‘Your Cities Are Burned With Fire’
In April, the city of Baltimore, Maryland, was burning. Riots, looting and fire raged after the funeral of Freddie Gray, a young black man who died in police custody. Before it was even revealed what caused the death, protests against the police began. These soon erupted in riots, in which downtown storefronts were smashed and police cars were damaged. Rioters cut fire hoses that firefighters were using to put out a fire at a cvs pharmacy.
Accusations of police racism are heightening public mistrust of law enforcement and fueling a trend of violent race-related incidents and lawlessness. Anger among certain high-profile segments of the black population in particular is growing, and is boiling over in rioting and violence with increasing frequency in American cities.
People realize that these riots and violence could spread like wildfire. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president of the United States, recently said that “there is an unease in our big cities.”
Baltimore is only about 40 miles north of Washington, d.c., which could explode into serious riots at any time.
Isaiah 1:7 states that “your cities are burned with fire.” That is referring to our time today—and you can prove it.
Few people realize how grave this trend is. As we have been forecasting for over 20 years, race-related violence in our cities is going to play a major role in the unraveling of our society!
In Isaiah 1, God tells us why these violent protests are burning our cities. He also tells us how to solve this problem. Shouldn’t we be interested in that?
Prophesy Smooth Things
Isaiah addresses his message to “Israel” (e.g. Isaiah 1:3-4, and nearly 100 times throughout this prophetic book). As we have been teaching for over 50 years, Israel does not refer to the little nation in the Middle East. Actually, two nations in particular represent Israel in this end time: the U.S. and the United Kingdom. Don’t believe me—you need to prove this truth to yourself. We will be happy to send you a free copy of Herbert W. Armstrong’s book The United States and Britain in Prophecy, which contains ample proof. God says—even commands—that we “prove all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Jeremiah 17:5 says, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man.” So don’t believe a man, but do believe God.
“Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever” (Isaiah 30:8). The Hebrew expression for “the time to come” means the latter day. Isaiah wrote his message on a table, or a tablet, for the people of his day, but why did he write it in a book? Because this is dual prophecy. It is primarily for this end time, and God ensured it would be preserved for our day today.
Will you accept God’s Word about this? Not many people will. Most tend to be like those described in verse 10: “Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits.” People naturally don’t want the truth, even though they may act like they do. Most people want to hear smooth things, not truth right out of the Bible the way Isaiah teaches it.
They continue by saying, “Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us” (verse 11). These people cause God to leave! Israel refuses to listen to God; people won’t hear God’s Word because they’re listening to smooth things. They scoff at the very Word of God itself, and cause Him to fade from the scene.
Pushing God aside is the worst sin of all! If you think there won’t be repercussions, then you don’t understand these prophecies.
Isaiah knew there was danger in delivering God’s message anciently. It will never be received like it should be. Tradition says that Isaiah was actually cut in half because of the message he preached! That is how violently he was treated because he didn’t teach smooth things. He loved those people and had the courage to tell them what God said and not the deceit they wanted to hear. As all human history has proven, that deceit always ends in violence, burning cities, chaos and anarchy!
God says His Word is truth (John 17:17). But how many people really want the truth? U.S. President Barack Obama said the people of Baltimore want the truth. But do they really? Does anybody really seek the truth? Very few. Still, God tells us the truth about how to prevent suffering and chaotic violence that tears everything apart.
“Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen: let them shew the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come” (Isaiah 41:22). God specifically says we need to look at “former” events and “consider” them if we are to understand the “latter end” of His prophecies. In other words, to understand prophecy for this end time, we must also study history—specifically Bible history. As the Apostle Paul later wrote, the Old Testament was recorded for our learning today, “upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).
Are you willing to hear what God has to say about burning cities, as well as the clear solution He provides for this problem?
Race is a highly charged subject in the United States today, and in many other nations. Past wrongs and present inequalities create fertile ground for hurt, frustration and anger.
Many prominent leaders, both black and white, are deliberately fueling those grievances for their own political gain. They are using race as a deadly weapon! The problems that will result are far more dangerous than they realize.
When you look objectively at the facts of these high-profile, racially charged riots, you can see why they are certain to grow much worse.
Many powerful politicians and people in the media believe that there is justification for the violence tearing up our cities. Many say they “understand” why lawlessness is overtaking these areas. Some even think there is something noble about it—they see it as a kind of righteous search for long-denied justice.
This is terribly misguided and perverse reasoning! It is multiplying the problem many times over!
“We work very hard to keep that balance [between free speech and destructive elements], and to put ourselves in the best position to de-escalate,” she said.
