Tag Archives: realized eschatology

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.

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Second Realized Eschatology Debate Recap — David W. Hester

Editor’s Note:  The October, 2016 issue of the Carolina Messenger featured an article written by Dr. Hester in which he shared his thoughts and perspectives about a debate he had participated in with Don Preston in Ardmore, Oklahoma concerning the doctrine of realized eschatology.  Since then, Dr. Hester and Mr. Preston have conducted a second debate over this erroneous doctrine and Dr. Hester has agreed to share his thoughts on this debate with us again.  This misguided doctrine, also known as the “AD 70 Doctrine” or “AD 70 Theory” among other designations, has slowly gained a degree of prevalence in the brotherhood in recent years and needs to be scripturally refuted.  We appreciate the efforts of Dr. Hester and others to show from the entirety of God’s Word the numerous errors and contradictions found within this theory.

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The second debate between myself and Don K. Preston took place June 15-16, 2017 at the Eastern Meadows Church of Christ in Montgomery, AL. This was the fulfillment of a pledge I made in the original agreement I signed with Preston in 2016. The propositions for this debate were the same as the first: “Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second (final) coming of Christ and the attendant resurrection of the just and the unjust, is yet future, and will occur at the end of time.” Affirm: David Hester; Deny: Don K. Preston. “Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second (final) coming of Christ and the attendant resurrection of the just and the unjust, occurred at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.” Affirm: Don K. Preston; Deny: David Hester. Kyle Massengale, of Madison, AL served as my moderator, with Mike Kiser of Sylacauga, AL assisting; Preston brought with him William Bell of Memphis, TN as his moderator. Steve Wages, Director of the Cloverdale Center for Family Strengths at Faulkner University, served as the independent moderator and timekeeper.

Since I was to be in the affirmative the first night, it was my intent to “set the table,” so to speak, and to control the agenda. At the beginning—and before I defined the proposition—I brought up one of the assertions I made in the Ardmore debate. For Preston’s doctrine to be true, one has to redefine words, phrases, and passages of Scripture. The approach he and his cohorts take is very much like that described in the book Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll. In it, Alice meets with Humpty Dumpty, who is sitting on the wall. They engage in conversation, which quickly goes nowhere; Humpty Dumpty is using words very differently from Alice. After she challenges him, he gruffly says, “When I choose a word, it means what I choose it to mean; nothing more or less.” That is the approach taken by AD 70 advocates—the “Humpty Dumpty Hermeneutic.”

I then made 10 affirmative arguments—a mix of formal logical syllogisms and arguments from specific biblical passages. They are as follows:

  1. A nine point argument, in proper logical form, concerning the resurrection of the dead and the second coming of Christ—which proves my proposition to be true. It had as its foundation the fact that when Christ comes again, he will do so “literally, visibly, and personally” as he went into heaven in Acts 1:9-11.
  2. An argument which focuses on the fact that Jesus will come upon the wicked unawares—in contrast to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, which was certainly not unaware to the wicked Jews!
  3. Christ will convict the wicked at his second coming (Jude 14-15). Who was convicted by the Roman general Titus at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70?
  4. The Lord’s Supper stands as a rebuke to Don and his disciples; if the Lord has already come, then why take the Supper now (1 Cor. 11:26)?
  5. The Greek structure of Revelation 1:7 indicates that “every eye will see him,” indicating actual sight, “all the tribes of the earth” will wail because of him, indicating the nations of the earth (compare the LXX text in Gen. 12:3 and 28:14), and “those who pierced him” utilizes the word translated “pierced” that is only used one other time in the NT—John 19:37. This involves the very people who crucified Christ! Where were they in AD 70?
  6. The “Day” in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 is certainly not the destruction of Jerusalem, and the “fire” contemplated in the text is not the fires of Jerusalem burning. Whose works were revealed by the conflagration Titus imposed?
  7. The “end” described in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 is at the end of time, when Jesus will deliver the kingdom back up to God.
  8. In Luke 20:34-36, Don and his disciples stand rebuked—for Christ declares that “in that world” (heaven) they neither marry nor are given in marriage, and cannot die any more.
  9. In Matthew 13:47-50, when Jesus describes that his holy angels will separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into a fiery furnace, did anything akin to that happen at the destruction of Jerusalem? Could the godless armies of Titus be likened unto the angels of heaven? And, where was the fiery furnace located in Judea where such could have taken place?
  10. A seven point argument from Hebrews 9:26 was employed, focusing on the phrase “the end of the ages,” and the fact that Jesus only made one sacrifice of himself for sin. I followed that with a quotation from a debate Don had in 2006, where he said that “the process (and ground) of taking away of sin undoubtedly began at the Cross, as Hebrews 9:26 affirms. It was not perfected and completed there, however.”

I reserved time at the end of my speech to address some of the responses to written questions I asked Don prior to the debate. His replies were stunning, to say the least.

For example, Question 2: “Is it your conviction that the literal global flood of Genesis is the type of the localized destruction of Jerusalem, seeing that it was used by Peter in a universal call to baptism (1 Peter 3:21)?” Don’s response: “Yes, the flood was definitely a type of AD 70.”

Also, Question 4: “Was Jesus, the Son of God, spiritually separated from God when he died?” Don’s response: “Yes.”

Question 5: “Were the dietary laws of the Law of Moses still binding upon the Jews after Acts 10?” Don’s response: “Yes.”

To say that I was champing at the bit to address these responses is the understatement of the year. Preston asserts three outrageous things: first, the flood was not global, but local; second, Jesus was spiritually out of fellowship with God at the time that he died on the cross; and finally, the Law of Moses was not completely done away with after the cross—even after Cornelius and his household had obeyed the Gospel.

In preparing to answer Don’s assertions, I came across a book he endorsed: Beyond Creation Science, by Timothy P. Martin and Jeffrey L. Vaughn. In his endorsement, Don called belief in a global flood a “sacred cow.” He further called the book “scriptural.” Yet, the authors claim that Genesis 1-2 actually picture the establishment of the Jewish economy, with Adam and Eve being poetic symbols in a “temple motif.” In other words, Genesis is a myth; an allegory. During our debate, Don took particular umbrage to that particular suggestion; yet, what other conclusion can be drawn?

After the first night, I received a private message from a preterist. In part, it read: “Thank you for reading the message and replying. I confess I hold to a fulfilled eschatology view. However, I disagree with the Beyond Creation Science view strongly. I thank you for pressing Don on this subject because he has in the past refused to talk about it to any extent. Don replied to my post of what I sent you as ‘I have not taken a firm stand in the local flood issue, versus universal. Still open to studying that concept.’” This same individual said the following about the authors of the book: “Covenant Creation holders, while nice guys on other topics and in real life, seem to be the Climate Change holders of the fulfilled eschatology world. They tend to act like, ‘How dare you question this view. It is established fact and indisputable.’ Sounds like Climate Change holders.”

During my first speech, I used the phrase “Don and his disciples” over and over again. “Don and his disciples teach;” “Don and his disciples affirm;” etc. That was calculated to get under Don’s skin. However, I wasn’t counting on it raising the ire of William Bell. During the first break after my speech, Bell came over to our table on my side, leaned over with both of his hands on the table, glared at me with fire in his eyes, and said that I was violating the rules of the debate by attributing beliefs to the men at Don’s table that they did not hold. I immediately stood up from my seat (which put my eyes at Bell’s chest when he stood up), and said, “If Don has a problem with it, let him address it when he gets up there. Otherwise, what I said stands.” He subsequently left and went to sit down at his table. This exchange was revealing. Apparently, Bell thinks of himself as a disciple of Don! Also, Don never mentioned it during his speeches as an issue. Interesting.

I also thought it was revealing that during the second night Don said that I misrepresented his position when I pointed out his redefinition of “the end of the age” by inserting “the Jewish age” in every NT passage where it occurs, thus pointing out the absurdity of it. He had a big issue with that…but, wait! If he does not believe that the phrase refers to the Jewish age, then down goes his belief system. If it does not refer to the end of the world, though, then what DOES it refer to? Something else that Don and his disciples are working on?

Of all the ten affirmative arguments I made the first night, Don responded to none of them. He apparently thought he was in the affirmative. At least he defined the proposition, though, on the second night. Don kept wanting to rehash the first debate throughout his speeches. This was indicative of the fact that he had nothing new to offer, and no replies to anything I said. We, on the other hand, responded to every one of his arguments the second night. Don cast disparaging comments about my teaching ability (thus sounding more like a disgruntled student who receives a failing grade than a mature, dignified speaker), and said that my first negative speech was the “worst he’d ever heard” in all his years in debate. Well, of course he would say that, because I answered his assertions! He himself called his doctrine “strange” in his first negative speech—and strange it is, indeed. It is “strange” because it is false doctrine.

It is my hunch that the debates we have had will go a long way towards diminishing the influence of Preston among our brethren. I know for a fact that some preterists who have been privately grumbling about Preston are now becoming emboldened to step forward and challenge him. It will be interesting, indeed, to see this play out over the next few months.

The debate will be made available very soon on DVD via Eastern Meadows Church of Christ. The Gospel Broadcasting Network, which recorded the debate, provided us with high quality video and audio (Parts 1 and 2 can be accessed on their YouTube channel) and are making us master copies to use for the DVDs we will distribute.  Debates are very helpful, when conducted properly. It is my hope and prayer that more of them will take place concerning a wide variety of subjects. It is in this format that the Truth of God shines.

dhester@faulkner.edu

David is on the faculty of the F. Furman Kearley School of Theology at Faulkner University, where he also is Director of the annual Bible Lectures.  David is also Education Director at Eastern Meadows Church of Christ in Montgomery, AL.

 

Realized Eschatology Debate Recap — David W. Hester

Of all the false doctrines that have troubled brethren in the last 50 years, perhaps the weirdest of them all is that known as “Realized Eschatology,” or “Covenant Eschatology,” or “Max Kingism.” In short, it avers that the Second Coming of Christ, the final resurrection of the just and the unjust, and the Final Judgment all took place in in the year A. D. 70 at the destruction of Jerusalem. Although this concept was first introduced in modern times in the denominational world in 1787 by James S. Russell, it was introduced to the Lord’s church in 1971, when C. D. Beagle presented this view to a number of preachers in Ohio. Beagle’s son-in-law, Max King, also accepted this teaching and began promoting it. He popularized the movement with the writing of two books: The Spirit of Prophecy (1971) and The Cross and the Parousia of Christ (1987).  Because of this, the teaching is sometimes referred to as “Max Kingism.”

In more recent years, Don Preston has assumed leadership among the adherents of this doctrine. Based out of Ardmore, Oklahoma, Preston has pushed this doctrine through his website, books and printed material, and an annual event he calls the “Preterist Pilgrim Weekend” in Ardmore. While ostensibly still affiliated with churches of Christ, Preston no longer preaches regularly but devotes almost all of his time and efforts in more ecumenical directions in promoting his doctrine.

In March 2016, I was contacted by a preacher inquiring whether I would be interested in debating Preston in Ardmore in concerning this doctrine. I initially agreed; contact was made with Preston through a close friend of mine and brother in Christ, Shawn Mathis. Shawn is a former preacher and experienced businessman; he negotiated the terms of the debate for me with Preston. Shawn did an outstanding job in finalizing the agreement that was signed, and nailing down the propositions to be debated. Thus it was that Preston and I agreed to a two night debate on July 14-15, 2016, in connection with the “Preterist Pilgrim Weekend.” The propositions were: “Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second (final) coming of Christ and the attendant resurrection of the just and the unjust, occurred at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.” Affirm: Don K. Preston; Deny: David Hester, and, “Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second (final) coming of Christ and the attendant resurrection of the just and the unjust, is yet future, and will occur at the end of time.” Affirm: David Hester; Deny: Don K. Preston.

In preparation for the debate, I was fortunate to have a number of fellow gospel preachers to give me assistance. Several who had debated the subject in the past allowed me access to their notes. Additionally, I obtained three sources of information (which I cannot disclose at this time) from a preacher friend which proved to be crucial in putting together the line of argumentation I would use. Phil Sanders agreed to serve as my moderator and sit at my table; he proved to be invaluable with his advice, encouragement, and quick thinking. Kyle Massengale, who had sat at my table in 2011 when I debated Catholic theologian Robert Sungenis, helped from a distance with his strong suggestions and counsel. As the time for the debate drew closer, I felt more and more comfortable.

During the preparation period, an item of interest caught my attention. On his website, Preston posts a series of videos he calls “Morning Musings.” In them, he promotes and pushes his doctrine. The topic that interested me was on the Lord’s Supper. The advocates of the AD 70 doctrine have an insurmountable problem—if the Second Coming took place at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, then one is hard pressed to explain 1 Cor. 11:26: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” Either the AD 70 advocates take the Supper, and thus contradict their own teaching, not take it altogether and violate Paul’s clear command, or else change the Law of Christ. Preston chose the last option.

In his video series on the subject, he claimed that we cannot know how often the early church ate the Supper; he also said that while it is “appropriate” to take the Supper, we do not have to take it today. While Preston once believed and taught that the Supper must be taken every first day of the week, he does not believe that now. He then claimed that the mention of the Supper in 1 Corinthians 11 was not intended to be understood as advocating a universal practice, but only for Corinth. I knew that all of this would provide a major point of emphasis during the debate. Contrary to Don, we can know how often the Supper was taken—from the book of           1 Corinthians itself! Paul wrote, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup…” (1 Co. 11:26). When did the Corinthian brethren come together? “On the first day of every week” (1 Co. 16:2); the same day they met in Troas in Acts 20:7. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:2, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” So, contrary to Don, we can know not only when the Supper was taken, and how often, but also to whom it applies—everyone living today. The fact remains, “till he come” in 1 Corinthians 11:26 is a death blow to his AD 70 theory. The Lord is yet to come, and we are still to take the Supper.

During the time I was in Ardmore for the debate, I was struck by how ecumenical the gathering was. Many of those who participated in the “Preterist Pilgrim Weekend” were not members of the church, but rather members of various denominational groups. Nevertheless, Phil Sanders and I were treated with respect and courtesy, which we returned in kind. We were shown hospitality on a personal level throughout the proceedings. Also, Cougan Collins gave us much needed logistical support and personal encouragement. He opened the building of the Lone Grove Church of Christ, where he preaches, for us to use in studying and preparing. Cougan is a very sharp and solid young preacher, and is doing a great job with the Lone Grove congregation.

Two things were immediately apparent as the debate progressed. First, Preston did not define his proposition. The first rule of formal debate (which we both signed) is that “the terms in which the question in debate is expressed, and the precise point at issue, should be so clearly defined, that there could be no misunderstanding respecting them.” Beginning with his first affirmative speech, Don did not follow that rule. I made sure in my responses that this would not go unnoticed. He later said that he did not want to “bore” the audience with defining the proposition; yet, he himself had defined his propositions in many other debates in which he had participated. As I said to Phil Sanders at one point (and said publicly during the debate), “If this had been a collegiate style debate with judges, Don would have been disqualified.”

