Olan Hicks – First negative
I am glad for the opportunity to participate in discussion of this subject. My thanks to Robert Waters and to all of you on the Focus on Truth list for hosting this quest for truth. I intend to do my best to make sure it is time well spent. I expect this will be a civil debate, educational, and with no animosity or personal reflections. I have known several men of the AD 70 persuasion for many years and none of them have ever been rude or disrespectful to me. I was first introduced to the concept in 1982 by Max King himself, who was the first to launch it as a crusade, when I preached in a weekend meeting at that church. Max was cordial. In fact we stayed at his home during that meeting. The fact that I must now say they are seriously mistaken does not make our relationship different.
At that time, 30 years ago, they gave me a large amount of materials they had written and continued sending me more publications. For about the next year I read and studied those materials as objectively as I could to find out whether the concept had any merit. I believe I understand what is being said. In later time the farther I went with those studies the more I realized that they have a great problem with faulty exegetical procedures. That is being demonstrated in Don’s first installment of this debate. One of their usual procedures is to arbitrarily place a figurative meaning, or speculative interpretation, on a Bible statement. When they reach a conclusion that directly contradicts explicit Bible statements on the point and that is pointed out to them, they hold to the theoretical conclusion and with it over rule the explicit Bible statement. That is not the right way to handle the Bible.
A well known preacher said, “The best way to prove that a stick is crooked is to lay a straight stick along side it.” In this case the Bible is the “straight stick.” We have agreed to that in as much as we have both worded our proposition beginning with the phrase “The Bible teaches.” But according to Don’s first affirmative essay I am not sure we mean the same thing by it. In using that phrase I do not mean that the Bible implies it or it is a possible interpretation. I mean that the Bible states it clearly. For instance when the Bible describes exactly how Jesus ascended into heaven in full view of the disciples and then says He will return “in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven,” that statement is clear enough, very explicit language. It is the “straight stick” on that point. It is not reasonable to ignore the specifics given in the passage and speculate about the manner of His return as though the Bible had not spoken on it. But they do that and end up saying that the meaning is that Jerusalem will be attacked by armies. How do they get there? Almost endless speculation about OT prophecies.
First I think we need to simplify the whole matter. I would echo what Ed Stevens, a devotee to the AD70 theory, said about how this is done. Referring to the challenges of some atheists he wrote, “the only way to deflate those arguments without engaging in an incredible amount of theological gymnastics is to take the NT statements at face value.” (What Happened in AD 70, pg.4) I agree. This is exactly what we need to do. On every point the Bible either says it or it doesn’t. If the Bible says it that should settle the matter.
The simplifying starts with Don’s proposition. Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second or Final coming of Christ, the judgment and resurrection occurred at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.
What Don evidently sought to prove is not what this proposition says. My experience has been that when you ask these men for a scripture that says a certain thing they teach, they will give you a whole list of passages. The problem is that none of them say what they attribute to them. In his affirmative Don does this. He cites scriptures and scriptures and more scriptures. But what they all show is that a symbollic “coming” of Jesus in vengeance on Jerusalem was predicted and did occur. But that is not what we disagree on. There is no need to spend three thousand words proving that. What his proposition says is that “the second coming of Christ” would occur in that generation, along with the resurrection and the judgment. It is admitted by all that the AD70 event was not a literal coming in person. After all the theorizing about prophetic references we still have the explicit Bible statements that the second coming of Christ would be in person. Paul said, “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God.” (1 Thess. 4:16) In Acts 1 the angels told the disciples “He will come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven.” As we said, they over rule express Bible statements with their theory. The details of the second coming and the details of the Jerusalem event are both provided several times in the Bible and they are entirely different. In Luke 21 Jesus specified this about Jerusalem “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that the desolation is near.” (Vs. 21) In the next verse He said, “For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” This is not a coming “in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven.” It is “The days of vengeance” as Jesus said. The part of his proposition that Don gave no proof of is the statement that this is “the second or final coming of Christ” and that “the judgment and resurrection” occurred at that time.
I do not impugn anyone’s motives. I believe that these men mean well. But that does not make their mistakes harmless or acceptable. They honestly believe they have discovered a message in the Bible that most Christians are missing and they think it is important enough that they must be dedicated to it. But I believe their conclusions are serious mistakes when compared with explicit Bible statements. I would not be a true friend if I saw these errors and did not point them out. My obligation here is to do exactly that. We need to realize that when we find we are wrong about something that is not a defeat, its a victory, because now we can change it. In the Bible James expressed this principle this way, “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)
Look at his first point. “All New Testament eschatology is the reiteration of, and the expectation of, the fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises, made to Old Covenant Israel after the flesh. There are no “new” eschatological prophecies apart from, or divorced from, the promises made to Old Covenant Israel after the flesh.”
Compare that with Colossians 1:23. “If indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the Gospel which you have heard…” Paul said it was the hope of the Gospel, not the hope of “God’s Old Covenant promises, made to Old covenant Israel after the flesh.” And compare that with Hebrews 9:13. “In that he says ‘A new covenant’ He has made the first obsolete. Now that which is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”
One of the worst aspects of the AD70 theory is this very thing. It does bid to move us away from the hope of the Gospel, which is to be taken up with Christ to live forever in the Holy city. According to Paul here, if we are moved away from this hope, even if they might claim some other way to get there, being moved away from this hope is spiritually fatal.
Don’s second point is that “not one iota of Torah could pass until the full accomplishment of the resurrection and parousia.” The mistake in his argument is that he assumes that the Old Testament was to be destroyed when “all is fulfilled.” He reasons that it therefore remained until AD 70 because that event was predicted in the Torah. With that kind of reasoning you would have the Old Covenant remaining in force until the end of the world because it also speaks of that. The truth is the Old law was not to be destroyed at all. Jesus said He was not going to destroy it but simply to fulfill it. (Mat. 5:17) As we quoted above, the Hebrew writer said that a new covenant was given because the old one had served its purpose. But that law must remain to judge those who lived under it. The same Hebrew writer said, “To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time apart from sin for salvation.” (9:28)
I recognize that the Bible does sometimes use figurative language. That is not an issue. But when considering any Bible statement our first choice should be to take it at face value. If we are going to declare a statement figurative we need to have a scriptural reason for doing so. It is not proper exegesis to arbitrarily place a figurative meaning on a Bible statement as our first choice when the Bible itself gives a clear and express ruling on the point treated, and then over rule the express statement with the human theory. That is not following the Bible, it is leading the Bible. The concept Don is affirming is purely a theory and is clearly seen to be a faulty one in that it contradicts explicit Bible specifications.
His point #3 is: “ Torah foretold the parousia and resurrection.” This again is a lengthy exercize in proving something that is not in dispute. Our issue is not whether the Old Testament foretold the appearance of Christ and the resurrection. Our issue is whether the military destruction of Jerusalem constituted the second coming of Christ and the world wide resurrection of all the dead. Again here, on this point both Jesus and the apostles explicitly gave the details of what was to occur. Jesus said, “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves shall hear His voice and come forth.” (John 5:28-29) Note that Jesus said there is a specific hour appointed for this to happen and all will respond. Paul said the same thing, that “He (God) has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He has ordained.” (Acts 17:31) And again, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive the things done in this body.” (2 Cor. 5:10). Jesus said “ALL who are in the graves.” Paul said “We must ALL appear” at the judgment. Yet Don can only offer a passage in Daniel 12 which speaks of a time to come when “many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.” There have been several occasions where one person was raised or where several people were raised from the dead. But both Jesus and Paul said a day is coming in which ALL the dead will be called forth out of the graves. Advocates of the AD70 theory simply deny this, that there will ever come such a day.
From the time where Don presents his “3rd point” onward there is a maze of speculative theory about scripture after scripture. None of these say that the military destruction of Jerusalem constitutes the fulfillment of the promise of God that Jesus will return a second time apart from sin unto salvation. I could go through them all and simply say of each one that what is attributed to the passage is not in the text and that the interpretation offered is speculation. But that isn’t practical. Again, with that large raft of passages, what Don is tryng to prove is not stated in any of them. They simply picture various aspects of God’s relationship with Israel, His displeasure with Israel’s unfaithfulness, and His intention of venting His wrath upon them. Don doesn’t even claim that any of them state what his point is. He only claims that they IMPLY what he is trying to prove.
I would rather take a more direct approach to the questions on which we differ. It seems to me that the central mistake of advocates of the AD 70 theory is that they do not see the broad picture of God’s over all plan and how Christ was involved in different parts of it in different ways. They speak of a symbollic coming of Christ as His “second coming” and seem not to realize that when you speak of symbollic comings there were many of those, not just one or two. For instance He was with the Israelites in that sense in the wilderness, (1 Cor. 10:4) He was with the apostles when they were brought before magistrates, (Mark 13:11) He was with the apostles in their personal lives (John 14:18) He promised to be with them in their ministering until the end of the age. (Mat. 28:20) Apparently He was with the 3 Hebrew children in the fiery furnace. So when we speak of symbollic presences there were many. Certainly the “parousia” of AD70, being a symbollic coming, would be a much higher number than “second.” But the Bible speaks of His physical coming as a first and His return as a second. He was born physically to a virgin and lived in a fleshly body about 33 years. There was only one such coming as this. “But now once, at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” (Hebrews 9:26) Then the text refers to His return as a “second.” At verse 28 we find, “To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time apart from sin for salvation.”
Confusing His physical presence with symbollic presences is a serious error and leads to misunderstanding. It was God’s plan from before the foundation of the world that “When the fullness of the time was come” He would send forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to recdeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Gal. 4:4-5) This was the heart of God’s plan. The return of His Son, coming back to receive His people to Himself, is the culmination of God’s plan. Misunderstanding one of these apparently causes a misunderstanding of the other. If advocates of the AD70 theory could grasp the over all picture of God’s plan for saving man, it seems to me the pieces would all fall into place much better.
Without that vision of the plan of God and having only their theories and rationalizations to go by, they have ended up with this confused teaching: (1)Jesus came back in AD 70 but no one has seen Him. (2) The resurrection occurred in AD70 but the dead are all still dead and in their graves. (3) The judgment occurred but the “sheep” have not been separated from the “goats.” (4) The world ended in AD70 but it is still here. (5) The Holy city of God came down in AD70 but sorrow and crying remain, as well as sickness and death.
All the theorizing in the world cannot make the resurrection a past event. This is seen by simply looking at the physical world around us. The conditions that will exist in the resurraction are not here now. Jesus said that in the resurrection “they neither marry nor are given in marriage…nor can they die anymore.” (Luke 20:35-36) Not only do some of us die, we all do. Promoters of the AD70 theory still perform weddings and officiate at funerals, while saying that the resurrection has already occurred. The fact is as long as the cemetaries are still full of dead bodies and marriage is universally practiced, the resurrection obviously has not yet happened.
How serious is it?
Some question whether this is a “salvation issue” and is it important enough that we should be disturbed about it? In the first place any perversion of Bible teaching is serious and secondly, this one is serious enough that the Bible contains specific warnings about it. “Now brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means, for that day will not come unless the falling away comes first and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.” (2 Thess. 2:1-3) So then declaring the “Day of Christ” to be a past tense thing when He has not yet come is a serious infraction and the apostle warns us not to be deceived by it.
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy he singles out two men by name who were teaching this doctrine and he called it a straying from the faith. “Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the faith, saying that the resurrection is already past, and they over throw the faith of some.”(2:17-18) Just before that he said “their message will spread like a cancer.” A teaching that is called a “deception,” and a straying from the faith, and “a cancer” is a very serious mistake.
Evidently there are other doctrinal consequences that accrue once this mistake is made. Paul said it would spread like a cancer. When you think about it the concept does lend itself to other errors. Taking of the Lord’s Supper is an example. The Bible says that in eating the bread and drinking the cup we “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” (1 Cor. 11:26) People who believe He has already come are likely to stop this practice. And why would you continue to baptize people when you believe that the judgment for which that prepares one is already past? In fact Ed Stevens did write an article disavowing the necessity of baptism. There is no telling how many Biblical premises will fall by the wayside where the AD70 theory is held.
Some things about the future are not ours to know. But these five things we can know from Bible statements.
(1) We can know that God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by the one whom He has appointed, as confirmed by His resurrection. (Acts 17:30-31)
(2) We can know that the day will come when the Lord Himself will descend from heaven and will sit on His throne, and all nations will be gathered before Him and He will separate them as sheep are separated from goats.
(3) We can know that it is impossible for men in the flesh to inherit the eternal kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 15:50)
(4) We can know that death and the resurrection stands between us and the eternal inheritance. “This corruptible must put on incorruption: this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Cor. 15:53)
(5) We can know that the Holy City, New Jerusalem, will be a city that comes down from heaven, not one that has always been here and is subject to military attack. (Revelation 21 & 22)
Here are five indictments against the AD70 theory:(1) Its conclusions contradict many explicit Bible statements. That theory and the Bible cannot both be true.
(2) It arrays scripture against scripture in that iut holds to an interpretation ofcertain verses in contradiction to other plain verses.
(3) What it offers as “evidences” are really theoretical rationalizations, built on assumptions and presumptions.
(4) Its hermeneutical procedure is out of step with the instructions of Bible itself in handling the word of truth.(5) It denies, or clouds beyond recognition, the mnost fundamental Bible premise, the hope of redemption in another world.
I believe the men who advocate this theory are sincere. They honestly believe they have discovered a teaching of scripture that most of us have missed and they are determined to publicize it world wide. I plead with them, as well as with all who have succumbed to that theory, to return to a face to face recognition of what is clearly stated in the Bible. Lay aside all the complex rationalizations and theories and come back to the simplicity that is in Christ. It focuses on the hope that Peter said “is reserved in heaven for you.” Express Bible statements have to be our authority standard. This is what we will face on the day of judgment. Jesus said, “:I will return quickly and my reward is with me, to give to everyone according to his works.” I pray that this will include all of you.
Don asks “What people dwelt in the presence of God, but, would be cast out of His presence for persecuting the saints?” John said “He came to His own and His own did not receive Him.” This would be the Jews.