Responding to the Critics

Was Salvation Finished At the Cross? A Look at An Objection to Preterism

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A Look At Ronnie Wade’s  Rejection of Covenant Eschatology
Did Salvation Fully Arrive At the Cross, Or in AD 70?
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, for lack of better description, is based on Romans 11:25-27. Paul said “The redeemer shall come out of Zion to turn away ungodliness from Zion, for this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins.”

Here is Wade’s Objection:
“Forgiveness of sins not fully accomplished until 70 A.D.  “When would ungodliness be turned away from Jacob, or their sins be taken away?  When Christ, the deliverer, came out of Zion.  When did Christ come out of Zion?  Not at his first coming, but his second coming”.  (Spirit of Prophecy, p. 63)  According to this theory, the Cross ceases to be the focal point and means of accomplishing forgiveness, and is replaced by A.D. 70.  If so, why Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16 etc. etc.?”

Response:
There has seldom been a more generic, a more vague, and less convincing objection to Covenant Eschatology! Really now, what argument did Wade make, other than to claim, falsely of course, that Covenant Eschatology takes the focus off of the Cross and replaces it with AD 70.

Such false, baseless, and emotionally charged objections actually reveal the weakness of the objection. They border on desperation. This kind of objection is either ignorant of what true preterism actually teaches, or, is purposely making the “boogey man” kind of argument hoping to scare people off from making their own investigation of the doctrine. This latter tactic is dishonorable, and the first of objection, the ones made out of ignorance of what is actually being taught, is inexcusable. A man should know his opponent’s doctrine “inside and out” before claiming that they believe anything. It is always wrong to misrepresent another man’s position, and this is precisely what Wade does with this accusation. Those who actually understand true preterism, and are not simply “agenda driven” know that the Cross is never depreciated, never denigrated, never discounted.

True preterism no more replaces the cross with AD 70 than a construction engineer replaces the foundation of a house with the roof, when the construction is finished! Does the roof replace the foundation? It is ludicrous to suggest such a thing, but, lamentably, this is the kind of accusation made by the opponents of Covenant Eschatology. They clearly have not thought through their arguments. And to make it worse, some who call themselves preterists make the same objection. In my written debate with Kurt Simmons, he made the same false charge. See that debate book, The End of Torah At The Cross Or AD 70,  for a complete refutation of the charge. But, let’s take a look at Wade’s misguided “objection.”

The observant reader will notice first of all that Wade quotes from Max King’s citation of Romans 11:25-27. However, did he deal with Romans 11? Did he offer one word of exegesis? Not so much as a syllable! Now, if you are going to refute someone’s position on a given text, don’t you think that it would be necessary to actually deal with what the texts that the person offers as support for their beliefs?

All that Wade has done is to scoff at King’s appeal to Romans 11 and then say “Why Acts 2:28; 22:16, etc.?” This is not exegesis. This is not logic. This is not hermeneutic. This is presuppositional argumentation that accomplishes nothing. Here is Wade’s argument:

King (preterists) say that redemption / forgiveness / salvation did not come until AD 70.

In Acts 2:38f; 22:16. etc. the audiences were told to repent and be baptized for the remission of sin.

Those obedient to that call would receive the immediate forgiveness of sin. (Of course, those who make this claim even overlook that the Greek word “eis”  (Acts 2:38) means “with a view to”, or as some say “in order to obtain.” It does not specify the time of the reception, as assumed by Wade and his brethren.)

Therefore, King (preterists) are wrong.

Sounds good, right? But there is a huge problem (several actually) that neither Wade (or Simmons in our debate) considers.

The people who were told to repent and be baptized for the remission of sin, to wash their sin away, etc., were given the Holy Spirit as the “earnest of our inheritance, until the Day of redemption” (Ephesians 1:13f; 4:30). The word translated as “earnest” is arrabon, and means “guarantee.”

So, the Spirit was given to those who obeyed the gospel as a guarantee of their coming redemption / forgiveness / salvation. It guaranteed what they did not yet have! The Spirit was so sure, so positive, so undeniable as a guarantee of the coming salvation, that the NT writers could, and did, based on that earnest, speak of their salvation as an accomplished reality, when in fact, they were just about to receive it at the parousia (Philippians 1:6; Hebrews 9:28).

In an interesting and ironic twist, in our written debate, Kurt Simmons challenged me repeatedly to produce a single commentary to some of my positions. However, he took (takes) the position that the redemption / salvation (Ephesians 1, 4; Hebrews 9:28, 1 Peter 1, etc.) that was guaranteed by the Spirit was deliverance from physical persecution! When I challenged him to produce a commentary that takes that position he was totally silent. His position is unknown in the history of Biblical commentary. The Spirit was the guarantee of resurrection, redemption and salvation  (2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1, not deliverance from physical persecution). See the debate book for more on this.

The earnest was the miraculous gifts of the Spirit exercised in the body of Christ. Now, Wade believes that the charismata ended in the first century. Yet somehow, today, a non-miraculous, unfelt, unperceived indwelling of the Spirit somehow guarantees future salvation at the second coming of Christ.

What a strange position to take, and yet, I once espoused that view myself! We are to believe that in the first century, when the miraculous gifts were operative, confirming the word and the followers of Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:4-8) that Paul actually told them that a different gift of the Spirit, one they could not demonstrate, they could not prove they had it, they could not feel it or perceive it, was in fact the actual guarantee of their salvation that would come one of these days by and by. The visible, palpable, demonstrable, undeniable miracles that were performed by them did not guarantee their salvation! Something unseen, unperceived, unfelt, non demonstrable guaranteed it. This is hardly a logical theology.

Of course, this position is self defeating. If salvation does not come until the parousia, then was salvation perfected and realized at the cross after all? It is self contradictory to say that salvation was finished at the cross, but that, salvation is not realized until the second coming. It has been, so far, 2000 years since the cross, and yet, salvation has not come yet! Does this position replace the cross with the parousia? If not, why not?

Wade’s failure, and
that of his amillennial brethren, to consider the critical role of the charismata as the earnest of the Spirit nullifies his objection.

But there is more, and we will notice that in the next installment. We will examine Wade’s abject failure to even write one word about Romans 11. But when we examine that text, you will understand why he ignored it.

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