Old Testament Israel – New Testament Salvation #3
Every constituent element of Biblical eschatology, i.e. the coming of the Lord, the Judgment, the resurrection, the New Creation, the kingdom, salvation, etc., is inextricably bound up with the Old Testament prophecies of the time of the Judgment of Old Covenant Jerusalem and Israel.
Based on that premise, let me follow up with this:
If it is true that in the Old Testament, all constituent elements of eschatology are temporally connected with prophecies of the judgment of Jerusalem,
If it is true that in the Old Testament, the time of the judgment of Jerusalem that is connected to those constituent elements of eschatology was the A. D. 70 judgment of Jerusalem,
It must be true that every constituent element of eschatology, i.e. the coming of the Lord, the Judgment, the resurrection, the New Creation, the kingdom, salvation, etc., was fulfilled in the A. D. 70 judgment of Jerusalem.
My premise is the same as that given by Max King in his 1990 book, Old Testament Israel and New Testament Salvation. Be sure to read his quote in the first article. Some of the probing questions posed by King was whether the OT prophecies were somehow lacking in a way that necessitated that the NT writers had to offer a “better” eschatological salvation, a better kingdom, a better, additional, New Covenant from that promised in the Old Covenant. King asks,
Why would not this fulfillment (of the OT prophecies, DKP) eliminate the need for additional promises? Did God fail to promise enough to the Fathers or Israel to fulfill His redemptive purpose in Christ? Or did he promise enough but fail to make a covenant with Abraham (the New Covenant confirmed before in Christ, Galatians 3:16, 17) that could ‘make good’ those promises in an absolute sense (Romans 15:8)?” (Max King, Old Testament Israel, New Testament Salvation, Warren, Oh; Eschatology Publications, 1990), 2).
What this series seeks to do is to examine some of the key eschatological prophecies of the Old Testament, passages that are either directly quoted, alluded to, or echoed in the NT. Our study will show that every one of these OT prophecies of the “end” are inextricably bound up with the prophecies of the time of the judgment of Old Covenant Jerusalem and Israel. The next passage I want to examine is the Little Apocalypse, i.e. Isaiah 24-27. The term “Little Apocalypse” was coined long ago by scholars who recognized that these chapters are cited over and over again by Jesus and his apostles in the NT to speak of the coming end of the age.
Due to the length of the chapters I cannot copy and paste the entirety here. Also, due to the length of these chapters and the numbers of eschatological tenets, I will examine one or two of those tenets per article. This article will focus on the doctrine of the destruction of creation, which we examined only briefly in the second article. As with Isaiah 2-4 I will give bullet points of the elements found in these chapters, showing two things:
1. The elements and tenets are eschatological and apocalyptic in nature and substance. That is, crucial elements of the “end times” are found in these chapters that are reiterated in the NT in prophecies of the end. Tenets such as the final judgment, the destruction of creation, the resurrection, the end time salvation, etc. are all found here.
2. Those eschatological tenets are all inseparably bound up and posited to occur at the time of the judgment of Old Covenant Israel and Jerusalem.
With these two basic facts in front of us, let’s take a look at one of the constituent elements of the Little Apocalypse.
The destruction of Creation– 24:1-5, 24:19-20:
Behold, the Lord makes the earth empty and makes it waste, Distorts its surface And scatters abroad its inhabitants. And it shall be: As with the people, so with the priest; As with the servant, so with his master; As with the maid, so with her mistress; As with the buyer, so with the seller; As with the lender, so with the borrower; As with the creditor, so with the debtor. The land shall be entirely emptied and utterly plundered, For the Lord has spoken this word. The earth mourns and fades away, The world languishes and fades away; The haughty people of the earth languish. The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, Because they have transgressed the laws, Changed the ordinance, Broken the everlasting covenant.
The earth is violently broken, The earth is split open, The earth is shaken exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, And shall totter like a hut; Its transgression shall be heavy upon it, And it will fall, and not rise again.
So, we have here the prediction of the destruction that calls to mind Peter’s description of the Day of the Lord in 2 Peter 3, as well as John’s description in Revelation 6:12f; 16:20; 20:11, etc. But there is something very important to note here.
This destruction of “the earth” was to come, “Because they have transgressed the laws, Changed the ordinance, Broken the everlasting covenant.” (The Hebrew word translated as “earth” is ha’aaretz, and is better translated as “land” in this context, as we shall see). In the parallel book of Hosea, we are told who had transgressed the covenant, and we are told what covenant is in view:
Set the trumpet to your mouth! He shall come like an eagle against the house of the Lord, Because they have transgressed My covenant And rebelled against My law. Israel will cry to Me, ‘My God, we know You!’ Israel has rejected the good; The enemy will pursue him (Hosea 8:1).
What law, what covenant is in view? It is not some generic, undefined covenant. It was Torah, the law of Moses. And that demands that we focus on the fact that the anticipated destruction of “creation,” the dissolution of the earth, would come “because they have violated the covenant.” Here is what this means.
