A Response to With Unveiled Face
By David A. Green
(With Unveiled Face is a 42-page booklet that was written in 1993 in response to Ed Stevens’ article, Is It Consistent to Be a ‘Partial Charismatic’ Preterist?, which was published in the October-December, 1992 issue of Kingdom Counsel.)
I have found that communication between two believers can sometimes be a difficult thing. It can seem that we have very little in common regarding the Faith. It can almost seem that we have two different religions. But sometimes if we persevere in trying to understand each other, we find that we actually have a common Faith and that we only use different words that mean virtually the same thing, and that we speak only with different emphases.
This was my discovery in my lengthy correspondences with Dr. Richard Leonard via e-mail. As a result of his elucidations, many misunderstandings which I had of his beliefs will not be reflected in this response. I thank Dr. Leonard for his patience in helping me with all of the questions I had in preparation for this response.
To assist the reader who may not be familiar with Dr. Leonard’s teachings regarding the subject matter of his booklet, I will briefly summarize his view of the gifts of prophecy, tongues and “word of knowledge”:
The gifts of tongues and prophecy were used in public worship in the old-covenant age and may continue to be used in public worship throughout the New-Covenant age today.
When (or shortly after) the Messiah came in A.D. 70, one of the functions of prophecy and “knowledge” ended: Since that time, prophecy and “knowledge” are no longer means for revealing new Truths about God’s Kingdom, since the full revelation of the Faith is complete. Prophecies and “knowledge” today reveal only God’s purpose or working in particular human situations.
Prophecies and words of “knowledge” therefore, not being revelations of new heavenly Truths and not being addressed to the entire community of faith, are not to be added to the biblical canon. Since the New Covenant is complete, the Scriptures which contain the revelation of the New Covenant for the universal church are complete.
It is largely upon this doctrinal basis that Dr. Leonard wrote With Unveiled Face as a defense of the idea that it is not inconsistent to be a full preterist and a charismatic.
The most important portion of With Unveiled Face is found on pp. 38-40 –the brief portion that deals at length with some Scriptures. The section was not dedicated to proving the continuance of the revelatory gifts from the Scriptures but to neutralizing a cessationist proof text. (Exegetically proving the continuance of prophecy, tongues and “knowledge” after A.D. 70 was not one of the aims of With Unveiled Face.)
In this section, Dr. Leonard summarily brushes over I Corinthians chapter thirteen, saying that it is non-doctrinal and poetic, and that it has nothing to do with eschatology (pg. 39). Dr. Leonard’s exegesis of verse eight (pg. 40) illustrates well his view of and treatment of I Corinthians 13:8-12:
Tongues, Dr. Leonard says, are said to pause (Gk. pauomai), instead of cease in I Cor. 13:8. Dr. Leonard wrote to me concerning this statement, saying that though he knows of no translation that translates pauomai here as pause, he chose to offer pause as a “suggestion.” But even after having rendered the word as pause, Dr. Leonard does not believe that Paul taught that there was to be or actually will be a “pause” in the practice of the gift of tongues, but only that what Paul meant by “pause” is uncertain. By such means, I Cor. 13:8-12 is rendered an enigma in With Unveiled Face.
In contrast to this obscurantist handling of I Cor. 13:8-12, I believe it may be shown that this pivotal passage is understandable in the light of other Scriptures. Let us compare it with II Cor. 3:6-18 (the passage which contains the phrase “with unveiled face”). As Dr. Leonard acknowledges that II Cor. 3:6-18 speaks of the fading away of the old covenant and the coming of the New-Covenant world, it may be helpful to note some parallels between that passage and I Cor. 13:8-12:
I Corinthian 13:8-13
Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to Face (I Cor. 13:12).
Faith, hope and love remain (I Cor. 13:13).
All believers, with unveiled face, seeing as in a mirror the Lord’s glory, being transformed into His Image, from glory to glory (II Cor. 3:18)
New Covenant remains (II Cor. 3:11)
In both passages Paul speaks of certain things being nullified and other things remaining: In II Cor. 3:7-14, he tells us that the old-covenant world was in progress of being nullified (done away), and in I Cor. 13:8-11 he predicts the nullification (doing away) of the revelatory gifts. Is it unlikely, in view of this initial comparison, that the “childish” (I Cor. 13:11; cf. Gal. 4:1-7) revelatory gifts were nullified at the same time that the prophetic old-covenant age was nullified in A.D. 70?
