Kurt's Response to Don's Arguemt from
Rom. 11:25-27 - Part II
Someone wrote me an email asking if I was going to respond to Don’s article interacting with my critique of his argument from Romans 11, which appeared in the Summer 2009 edition of Fulfilled Magazine. I told them I did not know that Don had written anything! I now see that he has, so I will interact a bit with him. Don is a wonderful brother and would agree that no one should interpret our discussion in any spirit but the friendliest. Indeed, if we cannot discuss the Bible as friends and explore our differences, we are already defeated.
I cannot interact with every point Don makes (his piece was almost 20 pages long) but the whole issue can be distilled to this simple question: When and by what was man saved from sin? Don maintains man was saved from sin by removal of the law in AD 70, I maintain man was saved from sin at the cross in AD 33. Additionally, Don believes the general resurrection pointed to restored relationship with God for the living saints on earth, I believe that the general resurrection was the time when the dead were released from Hades.
When & How was Man Saved?
The origin of the discussion is Don’s interpretation of Romans 11 and the “Deliverer coming out of/to Zion saving Israel from sin.” Don’s interprets Romans 11 in an AD 70 context, making salvation from sin accrue at that time by removal of the law, I interpret Paul (and Isaiah whom he quotes) as looking to the cross. Thus prefaced, let’s take a look at the issues at hand.
Who is “All Israel?”
Don’s argument assumes that “all Israel” consists exclusively of ethnic Jews. Don points to other places in Rom. 11 where Paul uses “Israel” for ethnic Jews. For example, Don cites Romans11:1 – “Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.”
Don thus reasons that because “Israel” in this passage refers to ethnic Jews, that therefore “all Israel” in Rom. 11:26 refers to ethnic Jews. Other verses Don cites are vv. 7, 11-15, 16-20, 23, and 25. We agree with Don that Israel in these passages refers to God’s people under the law, viz., national or ethnic Jews. However, the point in Romans 11 is that ethnic Jews were being broken off of the tree of God’s spiritual Israel, and Gentiles were being grafted in. In grafting in Gentiles, Paul says “and so all Israel shall be saved” (Rom. 11:26). In other words, this passage is parallel to John 10, where Jesus said “other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (Jn. 10:16). The “one fold” here includes ethnic Jews and Gentiles that have turned to Christ. So, in Romans 11, the “olive tree” of God’s people includes ethnic Jews and Gentiles that have turned to Christ, who together constitute “all Israel.” Max King, before his less sound views led him into Universalism, gave this concise and mostly correct statement of “all Israel” in his debate with McGuiggan:
“Who is ‘ALL ISREAL?’ (1) Not ‘all the physical seed’ (9:6-8); (2) Not just the remnant of Paul’s day for they did not constitute the whole of God’s Israel. The ‘remnant’ of 11:5 stands in apposition to ‘his people’ in 11:1; (3) Neither is ‘all Israel’ a prophecy of some future conversion of national Israel. ‘Conversion,’ much less ‘future conversion’ is not the subject of 11:26, 27 anymore so than it is of Heb 9:28; or 1 Pet. 1:5, 9. (4) But ‘all Israel’ here (in contrast to ‘Israel’ in 9:1 – 11:25) is EVERY TRUE JEW of past ages up to the time of Christ’s ‘return,’ including the remnant of 11:5 and the engrafted Gentiles of 11:17-25. Romans 11:26 parallels with Rom. 4:13-17. ‘All the seed’ in 4:16 is parallel to ‘all Israel’ in 11:26. The ‘promise’ (Rom. 4:13; Acts 2:39) is made sure unto ALL THE SEED, i.e., ‘of the law’ AND ‘of faith.’”
We disagree with King that “all Israel” is somehow limited by Christ’s return. King limits “all Israel” this way because of his erroneous view that the law had to be removed before the cross could triumph over sin and death. But this is wrong. The olive tree of God’s people has not been cut down or ceased to exist, and therefore “all Israel” continues to include all persons of every race that come to Christ. Is the church the “Israel of God?” (Gal. 6:16). Are we not being saved? How then can it be said that “all Israel” was filled up in the first century? The word “until” (“blindness is happened unto Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved”) does not point to the second coming, but to filling up (“replenishing”) the tree of God’s people with Gentiles in place of apostate, unbelieving Jews. The Jews would persist in unbelief until, being broken off, God would carry the gospel to the Gentiles, who would fill up their place and so, all (spiritual) Israel would be saved. “All Israel” is all the people who come to salvation through Christ.