If one takes Isaiah 24 as a prediction of the end of time destruction of material creation, that demands that the physical destruction of the earth will come as a direct result of Israel’s violation of the law of Moses, “the covenant.” The fact that this prophecy is concerned with the judgment on Israel (and Jerusalem) is confirmed by a closer look at this chapter. Look at verses 10-13:
The city of confusion is broken down; Every house is shut up, so that none may go in. There is a cry for wine in the streets, All joy is darkened, The mirth of the land is gone. In the city desolation is left, And the gate is stricken with destruction. When it shall be thus in the midst of the land among the people, It shall be like the shaking of an olive tree, Like the gleaning of grapes when the vintage is done.
We have three elements to examine:
☛ What was “the city of Confusion”?
☛ What was “the land” in the midst of which “the city of confusion” sat?
☛ Who were “the people” who dwelt in and belonged to “the city of Confusion”?
The answer to these questions should be apparent since the judgment that was coming on “the earth” (i.e. “The land”) was due to Israel’s violation of the Law of Moses. This is not a discussion of the church, at the end of time, being judged for violating the Law. The point being that since it was Israel’s violation of the Law, the Old Covenant, that was the reason for this coming judgment, it stands to reason that “the people,” “the land,” and the city under judgment were the people of Israel, the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. So, let’s confirm that by answering the questions just posed.
☛ What was “the city of Confusion”?
Answer: Isaiah 29:1-3 answers this question:
Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! Add year to year; Let feasts come around. Yet I will distress Ariel; There shall be heaviness and sorrow, And it shall be to Me as Ariel. I will encamp against you all around, I will lay siege against you with a mound, And I will raise siege works against you.
While it does not use the terminology of “the city of confusion” this chapter is simply a continuation of the earlier discussion of the judgment that was coming on Jerusalem. Not only that, consider the second question above:
☛ What was “the land” in the midst of which “the city of confusion” sat?
Answer: Ezekiel 5:5 answers this: “Thus says the Lord God: ‘This is Jerusalem; I have set her in the midst of the nations and the countries all around her.”
The ancient rabbis said that Jerusalem was the center of the world. She was the center of the center.
Numbers Rabbah: “The Sages of Israel proclaimed: The Land of Israel is the center of the world. Jerusalem is the center of the Land of Israel” (Midrash Tanhuma) (https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jerusalem-as-the-earth-rsquo-s-center-judaic-treasures).
So, Jerusalem was the city that was set in the midst of the nations.
The next question would be, who are “the people,” that dwelt in the “city of confusion,” that sat in the midst of the land, the people who “violated the everlasting covenant”?
It seems to me that anyone reading these facts from the text, without a bias, would know immediately that the people in view is Israel, the land is Israel, and the city is Jerusalem. And this means that Isaiah was predicting the destruction of “earth” because of Israel’s violation of the Law of Moses! These references cannot be applied to the church at some proposed end of time, as, for instance, the Historicist view attempts to do.
A probing question is raised at this juncture: Does anyone– anyone at all – teach that the literal, material creation one day be destroyed, never to rise again, because of Israel’s violation of the Law of Moses? The answer to that is No. No one teaches that. And yet, that is what the text is discussing:
The Lord makes the earth empty and makes it waste, Distorts its surface And scatters abroad its inhabitants….. The land shall be entirely emptied and utterly plundered,…. The earth mourns and fades away, The world languishes and fades away; The haughty people of the earth languish. The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, Because they have transgressed the laws, Changed the ordinance, Broken the everlasting covenant.
So, it is indisputably true that this was a prediction of the destruction of “the earth.” It is also irrefutably true that the very reason for that predicted destruction was Israel’s violation of the Law of Moses.
In the New Testament, of course, we find echoes and allusions to this passage. We are told that heaven and earth would pass when all of the Law was fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-18).
We are told that the heaven and earth would pass – in fulfillment of the Old Law – in Hebrews 1:10f.
We are told that the heaven and earth would pass with the full arrival of the kingdom of Christ, which was being delivered at that very time (Hebrews 12:25-28). This would be in fulfillment of the OT prophets. When Hebrews was written, the writer said that heaven and earth were, when he wrote, being shaken to make room for the kingdom that was even then being delivered.
We are told that the “earth and the elements therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10f) in fulfillment of the OT prophets (2 Peter 3:1-2, 13).
We are told that heaven and earth would pass at the judgment of Babylon, the city where the Lord was crucified (Revelation 6:12-17 / 16:16ff/ 20:11ff).
So, we are told repeatedly by the New Testament writers that “heaven and earth” was to pass in fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises. Furthermore, we are told that the passing of the creation would be at the destruction of Babylon, Old Covenant Jerusalem– which is precisely what we have found in Isaiah 24 (and as we shall see, in Isaiah 25, 26, and 27 as well!).
Note that I am not arguing that Isaiah 24-27 are the only OT prophecies of the passing of creation cited by the NT writers. There are clearly others (e.g. Isaiah 34 / Psalms 102 / Isaiah 65-66). What I am suggesting is that Isaiah 24, as part of the Little Apocalypse, is one of many OT prophecies of the end time events, upon which the NT writers draw. And what we have seen is that when examined carefully, it is patently clear that Isaiah was not in any way predicting the destruction of material creation. Thus, when the NT writers draw on the Little Apocalypse, it should be apparent that they also were not anticipating and end of time, earth destroying, cosmos ending event. They were in fact looking to the end of the Old Covenant “world” of Israel.
More to come!