From:  A Torah Commentary on First  Corinthians 15                    Return to Home

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.                               © 2012

 

 

 

 

[Page 75]

 

 

 

Chapter 5:

Explicit Quotations:

Isaiah 25:8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15:54-55:

The ultimate triumph over death is made

possible by the change made in the body

at the resurrection:

The use of Isaiah 25:8.

 

 

 

The triumph over death is clearly Paul’s point in verses 51-54.  To vindicate it, the apostle to the Gentiles appeals to two Old Testament texts in particular.  The first is quoted in verse 54, “Death is swallowed up in (by, ATP) victory.”  In a slightly different form this is found in Isaiah 25:8, “He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken.” 

            John the Revelator typically does not claim to be quoting a specific text even though all agree that his work is filled with scriptural allusions and rhetoric that he often routinely weaves into his language.  In this case he depicts the reward of the  righteous in eternity’s New Jerusalem through the word picture given by Isaiah, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). 

The reason for the removal of heartache:  for the former things have passed away.”   Hence he is talking cause and effect:  no tears because God had already removed the reason for them—the same concept as expressed in Isaiah 25:8.

            In 1 Corinthians 15:54 and Revelation 21:4, it takes great effort to avoid the conclusion that both writers are quoting/citing the same text and with the same \

[Page 76]   interpretation—the literal, total, permanent abolition of physical dying.  This will be challenged by TFP in regard to Paul, but what of John?  This deserves passing consideration before we move on to the center of our attention.

            The sad reality is that spiritual death still appears possible in heaven.  The Devil and his disobedient following angels are described as being cast out of there (Revelation 12:7-9).  Put this at whatever point in history you prefer, it still indicates that sin can pollute even heaven.  Furthermore we read in 2 Peter 2:4 of how “God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell” to await judgment.  (A parallel unpleasant fate of some kind doubtless awaiting any human who tries to reintroduce moral evil there, but that doesn’t remove their freedom of will and ability to try to do so.  Punishment deals with consequences; here we are concerned with capacity.)

Hence if all tears are eliminated by the removal of death, that can’t refer to spiritual death for that pattern—at least theoretically—could occur again as Revelation says it has in the past.  (Or were they cast “out” and “down” without being counted spiritually dead?)  Therefore it must refer to our continued individual physical existence without the danger of facing a repeat of that trauma.  And if John uses Isaiah 25:8 in such a fashion, would it be so surprising if Paul took it in the same manner—individual and in regard to physicality? 

As to Isaiah 25:8 itself, it should be noted that the version we quoted at the beginning is the translation of the Hebrew found in the NKJV; the LXX, however, renders it, “he has devoured death in its power.”[1]  Paul’s reading of Isaiah is similar to that utilized by the ancient Jewish translations of both Aquila and Theodotion,[2] in particular the interjection of the strong word “victory”[3] to make even clearer the triumphant implications of “swallow[ing] up death forever.”  This reading’s independence from other sources has resulted in it being described as “a free rendering of the Hebrew.”[4] 

The equating of “swallow up” and “victory”—different as the terminology is—does represent a conceptually equivalent approach.  “To swallow up something is to completely do away with it.  ‘Victory’ indicates the complete defeat of an enemy,” the same end of destruction being accomplished in both cases.[5]   

            Paul’s use of the text is certainly not out of line with Jewish exegesis of the time.  Ancient rabbinic literature repeatedly introduces this text as evidence that death will not exist in the future age.[6]      

It is not uncommon for scholars to argue that Isaiah is loosely building upon an existing pagan way of thinking but applying their assumptions on surviving death far more broadly than they had.  For example, A. S. Herbert speculates that Isaiah is aiming a pointed critique at a contemporary pagan festival and in doing so argues that Yahweh can do once and permanently what the pseudo-gods of the age could only attempt yearly, “What in Canaanite myth was a dramatic portrayal of the annual death and vegetation was transformed into a once-for-all event, the fulfillment of God’s majestic purpose for his people.”[7] 

The pagan gods might be able to help nature—assuming they existed at all and assuming they actually had this kind of power—but to get the “cycle of agriculture” going again was still far removed from the power to raise humans who are dead.  In that case you aren’t recycling a pattern of life, you are bringing back the same specific individual.

[Page 77]           The Hebrew word for “death” in this verse (Mot) was used in pagan myth for the deity in charge of the post-death world and Baal, as a fertility god, had to lock in combat with him each year to restore life to the once fertile plain.[8]  (But not restoring dead human lives, however!)  The play on words would have been recognized by contemporaries as well as the not subtle emphasis on how Yahweh is the real death killer—who could terminate it forever.[9] 

The appeal of the verse to those advocating the literal abolishment of physical death is both a result of a “carry over” effect from 1 Corinthians 15 and a result of how the passage itself can be utilized in that manner, at least by traditional Biblically orientated sermonizers.  First consider the broader context of verses 6-8,

 

(6) And in this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well-refined wines on the lees.   7 And He will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.  (8) He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken.

 

            This is a summary of how the classic sermonizer Charles Simeon developed the verses (his sermons were so vast that he landed up publishing them as a commentary on the Bible!):[10]

            25:6:  The feast represents those things which please us and provide “nourishment and comfort to” the soul.  It is notably for all people—Jew and Gentile, the prestigious and the servant as well.

            25:7:  The “veil” are our “lusts and prejudices” and, in its own way even the Law of Moses if used not as an encouragement to come to Jesus but as an excuse not to.  God “destroys” the ability of the veil to keep us from seeing the truth.

            25:8:  “The power of death” is no longer our foe but can even be embraced for it is now not the once feared death but the comforting “to fall asleep in Jesus.”  And ultimately will come that time when “not a vestige of it [will] ever again be found among the saints of God.”  For they will be brought back from that “sleep” and restored to their bodies.

            Commentator Thomas Scott summed up the thought development pattern in far fewer words:  We find here in these verses a multi-millennium long prophecy that begins with “the conversion of the Gentiles in the days of the apostles (verse 6) . . . , the veil of ignorance removed (verse 7), and culminates in the final judgment and then all tears and [the] causes will be removed (verse 8).”[11]

            If you wish to limit it to verse 8, Matthew Poole summed up the approach quite well:[12]

            (1)  “Wipe away tears” = “will take awake from His people all sufferings and sorrows and all the causes of them.”

            (2)  “Rebuke of the people” = “the reproach and contempt which was daily cast upon His faithful people by the ungodly world.”  

            (3)  “From all the earth” = “wheresoever they shall be from.”

            (4)  “Lord hath spoken” = “therefore doubt not of it, though it seem incredible to you.”

[Page 78]           The sermonic illustrative usefulness of 25:8—and the broader context of 25:6-8—should be obvious to anyone who has ever preached a sermon and to most folk who have listened to many.  What makes a good sermon outline, however, may or may not represent what the author actually intended or even be consistent with his words and that is the question here.  It this “fair use” of the text?

            The affirmative case might be summed up concisely:  (1)  Paul so used it and he should be assumed to have an adequate working knowledge of the text to use it properly within the framework of the interpretive principles then in common use.  (In other words it might not reflect our contemporary approach to exegesis but it did that of his own age.) 

            (2)  As noted, other Jewish exegetes of antiquity used it of the ending of death so the Pauline use does not stand alone.  On a number of issues (especially directly messianic) there either was or developed in the following century distinct Jewish versus Christian interpretations, but in this case both sides could find the same core idea in the text even if they might develop the implications differently. 

             (3)  Isaiah’s original remarks make a logical further development of known existing pagan thought of his day, however much further he took the principle than they did.  Assuming that an intentional allusion is intended (and such is common), this is still not “borrowing” but the recognition that they had a core truthful idea and because it was true that it was a legitimate concept to use in presenting the fuller and more complete truth that was unknown to them. 

            We do this routinely today:  If someone’s concept is identical, close to, or even just parallel to what the Bible teaches we don’t hesitate to build upon that element we have in common.  “You’ve heard it this way; how about considering the possibility that God really meant it this way instead.”  We no more consider it compromising with error than the prophet did.

