", we need to look at several more verses for consideration. "And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible" (verse 11). Does not this language reiterate in different wording what this chapter has been saying about Babylon right along? Is not this the Babylonian "world" being discussed? There is no contextual intimation that the subject matter has changed from Babylon to physical/material. This "world of Babylon" is soon (see verse 6) going to have its stars, moon, and sun’s lights put out! It will be as a destruction from God (Ibid.). One must see that "world" in the Bible more often refers to a specific "world" or nation being discussed, not this physical "world" we think of many times. While we are thinking of it, compare Isaiah 13:10 about Babylon with what Jesus said about old Israel in Matthew 24:29; Luke 21:25. If Babylon was a "world" in her "day", can we not say Israel/Jerusalem of Jesus’ "day" was a "world" also destined by God to end? The princes "of this world" crucified Christ, Paul said (1 Corinthians 2:6-8). What "world"? The Greek text shows in the Corinthian verses "leaders of this age" (archonton tou aionos). Did the "leaders" of the Jewish "age" or "world" have anything to do with Jesus’ death? It was the "chief priests and elders" of what "group" who persuaded the multitude to ask for Barabbas, "and destroy Jesus"? (Matthew 27:20).
But one more observation before going on to other areas of the Old Testament. "Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger" (verse 13). Shake what "heavens"? Remove what "earth"? Has Isaiah thirteen changed subject matter yet? Not to our knowledge. We have heavenly elements that refer to Babylon in verse 10, and the punishment of the "world" (Babylonian), in verse 11. And to say the same thing in yet another way, the desolation of the Babylonian "land" (verse 9) is described as the shaking of heavens and the removing of the earth out of her place (verse 13). Let the reader now look at how this same language is used to describe the fall of Jerusalem in Hebrews 12:26,27 (compare Haggai 2:6).
A good question could be asked here: How do we know Hebrews 12:26,27 is discussing Judaism and not this physical universe? If we may respond for one second to traditional views, Hebrews 12:26,27 must be speaking of Judaism because is not the physical world going to be "burned up" as per II Peter 3:10? "Shaking" and "burning up" are two different methods of desolation/destruction, which one is it? If a "shaking" follows a "burning up", then ashes will be the only thing shaken, but since we understand traditionally the "burning up" of II Peter 3:10 is annihilation of the physical universe, then nothing will be "shaken" because nothing will exist tangibly. If the "shaking" and "burning up" are equivalents, why does the "burning up" get "top billing" all the time? Let’s hear it for "shaking" the heavens and earth one time! If "shaking the heavens" physically (and earth) precedes the "burning up", why would God bother since the "burning up" will take care of it all anyway?
But why not let Jesus have something to say about all this. "Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken" (Luke 21:26). What was Jesus speaking about in Luke 21? We have the temple in Luke 21:5,6. The temple of Jerusalem. Jesus warned further, "When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation is nigh" (Luke 21:20). Was Jerusalem THE city and capital for Judaism? She was going to be trodden down of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24). Remember, the Gentiles were the trodders, and those of Jerusalem were the troddees. And this is all described by Jesus as things coming on the earth and the powers of heaven shaken, this language telling of those things "which are written" which were going to be fulfilled before that contemporary generation of people passed away (Lk.21:22,32).
Before one more set of brief comments on another passage in Isaiah thirteen, let us pursue some questions that can come from the questions we have already asked. Isaiah thirteen has figurative language of the universe to describe the fall of Babylon. Jesus used this same language almost to the word to tell of the "end of the age" (Matthew 24:3). Jesus spoke of a "shaken heavens" in Matthew 24:29 as to its "powers", and so does the Hebrews author (Hebrews 12:26,27). We asked simply, why was not Jesus speaking of the same "powers of the heavens" which was Judaism in Matthew 24:29 as the Hebrew writer in 12:26,27? If Hebrews 12:26,27 refers to Genesis 1:1 as to consequents, would this not seem prophetically odd in light of what Jesus said? Why would a Bible student understand Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 as referring to Judaism, and then leap to materializing the powers of the heavens in Hebrews 12:26,27 or in II Peter 3:10? We believe that if we materialize and treat physically the heavens an earth used in promises concerning "this age" and "the age to come" in the New Testament, we do a grave injustice to a beter understanding of Bible prophecy. We cannot do it in Isaiah thirteen without being embarrassed. We cannot do it in Matthew 24/Luke 21 without again being made to reconsider what we believe. And if we make corporeal the application of Hebrews 1:10-12, 12:26,27; Revelation 6:14; 20:11; and II Peter 3:10-13, we again put ourselves in a difficult position exegetically. II Peter 3:10 is no more to be comprehended physically as to elements, heavens, earth, etc., for destruction than is Isaiah 13:10-13 to be interpreted in a physical way.
Finally in this part, Isaiah 13:17 reveals who God is going to use in all of this against Babylon – the Medes. It was the "oracle against Babylon" (verse 1), it is destruction from the Almighty (verse 6), and the Medes constitute the instrumentality of God for the accomplishment. If the stars, constellations, sun, moon, world, heavens, and earth are physical in Isaiah thirteen, then the Medes will be the only ones left. And if the "world" in Isaiah thirteen is the one in II Peter 3:10 destined for a material "burning up", then where will the Medes be standing or shall we say, on what will they be standing? In like manner, if the earth, sun, moon, heavens, earth, etc., in Luke 21 are mundane, then the Gentiles will be the only ones left. And if the "world" in Luke 21:25-33 is the "world" destined to be "burned up" as per II Peter 3:10, then the Gentiles will have no place to stand after it is over because the physical earth will have been destroyed. We could say that the Medes in Isaiah 13:17 are the same as the Gentiles in Luke 21:24, but we do not subscribe to that vie. We must think of nations earlier and Israel later in our Bibles as the subjects of "heaven and earth" language, else we become confused as we try to grow in our knowledge of God’s truth (II Timothy 2:15).