Does King's Corporate Body View Lead to Universalism Pt. 2

Simmons-Frost Debate 

Does King's Corporate Body View Lead to Universalism?

 

Simmons’ 1st Response to Frost:

 

Editor's Note: This debate resulted from a challenge by Simmons to King and Presence Ministries to defend Covenant Eschatology.  King did not respond.  Instead, Sam Frost M.A. made a return challenge to Simmons, resulting in the instant debate.

 

 

This debate is to decide whether Max King’s “covenant eschatology,” including his “corporate body view” of the resurrection, necessarily lead to Universalism.  By “necessary” we mean only that Universalism is a logical consequence of King’s views.  To sustain the proposition we are not required to show that invariably all men embracing covenant eschatology will become Universalists.  Men are not always logical and often times do not pursue ideas to their logical ends.  That some men who embrace covenant eschatology have not become Universalists therefore would not be proof that a logical connection does not exist.  To sustain the proposition, all we are required to prove is that a connection tending to Universalism exists within the basic framework of King’s covenant eschatology.  Moreover, the connection must be one that is logical, not emotional, or irrational, or insubstantial, but one that can be logically expressed and demonstrated, and that is at the heart of the system, not merely lurking about indecisively at its parameters. 

 Sam, who asked for this debate, is supposed to be demonstrating that King’s covenant eschatology and the corporate body view have no logical connection to Universalism.  So far, he has not spent one word one covenant eschatology or the corporate body view.  He is off somewhere talking about “the sin” and “the death” and Genesis three and Romans five, but he has not addressed himself to the matter at hand.  What merit or demerit there may be to Sam’s views on the question of “the death” and Romans five, it is not relevant to this discussion.  It is not part of King’s covenant eschatology or the corporate body view, and I frankly do not know why Sam is talking about it.  Perhaps he is running interference, hoping to draw attention away from the question at hand.  It may be that Sam can set out a system of doctrine that does not lead to Universalism; fine, so can I. But this debate is not about systems he or I can construct, but about the system Max King has constructed.  It is true that I made a concession for Sam that I would also address  covenant eschatology as it is may be peculiar to him, but so far he has given us no insight into those views either. Whatever he is writing about, it is not covenant eschatology or the corporate body view.  So far, here is what Sam has said:

Adam sinned (“the cause”)

Mankind was exiled; had no hope/chance of eternal life (“the effect”)

Christ’s death dealt with/removed “the cause” (Adam’s sin), but

The “effect” still remains. 

 Here it is in Sam’s own words just so it is clear I am not misrepresenting him: “Adam's sin was the cause. Adam's exile was the cause of all men's exile. In Christ, the effects can be reversed because the cause has been done away with through the atoning work of Christ.”

 I think we can all see the error here.  Christ did not die to remove Adam’s sin; no magic in the world can undo what he did.  His act stands for all eternity.  Rather, Christ died to remove sin’s effect (penalty).  The effect (penalty) of Adam’s sin was death (the wages of sin is death – Rom. 6:23); Christ’s death takes the place of our own; his blood atones; it remits the penalty of the law.  Sam’s whole system is therefore flawed and collapses upon itself.  It makes Christ take away the act (sin), instead of the effect (penalty/sin).  Sam’s system, is universal in application; it takes the cause away for all men.  In Sam’s words: “The cause of the condemnation is removed for "all peoples." However, since it is the effect that Christ died to remit, and not the cause, Sam’s system results in Universalism:

Adam sinned (“the cause”)

Mankind was exiled (“the penalty/effect”)

Christ died to remit the penalty/effect, therefore

Mankind is freed from the penalty/effect of Adam’s sin.

 And we have Sam’s own words on it: 

Let me assert quite plainly: all men are under the rule of the Grace and RighteousnessNo man is under the rule of the Death and the Sinthe Sin has been removed from the cosmos along with the Death. This is not just true for believers in Christ, but true for all men, everywhere.” Sam Frost, Observations, www.thereignofchrist.com (2007).

If this is not Universalism, I do not know what is.  Sam better go back to the drawing board and work the bugs in his system out. 

Since Sam is talking about something other than covenant eschatology, I can only conclude it is his intention not to pursue the debate he challenged me to.  Since Sam has chosen not to deal with the subject at hand, I will not interact with Sam’s material any further at this time.  Perhaps later he will “connect up” and say something about the corporate body view.  Meanwhile, I will set before the reader facts demonstrating King’s covenant eschatology and corporate body view tend to Universalism. This is not material I wrote for this debate, but since Sam has given me nothing to respond to, I am forced to post this instead.

Covenant Eschatology Distinguished from Full Preterism

Covenant eschatology should not be confused with full Preterism.  Preterism is an interpretative school of eschatology, or study of last things.  Preterism holds that prophesies regarding Christ’s second coming are best understood in terms of their contemporary-historical context, and were fulfilled in the same generation Christ and the apostles lived.  That is not what covenant eschatology is.  Covenant eschatology goes well beyond merely interpreting the second coming in a contemporary-historical manner, and purports to systematically explain New Testament teaching about Christ’s return with reference largely or exclusively to passage of the old covenant.  More specifically, it interprets the eschaton locally (confined to Palestine) and covenantally (viz., in reference to the abolition of the Old Testament and inauguration of the New Testament).   

According to covenant eschatology, the world that was destroyed at Christ’s coming was the world of the Jews; the heavens and earth were the Old Testament; the elements of the world were the temple system and Jerusalem.  The destruction of death in Rev. 20:14 was the end of the Mosaic law; the subject of the resurrection is not individual souls from Hades, but the Jewish state under the law, and so forth.  In other words, covenant eschatology attempts to explain almost everything in terms of the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome.  However, that Christ’s eschatological coming was not confined to Palestine and the fall of Jerusalem is seen by the numerous passages of scripture that depict the eschaton as a time of world-wide judgment and wrath.  Representative of Old Testament passages showing the universal nature of the eschaton is Ps. 110:5, 6:  

The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.  He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries. (Cf. Ps.2:8, 9; Dan. 2:28-45; Hag. 2:6, 7; 3:21, 22)

Representative of passages in the New Testament affirming a universal second coming is Acts 17:30, 31: 

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he is about to judge (melle krinein) the world in righteousness. (Cf. Matt. 25:31, 32; II Tim. 4:1; Rev. 1:7.)

The prophet Daniel depicts the eschaton as the overthrow of the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream – an image that represented the world governments of the day. (Dan. 2)  He also depicts the eschaton in the destruction of the fourth world empire embodied in the fourth beast.  (Dan. 7)  This destruction occurred in the world calamities and civil wars that transpired in the year of four emperors, when the dominion of the world passed from Caesar to Christ.  Although these events were contemporaneous with the fall of Jerusalem, the Jews and Jerusalem were not even mentioned in either passage.  Thus, to attempt to explain the eschaton in terms confined to Jerusalem and the passing of the Mosaic law is to begin from a wrong premise and will only lead to a wrong conclusion.  It is true that the scriptures place especial emphasis upon the fall of Jerusalem, but this is due to the fact that they were originally written to the Jews, and therefore focused upon matters directly related to them as a people; it is also due to the fact that Jerusalem’s fall was a sign that a new covenant and dispensation had come into effect.  Covenant eschatology’s over-emphasis upon the legal and covenantal aspect of the eschaton – its insistence in interpreting all prophecy, particularly the resurrection  - in terms of the change in covenants, becomes the seed leading the whole to Universalism. 

Universalism and King’s Presence Ministries

Max King, credited by some with the birth of the modern Preterist movement, has given numerous indications in recent years that he has gone over to Universalism.  In 2002, Tim King, Max’s son and president of the King’s Presence Ministries, published an article entitled “Comprehensive Grace,” which bore many markings of Universalist thought and sentiment. 

We need to see anthropology through the lens of a transformed cosmology. Simply stated, man is changed because his world is changed. Man is reconciled to God because he no longer lives under the rule of sin and death as determined by the Mosaic world. Through the gift of Christ he dwells in a world of righteousness and life. The issue is cosmic and corporate, not individual and limited. Now, as then, evil does not thwart the "much more" of God's grace (Romans 5:9, 10, 15, 17, 20).

The essential tenant of Universalism is the corporate justification of man irrespective of faith or obedience.  King’s “transformed cosmology” clearly holds the germ of Universalism:  Salvation “is cosmic and corporate, not individual and limited.”    In 2003, King followed up with an article entitled “Beyond Salvation” which stated “you didn’t have to do anything to be accepted.”  One wonders what happened to faith, repentance, confession, and baptism?  The present president of Presence Ministries, Kevin Beck, has made similar statements. 

All that God wants is for you to experience love because in experiencing Love you experience God…But what about unbelievers?  Well, is there anyone who does not believe in love?  As far as I can see, there are no atheists because everyone believes in Love, and to believe in Love is to believe in God. [1]

All God wants is for us to experience love?  There are no atheists? Beck goes on to affirm that even the enemies of the gospel will be saved. 

The issue, then, is not resurrection per se.  The question is: resurrection for whom?  Paul affirms resurrection for all Israel—including the “enemies” of the gospel (Romans 11:28-32)—as well as for the Gentiles… Throughout his letters, Paul argues for ultimate integration of Jews and Gentiles.  None would be excluded.[2]    

More recently (Oct. 2006), Presence Ministries published its first indisputable, full Universalist article, by David Timm.  (The reader should note how the idea of imputed Adamic guilt keeps showing up in these Universalist sentiments.) 

The second Adam (Christ) reversed all the spiritual separation brought by the first Adam, not just part of it…in the new world people are reconciled to God without any say in the matter. God loves all those that He has made in His image equally.

 I believe that the last Adam (Christ) reversed all the spiritual separation (Col 1:20; Acts 3:21; Isa. 25:7) that was brought by the first Adam. This means that God the Father sees humanity through Christ's righteousness…Today we are people within a reconciled humanity.[3] 

King shares many points of contact with early Universalist Preterists.  King spiritualizes the resurrection in what has become known as the “corporate body view.”  According to King, the primary application of passages touching the resurrection should be interpreted corporately and covenantally.  The resurrection is corporate in that it spoke to the collective body of believers being raised out of the so-called “grave of Judaism.”  The meaning of Paul’s statement, “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” refers to Judaism and Christianity.[4]  “The natural body that was sown answers to the fleshly or carnal system of Judaism.”[5] “New Testament Christians…were in that natural body…anticipating their coming forth into a fully developed spiritual body.”[6]    “When the natural body died, there arose from it a spiritual body clothed with incorruption and immortality.”[7]  

One must ask at this point, if death reigned over all men through the law, and if the law was taken away, were all raised in Christ?  If all men are not in the new, risen body, where are they? Are they in limbo, neither condemned in Adam or Moses, nor justified in Christ?  Thus, we begin to see inherent problems and the seeds of Universalism in the earliest and most basic formulations of King’s doctrine.

According to King, the resurrection was also covenantal.  “The primary application of the resurrection is applied to the death of Judaism, and to the rise of Christianity.”[8]   In the New Testament, the “resurrection has reference many times to the change from the Jewish system to the Christian system, where the material body of Judaism is put off in death and the spiritual body of Christianity is resurrected in life.”[9]    For example, in I Cor. 15:1-18, “the primary application deals with the development and rise of the Christian system itself.”  II Cor.5:1-10 “primarily…applies to the fall of Judaism and the rise of Christianity.”[10] Indeed, the fall of Judaism and rise of Christianity is the “primary resurrection.”[11] “One must look to the Jewish system as the state and power of death to be destroyed by the reign of Christ.”[12] “Paul is conscious that death’s defeat hinges upon sin’s defeat, and that the defeat of sin is tied to the annulment of the old aeon of law…For Paul, death is abolished when the state of sin and the law are abolished.”[13]  “When the ‘ministration of death written in tables of stone’ was finally destroyed, death was swallowed up in victory.”[14]  

This raises the question, if all men are condemned in Moses, how can annulment of that law justify only some?  Also,  notice King’s statement that “defeat of sin is tied to the annulment of the old aeon of law.”  Apparently, the cross was not enough alone.  God had to take the law away before man could be justified!

Corporate Body View Familiar Friend of Universalism

It is often supposed that King is the creator of the corporate body view, but this is not true.  One hundred and twenty five years before King lifted a pen, Universalists were using the same words and concepts. Consider the following:

Now we are of the opinion that the expression, ‘there is a natural body,’ may be predicated most justly of the Jewish body of worship, which body was then in existence in all its primitive force, when the apostle indited I Cor. XV., as much as when Moses indited the book of Leviticus….We know that the apostle was a Hebrew of Hebrews: and we apprehend, therefore, that when he expresses his soul’s desire, “O, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of death,” he is speaking in reference to the Jewish worship, which was the ministration of condemnation and death…we apprehend, moreover, that when he speaks of an earthly house of this tabernacle being dissolved, of a groaning, being burdened, and such like, his mind is still upon the worship under the law; for it may well be asked, how can he speak of human bodies of clay as houses builded with hands?” [15]

Here is King’s “corporate body” view one hundred and twenty five years before he took up a pen, and by a man who, like King, became Universalist!  Hear him again:

The mystical body of Christ, say we, was a natural body, at that time, as far as its ordinances, its officers, its gifts, prophesying, tongues, healing, helps, and governments were concerned.  All these were, if the expression may be allowed, borrowed from the Jewish body of worshipThat body was to give way to a spiritual body…the old covenant administration of death, which in Paul’s day was shaken and ready to vanish, should entirely disappear – then should be brought to pass the saying that was written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.[16] 

In a debate between Benjamin Franklin (church man, not colonial statesman) and Universalist, Erasmus Manford, the latter also expressed the corporate body view of Universal salvation:

“Even we groan within ourselves waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” 9. That there is to be a redemption of our “body,” this is, the body of humanity – “the whole creation.”  Blessed truth!  The whole family of man shall be redeemed from the thralldom of error and sin, and brought into the “glorious liberty of the children of God.” [17]

Covenant Eschatology: Inherently Universalistic

According to King and adherents of covenant eschatology, the veil of sin and death cast over all nations resided in the Mosaic law.  (Isa. 25:7; cf. II Cor. 3:13-18)[18]   For proponents of the corporate body view, the removal of the law thus becomes the eschatological resurrection.[19]  However, as there is no way to limit annulment of the law merely to the church (for it was done away for all men, for all time), all men end up and are justified, whether they have obeyed the gospel or not.  This result obtains because “where no law is, there is no trangression.”  (Rom. 4:15)  If there is no transgression, there is no condemnation, and where there is no condemnation, then all are justified.  On the other hand, if, in order to avoid universal justification, it is owned that the Mosaic law was not the sole source of man’s condemnation before God and that law, transgression, sin, and death are present realities today, then removal of the Mosaic law would not constitute the spiritual resurrection King’s corporate body view assumes.  According to King, “death is abolished when the state of sin and the law are abolished.”  Therefore, as long as sin and law exist, death exists, and there is no spiritual resurection. Thus, it is either the corporate body view and Universalism, or no corporate body view and particularism.  A couple syllogisms will help make it clear:

 Syllogism No. 1

Major Premise: The power of sin and death over mankind resided in the Mosaic law.

Minor Premise: The Mosaic law was done away for all men for all time in A.D. 70.  Therefore,

Conclusion: All men are freed from the power of sin and death.

 Syllogism No. 2

Major Premise: The resurrection consisted in the removal of legal condemnation. 

Minor Premise:  Legal condemnation exists today despite annulment of the Mosaic law.  Therefore,

Conclusion: There was no spiritual resurrection based upon annulment of the Mosaic law. (Or the resurrection consisted in something other than justification from the old law.) 

