The preterist John Watson, preacher for a Church of Christ, recently preached a sermon in which he said that the “heavens and earth” in Deuteronomy are not literal. After reading Deuteronomy 31:284 he says, “Is this ‘heaven’ the sky and ‘earth’ the dirt? No, it’s the law of Moses.” He continues insisting that this imagery is “not a one-time thing” and it’s “terminology used throughout the Old Testament.”
To back up the claim he adds, “I want to illustrate to you that this ‘heaven and earth’ is this law [the Old Law].” He turns back and reads from Deuteronomy 28:232 and confidently looks up to exclaim, “So this law was bronze and iron; this heaven and earth that governed them; this law of Moses was heaven and earth; it’s referred to that many, many times.” Let’s take a look…
HowScriptureanswers "Do the “heavens and earth” equal the Law? (Preterist John Watson)"
Simply reading these passages3,4 shows clearly that ‘heavens and earth’ are not equal to or in any way representing the Old Law. The “heavens and earth” are being called by Moses to be a witness to the covenant between God and His people. This is clear and consistent throughout Deuteronomy1,2,3,4,5. Moses is retelling the Law to a new generation of Israelites. The Old Law a legal contract between God and the people, and God wants witnesses to the binding agreement. All of these verses clearly show the witness role of what is a very literal“heavens and earth”.
Why were the heavens and earth called to be a witness? Because Moses would die4; he wouldn’t be around (but God’s creation would be). Joshua did something similar at his departure, except his witness was a literal stone8. And how does it play out? Long after Moses, the ‘heavens and earth’ are actually called on by God to testify in His adjudication of their failing to keep the Law6,7. Likewise, God uses the witness of a literal heavens and earth to confirm His plan for a new covenant9. Jesus, in turn, uses “heaven and earth” to testify to the permanence of all of God’s words10. Finally, Paul in his sermon does exactly the same11!
Preterist preacher John Watson boldly and willfully makes an assertion that Scripture doesn’t make in the passages he references3,4, nor is it ever made in Deuteronomy1,2,3,4,5. In fact, it’s never made anywhere in Scripture6,7,8,9,10,11. His teaching demonstrates the first step in the ‘Preterist’s Playbook’ – start with a belief and then force all Scripture to conform to it. And instead of a sincere attempt to reconcile his assertions to the passages presented here that clearly refute it, he’ll likely invoke ‘Step 3’ of that same playbook. In so doing, he unfortunately personifies Scripture’s definition of a false teacher.
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