When did the Deliverer Come to/out of Zion to Bring Forgiveness of Sin?
The Cross or Parousia?
In Romans 11:26, 27, Paul blends two passages from Isaiah together into one. He quotes Isa. 59: 20, 21, then follows up with Isa. 27:9:
And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
Don takes the view that the second coming is here alluded to, I take the view that Paul refers to Christ’s first coming to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Heb. 9:26). The solution is really simple: When did God provide the remedy for sin? At the fall of Jerusalem or at the cross? Obviously, the cross. The Deliverer came to Zion and brought forgiveness of sin when Jesus died upon the cross, not when Jerusalem was destroyed. This is borne out by Isaiah twenty-seven. This chapter describes Israel as God’s vineyard (cf. Isa. 5:1-10). In it, he describes God’s chastisement of the nation for its unfaithfulness, and how it would be turned into a desolation by the Assyrians and Babylonians:
By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin; when he maketh all the stone of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in sunder, the groves and images shall not stand up.
Isaiah leaves no doubt that the Assyrio-Babylonian captivity is in view. Beating of the altar stones to chalk is for the sin of idolatry; groves and images are expressly named as the cause of the destruction, showing that this is a pre-captivity judgment, not AD 70. Isaiah then describes the return of the nation in vv. 12, 13, specifically naming Assyria as a place from which he would re-gather Israel/Judah. Israel’s national sin was atoned for by the destruction of the city by Nebuchadnezzar and the captivity that followed. Once God’s wrath was satisfied and Jerusalem had paid “double” for her sins (Isa. 40:2), she would be brought back from captivity, and the Deliverer would come, bringing the promised salvation.
If we say that A.D. 70 is in view, then the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome should have atoned for Israel’s national sin (“this is all the fruit to take away his sin; when he maketh all the stone of the altar as chalkstones”), leaving a further promise of national reconciliation and restoration as set forth by Isaiah (Isa. 27:12, 13). This, of course, is the position of Premillennial Dispensationalism, not Preterism. Therefore it is not the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem Paul has in view when he quotes Isa. 27:9, but the basic promise of God to bring salvation to his people notwithstanding the unfaithfulness of some.
End of Validity and Obligation to Keep the Mosaic Law:
At the Cross or the Parousia?
In my first article, I dealt with why I feel that tying forgiveness of sin to the removal of the Mosaic law is a dangerous doctrine, one that historically originated with Max King. King is the first person (in Preterist circles at least) to suggest that the “Deliverer coming to/out of Zion” refers to the second coming of Christ. For King this is necessary because he bifurcates redemption (makes it run along two separate tracks), causing salvation and the eschatological resurrection depend upon the cross and removal of the Mosaic law. Not merely in time, mind you, but in substance. That is, he does not make salvation and the resurrection merely accrue at the time the Mosaic law was allegedly removed, he makes them depend upon the law’s removal.
We agree that the full benefit of Christ’s atonement [i.e., the new covenant] was held in partial abeyance until the consummation of the Lamb’s marriage with the bride. The church was betrothed to Christ beginning at Pentecost, but did not enjoy the fullness of New Testament intimacy until the consummation in AD 70. However, this does not imply the church was not saved or was still under bondage of sin and death before the Parousia; it does imply that there was a more intimate relationship that the church entered into at the Parousia, just as a man and woman enjoy a more intimate relationship after consummation of their marriage. In addition to the more intimate relationship that accrued at A.D. 70, was the resurrection from Hades. The last enemy (Hadean death – I Cor. 15:26, 55; Rev. 20:11-15) was not done away until Christ’s other enemies (the Jews and Romans) were put beneath his feet.
Thus, the period from Pentecost to the Parousia was one of transition and would realize additional benefits at its end. However, it is one thing to say that two or more events happened at the same time; it is quite another thing to say that they were causally related or interdependent. We affirm the marriage was consummated and the resurrection occurred after the destruction of the temple and the worldly termination of its ritual and cultus. We deny that the marriage and resurrection occurred because of the destruction of Jerusalem and removal of the Mosaic law. The destruction of Jerusalem added nothing to Christ’s cross! Don, on the other hand, affirms that atonement, justification, reconciliation, and the resurrection (which terms are synonymous for Don) were not complete until the destruction of Jerusalem and removal of the law. Here are a few quotes from Don’s article, demonstrating what I just said:
- “How can it be argued that the removal of the Mosaic Covenant has nothing to do with man’s justification? In fact, it has everything to do with man’s justification!”
- “The Atonement would be perfected at Christ’s ‘second appearing’ for salvation.”
- “The perfecting of the Atonement in Hebrews 9 was clearly still future when Hebrews was written.”
- “The AD 70 coming of Christ would be to consummate the making of the Atonement, i.e. the putting away of sin (Hebrews 9:24-28).”
- “The putting away of sin at the consummation of the making of the Atonement is the putting away of sin of Romans 11:25f.”
- “Therefore, the putting away of sin of Romans 11 was the AD 70 coming of the Lord out of Zion in AD 70 (i.e. the coming of the Lord out of Zion in Romans is not the Cross or his Incarnation).”
- “You cannot logically affirm the fulfillment of the resurrection in AD 70... and not affirm the end of whatever law it was that held the condemning power over man.”
That last statement is particularly telling because it clearly states that the law was still condemning the church until A.D. 70! Notice that Don does not say that the “atonement was held in abeyance” or that the legal work of the cross merely accrued to the full benefit of the church at the time of Christ’s second coming. NO! Don says that the atonement was perfected by Christ’s second coming to take away the law and destroy Jerusalem! Yes, that is what he said. “The AD 70 coming of Christ would be to consummate the making of the Atonement, i.e. the putting away of sin.” Notice the words “would be to.” The coming is not because the atonement was complete or an accomplished fact, but so that it might be completed. Big difference! Thus, for Don, atonement was NOT perfected at Christ’s cross, or even by the intercessory work as our High Priest in heaven, but at the removal of the law!
This is serious folks, and it is why I wrote the article in the first place. Maybe I am misunderstanding Don or his speech lacks sufficient precision to express his ideas clearly and accurately. Perhaps he means to say that the full benefit of Christ’s perfect atonement accrued in AD 70. But this is not what he said. He said Christ would come in AD 70 in order to complete or perfect the atonement. “The putting away of sin was...the AD 70 coming of the Lord out of Zion in AD 70.” But the Hebrew writer says “now once in the end for the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26). The putting away of sin was by the sacrifice at Christ’s first coming, not the coming in AD 70. Don has got it wrong! Don says:
“You cannot logically affirm the fulfillment of the resurrection in AD 70... and not affirm the end of whatever law it was that held the condemning power over man.”
Notice Don affirms that the law still held condemning power over the church until AD 70! The Christian must ask, “What happened to the cross?! If taking away the law justified men, why did Jesus go to the cross?” The Atonement ritual had two parts: the sacrifice and the priestly intercession. The sacrifice was the cross; the intercession was the period when Christ ascended into heaven. Christ’s second coming “without sin unto salvation” (Rom. 9:28) was not to complete or perfect the atonement as Don suggests. Rather it was because the atonement was already complete and he had finished his work of intercession that Jesus appeared the second time. That is what the phrase “without sin unto salvation” means. Jesus was not coming to deal with sin, but to rescue his church from its enemies (including the last enemy, Hadean death) and to take his bride. Don postpones the perfecting of the atonement to the fall of Jerusalem, when he supposes the law was finally removed. His model is therefore incorrect.
Don states “Paul said the resurrection would be when ‘the law’ that was the strength of sin was removed (1 Corinthians 15:55-56).” This is not what Paul said. The words “when” and “removed” are not in the passage. Don adds them. Paul does not say the resurrection would occur when the law was removed, as if the continuance of the one prevented the fulfillment of other. What Paul said is that we have victory over sin and law by Christ.
“The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:57).
Where was the victory over sin secured? At the cross! How was the victory over sin secured? Christ paid the debt of sin by his substitutionary death and atoning sacrifice, securing the remission of sins, thereby triumphing over the law of sin and death. Listen to Paul:
“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Col. 2:13).
How were we legally and covenantal dead? In sin and the uncircumcision of our flesh. How were we made legally and covenantally alive? By forgiveness of our sins.
“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:14).
What was nailed to the cross? Not the Mosiac law, but the sentence of the law (the law of sin and death) condemning the transgression of men. Christ took the sentence of death upon himself and made the atonement upon the cross. It did not require the law’s removal as Don affirms for this to occur. Paul continues:
“And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Col. 2:15).
There it is! Christ triumphed over the power of sin and death in his cross. And just to make sure we understand that the law has no more claim upon us, that its bondage is broken by the cross, Paul says:
“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ” (Col. 2:16, 17).
Let no man judge you; let no man tell you that the law still has power over you or that you are under obligation to its ceremonial commandments. The rituals of the law foreshadowed the work of Christ upon the cross. His work is the “body” or “substance” of that to which the types and shadows of the law pointed. Are the shadows more powerful than the substance? Are the types and rituals of the law stronger than the cross of Christ? The implication of Don’s view is that they are. By Don’s view the law trumps the cross and man’s atonement is made complete only by the law’s removal.
We died to the law by the sacrifice of Christ so we could be married to another, even Christ who was raised from the dead (Rom. 7:1-4; cf. Gal. 2:19). We were dead to the law from the time of our espousal to Christ, even though the full benefit of that relationship waited for the consummation.
Don states, “The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that the Mosaic Covenant was not removed at the Cross. Torah was still nigh unto passing away when Hebrews was written (Hebrews 8:13).” This is untrue. “A testament is of force after men are dead” (Heb. 9:17). The New Testament came into legal force at the cross; the estate may not have been fully distributed to the heirs and beneficiaries, but it was in full legal force all the same. On the other hand, the ceremonial law was of no legal force or effect after the cross. The book of Hebrews is devoted to showing that the law was a shadow pointing to the work of Christ upon the cross and that his supervening sacrifice supplanted the ceremonial law and rendered it invalid. Indeed, it was the Jews obstinate persistence in those invalid rituals that marked them out as enemies of Christ, denying his divine Sonship and his substitutionary death. Therefore, the church was NOT under the law. They were under grace by virtue of the covenant of betrothal.
Don says the law was valid (imposed) until the second coming. He also says that the law was valid until the “time of reformation” (Heb. 9:10), which he interprets as the second coming. I believe this is a serious mistake. Daniel says the Messiah would cause the law and sacrifice to cease in the midst of the final prophetic week. This is universally agreed to signify that, at the conclusion of his 3 1/2 year ministry (the “midst” of the week), the Messiah would cause the law to lose its legal efficacy by the supervening sacrifice of Christ. Therefore the law was not valid (imposed) beyond A.D. 33. The “time of reformation” began at the cross. It is at that point that the ceremonial law was annulled and Christ’s became our High Priest and his blood the “better sacrifice” that secured salvation. Paul and the apostles were under NO OBLIGATION to keep the law. God overlooked or winked at the continuing temple ceremony until A.D. 70. He gave the Jews time to learn that the ritual was now dead and non-binding; he gave the Jews time to learn the significance of Christ’s sacrifice and the power of his resurrection. But no Christian was obligated to keep the law after Jesus’ death and no Christian was under its power. Like a tree whose root is dead, the law was decaying and withering, waiting to “vanish away” (Heb. 8:13), but it was not living, valid, or legally imposed from and after the cross.
