A Look At Ronnie Wade’s Rejection of Covenant Eschatology
What Are / Were The Last Days?
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 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 objections, see just below, is about the term “the last days.” Wade and his amillennial brethren are adamant that this term refers to the entirety of the Christian age, and not to the last days of the Mosaic Covenant age.
Let me say this: the identification of the last days is fundamental to a proper understanding of eschatology. If you wrongly identify the last days, then of necessity, your eschatology is skewed and false, for the Day of the Lord occurs at the end of the last days. Wade believes that eschatology is historical eschatology. That is, it is about the end of history. If however, the term “the last days” is not about the Christian age, but the last days of the Mosaic Covenant age, then all futurist eschatologies fall to the ground.
Here is Wade’s Objection:
<There are a number or (sic) problems that arise as a result of the interpretation placed on New Testament scriptures dealing with the resurrection. King defines the “last days” as the closing period of the Jewish age, 30-70 A.D., with the “eternal days” continuing from that point. He says “We are now in that world, which is to come…instead of being in the last days we are in the eternal days, world without end Eph. 3:21” From this reasoning, it would follow that those in the New Testament who lived between 30-70 A.D. lived in the last days, while we live in the “eternal days.”>
We will address the issue of the last days by approaching it in three ways:
1.) Did the last days of the Mosaic Age end at the cross?
2.) Did the NT writers believe themselves to be in the last days, and that the end of the last days was near?
3.) Will the Christian age have last days, i.e. will the Christian age come to an end?
Our comments will be somewhat brief, but, be sure to check out my book: The Last Days Identified for a more exhaustive treatment of this critical issue. In this book I examine every major “last days” text in the Bible, and show that the term has nothing to do with the Christian age or the end of the Christian age. The book can be purchased here: http://www.eschatology.org/index.php/store.html?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage-ask.tpl&product_id=52&category_id=18
Let me address the first of these questions in this article: “Did the last days of the Mosaic Age end at the cross?”
The reader must understand how foundationally important the idea of the passing of the Law of Moses at the cross is to Wade’s amillennial eschatology. Virtually all of his theology and eschatology is based on that rotten foundation, in one way or another.
Let me address the issue from this perspective: If a law or covenant has been abrogated and annulled (taken off the books) are its promises and penalties applicable thereafter?
Now, every thinking person knows that if a law is no longer binding, no longer in effect, that you cannot apply that law, period. It is dead, gone. Let me illustrate:
In Oklahoma, it was illegal for years to obtain, or to make a tattoo. No tattoo shops were allowed, period. It was a misdemeanor punishable with fines. However, in November of 2006, that law was stricken from the books, and annulled.
Okay, let’s say a policeman walks into a tattoo shop in Oklahoma City and arrests the owner and “tattoo artists” working there based on the law that was in effect until November of 2006. What would happen when / if that case made it to court? I am sure I don’t have to tell you. The judge would summarily dismiss the case, and reprimand the policemen. He might even be dismissed from the force. Why? Well, he was trying to impose sanctions and penalties of a dead law to a time and situation after that law was annulled, abrogated and dead.
(Lamentably, in our written debate on the passing of Torah, my friend Kurt Simmons actually argued that the penalties of a dead law could be applied after it’s annulment. I asked for legal precedent and example of this happening and standing up in court, but of course, Kurt could not give it, and did not even try. That debate book is available here: http://www.bibleprophecy.com/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage-ask.tpl&product_id=58&category_id=1&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=98).
With this indisputable issue before us, consider this: Deuteronomy 28 foretold the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem, and said it would take place in the last days. That destruction would come as a direct result of Israel’s violation of Torah– the Law of Moses. (We will examine Deuteronomy 32 a bit later).
Deuteronomy 28-30 is known as the Law of Blessings and Cursings. Moses delineated for Israel what would happen to her if she obeyed Torah, and what would happen if she rebelled. Among those cursings we find this:
“Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, 48 therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you. 49 The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies, a nation whose language you will not understand, 50 a nation of fierce countenance, which does not respect the elderly nor show favor to the young. 51 And they shall eat the increase of your livestock and the produce of your land, until you are destroyed; they shall not leave you grain or new wine or oil, or the increase of your cattle or the offspring of your flocks, until they have destroyed you.52 “They shall besiege you at all your gates until your high and fortified walls, in which you trust, come down throughout all your land; and they shall besiege you at all your gates throughout all your land which the LORD your God has given you. 53 You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom the LORD your God has given you, in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you. 54 The sensitive and very refined man among you will be hostile toward his brother, toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the rest of his children whom he leaves behind, 55 so that he will not give any of them the flesh of his children whom he will eat, because he has nothing left in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you at all your gates.” (Deuteronomy 28:48-55).
