A RESPONSE TO KURT SIMMONS ON ROMANS 11:25-27
Don K. Preston
The summer 2009 edition of the fine Fulfilled Magazine, (Fulfilled! Magazine, 1620 Sequoia St., Napa, CA. 94558), carried an article by me in which I addressed Romans 11:25-27. The objection is often made against true preterism that “all Israel” was not saved in AD 70 as Paul predicted she would be, therefore, preterism is falsified. In response, I noted several things: Paul draws from Isaiah 26-27, Isaiah 59 (as well as Jeremiah 31), when he predicted the coming of the Redeemer out of Zion for Israel’s salvation
My argument was, and is, that the prophetic background in the texts that Paul cites demonstrates that the coming of Romans 11 must be the AD 70 parousia. In his latest Internet newsletter, “The Sword and the Plow,” my good friend Kurt Simmons takes issue with my article. He objects to my application on several grounds:
1.) Israel in the text is spiritual Israel, i.e. the church, and not ethnic Israel.
2.) The coming of the Lord in Romans 11:25f is referent to Christ’s death on the Cross.
3.) Romans 11 cannot refer to the resurrection / parousia at the end of the Old Covenant in AD 70 because “removal of the Mosaic law was no part of man’s justification.” (P. 4).
Kurt offered his article in the spirit of friendship and brotherly exchange. My response is offered in the same spirit. I will demonstrate that my original article is correct: Romans 11:25f did predict Christ’s AD 70 coming.
Objection #1– Israel in Romans 11:25f Is the Church, Not Ethnic Israel
My friend’s first objection is that “all Israel” in Romans 11:25f is not a reference to ethnic, racial Israel: “In a word, ‘all Israel’ is not ethnic Jews, but men of every race and language that come to Christ” (P. 2). I find this a violation of Romans 11. Let’s see how Paul uses the term “Israel” in Romans 11:
A.) Romans 11:1 – “Has God cast away His people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin” It can hardly be argued that Paul was concerned about whether God had cast off the church, can it? Would anyone argue that this is Paul’s concern? I have never read this in a single commentary. Of what people was the tribe of Benjamin?
B.) Romans 11:7 – “Israel has failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened.” Was Paul saying that the church had failed to obtain her hope because of blindness? Was Paul saying that the remnant, the elect of the church was obtaining the promises, as promised in Isaiah 29:10, and Psalms 69? These prophecies that Paul cites are about Israel, and her blindness and judgment. Did Isaiah predict the hardening of the heart of the majority of the church, in Paul’s day? The Israel whose heart was hardened when Paul wrote is the Israel whose salvation was to come at the parousia!
C.) Romans 11:11 – Paul says that the salvation of the Gentiles (i.e the church) was provoking Israel (i.e the church, per Simmons), to jealousy. This was in fulfillment of Deuteronomy 32:21f, that Paul cites twice. We must honor this prophetic source of Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. Deuteronomy 32 is the prophecy of Israel’s last days when God would provoke Israel– not the church– to jealousy by calling the Gentiles. We dare not ignore this prophetic background. Was the church provoking the church to jealousy?
D.) Romans 11:11-15 – Israel had stumbled (v. 11), and through her hardness, through her failure, the Gentiles were being called (v. 12). Was Paul saying that it was due to the church’s failure that the Gentiles were being called? Paul said that it was through the casting off of Israel that the Gentiles were receiving their salvation! Can this, in any way possible, be saying that due to the casting off of the church, salvation had come to the Gentiles, i.e. the church?
E.) Romans 11:16-20– Israel was “the first fruit,” “the natural branch,” the “olive tree,”into which the Gentiles were being grafted. And, “Because of unbelief they (the natural branches) were cut off.” Again, had the church been cut off? Was the church the natural Olive Tree? To say this one has to totally ignore the OT testimony.
F.) Romans 11:23 – “If they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.” To reiterate: was the church in a state of rebellion and unbelief when Paul wrote? Had the church been cut off when Paul wrote? What did Paul mean when he said that God was able to graft Israel back in again? Had the church so apostatized in Paul’s day that they had indeed been cut off, and needed to be grafted back into God’s grace? You cannot isolate v. 25f from v. 23, and this demands that the Israel of v. 25f was in the state of unbelief as described in v. 23. And this cannot refer to the church.
G.) Romans 11:25-27 – “Blindness in part has happened unto Israel.” Let’s express my friend’s position along with Paul’s affirmation:
Israel in Romans 11:25f is the church (Simmons).
But, Israel in Romans 11:25f had been blinded in part.
Therefore, the church had been blinded in part when Paul wrote.
This clearly will not work.
While we have only hinted at it, to suggest that the church is in view in Romans 11:25f is to deny the unbroken testimony of the OT prophecies that foretold Israel’s blindness in the last days. It ignores Jesus’ parabolic teaching that was for the purpose of blinding Israel (Matthew 13), not the church. It ignores what Paul says that in the reading of Torah, Israel of his day remained blind (2 Corinthians 3:12-4:1-4). It is simply not proper to isolate the blindness of Israel in Romans 11:25f from the earlier discussion (v. 7f), and this demands an identity of Israel in v. 25f as ethnic Israel.
