Harry Whittaker
The Time Of The End

20) The Little Apocalypse (I)

Isaiah 24

The three chapters, Isaiah 24, 25, 26, present so many resemblances to the language and ideas of the Olivet Prophecy and the book of Revelation that they are often alluded to as Isaiah’s Little Apocalypse. There is a good deal to be said for this equation, especially when chapter 24 is considered in detail.

Certain similarities of phraseology and idea are traceable between that part of the prophecy and the Olivet Prophecy of Jesus:

Isaiah 24
Olivet Prophecy

14 [24]LXX: The water of the sea shall be troubled
21:25 The sea and the waves roaring
19, 23 LXX: in perplexity
21 :25 with perplexity (Gk: aporia — same word)
20: stagger like a drunken man
21:34 surfeiting and drunkenness.
17: the snare
21 :35 lest that day come on you as a snare

18: the windows from on high are open( = Genesis 7:11)
24:37 as it was in the days of Noah
23: Then the moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed.
24:29 the sun shall be darkened and the moon shall not give her light
LXX: And the brick shall decay and the wall shall fall
24:2 not one stone left upon another

The similarities also extend to the general shape and pattern of the prophecy. In Matthew 24, after a preliminary summary, the Lord spoke in detail with special reference to the end of the Jewish era in A.D. 70. The second half of his prophecy (from 24:29 to the end of ch. 25) refers to the time of his coming. There is good reason for believing that the first half of the prophecy will also be recapitulated in the Last Days (see ch. 14).

The structure of Isaiah 24 is remarkably similar. But this fact can be obscured for some readers through failure to remember that in Hebrew the word eretz has to do duty for both “earth” and “land” (the land of Israel).[25] Many phrases in 24:1-12 seem to require special reference to Israel, and not to the whole wide world: “as with the people, so with the priest... The land is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. (What reference can these words have to Gentile nations?) Therefore hath the curse devoured the land (compare Malachi 4: 6: “Lest I come and smite the land with a curse”): therefore the inhabitants of the land are burned and few men left.”

These words, and the entire section they belong to, will — it is believed — be recapitulated in the time of Jacob’s trouble at the end of this age. In the short “bridge” passage (vv. 13-15), this probability is almost made into a certainty:

“When thus it shall be in the midst of the land among the people, there shall be as the shaking of an olive tree, and as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done.” This (so reminiscent of the Last Day prophecy in Isaiah 17: 6) reads like a prophecy of a faithful remnant in Israel in their final tribulation. Here are the fruits of an Elijah-taught repentance. “These shall lift up their voice, they shall shout for the majesty of the Lord”—presumably when “they (the tribes of the land) see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” It is “the glory of his majesty when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth” (Isaiah 2:19).

The mysterious phrase which comes next, “they cry aloud from the sea,” becomes in the LXX version: “The waters of the sea shall be troubled,” which inevitably takes the mind once again to the Olivet prophecy: “the sea and the waves roaring.”

There follows a call to “glorify the Lord in the lights”—which phrase would surely be taken to allude to the Shekinah Glory if it were not for the parallelism: “even the name of the Lord in the isles of the sea.” Then is this an allusion to the Dispersion being called, like those in the Land, to turn to the God of their fathers? This seems to be the first of several hints of a broadening of scope of the prophecy to include the whole world.

Alternatively this allusion to “glorifying the Lord” may refer to the call of the saints, for the prophecy continues: “From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs (LXX: wonders), even glory to the Righteous One (or, perhaps, hope for the righteous man).”


In sharp contrast with this bright picture, there ensues a sustained description of unrelieved horror and destruction:

“But I (the prophet Isaiah, because of his concern regarding ‘Jacob’s trouble’) said, My leanness, my leanness (i.e. intense starvation), woe to me! the treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously.” The situations to which these words might have reference in the Last Days are legion, but the chief competitors are the broken promises of the politicians (in this respect the shameful record of Britain with the Jews through most of the twentieth century is hard to beat), and the “crafty counsel” (Psalm 83: 4) of the inveterate Arab enemy. It is noteworthy that the prophet Jeremiah quotes verbatim this chapter (48: 42-44=Isaiah 24: 17, 18) with reference to Moab in the Last Days. And Isaiah’s own “apocalypse” has a further reference to judgement on Moab which the present passage would more than amply justify: “For in this mountain (Zion) shall the Lord rest, and Moab shall be trodden down under him, even as straw is trodden down for the dunghill” (25: 10).


