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THE REMNANT

Romans 11:5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

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END TIMES THROUGH THE EYES OF THE PROPHET ISAIAH (Part 2)

We start part 2 by looking at what Isaiah had to say about Babylon. We include Isaiah 13-14:23 as Babylon has never been destroyed in the manner Isaiah describes here, and because of its major role in the end times. In the entire Bible, the only city mentioned more often than Babylon, is Jerusalem.

Babylon is the origin of every counterfeit religion and mythology, every attempt to deny and defeat the truth of God’s word. It is the place where man rebelled against God at the beginning of the Age. Why then is it so difficult for people to believe that Babylon will raise to prominence again for man’s rebellion at the end of the Age? Although it might not refer to the physical ancient city itself, the name is also used in the book of Revelation and many scholars believe that it actually refers to the Roman Catholic Church or the Antichrist system in general.

PROPHECY AGAINST BABYLON (Isaiah 13) …

“Raise a banner on a bare hilltop, shout to them; beckon to them to enter the gates of the nobles. I have commanded my holy ones; I have summoned my warriors to carry out my wrath—those who rejoice in my triumph.

Listen, a noise on the mountains, like that of a great multitude! Listen, an uproar among the kingdoms, like nations massing together! The LORD Almighty is mustering an army for war.

They come from faraway lands, from the ends of the heavens—the LORD and the weapons of his wrath— to destroy the whole country.

Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. Because of this, all hands will go limp, every man’s heart will melt. Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them; they will writhe like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at each other, their faces aflame.

See, the day of the LORD is coming —a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.

I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless. I will make man scarcer than pure gold, more rare than the gold of Ophir.” (Isaiah 13:1-12)

Isaiah begins with a general statement identifying when Babylon’s ultimate destruction will come. It will be during the time when the Lord judges the world for its evil, a time often called The Day Of The Lord, or the Great Tribulation. To make sure we understand this, we see the same reference to the sun, moon, and stars in Matt. 24:29 where they signal the end of the Great Tribulation.

“Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the LORD Almighty, in the day of his burning anger.

Like a hunted gazelle, like sheep without a shepherd, each will return to his own people, each will flee to his native land. Whoever is captured will be thrust through; all who are caught will fall by the sword. Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be looted and their wives ravished. See, I will stir up against them the Medes, who do not care for silver and have no delight in gold. Their bows will strike down the young men; they will have no mercy on infants nor will they look with compassion on children.” (Isaiah 13:13-18)

The Medes were partners with the Persians who conquered Babylon in 539 BC. But nothing like what’s described here happened at that time. As foretold in Isaiah 45, the Medes and Persians took Babylon without a battle. In fact it was several days before all the residents discovered they had become a Persian City. The Medes, called Kurds today, are a fiercely independent people whose homeland straddles the borders of Turkey, Iran and Iraq.

Babylon was continuously inhabited after its capture, first by the Persians, who made it a provincial capital, and then by the Greeks when they conquered the Persians. Alexander the Great died there after conquering the known world. Babylon remained a province of the various iterations of the Persian Empire until 650AD, almost 1200 years after it was first conquered. Today a small town called Al-Hillah stands among the ancient ruins.

THE KING OF BABYLON (Isaiah 14) …

“The LORD will have compassion on Jacob; once again he will choose Israel and will settle them in their own land. Aliens will join them and unite with the house of Jacob.

Nations will take them and bring them to their own place. And the house of Israel will possess the nations as menservants and maidservants in the LORD’s land. They will make captives of their captors and rule over their oppressors.” (Isaiah 14:1-2)

“In those days, at that time,” declares the LORD, “search will be made for Israel’s guilt, but there will be none, and for the sins of Judah, but none will be found, for I will forgive the remnant I spare.” (Jeremiah 50:20)

“Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations. Their bloodguilt, which I have not pardoned, I will pardon.” The LORD dwells in Zion!” (Joel 3:20-21)

Isaiah 14 opens with a reminder that at the End of the Age God would remember His people and bring them back to the Land He promised would be theirs forever. Many settlers would be converts from among the Gentiles of Europe, working alongside descendants of the 12 tribes to build their country anew. We have already seen how Gentile nations like England and the US have helped make this happen. Soon, the enemies who oppress them today will be their subjects, even their servants.

Other prophecies yet to be fulfilled tell of a day when the Lord will so completely forgive Israel that even those who search for an accusation to hurl will find nothing. It is hard to imagine how such a change could come about. Zechariah explains what will make it possible.

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.” (Zech. 12:10)

Once the nation’s eyes are opened to the Messiah, it will be like a new day dawning. They will find that His blood has covered even the sin of shedding it, and He will once again be pleased to dwell among them, and this time it will be forever. (Ezek 43:7).

And now, back to Babylon.
“On the day the LORD gives you relief from suffering and turmoil and cruel bondage, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: How the oppressor has come to an end! How his fury has ended! The LORD has broken the rod of the wicked, the scepter of the rulers, which in anger struck down peoples with unceasing blows, and in fury subdued nations with relentless aggression.

