The Silence is Shocking
Brett had one more, very thoughtful response to me in which he stated up front that he would let me have the last word after that. I really enjoyed responding to it, but I feel that my response did not do justice to what he was looking for. For some of the points that he made, I simply diverted his attention to other scriptures instead of dealing with the ones that he was pointing to. I did deal with the majority of it, but I’m a perfectionist, for those of you who haven’t figured it out yet. I don’t feel right when someone points out a specific truth in a text and I don’t deal with that specific passage.
I post his response in its entirety so that you readers (all two of you) may see exactly where A-Millennialists are coming from. The whole point of this is – can Pre-Millennialists and A-Millennialists even dialogue? Sometimes it seems as if the different ways to approach the book of Isaiah are too vast to be brought together in a simple discussion. You can read my attempt at a response to Brett and you readers can deem if it addresses the issues that Brett raises or not. I hope to write another response in which I deal with every single scripture he has cited. Although that may be after I retire from the Postal Service in 30 years and write my dissertation on the book of Isaiah.
I titled this post “The Silence is Shocking” for two reasons. Both Pre-Millennialists and A-Millennialists are known to argue from silence. When one side tries to assert something, the other side states that this truth they are trying to assert doesn’t appear in a certain portion of scripture, either OT or NT depending on which view you are challenging. Brett uses the phrase in his response in just this way. But the main reason I used the phrase is because despite the comments back and forth between the positions, I don’t see any real dialogue. Nobody is taking what the other side says seriously enough to formulate a thoughtful response. Which means that in all the world, there is no real dialogue. People aren’t talking TO each other, they are talking AT each other. That really doesn’t amount to much. So the amount of actual dialogue equals a huge silence, and that silence is shocking.
Thanks for your response. I very much appreciate your irenic tone. I hope that I can be as gracious as you have been i your posts.
In Mark 1 Jesus appears suddenly on the scene, proclaiming a baptism of repentance and then doing actual baptisms in the wilderness. This wilderness motif is an interesting one. In the first exodus, the wilderness was a place of testing. There is definitely a sense of that in Mark also since Jesus, as the true Israel, is driven into the wilderness for his 40 days of fasting and testing. But unlike Adam, and unlike Israel, Jesus, the second Adam, and the true Israel passes the test. This testing aspect of the wilderness is present, but there also seems to be an expansion in its meaning. The prophet Isaiah proclaimed a new Exodus for God’s people. He used a lot of the same imagery from the first exodus. One of those images is the wilderness. But what we see in Isaiah’s new exodus is that the wilderness itself becomes a place of life and new beginnings. These two are not necessarily at odds. In fact I would view Christ’s victory in his trial as the source of life coming to the wilderness.
Isaiah 32:14-16 For the palace is forsaken, the populous city deserted; the hill and the watchtower will become dens forever, a joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks; 15 until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. 16 Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
In Verse 8 of Mark 1 John proclaims that "he [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." This outpouring of the Spirit was an event which marked the second exodus for God’s people. Bu the second exodus is not out of Egypt or Assyria, but out of bondage to sin. Peter makes explicit reference to the prophetic fulfillment of the out pouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. At that time, says Isaiah, the wilderness will become a fruitful forest.
Isaiah 35: 1-2, 5-7 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; 2 it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing… 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 7 the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
I do not think that this passage is principally about agriculture or horticulture or environmental transformation. When Christ came there was an in-breaking of the eschaton. The curse began to be peeled back. The lame would walk, the blind would see, the deaf would hear and the mute would speak. Then of course we have the voice of one crying in the wilderness in chapter 40 of Isaiah which was fulfilled in John the Baptist. It is in this context that Isaiah speaks again of the rivers of life:
Isaiah 41:18-19 I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. 19 I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive. I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together,
Isaiah 43:19-20 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. 20 The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people,
And again, just before the great passage of the suffering servant in ch 53 Isaiah says:
Isaiah 51:3 For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.
When these are mixed in with the ministry of John the Baptist and the work of Christ, and granting the wonderful NT correlations they have, it seems slightly artificial to relegate them to a future physical setting.
I am aware that that the river came from under the threshold, but knowing that it would then subsequently make its way through the door/gates of the court, and desiring some round numbers, I ran with it.
While it is true that we don’t know that there may not be some other tributaries, or perhaps a continuous rain-cloud just south of the temple, if one’s interpretation requires such conjectures in order to become reasonable, then it looses some of its strength.
The growth of this life-giving river from the temple of God shares its growth pattern with the parables of the kingdom of God that Jesus gives in Mark 4 "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade." See also the leaven.
I also have to wonder why there was so much focus on rivers? They do not seem t be that big of a deal to me. Just head over to Egypt, they have a great river! Very fertile ground and everything. There are many great rivers in many parts of the world. Even if the desert did start to blossom, If I were a Jew living in Hawaii (where everything is already blooming) I don’t know how eager I would be to leave. Why so much space give to something that already exists in many parts of the world? But, bringing salvation to the ends of the earth?! That is big news! Bringing life to my dessert-like Gentile heart?! Changing the fundamental nature of man?! That is big!
And why after all this temple talk and river talk (which consumed the prophets) do we have 27 books go by without a word said? The silence is shocking. But it is not complete silence; there is actually a great deal of talk about priests, and sacrifices and temples and circumcision and rivers of life and incense and many other things! There is a lot of talk and it is all about the work that Christ has brought to his newly expanding people.
These, in conjunction with the points from the previous post, make me feel that the amil position is the stronger of the two. Thank you so much for your interaction. I suppose we could go on for some time because we are only just getting these great themes on the table. We could dissect them for some time. But believe it or not I don’t have a lot of time, and I have monopolized Dr Waldron’s blog long enough (sorry). So I’ll let you have the last word on the matter if you desire. Thanks again!
