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Isaiah 65:17-25? Earthly Millennium? Or Eternal State?

eschatology q and a.jpg

Eschatology Q and A.

Question 1:  One of the trickiest passages to interpret from any eschatological viewpoint is Isaiah 65:17-25--especially verse 20.  What is your view on the meaning of this passage?

Question 2:  I was glad to see the question re: Isa. 65:17-25, particularly v. 20.  I remain convinced that the amil position easily does most justice to the whole counsel of God. It seems to me that there's nigh-well an avalanche of problems with the pre-mil (and post-mil) position(s), as well as a comparable avalanche of passages supportive of the amil (two age) scheme. Furthermore, regardless of the meaning of Isa. 65:20ff (and parallels), I see nothing in these verses that matches what's going on in Rev. 20:1-10. Just as the Isaiah passage says nothing about a millennium, so Rev. 20 says nothing about people bearing children, building houses, etc.

But the precise meaning of Isa. 65:20ff eludes me, in terms of what the best way of understanding Isaiah's point is. Is Isaiah conflating something in the present age with something in eternity? Or is he simply speaking non-literally so as to employ language in a way that accentuates the glorious conditions of the new heavens and earth? I anxiously await your response!


Kim Riddlebarger’s answer:

According to dispensationalists, Isaiah is referring to the millennial age on earth during the 1000 year reign of Christ after his return to earth (cf. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, 487-490). For reasons we will soon explore this cannot be the case.

According to postmillennarians, this passage this passage refers to the latter day glory of the church on the earth. John Jefferson Davis writes, "the blessings of the church’s latter-day glory spoken of in Isaiah 11:6-9 are reiterated and expanded in Isaiah 65:17-25. The intensified period of spiritual blessing produces conditions in the world that are termed `new heavens and a new earth.’ (V. 17). This refers to the dramatic moral renovation of society rather than to the eternal state, since Isaiah speaks of a time when children are still being born (v. 20), when people are still building houses and planting vineyards (v. 21) and engaging in their earthly labors (v. 22). Paul uses similar language when he says that salvation in Christ is like a `new creation’ (2 Cor. 5:17), or again in Gal. 6:15, `for neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.’ The conditions of health and temporal peace of which Isaiah speaks in 65:17-25 are not the essence of the gospel, but they are properly the consequences of the gospel when its impact is intensive and extensive in the world. The message of reconciliation with God also produces as its fruit reconciliation between man and man and even with the natural order itself. It should also be noted that 65:17-25 makes no reference to the Messiah’s physical presence on earth. In the latter days, God desires to create in Jerusalem (the church) a rejoicing (v. 18). But the realities of verses 18-25 refer neither exclusively to the eternal state nor to the time following the second advent, but rather to the messianic age when Christ still rules at the right hand of the Father in heaven." (Cf. John Jefferson Davis, The Victory of Christ’s Kingdom: An Introduction to Postmillennialism [Canon Press], 37-38).

For four important reasons, I think both the premil and postmil interpretations stumble badly.

First, as Motyer points out, Isaiah 65:1-66:24 is a chiasm, in terms of its structure. This simply means that the logic of the passage flows from the opening verse (Isaiah 65:1–A1) and the final verses (66:18-21-A2)–both of which deal with those who have not heard nor sought the Lord–toward the middle of the chiasm, i.e. A1 (65:1), B1 (vv. 2-7), C1 (vv. 8-10), D1 (vv.11-12) E (vv. 13-25), D2 (66:1-4), C2 (66:5-14), B2 (66:15-17), A2 (18-21). In this case, Isaiah 65:13-25-E is the middle of the chiasm, and is therefore the central theme of the entire prophecy and speaks of the joy of the Lord’s servants in the new creation. This means that the central truth (or high point) of this entire prophecy is found in the middle of the chiasm, not the end (vv. 66:22-24), which speaks of Jerusalem as the center of the world. (See J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary [IVP], 522-523).

The point is this. The key part of the whole passage is the section in question (vv. 17-25) which deals with the new creation with its Zion. Steps A1-D1 and A2-D2 must be fulfilled before the hoped-for reality (E) comes to pass. Given the structure of the prophecy as a whole, the climax of the passage is the eternal state (the new heavens and earth), not a half-way redeemed earth in which people experience life-extension, only to die later on.

Second, verses 17-20 of Isaiah 65 are composed of two poems. One is a poem of the new creation (vv. 17-18b), the other is a poem of the city and its people (vv. 18c-20). As Motyer points out, "throughout this passage Isaiah uses aspects of present life to create impressions of the life that is yet to come. It will be a life totally provided for (13), totally happy (19cd), totally secure (22-23) and totally at peace (24-25). Things we have no real capacity to understand can be expressed only through things we know and experience. So it is that in the present order of things death cuts off life before it has begun or before it has fully matured. But it will not be so then" (Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, 530). In other words, metaphors are used of things neither we nor Isaiah can fully understand. The poetic structure surely points in this direction.

