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A Review of the Leonard-Baisden Debate — Drew Leonard

On August 4-6, 2017, a three-night oral debate took place in Ludington, MI, between Drew Leonard and Steve Baisden. Holger Neubauer was the Master of Ceremonies and also the moderator for Steve Baisden. Both sides were very cool, calm and collected, and while points were pressed passionately, the decorum was Christ-like and civil. Three questions were exchanged by each side 30 minutes prior to the discussion each day. The topic was over the return of Christ and the bodily resurrection. Brother Baisden affirmed the following:

“Jesus has returned the second time in the first century for the judgment and the resurrection.”

I, Drew Leonard, denied his proposition and affirmed my own as follows:

“There is yet to be a future, bodily resurrection of the dead at Jesus’ second coming.”

The seriousness of the content is visible in the propositions. Steve Baisden is considered a “Full Preterist,” meaning that he holds the view that all prophecy has been fulfilled. His specific view states (as he clearly argues in the debate) that all prophecy was fulfilled in or by A.D. 70 in the event of the fall of Jerusalem. (Naturally, such a view raises questions about the coming of Christ, the bodily resurrection and etc.) The debate focused on these two main points.

Assessing Baisden’s Affirmative

Before I attended the debate, I told my father, “Watch. When the debate starts, Baisden and Neubauer will want to direct all of the attention in the debate to the book of Revelation, arguing that it was about the fall of Jerusalem” and although Baisden had the very first speech of the debate (the first affirmative), he began by giving three negative arguments to my view (that there is to be a future coming of Christ and resurrection from the dead). In the rest of his following affirmative speeches, he had two affirmative arguments: 1) that the book of Revelation contains material about the final coming of Christ and the resurrection, thus positing the fulfillment of the things in the fall of Jerusalem (per his view) and 2) that Paul and the other apostles constantly insisted that the “coming” of Christ was nigh (based on the time statements of the NT) in the fall of Jerusalem.

The time that I did spend answering his affirmative material (of which there was not much) was mainly used in explaining Baisden’s misunderstandings of prophetic expressions. Baisden insisted that the book of Revelation was “at hand” (1:3; 22:10) and “shortly to come to pass” (1:3; 22:6). His argument was that the book of Revelation includes the following:

  • The coming of Christ (1:7)
  • The great, white-throne judgment (20:11-15)
  • The bodily resurrection (20:11-15)
  • The new heavens and new earth (21:1-27)
  • The falling of Satan (20:1-15)

But as I continually pointed out in the debate, Baisden asserts that all of those things are “final things.” In two of my speeches, I was careful to take each of those things and show where they had happened at least once before in the prophets. For instance, Baisden insisted that the “coming” of Christ in the book of Revelation was “at hand” and “shortly coming to pass,” thus concluding that the second coming was imminent; however – and I pointed this out constantly in the debate – there are several “comings” of Christ. Be sure to read Isaiah 19:1 and Micah 1:2,3 to see a “coming” of the Lord that is in judgment, in an impersonal, representative way! I raised this point, but it’s Baisden’s glib view that insists that Revelation 1:7 must – must! – be about the second coming. It is not. The same kind of speech was used in the Old Testament to express judgment upon the wicked empires then; in Revelation, the same kind of speech is drawn from the prophets about the “at hand” or “imminent” fall of the Roman oppressor, Domitian. Of course, the Lord was coming quickly . . . and He did . . . and He bombed the Roman oppressor right out of existence. Baisden asserted that Revelation 1:7 was about the second coming of Christ and gave no evidence to support it.

Along that same line, Baisden failed to support that all of the other figures that he raised are “final things.” He assumed that the scene of Revelation 20 must discuss “end times,” but the prophets used similar figures before to speak of things that were not “end times” discussions. For instance, Baisden insisted that the falling of Satan was discussed in Revelation 20 – and it is – but the same thing was said in Isaiah 14:12 when Satan fell through the medium of the Babylonian king or in Luke 10:18 when Satan fell through the medium of his demons. Revelation 20 illustrates the same kind of falling of Satan, but that time, it was by the medium of the Roman dictator.

The rest of the things listed by Baisden, which he alleges came at the fall of Jerusalem, are figures drawn from the prophets.  And those things have happened before.  Isaiah saw a “new heavens and earth” in his own oracle, and it was the language of “recreation” whereas the language of “uncreation” pictured the fall of the Babylonian state (cf. Isa. 13:13; 65:17,18; 66:22,23).  Isaiah spoke of deliverance from the old, oppressive Babylon as a “new heavens and earth.”  Peter and John use Isaiah’s figure to speak of deliverance from the oppressors of their day also (cf. 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1ff).  Baisden insists that Revelation is about final things, but how could these things have happened before if they are intrinsically “final things”?

Essentially, Baiden failed miserably at demonstrating that the fall of Jerusalem contained the bodily resurrection (of 1 Cor. 15) or the final coming of Christ (of Heb. 9:28). His argument was rooted in the book of Revelation, but when I granted that the book of Revelation has already been entirely fulfilled, his argument was non-existent.

Most have objected to their view with an understanding that Revelation is yet to receive fulfillment in some parts, thus splitting the book into parts that were “at hand” and parts that were not “at hand,” or others have suggested that the phrase “at hand” carries no temporal weight whatsoever. Both suggestions in response are quibbles at best. The entire book of Revelation, says the angel, was “at hand” and it was entirely fulfilled in the fall of the Roman oppressor (cf. 1:1,3; 22:6,10). (Why split the book or demand that the time signatures carry no weight? There’s no need.)

The book is quite similar to an extended Isaiah 13-14 where the fall of Babylon is expressed in similar terms (e.g. coming of the Lord, cosmic disturbance, new heavens and earth, etc.). Once I granted that Revelation has been fulfilled but that the book does not discuss final things but rather draws figures from the prophets to speak of the Roman oppressor’s fall, Baisden did not know where to go. The same figures of the book of Revelation are the same figures of the Old Testament prophets about the falls of various nations.

Baisden often suggested that the New Testament speaks of the imminent “coming” of Christ (cf. Mat. 24:34; Rom. 13:11,12; Jam. 5:7-9). I agreed with him, but every “coming” is not the first or second bodily, personal appearance of Christ. Again, Baisden was clueless when I granted that the “imminent” comings of the New Testament were imminent! But the passages speak nothing about the second bodily appearance of Christ. He comes in judgment impersonally and in blessing impersonally (cf. John 14:23; Rev. 3:11,20). Baisden asserted that all of the passages speak of the second coming of Christ, but if the prophets could speak of a “coming” of the Lord in judgment upon a wicked nation like Egypt – one that is completely divorced from the second coming – then, why couldn’t Paul speak of an imminent “coming” of the Lord in judgment upon a wicked oppressor like Jerusalem, Nero or Domitian, being completely divorced from a discussion about the second coming of Christ? In fact, that is exactly what Paul did.

Assessing My Affirmative

My basic arguments (given in syllogistic form in the debate) were the following:

First, we are looking for a “second” coming of Christ (Heb. 9:28). If there were impersonal appearances of Christ before in judgment (like Isaiah 19:1 or Micah 1:2,3), then Hebrews 9:28 cannot speak of an impersonal appearance of Christ.  It wouldn’t then qualify as the “second” coming because there would have been too many preceding it to qualify as the “second.” My argument was that Hebrews 9:28 speaks of a “second” coming of Christ, of which there has only been one before: a personal, in the flesh, bodily appearing (John 1:14). In response, Neubauer, from Baisden’s table, called a “point of order,” stopping the debate, in order to suggest that Christ’s coming in A.D. 70 was the final, bodily, personal coming of the Lord. I asked whether or not Isaiah 19:1 discussed a personal coming of the Lord, to which Neubauer, from the table, answered, “Yes!” The problem remained. Baisden and Neubauer were left to affirm that Isaiah 19:1 was a personal coming of the Lord, that John 1:14 was a personal coming of the Lord and yet somehow we’re also to believe that A.D. 70 (a third personal appearance) was the “second” coming of the Lord!

Baisden and Neubauer have suggested several things to dodge Hebrews 9:28. First, they suggested that the coming of the Lord of Hebrews 9:28 was to deal with the sin issue, which they insist has already been dealt with in A.D. 70. My argument in response was that Hebrews 9:28 can’t speak of A.D. 70 because the sin issue was already dealt with before then! Give Hebrews 10:10-12 a strong look and see if the “coming” of the Lord of Hebrews 9:28 is to deal with the sin problem. Hebrews 9:26 and 10:10-12 insist that the sin issue was dealt with in Christ’s first coming. (The “salvation” of Hebrews 9:28 is the redemption from our corruptible bodies, cf. 1 Cor. 15; Phil. 3:10-21.) They also tried suggesting that the word “second” in Hebrews 9:28 (from “deutero” in the Greek) could simply mean “again,” but even if that were the case, their own proposition affirms the “second” coming of Christ in the first century and not merely His coming “again.” (Had they affirmed only that Christ was coming “again” in the first century, I wouldn’t have denied the proposition! In some sense, He did! See Mat. 24:29-34 and Jam. 5:7-9.) Hebrews 9:28 speaks of a “second” appearance of Christ. The only way that it was a “second” appearance is that there has been only one before it; it was when Christ came in the flesh and died on the cross.  Acts 1:9-11 says that His second coming will be in like manner.