            For those who are Christian conservatives, one must also factor in, that Paul’s NT usage was an inspired application of the text, assuring that it was accurate and reliable.

Even so, there are a number of objections that can be made against embracing the interpretation that Isaiah, himself, intended his words to be a prediction of the ultimate end of physical death. 

 

            1.  There are a significant number who argue that the abolishment of death was not part of the original Isaiah text.  R. E. Clements confidently asserts that, “Many commentators would delete the opening clause of verse 8, ‘I will swallow up death for ever’ as a later addition. . . .  [O]n balance the probability appears to be that it has been added by a later redactor.”[13]

            In addition to the fact that we have no manuscript tradition without the key words (he would certainly have cited such evidence if he had it available), there is also the not insignificant assumption that ancient Biblical copyists often knew few or no ethical scruples when it came to mutilating their texts—or to use a less blunt description, “altering” them.   Not miscopying, not accidentally inserting a marginal note into the main body, or the various other ways such a thing could happen—it was intentionally and purposely changed. 

His speculation as to motive appears to be, “The fact that the circumstances of the author’s time seemed not to warrant such a triumph and expectation gave added cause to [Page 79]   stress that its certainty lay in the purposes of God.”[14]  This seems to come down to the belief that the original author couldn’t conceive of a “happy ending” (so to speak) so the later redactor added one.  But if a redactor could imagine it, why not the original author? 

Remember that the author is so creative  that in 25:6 he can imagine the very opposite of what normally happens:  “ . . .  Jehovah makes a feast. Ordinarily it was the worshippers who feasted the god; here it is God Himself who is the host.”[15]  To use the modern expression, “he could imagine outside the box.”  Why not in regard to the triumph over death as well?         

 

2.  The means of death being removed, unlike in Paul, is not explained.  Death will end “forever,” at least so far as Yahweh’s people, insists Isaiah.[16]  The fact--the certainty--the assurance of that reality is given, but how and the manner of accomplishing it is not spelled out by the Old Testament writer.[17]  In contrast, Paul explicitly links it with the resurrection of the body.  One may accept or reject that linkage, but the physical resurrection certainly is a rational explanation of how it would come about.  Hence we are not dealing with incompatibility but, at most, with supplemental information. 

Whether Isaiah himself would have found it in his words as well is inherently unanswerable.  But one limitation of a prophet was that he was told the future but might well not understand all his prediction(s) embodied.  Of the promise of salvation we are told this was the case, “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Peter 1:10-11).  

            Peter explicitly mentions, directly, only how they “searched carefully” of the timing of the “salvation” to occur.  Yet the language surely includes the related matters he mentions--“the grace that would come to you,” “the sufferings of Christ” (how and why does a Messiah suffer?), “and the glories that would follow” (just what exactly would happen after the Messiah arrived and completed His work?).  Do we dare claim they understood clearly any of these, except in the vaguest way, if that? 

None of these related matters were self-explanatory and could only be answered when the events occurred or later inspired individuals could “connect the dots.”  If we take it for granted in regard to these matters, would it be so odd if they could not understand the full intent of the removal of death until later prophets spoke or events happened to clarify the meaning?

 

            3.  There is no explicit mention of a messianic connection in particular with the conquest of death.  E. A. Edghill raises the assertion—to reject it--in connection with how superbly the passage fits the picture of a Messianic reign.  He takes the opportunity to point out the wording in no way requires a post-exilic date often attributed to the words:  true, the preceding chapter “makes no mention of Messiah or Messianic king or priests or princes.  ‘Elders’ alone are mentioned” (Isaiah 24:23) but that is no proof of origin in a postexilic community since as far back as the Divine manifestation in Exodus 24:9-10 we read only of “elders” present.[18]      

            Edghill then notes how the Old Testament itself links the coming of Yahweh with a separate figure that has supernatural aspects and who also intervenes on earth.  Hence [Page 80]   Malachi 3:1 predicts:  “Behold I send my messenger and he shall prepare the way before Me, and the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to His temple, and the angel of the covenant in whom ye delight, behold he cometh, saith the Lord of Hosts.”[19] 

            Jesus uses this passage as a reference to John the Baptist preparing the way for Him (Matthew 11:10).  In Malachi 3:1, “the Lord” at first seems to be Jehovah who enters the temple as is shown both by the term “the Lord” itself and how it is identified as “His temple.”  Yet He is clearly distinguished from Jehovah—“the angel of the covenant in whom ye delight, behold he cometh saith the Lord of Hosts.” 

Note how the “Lord” that comes into the Temple is different from the “Lord of Hosts” who makes the prediction (cf. the similar usage of “Lord” in multiple senses in Psalms 110:1).  This second “Lord” has both the language used of Deity applied but is identified as something different as well.  He becomes a messianic figure utilized by the “Lord of Hosts” to fulfill His purposes.

Applying such a reasoning to Isaiah 25:8, then the Lord Himself is acting both when He is exclusively involved and when He acts through His Divinely appointed special agent.  Hence a messianic connection being understood (though not stated) is not out of line with the Isaiah passage.  Not required but not out of line with it, either—that is what is important in the current context. 

When Paul makes such a messianic connection explicit in 1 Corinthians 15, he is simply building on already prepared ground in Malachi.  The real question is more accurately phrased as not “how can Isaiah 25:8 be messianic” as “how can it not be Messianic if interpreted that way by Paul?”  (The advocates of TFP are faced with a parallel dilemma in that the apostle applies the text to an individual bodily resurrection that they deny occurs and which they assert that is not grounded in the prophecy of Isaiah itself.)

It is to be readily admitted that this comes down to the issue of whether one recognizes Paul’s reliability and supernatural guidance in what he taught.  If “yes,” the answer is he was right; if one denies such factors, whether he has correctly utilized the Isaiah passage is more open to question—though, as noted, far from the “slam drunk” some might assume.

            This edges us into a related topic:  Does the text have to be literally prophetic of what Paul is describing for it to fully appropriate for him to cite?  Joseph A. Alexander took this approach when he argued, “As this is not an explanation of the text before us, nor even a citation of it in the way of argument, but merely a sublime description, all that it was necessary to express was the final, perpetual triumphant abolition of death.”[20]  It superbly gets the point across that Paul wished to be embraced and that was all that was necessary—it matched the reality he was striving to describe (the destruction of Death’s ability to drive us from the world of the living) and from a source that Jewish readers would find especially relevant.  

           

4.  In Isaiah the subject is the elimination of grieving caused by death while in Paul it is death that is removed by the resurrection—a far different topic and method.  Murray J. Harris argues that, “Paul cites this verse in a resurrection context (1 Corinthians 15:54), but in its original setting the point is not the eradication of death through the resurrection of the dead but the removal of grief through the destruction of death.”[21]  In other words, Isaiah speaks of the day when death would cease to exist rather than of a day when people would be brought back from the dead.

[Page 81]           Yet conceding this much, does not one concede too much in undermining Isaiah 25 as a resurrection text?  Would not the ending of physical death be a miracle as spectacular and awesome as the resurrection of the dead would be?  If God, indeed, has this kind of power, would not the day He stops death from occurring be the logical time to bring the dead back to life if that is to ever happen at all? 

Indeed, without doing so would not grief continue—grief over those who were unfortunate enough to have died a few days, weeks, months, years before death was purged from human experience?  In short, can the promised grief stopping be fully accomplished without a resurrection from the dead?  

 

            5.  The text is intended only to imply that all will live to a ripe old age.  J. Lindbolm deduces this from other texts he reads as predicting a glorious golden age for future Israel on earth:  It will become a mighty nation (Isaiah 60:22), Jerusalem will be so huge that there will be no walls to contain it (Zechariah 2:8), infant mortality will vanish and all will live to an elderly age (Isaiah 65:20).  The expression about death being swallowed up “must, in my opinion, be explained in the light of the passages just mentioned:  nobody will die before he had reached a very great age.  In this manner the power of death is really broken.  Thus there will no longer be any reason for weeping and wailing.”[22]

            I would have strengthened his argument by adding:  Did anyone weep over the death of Mehuselah?  From one standpoint we would assume not; indeed we can imagine at least a few muttering “about time!”  From another standpoint, however, does any death ever come unmourned—with the sometimes exception of a person suffering from severe disease or disablement?  Unless the bond of human relationships has been intentionally shattered, it is hard to imagine anyone but the extreme “loner” who will not leave behind at least a few broken hearts at their departure.

            Hence I would challenge the basic premise of Lindbolm.  Without getting into his assumption of an earthbound Israelite paradise (high dubious), there is the very real question of the validity of the assertion that “the power of death is really broken” merely by it taking much longer to occur.  If that “breaks” its power, what would the literal abolishment, of which Isaiah 25:8 seems to speak, be described as accomplishing?            

            In contrast, his view of the removal of the veil over all nations does provide a more direct connection between that act and the removal of death than is typically made, “As regards the covering that is cast over all peoples and the veil that is spread over all nations (Isaiah 25:7), I believe that they are thought of as tokens of mourning . . . (see, for instance, 2 Samuel 15:30; 19:5; Jeremiah 14:3f.; Esther 6:12). . . .  Other scholars hold that the removal of the veil symbolizes the revelation of Yahweh to the Gentiles (Procksch, Kissane).”[23]

             

            6.  The “resurrection” being described is a national one of independence rather than an individual one of liberation from death.  In this form, the argument can stand on its own regardless of whether one accepts TFP or even recognize that it exists.  Kevin Madigan and Jon D. Levenson intriguingly argue that even if the nationalistic approach is true, it implies the existence and popularity of the belief in physical resurrection,[24] 

[Page 82]

It is possible, of course, to interpret the language of the joyful awakening of the dead and the destruction of death as only metaphorical for the restoration of Israel and the establishment of its collective security.  Even so . . . if the author or authors of Isaiah 24-27 thought resurrection literally impossible, their choice of it as a metaphor for the national resurrection that they fully expected was highly inappropriate and self-defeating. 

 

If a significant number of Israelites (the majority or more?) did not believe restoration from physical death possible and probable (and even certain?) why would one use exactly that imagery to vindicate a national resurrection?  If the first were dismissed as impossible, how could imagery based on that idea be accepted as portraying the actual future?  Would it not be automatically dismissed as invoking yet another impossibility—or, at least, utter improbability?  

Laying this aside, there are still two potential tie-ins--if one takes the national “resurrection” approach--that permit this text to form a precedent for the TFP redefinition of “resurrection” away from one of a post-physical death nature.  The first is that it happens to a collectivity—Israel.  The second is that the despised, disaster plagued nation has arisen from its depths and been, so to speak, “resurrected.”  Hence the text can be read as describing what is happening to the nation / group / collectivity and not to individuals; Israel had been subjugated and now it is gloriously triumphant. 

            So long as one keeps it rather broadly worded, such as we have just done, one can see some appealing parallelism with TFP’s asserted collective “resurrection” in 1 Corinthians 15.  Even independent of that—and in a more traditional context—we can see how the emphasis on what happens to the nation is in marked contrast to Paul’s utilization of the text in a strictly individual setting and that this can be used as an evidence that it won’t fit Isaiah’s original intent.  Since it can be advocated from two very different sets of premises, this merits examining this argument as a distinct entity in its own right.
            There is an element of truth in how we have summarized the passage, but it is also highly misleading.  It is open to serious challenge on three grounds:  (1)  as to who is victorious, (2) whether the term “resurrection” best describes what happens, and (3) whether it is a “collective” rather than individual triumph.

           

A.  The creation of an internationalized Israel.  In one sense, Israel is triumphant—but it is no longer Israel in the traditional, nationalistic sense.  (Cf. Paul in Romans 9:6:  “For they are not all Israel who are of Israel” = the real Israel has a partially different composition than the physical one.)

By their disasters (Isaiah 25:1-2), certain non-Israelites had been forced to recognize and honor Jehovah:  “Therefore the strong people will glorify You; the city of the terrible nations will fear you” (25:3).  But it wasn’t just due to His punitive power that they had been forced to change their attitude for immediately  come the words, “For you have been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; for the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall” (25:4). 

Because, at the end of the verse, it again edges into God’s protective strength [Page 83]   against enemies, it is possible that this is simply the “flip side” of the earlier point—the defeat of enemies was, simultaneously, the protection of the Israelites.  Yet the verse begins with protection in a far broader and less enemy specific sense, and it is tempting to read this as a supplemental reason for changing their course as well.     

            Be that as it may, not everyone would embrace Him from the previous foes:  “The song of the terrible ones will be diminished” (25:5)—not eliminated.  The remaining enemies are personified (if you will) under the label of “Moab” (25:10-12).  Whether strictly that nation or a generic label for all enemies--by invoking the identity of a well established known one to cover any and all, current or potential--they would unquestionably still exist.

              Even so a New/Expanded Israel is created by the text’s grand reconciliation of Jew and Gentile even if many prefer to remain outside it.  Referring to it as “national” is not quite the image projected; rather it is international, the whole human race--or, at least, those elements within it who wish to be part and desire to be benefited by what transpires. 

Furthermore, the strictly “national” (Israelite) interpretation hits the fact that “the veil that is spread over all nations” is being removed--not just for Israelites or the nation Israel (Isaiah 25:7).  So even in its original Old Testament setting, will a purely nationalistic revival do justice to the language? 

            In this context of an Expanded Israel, the feast “for all people” (25:6) and the verbal parallelism between “the covering cast over all people and the veil that is spread over all nations” (25:7) both argue strongly that this new Internationalized Israel is under consideration and not that of the traditional Israelite nation.

            Hence it is very hard to see that we have here a resurrected nation at all.  Rather we have the creation of a new one--an Internationalized Israel that will continue to have external enemies but to whom God will give profound joy short-term (the great feast image in 25:7) and, ultimately, the ending of death (25:8).  (In the short term perhaps this means the ending of internal conflict for external enemies are referred to as still present [Moab]; as Paul uses it, an ultimate outcome of physical death being eliminated.) 

However we interpret those things, what is depicted clearly fits the word “creation’ far better than resurrection.  What had been repressed in the past—the national Israel—is wrapped into this revitalized Internationalized Israel.  One might even question the “nation” label at this point since this new entity has expanded beyond that limitation.  Perhaps “movement” or some other label might actually fit better.  (Such as “church?”)

The national Israel had certainly known both defeat and revival; but the Internationalized Israel being depicted in Isaiah 25 has enemies and triumphant joy—but no indication of defeat at all.  Defeat is confined to its enemies (25:10-12).  The historical pattern in physical Israel of independence, subjugation, independence, is not duplicated, at least so far as anything the text tells us.

           

            B.  What happens to the Internationalized Israel occurs not to the group distinct from the individuals but  because it happens to the individuals within that collectivity.          The reference to “all faces” having their tears removed and the rhetoric of the triumph involving “all” certainly sounds like something is happening to the nation only because something is happening to all its constituent parts, i.e., it is “national” only indirectly. 

[Page 84]           Hence we can, as verbal shorthand, speak of the collectivity—in this case, the Expanded/New, Internationalized Israel—being blessed by God because it is the result of what happens to those within that collectivity.  The fact that it is the nation – group – collective creates an obvious parallel that can be utilized by the Totally Fulfilled Eschatology interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:  just as it is the collectivity that is resurrected in Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14, it is the collectivity (= effectively, the church including those redeemed under the Old Testament) that is resurrected in 1 Corinthians 15.  (However, we’ve noted the difficulty of applying “resurrection” language to the Isaiah 25 phenomena in the first place.  And if a “resurrection” isn’t under consideration in Isaiah 25, they are denied even a verbal parallel on which to build.)

 

C.  The collectivity hypothesis as to 1 Corinthians 15 examined.  Unfort-

unately for the group scenario, Paul repeatedly stresses the individual nature of the resurrection.  (Just as Isaiah 25’s language is individual centered.)  It’s not a group that gets resurrected except in the sense that any collection of individuals undergoing the same phenomena constitutes a group or collectivity--automatically.

For example, “lottery winners.”  But they don’t win the lottery because they are part of that designated group; they become part of the group by winning.  The “group” is the result of what happens to the individuals.  Hence the collectivity of the redeemed are resurrected to happiness but it is because of the individual status of each individual that it happens, not because they are in some mysterious category of “redeemed” that exists independently.    

But to return to the premise that a collective prophecy must be fulfilled in something that happens to a collectivity . . . that that “collectivity” somehow is an entity independent and separate from the individuals within . . . and that the text must be analyzed and utilized within such a group rather than individualistic sitting.  Even if we grant all that, tentatively, as a working hypothesis, we quickly run into difficulties.

1.   The description of victory is still a perfect rhetorical fit of the triumph over death; as such it is an apt description regardless of whether individuals (Paul) or the nation in distinction from the individual (allegedly found in Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14) are under discussion.  The collective/nation versus individual question becomes irrelevant when faced with that reality.

2.  A precedent for the use of language describing the nation being applied to what happens to an individual is found in a passage also coming from Paul’s second resurrectionary proof textbook, that of Hosea:  “When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, ‘Out of Egypt I called My Son’ ” (Matthew 2:14, quoting Hosea 11:1). 

Yet that national “son” is applied quite directly and explicitly to the “personal” Son of God, an individual.  Hence the actual usage of prophetic language permits double application—when it fits the new topic.  That is what Paul does in 1 Corinthians 15 of both Isaiah and Hosea. 

By actual documentable usage, this shows that the original context did not necessarily have to determine the interpretation to be placed on the words in their New Testament application.  And that application was the binding interpretive context only for the New Testament usage and not necessarily the original Old Testament one.  (Which in [Page 85]   no way rules out cases where the two contexts are identical; we only deny that they have to be.)   

3.  Paul—in this very chapter (15:27)—utilizes a group reference to describe what happens to one individual.  Psalms 8:6 was originally written (see lengthy discussion above) of the entire human race, but he sees no problem in applying it as uniquely and especially fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.  If the “collectivity” of the human race can yield an appropriate and proper proof text for what happens to an individual, is it any surprise that Paul utilizes the alleged “group” resurrection language of Isaiah and Hosea to apply to our individual release from the physically dead via being given new, changed bodies?

4.  Any “normal,” “natural” reading of 1 Corinthians 15 argues that Paul is talking about the resurrection of individuals.  There’s nothing that jumps out at you and urges that it is really nothing about individuals but about the collectivity of the church being resurrected (“church” in the broad sense of the redeemed of both testaments).  You only go that route after finding teachings in regard to other subjects and discover that “resurrection,” in its traditional usage, simply can’t be fitted into that scenario; hence a drastic change in what the word means is an absolute necessity.

TFP argues that a collective prophetic reference requires a collective fulfillment; we argue that if Paul uses the language of individuality, then we should interpret 1 Corinthians 15 accordingly.  It could be objected that we work from the assumption that since the apostle argues from the individual resurrection of Jesus to our own individual resurrection that we are guilty of being inconsistent:  “Here consistency is required, but not in regard to the Old Testament texts cited,” would be a logical rebuff. 

The difference is that here the same writer in the very same chapter is discussing both subjects.  It becomes a matter of interpreting a writer in light of his own words—his own immediate words--while TFP insists we must impose on the prophecies Paul cites a collective interpretation in contradiction to his own words and usage and the individual Jesus precedent.

 

            7.  Interpretations of Isaiah 25:8 by advocates of Totally Fulfilled Eschatology.  Although we have dealt with the central idea of a non-physical, collective resurrection above, we should devote some additional space to ways the text is interpreted by TFP advocates for it goes way beyond this central point.  We’ll use Don K. Preston, a leading and able advocate of the TFP position as representative.  He writes (our emphasis added),[25]

 

Observe that Paul emphatically tells us that the resurrection at the sounding of the last trumpet would be the fulfillment of the  prediction found in Isaiah 25:8; the very context of the sounding of the great trumpet of God for the gathering of the elect from their ‘graves’ separated from God.  Paul says the resurrection of which he speaks was when the strength of sin, i.e., ‘the law’; the law he called the ministration of death and a covering over the people (cf. Isa.25:7), II Cor.3; the law that condemned and cursed, Gal. 3:10-13; the law of bondage, Gal. 4:22ff, was destroyed.  

 

            Note that the resurrection is salvational in nature.  He does not quite call it that but when even first century Christians were still “separated from God,” and the

[Page 86]    resurrection of 70 A.D. remedied that, what else can it be but salvational?  Spiritually salvational.  In the TFP scenario, the blood of Christ wasn’t actually offered in the heavenly tabernacle until this date.  Hence there was the promise of salvation but not the actuality.  After the fall of Jerusalem it was a reality.   Hence the logic of making the promised resurrection salvational—the redeeming blood of Christ wasn’t actually “available” until then.

            Max King, the 1970s reviver of Full Preterism and “father” of the current Covenant Eschatological movement, was even blunter, “Therefore, all facets of this salvation are included in Israel’s ‘time of the end.’  The resurrection, which is the core of salvation, is no exception” (our emphasis, RW).

 

A.  The problem of timing:  the time placement of the “resurrection” explicitly linked with salvation.   To the extent that there is a promised “resurrection” in regard to sin, it occurred at conversion.  “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”  In our resurrection from that watery grave, we “also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4; in context verses 1-6). 

We are raised to a new life; we are raised to a new life from the grave.  We underwent that death so that “the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (6:6), which certainly sounds like having forgiveness already available.  If you will, that we have been “resurrected from sin.”  (Or can one escape from the chains of sin—being “slaves of sin”—yet not having freedom from sin actually accomplished till decades more have passed?)

One could, of course, take the Romans text and try to prove that the resurrection it refers to was yet future—if I had to “prove” it from this passage, I think I could, but the word “prove” is in quotation marks because I just can’t see how that would be anything but a distortion of the text; a “debater’s proof” not a real one, so to speak.  Instead the wording seems to clearly make the “newness of life” and “the body of sin” being done away with both refer to their immediate post baptismal status—in TFP, it would require us to move them decades away from the time of their “dying.”

Furthermore, having been converted, how could they be living in newness of life already, after baptism, if that wasn’t to come till decades later?  Yet in the baptismal illustration Paul uses, the going in and coming out are virtually simultaneous; they “die” and then are promptly “resurrected” in his figurative use of the death and resurrection imagery.  Therefore the spiritual benefits that he mentions, were expected at that time rather than much later as well.      

Or are we to really believe that Paul jumps from the “burial” in the water—effectively omitting the “resurrection” from the water that is needed to complete his image of death and resurrection--to a separate and distinct “resurrection” that doesn’t occur for a goodly number of years later?  People just don’t write argumentation that way—at least not without providing clear cut verbal clues that are hard to miss to warn you of what they are doing.

Even harder to fit into this scenario is Colossians 2:12-13, “Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.  And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you [Page 87]   all trespasses.”  Note that the raising is even more clearly referred to as that from the watery grave.  That is when they had been “forgiven . . . all trespasses.”  (Unlike Romans 6, here I do not have the foggiest idea of how I would even attempt to redate the forgiveness to A.D. 70)

Furthermore, note that it was individuals who received the resurrection from sin and not a group.  By being saved, they were made part of a group, the redeemed, the church.  They weren’t saved because they were already part of the group.  (Unless, possibly, one is a Calvinist; in that context such a reconstruction might well work.)

(Brief aside:  Colossians 2:13 indicates salvation accomplished but verse 14 is also an uncomfortable text for TFP because it explains that along with having “forgiven you all trespasses” Jesus had also “wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us.”  “Wiped out” is surely not the language of the Mosaical Law still being authoritative until a decade or two later!)

It seemed best to get these matters out of the way first since they represent significant problems whether introduced in an Isaiah context or any other.  Looking at the claims within the narrower framework of Isaiah 25, specifically, the 70 A.D. doctrine approach still falters. 

 

B.  Whose blood does the actual redeeming?  Having salvation become available as an accomplished fact at the destruction of the Jewish Temple brings with it a rather strange oddity:  the blood of the Son of God wasn’t enough to do it on its own; only when the blood of multitudes of extremist Jews in a war-torn city was added to it, was salvation transformed into a presently available reality.   

An exaggeration?  Well, until the extremists took their nation to bloody war with Rome and Jerusalem fell in a sea of gore—believer salvation had not yet occurred.  Without it, it never would have.  If that is not dependence what is it? 

One might rebut that, by my logic, the crucifiers of Christ were then just as important to salvation as the death of the Man they killed.  However salvation is never attributed to the Roman soldiers by the scriptures, but the bringing of salvation to full accomplished reality is--and explicitly--attributed to the bloody fall of Jerusalem by TFE advocates.  They insist that scripture demands that this was so.  In short, having insisted on their premise of delayed salvation, there seems no intellectually satisfying way of avoiding the conclusion we have suggested.

Yes, startling as it seems, we were saved by the blood of the murderers in Jerusalem.  (None would challenge that only the most radical and bloodthirsty elements were in charge by the last stage of the conflict.)  Yet the spotless blood of God’s Lamb couldn’t do it without them.  The blood of the extremists merged, so to speak, with that of Jesus, to make our salvation possible.  Would it be too extreme to even say that the result is that “we are washed in the blood of the marauders of Jerusalem as well as that of Jesus” and thanks to their joint sacrifice we are redeemed—since it never would have been completed without the deaths of both?

Satire?  Unjust accusation?  Or the inevitable implication of making Jesus’ blood only redeem in fact--rather than mere promise--when the Jerusalem radicals had spilled their own blood as well?  The reader must make their own evaluation as to how this affects the credibility and validity of Covenant Eschatological Biblical interpretation.           

[Page 88]

C.  In both Isaiah and 1 Corinthians 15, the resurrection promised is tangible, physical, and visible.  First of all, note that the nature of the resurrection is shifted from something visible us to something visible only to the sight of God--and there only in the bookkeeping sense that He can see that we have been transferred to “the book of life” from whatever other records we were in.  We can’t see, observe, or know first hand that this resurrection from sin has occurred.  We can only know it by faith that it was (allegedly) promised in the Isaiah text. 

Unfortunately, the resurrection spoken of in Isaiah 25, was one that everyone would be able to see, friend and foe alike:  The tears wiped away, the presence of participating Gentiles, etc.  It would not be a matter of faith but of observation.  They would know by first hand experience of what they’ve been through.

In short, does spiritual salvation have any relevance to this prophetic text?    Isaiah doesn’t give the slightest indication that the “resurrection” he spoke of was from sin.  The people have been physically destroyed, devastated, ruined.  Hence rescue from physical death not spiritual was his original context. 

Their “resurrection”—to the extent the term can even be used here--might well be viewed as their reward for obedience but it would still not be the resurrection itself; those are two separate phenomena.  (Just as salvation is the reward of faith and not its synonym.) 

This is especially relevant since it is argued that we must interpret Paul’s meaning in light of the original intent of Isaiah 25:  Isaiah spoke of a collective resurrection, therefore Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 means a collective resurrection of the church as a “body,” institution, entity.  Well the original context in Isaiah 25 is the same that traditional exegesis puts on 1 Corinthians 15—the triumph over physical death.

Whether interpreted individually (as Paul applies it) or collectively (as TFP does), the interpretation remains triumph over physical death rather than over sin.  If the only event it refers to is the one that Paul mentions, then the point was exclusively permanent triumph over death.  If we argue that there was a different original intended fulfillment and that the Pauline usage refers to a secondary one, then the original application would have been something along the line of the cessation of war and the reemergence of (what seemed to be) permanent peace (i.e., “forever”).  If we argue—which seems the most likely case—that Paul uses the language because of its superb appropriateness to his topic, then the subject in Isaiah still remains the triumph over physical death.  Paul changes, at most, the application and not the subject.    

           

D.  Trying to making the “veil” in the prophecy of Isaiah a reference to the Law of Moses.  Preston, above, refers to how the Law “was a covering over the people (cf. Isaiah 25:7)” and points our attention to “II Corinthians 3.”  In the NKJV it is rendered “veil” in Isaiah 25:7 and 2 Corinthians 3 does, indeed, refer to the Mosaical law as a “veil” over their eyes (3:14, 15, 16).  The most relevant wording is found in the first of these texts, “There minds were blinded.  For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ” (3:14).  Hence the reasoning that the “veil” of the prophetic text is the Law of Moses. 

To try to make Isaiah 25:7 refer to the Jewish Law when it speaks of “the covering cast over all people and the veil that is spread over all nations,” the TFP approach seriously falters, however.  It’s in the “all nations.”  The Jewish Law was

[Page 89]   exactly that—for the Jewish nation.  The Jews regarded it as theirs; the Gentiles wanted no part of it.  Hence there is no way that it could have been in Isaiah’s mind when he wrote.

Furthermore, we are told that when Isaiah 25 and Hosea 13 are quoted in 1 Corinthians 15, they must be given a “collectivity” interpretation because that is how it was used in its original setting.  Working from that principle, a reference to the Jewish Law can’t be Isaiah’s intent either.  (What he would have recognized as being over all people and all nations, however, was the veil of sin/a blindness to sin—both Israelite and Gentile were often incredibly oblivious to it.  Whether that is his intent or not, it at least fits Isaiah’s “world view” while the Jewish Law does not.) 

We are told that it is out of line to use 1 Corinthians 15 and its bodily / physical resurrection as proof of what Isaiah 25 means but it is apparently quite acceptable to cite 2 Corinthians 3 as proof of what the “veil” is in that same passage!  What is that old adage from an earlier age?  Oh yes, “the legs of the lame are not equal.”

I’m not inclined to “push” that Paul’s use of 25:8 proves that the same point was in Isaiah’s mind when he wrote—only that what Paul does is make a valid use and application of the wording of that verse.  It might be possible to establish it was Isaiah’s intent—or the intent of the words God gave Isaiah to write whether he, personally, grasped the significance or not, but that’s a project for a different day.  Here, valid usage is quite adequate to our purpose.

We’ve approached the matter from Isaiah’s standpoint; now let us look at it from the apostle’s.  The root problem with using Paul to prove what the veil in Isaiah 25:7 was, lies in the fact that Paul doesn’t have the verse in mind in the first place.  Unlike 25:8, it is conspicuously not quoted or summarized.  Even more important he does tell us where he is referring to and that is to a much different text,

 

14 Unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away.   14 But their minds were blinded.  For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ.   15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart.   16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away (2 Corinthians 3).         

 

The allusion is to a historic event, the behavior of Moses—which you can find narrated in Exodus 34:32-35.  That is the explicit referral point; not to Isaiah 25. 

Paul’s primary point in 2 Corinthians 3:13-15 is to explain non-conversion, why people did not become Christians.  The Torah, which should have been an incentive to lead them that way, actually could function as an excuse not to make that commitment:  because of its acknowledged importance it could cause a person to forget that ancient promises might just have finally come true after all.  And worse, from the traditionalist Jewish standpoint, in a manner that had not been anticipated. 

Secondarily there was the danger that Christians might fall into the same trap—either due to their ethnic roots or due to a desire to fully embrace Christianity’s “roots in Judaism.”  That would put blinders on their spiritual vision, or to use Paul’s language, a “veil,” which would keep them from seeing clearly what they could see clearly if they removed that impediment.  Paul wished to permanently remove this danger as well as [Page 90]   convey the message that the Old Testament was no longer religious authority.  It had been, in its day; but that time was now past.

Accept this interpretation or reject it, there is still no way to get around the fact that Paul provides a specific Old Testament “anchor” for the veil allusion and it is not to Isaiah 25 but to the life of Moses during the Exodus.

