The Sabbath, Postmillennialism and the McDurmon – Preston Debate

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Dominionist thoelogy, otherwise known as postmillennialism, reconstructionism, Theonomy and some other epithets, maintains that the Law of Moses remains valid today. In fact, Gary North commenting on Deuteronomy 8 has this to say, “This passage in Deuteronomy presents the biblical basis of progress in history.” He then added, “Any attempt to renounce this passage as no longer judicially binding in the New Covenant era is inescapably a denial of any biblical basis for God honoring cultural progress in history.”  (Gary North, Millennialism and Social Theory, (Tyler, Tx., Institute For Christian Economics, 1990)52f).

Very clearly then, per Dominionist theology, the Law of Moses is to be imposed on the New Covenant. Of course, this violates Jesus’ words that you do not put new patches on old skins (Mark 2).

While Theonomists like to speak of the continuing validity of Torah, they nonetheless say that much of the Law has in fact been removed. They are insistent that the sacrificial system, the “New Moons, feast days and Sabbaths” have been “purged” to use a term from Greg Bahnsen.  The inconsistency, and un-Biblical nature of this doctrine was recently on public display.

In my formal debate with Joel McDurmon of American Vision (July 19-21, 2012), in my first affirmative presentation, I took note of the critical, but mostly overlooked, importance of the Sabbath to the study of eschatology.

I proved that the Sabbath was a distinctively covenantal sign between God and Israel, a sign both of creation and of deliverance from Egyptian bondage and death. (Exodus 31; Deuteronomy 5). (DVDs and MP3s of the debate will be available from this website very shortly).

Not only was the Sabbath a covenantal sign between YHVH and Israel, it was a prophetic foreshadowing of the end of the millennium (final) salvation and resurrection.

My argument then was that Jesus said not one jot or one tittle would pass from Torah, the Law of Moses, until it was all completely accomplished, brought to reality (Matthew 5:17-18). (See my new book, From Torah To Telos, The Passing of the Law of Moses, for an extensive exegesis of Matthew 5:17-18). This means that until what the Sabbath foreshadowed came into reality, i.e. until the end of the millennium resurrection was fulfilled, not one jot or one tittle of the Law of Moses would pass away.

McDurmon initially ignored this argument, so I repeated it and pressed it. He then admitted that he believes that  the Sabbath, with its ceremonial ordinances, i.e the sacrifices and observance of the seventh day, have passed away. However, of course, per Joel, the end of the millennium resurrection has not come to reality.

The reader simply must catch the power of the Sabbath issue. (In my planned series of books on the passing of the Law of Moses, I have plans to produce one volume devoted strictly to this incredibly important issue).

Joel, and virtually all Dominionists (postmillennialists), hold to the similar view on the Sabbath. In fact, I documented in a chart how Bahnsen, Gentry, DeMar all agree that the Sabbath foreshadowed the end of the millennium resurrection. Likewise, they all affirm that the seventh day Sabbath has been annulled, along with all of its ceremonial, cultic ministrations. Yet, they all say that what the Sabbath foreshadowed– the consummation of God’s eschatological scheme– has not been fulfilled! Do you see the problem? It is huge. It is insurmountable. It is fatal to the Dominionist paradigm.

I once again took note of Jesus’ words that not one iota of Torah would pass until it was ALL– not some, not even most– but until it was ALL fulfilled, came to reality. Joel’s response was nothing less than desperate and revealing.

Joel responded by noting that the word “all” does not always mean “all.” He appealed to Joshua 21:43-45 where it says that all of God’s land promises to Israel had been fulfilled, and claiming that the Messianic promises had not yet been fulfilled. All in Joshua is limited, therefore, he implied, all in Matthew 5 must be limited, and thus proclaiming that he had nullified my argument on Matthew 5.

Of course, no one denies that context can limit the meaning of “all.” However, I produced a chart with the following quote from Greg Bahnsen (One of McDurmon’s mentors):
“A verse like Matthew 5:18, with its unparticularized panta (translated as “all” DKP) is prey for such treatment… Nothing in the context or vocabulary of Matthew 5:18 warrants the induction of speculative meaning; a phrase as colorless and abstract as panta should not be particularized, personalized, and steered into this theological preconception. …. Page 83— “In Matthew 5:18 the commencement of the law’s passing away is made dependent upon panta genetai. Panta, when used without an article or preposition indicates “all things, everything.” It is to be taken in this absolutely general sense unless the context dictates some antecedent whole of which panta constitutes the complete parts.” (Theonomy, 83, my emp). (McDurmon totally ignored the chart and the quote).

