8. You caused judgment to be heard from heaven;
The earth feared and was still,
This verse is in the past tense, yet this is an example of an important Biblical principle: that God often speaks of those things that are not as if they were, or, as the New King James puts it in Romans 4:17, “calls those things which do not exist as though they did.” This does not mean that God says untrue things, but rather that God speaks of things that do not yet exist as if they already did. He speaks of things that have not yet taken place as if they had already taken place and were in the past. That is what God is doing here. He is speaking of what is going to happen in the future as if we were already beyond it and looking back on it from the future.
What God will do is to cause men to hear judgment from heaven. We have a mixed-up idea of judgment today, and often think of it as if it were punishment. Yet this speaks not of punishment, but of truth. God’s judgment is His righteous order, an order that is sorely lacking from this messed-up world we live in. Yet when that future day comes that God speaks from heaven and convicts the world of judgment, as John 16:11 says, the earth will hear and respect God and be still. This matches with what we have already seen in multiple other passages. It speaks of this future time when God will act, when God will speak, and when the Spirit will be poured out on all to convict them of the truth.
In our last message, we covered some verses from the Psalms that tell of the glorious future time when the Holy Spirit is going to be poured out on all flesh. We saw that all people from all nations on earth will have the truth imprinted on their minds at the same time. We saw that all wars will cease when God is exalted in the earth. We saw that God shoots at the wicked men of earth with an arrow: His word. We saw that God is going to arise and plead His Own cause. And finally we saw that judgment is going to be revealed from heaven for men on earth to consider and understand. Now we will return to the prophets and consider more passages from Isaiah that tell of this glorious future event. Let us return once again to Isaiah 32:13-18.
13. On the land of my people will come up thorns and briers,
Yes, on all the happy homes in the joyous city;
14. Because the palaces will be forsaken,
The bustling city will be deserted.
The forts and towers will become lairs forever,
A joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks—
15. Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
And the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
And the fruitful field is counted as a forest.
16. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
And righteousness remain in the fruitful field.
17. The work of righteousness will be peace,
And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.
18. My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation,
In secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places,
We have already considered the first four verses here, but let us take note of them once again. This speaks of the land of Israel being desolate, as it has been for so much of the time since God first sent His people into captivity. This sad condition of things lasts forever…until! This shows what I have often said, that “forever” is a poor translation of the Hebrew “for the olam,” since clearly something that lasts “forever” cannot only last “until” something else. I believe this actually means “for the flow.” As long as our evil age flows on, Israel remains a wilderness, not being restored to the glorious “land of promise” God intends it to be. This sad condition of things comes to an end, not when Christ returns, but when the Spirit is poured out from on high. The Spirit not only fixes the natural environment, but also sends out justice, righteousness, peace, quietness, and assurance, so that Israel dwells safely and securely.
Let us go on to examine the last two verses more carefully, since we did not discuss them before. We note that the work of righteousness is said to be peace. We think of “peace” as tranquility or lack of war, but the Biblical idea is often of a true union. The most important peace we as Adam’s race can experience is not simply peace with each other, but is ultimately peace with God, and this is what righteousness will work to bring us. Once we no longer indulge in the sinful and rebellious practices that are so common on earth today, we will truly have peace with God. The effect of righteousness, then, will be quietness and assurance. How different from the tumult and fear that surround us on every hand today! And the results for Israel will be glorious as well, for they will dwell in a peaceful habitation, no longer having to fight with their neighbors and fear for their future. They will be secure in their dwellings and quiet in their resting places. What a great change! What a glorious future this will be for that land, and for the whole earth as well! And it all comes about because the Spirit is poured out from on high.
Another great verse that sets forth what shall happen at that time when the Spirit is poured out from on high is Isaiah 40:5.
5. The glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
And all flesh shall see it together;
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
This speaks of the glory of Jehovah being revealed. Yet our English word glory has little meaning as it is often used today. In some churches, people will shout, “Glory!” in the middle of the service, and mean little more than that they are feeling excited. Yet the Bible means much when it uses this word. For example, a person’s glory is the good things others think about him. If I think you are honest, then that is the glory I hold you in. If I believe you to be truthful, that is the glory I will give you as well. We can try to give Jesus Christ glory according to our thoughts about Him, but when God says what He thinks of Him, that is the true glory of the LORD. This is the glory that is going to be revealed, and when it is revealed, all flesh will see it together. How do they see it? Not by Jesus Christ returning, but by the mouth of the LORD speaking it. How will His mouth speak it? I believe it will be through the Holy Spirit being poured out on all flesh. As John 16:10 says, the Holy Spirit will reveal righteousness to the world since the Lord Jesus Christ returned to His Father and we see Him on earth no more. Yet the Holy Spirit is not revealing righteousness to the world today. The glory of Jesus Christ will be revealed at the return of the Holy Spirit, when the mouth of Jehovah speaks from heaven.
Another great verse that sets forth the sudden speaking of God through His Spirit to all in order to change the world is Isaiah 59:19.
19. So shall they fear
The name of the LORD from the west,
And His glory from the rising of the sun;
When the enemy comes in like a flood,
The Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him.
In the future, glorious day of the kingdom of god, everyone shall respect the reputation of the LORD from the west, and shall respect His glory from the east where the sun rises. That will be a great day indeed, for we know very well that everyone does not respect Him now! Then Isaiah makes a great statement about when this glorious reality will come about. He speaks of the enemy coming in like a flood. We have to admit that this sounds a lot like today, when it seems that the enemies of truth and righteousness are flooding in on every side in our society! How does God end this great flow of wickedness? How does He stop this flood of iniquity? By lifting up a standard against them.
In warfare during Bible times, one practice was that a commander would draw a boundary with his troops and then set up a standard on the field. This standard was a challenge to anyone who wanted to oppose him. Basically it was stating that “if you go past this banner, you are at war with me.” The Spirit of the LORD is going to set up such a banner for God’s enemies, telling them that there is a line they cannot cross, or they will be at war with God. This will bring a sudden and immediate stop to the flood of iniquity that so dominates the world. When does God set up this standard? Does Christ set it up at His second coming? No, this standard is set up by the Holy Spirit! I believe this great event will take place when the Spirit is poured out from on high. He will set up the standard that wicked men will not dare to cross if they value their lives.
Now I believe we have developed a good picture of this great event, the pouring out of the Spirit, as it is set forth in the Old Testament. We have learned that God will raise the Israelites from the dead, bring them back to their own land, restore the land to a glorious condition, and write His law in their hearts so they will all obey it. We have learned that He will convict the world regarding sin, righteousness, and judgment. He will imprint something on the minds of all people, even in the most remote places, that will cause them to turn towards Him. He will speak from heaven and the earth will melt before Him. His word will come into the world like an arrow, suddenly wounding the wicked and making them turn their own tongues on themselves. He will lift up a standard against the wicked that they dare not cross. He will cause the world to learn what true judgment really is. He will cause His people to dwell in safety and quietness. What a glorious day that will be! Now, in closing, let us consider two passages from Paul’s last letter of II Timothy that speak of this future day when the Spirit is poured out from on high. First, we will consider II Timothy 3:1-9. We will consider this portion from The Resultant Version, rather than our typical New King James Version.
1. Be aware of this also: that in the concluding days dangerously violent times shall come. 2. For men shall be self-lovers, lovers of silver, ostentatious, haughty, calumniators, stubborn toward parents, without grace, unbenign, 3. Calloused, implacable, devils, uncontrollable, brutal, despisers of goodness, 4. Traitors, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; 5. Having a form of devoutness but denying the power thereof. And from such people turn away! 6. These creep into houses and take into captivity silly women, laden with sins and led away with different desires, 7. Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9. But they shall be stopped in their tracks: for their insanity shall be obvious unto everyone, as theirs also was.
This is a description of the wickedness of men in the last days of the dispensation of grace in which we live. It is a terrible picture that this paints of the wickedness of men and of the corrupt character they display. Yet what is the outcome of all this? Does such wickedness continue on earth forever? No indeed, for in verse 9 we read that these wicked men are brought to a sudden stop. They are stopped in their tracks as they go on their wicked way, and their insanity is made obvious to everyone. What a change this would be if it took place in our world today! For in our day, the foolishness of wicked men is hidden from many by the lies and deceitfulness of our world. They do not see the true character of the wickedness that surrounds them on every side. Like fish in water, men are so surrounded by wickedness that they do not seem to understand the true extent and reality of it. The only way the true madness of these wicked men will ever be revealed to everyone is if God Himself steps in and reveals it. And this is what this passage plainly says He will do. Someday, God will make the folly of wickedness plain! And when will He do this? When will this revelation take place? It will be when the Spirit is poured out from on high, when His word enters the world like an arrow and wounds the wicked, and when the world is convicted and all men are turned toward Him. So Paul too and the New Testament speak of this same, glorious future event, just as we have seen it from the Old Testament Psalms and prophets!
So what exactly was it that Paul was looking forward to when he spoke of this in II Timothy? What was the great event whose coming would be marked out by this revelation of the insanity of wickedness? Paul reveals this in the very next chapter, in II Timothy 4:1. We will quote it again from The Resultant Version.
1. I charge you therefore before God, even the Lord Jesus Christ, Who shall make a determination concerning the living and the dead at His blazing forth, even His kingdom.
Paul gives Timothy his last charges before God even the Lord Jesus Christ, Who shall make a determination regarding the living and the dead at His blazing forth, even His government. This, I believe, is the time when God will make the insanity of the wicked obvious to all. This is when His Spirit will be poured out. All this will take place at the blazing forth of Jesus Christ, when His government comes to earth at last. Yet this does not take place because Christ has returned to earth. This takes place because the Holy Spirit has returned in power, power that has not been displayed since the close of the Acts period. The kingdom of God does not begin with the second coming of Jesus Christ. Instead, it begins with the second coming of the Holy Spirit!