This mayor was trying to find a “balance” between allowing these criminals “free speech” by destroying the city—and fulfilling her duty to protect the people and enforce the law!
She later denied telling the police to stand down. But police came forward and said they were in fact told not to stop the violence. For example, Michael Lewis, a Maryland sheriff who traveled to Baltimore to help stop the riots, said that Baltimore police thanked those who came from out of town, and said, “We could have handled this, we were very capable of handling this, but we were told to stand down, repeatedly told to stand down. … [T]hese guys told me they were essentially neutered from the start. … I heard it myself over the Baltimore City police radio that I had tethered to my body-armor vest, I heard it repeatedly: ‘Stand down, stand down, stand down! Back up, back up, retreat, retreat!’ I couldn’t believe those words.”
The effect of responding to lawlessness by handcuffing law enforcement is very dangerous. It is certain to add fuel to the fire that is burning cities like Baltimore. Yet it is happening across the country: so-called leaders saying that law enforcement policies and procedures disproportionately affect racial minorities, and that the answer is to back down.
For example, in New York City, after the high-profile arrest and death of Eric Garner for selling untaxed loose cigarettes, legislation is being crafted to decriminalize certain public-order offenses. An accidental shooting in an East New York housing project has led to calls for police to scale back their patrols of public housing. The death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, has created a movement to reduce penalties for failing to pay criminal and traffic fines or to show up for court appearances—even though that case had nothing to do with those issues!
It is mind-chilling that people think these measures will solve anything! These kinds of “solutions” only encourage more unbridled emotion, angry protesting, looting and violence!
That is exactly what the Prophet Isaiah foretold would happen.
God Has Spoken
“The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children [or sons], and they have rebelled against me” (Isaiah 1:1-2).
Most people would disagree, but God is speaking through Isaiah to us today! God has spoken! “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth,” He says. God is addressing all the inhabitants of the Earth and the universe! He has spoken to the righteous angels and to Satan and the demons. He has spoken to all mankind—both we who are alive today and all who have ever lived. We all need to hear this message. He says, Hear this! This is what will happen! You had better be careful, or you will have disastrous trouble!
About 25 percent of the New Testament is comprised of quotes from the Old Testament, and most of those quotes come from the book of Isaiah, so this is a New Testament message as well. This is telling us what is happening today.
If people want to impugn the Bible and scoff at it, they can do that—but God says the burning cities are going to intensify if we don’t learn what He is telling us. The time is coming soon when the scoffers are going to vanish like snow under the hot sun because everything will have come to pass exactly as God has spoken it to us!
“The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider” (verse 3). What does Israel not know? Its people don’t know God, and they don’t know the Bible because they won’t listen to God and to His messengers, and they have caused Him to go away.
“Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsakenthe Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. Why should ye be stricken any more? …” (verses 4-5). God is pleading with us: Why should you be stricken any more? Why not listen to me and solve these problems?
Will you listen to God, so you don’t have to suffer?
Sick Head, Faint Heart
Isaiah 1:5 concludes by saying, “[Y]e will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.”
The “head” refers to the leaders of modern Israel. God says “the whole head is sick”! The minds of our leaders are sick with wrong human reasoning that is deceitful and anti-God! Their decisions are perverse and leading to greater and greater calamities!
Authorities in Baltimore decided to give protesters “space” to commit lawless acts. Then they hastily indicted six police officers who had been involved in Freddie Gray’s death, charging them with murder and manslaughter. These charges were very severe and will probably be reduced or disproved in court. Why such harsh charges? To try to pacify the crowd. The angry mob was howling for the blood of these policemen. The Baltimore state attorney, Marilyn Mosby, essentially gave them the indictments they were looking for and expected them to calm down.
It appears that decision was made out of fear of the rioters—if it wasn’t a racially motivated effort to “seek justice” at the expense of the law. State and federal authorities tried to show themselves sympathetic to the criminals—even more than to the innocent people of Baltimore!
Whatever their reasons for doing so, the big lesson this sent to protesters and agitators across the country was clear: Lawlessness gets results. Violent protests are a legitimate, effective means of seeking justice.
What a dangerous example and precedent! Already you can see how each time a high-profile case like this hits the news, public anger boils to the surface faster and more aggressively than the time before. There is a rising sense among a growing portion of the population that the inequalities and injustices in society must be met with violence!
At the same time, decisions like the one to have police “stand down,” or to make an example of these six policemen, destroy the morale of the nation’s law enforcers. Certainly there is no excuse for police brutality. But how many good policemen will fear to do their jobs—jobs that are sure to become even more dangerous as disorder intensifies—knowing the state might side with the criminals, or knowing they could be unjustly prosecuted? The institution that protects and preserves the stability of America’s cities is being undermined and weakened.
