the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
Last month we saw that the biblical language of creation is used to signal the beginning of a new order. Likewise, the language of "de-creation" signals the end of an existing order. Each system under consideration may be socio-political or religious in nature or a combination. There was no appreciable difference to the ancient near-eastern mind. All governing
authority rested upon the absolute claims of the various national deities. In any case, the language of de-creation is commonly used in the Bible to express the conclusion of a prevailing order or system in anticipation of the dawning of a new age.
For instance, in the book of Isaiah we read about the fall of the Babylonian empire as described in the metaphorical language of de-creation. Thus, God stirred up the Medes against the Babylonians with their ruin described in terms of cosmic collapse:
"For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light. ...Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the LORD of hosts in the day of his fierce anger. ...And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them" (Isaiah 13:10, 13, 17, 19).
Isaiah's words seem to describe the end of the physical world; they are intended to convey the overthrow of the reigning kingdom of Babylon by a superior invading force. These verses from Isaiah have absolutely nothing to do with a literal collapse of the universe.
The prophet Ezekiel uses similar terms to describe the subjugation of Egypt by the Babylonians. God instructed Ezekiel to:
"take up a lament for Pharaoh king of Egypt, and say to him... 'I will also water with your blood the land in which you swim, even to the mountains; and the rivers shall be full of you. And when I put out your light, I will cover the heaven and make its stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. I will make all the bright lights of the heavens dark over you, and will set darkness on your land, says the Lord Jehovah. ...For so says the Lord Jehovah: The sword of the king of Babylon shall come on you.'" (Ezekiel 32:2, 6-8, 11).
If we adhere to the principle of Scripture interpreting Scripture we are led to understand that when Jesus claimed the Law would remain unchanged until the dissolution of the heaven and the earth (Matt. 5:18), He meant that there would be no change in the administration of the covenant until the old order had come to an end and the new covenant had begun. This change was signaled by the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord and was realized over the course of the ensuing generation. Paul reaffirmed this when he said that with the coming of the "new covenant, He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away" (Heb. 8:13, italics added). In other words, the process of de-creation was gradual, beginning with Jesus' ascension and culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.1
Clearly a Bible based understanding of de-creation language has broad ramifications concerning hermeneutics. For instance, in Revelation 6:12-14 we read, "... the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, even as a fig tree casts her untimely figs when she is shaken by a mighty wind. And the heaven departed like a scroll when it is rolled together. And every mountain and island were moved out of their places." Isaiah and Ezekiel use exactly this sort of language to describe the fall of a ruling order, not a process of cosmic upheaval. Is there any reason we should not interpret John's words accordingly? Obviously not.