Responding to the Critics

Review and Response to: Four Reasons Why I Cannot Believe The 70AD Doctrine #1

This is a response and review of an article by Cougan Collins. The article was sent to one of the members of our congregation here in Ardmore, Oklahoma, I assume to rescue him from "the error of his ways." Then, an edited and revised version of the article was printed in the "Gospel Guardian." It appears that the article is "making the rounds." It has been posted on PlanetPreterist.com and other sites as well.

Since I studied with Mr. Collins on several occasions, I can only assume that he refers to me in the article. When I read his article I was somewhat taken back with his confidence that he had debunked Covenant Eschatology since, on several occasions he admitted that he could not refute what I was presenting. I must say however, that during our studies, I often commented to my wife afterwards that I was concerned that Mr. Collins was not studying to learn, but seemed to have a hidden agenda. When confronted with evidence for which he had no answers, Mr. Collins would simply admit that, and change the subject, or ignore what had been presented.

I will examine each of Mr. Collins’ four points. In order to do any justice, I must go into a bit more detail than he has done in his presentation. The reader should notice, however, that Collins does not exegete passages. He makes assertions about what passages mean, but does not offer proof. This is a good debater’s trick, but proves nothing.

Response #1: Introductory Thoughts
Collins writes:

"Simply stated, the 70 AD doctrine teaches that all prophecies were fulfilled by 70 AD. This means that the second coming of Jesus, the resurrection, and the Day of Judgment happened at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. This may sound crazy to most of us, but those who embrace this doctrine feel as if they have found something new that sheds light on certain difficult verses in the Bible. However, this doctrine has many problems when you honestly look at the word of God. I once asked a prominent teacher of this doctrine if I would be lost if I did not believe the 70AD doctrine. He simply told me to turn to 2 Peter 3:16. This scripture talks about how certain people were twisting the scriptures to their own destruction, which had to do with the end times. Ironically, Paul informs us of how some were doing this very thing. "And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. (2 Tim. 2:17-18) Now let us look at several reasons why I cannot accept the 70AD doctrine."

Collins says that he asked if a person will be lost if he does not believe in Covenant Eschatology, and that I told him to turn to 2 Peter 3:16. He infers that I said he would be lost if he did not agree with me. There are a couple of things that Collins conveniently omitted from our discussion.

First, I told him that I genuinely struggled with the question in light of Peter’s statements in 2 Peter.

Second, I told him that I do believe that a person is not ultimately saved by what they know, but who they know. This does not negate the seriousness of 2 Peter 3, but does offer some degree of amelioration.

Third, and this is abundantly strange, Collins seems to infer that I would be wrong to believe that a person must believe in the truth of Covenant Eschatology. However, does Collins believe that a person must believe in his brand of eschatology (a modified amillennialism), to be saved? His appeal to 2 Timothy 2 answers that question. Collins believes it is wrong for preterist to believe that eschatology is a matter of faith. However, if you don’t believe like Collins, you are a heretic and apostate!

Fourth, I asked Mr. Collins how, given his view of the resurrection, that it would be possible for anyone to convince anyone that all the physically dead human beings who had ever lived had already been reconstituted, restored, revived and resurrected out of the earth? Mr. Collins had no answer to this question. He could not explain how, if Hymenaeus believed in the same kind of resurrection as he does, that Hymenaeus could have believed and taught that event — the end of time and destruction of earth — had already occurred.

"#1. The 70AD doctrine teaches that the resurrection happened at the destruction of Jerusalem and denies a bodily resurrection. Is this the case? To answer this question let us examine Jesus’ resurrection. Apparently, some in the Corinthian church were denying that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Paul set out to correct them in 1 Corinthians 15. He pointed out how over 500 people had witnessed Christ bodily resurrection (vs. 4-8). Paul goes on to say that Christ, who was raised from the dead, is the first fruits and when He comes again, those who belong to Him will be raised from the dead as well (vs. 20-23). Since Jesus is the first fruits and his resurrection was a bodily one, this would indicate that our resurrection is to be a bodily one as well. The only way the 70AD doctrine could be true is if Jesus’ resurrection was not a bodily one."

Response: I could not believe what I was seeing when I read what Collins says here. He claims that some at Corinth were denying the resurrection of Jesus! Just where Collins gets this strange idea is unknown to me, but it illustrates how lamentably weak his argumentation really is. In reality, Paul uses the Corinthians’ belief in the resurrection of Jesus to refute those who were denying the resurrection of the "dead ones."

Paul argues from what the Corinthians do believe, to refute what they do not believe. In other words, Paul says, "If you believe this, then you must also believe the following" Since they do believe certain things, then they must believe the other things, they things they are trying to deny. Further, Paul uses propositions that they would deny, in order to show them what they must believe. For instance, "If the dead are not raised, then Christ is not raised." Did the Corinthians believe Christ had not risen according to this argument? If they were denying Christ’s resurrection, then Paul’s argument was pointless. They would have responded: "Yes, Paul, that is precisely what we are saying! Thanks for making our point. We don’t believe Jesus was raised."

Thus, the resurrection of Jesus as the first fruit of the "dead ones," not just the resurrection of Jesus per se, is affirmed. The Corinthians believed in the resurrection of Jesus. And Paul uses their belief in his resurrection to prove the resurrection of "the dead ones" of whom Christ was the first fruit. Thus, Collins begins his "refutation" of Covenant Eschatology by building on a rotten foundation. [1]

Collins continues:

"We learn from Paul that at the resurrection we will be changed in the twinkling of an eye and we will have an incorruptible body (1 Cor. 15:50-54). Paul also tells us that a Christian’s citizenship is in heaven and how they were eagerly waiting for Jesus’ return so that he would transform their lowly bodies and conform them to His glorious body (Phil. 3:20-21). John agrees with this when he says, "when Christ is revealed, we shall be like Him and see Him as He is" (1 Jn. 3:2). Have these things already happened as the 70 A.D. doctrine teaches? If they have, I personally am not impressed with this new glorious body that is supposed to be immortal and incorruptible. Are you? Obviously, the resurrection has not hap
pened yet."

Response:
Two terms kept coming to mind as I read these statements: petitio principii and ad hominem. The first term is a term from the world of logic meaning that a person is begging the question. They assume their position is true without proving it to be. The second term means that a person is arguing based on human terms, their experience, etc, and not from the scripture. In other words, because Collins did not see what he thinks he had to see in regards to the parousia, then the parousia could not have occurred. Collins sets himself up as the determining authority of whether scripture is fulfilled.

Collins conveniently omits what Paul had to say about when the corruptible would put on incorruptibility. This is somewhat sad to me, because in our studies I confronted Collins with the issues and he had no substantive response.

First, Paul says "we shall not all sleep" (1 Corinthians 15:50-51). The apostle was writing to living breathing human beings and told them that not all of them would die before the resurrection. Of course, Collins tried to say that this was just editorial language. However, I demonstrated that the idea of editorial language is a relatively modern concept and that when a person really examines Paul’s use of personal pronouns, that he uses them in very personal ways. Paul does not use pronouns indiscriminately.

Second, and this is significant, I showed Collins that the resurrection would be when the promises to Old Covenant Israel were fulfilled, because 1 Corinthians 15:54-56 quote Isaiah 25 and Hosea 13 as the source for Paul’s resurrection doctrine. I asked Collins: Are your eschatological hopes based on the future fulfillment of Old Covenant promises made to Israel? His answer, like all amillennialists, was "no." I pointed out to him that while his eschatological hope may not be from the Old Testament, Paul’s eschatology was "nothing but Moses and all the prophets" foretold.

I pointed out that in Corinthians, Paul said the resurrection would be when "the law" that was the strength of sin" was removed." I took note, and documented that in Paul, the term "the law" is used 117 times. When no modifier, such as "the law of life in Christ" is present, and that is 110 times, the term "the law" invariably refers to the Mosaic Law. This means of course, that the resurrection would occur when the Mosaic Law was brought to its end. Collins had no answer to this except to claim that the Old Law was nailed to the Cross, therefore, my argument was falsified. I then showed that he was miss using Colossians 2:16, because Paul does not say that the Law itself was nailed to the Cross, but the debt of the Law, the obligation to keep the Law, was nailed to the Cross. [2]

In our studies, I took note that the Bible invariably posits the resurrection at the end of the Old Covenant Age. I observed that the Christian Age has no end. I asked Collins repeatedly how he could affirm the end of the Christian Age when the Bible says it has no end. He could not explain that problem.

On several occasions, I took note of Daniel 12 that affirms the resurrection, and that it would occur "when the power of the holy people is completely shattered." Collins did not even attempt to respond. He ignored the emphatic statements of the text.

Note that Collins makes no attempt whatsoever to deal with the many time statements about when the judgment, parousia and resurrection would occur. If one were to read Collins, you would not even know the Bible says "In a very, very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not tarry" (Hebrews 10:37). To read Collins, you would not know that Peter said Christ was, 2000 years ago, "ready to judge the living and the dead" (1 Peter 4:5), and that he continued by saying "The end of all things has drawn near" (v. 5). You would never realize, to read Collins, that Peter even went ahead to say, "The time has come (the appointed time, DKP) for the judgment (to krino, DKP) to begin at the house of God" (1 Peter 4:17). Now in the Greek, the definite article is anaphoric. It refers to something well known or previously mentioned. In this case, Peter’s reference to "the judgment" refers back to v. 5, and the judgment of the living and the dead, i.e. the resurrection. Peter says the time for the resurrection had arrived.