H.) Romans 11:28 – “Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.” The antecedent of “they” is the Israel of v. 25 that was hardened when Paul wrote. Paul says that when he wrote, “they” Israel, was the enemy of the Gospel! Can we identify “Israel” here in any way whatsoever as the church? Grammatically and contextually there is no way to delineate between the “they” of v. 28 and Israel of v. 25f. Thus, the Israel (they) of v. 28 cannot be identified as the church. Let me put it like this:
Israel in Romans 11:25f is the church (Simmons).
But, Israel in Romans 11:25f was the enemy of the gospel when Paul wrote (v. 28).
Therefore, the church was the enemy of the gospel when Paul wrote.
Again, this simply will not work. You cannot make the Israel in v. 25f to be the church without affirming that the church was the enemy of the gospel.
Now consider a few additional thoughts.
Would it not be strange indeed if Paul were having to argue with Christians about whether Christians would be saved?
Since in Romans it was Gentile Christians that were arguing that “Israel” would not be saved, then if Israel is the church (i.e. Christians),
would that not mean that Gentile Christians were arguing that Christians would not be saved?
So, were the Gentile Christians denying that the church would be saved? Wouldn’t that call their own salvation into question?
But you see, if we can argue that they were saying that God was through with Israel, (or even if one wanted to argue that they were arguing that Jewish Christians were not going to be saved, which I do not see in the context anywhere), then this still brings us back to the identity of ethnic Israel.
So, the harmonious, unbroken chain of references to Israel in chapter 11 demands that Paul is discussing
OT Israel and God’s faithfulness to her. It was not the church divorced from Israel and her promises.
It was not the church that was in a state of unbelief. It was not the church that had been cut off. It was not the church being provoked to jealousy by Paul’s mission to the Gentiles. It was not the church that would be grafted in again. It was not the church that was blinded, and it was not the church that was the enemy of the gospel! None of these things were true of the church, but they were true of “Israel” when Paul wrote.
All of this proves, irrefutably I think, that the Israel that was to be saved was Old Covenant, ethnic Israel. Now, with all of this said, let me make it clear that I do believe that Paul is saying that it would be, after all, the spiritual seed that would be saved. After all, he says that if they “Israel” (Israel after the flesh) do not continue in unbelief, they will be grafted in again. So, if the “Israel” that he is considering was to be saved, they would have to come to faith in Christ, thus becoming in the truest sense possible, the Israel of God. However, this very argument demonstrates that Paul has ethnic Israel in mind, as he contemplates their potential salvation. Ethnic Israel that Paul is discussing had to become the True Israel by faith in order to enter the salvation being foretold! But to reiterate, this proves that the Israel of Romans 11:25 was not the church comprehensively considered, but ethnic Israel when Paul wrote.
Objection #2: The coming of the Lord in Romans 11:25f is referent to Christ’s Passion.
My friend suggests that I am wrong to say that the coming of Romans 11:25f was a prediction of Christ’s second coming in AD 70. Instead, “The Deliverer’s coming out of Zion to purge sin from Jacob was when Jesus was born of a virgin, and died upon the cross under Pontius Pilate. This is Paul’s meaning. Romans 11 is NOT a second coming text” (P. 4, his emphasis).
I could not disagree more. Responding to this singular objection could occupy me for some time, but let me make some brief comments.
If Paul has the Incarnation / Passion in mind, why does he say that all Israel shall be saved– future tense? Why did he not say that Israel would be saved because Christ had already come? Instead, he speaks of his hope that they would be grafted in again, that they would come to faith, that they would no longer be enemies. Paul’s desire in chapter 11 is the identical desire as in 9:3-4; 10:1-3. His prayer was “that my kinsman according to the flesh, might be saved” (Romans 10:1-3). He well understood that they must come to faith in Christ, thus becoming the true seed of Abraham, but as noted, this enforces the truth that he was speaking of ethnic Israel.
All of this constituted a future hope for Paul. We cannot deny that Paul posits the salvation in direct connection with a definitive historical event, the coming of the Lord. Simmons disagrees with this, affirming that the salvation of Israel that Paul mentions “has not been accomplished but will continue as long as time continues”(p. 2). He furthermore denies that the prophecy, “is limited to a particular historical referent” (p.2). But, if the coming of the Lord refers to either the virgin birth or Christ’s passion, as Simmons affirms, then were these not particular historical events?
To argue that the parousia of Christ in view in Romans 11 was a past event denies the prophetic background from which Paul draws for his prediction. Let me frame my argument succinctly to aid our understanding.
The coming of Christ in Romans 11:25-27 is the coming of Christ foretold in Isaiah 26-27 and Isaiah 59.
But the coming of Christ in Isaiah 26-27 and 59 is not the Incarnation / Passion of Christ, but a prediction of his coming in judgment of Israel.
Therefore, the coming of Christ in Romans 11:25-27 is not the Incarnation / Passion of Christ, but a prediction of his coming in judgment of Israel.