 

E.  Problems in the other New Testament texts introduced in behalf of a TFP interpretation of the “resurrection” in Isaiah 25:8.  Now, briefly, to two other problems in the TFP analysis we began with.  (1)  To cite Galatians 3:10-13 as proof of the salvational explanation of resurrection is mildly amusing to one who does not accept the scenario.  3:13 quite firmly insists that “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law” by His crucifixion.  Has”—not will. 

We are both “redeemed” and it is from “the [Jewish] law” as well.  That sure does sound like both our salvation being made available and the Jewish Law being removed from authority over us--both way before 70 A.D., when the event is supposed to have “really” occurred.  (If one limits it to “redemption” from having to obey the Jewish Law, rather than having spiritual salvation in mind as well, then the text still contradicts.  It improves the situation only in that it contradicts TFP theory on just one point instead of two.)  

(2)  Introducing Galatians 4:22-31 doesn’t make the situation any better.  The “bondswoman” in the parallel is presented as the Jewish Law and the believer is instructed to “cast out the bondswoman and her son,” i.e., everything that went with it (3:30).  How in the world could they be commanded to “cast out” what wouldn’t actually be removed till 70?  By what right do you cast aside existing, binding, obligatory Divine Law?  But if it has already had been removed, well, the instruction makes total sense.

 

F.  Difficulties in regard to salvation in the TFP scenario.  There are three other matters worth passing consideration that don’t quite seem to fit anywhere under what we have already considered. 

 

(1)  If the resurrection is given to the collectivity rather than to the individual and the resurrection is salvational in nature, then isn’t it the “church” that is saved rather than the individual Christian?  Yet the call to salvation throughout the New Testament is not targeted to groups but to any and all individuals who would listen. 

Acts 2:47 sums up the reality:  “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.  Hence they were already saved before they were added.  As the result, the church is the collectivity of those who already have been granted salvation. 

The church itself is “saved” only in the limited sense that it is the grouping into which God has placed those who have been redeemed.  Hence Covenant Eschatology makes a major mistake when it makes redemption group centered while the New Testament makes it individual centered.

 

            (2) When, where, and how were they told when salvation would actually be granted?  From the day of Pentecost, the multitudes were spoken to as if salvation were currently available (Acts 2:38, for example).  Hence—if it weren’t granted till significantly later--Peter seems to be very seriously misrepresenting the availability.  As [Page 91]    do other New Testament speakers who explain what individuals need to do to be reconciled with God.  They all speak in similar “immediacy” terms.

Nothing is said to make the normal listener to the apostolic words—or the modern reader—expect that they are really promising something that will be given decades later.  Unless you have embraced TFP, you don’t read such passages in any other manner but an “immediate salvation” one.  You have no reason to.

            But let us approach the matter assuming that the “delay” is as claimed by Covenant Eschatology.  This runs into heavy sailing as well.  If the speakers had actually believed the salvation to be delivered was postponed until a later date, you would expect conditional language added to the promise of salvation, indicating—at the bare minimum—that it would be yet future. 

Revealing the exact timing would, of course, have aborted the success of the gospel among Jews and proselytes from day one in Acts 2:38:  "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins when this city is destroyed, in flames, and the temple has been leveled.  (Or would the time explanation have come after the words, “you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”?)  Would you have obeyed the gospel if the full truth had been revealed?  When you were hearing it in that very Temple whose destruction would be required for your salvation to occur?  Somehow I think not!

            Hence discretion would have had to rule the day and some type of vague language substituted.  (Due to the importance of what is being hid, I’m tempted to label it dissimulation.)  Yet even a discrete reference is omitted! 

Furthermore, at what point do you get told the unvarnished truth?  40 A.D.?  50 A.D.?  Does early Christianity—with its significant (dominant?) Jewish element--survive the trauma?  Could it?  When your spiritual salvation hinged on the physical destruction of your kin in Jerusalem?  Accepting the destruction of Jerusalem as Divine wrath is one thing (and not without OT precedent); accepting it as the cost of your redemption is something far different.    

            Laying aside that question—assuming that, somehow, the devastating consequences could have been escaped--were they ever told the true date of their salvation?  Why isn’t it laid out as clearly as the “promise” of salvation in Acts 2:38 and other passages?  (Surely at least for the Gentiles!)  Or do you state the “promise” in crystal clear language, but never give equally direct teaching on when it would be received?    

Or was this to be a “hidden truth” we were only supposed to grasp centuries later?  “Hidden in plain sight” in the scriptures, so to speak.  But that image won’t work because it takes serious labor for even us to find it—hidden not in plain sight! 

     

(3)  Salvation is promised but for how long and for who?  (Actually this is two questions but, for convenience, we have lumped them together since the answers overlap.)  We have seen that TFP advocates deal with the lack of immediate salvation in texts such as Acts 2:28 by saying that it wasn’t completely, fully available until A.D. 70. It was, so to speak, “signed and sealed,” but not yet “delivered.”  Until then it was a promise; then it became an accomplished reality. 

Wording of the point may vary a bit here, but this is, essentially, what it seems to come down to:  until A.D. 70 you had a promissory note of salvation; afterwards it was, [Page 92]   in effect, stamped “paid.”  Of course those “converted” after A.D. 70 never had the promissory note in the first place; hence it is hard to see how any in that group could ever have gained salvation. 

Consider along these lines:

“All prophecy is fulfilled.”  Therefore there is nothing in our future to be fulfilled.  It was all completed by/in 70 A.D.’s destruction of the Temple.

“The promise of salvation is fulfilled.”  But it was promised to and fulfilled in first century Christians converted prior to the Temple’s destruction.  Where do we get the idea that salvation was ever promised to anyone else?  If it was promised to us then the prophecy of salvation being given continues to be fulfilled--the prophecy / statement/ pledge / prediction that salvation would be granted to the faithful obedient.  But if the fulfillment has not ended, then the initial premise “all prophecy has been fulfilled” falters and collapses.

I have heard that some TFP advocates have already taken the step to belief in “universalism” (i.e., anyone and everyone is saved).  To what extent that is true among contemporary advocates, I leave others to judge. 

One advocate of full preterism gets highly annoyed at the corporate resurrection concept and its tie-in with covenant change because, to him, it inevitably must result in universal salvation—assuming one is consistent in the application of the concepts.  He quotes several remarks by Max King’s son in the early 2000s that could carry the intent of universalism, without quite explicitly requiring it.  Then he quotes David Trim from Presence Ministries—King’s advocacy group—in which Trim writes, “The second Adam (Christ) reversed all the spiritual separation brought by the first Adam, not just part of it . . . in the new world people are reconciled to God without any say in the matter.”[26]  It certainly sounds like universal salvation and the closing words like Calvinism as well, though the latter  believes it works in regard to both salvation and condemnation rather than being utilized strictly for the former.  

It would strike me, however, that the doctrine of universal 21st century damnation is a far sounder doctrinal deduction.  No one today is promised salvation for then the promises / the predictions of the New Testament concerning the availability of salvation would still await fulfillment in each of our cases.  All promises were fulfilled in 70; no more await fulfillment.  Now we stand abandoned by God with refuge from our sins to be found in neither Judaism nor Christianity nor anything else.  The inevitable conclusion of Covenant Eschatology being true—at least as it strikes this analyist.  In effect, you gain the unique and only return of Christ as being in the first century, but you do it at the loss of your own soul.  Life is strange.          

 

            8.  The problem of never ending physical death in the Covenant Eschatology approach.  In Totally Fulfilled Eschatology physical death never ends—nor (so far as anything said in Scripture goes) does the earth.  That means a thousand generations from now our own descendents will still be dying.  We can understand a loving God who tolerates death with the ultimate intention of ending it—we don’t necessarily like it, but we can get “our minds around” the concept--but one who finds it so desirable that He never, ever will see fit to remove death?  It’s almost as if He positively cherishes death as a positive good rather than as the enemy that Paul considers it (1 Corinthians 15:26).

Furthermore, in at least some forms of TFE, Adam’s physical death was

[Page 93]   foreordained in the act of creation—he was made to be that way!  Made not to live for ever but, so to speak, to die forever.  That certainly sounds more like God profoundly hated His creation rather than loved it.  But perhaps I am becoming a sentimental old man.  Or is it simple Christian realism?        

