CLICK HERE to read Isaiah 24.
It is very important to remember that the last chapter was the story of destruction that comes from pride and selfishness, and redemption that comes from turning to the Lord and being humble before Him by caring for His people. Isaiah even specifically referenced that tithing is required as a part of this, and is what will protect us from destruction at the second coming of the Savior (see also D&C 85:3 and D&C 64:23). In this chapter, Isaiah jumps from the destruction of Tyre to the destruction of the world in the final days.
The earth is “wasted” temporally when it is unable to produce enough oxygen and food and water for the people to live (we are the “wasters” if the earth cannot do her job because of our poor stewardship). The earth is “wasted” spiritually when there are no righteous people doing the righteous work of bringing souls to God. This D&C 2:3 principle plays out here in Isaiah, where he warns both will happen (verse 1). The world will be turned “upside down”, with people scattered by war and in search of food. There will be chaos as the land changes shape (the mountains lowered and valleys raised, so as to unite all the continents into one again, see Isaiah 40:4). Plagues will sweep across the earth, and everyone will be affected – regardless of wealth or political power (verse 2) – all of them grieving and in despair (verse 4).
The Lord has already declared it, and so it will happen as He has said (verse 3).
The Lord also tells us why it will happen.
It will happen because we, all the people of the earth, have “transgressed the law, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant” (verse 5).
The “everlasting covenant” is the full restored Gospel, including the covenant of marriage as the ultimate ordinance of the temple (see the Guide to the Scriptures for further references).
Isaiah is saying that most of the people of the earth (enosh, or mankind, אֱנוֹשׁ), meaning societies and governments and culture, will change the ordinance of marriage, and by doing so transgress the laws relating to marriage.
An ordinance cannot actually be changed, because it is designed by God. That’s the nature of what an “ordinance” is: the law set forth by the governing authority. This, then, is the root of the problem with changing the ordinances: it implies that we, as a society, culture, or government, have erroneously thought we had the authority to changes the laws of God. So when we change the ordinance, it does also by default transgress God’s law. It means that we will, as a society and culture and by our civil governments, legalize what is against God’s law.
The very first chapter of Doctrine and Covenants says that this is going to be so bad in the last days that this is the very reason the full gospel will be restored one final time, giving the people – mankind as a whole – one last opportunity to repent.
For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant (verse 15);
They seek not the Lord to establish righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way… (verse 16)
Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments; and also gave commandments to others, that they they should proclaim these things unto the world… (verses 17-18).
The whole point of a restoration is to restore a people from apostasy.
The words in that tiny sentence are important.
One of the names of Heavenly Father is referred to as “Man of Holiness”, meaning He-who-is-holy. Then it says that the Lord, who is the Only Begotten Son, has a title, a name like His Father: “the Son of (The) Man (of Holiness)”. In the New Testament, all four gospel books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) refer to the Lord – at some point – as the “Son of Man”. But Moses 6:57 clarifies for us the full title: if Heavenly Father is called “Man of Holiness” and his son is called “Son of Man”, then the full title for the Lord is “Son of (The) Man of Holiness”.
As we become His people, we are “after his kind”, or of the kind of Man (of holiness), or people-of-holiness. From this we get mankind, kindred, kin, all meaning like-one-another – but what we are like is in fact, holiness. We are the people of holiness, as He is the Son of the Man of Holiness, after our Heavenly Father who is The Man of Holiness.
Heavenly Father = Man of Holiness
Savior = Son of (the) Man (of Holiness)
Mankind = the people of (redeemed by) the Son (of and for) the Man of Holiness
Holiness to the Lord,
the House of the Lord.
Isaiah is saying that mankind, the people of holiness, will betray their covenants and legalize transgressions against God’s law until only a few (מְעַט מִזְעָר שְׁאָר), or a remnant (of the righteous), or only a few people of holiness will remain.
The numbers of the church will be many, but only a small remnant will remain faithful to the restored ordinances and its laws (see also Isaiah 1:9). To be a part of that remnant, the five laws of the restored ordinances must be followed: the law of sacrifice, the law of obedience, the law of tithing, the law of chastity/fidelity, and the law of consecration. Anything less is choosing a lesser law, which is choosing a lesser kingdom.
