When Death is Swallowed up in Victory: A Problem for Premillennialism1
One of the lingering problems with which premillennialism must deal is the end of death at the Second Coming of Christ. Continue reading . . .
One of the lingering problems with which premillennialism must deal is the end of death at the Second Coming of Christ. We read this in 1 Corinthians 15:54-55,
“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).
Here we clearly see that the end of death at the second coming of Christ is the fulfillment of Isaiah 25:8. According to the prophet Isaiah, God “will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth.” In light of this, I have two questions for my premillennial readers.
First, how can God “swallow up death forever” at the time of the return of Christ and the resurrection of our bodies if, according to premillennialism, physical death continues to prevail for 1,000 years after the parousia? Look again closely at the development of Paul’s argument in this paragraph. The final generation of Christians who are physically alive when Christ returns will “all be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51b). It will happen “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (v. 52a). When will this occur? It will happen “at the last trumpet” (v. 52b). I don’t know of anyone who denies that this is Paul’s description of the Second Coming of Christ.
When this occurs, “the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (v. 52b). He’s clearly talking about the resurrection. This resurrection (which I believe is synonymous with the Rapture) means that “this perishable body” will put on “the imperishable,” and “this mortal body” will put on “immortality” (v. 53). Are you following me, or better yet, are you following Paul? When all this happens, or as Paul says, “when the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality” (v. 54), which all agree happens at the time of the Second Coming of Christ, “THEN shall come to pass” the fulfillment of Isaiah 25:8 where it was prophesied that “death is swallowed up in victory.”
Let’s now put two and two together and see if it actually comes up four. The “end” (1 Cor. 15:24) is marked by the destruction of the “last enemy,” namely, “death” (1 Cor. 15:26). All millennial views agree on this. And when is “death” destroyed? When does “death” cease to prevail? When is “death” going to be “swallowed up in victory”? Paul’s answer couldn’t have been clearer or more explicit: Death is defeated, death dies, death is swallowed up in victory and is utterly and absolutely no more, as Isaiah 25:7-9 has prophesied, at the very moment that the last trumpet is sounded, at the very moment we are all changed, at the very moment when the perishable puts on the imperishable and the mortal puts on immortality! And when, might I ask, is that? It is at the time of the Second Coming of Christ (and not some 1,000 years later as death continues to exert its horrid influence on the human race).
And now for the second question. In conjunction with the death of death, or its being swallowed up in victory, something else will happen. According to Isaiah 25:8, not only will God “swallow up death forever,” he will also at that time “wipe away tears from all faces.” Both these events will occur, as we’ve seen, at the time of the Second Coming. But according to Revelation 21:1-4, it is at the time of the creation of the new heavens and new earth that God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more” (21:4).
My question is this: How can these two prophesied events (Isa. 25:7-9) find their fulfillment at the close of a 1,000 year post-parousia millennial kingdom when Paul has so clearly stated that they find their fulfillment at the time of the Second Coming of Christ? Is it not obvious that at the Second Coming of Christ the new heavens and new earth are created and the eternal state begins? Is it not equally obvious, therefore, that there is no room or place or role in either Paul’s or John’s theology for an intervening millennial kingdom? Is it not obvious that death’s death at the Second Coming and the wiping away of all tears at the Second Coming, both of which mark the inauguration of the new heavens and new earth, preclude the existence of any such millennial kingdom?