The Changing Face of Kurt Simmons Eschatology
Part #5– More on Adoption and Redemption
This is part #5 in response to the recent radical changes in the theology of Kurt Simmons.
In the April, 2011 Sword and Plow email journal sent out by my friend Kurt Simmons, he says he has abandoned his views of the “redemption of the purchased possession” discussed in Ephesians 1:12-13. The reason I am addressing this unfortunate alteration in theology by my friend is because his change is not only unjustified and an abandonment of the truth, but, because his change has such profound implications for the proper understanding of eschatology.
Some of the issues that are raised in Kurt’s article are covered in the written debate that he and I had in 2010 on the passing of the Law of Moses. That debate is now available in book form entitled: The End of Torah: At The Cross or AD 70? It is available from this website. I highly recommend that you get a copy of that exchange and read it carefully. It will be helpful in dispelling Kurt’s new claims, and bring deeper understanding of the importance of the issues involved. It will also reveal that Kurt changed his positions several times, during the debate, and now, he has changed even more since that debate.
In the course of this review I will give the entirety of Kurt’s article, to avoid any charge of misrepresentation. In our written debate, I would often take note of things Kurt had said. He would respond claiming that he had never said anything resembling what I said. However, I would then produce the exact quotes, proving that he did in fact say what I claimed. So, so by producing his entire article below, and then my response to it, you will be able to see that I am not misrepresenting anything that has been said.
At the appropriate places below, I will interject my “Response,” with bold. At the resumption of Kurt’s comments, I will put “KS” to avoid any confusion.
KS – The probable source of Paul’s imagery in Ephesians is the book of Jeremiah. Under the law of Moses, the right of redemption – viz., the right to purchase and possess – a family member’s land fell to the near kinsman, who purchased the land under seal (some token of evidence). This very thing is shown in language remarkably similar to Eph. 1:13-14, when the prophet Jeremiah was in prison during the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar:
“And Jeremiah said, “The word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you, saying, “Buy my field which is in Anathoth, for the right of redemption is yours to buy it.”’ Then Hanamel my uncle’s son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the LORD, and said to me, ‘Please buy my field that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin; for the right of inheritance is yours, and the redemption yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of 12 the LORD. So I bought the field from Hanamel, the son of my uncle who was in Anathoth, and weighed out to him the money—seventeen shekels of silver. And I signed the deed and sealed it, took witnesses, and weighed the money on the scales. So I took the purchase deed, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open; and I gave the purchase deed to Baruch the son of !eriah, son of Mahseiah, in the presence of Hanamel my uncle’s son, and in the presence of the witnesses who signed the purchase deed, before all the Jews who sat in the court of the prison”(Jer. 32:6-12; emphasis added). This passage describes Jeremiah’s purchase (redemption) of his uncle’s land. The redemption was sealed in evidence of his purchase. God’s purpose in having Jeremiah buy the land served to assure his promise to restore the captivity to Palestine.
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Take these deeds, both this purchase deed which is sealed and this deed which is open, and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may last many days.” For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land”’ (Jer. 32:13, 14).
It is easy to see the analogy to our case. Our paternal inheritance in heaven has been purchased by our Kinsman Redeemer (Christ), with whom we are joint-heirs of eternal life. The transaction was paid in blood, and the evidence of the purchase has been sealed in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, by whom we cry “Abba, Father.” This yearning serves as the earnest of our heavenly inheritance until it comes into our actual possession.
Response: No, there really is no good reason to believe that the Jeremiad story lies behind Ephesians 1. While the idea of redemption is surely in Jeremiah, the pattern that undeniably does lie behind Ephesians 1, and attested by scholarship, is the Second Exodus motif.
I bring up “scholarship” because in our debate Kurt constantly challenged me to bring forth scholarly attestation for my views. If I did not do so, he claimed, then that would prove me wrong. However, when I did present scholarly attestation, he then either ignored it or scoffed at it! The fact is that when it comes to Ephesians 1, the scholarly consensus is that the Second Exodus motif is very much present. (Cf Word Biblical Commentary for instance, in. loc.). Perhaps I have overlooked it, but, I do not recall a commentary who claimed that Jeremiah lies behind Ephesians 1.
But before noting the Exodus Redemption motif, let me note how Kurt’s appeal to Jeremiah once again negates his argument.
He notes that the seal of the sale of the land was an evident, thus, visible, tangible seal and sign. But he wants us to believe that the sign, the seal, the confirmation and guarantee of the inheritance is an inner groaning of our spirit, that is not tangible, not visible, not provable, not demonstrable. And yet, he calls this “earnest” evidentiary.”
You must ask yourself the question: How would that kind of “evidence” hold up in a court of law? Would a judge or jury accept the “evidence” of inner groanings from an accused party (or whoever!)? Would that kind of “evidence” guarantee the identity of the Christians in the first century controversy with the Jews who were claiming the visible Temple, City, cultus as their “evidentiary” proof of son – ship? Would the Jews bow before the testimony of the Christians who would say, “Well, I have this inner groaning in my spirit that guarantees that I am the child of God!” Just how convincing, or “guaranteeing” would such a claim be? The Jews has Temple, Torah, Moses and 1500 years of history. Per Kurt, the Christians had their inner (ad hominem claims) groanings. Which “evidence” would be most compelling?
Kurt’s “analogy is not a good nor proper, analogy. But let’s look at the Exodus motif in Ephesians 1.
Notice that in Exodus you have the following motifs / elements:
The slaying of the Passover lamb to deliver the Israelites from death. This is the initial “redemption.”
Likewise, Paul refers to the blood of Jesus and the redemptive power in Ephesians 1:7.
But, in the Exodus, Israel’s deliverance was not yet completed at the death of the Passover.
They had to be delivered from captivity, and into the promised land.
In the Exodus story, Israel’s redemption then took the form of the destruction of the enslaving power, Egypt. In Israel’s history, the elements of both the Passover and the destruction of Egypt are all part of a unified complex of events. They were not disjunctive disjointed events. They did not consider their redemption completed the night of Passover.
God led them out of Egypt, giving them His Spirit and presence as the cloud and pillar of fire, to ensure their journey. This corresponds to the Earnest of the Spirit that ensured that the redemption purchased by t
he Passover would be perfected in their deliverance not only from Egypt, but into the promised land.
Their redemption was not completed until it included the destruction of the enslaving power. Notice that in Isaiah 43, YHVH alludes back to Israel’s redemption: “I gave Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in your place.” The destruction of Egypt was considered a critical element of the redemption! Likewise, in Isaiah 48 the Lord predicts Judah’s deliverance from Babylon at the time of Babylon’s destruction as the time of Israel’s redemption. Thus, once again, the destruction of the enslaving power comes to the fore in the thought world of “redemption.”
Just so, Old Covenant Judaism was the enslaving power in the first century– “The Jerusalem that now is, is in bondage with her children” (Galatians 4:21ff). She was “spiritually called Egypt” (Revelation 11:8), and through the power of Torah and the curse of Torah, held them in bondage. But, she was about to be destroyed. Torah was “nigh unto passing” (Hebrews 8:13). God had given the Spirit to seal, to confirm, and to guarantee the full arrival of the New Covenant, and the finalization of the redemptive process begun at the cross. This is why Paul could say that they had received redemption. He was speaking proleptically, in full light and consideration of the fact that the Spirit was guaranteeing what had been initiated. Thus, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the Day of the Lord” (Philippians 1:6).
Properly considered therefore, Paul’s discussion of redemption in Ephesians 1 gives no credence to the idea that redemption has nothing to do with forgiveness or justification. It has everything to do with it! (It likewise has nothing to do with the story in Jeremiah).So, let me summarize and conclude.
☛ Kurt says that he has abandoned the view that the church was the purchased possession. Yet, scripture explicitly calls the church the purchased possession. Thus, Kurt has abandoned the explicitly stated Biblical truth.
☛ Kurt claims that redemption has nothing to do with forgiveness. Yet, the text of Ephesians explicitly ties the two concepts together: “In whom we have redemption, even the forgiveness of our sin.” Thus, Kurt has abandoned the explicitly stated Biblical truth.
☛ Kurt has incorrectly redefined “the earnest of the Spirit” in a totally un-Biblical manner. On the one hand he says the earnest was / is “evidentiary, but then, he defines it in such a way as to deny its evidentiary nature. An inner groaning in our spirit is not proof (guarantee) of the truth of son -ship. The earnest of the Spirit, in scripture, was the evident, visible, undeniable, demonstrable work of the Spirit in the charismata, which was given to confirm the first century church until the end, the Day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:4-8). Thus, Kurt has abandoned the Biblical truth.
☛ Kurt’s strained exegesis (in truth, it is eisegesis), completely divorces Paul’s discourse and hope from the context of the fulfillment of God’s promises to Old Covenant Israel. You cannot say– properly, Biblically, truthfully– that what Paul was saying is speaking of the death of the individual and has nothing to do with the consummation of God’s promises to Israel. Let me explain, but first another note.
Kurt says the promise of the adoption remains unfulfilled today, or in a state of on-going personal, individualized, fulfillment.
