A Look At Ronnie Wade’s Rejection of Covenant Eschatology
A Generic Objection: Romans 11:25-27– The Redeemer Shall Come Out of Zion
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: I want the reader to take note that Wade simply cited King’s appeal to Romans 11 but Wade did not offer one syllable of exegesis of Romans 11 to demonstrate why the preterist paradigm is wrong. The reason is very simple: Amillennialists such as Wade do not know what to make of Romans 11. I know, I was once in Wade’s shoes, and Romans 11 was perplexing, baffling and challenging to me. I had no clue how to deal with it. Let me offer some thoughts on this wonderful text.
First of all, it must be kept in mind that Paul is speaking of the hope of Israel. This violates Wade’s entire paradigm, for as we have noted before, Wade believes that God was through with Israel and Torah at the cross. But, how could God have removed Israel and Torah at the cross, if he was still anticipating the fulfillment of God’s covenantal promises to Israel in Romans 11? And that Paul was anticipating the future fulfillment of Old Covenant promises made to Israel is simply indisputable. This is an insurmountable conundrum for Wade and his amillennial brethren. Let’s look at the OT prophecies that Paul cites.
Let me interject this thought: Sometimes, in fact, very often, amillennialists like Wade redefine “Israel” in verse 26: “all Israel will be saved,” and define it as the church throughout the Christian age. This is indefensible. This means that Paul radically redefined the word Israel in virtually the same sentence: “Blindness in part has happened unto Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles is come in, and so, all Israel shall be saved.” The same “Israel” that was blinded when Paul wrote is the “Israel” that was to be saved at the coming of the Lord. It was Old Covenant Israel that was blinded, it was Old Covenant Israel that was to be saved at the consummation of her salvation history. It is illogical and bad hermeneutic to radically alter the definition of the same word, in the same sentence. Only presuppositional hermeneutics can justify such actions.
When Paul spoke of the coming of the Lord for salvation to take away Israel’s sin, he cites three OT prophecies: Isaiah 27:9f, Isaiah 59:20f and Jeremiah 31:29f. (Daniel 9:24f also clearly lies behind Romans 11 but we cannot examine it here). I will focus on the two prophecies from Isaiah.
The time of Israel’s salvation, according to Isaiah 27:9f would be when YHVH took away her sin, in the day that the altar was turned to chalkstone, God would forget the people He had created, and have no mercy on them. When we note the antecedent references to “in that day” they take us back to chapter 26:20. This would be when YHVH would come and avenge the blood of the martyrs.
With this in mind, consider the following argument:
The coming of the Lord to take away Israel’s sin would be the coming of the Lord foretold in Isaiah 27:9f.
The coming of the Lord in Isaiah 27:9f would be the coming of the Lord in judgment of Israel for shedding innocent blood (Isaiah 26:20f).
Therefore, the coming of the Lord of Romans 11:26 would be the coming of the Lord in judgment of Israel for shedding innocent blood.
Let me note at this time that some try to say the coming of the Lord in Romans 11:26 is Christ’s incarnation. This is somewhat common among amillennialists, and in my debate with Kurt Simmons he took this position as well. However, this is untenable. The incarnation is not in view in Isaiah 27. The time of Israel’s judgment for shedding innocent blood is the focus. To insert the incarnation as the central focus of the prophecy is eisegesis of the worst sort. See my response and refutation of Simmon’s argument in the book our debate: The End of Torah At the Cross or AD 70.
There is not one word in Isaiah 27 about the Cross. You cannot turn a passage that predicted judgment of corporate Israel into a prophecy of the incarnation without textual support, and the incarnation is not in Isaiah 26:20-27:13. It is just not there.
Jesus’ first coming, including the cross, was not a judgment coming. Jesus said: “And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world” (John 12:47, my emphasis). Furthermore, his first coming was as the Suffering Servant, and “a bruised reed shall he not break” (Isaiah 42:3-6)–not as Judge and Avenger
Furthermore, note another problem for Wade’s paradigm. The coming of the Lord in Isaiah 26:20f / 27:9f is the time of the resurrection (Isaiah 26:19). So, here is my argument:
The coming of the Lord of Romans 11:26 is the coming of the Lord of Isaiah 26-27.
The coming of the Lord of Isaiah 26-27 is the coming of the Lord at the time of the resurrection (Isaiah 26:19-21).
The time of the resurrection at the coming of the Lord was in AD 70.
Therefore, the coming of the Lord in Romans 11:26f was the AD 70 coming of the Lord.
Why is this problematic for Wade? It is troublesome because Wade, remember, sees no relationship between God’s OT promises and the eschatological consummation. Yet, in Romans 11 Paul was anticipating the salvation of Israel by citing prophecies of the eschatological consummation / resurrection! Paul’s hope of the resurrection was the OT promise of the resurrection given to Israel “after the flesh” (Romans 8:23-9:1-4). There is no room for this in the amillennialism of Ronnie Wade and the churches of Christ, however. Wade has no room for Israel in his eschatology!This means that Wade is at odds with Paul and inspiration.
(Lamentably, Kurt Simmons has a similar problem. He insists that salvation was completed at the cross. Yet, salvation is resurrection, and that salvation belonged to Israel first (Isaiah 25:8-10), then to the nations. In an insurmountable self contradiction, Simmons said the resurrection did not occur until AD 70. He said that AD 70– the time of the resurrection – was “soteriologically irrelevant.” This means that resurrection is “soteriologically irrelevant.” It also means that Israel’s salvation (and thus, that for mankind) was completed before the resurrection. This is unscriptural. See the debate book for more on this).
The same problem confronts Wade in Isaiah 59.
The prophecy of Isaiah 59 breaks itself down very naturally into three headings:
Accusation – YHVH accused Israel of shedding innocent blood, of violence and unrighteousness (v. 1-8).
Acknowledgment – Israel admitted her guilt, but, it is clear that there is no true repentance in the text (v. 9-15).
Action – The Lord saw Israel in her sinful condition and, “His own arm brought salvation for Him; and His own righteousness, it sustained Him for He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance for His clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, Fury to His adversaries, Recompense to His enemies…”
So, just like Isaiah 27, this chapter is concerned with the coming of the Lord in judgment of Israel for her guilt in shedding innocent blood. Three times this sin is mentioned (v. 3, 6-7)! There is not a word about the Cross.
Notice that the Intercessor puts on the garments of a Warrior. He would clothe himself with the garments of vengeance to recompense his enemies. This is the promise of the coming of the Lord from Zion in verse 20: “The Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob” Verse 20 is not a different coming from that in verses 16-19. It is one and the same coming, and again, it is the coming of Christ in judgment of Israel for shedding innocent blood.
So, here is the argument:
The coming of the Lord for the salvation of Israel in Romans 11:26-27 is the coming of the Lord predicted in Isaiah 59.
But, the coming of the Lord predicted in Isaiah 59 is the coming of the Lord in judgment of Israel for shedding innocent blood.
Therefore, the coming of the Lord in Romans 11:26-27 is the coming of the Lord in judgment of Israel for shedding innocent blood.
So, Romans 11 is dealing with God’s Old Covenant promises made to Old Covenant Israel, and Paul was anticipating the yet future to him fulfillment of those promises. He was not speaking of Christ’s incarnation. Wade’s amillennialism has no place for these truths.
The prophecies that Paul cites, Isaiah 27 and 59 predicted the salvation of Israel at the same time she was judged for shedding innocent blood. This is not the incarnation. Ronnie Wade’s amillennialism has no place for these truths in his eschatology.
Jesus said that all of the blood of all the martyrs, all the way back to creation, would be judged and avenged in his generation, in the judgment of Old Covenant Jerusalem. Ronnie Wade’s amillennialism gives lip service– sometimes – to this truth, but never “connects the dots” to the story of eschatology.
Thus, Romans 11:26-27 is fully supportive of Covenant Eschatology. It is little wonder that Wade made not attempt to actually deal with the text. It falsifies the amillennialism of Ronnie Wade and his objection to the true preterist eschatology.
More to come.
A final thought: See my book Who Is This Babylon? for a discussion of the “fullness of the Gentiles.” Paul said Israel’s blindness and her salvation was tied to the coming in of the fullness of the Gentiles. Paul tells us emphatically that it was his personal ministry to bring in the fullness of the Gentiles in. Since the salvation of “all Israel” is tied to the “fullness of the Gentiles” this demands that the salvation of Israel is likewise tied to the completion of Paul’s personal ministry. This falsifies the claim that the coming of the Lord in Romans 11 was the incarnation. The salvation of Israel is tied to a future event– the completion of Paul’s personal ministry. But, Christ’s coming was likewise tied to the completion of Paul’s personal ministry. Paul’s fundamental role in the eschatological scheme is thus established– but is overlooked and ignored by those who see Paul speaking of Jesus’ incarnation, and the on-going conversion of people in the Chrisitan age.