The Tree of Life– Now or Never? A Critique of Futurism – and Ed Stevens
Futurism says that the Tree of Life will one day, at the so-called, imaginary “end of time”, the end of the current Christian age, one of two things will happen:
- The faithful will be taken to heaven, where the Tree of Life resides, and will be given immortality and eternal life.
- God comes down from heaven to a literal, material “New Heaven and Earth” and the (literal) Tree of Life is restored to earth, where the faithful partake of its fruit and live forever.
(Some futurists deny that a literal Tree of Life, with physical fruit has any part in the future, see and recognizing that Jesus is now our Tree of Life and our River of Life).
While this article, in two parts, will deal with Edward Stevens, (International Preterist Association), and his views, a great deal of what I will offer here will apply to the futurist paradigm as well. (The truth is, as I have been noting in my critique of Steven’s attacks on me, in reality, he cannot be any longer considered a full preterist. A great deal of his arguments logically demand that he is a futurist).
With the preliminaries before us, here is part one of a two part examination of the Tree of Life.
The Tree of Life: Now or Never? Part 1
A Critique of Futurism and the Views of (Supposed) Full Preterist Ed Stevens
The reader needs to be aware that I have now posted several articles directly challenging and refuting the foundational tenets of Edward Stevens’ paradigm. I have challenged him to respond, but predicted that he would be silent. And I was right! As I write this, weeks after I began posting, he has not undertaken to hit a key in response. (Well, he did claim that I misrepresented him, but when I challenged him to produce the proof of that charge, he literally disappeared from the discussion. He has found the time to post on other forums, almost always attacking me [with one exception], but he has not found the time to defend the most fundamental of his doctrines that I was exposing and refuting). To say this is revealing is a huge understatement.
The reader needs to know that Ed Stevens believes that the Christian, although (ostensibly) forgiven, does not possess eternal life and immortality. We have to die – experiencing the Adamic Curse – and go to heaven where we then have access to the Tree of Life. This is when, AND ONLY WHEN, we are given immortality and eternal life. That eternal life is bestowed on us when we eat the literal, physical fruit of the literal, physical Tree of Life. Which raises the point: if, when we die, we are given immortal, incorruptible bodies, as Stevens’ affirms, then how could a physical fruit give us eternal life??? I mean, if we receive immortal, incorruptible bodies when we die, then by that very fact, we have eternal life! Stevens’ view that we must partake of the Tree of Life essentially demands that upon death, we receive mortal bodies, but, once we eat of that literal, physical fruit, our bodies then– and ONLY THEN– are incorruptible and immortal.
Side Bar: Stevens’ claim that we do not possess eternal life now, logically demands that we must still have the charismatic gifts of the Spirit, as the guarantee of that time when we do receive eternal life (Ephesians 1:12-13). In a remarkable (and radical) change of doctrine, Stevens is now on record (February, 2020), as stating that he sees no reason to believe that the charismatic gifts of the Spirit have ceased. Here are his own words: “I have seen lots of evidence to support the ongoing, current miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in the Church today, so I lean toward that view.”
Stevens’ words further my contention that HE IS NOT A FULL PRETERIST, since the gifts of the Spirit were to continue – as the guarantee of the bestowal of salvation – until ‘the end” (1 Corinthians 1:4-8), the time of the arrival of “that which is perfect” (1 Corinthians 13), “until we all come to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:8-13). They were to continue until the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord, Christ’s coming at the Day of Redemption (Acts 2:19-21; Ephesians 4:30). Furthermore, ALL, not just some, but ALL of the gifts were to continue until the Day. Thus, if the gifts continue as Stevens claims – we should have– actually, MUST HAVE – active, inspired, authoritative, infallible “apostles, prophets, evangelists” functioning in the church today. We do not have them. There is not a syllable of support for the idea that some of the gifts of the Spirit would cease, while some would continue indefinitely.
We must keep in mind that according to Stevens, in the ever so self-contradictory claim that physical death is not penal death, (except that it IS, penal death), he tells us that Adam suffered the penal death of exclusion from the Garden and the Tree of Life, AS A DIRECT RESULT OF SIN. Keep this in mind because it is critical– sin is what bars a person, a Christian, from partaking of the Tree of Life. But wait! That is not the whole story of Stevens’ view.
