Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

An Amillennial Response to a Premillennial View of Isaiah 65:20

Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

An Amillennial Response to a Premillennial View of Isaiah 65:20

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes foreign text omitted.)

Isaiah 65:20 says: "No longer will there be from there an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his days; for the youth will die at the age of one hundred and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred will be thought accursed."1 This essay had its stimulus in a Westminster Theological Seminary panel discussion on eschatology at the Gospel Coalition conference in Orlando, FL in the spring of 2015. At the conclusion of the panel dialogue, there was an extended time for questions from the audience. One of the questions was about how Isa 65:20 could fit into a classic amillennial view, which typically holds that Isa 65:17-25 depicts the eternal new heavens and earth. As I recollect, the questioner referred to John Piper who had spoken earlier at the conference in support of premillennialism and had said that Isa 65:20 referred to the temporary millennial period which would eventually pass away. Among his reasons for this was that verse 20 so clearly affirmed that there would be sin and death in the future age, so that this age could not be referring to the eternal state.

I was among those who responded to this specific question addressed to the panel. The following essay is an expansion of my answer. Added motivation for this essay is the recent publication of a book by Matt Waymeyer, Amillennialism and the Age to Come: A Premillennial Critique of the Two-Age Model.2 Among his thirteen chapters (not including the introduction and conclusion) is a chapter titled "The Intermediate Kingdom in Isaiah 65:17-25." This chapter in Waymeyer's work argues especially that Isa 65:20 is about the intermediate millennial kingdom and not about the eternal new cosmos.

The premillennial view affirms that Isa 65:20 is to be taken in apparently straightforward manner and describes death as being a reality during a millennium and does not portray the arrival of the eternal new heavens and earth. Some premillennialists might want to argue that the millennium is a second inaugurated fulfillment of new creation (the first being when one is regenerated as a Christian, e.g. 2 Cor 5:17), which is then consummated in the eternal new creation, after the socalled millennium. Other scholars agree that Isa 65:20 is to be taken as portraying death in the new age but do not specifically relate this to the millennium of Revelation 20.3

A "literal" interpretation of this verse, in the sense of referring to actual physical death, is certainly possible, but we need to remember that the context surrounding a verse is the "king, queen, prime minister, and ruler" of the meaning of a particular verse in that context. For example, the word "run" can have the following meanings: running with one's legs, one's nose running, a candidate running for an elected office, a run in some stockings, a run of luck, water running in a stream, and so on. The context can demand that "run" be taken straightforwardly (such as a context of running in a track meet) or the context may demand various figurative interpretations (e.g. a political context would indicate someone "running" for office). Sometimes the context may allow the possibility of a non-figurative or figurative meaning, which is the case with respect to Isa 65:20. This is why good scholars on both sides of the issue differ about whether 65:20 should be taken to refer to actual death or be understood figuratively.

My purpose in the following discussion is to argue why I think the context points to Isa 65:20 being figurative and not describing actual death, even though when looked at apart from its preceding and following context it could look like actual death is being portrayed. This essay will set forth the following main points in support of this: (1) discussion of a translational problem in 65:20, which could support premillennialism or could fit into an amillennial view; (2) the eternal new creation context of Isa 65:17-19 and 65:21-25 points to the probability that 65:20 is also about the eternal new creation, the conditions of which are irreversible, and not a temporary millennium which can be reversed or pass away; (3) the use of Genesis 3 in Isaiah 65, which points to an eternal new creation context; (4) the eternal new creation context of Isa 65:17-25 is supported further by its use of Isa 25:7-10 which is about there being no death any longer in the new, eternal age; (5) arguments favoring a figurative view of Isa 65:20; (6) the use of Isaiah in Rev 21:1- 22:4 is figurative, thus pointing to Isa 65:20 being a depiction of the irreversible, eternal new creation; (7) the irreversible nature of eschatology itself favors the conclusion that Isa 65:20 is not about a temporary, eschatological millennial state but about the eternal new heavens and earth. …

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