In I Cor. 13:13, “faith, hope and love” are said to remain or abide. In II Cor. 3:11 it is the New Covenant that remains or abides. The New Covenant in Christ’s blood is the very fulfillment and establishment of God’s “faith, hope and love” among mankind.
Note also the striking parallel between I Cor. 13:12 and II Cor. 3:18: In I Cor. 13:12, Paul says that the Church of his day was seeing (God) “in a mirror,” but that when “That which is perfect” (mature) would come (cf. Eph. 4:13), then the Church would see (Him) “face to Face.” (Rev. 22:4 reveals that the face-to-Face Presence of God is that which the saints in Christ realized in the New-Covenant world in A.D. 70.)
In II Cor. 3:18, Paul reiterates what he said in I Cor. 13:12, saying that the church of his day, though worshiping God with “unveiled face,” was yet seeing Him only “as in a mirror,” and was in progress of being transformed into His Image. There should be little question that the predicted seeing of God “face to Face” in I Cor. 13:12 should parallel the consummated transformation into His Image (cf. I Cor. 15:49) which the church realized in A.D. 70.
Now when we attempt to harmonize the teachings of I Cor. 13:8-13 and II Cor. 3:6-18, we find that the two passages are in truth complimentary dissertations on a common New-Testament theme; and that theme is covenantal transformation:
|Old-Covenant Age (Moses – A.D. 30)||Covenantal Transformation (A.D. 30-70)||New-Covenant Age (A.D. 70 – Forever)|
|Old-covenant imposed||Old covenant being nullified||Old covenant/revelatory gifts nullified|
|Veiled faces||Unveiled face, as in a mirror, transforming||Face to Face|
|Slave-Child (Gal. 4:1-7)||Adopted Child (I Cor. 13:9-12; Gal. 4,4,5)||Man (I Cor. 13:11; Eph. 4:13)|
|(New Covenant prophesied)||(New Covenant ratified in Jesus’ blood)||New Covenant/faith, hope, love remain|
It is ironic that Dr. Leonard named his booklet after II Cor. 3:18 –a verse which, when compared in its context to and then thematically identified with I Cor. 13:12, dissolves the main thesis of the booklet by implicating I Cor. 13:8-13 as a passage which teaches the cessation of the revelatory gifts at the doing away of the old covenant.
However, II Corinthians chapter three is not the only source from which we may find some serious problems for a charismatic handling of I Cor. 13:8-13. In the book of Daniel, God tells us that when the city and sanctuary were destroyed (in A.D. 70), “vision and prophecy” were to be “sealed up” (Dan. 9:24-27). And to demonstrate that “sealed up” there does not refer to some kind of a divine “stamp” or “seal” of approval for the continuance of prophecy after the doing away of the old covenant, compare that passage with Zech. 13:1-6 which says that when the Messiah came He was going to “remove the prophets.” (Note that the prophets would be removed; the passage does not teach that merely the revelation-of-new-covenant-Truth aspect of prophecy would be removed. The Bible does not hint that only a certain “function” of predictive prophecy was to be abolished at the coming of covenantal maturity.) See also Heb. 1:1,2, which says that the Son had come in the last of those days wherein God spoke through the prophets.
Scriptures regarding the future of the revelatory gifts are not enigmatic. They teach the doing away of the gifts in A.D. 70. There is no need to throw a “veil” of uncertainty over I Cor. 13:8-13. In fact, we must not do so.
The issue of the charismata must be resolved; we cannot pretend that it is a nonissue. If the charismatic view is the right one, then charismatics are morally constrained to endeavor to make their view the dominant view in the Church, because a rejection of the gifts today must then be seen as a modernistic-rationalistic rejection of the supernatural, a denial of the divine or miraculous among us.
But we cessationists are also compelled to strive for our view, because if the revelatory gifts are not given to us today and if God requires that no believer practice them, then to practice prophecy, tongues and “knowledge” is mysticism, a leap into the unreal and irrational as a means of fulfillment; even worse, it is a taking of the Name of the Lord in vain. (See Jer. 23:30-32.)
Inescapably, one view is biblical and one view is sinful and harmful. But how do we decide which view is the right view?
