In the previous three articles we have examined point by point an article written by Cougan Collins, minister of the Lone Grove, Ok. Church of Christ. Mr. Collins and I studied on several different occasions, and he openly admitted his inability to refute what I believe and teach. As a matter of fact, he often exhibited frustration at his inability to respond to my questions and arguments. Nonetheless, Mr. Collins has seen fit to write an article setting forth what he claims are strong reasons for rejecting Covenant Eschatology. What is so troubling about his article is that the "arguments" he sets forth are the same tired arguments that he presented in our discussions and arguments that he admitted were not sufficient to respond to preterism! It seems strange to me that if he realized that these arguments were not strong in our personal discussions, that they suddenly seem sufficient to present to the public as if they were a devastating response to Realized Eschatology.
We will not go back over the previous material, but refer the reader to those articles on this site. We continue now with Mr. Collins’ "arguments" and our response.
Mr. Collins says: "The 70AD doctrine teaches that the kingdom started at Pentecost but did not come with power or was not established until 70AD. Mark tells us that some of those standing in the presence of Christ would not die before the kingdom would come with power (Mark 9:1). Luke tells us that the power and the spirit would come together (Luke 24:29; Acts 1:8). We learn that the power and spirit came at the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) and that was when the kingdom/church was established with power. The kingdom did not have to wait until 70AD to have power or to be established. The Bible does not speak of the kingdom starting without power."
Response: Quite frankly, as is usual with the enemies of Covenant Eschatology, there is a tendency to misrepresent what is actually taught. Mr. Collins never heard me say, nor I do I teach, that the church was not established on the day of Pentecost! What I do affirm is that the church was established in infancy on the day of Pentecost, and that it came in full power, glory and maturity in A.D. 70! Furthermore, I should note that in my tradition of the churches of Christ, without any consideration of Covenant Eschatology, I have heard something similar to this all of my life! That is, it is widely admitted, generally conceded that the church was not fully mature on Pentecost. So, Collins is tilting at windmills, and in doing so, is actually arguing against a widely held view in his traditional fellowship!
You see, in the churches of Christ, it is argued that the charismata were given in the church "to equip the church for the work of the ministry," and that these gifts were to bring the church to its maturity. When that point of maturity arrived, when the church was "full grown" the charismata would cease. 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4 are used to support and teach this truth.
So, perhaps we have the right to ask Mr. Collins, do you no longer believe that the church was born in infancy on the day of Pentecost? Do you believe that the church arrived as "the perfect man" and the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" on Pentecost? If not, then, to borrow and adapt an adage from the famous commercials: "Where’s the beef?" You see, Mr. Collins does not believe the church arrived "full grown" on Pentecost. He can write all he wants about the church coming in power and glory–more on that just below–but the fact is that he does not believe that the church was full grown and mature, it was not completed, on Pentecost. His argument here is specious and self-contradictory at the very best.
Mr. Collins continues: "The Hebrew writer tells us that Jesus’ New Covenant was established on better promises (Heb. 8:6). Notice, it did not say that it was to be established, but that it was established."
Response: This is almost embarrassing. Read again my comments just above. You see, this is a critical point. In the churches of Christ, "that which is perfect" of 1 Corinthians 13, and "the perfect man, the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" in Ephesians 4, refers to the completed revelation of the New Covenant. Do you catch that? To the completed New Covenant of Jesus Christ!
So, Mr. Collins believes that when Paul wrote Corinthians and Ephesians , indeed all of his epistles, the revelation of the New Covenant was not yet completed, for if it was, the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, including the gift of inspiration whereby Paul wrote, would have ceased! If the gift of inspiration had ceased, in other words, if the New Covenant was already completely established, then not one of Paul’s epistles would be inspired! My, what a dilemma!
So, Mr. Collins appeals to Hebrews to prove that the New Covenant "was established" not "will be established" to prove that Covenant Eschatology is wrong to assert that Christ’s New Covenant World had not yet fully arrived. Yet, Mr. Collins himself affirms that the New Covenant was not completed at the time Hebrews was written! This is a huge self contradiction!
