Responding to the Critics:
A Look At Ronnie Wade’s Rejection of Covenant Eschatology
Galatians 4 and the Overlapping of the Covenants
by Don K. Preston D. Div.
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 condemning Covenant Eschatology as heretical 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.”
In his article Wade set forth some 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. He claims that if Torah and the gospel existed side by side until AD 70 that it amounted to spiritual adultery. He offers several comments on Galatians 4. My comments will be immediately under each of his points:
1. Ishmael was never heir of the Abrahamic promises. Gen. 12:1-3.
Response: Abraham believed, per the customs of the day, and, as the Jews in Jesus’ day, that the inheritance did belong to Ishmael / i.e. the Jews under and through Torah. Yes, they were wrong, but that is what they did not understand.
<2. Before Isaac was born, God made this clear, when He said that His covenant would be established with Isaac, not Ishmael. Gen. 17:15-21.
3. Since Ishmael was never heir to the blessings, he could not be disinherited of them.>
Response: There is so much here.
What place did Israel have in God’s economy? Were they children of God? Of course.
Were they, by that very position, not in the position of heirs? Indisputably so!
However, what they failed to see was that Torah could not give the inheritance. It pointed the way to it and prepared them for it. However, this does not mitigate the indisputable fact that they stood in the position of heirs, as sons of Abraham.
Furthermore, Paul makes it clear in Romans 9:4 that, “the adoption, the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Law and the service of God” most assuredly did belong to Israel “according to the flesh.” This is simply indisputable. Did none of those things have to do with the inheritance? If not, what did the adoption entail?
The point is that Wade has it partially correct, but mostly wrong. The reception of the inheritance was not to be under Torah. It was not to be through Torah. It was to be at the end of the Mosaic Law! But you see, in Wade’s theology, the inheritance– which of course is redemption / salvation / resurrection does not truly come until the end of the Christian age, not at the end of Torah. Wade’s theology is anachronistic to the core.
Mr. Wade continues:
<4. Hence Isaac did not take Ishmael’s place as heir, neither did Christians take the Jews’ place as heirs of God’s inheritance.
Response: What place did Christians take at the casting out of Israel? Mr. Wade does not consider, or even begin to address it. Per his position, Israel was seemingly not even important in God’s eschatological schema. This is not the Biblical position, for according to Paul the inheritance is the issue in Galatians 4: “The children of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” Just like Abraham believed- per the law of the day– that Ishmael was to be his heir, Israel believed that she was the heir through and under Torah. After all, she was the first born of YHVH!! What position did the first born have– by Law? Was it not the position of heir? If not, what position was it?
Again, per the law, per custom, per position, Israel believed she was to be heir. As God’s “first born” Israel was most assuredly in the position of the heir.
Paul is showing by the allegory that God had indicated that Israel’s “rightful” position as heir, was, from the very beginning of God’s plan, not to be through Torah, not to be according to the natural way of looking at things.
This reversal of things is illustrated over and over in the history of Isaac, Jacob, and the story of Israel, when contra the Law, contra custom, the inheritance was not given to the firstborn, but to those of promise. This pattern of God’s dealings falsifies Wade’s objections because in his view, Israel was never, at any time, or any situation considered the heir. This clearly violates Paul’s point and argument. If Israel knew that she was not to be the heir, and if Israel was never in the position of the heir, then Paul’s argument falls to the ground.
Wade continues: <<It should be further pointed out that:
1. The old covenant did not contain the inheritance of God’s Abrahamic promises.>
Response: One must be careful in what they are arguing. Paul, as seen above, irrefutably says that the promises of the inheritance are found in the Old Testament. The promises of the inheritance were given to Israel.
Equally indisputable is the fact that he says those promises were given to Israel “according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3-4).
Preterists do not say, and Paul was not arguing, that the inheritance was to be received through Torah, or under Torah. That would be to take the role of those Paul was arguing against. Thus, Wade has created a “straw man” argument in his points 2-4 below. Preterists agree that the law brought the curse, and did not bring righteousness. What preterists, or least this one argues, is the inheritance was to come at the end of Torah. This is Wade’s fatal weakness, for as we have seen, he believes that the inheritance does not arrive until the end of the Christian age. But that concept is never found anywhere in scripture.
See the Preston-Simmons written debate for more information and discussion of this incredibly important issue. Simmons argued that salvation was perfected at the cross, and Torah passed at that point. However, Paul was arguing that the promise of salvation– the Inheritance– would be when Israel was cast out, for persecuting the saints, the spiritual Seed, i.e. Christians. That patently did not happen on Pentecost.
To argue that salvation was perfected at the cross demands that God’s promises to Israel were all fulfilled at the cross and His dealings with her terminated. As I noted repeatedly in the debate, this is false since the resurrection is the time of Israel’s salvation (Isaiah 25:8-9) and that did not occur until AD 70. See the debate book for more, because it is directly related to the issues that Wade has mis-apprehended. The debate book can be ordered here: http://www.eschatology.org/index.php/store.html?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage-ask.tpl&product_id=105&category_id=18.
