Harry Whittaker
The Time Of The End

22) The Little Apocalypse (III)

Isaiah 26, 27

At first sight there is little in Isaiah 26 to justify its inclusion in any apocalypse, yet it begins with the familiar phrase: “in that day,” which is such a favourite of both Isaiah and Zechariah when their inspiration ranges forward to the Day of the Lord. Here it recurs five times (25: 9; 26: 1; 27: 1, 2, 12, 13), as though to emphasize that these chapters are not to be separated from chapter 24, the most ominous of them all. Chapter 26: 13-21 is the section especially relevant to the present study.

“Lord, thy hand is lifted up (as when Moses lifted up the rod of God over Egypt and over the Red Sea), yet they see not: but they shall see thy zeal for the people (Israel), and be ashamed; yea, fire shall devour thine adversaries. Lord, thou wilt ordain (literally: judge) peace for us” (26: 11, 12) — it is a peace which can come only through judgement on ungodly nations — “for thou hast also wrought all our works for us.” There can be salvation for Israel from their enemies only when they come to this admission before God that they are unable to save themselves. All through their history and in every aspect of life they have believed in salvation through their own works. What a change of heart is pictured here!” “Lord, in trouble have they visited thee, they have poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them.” This is the repentance of Israel as they turn to the God of their fathers in a time when no other door of hope is open to them. “Like as a woman with child, that draweth near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and crieth out in her pangs; so have we been in thy sight” (LXX: for the Beloved — ‘David my servant who is to be their prince for ever’).


Because of this spiritual re-birth there comes a flood of blessing: “Thou hast increased the nation (the Hebrew text strongly tempts one to see here another Messianic allusion: Thou hast provided Joseph for the nation); thou art glorified: thou hast enlarged all the borders of the land” (v. 15).

The nation is increased yet further by another accession of strength — the resurrection to glorious immortality of all the finest and most saintly characters it has produced throughout its history: “Thy dead shall live; dead bodies shall arise.[27] Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust: for thy dew is as the dew of lights (does this intensive plural refer to the dawn of the Great Day of God?), and the earth shall cast forth the dead.”

As Paul insists in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 that “we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not precede them which are asleep,” so it is in Isaiah (perhaps this is the Scripture from which he learned it!): “Come, my people (it is an exhortation addressed to a community), “enter thou into thy chambers (the pronouns indicate individual response to this call), and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself for a little moment until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth (or, perhaps, the dwellers in the Land?) for their iniquity.”

The historical background to this prophecy is impressive. Devout king Hezekiah had called the people of Israel from north and south to come and keep Passover in Jerusalem. As it turned out, by this act of faith those who responded provided for their own protection and safety, for then the land was ravaged from end to end by the merciless armies of Sennacherib, and only Jerusalem remained undevastated. There, as at the first Passover, twelve legions of angels hovered in protection over the faithful (Isaiah 31:5), as they had done over the homes of the twelve tribes in Egypt at the first of all Passovers. And, as the destroying angel had gone through the homes of all families not protected by the blood of the lamb, so also in Hezekiah’s day “the angel of the Lord went forth and smote in the camp of the Assyrians.” Thus in Isaiah’s own time, the faithful had their Passover refuge when divine judgement wrought deliverance.


This prophecy assures the true Israel of God in the twentieth century of a similar protection in the day of wrath. As it was in the days of Noah, when the Lord said: “Come thou and all thy house into the ark ... and the Lord shut him in.”

How will protection be provided for the Lord’s people in that day, and where? The idea that the saints will be taken away to Sinai or some other remote deserted place has little support in Scripture. Noah found safety in the ark, which he had prepared “by faith.” And it was “by faith” that the people of Israel kept the Passover in their own homes, made safe there by the blood of the lamb. Here Isaiah’s pointed instruction is: “Enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee.” This echoes the action of Elisha, when “he went in, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the Lord” (2 Kings 4:33); and in turn Jesus quotes Isaiah in the familiar words: “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father” (Matthew 6: 6).

From these words it would seem that the saints’ place of safety in the last great crisis is the place of faith and prayer—which might be anywhere! Can any more specific conclusion, as to locality, be drawn from this Scripture? By reasoning from the parallel deliverance in Hezekiah’s day (to which this passage originally referred), it may be argued with fair confidence that the place of safety will be Jerusalem, to which those who respond immediately (Luke 12: 36) to the angelic summons (Matthew 24: 31 and 25: 6) will be taken; for, at the time of the resurrection and gathering of the saints, the Lord will already be established as king in Jerusalem (Matthew 25: 31)[28] when the days of its warfare are accomplished and it is become truly a city of peace.


“In that day,” Isaiah 27 continues, “the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword (note the triple emphasis) shall punish
leviathan the swift serpent, and
leviathan the (crooked) winding serpent, and
he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.”

Here, easily identifiable, are the great political adversaries of God’s people. In Isaiah’s day the identification of them would be simplicity itself. Nineveh of Assyria is pictured as a great beast in the waters of the swift-flowing Tigris. Babylon is a similar monster in the waters of the slow meandering Euphrates, whilst Egypt is a crocodile in the vast expanse of the Nile (the word “Sea” is used in this sense in Isaiah 19: 5 and Nahum 3: 8). Any Jew of Isaiah’s own day would readily recognize the allusions.

In the Last Days their counterparts may be sought in the implacable enemies of Israel who desolate the Holy Land for the last time. Or is it possible that these should be equated with the three great beasts of Revelation?

Yet another picture of this momentous time is the final gathering of Israel: “In that day the Lord shall beat off his fruit from the channel of the River (Euphrates) unto the stream of Egypt (now referred to as ‘brook,’ RV, because its power is dwindled away), and ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel” (27: 12). If this reading correctly interprets the figure of speech, then the picture is that of the few isolated olives being knocked off their remote branches by blows from long sticks. If, however, the RV margin be accepted: “shall beat out his corn,” then the figure is that of threshing and winnowing, and should be equated with the vision in Revelation 14: 15 of the crowned Son of man reaping the harvest of the earth with his sharp sickle.

Either way, the emphasis is on the selectivity of this final re-gathering: “Ye shall be gathered one by one.” The word “channel” in this passage emphasizes the same truth, for it is the familiar word “shibboleth” (which also means “corn”) of Judges 12: 6. Just as, in that famous incident of Jephthah’s campaign, “shibboleth” divided infallibly between friend and foe, so now in prophecy it becomes a token of a separation between those who are Israel indeed and those who are only nominal members of the nation: “And I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion” (Jeremiah 3: 14. Compare also Amos 9: 8, 9).

“In that day a great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and they that were outcasts in the land of Egypt (compare here the exposition of Isaiah 19: 18-20 suggested in chapter 7), and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount of Jerusalem.” It is the trumpet of Jubilee, which is sounded, carrying the news of final release from bondage. It is the great trumpet because with the seventh and last (Revelation 11: 15), the Messiah takes to him his Great power and reigns; it is “the time of the dead that they should be judged, the time to give their reward to thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and to them that fear thy name, small and great.”

[27] “together with my dead body shall they arise” springs from an attempt to make sense of the solecism in the Hebrew text. The reading given here calls for only the slightest emendation.
[28] “The Last Days” chapter 11.

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