In the next few verses the language hardly allows of a limited application to Israel only. The sweep of the passage seems to be as universal as Jeremiah 25.

“Fear, and the pit, and the snare (‘scare, lair and snare’ is a translation suggested by the assonance of the Hebrew words) are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth (or, if limited to Israel, ‘O dweller in the Land’).” These terrors are now described in greater detail: “And it shall come to pass that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear (as though it were a mighty explosion!) shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare.” There is hardly a government in the world, which has not made elaborate preparations to go underground at the first threat of nuclear war. Yet those who come up out of such a “pit” will have to face the insidious imperceptible “snare” of the radioactive aftermath that is the legacy all these Satanic perversions of human cleverness inevitably entail. “For the windows from on high are opened (as though destruction comes down out of the sky), and”—terrifying result! — “the foundations of the earth do shake.” The Biblical associations of these phrases are impressive. At the time of the Deluge God “opened the windows of heaven” (Genesis 7: 11) and sent destruction on an evil world. And now once again a like retribution is inevitable, only this time by fire. Note the association of these two judgements in Peter’s impassioned warning in 2 Peter 3: 5-7. Also, in a powerful psalm of Messiah, the shaking of the earth is represented as an evident token of God’s anger: “Then the earth shook and trembled ... because he was wroth” (Psalm 18: 7).

The horror of the picture intensifies: “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.” The language is marvellously apt to describe the utter destruction and chaos which nuclear war will inevitably bring. “Removed like a cottage” suggests to the mind the idea of a frail shack battered and wrecked by a hurricane. “And it shall fall, and not rise again.” This is to be the final end of all human vanity and self-assertion against God.

“And it shall come to pass that the Lord will punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.” The words seem to imply the existence of two kinds of armies — those who make war in the sky, and those who fight on the ground.[26] No wonder the prophets studied their own writings to see what they were all about (1 Peter 1: 11)! “And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days they shall be visited.” The precise meaning of this outcome of human rebellion is not dear, but the similarity with the symbolic picture of Satan’s imprisonment and ultimate destruction, as given in Revelation 20, is not to be missed (compare also Isaiah 14: 9-11, 15). These Scriptures are surely about the same thing.


The climax of this first section of the Little Apocalypse is a re-assuring picture of Christ’s kingdom established: “Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously.” This last phrase is surely a reference to the fulfilment of the Covenant of Promise. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, now raised to immortality, will experience the gladness of knowing in person their exalted Seed whose “day” they rejoiced to see (John 8: 56). But especially are these words true regarding David, for to him it was explicitly promised: “thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee (that is, in thy presence).” Yet Isaac and Jacob knew the same wonderful truth. The blessing which the latter received from his father implies this: “And God Almighty give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land” (Genesis 28:4).

The shaming of sun and moon is susceptible of different interpretations. The view that here the sun stands for the ruling powers and the moon for the ecclesiastical powers is not so apt as the idea that the symbolism has reference to national Israel. In that case, here is another prophecy of the bitter remorse of Jewry when their Messiah is manifested: “They shall look on me whom they have pierced, and shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son.”

It is even possible that the words will have a literal basis. The Shekinah Glory associated with the risen Jesus when he appeared to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus outshone the brightness of the midday sun (Acts 26: 13). The same phenomenon will be known again (Malachi 4: 2; Isaiah 60: 1, 3 and 4 5).

[24] Septuagint Version.
[25] The same is true also in the New Testament regarding the Greek word ‘ge’.
[26] Alternatively, if the phrase “the high ones on high” is interpreted as a symbol, the reference will be to Israel and their encircling enemies.

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