An event in the earth’s atmosphere causing catastrophic turbulence and destroying satellites is offered as an explanation for the heavens rolling up like a scroll and its impact on the host of heaven. Let me explain why there seems to be strong Scriptural support for this interpretation.
Before embarking on the details of this alternative explanation, I refer you to a previous study I wrote on this subject of the heavens rolling up like a scroll. (This topic has created the most interest, by far, out of everything that I have written on this website.) In that post I presented a study of the words used in Isaiah 34:4, the central verse in the Old Testament on the rolling up of the heavens like a scroll. I also looked at the context in Isaiah 34 and some related New Testament passages like Revelation 6, Hebrews 1 and Matthew 24.
Based on that study and other passages on how the heavens were stretched out and made, I was viewing the heavens rolling up as a scroll as the very fabric of space, a three-dimensional structure, being rolled up in a fourth spatial dimension. However, that changed recently when this alternative explanation came to mind while reading Isaiah 34 again. This new explanation seems to fit better, in my opinion, with the context and focus of Scripture.
This alternative explanation doesn’t negate the possibility of a fourth spatial dimension, but it does remove the need for it in interpreting passages like Isaiah 34 and Revelation 6 on the heavens rolling up like a scroll.
The outline for today is:
- How Isaiah 34 fits into the wider Scriptural context for Edom and end time events.
- Is an event causing high altitude turbulence consistent with Scripture?
- Possible explanations for this event causing high altitude turbulence.
Isaiah 34 and its wider Scriptural context
Isaiah 34 verse 1 clearly spells out that this is a message for the nations, the whole world, to hear. God’s wrath is against all the nations and their armies, and they will be destroyed (verse 2). The mountains where this will take place will be drenched with their blood.
It is in this context that verse 4 occurs, i.e. when all the host of heaven will rot and the sky will roll up like a scroll.
Verse 5 continues the description with a mention of God’s sword shifting from operating in the heavens to coming down upon Edom and the people set apart for destruction, which presumably is the nation and armies from verse 2. In verse 6 Edom is again mentioned, and Bozrah along with it. God’s sword is also mentioned again.
Edom and Bozrah – Background
Before looking at some other passages of Scripture that mention Edom or Bozrah, I would like to briefly look at some background to these two places.
Bozrah means sheepfold, an enclosure for the protection of the sheep gathered within it. Bozrah was the capital city of Edom, a pastoral city southeast of the Dead Sea in the mountains of modern-day Jordan.
Edom was the home of Jacob’s twin brother Esau. Genesis 25:30 explains how Esau, meaning hairy, gets the name Edom, meaning red. Originally Seir the Horite and his descendants were living in this land (Genesis 14:6; 36:20) but the descendants of Esau dispossessed them (Deuteronomy 2:22). This is why Seir and Mount Seir are also terms used describe this land and its descendants (e.g. 2 Chronicles 20:10).
The Greek name for Edom is Idumea or Idumaea. In some translations, Idumea is used in Isaiah 34 rather than Edom.
Edom and Isaiah 63
The central passage of interest concerning Edom and end times is Isaiah 63.
Verses 1 – 6 in Isaiah 63 explain how the Messiah (Christ i.e. Jesus) comes from Edom, and specifically Bozrah, with his clothes all stained red from having killed the people there. It is an interesting play on words that Edom means red and the Messiah’s clothes are stained red from the deaths at Bozrah.
It shouldn’t escape your notice that there are similarities in Isaiah 34: 1 -3 and this passage in Isaiah 63: 1-6. Also there is similar wording in Isaiah 34:8 and Isaiah 63:4 about the day of vengeance. So it seems that the same event is in mind.
Reading on to the next chapter, we see in Isaiah 64 verses 1 and 2 an interesting request. Isaiah is asking for God to rend or tear the heavens and come down. There is the mention of mountains, adversaries and the nations. Perhaps Isaiah 34:4 is the answer to that prayer!
Reading on further, Isaiah 66 verse 15 says that the Lord will come in fire and His chariots are like the whirlwind. Compare this with Isaiah 34 verses 9 and 10. Verse 16 mentions fire and His sword are His method of judgement and many will be slain.
I must confess that prior to investigating this angle to Isaiah 34, I hadn’t realised that Edom, and specifically Bozrah, played such a significant role in end time events. An internet search reveals that the events at Edom are well known in some circles. For example, Koinonia House (of Chuck Missler fame) has an interesting article on end time events involving Edom. Similarly, Jay Mack has a similar perspective on these events.
Is an Event Causing High Altitude Turbulence Consistent With Scripture?
It is very easy to focus on the effects of the event, i.e. the heavens rolling up like a scroll and what happens with the host of heaven, but I think that the event itself (and the Person orchestrating it for His purposes) is much more important. This is why I think that there is relatively so little in the Bible about these effects. They are just consequential details of something much larger and more significant happening.
In this section I would like to show how the words used to describe the effects of this event seem to fit with a circular turbulence pattern in the Earth’s atmosphere, impacting on all the artificial satellites around Earth.
Before looking at specific verses, it should be noted that there is quite a range of satellite heights from low earth orbits (starting from around 180 km), up to geosynchronous orbits and high earth orbits (36,000 + km).
Sun and Moon
In Revelation 6 the sun goes black and the moon goes blood red (verse 12).
