By Samuel M. Frost, Th. M.
At the risk of sounding redundant, Preston starts his 5th “response” with yet again, a confusion of key words and terms. He writes, “This raises an interesting question: Does Frost now believe in the literal passing of material “heaven and earth” i.e. their disappearance? In his Why I Left Full Preterism (p. 47) he speaks of a recreated, restored earth! So, does the heaven and earth literally “pass away” cease to exist, or is it restored? Frost once again contradicts himself.”
Apparently, Preston, who accuses me of being a “literalist” does not understand what the word, ‘renew’ means. Does a caterpillar “cease to exist” when it becomes a butterfly? Again, “this generation shall not pass away” (same word). Have they “ceased to exist”? Well, on one hand, yes. One the other, no. I realize this logical solution may go over the heads of many, but that is not my problem. Nonetheless, that deals with that.
Again, Preston: “However, he appeals to Psalms 102 as proof that the heaven and earth will pass away. Keep in mind that Frost says of the law, in Matthew 5:17-18, that it will not pass away– cease to exist on paper- until it is all fulfilled. But, that same language is applied to heaven and earth: “heaven and earth shall not pass.” So, if the law will cease to exist when it is finally fulfilled, then that same definition must apply to the heaven and earth, yet, Frost affirms a new heavens and earth! Disappear does not mean new! It means, well, disappear!”
I argue, consistently, that the Scriptures (the jots and tittle, which is their written form) will indeed “pass away” when all of the Scriptures (not just the old covenant) are fulfilled. The Law is “written on the heart” . When all is fulfilled, the texts, as they now stand, in their written forms (Bibles), will cease. “But my word shall never pass away.” Huh? If it is a case of form, the problem is solved. Heaven and earth, as we now understand them, will cease. A new (kairos in Greek) heavens and new earth is re-formed. Kairos speaks of a new quality. “New and improved” does not mean the basic stuff of the older Windex has “ceased to exist”. It’s been tweeked. One as smart as Preston should understand this.
It gets worse, though. Preston writes, “Frost claims that Isaiah 65 predicts the end of time: “Isaiah 65 envisions a new heavens and earth, too. In it, fantastical, poetic hyperbole is used to denote that it is quite a different scene than what is “normally” seen and experienced.”
Now, here is he is quoting me accurately. But, then he amazingly says this immediately after: “Notice once again Frost’s literalistic hermeneutic at work. But of course, he cannot in any sense be consistent in that hermeneutic, for it would then destroy his entire argument.”
How can I be “literalistic” when I said, “fantastical, poetic hyperbole”? I digress.
Let’s take Preston’s view at a glance, then point out the obvious errors of his procedure. First, he goes into Isaiah 65.1-3 and shows that Paul quotes this passage in Romans 10.20. And so he does. Therefore, he reasons, this entire chapter must be fulfilled! Well, no, not so fast. First off, Isaiah is clearly (even from the scholar H.C. Leupold who Preston quotes, notes) talking to his own people. Isaiah is not saying, “765 years from now, I will hold out my hands to an obstinate people.” No. He was holding out his hands in Isaiah’s day. Israel was obstinate then, and exile was coming upon them (by the Assyrians and Babylonians). Paul is quoting this passage to prove his point that what was happening in his day concerning Israel as a whole was nothing new at all. Stephen’s indictment was the same: you and your forefathers have always been stiffnecked!
As far as their sins being piled up, the exact same language is used by the Prophets in their own times, and Israel, as a result of piled up sins, received “double” when Babylon came and destroyed their land. Where did “audience relevance” go, Mr. Preston?
But, Isaiah does go on and speaks of a “remnant” to be gathered together and brought back to the Land. And, indeed, they were, as Ezra says, “we are but a remnant!” Paul’s point again is to show that “remnant” salvation concerning Israel is nothing new. He has always saved his people through a remnant. So, Paul reasons, it is in his day. A remnant of Israel was being “saved” by the Gospel.
One of the threats of punishment for breaking covenant is that God would raise up nations to make Israel “jealous.” As it was in Isaiah’s day, so it was in Paul’s (which is Paul’s point). God signaled Cyrus the Persian, converted Nebuchadnezzar. Nehemiah 9.32-33, written after Isaiah, states this as the case. God called to nations not his own, to a people who do not know his name. Paul, therefore, it using this passage to show that God is perfectly well within his rule to call the nations. In fact, this becomes the very problem of Preston’s view, as I will show.
