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Bad Theology in Hymns: “The Earth Shall Soon Dissolve Like Snow”?

January 23, 2014 18 comments

S. Lewis Johnson often pointed out the bad theology in the hymns we sing in church, observing  that hymn writers would “get to heaven as by fire.”  Expanding on this point, he would mention specific hymns and the wrong theology, including one song he especially disliked, “One Day,” which includes in the chorus, after the words “Living He loved me, dying He saved me, buried He carried my sins far away,” the phrase “rising He justified.”  As Dr. Johnson pointed out (as in this message from the Romans series), we were not justified at His resurrection:  I don’t sing that, “Rising, He justified,” because it seems to me that what the apostle teaches here is that the resurrection of Christ is the evidence that the justification has been completed.  We’re not justified by the resurrection.  We’re justified by His death. 

I was reminded of the bad theology in hymns again this last week when the local church sang Chris Tomlin’s version of “Amazing Grace” (“My Chains are Gone.”)  The last verse is from John Newton’s poem (the origin of the bad theology here), but not in the traditional “Amazing Grace” hymn:

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow;
the sun forbear to shine.
But God who called me here below,
will be forever mine.

That lyric has bothered me for the same reason SLJ mentioned concerning other hymns: it’s not biblical. The earth will be renewed and continue forever: a renovation of the earth, but the earth itself will not be destroyed or dissolve into nothingness.  Reference also this post here from a few months ago, Robert D. Culver’s exposition of 2 Peter 3.

Thinking about this lyric in “Amazing Grace,” I found this blog article, from someone else who sees the doctrinal error here.  Here is his suggested re-wording of that verse, a true expression of biblical teaching:

The earth shall be redeemed by God;
the sun will forever shine.
And God who called me here below,
will be forever mine.

The Trinity In the Old Testament: Daniel 9?

January 17, 2014 4 comments

I’ve recently listened to S. Lewis Johnson’s “Divine Purpose in History and Prophecy” series, including a three-part section that exposits Daniel 9:24-27, considering the details of the 70 weeks of Daniel’s prophecy.

Dr. Johnson gets interesting in the details, as always in his exposition of Old Testament texts.  While noting that the doctrine of the Trinity is not directly taught, is not spelled out, in the Old Testament, in various expository lessons he notes specific texts that give some indication of “plurality in the Godhead,” as for instance the Genesis 1 creation text (the Hebrew plural word Elohim) and Isaiah 48. Here S. Lewis Johnson presents another such indirect possible reference to the Trinity,  concerning Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9 — a text I had never thought of as containing such; but other commentators, even John Calvin, have noticed this.

Here he (Daniel) says, “Now, therefore, our God, hear the prayer of your servant, and his supplications, and cause your face to shine on your sanctuary for the Lord’s sake.”  Now, I’m not the first one, of course, who has ever noticed this.  As a matter of fact, Calvin himself noticed it.  “This verse contains the name of the Lord twice” he pointed out.  And many other expositors with him thought that this was an allusion to the second person of the Trinity, but the details are not spelled in, and so we have to leave it at that, as an anticipation of what would come to full understanding with the New Testament times.  Now, read on, verse 18.

“O my God, incline your ear and hear, open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city (Notice how large the city looms in Daniel’s thought) which is called by your name, for we do not present our supplication before you because of our righteous deeds but because of your great mercies.  O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, listen and act.”

Now, what would you think if I were to read this:  “O Lord Father, hear; O Lord Son, forgive; O Lord Spirit, listen and act.”  Three times the term “Lord” is on the lips of Daniel.  Again, I’m not the first person who has noticed this in connection with the doctrine of the Trinity. … many exegetes and some dogmaticians have suggested that there is an allusion to the mystery of the Holy Trinity even in this verse as well.

The New Face of the One People of God: What Happened At Pentecost

January 2, 2014 Leave a comment

From S. Lewis Johnson’s Divine Purpose in History and Prophecy” series, the following lesson concerning continuity and discontinuity in the One People of God, before and after Acts 2 Pentecost.  We observe first the two extremes, and that the truth lies somewhere in the middle:  some people believe the church is another term for all who ever believed and thus the church began with Adam.  Others say that the church began on the day of Pentecost and that there is really no relationship between what happened on Pentecost and what had preceded.

First, what already existed, the “old”:  Though the church was created on the day of Pentecost it was not absolutely new in every respect. 

  •  The redemptive foundation: What Christ did on the cross, the ground of the salvation of Israel, and the ground of the Gentiles who lived before Abraham – the ground of Adam’s salvation.  That’s the ground of the Gentiles who existed before Abraham came into existence, that’s the ground of Adam’s salvation.  It’s the ground of every member of the true church of Jesus Christ.  It’s the ground of their salvation. So the ground of our salvation what Christ did on the cross is the ground of the salvation of all believers in Christ. 
  • The union of Old Testament and New Testament believers that has taken place as a result of the common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

New:  Paul does say a new man has been created

  • The Holy Spirit permanently indwells all believers now.  He did not permanently indwell all believers before the day of Pentecost
  • Freedom from the law as a code.
  • Adoption of the Gentiles.  Romans 11:11-24
  • Equality of Jew and Gentile in the body; the “mystery”.  Gentiles do not have to convert to Judaism.
  • Universal priesthood of the believers
  • Universality of the gifts under the oversight of elders

The Real Story Behind the Pre-Conflagration, Supposed ‘Pre-Trib’ Rapture

December 16, 2013 10 comments

Recently an online posting has been circulating around, listing a number of well-known Christians throughout history who supposedly believed in a pre-tribulational rapture.  This posting does not include any actual source quotes from the people claimed to have believed in a pre-trib rapture, but asserts a “pre-trib” view for many of the early church fathers including Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Victorinus, as well as post-Reformation pre-19th century teachers including John Gill and Morgan Edwards.

I had already seen several quotes from the specific early church fathers, statements that show they understood that the saints (same group as the church), would experience the future time of antichrist.  Here are a few such statements, showing also their futurist (and premillennial) understanding of the events in Revelation:

Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book V, XXV, 4

And then he points out the time that his tyranny shall last, during which the saints shall be put to flight, they who offer a pure sacrifice unto God: ‘And in the midst of the week,’ he says, ‘the sacrifice and the libation shall be taken away, and the abomination of desolation [shall be brought] into the temple: even unto the consummation of the time shall the desolation be complete.’ Now three years and six months constitute the half-week.

Hippolytus, Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, 47

For this is meant by the little horn that grows up. He, being now elated in heart, begins to exalt himself, and to glorify himself as God, persecuting the saints and blaspheming Christ, even as Daniel says, ‘I considered the horn, and, behold, in the horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things; and he opened his mouth to blaspheme God. And that horn made war against the saints, and prevailed against them until the beast was slain, and perished, and his body was given to be burned.’

Hippolytus, Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, 61

That refers to the one thousand two hundred and threescore days (the half of the week) during which the tyrant is to reign and persecute the Church, which flees from city to city, and seeks concealment in the wilderness among the mountains,…

Victorinus, Commentary on the Apocalypse, 20:1

The little season signifies three years and six months, in which with all his power the devil will avenge himself trader Antichrist against the Church.

As to the many current-day claims of pre-trib belief before the mid-19th century, it is interesting to note here that previous generations of dispensationalists —  Darby himself, also Scofield and later John Walvoord – all recognized and admitted that the pre-trib teaching was in fact a recent development.  This agrees with S. Lewis Johnson’s observation in 1989 during his series through Revelation, that those who held to pre-trib acknowledged that it was a recent teaching. The claims of pre-trib belief prior to the mid-19th century, are themselves a revision introduced by more recent pre-trib and prophecy teachers.

