The Earth Mourneth - The Little Apocalypse
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Isaiah, chapter 24. We have been studying the book of Isaiah on the basis of the natural divisions found within the book itself. We said that those natural divisions were indicated in a twofold manner. They were indicated by means of the dates which are given in the book, and they are indicated by the subject matter of the book itself.

For example, in the first six chapters of the book of Isaiah, we had the prophecies which were delivered in the reign of King Uzziah and King Jotham. They represented seven different sermons that Isaiah preached during those years, those sermons not necessarily related and those sermons not necessarily being preached one right after the other, but the Holy Spirit selecting them out of the ministry of Isaiah and preserving them in the Word of God in order that we might have them.

Then you will remember the second division of the book began with chapter 7 and went on through chapter 12. It was a section that was designated for us by a date, because all of the messages delivered in that section were delivered by way of encouragement to King Ahaz as he was ready to be surrounded by Sennacherib of Assyria.

We noticed also that that was a division within itself because we referred to it as the Book of Immanuel . The reason that we referred to it as the Book of Immanuel is that in every chapter the word Immanuel or the meaning of the word, “God with us,” was indicated. I said every chapter. We did not follow the chapter divisions of the book because the chapter divisions are not always in exactly the right place. We followed the subject matter of the book when we made the statement to which I have just referred.

You will remember that beginning with chapter 13 and continuing through chapter 23, we had the third section of the book, that section of the book indicated to us by date and by subject matter because all of those sermons are delivered during the reign of King Hezekiah. The subject matter of that particular section was all built around one word, the word burden . Each chapter began with the word burden , and we discovered these burdens were prophetic messages of doom addressed to ten nations that had come across the stage and had something to do with the nation of Israel at some time in its past.

We pointed out to you that these nations are going to come into the foreground of the history of the world and are going to become prominent again. We tried to identify them as we went along, with some of the nations of what we refer to now as the Near and the Middle East.

The Little Apocalypse

That brings us to section four of the book of Isaiah, which begins with chapter 24 and continues through chapter 27. This section of the book is marked particularly by its subject matter perhaps more than the other sections of the book to which I have already referred. This section of the book has been referred to by Bible scholars and theologians as The Little Apocalypse .

You may wonder why that particular term has been suggested as the title for this section of the book of Isaiah, but you will not have long to wonder about it if you keep in mind, first of all, that the word apocalypse is just another word for the word revelation . You will remember that the last book in the New Testament is The Revelation of Jesus Christ , as it was given to the Apostle John. If you didn't want to use the word revelation , you could use the word apocalypse which means “unveiling,” and you could refer to it as The Apocalypse of Jesus Christ which was given to the Apostle John, or the unveiling that was given to the Apostle John.

This section at which we are going to look is a little book of revelation, for compressed in these four chapters are all of the things which are discussed in the book of Revelation. Not as much in detail, but the basic seed thought that you find in the book of Revelation is found in this particular chapter. We are going to notice chapter 24. We will read a little, then talk a little, then read some more and try to understand what is before us. Notice verse 1:

Isaiah 24

1Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.

As you look at that first verse, you will find the earth in a sad condition. It is empty; it is waste; it is turned upside down; it is scattered abroad. That means the face of it is twisted out of shape and the inhabitants themselves are scattered abroad throughout the earth because of the sad condition of the earth that is described in this one particular verse. If language means anything at all, it means that the earth is empty, made waste and turned upside down.

As you read that verse you say, “Is this talking about the past or is it talking about the future?” If you are familiar with your Bibles, immediately there comes to mind the first chapter of the book of Genesis, verses 1-2, where you read:

Genesis 1

1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep…

You read about the earth in a state of utter chaos. You say to yourself, “Perhaps that is what Isaiah is talking about.” If you did not read any further, you could be right in that statement, but every verse of Scripture has to be rightly related to the context of the Scripture, and when we are through with this chapter, you will see that this does not refer to something in the past; it refers to something in the future.