There is wide scholarly agreement that we find here a prediction of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. This was the view of Clark, Calvin, Gill, Poole, Jamieson, Fawcett and Brown and a host of commentators
Notice that Moses said that in this predicted destruction / judgment, “You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom the LORD your God has given you, in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you.”
Anyone familiar with Josephus knows that this was fulfilled in the A
D 66-70 siege of Jerusalem. So, here is what we have:
Moses said that in Israel’s last days she would experience a siege so bad that her people would eat the flesh of their own children, this judgment would be as a direct result of her violation of Torah, and would be the application of Mosaic Covenant provisions.
In AD 70 Israel experienced the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 28:48-55.
Therefore, Israel’s last days were in existence in AD 70 and he Mosaic Covenant, with its provisions for Covenant Wrath, was still binding in AD 70.
This proves definitively that Israel’s last days did not end at the cross, and it proves that Torah was not abrogated at the cross. To restate: you cannot apply the provisions, whether positive or negative, of a covenant if that covenant has been abrogated and annulled. Since AD 70 was the application of Mosaic Covenant provisions, it is therefore prima facie evident that Torah was still in effect in AD 70.
Notice now Zechariah 11:6-12:
“For I will no longer pity the inhabitants of the land,” says the LORD. “But indeed I will give everyone into his neighbor’s hand and into the hand of his king. They shall attack the land, and I will not deliver them from their hand. So I fed the flock for slaughter, in particular the poor of the flock. I took for myself two staffs: the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bonds; and I fed the flock. I dismissed the three shepherds in one month. My soul loathed them, and their soul also abhorred me. Then I said, “I will not feed you. Let what is dying die, and what is perishing perish. Let those that are left eat each other’s flesh.” And I took my staff, Beauty, and cut it in two, that I might break the covenant which I had made with all the peoples. So it was broken on that day.”
Note that God said that in the day that Israel would eat the flesh of their children – an undeniable reference to Deuteronomy 28 – He would break (annul) the covenant that He had with Israel. (See my fuller discussion of Zechariah 11 in the Preston – Simmons Debate book).
Now, you cannot argue that God’s covenant with Israel was broken and annulled before the time that YHVH Himself set for that abrogation. He said that He would break the bond and the covenant in the day that Israel would eat the flesh of their children, and that was in AD 70.
As a direct corollary to the above, notice that in 1 Corinthians 14:20-22 Paul discussed the issue of tongues in the early church. He makes a point that is often missed today. He sought to correct the misuse of that gift, and says: “Tongues are for a sign, not to the believer, but to the unbeliever.”
Notice that Paul quotes directly from Isaiah 28:11 and says, “In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak to unto this people; and yet for all that they will not hear me, saith the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:21).
Isaiah was written in the immediate context of the impending invasion of Israel by the Assyrians. Isaiah was telling his people that they were about to hear “tongues” that they did not know. These tongues were the languages of their destroyers. In other words, those tongues were a sign of God’s covenantal wrath being poured out.
What should not be missed is that Isaiah is drawing from Deuteronomy 28: 49. God told Israel that when they violated Torah, He would, “Bring upon thee a nation from afar, from the uttermost ends of the earth, like an eagle that flies swiftly, whose tongue you cannot understand.”
So here is what we have. In Deuteronomy (Torah, i.e. “The law”) God threatened Israel with invasion by nations whose languages and tongues they did not understand, if they violated Torah.
In Isaiah, God was bringing the Assyrians against the ten northern tribes as covenantal judgment. The tongues were the languages of the Assyrians, serving as God’s instrument of judgment of Israel for apostasy from Torah.
In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul says that the early church was exercising the gift of tongues as a sign for the unbelievers, and directly quotes from Isaiah.
This all but demands that we see Paul calling Deuteronomy 28 to mind, and that means that God was about to being covenantal wrath on Judah / Jerusalem for her violation of Torah.
But, if Torah was a dead law when Paul wrote Corinthians, how could he be appealing to Torah for tongues as a sign? Those tongues were only a “sign” within the covenant context of Torah– a sign of impending judgment on Israel. This demands that Torah was still binding, for Paul was saying that just as judgment was coming in Isaiah– in fulfillment of covenant sanctions– tongues were, when he wrote signs to the unbelievers. They were signs of coming destruction– covenantal wrath.
All of this is highly significant and determinative for the proper identification of the last days. Since Torah and the age of Torah are synchronous and co-dependent concepts– i.e. you can’t have an age without having the law that constitutes and gives that age its identity – then the fact that the provisions of the Mosaic Covenant were still applicable and binding in AD 70 proves that the Mosaic Age was still present. However, it was coming to an end with the dissolution of the Temple and City, as foretold by Jesus in Matthew 24:2.
Our next installment will look a little closer at the proper identity of the last days.