Hicks -V- Preston Debate on the Coming of the Lord – Hicks’ 3rd Negative

Olan Hicks –Third negative
Too often in a debate the all consuming objective is to win the debate regardless of tactics necessary to do it. But the subject we are discussing is much more important than winning or losing a dispute. We are primarily concerned with the destiny of souls and with pleasing God. We want to go the right way and to point others to the right way. I want to do much more than prevail over an opponent in discussion. I want to make the matter so clear and understandable that truth seekers are helped. I think more maturity would be helpful toward that end.

Strange as it may seem, we need at this point to introduce Don to what our subject of discussion is. Our propositions begin with “The Bible teaches.” Instead of debating that he wants to debate some interpretations of Bible prophecies beyond what they actually say. If I did that it would be a man’s theory against another man’s theory. When he says I did not refute his arguments that is the arguments he is talking about. I offer you now an actual historical occurrence that will make very clear why I will not get involved in that kind of pointless theorizing.

A happening that illustrates what our disagreement is about:
The William Miller home near Low Hampton, New York is now a historic site, a museum. Of what kind? It stands as a monument to “the great disappointment.” What disappointment? In 1844 Miller and thousands of his followers had calculated from interpretation of prophecies, mainly those of Daniel, that the date of Christ’s second coming would be October 22 that year. So certain were they of their calculations that many of them had disposed of their earthly goods and prepared to go with the Lord. They waited and watched for Him all day. One report says, “The sun rose on October 23 like any other day and October 22 became their great disappointment.”

This demonstrates what is wrong with theories based on prophecy interpretation. Don and his associates are using the same procedure the Millerites used to “interpret” Bible prophecies and calculate that October 22, 1844 would be the day of Christ’s return. They were very sure, just as Don is, but very wrong. That day was for them a terrible disappointment. One of them, Henry Emmons, later wrote this: “I waited all Tuesday [October 22] and dear Jesus did not come;” “I waited all the forenoon of Wednesday, and was well in body as I ever was, but after 12 o’clock I began to feel faint, and before dark I needed someone to help me up to my chamber, as my natural strength was leaving me very fast, and I lay prostrate for 2 days without any pain, sick with disappointment.”

The date setting fad did not end there. A few years later Charles T. Russell, fascinated with interpreting these prophetic “clues,” calculated that the return of Jesus would occur in 1874. When 1874 came and went and Jesus did not appear Russell said he had miscalculated and that Jesus would actually return in 1914. When 1914 also came and went Russell then said that Jesus did come but it was “an invisible return, in spirit,” like the AD70 people are saying now. That is their “escape” from an obvious reality. Despite the failures, around the same time, Ellen G. White took up the “advent” (second coming) idea and the Seventh Day Adventist Church began.

The problem? It cannot be done. All date setters through the years have run into the same unchangeable truth. Jesus said that date is not knowable. When the Lord said that “Heaven and earth will pass away” He said “but of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven but my Father only.” (Matthew 24:35-36) He would not have said that if prophetic clues were given in the Bible which men could interpret and thereby could know it. It is a fact, no one can gather clues from prophecies and correctly calculate the time when that day is to be. It is as Moses wrote, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God. But the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children, that we may know all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29) We would be well advised to concentrate our efforts on knowing what is clearly revealed that we might thereby know the will of God. The Bible warns that “in the latter times many will turn away from the truth and be turned to fables.” (2 Tim. 4:1-4)

My primary argument from the first, which Don does not understand, has been that he is following a procedure that has turned out to be wrong every time it was used. Like Miller and his followers he thinks that Bible prophecies contain clues that he can string together and fix the time of Jesus’ second coming, which he says is AD70. He puts those “clues” together in a fantasy thousands of words long, and insists that every sane person will accept his basis of argument, prophetic interpretation, and his conclusions. He wants me to debate that premise.

I reject that entire line of thought and instead rely on what the inspired writers of scripture expressly said. Yes, God gave us the words of the prophets and they are relevant. But information about God beyond what they said, based on uninspired human speculation, does not belong to us, especially that which Jesus said is not knowable.