(I should also let you know that while Neubauer and Baisden argued early in the debate that Isaiah 19:1 speaks of a “personal” coming of the Lord, Baisden later made a large blunder in the Q & A when he answered that Isaiah 19:1 was a good example of an “impersonal” coming of the Lord by the medium of a physical force. I raised this point several times, showing how they had argued for Isaiah 19:1 being both a “personal” and an “impersonal” coming of the Lord. This was a perfect example of self-contradiction.)

My second major argument was that 1 Corinthians 15 speaks of the resurrection of the body. Baisden and Neubauer insist that the “body” was the dead body of Israel. I had chart after chart where they had suggested such in their periodicals. When they dodged and quibbled on my questions exchanged each day, I let them know that I had their writings and didn’t care if they actually answered my questions or not. They tried to equivocate on the point, but I had several quotes where they had flatly said that the “body” of 1 Corinthians 15 speaks of the collective, Jewish body that was in process of dying from A.D. 30 until 70. Basically, the argument is that the Jewish body and the Christian body (the church) were both in process of dying/rising from A.D. 30 to 70. They’ve suggested that when the Jewish body started to enter the grave at the cross, the Christian body started resurrecting. The “body” was dying/rising simultaneously.

Yet isn’t this against everything about “resurrection?” The word truly means “to stand again.” But they’ve got, in their system or view of things, the body (which they assume to be Israel) beginning to die at 30 A.D. and finally dying in 70 A.D. If the “body” of Christ is the “body” of Israel, they’ve got the church, the body of Christ, rising before it had even died yet! Remember, the church is the resurrected body of Israel in their view, but how could the body of Christ be alive, resurrecting after the cross, when it wouldn’t even yet die until 70 A.D.? Paul hotly rejected the view in 1 Corinthians 15:36, when he wrote, “Fools, don’t you know that you can’t quicken something that hasn’t yet died!?” What can the theorists do? They can suggest that there are two bodies, but if the Christian body is independent of the Judaic body, then we’ve abandoned the concept of resurrection and have accepted and favored a “conjuring” and not a “rising again” of a once-dead entity.

The only way to accept the biblical view of 1 Corinthians 15 is to notice that it has nothing to do with a collective, dead body of Israel. The text says a lot about the resurrection of our corruptible, vile bodies to glory at the second coming of Christ (cf. 15:23). These two arguments insist that a future coming of Christ is to be expected and that a bodily resurrection is to be anticipated.  The “Full Preterist” view of these two points simply cannot be accepted.

Other Thoughts About The Debate

Baisden insisted that the Greek word “mello” indicated “imminence.” He insisted that Matthew 16:27,28 (which uses “mello” in reference to its event) speaks of A.D. 70. What is demanded by their view of “mello” is that Christ speaks in Matthew 16:27,28 of A.D. 70 as being imminent, but watch them crawfish hard in the debate when asked about why Christ flatly suggested that A.D. 70 wasn’t imminent when His ministry closed (cf. Luke 21:28-31).

Baisden suggested that only a spiritual resurrection was ever anticipated by New Testament figures. He insisted that baptism is the spiritual resurrection. He also insists that the only people to “resurrect” in this manner before 70 A.D. were Jews that converted to Christianity, but why do we read of Paul anticipating resurrection then (Phil. 3:10-21) and why do we hear of Gentiles who aren’t anticipating that kind of resurrection (Col. 2:11-13)? What a mess…

Concluding Thoughts

There is much more to be said about this debate. The event only solidified my view that Christ is coming again in our future and that we’re to anticipate a resurrection from a physical death.

If you’re interested, please do a search for the “Leonard-Baisden Debate” on YouTube. Also, you may purchase the debate book and any of my other writings by searching “Drew Leonard” at lulu.com. My book A.D. 70 – Taking a Look at Hyper-Preterism critiques the view thoroughly.

Drew is the author of several books, including Thinking Through Zechariah and Night Visions: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel.