Dispensational Theology and Isaiah 66 – #5
Well, somehow I omitted this installment and went right to #6. Be sure to read this article and then #6.
As we have seen, the postponement doctrine is foundational to Dispensationalism. Thomas Ice is on record as saying that without a postponed kingdom, there is no Dispensationalism: “Without a futurized (i.e. postponed, DKP), seventieth week, the dispensational system falls apart. There can be no pre-tribulational rapture, great tribulation, or rebuilt temple without the gap.” (Thomas Ice, www.according2prophecy.org/seventy-weeks-pt2.html).
But, what many do not realize is that a postponement doctrine likewise lies at the root of the Amillennial and Postmillennial world. Now, there is a distinction between these postponement views. The Dispensational view says Jesus came to establish the kingdom, but due to the Jewish unbelief, God suspended the prophetic countdown and established the church. This is not the Amillennial or the Postmillennial view. Nonetheless, both of these schools of thought do have a type of postponement doctrine. Here is what I mean.
Amillennialists Kim Riddlebarger speaks of the “already but not yet” of the age to come:
“Because of Jesus Christ and his coming, the Christian possesses the complete fulfillment and blessings of all the promises of the messianic age made under the old covenant. But, the arrival of the messianic age also brought with it a new series of promises to be fulfilled at the end of the age. The fulfilled promises pointed to a more glorious and future fulfillment. This is called the ‘not yet’ or future eschatology. It is this already/not yet tension which serves as the basis for understanding much of the New Testament eschatological expectation.” (Kim Riddlebarger, In Defense of Amillennialism, (Grand Rapids; Baker, 2003), 61).
Bruce Longenecker commented on Galatians 1:4: “Paul inserts an unexpected (and therefore important) eschatological reference that highlights the triumph of God in the dawning of the new age, the new world is distinguished from the evil world of the old (which is nonetheless still ‘present’ until its final eradication). (Bruce Longenecker, Triumph of Abraham’s God, (Edinburg; T & T, 1998), 46).
C. H. Dodd wrote: “From these and many similar passages it is surely clear that, for the New Testament writers, in general, the eschaton has entered history; the hidden rule of God has been revealed; The Age to Come has come.” (C. H. Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching and its Development, (Hodder and Stoughton, 1936), 18).
In McDurmon’s article cited in article #4, he says unequivocally that the New Creation arrived with the resurrection of Christ but that we are waiting for the final manifestation:
“As for the timing, (Of the New Creation, DKP) briefly, the New Testament reveals quite a bit. We don’t have to look very hard in the New Testament to find references and allusions to New Creation. In Colossians 1:15, Paul says that Christ Himself “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” James makes a similar point, James 1:18: “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures [creations].” Paul elsewhere adds that any who believe in Christ take part in New Creation. Believers are subsumed within a New Creation; we, in fact, along with Christ, are a New Creation, according to Paul (2 Cor. 5:17). The idea in all of this is that Christ Himself is the New Creation, and as we join in Him, we ourselves partake of it. Paul, in more than one place, speaks of the New Man (Eph. 2:15), and exhorts his readers to put on the new man (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10); this can only come in light of the fact that a New Man has indeed been created (and of course Paul talks of Christ as the second and last Adam in 1 Cor. 15:45–47). Paul makes a related point in Galatians 6:15, saying that “neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” He tells the Ephesians in 2:10 that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” To be a Christian, therefore, at its root, is to be created anew, and to be created for good works in God’s kingdom.”
Now, the pressing question is, if the New Creation has broken in, and Christians are now in that New Creation, why doesn’t the mandate / condition of no marrying or giving in marriage not apply NOW? (See my book, Marrying and Giving in Marriage…In the New Creation? for a fuller discussion of this issue. The fact is that any admission that we are currently in “the age to come” in any sense belies the argument that preterists are inconsistent to affirm that we are in the age to come and yet we are married. Clearly, the men above admit we are in the age to come, yet, they are themselves married!) See my new book, Marrying and Giving in Marriage… In The New Creation? for a full expose and refutation of the claims of McDurmon and others. Contact me for how to order.
Now, in the view of the men cited above, the ultimate state of the “age to come” is in a holding pattern, an extended period of waiting who knows how long, to come to fruition. The “real” or “final” state of the New Creation is delayed. They believe, in other words, that God brought to the time of birth and did not deliver! This is where I want to bring Isaiah 66:9 into this discussion:
“Shall I bring to the time of birth and not cause delivery,” Says the Lord. Shall I, who cause delivery shut up the womb? Says your God?”
Here, YHVH, in the prediction of the New Creation, asks this rhetorical question. Will He bring His purpose to the time of fulfillment– birth – and not bring those promises to fulfillment? The form of the question demands that the answer is “NO!” God would not bring the time of fulfillment to reality and not then fulfill His promise – on time! In other words, at the time that He appointed, He would fulfill His promises. And those promises in view were the promises of the New Creation!
Alex Motyer comments on these words:
“Painless childbirth (cf. Genesis 3:16) is a symbol of Eden restored and the curse removed. The picture is of motherhood without labour, i.e. the child is really hers but at no cost. Delivers (the hiphil of malat) is only here used of the delivery of a child (cf. 34:15, where it is used of a bird laying eggs). ….” “the instantaneous springing into being out of a whole new society by supernatural birth. For the actuality of it is Zion and her sons. They are her children, but their birth is by the unique, humanly unheard-of processes of verse 7, a work of God (as verse 9 proceeds to ‘explain.’” (Alex Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, (Downer’s Grove, Ill; IVP Academic, 1993), 536-537).
He then comments on verse 9:
“The verse, then, expresses two truths. First, the illustration of a process well advanced, but not brought to its completion (9ab) shows that the Lord does not proceed so far with his purposes only to abandon them before they are fulfilled. Secondly, the illustration of something begun and frustrated before it can even move toward fulfillment (9cd) shows that the Lord does not begin what he does not propose to finish.” (1993, 537).
Keil and Delitszch concur with this assessment:
Commenting on n how YHVH asks the question: “Shall I bring to the time of delivery and not bring forth?– that this was said to comfort those who were “the barren daughter of Zion.” “(p. 501) – Jehovah will complete the bringing to the birth, He will not ultimately frustrate what He has almost brought to completion.” (In Loc, p. 501).
So, through Isaiah, the Lord was saying that when the time for the promised New Creation arrived, He would fulfill His words. In fact, in Isaiah 60:22, the Lord said that when the promised time of fulfillment arrived, the consummation would come quickly: “A little one shall become a thousand, And a small one a strong nation. I, the Lord, will hasten it in its time.”
The promise under consideration was the promise of the New Jerusalem, the New Creation, where there would be no need of the sun or the moon – just as Revelation 21-22 anticipated.
So, in Isaiah, the Lord foretold the New Creation. He said that when the time for fulfillment arrived, He would hasten the fulfillment. He would not prolong. See Romans 9:28. The Lord assured Israel that her salvation, that would flow from her to the nations, would not be postponed, not delayed. He would fulfill on time! So, that raises the question, what would be the time of the birth? When would the Lord bring to the time of deliverance? The answer to those questions is to be found right in Isaiah 65-66 and a host of other prophecies.
The time would be the time of Israel’s judgment / destruction– this is the good news / bad news (Isaiah 65:13-19).
It would be when the Old Covenant form would pass, never to be remembered. When the prophet spoke of the coming New Creation, he said that the Old would be destroyed and never remembered (Isaiah 65:19). It is important to understand that the word “remembered” is a word that conjured up covenantal connections, covenantal “remembering.” We will explore that and other important issues in our next installment, so stay tuned! In the meantime, order a copy of my book, The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat, for a study of the New Creation – and Isaiah 66.