Isaiah is giving us a vision, not of the earth as it was in that prehistoric day when it was virtually destroyed and God had to bring order out of chaos as He did in the first chapter of the book of Genesis. It is a day that is described in the book of Revelation, chapters 6-19, when God is going to pick up the earth and shake it in His hand and throw it down again, and the whole earth will become waste and void before He is through with it.

Earth Defiled By Man's Disobedience

A very normal question in your minds is, “How do you know that? How do you know that it is referring to what is recorded in the book of Revelation and not what is recorded in the book of Genesis?” The answer is found in the reason that Isaiah gives for the destruction of the earth in this fashion. The reason is found in verse 5:

Isaiah 24

5The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.
6Therefore hath the curse devoured [more literally, will devour] the earth, and they that dwell therein are [will be desolate] desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are [will be] burned, and few men [will be] left.

Why? Because the earth has been defiled. Why does God look upon it as being defiled? Because of three things in verse 5 of which he accuses the human race. First, He said the human race has transgressed the laws of God. I don't think I need to say anything about that. I don't think I need to insult your intelligence by giving you illustrations of how the human race has been guilty of transgressing the laws of God.

The second reason God is going to deal with the earth in judgment is that the human race has changed the ordinance. Literally that is, the human race has disregarded the statutes of God. If you look at the word changed in the original text, you would find that it comes from a Hebrew word that means “to slip by” or “lets slip by.” What God is saying here is that in one instance men have transgressed the laws of God deliberately, and in another instance they haven't paid any attention to them. They just let them slip by. They haven't been concerned. They couldn't care less what God would think. So God had to visit the earth with judgment.

The third reason that God is going to visit the earth in judgment as described here in our text is that the human race has been guilty of breaking The Everlasting Covenant . This is perhaps the most specific reason God is going to deal in judgment with the earth and with the human race. The human race has broken The Everlasting Covenant .

Defining the Everlasting Covenant

If you are familiar with your Bibles, you know that there are a number of covenants in the Word of God. There is The Abrahamic Covenant , for example. There is The Levitic Covenant . There is The Palestinian Covenant , The New Covenant , etc. Some of these covenants are referred to as “everlasting” in some particular instances.

Someone may say, “How can we be sure which everlasting covenant the Spirit of God had in mind in verse 5, when He said, “The human race is guilty of breaking The Everlasting Covenant .”? All of these covenants to which I have referred, to which the word everlasting is attached a few times, were covenants that were made with specific people for a specific time. The covenant was everlasting. The word everlasting simply means “perpetual.” As a matter of fact, the words perpetual and everlasting are used interchangeably in the Word of God. The covenant was everlasting in relation to the people involved.

For example, God made a covenant with Abraham. We call it the Abrahamic Covenant . God said to Abraham, “I will bless you and I will bless your descendants, and I will bless everybody that blesses them.” That is a perpetual covenant in relation to the Jewish nation. That covenant was made with Abraham, it wasn't made with you; it wasn't made with me; it wasn't made with the human race in general.

For example, in II Samuel, chapter 7, verse 8, there is described for you The Levitic Covenant in which God said that some descendant of David would sit on David's throne, and the last descendant who was to sit there would be the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He said that this is an everlasting covenant, a perpetual covenant that he made with David. He made this with David, and He did not make it with all the rest of us.

There is only one covenant in the Word of God which was made with the entire human race and only one covenant made with the entire human race which is called “a perpetual covenant” or “an everlasting covenant” for all generations. That covenant is found in chapter 9 of the book of Genesis. Turn there and notice the everlasting covenant with which God is going to bring the world into judgment.

Someone says, “I'm a little bit confused. I thought that when the Lord Jesus Christ died on the Cross, He took all the laws and all of the ordinances that were against us and nailed them to the Cross and there is nothing in the Old Testament that is binding on people today.” Beloved, you are misreading a passage of Scripture or reading too much into it. The passage of Scripture about which you are thinking simply says, “All of the laws and ordinances of condemnation which stood us as a condemed people under God were nailed to the cross.” The figure of speech that the Spirit of God uses is one that was common in Paul's day. When a debt was paid, the note was taken and nailed in some public place so that everybody could look at it and see the bill was paid. That is what that verse means. It simply means Jesus paid it all—all our debt to sin—and we are not responsible for it any more.