Full preterism reverses the victory over death into the eternal triumph of death.  We find in Isaiah 25:8 both “resurrection language”—at a minimum, language consistent with it—as well as emphatic triumph over death language.  Even if we (somehow) conclude that a triumph over physical death was not intended, we would then still we left with the paradox:  the grand enemy of the human species that ultimately grinds us all into the earth has fought God to a stand still.  

An unwon war is a lost war and a defeat.  God may get our soul but death has proved its triumph on earth both for now and forever.  The unholy Trinity of Pain, Suffering, and Death reign over their fiefdom of earth.  Therefore, it seems there are only two basic alternatives:  God has been defeated or God (for what constructive reason?) declines to use His power to gain the triumph.

            A Presbysterian minister, Brian Schwertley, makes the point this way,[27]

 

Full preterism tragically makes a complete mockery of this verse and others like it.  God says that Christ will swallow up death in victory.  The full preterist teaches that death is natural and will continue forever. . .  The defeat of Satan, sin and death and the regeneration of all things at the cross is never brought to completion. In their worldview it can never be brought to completion because they substitute a national judgment upon Israel in the middle of history for the second bodily coming of Christ at the end of history.        

 

          At the most, a 70 A.D. judgment would bring temporary joy.  Then (history records) the various persecutions would resume, the individual sufferings, hurts, and injuries would continue, the pain and anguish of separation and death would hit one and all.  That is history without blinkers since 70 A.D. 

If you consider the continuation of every problem that existed before 70 A.D. as adequate to proclaim the eternal and full victory of Christ and Christians, then—speaking here as a historian—it doesn’t really appear that Christ had much of a victory at all.  He merely put a band aid on the problem of evil and death rather than permanently wiping it away for us--once and for all time. 

            Those who are full preterists will doubtless deny this conclusion, but the rest of us will look about at this very hour and quietly insist, “This is the way it is.”  The challenge to the full preterist has to be to prove to us that the testimony of our eyes, ears, and senses is not contrary to any full and total wiping away of all our sorrow—as the prophet predicted.  I have a vivid imagination but this is one task where I can’t even imagine where to begin to get a “handle” for even a theoretical answer.

            Furthermore, accompanying the triumph over death comes a great feast of reconciliation (verse 7).  (Indeed it is quite possible the very triumphing over death is what makes possible that day of feasting jubilation.)  Reconciliation and joint joy is the last concept that can be grafted onto A.D. 70, however. 

Even making it a Roman-spiritual Israel feast/triumph, there certainly was no reconciliation between the two sides that such an action would imply.  The Romans felt [Page 94]   no friendlier to Christianity than they had Judaism.  Indeed, because of their open willingness to enthusiastically and fully accept Gentiles into their monotheistic religion, it posed a greater threat to the official polytheism than Judaism ever did.

Furthermore, does any one believe that Christians shared in the Roman gloating over the bloody victory?  That one could be modestly happy that a sometimes foe was humbled is credible; that one would celebrate it as a joyous occasion seems impossible—every Christian in Palestine (still a good proportion of the total church, it would seem) was in potential danger every day of the war.  It was an active war zone for years; belligerents or not, you never knew for sure what might happen from either Jewish or Roman forces. 

For their sake, outsider believers would breathe a sigh of relief at it being over; a roar of triumph is implausible.  Hence, no shared Roman-spiritual Israel feast/triumph, as Isaiah 25 applied to 70 A.D. would require. 

Not to mention that directly in Palestine itself, the number of Jewish Christians who had non-believing family, relatives, or friends among the deceased had to have been huge.  They were celebrating triumph?   Really?

 

            9.  Other Full Preterist Efforts to have Isaiah 25:8 Fulfilled in/by 70 A.D.

 

A.  Further arguments by Don K. Preston.  He has written much more on this text than what we began with earlier in this chapter.  He cites Isaiah 25:1-8 as an example of “the indisputable fact . . . that in the Old Testament the resurrection of the dead is repeatedly posited at the destruction of Old Covenant Israel.”[28]  And where in Isaiah 25 might we find proof of this assertion?  Later in the same essay he writes, “That resurrection would be when the holy city was left desolate, the temple turned over to foreigners (Isaiah 25:1-3).”[29]  Returning to that point he argues, “Isaiah 25 said that the resurrection (i.e., the salvation of Israel, verse 9), would be when Jerusalem was destroyed and the temple turned over to foreigners (Isaiah 25:1-3).”[30]     

            1.  It is far from clear that the city is Jerusalem that is destroyed; it is described as if an enemy’s city, not one of their own:  “You have made a city a ruin, a fortified city a ruin, a palace of foreigners to be a city no more” (25:2).  Then it adds, “It will never be rebuilt” (25:2), a place the verse has defined as a city that had  “a palace of foreigners.”  The most natural interpretation is that of an alien capital. 

            I suppose one could argue that since Jerusalem had a governor’s palace, that the city was Jerusalem.  Although he freely used it, the official Roman  capital of Judaea was still Caesarea and the term “palace of foreigners” would normally be thought of in those terms—not a subsidiary palace in some other city, no matter how important it might be.       

2.  It is not the Temple that is under discussion it is the city and its palace, show place, pride and joy of an alien power.  This is important because Jerusalem was rebuilt, in significant part, during the near term centuries while it was only the Temple that was never rebuilt.  (Although a major effort to do so was aborted by fire under the reign of Julian the Apostate.)

3.  Was this yet future or past?  Referring to, “have done (not will do) wonderful things” (25:1) and the destruction of this city being an example (25:2), sounds to me as if we are talking about past events not something to be fulfilled in the future.  If so, he is describing the consequences of the critical pagan / evil defeat.

[Page 95]           4.  Whether past or future, even a future fulfillment would not have to refer to A.D. 70 even if the text had anything to do with Jerusalem in particular.  There is nothing in the text to pin it down to that one city—only the needs of a theory.  The resurrection of 25:8 could even be placed in A.D. 70 (if other evidence leads one to that conclusion) without the events of verses 1-3 referring to the war that ended that year.

5.  Powerful enemies would both “glorify You” and “fear You” because of what had happened (25:3).  If what happened to Jerusalem in A.D. 70 is under discussion, then this is about as brazen a false prophecy as imaginable:  Does anyone think the Romans glorified God and feared Him when they successfully destroyed the city?

6.  The reason God would be so honored by the alien was because of what God had done to help the “poor” and “needy” and protected them as “a refuge from the storm” (25:4).  If Jerusalem in A.D. 70 is under discussion, the Romans would have been rolling in laughter by this point, for Jerusalem had vehemently failed to be any such refuge. 

7.  The “noise” and (triumphant?) “song of the terrible ones will be diminished” while in A.D. 70 the Romans could do whatever they pleased with the city.  Their song of triumph swelled as the Jews sung dirges.

8.  To make this interpretation work (a) one must interject a defeated rather than triumphant Jewish people and (b) introduce a third group, the faithful Christians who do the celebrating in verses 6 and 7.  There is not the slightest hint of a third group of people in the prediction of then future events.  Only “Jews” (i.e., the Internationalized Israel) and the opponent.  The scenario, in contrast, requires Romans, physical apostate Jews, and the Internationalized Israel of the church. 

            B.  The approach of Tami Jelinek.  To move on to other defenders of the FTP position.  Tami Jelinek is a full preterist (the website makes fine distinctions between full preterism and hyperpreterism, however) and the interpretation of Isaiah 25 is clearly intended to fit this interpretive niche,[31]

 

While a futurist, sensually focused paradigm makes physical death and a physical bodily resurrection the redemptive event which accomplishes “the swallowing up of death” in 1 Corinthians 15, the context from which Paul is quoting does not allow for that interpretation. Furthermore, Paul’s own exposition of this and the other prophetic text from which he is quoting (Hosea 13:14) equates the swallowing up of death with our liberation from the condemnation of the law. This is in perfect agreement with what we have already established simply by appreciating the context of Isaiah 25:6-9. Death and the veil are both removed in Christ, and we are now feasting on fat things “in this mountain.”  