All the lands are at rest and at peace; they break into singing. Even the pine trees and the cedars of Lebanon exult over you and say, “Now that you have been laid low, no woodsman comes to cut us down.” (Isaiah 14:3-8)

In chapter 13 we saw the destruction of the city (or system). Now the Lord has Isaiah turn to the one who has caused all the world’s problems. As we will see, He is not talking about Nebuchadnezzar, or even the Antichrist.

“The grave below is all astir to meet you at your coming; it rouses the spirits of the departed to greet you— all those who were leaders in the world; it makes them rise from their thrones—all those who were kings over the nations.

They will all respond, they will say to you, “You also have become weak, as we are; you have become like us.”

All your pomp has been brought down to the grave, along with the noise of your harps; maggots are spread out beneath you and worms cover you.” (Isaiah 14:9-11)

The King of Babylon will join those who have foolishly chosen to follow him down through the ages. All the world’s mighty men will finally see that he was no better then they. Though he promised them great things, even “all the Kingdoms of the World”, in the end he cannot even save himself from the wrath of God, and will share their miserable fate.

“How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!

You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” Isaiah 14:12-14

The King James reads “Lucifer, son of the morning” in verse 12 rather than “morning star, son of the dawn.” Lucifer is a word that means “light bearer” and comes from the Latin translation of verse 12.

LIKE THE MOST HIGH

The first use of the phrase Most High in connection with God appears in Genesis 14:18. Then, in verse 19 Melchizedek blessed Abraham in the name of the Most High God, calling Him the possessor of Heaven and Earth. Satan was not trying to replace God as Earth’s Creator. He wanted to possess it, and everyone in it.

When he could not get it legitimately, he stole it by getting Adam and Eve to disobey God. In the wilderness temptation he offered all the kingdoms of the world to the Lord. Luke 4:6 While the Lord rejected his offer, He did not dispute his claim. Jesus called Satan “the prince of this world” (John 12:31, 14:30,16:11), Paul said he is “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4) and John wrote, “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19) It’s also why Paul wrote about the Lord redeeming the creation, not just you and me. (Romans 8:19-21) With His blood He redeemed everything Adam had lost.

“But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit. Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate: “Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble, the man who made the world a desert, who overthrew its cities and would not let his captives go home?”

All the kings of the nations lie in state, each in his own tomb. But you are cast out of your tomb like a rejected branch; you are covered with the slain, with those pierced by the sword, those who descend to the stones of the pit.

Like a corpse trampled underfoot, you will not join them in burial, for you have destroyed your land and killed your people. The offspring of the wicked will never be mentioned again. Prepare a place to slaughter his sons for the sins of their forefathers; they are not to rise to inherit the land and cover the earth with their cities.” (Isaiah 14:15-21)

In middle Eastern thinking, killing a man is not the worst you can do to him. The worst thing is to deny him a decent burial afterward. Satan will spend the 1000 years of the Kingdom Age amid the rotting corpses of his followers, denied the courtesy of his own tomb. In contrast to the Righteous Branch, he has become the rejected branch. By deceit he gained the Earth and its inhabitants, but he destroyed one and killed the other. At the end of the 1000 years, he and his followers will be raised, but to slaughter not inheritance. (Rev. 20:7-15)

“I will rise up against them,” declares the LORD Almighty. “I will cut off from Babylon her name and survivors, her offspring and descendants,” declares the LORD.

“I will turn her into a place for owls and into swampland; I will sweep her with the broom of destruction,” declares the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah14:22-23)

Jeremiah 50-51 tell the same story in even greater detail, confirming Isaiah’s account. And for his version of Babylon’s destruction (Rev. 18) John borrowed language from both these prophets. It’s clear they were all talking about the same event.

AN ORACLE CONCERNING DAMASCUS (Isaiah 17) …

The prophecy of the destruction of Damascus in Isaiah 17 still needs to be fulfilled.

“See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer will be deserted and left to flocks, which will lie down, with no one to make them afraid.” (Isaiah 17:1-2)

Because of the language of these verses, many scholars believe that this prophecy was only partially fulfilled when the Assyrians defeated the Arameans and overran their capital, Damascus, in 732 BC. To this day Damascus is thought to be the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city with a 5000-year history and a population close to 2 million, yet Isaiah 17:1 indicates that it will one day cease to exist. Most probably, current civil war in Syria is part of the fulfilment of this prophecy.

It could also include the Hezbollah stronghold in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, which was part of Aramean territory in Isaiah’s time, and is in a direct line between Beirut and Damascus.

