Responding to the Critics:
A Look At Ronnie Wade’s Rejection of Covenant Eschatology #6
by Don K. Preston
This is the sixth in a series of articles responding to Ronnie Wade. (I have been informed he is no longer in Missouri, by the way). Wade has engaged in numerous debates and has long been considered a leading “defender of the truth.” However, 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 “not 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 series of articles responding to and refuting what Wade says. This is my sixth in that series.
Wade offers three passages that he says: “create real problems for the proponent of this theory.” He spends most of his comments on 1 Corinthians 15. But Wade 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 offers several comments that he believes establishes the proper understanding of Paul’s discourse. However, in our first article, we noted that Wade totally ignores the fact that whatever Paul is discussing, it was inextricably tied to Israel and her Old Covenant promises. This is a fundamental falsification of Wade’s eschatology, since as an amillennialist, and especially as a member of the churches of Christ, the foundation of Wade’s theology is that God was through with Israel at the cross and that the Old Law was completely removed at the cross. By approaching 1 Corinthians 15 with a false set of presuppositions, Wade’s “exegesis” is prima facie false.
Here is the first in a series of (false) claims by Wade, about 1 Corinthians 15:
“The true teaching of Paul in this passage may be summarized as follows:
1. Paul answers the teaching of those who taught that there was no resurrection of the dead v. 12.”
This is a prime example of how Wade– and virtually all futurists– have completely missed the point in 1 Corinthians 15. Let me make this as clear as possible: Paul was not responding to people who were denying the resurrection of the dead– no matter how you want to define resurrection. He was responding to some at Corinth who were denying the resurrection of a certain, specific group of the dead.
In his response to that group of deniers, Paul incorporates a form of argumentation known as modus tollens, or the “If-Then” form of logical argumentation. It says that if A is true, then B is true, but B is not true, therefore A is not true.
In this form of argument, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul’s “B” is a statement of things that the deniers actually embrace and believe as true. In other words, they believe that Christ was raised. They accept the testimony of the apostles as witnesses to that event. They believe that their own faith is valid and effective. They believe that Christians who have died have eternal life. So, Paul takes what they accept as true, and turns that against them, in his masterpiece of refutation. If you accept those things, which they did, but deny resurrection life to the dead ones, Paul is saying, then the things that you believe to be true are not true after all.
Here is how Paul applies that form of argumentation:
If the dead (literally, the dead ones), are not raised, then Christ is not raised. It is not true that Christ has not been raised. The deniers accept Christ’s resurrection!
This fact alone falsifies Wade’s contention that the deniers rejected the idea of resurrection. If they accepted the resurrection of Christ as true, then they certainly did not reject the idea of resurrection! Therefore, it is not true that the dead ones are not raised.
Consider what the deniers would have said if they were in fact holding the position that Wade and most futurists ascribe to them. If they denied the reality of resurrection per se, any resurrection of anyone, then when Paul said, “If the dead ones are not raised then Christ is not raised”, the deniers would have responded: “That is right Paul! Amen! We deny that Christ was resurrected!” However, they accept the resurrection of Christ as true. Thus, Paul affirms, it is logically inconsistent to deny resurrection life to the dead ones and accept the resurrection of Christ.
Paul is using doctrines that they accept, to demonstrate the fallacy of their denial of the resurrection of “the dead ones.”
Paul continues: If the dead ones are not raised, then we the apostles are false witnesses. We the apostles are not false witnesses, therefore, it is not true that the dead ones are not raised.
Still further, If the dead ones are not raised, then you, the deniers, are still in your sin. You do not accept the fact that you are still in your sins. Therefore, it must be true that the dead ones are raised.
An interjection here. There is a direct connection in Paul’s mind between forgiveness and the resurrection of “the dead ones.” This is patently something that Wade has given no thought to in his view of resurrection and 1 Corinthians 15. If, say, my father is not raised, how would that imply that my sins would not be forgiven? My forgiveness does not hinge on his resurrection!
In scripture, however, salvation springs from Israel and the consummation of her scheme of redemption. If God was not faithful to Israel, then no one would be, or could be saved. “Salvation is of the Jews.” Salvation was “to the Jew first, then the Greek” (Romans 1:16-17). Thus, to deny salvation to the dead ones, in this scenario, meant that if they are not saved, then you are not saved! Paul is addressing the identical issue in Corinth that he faced in Romans 11: the idea that Israel had been cut off, before and without her salvation being consummated. (This is Wade’s amillennial view, and is patently false). But to continue.
Paul says to the deniers, If the dead ones are not raised, then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. They do not believe for one moment that Christians who have died have perished, never to receive eternal life! Thus, the deniers, by accepting that the dead Christians will be saved, must of necessity accept the fact of salvation for “the dead ones.”
Consider closely that if Wade’s objection is valid, the deniers would have gladly accepted Paul’s argument. Paul would thus come across as horribly inept, terribly confused to argue as he did.
If the deniers rejected the reality of resurrection per se, any kind of resurrection of anyone, then when Paul said, “If the dead ones are not raised, then those also (take note of that “also”) who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” the deniers would have responded: “Yes! That is precisely what we are saying, Paul! We are saying that no one, including our Christian brethren who have died, will ever see life! That is our argument!”
Do you see how untenable it is to say that the deniers in Corinth were denying resurrection? They were doing no such thing.
This latter fact especially falsifies Wade’s contention that Corinthians is about those who denied the fact of resurrection. They believed that Christian dead were and would be saved. However, in opposition to that accepted reality, they denied that one certain group of people would receive resurrection life. Christian dead would receive life, the other group wold not. Who was that other group?
Well, Paul says that Christ had become the first fruit o
f those “having fallen asleep” (15:20, a perfect tense verb). Paul was not affirming that Jesus was the first fruit of the dead, comprehensively speaking in this verse. The grammar will not allow that meaning.
Paul says that Jesus became the first fruit (more on this significant fact later) of those who had fallen asleep prior to his own death.
The language of this verse demands that Paul was saying that Christ became the first fruit of those who died prior to his own death. This means that Christ was the first fruit of Old Covenant saints.
So, those in Corinth did not deny their own salvation. They did not deny the resurrection of Jesus. They did not deny the salvation of Christian dead. They only denied the resurrection of “the dead ones” those of whom Christ was the first to be raised.
As a closing thought. Christ was not the first to be physically raised from the dead, of those who died prior to his own death. (That would involve a chronological impossibility, would it not?) Lazarus had died before Jesus, and was raised physically before Jesus. Jesus himself had raised several people from physical death prior to his own physical resurrection! Thus, biological resuscitation was not the focus of Christ being “the first fruit.” Yet, most of Paul’s argumentation hinges on the fact that Christ was in fact the first to be raised from the dead – of those who had died before him. We will address this more later.
For now, we have sufficiently demonstrated that Wade’s presuppositional approach to 1 Corinthians is flawed– on at least two levels.
He denies that the resurrection of 1 Corinthians 15 would be the fulfillment of Old Covenant promises made to Old Covenant Israel. For Wade and his amillennial brethren, the resurrection is all about New Covenant promises, made to the New Covenant people, to be fulfilled at the end of the New Covenant age.
He claims, falsely, that the issue in 1 Corinthians was that some were denying resurrection. In fact, those in Corinth were denying resurrection life to a given, specific group of people. They denied resurrection life to those who had died before Christ.
Both of his assumptions are false.
We will examine more of his claims about 1 Corinthians later.