The third chapter (or essay) in A Case For Historic Premillennialism is Judaism and the World to Come by Helene Dallaire. At first I thought I would not enjoy this chapter based on the title which was selected to represent it. However, I find that the title accurately represents the subject contained therein, and I appreciated the presentation. The author traces the views of Judaism concerning life after death beginning with the Torah all the way through rabbinic literature and even later Jewish texts. I questioned the relevance of the extra-biblical sources, but now I understand the author’s point of view. There was an interpretation of the Bible within the Israelite community which was carried on in the intertestamental period and even further. By citing these sources, it is plain what the standard interpretation amongst God’s people was during that time period.
The first section is Judaism and the Messianic Age. One of the opening quotes concerns the timing of the resurrection in relation to the Messianic Age. “Jewish literature confirms the enduring belief that a day will come when Israel will experience redemption from sin and deliverance from oppression during messianic age, followed by a resurrection of the dead, a day of final judgment, and life in the world to come.” After quoting several rabbis as to the length of the messianic age based on certain passages (one deems it a thousand years based on Psalm 90:4 and Isaiah 2:11) the author closes this section relating it to the subject at hand. “Although Jewish interpretations on the length of days for the messianic kingdom differ extensively, the literature presents a scenario where the hardships and tribulations of earthly life immediately precede the messianic age. Unlike the pretribulational Christian belief that the faithful will be taken from the earth for a period of time before the thousand-year reign of Christ, Judaism presents life in this earthly realm, with its troubles and sorrows, and the messianic age as two consecutive events, without a time gap between them. Consequently, most Jewish interpretations related to the messianic age present a view that parallels more closely that of the Christian posttribulational premillennial view than any of the other Christian views mentioned in this essay.”
The next section is Old Testament Evidence of an Afterlife and a Resurrection of the Dead. It is divided into smaller sections progressively working forward through the Bible in chronological order, and therefore in order of the progressive revelation. The first in this series is titled Afterlife in the Pentateuch. The main focus is on Enoch and his being taken without experiencing death. There are a couple of comments by Jacob concerning Sheol which thought will be developed in later sections.
In the section Afterlife in Wisdom Literature, the main focus is on the subject of death and the grave from passages in Job and Ecclesiastes. This is mostly despondent except for the mention of Job 19:25-27. I was disappointed at the lack of exposition of a single passage in the psalms. I also find the lack of a mention of Psalm 16 to be slightly disconcerting since Peter gave it so much attention on Pentecost. But if we are following the Jewish tradition and they paid no attention to it, I guess the author might be justified in overlooking matters like this.
Afterlife in the Historical Books focuses on three key stories worth our attention. The first is the story of Saul and the witch at Endor. Obviously, there was a belief in life after death here. The second is the story of the death of David and Bathsheba’s first child. David’s statement, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me,” is often quoted to give comfort to parents as they face the death of a newborn. Yet here the author brings out the simple truth that this child had gone somewhere and could not return. The third story is the well known event of Elijah’s “dramatic transfer from earth to heaven.” This section is concluded by observing “that Elijah departed this earth without experiencing physical death allows for his possible return to earth in “that great and dreadful day of the LORD,” as declared by the prophet Malachi (Mal. 4:5).”
Afterlife in the Prophets is the most intriguing section in this chapter to me. Here the progressive revelation has brought us to the point of being able to clearly see the resurrection in several prophecies including Isaiah 26:19-21, (one of my favorite passages), Hosea 13:14, and Daniel 12:1-2 along with others. So if you have been reading through the Bible chronologically looking for new revelation concerning the grave, life after death, and the resurrection, you now come to the point where ideas that many think are only in the New Testament are plainly spoken of in minute detail. I think that is the author’s point in chronologically separating each of these sections and not grouping similar passages.
The next three passages, Afterlife in – Intertestamental Literature, – Rabbinic Literature, and – Later Jewish Texts are fascinating to read. While being extra-biblical sources, many of the quotes point toward a strong conviction of life after death and a bodily resurrection. The quotes from 2 Maccabbees as some were being martyred show an acute belief that their dead bodies would rise from the dead because of God’s power. The author points out that rabbis disagreed with other rabbis and some even had contradicting views themselves. So while scripture is united, these rabbinical writings are not. I’ll not go into too much detail here but recommend the book based on this chapter.
On the downside, I fear that the approach in this chapter is typical of the book as a whole. While the ideas set forth here are not in and of themselves a strong case for Historic Premillennialism, they are a foundation or a starting point. This is the way the entire book is set up. Without delving into biblical texts more specifically by comparing and contrasting a point of view on a doctrine with varying positions, one only has a starting point and not a conclusion.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman