CLICK HERE to read Isaiah 34.
Isaiah begins by clarifying that the final days of God’s judgment are for all nations, not just Israel (verse 1, see also D&C 1:1-7). All have been exposed to His truth, and will be taught His plan of happiness, and will be able to choose righteousness or not (verse 2). The consequences of war, because of people not being at-one with each other (and so unable to be at-one with God) will be so widespread and devastating that few will survive to be present for the Millennium (Isaiah 4:2-3). When the people try to destroy each other with “weapons of fire” (see Joel 2:1-3), the Lord will deliver their consequences by utilizing the elements of the earth, even the weather (verse 3).
This verse again has the temporal (Aaronic) and spiritual (Melchizedek) level. At the temporal level, there will be “war of fire” and elements (including plagues) and weather used to deliver the consequences to the people. But spiritually, those of “high places” includes those who appear righteous but have not repented, the hypocrites mentioned in the previous chapter, and so will be “brought low”, or humbled at the time of judgment. They will not be clean from the blood and sins of their generation because they have not testified of righteousness, instead “melting” into the sins of the world and becoming a part of sinful cultures and lifestyles. So many will perish that it will seem as if the land itself runs with blood.
Isaiah says that the tumultuous events on Earth will cause the planet to be knocked off its axis and losing its current orbit (Isaiah 13:13), returning back toward Kolob where the Earth was created (Journal of the Discourses, 17:143); Abraham 5:13). As the Earth moves through the universe, it will seem as if the stars are “dissolving” or falling (verse 4). Only after all this will there be silence for “half an hour” (Revelation, D&C 88:95), after which will all things be revealed – including the history of each thousand-year dispensation (“unrolled like a scroll”).
But first, the wicked people of the world must pay for their sins. Isaiah uses “Idumea”, meaning those outside the covenant who have opportunity to choose righteousness but do not, as well as those who enter secret combinations instead of making and keeping sacred covenants. Heavenly Father has a plan that includes the atonement, which pays for all sins and the consequences thereof. But it only covers those who repent, and who are obedient as a token of evidence that they accept His plan. Only in this way are the demands of justice met, and can the people find mercy. All have the option to reject this plan of mercy, but then are still required to meet the demands of justice on their own since they have rejected the Savior and His prophets who taught of Him (verse 6). Isaiah says this will occur through the same means the wicked people have withheld themselves from the Lord and/or oppressed His children of holiness. It will descend upon them like wild beasts, devouring and destroying everything (verse 7).
During His ministry, the Savior warned us of this. He said that in the final days, people would be as terrible and wicked as in the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37; Luke 17:26; JSM 1:41). We know this will happen simultaneously as the Lord sets up temples across the earth (D&C 97:21), and that this great “darkness” (apostasy, degree of wickedness) will be in opposition to (in the same degree) as the great “light” (holiness and righteousness being established. This will continue until the wicked begin to persecute the Saints using secret combinations (see Ether 8:23-25). So when these final judgments come that will be so devastating, it will not be because God is not “good” or does not love His people; but rather because they were not good (natural consequences) and because they did not love Him (or His people) (verse 8).
Isaiah says that in this war of fire, so much ash will fall that the waters will literally be turned to a tar-like substance so that those fleeing war will not even have water, and soon after not have food, either (verse 9). Applying this further, we see how a culture that legalizes iniquity has no recourse to then escape it. In the same way spiritually, those who reject the plan that provides mercy will receive no mercy (just as they requested) – and it will be honoring their choice.
Isaiah says this is so serious that even during the Millennium, the desert of Edom (Arabs) will remain a desert as a reminder to all generations of the cost of sin (verse 10). This is important: it is not a reminder of sin, nor will it tell the story of sin. It does not honor sin, but will be a visual symbol of the price paid (“wages”) because of our sin. The desert will testify of the Savior and His atonement for us for those generations born during the Millennium.
In the same way, spiritually, when we do not claim the atonement, we have nothing but “confusion” and reminders of “emptiness” (verse 11). There will be no celestial-ness without the atonement. There is no way to become kings and priests, queens and priestesses without the ordinances of the restored gospel provided by temples (verse 12). There will be nothing left of those who try to do it any other way, because there is no substance – no authority or power – without these ordinances (verse 13). Only wild animals will live in the buildings of fallen governments, and only wild animals will make their homes there (verse 14). No one else will find deliverance or resources or friendship in political or cultural center (verse 15). The center of celestial society will be the temple.
Isaiah closes this chapter saying that none of this should be new to us, that it is repeated many times in scriptures (verse 16). Everything the Lord has said would be fulfilled, and justice will be met in every detail – either by the atonement or by the destruction we choose by our own choices. Further, the completeness of the destruction of those who reject His plan will be in direct contrast to the diligent faithfulness of His gathering those who accept and live it (verse 17).