Third, as Meredith Kline points out, the language here reflects covenantal blessings now magnified in light of new heavens and earth. These blessings take us well beyond the natural order, but can only be understood in light of the natural order (Kline, Kingdom Prologue,152-153).

Fourth, is Isaiah telling us that as a result of the spread of the gospel ("moral renovation" in Jefferson’s terms), people will live longer, only to die? Where does the gospel promise long life? It promises eternal life! In fact, isn’t the whole point of prophecy clearly stated in verse 17. "I will create new heavens and a new earth?" This is a time subsequent to Revelation 20:1-10, which describes the binding of Satan and the reign of the saints in heaven after suffering upon the earth, only to end in a great apostasy before the final judgment. Both pre and post millennarians must assign this prophecy to the same period of time as Revelation 20. But given the chiastic structure and use of metaphor, isn’t it far better to see Isaiah 65:17-25 as describing the same time frame as Revelation 21, which is clearly describing the eternal state? I certainly think so.


More questions and answers are archived here, Click here: Riddleblog - Answers to Questions About Eschatology

Reader Comments (24)

i'd like to propose a modest challenge. i am wondering if dr. riddlebarger could give a succinct synopsis of amil eschatology, one that would fit into a post. my interest is in getting a nice, packed but succinct summary for someone like me who wants the "skinny any good reformed person should have." eschatology is not one of my principal interests so i don't have specific questions about this pasage or that verse. but i do appreciate its importance enough to make this request.

maybe he'll just tell me to buy his books!
June 27, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterzrim
Thank you Kim! Its only been 30 some years now that no one we've ever known could explain those passages and make anything but a mess out of them!! It has been a big question in our heads for to long now. As you know we are Amill, but never knew the answer to that question. Thank you again for the answer, and who ever asked the question........GOOD QUESTION TO ASK!!
June 27, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterplw

I'll do it for him: Buy "A Case for Amillenialism."


/maniacal laughter off
June 27, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterwalt
Dr. Kim, Amen!
June 27, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRick B.

As a Premil I must tell you that you have outlined my view. The context cannot be avoided and must not be avoided. I think Premils often make more for their (my) case than Scripture allows or indicates, and this is the great danger. I look forward to the fulfilment of these conditions and those of Rev. 21 only when there are the new heavens and new earth.

Keep on in your labors.

Russ Atmore
June 28, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRuss Atmore
It is pretty clear to me that John follows Isaiah in describing the new heavens and the new earth. As Dr. Riddlebarger correctly points out, this is no description of a dispensationalist millennium.

1. New Heavens and New Earth

Isaiah 65:17
17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.

Revelation 21:1
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.

2. New Jerusalem

Isaiah 65:18
18 “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing And her people for gladness.

Revelation 21:2
2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.

3. No More Crying

Isaiah 65:19
19 “I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people; And there will no longer be heard in her The voice of weeping and the sound of crying.

Revelation 21:4
4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

4. No More Death*

Isaiah 65:20
20 “No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, Or an old man who does not live out his days; For the youth will die at the age of one hundred And the one who does not reach the age of one hundred Will be thought accursed.

Revelation 21:4
4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

5. God is Present

Isaiah 65:24
24 “It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.

Revelation 21:22
22 I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

6. No More Evil

Isaiah 65:25
25 “The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,” says the LORD.

Revelation 21:27
27 and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

* Context indicates that the language of “living out his days” and being “thought accursed” when dying “at one hundred” are poetic devices to describe everlasting life in a place where there is no more crying or evil or harm or curse (cf., vv. 19, 22, 25)
June 28, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMarcelo Souza
<i>Jerusalem (the church)</i>

Isn't this illustrative of the main issue? What exegetical warrant in Isaiah is there to understand "Jerusalem" as the church? Is that what Isaiah meant? Is that what his readers/hearers would have understood? I think we have to answer that with a resounding no.

With respect to Dr. Riddlebarger, I have a hard time understanding how this type of hermeneutic can stand. On what basis do we simply start redefining words such as "Jerusalem"?

Having just done a study in the minor prophets, I am amazed yet again at how many clear references there are to the restoration of the people who were previoujsly rejected, to the land from which they were evicted. It seems to me that the amill position rests on a willingness to redefine the very words that God inspired without any exegetical basis.

The Isaiah 65 passage may be unclear in its particular referent, but surely we can all acknowledge that the premill position does not depend on Isaiah 65.
June 28, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterlarry
Sorry I didn't finish my thought. My point about the minor prophets is that the people who are restored are those who were evicted. That was not the church. The church was never evicted because of disobedience.

The land from which they were evicted and will be restored to is not the eternal state or a state of spiritual blessing. It is a definable piece of real estate (Gen 15:18), repeated in the pre-exilic, exilic, and post-exilic prophets. How can this land refer to anything other than 'the land'? How can the restoration of Israel refer to people who are explicitly called "not Israel"?

