Olan Hicks is a long time minister in the churches of Christ. I have known him for many years as well. Olan and I have “cross swords” from time to time over the issue of eschatology.
Just recently, on the Focus on Truth discussion forum, a debate was proposed between sopmeone, who turned out to be Olan, and a preterist, which turned out to be me.
Below is the first installment of a formal written debate between the amillennial view the churches of Christ and the preterist paradigm. I think our visitors will benefit from this exchange. Below is my firs affimative presentation.
Olan Hicks – V – Don K. Preston
Formal Written Debate
Published Initially on the Focus On Truth Website
First Affirmative Presentation by Don K. Preston
Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second or Final coming of Christ, the judgment and resurrection occurred at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.
I appreciate this opportunity to share the truth, based on clear Biblical testimony, that the Second Coming of Christ (hereafter parousia) and the resurrection to overcome the death introduced by Adam, took place at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Let me define my proposition.
The Bible: This is self explanatory.
Teaches: Imparts the information, evidence and knowledge.
That the Second Coming, resurrection and judgment, i.e. the coming of Christ associated with the end of the age, his appearing for salvation, when the death introduced by Adam would be overcome, and the Great Assize take place.
Occurred: Took place, fulfilling all prophecy.
My first point: All New Testament eschatology is the reiteration of, and the expectation of, the fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises, made to Old Covenant Israel after the flesh. There are no “new” eschatological prophecies apart from, or divorced from, the promises made to Old Covenant Israel after the flesh.
Acts 24:14-15: “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.”
Acts 26:21f: “Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come–– that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”
Romans 8:23-9:4: “Not only that, but we also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body… I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises.”
Paul said his hope of the “redemption of the body,” the adoption, pertained to his countrymen “according to the flesh.” That is, the resurrection promises were given to, and belonged to Old Covenant Israel.
Now, if Paul said that his eschatology, was nothing but what Moses and the prophets said, then this means that when we read 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Thessalonians 4, etc. we are reading Paul’s take on Israel’s eschatological hope. Likewise, Peter’s hope of the parousia was from those same prophecies (Acts 3:19f’; 2 Peter 3:1-2). When we read Revelation, or Acts, or Galatians, etc. we are reading about God’s covenant promises to OC Israel.
The New Testament writers not only proclaimed that their eschatological hope was the hope of Israel, but they never say that the fulfilment of God’s promises to Israel had been postponed, or transferred to the church. They never say, as Olan Hicks believes, that God’s covenant with Israel was terminated at the cross. They affirm instead that the salvation of Israel– which, is nothing less than the resurrection– would take place at the coming of the Lord in fulfillment of His Old Covenant promises to Israel (Romans 11:25-27). Now, if Israel’s salvation is tied to the coming of the Lord, in fulfillment of God’s covenant promises, then Israel’s covenant with YHVH would (or will) remain valid until the parousia. This leads to my next point.
Point #2– Matthew 5:17-18– “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”
The words are unambiguous: Not one iota of Torah would pass until every iota was fulfilled. Olan claims that Torah passed at the cross. This is patently false: Not every iota of Torah was accomplished at the cross. Here is why: Torah foreshadowed and foretold the Second Coming of Christ and the resurrection. Let me frame my argument simply:
Not one iota of Torah would pass, until every iota was fully accomplished- Jesus.
But, Torah foreshadowed and foretold the resurrection and parousia (Isaiah 25 / 62/ Daniel 12, etc.)
Therefore, not one iota of Torah could pass until the full accomplishment of the resurrection and parousia.
(See my book From Torah to Telos, for an in-depth discussion of Matthew 5. Available on my websites).
Point #3- Torah foretold the parousia and resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:54-56 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”
Paul is quoting Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14. Torah undeniably foretold the resurrection.
I want to focus now on a topic inextricably bound to the resurrection– the vindication of the blood of the martyrs.
I will develop this theme from Israel’s promises, beginning with Deuteronomy 32 and then some major OT texts, proceeding then to the NT application of those promises. In sum, here is my premise: The promise of the end of the millennium resurrection (EoM) is inseparably tied to the vindication of the martyrs. Thus, to identify the time of the vindication of the martyrs is to identify the time of the EoM resurrection. And without any doubt, the time of the vindication of the martyrs was in AD 70. I will establish this by examining some key OT prophecies of the last days, the Day of the Lord, the resurrection and the vindication of the martyrs.