Now, let me establish my claim. In my article I called attention to the fact that Paul cites Isaiah 27 and Isaiah 59, along with Jeremiah 31. I focused on Isaiah 27 and 59, since both passages contain the prophecy of the coming of the Lord. Let’s take a look at my argument and Simmons’ response.
I noted that the time of Israel’s salvation according to Isaiah 27:9f would be when YHVH took away her sin, in the day that the altar was turned to chalkstone, God forgot the people He had created, and had no mercy on them. I further noted that according to the antecedent references to “in that day” that this would be when YHVH would come and avenge the blood of the martyrs. I called attention to the fact that according to Jesus, all the blood of all the righteous, all the way back to creation would be avenged in his generation. This means that in Romans 11, Paul’s prediction of the parousia of Christ would be at Christ’s coming to avenge the blood of the martyrs.
Simmons responds with three objections:
First, “there have been many days of the Lord, and that to avenge innocent blood” (p. 2). He rightly notes that the Babylonian invasion was to avenge the blood the martyrs in the sixth century (2 Kings 24:1-4; Jeremiah 2-4:13).
Response: Simmons is correct in his basic thought. What he fails to honor is that Jesus said that all of the blood of all the righteous, all the way back to creation, would be avenged in his generation (Matthew 23:29-37). Jesus’ statement includes the comprehensive and consummative avenging of the blood of the martyrs that were “avenged” in the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions! So, in some sense, while those judgments came as a result of Israel’s bloodguilt, there is no question that in the mind of Jesus the bloodguilt of Jerusalem was not fully avenged in those judgments.
What is significant to me is that my friend admits in a footnote on page 2, “We do not disallow the possibility that there is a plenior sensus (fuller meaning, DKP), to Isaiah 26:21 that may look beyond its historical setting to Christ’s second coming.” Well, if this is true, then Paul could, after all, be citing Isaiah to speak of the AD 70 judgment, could he not?
Second, my friend says that the definitive proof that Isaiah 26-27 was not fulfilled in AD 70 was because, “Paul makes no reference to the altar stones being pulverized, but Don imports it into Romans 11:27 just the same” (p. 3).
Response: This is a troubling objection, for it betrays either an ignorance or rejection of the Jewish hermeneutic, and, the imposition of an unrealistic journalism on the text. Here is what I mean.
As Wright, Perriman, Holland and others note, in Jew
ish hermeneutic– which Paul clearly practiced– when a speaker or writer cited a part of a prophetic text, he was bringing the entire context of that prophecy to the mind of the hearer and reader! ( I fully document the Jewish hermeneutic in my upcoming book, We Shall Meet Him In the Air, The Wedding of the King of kings). Furthermore, Simmons seems, if I read him correctly, to recognize this principle. In his new commentary on Daniel, Adumbrations, (Available from me), in his discussion of the seventy weeks of Daniel 9 (p. 212+), he mentions Isaiah 61. Isaiah foretold the Acceptable Day of the Lord, as well as the Day of Vengeance. When Jesus cited Isaiah (Luke 4:16f), he mentioned only the Acceptable Day. However, Simmons “imports” the Day of Vengeance into Jesus’ proclamation even though it is not specifically mentioned!
The other troubling issue raised by Simmons’ objection here is that he is imposing an unrealistic journalistic demand on Paul and the other Bible writers. Is it to be argued that because a given author does not include all elements, motifs, terms, etc. in his discussion that he means to exclude them from his discussion, and that this omission demands that a different event, at a different time is under consideration? This is surely an untenable position.
This hermeneutic is employed by the millennialists. They claim that because one passage mentions Christ coming for his saints, whereas other texts speak of his coming with his saints (and omit the coming for the saints), that this demands two different comings. Postmillennialist Kenneth Gentry likewise says that the parousia of 2 Thessalonians 1 is different from that in 2 Thessalonians 2, because in chapter 1 Paul mentions angels, but does not mention them in chapter 2! In my 2008 formal debate with amillennialist Mac Deaver, sponsored by Simmons’ group in Carlsbad, NM, Deaver claimed that while Hebrews 9 discusses the atonement work of Christ, and Daniel 9 foretold the atonement work of Christ, that since Hebrews mentions the death of every man, and Daniel 9 doesn’t, that Hebrews 9 must be different from Daniel! (I repeatedly challenged Deaver to demonstrate the differences, but he offered not a word of proof for his claim. That debate is available from me). Simmons would forthrightly reject these arguments as a false. And yet, he now employs it in his critique of my article! See my in-depth discussion of this hermeneutic in my upcoming book.
The fact is that just because Paul does not mention the altar being turned to chalkstone does not mean that he did not have this in mind, as Simmons’ own admission grants. Remember that he says AD 70 may be the fuller meaning of Isaiah 26 after all.
Third, Simmons says Isaiah 26-27 cannot be referent to AD 70 because, “in AD 70 Israel did not have groves and images” (p. 3).