I would love to be able to understand at least where you are coming from, but in all my reading I have never found reasonable answer to this, from OT Allis right on down the line. How can this be?
June 28, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterlarry
Two thoughts:

(1) "zrim's" suggestion (comment 1) is a good one. Whenever I consider the feasibility of two mutually contradictory explanations of a set of data, I look for the following: (a) the presence of evidence in favor of theory B; (b) the absence of evidence against theory B; (c) the absence of evidence in favor of theory A; and (d) the presence of evidence against theory A. When these four factors line up, it's pretty easy to leave theory A for theory B!

I was raised and schooled in traditional dispensational thought, but abandoned it in full a couple of decades ago, including the pre-trib rapture theory. Fairly recently, I also abandoned the historic pre-mil view in favor of the a-mil view. In my opinion, the evidence from God's Word was simply overwhelming. The evidence in support of the a-mil posiiton began to mount up and take on the shape of an avalanche (with very little if anything counting against the a-mil position), and the evidence I once viewed as supportive of the pre-mil position went "poof" when I examined that evidence more closely ... furthermore, I witnessed an accumulation of a great deal of evidence prohibitive of a pre-mil scheme.

I've developed hundreds of pages of arguments re: both the rapture and millennial issues, and concluded my studies by categorizing the various arguments in each of these four logical categories for both of the issues at hand. It's a great exercise in thinking, and I bet many could easily plot out their thoughts on such a grid, thus making for a system that helps jog one's memory as to the exegetical and theological justification for or against various eschatological positions.

So I like the idea of a simple and succinct statement of the case for amillennialism.

(2) "larry's" concern (comments 7 & 8), I can empathize, having once been a classic dispy (Oh, it hurts to say that though!). But here's what's helped me. I had always thought that a-mils either utterly jettisoned God's promises to Israel, or found some other way to dispense with them (e.g., by saying that they were conditional promises [and since Israel disobeyed, God was no longer obligated], or that they'd already been completely fulfilled [such as occupation of the land in the OT], or that they were simply being fulfilled in a figurative/metaphorical/spiritual way by the church). I especially struggled with the idea that God would give to the church what was once Israel's, etc.

But none of these things concern me any longer. Why not? Because I believe that: (a) God's promise/fulfillment plan is both already and not yet: partial fulfillment in the present, and complete fulfillment in the future; and (perhaps even more importantly (b) God is not in the business of subtracting promises from the Jews re: their land, etc. ... but is rather in the business of adding to those promises - in the sense that Gentiles as well as Jews are God's people, and the whole earth as well as the Land of Palestine will be the possession of God's people, etc.

Now I have a hard time wondering how I ever thought that God could "dump" into a 1000 year post-second advent period a kingdom that is PERFECT and ETERNAL! The 1000 years of Rev. 20 is surely IMPERFECT and TEMPORAL! The way I see it, God promised His people an everlasting possession; and as Hoekema, Venema, Riddlebarger and others have pointed out, it seems much more reasonable to see this occurring in the new heavens AND NEW EARTH, rather than a 1000 year period which ends in massive sin and death, etc.

To me it all boils down to honoring God's Word. As Peter said, parts of the Bible are difficult to understand; but I prefer to focus on the plain and the perspicuous, rather than on the obscure. Once one sees what Rev. 20 is and is not saying, and how it does and does not relate to various time periods in God's plan for the ages, and once one sees how connected the Isaiah 65/66 and Rev. 21/22 passages are, a great deal falls into place for me.

Thanks to Kim for his excellent insights!

Wayne Rohde
June 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterWayne Rohde

Having gone through your four steps many times in the past years trying to understand this I have concluded exactly the opposite. To me, it is about honoring the word and I really struggle to see how amill honors the word in this area.

You say it is not about taking away promises but adding them. I am fine with that. But the promises cannot be less. They must be more.

So the promise of God to restore Israel to the land from which they were evicted and to give them peace from their enemies cannot be fulfilled by anything less than that. National, genetic Jews must live in peace in the land defined by Gen 15:18, or God has not kept his promise, it seems to me. God may indeed do more for them. But can he really do less?

That is the struggle I have here. And no one I have seen seems to give this a reasonable answer.

Do you believe that national Israel will be regathered in the "promised land" to live in peace from all their enemies?
June 29, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterlarry
Larry, Have you read Kims book on the amill view?
June 29, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterplw
Hi Larry,

I'd love to pass on the specifics relative to the "four catgories" as well as your very good question. And I hope to do so in the near future.

Right now I'm swamped with work, but keep after me, and I'll try my best to answer your concerns.

It is not a tad ironic that both sides seem to think all the points line up in their favor! One would think that perhaps there'd be a split decision!

I went from my premil position to the amil position in stages: classic dispensational to progressive dispensational to historic dispensational to amillennial. In the end, what the NT says about the two ages (the present age and the age to come - along with the very important particulars), as well as what key passages say about the defeat of death, the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment, and the coming of the new heavens and earth all combined to move me from a "reluctant" premil position (based essentially on Rev. 20, and partly on Isa. 65/66) to the amil position.

What happened is that I began to see indicators that what Rev. 20 says about the 1000 years has nothing to do with Jews, their land, etc. (e.g., no mention there of Abrahamic, Davidic, New or Palestinian covenants) ... and that the beginning, middle and end of this 1000 years is best correlated with the present interadvent age, terminating in the return of Christ. In other words, the 1000 years has reference to the present interadvent age, and has nothing to do with the Jews and their land.

At one and the same time, I saw that God's promises to Israel, including the many OT covenants, though partially fulfilled in the present interadvent age, could not possibly be fulfilled in an imperfect and finite 1000 year period, but only in a perfect and eternal new heaven and earth. For example: Didn't God promise Israel the land forever? How can that take place in 1000 years? For another example: Didn't He promise a glorious kingdom? And yet think of the evil and death and judgment at the end of Rev. 20's 1000 years! What kind of Messianic kingdom is this if this finite and very imperfect time is the glorious hope of the ages? The words of Hoekema, in particular, about the new earth as strategic in this fulfillment, made a huge impact on my thinking.

More and more I saw the 1000 years of Rev. 20, and the things that are dumped into them by classic dispensationalists (i.e., pretty much all the OT promises), as NOT being fulfilled at all in a conjectured gap of 1000 years between the second advent of Jesus and the arrival of the new heavens and earth (something ruled out, in my opinion, by what the NT teaches about death, resurrection and judgment - in relation to the two ages), BUT as being fulfilled either in the present age before Christ's return ... or in the future age after His return ... or BOTH, in an already/not yet sense, where the present aspect of fulfillment is the harbinger of the final aspect.

Another key that really unlocked all of this for me was a more in-depth study of the first and second resurrections and first and second deaths in Rev. 20. More and more, the idea that the two resurrections had to be identical (i.e., physical) resurrections vanished (the two deaths are certainly not the same!), and more and more a beautiful symmetry emerged as I saw the first resurrection as linked to believers dying to ascend to heaven, and the second resurrection as linked to unbelievers rising to descend to hell.

I know these are bare assertions. I'd be happy to forward to you a journal that I wrote over the course of a few months, as I studied on key passage and doctrine after another on the subject.

As for your concern for God's promises to Israel re: her land, I have no desire to jettison or spiritualize such promises. But I place great stock in Eph. 2, and what it says about the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile being broken down at the cross. And I see evidence that Jew and Gentile are forever God's one people, including in the book of Revelation.

I don't pretend that every problem is solved in my amil view. But I do think that the combination of OT and NT arguments that argue for no gap between the second advent and the eternal state, as well as the arrival of the eternal state at the second advent, without a necessary multiplication of resurrections and judgments (typical esp. of the pretrib view, but also necessary for a premil view), and plenty of fulfillment in the present and/or in the perfect and eternal future that there's no need for a 1000 year gap following Christ's return, blended with a genuine fulfillment of every last promise of God ... but in eternity, rather than something short of it --including, as I've emphasized-- a new earth, all make me feel very comfortable with the amil view.

In short, if I make a promise to John, but then grant the provisions of that promise not only John but also to George, have a slighted John in any way? And if that promise was originally focused on, say, Juneau only, but when it comes to make good on that promise I give John and George the entire state of Alaska as well, does John have any right to complain? (I'll let you guess to whom John and George refer, as well as to what Juneau and "the entire state of Alaska" refer!)

One thing we cannot escape: Whether we like it or not (and what's not to like?) the NT time and again speaks of Gentiles as even now fulfilling promises originally made to the Jews. And many OT passages are attributed to the saints of this age - the church (whether one thinks it started at Pentecost or not). We are heirs of God's promises! But I don't think this will take away one iota from all that God has promised the Jews. In one way or another, throughout all of eternity, His people will experience the perfections that were promised. Every last one of them.

Sorry for rambling, but if you send me an e-mail address, I'll get back to you backchannel. Just give me some time!


June 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterWayne Rohde
Sorry for the lapse, Larry, but I take your less/more business seriously. And I agree: it's OK for God to give more, but not less, than what He promised.

And this is PRECISELY one of many reasons I struggle with the premil view: Take the land promise to Israel as a single example. Was it not to be an everlasting possession? Then I ask, how on earth can it be fulfilled in 1000 years? It can't. You can't fit eternity into 1000 years. If the millennium is the one and only place where the OT promises to Israel are fulfilled (which is where dispys place them, claiming that neither the present age nor eternity sustains any real relationship to the OT promises ... the church being a total parenthesis, and eternity not counting since it's a new earth), then the one thing we CAN say, relative to God's promise of an everlasting possession of the land, is that God would have --given the dispy view-- ended up giving Israel LESS, FAR, FAR LESS, than He promised! 1000 years is light years from eternity.

Not trying to rub it in; just trying to convey my sentiment. I agree about the more/less business ... and in my opinion it favors an amil view that places a rightful emphasis on the earth, over any premil view which necessarily tries to pack an everlasting possession into a bare 1000 years. One could say much the same "more/less" - wise, re: the imperfections of a conjectured post-advent millennium vs. the perfections of eternity. When one stops and thinks about all the rebellion and suffering and death and judgment at the end of the 1000 years, it surely sounds a lot more to me like conditions when Christ comes back, than it does like a conjectured link to Messianic OT promises with Christ present and reigning and putting down all evil, etc.

June 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterWayne Rohde
A couple of quick comments, Wayne. Thanks for responding. My time is short.

As for the "everlasting" promise of the land, the Hebrew word is olam, which can mean everlasting or long period of time. Obviously, to me, theland promise is a "long period of time."

To use your john and george illustration, I am fine with your explanation, but youstill have to give Alaska. You can't give something else. In this case, if God gives the land to Jews and Gentiles, he still has to return them to the land, as he promised in Deut 30, and many times in the prophets. He can "bait and switch" the promise, it seems to me.

I also (obviously) disagree thatpromises made to Israel are fulfilled in teh church. I have seen that claim but it seems to always fall short of what it promises.

As for Rev 20 and the 1000 years/MK, there are several reasons why it exegetically cannot be now, among which are that Satan is bound during the thousand years but is presently walking around deceiving people (1 Cor 14; 1 Peter 5). I don't see how those things can be reconciled. The fact that the covenants are not mentioned in Rev 20 hardly seems to negate the MK as the fulfillment of those covenants. A biblical passage need to fully explicate everything connected with the idea of a passage. We do not expect John 3:16 to fully explicate the atonement. In fact, it doesn't even mention the atonement. Yet by theological correlation we understand that the atonement is implicit in John 3:16. So to rule out the MK because Rev 20 doesn't mention covenant promises seems not to be convincing to me.

But again, I just run for now.
June 30, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterlarry
My last post should read "He can't bait and switch."

June 30, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterlarry
Hi Larry,

I appreciate your points. Again, if you could get me your email we could dialogue at our leisure, backchannel.

But I do have just a couple seconds to explain what I believe in answer to your posts:

1) I do not think God is doing a "bait & switch." I see no reason why the land promises cannot have their ultimate fulfillment in the new earth.

2) I think it's very clear that there is continuity between the OT and the NT by way of promise and fulfillment. To put it like I really think, the idea that the present age bears no connection to the OT promises, but is some kind of intercalation between OT promise and fulfillment in a post-parousia millennium seems, to me, to fly in the face of --to cite just two examples-- Galatians and Hebrews.

Think of it this way: the Abrahamic covenant was given to Abraham, and the new covenant was given to Israel ... but Gal. 3 makes it clear that all believers in the present age are sons of Abraham, etc. And Heb. 8 makes it clear that the old covenant has already been rendered obsolete and that the new covenant has already been enacted. Jesus instituted the new covenant through His substitutionary, sacrificial death (I Cor. 11), and Paul minsitered as an apostle of the new covenant (II Cor. 3). Futhermore, passages like I Pet. 2 apply OT terminology about Israel to NT Christians. Surely this points to a measure of continuity! Surely we cannot say that we as Christians sustain no relationship to what God promised in the OT!

I'm not saying that the present age exhausts the fulfillment of OT promises. It doesn't. There's also a not yet aspect that can and will be fulfilled in the new heavens and earth. It's just that: (a) I'm seeing less and less reason for the need for a post-parousia millennium - with promises being fulfilled either before Christ's return, or with the coming of the new heavens or earth, or both, and thus that there is NO PURPOSE for a post-advent millennium; (b) I'm seeing more and more reasons for thinking the present age continues right up to the second advent, and that the age to come commences immediately upon the second advent, and thus that there is NO ROOM for a millennium between Christ's second advent and the renovation of the universe - i.e., no intervening time between the present age and the age to come; (c) I'm seeing more and more cues that tell me the 1000 years of Rev. 20 have NOTHING to do with what dispensationalists try to pack into them (again, look at the disconnect between the provisions of the OT covenants, and what Rev. 20 actually says about the 1000 years ... as well as the disconnect between what premillennialists say is in the millennium, and what Rev. 20 actually says about the millennium), and that, instead, it has EVERYTHING to do with the present interadvent age (based on what Rev. 20 says about the beginning, continuance and end of the 1000 years, and based as well on a rethink of what the first resurrection and second death are all about). Which leads to...

3) I agree that the particulars in Rev. 20 re: the 1000 years are important. I also concur that Satan is prowling about like a roaring lion, etc. But in another sense, Jesus' first advent was the doing in of Satan (cf. Mt. 12 re: Satan's binding during Jesus' earthly ministry, and Heb. 2 re: his being rendered powerless at the cross, etc.). Furthermore, the conclusion of the 1000 years matches, I believe, what other passages in the very book of Revelation say about the battle that ensues at the very time Christ returns - not 1000 years later.

4) As just one of many examples of why I don't see a premil position as even a viable option is a consideration of I Cor. 15. The early part of the chapter speaks of the resurrection of Christ and believers, and I realize that people continue to debate whether "then comes the end" allows for a millennium after the resurrection or not; however, the end of I Cor. 15 PINPOINTS the defeat of death as being at the time of Christ's return! Not 1000 years later! The eschatology of II Pet. 3 is consistent. So is the Olivet Discourse (think esp. of the final pericope in Mt. 25, and the way it ties the judgment to Christ's return). One can make a comparable case from II Thes. 1. And I'd love to talk about a number of other threads, in key passage after passage, such as what the NT says about the timing of the resurrection of the dead, and the timing of the judgment of the dead, etc., etc., etc. ... and it all seems to me to be PINPOINTING these events as occurring precisely at the glorious second advent of Christ! Not 1000 years later!

Again, these are just statements on my part, not proof. I'm just sharing the tip of the iceberg re: my thinking. Sort of a framework, that's all. Giving adequate documentation of the above points takes a lot of space and time and energy!

I'd give anyone who's thinking about the millennial issue the very same challenge I'd give to anyone thinking about the rapture issue: Look at any of the key eschatological passages in the NT (such as Mt. 24/25; Mk. 13; Lk. 17/21; I Thes. 4/5; II Thes. 1/2; II Pet. 3; Rev.) and ask yourself: "Is there any place in any of these passages where the rapture is placed seven years before Christ's glorious second advent??? And is there any place in any of these passages (other than what I consider to be a mistaken view of Rev. 20) where the resurrection and judgment of the unsaved and the arrival of the new heavens and earth occur 1000 years after Christ's parousia???" I think the evidence is crystal clear!

And yet I still think that I honor Rev. 20, and that I honor the OT promises. Why the OT promises cannot be fulfilled in either the present age ... or the new heavens/earth ... or both (in an already/not yet sense) is beyond me! So our disagreement is not over the fact that God will fulfill such promises, but over the time when and way in which He will do so.

So, that's just what I'm thinking for now!

Hopefully we can continue our conversation with great profit!

June 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterWayne Rohde
It's tough to quit this discussion!

But I thought of one more thing that addresses a couple of issues in your comment, Larry, and it's the passage in II Pet. 3 about Jesus' return and the destruction of the present heaven and earth and consequent arrival of the new heaven and earth.

Why is this passage important? For two reasons:

1) It shows that whereas you're absolutely right that any one passage need not speak to every issue concerning a given doctrine (what passage does?) for it to be linked to particular doctrine (you mentioned Jn. 3:16 as example), a passage can address an issue in such a way as to RULE OUT various possible theories.

Here's what I mean in reference to II Pet. 3. There's is no mention of a millennium between the present h/e and the new h/e. One might say that Peter just neglected to mention the millennium, but that another passage in the Bible (Rev. 20) necessitates one. HOWEVER: My read of II Pet. 3 is not only that a new h/e is coming, but that it will come IN THE DAY OF THE LORD. So, the time is pinpointed, leaving no possibility of an intervening millennium. It's not just that the text omits mention of a millennium; it actually is prohibitive of there being one!

Again, the text refers to the day of the Lord "in which" the old h/e will be destroyed, and the new h/e will come, etc.

I fully realize that many think that the day of the Lord covers the millennium, and that pretribbers think it stretches over 1007 years in duration. But is this literal exegesis, for those who say they take the Bible literally??? (And why, if as "Ds" say, we must take 1000 literally in Rev. 20, we need not take what they say about Daniel's 70th week in the time, times and half a time of Rev. literally??? What gives the freedom to pick and choose??? Why must 1000 years be 1000 years ... when "Ds" themselves make a day into 1000 or 1007 years, and a week into 7 years???)

2) Many assume that the destruction of the present heavens and earth means utter annihilation. As if the present order will be vaporized. But we all know that there are other passages that speak of the earth remaining forever, and, more importantly, in II Pet. 3 itself the framework is one of three periods of time: the old h/e, the present h/e, the new h/e ... where the first and second are separated by the flood, and the second and third are separated by the coming fire. We know that when God "destroyed" the world of Noah's day that He did not wipe it out of existence! Rather, it was purged, renovated, etc. Why cannot this be the case when it comes to what happens to the renovation of the current order in reference to our anticipation of the new heavens and earth?

The point is more than quibbling. At the heart of much "D" thinking is the idea that the land promises to Israel cannot possibly be fulfilled in the new h/e. Why not? Again, why not??? Noah was saved from one era and passed into the next. Why cannot the Jews be in their land, yet in the new h/e in regard to the ultimate fulfillment of the promises made to them? Will the new earth be any less the earth God made than the present earth? (Some object by saying that these promises can only be fulfilled by people in non-glorified bodies living on an un-renovated earth. But think of this: What about all the OT Jews to whom the promises were given? What about Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, etc.? Will they be in non-glorified bodies in their land? Of course not! Even "Ds" agree that OT saints will be raised at the parousia! And surely Abraham and crew will experience the fulfillment of the promises; it's not like they'll be cut out! So why cannot God's people experience fulfillment in glorified bodies on a glorified earth???)

