In my first response to Mr. Cougan Collins, I responded to several issues he raised, including the issue of the resurrection. We now continue our examination of the four points Mr. Collins raises in his article.
Mr. Collins writes:
"The 70 AD doctrine teaches that Jesus second coming and judgment was at the destruction of Jerusalem. I cannot accept this because this denies a visible return of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 9:28 is the only verse that specifically mentions Jesus’ coming as being a second one. "So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation" (Heb. 9:28). How did Jesus appear the first time? We know with out a doubt that he appeared visibly. He lived and died on this earth. How will he appear the second time? The word "appear" gives us a clue that we will see him when he comes. We learn from Luke that Jesus’ disciples literally and visibly saw Jesus taken up and received out of their sight (Acts 1:9). We also learn that Jesus will return a second time in a like manner (Acts 1:11). John makes it clear that Jesus’ second coming will be visible because he says that every eye will see him (Rev. 1:7; see also Col.3:4). If the 70AD doctrine is correct, then we have to deny that Jesus literally and visibly went up into heaven. Are you willing to accept that? I cannot."
First, just as in our private studies, Mr. Collins refuses to even address the time issues at stake, and act as if they do not exist. This is simply inexcusable for anyone attempting to deal candidly and forthrightly with the scriptures.
Second, Mr. Collins argues that because Hebrews 9:28 says Christ would "appear" that this demands a visible, bodily return of Christ. This raises and interesting situation. Matthew 24:30-31 says that they would "see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven." To what event does Mr. Collins apply that prediction? To the A.D. 70 coming of Jesus Christ. And why does he apply Matthew 24:29f to A.D. 70? Because of Matthew 24:34 that says those events were to occur in Jesus’ generation. Of course, Collins did not inform the readers of his articles of his inconsistent hermeneutic, nor of his insistence that we honor the time statement in Matthew, but not in Hebrews. That would cause consternation to be sure.
Why does Collins not take note that in Hebrews 9-10 the writer never changes subjects, and in chapter 10:37, discussing the coming of Christ foretold in chapter 9:28, he says, "In a very, very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not tarry." So, in Matthew 24 we have a prediction that they would "see" Jesus coming on the clouds, but that occurred in A.D. 70 because of the time limiter of Matthew 24:34, that demands that it occurred in that generation. However, in Hebrews 9-10 it says that Jesus was to "appear" in a "very, very little while," but that has to be a literal, visible coming of Christ at the end of history because it says he would "appear."
Third, Jesus said that his coming to judge all men — that is the coming of Acts 1 — would be "in the glory of the Father" (Matthew 16:27). In my upcoming book, Like Father, Like Son, Coming on Clouds of Glory, I show that this promise meant that Jesus’ was coming in judgment in the same way the Father had come in the past. The Father had committed all judgment to Christ and would not judge henceforth, but Christ would judge as he had seen the Father judge (John 5:19f).
Since it is obvious that the Father had never come visibly, bodily, literally, out of heaven on literal cumulous clouds, and since Jesus was to come "in the glory of the Father" this precludes any discussion of a literal, visible coming of Christ out of heaven. In our private studies Collins had no response whatsoever to this Biblical argument. He ignored it.
Fourth, Collins cites Revelation 1:7 as proof of a yet future parousia. The trouble is that Revelation 1:7 is a direct quote of Zechariah 12:10, and its prediction of the judgment of Israel in A. D. 70. It would be the time when 2/3rds of the people would perish and the remnant would be saved, at the coming of the Lord (13:8f). Furthermore, and significantly, Jesus cites the same verse from Zechariah in Matthew 24:30, and applies it to his coming in A.D. 70.