Response: Another troubling objection. My friend has imposed a literalistic hermeneutic on the text that would virtually destroy his entire Messianic interpretation of the OT. Here is what I mean. The OT foretold the coming and work of Christ in OT terms. For instance, when the kingdom would come, sacrifices would be offered, the Feast Days observed, Jerusalem would be the center of the kingdom. Simmons correctly believes that while described in terminology of the OT cultus, these elements are to be interpreted spiritually. He does not believe a literal physical temple would be part of the kingdom. He does not believe that animal sacrifices are to be offered in the kingdom. He does not believe that a genealogically confirmed priesthood is to offer sacrifices in the kingdom. He does not believe that we must literally travel to earthly Jerusalem to worship. He rightly rejects the millennial insistence on a literal fulfillment of those predictions.
Yet, when critiquing my article, my friend insists that since Isaiah 26 mentions idols that this cannot refer to AD 70, since Israel had no idols in the first century. Well, to illustrate the point just made and to respond, let me give one illustration of my friend’s problem.
In Zechariah 14 we find a prediction of the coming of the Lord and his eternal kingdom, with the attendant salvation flowing to the nations. However, it then says that all the nations would be demanded to travel to Jerusalem to worship and to observe the feast of Tabernacles! To fail to do so would bring the curse of God.
Does Simmons believe that this is, or ever will be fulfilled literally? Patently not. He well understands that while described in the terminology of the OT cultus, that Zechariah is spiritually fulfilled now, in Christ.
So, what is the difference between Isaiah 26 and Zechariah 14? To use his argument:
Zechariah 14 said that at the coming of the Lord in the destruction of Jerusalem, the kingdom would be established, the nations of the earth would be required to travel to Jerusalem to worship (ostensibly at the temple), and observe the Feast of Tabernacles.
The nations today do not have to travel to Jerusalem to worship at the temple and observe the Feast of Tabernacles.
Therefore, the Lord did not come and establish the kingdom in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 14.
The imposition of his literalistic interpretation of Isaiah 26 involves my brother in a tremendous difficulty here.
Finally, let me make this observation in regard to Isaiah 26-27 and 59, and Simmons’ objection. Remember that he claims that the coming of the Lord out of Zion in Romans 11 is referent to Jesus’ birth and/or death on the Cross. But consider what this means.
Paul is undeniably citing Isaiah 26-27 and 59 and their predictions of the coming of the Lord. Both passages foretold the coming of the Lord in judgment. Neither passage says a word about Jesus’ birth or death on the Cross! This raises a very serious issue.
There are many OT prophecies of the Incarnation of Jesus. Why did Paul not cite a single one of them if he had Jesus’ birth in mind? There are many OT prophecies of Jesus’ passion, in particular Isaiah 53, but Paul did not even allude to one of those when he spoke of the coming of the Lord.
What Paul did do was to cite two major OT prophecies that specifically foretold the coming of the Lord in judgment of Israel for shedding innocent blood. Now, for my friend to find the incarnation or passion of Christ in Romans 11, he must find it in Isaiah 26-27 or Isaiah 59. But it is not there! Simmons must therefore import it into prophecies that do not mention it, and then assume that Paul likewise imported it in Romans 11! What is the hermeneutical justification for this?
Remember one of the primary rules of hermeneutic: “A text cannot mean what it never meant!” So, if Isaiah 26-27 and 59 did not predict Christ’s Passion then my friend cannot import those things into Romans 11.
Consider the following closing facts from Isaiah:
Isaiah foretold the resurrection (25:6-9; 26:19f). Simmons believes this was fulfilled in AD 70.
Isaiah foretold Israel’s salvation at the time of the resurrection (Isaiah 25:8-9)– and this would be when the city of confusion was destroyed and the temple turned over to foreigners (25:1-3). Is this salvation different from the salvation of Israel in Romans?
Isaiah foretold the destruction of Leviathan (i.e. the Devil, Isaiah 27:1-3). Simmons believes this was fulfilled in AD 70.
oretold the coming of the Lord to avenge the blood of the martyrs (26:21). Simmons agrees that the greater meaning of Isaiah 26 may well be AD 70.
Isaiah foretold the sounding of the Great Trump for the salvation of Israel. Jesus quotes from Isaiah to predict the events of his AD 70 parousia (Matthew 24:31)– not his passion. Consider this then:
Paul cites Isaiah 27 to speak of the salvation of Israel at the coming of the Lord.
Jesus likewise cited Isaiah 27 and its prediction of the salvation of Israel at the coming of the Lord.
But, Jesus applied the prophecy of Isaiah 27 to his coming in judgment of Israel in AD 70.
Therefore, unless Paul is radically altering the meaning of Isaiah 27, and / or radically altering Jesus’ application of Isaiah 27, then the coming of the Lord in Romans 11 was the AD 70 parousia.
What is the justification for saying that Paul radically altered the application of Isaiah 27 from how Jesus applied it?
So, what Isaiah predicted did not happen in either the Assyrian or Babylonian invasions. They are Messianic and Paul’s application of these two judgment prophecies must be applied to the AD 70 parousia, not the incarnation or passion. Simply put, you cannot apply Isaiah’s prophecies of the judgment of Israel to Jesus’ Passion without importing that topic into the text. And we ask again, what is the hermeneutical justification for such an importation of topic? Is this not, prima facie, eisegesis (reading into the text), and not exegesis (drawing out of the text what is there)?
The reader will note that we have not discussed Isaiah 59, the other prophecy cited by Paul. Isaiah 59 foretold the salvation and judgment of Israel for shedding innocent blood at the coming of the Lord. We have omitted discussion of that text simply for space consideration, but it fully confirms our argument that Romans 11 cannot refer to Christ’s passion, but to his AD 70 judgment.
Objection #3– Romans 11 cannot refer to the resurrection / parousia at the end of the Old Covenant in AD 70 because: “It is the moral law that condemns mankind, not the Mosaic law, and inasmuch as the moral law still exists, removal of the Mosaic law was no part of man’s justification, and did not accomplish his eschatological resurrection. Therefore, the destruction of Jerusalem is irrelevant to man’s soteriological perfection” (P. 4).
I must confess that the first time I heard my good friend say something like this, in Carlsbad, NM, I was stunned. To deny that the end of the Mosaic covenant had any soteriological and eschatological implications and fulfillment is in fact a total repudiation of the preterist view. Now, that would be fine if it can be proven. However, that claim is patently false. Furthermore, to suggest that the resurrection is unrelated to the end of the Mosaic Covenant, but demands the end of the moral law, demands that the resurrection of 1 Corinthians 15 has not occurred, and will not occur until the end of time and temptation, or some equivalent. This is futurism exemplified! Again, this would be fine if it could be proven, but in fact, this claim flatly contradicts 1 Corinthians 15! I must be brief, but let me illustrate and prove the last point.
Paul said the resurrection would be when “the law” that was the strength of sin was removed (1 Corinthians 15:55-56). What is “the law” that was the strength of sin? It was Torah, and nothing else. Paul uses the term “the law” 117 times in his writings. There are only 7 times in which he does not refer directly to Torah, the Mosaic Law, and in each context, there is a clear, undeniable modifier that identifies “the law” that is not the Torah. Thus, for Simmons to say that “the law” in 1 Corinthians 15 is not Torah, he must prove definitively that Paul is using his normal term for Torah, in a distinctively different way, without giving us a contextual qualifier. There is no indication whatsoever in 1 Corinthians that he is doing so. Thus, the argument would be:
The resurrection of 1 Corinthians 15 would be when “the law” that was the strength of sin would be removed– i.e. at the end of the age of “the law.”
But, “the law” that was the strength of sin was the Mosaic Law, Torah.
Therefore, the resurrection would be at the end of the Mosaic Law, i.e. at the end of the Mosaic age.
That the resurrection was to be at the end of the Mosaic age is confirmed in the OT, when Daniel 12:2 foretold the resurrection. Simmons agrees that this was fulfilled in AD 70 (Adumbrations, 298-300), when the last enemy was destroyed! The “power of the holy people” can be nothing less than their covenant with YHVH. They had no other power! (Isaiah 65-66 likewise agree that the New Creation– which comes at the time of the resurrection of course, would arrive at the time of the destruction of Old Covenant Israel).
So, here is the argument:
The resurrection of Daniel 12 (and 1 Corinthians 15), would be when the power of the holy people was destroyed (ended).
But, the power of the holy people was their covenant relationship with God, i.e. the Mosaic Covenant.
Therefore, the resurrection of Daniel 12 (and 1 Corinthians 15), was when the power of the holy people was completely shattered, i.e. AD 70.
In stark, logical contradiction however, my friend says: “It is the moral law that condemns mankind, not the Mosaic law, and inasmuch as the moral law still exists, removal of the Mosaic law was no part of man’s justification, and did not accomplish his eschatological resurrection.” Let me frame the argument like this:
The resurrection would be when the law that is the strength of sin would be removed (1 Corinthians 15:55-56).
The law that is the strength of sin is “the moral law that still exists, and not the Mosaic Law” (Simmons).
Therefore, the resurrection of 1 Corinthians 15 has not yet occurred.
This is unavoidable and undeniable. And yet, my good friend says the resurrection did indeed occur in AD 70! He says the last enemy has been put down (Adumbrations, 300). Commenting on Hebrews 10:13f, Simmons says: “These verses couple the offering of Christ upon the Cross and destruction of his enemies, just as we see in the prophecy of Daniel here (Daniel 9, DKP). Christ’s enemies were made his footstool in the destruction of Jerusalem and the civil wars and calamities that overtook the Roman empire in the years A.D. 67-70” (Adumbrations, 233). It seems to me that my friend has failed to see the implications of his (excellent) observation. Let me explain what I mean.
Simmons says that Hebrews 10:11-13 and its reference to Christ putting down his enemies is referent to the AD 70 parousia. I concur. However, Hebrews 10:11-13 is directly parallel with 1 Corinthians 15:25-26: “He must reign until he has put all things under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
The future coming of Christ to put down his enemies (future t
o 1 Corinthians 15 and Hebrews 10)––to put down the last enemy, death– was Christ’s AD 70 coming (Simmons).
The coming of Christ to put down his enemies– the last enemy, death, would be when “the law that is the strength of sin” was removed (1 Corinthians 15:55-56).
The Law that is the strength of sin was / is the moral law (Simmons)
Therefore, the moral law was removed in AD 70.
You cannot logically affirm the fulfillment of the resurrection in AD 70, as my friend does, and not affirm the end of whatever law it was that held the condemning power over man. This is Paul’s entire point! So, whether one identifies “the law that is the strength of sin” as Torah, the moral law, the gospel (as my amillennial debate opponents often do), or whatever law, it does not matter. If you affirm the resurrection in AD 70, that law passed at that time!
The covenantal context of the discussion in Hebrews 10:10f cannot be denied. Christ was waiting at the right hand until his enemies would be made his footstool. But, the putting down of his enemies is directly linked with the giving of the New Covenant! Notice the connective particle in v. 13 that ties his discussion of the putting down of Christ’s enemies to the consummation of the covenant.
This is perfectly parallel with Romans 11:25-27 where the taking away of sin would be in fulfillment of God’s promise of the New Covenant, i.e. Jeremiah 31! Both Hebrews 10 and Romans 11 cite the identical prophecy from Jeremiah. This is no accident or mere coincidence.
The putting down of the last enemy in Hebrews 10 (at AD 70 per Simmons) is directly connected to the consummation of the covenant in fulfillment of Jeremiah 31. Likewise in Romans 11 the putting away of sin would be at the consummation of Jeremiah 31. Since the putting down of the last enemy at the fulfillment of Jeremiah in Hebrews 10 was future, this demands that the putting away of sin in Romans 11 was likewise future, i.e. AD 70. (Jack Scott gave some excellent lessons on this at the just completed 2009 Preterist Pilgrim Weekend. MP3s of the seminar are available from me).
A final point here. Simmons says that the end of the Law had nothing to do with man’s justification. How can this possibly be true?
Torah was added that sin /death might abound (Romans 5:21). Torah magnified the sin and thus the death that entered through Adam. This is why Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, while speaking of the Adamic sin and death, could nonetheless affirm that the resurrection would be at the end of Torah. The Mosaic Covenant exemplified, symbolized, exacerbated and magnified the Adamic sin and death.
Torah brought death (Romans 7:4-14).
Torah was the ministration of death (2 Corinthians 3). Did Torah minister a different death from the Adamic death?
Torah could not bring justification, righteousness or life (Galatians 3:21).
The gospel– i.e. which was consummated at the end of the Mosaic Covenant– brings forgiveness.
The gospel– i.e. which was consummated at the end of the Mosaic Covenant– delivers from the law of sin and death.
The gospel–i.e. which was consummated at the end of the Mosaic Covenant– is the ministration of life.
The gospel– i.e. which was consummated at the end of the Mosaic Covenant– brings righteousness, justification and life.
Paul said that through the gospel we receive everything that the Law of Moses could not give (Acts 13:38-39).
The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that the Mosaic Covenant was not removed at the Cross. Torah was still nigh unto passing away when Hebrews was written (Hebrews 8:13). Furthermore, the transition from the Old Covenant to the New was the distinctive work of the Spirit through the personal ministry of Paul, and was still ongoing when the apostle wrote 2 Corinthians 3:16-4:1-3.
Consider this. In Hebrews 9:15f the apostle said Christ died “for the remission of the transgressions under the first covenant.” If the Adamic law / sin / death is not comprehended in the passing of the Old Covenant and the full establishment of the New Covenant, then Paul’s statement falls far short of offering a solution to the Adamic problem!
Hebrews says Christ’s death was “for the remission of the transgressions under the first covenant,” i.e. under the Mosaic Covenant! This demonstrates our point that the Mosaic Covenant was added to exemplify and magnify the Adamic Sin and Death. This is why the end of the Mosaic Covenant is the time of resurrection life! Simmons actually seems to agree with this, for commenting on Hebrews 10:9-10 and the entrance into the MHP, he says, “The saints ‘entrance’ in the Holy of Holies (that is, their legal and covenantal admission into the presence of God, cleansed by the blood of Christ) did not occur until the Second Coming” (Adumbrations, 220).
Don’t forget that Simmons posits the Second Coming in AD 70. Thus, entrance into the MHP is covenantally framed, which demands that the passing of the Old Covenant– that was imposed until the time of entrance into the Most Holy– is the time of the opening of the Most Holy! Let me put it like this:
The Mosaic Covenant was to be valid (imposed) until the time of reformation (Hebrews 9:9-10).
The time of reformation is the time of Christ’s Second Coming (at the resurrection, Simmons).
Therefore, the Mosaic Covenant was to be valid until the time of Christ’s Second Coming (the time of the resurrection).
Now let’s apply this to the question of salvation:
Torah would remain valid until the time of the reformation.
Torah would be removed at the time of the reformation.
