Engaging the Critics

A Response to Ronnie Wade #5– What About 1 Corinthians 15?

Responding to the Critics:
A Look At Ronnie Wade’s  Rejection of Covenant Eschatology #5

Does 1 Corinthians 15 Negate Preterism?
by Don K. Preston

This is the fifth 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.

In fact, some ministers of Wade’s fellowship have reportedly stated that they would never debate me on eschatology, but they would debate me on whether the Bible authorizes the use of more than one cup for Communion! This illustrates the legalism of Wade’s branch of the church of Christ has become. They would rather debate a subject that is not even mentioned in scripture, than a subject that is found on almost every page of scripture! This is truly sad.

Although Wade refuses to openly debate eschatology, he conveniently found the time to write and travel to lecture 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.” (Another minister in Wade’s one cup fellowship, George Battey, a zealous debater per reports, as I mentioned in an earlier article, also refused to debate me, saying he did not want to take time away from his ministry. However, he has found the time to travel and lecture on it labelling preterists as heretics).    

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 am offering a series of articles examining Wade’s objections. This is my fifth in that series.

Wade says: “There are at least three passages that create real problems for the proponent of this theory.” He claims that 1 Corinthians 15 poses a severe problem for the true preterist view. He is wrong. 1 Corinthians 15 establishes Covenant Eschatology beyond refute. Let’s take a brief look. I will offer a few articles on 1 Corinthians 15 to both falsify Wade’s claims, and to establish Covenant Eschatology.

Wade begins his comments on 1 Corinthians like this: “Without doubt, 1 Cor. 15 teaches a future bodily resurrection from the dead. ” While I agree that 1 Corinthians 15 speaks of a bodily resurrection, Wade is wrong to identify that “body” as a deceased human body, that has decayed in the dust and will one day be reconstituted, restored, revived. That is not a Biblical doctrine.

I will begin my critique of Wade’s reference to Corinthians with some comments about the presuppositions that Wade, as an amillennialist, brings to the text. It is important for the reader to understand “where he is coming from” in order to understand his misunderstanding of the text.

As an amillennialist, and especially as a church of Christ amillennialist, Wade holds to some foundational tenets:
First, God abrogated the Law of Moses at the cross.
Second, Israel ceased to be God’s covenant people at the cross.
Beginning on Pentecost, God was dealing exclusively with the church and the New Covenant. While the church was the fulfillment of the OT promises, eschatology is totally unrelated to God’s Old Covenant promises, made to Old Covenant Israel.

As I related in an earlier article, I have debated several church of Christ amillennialists. In each of those debates, I have asked my opponents: “Are your eschatological hopes– the hope of the second coming, the judgment and the resurrection– based on a yet future fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises made to Old Covenant Israel?” Without exception, my opponent has answered “No!” Sometimes with great exclamation !!!s.

(I should note that John Welch (Indianpolis– MP3s are available from me) tried desperately to equivocate, claiming that his eschatology was based “on the whole Bible.” However, he later insisted, time and again, that God was through with Israel at the cross, and that Torah, all of it, was abrogated at the cross).

By way of response, I have noted that Paul said he preached nothing but the hope of Israel found in the Old Testament, in Moses and the prophets (Acts 24:14f). He said that his eschatology was nothing but the hope of Israel, the twelve tribes (Acts 26:6f). Likewise, Peter said that his hope of the second coming at the “restoration of all things” was what was found in Moses and the prophets yea “all who have ever spoken” (Acts 3:22-24).

John likewise said that the sounding of the climactic seventh trump, which is the time of the resurrection and rewarding of the dead saints (Revelation 11:15-17) would be when “the mystery of God spoken by the prophets” was fulfilled (Revelation 10:7).

So, the New Testament writers are clear: their eschatology was nothing other than the reiteration of God’s Old Covenant promises made to Old Covenant Israel. This is undeniable, and it is affirmed again by Paul in Corinthians 15.

As Paul discussed his hope and doctrine of the resurrection, he said that when the mortal would put on immortality and incorruptibility would put on incorruptibility, that this is when Isaiah 25 and Hosea 13:14 would be fulfilled. (In one formal debate, when I took note of Paul’s citation of Isaiah and Hosea, my opponent claimed that Isaiah and Hosea had nothing to do with Paul’s eschatology. Paul was simply borrowing their language accomodatively to suit his purposes. This kind of desperation is very revealing).

So, here is what we have:
Ronnie Wade and his brethren say that the Old Law was completely  removed at the cross.

(An observation here: An amazing transformation is currently taking place in the churches of Christ. Arguments about the Old Law that have traditionally been utilized in debates against Adventists are now being abandoned, and Adventist arguments are now being espoused, in order to (ostensibly) refute Covenant Eschatology. It is simply amazing what is going on.
Since George Battey refused to debate me on the coming of the Lord, I challenged him to debate the time of the passing of Torah. Battey has debated Adventists numerous times according to the reports I have been given. He is supposedly an expert on the issue of Torah and its passing. It is his field of “expertise” in addition to the question of how many cups are to be used in Communion. Yet, although he is considered an “expert” on Adventism and thus the passing of Torah, and has debated it numerous times, he would not even debate this! This refusal to debate his field of expertise on which he has often debated, is very revealing).

Ronnie Wade and his brethren say that God was through with Israel as a covenant people at the cross. From the cross onward, God was no longer dealing Israel and her promises, but exclusively with the church and the New Covenant. (Some of Wade’s brethren actually dare to say that Pentecost was the terminus).

With these things in mind, take note of the questions that I have asked my amillennial opponents in formal debate. I am still waiting for answers to these questions, and I strongly suspect that the question and the additional material I have presented in those debates is the reason why church of Christ amillennialists now refuse to debate me, insisting that such debates “would not be profitable.” Here is the question:

If God was through with the Old Testament, entirely through with it, and if Israel was no longer His covenant people after the cross, how is it that the New Testament writers affirm repeatedly that their one, and their only eschatological hope was the Old Covenant promises made to Old Covenant
Israel?

Furthermore, why would the New Testament writers constantly appeal to, and say they looked forward to, the future fulfillment of dead promises belonging to a dead covenant, made to a covenantally dead people? After all, if a covenant is dead, than all provisions of that covenant are dead. This is so axiomatic as to need no proof. It is irrefutable. Let me offer an argument as food for thought, based on the amillennial view of Torah and Israel:

At the cross, the Old Covenant was completely abrogated, and Israel ceased to be God’s covenant people (Ronnie Wade and church of Christ amillennialists).

But, the promise of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 was an Old Covenant promise, made to Old Covenant Israel (Isaiah 25 / Hosea 13).

Therefore, the promise of the resurrection, the promise found in Isaiah 25 and Hosea 13, being a part of the Old Covenant, was abrogated at the cross.

Do you see where Wade’s doctrine about the law leads? On the one hand he says Torah was completely removed, and then, to prove his futurism, he appeals to Corinthians without realizing that 1 Corinthians 15 is Paul’s statement of Old Covenant eschatological promises made to Old Covenant Israel! Such is the inherently self-contradictory nature of the amillennial eschatology of Wade and the churches of Christ as a whole.

If the Old Law was truly nailed to the cross as Wade and his brethren claim, and if Old Covenant Israel no longer had any valid promises, why did Paul, and the rest of Jesus’ apostles, say that their “one hope” was nothing other than those supposedly abrogated promises, made to a now covenantally dead people? Why do the New Testament writers keep appealing to that dead covenant for their future hope? (See the Preston-Simmons Debate on the time of the passing of Torah for a discussion of this. The book is available from this website).

While I have asked all of my amillennial debate opponents to answer these questions, not one of them has even attempted to offer a semblance of an answer!

So, our opening thoughts in response to Ronnie Wade are these:

Whatever it is that 1 Corinthians 15 predicts, it was predicted by Isaiah 25 and Hosea, and was the eschatological hope of Israel (Acts 24:14f).

Ronnie Wade says (if he stays true to the traditional church of Christ amillennialism) that Paul’s doctrine of the resurrection has nothing to do with the Old Covenant promises to Old Covenant Israel. He says that the resurrection of 1 Corinthians 15 is a New Covenant promise, made to the church, divorced from Israel, to be fulfilled at the end of the Christian age.

There is something fundamentally wrong with a theology that strips Israel’s promises from her and  transforms them into something never promised (more on this later). Those promises are then given to an entity totally divorced from their source (the OT / Israel). It is then claimed that the fulfillment of those promises belongs to the end of an age having nothing to do with the age, or the end of the age, of the people and the covenant in which they were given, and to which they belong.  (Does it not make sense that the “end of the age” promises given to Israel would be fulfilled at the end of her age, and not at the end of an age having nothing to do with her?) But, this is the amillennialism of Ronnie Wade and the churches of Christ.

No doctrine could be more false than this.

Since Ronnie Wade’s foundational presupposition about 1 Corinthians 15 is itself prima facie wrong, then on that ground alone his objection against Covenant Eschatology is falsified. The fact that 1 Corinthians 15 is about the fulfillment of Old Covenant promises, made to Old Covenant Israel proves that Wade’s interpretation of the text is fundamentally and fatally wrong.

We will continue our demonstration of the falsity of Wade’s claims as we proceed.

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