Corporate Body View vs. Covenant Eschatology
The “Corporate Body View” of resurrection (CBV) teaches that “resurrection” is nothing more than, or at least mostly about, restoration of Israel’s relationship with God, in a collective sense. The CBV view effectively redefines eschatology in terms of soteriology (how we are saved), and specifically collectivizes it. How this translates into any hope for individuals in heaven in the afterlife—a prominent doctrine of classical Christianity—is murky, muddled, and minimized. Indeed, some proponents of the CBV teach that heaven is here on earth now, and that any benefits that await the believer in a heavenly realm are illusory.
I have no problem with the term “covenant eschatology.” Indeed, the changing of the covenants is the major theme of eschatology. CBV proponents, however, see soteriology as inexorably tied to the changing of the covenants. While there is an element of truth that eschatology and soteriology are related, I reject the idea that CBV follows as a necessary inference from covenant eschatology.
I would like to expose what I perceive as being at the root of the CBV error—a mis-application of sin and salvation. This can be tricky, because there was a lot going on in the first century theologically, and it is easy to confuse timing with substance. And fulfillment does not equal cessation. Please walk through this with me.
Eschatology is a THEME WITHIN A GREATER THEME. The Old Covenant period extends from God’s covenant with Moses till the Fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in AD 70. But the greater encompassing theme is soteriological: the FALL-and-REDEMPTION of mankind. The Fall began with Adam, of course, which occurred long before Moses, and its resolution continues after AD 70 since salvation, while secured at the cross (and Parousia), is implemented through faith of the individual into perpetuity.
Jesus is the “second Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45), and his reign is forever and ever (Isaiah 9:7; Luke 1:33; Hebrews 13:20). Thus, Jesus is more than a second Moses, whose covenant with God ceased. The end of the civil and ceremonial aspects of the law for Israel ended in AD 70 (Acts 6:14), but SIN and SALVATION are more than the civil and ceremonial aspects of the law given to Moses. Thus, the Old Covenant was never really about soteriology, or at least was never effective for salvation, as the writer of Hebrews forcefully argues (Hebrews 7:19; 10:4; cf. Romans 4:1-25).
Sin is not defined by the Levitical dietary laws, ceremonies, circumcision, or Jewish civil Law. There was sin in the world before the Law was given, long before Moses. Examples: Cain, Sodom, and Noah’s neighbors (Romans 5:13a). There is sin on earth even after the culmination of the last-days’ events, per Revelation 22:15! Man’s sinful nature did not change in AD 70. Our molecules did not suddenly begin to glow. Moral Law and its codification by the Ten Commandments was not abolished with the dissolution of the civil and ceremonial aspects of the law. At the very least, sin is written on our hearts and conscience per Jeremiah 31:31-34; Romans 1:18-20; 2:15; Hebrews 10:16; etc.
CBV proponents see, incorrectly in my view, the beginning of the Law and the Mosaic covenants with Adam, then see the end of Adam’s curse itself with the end of the Old Covenant order in AD 70. Some will even say that sin no longer exists since AD 70, or that God no longer judges! It’s no wonder that some preterists fall into universalism. If sin no longer exists, everyone is saved, and Christianity goes off the rails.
The New Testament AFFIRMS AND STRENGTHENS MORAL LAW. Jesus taught that the sin of adultery includes lust (Matthew 5:27-28). In Matthew 5:21-22 and 1 John 3:15 we see that the sin of murder includes hatred! Jesus taught that what’s on the inside of us is what defiles us (Mark 7:20-23), affirming that “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). So, sins of the heart define the human condition every bit as much as sins of the flesh, i.e. what we do or don’t do. We are booby-trapped on the inside. Declarations of sin, repentance, and faith seem mostly lost in modern preterist discussions.
The CBV mantra is Paul’s preaching “nothing but the hope of Israel” (Acts 26:22; 28:20). In this regard, CBV advocates emphasize the connection between 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 and the Old Testament texts of Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14, which they see as metaphorical restoration of national Israel. But this minimizes a critical aspect of such fulfillment. The Israel of God is no longer physical, national Israel, but rather consists of individual believers (John 1:11-13; Romans 2:28-29; 9:6-8; 11:13-26; Galatians 3:26-29; 4:22-31; 6:14-16).
Note this: The parties to the Old and New Covenants are different. The Old Covenant was between God and national Israel. The parties to the New Covenant are between God and all people everywhere who will accept Him.
Jews often thought, but not exclusively, in terms of national sins and redemption (Ezekiel 37:11-14). But Jesus personalized everything. I argue that CBV national resurrection was fulfilled to teach a typological lesson about individual resurrection. Sin is something that individuals do, and salvation is available to individuals only, not groups—”whosever believeth.” Further, I don’t see how you can miss that 1 Corinthians 15:1-49 is about the nature of individuals in heaven. The whole discussion in this chapter begins with the gospel effected through individual belief, then progresses to the resurrection of Jesus, then continues with a discussion of heavenly bodies vs. earthly bodies.
My Church of Christ friends will resist me on this, but my sense is that one source for the CBV error is the semi-pelagian backgrounds of so many preterists, including Max King (who popularized the CBV idea). A major problem of the semi-pelagian view of justification (compared to Calvinism, Lutheranism, Catholicism, and even Arminianism) stems from an inadequate view of sin. If one does not fully grasp the sinful nature of mankind, your theology can end up all over the place. This helps explain why some preterists fall prey to other theological aberrations such as Covenant Creationism and Israel Only.
With the CBV view being the predominant view among modern preterists, it is no wonder that theologians who start looking seriously at the preterist view categorically reject it. Really, CBV changes Christianity into a different religion. Until the preterist community can overcome this side-track, the preterist movement will be mired in theological muck.