The calling of the nations, of which Paul had been made an Apostle, is thoroughly found in Isaiah. As we continue to read this chapter, 65, we see that a “remnant” will come forth and blossom and “fill the whole world” (65.9; 27.6). This is found in 27.6 (and other places). From a remnant God continues to move ahead His Purpose. Paul’s point in Romans 9-11 is exactly that: God, in Christ, is moving ahead with a Purpose that has always been the case: a remnant to nations, from Noah to the Table of Nations, from Abraham to the blessing of nations, from Israel to the nations, from a remnant to the whole world, the nations. With Jesus Christ having been raised from the dead and abolishing the old covenant system, fulfilling it, the same Purpose can now be accomplished with such power and encompass such a magnitude that Israel, while under the Mosaic Covenant, could not “birth”. They got up to the point of birth, and “gave birth to the wind” (Isaiah 26.18). Isaiah 66 (continuing from 65).8,9 uses this “birth” motif. Israel, while burdened with the laws of Moses, could not bring to birth “the salvation of the world.” And, as we know, they were exiled, and regathered again as a remnant. It would seem that at this time Isaiah would be fulfilled! But, such was not the case. The nations will come in with their “riches” (wealth – 66.12). And, so comes Cyrus and the Persians. In fact, as we have recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah, they favored Israel and fostered her to rebuild Jerusalem. Was salvation brought the world? Did the wealth of the nations come in? No.
Now, Preston wants to make a big deal about the “remnant” in Romans 9-11, and his point about God doing a work in Paul’s generation is to be noted. “So it is in the present time” Paul wrote, citing the past instances where God saved a remnant. The promise was that from a few would come an innumerable multitude. Israel, time and again, were left with a few, and yet, no multitude or riches if the nations resulted. Here is where Paul differs from the past Prophets: the riches of the nations (Gentiles) has come because Jesus, the Son of Man, has accomplished what was purposed in him to accomplish. Isaiah and the past remnants didn’t have one thing: the Cross and Resurrection of King Jesus, Son of David. They had David. They had the Son of David (Solomon). They had Cyrus, the Anointed (the Christ). But, “we have not given birth.” Well, birth has come! But, what Preston fails to see, the elephant in the room for his view, is that the riches of the nations (Romans 11.9-15) has come in terms of fulfillment. The “wild olive shoot” of Paul’s analogy is the Nations (Gentiles). Paul also adds another point: these Gentiles/Nations coming in are also Israel! This is to fulfill Isaiah 61.5-9, 60.1-ff. In my last article, Preston was commenting on Isaiah 24 but omits where the “islands, the ends of the earth, from the east to the west (24.14,15) rejoice”. We find this in Isaiah 66.19-ff where the “survivors” (remnant) will go to islands “who have not seen my glory nor have heard my name. They will bring your family from all the nations to my holy mountain.” The nations will be called, “My People” (Isaiah 19.23-25). This is “all Israel”.
Now, a major problem for Preston is, if this is all fulfilled by the time the city was destroyed, then so was the prophecy to all the nations. But, we do not see this pattern at all. Rather, under Isaiah, the city is captured (Babylon in 589 B.C.), a remnant is saved, the nations bring her back, the wealth of the nations come flooding in and Israel is the source of blessing (fulfilling Abraham’s promise) to the whole world. This kind of happened under David/Solomon. This sort of happened under Cyrus Christ. This IS happening under Jesus Christ. A remnant of Israel (according to the flesh – see footnote below) were being saved, and from that root the riches of the nations were coming in. Yet, Israel persisted, as a whole, in rebellion and her city was sacked (AD 70), but a remnant was saved (144,000) and from that remnant wild olive branches were added, who are also “sons of Abraham.” A highway is built. Israel is flooding the earth, and has been for 2000 years in fulfillment of Isaiah. This is entirely inescapable for Preston, but yet he wants it all fulfilled by AD 70.
This brings us to the New Heavens and New Earth which stands in entire contrast to Israel as she was in the day of Isaiah. As all along Isaiah foresees a time when the nations will learn the Law of God, and he himself will be their teacher. He will build a highway from the remnant and call the nations who have never heard of his fame or glory to be called, “My People.” They will be invited to great feast, to God’s Holy Mountain itself, and the shroud that covers them all, Death (Isaiah 25.8) will be lifted. Jerusalem will “never again” be uprooted. But, we see a process here. “There will be a highway for the remnant” (11.15). This highway is but the beginning (remnant) of what will become a massive flow in what will become Israel’s purpose to begin with: salvation of the world.
In that day shall there be a path from Egypt to Asshur, and Asshur shall come into Egypt, and Egypt into Asshur: so the Egyptians shall worship with Asshur.
And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.
A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.
Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people.
These verses from Isaiah shows us that a highway is first leveled. A call then goes forth. From a remnant of Israel, the riches of the nations shall come in (how long does that take?). They are coming to the mountain (Jerusalem above, as Paul called it) where God will swallow up the shroud over all the nations: Death. The Spirit, before such time, will be poured out, gathering together the clusters of grapes. As a result, after all is said and done, “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. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. 9 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. 10 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.
This passage is remarkably like Isaiah 65.17-ff. The earth has been made full of the knowledge of the Lord (remember to contrast that with the nations and islands “who do not know of my glory or have heard of my fame”).
Secondly, Paul quotes Isaiah 11.10 in Romans 15.12! The “banner” is lifted on the highway which leads those called to the holy mountain where Death will be swallowed up in victory. The call is to the nations, the islands, to the ends of the earth. “All those who have been given to me I shall raise up at the last day.” This is the New Heavens and New Earth.
I will continue this theme in my next blog, and on Preston’s Response #6 which he already has published (May 31st). Stay Tuned!