The idea that historicist Christians, including Morgan Edwards and John Gill, believed in a type of “pre-tribulational rapture,” comes from a twisting of their “pre-conflagration” statements, such as the following from John Gill:  He’ll stay in the air, and His saints shall meet Him there, and whom He’ll take up with Him into the third heaven, till the general conflagration and burning of the world is over, and to preserve them from it….   I note here, first, that these statements still show an idea of one First Resurrection and not a two-stage coming with one group before the Great Tribulation followed by another resurrection/rapture after that event – really a type of “pre-wrath” rapture of believers taken out before God’s wrath.

A further point of distinction must also be noted here:  the difference between historicist and futurist ideas of the book of Revelation.  The historicists were generally premillennial (John Gill, and at least a few others), but they understood the Great Tribulation in a non-literal way, as occurring throughout church history, with the events in Revelation describing longer periods of time, symbolic descriptions of various wars with the Turks or other enemies throughout the church age.  According to the historicist view, the Great Tribulation is already occurring, we are already experiencing it:  an idea obviously incompatible with the very notion of a pre-Tribulational rapture of one group of believers.  If the whole church age is the Tribulation, a “pre-trib rapture” could only occur before the church age began, which becomes speculative nonsense.

Thus, the present-day claims of a pre-1830 belief in a pretribulational rapture of the church, “found” in the statements of 18th century historicist pre-conflagrationists, is really deceptive handling of true Christian doctrine (what these men actually believed) and church history.   Here I also can appreciate the honesty of the earlier dispensationalists, such as Walvoord, who at least recognized the correct time period for the origin of the pre-trib rapture idea.

The Gift of (Supernatural) Healing Along With Medical Help (Acts 28)

November 27, 2013 4 comments

From S. Lewis Johnson’s “Life of Paul” series, an interesting observation regarding the events on Malta in Acts 28:

Verses 8 and 9 describe two sets of healing.  In the first case, Paul laid his hands on Publius’ father and healed him – an apostolic sign, miraculous healing.  The next sentence describes how “the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured.”  Dr. Johnson here notes that the Greek words used for healing differ: the first word simply means “to heal” with no particular connotations, thus something supernatural.  But the word in verse 9 is different: therapeuo, from which comes our English words therapy and therapeutic:  healing through the use of medicine.  We also consider who was there:  Paul the apostle, and also Luke the physician.

As S. Lewis Johnson notes, we cannot be absolutely certain, but this text gives at least a “strong possibility” of an instance where the “gift of healing” was used alongside ordinary means of medical help.  Even during the apostolic age, and with the apostle Paul present (though later in his ministry), God still used the natural means of healing as He continues to use the ordinary means of accomplishing His purposes.

There are people who have, unfortunately, thought that the Scriptures taught that they must depend only on supernatural means for healing.  But there seems to be evidence here, not only that the apostles did perform supernatural acts of healing, but that it was perfectly harmonious for medical attention to be given, when available, and when it might be useful.  In fact Paul wrote to Timothy, you know, and said, “Take a little wine for your often infirmity’s sake.”

When Was the Apostle Paul Converted? (The Three Components of Faith)

November 22, 2013 3 comments

From S. Lewis Johnson’s series through the life of the apostle Paul, comes the question “when was Paul converted? On the Damascus Road, or in Damascus?”

Faith includes three components:  knowledge, assent to that knowledge, and personal trust.  Notitia asensus, fiducia are the three latin terms used by theologians to describe this.

Paul’s conversion can be considered as similar to the question of when other biblical people were saved:  was Abraham saved when he was called out to follow the Lord to another land, or was he saved later, when the Lord took him out and showed him the stars – that “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness.”

The chances are the salvation of Abraham and the salvation of Paul has some similarity, and also possibly are similar to our own experience.  That is sometimes salvation takes place outwardly in stages, in the sense that the efficacious grace of the Holy Spirit leads us on to a climatic relationship at which salvation occurs.  It’s not easy to answer this question.

