Does the Bible Predict the End of the Christian Age?
A Look At Ronnie Wade’s Rejection of Covenant Eschatology
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 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.>>
Response: Okay, according to Wade, Covenant Eschatology is wrong because it says that the last days referred to the closing period of the Old Covenant, Mosaic Age, and because “instead of being in the last days, we are in the ‘world without end Ephesians 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.”
Once again we see how preconceived ideas and presuppositional thinking clouds the minds of otherwise good men. (We are all susceptible to such things, since we are all human beings! This is not dishonesty, it is our human weakness. The problem is that so often, as is the case with Wade and his brethren, they basically deny that they are subject to mistakes, and that their interpretations are tantamount to infallible decrees.) Let’s take a look at some of Wade’s presuppositions.
First of all, Wade assumes that the Christian age will end. This is fundamental to his theology. In numerous debates with amillennialists and postmillennialists, their affirmative proposition has read that Christ will return “at the end of the current Christian age.” The trouble is, the Bible affirms in the clearest manner that the Christian age has no end! Before establishing this, take note of something critical.
In Matthew 24 Jesus predicted the desolation of the temple. In response to that prediction the disciples asked “When shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” (V. 3). Now you must understand that all three futurist eschatologies take it for granted as essential to their interpretation of the Olivet Discourse that the disciples were confused, or just simply wrong, because in their mind, the fall of the temple, Christ’s coming and the end of the age were all inseparably connected. MacArthur is representative of this view:
“Whether they realized it or not, the disciples were actually raising multiple questions in Matthew 24:3. When shall these things be?’ refers to the destruction of the temple and the events surrounding that catastrophe. What shall be the sign of they coming and the end of the age?’ deals with the larger eschatological subject– the question of how Christ’s victorious coming as Israel’s Messiah fit into the whole prophetic timetable.” (John MacArthur, The Second Coming, (Wheaton Ill, Crossways Publishers, 1999)76-77). This bold, somewhat arrogant assumption about the poor misguided disciples is critically important to all futurist interpretations of Matthew 24-25. If this assumption is wrong, they are falsified.
I have written an article on this issue of whether those disciples are the ones who are / were confused. I suggest that it was not those disciples, but modern commentators who fail to “connect the dots” about the end of the age and the destruction of Jerusalem. See my article here: http://www.eschatology.org/index.php/articles-mainmenu-61/91-study-by-passage/768-matthew-243-which-disciples-were-or-are-confused.html. In an upcoming book on the Transfiguration I will be dealing extensively with this fatal but common claim that the disciples were so confused. This claim is simply wrong. There is no Biblical support for it, whatsoever. In fact, scripture itself categorically and specifically refutes this claim!
Ask yourself this simple question: What age did the temple represent? Did it symbolize the Christian age? To suggest this is basically ludicrous. Kenneth Gentry properly assesses the symbolism of the temple: “In essence the temple itself is a symbol: it symbolizes the covenantal relationship of God with His people. The heart of the covenant appears in the most important promise: ‘I will be your God, you will be my people. The temple is the special place where God dwells among His people.” (He Shall Have Dominion, Draper, VA, Apologetics Press, 2009)362, his emphasis).
So, the temple symbolized Torah, and thus, the Mosaic age. It did not represent the Christian age in any way, shape, form or fashion. Ask yourself the question: If the disciples knew that the temple symbolized the Mosaic age, then what in the name of reason would make them think that the destruction of the temple would come at the end of the Christian age, and age that the temple had no connection to in any way? Where is the logical connection? Talk about being confused! Such an argument would demand that the disciples were far, far beyond confused.
By the way, was Israel supposed to be destroyed at the end of the age? Was the eschatological consummation linked with the judgment on Israel? The unequivocal answer is “Yes.”
Isaiah 64-65 foretold the coming of the Lord to bring in the New Creation. See my book The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat for a full discussion of this critical passage.(Special Offer!: If you order this book after reading this article, I will refund all shipping costs. That is $4.50 savings! You must inform me that you read the article and are taking advantage of this special offer. Order your’s today!).
Notice briefly what Isaiah predicted: The coming of the Lord (64:1-2). The destruction of Old Covenant Israel and the creation of a New People with a New Name (v. 13): “The Lord God shall slay you, and call His people by a New Name.” This is the time of the New Heaven and Earth, and the New Jerusalem (v. 19f).