A Covenant Made With the Human Race

If God made a covenant with the human race and if He said that covenant was a perpetual covenant, then it is a perpetual covenant and nothing can change it. That is the covenant that is described in chapter 9 of the book of Genesis. It is a perpetual covenant. Glance at verse 9:

Genesis 9

9And I [God] , behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you;

To whom was He speaking? He was speaking to Noah. Who was the seed of Noah? The seed of Noah was Shem, Ham, and Japheth, from whom the whole human race has descended. This covenant was made with Noah and with his seed after him. If you will glance down at verse 12, you will see that it was not a covenant that was just made with Shem, Ham, and Japheth, but also to their seed for perpetual generations. We read in verse 12:

Genesis 9

12And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, [notice] for perpetual generations:

The Rainbow - a Sign of the Covenant

The word perpetual is the very same word as the word everlasting , to which we have already referred—a covenant that is made with all the generations that will ever live and will ever exist on this earth. Now notice verse 13:

Genesis 9

13I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.

The token is the rainbow with which you are familiar. Glance down in verse 16:

Genesis 9

16And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember [notice] the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.

Language could not be any plainer than that, could it? Here is an everlasting covenant that God has made with the whole human race. He said, “I am going to put a rainbow in the cloud, and when you see it, you will be reminded of the covenant.” That rainbow has existed ever since the days of Noah. Somebody says, “I always thought that the rainbow was simply God's promise that He would never again destroy the earth with water.” That is only part of the reason for the rainbow. The rainbow is a sign of the covenant.

In chapter 5 of the book of Revelation, there is described the throne of judgment, the throne from which God is going to take the earth and shake it to the extent that we read in Genesis, chapter 24, verse 1. At that throne there is a rainbow surrounding it, as an everlasting reminder that the reason that God is judging the earth is that men have broken the everlasting covenant.

I hope that you are able to see that the everlasting covenant is binding upon the whole human race from the days of Noah down to the present hour and on until the day of judgment.

Obligation to Replenish the Earth

What are the provisions of the everlasting covenant? Basically, there are three. You will notice the first one in Genesis, chapter 9, verse 1:

Genesis 9

1And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.

Down in verse 7, He said:

Genesis 9

7And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.

The everlasting covenant provided for the birth of children for the purpose of replenishing the earth. One of the provisions of the everlasting covenant is for every married couple to recognize that it is their obligation before God to bring children into the world. It would follow, then, that birth control, per se, is a violation of the everlasting covenant. Now, wait just a moment. You will notice what I said—birth control, per se. What I am speaking about is the deliberate refusal and intent on the part of individuals to bring children into the earth. I am not talking about family regulation according to size. The Bible says that children are a heritage of the Lord, and blessed is the man who has his quiver full of them.

God did not make every man's quiver the same size. As I have said to you before, it took seven to fill my quiver, by the grace of God, and it is full. We could have no more. It may have taken one to fill yours, I don't know. But any deliberate intent to refuse to bring children into the world is a violation of the everlasting covenant. There may be health reasons why birth has to be controlled. There may be any number of reasons that would meet with the approval of God, but I am speaking about the deliberate refusal to bring children into the world.

Let me pause and make an application for there is no point in studying the Word of God if we cannot apply it to everyday living. Our government is asking you to pay for a program which will violate the everlasting covenant, and you have no right to have any part in it. You don't have much choice, but if there is any choice given to you, then you ought to stand up and refuse to be a party to the dissemination of birth control information broadside all over the world, just to make it possible for people to have a little more than they have now.

What am I going to do about the population explosion? Nothing. I can't, but there would be no need to be concerned about it if men would obey God. It has never been right to do wrong that good may come, and it is not right for any Christian to be a part of any movement that would thwart the bringing of children into the world for no better reason than we are getting too many people on the earth. That is breaking the everlasting covenant.

