Description
This chapter describes the ruinous state of the earth by the end of the Great Tribulation, and ultimately envisions the Millennial age and the New Jerusalem.
Commentary
This chapter describes the earth falling into a state of ruin. Verses 21 to 23 seem to place the timing of this at the end of the Great Tribulation. However, it is also possible that some details of this vision will find their complete fulfilment at the end of the Millennium. In the closing chapters of his book, Isaiah reveals that God will create 'new heavens and a new earth' (Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22). In Revelation 21:1, John proclaims a similar vision, although there are some differences. Comparing Isaiah 65:20 and Revelation 21:4, there appears to be a contradiction over whether or not people will still die on the new earth. This contradiction is resolved if we understand Isaiah's vision of new heavens and a new earth to describe the state of things in the Millennium, and John's vision to describe the eternal state after the Millenium. According to John's vision, the new heaven and earth will be revealed when the first heaven and the first earth have passed away. On that basis, my understanding is that although the much of the earth will be in a state of ruin by the end of the Great Tribulation, it will be rebuilt and restored in the Millennium. So there will be continuity of the present earth into the Millenium. At the end of the Millennium it will again suffer ruin, at which point it will be burned up and replaced. However, some biblical scholars argue that its burning up will be a refining process and that there will again be continuity and restoration of the millennial earth into the eternal age.

On this subject, Psalm 102:25-26 says, "In earlier times you established the earth; the skies are your handiwork. They will perish, but you will endure. They will wear out like a garment; like clothes you will remove them and they will disappear." (NET)

And 2 Peter 3:10-13 says,"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; when it comes, the heavens will disappear with a horrific noise, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze, and the earth and every deed done on it will be laid bare. 11 Since all these things are to melt away in this manner, what sort of people must we be, conducting our lives in holiness and godliness, 12 while waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God? Because of this day, the heavens will be burned up and dissolve, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze! 13 But, according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness truly resides." (NET)

As stated above, it appears that here in chapter 24, Isaiah is primarily describing events surrounding the second coming, at the end of this age. But it may be that neither his nor Peter's vision will see its complete fulfilment until the end of the Millennium.

In verses 5 to 6, Isaiah tells us "The earth is defiled by its inhabitants, for they have violated laws, disregarded the regulation, and broken the permanent treaty. 6 So a treaty curse devours the earth; its inhabitants pay for their guilt. This is why the inhabitants of the earth disappear (Hebrew: 'charar'), and are reduced to just a handful of people (literally: 'and mankind is left small' - NET bible notes)". This should remind us of the story of the flood in Genesis 6 to 9, and cause us to ask, 'How will God honour the Noahic covenant?' The Noahic covenant is stated in Genesis 8:20, "I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, even though the inclination of their minds is evil from childhood on. I will never again destroy everything that lives, as I have just done", and in Genesis 9:11 "Never again will all living things be wiped out by the waters of a flood; never again will a flood destroy the earth". If verses 5 to 6 are understood literally, the destruction and ruin that Isaiah describes seems to come pretty close to a breaking of the Noahic covenant. I guess that it is honoured according firstly to scale, secondly to method of judgment, and thirdly according to the agent of judgment.

According to scale, in the flood, only 8 people were saved out of the earth's entire population, so the percentage that survived was very small. In comparison, Isaiah says literally 'and mankind is left small'. But how small? The book of Revelation describes three series of judgment events. A quarter of the earth perishes in the seven seal events (Revelation 6:8) and another third in the seven trumpet events (Revelation 8:18). At the last trumpet, believers will be raptured (1 Thessalonians 4:17), The population that still remains on the earth must then face the bowl judgments which are even more severe than the seal and trumpet events, but we are not told what fraction perishes. Finally, many will perish in the battle of Armageddon. So we don't know what percentage will survive until the end of the age in order to populate the Millennial earth, but Isaiah tells us it will be 'small'. In verse 13 he tells us, "It will be like when they beat an olive tree, and just a few olives are left at the end of the harvest".

According to method of judgment, verse 3 tells us, "The earth will be completely devastated and thoroughly ransacked". This seems to imply that it will be devastated by world war, which is consistent with John's vision of the four horsemen in Revelation 6. It is possible that people are burned up (v6) as a result of human actions and war, or even nuclear war. But in verse 18, Isaiah says, "…the floodgates of the heavens are opened up and the foundations of the earth shake" pointing to natural disasters and divine judgments that compound the situation, as described in the seals, trumpets and bowls in Revelation.

According to agent of judgment, it seems that much of the devastation will take place through the actions of man. Although it is compounded by natural disasters and divine judgments, God will also limit what man can destroy. Jesus said in Matthew 24:22, "And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short".

Although God will ultimately honour the Noahic covenant, the circumstances and devastation that befall the earth during the Great Tribulation are so severe that Jesus likened them to the days of Noah. He said in Matthew 24:36-39, "But as for that day and hour no one knows it – not even the angels in heaven – except the Father alone. 37 For just like the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. 38 For in those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark. 39 And they knew nothing until the flood came and took them all away. It will be the same at the coming of the Son of Man." Jesus is talking not just about the element of surprise, but also about the severity of what will befall the earth's population.

In verse 2, Isaiah tells us, "Everyone will suffer – the priest as well as the people, the master as well as the servant, the elegant lady as well as the female attendant, the seller as well as the buyer, the borrower as well as the lender, the creditor as well as the debtor." Christians should not be complacent about what is to come. We need to endure events up until the last trumpet. Yes, we will be rescued at that point, but half the world's population will have already perished. The events of the Great Tribulation call for great endurance among Christians, as in Daniel 12:11-12, "From the time that the daily sacrifice is removed and the abomination that causes desolation is set in place, there are 1,290 days. Blessed is the one who waits and attains to the 1,335 days".

Having stated in verse 13 that, "It will be like when they beat an olive tree, and just a few olives are left at the end of the harvest", Isaiah envisions a global spiritual awakening taking place among these survivors. Verses 14 to 16 describe people from west to east and to the ends of the earth praising and magnifying the Lord God of Israel'. Although most people who miss the rapture are likely to perish, there is still a percentage that will experience God's redemption and go on to populate Millennial Earth.

Verses 18 to 20 describe some of the terrifying events natural disasters that will take place at the end of the Great Tribulation. The statement in verse 18 that "the floodgates of the heavens are opened up" deliberately reminds us of the Noahic flood. It doesn't mean there will be a literal flood. Revelation 16 details the bowl judgments that will be released by God on the earth. Most graphically described in verses 18 to 20 is the great earthquake that corresponds to the seventh bowl judgment in Revelation 16:17-21. Isaiah tells us, "…the earth shakes violently. The earth will stagger around like a drunk; it will sway back and forth like a hut in a windstorm".

The statement in verse 20 that the earth's "sin will weigh it down, and it will fall and never get up again" is somewhat confusing. It appears from many other scriptures that the earth will get up again and be restored during the Millennium. Perhaps this statement finds fulfilment at the end of the Millennium, which Isaiah envisions in verse 22b. Millennial earth falls and never gets up again, but is destroyed and replaced with the new earth of the eternal age that he envisions in verse 23.

Verses 21 to 22 describe the defeat of the world's rulers at the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 19:11-21 and Psalm 110:5-6), and also the imprisonment of Satan and his demonic heavenly forces who will be imprisoned in a pit. Verse 22 tell us, "and after staying there for a long time, they will be punished". Revelation 20:1-3 and 7-10 tells us that Satan will remain in prison until shortly before the end of the Millennium. He will then lead a final rebellion against God but be defeated and thrown forever into the lake of fire.

Verse 23 pictures the New Jerusalem, "The full moon will be covered up, the bright sun will be darkened; for the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will rule on Mount Zion in Jerusalem in the presence of his assembly, in majestic splendor". This agrees with Revelation 21:23, "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God lights it up, and its lamp is the Lamb".
Tags
Places: Zion, New Jerusalem
Symbols: Olive trees
Tags: Great earthquake, Earthquake, Earth ruined, Earth and heavens destroyed, End-time judgments, Days of Noah, End-time revival, Survivors of the Great Tribulation, Jesus establishes his kingdom, Sun and moon darkened, New Jerusalem, Millennial reign, Satan bound, Nations cast into the pit of hell, Pit, Hell
The Lord Will Judge the Earth
24 Look, the Lord is ready to devastate the earth and leave it in ruins; he will mar its surface and scatter its inhabitants.
2 Everyone will suffer – the priest as well as the people, the master as well as the servant, the elegant lady as well as the female attendant, the seller as well as the buyer, the borrower as well as the lender, the creditor as well as the debtor.
3 The earth will be completely devastated and thoroughly ransacked. For the Lord has decreed this judgment.
4 The earth dries up and withers, the world shrivels up and withers; the prominent people of the earth fade away.
5 The earth is defiled by its inhabitants, for they have violated laws, disregarded the regulation, and broken the permanent treaty.
6 So a treaty curse devours the earth; its inhabitants pay for their guilt. This is why the inhabitants of the earth disappear, and are reduced to just a handful of people.
7 The new wine dries up, the vines shrivel up, all those who like to celebrate groan.
8 The happy sound of the tambourines stops, the revelry of those who celebrate comes to a halt, the happy sound of the harp ceases.
9 They no longer sing and drink wine; the beer tastes bitter to those who drink it.
10 The ruined town is shattered; all of the houses are shut up tight.
11 They howl in the streets because of what happened to the wine; all joy turns to sorrow; celebrations disappear from the earth.
12 The city is left in ruins; the gate is reduced to rubble.
13 This is what will happen throughout the earth, among the nations. It will be like when they beat an olive tree, and just a few olives are left at the end of the harvest.
14 They lift their voices and shout joyfully; they praise the majesty of the Lord in the west.
15 So in the east extol the Lord, along the seacoasts extol the fame of the Lord God of Israel.
16 From the ends of the earth we hear songs – the Just One is majestic. But I say, “I’m wasting away! I’m wasting away! I’m doomed! Deceivers deceive, deceivers thoroughly deceive!”
17 Terror, pit, and snare are ready to overtake you inhabitants of the earth!
18 The one who runs away from the sound of the terror will fall into the pit; the one who climbs out of the pit, will be trapped by the snare. For the floodgates of the heavens are opened up and the foundations of the earth shake.
19 The earth is broken in pieces, the earth is ripped to shreds, the earth shakes violently.
20 The earth will stagger around like a drunk; it will sway back and forth like a hut in a windstorm. Its sin will weigh it down, and it will fall and never get up again.

The Lord Will Become King

21 At that time the Lord will punish the heavenly forces in the heavens and the earthly kings on the earth.
22 They will be imprisoned in a pit, locked up in a prison, and after staying there for a long time, they will be punished.
23 The full moon will be covered up, the bright sun will be darkened; for the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will rule on Mount Zion in Jerusalem in the presence of his assembly, in majestic splendor.
(NET)