As to Paul’s specific conversion experience:

I am inclined to think that when the apostle was on the Damascus Road that a certain significant transformation took place in him.  He came to understand there that Jesus of Nazareth was a heavenly being, who could speak to him still as a divine being; and he (Paul) called Him Lord; and no doubt that produced this tremendous revolution within Paul’s thinking, and he had to go back over all that he had been taught from the beginning, and all the things that he had wrongly understood, and now try to put them all together.  Later on he spent some time in Arabia, and possibly that was further straightening out of the vast knowledge that he had of Jewish and Rabbinic things and squaring them with his Christian experience.

Within the three aspects of saving faith, the following is possible concerning Paul’s conversion:

1)      Knowledge – acquired on the Damascus Road, that Jesus is the Lord.

2)      As he later arrived in Damascus and at the house on Straight Street: further assent to the knowledge he had.

3)      Finally, when Ananias speaks to him and explains to him that he too has been the object of the sovereign working of God bringing him to Paul, and that he was the Lord’s messenger to tell Paul certain things about him, and his ministry:  it all came together at this point, and Paul came to personal trust in the Lord Jesus Christ – though he had been the object of efficacious grace, which had brought him to this point.

The Priests that Became Obedient to the Faith (S. Lewis Johnson Speculation)

November 1, 2013 2 comments

My recent Bible genre reading has included several references to lepers and leprosy.  In one day’s reading: the ten lepers healed in Luke 17:11-19, Leviticus 14 (the cleansing for the leper); and the four lepers (who were not healed) in Samaria in 2 Kings 7.  This reminds me of a little-noticed statement (also in my recent readings) in Acts 6:7, “and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”  In the context (Acts 6), the apostles have performed many great miracles of healing, as recorded for instance in Acts 5:12-16 : Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. … And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

S. Lewis Johnson engaged in a little speculation concerning this point: what was it about the priests, that they became obedient to the faith?  Here we consider the significance of the great miracles that took place in Jesus’ gospel ministry and then continued (“what Jesus began to do and teach”) through the apostles’ ministry in the book of Acts.  Dr. Johnson’s observation here:

How is it, do you think, that the priests are especially singled out for faith?  In the Old Testament, in the Levitical prescriptions, two chapters are devoted to the way in which Israel should take care of the lepers.  Now remember, when the preaching of the gospel is to take place, Isaiah said, lepers are going to be healed.  And then, our Lord Jesus, when He comes on the scene, lepers are healed by Him.  It was a Messianic sign; that is, that He was the Messiah.  He was fulfilling what Isaiah set out in the Old Testament.

Now, it was said in the Old Testament that a certain prescribed ritual was to take place, when a leper was cleansed.  He was to bring a certain kind of offering; I cannot go into detail.  The only thing unusual about it, if you want to look at it in chapter 14 of the Book of Leviticus, it had to do with two birds.  He had to bring this prescribed ritual and there was a prescribed ritual for which the priest was to go; and then, the priest was to pronounce the individual clean who had been cleansed of leprosy.   [Now, remember: For fifteen hundred years before the time of our Lord, no leper, so far as the record is concerned, had been healed in Israel.  Naaman had been healed, but he was a Syrian.  Miriam, back in the earliest days, had leprosy.  No other person had been healed.]  Now, here, the apostles come on the scene, our Lord comes on the scene, and the lepers are being healed.  And so, what do they do?  Well, they go to the priests and they say, ‘We’ve been healed.  Isn’t there something in the Law about a ceremony we are to carry out?’   And the priests say, ‘the professors in our theological seminary didn’t tell us anything about that.’  They didn’t know what to do.  So, they had to do what a young preacher has to do when somebody comes and says, ‘Will you marry us next Wednesday?’  And he’s never married anybody before.  He rushes off and asks an older preacher, ‘What in the world shall I do?  What kind of ceremony can I give?’  And he is feverishly preparing for his marriage ceremony, which he’s never carried out.

So these priests — and in the course of these people who are streaming to the priests — they discover this in the Old Testament.  They discover also that the Messiah was said to be one who would heal leprosy.  And, during the course of these lepers coming to the priests, many of those priests are brought to the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  They recognize that this is really the Messianic ministry, and so ‘a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.’

The Apostle Paul: The Silent Years

October 18, 2013 2 comments

I’m now going through one of S. Lewis Johnson’s topical series on the Life of Paul, a sort of “biography” approach in chronological sequence through Paul’s life.  The “silent years,” in between Paul’s conversion and Acts 11:25-26 (when “Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch”) are also considered, especially in this message.  We don’t know the exact sequence of events, but from Paul’s statement in Galatians 1:17-21, at some point Paul left Damascus (Acts 9) and went to Arabia , then back to Damascus.  Then, after a brief time in Jerusalem to visit Peter (and he also met the Lord’s brother James), he “went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.”

But what did Paul do during those years, a period of perhaps 7 or 8 years? It’s possible that he spent the time in some solitude, to learn from the Lord.  Some have also suggested that he was useful in some evangelistic ministry.  Perhaps it was a public reason, because of Paul’s divisive character, that he was well known and his life in danger from the Jews in Jerusalem.  Dr. Johnson suggests all of these factors  may have been involved, observing:

Those silent years were years of preparation of our Lord on the human side for the ministry that he was to perform.  So Paul’s seven or eight years or more, how long they were we’re not absolutely certain, but they were a good many years, may have had some connection with the discipline of God, that the Lord wanted to put him, who is to be the great apostle of the Gentiles through.

That does not mean, of course, that he was not useful at all, but it was a necessary thing for him even through he was useful.  There is some reason to believe that when he was in Tarsus he did carry on some ministry.

Perhaps also, there is a more public reason why the apostle spent six or eight years away from the land.  After all Paul was too divisive a character.  He was the one who had advanced in Judaism beyond his contemporaries.  He was the great defender of Judaism against the newly rising Christian cult.  And so, for this one upon whom they depended on for the defeat of Christianity to turn to Christianity, that would provoke them much more than some disinterested third party, or some third party in whom they were not interested, turning to Christianity.  So it may have been that he was thought too divisive.  His life was in danger wherever he went in the land.  They sought to kill him in Jerusalem.  They sought to kill him in Damascus.  And therefore, it may have been that he was sent back to Tarsus for a period of time in order to allow that situation to die down a bit.

The New Testament gives us a few hints that Paul also did some evangelistic work while he was in Tarsus and Cilicia, though it is not recorded in the book of Acts.

1)       Acts 15:23 and Acts 15:41 – After the Jerusalem council, they wrote a letter to send out to all of the churches.  The letter was addressed to the brethren “who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia.”  Now, notice that, Syria and Cilicia, now Tarsus was in Cilicia.  So evidently there were brethren there.  Now, we will assume that perhaps the apostle is responsible for the brethren being there in Tarsus.  Then in verse 41, after Paul’s break with Barnabas and choosing to go out with Silas, we are told that “he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”  These churches were already there, in that very region where Paul had spent several years.

 So there were churches in Syria and there were church in Cilicia.  So we can just imagine that the apostle, even though he was confined to Tarsus, was not inactive.  He was busy in that particular area preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and assisting in the formation of churches.  And that’s part of the silent period of the apostle’s life.  It would be very interesting to hear exactly what had transpired with the apostle during those years.  I presume that when we get to heaven, this is one of the things that we shall hear about.  We will be brought up-to-date concerning the activities of the saints not recorded in the word of God, and not found also in the histories that have been written of the Christian church since that time.

2)    2 Corinthians 11:22-33 – In this well-known passage Paul describes his sufferings to the Corinthians, in the process of defending his ministry to them. Here he tells of experiences not recorded in the book of Acts, and we can note that “the apostle evidently had a lot of experiences that caused him to be beaten”: the five times that he received the 40 stripes less 1 from the Jews, and three times beaten with rods.  Three times that he was shipwrecked, but the book of Acts only tells us of one such time.