So, here is what we have. Zechariah 12 foretold the A.D. 70 coming of the Lord, and Jesus quoted Zechariah in his prediction of the A.D. 70 parousia. In Revelation 1:7, John quotes Zechariah 12:10 to predict the judgment on those "who pierced him," yet, Collins claims that Revelation 1:7 predicts a yet future coming of the Lord. What is Collins authority for applying Zechariah 12:10 to a yet future, end of time coming of the Lord? Well, he did not see Jesus coming, therefore, Jesus did not come! Collins offers no exegetical evidence, no textual support, nothing. He just claims that it did not happen, therefore, it did not happen.
The total inconsistency of Collins is painfully obvious, and should be rejected by right thinking students.
"At the second coming all will be resurrected (John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15, 1Cor. 15:50-54), all will be judged (Mat. 25: 31-46; 2 Tim. 4:1; Jude 15; John 12:48), and all the righteous will be caught up in the air with Jesus and be with him forever (1 Thes. 4:17; John 14:2-3; Phil. 3:20-21). When we all stand at the judgment seat of Christ, we will all bow to him and confess to God that Jesus is His Son (Rom. 14:10-11). There will be no more death, tears, sorrows, or pains (Rev. 21:4; 1 Cor. 15:26). When Jesus comes, He will come like a thief in the night and there will be no escape (1Thes. 5:1-3). The earth will be burned up with fervent heat (2 Peter 3:10-13). Did any of these things happen in 70AD? Of course not. If the final judgment has already occurred, as the 70AD doctrine teaches, then there is nothing we can do for the saved or the lost because everyone has already been separated to eternal life or eternal punishment (Mat. 25:46)."
There is so much error here that space simply will not allow me to respond to every point. So, let’s just make a few simple observations that Collins ignored not only in his article, but in our private studies as well. Collins had a rather troubling tendency to totally ignore the fundamental issues of eschatology, and continue to make arguments that ignore context, violate logic, and ignore time statements.
Take note that in speaking of the resurrection, Collins appeals to John 5:28-29, Acts 24:14; 1 Corinthians 15. There are a couple of factors to note.
First, in our private studies, Collins appealed to John 5:28-29. I took note that this text is based squarely on Daniel 12:2, as virtually all commentators, with very few exceptions, agree. The problem for Collins is that while Jesus’ prediction of the resurrection is based on Daniel 12:2, in that very chapter, Daniel was told that everything being foretold in that chapter was to be fulfilled "when the power of the holy people is completely shattered." (Daniel 12:7). This was, and is, devastating to Collins and all futurists, and yet, he refused to deal with it in our private studies and conveniently ignores it when he seeks to refute Covenant Eschatology.
Second, I asked Mr. Collins if his hope of the resurrection was based on the Old Testament promises made to Israel. He said no. I then took note of the fact that Paul’s entire eschatology was taken from "Moses and all the prophets," and that when Paul anticipated the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 it would
be the fulfillment of Isaiah 25 and Hosea 13! Now, since Paul said his eschatological hope was nothing but the hope of Israel, but Collins said that his eschatological hope is not based on God’s promises to Israel, one can only conclude that Collins is preaching a different gospel/eschatology than Paul. What was Collin’s response to this in our studies? Silence.1
What is the reason for that silence? It is the foundational doctrine of much of amillennialism, the idea that God was through with Israel at the Cross, perhaps Pentecost, or at the latest, in A.D. 70. But here is the problem. All Biblical eschatology, including 1 Corinthians 15 belongs to Israel. If God’s promises to Israel remain valid, then Israel remains as God’s chosen people, and the Old Covenant remains valid as well. If the resurrection has not occurred, the Old Law remains valid. It is that simple, and that irrefutable. Jesus said not one jot or one tittle of the Old Law would pass until it was all fulfilled. The Law foretold the resurrection. Paul said he believed "all things written in the Law and in the prophets, that there is about to be (from mello, DKP), the resurrection of the dead, both the just and the unjust" (Acts 24:14f). Now, since Paul said that the Law foretold the resurrection, unless the resurrection has occurred, the Old Law, all of it, including animal sacrifices, remains valid.
