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The Day of the Lord's Vengeance
That chapter 34 is a prophecy of the last days is clear from the reference to the heavens being dissolved and "rolled up like a scroll," a picture also presented in the heavenly signs of Revelation 6:13-14. Some see this terminology as descriptive of a mushroom cloud.
The prophecy concerns multinational devastation to occur during the Day of the Lord, focusing on God's judgment against Edom (Idumea). Other prophecies against Edom can be found in Isaiah 63:1-6, Jeremiah 49:7-22, Ezekiel 25:12-14, Ezekiel 35, Amos 1:11-12, Obadiah 1-14 and Malachi 1:2-5.
The Day of the Lord is described as the time of God's vengeance on the nations for their affliction of Zion—perhaps referring to the evil they have done to both physical Israel and spiritual Israel, the latter meaning the Church of God. And God tells us that this period of final vengeance will last for a year (Isaiah 34:8). In Revelation 6:17, the heavenly signs are said to introduce the "great day of His wrath." Following these signs in Revelation is the blowing of seven trumpets, each heralding titanic, cataclysmic world upheaval. It appears, then, that these trumpets are blown over the course of this final "year of recompense."
The waste and destruction that will come on the land of Edom (Isaiah 34:9-15)—with its becoming a habitation for unclean animals—seems very much to parallel what will happen to Babylon (Isaiah 13:19-22; 14:22-23; Jeremiah 50:39; 51:37), wherein the wasteland of such animals is perhaps symbolic of the prison for Satan and his demons (compare Revelation 18:2). And yet end-time Babylon is evidently to be identified with Rome. Interestingly, Jewish commentaries have traditionally identified Edom with Rome, or at least the dynasty of Rome's leaders, and with the rulers of Germany—as was noted in the Bible Reading Program comments on the book of Obadiah. The Babylonian Talmud mentions "Germamia of Edom" (Megilla 6b). Again, it is possible that there is some connection here, though, as also explained in the comments on Obadiah, it appears that Edom primarily comprises many of the Turks and Palestinians along with various other scattered Middle Eastern groups. However, we should perhaps consider the large number of Turks and other Muslim immigrants who live in Germany and other European nations today. Moreover, Turkey itself may eventually become part of the European Union, thus fusing a significant part of Edom with Babylon.
Followed by Paradise
Isaiah 35 is entirely millennial—that is, descriptive of the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ and His saints (see Revelation 20:4-6)—and presents a contrasting picture to the desolation of chapter 34. The deserts will bloom as nature is transformed—miraculously healed. Human beings will also be healed by the miracle-working power of God.
Yet the healing will not only be external. The blind seeing, deaf hearing, lame leaping and mute singing (Isaiah 35:5-6), while literal, are also symbolic. Those who are spiritually blind will at last come to see and understand the knowledge of God. Those who are unwilling to hear God's message will at last listen. Those who are spiritually crippled, unable to walk in God's commandments, will at last be able to run and leap in the way of God. And those who are now silent in regard to God and His mighty works will at last praise Him and proclaim His truth.
This will be made possible by "waters bursting forth in the desert"—again literal but also spiritual, referring to the coming outpouring of the Spirit of God. The presence of God's Spirit will work great miracles, both visible change in nature and, more importantly, transformation of the inner hearts and minds of people.
What is now the narrow and difficult path of life, which only few find (Matthew 7:14), will, in the age to come, be a broad highway that everyone will be able to follow to the Kingdom of God. The highway, too, is both literal and figurative. It is the path of return for the exiles to Zion—the physical route and the spiritual way of life that God requires.
It will be a safe road (verse 9)—on which no beast is found. Again, this is a physical and spiritual promise. As we saw in Isaiah 11, the nature of animals will be changed. They will no longer be dangerous. And the political "Beast" powers of the earth will no longer be around to harm anyone.
It will be a time of tremendous joy—when "sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (Isaiah 35:10).