But does Collins even mention any of these, or any of the other time texts? Not so much as a hint that he acknowledges that they are there.

On one occasion, Mr. Collins came to my office, and as we discussed the issues I once again called attention to the many time statements that demand our attention. He responded that he had the answer to that problem, and that the time statements are really no problem at all. I asked what his solution was, and he said that when the Bible asserts that an event was "near" or "at hand" or "coming quickly" that this was not a temporal indication of imminence, but simply meant that the "at hand" event was "sure to happen." In other words, "Behold, I come quickly" and "The time is at hand," and, "The coming of the Lord has drawn near" simply mean that the Lord’s coming was sure to happen. I gave two responses.

First, knowing that Mr. Collins was an amillennialist, I asked him what Jesus and John the Baptizer meant when they affirmed "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (literally, has drawn near)? Mr. Collins insisted that those declarations meant that the kingdom was near; it was imminent; it was coming soon. The question was then posed why the statements in regard to the kingdom meant that it was coming soon, but that the identical statements, in the identical Greek words, in the identical Greek tenses, about the parousia of Christ meant something totally different. No response. No answer.

Second, I asked Mr. Collins if he was indeed serious in his claim that "at hand" actually only meant "certain to occur". He insisted that this was the true meaning of the terms in scripture. I then asked him that, if that were true, what the term "not at hand" meant. He said he was not certain what I meant by the question. I told him that I felt he understood the question perfectly well, but that he just did not want to answer it.

I then called attention to Numbers 24:17f where Balaam spoke of the coming of the Messiah: "I see him, but not now. I behold him, but not near." It was something like 1500 years until the coming of Christ, and Balaam said it was "not near." I then observed to Mr. Collins that the logic of his argument meant this: If "at hand" means certain to occur, then most assuredly "not at hand" must, logically, mean "uncertain to occur." Mr. Collins, with obvious frustration, said, "You just have an answer for everything don’t you?"

The problem is that Mr. Collins, like so many others, simply refuses to submit to the inspired time statements. They equivocate, mitigate, derogate, and obfuscate the unequivocal temporal statements of scripture, all because they insist "My eyes are not seeing what my ears are hearing!" Their own preconceived ideas about the nature of the parousia, just like the Jewish preconceived ideas of the kingdom, cause them to reject God’s inspired word.

Note Collin’s form of argumentation. He says concerning whether the transformation of the "bodies of the dead" has occurred into immortality:

"If they have, I personally am not impressed with this new glorious body that is supposed to be immortal and
incorruptible. Are you? Obviously, the resurrection has not happened yet."

Response:
The millennialists will be more than happy to now welcome Collins into their camp. Our millennial friends appeal to the language of Isaiah 2 that describes the kingdom, and say, "If the church is supposed to be the fulfillment of that language, then I am not very impressed. I don’t see the wolf lying down with the lamb, do you? I am not impressed with this kingdom that you say has been established." How would Collins respond to such a statement? He would tell the millennialists that you cannot judge the fulfillment of prophecy based on your personal subjective standards. You must allow scripture to interpret scripture, and, of course, he would insist that even if the millennialist does not fully understand the nature of the fulfillment of the language, he cannot deny that the kingdom was to be fulfilled the first century, because, after all, Jesus said "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." So, Collins would insist that we honor the time statements about when the kingdom was to be established to help us determine the nature of the kingdom. But, of course, he denies that same hermeneutic to the preterist.

Collins continues:

"During Jesus earthly ministry, the Sadducees were trying to trap Jesus in a question about the resurrection. Jesus responded to them by saying, "The sons of this age marry, and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection" (Luke 20:34-36). Jesus’ words here are a big deathblow to the 70AD doctrine. Notice, at the resurrection we will not marry or be given in marriage. We cannot die anymore and we are equal with angels. First of all, it’s obvious that we are still marrying, giving in marriage, and we are still dying. Now if the 70AD advocates try to make dying a spiritual concept, then this means we cannot sin, because sin is what causes spiritual death (Rom. 6:23). Are you ready to accept such a notion? Did the resurrection happen in 70AD? Absolutely not!"

Response:
Note some of the issues that Collins ignores:

  1. Collins conveniently omits our discussion of this passage. I asked, "In what age was Jesus living when he made this promise?" Collins admitted, as he must, that Jesus was living in the Mosaic Age. I then asked "What age followed the Mosaic Age?" He acknowledged that it was the Christian Age.
     
  2. As a direct corollary to #1, I asked Collins "What age was characterized by Levirate Marriage?" He responded that it was the Mosaic Age. This is critical because this sets the context for the discussion of the nature of the kingdom and the resurrection. The age in which the Levirate marriage was being practiced was the age in which Jesus lived, and is his reference to "this age." The age to come would be the age that would follow the age in which Levirate marriage was practiced, and, of course, that is the current Christian Age. Thus, the current Christian Age is the age in which there is "no marrying and giving in marriage."
     
  3. I then asked if, in Christ, we are we are "male or female," and he said that "is a spiritual condition in Christ." I acknowledged and affirmed that fact.
     
  4. If asked Collins whether, in Christ, we still die, or whether Jesus’ promise in John 8:51 is "good" or not. He did not want to answer that question because, as a member of the churches of Christ, he dares not affirm the security of the believer too firmly. After all, the belief goes, you don’t really know if you are saved or not. If you think you are saved, you may actually be on the verge of falling.
     
  5. I asked if sons of God are, today, produced through resurrection, according to Paul in Romans 6; Colossians 2, 1 Peter 3, etc. He affirmed that this was true. I then asked him whether God has now, or if He will ever have two different plans for producing "sons of God"? He affirmed that there is only one way to become a child of God today, and of course, he does not believe that there will be sons of God produced after the "end of time resurrection." I noted that if this was true, then he of necessity had to believe that Matthew 22 was applicable to the Christian Age, since sons of God are now being produced through resurrection, and, per his own statements, there will never be another plan for producing children of God. So, according to his own answers, he precluded an application of Matthew 22 to a future eschaton.

I pointed out to Collins that every constituent element promised by Jesus in Matthew 22 was now, by his own admission, found in Christ, and that, again by his own admission, we are in the age that followed the age in which Jesus was living. Since Jesus said that the things he was promising were for "the age to come," and we are in the age that followed the age in which he lived, that logic demands that we now live in the age of resurrection life. He somewhat reluctantly admitted that this was true "in spiritual sense," but that this is not what Jesus was talking about. I asked for proof of that assertion, but got none.

Finally, an observation about Collins’ claim that preterists do not believe in the resurrection of the body. This is troubling to me since we discussed the issue. Since I explained my position to him, yet he still makes broad general claims that are misrepresentative of what we/I believe, I can only conclude that Collins seeks to prejudice rather than inform his readers. When Collins made that claim in our studies, I took him to Romans 8, and as we studied the text, I demonstrated that while Paul is definitely speaking of the same resurrection as in 1 Corinthians, as admitted by virtually everyone, that it is impossible to believe that Paul was discussing the raising of a biologically dead human corpse. [3] The body of Romans 8 was called the mortal body because "if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of Christ." Does Collins, or anyone else, believe that our biological bodies are dead, or die, only if Christ is in us? What if Christ is not in us? Does that mean that those who do not have Christ in them do not have dead bodies?

Paul lamented "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24f), and that the body, the mortal body of death he was speaking of is also the "flesh." Yet, speaking of this body of "flesh" Paul says, "If you are in the flesh you cannot be pleasing to God" and, "You are not in the flesh, but in the spirit." (Romans 8:7-11). If Paul was speaking of human bodies, he was clearly confused to say that they were not in the flesh. Did they not have their biological bodies anymore? Were they in the spirit, and not the flesh? Yes, but being in the flesh and being in the spirit are terms that do not relate to biological bodies versus disembodied spirits!

Finally, I noted that Paul’s discussion of this resurrection in Romans 8 is, like 1 Corinthians 15, the hope of Israel, and that if, as virtually all amillennialists do, he asserts that all of God’s promises to Israel were fulfilled at the Cross, or even in A.D. 70, that he must admit that the resurrection of the body — whatever he conceives it to be — had to be fulfilled, or else Israel remains as God’s Covenant people. Collins could not explain any of this. He never even tried. Obviously, Paul is not discussing the raising of human corpses from the ground.

This concludes the examination of the
first point of Collins’ "refutation" of Covenant Eschatology. Like most of the opponents of Covenant Eschatology, Collins offers no real arguments. If the reader will take the time to carefully examine his article, you will find that he does not do any exegetical work, at all. He simply asserts that 1 Corinthians and the other passages he cites prove his point. He totally ignores the time issues. This is not convincing! Collins cites passages in the identical manner as the dispensational authors who say, "The church will be Raptured out of the world at the beginning of the Tribulation period (1 Thessalonians 4:13f). That clearly has not occurred yet, therefore, the preterists are wrong!"

In the next installment of this series, we will examine Collins’ claims concerning the coming of the judgment.

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