Carefully read the following prophesy. Do you know where it came from? Does it sound familiar?
(6)Wail, for the day of the LORD is near! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. (7)Therefore all hands will fall limp, And every man’s heart will melt. (8)They will be terrified, pains and anguish will take hold of them; They will writhe like a woman in labor, they will look at one another in astonishment, their faces aflame. (9)Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation; And He will exterminate its sinners from it. (10)For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light. (11)Thus I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud and abase the haughtiness of the ruthless. (12)I will make mortal man scarcer than pure gold and mankind than the gold of Ophir. (13)Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken from its place at the fury of the LORD of hosts in the day of His burning anger.
Which prophet spoke these words? Clearly it was a prophesy of global cataclysm, right? Notice the reference to the sun and the moon. This was quoted by Jesus in Matthew 24:29, referring to what many say is a major global event.
In fact, the passage is from Isaiah’s prophesy concerning Babylon, before it was devastated by the Medes.
Isaiah 13:1 – “The oracle concerning Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.”
The Lord Himself would come with His consecrated ones to complete His work:
Isaiah 13:3-5 – “I have commanded My consecrated ones, I have even called My mighty warriors, My proudly exulting ones, to execute My anger. (4) A sound of tumult on the mountains, like that of many people! A sound of the uproar of kingdoms, of nations gathered together! The Lord of hosts is mustering the army for battle. (5) They are coming from a far country from the farthest horizons (literally, from the end of heaven), the Lord and His instruments of indignation, to destroy the whole world.
From an earthly perspective, however, it was the Medes who were God’s consecrated ones.
Isaiah 13:17 – Behold, I am going to stir up the Medes against them.”
From an earthly perspective, God was not in attendance, except to stir them up. This is the same as His judgement against Egypt:
Isaiah 19:1 – The oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud, and is about to come to Egypt?(2) So I will incite Egyptians against Egyptians.”
The Jews, having the benefit of hindsight and the Scriptures, would have understood this type of language.
The Lord riding on a cloud, His presence in the midst of His enemies, meant His judgement, using human agents under His influence. The cosmic or global illustration of the sun, stars and moon, the reference to the whole world (v5), the heavens and earth (v13) are not to be taken literally, but demonstrate the magnitude of His judgement.
So why is it that when these same things are said by Jesus and the apostles, we are to take them literally?