Responding to the Critics:
A Look At Ronnie Wade’s Rejection of Covenant Eschatology #10
by Don K. Preston
Did Two Covenants Exist Side By Side At The Same Time?
This is the tenth in a series of articles responding to Ronnie Wade, a church of Christ minister. 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. 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 wrote 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 a series of articles examining Wade’s objections. This is my tenth in that series.
Wade, as do most amillennialists, has a problem with the concept of a transitional period in the first century, in which God was finalizing His dealings with Israel, while bringing in the church and the New Covenant. And of course, in the mentality of those like Wade, if you differ with them on virtually any issue, then you are a heretic of the worst sort.
Wade spends a good deal of keyboard time commenting on the question of the two covenants, and the idea that there was an overlapping of the covenants until AD 70. Here are his initial comments.
<<DID THE COVENANTS OVERLAP?
1. If so, we would have a case of spiritual adultery. Paul addresses this in Rom. 7:1-6, by pointing out that it is adultery for one to be married to another while her husband is living. If the husband dies, then the wife if (sic) “discharged from the law of the husband,” and is free to marry another. Then he concludes “Ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who was raised from the dead…But now we have been discharged from the law.” v. 4-6.>>
Response: Very clearly, Wade simply fails to honor what Paul says in the text, and, he fails to consider the cultural “sitz em leben” (the real life situation) of the world in which Paul wrote.
First of all, notice that Wade generalizes the requirements and framework of what Torah said in regard to marriage. Wade ignores the fact that under Torah a man could be married to more than one woman. However, a woman could not be married to more than one man. Paul is dealing with the woman’s side of the issue in Romans 7, not the man’s.
What this means is that God could have two wives, but, the bride of Christ (the church) could not be married to two husbands at the same time. Once again, Wade’s failure to honor the Old Covenant context and source for the NT doctrine forces him into false logic and argumentation.
When Paul wrote, God had not yet divorced Old Covenant Judah, the harlot bride, as He had divorced the ten northern tribes in the time of Hosea (cf. Hosea 2:1f; See my 30 lesson series on Hosea available from this website. This series develops the idea of God’s marriage, divorce and remarriage and sheds light on much of the NT teaching about the passing of Torah).
The story of much of the NT, and the theme of Revelation, is about the impending divorcement of Old Covenant Jerusalem, the harlot bride, and the marriage of Christ to the church (Cf. Matthew 22:1f). Notice that in Revelation 18-19 we find the destruction of Babylon– “The city were the Lord was slain” followed immediately by the announcement that the time had come for the marriage of the Lamb and his bride (Revelation 19:6-7). I should note that if, and I emphasize the “if”, Wade takes the traditional amillennial, church of Christ view of the identity of Babylon as Rome, then this means that at the destruction of Rome, Christ married his bride.
Given the fact that Wade clearly believes that God divorced Israel (by removing Torah, God’s marriage covenant) at the cross, one has to wonder what relationship Rome and her destruction had with the marriage of the New Covenant bride? God had been married to Israel through Torah. He would remarry her through the New Covenant (cf. Jeremiah 31– the righteous remnant, the body of Christ, which would encorporate the Gentiles into Israel’s New Covenant.
The fact is that in scripture, divorce and marriage is always a covenantal issue. So, that raises the question about the traditional view of Revelation –sometimes called the Reformed view.
Why did Rome have to be destroyed for Jesus to marry his New Covenant bride? What relationship did Rome have with YHVH that necessitated her destruction in order for Jesus to fulfilled God’s promises to Old Covenant Israel to remarry her in the last days?The book of Revelation is full of the language of covenant, Old Covenant language. The judgment on Babylon is a covenantal judgment. The avenging of the blood of the martyrs would be in fulfillment of Deuteronomy 32:43– a last days prophecy of God’s final dealings with Israel.
Clearly, there was no covenantal relationship between God and Rome, in anyway whatsoever! So, again, why did Rome, or, even the Roman Catholic Church per some amillennialists’ view of Revelation 18-19, have to be destroyed for Christ to marry the church? See my books Who Is This Babylon, as well as my We Shall Meet Him In The Air, the Wedding of the king of Kings. In both books I develop these marriage motifs extensively.