Meat Added to Man's Diet

Notice the second provision of the everlasting covenant in verse 3:

Genesis 9

3Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

Listen closely to what I am going to say so that you will not misunderstand me. Before the flood, God ordained that people should be vegetarians. After the flood when He established the everlasting covenant, He said that meat should be added to your diet, and that is part of the everlasting covenant. There may be reasons of health that make it impossible for you to eat meat, and God understands that. But any movement, be it religious or political, that endeavors to get people to go on a vegetarian diet to the exclusion of eating meat, is a violation of the everlasting covenant, and God is going to hold the world responsible for it at the day of judgment.

You may wonder why it is so important to eat meat. If you liked it as well as I do you wouldn't seek for an argument; you would just be glad that God said it and let it go at that. But there is a reason. The reason is that many false cults that are demon inspired, demon directed, and demon possessed forbid the eating of meat and warn against it. Paul said in his letter to Timothy that one of the chief characteristics of demon inspired false religion was the forbidding of eating of meat and the emphasis upon a vegetarian diet.

People who have studied a matter of demon possession to a further extent than I have say that there is a very definite relationship between the denial of meat-eating and demon possession. These individuals have come face to face with demon possession on the foreign mission field where it is more outward and more active than it is in our country. Now, don't think for a moment that we don't have demon possession here. We do. Demons are intelligent; they adapt themselves to the locale in which they operate. If demons did right here in the city of Abilene what missionaries see them do on the mission fields, you wouldn't have anything to do with them. They can take possession of the mind of an unsaved person and they can influence the intellect of individuals to such an extent that it is possible to control individuals and groups, and people don't recognize it for what it is.

There isn't as much known about this matter of eating meat as a provision of the everlasting covenant as we would like to know, but here it is plainly stated. So be on the safe side, unless you have a poor digestive tract, and eat yourself a good steak once in a while and don't be breaking the everlasting covenant.

Capital Punishment Instated

We find the third thing that is related to the everlasting covenant, as we read in verse 4:

Genesis 9

4But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.
5And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.

If you inject the word account into this verse, with the word require —the word require means “to require an account”—the verse will be plainer. What it says is this: “Surely an accounting of the blood of your lives will I require. I will require it at the hand of every creature [not beast]. I will require an accounting of it at the hand of man. I will require an accounting of the blood of every man's brother at the hand of man.” Now, who is man's brother? Your brother in the flesh. Not necessarily a kinship, not necessarily a spiritual relationship, but any human being. God said, “I am going to require an accounting of the loss of life on the part of the human race.”

Look at verse 6:

Genesis 9

6Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

He summed up all of these verses from 4-6 in this one simple verse when He said, “When a man sheds another man's blood, then God requires his blood.” If we put this down in simple language, it is a reference to capital punishment. Time and time again, I am asked, “What is your position on capital punishment?” And I say without reservation, “I endorse capital punishment at the hands of government.” Someone says, “Haven't you thought how inhuman it is? Think about a man spending months, maybe years waiting to walk to the electric chair. Oh, how inhuman it is.” I can't argue about that, but I still endorse capital punishment. “Oh,” but somebody says, “just think. It has never deterred crime in any fashion whatsoever.” That is a lie. You look into the states where capital punishment has been forbidden and statistics do not bear out the statements of politicians. Look at England, for example, and try to profit by a number of their mistakes. One of them is in relation to capital punishment.

Any Bible-believing, born-again child of God should never vote for the abolishment of capital punishment no matter how many speeches are made in favor of it because if you do, then you have become a part of breaking the everlasting covenant.

Judgment Related to the Everlasting Covenant

These three things are the basic principles related to the everlasting covenant, and if you will turn back to Isaiah, chapter 24, you will find that that is the reason that God is going to judge the earth in the manner which is described in this chapter.