The time of the reformation–the time of the removal of Torah– would be the time of salvation, man’s entrance into the Most Holy.
Therefore, the time of the removal of Torah is the time of salvation and man’s entrance into the Most Holy.
This proves beyond any doubt that the end of the Mosaic Covenant and the eschatological salvation are all inextricably tied together.
So, how can it be argued that the removal of the Mosaic Covenant has nothing to do with man’s justification? In fact, it has everything to do with man’s justification!
Daniel 9 and the Taking Away of Israel’s Sin
In my Seventy Weeks Are Determined…For the Resurrection, I have a much fuller discussion of this theme and concept, but let me offer a few quick thoughts.
It needs to be noted that my friend agrees with me that the seventy weeks of Daniel 9:24f were not completed until the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 (Adumbrations, 212+). In fact, his defense of a 40 year “gap” between the first part of the seventieth week and the last 3 ½ years is one of the more interesting I have seen, and worth considering. With that in mind, please consider.
prophecy of Daniel 9 is concerned with Old Covenant Israel and the end of her covenant history.
Seventy weeks, ending no later than AD 70, were determined “to put away sin,” and to “make atonement” (Daniel 9:24f).
In Romans 11:25-27 Paul says that Israel’s sin would be taken away at the coming of the Lord out of Zion.
In Hebrews 9:24-28 Paul says that the Atonement would be perfected at Christ’s “second appearing” for salvation.
Now, unless Paul has a different putting away of sin, and a different making of atonement from that in Daniel 9, then it must be true that the taking away of sin and the finishing of the Atonement in Romans 11 and Hebrews 9 is the fulfillment of Daniel 9.
But, since the perfecting of the Atonement in Hebrews 9 was clearly still future when Hebrews was written, then it must be true that the coming of the Lord in Romans 11 was likewise future, since the making of the Atonement and the putting away of sin are synchronous and thematically parallel.
That the putting away of sin and the Atonement are unrelated– but of course, Daniel 9 links them, at least temporally, confining them to the seventy weeks.
It would have to be proven that the putting away of sin of Daniel 9 has nothing to do with the putting away of sin that is inextricably linked with the resurrection of 1 Corinthians 15. The resurrection would be the time when sin, the sting of death, would be removed. Thus, 1 Corinthians 15 is directly linked with Daniel 9, Romans 11 and Hebrews 9).
That the coming of Christ in Hebrews had nothing to do with perfecting the Atonement of Daniel 9. But, if the parousia of Hebrews 9 has nothing to do with the finishing of making the Atonement, one has to explain why the author’s discussion is within the context of the Day of Atonement, where the coming out of the MHP was indeed the consummation of the complex of events called the Atonement.
It would have to be proven that although Romans 11:25f utilizes the same terminology as Daniel 9 in regard to the putting away of sin, that in fact Paul has a different concept in mind from that of Daniel. (In fact, Simmons argues that the taking away of sin in Daniel 9 is unrelated to the taking away of sin in Romans 11. He argues, with no supportive exegesis, that the taking away of sin, i.e. the putting an end of sin in Daniel is related to the filling up of Israel’s sin. But how does the putting away of sin equate to the filling the measure of sin? These are not synonymous concepts).
I fail to see how any of these things can be proven. And this virtually demands that the parousia of Romans 11 was the AD 70 coming of Christ. Here is my argument stated simply:
The AD 70 coming of Christ would be to consummate the making of the Atonement, i.e. the putting away of sin (Hebrews 9:24-28).
The putting away of sin at the consummation of the making of the Atonement is the putting away of sin of Romans 11:25f.
Therefore, the putting away of sin of Romans 11 was the AD 70 coming of the Lord out of Zion in AD 70 (i.e. the coming of the Lord out of Zion in Romans is not the Cross or his Incarnation).
A Final Thought On Romans 11: The Fulness of the Gentiles
I think the following is critical to an understanding of Romans 11. Paul said that Israel was blinded in part when he wrote, but all Israel would be saved when “the fulness of the Gentiles is come in.” This issue has a direct bearing on how we define the coming of the Lord out of Zion.
If the coming of the Lord in view is the Cross, as affirmed by my friend, then the blindness of Israel should have ended at the Cross, for Simmons affirms that Israel began to be saved then and continues to be saved now, due to that “coming.” This is patently false, for Paul affirms that the blindness of Israel was very much present when he wrote (see also 2 Corinthians 3:10f).
If the coming of the Lord in view is the Cross, then the fulness of the Gentiles must have arrived at the Cross. Yet, the Gentiles were not called until several years after the Cross! There was no calling of the Gentiles until after the Cross, therefore, the fulness of the Gentiles, leading to the salvation of all Israel, could not have taken place at the Cross. This is prima facie demonstration that the Cross was not the coming of the Lord out of Zion that Paul has in mind.
Here is Paul’s chronological order in Romans 11:
The then current blindness of Israel.
The coming fulness of the Gentiles
Salvation of Israel at the coming of the Lord out of Zion.
