‘Reeling’ and ‘trembling’ are two prophetic expressions which so well describe our world today. It is often observed by statesmen and historians that now our problems are so complex that the only real solution is a one-world government. But the existing fragmentation of the political, economic, ethical, and social aspects of our world, all selfishly motivated, have rendered this solution virtually impossible.

Our world is being pulled in so many different directions that it lacks stability and a firm objective. Recent events in Russia and the Middle East, as well as financial and economic upheavals worldwide, give cause to feel that the future is very uncertain. Many tremble with fear, not knowing where we are going.

God prophetically predicted this situation. Does he have a solution?

This Reeling and Trembling Earth

“The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.” —Isaiah 24:20

OUR TEXT IS a graphic description of a topsy-turvy world order headed blindly and staggeringly toward inevitable destruction. In this same chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy, almost all of which is similarly prophetic of the overthrow of Satan’s world, we are told that the earth is “made empty,” and is “laid waste.” The prophet also declares that the earth is “turned upside down,” and “mourns.” The same earth, according to this prophecy, is seen to “fade away,” and to be “broken down,” “dissolved,” “moved exceedingly,” and “removed like a cottage.”—Isa. 24:1,4,19,20

The earth here mentioned is, obviously, not this literal planet upon which we live. The literal earth cannot mourn, nor does it need punishment for transgressions. The term is used to denote what we call the world, or the world order. In the fourth verse of the chapter, the words earth and world are used interchangeably. Just as the term earth is symbolic, so all the various expressions which are employed to describe how the symbolic earth is destroyed are also pictorial. The use of so many of them conveys the unmistakable thought that Satan’s world or empire is to be completely destroyed. Satan’s world must indeed be destroyed before God’s new world can be established—that world described by the Apostle Peter as one “wherein dwelleth righteousness.”—II Pet. 3:13

Beautiful and meaningful is the descriptive language of the Bible, however. Both the Old and New Testaments give us numerous pictures of events now taking place in the world. The prophecies identify the present period of human experience as the ‘Day of the Lord’, ‘the Day of Jehovah’. It is ‘the time of the end’ of the Gospel Age, in which manmade rulership, based upon selfishness, and guided largely by misleading human philosophy, is crumbling to its fall.

Not knowing that the time has come for divine intervention in the affairs of men, human wisdom still hopes to erect a new and better world upon the ruins of the old one. Temporarily, and to a limited degree, this may be accomplished. But, the prophecies of the Bible show clearly that before the events of this Day of the Lord are completed, the long-promised kingdom of the Lord will have taken the place formerly occupied by the changing institutions of men. This is why it is called the Day of the Lord.

It is also called the Day of Vengeance of our God, and the “day of wrath.” (Isa. 61:2; 63:1-4; Ps. 110:5) Yet we are not to get the idea of divine malice. God has established certain laws in harmony with which he operates, and those who come into conflict with these reap the penalty of their course. Thus, today humankind is reaping the result of unrepented selfishness and sin.

What the Prophet Isaiah described as the Day of Vengeance, the Prophet Daniel spoke of as “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.” (Dan. 12:1) The Prophet Malachi says concerning the same period, “Behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble.” (Mal. 4:1) The Prophet Joel, foretelling the same time of distress upon the world, speaks of it as a “day of clouds and of thick darkness.” (Joel 2:2) Jesus refers to this time as one of “great tribulation,” so ruinous in its character that if it were not cut short, no flesh, human or lower animals, would survive its ravages.—Matt. 24:21,22

The prophetic lightnings spoken of in Psalm 97:4: “His lightnings enlightened the world; the earth saw, and trembled,” are a symbolism illustrating what the Prophet Daniel described as an “increase of knowledge.” (Dan. 12:3) Many of our great statesmen and writers now recognize the relationship between education and present world chaos. While the worldly-wise recognize that it is the enlightening influences of our day that have started the common people on the march for freedom, yet they do not see that this has come in fulfillment of Biblical prophecies, and because God’s time has come to establish his kingdom.

For centuries the theory was held that knowledge in the hands of the common people was a dangerous thing, and it was indeed dangerous to the hereditary ruling classes. Every possible effort was made to keep the people in general, in ignorance. That was during the period styled the Dark Ages. But the time came when God wanted the people to obtain knowledge. His symbolic lightnings began to enlighten the world, and the first effect of this is what we see happening all over the earth today.

