Engaging the Critics

Responding To The Critics: Was The End In AD 70?

The following article was sent to me, with a request that I respond to it. I am more than happy to do so. When this article was written, brother Curry was on staff at Florida College, historically affiliated with the churches of Christ. I will insert my thoughts and comments below Curry’s.

Was A.D.70 The End?

By Melvin D. Curry

M. C. (Melvin Curry)– The tension between the “now” and the “not yet” (Heb. 2:8), I. e., the events surrounding the cross and the coming of Christ, is the focal point of the debate with realized eschatologists. The OT viewed the history of the world in terms of “this age” and “the age to come” (see Matt. 12:32). The Messiah’s presence would mark the end of “this age” and inaugurate “the age to come.”

Response: Brother Curry is correct to say that the controversy surrounding Covenant Eschatology is the time and events between the Cross and the parousia of Christ. This period of “already-but-not-yet”is, Biblically speaking, a time of intense tension and expectation. In scripture, we do not find the amillennial concept of a ‘one of these days by and by the Lord will come.” There is an overwhelming sense of the nearness of the end found throughout the NT.

Brother Curry is only partially correct in his assessment of “this age” and “the age to come.” It is not enough to say that the OT (and the Jews and Jesus), taught that “the Messiah’s presence would mark the end of ‘this age’ and inaugurate ‘the age to come.’” In the OT, in Jewish literature, and in the Bible, “the age to come” would fully arrive at the parousia. To suggest that the age to come had broken in during the first century was a sure sign that the full arrival of the age to come was near. There is no two millennia gap between inauguration and consummation either in Jewish thought or in Scripture. The OT is very clear that when the last days finally arrived, the Day of the Lord would be near (cf. Isaiah 60:22; Joel 3:1-14).

 

Scholars (Schurer, Wright, France, Allison, McKnight, et. al), understand that the Jews (and the Bible), taught the following concerning the two ages:

1.) The Jews believed in two ages. Curry agrees with this assessment.

2.) The Jews (and Jesus), believed that “this age” was the age of Moses and Torah. “The age to come” was the age of Messiah and the New Covenant.

3.) The third critical factor– fatal to brother Curry’s eschatology– is that the age of Moses and the Law was to end. The age of Messiah and the New Covenant would never end. (I fully document all of this in my book The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat, or, my newest book We Shall Meet Him In The Air: The Wedding of the King of kings. The latter book is the only full length commentary on 1 Thessalonians that has been written. Available at www.bibleprophecy.com)

 

Now, since Curry, as an amillennialist, clearly posits the end of the current Christian age, he is in overt violation of all of this. Christ’s kingdom, the kingdom age, has no end (Isaiah 9:6-9; Luke 1:32f; Ephesians 3:20-21). Brother Curry’s amillennialism falls on this ground alone.

 

M. C.– Realized eschatologists have correctly observed that the cross and the parousia are the two focal points of the “last things,” but they have incorrectly argued that biblical teaching about the Lord’s coming is completely fulfilled in the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem. The hollow rituals of Judaism that remained until ad 70 had lost their spiritual significance after Jesus nailed the law to his cross (Eph. 2:14-16; Col. 2:12-15).

Response: Curry has mis-read the texts. The passages cited do not speak of the passing of the Law, they affirm that believers died to the obligation to keep the Law by entering into the power of the Cross! The New International Greek Testament Commentary on Colossians (in loc), demonstrates this in a powerful and convincing manner.

 

Read Romans 7:4: “You have become dead to the Law through the body of Christ.” Note that it does not say that the Law had died. It says that by entering Christ’s death (Romans 6:4f), they died to the Law. We must honor this distinction.

 

To suggest that advocates of Covenant Eschatology are in error about the significance of AD 70 is a typical argument, but flies in the face of Luke 21:22: “These be the days of vengeance when all things that are written must be fulfilled.” This was the time of redemption and full revelation of the kingdom (Luke 21:28-32). To suggest, as brother Curry does, that it is improper to emphasize these things is misguided.

 

M. C.– The biblical theme of “suffering” and “glory” is much too broad for the narrow focus of realized eschatology. The culmination of Jesus’ suffering ended when he died physically and was buried in the tomb, and he was glorified when he rose from the dead and was crowned king (Dan. 7:13; Acts 2:29-36; 1 Pet. 1:11, 21). Likewise, the Christian’s suffering only ends when he personally dies physically, and he will be glorified when he is raised to live with Jesus forever (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17-18; 1 Pet. 5:10). However, the Christian currently lives in a spiritual time warp between what has already been realized “now” and what is still to occur in the future, having “not yet” been glorified.