“The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint,” God says. In the face of such problems, our people have become fainthearted—too cowardly to do what needs to be done. We are afraid of almost everything, it seems, because we don’t know God and don’t let Him empower us and give us the courage we need.
More and more we are seeing local law enforcement being taken over by the federal government. This too is extremely dangerous. The current presidential administration has done a lot to inflame the racial problems throughout the country. Practically everything it does when it intervenes makes the problems worse!
Look now at this lightning-bolt prophecy—explaining the terrible consequences of our grave national sins: “Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers” (Isaiah 1:7).
This prophecy is a guarantee that our national problems are going to get worse if we don’t listen to God! He is pleading with us to hear His message, to listen to Him and to fear Him. But we, God’s own Church and His own nations of Israel, refuse. As a result, the degeneration continues to get much worse very rapidly.
In the last five years, about $1.8 billion of stimulus money was spent on Baltimore for education, teachers’ unions, and employment and social benefits. Did that solve Baltimore’s problems? No—the crises grew worse.
Money is not the solution, and it never has been. The problems go much deeper than that.
God is trying to help us see that something is frighteningly wrong! He says,Don’t point fingers at the leaders, because you’re all to blame!
That is not a smooth message, but it is the truth. God blames us all! We are trying to solve these problems our way, and it simply cannot be done.
Anciently Israel was known as “Zion” (e.g. Psalm 9:11; 132:13). In Isaiah 1:8 it talks about “the daughter of Zion.” That is another indication that this is a prophecy—not for Israel in Isaiah’s time but for the modern descendants of Israel.
Spiritually, Zion applies to God’s own Church.
This verse prophesies that “the daughter of Zion” will be “left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.” This is a poetic description of modern Israel’s destruction: Our nations will be like a little hut after all the harvest is over—abandoned and desolate. That is true of the Work of God in His rebellious Church, and also of America, the great superpower of Israel. They have no impact like they should because they have departed from God and sought after smooth things and deceits that are anti-God.
“Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah” (verse 9). Spiritually, God leaves a very small remnant that does what God says and tells it like it is.
“Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah” (verse 10). Hearwhat God has to say! Do you hear it? God says conditions will get so bad that you are going to hear, but for most people it will be too late physically. We need to hear the truth of God as never before, because it’s getting bad in many ways. We need to hear what God speaks—and He does speak to us if we will hear!
Here is what happens because of our sins: “And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood” (verse 15). God is addressing His own rebellious Church that isn’t delivering His message—the hands of those people are full of blood because of it. They’re largely responsible for the sin out there.
But He is also talking to the people in the nations of Israel who are praying to God for help and answers. He says, If you’re not hearing my message, I will not hear those prayers. Even if you pray many prayers and look so righteous, if you don’t do what I tell you, I will not hear you.
That is an “unsmooth” truth! This is a super-critical verse because it shows why the nations of Israel do not have God’s power. There was a time when this prophecy would strike fear in our minds, but not anymore. Most people respond with a scoffing attitude.
The number one need we have is God’s power, yet God says it is sadly lacking in our nations and most of His Church members. But God gives power to His very elect to do great things, to do heroic exploits (Daniel 11:32).
The Apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). Paul was a powerful man because God empowered him through His Spirit. That is the way it should be for our people today.
‘Come and Reason With Me’
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow …” (Isaiah 1:18). God says that if we will just listen to Him and hear what He has to say, our sins will become like white wool.
“If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” (verses 19-20). The rioters and violent protesters may think they will come out of this as the victors, but God says no. Your enemies from without are going to exploit the division, violence and anarchy within your nation! There won’t beany winners from within the nation! That is what God is saying.
Bible prophecies make clear that even worse and more violent protests and riots are going to erupt in American cities. This will fatally weaken the nation and lead to curses of a far greater magnitude!
We must heed what God says in this book of Isaiah! God warns that we are going to have to suffer until we get this message! There is no other way out!
But you also must see the bigger picture. Those individuals who do respond and heed God’s warning, He will protect. He doesn’t want people to suffer through these things. And we must all see that these burning cities are prophesied to occur in the very last days of America’s existence as a strong world power—which is actually right before the Messiah comes to this Earth to rule it!
Yes, America’s burning cities presage the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to this Earth! This is all a sign that His return is imminent!
When He returns, He will end all racism and injustice permanently. He will rule this world with a rod of iron and with His love!