The Tree of Life: Now Or Never? Part 2
I am critiquing the futurist view of the Tree of Life, as well as the views of Ed Stevens (who claims to be a full preterists, but whose views teach otherwise). Be sure to read part 1 to fully appreciate this second installment.
Do not lose sight of the fact that Stevens teaches that physical death, the result of expulsion from the Garden and access to the Tree – is a fundamental element of Adamic Death. In other words, physical life on earth with access to the Tree of Life was forfeited. So, why is it that in Stevens’ paradigm, THOSE THINGS ARE NEVER RESTORED, since “all the prophets who have ever spoken” foretold the “restoration of all things”?
You see, to drive home the point, the reality is that in Stevens’ view, virtually NOTHING has been, or ever will be restored, (and you have to keep in mind that Stevens makes the Tree of Life a literal Tree, the River of Life a literal river). Thus, those things should be– must be – RESTORED ON EARTH. Yet, Stevens denies that any of the following are to be– EVER– restored to man on earth:
No Garden of Eden on earth.
No River of Life.
No Tree of Life restored on earth.
No restored fellowship with God, with man on earth.
Since Stevens denies that any of these things have been restored, then since the restoration of those things was the eschatological goal, that means that if he takes them as literal, physical realities– as he does “death”- then he is a futurist, or, he must admit that those things were never to be restored literally, but spiritually. Of course, to admit this is to abandon his doctrine of Adamic Death being physical death.
Now, if Stevens is correct in saying that physical death is never dealt with in his IBV view, (and I cited him on this very thing in the first article) that means SIN IS NEVER DEALT WITH SINCE IN STEVENS’ DOCTRINE, WE ONLY DIE PHYSICALLY BECAUSE WE FIRST DIE SPIRITUALLY DUE TO SIN! Thus, since physical death is never– NEVER- dealt with and overcome, of logical necessity, sin is never dealt with. Sin is NEVER forgiven! The reality is that if / when you make physical death an intrinsic element of Adamic Death, then you MUST provide for a victory over physical death. In Pauline resurrection theology, there is no “partial” solution, to a part of the Adamic Death. Yet, that is precisely what Ed Stevens’ paradigm posits and teaches.
Furthermore, the reader needs to remember this, from my affirmative presentations:
According to Paul, Adamic Death was “the last enemy” (“As in Adam all men die”- 1 Cor. 15:22).
Stevens is adamant that physical death was part of the Curse of Adam- resulting from his sin and expulsion from the Tree.
Thus, physical death is at least a part, an element, of “the last enemy.”
And Stevens admits this- perhaps inadvertently – when he teaches that every Christian – like Adam – dies physically “because we are sinners” – cut off from the Tree of Life.
This can only mean one thing: Every Christian is still subject to “the last enemy” – the Death Curse of Adam.
If physical death is the enemy, then until physical death is ABOLISHED – AND THAT IS NOT DONE BY DYING! – physical death remains the enemy of the child of God forever, in Stevens’ view, since he has no “end of the age” coming of the Lord or resurrection to deal with the last enemy. In our first installment, I documented how Stevens does not believe that physical death is EVER abolished. It is never overcome! Thus, Christians forever remain under that Curse!
In the very first affirmative of our debate, (My 1-A- #27) – I documented that Paul said (1 Corinthians 15:26)- “the last enemy to be destroyed” (from katargeo, abolished) at the parousia was Adamic Death – (1 Corinthians 15:22f).
And so, once again:
Stevens claims that physical death is (part of) the Death of Adam.
Thus, physical death was to be abolished for those in Christ at the parousia in AD 70.
But, physical death was not abolished for those in Christ, at the parousia in AD 70.
Therefore, either the parousia – when “the death of Adam” would be abolished – has not occurred (falsifying Ed’s espoused preterism),
The Death of Adam did not include physical death.
Did Stevens respond to this? Not a keystroke. Total, abject, 100% silence.
Stunningly, as I have pointed out, Ed initially emphatically denied that Adamic Death was to be abolished for those in Christ at the parousia. (This is literally incredible! It may well be the first time in history that anyone has denied that Adamic Death would be abolished at the parousia). Stevens might deny that Adamic would be abolished for those in Christ at his parousia, BUT THAT WAS UNDENIABLY PAUL’S POSITION: “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
But then, when I pointed out Paul’s emphatic words, Stevens pivoted 180% and said that A-D (Adamic Death) WAS to be ABOLISHED for those in Christ at the parousia. (That is what you call a “Debate Conversion.” But, he said everything hinges on the definition of death. Okay, but in 1 Corinthians 15 THERE IS BUT ONE (“THE DEATH” IN VIEW- not three kinds of death). There is no bifurcation of A-D in the text.
Ed says PHYSICAL DEATH IS THE RESULT OF SPIRITUAL DEATH. So, if spiritual death was abolished in AD 70, there cannot be physical death for the Christian. If we do not die physically, there should be 2000 year old saints running around, or, there should be an on-going rapture. If there is no rapture now, there was no rapture then, since the promise of never dying was not applicable to that generation alone. (Little wonder Stevens totally abandoned all discussion of his rapture theory in light of these things).
And if spiritual death was abolished in AD 70, then “eternal death” was likewise abolished.
Physical death was not abolished for the Christian in AD 70. This is prima facie, experientialy, empirically true.
I challenged Stevens to SPECIFICALLY IDENTIFY WHAT ADAMIC DEATH WAS TO BE ABOLISHED AT THE PAROUSIA. Here is what I wrote:
It cannot be spiritual death, since you say that physical death comes as a result of spiritual death. (We still have physical death, thus, we still have spiritual death).
It cannot be physical death.
You deny that it was eternal death.
This is Ed’s dilemma. He cannot deny the continuing reality of physical death. That means he cannot deny the reality of spiritual death, since even Christians die because of sin, per Stevens.
So, Ed, tell us plainly, what Adamic Death was abolished for the Christian at the parousia? DO NOT FAIL TO ANSWER!
(Insert: Stevens totally refused to answer. Not a keystroke).
Now, look at the application of all of this to the issue of the Tree of Life.
In Revelation 20:10f we have the resurrection, the overcoming of the Last Enemy, which, as we have shown, is Adamic Death. (Do not lose sight of the fact that STEVENS SAYS ADAMIC DEATH INCLUDES PHYSICAL DEATH). It is then, and only then, that the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven for God to dwell with man. IT IS THEN AND ONLY THEN – AT THE DESTRUCTION OF THE LAST ENEMY – THAT MAN HAS ACCESS TO THE TREE OF LIFE.
So, the last enemy– which, per Stevens- included physical death – had to be destroyed for man to have access to the Tree of Life.
Here is the argument:
The last enemy had to be destroyed for man to have access to the Tree of Life- Revelation 29-22.
The last enemy, Adamic Death included physical death, per Edward Stevens.
Therefore, physical death, being part of Adamic Death, had to be, or has to be, destroyed for man to have access to the Tree of Life
Houston, (more accurately, Ed Stevens) we (you!) have a problem! Look closer:
Physical death, being part of Adamic Death, had to be, or has to be, destroyed for man to have access to the Tree of Life
The IBV (Individual Body View of Resurrection of Ed Stevens) has no provision for the overcoming of physical death– Ed Stevens.
Therefore, the IBV doctrine of Edward Stevens has no provision for the overcoming of Adamic Death in order for man to have access to the Tree of Life.
Thus, when Stevens says that the last enemy, physical death, IS NEVER OVERCOME, NEVER CONQUERED, NEVER ABOLISHED FOR THE CHRISTIAN– he is saying (logically) that no man will ever have access to the Tree of life!
DO YOU CATCH THE POWER OF THIS? Edward Stevens– who claims to be a full preterist – has no provision for victory over the last enemy, Adamic Death– EVER.
His paradigm provides for no forgiveness for the Christian because, per Stevens, all Christians die physically only because we first die spiritually due to sin.
Since we all die physically, then of logical necessity, we all die spiritually– without forgiveness! Is this our victory in Jesus?
As just seen, physical death is an integral part of the Adamic Death Curse, (per Stevens). It is therefore, what Paul described as “the last enemy.” Thus, since Stevens’ doctrine has, per his own words, NO PROVISION FOR VICTORY OVER PHYSICAL DEATH, MEANING NO VICTORY OVER SIN, HE HAS NO VICTORY OVER THE LAST ENEMY!
THIS is Edward Stevens’ “gospel.” No forgiveness. No victory. No eternal life. Man is NEVER delivered from the Adamic Curse (as Stevens defines it).
I have shown that in Pauline eschatology, the resurrection is the time when sin, the sting of death, was to be- (and was) – overcome. Thus, to reiterate, Stevens cannot affirm that physical death is never overcome, without thereby demanding THAT SIN IS NEVER OVERCOME. Sin and death– physical death per Stevens – are Siamese twins that cannot be separated: “The wages of sin is death” (physical death, per Stevens). His contrived doctrine, which demands that Adamic Death involved physical death, destroys the reality of forgiveness, and actually falsifies his own claimed preterism. It assuredly destroys the “good news” of Christ.
If Stevens affirms that Revelation 21:1-3 is fulfilled, then of necessity, he must admit that the Tree of Life has been restored, and the faithful have access to it NOW, in Christ and the New Jerusalem that came down from God out of heaven. If God dwells with us today, in Christ and the New Jerusalem – which is the church of the Living God (Hebrews 12:21f) – then Eden has been restored, and those in that New Jerusalem NOW partake of the River of Life, and the Tree of Life.
Let me close by offering here several points, edited and expanded, from one of my affirmatives, points totally ignored by Stevens. Keep the following in mind as you read what follows:
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.
What does this familiar passage teach? It teaches that sin separates us from God. It teaches that sin forces God to turn His face from us. It teaches that sin, if not forgiven and dealt with, means that we cannot be saved. With these things firmly in mind, consider the following:
The Tree of Life (ToL) was lost in Adam as a direct result of sin. Man was separated from God, just as Isaiah 59 depicts as the wages of sin.
The ToL is in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:1-3). This is indisputable from Revelation.
The New Jerusalem is the Bride of Christ- THE CHURCH– not heaven. (Comment: You must realize how important this point is. Stevens has the Tree in heaven, REVELATION HAS IT IN THE CHURCH!)
That New Jerusalem, “came down from God out of heaven” and, “the tabernacle of God is with man” (3:12; 20:10f; 21:1-3, 10) – after the Resurrection. This is NOT a removal of the then living saints from the earth. (Stevens’ rapture doctrine goes up in smoke based on this text alone!)
This New Jerusalem is the “abiding city” of Hebrews 13:12 that was “about to COME.” It was not “going,” but “COMING.”
Those in the New Jerusalem, THE CHURCH, in Christ, partake of the ToL today.
If we do not yet have access to the Tree, Christ has not come. It is to be noted that in Revelation 20-22, access to the Tree comes, not at the death of the individual Christian, but at the “coming down from God out of heaven” of the New Jerusalem. Access to the Tree is open for the nations of the earth to enter the New Jerusalem (they do not have to die to enter!!!). There they find healing.
Thus, if the Christian today has no access to the Tree (due to sin) as Stevens affirms:
It means that we never will have access because– remember this and don’t lose sight of it– in Steven’s view, SIN IS NEVER REMOVED EVEN FOR THE CHRISTIAN! THE CHRISTIAN, LIKE THE SINNER, ONLY DIES PHYSICALLY BECAUSE THEY FIRST DIE SPIRITUALLY! Thus, sin, never being removed, never forgiven, will ALWAYS prevent the Christian from partaking of the Tree of Life, because sin separates man from God. But – you must catch the power of this – STEVENS HAS SIN REUNITING MAN AND GOD, because man sins, dies spiritually and then physically, AND IS THEN USHERED INTO HEAVEN WHERE HE IS IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD. Thus, only by sinning and dying as a result of that sin can man be reunited to God! I urged the reader to consider this carefully: Does sin still separate us from God (per Isaiah 59 / Romans 3 / Romans 6), or, as demanded by Stevens’ view, does sin actually serve to reunite man with God, by bring death on man, and that death from sin ushers one into the presence of God?
Can anyone take this seriously? It is very clear that Stevens has carefully hidden this aspect of his novel doctrine from his followers!
Remember Isaiah 59.
In Revelation, after the parousia, the ToL would be made accessible to those in the New Jerusalem- the church.
The parousia was in AD 70 (Stevens supposedly agrees).
Therefore, the ToL is now accessible to those in the New Jerusalem – the church.
And yet, Stevens says we must die, as a result of sin, (and thus, in sin), to partake of the Tree! We must (and do) experience the very thing that prevented Adam from partaking of the Tree of Life, in order to partake of the Tree! Think of this, folks, IN STEVENS’ CONSTRUCT, SIN AND THE CONSEQUENT PENALTY OF DEATH ARE ESSENTIAL PREREQUISITES FOR HAVING ACCESS TO THE TREE OF LIFE! He claims that sin and death prevented Adam from partaking of the Tree, and yet, Christians must experience sin and death to eat of the Tree! To say that this is illogical is a gross understatement!
Stevens says, “access to the Tree of Life has not been restored to earth (“because we are all sinners).” (Answers #11). Stevens is essentially echoing Isaiah 59 here, acknowledging that sin does not usher us into the presence of God, but prevents access. Thus, if we die as a direct result of sin, then we die in sin, and that can only mean one thing: WE ARE LOST! Thus, Christ did not restore what was lost in Adam. SIN STILL SEPARATES US FROM THE TREE! We are under the penal physical judgment- separation from the Tree. (Remember that I cited Stevens’ own words in which he admits that Adam’s physical death, 900 years after the Garden, was, after all, A PENAL JUDGMENT AND CONDEMNATION. He has thus destroyed his own doctrine).
So, if Christians still do not have access to the Tree, it means that the New Jerusalem has not descended or that Christians are not in the New Jerusalem.
It means that the church is not married to Christ. The marriage was to be at the parousia and judgment of Babylon (Matthew 22:1-10 / 25:1f / Revelation 19:6f).
It means that God does not dwell with us. But He was to dwell with man in the New Creation post parousia- in the “restoration of all things.”
THOSE THINGS WERE COMING DOWN TO MAN AT THE PAROUSIA – NOT MAN GOING UP TO THEM!
To partake of the ToL is to have eternal life.
Those in Christ have eternal life (John 8:51; 11:25-26).
Therefore, those in Christ are partakers of the ToL.
Stevens fails to see that Christ IS the Tree of Life. He fails to see that Christ IS the River of Life. His crass literalism in regard to the Tree is somewhat amazing. Does he also believe that there is a literal River of Life, a river that gives life? If so, what kind of life does it give? Is it a different kind of life from that which the Tree of Life gives?
Since Christians today partake of the ToL– we eat and drink “the flesh and blood of Christ” – that means that we “never die.” Since it is prima facie, experientially and empirically true that Christians die physically, it must be true that the ToL is not for giving physical life.
Stevens says as a result of sin Adam lost access to the ToL and died physically.
Stevens says that we today, JUST LIKE ADAM, do not have access to the ToL, “because we are all sinners,”
Thus, to drive home the important point, Christians, like all men, die physically – AS A PENAL JUDGMENT- (Romans 5:12 / 6:23)! There is no “natural (Adamic) death.” As I pointed out in my article on “Penal Death versus Natural Death,” in Paul’s soteriological and eschatological discussions there is no such thing as penal versus natural – both of which come as a direct result (wage) of sin.
Once again, Stevens is expressing the sentiment of Isaiah 59, when he affirms that we die as a direct result of sin. We die both spiritually (first) and then we die physically, as a result of our sin. And yet, in spite of the fact that we die as a result of sin, and in sin, those “deaths” (spiritual and physical) takes us to heaven and the Presence of God- according to Stevens! Nothing could be more antithetical to the Biblical story.
If Adam was barred from heaven and the Tree of Life BECAUSE OF SIN, then exactly how is it that the Christian gets to go to heaven when we die, bearing the full brunt of the Adamic Death Curse, i.e. (Per Stevens) spiritual and physical death? Why isn’t the Christian barred from access to the Tree just like Adam was, since the Christian dies as a result of sin, just like Adam? Why doesn’t Isaiah 59 apply here?
Stevens cannot respond by saying that the Christian is forgiven, without impaling himself on his claim that ADAM WAS FORGIVEN. So, if the Christian gets to go to heaven, (because they are forgiven), in spite of having to experience the Adamic Death Curse, then why didn’t Adam get to go to heaven and partake of the Tree of Life? Keep in mind that Stevens is adamant that Adam and Eve were forgiven!
Very clearly, in Stevens’ view, the principle of Isaiah 59 applied to Adam, but, he then turns around and rejects that same principle when he says that in spite of the fact that we experience the Adamic Death (s) due to sin, we are NOT SEPARATED FROM God! Folks, if forgiveness opened up heaven and access to the Tree of Life, and if Adam was truly forgiven as Stevens claims, then Adam should have gone to heaven when he died. But of course, Stevens denies that Adam went to heaven. This is inescapable.
In light of all the above – and more could be added– it should be more than evident– indisputably so– that Ed Stevens’ view of the Tree of Life has withered and died from the root upward.
Be sure to get a copy of my book, The Death of Adam / The Life of Christ, for more discussion of the nature of the Death of Adam and the Tree of Life.