           

            This approach faces major difficulties:  the point of the prophecy is the joy and results of the triumph over Moab (25:10).  These are surely “the terrible ones” (25:4), “the aliens” (25:5), and “the rebuke of His people (25:8), i.e., God “rebuking” His people by permitting the oppression to occur at their hands. 

            At least when one asserts the prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70, you do have a major military victory but, alas, of the wrong nation.  Israel is not restored; it is crushed.

            In contrast, to find in Isaiah 25 “our liberation from the condemnation of the law” is creative imagination indeed.  Those who see in 1 Corinthians 15 a literal physical [Page 96]   resurrection view the introduction of Isaiah 25:8 as verbal if not literal precedent for the idea.  They find something in the text to “hang” their interpretation on.  If a valid interpretive approach, one would assume that the purported “liberation from the condemnation of the law” is similarly intended to be found, suggested, or verbally implied in Isaiah 25. 

This is extremely hard to do:  The point of Isaiah 25 is liberation from temporal oppression and not spiritual.  Furthermore all would agree that one of the major reasons for Israel’s repeated oppressions was its neglect of the Torah and the following of rival deities.  To speak, in the Old Testament context of Isaiah 25, of them suffering “from the condemnation of the law” is ludicrous; it was failure to follow it that got them in their trouble in the first place! 

But that is what must be concluded if it is essential to interpret its proper New Testament application exclusively in strict conformity with its Old Testament context, i.e., they both must bear the same intent and purpose:  Hence, they sinned by obedience to the Law.

Jelinek interprets “the covering cast over all people and the veil that is spread over all nations” (25:7) as having this new age application:  it as “the veil of the Old Covenant;” “the church in the first century was the fulfillment of the removal of the veil” and appeals to 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 as proof.[32]  However, the fact that 3:14 refers to how, for many, the “veil” remained firmly in place, would argue that--in a very real sense--the existence of the church hadn’t removed it. 

Or was the church only able to accomplish this function after 70 A.D.?  We can’t embrace that option either, for then why even try to convert the “blinded” at an earlier date?

Perhaps even more importantly, Isaiah 25:7 speaks of “the veil that is spread over all nations.  The nations were never subject to the Law; hence something else must be under consideration.  (The deluding power of sin?  Put whatever you wish here, but it won’t be the Torah for that was limited to the Jews.)  

One could dodge that it means, “the veil that is spread over the Jews in all nations.”  Then the preceding words must be read as “the covering cast over all Jewish people.”  The evil of “Moab” is destroyed (verse 10), but it is the Jews who are deluded?  Even in their hour of victory? 

 

 

 

Notes

 



[1] Osvaldo D. Vena, The Parousia and Its Rereadings:  The Development of the Eschatological Consciousness in the Writings of the New Testament, Studies in Biblical Literature 27 (New York:  Peter Lang, 2001), 132.  For a discussion of possible reasons for the difference between Paul and the LXX, see William F. Orr and James A. Walther, I Corinthians, in the Anchor Bible series (Garden City, New York:  Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1976). 350-351.

 

[2] Richard Kugelman, “The First Letter to the Corinthians,” in The Jerome Biblical

[Page 97]   Commentary, Volume Two:  The New Testament and Topical Articles, edited by Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy (two volumes bound as one) (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:  1968), 274.  Ciampa and Rosner, 747, adds the translation of Symmachus to the list.     

 

[3] J. A. Dearman, The Book of Hosea, in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament series (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  William D. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 330.

 

[4] C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, in the Harper’s New Testament Commentaries series (New York:  Harper & Row, Publishers, 1968), 382. 

 

[5] Alan F. Johnson, 308.

 

[6] H. H. Drake Williams III, “Light Giving Sources:  Examining the Extent of Scriptural Citation and Allusion Influence in 1 Corinthians,” in Paul:  Jew, Greek, and Roman, edited by Stanley E. Porter (Leiden, Netherlands:   Brill, 2008), 35, citing eight such instances though not quoting them.

 

[7] As quoted by Motyer, 209-210.

[8] Carl P. Losen, Isaiah 24-27:  A Study in Hebrew Eschatology, Master of Theology Thesis, Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, Virginia (1959), 197-198.  and David L. Petersen, The Prophetic Literature:  An Introduction (Louisville, Kentucky:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 86.

 

[9] Losen, 198.

 

[10] Charles Simeon, Horae Homileticae:  Or Discourses, Volume 8 (London:  Holdsworth and Ball, MDCCCXXXII), 610-613.

 

[11] Thomas Scott, The Holy Bible:  Explanatory Notes, Volume 2 (New York:  W. E. Dean Printer & Publisher, 1843), 462.

 

[12] Matthew Poole, Annotations on the Holy Bible, Volume 2 (New York:  Robert Carter & Brothers, MDCCCLVI), 382.

 

[13] R. E. Clements, Isaiah 1-39, in the New Century Bible Commentary series (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980; 1987 reprint),  208.

 

[14] Ibid., 209.

 

[15] John E. McFadyen, The Book of the Prophecies of Isaiah (New York:  The Macmillan Company, 1910), 167.

 

[Page 98]   [16] Kelley, 264.

[17] S. H. Widyapranawa, The Lord Is Savior:  Faith in National Crisis--Isaiah 1-39, in the International Theological Commentary series (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), 150.

 

[18] E. A. Edghill, An Enquiring into the Evidential Value of Prophecy (London:  Macmillan and Company, 1906), 239-240.

 

[19] Ibid., 240.  He also introduces Zechariah 12:8, “in that day the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them.”  He actually identifies 12:10 as this text while 12:10 certainly deserves attention in its own right:  “they will look on Me, whom they pierced” and will grieve as if for a firstborn son.  Here Yahweh is identified as if both victim and as firstborn.  Again we have either Yahweh acting through a supernatural individual or, indeed, the commonality of the two is so great it is as if He also is that figure.  Again we have the equating of what is done by Yahweh Himself with what is done by His specially anointed figure, messiah figure if you will.  

 

[20] Joseph A. Alexander, The Earlier Prophecies of Isaiah (New York:  Wiley and Putnam, 1846), 434-435.

 

[21] Murray J. Harris, From Grave to Glory:  Resurrection in the New Testament; Including a Response to Norman L. Geisler (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Academie Books/Zondervan Publishing House, 1990), 58.

 

[22] J. Lindblom, Prophecy in Ancient Israel (Oxford:  Basil Blackwell, 1962), 414.

 

[23] Ibid., n. 232, 414.  Similarly Brevard S. Childs, Isaiah (Louisville, Kentucky:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 184-185, sees it far more likely than “spiritual blindness,” that the text refers to “the veil of mourning [being] replaced by a garment of celebration.”

 

[24] Kevin J. Madigan and Jon D. Levenson, Resurrection:  The Power of God for Christians and Jews (New Haven:  Yale University Press, 2008), 198.

 

[25] Don K. Preston, “With the Sound of the Trumpet,” part of the Preterist Archive website.  At:  http://www.preteristarchive.com/Hyper/0000_preston_sound-trumpet.html.  [March 2011.]

 

[26] As quoted by Kurt M. Simmons, “Simmons’ Response to Frost.”

 

[27] Brian Schwertley, “Full Preterism Refuted, Part 2.” 

 

[28] Preston, Don K.  “Kenneth Gentry’s Latest Desperation.”  Copyright 2009.  Part of [Page 99]   Eschatology.org/Prophecy Fulfilled website.  At:  http://www.donkpreston.net/ index.php?option=com_content&view=section&layout=blog&id=0&Itemid=92&limitstart=101.  [July 2010, June 2011.]

 

[29] Ibid.

 

[30] Ibid.

 

[31] Jelinek, Tami.  “In This Mountain:  An Exposition of Isaiah 25:6-9.”  New Creations Ministries website.  At:  http://www.newcreationministries.tv/Articles/isaiah25.htm.  July 2010. 

 

[32] Tami Jelinek, Tami, “In This Mountain.”