Deuteronomy 32– The Song of Moses
Note the relevant points:
The Song is concerned with Israel and her last days:
1.) The Song foretold a time long after Moses’ death (31:29) “many generations” later (32:7) when a “perverse and crooked generation” would arise. That generation would become “utterly corrupt” i.e. they would fill up the measure of their sin (31:29—> cf. Matthew 23:29f).
2.) The Song predicted the time of Israel’s “end” when, because of Israel’s provocation, YHVH would call the Gentiles to Him in hopes of provoking Israel to jealousy (v. 19-21).
3.) In Israel’s “last end” (v. 29) Israel would become like Sodom (v. 32).
4.) The Lord declares that when that “perverse generation” came, in her “latter end” their judgment would be imminent, “a fire is kindled in my anger, and shall burn to the lowest “sheol” and set on fire the foundations of the mountains” (v. 22).
5.) The Lord would hide His face from Israel in her last days (v. 20).
6.) The Lord’s vengeance would come in those last days “Vengeance is mine, and recompense” …”the Lord shall judge His people” (v. 36). Paul applies these verses to his day, and Israel’s impending judgment for persecuting the church (Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30f).
7.) In Israel’s last days, “He will avenge the blood of His saints, and render vengeance to His adversaries; He will provide atonement for His land and for His people” (v. 43).
So, the Song foretold Israel’s last days– not the end of the church age. YHVH would turn His back on the nation for her corruption- she would become like Sodom. He would call the Gentiles, and come in vengeance against His recalcitrant people, avenging the blood of the martyrs. Note the following:
1.) Jesus appeared in the last days foretold by the OT prophets (Heb. 1:1).
2.) The NT writers said their generation was the crooked and perverse generation (Acts 2:40; Philippians 2:15).
3.) Paul applies the Song to his Gentile ministry (Romans 10:19: 11:11).
4.) Paul applies the Song to his day, promising imminent vindication for the saints suffering at the hands of Israel (Romans 12:19). Hebrews 10:30f, quoting the Song, promised vindication of the martyrs– at the parousia– that was coming “in a very, very little while” (hosan, hosan micron- 10:37).
5.) John cites Deuteronomy 32:43 to the judgment of Babylon: “True and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her” (19:2).
6.) That city guilty of shedding innocent blood was, “where the Lord was slain”, the city that was “spiritually called Sodom” (11:8)– fulfilling Deuteronomy 32:32.
Consider two facts:
Fact: The designation of Babylon as the “harlot” is definitive proof that this was Old Covenant Jerusalem. In Scripture, a harlot was not simply an immoral woman. She was a wife that had become unfaithful (cf. Hosea 2:5; 3:3; 4:15). This consistent Scriptural definition, means that “Babylon,” the harlot, was a wife that had become unfaithful. Only Jerusalem was ever married to YHVH and committed the heinous crimes listed in Revelation! This excludes Rome, or the RCC. (A new book fully establishes this definition of “harlot.” Stephen Temple, Who Was the Mother of Harlots, Full of the Blood of the Saints? Available on my websites).
Fact: Jerusalem is the only city that Scripture spiritually designated as Sodom (cf. Isaiah 1:15f).
The Song of Moses definitively posits the vindication of the martyrs for Israel’s last days, when YHVH would finally turn His back on her and cast her out of his presence. The NT writers applied the Song to the first century generation, Israel as the persecutor, and said judgment was near.
Apply Matthew 5:17-18 here:
Not one iota of the Law of Moses (“the law”) would pass until it was all fully accomplished- Jesus.
Deuteronomy 32 is part of the Law of Moses (“the law).
Therefore, not one iota of the Deuteronomy 32 would pass until it was all fully accomplished.
But, Deuteronomy 32 foretold the avenging of the blood of the martyrs in Israel’s last days.
Therefore, not one iota of the Law of Moses would pass until the avenging of the blood of the martyrs.
It is incontrovertibly true that the avenging of the martyrs did not take place until the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. It did not take place at the cross.
Isaiah 2-4 is a united prophecy, tied together with the term “in that day.” Notice the constituent elements:
It is set in the last days (2:2-4).
It climaxes in the Day of the Lord (2:9-10; 19-21).
It would be a time of famine (3:1).
It would be when YHVH would judge Israel, and the men of Israel would fall by the edge of the sword in “the war” (3:18-25).
This would be at the glorious appearing of the righteous Branch of YHVH (4:1-2).
It would be when the remnant, those written in the book, would be saved (4:4).
It would be when “the blood guilt of Jerusalem” would be purged, “by the spirit of judgment and fire” (4:4).
So, Isaiah 2-4 foretold the last days Day of the Lord, when He would come against Jerusalem for her blood guilt.
Note that in 2:9f; 2:19f this Day of the Lord would be when men would flee to the mountains and cry to the rocks “fall on us!” Needless to say, this cannot be a time ending, earth burning event that is over “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” if men have the time to flee to the mountains!
Isaiah 2-4 foretold the coming of the Lord in vindication of the martyrs and judgment of the persecutors. Isaiah 2-4 emphatically posit Jerusalem as the one guilty of that blood. The Lord’s last days parousia was to be the time of her judgment.
Here is my argument:
The last days parousia in Isaiah 2-4 is for the vindication of the martyrs and judgment of the persecutors.
The coming of the Lord in Isaiah 2-4 is at the judgment of Jerusalem.
Therefore, the last days parousia, for the vindication of the martyrs and judgment of the persecutors, would be at the coming of the Lord in judgment of Jerusalem.
I will come back to Isaiah 2-4 momentarily. For now, notice Isaiah 26:19-21:
“Your dead shall live; Together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; For your dew is like the dew of herbs, And the earth shall cast out the dead. …For behold, the LORD comes out of His place To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; The earth will also disclose her blood, And will no more cover her slain.”
Notice the constituent elements:
The resurrection “out of the dust.”
The coming of the Lord out of His place.
The vindication of the blood of the martyrs.
Note that “in that day” the Lord would destroy “Leviathan” i.e. the Devil (Isaiah 27:1-2).
This is the resurrection of Isaiah 25:8– the end of the millennium resurrection (hereafter EoM) of 1 Corinthians 15 and Revelation 20. Isaiah 25:8 and 26:19 are not different resurrections. So, the vindication of the martyrs takes place at the coming of the Lord / resurrection. Since the resurrection of 26:19 is at the coming of the Lord in vindication of the martyrs, then Isaiah 25:8 is as well. And that means that 1 Corinthians 15 is likewise inextricably tied to that same motif.
This agrees with Isaiah 2-4 that foretold the last days Day of the Lord in vindication of the martyrs.
Notice how Isaiah 2-4 / 26 are utilized in Revelation 6 / 20.
In Revelation 6 the martyrs must wait for “a little while” until the number of the martyrs is filled up (Revelation 6:9-11). After that “little while” we have the Day of the Lord, in fulfillment of Isaiah 2:19f, (And Malachi 3-4! More on this later) when men would run to the hills. It is the same as Isaiah 26:20, the coming of the Lord when heaven and earth is removed at the Lord’s coming to avenge the martyrs.
John quotes Isaiah 2:19f (parallel Hosea 10:8) in his prediction of the vindication of the martyrs– and fulfillment is posited as objectively near.
Note that the millennium begins with the “enthronement” of the martyrs (20:1-4) the equivalent of the royal robes in Revelation 6:9f. At the end of the millennium, Satan, the persecutor of the saints (Revelation 12) is destroyed– just as Isaiah 27:1 foretold.
So, Isaiah 2-4 / 25-26 foretold the last days Day of the Lord to avenge the martyrs. It would be in judgment of Jerusalem for shedding that blood. And in Revelation 6, John quotes from Isaiah’s prophecy to promise the avenging of the martyr’s blood in “a little while.”
Notice again that Isaiah 26:19f is the time of the destruction of Leviathan, i.e. the Old Serpent, the Devil (Isaiah 27:1-2). It is emphatically posited “in that day” the time of:
A.) The salvation of Israel (the remnant, 27:9f). Note: the salvation of Israel is the EoM resurrection of Isaiah 25:6-9.
B.) The destruction of Israel: “Therefore by this the iniquity of Jacob will be covered; And this is all the fruit of taking away his sin: When he makes all the stones of the altar like chalkstones that are beaten to dust…. the fortified city will be desolate, The habitation forsaken and left like a wilderness;… For it is a people of no understanding; Therefore He who made them will not have mercy on them, And He who formed them will show them no favor” (27:9f).