Second, almost from the start Don claimed that the Law of Moses was in place—with God’s approval—alongside the Law of Christ for 40 years (until AD 70). This was an amazing assertion. Romans 7:1-6 blows that out of the water. A fundamental assertion in Don’s doctrine is that the Law of Moses was in force during Christ’s reign from Acts 2 until AD 70. However, Paul says that Christians—long before AD 70—were joined to Christ and not to the law. Don’s doctrine teaches that spiritual adultery was scriptural from Pentecost until AD 70! To be joined to a husband and to marry another involved one in adultery. If one is discharged from the law of the husband, one is free to marry again and this marriage does not involve adultery. To be joined to the old covenant, the old law, and to be joined to the new covenant (joined to Christ), involves one in spiritual adultery. Before one can be joined to Christ, one must be discharged from the law (Ro. 7:2, 6). Christians were already “discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were held” (Ro. 7:6). They were “made dead to the law through the body of Christ” (Ro. 7:4). The death of Christ was involved in the removal of the law (Ep. 2:13-17).

For Preston’s doctrine to be true, one has to redefine words, phrases, and passages of Scripture. The approach he and his cohorts take is very much like that described in the book Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll. In it, Alice meets with Humpty Dumpty, who is sitting on the wall. They engage in conversation, which quickly goes nowhere; Humpty Dumpty is using words very differently from Alice. After she challenges him, he gruffly says, “When I choose a word, it means what I choose it to mean; nothing more or less.” That is the approach taken by AD 70 advocates—the “Humpty Dumpty Hermeneutic.”

During my affirmative arguments, I presented 23 arguments for Don to answer. He did not seriously attempt to do so, claiming he did not have enough time. The audience—both online and in person—knows that he did not respond to them. A few times during the debate, he tried to use passages from Hebrews to bolster his doctrine concerning the Law of Moses. His efforts were easily demonstrated to be false. I chided him a couple of times by saying, “You’d better stay out of Hebrews; it’ll kill you.” He finally responded to that in frustration by saying, “I’ll slather all over Hebrews.” What’s interesting is that the word “slather” means “to use or spend in a wasteful or lavish manner.” Needless to say, after each night’s session, I felt very good about how things went. I believe that in the long term, this debate will do much good.

There is a link to the recordings of the debate, where you can watch it online. The password is PPWLIVESTREAM. Part of the agreement that was signed committed me to make a good faith effort to schedule another debate between me and Don in Montgomery, AL. At the time of the publication of this article, we have just agreed to have a second debate in Montgomery in 2017.

dhester@faulkner.edu

David is on the faculty of the F. Furman Kearley School of Theology at Faulkner University, where he also is Director of the annual Bible Lectures.  David is also Education Director at Eastern Meadows Church of Christ in Montgomery, AL.

 

Editor’s Page, September/October 2013 – David R. Pharr, Editor

It is surprising that a Baptist preacher would write a book to expose the error of instrumental music in worship.  John Price, who is a Baptist preacher, has provided an excellent work, Old Light on New Worship (Simpson Pub. Co. 2007).  The book includes detailed reviews of Scripture and history regarding use of instruments in worship.  His conclusion is firmly against the practice.

Other than footnote citations he makes no reference to a capella worship in churches of Christ, yet the form of his argumentation is very much parallel to the points we would make.  Consider this paragraph on page 46:

The regulative principle of worship remains, and what God has not commanded in the New Testament we have no authority to use.  He has not commanded the use of any musical instruments as he did in the days of Moses and David.  Therefore, we have no authority to bring them into the worship of His church.  The complete silence of the New Testament on musical instruments is a most compelling argument that they are not to exist in the church.  Only singing is commanded (1 Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).

It is especially noteworthy that the author comes to these conclusions in spite of having a religious background that continues to use instruments.

The author traces the historical evidence from the earliest post-apostolic writers down to the 20th Century.  “The early Church Fathers were unanimous and vehement in condemning musical instruments in the worship of the church.”  Further, he observed:  “How can it possibly be assumed that musical instruments existed in the apostolic church when they were absent from the periods immediately prior and following?”  Further, the book provides a large collections of quotations on the subject from centuries of theologians and commentators, including an appendix listing over two pages of names and groups who have opposed instrumental music in worship.

Mr. Price shares our disdain for what is advertised in worship in the modern setting.