‘A night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren.’  There’s no need to read the whole list.  You can see the apostle had many Christian experiences that are not recorded in the Book of Acts nor found in his epistles.  So he must have had a rather rich experience over that period of time in Tarsus.

 

 

Thoughts on Dispensationalism, the Rapture, and the One People of God

October 16, 2013 5 comments

S. Lewis Johnson often spoke of how we are always learning new things from the study of God’s word, and that even he (in later years of life) was still discovering and gaining new insights from the Bible.  How true this is, and the exhortation (1 Cor. 10:12) “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall,” and the importance of making our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:5-10), which includes continual study in God’s word.  Lately, new study material for me has included the rapture timing and specifics in the book of Revelation (going through B.W. Newton’s commentary), and the following observations regarding variations of premillennialism and definitions of terms.

Classic dispensationalism made a sharp distinction between Israel and the Church, a difference not only in ethnic identities but one related to their past, present and future (see this message from S. Lewis Johnson): two New Covenants, as well as a division of the different New Testament books, that some were only for the Church and some only for Israel.  As Dr. Johnson observed in this message:

When we think of dispensationalism we should think of not simply a sharp distinction between Israel and the church but also a distinction between these two bodies so far as the past, present, and future is concerned.

Today’s moderate and Progressive Dispensationalism removes the great differences, correctly recognizing one New Covenant for both Jews and Gentiles, and the New Testament books written for all believers, agreeing with the “One People of God” idea.

In his review of Progressive Dispensationalist books, this writer noted (“Why I Can’t Call Myself A Dispensationalist”) that PD has improved on some ideas, but still keeps the pre-trib rapture: downplayed as not essential to the system, yet not really addressing it either.  However, and this is something that only recently occurred to me, the very nature of the pre-trib rapture at least implies some form of “two peoples of God,” with different futures within the plan of God.  One group, the church saints, get resurrected and raptured seven years before Christ’s return and spends those seven years in heaven.  The second group, Israel (of those living at the time of the Second Coming) remains to experience the 70th week of Daniel and the Great Tribulation; the Old Testament saints (non-Church) must also wait another seven years before their resurrection — resulting in two “first resurrections.”

S. Lewis Johnson further observed the difference between dispensationalism and the historic view, also in reference to the rapture timing:

Now the issue (the pre-trib rapture) is regarded as rather minor except by dispensationalists, who think that it is fundamental to their doctrine that our Lord be recognized as having two elect people, Israel and the church, and two different programs with two sets of promises, promises for Israel and for the church and two separate destinies historically.  So, there are some differences of opinion of course, but this is the historic view point: the ethnic future of Israel is a doctrine that is held by both pre-tribulationalists and post-tribulationalists.  That is, that Israel as a nation has a future.

Dr. Johnson’s comments were before the development of progressive dispensationalism, and what he refers to here is primarily Classic Dispensationalism.  Yet the point remains.  As noted above, Progressive Dispensationalism de-emphasizes but still keeps the pre-trib rapture, which in itself creates a distinction between the two groups regarding their futures (even though a lesser difference than in classic dispensationalism).  The historic view of premillennialism, that which is held by all premillennialists (regardless of rapture timing views), includes the ethnic future of Israel as a nation, and includes “futurist premillennialism” as evidenced by the writings of several authors (as for instance B.W. Newton, S. P. Tregelles, Nathaniel West).  Thus, the term “dispensational post-trib” is rather an oxymoron.

It should also be noted that when someone uses the term “historic premillennialist,” that simply means an identification with the classic premillennialists and the classic premillennial position: an ethnic future for Israel as a nation, including restoration to their land, and recognition of the unconditional biblical covenants of scripture.  Those who call themselves “historic premillennial” may or may not adhere to Covenant Theology (some such as Charles Spurgeon and J.C. Ryle did), but the term is broad enough to include variations of other unrelated views held by individual premillennialists.

 

Isaac and Ishmael’s Genesis Toledoth, and Ishmael Among the Believers

September 27, 2013 1 comment

Reading again through Genesis in my daily readings, I’ve been more attentive to the toledoth statements (“these are the generations of”), from my recent reading through Henry Morris’ Biblical Creationism and P.J. Wiseman’s book on Genesis and Archeology.  After Genesis 11, the lengthy section on Abraham’s life ends with “the generations of Ishmael” (Genesis 25:12) followed by “these are the generations of Isaac” in verse 19.

Per the tablet understanding of the Genesis book, then, Ishmael was involved in the writing of this portion of the early history.  This chapter tells us that they were together at the time of Abraham’s death.

From Institute for Creation Research, the following “study note” on this point:

Genesis 25:12-16 seem to represent the toledoth of Ishmael, quite possibly a record kept by Ishmael which he gave to Isaac at the time of their reunion at Abraham’s funeral. At this time, Ishmael would have been ninety years old, with his twelve sons each now established in small “nations” of their own, as “princes” of those tribes. After Ishmael’s death, Isaac then added his own comments concerning them (Genesis 25:17-18), before terminating his own toledoth with his signature at Genesis 25:19. Ishmael died fifty-eight years before Isaac died; and, like Abraham, was “gathered into his people” (Genesis 25:17), indicating that he died in faith. Ishmael’s “nations,” though not all clearly identified historically, undoubtedly dwelt mainly in northern Arabia.

P.J. Wiseman’s New Discoveries in Babylonia About Genesis also notes the tablet authorship of this section of Genesis and how the events (Genesis 12 up to Genesis 25) matches the lifetimes of Ishmael and Isaac:

The series of Tablets 7 and 8 (11.27 to 25.19) were written by the two brothers Ishmael and Isaac.

The latest chronological statement (Gen 25.1 to 4) refers to the birth of Abraham’s great-grandsons, and of their growth into clans. Ishmael died forty-eight years and Isaac one hundred and five years after Abraham.

As Abraham would seem to have married Keturah soon after Sarah’s death—which occurred thirty-eight years before Abraham died—this period of thirty-eight years added to the remaining one hundred and five years of Isaac’s life, is a most reasonable period to assign for the birth of Abraham’s great-grandsons by Keturah.

This indicates that the history recorded in these tablets ceases just before the death of Isaac, whose name is given as the last writer, for Isaac survived Ishmael by fifty-seven years and records his death.

As I read the toledoth statements in Genesis 25 I also recalled S. Lewis Johnson’s observations during his Genesis series.  Dr. Johnson’s Pentateuch series (Genesis and From Egypt to Canaan) took the earlier view that Moses wrote all of Genesis himself (rather than compiling much of it from the previous tablet sources), and he may not have been aware of the tablet theory and the archeological and internal text evidences.  (The tablet compilation theory gives a much better explanation of the overall flow of Genesis, including especially the seeming contradiction in Exodus 6:3, for instance.) Yet in the description of Ishmael’s life, the statement that “he was gathered to his people,” SLJ considered the possibility that Ishmael was a believer – noting that we know Esau was quite another matter:

 And Isaac and Ishmael unite in the burying of Abraham.  Now Ishmael was excluded from the covenantal blessings, in the sense that he was rejected for Isaac so far as the seed was concerned; but he was given distinctive blessings.  It was said that Ishmael should have twelve princes and that he would become a great nation.  So God did bless him.  Furthermore, we shall read in a moment that Ishmael was gathered to his people as well; and it’s entirely possible in the light of the statement in verse 17,  “These are the years of the life of Ishmael 137 years and he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people,” that even though Ishmael was rejected as the one through whom the seed would come, but nevertheless he did have a definite faith in the Triune God and may well be numbered among those who are the saved.  It is different with Esau as the New Testament makes plain. …. Ishmael was something of a loner, but nevertheless his life ends with the statement “he was gathered to his people.”