Engaging the Critics

Response to Ronnie Wade- #4– What About 2 Peter 3?

Responding to the Critics:
A Look At Ronnie Wade’s  Rejection of Covenant Eschatology #4
by Don K. Preston

This is the fourth in a series of articles responding to Ronnie Wade of, Missouri. Wade has written and lectured against Covenant Eschatology. He is considered by many to be an excellent debater. His real field of “expertise” is debating on whether or not there should be multiple cups used during the Communion service.

Recently, Wade ventured into the field of eschatology to condemn Covenant Eschatology as heretical. He has both written and lectured against the true preterist view. As a result, 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.”                             
Wade has produced an article setting forth his objections to Covenant Eschatology. Since he refused to debate the topic in formal public, or written, 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 third in that series.

Wade says: “There are at least three passages that create real problems for the proponent of this theory.” Here is the second of what he considers problem texts for true preterists.

“2 Peter 3:5-7, 10-11.  The A.D.70 advocate, like the Jehovah’s Witness, ‘spiritualizes’ this entire passage.  They contend that the heavens and earth that will meet a fiery end are the Jewish economy.  It will not work.  Notice:  the world which was overflowed with water is now stored up for fire.  This fiery judgment shall occur on “the day of the Lord”, at his “coming”.  Since the world of Noah’s time was actually flooded, and a comparison between the two is intended, then the world which now exists must actually be destroyed with fire.  If this verse had been fulfilled in A.D.70, none of us would be here now.”

Once again, Wade has made many (false) assumptions and failed to note some vital hermeneutical issues.

Wade says that preterists “spiritualize” 2 Peter 3. What he means by this is that 2 Peter 3 is supposed to be taken as a prediction of physically literal events, but that preterists turn literal language into allegory. This is a false claim. Wade has not proven that 2 Peter 3 is intended to speak of the destruction of the material cosmos, and his own argument proves it! We will get to that in a moment. For the moment, let me make a few hermeneutical points that Wade– and all amillennialists– totally ignore.

Remember that in earlier articles responding to Wade, we have noted that he insists that we honor the time statements in Matthew 24 and even Revelation 1 that indicated the predictions were to be fulfilled soon. With that in mind, take note of 2 Peter 3:1-2.

Peter tells us that the second epistle is but a reminder and reiteration of what he said in the first epistle. So, what do we find in 1 Peter? We find Peter emphatically declaring that the coming of Christ was at hand!

1 Peter 1:5f– Salvation, which would be revealed at Christ’s coming, was “ready to be revealed.” The word ready is from hetoimos, and means temporally as well as morally ready. It indicates imminence.

1 Peter 4:5, Peter uses the same word hetoimos, to say that Christ was at that time, “ready to judge the living and the dead.” This is nothing other than the resurrection, and it was ready to occur!

1 Peter 4:7 – Peter states in words that cannot be mis-construed, “The end of all things has drawn nigh.”

1 Peter 4:17 – The apostles says (literal rendering) “The appointed time has come for the judgment.” The word time is kairos, and means designated, appointed time. Furthermore, the definite article appears before “judgment” meaning that Peter is speaking of a specific, appointed day of judgment.

Peter uses what is known as the anaphoric article here. What that means in simple terms is that the author has mentioned something earlier in a text. Then, later, he refers back to it by using the definite article. This is the most common use of the article in the Greek, according to Wallace’s Greek Grammar. What does the use of the anaphoric article in 1 Peter 4:17 mean? It means that Peter was saying “The appointed time for the judgment, the judgment I just mentioned, has come.”

So, what was the judgment, the only judgment Peter had mentioned earlier? It was the judgment of “the living and the dead,” the resurrection. And now, in 1 Peter 4:17 Peter says the time had come for that “the appointed judgment”!

So, follow our argument:

Peter’s discourse on the Day of the Lord and the passing of the heavens and earth in 2 Peter 3 is the reminder and reiteration of what he said in the first epistle.

In his first epistle, Peter said that the Day of the Lord, the time of the judgment, the time of the resurrection had arrived, had drawn near, and was about to be revealed.

Therefore, the time for the Day of the Lord of 2 Peter 3 – being the same Day of the Lord as in 1 Peter –  had arrived, had drawn near, and was about to be revealed.

Wade, as an amillennialist, insists that all time statements about the first century imminence of the establishment of the kingdom must be taken literally, to demand first century fulfillment. Wade likewise insists that the time statements in Matthew 24 and Revelation demand imminent fulfillment. With that in mind, what is the hermeneutical key that demands that we ignore the identical kind of temporal indicators in 1 Peter when the apostle speaks of the time of the end, when the resurrection would occur?

There is one more hermeneutical key that Wade, as a church of Christ amillennialist, has totally ignored. This is a fact that I have utilized in numerous debates with church of Christ amillennialists, and have yet to have even one of my opponents offer a response.

Here is a critical fact: church of Christ amillennialists especially, as a general rule, insist that the Law of Moses, all of it, passed away at the cross.

As a side-bar here: a strange thing is happening in church of Christ amillennial circles. Whereas in former times and in debates with Adventists it was insisted that that Old Law must be viewed as a united whole, and that it all passed away at the cross. Now, however, as a direct result of Covenant Eschatology, church of Christ amillennialists are making modified Adventist arguments! They are insisting that the Decalogue passed away, since the Sabbath was annulled, and that the “ceremonial law” passed away, but that somehow, the prophetic element of Torah remains valid! This radical change in argumentation reveals the desperation of church of Christ amillennialists. The problem is that this argument is specious and false, and I have offered numerous times to debate this in formal discussions. But, it now seems that my church of Christ brethren– once known as eagerly willing to debate – want nothing to do with such a debate. This is very revealing. But, back to our examination of Wade’s objection to true preterism.

According to amillennialists, God’s covenant relationship with Old Covenant Israel was abrogated at the cross, and from Pentecost onward, God was dealing with the church and New Covenant promises having nothing to do with Old Covenant Israel.

In debates with amillennialists I have asked the following question: Are your eschatological hopes, the hope of the second coming of Christ, the judgment and resurrection, based upon and taken from God’s Old Covenant promises, made to Old Covenant Israel? The answer– although some have attempted to equivocate – has invariably been “No!”  (See my debates with Mac Deaver and John Welch from 2009. Both men said that the OT and Israel were removed at
the cross. Those debates are available from me in MP3 format.)

With this background information look at what Peter said in 2 Peter 3:1-2. He said that his discourse was not only a reminder and reiteration of what he said in his first epistle, he was likewise stirring them up to “be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets.” This is a direct reference to the Old Covenant prophets. So, 2 Peter 3 is based on, and a reminder of, what the Old Covenant prophets said about the coming of the Lord. Follow my argument therefore:

Peter’s doctrine of the coming of the Lord and the establishment of the New Heavens and Earth is a reiteration and reminder of the Old Covenant prophets.

Jesus said that not one jot or tittle would pass from the law until it was all fulfilled.

The law included the prophetic books (Paul called Isaiah “the law” 1 Corinthians 14:20-21).

Therefore, until the Old Covenant prophecies of the coming of the Lord and the establishment of the New Heavens and Earth were fulfilled, not one jot or tittle of the law would pass away.

Turning that argument around, based on the amillennial view of Ronnie Wade, take a look at what this would mean:

Peter’s doctrine of the coming of the Lord and the establishment of the New Heavens and Earth is a reiteration and reminder of the Old Covenant prophets.

But, the Old Covenant was abrogated, removed, nullified at the cross (Traditional church of Christ amillennialism).

Therefore, Peter’s doctrine of the coming of the Lord and the establishment of the New Heavens and Earth being a reiteration and reminder of the Old Covenant prophets, was abrogated, removed, nullified at the cross!

Do you see what a problem Wade’s view of Israel and the Old Law presents for him and all amillennialists in regard to 2 Peter 3?

You cannot affirm the abiding validity and future fulfillment of 2 Peter 3 without affirming the continuing validity of Torah– all of it.

You cannot affirm the abrogation of the Law at the cross without nullifying the promise of 2 Peter 3.

2 Peter 3 does not give preterists any problems at all.
We honor the Old Covenant source for Peter’s doctrine.
We honor the fact that 2 Peter 3 was a promise made to Israel, about the end of Israel’s Old Covenant age. It is not about the end of time, or the end of the (endless) Christian age.
We honor the fact that since 2 Peter 3 is based on 1 Peter, and in 1 Peter he said that the consummation was imminent, that this demands that the fulfillment of 2 Peter 3 was near.

Ronnie Wade clearly does not grasp the issues at stake in 2 Peter 3. This great chapter does not present challenges to preterists, but it does destroy Wade’s amillennialism.

We could say a great deal more on 2 Peter 3. See my book, The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat, available from this website. This book is the most comprehensive exegesis of 2 Peter 3 that I am aware of, and completely dispels that idea that Peter was predicting the end of time, destruction of the physical “elements” and the end of the Christian age.

More to come.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *