Dispensational Theology and Isaiah 66 – #7
In our previous installments #5 & #6 We demonstrated the direct and inseparable connection between the Great Tribulation and the Resurreciton. This connection is denied by many commentators, but, in spite of such denials, it is easy to document Biblically, and among leading scholars, the Great Tribulation and the resurrection are in fact tied together. Be sure to read those previous installments for that documentation. We will give more here as well.
Even Amillennialist Kim Riddlebarger,- realizes that in Scripture, the Tribulation and the resurrection are chronologically linked. He comments on Daniel 12:1-2: “Like Daniel, the prophet Isaiah (25:6-9) saw the resurrection occurring after a period of horrible anguish, a time when salvation will come to God’s people.” (Amillennialism, Grand Rapids; Baker, 2003), 132).
Now, Riddlebarger posits the Great Tribulation and the time of the end in our future. He fails to see that Jesus undeniably placed that horrendous event for the first century. John, in Revelation is very clear on this. (See my book, Blast From the Past: The Truth About Armageddon, for definitive proof that the Great Tribulation was in the first century).
It is difficult (read that, impossible) to accept as Scriptural, the view of G. K. Beale who says that the Great Tribulation began in the first century, in AD 70, but that it continues until the end of time. (Greg Beale, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids; Baker Academic, Apollos, 2007), 88). To suggest that the Christian age, which Beale equates to the Millennium, is the Great Tribulation, is to say that the Kingdom reign of Christ is the Great Tribulation!
Reformed Amillennialist James Jordan, with whom I had a formal public debate, says: “It is perverse for commentators to continue to insist that the Great Tribulation is still in the future.” (The Hand Writing on the Wall, (Power Springs, GA; American Vision, 2007), 619).
Postmillennialist Keith Mathison says: “There is no end time tribulation. Jesus’ prophecy about tribulation in Matthew 24 was fulfilled between AD 30 and AD 70.” (Keith Mathison, Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the House of God?, (Phillipsburg, NJ; P & R Publishing, 1995), 144.
Likewise, Kenneth Gentry says: “Copious, clear and compelling evidence demonstrates that the great tribulation occurs in the first century.” (He Shall Have Dominion, Draper, VA; Apologetics Group, 2009), 356).
We could provide extensive additional quotes from both Amillennialists and Postmillennialists who claim that the Great Tribulation was in the first century, immediately prior to and directly related to the end of Israel’s Old Covenant Age, but, these quotations are sufficient.
In light of the significant admission that the Great Tribulation was in the first century, in light of the indisputable fact that in Scripture, the Tribulation was to usher in the resurrection and the kingdom, consider the following:
The Great Tribulation would usher in the resurrection and the New Creation.
The Great Tribulation was in the first century.
Therefore, the resurrection and the New Creation was fulfilled in the first century.
Needless to say, this is a tremendous challenge to any futurist view, particularly the Postmillennial and the Amillennial advocates that agree that the Great Tribulation occurred in the first century.
Notice that in Romans 8:18f – which is almost universally recognized as a resurrection text – Paul had this to say:
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (Romans 8:18-22).
It is important to know that Paul was speaking here, not of wars and rumors of wars, or famine, or pestilence. His focus was on “the suffering (Greek pathemata) of this present time.” He was speaking of persecution for the cause of Christ. There are some extremely strong temporal indicators in the text that demand an imminent fulfillment.
1. The Roman saints were experiencing and sharing in “the sufferings of Christ” (Romans 8:17) . Just as Christ had suffered, “the body of Christ” had to suffer to fill up the measure of the eschatological sufferings. Their suffering was not, in spite of the common “sermonizing” that is often practiced on Romans 8 problems such as cancer, to heart attacks, or financial difficulty. Their suffering was eschatological in nature. (See my Elijah Has Come: A Solution to Romans 11:25-27 where I document from Romans that Paul is definitely focused on the eschatological suffering, and not, despite the commentators, on the mundane problems of the human condition). It was persecution for the cause of Christ. This is established in Matthew 23:29f and a host of other texts.
This stems directly from Jesus’ warnings in the Olivet Discourse where he spoke of the things to come on them before “the end of the age.” The Lord told them:
“But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Mark 13:9-13).
The Roman saints, and Paul, were experiencing this very persecution, the end times suffering of the elect, that would bring in the resurrection – the New Creation of Isaiah 66! And, this is Revelation 7:14 where we find the 144,000 who were the first fruit of those redeemed to God (14:1-2) and they experienced the Great Tribulation! They were about to be led to the River of Life, the New Jerusalem!
2. Paul spoke of the glory “about to be revealed” (from mello, with the infinitive, which indicates imminence- See the Blass-DeBrunner Greek Grammar).
3. Paul said that the “creation” had an “earnest expectation” of the coming redemption. The word for that earnest expectation is apokaradokeo, and literally means to look with neck outstretched, indicating a strong sense of urgency and expectancy.
4. He likewise said that the creation was “eagerly awaits” the coming Day. The word translated as “eagerly awaits” is from apekdekomai, and means an expectant looking.
When one considers all of these factors in Romans 8 there can be no doubt that Paul was speaking of the well accepted idea that the end times tribulation was in place, and that therefore, the resurrection was near. While he fails (or perhaps, refuses, to develop the implications of his own words, I think N. T. Wright is spot on in pointing out Paul’s emphasis on his “now time” mentioned in Romans. See Wright’s discussion of “the now time” in Paul, as it stands in contrast to the OT prophecies of “in those days.” Part of his discussion is found in Paul and the Faithfulness of God, (Minneapolis, Fortress, Vol. I, 2013), 555f).
The point is that Wright correctly apprised Paul’s emphasis on the “now time” as the time for the fulfillment of the Old Covenant promises of redemption and the kingdom -the resurrection. Unfortunately, while Wright emphasizes the presence, in the first century, of the “age to come” in fulfillment of those OT prophecies, he then ignores the objective imminence of the “not yet” in the “already but not yet” theme of the NT writers.
Nonetheless, Wright’s emphasis on the “now time” drives home the point of Isaiah 66: “ Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?” says the Lord, “Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?” When Paul and the NT writers wrote, the time had come for the deliverance. The early Christians were in the birth pangs (cf. Matthew 24:8). It was the “fulness of time.” That meant that the Lord would bring the consummation shortly (Isaiah 60:22).
So, what we have in Romans 8 is the motif of the Great Tribulation leading directly to the resurrection. That motif, coupled with the temporal indicators of imminence, demands a first century fulfillment of the “manifestation of the sons of God” and “the adoption of the body.”
While we could continue this discussion of the connection between the Tribulation and the resurrection, let me state my position once again:
The Bible posits the Great Tribulation as leading directly to the resurrection (Isaiah 26 / Jeremiah 30 / Daniel 12:1-2 / Hosea 13). (Notice particularly that in Daniel 12:1 we have the Great Tribulation and in verse 2 we have the resurrection). To put it another way, the Great Tribulation would usher in the resurrection. There is no huge temporal gap between the Tribulation and the resurrection.
The Great Tribulation was to be in the first century, inseparably tied to the judgment of Old Covenant Jerusalem (Matthew 25:21-34).
Therefore, the Resurrection would occur in the first century generation and was inseparably tied to the judgment of Old Covenant Jerusalem (Matthew 25:21-34).
Now, since the Tribulation and the resurrection / New Creation are inseparably tied together then since, as we have seen, Paul said that Isaiah’s prophecy of the last days and the New Creation was being fulfilled in his personal ministry, this means that the time had arrived for the “birth!” And let us not forget, the Lord said that He would not bring to the time of the birth and not bring forth. He would not fail to fulfill when the time came. Not only that, remember that Isaiah 60:22 said that when the time came, fulfillment would come swiftly.