Don said I did not answer his arguments but then he said that my answers were “wrong” and antiscriptural. Well, how could he have them to say that about if I didn’t give them? The fact is the opposite is true. He is not answering my arguments. He gave arguments and I answered those arguments with counter arguments. He is not dealing with the counter arguments. For instance he argued that the symbolic “coming” in vengeance on Jerusalem was what the Bible calls the “second coming.” I gave the counter argument that when you talk about symbolic comings there were several of those, not just one. But of physical comings, there was one. He came in person once. What did Don say about that? Nothing. Another example: He argued that the avenging of the blood of the martyrs would occur at His return. I gave the counter argument that there have been many instances when God avenged the blood of His people on those who had attacked them. What did Don say about that? Nothing.

In all the argumentation Don offers he is not proving what his proposition says, which is that the Bible teaches that “the Second Coming, resurrection and judgment, occurred in the fall of Jerusalem in AD70.” That is what his proposition says, but it is not what the scriptures he cited say. He claims to have given explicit Bible statements that say this. He has not given a single one. What he has given are theoretical “clues.” The scriptures he quotes consist of prophecies about avenging the “blood of the martyrs,” (not our issue) about vengeance on Jerusalem, (not our issue) about some being raised from the dead, (not our issue) etc. Those scriptures do not say what his proposition says, that “the second coming, the resurrection, and the judgment” would occur in AD70,

Yes, I answered his arguments. But I answered them with Bible statements, showing that Don’s theory contradicts explicit Bible statements. The fact is I can answer them all in one sentence, The scriptures he offers do not say what he is supposed to be proving. I could quote Isaiah 59 and say “It doesn’t say it.” I could quote Isaiah 2 and say, “It doesn’t say it.” I could quote Daniel 12 and say, “It doesn’t say it.” But to what purpose? The fact that through the centuries the many attempts to calculate the date of Christ’s second coming and the time of the end of the heavens and the earth have all been wrong, proves that the procedure is wrong. Those that placed the date in the future from their time at least did not have it already vetoed. Don’s theory, placing it in the past, has the added absurdity of contradicting facts already in place that we can see with our own eyes. Not only is what Don says not confirmed by statements of scripture, it contradicts scripture statements and visible facts.

No, I did not arbitrarily declare his arguments wrong because they disagree with me. I said they are wrong because they disagree with God. They contradict explicit Bible statements and I cited those Bible statements. So apparently we have different authority standards. When the Bible and the AD70 theory contradict, which one is right? For instance when the Bible says He will come in the same manner as you SAW Him go into heaven and Don’s theory says the opposite, that He came in invisible form and was not seen, a Bible believer must say Don is wrong. When Jesus said that in the resurrection ALL that are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth, and Don says the resurrection occurred but only SOME came forth, a Bible believer must say Don is wrong.

AD70 advocates need to recognize that the military destruction of Jerusalem is one of two events predicted in Matthew 24. Of that one Jesus said it would occur in that generation and it did. (Vs. 34) That event had signs by which its approach could be known, and Jesus gave them. At verse 16 He said that when these signs were seen they should “flee to the mountains.”  Specifically Luke 21:20  has Jesus saying, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that the desolation is near.” History says many of them did flee to a nearby mountain town and escaped. But at verse 35 Jesus turns to the other event, “heaven and earth will pass away.” Of that one He said, “but of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven but my Father only.”

We need to sort out the real questions at issue, understand what they are, and look to the scriptures that give God’s answers to them. At this point I am using scriptures to show what is not true. After my next negative I will be in the affirmative. The standard I have set forth here will then apply also to what I write. I will set forth in explicit Bible language what is true as God’s word reveals His plan for saving people and eventually bringing earthly life to an end. As I said, none of us can know about that except as we read about it in the Bible. So I will not be giving opinions nor theories based on interpretations. I will be giving what the Bible says clearly. It is difficult for me to understand why anyone, having such a beautiful hope as is described in the Bible, would go away in pursuit of human speculative theories. I don’t understand the “and be turned to fables” idea.(2 Tim. 4:4)

Don offers a distorted argument about 1 Peter 4, particularly the statement “The time has come that judgment must begin at the house of God.” He claims that is the “judgment” Paul said all the world will face. (Acts 17:31) Can you believe it? The text says judgment on “the house of God,” not on the world. But again Don inserts his interpretations to conclude otherwise. He says, “It is the judgment of the living and the dead” and cites verse 5. That verse does not say that. It simply says that God “is ready to judge the living and the dead.” Of course He is and He will do that at His own appointed time. He cites verse 7, “The end of all things is at hand” and argues that it is not a local judgment. There is not connection between that statement and that of verse 17, that “judgment must begin at the house of God.” So once again Don reaches a conclusion that contradicts express Bible statements, particularly Acts 17:31, “God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world.”

Don declares that “Daniel 12 is 1 Corinthians 15.” I guess he means that they both refer to the same resurrection. But again there is too much rationalization and too many inconsistencies. The resurrection predicted in Daniel 12 is one in which “many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.” (Vs. 2) Jesus said of the resurrection day that “ALL who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth.” Many and all are not the same thing. Also in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul repeatedly applied the resurrection to everybody. He said, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” (Vs. 50) He said, “This mortal must put on immortality.” (Vs. 53) He also said “We shall ALL be changed.” (Vs. 51) So the resurrection Jesus and Paul spoke of stands between every human being and the life beyond. That is not the one referred to in Daniel 12.

Don still wants to insist that Paul got his teaching on the resurrection from Isaiah, in total disregard for Paul’s emphatic statement to the contrary. “For I neither received it from man nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Gal. 1:12) As usual, Don thinks his interpretations are more authoritative than explicit Bible statements and he doesn’t hesitate to over rule scripture statements with them.

Do you believe Jesus had it right in Matthew 24?
Now Don, you like to ask questions. How about this one? How could a section of scripture say of a certain event that signs will tell when it is coming and then say of the same event “Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only,” and “It will come as a thief in the night?” Wouldn’t that be a contradiction? That is what you are saying Matthew 24 does, isn’t it? Aren’t you saying that only one event is pictured there, that the event after verse 34 is the same event as pictured before that verse? The fact is Jesus gave signs that told them when the Jerusalem fall was coming and said that no one knows the date of the passing of heaven and earth. The Bible does not give that date in any form. All who have tried to calculate it have been wrong. People try to derive it from the prophecies, especially the prophecies of Daniel, but it is not there.

At this point I suggest that we notice some Biblical warnings about procedure. First, we need to stick with facts. Too much speculation and theory is never good. As Jesus said, “Thy word is truth.” Of course we are told to handle that word rightly, as a workman that does not need to be ashamed. (2 Tim. 2:15) In Colossians 2:8 we are warned not to let anyone cheat us out of our reward “through philosophy and empty deceit … according to the principles of the world and not according to Christ.”  Syllogistic argumentation is not sure to be correct. A passage that is very applicable to our situation is Isaiah 55:8. “˜For my thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways my ways,” says the Lord.”˜For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than yours and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Thus speculation and human rationalizing cannot tell us what the mind of God is. We get that only as He has revealed it through chosen spokesmen. Speculating beyond what they said is a bad thing. Paul wrote, “That you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written…..” (1 Cor. 4:6)

In Don’s usage of prophetic utterances the conclusions he comes out with contradict three basic truths. (1) Bible statements that specify what the second coming will be like, (2) Jesus’ statement that no one can know that time, and (3) they contradict observable facts of our time and circumstance, such as saying that the resurrection and the passing away of the heavens and the earth have occurred when obviously they have not. In the face of these obvious facts he does what C.T. Russell did, declares that the second coming of Jesus was symbolic, invisible, and so was the resurrection, the judgment, and the passing of the heavens and the earth. Certainly the AD70 doctrine is proven wrong.  It is not necessary for me to analyze each passage Don quotes and get into interpreting Biblical prophecies beyond what they actually say. His conclusions are already shown to be wrong by the fact that they contradict scripture statements and they contradict physical realities observable around us.

The hope of Christians is ahead, not behind
Paul expressed it this way: “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and savior Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13) Peter said that we are begotten again “To a living hope…..to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1:3-4) Paul said there is “one hope.” (Eph. 4:4) To the Colossians he said  that our redemption depends on not being moved away from that hope. “If indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the Gospel which you have heard and which was preached to every creature under heaven….”(1:23)

The hope that believers held to did not change in AD70. We have words written by believers who lived at the time. When the dust settled and the battles were over they did not think the second coming had occurred and the resurrection and the judgment. They were still looking forward to this same hope which they had held all along.