The next night, I took note of Joel’s disturbing hermeneutic. By appealing to Joshua to redefine Matthew 5 Joel was guilty of an illegitimate transfer of context. Joshua was not talking about what Matthew 5 was talking about. To impose one context on another context, when the subject matter is totally different in the two texts, is clearly wrong.

I likewise took note that Joel’s hermeneutic would destroy the meaning of all in all (pun intended) contexts! In other words, if Joshua 21 defines “all” as a limited “all” in Matthew 5, then why doesn’t the “all” in Joshua limit the definition of “all” in “all” (comprehensively speaking) texts? This is so patently untenable as to be unthinkable, and, of course, Joel would never accept it. However, he could never justify why the “all” in Joshua demanded a limited “all” in Matthew. He never gave a word of justification other than seeking to imply that Joshua limited Matthew. This kind of specious, arbitrary hermeneutic is very, very revealing.

Very clearly, there is no contextual qualifier in Matthew 5 that limits, in any way whatsoever, the definition of “all.”  Thus, per Bahnsen’s excellent analysis, all in Matthew 5 must mean, well, ALL! In fact, as Bahnsen notes, all in Matthew 5 must, since there are no textual qualifiers or limiters, refer to the “minutia of the Law.” This is a devastating admission.

(In another article, we will share Joel’s disingenuous attempt to negate the force of Jesus’ use of genetai, translated as “fulfilled” in Matthew 5:18).

Here then, was, and is, my argument:

Jesus said that not one jot or one tittle would pass from the Law of Moses until it was all fully accomplished.

The Sabbath– an integral part of the Law of Moses– foreshadowed the end of the millennium resurrection.

Therefore  until the end of the millennium resurrection is fulfilled, comes into reality, not one single iota of the Law of Moses– and specifically the observance of the ceremonial, cultic, sacrificial seventh day Sabbath– can or will pass away!

Joel’s futurist eschatology (in fact, all futurist eschatologies) demands the continuance of the seventh day Sabbath!

I asked the audience (and of course, Joel) at least twice, to consider what Joel was saying. By taking the position that he does, Joel turns Jesus’ teaching 180% out. Jesus said, “not one jot or one tittle  will pass from the law until it is all fulfilled.” Joel, and all futurists, say that what Jesus really meant was: “Some jots and tittles of the Law, for instance the seventh day Sabbath, will pass from the law without being fulfilled at all!”

I posed the following question to Joel and the audience: Would anyone every get Joel’s interpretation of Matthew 5:17-18 from Jesus’ words? Would they ever get from, “Not one jot or one tittle shall pass from the law until it is all fulfilled” that it actually means: “Some jots and tittles of the Law will pass without being fulfilled”? Joel never offered a single word in response to this question.

I want the reader to let that soak in.

Some years ago, (1997) David Chilton gave a speech in Oklahoma City, presenting his reasons for becoming a full preterist. He took note that Dominionists commonly appeal– as Bahnsen, Gary North and even Joel McDurmon– to Matthew 5:17-18 to prove the eternal validity of the Law of Moses.  But, as Chilton noted, the very verse that they appeal to for their doctrine is in fact a total refutation of their doctrine!

Chilton demonstrated exegetically and logically, that, Matthew 5:17-18 emphatically says that not one iota of Torah– which includes the sacrificial system– would pass until it was all fulfilled. Yet, all Dominionists say that lots and lots of jots and tittles of the Law of Moses have passed away, without being fulfilled! Those jots and tittles of the, “New Moons, feast days and Sabbaths” were“purged”, removed and annulled, without ever being fulfilled! (The lectureship containing Chilton’s speech is available from me. Contact me through this site).

In reality, in one very real sense, nothing else that Joel McDurmon said in the debate really matters.  It is impossible, logically, to affirm the passing of the seventh day Sabbath without thereby demanding the fulfillment of the end of the millennium resurrection– the fulfillment of “final salvation”– the Abrahamic Covenant promises. Joel says that the seventh day Sabbath has passed, but, that what the Sabbath anticipated and foreshadowed has not come to reality. The shadow has not become reality. The shadow simply passed away; there is no “reality.”  There can be no reconciliation between Dominionist theology and Jesus’ words.

There could not be a clearer rejection of the words of Jesus than the futurist eschatology of postmillennial Dominionism.