Responding to the Critics| Howard Denham’s and the “Last Days” Scoffers
I have called attention to the fact Paul said his doctrine of the resurrection was taken directly from Moses, the law and the prophets. What that means is that when he predicted the falling away, and then the judgment of the living and the dead at the appearing of Christ in the kingdom, that he was in fact, not creating a new prophecy out of brand new revelation, unknown in the OT. If he preached nothing but the hope of Israel found in Torah, then that means, well, he preached nothing but the hope of Israel found in the OT! Peter likewise said that his prophecy of the scoffers who would come in the last days before the parousia was foretold in Torah. With this in mind, where in the OT do we find the last days appearance of apostasy and scoffers?
Note: Micah 7:2, 5-7.
The faithful man has perished from the earth, And there is no one upright among men. They all lie “in wait for blood; Every man hunts his brother with a net…. (v. 2)
Do not trust in a friend; Do not put your confidence in a companion; Guard the doors of your mouth From her who lies in your bosom. For son dishonors father, Daughter rises against her mother, Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; A man’s enemies are the men of his own household. Therefore I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; My God will hear me.”
This text described Israel centuries before Jesus. However, notice that in Matthew 10, Jesus applied Micah’s words to his generation:
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’” (Matthew 10:34-37).
So, Micah described an apostasy in his day that led to judgment on Israel. Jesus cited Micah to predict the events of his generation that would lead to judgment on Israel.
Notice also Isaiah 28:16f
Therefore thus says the Lord God:
“Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily. Also I will make justice the measuring line, And righteousness the plummet; The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, And the waters will overflow the hiding place. Your covenant with death will be annulled, And your agreement with Sheol will not stand; When the overflowing scourge passes through, Then you will be trampled down by it. As often as it goes out it will take you; For morning by morning it will pass over, And by day and by night; It will be a terror just to understand the report.” For the bed is too short to stretch out on, And the covering so narrow that one cannot wrap himself in it. For the Lord will rise up as at Mount Perazim, He will be angry as in the Valley of Gibeon— That He may do His work, His awesome work, And bring to pass His act, His unusual act. Now therefore, do not be mockers, Lest your bonds be made strong; For I have heard from the Lord God of hosts, A destruction determined even upon the whole earth.”
Responding to the Critics| Isaiah and the Last Days Scoffers
Space prevents an in-depth examination of this text, but, before examining just a few of the major points of this great prophecy, I want to call the reader’s attention to the fact that Peter said in 2 Peter 3:1-2, that he was reminding his readers that the OT prophets (and Jesus and the other apostles) had foretold the coming of scoffers in the last days, scoffers who would deny the coming of Christ in the Day of the Lord. See my book, The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat, for a fuller discussion of Isaiah 28. You will find it fascinating and informative!
So, Peter, just like Paul, spoke of the last days and the arrival of scoffers. Okay, let’s take a brief look at Isaiah 28.
1. It foretold the day when the Lord would lay the foundation stone of the Messianic Temple– and even Denham would agree this foretold the coming of Christ, the chief cornerstone.
2. The Lord said that in that Day, He would break Israel’s “covenant with death” i.e. their self-confidence that they could not be destroyed. Just like in Jeremiah’s day Israel believed that because the Lord’s temple was in their midst, they could not be destroyed (Jeremiah 7). The Lord here predicted that their self assurance would be broken, meaning that death would indeed come upon Israel: “Your covenant with death will be annulled, And your agreement with Sheol will not stand; When the overflowing scourge passes through, Then you will be trampled down by it!” Just as Isaiah 65:13f said, “the Lord God shall slay you.”
3. The Lord said He would act as in Mt. Perizim. This meant that YHVH would come as He had come on that past occasion. See my Elements book for a full discussion of this critical element. Whereas, just as in Isaiah 65-66, Israel believed that YHVH was to act in her defense – in spite of her horrendous sin – the Lord said He would come and do a marvelous work and a wonder: “For the Lord will rise up as at Mount Perazim, He will be angry as in the Valley of Gibeon— That He may do His work, His awesome work, And bring to pass His act, His unusual act.” What was “unusual” about it is that He would not come on their behalf, as He had done on numerous occasions. No, He would come in judgment destruction!
(Note: Since Peter is drawing from Isaiah 28, and the coming of the Lord foretold in Isaiah 28 was to be like previous days of the Lord (i.e. at Gibeon and Perizim). It is patently undeniable that YHVH did not come literally, visibly, bodily on those occasions. Thus, that means that the Day of the Lord in 2 Peter 3 was not to be a literal, visible, bodily coming of Christ!)
4. Notice the correlation between Isaiah and Acts 13:38f:
Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you: ‘Behold, you despisers, Marvel and perish! For I work a work in your days, A work which you will by no means believe, Though one were to declare it to you.’”
What cannot be missed is that Paul cites Habakkuk, the prediction of the sixth century judgment on Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians. Jerusalem was to be judged for violation of Torah. But, Paul saw that judgment as predictive! (Paul believed that Israel’s past history was typological- 1 Corinthians 10:11). He warned that Jewish audience that if they rejected his message of Christ, as Messiah, that just like in Habakkuk’s day, the Lord would “work a work in your days, A work which you will by no means believe, Though one were to declare it to you.’”
So, here again, we find the motif of scoffers and impending judgment on Old Covenant Israel with reference to the Old Covenant prophets. And of course, Paul was not speaking of far distant events for the end of the Christian age. He was speaking to Israel about her prophecies, for her last days. This is, in effect, Paul responding to the critics of Covenant Eschatology!
5. Note now that Isaiah urged the scoffers to take heed lest the judgment – that would occur in the day in which the foundation stone would be laid– would overtake them and sweep them away: “Now therefore, do not be mockers, Lest your bonds be made strong; For I have heard from the Lord God of hosts, A destruction determined even upon the whole earth.”
So, Isaiah foretold the first century coming of Christ, and, he also predicted, “A destruction determined even upon the whole earth.” He predicted the appearance of scoffers who would reject the Stone and the impending judgment!
Let us not forget what we saw from Jude.
Jude told his readers to remember what the apostles had warned them about.
The apostles had warned them that Torah had foretold the coming of scoffers in the last time / last days.
This is an undeniable echo of both 2 Peter 3 and 2 Timothy 3-4!
Jude said that what was happening right then, among them, was in fulfillment of what the apostles- and the OT – had foretold!
We thus have Isaiah positing the arrival of the scoffers in the first century, and we have Jude telling us that the OT prophecies, as well as the predictions of the apostles were being fulfilled in the first century.
It is undeniable therefore, that Paul (2 Timothy 3 & 4) and Peter (2 Peter 3) were not speaking of far off events at the end of the Christian age. They were reminding their audiences that what was happening in their day, in the first century, was what was foretold for Israel’s last days. Denham is clearly wrong to extrapolate Paul and Peter’s references to the scoffers and the false teachers into the distant future from their day. That violates the OT prophecies. It contradicts the words of Jude.
More to come as we continue our series of Responding to the Critics!