Because of there will be so little righteousness left, the Earth must be cleansed (verse 6). Those of the remnant, who have demonstrated a willingness and ability (by the power of the atonement) to follow the five laws of the restored ordinances will be “caught up” and transformed while the earth is purged and cleansed by fire (D&C 88:96; 1 Thessalonians 4:17). There will be such destruction that there will be no seasons of natural celebration (such as celebrating “new wine” at harvest time), no crops to harvest (and no strength to harvest them anyway), and depression and grief instead of happiness (verse 7). The parties and festivals that we normally associate with different times and events of the year will not happen, and there will not even be music to console us (verse 8). People will not be able to numb out with alcohol (verse 9), and there will be no help in the big cities (verse 10). In fact, Isaiah says in verse 10 that instead of celebrations in city festivals or people turning to local governments for help in distress, things will be so bad that all the people will be locked up in their own homes with barely enough to survive and not enough to share. People will stay in their homes, protect their own resources, and lose the community illusion of “eat, drink, and be merry” (verse 11). It will be so extensive as to leave the cities “desolate”, with no place of refuge for the people and local governments destroyed and unable to help (verse 12). It will be like after harvest has already finished, and hungry people follow behind for the crumbs, shaking the trees for extra fruit and searching behind leaves for missed food (verse 13).
Only will the remnant, the people of holiness, the people following the ordinances as restored by God and obedient to the five laws, only will they be safe. They will cry out to the Lord, understanding that all of what unfolds has been prophesied already and is part of His plan for preparing the Earth for His holy people (verse 14). The “isles of the sea” and “beyond the sea” often refers to the Americas when Isaiah uses them, but also refers to Zion collectively. The prophet Jacob also defines “the isles of the seas” as meaning the Americas (see 2 Nephi 10:20). The righteous remnant will be protected from, separated from, or “taken” from the fire process, even becoming “fire” as He is, consumed by the fire but not destroyed by it (verse 15). There seems to be two layers here: first, that the people of the west will be physically separated by the sea (and so protected) from the people of the east having a “war of fire”; and two, that the righteous, all over the world, will in some way (by holiness) become Light as He is Light, so that we become a part of the “fire” (presence/testimony) that purges (cleanses/destroys) all that is not-of-God. If we are at-one with God and a part of that power, then we will not be not-of-God (and so not destroyed).
So it is as if Isaiah is seeing two things at once. He looks to the west, and sees the people protected from the devastation happening to the east. In the west, he sees the celebration of the Lord accomplishing His purpose and keeping His promise. To the east, he sees the destruction that comes as natural consequences to those who make bad choices. He repeats the emphatic poem from Isaiah 21:
the treacherous dealer
He is saying that those who have treated other people badly, who have oppressed, and who have gained power through selfish gain and by unrighteous means, these will receive the judgment of their own consequences for bad behavior. He calls them “inhabitants of the earth”, meaning people of the world, as opposed to the remnant, who are celestial disciples of the Savior who live a higher law by keeping the covenants they have made.
He says they are trapped, and can no longer escape their consequences (verse 17). Those who try to escape will still fall, meaning those who try to get out of obedience will fall from mercy by not accepting it. Those who try to crawl out will be trapped, meaning those who try to rationalize their bad behavior will be ensnared by the ultimate logic: justice without mercy. Because in these final moments, the people will still not turn to the Lord, their consequences will multiply instead of liberating them (verse 18).
No one will be able to find a safe place to hide from all the calamity that comes, because even the earth will be testifying, moaning and groaning and shaking against the people who have treated her poorly and committed such sins upon her (verse 19). The landscape itself will change, returning to its state with one land mass instead of separate continents, knocking the earth off its balance and causing it to roll around its axis and stagger in its orbit until it falls back into place near Kolob (verse 20; see also Isaiah 13).
Those who thought they had such political power will realize they are nothing compared to God (verse 21), and they will be punished for unrighteous dominion (verse 22). They will be gathered in spirit prison, not understanding how they exist after death, and confused about what truth is (verse 22). But like everyone else in spirit prison, they will receive missionaries who can teach them the truth if they will receive it (see 1 Peter 3:18-20). Being near Kolob, so near the presence of Holiness, there will be no need for the moon to reflect light at night and the sun will not be able to compare to its brightness (verse 23). Without the sun and moon by which we measure the passage of time, we will no longer need to measure time in the same way (Revelation 10:6; D&C 84:100; see also 2 Peter 3:8; Abraham 3:4 and 5:13). We can still measure the passage from one even to the next, but it will not be limited to the reign of the sun and moon (Isaiah 60:19-20; Revelation 22:5).