This is a response to your third post. I am enjoying this interaction here. I have a friend who told me that it takes a little disagreement to bring about the “iron sharpens iron” principle. He is a Calvinist, but states that when a bunch of Calvinists sit around slapping themselves on the back telling each other how they all believe the right thing is not iron sharpening iron. But that’s probably a little off topic.
You know, it could be a dangerous thing to give me the last word on a subject. If you go back on that statement after you read my post, I won’t hold it against you in the least. I’ve got some interesting views on Isaiah which I don’t know if any other PreMillennialist holds. Isaiah 32 gives us some prophecies which could be interpreted a couple of different ways. We can see spiritual parallels with the coming of Christ to pour out spiritual blessings. But I see Christ as giving us a foretaste of the age to come within the aspects of His earthly ministry which was characterized by rejection by the majority of His people. These prophecies can not be truly “fulfilled” until the actual age in which Christ’s rule is embodied arrives. That occurs at His coming when He takes His seat on His throne when all nations are gathered before Him. So when I see Isaiah 32, I see Messiah’s reign on earth at some future point in time when all of these things will be true in a literal way, AND I also see what you are talking about. Namely, Christ is seated in a position of power right now at the right hand of the Father pouring our spiritual blessings upon all who believe in Him.
I quote you here in order to make an accurate response. You write, “But the second exodus is not out of Egypt or Assyria, but out of bondage to sin. Peter makes explicit reference to the prophetic fulfillment of the out pouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. At that time, says Isaiah, the wilderness will become a fruitful forest.” My response is that upon examination, we see that the pouring out of the Holy Spirit has occurred in part upon the nation of Israel. It was prophesied in Joel 2:28-29 that God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh. In Acts 2:14-21 Peter states that the Holy Spirit being poured out upon those Israelites believers at Pentecost were receiving the Holy Spirit prophesied by the prophet Joel. But notice that not all present had received the Holy Spirit as was evidenced by those making fun of the twelve. Even after Peter’s powerful sermon, many in Israel did not receive the Holy Spirit. Then in Acts 3:19-21 Peter implores the Israelite leaders to repent, be converted, and have their sins blotted out in order that certain events may occur. These events are as follows: The times of refreshing, the second coming of Jesus Messiah, and the restitution of all things. Peter expected for fellow Israelites to corporately repent in order that certain prophetic events may happen according to the Biblical timetable.
The blessings described in Isaiah 35 seem to be contingent upon the judgement which was executed in Isaiah 34. This judgement is earthly as well as heavenly. His sword in bathed in the heavens dissolving some of the heavenly host. There are portions of the earth which become permanently uninhabitable after this judgement. After this awful judgement, which is due to the controversy over Zion, then the blessings are poured out upon the earth. So my view is that sometime in the future there will come an awful judgement upon the earth, but after that time when the king reigns in righteousness (Isaiah 32:1), then the earth will respond to His rule in this very way. In the midst of this kingdom, sickness will have lost all power. The disciples saw a foretaste of it as the King was in their midst. But (pardon my poor grammar), we ain’t seen nuthin yet!
I like the citation of Isaiah 41 and 43, but my view would take too much groundwork to establish before getting to the root of the issue. But instead, allow me to point to Isaiah 42:1-7, which I’m sure you are familiar with, at least Matthew was familiar with it as he quotes it in Matthew 12:16-21. Here we have the meek and mild servant refusing to exercise any earthly authority. He will continue in His meekness and mildness until judgement extends to the ends of the earth and Gentiles have learned to trust in Him. He will be personally given as a covenant for His people Israel and further given as a light to the Gentiles. Gentiles will be allowed to come out of their spiritual darkness and into the light of the God of Israel. So the application here is that Christ came as the meek and mild servant of Isaiah 42. He would not exercise any earthly judgement, but instead allowed smoking wicks a chance to burst into flame once again, He allowed that bruised reeds might be healed and restored. We are currently in this time whereby Gentiles are coming to the light of this meek and mild servant.
Now take this truth and head over to Isaiah 49 to see the same truth. Christ (the true Israel) is the LORD’s ultimate weapon, 49:1-3. It was a small thing to save Israel, in addition, God sent forth light to all the Gentiles as well that salvation would be to the ends of the earth, 49:6. Again, prisoners are coming forth from dark prisons to experience the light of the God of Israel, 49:9. But after this point in time, Zion’s complaint (in the midst of Gentile salvation) is that God has forgotten her, 49:14. God’s response is that Zion is carved on the palm of His hands, 49:16. After this, Israel is raised, restored, regathered to her place of prominence among the Gentile nations, 49:5-6, 18, 22-23. Those amongst the Gentiles who have come to God’s light during the time of salvation of the Gentiles are known as the children that Zion has brought forth. “Who hath begotten me these?” she asks, 49:20-21.
So I believe that Gentiles are currently being brought out spiritual darkness to participate in the New Covenant with Israel. I agree that Christ brought with Him the in-breaking of the eschaton. But at that point in time we entered the last days, Hebrews 1:2. We have yet to arrive at the beginning of the age to come, Hebrews 9:26.
In response to Isaiah 51, I will just say that I don’t see a future physical setting as a relegation, but as part of God’s plan to redeem the earth as well as mankind. The things you state concerning spiritual fulfillment in the church can be true without excluding a future fulfillment for Christ’s kingdom here on earth. I don’t see that I have to make a choice between spiritual fulfillment now and literal fulfillment later. Why not both? Thanks for the response. I agree with a lot of what you have to say.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman