Bishop Horsley, in his commencing note on this chapter, observes, that it “can be expounded of nothing less than the tribulation of the last ages, and the succeeding prosperity of the Church in the end of the world.”  He remarks justly, that the preceding prophecies have led us over the fortunes of Judah, Babylon, Philistia, Moab, Damascus, Israel, Egypt, the desert of the West, Arabia, and Tyre; and now what remains, but that the prophet should foretell by the Spirit the destiny of the whole world?  This is expressly foretold, in characters which he who runs may read, and in terms beautifully accordant with the intimations of other places, both of the Old and New Testament.


First is presented to us the dreadful visitation of vengeance with which the Lord Jesus, on his return, will be constrained to visit the world and its inhabitants, for their gross and open rebellion against him, and bloody persecution of his saints.  Therefore he shall lay waste the world, and turn it upside down.  Subsequently, the prophet predicts his judgment of its inhabitants: “For we must all stand before the judgement-seat of Christ.”  People and priest, master and servant, will be alike brought before his bar; for there is “no acceptance of persons with him.”  In the prophetic style, he signifies,” says Eusebius, “the resurrection of the dead.  For when the bodies hidden in the earth shall be revealed, all they that are to be judged shall stand on an equal footing before the great Judge; so that there shall be no difference between those who once, in mortal life, seemed to possess more than others, either in dignity, or birth, or wealth; and the poorest.  For all then will stand equally before the judgement-seat of Christ; as the priest, so the people: and all alike: since there is no acceptance of persons with God.”  Similar is the exposition of Jerome, indisposed as he is to admit the future reference of prophecy.


The succeeding verses describe the desolation to which the world will at that time, and by that event, be reduced; and the reason is stated why “the curse hath devoured the earth,” even because its inhabitants have “transgressed the law, changed the statutes, and broken the everlasting covenant.”  The Saviour’s rebuke, with flames of fire, is incidentally alluded to in the sixth verse, which declares that “the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.”  The thirteenth declares that this desolation shall take place in Palestine, “the land that is in the midst of the Gentiles,” as St. Luke also predicts, “there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath on this people.”  Jerome notices, in connexion with this, the Saviour’s words, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” implying, that, believers shall be few as the gleaning grapes.  Again, on the succeeding announcement that the saints of God shall then rejoice and glorify Christ Jesus, he adds, “Those then that remain, and after the vintage and treading of the world, shall have been able to escape the hands of Antichrist, that persecuted them, shall lift up their voices on high, and praise God.”  For then to the righteous shall be as the Saviour himself promises, when predicting the signs of his coming.  When these things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads, for your. redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21: 28.)


The eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth verses describe the mighty convulsions which the globe itself shall experience on that awful day, when, as the forty-sixth Psalm declares, “the earth shall be removed, and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, when the waters thereof shall roar and be troubled, and the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.”


The sentiment of the twenty-first is exactly parallel with that declaration ill the Saviour’s prophecy of his return, “And the powers of heaven shall be shaken,” which Greswell understands, with great reason, of Christ’s judgement of the “Prince of the power of the air,” and, his “wicked spirits in heavenly places.”  In Isaiah the same vengeance against them is threatened, and a distinction evidently insisted on between the mortal kings of the earth, and the immortal host of those on high.


And it shall come to pass in that day,

That JEHOVAH shall punish the host of the high ones in the height,

And the kings of the earth upon the earth;

And their multitude shall be gathered into prison,

And in the dungeon shall they be shut up.”


How exactly the accordance o t this with Rev. 20: 1-3, “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his band.  And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him.”  Here the judgement of Satan alone is spoken of, though the first verse declares that it shall be “as with the master, so with the servant.  But, in our Lord’s parable of the sheep and the goats, which forms a part of the great discourse respecting his coming, it is said, to the wicked, then living and condemned, “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his anqels(Matt. 25: 41.)


Confirmatory are the words of Jerome:- “In that day, that is, in the day of judgement, the Lord will visit the ‘host’ or the ‘pomp’ of heaven on high, so that he will judge not earthly things alone, but heavenly also.”  Afterwards he adds, “These princes, therefore, he will cast into the pit of Hades, and they shall he shut up ill prison, according to the words of the Lord.” (Matt. 25: 41.)  It should be observed, however, that he applies the term, “kings of the earth,” to evil spirits, as supposing that evil angels will then be rulers of the world.  Similar is the interpretation of Bishop Horsley, who contends with reason that the imprisonment in the pit proves, that not the stars, but intelligent beings are intended: and he refers to the passages just quoted.  I think,” he says, “the host of the height may be expounded of intelligent beings, the rulers of the darkness of this world.” (Rev. 20.; Matt. 24.)


This view is corroborated by the next announcement – “And after many generations shall be their visitation.”  From which passage St. Jerome remarks, that some of his friends drew the inference that, after a long while, even Satan and his angels should repent and be pardoned.  But he rightly refutes this idea, by noticing that the word “visitation” is equivocal, signifying as it does the drawing near for judicial decision; sometimes, indeed, in a person’s favour, but also, and more commonly, intending the judicial infliction of punishment.  Neither are we left in doubt which is intended here.  For, after the binding of Satan for a thousand years, we are informed that, being let loose again, he again deceives the sons of men, and is then finally removed, with his guilty dupes, into the everlasting lake of fire; which the Saviour, and Scripture generally, distinguish carefully from the present place of torment, calling the one by the general name of “Hades,” or the particular one of “death” and “Tartarus,” Rev. 1: 18, - (where the key of Hades [not “hell”] is distinguished from that of “death,”) and 2 Pet. 2: 4; - but the everlasting place of the lost is uniformly named “Gehenna.” (Mark 9: 43. 45. 47.  Unfortunately both places are translated in our [A.V.] version by the one word, “hell.”)  The first judgement mentioned in the 21st verse of this chapter of Isaiah, is the judgement of the “quick,” or those living on earth at the Saviour’s return, together with the judgement of the saints, who are to rise at his coming, while “the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.  This is the FIRST resurrection.” (Rev. 20: 5.)  Hence there must be a second.  And even so we find it declared in the following verses.  After the last deceiving of the world by Satan, his dupes are consumed by fire, and with “the fire that comes down from God out of heaven” (verse 9), the earth is burnt up, passes away, and is no more found; and then Christ sits on “the great white throne” (verse 11), and the general judgement of the dead takes place (verse 12.)  Afterwards, the final abode of the righteous is described, “the new heaven and the new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away, and there was no more sea.” (Rev. 21: 1)  The visitation, then, of those shut up in the pit after many generations, is the general judgment of the rest of the dead, at their rising again with their bodies, and their final doom with that of Satan and his evil spirits.


Similar is the exposition of Theodoret.  These things also declare the end of all.  For then, according to the word of the Lord (Matt. 24: 29), ‘The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven.’  Then the kingdoms of the earth, and they who are worthy of punishment, shall be shut up, as into some stronghold and prison, into the, place set apart for those who are to undergo punishment.”


The last verse describes the confounding of the sun and moon, before Christ comes to reign at Jernsalem; an announcement made also by the Saviour, in his prophecy already referred to.  Immediately after the tribulation if those days [the Great Tribulation] shall the sun be darkened. and the moon shall not give her light,” which darkening of these heavenly bodies, we are assured, will take place just before all the tribes of the earth see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with the power and great glory of his kingdom then to be revealed.


Lastly, as in Isaiah 3: 14, the Saviour is represented as coming, with the “elders of his people(who in Rev. 5: 10, declare, that they “shall reign on the earth”), so here Christ is presented before us as “being glorified in Jerusalem before his elders.”