Isaiah 24 (Conclusion)
We suggest the reader turn to this chapter in Isaiah to check as we proceed. In several commentaries that were at hand, it seemed to this writer that Barnes may have come the closest in clear meaning as to the context of Isaiah 24-27, 24:5,15,23; 25:10; 26:1; 27:6,12; check Barnes, McGuiggan, Young, and Robinson. "On the whole, it seems to me that the prophecy (Isaiah 24-27 CG) relates to the calamities that would come upon the nation by the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar, and the carrying away to Babylon, and the subsequent deliverance from the oppressive bondage, and the joy consequent on that. According to this interpretation, the twenty-fourth chapter is occupied mainly with the description of the calamities that would come upon the land by the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar" (Barnes, Isaiah, Vol. I, pp.388,389). We believe we interpret the phrase "calamities that would come upon the land" to refer to the "land" of Jacob or upon Israel in that time period. Notice verse 6, "Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate; therefore the inhabitants of the earth (what earth?) are burned, and few men left (Daniel 9:24-27; Matthew 23:37-24 – 24:15,34; II Peter 3:10-13). See however where verse 5 of Isaiah 24 sets up the context. "The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgresed the Laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant." Does this not sound like Israel’s relationship to God? Did Nebuchadnezzar break "the everlasting covenant"? Who was it who thought "to change times and laws"? (Daniel 7:25). Who was it that observed "days, and months, and times, and years?" (Galatians 4:9,10).
If this point has truth, let us go on. "Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof…the land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled…the earth (remember what "earth") mourneth and fadeth away, the world (notice how earth and world mean the same here) languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish (now we have three references differently stated but pertaining to the same thing – earth, world, and people of the earth. The first two are metonymical in use, the last actual) – the earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly…the earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again" (Verses 1,3,4,19,20) Notice how many times God referred to Israel as "earth." Since Mount Sinai answered to fleshly Jerusalem (Galatians 4:25), we believe that Isaiah 24:23 reaches into the first century in reference to Mount Zion, with the "new" Jerusalem implied (compare again Matthew 24:29ff.; Acts 2:19,20; Revelation 21:1; et al.).
Compare also Joel 2:28-32; 3:16ff. At the very start of the book of Isaiah, the vision of Isaiah concerned Judah and Jerusalem, and in getting their attention it reads, "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth…Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider" (1:1-4). Jesus used the term "earth" to refer to Israel (Matthew 24:3,30-34; Luke 21:20-22,26,32,33). If a Bible student stays with the Biblical definition of "earth" in eschatology, then, to be consistent, II Peter 3:10-13 will not be saying to him that this corporeal, physical planet we call Earth is what is meant.
As we have worked on this paper, we have been impressed with the depth of this study in the Bible. We believe that to exhaust "earth" alone from Genesis to Revelation and its meaning could entail a large book, let alone the offshoot studies that could come from such a venture. But we come near to a close with this last reference at Nahum one. The subject? Ninevah (1:1). "The Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet" (verse 3). With this last paragraph of our study, let us briefly look at "clouds." ("Clouds" are a part of the "heavens"). Here is one Bible definition of clouds, and they are not called here cirrus (high clouds), or altostratus (intermediate clouds), or stratus (low clouds), not even cumulus (clouds of great vertical continuity), but "the dust" of God’s "feet." Clouds can even be God’s "chariots" (Psalm 104:3). These are Bible definitions for "clouds" in prophecy. God tuned up one particular "cloud" for a fast ride against Egypt in Isaiah 19:1, because it was a "swift cloud." But too many when reading Bible prophecy take "clouds" (like they do "earth" and "world") to mean all the time a visible mass of condensed water vapor suspended in the atmosphere, consisting of minute droplets or ice crystals, "and it just ain’t so." If the "swift cloud" of Isaiah 19:1 was to be literally/physically seen, then it follows that God would also be seen, because He was to be riding on that "swift cloud." But John 1:18 says, "No man hath seen God at anytime…" No physical God, then no physical cloud, swift or otherwise, either.
Further in Nahum, "the mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein" (verse 5). Remember: Nineveh is the subject, not this physical world. This is the way God was describing the anticipated fall of a people/city. If mountains quaking, hills melting, and earth burned could describe judgment on the city Nineveh, why could not the same kind of language describe the judgment on New Testament "old" Jerusalem in 70 AD in II Peter 3:10ff.? Has the reader ever compared II Peter three with, say, Luke 21? It is so fascinating it will make you smile at the least and wonder how you ever missed the harmony and beauty of the study. Compare Luke 21:25-27; Galatians 4:3,9; 2:16; e.g., "Works" in II Peter 3:10 refer to "works" under the law. "Elements" in II Peter 3:10 (same word) refer to "elements of the world" in Galatians 4:3. What "world" placed its "children in bondage"? Was it not the Jewish "world"? What were the Galatian Jews trying to turn again to in the "weak and beggarly elements," Galatians 4:9? Old Jerusalem that was to be destroyed in 70 AD had her children in bondage (Galatians 4:25). What was the spiritual nature of the Jewish "meats, and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances"? (Hebrews 9:9). Actually the law was holy, just, and good, (Romans 7:12), but it was the weakness "through the flesh" (Romans 8:3) that made the need for our eternal Saviour. The "through the flesh" concept made the law incapacitated and weak, and this was one of the "weaknesses" of the elements of that "age" of Judaism (Galatians 4:3,9). All the components inclusive in Judaism are included in II Peter 3:10 Just as they are in Jesus’ words in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.
"There are three heaven and earth time periods in 2 Peter 3, and the change from one epoch of time to another was referred to as a passing of heaven and earth. The object of that expression was to show a change in God’s dealings with man rather than a change in the literal, material constitution of the world itself" (Max R. King, The Cross and The Parousia of Christ, p. 256). Let us allow the Old Testament and the relevant gospel passages to define prophetic terms so we can understand more truth of God’s revelation.