Old Testament Israel and New Testament Salvation #5 – Part 1
The New Creation, The Old Testament Source of the New Testament Expectation
In the previous articles I have proven beyond any possibility of successful denial that the doctrine of the Messianic Banquet, which is in itself a resurrection doctrine, is directly – inseparably- connected to the time of the judgment of Old Covenant Israel (Matthew 8:11f). This verifies my proposition, which is that “There are no new eschatological prophecies in the NT. All NT eschatology was the expectation of the (imminent) fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises made to Old Covenant Israel.”
This final part of our study is to show that the source of the New Testament doctrine of the New Creation is clearly the Old Testament. We will show that in the key OT prophecies of the New Creation, the promise of the New Creation is tied directly, unambiguously, to the time of the judgment on Old Covenant Israel / Jerusalem.
As we have shown repeatedly, Paul and the NT writers are clear in affirming that the one eschatological hope (Ephesians 4:4-5) was nothing but that which was found in the Tanakh – in God’s promises made to Israel. Before turning to the NT prophecies let’s look at two of the foundational Old Covenant prophecies of the coming New Heaven and Earth.
Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, My servants shall eat, But you shall be hungry; Behold, My servants shall drink, But you shall be thirsty; Behold, My servants shall rejoice, But you shall be ashamed; Behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart, But you shall cry for sorrow of heart, And wail for grief of spirit. You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen; For the Lord God will slay you, And call His servants by another name; So that he who blesses himself in the earth Shall bless himself in the God of truth; And he who swears in the earth Shall swear by the God of truth; Because the former troubles are forgotten, And because they are hidden from My eyes. “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, And her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, And joy in My people; The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, Nor the voice of crying.
In this foundational prophecy of the New Creation several things must be noted, but seldom are, by the commentators.
✪ The entire context must be viewed as being applied by the NT writers to the first century. In verses 1-2, the Lord spoke of Israel’s refusal to hear his call, and as a result, He promised: “I was sought by those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am.” To a nation that was not called by My name.”
What is so significant about this, that establishes my point just made, is that in Romans 10:20-21, the apostle quotes verbatim from Isaiah 65:1-2 and applies it to Israel of his day and the consequent calling of the Gentiles as a result of Israel’s rejection of the Gospel. According to the hermeneutical principle of metalepsis,* which says that when a NT writer cited any part of an OT prophecy, they were bringing the entire context of that prophecy to the mind of the reader. This would mean that Paul was telling his readers that the New Creation was coming in their generation. If in fact Paul was informing his readers that the prophecy of the New Creation was for their generation this has, needless to say, profound implications for the entire subject of eschatology.
* Metalepsis is a term popularized by Richard Hayes, in his book, Conversion of the Imagination, (Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 2005), 18f; See also his earlier Echoes of Scripture in Paul, 1993). A host of other scholars concur with what Hayes offers.
✪ – YHVH is addressing Old Covenant Israel. He is not addressing the church divorced from Israel. What this suggests, rather powerfully in my opinion, is that when modern commentators posit the New Creation as something to be fulfilled at the end of the current New Covenant era, that this is a fundamental hermeneutic error, leading to a misguided eschatology.
✪ An important insertion at this point may seem to be unnecessary but it truly is vital. That is, virtually everyone admits that the New Creation comes directly out of the great White Throne Judgment, and the resurrection. Thus, when we talk about the New Heaven and Earth, we are in fact dealing with the doctrine of the resurrected.
✪ It is critical to see that in this prophecy, the New Creation only comes when the Old is destroyed, but, and this is the critical part, the Old Creation to be destroyed is Old Covenant Israel itself. Take note that God castigates Israel for her sins:
☛ She refused to obey God’s call, “When I called, you did not answer,” as just noted, v. 1-2. We will see this same indictment in chapter 66.
☛ Israel would fill up the measure of her sin (65:6f– “your sins and the sins of your fathers will I measure into your bosom”). When that happened, the Lord would destroy them.
Needless to say, Jesus said that Israel of his day would fill up the measure of her sin and be destroyed.
☛ Because of Israel’s recalcitrance and rebellion, “My servants shall eat, But you shall be hungry; Behold, My servants shall drink, But you shall be thirsty; Behold, My servants shall rejoice, But you shall be ashamed; Behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart, But you shall cry for sorrow of heart, And wail for grief of spirit. You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen; For the Lord God will slay you, And call His servants by another name”.
✪ The destruction of Israel is seen as the destruction of “heaven and earth” since: “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.”
