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By Christina Wilson on
Celebratory Songs for “In That Day” (Part One)
Isaiah 26:1 In that day they shall sing this song in the land of Judea; Behold a strong city; and he shall make salvation its wall and bulwark. (Septuagint)
The celebratory songs for “in that day” begin with Isaiah 25:1, even though the prophet doesn’t use that exact phrase until chapter 26. Imagine the scene in the movie, Harry Potter, when the dark lord is finally, totally, and forever banished. Isaiah’s celebration is much greater than that. Or, think of any city when the favored troops have completely vanquished the oppressive enemy. Isaiah’s songs for “in that day” are that kind of celebration.
I think it’s fair to say that Isaiah had never heard of a period of time called the “millennium.” In Isaiah, there are three basic time zones: 1) his day, including everything up to the incarnation, 2) the day of Christ, including his incarnation and up to and including everything before his second coming, and 3) the final day when Christ comes again and the enemy is forever, finally, totally, destroyed.
Unfortunately for us, as readers, Isaiah doesn’t clearly label his time frames. Nor are they always exactly discernible. Consider for example Isaiah 22:20-25.
Isaiah 22:20 In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 22 And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. (ESV)
We know from Revelation 3:7 that this passage is about Christ.
Revelation 3:7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.” (ESV)
But what is the time frame in the Revelation passage? Wasn’t it true of Christ during his incarnation? And after his ascension? And into his glorious eternity? Similarly, none of these time frames are ruled out in Isaiah 22:20-25.
Already, Not Yet
There is a phrase to describe prophecy’s fulfillment that is making its rounds in Christian circles. This phrase is “already, not yet.” The idea is that much Old Testament prophecy, including Isaiah, has already been fulfilled in Christ. He is already crucified, buried, risen, and ascended into heaven. There he sits at the right hand of God (Acts 5:31). But the very end of the ages, when the eternal kingdom is ushered in, is “not yet.”
Scripture is not clear on the exact timing of the transition from “already”, that is–right now– to “not yet.”
Acts 1:6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. (ESV)
And, in the days of Isaiah and other Old Testament prophets, that timing was even less clear. Peter bluntly states how much was revealed to them.
1 Peter 1:10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (ESV)
The Timing Not Clear
An honest evaluation of Peter’s words reveals that the timing revealed to the Old Testament prophets was general, not specific. For them, it was plenty exciting just to know that the Christ would come!
While I am not endorsing a particular faith tradition, I often like The Orthodox Study Bible (1). This is because its translation is based on the Septuagint (Old Greek translation). And, I like the Septuagint, because it is often easier to find Christ in its pages than in translations based on the Masoretic textual tradition (2). Here is what The Orthodox Study Bible writes for Revelation 20:2.
20:2 Though most did not, a few early Fathers and writers believed in a literal thousand year binding of Satan and reign of Christ and the saints on earth (vv. 2-7). The Church, however, authoritatively rejected this teaching (called chiliasm) at the Second Ecumenical Council. In apocalyptic literature, numbers have symbolic significance. “Thousand” is often used in the Scriptures to denote a long period time, a great quantity, completion, perfection, thoroughness (Job 9:3; 2Pt 3:8). Here, a thousand years (vv. 2-7) is interpreted as the Church age, when Jesus reigns on earth in those who believe. It is that era between the first and second comings of Christ, also called the “last times,” when Satan’s effectiveness at deceit is restricted through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, and the saints share in Christ’s earthly reign through the Church. For these persecuted Christians threatened by martyrdom, this is a consoling hope.
Therefore, anyone who points to Isaiah chapters 25-27 and states that this is the “millennium,” is reading into Scripture. This is because the “millennium” is a word that Scripture never uses. And, if such a distinct period is not clear in Revelation, then it certainly wouldn’t be clear in Isaiah. But, good news! Chapters 25-27 in Isaiah are definitely about the day of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
1 Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, Elk Grove, California. The Orthodox Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008.
2 A brief introductory post concerning my use of the Septuagint is available here: Which Bible Should I Use? – justonesmallvoice.com
Songs for “In That Day” To Be Continued