Response to Ronnie Wade #7: Christ The First Fruit

Responding to the Critics:
A Look At Ronnie Wade’s  Rejection of Covenant Eschatology #7
by Don K. Preston

This is the seventh in a series of articles responding to Ronnie Wade. Mr. Wade wrote an article setting forth his objections to Covenant Eschatology. 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.” 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 some comments on 1 Corinthians 15 claiming that this great chapter negates true preterism. But Wade is wrong. 1 Corinthians 15 establishes Covenant Eschatology beyond refute.

I have already demonstrated 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 are some more of Wade’s comments on 1 Corinthians 15:

“The very thing affirmed by Paul is the thing denied by the A.D.70 doctrine i.e. a future, bodily resurrection.  Note the calculated reasoning of Paul to prove this point:

1.  The bodily resurrection of man is said to be based on the fact of Christ’s bodily resurrection.

2.  This is demonstrated by a comparison between the offering of first fruits under the law, which was the choicest and earliest ripe crop. (Num. 18:12; Ex. 23:16,19), indicating that all the crop which followed belonged to God.

3.  It should be noted that the crop to follow was of the same kind or type as its first fruits.”

As I suggested in my previous article, Mr. Wade’s emphasis on Christ as the first fruit is actually fatal to his view of the resurrection. On the one hand he emphasizes that Christ was the first fruit, but, like all of his amillennial (and especially the church of Christ brand of amillennialism) he fails to consider what his own argument demands. This is typical of amillennialists and futurists as a whole when it comes to Paul’s doctrine of the resurrection.

I engaged in two formal debates with Thomas Thrasher, a church of Christ amillennialist. In the first debate (Alabama) Thrasher produced affirmative presentations in which he emphasized, repeatedly and emphatically that Christ was the first fruit. He produced charts emphasizing what “first fruit” meant. As I listened to him, I was somewhat stunned at what I was hearing. “First means first” and (as Wade argues), “that which follows must be of the same kind or type as its first fruits!”

Folks, what does “first” mean? Does it mean, second, or third, or two millionth, or 20 gazillionth? No, it means first. So, ask yourself this question: Was Jesus the first person to be raised from the dead?

In Paul’s theology, Jesus was in fact “the first to rise from the dead” (Acts 26:21-23). Paul repeatedly affirms that Christ was the first fruit from the dead. He never qualifies that statement as in “the first to never die again” or, “the first to be raised immortal” (more on this in the next article) or anything closely related to that. He says Christ was the first to be raised from the dead. In 1 Corinthians 15:20 Christ was the first to be raised out from among those who died before him. But as we noted in the previous article, others who died before Jesus were raised by Jesus himself! Thus, Christ was not the first person to be raised from biological death! That is an indisputable fact!

When I pointed out these indisputable facts in the Preston – Thrasher debate, Mr. Thrasher suddenly changed course and said that he was not trying to say that “first means first”, and that I had misunderstood his argument! No, I had not. And strangely, when I called for his charts that emphasized his “first means first” argument, he never produced them.

Just like Wade, amillennialists like to argue about Christ being the first fruit, until they see the consequences of their argument, and what Paul clearly says. Let me illustrate.

Wade (and every futurist I have debated) basically argued like this:

“Christ is the first fruit, and the harvest must be of the same kind.”

Christ was raised from biological death, out of the earth.

Therefore, the harvest at the resurrection must be a resurrection from biological death, out of the earth.

Now, this argument overlooks or ignores several factors that we will not develop in this article, except to simply mention them:
1.) The argument ignores the fact that the first fruit indicates and proves that the harvest is underway or truly near. Thus, Christ’s resurrection– no matter how we wish to view it– proved that the end of the age resurrection was near.
2.) As a direct corollary, the argument ignores the fact that no matter what our concept of the resurrection might be, the OT and New both agree that it was to occur at the end of the Old Covenant age of Israel– not at the end of the Christian age.
3.) The argument ignores or overlooks the fact that the Bible sets forth Jesus’ resurrection from biological death as a sign of something greater– spiritual resurrection (John 20:30-31).

Let me now take note of a huge problem in Wade’s view of Paul’s argument. His argument ignores the fact that Christ was not raised in an immortal, incorruptible body.

Wade says that believers must be raised in a body of the same nature and same kind of body that Christ had.

Well, while it is commonly assumed and argued that Christ’s post resurrection, pre-ascension body was somehow a transformed, spiritual, immortal and incorruptible body, there is not a shred of evidence to support or prove this claim. (In my book Like Father Like Son, On Clouds of Glory, I have an extended discussion on the nature of Christ’s resurrected body. That book is available from this website).

It is argued that since Jesus could “walk through walls” (in his sudden appearance to his disciples who were in an inner room, with the door locked) that this proves that Jesus’ body was somehow immaterial, or transformed. But how so?

In John 6 Jesus was on a ship (having walked on the water to that ship v. 19!!) in the middle of a sea that is approximately 6 miles across. When Jesus joined that ship “immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.” Here is the true “beam me up, Scotty” of all history! Let me ask you to consider the following:

If Jesus could walk on water, do you suppose he could walk through walls?

If Jesus could transport a ship 3 ½ miles instantly, do you think walking through walls would be a challenge of any kind?

What is the difference in the miracle working power in these instances? Why does transporting oneself through walls demand a different kind of body from that demanded by walking on water?

Very clearly, there is nothing about walking through walls that is substantively different, from the perspective of the miracle working power of God, that demands that Jesus had to have had a transformed, immortal, spiritual body.

Jesus went out of his way to prove to his disciples that the identical body that went into the grave is the same body they were witnessing: “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit does not h
ave flesh and bones as you see me have” (Luke 24:39f). Could anything be clearer? Jesus denied having a “spiritual body!” So, what does this means for Ronnie Wade and all futurists who argue that Jesus’ physical resurrection demands the physical resurrection of all believers?

It means that all believers must be raised in the exact same biological bodies that went into the grave! There is no escaping this. If you argue that Christ’s biological resurrection (which I affirm in no uncertain terms) is the template for the resurrection of believers, then since Jesus’ biological resurrection was of an untransformed, non-immortal, non-incorruptible body, then this demands that the resurrection of all believers– at the supposed end of the (endless) Christian age– will be the raising of untransformed, non-immortal, non-incorruptible bodies! This clearly violates 1 Corinthians 15.

The fact is that Christ was the first to be raised from the death of Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22f). The death of Adam, the death introduced into the world as a direct result of sin, was not biological death. God said “in the day that you eat, you will surely die.” They ate. They did not die biologically that day. However, they were separated from God that very day. Thus, the death that they died was not biological death, but “covenantal death” i.e. separation from the presence of God.

Christ became a curse for man. He took the sin of man on him (Isaiah 53 / 2 Corinthians 5:21). He was separated from the loving presence of his Father “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He suffered the death of Adam. His biological death and resurrection was the visible sign of the spiritual realities taking place (Matthew 16– the sign of Jonah).

So, what we see is that Wade’s own argument backfires on him, badly. He affirms on the one hand that Christ was the first fruit, but, an examination of the first fruit doctrine then falsifies Wade’s view of the nature of the resurrection! He and the futurists cannot have it both ways.

Christ was the first fruit. He was the first to be raised from the dead. The scriptures are emphatic and unequivocal on this. But, Jesus patently was not the first person to be raised biologically. He was the first to be raised from the death of Adam– from sin death. He took the sin of man on himself, and died the death of separation from God. But, because he was himself sinless, that separation could not hold him, and his physical resurrection was the definitive sign and proof of that.

The doctrine of Christ as the first fruit falsifies Wade’s eschatology.

The doctrine of Christ’s biological resurrection falsifies Wade’s resurrection doctrine.

More to come.