Once again, in all of this I have no desire to jettison OT promises. But I think it's a stretch to say Rev. 20, and Rev. 20 alone, is the place where all the promises are fulfilled.

The connection between OT promise and NT fulfillment, including in the present age, seems not only reasonable but also necessary.

There are good reasons for thinking Rev. 20 refers to the interadvent age.

There are good reasons for thinking that whereas God has fulfilled some of His promises, to a degree, in the present age, He will fullfill all of them, to the uttermost, in (of all things) the glorious new heavens and earth. I don't see why it is that the thought that God's ultimate fulfillment of His good promises cannot relate to the new heavens and earth!!!

And, as I've said, there seem to be compelling reasons for PINPOINTING the arrival of the new h/e at the second advent ... reasons and texts I'd love to get to. II Pet. 3 is just one example.

So, again, I conclude with these words: Our disagreement is not about whether or not God will fulfill His promises, but about when He will do so and how He will do so. I think there is ample evidence that we are currently seeing a degree of filfullment in the present age - in a preliminary and partial sense. And I think there is ample evidence that we will yet see utter and complete fulfillment in the new heavens and earth, and in the new heavens and earth alone (even if there were a post-advent millennium!) - in that final and full sense, that, in my view, can only take place in what is PERFECT and ETERNAL.

A big part of the problem, as I see it, is that Rev. 20 has served as an easy place to pigeon-hole all the OT promises. But Rev. 20 says nothing about those promises. And yet there's linkage between OT promise and NT fulfillment in the present age, and linkage between OT promise and the age to come.

What we need, I think, is to look at Rev. 20 more closely, and see that it just might be talking about something other than what "Ds" say it's talking about!

Enjoy the day!
June 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterWayne Rohde
Another way to approach a consideration of the millennial issues is to think about the burden of proof in this discussion.

I suppose it seems pretty convenient, now that I'm amil, to say that the burden of proof rests on those of other persuasions! But read on...

By way of example, I think it's fair to say that the burden of proof is on those who want to separate the return of Jesus into two comings (I'm obviously referring to the pretrib view). I have no desire to get into a debate about semantics, and whether or not if a pretrib rapture were true it would be fair to class it as a bona fide coming, distinct from the second coming, so as to effectively make the rapture Jesus' second coming and the parousia His third coming (though I happen to think the pretrib view amounts to this!). Rather, what I'm getting at is that I think all sides would admit that the Bible nowhere speaks explicitly of a return of Jesus prior to an end time tribulation (or, to put it another way, prior to His parousia). The notion of a pretrib rapture is simply an inference, and in order for it to have credence, there must be supporting evidence from something other than explicit teaching. If such inferences proved to be conclusive, then the pretrib position could of course be justified. But my point is simply the PRINCIPLE that something needs to provide justifation for a theory --any theory-- in order for it to even be plausible.

(Of course I'm of the persuasion that not only is there no evidence for the pretrib view, but that passages like II Thes. 1 and II Thes. 2 pinpoint the rapture as occurring at the glorious second advent, thus RULING OUT the very possibility of a pretrib rapture!)

But back to my main point (!!!)...

Let's apply this same line of thinking to debates about the millennium. I maintain that there are only two sets of reasons for thinking there's a millennium between the present age and the age to come: (1) the belief that Rev. 20 teaches such an age; and (2) the belief that there's a period of time that's better than the present age, but not as good as the age to come, that somehow must be sandwiched between the two ages. Obviously, premils see a fit between these two ideas. Rev. 20 becomes the time and place for these "better than the present age, but not as good as the age to come" promises to be fulfilled.

But my point is this: Just because the OT contains many promises to God's people doesn't, in and of itself, mean that there must be "an age between the ages" that is the 1000 years of Rev. 20. If there were no Rev. 20, would anyone ever come up with the notion of a 1000 year period? Or with the notion of a period of some length intervening between Christ's glorious second advent and the arrival of the new heavens and earth? I don't think so!

I think, Larry, that you're correct in thinking that Rev. 20 MAY be the time when the OT promises are fulfilled. I say this in the sense that we now have the complete NT, including Rev. 20. The notion that Rev. 20 may be the very venue in which God fulfills His OT promises is certainly worthy of exploration. But...

...this brings me back to the matter of the burden of proof! And I think again of your statement about the fact that no single passage contains all the truth about a given doctrine, and yet that doesn't rule out, as you rightly point out, that a particular subject may contain a great deal of truth even though not all such truth is mentioned in every passage! (To deviate from your example a tad, surely we'd say that redemption is just as much a part of what Jesus accomplished at the cross as propitiation, even though Rom. 3:25f is focusing on the link between the cross and propitiation.) However...