Through experience of the charismata? Through non-experience of the charismata? Gut-feelings?
No, but through sound exegesis of Scripture alone.
I believe that it is scripturally demonstrable that the cessation of the gifts at the Coming of Christ (in A.D. 70) is a biblical doctrine. There is biblical basis to say that for a preterist to be a charismatic he must bring the charismatic view to the Bible and give up the meaning of certain passages as unsolved mysteries. In contrast, the cessationist view is explicitly taught in various places which taken together produce an exegetically solid, systematic doctrine.
Charismatic Escapism and the More Excellent Way
The modern Church’s lapse into the charismatic movement has ofttimes and in many places been a reaction of sincere Christians to the widespread hardening of the hearts of ecclesiastical leaders and of others in our corrupted culture –a hardening which has worsened in many sectors since the latter half of the nineteenth century.
We’re all acquainted with our “dead” churches and with the widespread alienation and cynicism of our day. For many sensitive souls, living every day in a local church and culture which is not alive with the Presence of God is absolutely unbearable. Existence itself becomes empty and intolerable, and the need to escape the rationalistic, naturalistic world which surrounds them becomes extremely urgent. For many today, the charismatic movement provides the means of escape. Through the charismatic movement, many sadly end up soothing the distress within them with the mysticism of irrational experiences, experiences which at times may consist of meaningless noises.
By God’s grace and mercy, we believers, church by church, must return to that which surpasses personal “revelations” or “tongues” as the greatest means of “experiencing” the manifest Presence of God. There is a better way of “release” (pg. 30) for the worshiper, a better self-abandonment (pg. 37). And this better way necessarily (biblically) means the absence of prophecy, tongues and “words of knowledge.”
Dwelling in God’s New-Covenant Love is that better way, according to I Cor. 12:31.
Abiding in His biblical love means that we freely and incorruptibly love and obey God corporately and individually, in accord with His fulfilled Law, with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength, and that we love our brothers and sisters as ourselves, in word and in deed.
It is in walking in the Royal Law of love today, in radical nonconformity to the unbelieving spirit of the ungodly, that we realize true and eternal release and self-abandonment, and experience God’s Presence in the highest heavens. Christ among us today transcends, eclipses and makes moot the age of prophecy, tongues and word of knowledge.
If we have hearts and lives which are pressing on toward the high calling of God’s Love in Jesus Christ today, then He is truly enthroned upon our praises. If we are abiding in His love today then we have entered into His Presence with unveiled face.
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- 23 Aug 2001
- 18 Sep 2001
You already know how I feel about this article–but I must say it again: Awesome!!! 🙂
- 09 Dec 2001
No one approaching the Bible from an unbiased view would believe in cessation. Modern cessationism is a product of the enlightenment culture. The Savior declared that one could not enter the kingdom unless born of water and Spirit. Dr. Green has done away with both water baptism and the scriptural criterion of Spirit baptism. This being the case, it is obvious that he and his followers are not born of water and Spirit. How can they then enter the kingdom?
- 04 Mar 2003
This article hits the nail on the head. I am going to forward this article to at least two friends. And your brother Danny did a great job while being double teamed by Hank Hanegraff and Elliot Miller. Danny was most gracious in the face of Hanks arrogance. I would love to hear from either you or Danny via email just to further my learning. I have been a preterist for about 6 years. Thanks, Garret firstname.lastname@example.org
- 06 Jan 2005
Hi! As a preterist living and working within the church culture of futurists- the issue of charismata and the supernatural is a difficult one for me. I believe the full preterist view of cessation of charismata needs further exploration. During my conversations with God (yes, He does speak to me- but, to quench your delusional fears- He speaks in Bible verses)I am frequently reminded by the Lord that the narrow way to Heaven is not walked by many people, and He says “few there be that find it”. I am not trying to exclude anyone reading this, but I am challenging everyone to get back to their “First Love”. On one side of the narrow way I have seen that the hyper-charismatics often seek uncontrolled emotional experiences with God and frequently engage in practices that are like mysticism- particularly the current ‘prophetic’ trend which is really more like a “Miss Cleo” form of fortune telling. You know, Jesus said to take your life one day at a time, and the Bible says fortune telling was wrong, so, to them I say, learn the Word and be more practical instead of trying to squeeze good fortune out of God! However, on the other side of that ‘narrow way’, the full preterist camp normally speaks about God in an impersonal and rather legalistic way, and though I agree that