Here is the chronology per my friend:
The coming of the Lord out of Zion– the Cross. (To my knowledge, the Bible nowhere refers to Christ’s passion as his coming).
The calling of Israel (as long as time continues).
The fulness of the Gentiles (undefined).
No reference to a future (to Paul) parousia.
The chronological order of Romans 11 falsifies my friend’s paradigm. He has the coming of the Lord prior to the gospel calling of Israel and before the calling of the Gentiles. For Paul, the order is the blindness of Israel, the bringing in of the fulness of the Gentiles, and then and only then, the salvation of “all Israel” at the parousia. Furthermore, I suggest that the concept of the fulness of the Gentiles serves as further confirmation of my position, demanding that the parousia of Romans 11:25f was future to Paul.
The salvation of Israel would occur after the fulness of the Gentiles was come in. This is undeniable from the text: “Blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles comes in” (from eiselthe. This is an arrival, or entrance, and clearly had not “entered” when Paul wrote). My friend’s paradigm has the Jews and Gentiles being saved together, with no “fulness of the Gentiles” necessary for the salvation of Israel! This clearly violates the text.
The fulness of the Gentiles was the distinctive responsibility of Paul to accomplish.
Therefore, the salvation of Israel– at the coming of the Lord out of Zion– occurred after the completion of Paul’s mission to bring in the fulness of the Gentiles
I cannot develop this argument extensively here, but in my Who Is This Babylon book, I have a lengthy discussion of Paul’s distinctive personal responsibility of bringing in the fullness of the Gentiles. Let me present just a few thoughts here.
What is meant by “the fulness of the Gentiles”? Does Paul mean a numeric fulness, as if to say that when a given number, known only to God, was / is reached, that Israel’s salvation would come? Or, does Paul mean a fulness of status or standing? I think the later is clearly the case, and, my friend seems to agree with this. At the very least, his statements logically demands this.
Simmons says that the salvation of Israel, “has not been accomplished but will continue as long as time endures. This
is what the prophets meant when they said ‘of the increase of his government there shall be no end.’ Because spiritual Israel will continue to expand and grow as men convert to Christ, the government of Christ will forever grow and increase” (P. 2, my emphasis). I agree in principle with my friend’s statement, I believe he has misapplied it to Romans 11, however.
My friend’s citation of Isaiah demands that the fulness of the Gentiles cannot be a numeric fulness. If the increase of Christ’s kingdom is unending, then there is not given number of Gentiles to be saved before Israel’s salvation. Yet, as we have seen, the direct wording of the text demands that the fulness of the Gentiles be achieved, before the salvation of Israel as discussed by Paul’s! The fulness of the Gentiles is irrefutably the precursor to the salvation of Israel that Paul is discussing.
If the fulness of the Gentiles cannot be a numeric fulness, this demands that it refers to a fulness of status or standing. And this is where Paul comes in.
In Colossians 1:24f Paul affirms that it was his personal responsibility and mission to “fulfill (pleroma) the word of God, the mystery” (Colossians 1:24-27). Now, undeniably, the mystery of God was Jew and Gentile equality (standing, status), in Christ (Ephesians 3:3-10). So, Paul says that it was his personal task to bring in the fulness of Jew and Gentile equality!
This equality did not take place at the Cross. The basis for that equality was clearly the power of the Cross, and this is not in any way being denied. However, the story of Peter and Cornelius demonstrates that while in the mind of God this equality was His plan and purpose, the outworking and implementation of that equality had not been achieved. It was not even realized by the church in Jerusalem. Peter had to defend his preaching to the Gentiles (Acts 11)! Furthermore, it took the calling of Paul and his distinctive mission (Acts 21-26) to proclaim that truth.
While this explanation has been a super abbreviated “Reader’s Digest” version, hopefully it will be helpful. Let me see if I can present the argument succinctly for clarity.
Israel’s salvation would come after the fulness (pleroma) of the Gentiles arrived, and at the coming of the Lord out of Zion (Romans 11:25f).
But, the bringing in of the fulness of the Gentiles was the distinctive personal ministry of Paul (Colossians 1:24-27).
Thus, the fulness of the Gentiles would not arrive until the completion of Paul’s distinctive personal ministry.
The fulness of the Gentiles would not arrive until the completion of Paul’s distinctive personal ministry (cf. 2 Timothy 4:17).
But, the salvation of Israel– at the coming of the Lord out of Zion– would come after the arrival of the fulness of the Gentiles (Romans 11:25f).
Therefore, the salvation of Israel– at the coming of the Lord out of Zion– would come after the completion of Paul’s distinctive personal ministry.
Now, unless one can prove beyond all doubt that the bringing in of the fulness of the Gentiles was not related to Paul’s personal and distinctive ministry, or, unless you can prove that the fulness of the Gentiles arrived at the Cross– which clearly denies Romans 11– then it must be admitted that the coming of the Lord out of Zion–which would follow the coming in of the fulness of the Gentiles– was the AD 70 parousia of Christ.
There is much, much more that could be said, but hopefully this article will stimulate further study and interest in this incredibly fascinating passage from Paul in Romans 11.
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