Responding to the Critics:
A Look At Ronnie Wade’s Rejection of Covenant Eschatology #9
Christ the First Fruit and the Harvest
by Don K. Preston
This is the ninth 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.
Wade placed a lot of emphasis on Christ being the first fruit, and my last article demonstrated the fallacy of Mr. Wade’s view of that issue. However, what is so interesting is that while virtually all critics of Covenant Eschatology like to emphasize the first fruit issue, they fail to see the inescapable implications of their own argument.
Consider the statement: Christ is the first fruit of the harvest. Now, do yourself a favor, and find a farmer. Ask him if, when he gathers the first fruit, he has to wait another generation, two generations, or 2000 years to gather the harvest? Do you see the point? It is inescapable: the ingathering of the first fruit demands that the harvest has begun! But, what does the traditional view of eschatology do?
All futurist eschatologies place a great deal of emphasis on Christ as the first fruit. Christ’s resurrection appeared at the end of the Old Covenant age. But, where do all of the futurist eschatologies place the harvest? Why, at the end of the Christian age, which so far has run for 2000 years! So the first fruit occurred at the end of one “season” but the harvest will occur at the end of another season, in the far distant future removed from the first fruit? Where is the harmony and logic in this? Such an interpretation is a clear violation of Paul’s use of the term first fruit. But that is not all. As far as Jesus and the NT writers were concerned, the end of the age harvest was truly near.
Notice Matthew 13 and the parable of the Wheat and the Tares. First, a preliminary observation, however.
Jesus told that parable to harden the heart of Israel, so that God would be justified in bringing judgment on her (Matthew 13:13-16. The purpose of the hardening was so that Israel would reject Jesus, so that he would suffer the expiatory, atoning death on the cross.
So, per the futurist view of Matthew 13, we are supposed to believe that Jesus told his own disciples that parable so that they would understand. But, that parable was to harden the heart of the Jewish audience, so that he would / could die.
Ask yourself the question: why would Jesus tell the Jews that parable when it had nothing to do with their promises? After all, according to Wade and the futurist camp, Matthew 13 had nothing whatsoever to do with Israel or her promises. It had nothing to do with their age. It had nothing to do with their kingdom. It has nothing to do with them at all.
Just exactly why would a parable that had nothing to do with Israel or the fulfillment of Israel’s promises, at the end of an age unrelated to her hopes and promises, harden their heart so much that they would kill Jesus for telling that parable? If Jesus was talking about things that had nothing to do with Israel, why would Israel be concerned about what Jesus was saying? Why would they not simply dismiss him as an eccentric with weird ideas? Why would the parable pose such a threat to Israel that they would respond by seeking Jesus’ death?
Modern commentators need to accept the fact that parables were not told to the church, about the church, to harden the heart of the church. The parables were spoken to Israel, about Israel, about the kingdom hopes of Israel, to harden the hearts of unbelieving Israel, to justify God’s impending judgment. The failure to honor these indisputable facts has led to the creation of a false “Christian”, or “historical” eschatology. This is precisely what Wade and his amillennial brethren do.
To compound their error, amillennialist Wade, as well as postmillennialists, ignore or overlook the prophetic source for Jesus’ prediction of the harvest, and that source is Daniel 12. Notice what Daniel 12 foretold:
The time of the resurrection. (v. 2).
The time when the righteous would shine in the kingdom (v. 3)
The end of the age (v. 4).
Undeniably, these are the key elements of Matthew 13:39-43.
Jesus foretold the time of the harvest / resurrection.
He foretold the end of the age.
He foretold the righteous shining forth in the kingdom.
Does Daniel give us any insight into when the end of the age resurrection unto eternal life would take place? Read verses 6-7:
“And one said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long shall the fulfillment of these wonders be?” 7 Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished.”
So, Daniel was given a vision of the end of the age resurrection when the righteous would shine in the kingdom. The prophet heard one angel ask the other when “all” (not some or most, but all) of the predicted events would be fulfilled. The angel responded by swearing an oath by the God of heaven, that “All” (again, not some or even most, but ALL) of the predicted events would be fulfilled “When the power of the holy people has been completely shattered.”
Can there be any serious doubt about when the power of the holy people was completely shattered? Israel’s power, her only power, was her covenant with YHVH. That is beyond dispute, and to deny it is simply an argument from desperation. (See the Preston-Simmons written debate on the passing of Torah for a wealth of information on this topic. Available from this website).
When was Israel’s power, her covenant with YHVH destroyed? It was in AD 70, with the dissolution of the temple, the altar, the priesthood, the cultus. Again, this is beyond dispute.
So, what we have is Jesus’ prediction of the end of the age resurrection / harvest.
We have Jesus saying that in that event, Daniel 12 would be fulfilled.
But, Daniel 12, the end of the age resurrection, was to be fulfilled when Israel’s covenantal “power” was completely shattered.
Now, since the resurrection of 1 Corinthians 15 is the same resurrection as Matthew 13– and thus, Daniel 12– then since Daniel said the resurrection would be when Israel was destroyed, th
is logically demands that the resurrection of 1 Corinthians 15 was to occur at the end of the Old Covenant age, in AD 70.
So, once again, Wade’s objections to Covenant Eschatology are falsified. He begins with false foundational presuppositions. He builds his house on those false premises. But, he overlooks the proper context for understanding Paul’s great resurrection discourse, and thereby condemns himself to positing a false view of 1 Corinthians 15.
For a fuller discussion of Paul’s resurrection discourse in 1 Corinthians 15, see Sam Frost’s book Essays on the Resurrection. That book is available from me here on this website.
We will have more to follow.