<2. Righteousness did not come through the law, but through faith Gal. 2:16, 21, 3:7-14.
3. The law gave a knowledge of sin, but no forgiveness of it. Gal. 3:10-12
4. The law contained no inheritance, only a curse. Gal. 3:10-19
5. We therefore conclude that Christians
did not receive their inheritance from the Jews of the old covenant.
Response: Once again, Wade is guilty of serious error. Wade is in total denial of what the NT teaches.
Did Jesus not say, “Salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:20)? Of course he did. So, from whence did / does salvation come, per Jesus? Jesus’ work was to confirm the OT promises (Romans 15:8) not to initiate new, unknown promises unrelated to Israel and the promises found in the OT.
Did Paul not teach that salvation was “to the Jew first, and then the Greek” (Romans 1:16-17). Yes, he did.
Did Paul not say that his “one hope” (Ephesians 4:4f) was found in Moses and the prophets (Acts 24:14f)? Surely.
Did Paul not say that the gospel that he preached he preached it from one source, and that was the OT prophets (Romans 16:15-16). Undeniably so.
To deny, as Wade does, that the promise of eschatological salvation sprang from and was to be the fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises made to Israel is fatally flawed. Yet, this is a fundamental tenet of Wade’s amillennialism.
<<Rather than establishing the A.D.70 theory, the allegory of Gal. 4 actually destroys it.
In this illustration used by Paul, Sarah and Hagar represent the two covenants, and their sons are the products of the covenants. Hagar signifies the Mosaic law, which produced “children of bondage” v. 24. Sarah represents the new covenant with Isaac representing Christians, who are the children of promise v. 26-28. In v. 29 the children of bondage or Jews are said to be persecutors of the children of promise or Christians, just as Ishmael persecuted Isaac. Should Christians desire to go back under the law, where they would be placed in bondage? (bondage of sin) Of course not. The admonition then, “cast out the handmaid (old covenant) and her son (Jews with their persecutions)”, and live in the freedom of the new covenant.
To take this allegory and give it a meaning which violates its and other plain teaching in the scriptures, is to wrest the scriptures to our own destruction. This, the A.D.70 advocates do.>>
Response: All that Wade does here is to cite the facts of the text, and in so doing, he falsifies his own objection!
Note the following:
Paul uses present tense verbs to speak of: “the Jerusalem that now is, and is in bondage with her children.” Now, if Torah, which enslaved, was abrogated and annulled some 15 or so years earlier, why didn’t Paul say so?
For Paul, the bondage of the Jews– the bondage of Torah – was still present when he wrote. Wade ignores the present tense verbs. And take note that the bondage to Torah was ever bit as much in the present tense as was the persecution of the Christians. Thus, one cannot say that the bondage to Torah was only imaginary or a historical present. If they were in bondage to Torah when Paul wrote, then it was Torah that was enslaving them.
Take particular note that Paul says that Israel was to be cast out for persecuting the spiritual seed– Christians. Please follow the argument:
Old Covenant Israel, the children of the flesh, was to be cast out for persecuting the children of the promise, Christians.
Old Covenant Israel, the children of the flesh, did not persecute the children of the promise, Christians, prior to the Cross (which is where Wade believes Israel was cast out, DKP) prior to the Cross, since no Christians existed before the Cross.
Therefore, Israel and thus, Torah, was not cast out at the Cross.
The question to ponder is this: When would Israel be judged cast out per Galatians 4– for persecuting the seed of Messiah? The answer, the definitive answer, is found in Matthew 23:
“Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:34-36).
Jesus leaves no room for doubt, no room for controversy. Israel was to be judged in a climactic, consummative judgment for persecuting the saints. And that was to be in his generation. Since Paul is discussing the vindication of the seed of promise as they were – when Paul wrote – being persecuted by the children of the flesh, this demands that the casting out of Israel and Torah did not happen at the Cross.
See my In Flaming Fire book for a full discussion of this 2 Thessalonians 1 as it relates to Galatians 4.. The book is a definitive refutation of Wade’s amillennial view, as well as all futurist applications. The book is available here: http://www.eschatology.org/index.php/store.html?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage-ask.tpl&product_id=55&category_id=18).
So, Israel and Torah was to be cast out for persecuting Christians.
Jesus definitively posited the time for those events in the judgment of Jerusalem in his generation. Thus, Israel and Torah were not cast out, nullified and abrogated at the Cross.
Wade, as does his amillennial fellows and all futurists, mis-apply Galatians 4 and ignore what it truly says.
Galatians 4 poses no problem for Covenant Eschatology. It confirms it as true.
More to follow.