Kurt Simmons Misrepresents Covenant Eschatology View on the End of Torah-William Bell Jr
I’ve received the latest issue of Fulfilled Magazine, edited Brian L. Martin and published by Fulfilled Communications Group. In this edition are two articles on the resurrection, one by Kurt Simmons and another by Ed Stevens. In later articles we will respond to both resurrection, the kingdom and the sowing of the body.
However, for now it is important to give a brief recap of some misrepresentations Simmons makes in his article, especially as it relates to the full preterist position on the fulfillment of the Law.
Misrepresentations on the End of Torah
The first misstatement by Simmons is that the CBV holds that the Old Testament law was valid and held Christians in bondage to sin until AD 70….” I am an advocate of the Covenant Body View. However, I do not hold the position Kurt suggests nor do I know of anyone who holds such view.
The statement expresses a half truth. The Old Testament Law was a valid law until AD 70. However, it is not true that the Old Testament Law (Torah) held Christians in bondage to sin until AD 70. We have made this point more than once. I say this not because I expect Simmons to agree with it, but only because I believe he should at least accurately state the position. Or, if he is quoting one person’s view then it is not a fair assessment to ascribe the entirety or even a part of one’s view to someone else unless they acknowledge such acceptance.
The law continued until all jots and tittles and heaven and earth (Judaism) passed away, (Matt. 5:17-18). However, it does not follow as a logical corollary that Christians were under the Law while it was being fulfilled, i.e. until 70AD. What Simmons will not or does not acknowledge is the role of the Spirit during the transition from 30-70AD.
I Will Not Leave You Orphans
Jesus said that he would not abandon his disciples during his absence (pre-parousia reign). Rather, he would come to them. Orphans are those without a father and thus have no inheritance. This relationship with and through the Spirit provided something for Christians, that it did not provide for those under the law. The Spirit enabled them to be regarded as sons and entitled them to the inheritance (Rom. 8:14-17, Gal. 5:5-7)
Paul wrote: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him: nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:15). On the other hand, the spiritual one judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. (1 Cor. 2:15). See also Jude 18-19, where the mockers (law-zealous Jews) separated themselves not having the Spirit.
Thus, the Spirit plays a pivotal role in redemption, a fact Simmons notes in his discussion of Romans 8 which distinguishes those who are in the Spirit from those who are in the flesh.
The Spirit Given For Freedom From Torah
While Simmons rejects our interpretation of Romans 7:4, nevertheless we state it so he knows what it is. Paul does not teach the end of Torah in that text, i.e. that the Law died (Simmons’ view). Rather, he teaches that the brethren died to the law so they could be married to another, i.e. to Christ who rose from the dead.
This is further proof that the eschatological transformation of Christ occurred with his resurrection, he being born in the Spirit according to the Spirit of holiness (Rom. 1:4) and therefore could no longer be known according to his relationship as born under the law. (Gal. 4:4). The risen Christ was “new born” and therefore a “new man” (2 Cor. 5:16; Eph. 4:24). The natural temple was destroyed (John 2:21) and the new temple foundation had been laid (Acts 4:11-12, Eph. 2:21-22; 1 Pe.t. 2:4-6).
The point is that whomever it is that married another, i.e. to the risen Christ, is the same who died? That is what qualified them to marry another, i.e. because they had died to the Law. It is grossly incorrect to suggest in this text as Simmons does that the Law died and then married another. The Law of Moses is not married to Christ to the risen Christ.
When Simmons makes the law that which died in this text, he is forced to the position that the law remarried (again because the one who/what died is what/the one who remarries Christ per the text). Therefore, at worst Simmons has the law remarried to Christ and therefore is in effect even now! This is an untenable position.
At best, he becomes a CBV advocate if he understands what dies is not the body that shall be and therefore Torah (the body of Moses) would be transformed into a new covenant body. He winds up teaching what he opposes, i.e. Covenant Eschatology! Thus, Simmons’ position is extremely illogical and works against him on his own terms. What a dilemma!
Compare Simmons’ View on the End of Torah and Romans 7
Consider the text with Simmons’ view which teaches the law died:
Therefore my brethren, [the law, per Simmons] also has become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that [the law] may be married to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that [the law] should bear fruit unto God. See how his view butchers this text and makes total non-sense of it?
The illustration above demonstrates clearly that the subjects who died, were “the brethren” denoted by the pronoun for double emphasis. Paul says “my brethren, you” [Christians] have become dead to the law through the body of Christ that you, [Christians, who have the Spirit] may be married to another…”
In The Spirit Means Freedom, Not Under Torah, The Law
In Romans 8, Paul explains why Christians who walked in the Spirit were not under the Law. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:1-4)
By the way, note that Paul said the righteous requirement of the Law “might be fulfilled” (subjunctive mood which is always future) in us (the saints who had the Spirit). How was the righteous requirement of the Law fulfilled in the saints before or when Jesus died? How did they have the Spirit before the Spirit was poured out?
Deliverance from the Body of This Death (Bondage)
Rom. 8:1-4, is Paul’s direct response to the question raised in Romans 7 concerning the body of this death which resulted from the bondage of the Law. See also Roma. 8:15-16. Paul here says the law was the spirit of bondage, but the saints had received the Spirit of adoption, whereas the Spirit bore witness with their spirit that they were the children (sons of God, Gal. 4:5) and not slaves under the law. This could not be so apart from the Spirit, which is why the Jews who rejected Christ did not have the Spirit and were yet under bondage. See also Gal. 3:3-5).
Were it not for the Spirit, Christians would have remained under the Law, the same as unbelieving Jews, for it was the Spirit which enabled them to die with Christ, i.e. be baptized into his death, during Christ’s pre-parousia absence, John 3:5; Rom. 6:1-4; 1 Cor. 12:13.
For these reasons, it cannot be charged that we have Christians subject to the law during the pre-parousia reign of Christ. Since they were born of the Spirit, led by the Spirit and walked in the Spirit, they were not under the law.
End of Torah For Christians Came Through Faith, Baptism Into Christ’s Death & The Spirit
“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” [meaning but under grace] (Gal. 5:18)
“For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law but under grace.” [meaning led by the Spirit] (Rom. 6:14)
These two statements are parallels though they express the ideas slightly different, the meaning is the same. To be led by the Spirit, means sin does not have dominion over the saints. To be led by the Spirit means to be under grace. Thus, it was the Spirit that became the distinguishing mark of authority and authentication for the freedom (Gal. 5:1, 5) experienced by the saints. That is why they were sealed with the Spirit until the day of redemption, Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30.
On the other hand, if they were not led by the Spirit, i.e. non-believing Jews, they were under the law and therefore the sin did in fact have dominion over them.
Therefore, we reject the following assessment in Simmons’ statement: “Reduced to its essential elements, the CBV rests upon three pillars, each of which we believe to be objectively false. These are:
- The Old Testament law was valid, binding, and obligatory until AD70:
- Atonement was incomplete and the saints remained under the debt of sin until AD70; and
- Grace and justification from sin arrived only in AD70 at the fall of Jerusalem.”
According to our view, the statements would read as follows:
- The Old Testament law was valid, binding and obligatory [as a covenant to unconverted Jews only] until 70AD.
- Atonement was incomplete and the saints were given life in the Spirit, experiencing or tasting the powers of the age to come in advance of its arrival, Heb. 6:5, while the unbelieving Jews remained under the debt of sin during Christ’s pre-parousia reign.
- Grace and justification from sin was an “already-but-not-yet” process begun through the cross and the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost which would be completed in 70AD, 1 Peter. 1:9-13.
The Old Law could not pass until all, i.e. every jot and tittle were fulfilled. However, Christians were freed from the law through Christ’s death and the work of the Spirit. The Atonement would only be completed at the Parousia, for Jesus would return without sin for salvation, Heb. 9:28; Rom. 11:27.
Those would be more accurate representations of the Covenant Eschatology view, or at least they are what I believe and teach.
End of Torah and the Probation of the Will
Simmons uses the legal argument of a will to affirm that the new covenant went into effect totally and exclusively at the death of Christ. He writes: “It is a fundamental maxim of law that there can be only one will or testament in force at a time. The last or latest will revokes all earlier ones.” He cites Hebrews 9:17 as proof. “For a testament is in force after men are dead” (Heb. 9:17)
Simmons is a practicing attorney by profession, a very well educated brilliant man. However, even though it is true that a will revokes all earlier ones, it does not necessarily follow that the Old Law ends at the death of the testator or that the new will applies unconditionally to all members of a given family, let alone to everyone. It has limitations in scope. We are not probate attorneys but here is what my limited research says.
Defining the Probate Process
“The probate of a will means proving its genuineness in probate court. Unless otherwise provided by statute, a will must be admitted to probate before a court will allow the distribution of a decedent’s property to the heirs according to its terms.
As a general rule, a will has no legal effect until it is probated. A will should be probated immediately, and no one has the right to suppress it. The person with possession of a will, usually the personal representative or the decedent’s attorney, must produce it. Statutes impose penalties for concealing or destroying a will or for failing to produce it within a specified time.” http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Probate+of+a+will
A will must be probated before it goes into effect. Part of that process involves producing or publishing the will. In other words, that which is private must be admitted into legal public record. Was the will of Christ published at the time of his death? No.
Applying Probate Process to the End of Torah
Were there others who contested the last will and testament of Christ? Yes. The Jews contested the will and claimed the Old Testament was God’s only and final will. Did Christ publish the New Testament at his death or even at Pentecost? No. How then could his will be probated, i.e. established as authentic and genuine to the public? It had to be revealed by him through the Spirit and confirmed. The apostles were the executors of the estate. Not until this process was complete could that will be established in court. The assets covered in the will could not be distributed or dispersed until that process is completed. The period of confirmation continued until the end of the age, (Matt. 28:20; 1 Cor. 1:5-8)
The contesting of the will of Christ determined who were the true sons of God. How did God establish this to the public? For one, he gave the Spirit as noted above. Two, over time he published the will as a matter of public record. But the final piece of evidence occurred in the divine court when the verdict was given to establish Christ’s will beyond all doubt. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD was the final settling of the question of who are the sons of God, (Rev. 2:9, 3:9). See also 1 John 3:1-3; Col. 3:3-4.
When those who contested the will and who had laid claim to the inheritance were destroyed, (Matt. 21:33-43) their claim was forever denied by God and established in the public record so that all the world for all time would know the people of his favor and who were the rightful and legal recipients of his inheritance. That in my judgment was the probation of the will of Christ.
Simmons has the will going into effect totally before it is ever published. He has the inheritance given at the cross. This is clearly a violation of the probate process of a will. The time when the inheritance is given is proof that the will has been probated. Not until then, does the will go into effect and its assets distributed. Again, it is for this reason, the saints were given the Spirit through this process of divine probate.
Preston-Simmons End of Torah Debate
Don K Preston, D. Div., clearly destroyed Simmons’ house of cards position on the termination of the Law, in the End of Torah, At the Cross or AD 70?, debate. Germane to the above point on two wills in existence at the same time, Preston offered the following:
“I stand with Paul that the Gentiles who did not have Torah were, “without God, having no hope in this world” (Ephesians 2:12f), but that they could, through conscientious living, be justified (Romans 2:14f). That means, prima facie, that there were two systems in place at the same time.
And did you notice (Here is an empty box!)—that Kurt has totally ignored my repeated argument on Galatians 4? Ishmael and Isaac dwelt together in the same house? Hagar and Ishmael represented the Old Covenant and the Old Covenant people who persecuted Isaac (the spiritual seed). As a result, Paul said, “cast out the bondwoman and her son.” This proves, irrefutably, that the two laws existed side by side until the casting out of Israel for persecuting the church!
Kurt has not breathed on this and he dare not, for it falsifies his new theology. His emotional appeal to “paganism” does not falsify the argument….” EOT, p. 183.
I would also add that Kurt’s appeal to the idolatry practiced in paganism is a distortion of the truth and a debate mad dog tactic designed to steer the reader away from the true force of the argument by injecting an absurdity. He claimed that if Don argued that Pagans could be justified by God apart from the law (Rom. 2:14), implied that God accepted the unbridled idolatry of paganism. This is so utterly false it should not be mentioned.
First, pagans were not the only practitioners of idolatry. Jews practiced idolatry also. Does Kurt deny that Torah was a God given covenant because Jews practiced idolatry on a national scale? That is the absurdity of his argument.
Secondly, that God did not accept the idolatry of paganism is evident from the book of Acts, when the Gentiles who believed but who were not brought under bondage of Torah were told to keep themselves from things strangled and from idols, (Acts 15:28-29). The entirety of the Old Testament is a witness against Simmons desperation in this argument. Idolatry violates the 1st of the ten commandments and was abhorred both before, during and after Torah.
Finally, Abraham was under paganism and God justified him, apart from Torah. He is the clearest example that God did not approve of idolatry under paganism, and hence called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees, out from the pagan influences of his fathers who were beyond the river. (Gen. 12:1-3, 15:6; Josh. 24:14-15; Rom. 4:2-4)
Every Christian, theologian and preacher should have a copy of the Preston-Simmons End of Torah Debate, especially those on any side of the Preterist movement.
Simmons’ attempt to build and tear down straw men amounts to blatant dishonesty. He is well aware of our views and though he knows them chooses not to honestly articulate them.