The Future of Jesus, 3: Are there earthly blessings to be expected in the future?
--- by Mark Horne
To recap, I’ve argued that a straightforward reading of the Bible shows us that Jesus wants, expects, and promises the world will be converted to Christ. I’ve also argued that a passage about one generation’s failure to embrace the Gospel is getting mistakenly transferred to our future (in my opinion this is a representative example of a mistake made in many passages; that will require more arguments in the future).
In this post, I argue that there are promises about the future that cannot refer to reality after the Resurrection of the righteous, but have to be fulfilled in our own era. Consider, for example, this passage from Isaiah 65:
For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
and her people to be a gladness.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and be glad in my people;
no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping
and the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not fill out his days,
for the young man shall die a hundred years old,
and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain
or bear children for calamity,
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the LORD,
and their descendants with them.
Before they call I will answer;
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
and dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain,”
says the Lord.
People can argue about what in this passage is meant to be taken “literally” and what is not. But it does refer to blessings of some kind. And those blessing cannot be relegated to either a purely “spiritual” state, nor to life after the “Second Coming.”
Why not? This prophecy could have been delivered without any mention of death at all. If these were either blessings describing a “spiritual” reality in Christ or a post-Judgment-Day reality after the general resurrection, then death should not be part of the description at all.
But death is there in the promise that dying at the age of a hundred will be considered dying young. Immortality is not promised, merely increased longevity.
Why? There was no need to bring it up if it wasn’t intended to inform us that there will still be death, just not in the worse form that people have experienced before (or now?).
If we take Genesis 3 seriously, then not only is death a result of the Fall, but so are various aspects of the world that we take for granted: painful labor both in a man’s work and in a mother’s giving birth, for example. And we can extrapolate also disease and all the other bad things that cause unnecessary suffering and scarcity.
As I pointed out, Paul refers to our future resurrection as being the defeat of the last enemy (First Corinthians 15.26). For that reason alone, we should expect God to deliver us from plagues and famines before that time. We should expect that, as the Great Commission is fulfilled, that life expectancies will increase. This prophecy in Isaiah 65 fits well with that expectation.
By the way, how does one “spiritualize” salvation without “spiritualizing” Genesis 3? It seems to me that amillennialism demands afallism too. (No Christian believes that, of course, but I’m just saying it should give us pause.)
I don’t know that everything in Isaiah 65 is intended literally. And even if the promise about animals not eating each other is literal, I’m not sure that represents a return to Eden or a transformation that is even greater than the original state of creation. But what I do know is that the prophecy will be fulfilled when the whole world is converted. A promise made, among other places, in Isaiah 11:
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.
In fact, Habbakuk prophesies that the wicked will not last, not by predicting the coming of Judgment Day, but rather predicting that the rise of worldwide godliness will bring about the destruction of those who attempt to build their kingdoms upon murder. In Chapter 2, which contains the same passage that the Apostle Paul uses to prove justification by faith alone, Habbakuk writes:
Woe to him who builds a town with blood
and founds a city on iniquity!
Behold, is it not from the LORD of hosts
that peoples labor merely for fire,
and nations weary themselves for nothing?
For the earth will be filled
with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
There is our hope: Not only the return of Jesus, but the victory of His Spirit and His Gospel giving the whole world true knowledge of him and of his Word, bringing about the end of wickedness and an end to the weariness of frustrated labor.