the revelatory days ended with 70 AD, God (who never changes) did not cease to live in and with us, and He did manifest Himself in some supernatural ways prior to the great outpouring days of that transitional time. It would then be reasonable to say that Gods’ supernatural presence would return to the less frequent but still occasionally physically manifested condition, since He doesn’t change- any changing done in relationship to God must be done by us, not Him. . Even He merely fulfilled His plan in the new covenant, because we are the terminators of the old covenant by our default and inability to keep it. In the few scriptures used to ‘cease’ charismata we preterists apply a broad brushstroke to ALL supernatural gifts- when the Word only specifies a few as diminishing or ceasing. I have seen truly supernatural healings which were instant and medically inexplicable, and experienced the spiritual presence of God in a warm, peaceful, and physically overwhelming sensation – and though I wish they were constant, Jesus’ mountaintop example with the disciples shows us that we must predominately exist in the natural world while in human form. I certainly know that the experience of worship in musical expression is not being practiced in the full understanding and power available to us- when the Word says to speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, we prefer monologue sermons and human knowledge (which only ‘puffs up’ men) and we avoid the depths of expression, which include correctly induced emotions that He can use to reach deeply into us. The experience of 2Chr.5;11-14 NIV is not contrary to a new covenant expression of worship, especially because of Gods’ very manifest presence preventing the old covenant priests from ‘performing their service’. Isn’t interesting how many CEO pastors apply that very ‘performing’ terminology to worship bands in a critical way? I find these current trends in the church to call our meeting places a ‘campus’, and to justify the non-participatory sermon monologues as ‘teaching’, just a couple of the ways in which the sinful nature of man keeps the majority of believers off the narrow path and prevents the realization of a powerful kingdom of believers. What we need are husbands and wives, in their homes, to become the elders and servants we are called to be, and to teach our own children by example, using words when we must. As we see the family unit falling apart within the church as frequently as out in the world, it is obvious that the current teaching system is highly suspect. Even the application of clergy and laity terminology within the church keeps us weak and powerless. Those words are found in root forms in the Word, but in application the term clergy meant all who were believers, born again, and of Christ, and laity were the ‘people’ who were not of the church, but were the ones to whom we who know Christ were to preach the Good News- not ‘preaching to choir’ as we practice now. I also believe the we have not yet realized the proper use of home meetings- again, they are often ‘lorded over’by a loquacious individual and kept from being a place for dialog, with everyone getting an opportunity to express their faith, and, in so doing, recieve careful correction to be ready to give an answer for their faith out in the world and to experience the joy of seeing some come to Jesus. I certainly believe that we preterists are closer to that narrow way, but I believe that we still have quite a distance to go. I know that when we experience a full and proper relationship with God, it will energize our believers worship meetings in a powerful way, make our homes the root of the church as they should be, and fuel us to be more powerful in love to the world outside the church. The Reformation is not yet complete, so let us endeavor to dig deeper and in so doing hand over a ever increasing Kingdom of Our Christ to our children and theirs to come. Grace and Peace to you all- Andrew
Date: 27 Mar 2005
When we look at those around us of varying faith backgrounds, we see expressions of the church in home churches, in corportate center churches. We see the church manifested in 2 or 3 in a ministry setting. But, the church of today is splintered by this very issue. If Christ came a first, and then a second completing time, and not only established His new covenant, but the completed, then the church of today is living in a Completed New Covenant time. Yet, I see a church that is pulled one way by the modern prophecy crowd, and I see another church that denies the modern prophets, but still won’t let go of futurism. Unfortunately, I have had to seek out those of us that believe on the New Covenant completion as of the first century. This is all to say that learning to love our God with all our heart soul and mind is not pent up in just the charismatic church or any church with a futurist leaning, but is a mandate to all the church.
Date: 31 Dec 2005
Paul himself seems to tell us exactly when the cessation of the gifts will occur. Here’s the way I read him. 1Cor 13:12 ” For now (before perfection comes)we see in a mirror,dimly, but then (when perfection comes) face to face. Now (before perfection comes) I know in part, but then (when perfection comes) I shall know just as I also am known.
Paul says when perfection comes we will know God as fully as God knows us. How many of us can claim that?