This promise of the New Creation is grammatically and contextually tied directly to the prediction of the nation. And notice the use of “for” which ties all of this discussion together.
Particularly relevant is that the Lord said He would bring in the New Creation and the “former shall not come to mind.” What is that “former” that would no longer be remembered? It is the former heaven and earth” to be destroyed so that the Lord could bring in the New.
It is particularly important to see that the word “remembered” (from Zakar) is a word that has very strong covenantal significance. Jason Meyers comments on the use of “remember” in Scripture:
‘Remember’ is a common term associated with covenants. It does not mean that God forgets and needs a reminder. The verb could be idiomatically rendered ‘to act in order to fulfill the covenantal oath or obligations (Jason Meyer, The End of the Law, NAC Studies in Bible and Theology, (Nashville, TN; B and H Academic, 2009), 245, n. 41).
What this means is that when YHVH said that the Old Creation would no longer be remembered, it means that it would no longer be remembered “covenantally.” Needless to say, as I like to express it from time to time, bugs, slugs and mosquitoes do not have a covenant with God. Trees, rocks and water do not have a covenant with God. Literal, physical heaven and earth do not have a covenant with YHVH. But Old Covenant Israel assuredly did. Thus, the New Creation is the New People with the New Name that would be created, while the Old Creation would “leave your name as a curse to my chosen.” God’s Old Covenant world would no longer be remembered– except to bring covenantal wrath on disobedient Israel.
So, what we have in Isaiah 65 is an undeniable prediction of the coming of the New Creation. What is also undeniable is the fact that the New Creation would come in as a direct result of and at the time of the destruction of Old Covenant Israel: “The Lord God shall slay you and call His people by another name.”
What absolutely should not be missed is that virtually all commentators agree that Isaiah 65 serves as the fountain head for the NT prophecies of the New Creation. A search of my Logos Bible Program did not list a single commentator that rejected that idea. A survey of the commentaries on 2 Peter revealed the same consensus. Most commentators were emphatic in positing that linkage. With that in mind consider the following:
The NT writers tell us that they were anticipating the fulfillment of the OT prophecies of the coming New Creation (2 Peter 3:13 / Revelation 22:6).
The OT prophecies cited by the NT writers in their expectation of the New Creation are Isaiah 65, 66 (as well as Isaiah 60 which we will examine later).
But the predicted New Creation of Isaiah 65 would only come as a result of, and at the time of, the destruction of Old Covenant Jerusalem and Israel in AD 70. (To return to an earlier point, this means that the resurrection would likewise come as a result of, and at the time of, the destruction of Old Covenant Jerusalem and Israel in AD 70).
Therefore, the NT prophecies of the New Creation were to be fulfilled as a result of, and at the time of, the destruction of Old Covenant Jerusalem and Israel in AD 70.
Thus, our premise is fully established: There are no new eschatological promises given or found in the New Covenant. The New Covenant eschatological promises were but the reiteration and expectation of the (imminent to them) fulfillment of the Old Testament promises given to Old Testament Israel. Thus, any and all eschatological doctrines that do not honor this reality are fundamentally wrong.
To posit the New Creation at the “end of human history” or a proposed “end of time” as the majority logically demands one of the following:
#1. Old Covenant Israel will remain as God’s covenant people until the end of time, at which point the Lord will destroy her, and create a New People with a New Name. (No one that I am aware of teaches this).
#3 One must explain how it is that Peter said he was anticipating the fulfillment of what the OT prophets (i.e. Isaiah 65-66) foretold, and yet, Peter was NOT anticipating the things that Isaiah actually foretold (the destruction of OT Israel) but was instead anticipating the destruction of material creation. But this demands that one take the position that in reality, Peter was NOT looking for the fulfillment of Isaiah. Rather, he was simply borrowing the words of “New Heavens and Earth” from Isaiah, but not looking for what Isaiah actually predicted. Of course, that is a denial of Peter’s words in 2 Peter.
To repeat my argument then,
Since Peter said he was looking for the fulfillment of what the OT prophets promised in regard to the New Creation,
Since the OT prophecies of the New Creation posited its arrival at the time of the judgment of Old Covenant Israel,
It must be true that Peter was anticipating the arrival of the New Creation at the time of the judgment of Old Covenant Israel.
See my book, The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat, for a fuller discussion of 2 Peter 3- as well as Revelation 21-22. It is, to my knowledge, the first and only full length commentary on 2 Peter 3.
More to come.