Responding to the Critics:
A Look At Ronnie Wade’s Rejection of Covenant Eschatology #2
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.
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. This is my second article in that series.
In the first article, I cited the following objection by Wade
<<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.>> (EoQ)
In response to this I offered several bits of evidence that demonstrates Wade’s inconsistency and fallacious logic. I want to continue that here.
Notice that Wade acknowledges that the language of Matthew 24:29f is metaphoric and speaks of the AD 70 judgment of Christ. He does this partly because of the time statement in Matthew 24:34. Logically, what this demands is that when we find a time statement of imminence coupled with a prediction of Christ’s coming, that this means that passage cannot be speaking of a yet future coming of Christ at the so-called end of time, or the Christian age. In other words, any text that speaks of a coming of the Lord being imminent in the first century cannot be referent to Christ’s final coming.
This admission totally falsifies Wade’s amillennial (and all futurist) eschatologies, for there are no passages that posit the coming of Christ outside the “at hand” or “coming quickly” context!
Consider that even 1 Corinthians and 1 Thessalonians 4, passages that Wade predict the end of the Christian age, both contain emphatic declarations that Christ’s parousia and the resurrection were to occur in the lifetime of the first century saints.
Twice, in 1 Thessalonians 4:15,17 Paul says “those of us who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord.” Now, we are told that Paul was using the “editorial” or “royal” “we.” However, Paul does not normally use the pronouns in such a way, and especially in Thessalonians. Pau’s “we” must be taken in a personal, contemporary manner. And consider, if you were sitting in the audience, and Paul said, or his epistle was read out loud, and you heard “Those of us who are alive and remain until the parousia” would you honestly think that Paul was speaking in a timeless, plastic, vague manner of events in the far off future? Patently not. See my extensive discussion of Paul’s “we who are alive and remain” statements in my We Shall Meet Him In The Air, The Wedding of the King of kings. I am unaware of any work containing a more in-depth analysis of the language and demonstration that Paul was not using the “editorial” or “royal” “we.” He was speaking of the first century saints living until the second coming.
In 1 Corinthians 15:51, as he speaks of the resurrection event, Paul told the Corinthians: “Brethren, I tell you a mystery, we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” Consider this passage in light of Matthew 16:27-28.
In that prophecy Jesus told his audience: “Verily I say unto you, there are some standing here that shall not taste of death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom with power and great glory.” This is an undeniable prophecy of the first century establishment of the kingdom. And, it does not speak of Pentecost, either!
In Corinthians, Paul is speaking of the coming of the kingdom (v. 50).. In Matthew, Jesus was speaking of the coming of the kingdom. Jesus said some of his audience would live to see the kingdom coming in power and great glory, which, incidentally, is precisely what he foretold in Matthew 24:29-31 / Luke 21:31f. In Corinthians Paul said that some of his audience would live to see the resurrection, which is the time of the coming of the kingdom (2 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 11:15f).
Now, Ronnie Wade is adamant that Matthew 16:28 speaks of first century events, i.e. Pentecost. He is wrong to see Pentecost as the fulfillment, but clearly sees that the temporal statement must be honored. Well, once again, what is the difference between, “Some standing here shall not taste of death until the see the Son of Man coming”, and, “We shall not all sleep”? There clearly is no difference between these statements, and if it were not for preconceived ideas, no one would suggest otherwise.
Consider the following: Wade references Christ’s coming in Revelation 1:7, 19:11f in such a way as to indicate that he believes that it refers to the AD 70 coming of Christ, or, if he takes the traditional church of Christ view, that the language refers to the fall of Rome in AD 476. His comments do not indicate which he believes, but, since he is comparing the language to Matthew 24 it would indicate the former view. But here is the problem.
The coming of Christ in Revelation 1 and 19 is the coming of Christ at the end of the millennium, to bring in the New Creation. And, it is the coming of Christ that the Lord himself said, “Behold, I come quickly!” (Revelation 22:12). This is destructive to Wade’s amillennialism.
The coming of the Lord of Revelation 19 is the coming of the Lord at the end of the millennium.
But, the coming of the Lord of Revelation 19 is the coming of the Lord of Revelation 22:10-12.
The coming of the Lord of Revelation 22:10-12 was at hand, and coming quickly.
Therefore, the coming of the Lord– at the end of the millennium– was at hand and coming quickly.
By acknowledging that we must honor the time statements concerning the Lord’s coming in the gospels, Wade has entrapped himself and destroyed his amillennial view.
So, Ronnie Wade– and virtually all amillennialists– is guilty of serious self contradiction. They affirm the first century coming of Christ in the events of AD 70, because of the language of imminence. But then they deny that same language when it is used of Christ’s coming in Corinthians, Thessalonians and other texts.
Amillennialists in the churches of Christ have traditionally been absolutely adamant that we honor the time statements conce
rning the first century imminence of the establishment of the kingdom. To deny that the kingdom was objectively near, and was to be established in the lifetime of the first century generation is considered to be “infidelity.” At hand does not mean 2000 years!
However, those same amillennialists then turn around and deny the statements of imminence about the parousia. John and Jesus definitely meant that the establishment of the kingdom was objectively near, because they said “the time is fulfilled, the kingdom has drawn near. However, when Peter affirmed “the end of all things has drawn near” and James said, “The parousia has drawn near”, it is claimed that those apostles could not know if it was near or not! This kind of self contradiction is rampant in the amillennial camp.
So, by his insistence that we honor the metaphoric nature of the language of Christ’s coming, and the objective nature of the imminent time statements, Wade has nullified his own futurist, amillennial eschatology.
More to come.