When God was angry with a people or nation, He would send a prophet to warn them to repent before He would send judgment upon them. The language of prophesy contained certain elements and structure that repeated no matter which nation or country the prophet was sent to warn. Let’s examine some of these elements. (We will be using Young’s Literal Translation, unless otherwise noted.)
For instance, in Isaiah 1:1-2, he was sent to warn Judah and Jerusalem:
“The Visions of Isaiah son of Amoz, that he hath seen concerning Judah and Jerusalem, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, For Jehovah hath spoken: Sons I have nourished and brought up, And they — they transgressed against Me.”
In this warning, Isaiah was speaking to the people of Judah and Jerusalem, and in verse 2 he addresses them as “O heavens” and “O earth”. The prophet called for two groups of the people of the land. The “heavens” were the call to the ruling authorities, the kings and queens and all their court which ruled at God’s pleasure, and which lived an exalted life style above the common people of the “earth”. They were a type of heaven because of their authority over the people.
When we see these words in prophesy, we must recognize that they do not apply to the heavens where God is seated on His throne, and they do not apply to all of the people of all the earth. They do not mean the entire world. They are limited to the land or nation to which the prophet was sent.
Therefore, when Isa. 13:5 uses “end of heavens” ….
“They are coming in from a land afar off, From the end of the heavens, Jehovah and the instruments of His indignation, To destroy all the land.”
we have to identify which country the prophet is addressing / calling before we can know which “heavens” or ruling authority is affected by this verse. We go back up through the scriptures and find in verse 1 that the prophet was speaking to Babylon.
Isa. 13:1, ” The burden of Babylon that Isaiah son of Amoz hath seen:”
So, in verse 5 the “end of heavens” referred to the end of the kingdom of Babylon, to the borders of Babylon. The prophet told them that God was going to send a host against Babylon, from the kingdoms of nations to destroy Babylon.
Reading further in Isa. chap. 13, we see the prophet used the word “heavens” again in verse 10:
“ For the stars of the heavens, and their constellations, Cause not their light to shine, Darkened hath been the sun in its going out, And the moon causeth not its light to come forth.” (Young’s)
This is not a literal reference to the lights that twinkle in the night time sky. The “stars of heaven” was another element of prophesy that is often repeated, and it meant the ones who held power of the ruling authority of the kingdom of the prophesy. We can see this from the previous verse 9:
“ Lo, the day of Jehovah doth come, Fierce, with wrath, and heat of anger, To make the land become a desolation, Yea, its sinning ones He destroyeth from it.”
The “sinning ones” of verse 9 refer to the elements detailed in verse 10, specifically the stars, the sun, and the moon that ruled in the “heaven” of that kingdom. We know that “sinning ones” speaks of those who work iniquity, who cause evil and wickedness in the nation. The “heavens” in verse 10 spoke of the ruling authority of Babylon. The “stars” of Babylon were therefore the people who had power and authority within that kingdom.
Whenever a ruling authority was pulled down from their station of power, then their “light” no longer shone. Their power or authority was taken from them. The sun was the most powerful light, and was a symbol of a king or highest ruler. The moon was a lesser light, referred to throughout scripture as “her light”, and would most often refer to a queen. The stars and their constellations were still lesser powers of princes, governors, or priests.
Isa. 13:9 also uses another element that is commonly seen in prophetic language, “the day of Jehovah”. A day of the Lord (or of Jehovah, or YHWH) was always a day of judgment against a nation or people. It didn’t speak of a literal day, but of the time the action would commence, the beginning point. It was a time of destruction of the wicked people of the land.
This is reinforced in Isa. 13:13,
“ Therefore the heavens I cause to tremble, And the earth doth shake from its place, In the wrath of Jehovah of Hosts, And in a day of the heat of his anger.”
God was not speaking of the heaven of His realm, and His throne. The heaven that would tremble was that of the kingdom of Babylon, the nation that was being warned of the coming judgment of His wrath, the coming day of the Lord. The “earth” that would shake from its place was the nation of Babylon which would be removed from its place among all the other nations.
We can see the metaphorical references to the ruling authorities as stars, suns, and moons from Gen. chap. 22. In Gen. 22:17. God was speaking to Abraham, and said,
“that blessing I bless thee, and multiplying I multiply thy seed as stars of the heavens, and as sand which [is] on the sea-shore; and thy seed doth possess the gate of his enemies;”
Again in Gen. 26:4,
“ and I have multiplied thy seed as stars of the heavens, and I have given to thy seed all these lands; and blessed themselves in thy seed have all nations of the earth;”
The metaphor is identified by the word “as”, indicating that one thing is compared to, or equal to another. The use of “stars of heaven” was a metaphor for the children of Abraham, and specifically all of the tribes of his grandson, Jacob, whom God had renamed Israel.
So, whenever we read of the “stars of heaven” in most Old Testament prophesy, the first connection we can relate it to were the children, the tribes of Israel. See also Ex. 32:13, Deu. 1:10; Deu. 10:22; Deu. 28:62; 1 Chron. 27:23; Neh. 9:23.
This metaphor is used again in Joseph’s dream of Gen. 37:9,
“And he dreameth yet another dream, and recounteth it to his brethren, and saith, `Lo, I have dreamed a dream again, and lo, the sun and the moon, and eleven stars, are bowing themselves to me.'”
The sun, was Joseph’s father – Israel; the moon was Joseph’s mother – Rachel; the eleven stars were Joseph’s brothers – the other eleven children, or tribes of Israel.
These prophetic metaphors were most often used for the tribes of Israel, and their ruling authority, or “heaven” of the Israel, Judea, and Jerusalem of the Old Testament.
We can also find these same metaphors, these same elements in the warnings the prophets spoke to other nations, and other people. That is why we must always be careful to identify which nation, and which people (earth) to whom the prophet was sent.
However, for the most part, “earth” was synonymous with Israel and Jerusalem. For instance, in Jer. 6:19, Jeremiah was warning Jerusalem of God’s anger:
“ Hear, O earth, lo, I am bringing evil on this people, The fruit of their devices, For to My words they gave no attention, And My law — they kick against it.”
The “earth” were the people of Jerusalem… the city to be inspected (vs. 6), the remnant of Israel (vs.9).
And, again in Jer. 6:22,
“Thus said Jehovah: Lo, a people hath come from a north country, And a great nation is stirred up from the sides of the earth.“
The sides of the “earth” were specifically concerning the prophesy against Jerusalem, the “earth” of verse 19 of the same chapter. This is not the sides of all of the earth, but only of Jerusalem, the remnant of Israel.
And, once more in Jer.16:19, speaking of Jerusalem,
“ O Jehovah, my strength, and my fortress, And my refuge in a day of adversity, Unto Thee nations do come from the ends of earth, And say, Only falsehood did our fathers inherit, Vanity, and none among them is profitable.”
The “ends of the earth” only had meaning for the borders of the land that was under judgment. The ends of the earth in Jer. 16:19 were the borders of Judea and Jerusalem.
We have to know which people and which land or country the prophet was warning in order to identify which “heaven” and which “earth” is affected.
The record gives us the clear meaning of the four corners in Ezek. 7:2 in the prophesy of the Babylonian captivity of Judah:
“ Also, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord God unto the land of Israel; An end, the end is come upon the four corners of the land.“
The prophesy concerned the “land of Israel” and the “four corners” were the borders of the land. It indicated that all of the land, to all of the borders of the land would be affected by the judgment.
Now let’s look at Revelation. First we have to identify who the prophet is, then we have to identify to, or of whom the prophet is speaking.
The prophet of Revelation was Christ. Rev. 1:1, “A revelation of Jesus Christ, that God gave to him,….”
We remember that Jesus implied that he was a prophet in Matt. 13:57,
“And Jesus said to them, `A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, and in his own house:'”
So, Christ was the prophet speaking and providing the warning in Revelation. He gave it to John, and told John that he would again prophesy and tell the people of this warning and coming of judgment. (Rev. 10:11)
We remember that Jesus told the Caananite woman in Matt. 15:24,
“and he answering said, `I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'”
Jesus specifically told His disciples to go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel in Matt. 10:6. He told them what to preach, that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. (Matt. 10:7). He told them in verses 40 & 41,
“40 He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. 41 He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; …” (KJV)
He called Himself a prophet, and He sent His disciples out to prophesy by His authority that the kingdom was at hand in the first century A.D. He told John that He would show him things which would shortly come to pass (Rev. 1:1) and that the time was at hand (Rev. 1:3).
That time was during the first century A.D. when Revelation was written, approx. 66 – 68 A.D. (See Part V of It’s Not The End of The World for the dating of the book of Revelation, and see also Part I of The Signs of Revelation: The Time of His Coming at the right margin.)
Then, in verse 4 He told John where to go… to the seven churches of Asia. These are specifically identified in verse 11,
“Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.”
He was sending John to tell them the joyful news that He was coming quickly, just as had been promised to the Hebrew Christians in Heb 9:28 for His second appearance in that generation; just as He had told His disciples that some would still be living to see Him coming in His kingdom (Matt. 16:28), just as He had told them that John would live to see His coming (John 21:22).
All of the books of the New Testament refer to that second coming as a soon to happen event for those new Christians, and to the elect of the tribes of Israel that believed. (Cor. 1:7; 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1; 2:8; James 5:7-8; 2 Pet. 1:16)
Just as Jesus had told Caiaphas in Matt. 26:64,
“…Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”
With the news of this prophesy that John brought to the seven churches of Asia, they would know that the time of their suffering and persecution by that synagogue of Satan (Rev. 2:9, 3:9) would soon be over. They knew that they would soon be free of the terror under which they lived at the hands of the Sanhedrin and their common enemy, the Roman empire.
So, what we next must identify is which land was going to be destroyed? Which earth was the prophet speaking about for the destruction and desolation that would soon happen?
One of the very first clues is in Rev. chap. 7, as Rev. 7:1 speaks of the four messengers or angels that are standing on the “four corners of the earth”, and holding back the winds that they should not blow. Think “winds of war”, or “winds of stormy weather”. And, think also of the four corners as the borders of the specific earth under judgment.
Rev. 7:3, “…till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.” (KJV)
Which servants of God, and where were they? Those sealed of God were those called out of the twelve tribes of Israel. (Rev. 7:4-8). Where were the called of God, those called out of the tribes of Israel living? Judea, and the surrounding lands of Palestine and Asia.
The next clue is the temple of God in Rev. chap 11, where John is told to measure it, but not to measure the outer court where the nations (gentiles) would tread for 42 months. Where was the temple of God? It was in Jerusalem.
The next clue is Rev. 11:8,
“And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” (KJV)
Jesus was crucified just outside of Jerusalem, and the verse compares Jerusalem spiritually to the wicked and evil people of Sodom and Egypt which had previously come under the wrath of God’s judgment.
The entire prophesy of Revelation, the testimony of Jesus Christ, was about the destruction of Jerusalem, Judea, and their temple. That destruction occurred in A.D. 70 at the hands of the Romans, who were the agents of God, His tools and messengers.
So, all of the metaphorical prophetic elements of “earth” were speaking of Judea and Jerusalem. They do not apply to the entire world. The four corners of the earth in Rev. 7:1 were therefore the borders of Judea.
The better translation of Rev. 7:1 is from Young’s Literal Translation:
“And after these things I saw four messengers, standing upon the four corners of the land, holding the four winds of the land, that the wind may not blow upon the land, nor upon the sea, nor upon any tree;“
Just as in Ezek. c. 7, the land was Judea, and the four corners were the borders of Judea, and that the judgment would fall upon all of Judea.
That battle was engaged between the ruling authorities of the Sanhedrin and temple priesthood of Jerusalem, and the opposing army of Rome.
Once the “earth” or land of the battle is established, then we can determine which “heavens” or ruling authorities are being pulled down, and which “stars” and “suns” will fall from “heaven” or will be removed from their positions of power.
The “heaven” of the Roman empire was the kings of Rev. 17:10, who were the kings or Caesars of Rome that ruled over the “earth” of Judea.
The beast of the sea of Rev. 13:1 was that Rome with the seven heads (kings) and ten horns (Senatorial provinces). The sea was a metaphor of the gentile nations that surrounded the “earth” of Judea and Jerusalem, as water surrounds the land.
The beast of the “earth” or “land” of Rev. 13:11, was the predator that chased after and persecuted the Christians out of the “earth” of Judea and Jerusalem… the Sanhedrin.
We can now identify much more of the elements of the prophesy of the destruction of Jerusalem and that temple just by knowing which land and which people were the subject of that prophesy. Until the people and the land can be positively identified, none of the rest of the prophesy will make sense.
In conclusion, the Revelation of Jesus Christ directly concerned the judgment that came upon the same “earth” of Jerusalem spoken of in the OT for crucifying Him and for persecuting His church, just as had been foretold by the prophets (Is. 64:10-11; 65:12-15; Jer. 9:10-16; Ezek. chap. 5; 22:20-21, Ezek. c.7).
It concerned the destruction of that temple in Jerusalem which had continued in the animal sacrifices that had become profane after His sacrifice and crucifixion on the cross in A.D. 31 – 33.
“ 36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. 37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”
So, all references to “earth” and “heaven” in the book have to be determined from the context of the Judean and Roman wars of A.D. 66 -70 when Jerusalem was made desolate.
See all eight parts of The Signs of Revelation at the right margin for more details. See also the Beast of Revelation, The Whore of Babylon, and the Seventy Weeks of Daniel Chap. 9.
All bold emphasis is mine.