By Joe Price
The doctrine which says the personal, second coming of Jesus Christ occurred in 70 A.D. is confusing some brethren, and destroying the faith of others. In our previous article, we saw how this doctrine claims that all the second coming prophecies happened in 70 A.D. While showing that Jesus came in judgment against Jerusalem in 70 A.D., we also noticed three passages which teach us that the personal return of Christ is still future. These passages are Acts 1:9-11, 2 Peter 3:4-11 and 1 Corinthians 15. He will come bringing rest to the righteous and punishment to the wicked (2 Thess. 1:7-10; Matt. 25:31-46). At His return, all mankind will be resurrected to stand before His judgment-seat, and there receive a just sentence for the deeds done in this life (Jno. 5:28-29; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:12-15). This world shall be dissolved in a fiery judgment, and a new order shall be established (2 Pet. 3:10-13). These events did not occur in 70 A.D. It is therefore right to hope for a future return of Jesus Christ. We were not begotten unto a dead hope, but a living one (1 Pet. 1:3-5; cf. 1 Cor. 15:19).
Why has 70 A.D. been made such a focal point in this false doctrine? While several answers could be offered which address this question, I submit that the underlying reason for this doctrinal error rests upon a perverted interpretation of the allegory found in Galatians 4:21-31. In this allegory, the A.D. 70 advocate believes that he finds comfort and support for his doctrine. Instead, he finds a refutation of it!
An Overlapping of the Covenants? To understand how the allegory of Galatians 4:21-31 fits into the system of Realized Eschatology, consider Max King's following statement:
"Christianity is a fulfillment of the prophecies, types and shadows of the law and not merely a ‘fill-in’ between Judaism and another age to come. Abraham had two sons, and there was no gap between them. They overlapped a little, but Isaac ‘came on’ when Ishmael ‘went out.’ The son born of the spirit was given the place and inheritance of the son born of the flesh. Hence, this simple allegory (Gal. 4:21-31) establishes the ‘Spirit of Prophecy,’ confirming prophecy’s fulfillment in the spiritual seed of Abraham through Christ (Gal. 3:16, 26-29), and beyond the fall of Jerusalem these prophecies cannot be extended." (The Spirit of Prophecy, Max R. King, p. 239. emp., King's).
According to King (and others), this allegory establishes his view of the end times. This doctrine teaches that "out of the decay of Judaism arose the spiritual body of Christianity" (Ibid., p. 200). We are told that this occurred during the forty year period of 30 – 70 A.D. Therefore, an overlapping of the old and new covenants is believed to have occurred, and becomes crucial to this doctrine's defense. By having us believe that the old and new covenants overlapped from 30-70 AD., this heresy would have us believe that Christians were "given the place and inheritance" of the Jews. These two allegations (an overlapping of the covenants, and Christians being given the inheritance of the Jews) constitute two fatal mistakes in this false doctrine. So then, let us first look at whether or not the old and new covenants overlapped from 30-70 A.D. Then, we will consider the inheritance obtained by Christians.
God’s word clearly teaches us that the old covenant ceased prior to 70 A.D. To suggest that the covenant remained until 70 A.D. is to deny God’s revealed truth. Consider the following evidence:
1) Romans 7:1-6 – An overlapping of the covenants would amount to spiritual adultery. It is adultery to be married to another man while one's husband lives (v. 3). With his death, the wife is "discharged from the law of the husband" (v. 2), and is free to marry another (v. 3). With these truths, Paul illustrates man’s current relationship to the law of Moses:
"ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that ye should be joined ("married" – KJV) to another, even to him who was raised from the dead,….But now we have been discharged from the law…." (v. 4, 6).
If the old and new covenants overlapped from 30-70 AD., Paul's illustration would mean nothing! Furthermore, a Jewish Christian would be married to two husbands (covenants) simultaneously, hence, spiritual adultery! More than a decade before 70 A.D., the apostle said, "But now we have been discharged from the law!" There was no overlapping of the covenants!
2) Colossians 2:13-15 – The focal point in the removal of the old covenant is the cross, not 70 A.D. In this passage, Paul emphasizes the cross as the means whereby one was released from the "bond written in ordinances." While the old covenant could not forgive (Heb. 10:1-4), the cross triumphs over sin and its cohorts (v. 15). At the cross, three things regarding the old covenant occurred (v. 14): (1) It was blotted out. That is, it was removed, being against or contrary to man's forgiveness. (2) It was taken out of the way. Again, its removal is stressed. (3) It was nailed to the cross. Triumph over sin occurred at the cross, not 70 A.D.!