Why would God have the writers of the Bible stress the importance of the baptism of the Holy Spirit with its giftings and power if it only applies to select few?
These things come to mind:
1. The gifts of God are without repentence.
2. 1Cor 14:1 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts….
3. Pauls’ outline of a proper church service in correcting the church at Corinth instructs them to conduct a charasmatic service. (1Cor 14:26,29) Each has a psalm, a teaching, a tongue a revelation, an interpretation. Give two or three words in a tongue if there is an interpretation, and two or three should prophesy.
4. These gifts were not solely to establish the new covenant, but the Word says they were for the edification of the church and its individual members. Also, as an evangelistic tool. Surely we can’t claim that we don’t need the Holy Spirit to edify us and give us special giftings in these areas today because of events in AD70. How can we go out and teach all nations without evangelists, teachers etc. These are called by the gift of the Holy Spirit so the body can function as a unit.(Eph 4:7-12)
5. The kingdom of God does not consist of words, but of power. Without the gifts of the spirit, the church is left with words. But when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be embued with power from high.9Acts1:8) Why? So that they would be able to witness to ends of the earth. The exact same witness God has called us to do.
6. My words are spirit and must be spiritually discerned.
7. I don’t know about any of you, but when it comes to faith, I don’t want to be “ye of little faith.” I want that mustard seed faith that grows into the biggest plant in the garden. That grows into “most holy faith”. Jude 20 “But you beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit….”
If the spirit of power was given in a limited way in the old covenant and we are the participants in a new and better covenant, shouldn’t the latter rain be greater for us?
Since the last days God has poured out His Spirit on all flesh. John 14 says He abides in us, Jesus abides in us, and the Holy Spirit abides in us. Has His arm somehow been shortened? “For do you not know that you are the temple of God and the Spirit of God lives in you?” But with no manefestation of His power?
8. 1Cor 1:17-18 “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Isn’t God saying that preach the gospel with only the wisdom of words and absent the power of God is to render the cross of Christ of no effect?
9. 1Cor 2:4-5 “For my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” Does God want us building up the faith of people in the wisdom of men, or in the power of God? God is no respecter of persons. What He does for one, He’ll do for all. Paul’s calling was no greater than ours. He was called to lay down his life, pick up his cross and convert the world. That’s exactly what God has called you and I to do. Paul’s inheritance was no greater than ours. The same Holy Spirit that lived in Paul lives in me and you, and He is a Spirit of power!
10.I pray that….”the eyes of your understanding being fully enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power…..the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Eph 1:18-19.
Jesus paid a heavy price for you and I to inherit these gifts. How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation as this.
God’s Love and Power,
Date: 13 Jun 2010
Could it be that a lot of people have got a lot of things wrong in the church, in the last 2000 years? Paul in his writings, was speaking to that generation that he lived in, (as were the rest of the writers of the New Testament documents); which was the last generation of Old Covenant Israel, and the first generation of New Covenant Israel. It was a unique 40 year generation! Paul told those people, that at the second coming and resurrection of the dead, in them the gifts of the Spirit would cease, because they would be in the presents of the Lord. Those of Old Covenant Israel were steeped in the symbolic and prophetic language of the prophets of YAWA; when that last generation was taken it took God a couple thousand years to prove Himself again this time in the nations in Christ Jesus. I have a lot to say here but I won’t, except God is not ever going to give all His truths to just one sect of christians. The arrogance that comes from believing you have the only true way, really has no equal in the 21st century. There is only one source of the Living Water, but many streams. Jesus was the Word made flesh and He fulfilled the Law and the Prophets, and therefore, there is no need to write another Testament. It’s not the gifts of the Spirit that has changed it is the prophetic timetable of God that has changed. Why does the church( no matter what century or certain christian faith), keep trying to reproduce a first century church? The early church fulfilled everything God gave them to fulfill!!! You cannot fulfill what has already been fulfilled, and the church will continue to fail until they come to understand this; both the Spirit filled, and not Spirit filled faiths of Christ. All of the gifts of the Spirit of God are still on the table; but what does God want from His church in the 21st century? and how are you going to know this? There is no controversy concerning the charismatic gifts of the Spirit and the theology of preterism. The controversy is in the christian dogmas that have b!
een built around different truths of God.
-bro. T Ray