The lightning symbolism is especially meaningful in connection with the prophecy of Joel, which describes this same period as one of “clouds and thick darkness.” How apt indeed is the figure. Truly, lightning flashes in the midst of the gloom and perplexity of this cloudy day are the great principles of truth and justice in contrast with which the world’s present disorder is so manifest. A flash of lightning from the obscured throne discloses here one error, and there another, concerning the social, political, governmental and scientific views and practices of the past, and incites the masses to press for better things to which they feel they are justly entitled. Never before have such conditions prevailed.

How clearly the prophetic lightning flashes from God’s throne are helping to reveal corruption in the world, dishonesty in high places, hence emphasizing more and more the need for radical changes to be made in the world economic setup. But, how to right these wrongs the world is not able to see, with the result that we hear conflicting ideas, voices, theories, threats, all of which add to the confusion and increase the trembling of the social earth, and weaken the powers of the symbolic heavens. Today, indeed, the earth is trembling as much from the din of wordy conflict, as it has in the past from the hammer blows of global war!

In the midst of all this trouble and tumult, what is the attitude of the Lord’s truly consecrated and faithful people? Are they, too, in fear and doubt and confusion? Not if they are living up to their privileges as watchmen in Zion. (Isa. 52:8; Mic. 7:4) True, the Lord’s people suffer from the same distresses as do the worldly, but knowing the outcome, they lift up their heads in confidence knowing that not only their deliverance in the first resurrection is near, but that the deliverance of the earth from the thraldom of sin and death also hastens on.

Through the Scriptures, the Lord’s people are given a clear knowledge of the divine plan, with its times and seasons, which enables them to both see the necessity for the present method of divine discipline upon the world, and also the peaceable fruits of righteousness which shall result therefrom. In the midst of the storm and babble of this great Day of the Lord they hear the commanding voice of God, and their hearts rejoice. They have full confidence in his ability to bring order out of confusion. They realize that in the judgments of this day, it is the Lord who speaks from heaven—from the high place of authority and control, and they give thanks that at long last he is calling a halt on unrestrained human selfishness by preparing to set aside the order of things which selfishness produced, that his own long-promised kingdom may be established in its place.

The lightning flashes portrayed in the prophecies are symbolic of knowledge along all lines as it affects the course of human behavior. Spiritual truth, as it applies to God’s will for his own people, is revealed through the Scriptures, and disseminated by the consecrated followers of the Master. To understand the prophetic meaning of the times in which we are living, is, therefore, to be regarded as a special favor from the Lord. Hence our attitude should be one of great gratitude toward God for the beautiful truth he has granted us the privilege of seeing, and with which we have the blessed privilege of being identified. Our gratitude should be manifested by an increasing zeal in helping to bring that truth to the knowledge of others.

Our eyes of understanding should discern clearly the Battle of the Great Day of God Almighty now in progress; and our faith, guiding our eyes of understanding through the Word, should enable us to see the glorious outcome—Messiah’s kingdom! The Battle of the Great Day of God Almighty is in progress. It is a battle that has its stages of gradual development. Its general character is that of a struggle of light against darkness, of liberty against oppression, of truth against error. It is so widespread in its application, and so universal in all its ramifications, that no one symbolism could fully describe it.

In addition to the prophetic pictures already mentioned, the Scriptures describe it as the “fire of God’s jealousy.” (Zeph. 3:8) Nahum 1:3,6,7, informs us that “His way is in the whirlwind and in the storm.” It is also prophetically described as a “flood of mighty waters,” and “a great earthquake.”—Isa. 28:2; Rev. 16:18

Through the Prophet Jeremiah, the Lord indicated that to a greater or lesser extent, militarism forms a prominent part of this great day of trouble, saying, “I will call for a sword upon all the inhabitants of the earth.” (Jer. 25:29) A similar thought is suggested in Isaiah 34:3, where the kingdoms of the earth, symbolized as mountains, are said to be melted with the blood of armies.

Still another symbolism of the prophecies, is that of treading the “winepress.” Prophesying of Christ during the early part of his second presence, the prophet said, “I have trodden the winepress alone; … and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments.” (Isa. 63:1-6) We believe that this work began in 1914 with World War I, and has been growing in severity year by year. As with the battle of the great day of God Almighty, the symbolic treading of the winepress continued throughout World War II, and other more localized conflicts, and still continues.

Another symbolism depicting the overthrow of constituted authority, particularly that of rulers who governed Continental Europe prior to World War I, is that contained in Daniel’s prophecy, which illustrates the accomplishment of the divine purpose as the smiting of the human-like image seen by Nebuchadnezzar in his dream. This image, according to the prophecy, was to be smitten by a stone cut out of the mountain without hands. This stone, according to Daniel 2:44,45, represents the kingdom of God.