...when we come back to the millennial issue, there's two stubborn facts: (1) Not a single one of the OT promises says anything about a 1000 year period after Jesus' return; and (2) Rev. 20 says not a single thing about any of the OT promises.

Surely, if premil is true, there must be SOME justification for it!

Again, you can read and study Mt. 24/25; Mk. 13; Lk. 17/21; I Cor. 15; I Thes. 4/5; II Thes. 1/2; II Pet. 3 relentlessly, and find NO indicator of any such idea, or of any such link! So the link, if justifiable, must be forged elsewhere! So where is it?

Yes, where is it? That's my burning question!

When I saw that roughly half of what dispys try to pack into Rev. 20 is already being fulfilled in the present age, and that roughly the other half of what they try to pack into Rev. 20 will yet be fulfilled in the new heavens and earth, I began to get a bit suspicious of what dispys were doing. (To say nothing of so much other baggage that comes with the full-fledged "D" system - with two of this and that and just about everything: two returns, two days of the Lord, two resurrections [actually more], two judgments [actually quite a few], two last trumpets, etc., etc., etc. ... and especially with the hard and fast distinction between two eternally separate peoples of God - with the church bound to heaven and the Jews relegated to earth.)

But when I added to this observation the notion that: (1) Rev. 20, taken in context, refers to the present age; and (2) the OT promises (though having a preliminary and partial application to the present age) can only (in my mind) be finally and fully fulfilled in the new heavens and earth ... well, then I saw that whereas dispys make the OT promises and Rev. 20 fit hand in hand with one another, in actuality (in the sense of the ULTIMATE fulfillment of God's promises) they really have NOTHING to do with each other!

That's why, to put it yet another way, I see Rev. 20, rightly interpreted, as; (1) shifted "back" from a conjectured post-second advent millennium, to the present interadvent age; and (2) the ultimate and complete and final fulfillment of the OT promsises as shifted "forward" from that conjectured post-second advent millennium, to the new heavens and earth. Not only does this squeeze out any reason or rationale for said post-second advent millennium, but (AND MOST IMPORTANTLY) IT SEPARATES WHAT'S GOING ON IN REV. 20 FROM WHAT'S GOING ON WHEN THE OT PROMISES ARE TOTALLY FULFILLED IN THE NH/NE!!!

Again, there's good justification for pinpointing the inception of the new order at the second advent. And I'll get to it! But for now...

...if indeed, when all is said and done, the sole rationale for thinking that the OT promises must be fulfilled in a post-second advent millennium lies in finding a link between those promises and Rev. 20, and if indeed Rev. 20 and the fulfillment of the OT promises really prove to have NOTHING to do with each other, then it seems to me that the premil theory has NO adequate base, NO justification.

The many arguments that can easily be marshalled against the premil view are sufficient to rule it out. But for now, all I'm saying is that the supporting evidence for the core of the premil system is itself lacking; and if the evidence is lacking, how does the theory have any justification???
June 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterWayne Rohde
In the spirit of how to kill two birds with one stone (something hard for me to even say, since I'm part ornithologist and well as theologian), I'd say II Thes. 1 is a double-barrel shotgun blast that knocks out both the pretrib and the premil theories. Here's how:

1) Against pretrib theory, God gives relief to believers WHEN Jesus is revealed in glory (v. 7) ... and not seven years earlier.

2) Against premil theory, God repays unbelievers with affliction at the same time He gives relief to believers - namely WHEN Jesus is revealed in glory (vv. 6,7); furthermore God deals out retribution to unbelievers, and they pay the penalty of eternal destruction, WHEN Jesus is glorified in His saints (vv. 8-10) ... and not 1000 or 1007 years later.

The point is that BOTH the deliverance of believers AND the destruction of unbelievers occurs at the SAME time ... and that time COINCIDES with one event: Jesus' singular return in glory.

It's all so simple, so straightforward. Just take Scripture at face value, and a multitude of things fall into place! No need to make an endless stream of distinctions to salvage a pretrib/premil theory. Let's see: The simplest theory that makes sense of a whole host of miscellaneous data is most likely to be the correct theory!!!

At least that's how I see it, through my bird's eye view.
June 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterWayne Rohde
Peter's version of the double-barrel shotgun blast is found in II Pet. 3. What are believers to look forward to? The day of the Lord, and the arrival of the new heaven and earth. Who will suffer destruction at that time? Unbelievers. What is the day of the Lord? The day of Christ's return. It all coincides.

{ASIDE: Or are we to say that the day of the Lord and the day of God in II Pet. 3 are two separate days??? Or that the people that look forward to these things can't really be Christians, since Christians can't look forward to something that isn't imminent???

Yikes!!! It seems like maybe it's just better to admit that arguing for a pretrib rapture based on the suppostion of imminence is like arguing in circles.}

But, again, the main point is simply that the singular day of the Lord is the occasion for both the deliverance of believers and the destruction of unbelievers. And that means that Peter, as well as Paul, rules out pretrib and premil thinking.
June 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterWayne Rohde

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