3) 2 Corinthians 3:14 – The old covenant is done away in Christ, not in 70 A.D. Like the Hebrews of Paul’s day, the A.D. 70 advocate fails to perceive that the old covenant was done away in Christ. The old covenant was already done away when Paul wrote this passage! Only minds "hardened" to this truth could miss the apostle's meaning.
4) Hebrews 7:11-14 – An overlapping of the covenants would mean two priesthoods were in force at the same time. Under the old covenant, the Levitical priesthood was in force (v. 11). However, Christ is not a priest like Aaron (v. 11), but one who is "after the likeness of Melchizedek" (vs. 15, 3). Because Jesus came from the tribe of Judah and not Levi, He could not serve as a priest while the old law was in force (vs. 13-14; Heb. 8:4). The law had to change to enable Jesus Christ to serve as priest over the house of God (Heb. 7:12, 15-17; 10:21; 3:1; 5:5-6; 6:20). Jesus did not wait until 70 A.D. to become a priest. Neither did He gradually become one. He began serving as High Priest when He sat down at God's right hand (Heb. 8:1-2). Therefore, since Jesus served as High Priest before 70 A.D., the law was changed before 70 A.D. (Heb. 7:12).
5) Ephesians 2:13-18 – Christ made peace between Jews and Gentiles in His death, not in 70 A.D. Again, we find the Bible teaching us that the cross is the focal point of God’s plan for peace and human redemption, not 70 A.D. "He is our peace" (v. 13), thus identifying Christ as the one who accomplished peace between Jews and Gentiles. When and how did He do this? He produced peace between Jews and Gentiles by removing that which stood as a barrier between them, namely, the "law of commandments contained in ordinances" (vs. 14-15). This abolition of the "middle wall of partition," with its enmity, occurred "in his flesh" (v. 15). Verse 16 confirms this as Christ's death, by teaching us that reconciliation with God was accomplished "through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby." Peace between the Jews and Gentiles, and reconciliation with God, was not achieved only after a 40-year struggle of the two covenants (with the new one finally overcoming the old one!). Salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8) was available for all flesh, and preached without distinction to all flesh, long before 70 A.D. (Acts 2:17, 21, 39; 11:12-18; 10:34-35; 15:7-11). Access to God for both Jews and Gentiles is through Christ's death (v. 18).
Were Christians Given the Place and Inheritance of the Jews? Realized Eschatology would have you believe that Christians were given the place and inheritance of the Jews. Recall Max King’s quote, given earlier, where he said, "They overlapped a little, but Isaac ‘came on’ when Ishmael ‘went out.’ The son born of the spirit was given the place and inheritance of the son born of the flesh" (The Spirit of Prophecy, p. 239). By redefining the allegory of Galatians 4:21-31, the A.D. 70 doctrine has occasioned its own downfall.
An assumed purpose of Paul's allegory is used as the basis for contending that Christians were given the place and inheritance of the Jews:
"The purpose of Paul in this allegory was threefold: First, to show that Abraham had two sons which existed side by side for a time in the same household. This is a truth that is vital to the teachings of the New Testament, and will be a key factor in the study and application of prophecy. Much misapplication of scripture can be attributed to a failure to recognize this simple but vital truth. These two sons are typical of the two Israels of God, one born after the flesh (old covenant) and the other born after the Spirit (new covenant)….Ishmael was the first born and, as such, had the right of primogeniture, a right he maintained at the birth of Isaac, and even thereafter UNTIL he was cast out or disinherited" (Ibid., pp. 29-30, emp. mine, jrp).
Realized Eschatology’s redefinition of the allegory concludes that Ishmael was the rightful heir of Abraham "UNTIL" he was "cast out." Thus, we should believe that the Jews under the old covenant were the rightful heirs of the inheritance, but were "cast out" at 70 A.D. (at which time Christians took their place and received the Jews’ inheritance). However, the Bible declares that Ishmael was never heir of the Abrahamic promises (Gen. 12:1-3)! Remember, Ishmael was Sarah's remedy for Abraham’s lack of an heir (inasmuch as she gave her handmaid Hagar to Abraham, Gen. 16.1-3), not God's. Even before Isaac was born, God made it clear that Ishmael was not heir of the promises He had made, when He declared that His covenant would be established with Isaac, not Ishmael (Gen. 17:15-21). Since Ishmael never was heir to these blessings, he could not be "disinherited" of them! Isaac did not take Ishmael’s place as heir! Neither did Christians take the Jews’ place as heirs of God’s inheritance!
The old covenant did not contain the inheritance of God's Abrahamic promises Righteousness and justification is not through the law, but through faith in Christ (Gal. 2:16, 21; 3:7-14, 21-23; Rom. 3:20-22). The law gave a knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20), but no release from it (Gal. 3:10, 12, 22-23). It produced "children of bondage" (Gal. 4:24). It contained no inheritance (Gal. 3:18-19), only a curse (Gal. 3:10-14). The "righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ" (Rom. 3:22) is "apart from the law" (Rom. 3:21). Therefore, the "children of promise" (Gal. 4:28 – Christians) did not receive their inheritance from the Jews of the old covenant. It they did, the inheritance would be "no more of promise" (Gal. 3:18). To suggest that Christians were given the place and inheritance of the Jews is to demonstrate a woeful misunderstanding of God's promise to Abraham and how it is received. Its blessings are received through faith in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:16-19, 23-29), not through the law. Our inheritance is "according to promise," not according to the law!
The Allegory of Galatians 4:21-31 Denies the A.D. 70 Doctrine. Max King's quote from page 239 of his book says "this simple allegory (Gal. 4:21-31) establishes the ‘Spirit of prophecy.’" Instead, the truth of this allegory destroys the A.D. 70 doctrine. Why was this allegory used by the apostle Paul? What does the allegory teach?
The background of the allegory is found in Galatians 3:23-29, where the inspired teacher makes four needed observations:
1) v. 23 – The law of Moses was in force, and men were under it, BEFORE faith came.
2) vs. 24-25 – The law was a tutor to bring men to Christ, and now that tutor was no longer needed.
3) v. 25 – Paul says "NOW" faith is here (59-60 A.D.).
4) vs. 26-29 – We are children of God and heirs according to promise through faith in Christ, not through the law of Moses.
Having used Galatians 3 to teach that Christians are not justified by the law of Moses, but through faith in Christ, Paul now addresses those Christians who "desire to be under the law" (Gal. 4:21), and shows them that the law itself contains an illustration of how their desire was out of place.
The allegory (Gal. 4:21-31) uses Sarah and Hagar as the two covenants (v. 24), and their sons as the product of those covenants. Hagar signifies the Mosaic law, which produced "children of bondage" (v. 24). Verse 25 emphasizes this point of bondage (cf. Gal. 3:10, 22; Rom. 3:20). Sarah corresponds to the new covenant. Isaac corresponds to Christians, who are the children of promise (vs. 26-28). In verse 29, the children of bondage (Jews) are presented as persecutors of the children of promise (Christians), just as Ishmael was the persecutor of Isaac (not "the firstborn" of Abraham). What should Christians do? Should they desire to be under the law? Should they turn back to bondage by joining their persecutors? NO! The allegory teaches them (and us) to not go back to the law and live under it, for that would place them (and us) in the bondage of sin. Instead, "cast out the handmaid (old covenant) and her son (Jews with their persecutions)," and live in the freedom of the new covenant (Gal. 4:30-5:4). God says to purge yourself from turning back to the Mosaic law, and to live as the children of promise that you are! Do not live in bondage to the law and its curse, but in freedom from sin and death through faith in Christ!
The allegory does not carry within it the arbitrary definitions and subjective applications which the A.D. 70 doctrine places upon it. We cannot apply the allegory beyond where and how the inspired apostle of Christ applied it. To make of it an "embryonic statement" of the Realized Eschatology theory is a wresting of Scripture (2 Pet. 3:16) by the wisdom of men (1 Cor. 3:18-20; Rom. 1:22).
Such mishandling of the word of truth must be avoided (2 Tim. 2:15) and contended against (Jude 3-4). In our final installment on the A.D. 70 doctrine) we will look at some of the grave consequences of its principle tenets.