Response: This topic cannot be properly covered in this brief response. See my We Shall Meet Him for an extended discussion of the vindication of the martyrs. However, just a note or two.

Jesus said that all of the blood of all the righteous, all the way back to Creation would be vindicated and judged in his generation (Matthew 23:29-39). Does brother Curry think that this was some localized too narrow” judgment? How limited and narrow is, “all the righteous blood, of all the righteous, shed on the earth, from Abel…”?

Throughout the NT, the promise of the vindication of the suffering of the saints is invariably posited for the first century. Paul’s promise in 2 Thessalonians 1 is emphatic:

He was speaking directly to and about the Thessalonian church.

They were currently experiencing severe persecution.

Paul promised those living, breathing, suffering saints that they– not some far off generation– but that they would receive relief (from anesis, relief from pressure).

They would receive relief from that then on-going persecution “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven.”

Paul did not say– as Curry suggests– that they would receive relief when they died. They would receive relief “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven.” It is a denial– or distortion– of the text to affirm differently.

Paul said that they would receive relief when the Lord came in judgment of “those who are troubling you.” Chronologically and historically, this had to have been Jewish persecution (not Roman). Thus, Paul was promising imminent judgment on their Jewish persecutors. (See my In Flaming Fire for a fuller exegesis of 2 Thessalonians 1).

 

M. C.– Furthermore, Jesus “must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be abolished is death” (1 Cor. 15:25-26). At that time “he
shall wipe away every tear from [the believer’s] eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more” (Rev. 21:4). Realized eschatologists would have us believe that all of these things were accomplished in ad 70. Again, however, their focus is too narrow. The curse of physical death and corruption came not only upon the human race but also upon all creation. The ground itself was cursed (Gen. 3:17; see Gen. 4:11; 8:21); therefore, the whole creation yearns for its deliverance from the curse (Rom. 8:18-23) and to be free from the defilement of sin. Only then can there be “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13; see Isa. 65:17-25; 66:22-24; Rev. 21:1). Only then “there shall be no curse any more” (Rev. 22:3) because “death and hades” will have been “cast into the lake of fire” with the devil and his angels (Rev. 20:14).

Response: Brother Curry’s problem is typical, and I once held his view. However it is untenable.

Curry identifies the death of Adam as physical death. This is impossible as I prove in my We Shall Meet Him book. God told Adam and Eve “in the day that you eat, you shall surely die.” He did not say: “You will begin to die” and did not say “you will become mortal.” He told them that the very day that they ate the fruit, they would die! Now, since death is the separation of the spirit from the body (James 2:26) it is undeniably true that Adam and Eve did not die physically that day! They did die spiritually– and brother Curry would agree with this I am confident– for they were alienated from God, separated from Him!

 

Curry says that the entire creation, not just man, longs for the deliverance from the curse. Does brother Curry believe that bugs, slugs and mosquitoes will be “delivered into the glorious liberty of the sons of God”? They are part of creation are they not? And creation– per Paul– was longing for the manifestation of the sons of God! So, if all creation, not just man, is equally longing for redemption, the redemption of the body, then Curry’s paradigm demands that animals, bugs and slugs will be become sons of God and experience the adoption, the redemption of the body. Which raises a serious problem.

 

Does brother Curry believe that the earth will be incinerated, per the traditional amillennial view of 2 Peter 3, or renewed? One could hardly call incineration “renewal” or “restoration.” So, we are not clear on which paradigm brother Curry would actually espouse: destruction or restoration.

 

Curry’s appeal to Isaiah 65 as the prediction of a yet future New Heavens and Earth hardly comports to his theology. Isaiah’s promised New Creation would arrive when– and only when– Old Covenant Israel was destroyed (Isaiah 65:13f). This is not an “end of time” promise. It is the promise that at the end of “this age” (the Old Covenant Age of Israel), the “age to come,” the unending age of Messiah and the New Covenant, would come to full bloom. This destroys, not establishes, Curry’s eschatology. He has improperly re-interpreted Isaiah.

 

M. C.– The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is, perhaps, the greatest stumbling block to realized eschatologists. Despite the fact that they have reinterpreted everything about the resurrection, the continued presence of dead bodies in the tombs of the earth stubbornly testifies against their position. Max King’s The Cross and the Parousia of Christ devotes 285 pages to reinterpreting the doctrine of the resurrection. In fact, 35.6% of the book (pp. 429-666) focuses on a reinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:1-58 in an attempt to make Paul’s subject the resurrection of the body of Christ (the church) out of the dead body of Judaism. Despite his effort to convince us otherwise, “all that are in the tombs shall hear [Christ’s] voice, and shall come forth”_ some, “unto the resurrection of life,” and others, “unto the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29).

Response: Brother Curry has many, many problems in 1 Corinthians 15. I will be more than happy to point these out in a formal public debate, if he– or perhaps another of the faculty of Florida Bible College– is willing. I can only offer a few comments here.

His claim that King has “re-interpreted” and re-defined 1 Corinthians 15 is simply a smoke screen based on petitio principii. Curry assumes that his definition of the terms and promises in Corinthians 15 are unquestioned, and unchallengeable. He offers no proof whatsoever for his claims. With no proof or exegesis, his claims are just that, and are less than convincing.

 

 

M. C.– Realized eschatologists do not understand the proper tension between the “now” and the “not yet” because they do not fully grasp the principle of time-compression in prophecy.

Response: In reality, here is part of the crux of the matter. Curry has a hermeneutic that sees in the OT the idea that language of imminence is used of events that were in fact hundreds if not thousands of years away. I deny this emphatically, and his examples (his “proof”) proves nothing of what he claims. I examine this principle in-depth in my book Who Is This Babylon? This is a flawed hermeneutic.

Peter emphatically says that the OT prophets were told, and knew, that the eschatological promises that they made were not near. They were not for their day (1 Peter 1:10f). Thus, Curry’s claim that the OT did use the language of imminence to predict far off events is false.

 

M. C. – Although they properly stress the near-at-hand perspective of many passages, they create confusion over the terms “imminent” and “remote” fulfillment.

Response: This is more than a little remarkable. Brother Curry admits that it is proper to stress the near-at-hand perspective of many passages, but denies that it is proper in others. Let me explain to the reader what he means.

 

As an amillennialist, Curry believes that when John the Immerser came preaching “the kingdom of heaven has drawn near” (Matthew 3:2) that this time statement cannot be elasticized, mitigated, or otherwise negated. “Has drawn near” cannot, we are told in countless amillennial versus dispensational debates, mean 2000 years! To elasticize the words of John, or Jesus in regard to the imminence of the kingdom is to destroy the meaning of words.

 

But of course, that argument quickly backfires on brother Curry and his amillennialism, when one reads James 5:8– “The coming of the Lord has drawn near.” Likewise, Peter affirmed “The end of all things has drawn near” (1 Peter 4:7). Now, Curry can either admit to the power and objective nature of these imminence statements, apply them to AD 70, or join the ranks of those who say that time means nothing to God. But of course, to take the latter position is to abandon his argument in regard to the kingdom!

There is no linguistic, grammatical, or contextual reason for changing the meaning from “has drawn near” in Matthew and make it radically different, i.e. 2000 years and counting!!– in James and Peter. Only a preconceived theology forces one to do such things.

 

M. C.– They argue that the first coming of Christ was “imminent” in OT prophecy, whereas his parousia, which they say occurred in ad 70, was “remote” (see diagrams 1 and 2 in Cross and Parousia) despite the fact that these events occurred within 40 years of each oth
er. However, most of the so-called “imminent” predictions were made 1500-400 years before the events took place (Gen. 32:25; 49:10; Isa. 56:1; Jer. 31:31), and one goes back to Eden (Gen. 3:15)_about as “remote” as could possibly be. Nevertheless, realized eschatologists refuse to admit that another coming of Jesus is “imminent” because 2,000 years have elapsed since the NT predicted it would occur.

 

Response: It appears to me that Curry has misrepresented Max King in regard to the imminence issue. Such misrepresentations are all too common. Curry claims that King says that the OT foretold the first coming of Christ (the incarnation) as imminent, but his AD 70 parousia was remote. This is not what King wrote. King says: “The eschatological futurism of Christ in pre-Cross time is focused on either the time frame of the Cross (hence the imminent future of his sayings) or the time frame of His parousia (the remote future of other sayings). (Cross and Parousia, 21).

 

I cannot speak for Max King. However, I spoke at the Warren, Ohio lectureship for several years, and I am unaware of King ever saying or even suggesting that the OT ever predicted the imminent coming of Christ, either his Incarnation or His parousia. Jesus spoke of his imminent death, but , this is far different from saying that the OT foretold the imminent parousia! I believe that brother Curry should have read King a bit more carefully.

 

Brother Curry contends that the OT foretold the imminent coming of Christ, by citing the following: Genesis 32:25; 49:10; Isaiah. 56:1; Jeremiah 31:31. The problem is that of all of these texts, the only one that even uses terminology of imminence is Isaiah 51. It is questionable whether Genesis 32:25 is even Messianic, but even if so, it contains no “at hand” statements. Likewise Genesis 49 is undeniably posited for “the last days” not Jacob’s days. Those days were far off! Jeremiah speak simply of “those days” and has not one word about the New Covenant being near or at hand.

 

Isaiah 51 is a context of the last days. It is projected imminence. For instance, in Isaiah 60:22, in the discussion of the New Creation that would come, the Lord promised that He would “hasten it in its day.” He does not say it was near when Isaiah wrote. He says that when the time for fulfillment came– the last days in other words– fulfillment would then come quickly. It is wrong to impose a sense of nearness on the passage when it patently affirms imminence of fulfillment when the time for fulfillment finally arrived. And the NT is clear that the time of fulfillment foretold by the prophets had arrived (Matthew 13:17; Acts 3:31f).

 

Thus, not one of brother Curry’s examples nullifies or “re-defines” imminence as protraction or delay. And speaking of “re-defining.” For brother Curry to maintain his position he must do what he claims King and all other advocates of Covenant Eschatology do, and that is re-interpret the text. Is he willing to now say that the “at hand” statements in regards to the establishment of the kingdom are to be relativized into meaninglessness and ambiguity? Surely, if the OT examples that he gives nullify imminence in regard to the parousia, then they most assuredly mitigate the imminence of the kingdom! If not, why not?

 

Brother Curry is willing to say that “at hand” can literally mean 2000 years! “Shortly come to pass” can entail two millennia! “Has drawn near”– at least when speaking of the parousia– can mean nothing at all in regard to time! This is a radical re-interpretation of language! Did brother Curry offer any lexical support for the idea that we must redefine terms of imminence to mean subjective nothingness? No, and he can’t. This is very revealing and fatal.

 

M. C.– If, as Max King concedes, prophetic time-compression blurs the distinction between the “limited” commission and the “great” commission in Matthew 10 (The Cross and the Parousia, p. 458), why not make the same thing between the coming of Christ to judge Jerusalem and his parousia to judge the whole world in Matthew 24. Indeed, the Christian’s hope lies in his belief that the dead will be raised and judged at the parousia of Jesus, and that the righteous will be rewarded with “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not way, reserved in heaven” (1 Pet. 1:4).

Response: Once again, brother Curry has misrepresented King. First of all, there is no reference to Matthew 10:23 on page 458 of the Cross and Parousia, unless Curry has a different version than I do.

Second, I have examined every referent to Matthew 10:23 in the index of Cross and Parousia, and I have not found an reference to “prophetic time compression” by King.

Third, what I did find was that King realizes, as a host of other scholars do, that Jesus discusses both the limited commission and the great commission. However, King is adamant that Matthew 10:23 is referent to the AD 70 parousia of Christ, and he does not hold that there are two parousias discussed, one imminent and one remote. It is a misrepresentation of King to say otherwise, so far as I can determine.

Fourth, King does not, in fact, “blur the distinction” between the limited commission and the great. In fact, he is quite clear that there is a sharp difference in the text of Matthew 10 between the two commissions. Brother Curry ignored King’s sharp delineation to make an argument, but the argument is false.

Fifth, what is the basis for Curry seeing no difference between a 40 period between the first commission and the second, and the idea of inserting 2000 years into the text? Where is the “moral equivalency” of equating 40 years– which King does not do– with 2000 years? There is no logical connection or equivalency.

 

Brother Curry has essentially waved his hand at Covenant Eschatology, assuming that his unfounded claims will be accepted by uncritical readers. However, his arguments are presuppositional, illogical, and often ad hominem with no supporting lexical, exegetical or logical force.

 

If Brother Curry is truly desirable to discuss the very serious issues raised by his charges, I would be more than happy to discuss them with him– or any other member of the faculty at Florida Bible College– in a formal public debate, in Florida. Perhaps brother Curry could convince Florida College to sponsor such a discussion.

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