The prophet Isaiah prophesied some 730 years B.C. and yet his prophecies cover the first coming of the Messiah in (7:14; 9:6-7), the task, atonement, and mission of the Servant in chapter 53, the second coming and final judgment (61-66) and the closing glimpse of the new heaven and new earth (65:17; 66:22).
As we observe Christmas, the familiar verses of Chapter 9 show beyond all doubt whom Isaiah was referring to:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (9:6-7).
This cannot be a description of any mortal man; He is to be an eternal ruler, a descendant of king David, one who will uphold justice and righteousness for ever and He is described as the Mighty God, the Wonderful Counsellor, the Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. Surely, Isaiah was prophesying regarding the coming of the Messiah and Immanuel.
Isaiah 53 is rather familiar to us as the description of the Servant – a term referring to none other than the Lord Jesus and this chapter is often considered as the gospel according to Isaiah.
But what is not so familiar is the passage in Isaiah 24. Consider some of the verses in this chapter:
“See, the Lord is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it; He will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants (vs1). The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered. The Lord has spoken this word. The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the heavens languish with the earth. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left (verses 4-7).
Terror and pit and snare await you, people of the earth. Whoever flees at the sound of terror will fall into a pit; whoever climbs out of the pit will be caught in a snare. The floodgates of the heavens are opened, the foundations of the earth shake. The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder, the earth is violently shaken. The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls – never to rise again. In that day the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below. They will be herded together like prisoners bound in a dungeon; they will be shut up in prison and be punished after many days. The moon will be dismayed, the sun ashamed; for the Lord Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders – with great glory” (verses 17-23).
The chapter describes the devastating judgment on the planet; emphasises individual inescapability in a punishment which is seen to be total. Everything that makes human life sustainable and enjoyable is systematically destroyed. The awesome judgement is elaborated with images of treachery and snares, flood and earthquake, so that even the heavenly bodies are involved. The description sounds like an ecological disaster. The earth itself has become a polluted, barren waste; its inhabitants from every walk of life, are reduced numerically and materially. The causes are spiritual and moral failure. Isaiah sees celestial and terrestrial cataclysms.
The devastation is so complete that it will rival the flood God sent in the time of Noah. The disaster will change the contours of the planet, much like the flood did.
The parallel description is seen in 2 Peter 3:10-15(a):
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with HIs promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation…”
As we celebrate God’s love and grace in sending His Son in the first coming of the Lord, let us remember that His desire is for us to believe and to be found holy and blameless as His adopted children, members of the community and humanity with Christ as the head, with the hope of inheritance in the new heaven and new earth. The prophecy of the judgement on the earth by Isaiah years ago follows the prophecy of the first coming and this prophecy is also affirmed by Apostle Peter in the New Testament. Just as the first coming came to pass as we observe Christmas, the second coming of the Lord Jesus is sure to come. We see the urgency of warning those who persist in moral and spiritual failure, whether as non-believers, or as Christians by name only, to repent before the devastating judgment descends upon them. For believers, the Apostle Peter exhorts us to make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and holy so that we may be at peace with God and share His glory in the new heaven and new earth.
It is not enough to feel ‘sentimental’ about Christmas; the first coming precedes the second. If we are not among those who ‘benefit’ from the first coming by repentance and belief and being ‘born again’ by faith, receiving the mercy and grace of God, and growing in holiness to be like our Lord Jesus, we have every reason to tremble at the coming of the total judgement and devastation by God.
Apostle Peter’s urging to ‘make every effort’ implies that we do not drift into holiness. We have to be diligent, in dependence on the Holy Spirit, to strive to be holy, making use of all the disciplines of grace God has given in the Word of God, in prayer, in communion with Him and the saints, and in vigilant spiritual battles to ensure that we be among those who stand, in the day of the Lord.