Firstly, at the risk of stating the obvious, the sun and moon are still around at this time. They are not caught up with the sky rolling up like a scroll. This is one reason for thinking that the rolling up is an earth based phenomenon rather than one that affects the solar system or even the whole universe. The heavens and the earth will be changed but we shouldn’t automatically assume that the heavens rolling up like a scroll are the heavens being changed. Hebrews 12 makes it clear that there will be one final shaking of the heavens before they are changed. This event in Isaiah 34 might be the one final shaking but the new heavens (and new earth) may still come after this.
The sun being darkened and the moon going red can be caused by debris from a fire or a series of fires, in a similar fashion to how volcanoes have caused these effects in the past. (Large volcanoes can shoot debris up into the atmosphere reaching estimated heights of around 30-50 km.) Isaiah 66:15, 16 make the point that he is coming with fire!
Isaiah 34:4 Descriptions
The context of Isaiah 34:4 happening in the midst of judgement on the nations would imply that whatever is happening in the heavens is directly related to this. Something happening in the earth’s atmosphere, if feasible, would make more sense than a universal event. From a military perspective, if one were to knock out all the satellites used for military purposes and communications, then this could prove quite advantageous if your side wasn’t also relying on them!
The first part of verse 4 says that all the host of heaven will wear away or rot. This word for rot could be applicable to satellites. A Wikipedia article on corrosion in space says that corrosion in the upper layers of the atmosphere (90 – 800 km) has been an issue in the past for satellites due to the presence of atomic oxygen. Thin layers of gold or silicon dioxide are used on exposed surfaces of satellites to prevent this corrosion. If Isaiah 34:4 is describing something like a tornado happening in the (upper) atmosphere, then it is quite feasible that debris could damage these think protective layers and hence corrosion could set in. So satellites corroding in the atmosphere due to this event, is consistent with the host of heaven rotting.
The next part of verse 4 describes the heavens or the sky rolling up like a scroll. If this event caused the sky to be split into two parts, with strong rolling air flows on either side of this split and satellites getting caught up in all this, then not only would this be a scenario consistent with this part of verse 4, but the satellites would provide a mechanism to view this in action from the earth if it happened at night time!
The remaining three phrases in verse 4 are connected with the hosts withering. Now when I think of a plant withering, there are two main identifying features: it changes to a brown colour and it shrivels up. If a satellite is getting knocked about in something resembling a tornado in the upper atmosphere, then it is not too hard to imagine that it might look shrivelled up. And as discussed above, the corrosion on the surface of the satellite could feasibly occur and this, in turn, could cause discolouration on the surface.
Revelation 6 – Shaken by a Great Wind and Falling
Revelation 6 verse 13 describes the stars of the sky falling to the earth like a fig tree casting its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. This shaking of the satellites that I am proposing is exactly like a great wind! It doesn’t take too much thought to realise that if a satellite is severely knocked about and spun off course, then it has a very strong possibility of falling to the earth!
Isaiah 66:15 also alluded to a whirlwind with the Lord’s coming. This may be referring to the same event.
Matthew 24 – The Powers of the Heavens will be Shaken
One thing that has always perplexed me about Matthew 24:29 is that it doesn’t say that the heavens will be shaken but the powers of the heavens. Thinking of the satellites as the “powers of the heavens” is plausible in this day and age of spy, military and communication satellites. There is great military advantage in having these sorts of satellites at your disposal.
Verse 30 got me thinking as to whether the heavens rolling up like a scroll could be the sign of the Son of Man. I see the events of verse 29 directly connected to the heavens rolling up like a scroll. However, verse 30 in the NAS starts off with “and then”. So based on this, the event in verse 30 seems subsequent to this, even though it is occurring in the sky.
Possible Explanations for this Event Causing High Altitude Turbulence
I thought that I would close today’s topic by briefly speculating on possible explanations for this event causing high altitude turbulence.
I will admit that the first time that I thought of this high altitude turbulence causing the satellites to spin out of control, my immediate thought was that it was caused by the great earthquake in Revelation 6 somehow causing a massive turbulent wave to go up into the sky, i.e. an earthquake-induced sky tsunami! As I contemplated what would be involved for this and how high satellites travel, I began to have my doubts. Then I re-read Isaiah 34:5 that God’s sword is first in heaven and then it descends. The event in the heavens happens before anything happens on the earth. So that sealed the fate on that idea!
So what possibilities are available to us?
Could a fast moving object from outer space heading on a collision course for earth cause such an effect? Could it cause great amounts of turbulence in its wake? The impact of such an object on earth would be catastrophic. Even though events in the Bible in the end times are catastrophic in nature, they don’t seem consistent with such an event.
It still seems feasible that the fabric of space splits and physically rolls up, taking with it anything occupying that space. This split could be caused by the sword of the Lord mentioned in Isaiah 34 verses 5 and 6. A variation within this view has the fabric of space-time consisting of a fourth spatial dimension.
Another scenario has that this event is directly connected with Jesus’ descent and His accompanying army. If a single angel can cause a severe earthquake in Matthew 28:2, then what could a whole army cause?
Obviously this last section is total speculation. We can only guess what is causing these events in Isaiah 34:4 from a science perspective. However, we have the testimony of God’s Word that the events in Isaiah 34:4 and Revelation 6 will happen.