“The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim, and royal power from Damascus; the remnant of Aram will be like the glory of the Israelites,” declares the LORD Almighty. “In that day the glory of Jacob will fade; the fat of his body will waste away. It will be as when a reaper gathers the standing grain and harvests the grain with his arm- as when a man gleans heads of grain in the Valley of Rephaim.” (Isaiah 17:3-5)

This segment speaks of the defeat of Damascus in 732BC and the destruction of Samaria 10 years later (722 BC). Damascus continued to exist as part of the Assyrian Empire and is still here today, but the ruins of Samaria are just now being excavated out of the sandy soil of Israel. The systematic relocation of the ruling classes to the far reaches of the Assyrian Empire is also in view. This was standard Assyrian policy to reduce the likelihood of subsequent rebellion among their conquered peoples. Jacob and Ephraim are alternate names for the Northern Kingdom, and Samaria was its capital.

“Yet some gleanings will remain, as when an olive tree is beaten, leaving two or three olives on the topmost branches, four or five on the fruitful boughs,” declares the LORD, the God of Israel.” (Isaiah 17:6)

Not all the people were dispersed. Farmers were left behind to tend the crops and protect the harvest for their new rulers. They were joined by refugees from other parts of Assyria and their combined descendants were known as the Samaritans in the time of Jesus. (A quick reading of 2 Chronicles 11:16 shows that all the faithful from the 10 northern tribes moved south at the time of the civil war that divided the nation after King Solomon’s death 150 years earlier. From then on, all 12 tribes were represented in the Southern Kingdom of Judah, so the 10 tribes from the North weren’t totally lost. The Lord has always preserved a believing remnant from all the Tribes of Israel.)

In that day men will look to their Maker and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel. They will not look to the altars, the work of their hands, and they will have no regard for the Asherah poles and the incense altars their fingers have made. In that day their strong cities, which they left because of the Israelites, will be like places abandoned to thickets and undergrowth. And all will be desolation.” (Isaiah 17:7-9)

This passage is problematic for those who try to consign the whole prophecy to history. There is simply no reason to believe that the Assyrians turned to God following their conquest of Aram and Israel. And far from abandoning their cities because of the Israelites, it was the Israelites who were defeated and dispersed. The yet future Jewish attack on Damascus causing the destruction and abandonment of Syrian cities, and the eventual return of the survivors to their God is a much more likely fulfillment. And it could happen soon.

“You have forgotten God your Savior; you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress. Therefore, though you set out the finest plants and plant imported vines, though on the day you set them out, you make them grow, and on the morning when you plant them, you bring them to bud, yet the harvest will be as nothing in the day of disease and incurable pain.” (Isaiah 17:10-11)

Asshur, father of the Assyrians, and Aram, father of the Arameans were both sons of Shem. Aram’s son Uz is the traditional founder of Damascus. (The setting for Job, the Bible’s oldest book, is the Land of Uz.) The knowledge of God in the memories of these patriarchs cannot be questioned. It wasn’t that they never knew Him, but that they had forgotten Him, abandoned Him in favor of the Canaanite gods of the region, Baal and his consort Ashtoreth (aka Asherah, Astarte, Ishtar, Aphrodite, Venus.) Currently Syria is almost totally Moslem. Until they return to their Maker and Savior none of their plans and schemes will prosper in the long run, no matter how promising they seem at the beginning.

“Oh, the raging of many nations- they rage like the raging sea! Oh, the uproar of the peoples- they roar like the roaring of great waters! Although the peoples roar like the roar of surging waters, when he rebukes them they flee far away, driven before the wind like chaff on the hills, like tumbleweed before a gale. In the evening, sudden terror! Before the morning, they are gone! This is the portion of those who loot us, the lot of those who plunder us.” (Isaiah 17:12-14)

Having conquered most of the Middle East including the Arameans and the Northern Kingdom, the Assyrians set their sights on the Southern Kingdom, Judah. Assyria’s King Sennacherib brought his armies almost literally to the gates of Jerusalem, so close his commanders were within speaking distance of the Jewish defenders. On the night before they were to attack, the Lord sent His angel into the Assyrian camp on Mt. Scopus to slaughter 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. Before dawn they had packed up and fled, ending 44 years of conquest. (Isaiah 37:36-38) This time in Israel’s history so parallels the Jewish view of the End Times that Sennacherib is seen by them as a type of the anti-Christ, while Judah’s King Hezekiah models the Messiah.

But notice that Isaiah speaks of many nations raging against God’s people, not just Assyria, leading us once again to consider Sennacherib’s defeat as a partial fulfillment of Isaiah’s prohecy.

The phrase “rushing of many waters” is often used to describe the sound of loud voices and today many nations are stirred up about Israel. The cry of anti-Israeli sentiment can be heard around the globe and the bias against it at the UN is well-known. Except for the USA, Israel is standing alone against all and there is irresistible pressure to negotiate away its very existence. Syria and Iran are dead certain that Israel will attack soon, and are preparing accordingly.

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has told the world he will not apologize for defending his country and will continue to do so even if it results in more confrontations. We can easily envision a scenario that escalates into the final fulfilment of Isaiah 17, the destruction of Damascus. Once again there will be sudden terror in the evening, and before morning they will be gone.

(Main source: Grace thru Faith – Jack Kelley)

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