The former church-state rulership in Europe has already been destroyed during the intervening years between World War I and World War II, while the remaining fragments thereof are even now being ground to powder preparatory to being blown away as the chaff from a summer threshing floor. (Dan. 2:32-35,44) Europe is no longer ruled by the Gentile Times royalty, but by governments which have arisen out of the masses of the people.

Still another symbolism picturing the blows of destruction being dealt Satan’s empire before God’s kingdom can be established, is that given to us by the Apostle Paul. He likens the trouble to birth pangs which come upon a woman in travail. (I Thess. 5:1-3) There are suggestions in the prophecies that there were to be three of these major spasms of trouble. In Daniel’s prophecy they are shown as, first, the smiting of the image, then its being ground to powder, and finally, the wind blowing away the dust.

Note, for example, Joel’s prophecy: “Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the Day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand; a day of darkness and of gloominess, and day of clouds and of thick darkness. … A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth. … The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.”—Joel 2:1-3,10

Whatever the symbolism used by the prophets of old to describe one or more of the events transpiring in the momentous Day of the Lord, back of them is the fact that God takes the responsibility for the overthrow of this present evil world, and explains to us that he accomplishes this end through the prophetic increase of knowledge—the flashing of his lightnings.

The trembling of the earth as a result of Jehovah’s lightnings is a very comprehensive symbolism. It may tremble as in a storm, or in the wind, or from fire, or earthquake, or floods, or in other ways, but it continues to tremble until it finally falls. Then the kingdom of Messiah will be established in its place.

There can be little doubt that we of the present generation are witnessing the foretold death-throes of a world order. It is what the Scriptures elsewhere describe as the end of the world. (Matt. 13:39) World distress incidental to the transitional changes now occurring has caused men and women of all nations to long for a new and better world. We can well understand the desire of the democracies to do all in their power to make sure that the new world will be a free and happy one. We are not speaking disparagingly of human efforts when we say that there can be no ideal world order until the kingdom of Christ is established.

It seems that there is nothing which should engender such hope and courage in the hearts of humanity today more than to know that out of all the chaos and trouble experienced by the present generation there is soon to emerge an era of genuine and lasting peace and joy. And it is just this that we can and should expect, not because man will finally triumph over his selfishness, but because God has intervened in the affairs of men, and will soon establish divine control over the nations. In the last verse of the chapter from which our text is taken, we are given assurance that “the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously.”—Isa. 24:23

Jerusalem was the capital city of Judea, and Zion hill in Jerusalem was where the government of Israel centered. The promise of God to reign in Zion would, therefore, denote actual God-control in human affairs. This symbolism of the divine kingdom is mentioned many times in the prophecies of both the Old and New Testaments. In the 2nd Psalm, 6th verse, God declares, “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” The psalmists then explains that God’s king, who is Christ Jesus, will dash the nations to pieces like a potter’s vessel.

In the 14th chapter of Revelation, Jesus and his entire church are shown to be together on Mount Zion. The prophecy of Obadiah gives us the same portrait of the kingdom, declaring that “Saviours shall come up on Mount Zion, … and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.” (Obad. 21) It seems clear from these references that the term Zion is used in the Scriptures to denote the exalted status of Christ and his church as they reign together for a thousand years to uplift and bless the sin-sick and dying world.

Micah 4:2 declares that “the Law shall go forth of Zion, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” This is another of God’s promises in which the term Zion is used symbolically to represent the divine Christ. There is good reason to believe, also, that the term Jerusalem is used here to describe the earthly or visible operations of the new kingdom. The laws of that kingdom emanate from Zion, that is from Christ and his church. Hence there will be no need for legislators, because there will be no occasion to change or amend the laws—nor will new laws be needed to meet emergencies.

But these laws will need to be made known, and the people will need instruction in their proper application. This will be done through the earthly representatives of the kingdom—the Word of the Lord going forth from Jerusalem. Those who will represent the Christ in the Jerusalem activities of the kingdom have already been selected by God, and prepared by him for this high position of trust as world educators under Christ. In Matthew 8:11 and Luke 13:28,29, they are identified by Jesus as being Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets. In Psalm 45:16 they are referred to as the fathers of Israel, and the promise is given that they shall be made “princes” in all the earth.

Should we view this Scriptural portrait of God’s new world from the human standpoint, it would probably seem quite impractical, and we would have good reason to ask, Will it work? But we must remember that this is not a humanly devised Utopian arrangement. If it were only that, it would be a fool’s paradise, indeed. But, thank God, it is his new arrangement for a sin-sick, war-weary world. The Creator of the universe, the great First Cause of all life, has planned it, and certainly he would not make promises to the human race which he is not able to fulfill.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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