Are you grappling with a difficult verse in the Bible? And are you looking for a short, easy-to-read answer that really makes sense without explaining away the verse? Visit this page for a daily excerpt from IVP's Hard Saying series.

Today's Study

Isaiah 24:21-23: Millennium in the Old Testament?

This prophecy belongs to the section in Isaiah's collection of messages known as the "Little Apocalypse" or "Little Book of Revelation" (Is 24--27). Here the prophet tells of a time designated as "that day." This "day" is probably the same as the "day of the Lord," referred to so frequently in the Old Testament. The "day of the Lord" is a period of time that is to close our present age; it is the time of the Second Coming of Christ, in judgment for all who have refused to accept him and in deliverance for all who have believed in him.

In what ways, if any, does Isaiah 24:21-23 accord with what we know from other texts about our Lord's Second Coming--especially from the New Testament? What is meant by the "prison" into which the celestial powers and the kings of the earth are to be herded? And why would they be "punished," or "released," after "many days"?

The vision of this chapter, which has already included the whole earth, is here enlarged further still to encompass the powers of heaven and earth. The term translated "powers" is sometimes used merely of heavenly bodies (Is 34:4; 40:26; 45:12), but at other times it is used of armies of angels (1 Kings 22:19; 2 Chron 18:18). In this case it seems to refer to the fallen angels who rebelled along with Satan and were thrown out of heaven.

Isaiah 14 depicted the king of Babylon descending to Sheol itself in an act of rebellion. Here, both the heavenly and the earthly potentates have rebelled against God, and as a result they are to be confined to a prison (see also 2 Pet 2:4; Jude 6; Rev 20:1-3).

The time of shutting out Satan and his hosts from access to the heavenly regions is also mentioned in Revelation 12:7-17, where the dragon, in great rage, makes war with the woman and "the rest of her offspring--those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus."

It has been argued that "after many days" in Isaiah 24:22 refers to the same period of time that Revelation 20:1-7 labels the "thousand years." According to John in the book of Revelation, Satan will be released from his prison at the end or conclusion of the thousand years, but just for a brief season. This would seem to correspond to the "punishing" or "releasing" of Isaiah 24:22. The word has the basic idea of "visiting," but it is a visitation for judgment; the word is used in the same way in Jeremiah 27:22. Thus, the loosing of Satan is only a prelude to his total destruction (Rev 20:10).

In this chapter Isaiah shows four judgments: (1) the judgment on the earth and the plagues that will come on humankind in the end time (parallel to the opening of the sixth seal in the book of Revelation); (2) the judgment on the world-city, or Babylon of the future; (3) the final judgment on Jerusalem and all who have dealt treacherously with Israel's remnant; and (4) the judgment that God will hold "in that day" of his Second Coming for all the powers of heaven and earth that have opposed him. It is this fourth judgment that is dealt with in the verses selected here (Is 24:21-23).

The heavenly and earthly powers that have deceived mortals into apostasy will be visited with punishment in one and the same "day." They will be cast into the pit, only to be "visited" once more "after many days"--the millennium. Their release will not last long, for after a brief conflict, the eternal kingdom of God will come in its full glory. The millennium that has preceded this kingdom will only have prepared men and women for its majesty and glory.


Old Testament Essentials Old Testament Essentials
Old Testament Essentials

by Tremper Longman III

Following the format of the Essentials series (as designed by Greg Ogden, author of Discipleship Essentials), this comprehensive guide from Tremper Longman offers a survey of the Old Testament for use in the context of a small group. Each study contains a question-answer format, a field-tested inductive Bible study and questions to draw out key principles.