This chapter speaks pretty well for itself. For example, in verses 2-4, when God brings judgment upon the earth, everything is going to be level. Rich man, poor man, priest, preacher, politician—everybody is going to be affected by the judgment that God is going to bring upon the earth; nobody will escape. In verses 6-8, everything that is related to joy will be gone. There will be no singing, there will be no mirth, there will only be sorrowing and heartbreak. In verses 9-12, the cities of the nation will be marked by confusion and by desolation, because the word for city in verse 10 and the word for city in verse 12 is not city in the singular, but a word that speaks of collective cities, all of the cities under the view of the prophet. The view under the area of the prophet, of course, is the whole world.

Revival Amidst Tribulation

Let us read the paragraph which begins with verse 13 and concludes with verse 16, where we have a wonderful promise of joy in the midst of sorrow and of revival in the midst of chaos:

Isaiah 24

13When 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.

Get the picture. When it is time to reap the olives, the olive tree is shaken and all of the olives fall, and they are caught in the cloth. When the grapes are picked, all the vintage is reaped. Then there is a time of rejoicing. Then we read in verse 14:

Isaiah 24

14They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the majesty of the LORD, they shall cry aloud from the sea.
15Wherefore glorify ye the LORD in the fires [in the east] , even the name of the LORD God of Israel in the isles of the sea.
16From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs, even glory to the righteous…

We will stop our reading there, for those verses of Scripture are describing the great revival that is going to sweep the world even in the midst of the tribulation period that is to come upon the earth. That great revival is described in chapter 7 of the book of the Revelation. God's Spirit is going to move in a mighty way in the end times. We have not seen anything like the revival that is going to occur at that particular day.

Judgment of Heavenly Beings

It would be good if we could close the discussion on that happy note, but you will notice, beginning with the middle of verse 16, the conjunction but . It really begins a new verse. Isaiah said:

Isaiah 24

16…But I said, My leanness, my leanness, woe unto me! the treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously; yea, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously.
17Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth.

If you were to compare this chapter with Revelation, chapters 6-19, you would see that this is a reference to the Antichrist, who is going to deal treacherously with the whole world. He will make his appearance, and everybody will acclaim him. They will think he is marvelous and wonderful, and when he has all of his power in the palm of his hand, he will say, “Bow down, worship me, and forsake your God.” It is then that God intervenes, and so we read in verse 18:

Isaiah 24

18And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake.
19The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly.
20The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage [a temporary building] ; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.

God will pour out His judgment upon the whole earth, and He won't stop there. In verse 21, we read:

Isaiah 24

21And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high…

Who are they? They are all of the heavenly beings that enter into war against the world, including the Antichrist and the Devil. If you don't believe that, read chapter 6 of the book of Ephesians when you have time. In addition to punishing the Antichrist and the Devil, there will be others according to the last part of verse 21:

Isaiah 24

21…and the kings of the earth upon the earth.
22And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited.

The word visited here means “visited with judgment. ” The many days refer to the millennial reign of Christ. When the millennial reign of Christ is over and the judgment day is set, then God will pass into the lake of fire the Devil and all the nations that forget God. We read in verse 23:

Isaiah 24

23Then 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.

The last part of that verse needs no explanation. “When the LORD of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion and Jerusalem.” Yes, He is coming to reign and when He does, the moon and the sun shall hide their faces in shame, because the glory of the sun and the glory of the moon will be as nothing in the light of the glory of the LORD. That is why, in the last chapter of the book of Revelation, you are told that in the New Jerusalem, there is neither moon nor sun nor night, for the Lord God is the light of that glorious place.

Conclusion

You see why we say that this section of the book of Isaiah is a little Revelation. Compressed into it is everything written in Revelation, particularly chapters 6-19. God has a plan for the world. He is going to carry it out, and I hope that you are going to guide your life so that you will be part of the plan.

Somebody says, “Would you vote against the abolition of capital punishment because you think that you could do any good?” Well, to be perfectly honest with you, I doubt that we could. It will be like everything else. When they are ready to abolish it, they will, but I will vote against the abolishing of it, because I want to follow the trend of God's plan for the world. That is the reason that it is important for us to know what God's plan is. You will even know what governmental programs to support and not to support.


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