Ignatius, for instance, was born in AD 50 and was 20 years old in AD70. He was said to have been a personal disciple of John. Later, early in the second century, he wrote to brethren in several places exhorting them to continue holding to the hope they always had. To the Ephesians he wrote, “Have a firm belief in the incarnation, the passion, and the resurrection of Christ. These things are no delusive phantoms, but real facts. Let no one divert you from your hope.” In the same epistle he added that Jesus died and rose again to sit at the Father’s right hand, and “shall come at the end of the world with His Father’s glory to judge the living and the dead.”

Polycarp lived a few years later but was also said to have been a personal disciple of John. In his letter to the Philippians he urged them to give faithful service to Him “Who cometh as judge of the quick and the dead.” This was after AD70. In a very pointed way he said, “Whosoever shall pervert the words of the Lord to his own lust and say there is neither resurrection nor judgment, that man is the first born of Satan.”  Others could be cited to show that before AD70 and after AD70 the believers looked forward to the day of the Lord as Peter described it, at the end of the world. If it happened in AD70, all the pupils of John who ever wrote, missed it.

Don asks me to prove that Daniel and his associates were raised and rewarded in Christ’s earthly ministry. That is strange. It is his argument that if one was raised they would still be alive, not mine. Lazarus was raised, was he not? Is Lazarus still alive? Daniel and his associates will be raised on the appointed day, when all others are.

Reality and observable physical facts:
How could it be possible to over look physical, tangible facts? Peter explained it in 2 Peter 3 where he predicted that the delay in His promised coming would cause scoffers in the last days to mock and say, “Where is the promise of His coming?” He said, “For this they willfully forget, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of unGodly men.” (Verses 5-7) So it is a willful thing.

Looking back in Genesis to the flood account we find that when God gave His word that “Never again will all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth” (9:11) He placed a “sign of the covenant” in the sky, the rainbow. The covenant that God made with His creation was this: “While the earth remains, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, Winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.” (8:22) So Peter said that the earth which once perished with a flood, is now preserved by the same word of God that was given in the Genesis account, the same word that created it in the first place. God said the sign of that word is the rainbow. Thus as long as the rainbow continues to appear in the sky it tells all of us, including the AD70 people, that the earth does yet remain. To believe that “heaven and earth have passed away” requires one to close his eyes to all the physical facts that God has placed here to keep the truth in view. To do that, Peter said, requires one to “willfully forget.” That happens when the “interpretation process” Don Preston has embraced is the measurement standard instead of Bible statements. God has made plenty of visible facts available, including clear Bible statements. There is no excuse for denying them all but AD70 advocates do.

I sincerely hope that the subject of our discussion is clearer now. The issue is whether the second coming occurred in AD70, along with the resurrection and the judgment. I hope our standard of measurement is better understood now. Interpretations of Biblical prophecies beyond what they actually say is not our standard of measurement. “The Bible teaches” is what our propositions say and that is the authority source I use.

Their problem is not just with 1 Corinthians 15. Their problem is with the whole Bible. When you conclude that there is no resurrection day to come in which all who have ever lived will stand before the judgment seat, no day in which the Lord’s people will rise to meet Him in the air, no day on which the eternal city of God will come down part way and we will rise to enter it, you have gotten completely out of touch with the whole Biblical perspective. There is scarcely a page in the Bible that does not disagree with you and rebuke you.

It is not my purpose to judge anyone, to convict anyone, or to defeat anyone. But it is my purpose to put forth an appeal to all God fearing people to hold fast to the word of God as it is written. Do not be led away by human theories that contradict it or distort it. The appointed “Day of the Lord” will come exactly as His word tells us and we will all be there. The books will be opened and all the dead will be judged by the things written in the books according to our works. (Revelation 20:12) I pray you will be ready for that day.

As I said before, I do not question anyone’s sincerity. But sincere or not, the AD70 theory is completely wrong, not because it disagrees with me but because it disagrees with God. Just remember that the Bible is the measuring standard, not human interpretations of Biblical prophecies.