I am not aware of any preterist that denies that Christ shed his blood to establish the New Covenant. I do not know of anyone that denies that on Pentecost, the provisions of that New Covenant began to be "probated." Nor am I aware of any advocate of Covenant Eschatology that denies that the New Covenant was being revealed and confirmed during the first century, through the ministry of the apostles and prophets. All of those in my personal acquaintance who espouse Realized Eschatology believe that it was at the parousia, in the first century, that the New Covenant was fully confirmed, and that Christ’s New Covenant World, came fully into existence. This last statement is where Mr. Collins, in his misguided zeal, is so self contradictory.
You see, as we have just noted, Mr. Collins in fact agrees with the first three points just above, and he even agrees in principle, with the vital fourth point, with a caveat. Yet, he seems not to realize that his agreement in principle demands agreement in fact and detail! Here is what we mean.
Again, Mr. Collins agrees that Christ died to establish the New Covenant, that the New Covenant began to be revealed on Pentecost (but was not fully revealed then), and that the New Covenant was being revealed and confirmed in the first century through the apostles and prophets. Well, guess what? Mr. Collins also believes that the New Covenant was finally and fully revealed sometime in the first century. Now, frankly, I do not remember if Mr. Collins agreed that all of the NT books were written before A.D. 70 or not. I cannot affirm one way or the other on that, and do not wish to misrepresent him in any way. However, in the churches of Christ, it is not uncommon at all for it to be taught that all inspiration was revealed, confirmed and ceased by the time of the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70! That may not be the majority view to be sure, but, it is not uncommon nonetheless. But let us set aside that point of agreement for the moment.
What is almost universally agreed to in the churches of Christ is that the gifts of the Spirit ceased, including the gift of inspiration, "sometime in the first century" and certainly no later than 100 A.D. following the (supposed) writing of Revelation in 95-98 A.D. Do you see the problem?
The problem is simple, yet, sometimes the simple things elude us, do they not? Here it is. Let us say that Mr. Collins accepts the majority view in the churches of Christ, that inspiration was fully revealed, confirmed, and ceased with the writing of Revelation. What does that mean? It means that the New Co
venant, Christ’s New Covenant World, fully arrived when Revelation was written!
You see, the New Covenant World was created by the New Covenant! That is so self-evident, so axiomatic, as to be beyond dispute. Well, if Christ’s New Covenant was not fully revealed, was not fully "established" until the writing of Revelation, then prima facia, Christ’s New Covenant World did not fully come, was not fully established, until Revelation was written. Interestingly, in this scenario, Collins would have the "establishment" of the kingdom arriving at a later time than the preterists! At whatever point Mr. Collins or anyone else places the completion of the revelatory process, it is there that they posit the full arrival of the kingdom. Mr. Collins’ argument is self destructive.
Mr. Collins continues: "You cannot find a biblical example where someone thought that the kingdom/church was lacking power or was not yet established. The church was established on the bedrock of Jesus Christ (Mat. 16:18). Jesus is the head of the kingdom/church (Col. 1:18) and he has all authority over heaven and earth (Mat. 28:18). I do not see how anyone could say that Christ’ kingdom was lacking power until 70AD. Paul informs us that Jesus already had power and glory before 70AD (1Cor. 5:4; Eph. 1:19-23; 1 Pet.1:20-21). Paul didn’t view the church as lacking power or anticipating a future power. Instead, he said that they had the power now (Eph. 3:20). Paul told the Colossians that God had delivered them out of darkness and had translated them into the kingdom of the son of his love (Col. 1:13). Now the 70 AD advocates will say that the kingdom was incomplete at this time, but notice what Paul says about these Christians who had been translated into the kingdom. Paul said, "you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power" (Col. 2:10). How could Paul say that these Christians were complete in the kingdom if the kingdom was not to be completed until 70AD? The reason Paul could say this is because the Bible does not teach what the 70AD advocates want it to teach."
Response: Mr. Collins says "you cannot find a biblical example where someone thought that the church was lacking in power or was not established."
First, Mr. Collins seems oblivious to the "already but not yet" reality of the New Testament.
Second, see above. I do not know of any preterist that denies that the foundation of the kingdom was laid at Pentecost. However, Mr. Collins is conveniently overlooking or ignoring the Biblical testimony that the New Temple, i.e. the Messianic Kingdom Temple that is called the church, was "under construction when the epistles were written! Paul says the New Temple was "being built" and Peter said the same thing (Ephesians 2.19f; 1 Peter 2.5f).
Third, has Mr. Collins never read Luke 21.28f? Jesus said that in the events leading up to the fall of Jerusalem–and by the way, Mr. Collins would agree with that statement– they would know "the kingdom of heaven has drawn near." So, here we have Jesus saying that in the events long after Pentecost, the disciples could know that the kingdom was near! Jesus’ teaching here undeniably posits the arrival of the kingdom at the destruction of Jerusalem, and Mr. Collins admits that the destruction of Jerusalem is the context. Why does he make a claim that is so directly contradictory to what our Lord said, therefore? The power of tradition and peer pressure is great.
Fourth, Mr. Collins emphasizes that Paul said "you are complete in him" and argues that since that was before A.D. 70 then the completion of the kingdom in power and glory, could not be in A.D. 70. Well, go back and consider our thoughts in regard to the revelation and confirmation of the New Covenant. Remember that Mr. Collins does not believe that the New Covenant had all been revealed when Paul wrote Ephesians or Colossians! If the New Covenant was not completed and perfected, how could the Ephesians and Colossians be "complete in him"? This is a huge dilemma for Mr. Collins, and he clearly has not considered it, or if he has, he has hoped that no one would catch him in this conundrum.
Our friend continues: "Paul tells us that Jesus must reign until He comes again (1Cor. 15:23-25). At that time He will hand the kingdom over to the Father and He will cease to be a mediator (1 Cor. 15:28). If this occurred at 70AD, then we should not be praying in the name of Jesus but directly to God. Please notice that Paul tells us when this happens there will be no more death (1Cor. 15:26). I have pointed this out already, but it is worth saying again. If this refers to physical death then we should not be dying. If it refers to spiritual death then we cannot sin."
Response: Here is another example of something that bothers me about Mr. Collins’ article. We discussed in some detail about whether the Christian Age, and Christ’s reign, will end. The reader will not the careful wording of Mr. Collins article "He will hand the kingdom over to the Father and He will cease to be a mediator."
First, I pointed out to Mr. Collins, from many scriptures, that Paul was not saying that Christ’s rule and reign would end at the parousia. Christ’s kingdom–his throne- is without end (Luke 1.32-35). Now, if Paul was affirming the end of Christ’s rule, then the angel lied to Mary when he said that Christ’s rule, reign and throne would never end! See Isaiah 9.6f where it is affirmed that "of the increase of his government there shall be no end." Jesus himself said that his word, i.e. the gospel, "will never pass away" (Matthew 24.35). The church, the rule of Christ is an age "without end" (Ephesians 3.20-21). John saw Jesus on the throne after the parousia (Revelation 22.3). Mr. Collins interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15 is in fatal conflict with all of these inspired statements.
Second, Mr. Collins says that Christ "will cease to be a mediator," and appeals to 1 Corinthians 15.26f). Just exactly where does it say that in the text? Can Collins please produce the words that prove his assertion?
Third, scripture is emphatic that Christ serves as priest "after the order of an endless life" and "he ever lives" to serve in that capacity. So, Christ’s throne, his rule, his kingdom, and his priesthood are never ending. They will never pass away! The same cannot be said of Mr. Collins arguments.
Fourth, appealing to Paul’s promise that "the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" Mr. Collins says "if this is physical death there should be no physical death today." Well, this does not follow, necessarily! Mr. Collins has failed to follow Paul’s use of language.
Christ was to do to "death," what he had already done to "all things." Notice "he has put all things under his feet" in verse 27. Then, the apostle says that what had been done to the "all things" would then, at the parousia, be done to death. Ask yourself this question: Had Christ taken "all things" all evil, out of existence, or had Christ nullified the power of all things? Since it is irrefutably true that Christ had not taken "all things" i.e. all evil, out of existence, yet had put "all things" under him, i.e. subjected them to him by nullifying their power, then does it not follow that he was not to take "death"out of existence, but rather nullify its power?