From Glory to Glory: 2 Corinthians 3 and the Passing of Torah
A Look At Ronnie Wade’s Rejection of Covenant Eschatology #12
by Don K. Preston
I am offering a series of articles in response to Ronnie Wade, a church of Christ minister who recently ventured into the field of eschatology. He wrote an article condemn Covenant Eschatology as heretical As a result, I contacted him inviting him to debate me on the question of the coming of the Lord. Wade refused, stating that such a debate would be “unprofitable.”
I his article Wade set forth his objections to Covenant Eschatology. One of his chief objections is 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. Wade and his amillennial brethren are adamant that God was through with Israel at the cross. 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. In our last article I refuted Wade’s claim that Colossians 2:14f shows that Torah was abrogated at the cross. Another passage offered by Wade is 2 Corinthians 3. He claims that if both Torah and the Gospel co-existed for the first century generation, that this constituted spiritual adultery. Here is what he says of the idea of two systems existing side by side:
<<If so, 2 Cor. 3:14 is denied. The old covenant was done away in Christ. The old covenant was already “done away” when Paul penned these words. No A.D.70 here.>>
Response: Allow me to be candid here. To appeal to 2 Corinthians 3 to prove that Torah had already been annulled is an example of eisegesis of the worst sort. The text says nothing remotely resembling that position, but rather affirms the opposite.
Notice that Paul speaks of the glory of Moses and Torah as that which “is (present tense verb) passing away” (3:11). And notice that as he speaks of that passing glory he says “seeing then that we have (present tense) such hope, we use great boldness of speech” (v. 12).
So, Paul, writing in the late 50s or early 60s spoke of the passing of Torah as his “hope.” Notice that he could have, and if Wade’s position is true, he should have, spoken of the passing of Torah as a fulfilled hope. He should have said “we once had this hope, but it has been fulfilled!” No, Paul uses the present tense verbs to say “seeing then that we have such hope.” The passing of Torah was still Paul’s “hope” when he wrote Corinthians! And need we say that something that is a hope is something that has not yet been realized and fulfilled?
Notice that Paul refers specifically to the ministration of death written and graven in stones, as that which had glory when he wrote, but a lesser glory than the New Covenant. Here is something critical to note.
The ministration of death written and engraven in stone was clearly the Ten Commandments, the Decalogue. We are told by those who now want to say that some of the Law passed while some remains valid, that what passed was the “ceremonial, sacrificial laws,” but, that the “moral code” remains valid and binding today. (This was Simmon’s position in our written debate). Well, there are some severe consequences to this view.
First, if the Decalogue remains valid, then the Sabbath remains valid, for the Sabbath is embedded firmly in the midst of the Decalogue. Those who would deny that the Sabbath remains binding are thus faced with this dilemma: their position means once again that when Jesus said, “not one jot or one tittle shall pass from the law until it is all fulfilled” that what he actually meant was, “when some jots and some tittles of the law have been fulfilled.”
How in the name of reason can a person claim that it is proper exegesis to take a pen knife to Jesus’ words in such a way, insisting that some the Decalogue was invalidated, while some was not? This is a clear-cut violation of Jesus’ words. (Note: The Sabbath was a covenantal marker as a sign of the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, Deuteronomy 5:15. It was joined with moral mandates based on the character and attributes of God. The covenant was temporary: the nature of God is eternal. Thus, the covenant, in its entirety, could be nullified, but, that does not affect the moral premises that sprang from God’s unchanging character).
The point is that one cannot claim that part of the Law was removed while some remains. The critical point is that in 2 Corinthians 3 Paul is discussing the passing of the Law engraven in stone, and that was the Decalogue. He was not discussing the “sacrificial and ceremonial” law. He was discussing the passing of the Law written and engraven in stone. This is a crucial point that is missed by all those who want to say that some of the Law passed at the cross.
Second, as we demonstrated in our last article, the Sabbaths were still valid as shadows of “good things about to come” when Paul wrote. Thus, the argument that Torah was abrogated at the cross is itself null and void.
Third, as seen above, Paul does not use past tense verbs in 2 Corinthians 3 to speak of the passing of Torah. He uses the present tenses. Notice particularly verse 18: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are being changed (metamorphoumetha) from glory to glory.
The glory that Paul is contrasting is the glory of the Old Covenant engraven in stone set against the greater glory of Christ and the New Covenant.
The change from glory to glory was taking place when Paul wrote. It clearly was not accomplished at the cross.
Note also that in 2 Corinthians 4:1 Paul continued: Therefore, seeing that we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not faint.”
Paul said that it was his personal ministry, empowered by the Spirit, that was bringing about the change from “glory to glory.”
Now, if the Old Covenant passed away, and the New was fully established at the cross / Pentecost– as Wade and his brethren claim (at least most of them) — then Paul’s ministry was irrelevant and unnecessary! There was not need for him to work to bring about that change from “glory to glory” for God had already accomplished it!
Considering the fact that Paul would later write that Torah (not simply some outer form of Torah) was “nigh unto passing” (Hebrews 8:13) then Paul’s use of the present tenses in Corinthians makes perfect sense, and falsifies Wade’s contention that Torah already been annulled.
There is a final thought here, that I can only sketch out ever so briefly.
Paul’s language, as many scholars and Bible students have observed, is based on the transfiguration vision.
The transfiguration was a vision of the passing of the Old Covenant glory of Moses and the prophets. It was a vision of the change from “glory to glory.” This is indisputable.
However, according to Peter (2 Peter 1:16f) the transfiguration was a vision of Christ’s Second Coming, his parousia.
Now, since the transfiguration was a vision of the passing of Torah– which is what Paul is discussing in 2 Corinthians 3, and …
Since the transfiguration was a vision of the Second Coming, then…
It therefore follows that Torah was to pass away at the Second Coming.
The passing of Torah and the Telos, or parousia, go hand in hand. The transfiguration did not depict the passing of Torah, the insertion of the Christian age, and then the passing of the Christian age and the New Covenant. The transfiguration vision is one of the most eschatolog
ically significant, yet ignored events in the entire New Testament.
You can see more on the significance of the transfiguration in my The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat book.
We have demonstrated that Wade has wrongly claimed that 2 Corinthians 3 teaches that Torah had already passed away.
Paul does not use a single past tense verb to speak of the passing of Torah.
He uses present tense verbs.
He says that the passing of the Law of Moses was, when he wrote, his hope.
He says that the transformation from the Old to the New was taking place when he wrote.
He says that his personal ministry, empowered by the Spirit, was to bring about the transformation from Torah to Christ.
Wade’s claims in regard to 2 Corinthians 3 are false.