Responding to the Critics: A Look At Ronnie Wade’s Rejection of Covenant Eschatology
by Don K. Preston
In certain branches of the churches of Christ, Ronnie Wade of Missouri is esteemed as a prominent and well qualified minister, and an experienced debater. His real field of “expertise” is debating on whether or not there should be multiple cups used during the Communion service. Wade however, ventured into the field of eschatology in recent times to condemn Covenant Eschatology as heretical.
When I was informed of Wade’s attack on preterism, I contacted him inviting / challenging him to debate me on the question of the coming of the Lord. Wade refused, stating that such a debate would be “unprofitable.” Now, I can assure the readers of this series of articles that had I been challenging Wade to debate the number of cups to be used during communion, that he would have thought such a debate to be highly profitable, and would almost undoubtedly have leapt at the chance.
It is interesting that this same scenario plays itself out repeatedly. Just recently, one our readers told me of George Battey, who is also considered to be one of the best debaters in the churches of Christ. He regularly – as often as he can find someone– sponsors “study days” in which someone of a different theology is asked to present his case, and then Battey presents a response.
In addition, Battey has reportedly had several debates with Sabbatarians especially. However, when I contacted him about debating eschatology he said he would not take the time out from his ministry to engage in such a discussion. That is, unless some of his brethren were coming to accept Covenant Eschatology.
Well, the truth is, as I noted in response to Battey, that he had often taken time out from his local ministry to debate other issues. Furthermore, it was “some of his own brethren” who do accept the true preterist view, that asked me to contact Battey about a debate in the first place! But, all of this meant nothing to Battey, in spite of his claims to the contrary. He has refused to correspond with me further since I exposed his somewhat hypocritical excuses for not debating.
This kind of refusal to debate, on the part of men who claim to be, and are considered “champions of the faith” is very revealing. In fact, they are ill equipped to debate the topic, and they know it.
Be that as it may, Wade has produced an article setting forth his objections to Covenant Eschatology. Since he refused to debate the topic in formal public manner, I will offer in a short series of articles what Wade says by way of objection, and then offer my thoughts in response.
After giving a summary of what preterist ostensibly believe, Wade offers this:
<DID JESUS COME IN THE FIRST CENTURY?
It should be noted, first of all, that the phrase “coming of Christ” is used in various ways, and refers to different things. For example: Jesus came in His kingdom Mt. 16:28; came with power Mk. 9:1; came on the day of Pentecost Acts 1:4-5,8; 2:1-4,33. When our Lord described the sending of the Holy Spirit he said “I come unto you.” Jn. 14:18 Surely no one would think this representative coming of Christ through the Holy Spirit referred in any way to a bodily, personal coming.
In Mt. 24:29-30 Jesus said that during that generation they would see “the Son of many coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory”. Since the context of Mt. 24 concerns the destruction of Jerusalem, we must go to it in order to learn how they would see him. We know that he did not come bodily in A.D.70, but rather would be present in Jerusalem’s judgment by authorizing it and bringing it to pass. The people would see or discern his presence when the destructive judgment occurred.
Similar language is used to describe the coming of Christ in judgment against the powers persecuting the saints in Rev. 1:7; 19:11-21. None of these events referred to as a “coming”, however, prevent a future coming of Christ in bodily form at the end of time. The A.D.70 doctrine makes every mention of the “coming of the Lord” refer to the same event, regardless of its usage contents.>
As with many objections against the true preterist view, Wade makes some false claims. He claims that preterists say that every reference to the coming of the Lord in the NT must refer to AD 70. This is false. Preterists understand that Christ came in his incarnation. So, Wade’s objection is misguided at the very outset.
First, what is at stake here is that Wade fails to see that the NT does in fact speak of only one, end of the age coming of Christ.
Second, Wade fails to see that there is no “at hand” judgment coming, and a “not at hand” judgment coming of Christ in the NT. There is only one coming of Christ in judgment at the end of the age presented in the NT, and that was the parousia of Christ that is invariably posited as at hand, near, and shortly to come to pass.
Third, notice that Wade assumes that there is supposed to be a coming of Christ, at the end of the Christian age and the end of human history. This is false. As I show in my book The Last Days Identified, the Christian age has no end. Isaiah is emphatic that “of the increase of his government and of peace, there shall be no end” (Isaiah 9:6f). Wade’s fundamental assumption is false.
Fourth, Wade likewise assumes– offering no proof whatsoever– that Christ must / will return in human bodily form. In other words, Wade is ostensibly looking for Jesus– as a 5′ 5″ Jew, to come out of the sky, riding on a literal cumulus cloud.
Jesus was emphatic that his coming in judgment with the angels, was to be “in the glory of the Father” (Matthew 16:27). Simply stated, Jesus was going to come as the Father had come before. Had the Father ever come, visibly, bodily, literally before? Patently not! (See my book Like Father Like Son, On Clouds of Glory for a full discussion of this critical issue. The book is available on this website). Let me state my argument simply:
The coming of Christ to bring in the New Heavens and Earth– the Day of the Lord in 2 Peter 3– is the coming of the Lord to bring in the New Heavens and Earth foretold in Isaiah 64-66.
The coming of the Lord to bring in the New Heavens and Earth foretold in Isaiah 64-66 was to be a coming of the Lord that was of the same nature as previous comings of the Lord (Isaiah 64:1-3).
The previous comings of the Lord were never literal, visible, bodily comings of God out of heaven.
Therefore, the coming of Christ to bring in the New Heavens and Earth– the Day of the Lord in 2 Peter 3– was not to be a literal, visible, bodily coming of Christ.
(See a complete discussion of Isaiah 64-66 in my book The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat, available from this website).
Fifth, notice that Wade admits that Jesus’ came in the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. This is common among amillennialists such as Wade. But notice what this means. It means that Wade understands that:
Christ came on the clouds.
Christ was seen coming on the clouds.
Christ came with the angels.
Christ gathered the elect from the four corners of the earth.
Christ came with the sound of the trumpet.
All of this demands that Wade also agrees that Christ came with the shout of the arch-angel, and he came in flaming fire.
The hermeneutical question for Wade and all futurists who make the same admissions as Wade: What is the hermeneutic whereby it is determined that Christ came in AD 70, but that his “real” coming at the end of the (endless) Christian age:
He will come on literal clouds.
He will be literally seen.
He will come with literal angels.
He will literally gather the el
ect from the four corners of the entire earth.
He will come with the literal blast, of a literal trump.
He will come with the literal shout of the Arch-angel.
He will come with literal fire.
Do you see the problem? Wade admits that in AD 70 each of those constituent elements was fulfilled spiritually, non-visibly, non-literally! But, he then turns around and claims– with no proof– that we must now look for another coming of Christ that will this time be purely physical, visible and bodily! No hermeneutic is offered by Wade in his article, just claims and presuppositional arguments.
After reading Wade’s “refutation” of true preterism, it is little wonder that he thought that a public debate on the topic would “not be profitable.”
We will have more.