2 Esdras 16 Revised Standard Version (RSV)
16 Woe to you, Babylon and Asia! Woe to you, Egypt and Syria! 2 Gird yourselves with sackcloth and haircloth, and wail for your children, and lament for them; for your destruction is at hand. 3 The sword has been sent upon you, and who is there to turn it back? 4 A fire has been sent upon you, and who is there to quench it? 5 Calamities have been sent upon you, and who is there to drive them away? 6 Can one drive off a hungry lion in the forest, or quench a fire in the stubble, when once it has begun to burn? 7 Can one turn back an arrow shot by a strong archer? 8 The Lord God sends calamities, and who will drive them away? 9 Fire will go forth from his wrath, and who is there to quench it? 10 He will flash lightning, and who will not be afraid? He will thunder, and who will not be terrified? 11 The Lord will threaten, and who will not be utterly shattered at his presence? 12 The earth and its foundations quake, the sea is churned up from the depths, and its waves and the fish also shall be troubled at the presence of the Lord and before the glory of his power. 13 For his right hand that bends the bow is strong, and his arrows that he shoots are sharp and will not miss when they begin to be shot to the ends of the world. 14 Behold, calamities are sent forth and shall not return until they come over the earth. 15 The fire is kindled, and shall not be put out until it consumes the foundations of the earth. 16 Just as an arrow shot by a mighty archer does not return, so the calamities that are sent upon the earth shall not return. 17 Alas for me! Alas for me! Who will deliver me in those days?
The Horror of the Last Days
18 The beginning of sorrows, when there shall be much lamentation; the beginning of famine, when many shall perish; the beginning of wars, when the powers shall be terrified; the beginning of calamities, when all shall tremble. What shall they do in these circumstances, when the calamities come? 19 Behold, famine and plague, tribulation and anguish are sent as scourges for the correction of men. 20 Yet for all this they will not turn from their iniquities, nor be always mindful of the scourges. 21 Behold, provision will be so cheap upon earth that men will imagine that peace is assured for them, and then the calamities shall spring up on the earth—the sword, famine, and great confusion. 22 For many of those who live on the earth shall perish by famine; and those who survive the famine shall die by the sword. 23 And the dead shall be cast out like dung, and there shall be no one to console them; for the earth shall be left desolate, and its cities shall be demolished. 24 No one shall be left to cultivate the earth or to sow it. 25 The trees shall bear fruit, and who will gather it? 26 The grapes shall ripen, and who will tread them? For in all places there shall be great solitude; 27 one man will long to see another, or even to hear his voice. 28 For out of a city, ten shall be left; and out of the field, two who have hidden themselves in thick groves and clefts in the rocks. 29 As in an olive orchard three or four olives may be left on every tree, 30 or as when a vineyard is gathered some clusters may be left by those who search carefully through the vineyard, 31 so in those days three or four shall be left by those who search their houses with the sword. 32 And the earth shall be left desolate, and its fields shall be for briers, and its roads and all its paths shall bring forth thorns, because no sheep will go along them. 33 Virgins shall mourn because they have no bridegrooms; women shall mourn because they have no husbands; their daughters shall mourn, because they have no helpers. 34 Their bridegrooms shall be killed in war, and their husbands shall perish of famine.
God’s People Must Prepare for the End
35 Listen now to these things, and understand them, O servants of the Lord. 36 Behold the word of the Lord, receive it; do not disbelieve what the Lord says.[a] 37 Behold, the calamities draw near, and are not delayed. 38 Just as a woman with child, in the ninth month, when the time of her delivery draws near, has great pains about her womb for two or three hours beforehand, and when the child comes forth from the womb, there will not be a moment’s delay, 39 so the calamities will not delay in coming forth upon the earth, and the world will groan, and pains will seize it on every side.
40 “Hear my words, O my people; prepare for battle, and in the midst of the calamities be like strangers on the earth. 41 Let him that sells be like one who will flee; let him that buys be like one who will lose; 42 let him that does business be like one who will not make a profit; and let him that builds a house be like one who will not live in it; 43 let him that sows be like one who will not reap; so also him that prunes the vines, like one who will not gather the grapes; 44 them that marry, like those who will have no children; and them that do not marry, like those who are widowed. 45 Because those who labor, labor in vain; 46 for strangers shall gather their fruits, and plunder their goods, and overthrow their houses, and take their children captive; for in captivity and famine they will beget their children. 47 Those who conduct business, do it only to be plundered; the more they adorn their cities, their houses and possessions, and their persons, 48 the more angry I will be with them for their sins,” says the Lord. 49 Just as a respectable and virtuous woman abhors a harlot, 50 so righteousness shall abhor iniquity, when she decks herself out, and shall accuse her to her face, when he comes who will defend him who searches out every sin on earth.
The Power and Wisdom of God
51 Therefore do not be like her or her works. 52 For behold, just a little while, and iniquity will be removed from the earth, and righteousness will reign over us. 53 Let no sinner say that he has not sinned; for God[b] will burn coals of fire on the head of him who says, “I have not sinned before God and his glory.” 54 Behold, the Lord knows all the works of men, their imaginations and their thoughts and their hearts. 55 He said, “Let the earth be made,” and it was made; “Let the heaven be made,” and it was made. 56 At his word the stars were fixed, and he knows the number of the stars. 57 It is he who searches the deep and its treasures, who has measured the sea and its contents; 58 who has enclosed the sea in the midst of the waters, and by his word has suspended the earth over the water; 59 who has spread out the heaven like an arch, and founded it upon the waters; 60 who has put springs of water in the desert, and pools on the tops of the mountains, to send rivers from the heights to water the earth; 61 who formed man, and put a heart in the midst of his body, and gave him breath and life and understanding 62 and the spirit of Almighty God; who made all things and searches out hidden things in hidden places. 63 Surely he knows your imaginations and what you think in your hearts! Woe to those who sin and want to hide their sins! 64 Because the Lord will strictly examine all their works, and will make a public spectacle of all of you. 65 And when your sins come out before men, you shall be put to shame; and your own iniquities shall stand as your accusers in that day. 66 What will you do? Or how will you hide your sins before God and his angels? 67 Behold, God is the judge, fear him! Cease from your sins, and forget your iniquities, never to commit them again; so God will lead you forth and deliver you from all tribulation.
Impending Persecution of God’s People
68 For behold, the burning wrath of a great multitude is kindled over you, and they shall carry off some of you and shall feed you what was sacrificed to idols. 69 And those who consent to eat shall be held in[c] derision and contempt, and be trodden under foot. 70 For in many places[d] and in neighboring cities there shall be a great insurrection against those who fear the Lord. 71 They shall be like mad men, sparing no one, but plundering and destroying those who continue to fear the Lord. 72 For they shall destroy and plunder their goods, and drive them out of their houses. 73 Then the tested quality of my elect shall be manifest, as gold that is tested by fire.
Promise of Divine Deliverance
74 “Hear, my elect,” says the Lord. “Behold, the days of tribulation are at hand, and I will deliver you from them. 75 Do not fear or doubt, for God is your guide. 76 You who keep my commandments and precepts,” says the Lord God, “do not let your sins pull you down, or your iniquities prevail over you.” 77 Woe to those who are choked by their sins and overwhelmed by their iniquities, as a field is choked with underbrush and its path[e] overwhelmed with thorns, so that no one can pass through! 78 It is shut off and given up to be consumed by fire.