To Whom Shall We Go?| A Look At Amillennial Inconsistencies
William Bell is a great friend and wonderful Bible student. He has “gone through the fires” and is a stellar example of a Christian gentleman, even when “under fire.” Some years ago, it became more than clear to William that the leaders of the churches of Christ, while condemning preterists vehemently, they were themselves grossly inconsistent in their logic and in their eschatology. He realized that if you take the writings of some of the leading scholars in the churches of Christ and follow the logic, that you would wind up as a full (true) preterist. In the article below, Bell demonstrates that in a very powerful and persuasive way. Be sure to read the article carefully. (I have slightly edited the article since he originally wrote it in 1993, and much has taken place since then).
We, (being those of us who teach Covenant Eschatology) are often told that we are in error, that we are endangering souls and splitting churches, and therefore we should turn from our doctrinal deviations and accept the truth. I honestly do not believe that there is anyone among us who would not accept the truth if someone could plainly demonstrate that we are inconsistent and unscriptural in our exegesis of scripture regarding the end –time events. The most recent attempt to refute these issues in debate has now gone on the eternal record of history as failure. (See the Preston-Lockwood Debate). (Don Preston – Bill Lockwood Debate#1: Realized Eschatology- The 70 A.D. Doctrine, (Ardmore church of Christ, Ardmore, Ok, 1992). (Note: Since that 1992 debate, Preston has debated numerous Amillennialists and all of those debates have been a resounding defeat of Amillennialism).
To give you, the reader, a clearer picture of the subject matter at hand, please consider the following. The late Foy E. Wallace, Jr., was a prominent preacher, debater and scholar within the churches of Christ. Most brethren that I know of who knew him personally or through his writings accepted him as a faithful brother in Christ. However, brother Wallace wrote a commentary on the book of Revelation in which he meritoriously established the pre-70 date for the writing of the apocalypse. (Foy E. Wallace, Jr., The Book of Revelation (Fort Worth, Foy E. Wallace, Jr. Publications, 1966). He applied practically all of its message to the fall of the Jewish commonwealth in 70A.D..
During the time I was a student at the Memphis, School of Preaching, 1979-1981, brother Wallace was invited to lecture for the students and spoke for at least three days while carrying on a meeting at the Berclair church of Christ in Memphis, TN. Not once was he censured in the student’s presence, at least not in my own, for his views on the book of Revelation during the time he lectured there, although it was common that his view on the Apocalypse were considered false teaching. To the contrary, he was heralded and held up before the students as a great and gifted scholar, being showered with many accolades for his work.
Another noted scholar who lectured at the MSOP while I was there was the late J. Franklin Camp. He too wrote a book entitled the Work of the Holy Spirit in Redemption. (Franklin Camp, The Work of the Holy Spirit in Redemption, (A Roberts & Son Publication, 1974). This book was actually used as a text book for our class course on the Holy Spirit. Its premises were adopted and taught fully as the truth on the subject. This book maintains that all books of the Bible were written prior to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Camp saw great significance in the fall of Jerusalem and listed about ten (10) important elements of the Scheme of Redemption which are associated with that event.
During the annual MSOP lectures, brother Guy N. Woods, also spoke at the school. He was always held in the highest esteem among the faculty and students alike. He is unquestionably an eminent and ripe scholar and his many books and works well attest to his great accomplishments. Bother Woods held a debate on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with Mr. Ben Franklin of the Pentecostal church. (Guy N. Woods, Woods-Franklin Debate (A Roberts & Son Publication, 1974). In that debate, he adopted the position that the coming of Christ in 1 Corinthians 1:7-8, refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Likewise, Woods applied the impending “end of all things” of chapter 4:7 to the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD.. In his commentary on 1 Peter, brother Woods applies the judgment of chapter 4:17 to the fall of Jerusalem in 70A.D.. (Guy N. Woods, A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter, (Gospel Advocate Company, 1976)111, 121.
The respective positions that these men have taken relative to 70 A.D. is not to be misconstrued to give their support to what is now being taught as Covenant Eschatology. Rather, it is to show that these scholars who both lectured, and wrote books some of which were used as textbooks for the MSOP were accepted as sound, solid and true to the word. They were held up before us as the kind of men to follow and aspire to in our study and quest for a greater knowledge of the Bible.
Now, however, the MOSP dances to a different tune. During a visit to the school in which this writer was accosted in the hall by brethren Garland Elkins and Curtis A. Cates, it was said to me by the latter as we discussed the A.D. 70 conclusions, that brother Woods was wrong on his position that 1 Cor. 1:7, 8 referred to the coming of Christ in A.D. 70. He said brother Camp was wrong on his position that all the books of the Bible were written before 70 A.D.. And, brother Wallace was wrong in applying the book of Revelation to A.D. 70.
It really amazes me that brother Cates, the present director of the MSOP unhesitatingly dismissed all the positions referenced above as error. He therefore implied that before his tenure at the MSOP, the previous brethren fellowshipped and endorsed error, used textbooks filled with error and allowed it to be freely taught to the students. That I am not misrepresenting the above named scholars and their activities at the school of preaching can be determined by the MSOP, its faculty and students who were there before the present Cates era.
Now why raise these issues? It is because during the time before Cates, the MSOP supposedly was sound and taught the truth on these matters and only allowed men of truth so speak and lecture there. Now, however, brother Cates says this is all error. Add to this an interesting statement from brother Gary Workman. “Brother Wallace gave too much significance to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and thought that the close of Revelation simply depicted the victory of the church over Judaism (with some secondary overtones of victory over all the forces of heathenism in the ancient world). The King view of eschatology has taken Wallace’s primary view and driven it to its logical conclusion. (Gary Workman, Freed-Hardeman University Lectureship (Henderson, Tennessee, 1991).
What do we have here? It is a preacher saying that those of us who advocate the A.D. 70 teachings in scripture, have carried what Wallace, Camp and Woods have taught on these issues to their logical conclusion. Yet, we are told by the same brethren that we preterists are illogical for doing that very thing!!! We are logical, but illogical. The school was once correct, but is now wrong on some A.D. 70 issues. Now, I do not know how that grabs you, but if I have any sense, I know enough from reading the Bible not to blindly follow Camp, Wallace, Woods, Cates, Workman or the MSOP.
Adding to all of this is another interesting phenomenon. Brother Wallace, and many other preachers have resisted the teachings of premillennialism by referring to the imminence of time signified in the term ‘at hand’ (See Mk. 1:14-15). Brother Wayne Jackson now implies that the Premillennialists were correct (after all) in saying ‘at hand’ doesn’t mean near in time! When writing against Millennialism, he said a denial of the imminence language is “infidelity.” But now, he uses spandex, “elastic” exegesis and says the language of imminence is “elastic.” (The Christian Courier, editor Wayne Jackson, (Stockton, CA., September 1989).
Unless brother Thomas B. Warren has changed his view on ‘at hand,’ (having also argued against the Premillennialists on this very point), he is on record saying that “at hand” never referred to a time that was past or in the far distant future. (Thomas B. Warren, “Premillennialism, True or False?” Fort Worth Lectures, 1978). He uses Daniel as an illustration to show that 600 years earlier when Daniel spoke of the kingdom it was not ‘at hand’. But when it was near, Jesus said the time was fulfilled, (Mk. 1:15). He emphatically denied that “at hand” had an “elasticity” that could span 2000 years. He claims that the Premillennialists’ denial of this objective nearness is a cry of failure.
But what about the Amillennialists current cry to deny the at hand coming of Christ and stretch it over 2000 years? Using brother Warren’s gauge from Daniel, could the coming of Christ have been over 600 years away?
Then we have brother James D. Bales who in his writings against Premillennialism tells us that if a material interpretation contradicts the time frame, then the passage must have a spiritual interpretation. (James D. Bales, Prophecy and Premillennialism, (Out of Print). Wallace agreed with this hermeneutical principle as well. (Foy E. Wallace, Jr. God’s Prophetic Word, (Foy E. Wallace, Jr. Publications, Rev. ed., 1960). Yet, it is brother Bales who is on record saying that his eyes are not seeing what his ears are hearing. (News & Notes, editor, Olan Hicks, (October 1990). His ears heard that the coming of Christ was at hand, (James. 5:7, 8), but his eyes (physical) have not seen it, therefore it must not be true.
How the Premillennialists would love a rematch with these men!
They could now say, my eyes did not see what my ears heard. “My ears heard that the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard would lie down with the young goat, the calf with the young lion all led by a little child; the cow and the bear would graze together; the lion would eat straw like the ox and the nursing children would play by the cobras hole while the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den, (Isa. 11:6-8) but my eyes have not seen it!” How can Bales have 20/20 vision where with respect to the “at hand” kingdom, while at the same time have the proverbial ‘wool over his eyes’ with respect to no more pain, sorrow and suffering in the ‘at hand’ coming of Christ and New Jerusalem, (Rev. 1:1-3, 7, 21-22). Therefore “at hand” means no more regarding the kingdom than it does the coming of Christ.
This is very strange indeed when we hear that more Premillennialists are turning from their materialistic view of the kingdom than are Amillennialists turning from their materialistic view of the coming of Christ. What a “sad announcement.” Here is a suggestion. Why not let all these guys debate one another and we preterists will just sit back and wait to see who gets it right? Then we will know what to believe on the Holy Spirit, the term “at hand”, the book of Revelation, the close of inspiration, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the second coming of Christ! I personally think I will pass. Why? Because some of these brethren are so busy being “consistent” that they just can’t find the time to re-investigate their positions. Yet, they are masters at urging us to do so.
Further, it is reported that the late Gus Nichols believed that one goes immediately to heaven when he dies. (But this is not the standard view in the churches of Christ!) Bill Lockwood teaches that the last days were the close of the Jewish aeon, ending in 70A.D.. Jim McGuiggan and other Amillennialists teach that there is no break between Matt. 24-25. And, Wayne Jackson teaches that the promise of the new heavens and earth of Isaiah 65:17f is realized in the present kingdom since the end of the Mosaic era. (Wayne Jackson, Isaiah, God’s Prophet of Doom and Deliverance, p. 131` (1991). Gerald Wright taught that 2 Peter 3 is the Jewish destruction in A.D. 70. (Gerald Wright, Second Peter Three: Jewish Calamity or Universal Climax?, Star Bible and Tract Corporation). To whom shall we go?
Did not Jesus say first get the beam out of thine own eye, then you can see clearly? Those of us who espouse Covenant Eschatology are not asking men to do what we ourselves have not done first. We re-examined our own positions as well as those enumerated above. It was after seeing all the “consistent logic” of the above, that we decided, to carry those premises to their logical end. Any wise person among us can read the above position, carry them to their logical end, and he will end up exactly where the A.D. 70 advocates are today. Or one may choose to maintain certain elements of these positions and be illogical. In the meantime, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”