A note here: The judgment of Israel and the salvation of Israel always go hand in hand. The remnant would be saved, the unrighteous judged. These are synchronous.
So, in Isaiah 25-27– one of the foundational sources of Paul’s EoM resurrection doctrine– we have the promise of the vindication of the martyrs, at the Day of the Lord, when Satan would be destroyed. And all of this is undeniably posited at the time when the Temple, altar and City would be destroyed, when YHVH would no longer have mercy on the people He had created– in full agreement with the Song.
Isaiah foretold the vindication of the martyrs at the Day of the Lord, when Satan would be destroyed. Likewise, in Revelation, Satan, the persecutor, is destroyed at the end of the millennium (20:10f). Revelation repeatedly says that fulfillment was “at hand,” “must shortly come to pass” because, “the time is at hand.” At hand does not mean 2000 years, and, “must shortly come to pass” does not mean “rapidly regardless of when.” That does violence to the language.
Notice what Paul has to say about the destruction of Satan, as foretold by Isaiah: “The God of peace shall crush Satan under your feet shortly” (Romans 16:20). The Greek term en tachei that Paul uses, never indicates rapidity of action as opposed to imminence. Never. Thus, Paul was undeniably affirming the objective nearness of the EoM resurrection, when Leviathan would be destroyed, in fulfillment of God’s OT promises made to Old Testament Israel after the flesh.
Isaiah 59 continues the prophecies of the parousia in vindication of the martyrs and judgment of the persecutors- when Israel would be judged and destroyed.
Isaiah 59 breaks itself down into three easy headings:
Accusation: Three times the Lord accuses Israel of being guilty of shedding innocent blood (v. 3-7).
Acknowledgment: Israel confesses that her sin reaches to heaven, but, there is no repentance (v.10-16).
Action: As a result of Israel’s internecine ways, the Lord would act in judgment: (16-21)
“He saw that there was no man, And wondered that there was no intercessor; Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him;…For He put on righteousness as a breastplate… He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing.. According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, Fury to His adversaries, Recompense to His enemies; The coast lands He will fully repay. So shall they fear The name of the LORD from the west, And His glory from the rising of the sun; When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him. The Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,” Says the LORD. “As for Me,” says the LORD, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, …
So, just like in Isaiah 2-4 and 25-27, the Lord accused Israel of blood-guilt, and promised to come in judgment against her. It would be the time of the salvation of the righteous remnant, but, the judgment of those guilty of shedding innocent blood. Notice something critical:
Remember, that Paul’s eschatology was nothing but the hope of Israel, found in the prophets. And, when Paul predicted the salvation of Israel at the parousia– in Romans 11:25-27– his prophetic source was Isaiah 27 and 59. And he emphatically says that salvation would be in fulfillment of God’s covenant with Israel!
Now if, as Olan believes, God’s covenant with Israel was fulfilled and terminated at the cross, then Isaiah 27 / 59 had to have been fulfilled at the cross. This is patently false. Isaiah 27 / 59 promised the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Israel at His coming in judgment of Israel for shedding innocent blood.
The cross was part of the reason for the Lord’s coming in judgment against Israel for killing him (Luke 23:28-31). But, the cross was not the Lord’s coming in judgment and the destruction of the altar and the city, that 27 Isaiah foretold.
In Romans 11, Paul was anticipating the fulfillment of Isaiah 27 / 59.
Isaiah 27 / 59 foretold the Day of the Lord in judgment and destruction of Old Covenant Israel for shedding innocent blood, in fulfillment of God’s covenant with Israel. This means that we cannot apply the coming of the Lord in Romans 11– in fulfillment of Isaiah 27 / 59– to Jesus’ incarnation or the entirety of the Christian age.
Romans 11 anticipated the fulfillment of Isaiah 27 / 59 at the coming of the Lord.
Isaiah 27 / 59 foretold the coming of the Lord in judgment of Israel for shedding innocent blood.
Thus, Romans 11 anticipated the coming of the Lord in judgment of Israel for shedding innocent blood.
Let’s turn to Jesus for the definitive answer on when this was to be.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt…O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! … See! Your house is left to you desolate.”
Note that Jesus blames Jerusalem– and no one else– for shedding all the blood shed on the earth.
Jesus said that all of the blood, of all the martyrs all the way back to Creation would be avenged.
This powerfully refutes the idea that the fall of Jerusalem was a “localized” judgment!
Jesus said that Israel would fill the measure of her sin– which included the guilt of killing the OT prophets– by killing his apostles and prophets. (In Luke 13:31f, Jesus said, “it is not possible that a prophet perish outside of Jerusalem.”)
He said judgment on Jerusalem, when her cup of sin was full, would be in his generation.
This is unambiguous and irrefutable. All of the blood of all the righteous, shed on the earth, was to be avenged in the AD 70 judgment of Old Covenant Jerusalem.
In Matthew– Per Jesus, Jerusalem had killed the prophets. She would kill him, and then, his apostles and prophets. In so doing, she would fill the measure of her sin, and be judged in his generation.
Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, said that OC Jerusalem had killed the prophets and Jesus. She was now killing the apostles and prophets, filling the measure of her sin. Judgment was at hand.
In Revelation, “Babylon,” had killed the prophets (16:6). It is where the Lord was slain (11:8). She was guilty of killing the apostles and prophets of Jesus (18:20-24). In fact, in her was found all the blood shed on the earth– a direct reference back to Matthew 23! Her cup of sin (the blood of the saints) was now full (17:6f) and judgment was at hand.
Remember, the vindication of the martyrs is inextricably bound with the EoM resurrection (Isaiah 25-27 / Revelation 20). In Matthew 23, our Lord stated in irrefutable words, that all of the blood of all the righteous, shed on the earth, all the way back to Creation, was to be avenged in the judgment of Jerusalem, in his generation.
Here then is my argument:
The avenging of the blood of the martyrs would occur at the Parousia of Christ and the EoM resurrection (Isaiah 25-27 / Revelation 20).
But, the avenging of the blood of the martyrs occurred at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Therefore, the Parousia of Christ and the EoM resurrection occurred at the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Let me tie all of this together in application to 1 Corinthians 15 and Revelation 20.
The resurrection of 1 Corinthians 15 is the EoM resurrection of Revelation 20.
The resurrection of 1 Corinthians 15 would be in fulfillment of Isaiah 25-27.
Isaiah 25-27 posited the resurrection at the time of the coming of the Lord to avenge the blood of the martyrs.
Jesus said that all of the blood, of all the martyrs, all the way back to Creation, would be avenged in the AD 70 judgment of Jerusalem.
Therefore, the coming of the Lord at the EoM resurrection of 1 Corinthians 15 / Revelation 20 occurred in the AD 70 judgment of Jerusalem.
There are limited ways for Olan to falsify this presentation:
1.) Show that the OT promises of martyr vindication are not related to the resurrection. But Isaiah 25-27 – (and Revelation 20)- tie these things together. The OT promised that vindication for the last days, (Israel’s last days, Deut. 32) at the parousia and resurrection.
2.) As a corollary, show that the OT promises of the resurrection and vindication of the martyrs are not the same as the promise in Matthew 23, Corinthians or Revelation. This cannot be done. Paul was undeniably anticipating the fulfillment of Isaiah. Likewise, John was anticipating the fulfillment of the OT promises of that vindication, i.e. Deuteronomy 32 / Isaiah 2-4 / 26-27 / 59, as we have proven.
3.) Prove that the martyrs of Revelation 6 / 12 / 19-20 are a different body of martyrs from those in Matthew 23 or Deuteronomy or Isaiah. This cannot be done. Revelation is about the vindication of the very same martyrs Jesus mentioned in Matthew 23.
It will not do for Olan to say he did not see Jesus come back, or that the grave yards are still full, etc.. Such ad hominem arguments are not exegetical. They are based on faulty assumptions and false presuppositions about the nature of the resurrection.
I have given a harmonious, contextual, exegetical presentation with emphatic and specific statements of inspiration, that are not presuppositional.
Jesus said that all of the blood, of all the righteous, shed on the earth, all the way back to Creation, would be avenged in his generation. That vindication would take place at the AD 70 fall of Jerusalem. That judgment was to occur at the parousia and EoM resurrection.
If it did not take place, Jesus’ words failed.
Jesus did not fail. He came, just as he promised.
A closing question for Olan: What people dwelt in the presence of God, but, would be cast out of His presence for persecuting the saints?
This is a very important question, and we will eagerly await Olan’s answer.