In the July issue of "The Reformer," a bimonthly publication out of Phoenix, Arizona, PO Box 10074, 85064-0074 editor Buff Scott takes issue with some things that have been written lately about the Biblical promise that in the New Heaven and New Earth there would be no death, no tears, no pain.
In the April, 1991 "Living Presence," Charles Geiser responded to an article written by James D. Bales. That article was carried by Olan Hicks in his monthly newsletter. Geiser pointed out that the best way to understand the promises of the New Creation is spiritually and not literally. To literalize means that the Old Covenant prophecies have not yet been fulfilled and Jesus taught that all prophecy had to be fulfilled before the Old Covenant could pass. The Reformer’s editor took issue with brother Geiser’s view.
This writer does not subscribe to the Reformer nor am I familiar with Mr. Scott. We assume Mr. Scott sent us an issue because we are one of the contributing writers to The Living Presence in which Geiser’s comments appeared. It appears that the article under our consideration is only one of at least four to consider Realized Eschatology. We do appreciate the tenor of Scott’s article. He is not caustic or sarcastic as some writers have a tendency to be. It appears he simply has addressed what he perceives as an inconsistency in the Preterist interpretation of the prophecies of the New Heavens and Earth and is attempting to call attention to it. For this he cannot be faulted. We are never, at least never should be, offended when someone kindly challenges what he believes to be error. It is open discussion that genders and encourages the search for truth, not mud-slinging, caustic verbiage, or personality assassination.
It might perhaps be brother Geiser’s privilege to respond to Mr. Scott; but hopefully Charley will forgive me for beating him to the computer!
The thrust of Mr. Scott’s article can best be summarized as this; Isaiah 65 predicted (s) that in the New Heaven and New Earth there would (will) be no death. But Mr. Scott says "Believers are dying, crying, hurting, and sorrowing. I helped to bury a fellow believer the other day. And he experienced pain before he died." (Emphasis his DKP). Mr. Scott summarizes by observing that Isaiah predicted infants "would not die young" and "women will bear no children doomed to misfortune (verses 20-25.) Has that time arrived? Our brother says yes. Are infants still dying in infancy? Yes. So whatever Isaiah is teaching, we may rest assured he is not saying what our brother Geiser is saying." It is self evident that Mr. Scott takes a rigidly literalistic view of Isaiah’s prediction. Let us take a closer look.
Mr. Scott believes the New Creation has not arrived since there is still literal, physical death, literal, physical childbirth unto sorrow, literal, physical pain and suffering. It is obvious he also believes the New Creation will be sometime in the future.
We shall assume for the moment that Mr. Scott believes Isaiah speaks of heaven. (It is of course possible Mr. Scott is a millennialist. Even if so, it will not materially affect what we are about to say.) Can one interpret Isaiah 65 literally and apply it to heaven? WILL THERE BE LITERAL DYING IN HEAVEN? (Reader, remember that the Reformer is arguing that since he helped physically bury a physically dead person recently the New Creation cannot be present.) Now Isaiah 65 says, "for the child shall DIE (emphasis mine) an hundred years old" vs.20; and "the sinner being a hundred years old shall be accursed." The idea is the man who dies at one hundred years old will be counted as accursed. The point is, in both illustrations ISAIAH SAYS THERE WOULD BE DYING IN THE NEW CREATION! We dare say Mr. Scott does not believe there is going to be any literal (AND CERTAINLY NOT SPIRITUAL!) dying in heaven! As a matter of fact, we dare say Mr. Scott does not believe there will be any literal PHYSICAL ANYTHING IN HEAVEN!
Does Mr. Scott believe there will be HOUSE BUILDING in heaven? Isaiah 65:21 says in the New Heavens and Earth "they shall build houses and inhabit them." There will also be farming, the planting of vineyards, vs.21. Are we to believe this is to be actual physical agricultural farming in heaven? Will our kind adversary say, "No, those are just spiritual ideas."? If so, then how does he literalize the no sorrow, no death, no pain?
An Embarrassing Situation
Does our good editor believe Matthew 22:29ff which contains Jesus’ description of the resurrection state refers to the same as Isaiah 65? If he applies Isaiah 65 to heaven and Matthew 22 to the end of time as well he is forced to do so. But if, and we emphasize IF, Mr. Scott so believes, we must state he has posited a very embarrassing situation indeed for the heavenly state.
Now Isaiah says, "They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity…." Obviously Isaiah is saying there would (will, per Mr. Scott) be childbearing in the New Heavens and Earth! But wait.
In Matthew 22 Jesus says in the resurrection, "they neither marry, nor are given in marriage." We assume Mr. Scott takes this, as he does Isaiah 65, literally. Please notice the embarrassing situation implied by Mr. Scott’s interpretative method. (Reader, please understand we are not accusing Mr. Scott of purposely holding the views implied by his interpretation. We are simply doing as he has done, pointing out what we see as weakness in his interpretation.)
In the New Heavens and New Earth, which is sometime different from the present time existence according to Mr. Scott, WOMEN WILL BE BEARING CHILDREN! The normal view of the New Creation is that it is heaven, therefore, women, per the view, will be bearing children in heaven; BUT THEY WILL NOT BE MARRIED!
Jesus said in the resurrection (heaven, per the traditional view) there will be no marrying! But the traditional view of Isaiah 65 is that it refers to heaven; and Isaiah says in the New Creation women will bear children. Mr. Scott has interpreted Isaiah 65 literally when he denied the preterist construction of the New Creation and insisted that since women still give birth to children who suffer we cannot be in the New Creation. This implies that in the New Creation women will still give birth to children, but the children will not suffer!
But again, Jesus said in Matthew 22 (according to the traditional view) there will be no marrying in heaven, therefore we state again that Mr. Scott’s view implies that there will be children being born to unmarried women in heaven!
Will these be illicit children?; Will these be virgin births?; Or will there actually be conjugal relations in heaven?; What will the purpose be of these children born in heaven? These are but a few of the serious questions raised by the literalistic interpretive method employed by Mr. Scott.
We would observe that the premillennial view does not fare any better in its view of Isaiah and Matthew 22. That school, at least many of its advocates with whom I have studied, believes the resurrection takes place and the resurrected ones enjoy the blissful conditions described by Isaiah. Therefore amillennialism and premillennialism have the same implications, they just shift the scene. Amillennialism has Isaiah 65/Matthew 22 in heaven; premillennialism has it set on earth.
Some Alternatives–But No Help!
There is an alternative position by which it is possible to avoid the embarrassing view above.
One could argue that Isaiah 65 and Matthew 22 do not speak of the same situation. In other words, one could hold that Matthew 22 speaks of an end of time situation, while Isaiah 65 speaks of an in time situation. Of course to do so one then would be forced to some alternate methods of interpretation.
He would have to believe that Isaiah 65: 1.) Is not a Messianic prophecy; 2.) Or if it is Messianic it must either be interpreted spiritually; 3.)
Or refer to some Utopian world on earth before the supposed end of time suggested by Matthew 22.
View number one is difficult because of what the New Covenant has to say about the prophecy. More on this in a moment.
The second view points one in the direction of Realized Eschatology. The third view points one in the direction of post-millennialism.
In reality these alternatives, except the second, do not offer much help at all. In fact, they only compound the problems when one considers what the New Covenant has to say about Isaiah’s prediction.
Isaiah and John on the New Creation
Undeniably, John, in the Apocalypse, speaks of the New Heavens and Earth. Reader, a question: Is the New Heaven and Earth predicted by Isaiah the same as that predicted by John in Revelation 21? Few commentators deny the connection.
John tells us in no uncertain terms that he is writing of the fulfillment of all that the prophets have spoken, Revelation 10:6-7. Revelation is concerned about the fulfillment of Old Covenant prophecies!
In Revelation 21-22 we have the description of the New Creation. It follows the resurrection in chapter 20. In chapter 22:6 God assures John that the God of the prophets, who spoke about this New Creation he has been describing, will bring them to reality very soon; they are in fact "the things which must shortly take place."
What we see then is that John is told that his New Creation is that predicted by the Old Covenant prophets. And who among the Old Prophets foretold a New Creation in which there would be no need of the sun; there would be no sorrow; there would be no curse; there would be life and peace? It was Isaiah.
The undeniable link between Isaiah and Revelation poses this very perplexing problem. John was told that what he saw "must shortly come to pass"; and, "the time is near." It was so imminent, in fact, that the Revelator used an idiomatic saying to express the absolutely last hour situation: "let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and let the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness…Behold, I come quickly…" vs. 11-12. In other words, the time for change was over (not forever and always; just in that situation), the Lord was coming soon to reward and judge, vs. 12. Compare Matthew 16:27-28.
Our point is this: if you associate Isaiah’s New Creation and John’s (or Peter’s in II Peter 3:13), you are faced with the undeniable fact that John was told the New Creation was at hand; it "must shortly come to pass." That was over two thousand years ago! And what about the word "MUST"? Did that only mean "maybe"?
The situation is this then: Jesus said in the resurrection world there would be no marrying, Matthew 22. John, in describing the resurrection world calls it the New Heavens and Earth of which the prophets spoke, Revelation 20-22. Isaiah says that in the New Heaven and Earth, which is John’s resurrection world, in which Jesus said there would be no marriage, women would give birth to babies! Therefore, it seems inescapable that if one literalizes the promises of the New Heaven and Earth, the resurrection world, as does our friendly editor, it means that in the New Heavens and Earth there literally will be unmarried women bearing children!
There is a good deal more about Isaiah 65 and our friendly editor’s view that we could explore. We believe, however, that we have demonstrated that the literalistic interpretation of the text poses some very serious consequences indeed.
We believe the only view which does not pose such serious interpretative snafus is that which sees the New Creation as the consummated Kingdom of our Lord in which those who believe in him do not die, John 8:51; in which there is peace, Phil 4:4ff; there is eternal life 1 John 5:13; in which God’s new people, Ephesians 2:12ff; wearing his new name, Is. 65/I Peter 4; offer up spiritual sacrifices in the New Temple, I Peter 2:5; Heb. 13:15f. This New World was consummated when God destroyed his old people, Isaiah 65:13ff, the Old Jerusalem; the Old Heavens and Earth of Judaism, Isaiah 51:15-16; bringing to a close the Old World (Age, Matthew 24:3) and bringing to glorious perfection, 1 Cor. 13:8, the New World. That time was when Jesus returned and destroyed the capital and hub of the Old World, Jerusalem, in A.D. 70.