Isaiah 66 and the Dispensational Postponement Doctrine – #3
At the close of our last article on Isaiah 66 and the Dispensational Postponement Doctrine, we made the following comment:
“When Paul, in Romans 10-11, cites the Song of Moses and Isaiah 65-66 and applies those prophecies to Israel of his day, his ministry then it seems hermeneutically untenable to ignore that application. What is the uptake from that?”
This article seeks to answer that question and more as well.
Paul and Isaiah 65-66
Paul’s appeal and citation of Isaiah 65-66 means that Paul realized several things:
1. God was in the process of creating a new people– just as foretold in Deuteronomy 32 and Isaiah.
2. It means that Israel’s rejection of the Gospel and the kingdom was not unknown, unforeseen, un-predicted as the Dispensational Postponement doctrine claims. After all, the Song and Isaiah 65-66 (not to mention a list of other passages) explicitly foretold Israel’s last days rebellion.
3. It meant that Israel’s rejection of the Gospel that Paul preached was leading inexorably to Israel’s judgment – her destruction. Throughout the Tanakh that connection is found repeatedly. Rejection of God’s call, whether through the OT prophets, or in the prophecies of the last days, rejection of the divine call would lead to judgment.
As a corollary, take note of Paul’s numerous references in Romans 10-11 to Israel’s “blindness.” This blindness motif demands that we see this an implicit warning of imminent judgment on Israel. N. T. Wright comments on Paul’s reference to Israel’s blindness in Romans 11:25:
“Much as we might like to hope for a sudden universal unhardending, this is simply not how the notion of ‘hardening’ itself functions. As we saw, the ‘hard and impenitent heart’ of 2. 4-5 was what came about when the ‘kindness’ of God, meant to lead to repentance, was refused, so that the ‘hardening’ was the prelude, not to a sudden mercy despite the lack of repentance, but to judgment” (Paul and the Faithfulness of God, Vol. III & IV, (Minneapolis, Fortress, 2013), 1237).
4. It means that the New Creation – which Isaiah 65-66 both posit directly following the destruction of Israel, was therefore at hand. This has incredibly implications for the Dispensational paradigm.
Dispensationalism posits the New Creation at the end of the Millennium. You must catch the power of this!
But, Isaiah 65-66 undeniably foretold the New Creation at the destruction of Old Covenant Jerusalem and the People. That means, if we accept the Dispensational Postponement Doctrine, that at the end of the Millennium, Old Covenant Jerusalem and Israel are destroyed and God creates a New People, with a New Name! Is this truth taught in the Dispensational circles? No.
There is something else here, shared with me by William Bell (D. Div.). In private conversation he astutely called attention to Acts 3:21f and Peter’s statement that Christ would remain in heaven “until the restoration of all things spoken of by the prophets.” This is the “second coming.” What is the “restoration of all things”? It is the New Creation, the New Heaven and Earth of 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21-22.
What Bell pointed out is that the “restoration of all things” comes at the time of the “Second Coming of Christ” per Acts 3:21-24. Millennialists invariably posit the Second Coming of Christ at the beginning of the Millennium – not at the end. However, and this is the fatal fact noted by Bell – the restoration of all things is the New Heaven and Earth that arrives at the end of the Millennium. Thus, the Millennialists place the second coming of the Lord at the entirely wrong time, and the entirely wrong context. Peter’s positioning of Christ’s coming at the restoration of all things is a very clear undeniable rejection of the Millennial construct that places it at the beginning of the Millennium rather than at the time of the New Creation (which of course, according to Peter, does indeed arrive at the Day of the Lord, 2 Peter 3:10-13).
The (fatal) problem for the Dispensationalists is that they posit the Second Coming of Christ at the beginning – not at the end – of the Millennium! (See Thomas Ice and Tim LaHaye, Charting the End Times, 2001), Opening Chart of the book and page 124f).
It is essential to know that the Millennium is not the “restoration of all things” in the Premillennial world. (I should note that in Dispensationalism, the New Creation is not a topic of extensive discussion. There is often a confusion in the discussion of the Millennium and the New Jerusalem for instance. This is particularly true on Isaiah 65-66, which is patently a prediction of the New Creation. Yet, while the text says it is describing life in the New Creation, Millennialists tend to arbitrarily apply the language to the Millennium instead.
The same is true of discussions of the New Creation in Revelation. See e.g. John Walvoord, Major Bible Prophecies, (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1991), 413f). Walvoord’s discussion is focused on the New Jerusalem and is quite confusing. He claims that the New Jerusalem will never be on earth, but will be suspended in the sky above the earth. He barely mentions that the New Jerusalem comes only at the end of the Millennium, indicating instead that the New Jerusalem is a Millennial reality).
So, to summarize the Dispensational problem with the Second Coming and the restoration of all things, let me offer this:
The New Creation arrives at the end of the Millennium– Dispensationalism.
But, the New Creation (the restoration of all things) arrives at the second coming of Christ, the Day of the Lord (Acts 3:21-24 / 2 Peter 3).
Therefore, the second coming of Christ, to being in the New Creation / restoration of all things– occurs at the end of the Millennium.
The Dispensational Postponement Doctrine, otherwise known as the Gap Theory, is refuted by Isaiah. But, Millennialism is not the only view that Isaiah challenges – and refutes!
For more on the Dispensational Postponement doctrine see my book, Seventy Weeks Are Determined…For the Resurrection.