Failure to honor this theme results in the kind of error found in Wade’s theology. As we have noted before, Wade sees nothing in the NT related to God’s further, climactic and consummative dealings with His Old Covenant people, beyond the cross. Yet, the passing of the covenant and the making of the New Covenant are marriage themes (thus, the marriage of Christ in Revelation 19 is the making– the finalizaion– of the New Covenant) and if one ignores these themes in Romans, Galatians, Corinthians or Revelation, et. al., they are doomed to misinterpret what Paul is teaching. But, back to what Paul did say.
Notice that Paul, writing to the church, the espoused bride, said, “you have become dead to the law, by the body of Christ” (Romans 7:4). Contra Wade’s confused view of things, Paul was not saying that Jewish Christians were under both Torah and the gospel. He said that the Jews who were coming into Christ through baptism had died to Torah. In baptism they had entered Christ’s death (Romans 6:3-4). By entering Christ’s death, even by Wade’s understanding, they were no longer subject to Torah. They were freed from that law (Galatians 5:1-3), but that Law had not died. Thus, Wade’s argument that if two laws continued to exist side by side, that the Christians were guilty of spiritual adultery is faulty logic. It totally ignores that the text actually says!
Notice that Paul said: “You have become dead to the law.” Paul did not say “The law died at the cross.” Yet, Wade believes that Paul was saying the latter. This is patently false.
Could– and did– two systems exist side by side, at the same time? Well, consider this: In Wade’s amillennial paradigm, it is taught that all the time that God had His covenant with Israel, “the Gentiles who have not the law” (Romans 2:14) were justified before God through conscience! Was that two different systems, existing side by side, by God’s design? Of course it was!
When John the Baptizer came, he comma
nded baptism with a view to the coming of Messiah and the kingdom. His baptism was not the baptism of the temple! So, all the while John was actively preaching baptism for the remission of sin, in anticipation of the coming of Messiah and the kingdom, the temple cultus (well before the cross where Wade says the temple cultus was abrogated) continued with its baptisms.
Was John approved by YHVH? Of course. Was the temple cultus still valid? Undeniably. Even Wade would admit to this. Thus, there were two systems operating side by side, with God’s approval.
As an illustration, consider the Berlin Wall. Two Berlins, with two laws, stood side by side. For decades that Wall stood as a barrier against freedom. Thousands of people tried desperately to escape over, under, around, or through that wall to the freedom of the West. Now, what happened when someone successfully escaped? Well, they died to the law of East Berlin, that is what happened! Did the law of East Berlin die when those people escaped? If so, then the law of East Berlin died thousands of times!
No, the law of East Berlin did not die when individuals escaped. They died to the law of East Berlin, but the objective law of Communist East Berlin did not die. However, in 1989-90, the Wall came down, and the communist government– the Law of East Berlin– fell to the ground!
See the difference? Two systems / laws existed side by side. Escape from oppression by individuals did not nullify the objective law of the East. But, when the government itself fell, the Law itself was removed. There is a huge difference here, totally ignored by Wade and those who take his position.
The fact is that Wade’s claim that God could not have two systems, operating at the same time, without there being spiritual adultery, is a false charge, and denies the Biblical reality. He has imposed his preconceived ideas onto the text, and denied what the text actually says.
Be sure to see my written debate with Kurt Simmons: The Passing of Torah: At the Cross or AD 70? for more on this important issue of the passing of Torah. Simmons took Wade’s position that Torah passed at the cross and denied that two systems could exist side by side at the same time. He scoffed at the idea. In our debate I dispel that notion. For instance, Simmons never responded with a single word of refutation of the material above. The debate book is available from this website.
We will have more on this idea as we continue, for it is a major part of Wade’s objection to Covenant Eschatology. In the meantime, let me say again that I would gladly debate the topic of the passing of the Law with Wade, or any of his reputable, representative and respectful brethren of the amillennial persuasion. Those unfamiliar with Wade’s fellowship must understand that debating is a highly prized activity– normally– in their fellowship. And yet, repeated offers have been made by me, and others on my behalf, to get some of their “champions” to debate this topic and eschatology, but, those invitations have been continually rejected as “unprofitable.” They want to debate the number of cups one can have for the communion service, or whether it is right to have Bible classes, or a host of other things not even mentioned in the Bible, but, they refuse to honorably discuss the subject of eschatology that is mentioned on virtually every page of scriptures! This is sad in the extreme.