The absolutely unavoidable, inescapable, logical conclusion is that God’s covenant with Israel remains valid and binding, and will remain eternally valid. It is not truly a New Covenant promise, for remember, Paul said the promise was given to Old Covenant Israel after the flesh.
Kurt however, radically redefines and alters what Paul said, and makes the promises to be, not promises to Israel fulfilled at the eschaton, but Christian promises divorced from Israel.
The promise of the adoption as sons was an Old Covenant promise made to Israel (to be fulfilled at the parousia).
But, the promise of the adoption as sons is not yet fulfilled, for we have the Spirit as the guarantee of the consummation of the adoption process (Romans 8:14-16).
Therefore, God’s Old Covenant promises made to Old Covenant Israel, remain valid today.
This demands that the parousia has not yet taken place, and Israel remains God’s chosen covenantal people.
Consider this as well. Kurt is putting the inheritance at the end of the person’s life. Paul, however, posits the time of the inheritance at the end of Torah and the consummation of Israel’s covenant history. See Galatians 3-4. Israel was kept under Torah, as children, and would remain under Torah until the time of the inheritance. They were kept under the Law, and would be under the Law, until the coming of Messiah. Thus, once again, Paul is discussing corporate realities, but Kurt individualizes the promises and cuts them off from Israel, while claiming that those Old Covenant promises nonetheless remain valid and binding today!
Kurt’s closing claim is that: “Ephesians 1:13-14 expressly states that our inheritance is the purchased possession of which the Spirit is the earnest and seal. Redemption from sin and justification is nowhere in the text.”
Response: My friend is simply wrong. The text says that it was the “purchased possession” that was awaiting the inheritance. Paul’s “we” and “our” is the righteous remnant of Israel in the body of Christ awaiting the consummation of their soteriological and eschatological promises.
To ignore Paul’s use of the personal pronouns is fatal to any attempt at proper exegesis of his writings. Paul says “we” were predestinated to the adoption of children. The promise of the adoption – and all of the tenets mentioned by Paul in Ephesians 1:3-10– were promises of the Old Covenant made to Israel “after the flesh (Romans 9:3ff). Lamentably, Simmons reads Paul’s pronouns as directly and specifically addressed to modern readers. This is patently misguided and invariably leads to a false reading of Paul’s eschatology and doctrine. Once again, Simmons is divorcing Paul’s eschatological promises from Israel and the Old Covenant promises.
The purchased possession and the inheritance were two different things. – “In whom we have redemption, even the forgiveness of our sins.” Redemption and forgiveness of sin is inextricably linked, and it is truly lamentable that friend Simmons is now in open denial of the explicit statements of the inspired text.
Let me close this with a summary of the self-contradictory position of Kurt’s new theology.
In our debate, he argued that salvation, redemption, justification and forgiveness was full and complete, fully possessed by the saints from the cross Pentecost onward.
He argued that access to the Most Holy Place was fully opened. (Yet, he argued that the dead saints could not enter the MHP until AD 70 and the resurrection. He totally ignored my repeated requests to explain how it was that Paul said the living and the dead would receive their reward at the same time, the parousia (Hebrews 11:39-40). Thus, if the dead could not enter the MHP until AD 70, then the living could not enter the MHP until then. That demands that Torah remained valid and binding, serving as a barrier between man and God until that time, Hebrews 9:6-10).
Notice now where Kurt’s theology has led him:
We are fully, completely saved.
We are completely redeemed.
We are completely justified.
We are completely forgiven
Yet, we cannot now be fully the sons of God. We have the Spirit as the guarantee of sonship, of the adoption. If the Spirit is the guarantee of the consummation of the adoption– as it clearly is in Romans and Galatians– then the adoption process has not been consummated.
We have the Spirit as the guarantee of receiving “the inheritance” when we die. Thus, we do n
ot yet have the inheritance. (Of course, once again, this demands that Israel’s soteriological hope and her prophecies remain unfulfilled).
Kurt says the church was betrothed to Christ from Pentecost until AD 70– and did not “dwell” with the husband until the wedding. (If the church was “merely” betrothed to Christ in the first century, and she did not dwell with her husband, then how in the name of reason was the Most Holy Place of the husband’s dwelling place fully open to the bride as Kurt argued in our debate?)
Kurt says that we do not yet possess eternal life, and do not possess it until we die.
It is surely a strange doctrine that says that we are fully saved, fully redeemed and forgiven, and yet, we do not possess eternal life, and we are not yet sons of God, we do not yet possess the inheritance.
Is that truly a fulfilled (preterist) eschatology and soteriology? Very clearly, it is not. And worst of all, it is not Biblical eschatology.