Remember, I have documented that Stevens says that we today only die physically because we first die spiritually. Thus, in every way, Sin and Death – The Law of Sin and Death – dominates every aspect of the Christians life, in the same precise way that it dominates the life of the non-Christian! What this logically demands– and there is no escape, logically, – is that the Christian is absolutely NOT FORGIVEN. And since the Christian is patently not forgiven, since we pay the full “wages of sin,” then Stevens’ claim that when the Christian dies they go to heaven where they are given life and immortality, with access to the Tree of Life is specious in the extreme.
If we die spiritually due to sin, then we are under the condemnation of that sin. If we die physically because of sin, then we are under the Curse of that sin. How, then, in the name of reason, can anyone say that the Christian, having died spiritually due to sin, and consequently who died physically as a wage of that sin, gets to go to heaven and receive access to the Tree of Life? Remember, it is Stevens who told us that Adam was barred from the Tree of Life AS A RESULT OF SIN. Yet now, he tries to tell us that although we are fully under the power and Curse of Adamic Death– proven by our spiritual and physical death– nonetheless, when we die, we DO have access to the Tree of Life! This is the height of illogic and bad (false) argumentation.
This once again raises the issue of forgiveness. I wrote two articles on this, but of course, as expected, Stevens did not hit a key in response. But to set the stage for our consideration of the Tree of Life, it is necessary to re-examine the issue of forgiveness. So, I am pasting here some of my comments from that (totally ignored) article on Forgiveness.
Stevens says Christians still pay the wage of sin- spiritual and physical death- (meaning we are NOT forgiven). Sorry, folks, if Christians still pay the penalty of sin– spiritual and physical death – we are NOT FORGIVEN! To suggest otherwise would be like receiving a notice from our bank that our house debt is forgiven. Yet, when the next month rolls around, we get a bill for the full debt! We call the bank and say, “Hey, you told me that my debt was forgiven!” They respond, “Well, yes, your debt is forgiven, BUT YOU STILL HAVE TO PAY THE FULL BILL!” This is Ed Stevens’ view of forgiveness and it violates every concept of forgiveness. It actually makes a mockery of the idea of forgiveness.
But then, in Stevens view, although we pay the wages of sin- WITH SPIRITUAL DEATH CAUSING OUR PHYSICAL DEATH – we go to heaven. Sorry, but, if we experience and submit to the Two Adamic Deaths– the wages of sin– then the only thing that can await us is eternal death.
Stevens says that we today die “because we are all sinners.” Now, if we die physically because we are sinners, (we first die spiritually and then physically, per Stevens) that means that we are paying the full penalty of sin– “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). I don’t care what kind of verbal gymnastics you try to play, this is unavoidable.
The wages of sin is (physical) death– Ed Stevens- and all futurists.
Every Christian dies physically.
Therefore, every Christian receives the wages of sin!
The wages of sin is physical death– Ed Stevens and all futurists.
The Christian is (ostensibly) forgiven of sin, that which alone imposes the “wages of sin” i.e. physical death.
Therefore, the Christian, (ostensibly) forgiven of sin, should not receive the “wages of sin.”
But, of course, Ed Stevens teaches- as we have documented- that every Christian still dies physically “because we are all sinners.”! In fact, per Stevens, our physical death comes only because WE FIRST DIE SPIRITUALLY!
Now, spiritual death is caused by sin, and ONLY SIN– (Ephesians 2:1f / Colossians 1:15-20 / 2:12-13).
So, we have a question for Edward Stevens: DO PEOPLE TODAY STILL DIE SPIRITUALLY AS A RESULT OF SIN AND THEN CONSEQUENTLY DIE PHYSICALLY AS A RESULT OF SIN? Will Stevens answer? I strongly suspect he will ignore these issues, like virtually ALL of my arguments have gone ignored!
Now, since the Christian is supposedly forgiven of sin, that which alone imposes “the wages of sin”– spiritual and physical death – then if, through forgiveness, we do not experience spiritual death, very clearly, CHRISTIANS SHOULD NOT DIE PHYSICALLY! No spiritual death demands no physical death in Stevens’ view since, remember, he says that we only die physically because we first die spiritually. Ed’s doctrine of Adamic Death (s) clearly negates and destroys the reality of forgiveness for the Christian. Is this the Gospel that he preaches? We all die “because we are all sinners”?
Stevens believes that incorruption and immortality became realities in AD 70, and that NOW, the Christian enters into that fulfilled reality when they die. That “sounds” good, except for Stevens’ view of sin and death which is delineated above– and below!
In the meantime, consider Acts 3:20-24:
That He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. 22 For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ 24 Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days.
Now, very clearly, in the eschatological narrative the restoration of Eden, the restoration of God’s presence among men and with men, is the climactic goal. That is what Revelation 21-22 depicts with the Lord coming back to dwell with man, in the restored Garden, with the Tree of Life and the River of Life.
Here is the sad reality: Ed Stevens denies that all things have been restored! He denies that access to the Tree of Life, and the River of Life has been- or, for that matter- ever will be restored. In fact, in his paradigm, man must succumb to the wages of sin, and fully experience the Adamic Death Curse, to go to heaven. He believes sin still separates man from God and prevents our access to the Tree of Life- and this will ALWAYS BE SO! Sin is what prevented Adam’s access to God, bringing on him his physical death, and sin is what prevents our access to the Tree as well. In Stevens’ paradigm, NOTHING HAS CHANGED, OR EVER WILL CHANGE!
As I pointed out in my Third Affirmative, if it is true that Adam and Eve were truly forgiven of their sin, (as Stevens claims) then they should have been restored to the Garden. FORGIVENESS BRINGS RECONCILIATION AND RESTORATION, cf. Malachi 3:7– “Return to me, and I will return to you.” Just as Israel, when she sinned, was cast out of her “Garden” i.e. the Land, she was also restored to the Land and God’s presence when she repented and when God forgave her (Cf. Hosea 5:15-6:1-6). That is a Biblical fact, but, as usual, Stevens totally ignored the point. Not a keystroke.
Thus, Stevens’ view denies that “all things” have been restored, and, what is more, his paradigm denies that all things EVER WILL BE RESTORED! He denies that the Tree of Life will ever be brought back to earth. He denies that physical death, which he identifies as a fundamental tenet of what he calls the Comprehensive Adamic Death, will be dealt with– EVER!
In a recent FB post, Stevens stated clearly that his view of resurrection does not provide for the raising of physical bodies out of the ground. Responding to a question, Ed posted further in the chain under my first article responding to his claim that there is no resurrection today. Here is what Stevens wrote in response to “Mike”:
//Mike , The IBV does not teach a “BODIES out of the ground” type of resurrection. Instead, it was a resurrection of “SOULS out of Hades” (see Rev 20:13-15). That emptying of Hades took place in the unseen realm. No bodies came out of the graves, nor did any of those resurrected souls come back into the seen realm on earth. Instead, those saints who were raised out of Hades remained in the unseen realm and put on their new immortal bodies and went to heaven to live forever afterwards.//
Thus, there can be no confusion, no doubt, no question, and no accusation of misrepresentation- whatsoever. Edward Stevens on the one hand affirms that physical death is an integral, foundational element of the Adamic Death, and yet, he has no solution, no conquering, no victory, EVER, over that Adamic Death! This in spite of the fact that Paul said that the resurrection would overcome the Adamic Death (1 Corinthians 15:22).
Paul did not say that resurrection would only deal with Hades. That is a totally fabricated and contrived doctrine. He said the resurrection would deal with the death that came through Adam. Thus, once again, to posit physical death as an intrinsic element of Adamic Death DEMANDS physical resurrection– deliverance and victory over physical death. And yet, Ed Stevens openly admits that his paradigm offers no such deliverance, no victory, just abiding under the Curse of Death, both spiritual and physical! To say that this destroys the Gospel cannot be denied.
Stay tuned for more. You do not want to miss what is coming. In the meantime, order your own copy of The Death of Adam / The Life of Christ. It is truly an eye-opening study!