In many worship services today, little difference can be found between a rock-and-roll concert and the music of the church.  It was in the atmosphere of these musical instruments that the development of “Contemporary Christian Music” took place… (139).

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A poisonous influence came out of the Richland Hills (TX) church when they announced their decision to include instrumental music in their worship.  Their preacher, Rick Atchley, preached three sermons to argue that it is scriptural to worship either with or without the involvement of instruments.  His arguments have been published abroad and apparently have given excuse for some liberal congregations to tilt farther to the left.  Alan Highers in The Spiritual Sword and Dave Miller in his book, Richland Hills and Instrumental Music, published effective biblical responses to Atchley’s position.  Another careful and thorough response is in the book by Thomas C. Alexander, Music in Worship (Gospel Advocate, 2010).  Though all three of these capable brethren cover much of the same ground and hold the same conclusions, each of their presentations has its own special value.

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Not many congregations in our area have been troubled by the strange doctrine called “Realized Eschatology” which, having been aggressively advocated by one Max King and his sympathizers, has devastated churches of Christ in other parts of the country.  However, there are indications of its influence coming into the Carolinas.  This is sometimes called “The 70 AD Theory” because of its contention that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled at the time of the Romans’ destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  This includes (according to the theory) even the second coming of Christ, the resurrection, judgment, and the end of the world.  Yes, it is insisted that prophecies of the consummation of the world (as foretold in 2 Peter 3:10) were actually only the end of the Jewish system.  To those not yet exposed to such extremities of interpretation, this might seem to fantastic to entertain.  It happens, though, that by redefining terms and manipulating scriptures, the King movement has caught the fancy of some who are “unlearned and unstable” (2 Pet. 3:16).  Two books by King set out his theory: The Spirit of Prophecy and The Cross and the Parousia of Christ.  Other publications by King and his henchmen have continued its promotion.

I remember the late Burrell Prince’s reply when he was challenged to read King’s book.  He was urged to read it all the way through.  He said he had read enough to know he need not waste more time.  He said, “If I get on a train and soon discover it is headed to the wrong destination, I don’t want to stay on it to the end of the line!”  He had read enough to know the book was trying to take him in the wrong direction.*

For solid and clear refutation of the Max King doctrine, I recommend the book by Wayne Jackson, The A.D. 70 Theory (Courier Publications).  Brother Jackson is always thorough and careful in his explanations.  He shows the errors of false definitions of terms and inconsistencies in the appropriation of texts.  It is a small book (just over 100 pages).  It is needed anywhere there are issues related to Bible teaching on eschatology (“last things”).

Our brotherhood has been greatly blessed by Wayne Jackson’s writings on a wide variety of subjects.

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While yet on the subject of books, perhaps it is acceptable for me to reference five of my own.  Churches over the country and in other parts of the world continue to use The Beginning of our Confidence, lessons for new Christians (21st Century Pub.)  It has been translated into four other languages.  Thy Kingdom Come (Publishing Designs Co.) is a simple refutation of the errors of Premillennialism.  It is in English and Russian.  Many have used it privately and in classes for a simplified refutation of the more prominent errors of popular millennial theories.

A Happy Coincidence on a Desert Highway (Firm Foundation Pub.) is a collection of sermons.  Modern Messages from the Minor Prophets (Quality Pub.) contains full sentence sermon outlines on all the Minor Prophets.  These sermons seek to apply their Old Testament concerns to our current needs.  It has also been translated into Russian.

Voices of Calvary (Publishing Designs Co.) has thirteen lessons on things Jesus and others said at the time of his crucifixion.  Bible students know of the seven statements of Jesus from the cross.  Each has a wealth of spiritual implications.  In addition there are statements made by others at Calvary and each of these deserve more than a passing glance.

*Brother Prince was the first preacher in the church of Christ I ever heard.  It was with what is now the Broad Street congregation in Statesville, NC.  At the time they were meeting in the American Legion Building.  In later years, when I was with the East Tennessee School of Preaching, we became closely associated with him and several times stayed in their home in Nashville.