Sunday, June 2, 2013

Isaiah 25:8 Trumps Pretrib

A few weeks ago a posttribulationist posed me a number of questions. He recommended some books which "refuted" both dispensationalism and pretribulationism and noted that the older historic premillennialists would find modern pretribulationist arguments laughable. I thought that was a great way to start the conversation so I repaid the compliment by providing him with a number of alternative views. However, he didn't appear interested in following mine up. Instead, he insisted I answer his questions and quit dodging the issues.

I've learned two things about some non-pretribbers; they like asking questions but they get mighty tetchy about having to answer them. He didn't warm to my asking him why he moved the 6th seal to the end of the 70th week and retrofitted Rev 20:4 back to the 7th trumpet. My guess is that he had the same motivation as Bob Gundry when he argued for a postmillennial Sheep & Goat judgment. Why do posties juggle events around? - Because posttribulationism requires it.

But one of his "gotcha" points was a new one to me. He drew a correlation between Isaiah 25:8 and 1 Co 15:54. Both passages refer to death being swallowed up, and he asserted that Paul was citing Isaiah in reference to the rapture. His argument then followed:

When does Isaiah describe this occurring? After the "heavenly signs":

Isaiah 13:10- "For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine."

Isaiah 24:23- "Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously."

When does the Lord say the heavenly signs occur? "After the tribulation of those days":

Matthew 24:29- "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:"

And when does the "day of the Lord" occur? After the heavenly signs:

Acts 2:20- "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:"

So Paul inextricably links the resurrection/rapture to the post-trib "day of the Lord".

There are several problems associated with distinguishing the day of the Lord from the great tribulation, and I've covered these before. But aside from that, while posttribbers relocate key events in Revelation, chronology is an important consideration to them if it superficially appears to undermine pretribulationism. In other words, if Paul equates the rapture with death being swallowed up in victory in Isa 25:8 after the Isa 24:23 "cosmic signs", then pretrib is refuted.

I pointed out that, while Paul may allude to a term found in Isa 25:8, death really isn't swallowed up until Rev 20:14 & Rev 21:4...long after the posttrib rapture. Note the comparisons:

He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken. Isa 25:8

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. Rev 21:4

He wouldn't buy it. My friend insisted that Isa 24:23 refers to the Matt 24:29 cosmic signs. Actually, the former doesn't mention cosmic signs at all. These signs precede the second coming; they don't occur when the Lord of hosts is reigning in mount Zion, as in Isa 24:23.

The verse more likely correlates to Rev 21:23.

The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.

According to the ESV Study Bible notes (and John MacArthur):

Isaiah 24:23 The moon and sun are outshone by the glory of the Lord of hosts reigning in triumph forever from his city, Jerusalem on Mount Zion. His elders lead his redeemed people, once unfaithful (Isaiah 3:14; 9:14-15), but now replaced by faithful ones (Isaiah 52:7; 60:19-20).  

Am I being picky? Well, there's more. Isaiah 23:21-22 poses another chronological problem for that posttrib argument.

It shall come to pass in that day that the LORD will punish on high the host of exalted ones, and on the earth the kings of the earth. They will be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and will be shut up in the prison; after many days they will be punished. Then the moon will be disgraced and the sun ashamed; for the LORD of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem and before His elders, gloriously. Isa 24:21-23

This is either talking about the Matt 25:32 Sheep & Goat judgment or the Great White Throne Judgment of Rev 20:11-15, take your pick. Either way, this event occurs chronologically prior to the alleged rapture connection at Isa 25:8 and prior to the alleged cosmic signs of Isa 24:23. So the theory has another chronological problem.

Connecting Isaiah 25:8 to the rapture of 1 Co 15:54, just because Paul used the phrase "swallow up death in victory", reminds me of a similar argument used by a pro-Torah advocate. He claimed that Peter told us to obey the dietary laws in 1 Peter 1:15-16 because he used the term "Be holy, for I am holy" which is also found in Leviticus 11. The context of Leviticus 11: 44-45 is the Mosaic dietary guidelines. But dietary laws weren't the context of Peter's epistle. Peter simply borrowed a term from Leviticus and applied it to admonishing holiness in the general conduct of believers he was writing to.

Does Isaiah 25:8 trump pretribulationism?


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