So, here we have the eschatological consummation tied directly and inextricably to the judgment and destruction of Old Covenant Israel and Jerusalem. The promise that at the destruction of the old people a New Jerusalem would come implies that this is the time of the destruction of the Old Jerusalem. The disciples had every right then, in Matthew 24 to conn
ect Jesus’ prediction of the temple’s destruction to his coming and the end of the age.. This was part and parcel of their eschatological heritage. There was no confusion on their part.
Since the temple represented the Mosaic age, then as long as the temple stood, this meant that “this age” was the still present Mosaic age, waiting destruction. And this is what Hebrews 8:13 indicates when it says that Torah was, when Hebrews was written, “ready to vanish away.” Temple and Torah were synchronously connected: the passing of Torah would bring the destruction of the cultus, and that was coming in a “very, very little while” at the Lord’s coming (Hebrews 10:37).
Not only did the temple represent the Mosaic age, the Bible is emphatic that the kingdom of Christ, his body, would never be removed, never pass away.
Isaiah 9:6-9 affirms in unambiguous language that “of the increase of his government (This is evangelism!) and of peace there shall be no end.” Now, some people like to claim that the Hebrews had no concept of infinity. Well, the language of Isaiah conveys that concept, whether the Hebrews fully understood it or not! “Without end” does not mean, nor can it be distorted to mean “it shall come to an end.”
Daniel 2:44– The prophet was told that the kingdom that YHVH would establish will never be moved, never pass away.
Daniel 7:13-14– Again, the prophet was told that the kingdom of Messiah will last forever and forever. It will never be moved.
Matthew 24:35 – “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word will never pass away.” Unfortunately, most commentators ignore the fact that Jesus’ referent to “heaven and earth” here is not a prediction of the passing of material creation, but a prediction of the destruction of the temple, which the Jews referred to as “heaven and earth. See my book The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat for full documentation of this. What is Jesus’ word? It is the gospel preached to men, for salvation. Those who say that the Christian age will come to an end are saying that the foundational purpose of the gospel will come to an end. This is a blatant contradiction of Jesus’ words.
In Luke 1:32-33, the angel told Mary of the son to be born of her: “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” How much clearer could language be? Christ’s kingdom, the body of Christ purchased by his blood, established among men, will have no end!
Take note of the irony in Wade’s objection: he cites Max King who appeals to Ephesians 3:21 which speaks of the Christian as “world without end.” Did you notice that Wade said not one word in response to what Ephesians says?
Paul said that glory was being– and would be – given to God, in Christ, in the church “world (literally, ages) without end.” The Greek term that is used here, according to Greg Beale, commenting on Revelation 11:17f: “forever and forever refers to an unending period as throughout the book” (Gregory Beale, New International Greek Testament Commentary, Revelation (Carlisle, Eerdmans, Paternoster, 1999)929). The Greek term in Revelation is virtually identical to that in Ephesians.
What is significant is that in Revelation, the taking of the kingdom by Messiah occurs at the time of the fall of the city, “where the Lord was slain” (11:8). Thus, the kingdom that arrived at the fall of the Old Covenant city would endure forever and forever, i.e. without end.
Here then is the end of the age asked about by the disciples. And here is the full arrival of “the age to come” the unending age of Messiah.
There are many more passages that affirm the unending nature of the present kingdom of Christ. And that does mean that the end of the age– the Mosaic age – came to an end at the destruction of the temple that represented that age. And, the “age to come” that had been “about to come” for that first century transitional period, fully arrived and was perfected. Those who are in Christ are now enjoying the full benefit of eternal life in Christ, and there is no “waiting for something better.” When our earthly life is ended, we will then fully appreciate what is already our’s in Him. We do live in the “age without end.”
All of this agrees perfectly with our previous article on the last days, in which we demonstrated that the NT writers said repeatedly that they were living in the last days, and that the end of the age and Christ’s coming was imminent. No other end of the age was imminent than the end of the Mosaic age, and no other age is supposed to end. Christ’s New Covenant kingdom age has no end.
So, Wade conveniently ignores texts that affirm the very thing that Wade is denying. This is the fallacy of his amillennialism. All of this is part of the reason that I personally abandoned amillennialism, for the truth of Covenant Eschatology.
Be sure to take advantage of the special discount on The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat!
More to come.