First of all, let me quote the passage discussed at this web site, Isaiah 65:20.  I am using the NIV, rather than the KJV which is an archaic translation (although the meaning is almost identical). “Never again will there be in it [presumably the new heaven and earth] an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.”  The question addressed at this web site is how this passage can not be seen to contradict passages such as Revelation 21:4 which seems to say unambiguously that here will be no more death in the same “new heaven and new earth” that God is describing in Isaiah 65.
First of all, let me say that this is a good question.  Most of the supposed contradictions that are sent my way are very easily explained–so easily that it is tempting to question the sincerity of the one finding a supposed contradiction.  This, on the other hand, certainly appears to be a contradiction if taken at face value.
My response is that we need to understand the kind of language being used in Isaiah 65:20.  This is a rather clear example of what is known as apocalyptic language.  With apocalyptic literature we should take everything figuratively unless the context demands a literal interpretation.  With apocalyptic literature we should ask, not what is the literal meaning, but what is the impression to be gained from the picture. Apocalyptic literature is like a picture book. Isaiah chapters 60-66 is a rather long section of purely apocalyptic literature.  There are many things said here that it would be absurd to take literally.  For example, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you (Isaiah 64:1).  Or “Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength?” (Isaiah 63:1)  Let us apply our understanding of apocalyptic literature to the passage in question. We have to ask the question: What is the picture created by this apocalyptic passage? We should ask more specifically, what would a Jewish reader see in this passage?  This Jewish reader would see that heaven is a place of great blessing where the things we suffered with before have disappeared.  It is a place where our greatest expectations are realized.  This passage is not teaching literally that people will die in heaven, as apocalylptic language should not be taken literally.  It is a pictorial representation of the amazing blessings found among those who are in the Kingdom of God.
John Oakes

Comments are closed.