The first syllogism demonstrates the basic assumptions of covenant eschatology; the second demonstrates how that system fails if a source of law and condemnation beyond the Mosaic law still exists.  Together they represent the premises upon which the corporate body view rests, and without which covenant eschatology cannot endure.  How the system can be extricated from Universalism without overthrowing its basic assumptions, I cannot see.  On the one hand, if proponents affirm that the resurrection (justification) consisted in the removal of the Mosaic law, then all men must be made partakers of the benefit.  On the other hand, if the law of sin and death (condemnation) survived annulment of the Mosaic law, then annulment of the Jewish law would not have affected a spiritual resurrection. 

The law was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.  It was merely the outward and visible form temporarily added to God’s moral and spiritual law to show man his sinfulness.  Removal of the Old Testament took away only the outward form, but left the inward substance of the law wholly in tack.  Murder, theft, fornication, and adultery were sinful and reckoned against man before the Mosaic law, and they are sinful today.  All men are bound to obey the law’s commands, including the church.  When saints sin by violating these commands, heaven sees and is wroth, and will punish that sin, just as it punished Adam’s sin, unless forgiveness is sought and obtained through prayer and repentance.  Therefore, annulment of the Mosaic law cannot have brought about man’s regeneration as covenant eschatology supposes, for the simple fact that the moral precepts underlying the Mosaic law remain till this very day, bringing all men into bondage (for all men sin), which bondage is remitted only by the blood of Christ

If there is a spiritual resurrection taught in scrpture, it is by participation in the gospel, to which the passing of the law contributed not one wit. King says “The defeat of sin is tied to the annulment of the old aeon of law.”[20] But this is wrong.  King compromises and impugns the efficacy of the cross by making it share man’s redemption with the annulment of the Mosaic law, as if as long as the law endured man could not be freed from sin.  Sin was not defeated by annulment of the “old aeon of the law,” but by the cross of Christ.  Christ’s cross triumphed over the law and is fully sufficient for man’s salvation; his substitionary death paid the debt man could not pay.  (Col. 2:14)  It was not necessary for the old aeon of the to pass to defeat sin and death; just the opposite: the old aeon of the law passed because sin was defeated! Moreover, it was not necessary that the law be removed for sin to be defeated or man to receive sprititual resurrection as King asserts.  Indeed, as we have seen, except for the ceremonial and other incidental parts, the law still exists!

The upshot is that, except for the shadow being replaced by its substance, passage of the Mosaic law was soteriologically irrelevant; it was a school master to bring us to Christ, but was invested with no especial power in terms of sin and death that the moral law which exists today does not possess. The only difference between this side of the cross and that is the offer of forgiveness provided in Christ, which the old law foreshadowed, but could not provide.   The removal of the Mosaic law did not work a resurrection of any kind or description whatever; its removal did nothing toward acquitting man, or if it did, then Universalism is the only result, for the law was removed for all men, not just the church.  The conclusion of the matter is that covenant eschatology is inherently Universalistic and must be rejected.  It is an impoverished system, invented by a man who has followed its logical ramifications to Universalism, and is now settled in that camp.  Others, who cling to covenant eschatology, but reject Universalism, suffer logical inconsistency and help sow the seeds of Universalism, even though rejecting it themselves.

Max King: Father of Modern Universalism?

Following King’s lead, modern Preterist-Universalists also plead the corporate redemption, resurrection, and salvation of all mankind, using concepts and language derived directly from King’s works, including vicarous redepmption of the world through the “first fruit” Jews.  To help demonstrate the connection between covenant eschatology and Universalism even further, here are some quotes from unabashed Universalists.  The influence of King and his corporate body view come through loud and clear:

There is in this passage NOT two distinct separate "bodies" as such, but rather the ONE BODY in transition. The natural body answers to life as it was being lived under the Old Covenant world that was passing; the spiritual body answers to life as it was burgeoning in the New Covenant – "IT" was the one body ISRAEL in transition – the ministration of "death" as it was, embodied in the old covenant was being swallowed up in the new covenant ministration or spirit of life [Isa. 25:8; 1Cor 15:54-57]. IT was Israel… in the process of coming into her redemption via Christ and the first-fruit saints…which subsequently lead to the preordained reconciliation of the whole world [Rom 1:15]. Israel was the divinely appointed means to this end [Jn 4:22b] – in Christ and His first-fruit saints.. [21]

Israel would be reborn and restored, and this would include life for the world. After destroying the old heavens and earth, God would create them anew…The earth is new because Israel has been raised from the dead. And as the prophets promised, this new earth includes the ingathering of the nations into the covenant. The new covenant in Jesus is the new heavens and new earth. [22]

A resurrection took place. The natural man (in Adam) who tried to make human potential into something that it was not died like a seed in the ground and rose up a spiritual man (in Christ), where God’s possibilities can bless humanity. Humanity was reborn. You bible people will notice that 1 Corinthians chapter 15 does not speak of the resurrection of the “bodies” but rather the resurrection of the “body”. There are only two “men” in this chapter, Adam and Christ. Christ was the last Adam.[23]

What is the common thread running through all Universalist notions surveyed thus far?  They deal with man’s salvation at a corporate, rather than individual, level.  Mankind is saved as a body, not as he individually exercises his moral faculty of faith, repents of sin, and is baptized.  This corporate view of redemption, when coupled with the notion that juridical death (condemnation) was premised exclusively upon Adamic sin and/or the Mosaic law, which were cast into the lake of fire in A.D. 70, leads logically and unavoidably to Universalism.  If the only thing that condemned us was taken away in A.D. 70, then all mankind stands just before the throne.  In the words of Frost:

Let me assert quite plainly: all men are under the rule of the Grace and RighteousnessNo man is under the rule of the Death and the Sinthe Sin has been removed from the cosmos along with the Death. This is not just true for believers in Christ, but true for all men, everywhere.” Sam Frost, Observations, www.thereignofchrist.com (2007).

Conclusion

This was to be a debate about covenant eschatology and the corporate body view of the resurrection.  Sam has chosen instead to write about his idea of “the sin” of Romans five.  If he gets around to discussing the matter at hand, the debate will continue.  Meanwhile, we leave with the reader our few thoughts.  The connection to Universalism inherent in King’s system is beyond dispute.  Perhaps this is why Sam has chosen not to defend it.


[1] Kevin Beck, Agapetheism, July 2006

[2] Kevin Beck, Eating, Drinking, and Dying: Paul’s Use of Isaiah 22:13, July 2006

[3] David Timm, Grace Upon All, Oct. 2006

[4]  Max King, The Spirit of Prophecy (Warren OH, 1971 ed.), p. 200.

[5]  Ibid, p.207.

[6]  Ibid, p.207.

[7] Ibid, p. 202.

[8] Ibid, p. 204.

[9]   Ibid, p. 191; cf. 210, 212.

[10]   Ibid, p. 210.

[11]   Ibid, p. 212.

[12]  Ibid, 144.

[13] Max R. King, The Cross and the Parousia of Christ, p. 644.

[14] Max R. King, The Spirit of Prophecy, p. 145

[15] Townley, 119.

[16] Townley, 120

[17] Erasmus Manford, An Oral Debate on the Coming of the Son of Man, Endless Punishment, and Universal Salvation, Boston (1860), p. 126

[18] See generally, Max R. King, The Cross and the Parousia of Christ, pp. 233, 410, 529, 643,4: “Paul is conscious that death’s defeat hinges upon sin’s defeat, and that the defeat of sin is tied to the annulment of the old aeon of law.”

[19] Max R. King, The Spirit of Prophecy (1971), p. 204, 220.

[20] Max R. King, The Cross and the Parousia of Christ, p. 644.

[21] David G. Embury, The Body (2004), Pantelism.com

[22] Derrick Olliff, The Eschatology of Being “Born Again” (2006), Pantelism.com

[23]  Barry Dupont, Freedom to Discover, Infinite Grace.com

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