Collins does not believe that the Old Law remains valid today. He insists that it passed at the Cross. If the Law passed at the Cross, then Paul did not know it, for, writing years after the Cross, Paul asked if God had cast off Israel as his people, and answered his own rhetorical question "God forbid!" (Romans 11:1f).
Collins has a tendency, as many who seek to refute Covenant Eschatology do, to simply point to a number of scriptures and say "See, those prove the A.D. 70 doctrine is wrong!" However, anyone who reads Collins’s article with an observant eye will notice that he did not bother to exegete a single passage. He simply points and says his case is proven. Well, I have studied with lots and lots of Jehovah’s Witnesses who have done the identical thing. But simply referring to scriptures and saying that they prove your case, does not prove your case. Collins is guilty in the worst way of petitio principii, begging the question. He assumes his position is right; he says it is right; therefore, it is right.
Collins makes a very common, but fallacious argument: "If the final judgment has already occurred, as the 70AD doctrine teaches, then there is nothing we can do for the saved or the lost because everyone has already been separated to eternal life or eternal punishment (Mat. 25:46)." It saddens me that Collins brings this up, since we dealt with it in our private discussions, and he admitted that he had no answer for what the Bible says.
Note that in Revelation 14:13, we have a depiction of life after the parousia. We have the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, and then the result, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth, for Yea, says the Spirit, they shall rest from their labors." Now, if the time of the coming of the Lord is an earth burning, time ending event, how could there be anymore dying? Furthermore, in Revelation 21-22, after the "end" of Revelation 20, we have nations of the earth coming into the city — whose gates are always open — and they come for healing. See Revelation 21-22:3. Now, if that is not evangelism, continuing life on earth, after the end, what is it? I don’t know, and Mr. Collins did not know either. He could not explain how his view of eschatology, of no more healing of the nations after the end, conforms to that picture.
The fact is that Mr. Collins has written an article that essentially ignores everything that he and I studied and discussed together, and claims to be a definitive response to Covenant Eschatology. It leaves the impression that Mr. Collins has studied the issue thoroughly when, in fact, he is not well informed at all.
Finally, Mr. Collins offers the following:
"Another big problem for the 70AD doctrine is that it does not have any early historical evidence. There is not one shred of early Christian writing to prove that Christians believed that Jesus’ second coming happened at 70AD. Instead, the following writers from about 75 AD to 150 AD all spoke of Jesus’ second coming as a future event: Justin Martyer, (sic) Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp (a student and friend of the apostle John), Irenaeus, and Hippolytus. One would think he would find at least one early church writer that expressed the 70AD view if it were true. However, one cannot be produced. Was Jesus’ second coming in 70AD? Absolutely not!"
I find it amusing that Collins would attempt to use the argument from history against Covenant Eschatology. Several years ago, in a public debate with another member of the churches of Christ, my opponent made the same argument about the silence of history. I responded then, as I did with Mr. Collins, that I would like for him to produce, from the early church writings, support for some of his distinctive church of Christ beliefs. My opponent immediately got back up and said he was not trying to use the silence of the church fathers as proof, but simply as "evidence!"2 He never appealed to the silence of the patristics again. Collins should have followed that lead because he could not, and cannot, produce support for some of his traditional church of Christ views from the early writers.
Using the early church writers for proof or disproof of modern beliefs and doctrines is at best tenuous. To say the very least, the patristic writers were often eccentric, sometimes downright non-Biblical, and often simply aberrant. Yet, desperate men, like Collins (and we might add Kenneth Gentry and others), place an inordinate emphasis on these early church writers. What ever happened to Sola Scriptura?
We have now examined two of Collins’ four points. We have shown that he lamentably ignores the clear cut Biblical testimony about when the eschatological events were to occur. He ignores the framework, i.e. the last days of Israel, for those events. He ignores the nature of language. And, he makes arguments against Covenant Eschatology that he would not make anywhere else.
In the next installment, we will examine Collins’ claim that the Old Law passed away at the Cross.