This is a HUGELY important point that we as preterists have wrestled with for decades, but must now finally come to terms with. When did the legal efficacy and obligation of the law cease: at the cross or the second coming? There can be only one answer: THE CROSS. Max King’s paradigm (which Don is advocating) is serious error. Consider: The saints were in a state of perfect grace before A.D. 70 (Gal. 1:4, 6; 2:21; Eph. 2:8). But by observing the ordinances of the Mosaic law, Paul said that they were fallen from grace (Gal. 5:1-4; cf. 2:18-21). This proves conclusively that the saints were NOT under the law, but under grace. “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). NOT UNDER THE LAW! Thus, the idea that the law had to be removed for Christians to find grace is “plain error.” It is serious error. It impugns the power of Jesus’ cross, and that, dear reader, strikes at the very soul of Christianity and overthrows a basic tenant of the gospel! The idea that the law was valid, required, or imposed until A.D. 70 is equally wrong. King (and Don) keep believers under the debt of sin until A.D. 70, and then only place them in grace by removal of the law.
It is true the transition period included moving from betrothal to a condition of a fully consummated marriage. It is also true that it is difficult to articulate all that the transition period necessarily entailed. I admit that the significance of the transition period, the coming of grace and the passing of law are difficult. If I have ever postponed grace or the power of Christ’s cross until A.D. 70, if I have ever stated or implied that the law was an obstacle to redemption or an impediment to salvation I now repent and public affirm that the law was triumphed over by the cross and that grace was full and free from A.D. 33 onward!
What is the difference between being betrothed and a fully consummated marriage in terms of redemption and salvation? We must resist the temptation to say that salvation awaited the consummation. It did not! Under Jewish law, a betrothal was equal in law to a marriage. Mary was Joseph’s wife, even though they had not consummated the marriage. Sexual intimacy had to wait for the consummation, but legally a betrothal was as good as marriage for all other purposes. Hence, remission of sins belonged to the saints from and after the announcement of the gospel at Pentecost, not the second coming in A.D. 67-70.
The betrothal period is equal to the period of the “earnest,” prior to the “redemption of the purchased possession” (Eph. 1:14). Here we are on more familiar terms, so let us look at that. Men are sold under sin by their transgressions (Rom. 7:14). “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (Jn. 8:34). The full price of salvation was paid at the cross. But Christ’s actual possession of the purchased possession (the church) awaited the redemption – not the legal redemption, for that was paid at the cross, but taking actual possession. An example of this is seen Jeremiah where he was told to purchase his uncle’s field. The right of redemption was his and he perfected that right before witnesses by purchasing the field for money, and subscribing the transaction. However, actual possession (“redemption”) did not happen until after the captivity when the nation returned out of Babylon. Indeed, Jeremiah’s purchase of the field, which occurred days before the fall of the city to the Babylonians, was for the specific purpose of showing God’s promise to bring the captivity again (Jer.32:6-25).
In the same way, Jesus paid the price of redemption at the cross, but the church (the “purchased possession”) waited for the Lord to take actual possession at the Parousia. In the interim, the gifts of the Holy Ghost were given in token or earnest of the full and final redemption [not from sin]. All that was wanting was for Christ to bring his blood within the Holy of Holies in heaven. Once his blood had been interpleaded, then he would come to take possession of the purchased possession (consummate the marriage with his bride). Meanwhile, the church was like an article in a store with a “SOLD” tag on it, showing that it had been purchased, but was waiting for its owner to collect it. All right and claim sin had upon us was relinquished when we obeyed the gospel and came under the ownership of Christ. A.D. 70 added nothing to the cross. It was an event in time and sacred history, but contributed nothing to our salvation itself. [Since writing this, we have changed our view so that the blood was received by God within the veil at Christ's death, and was not carried in at his ascension.]
The law of sin and death still exists, and all who are outside of Christ are under its condemnation. This is an extremely important point that must be understood. The Christian can so sin as to lose his salvation and when he does, he comes again under the power of sin and death. These facts PROVE that the Mosaic law was impressed with no especial power that required its removal before the atonement was complete. The sole purpose of the law was to show man his sin. It did not create that sin. Men were sinners before the law of Moses and men are sinners today even though the Mosaic law is removed. If the Mosaic law was the only thing condemning men, then all men have been justified by its removal (where there is no law there is no sin – Rom. 4:15) and we find ourselves involved with Universalism. We have shown many times that the view inaugurated by King and embraced by Don logically and unavoidably leads to Universalism. Don did not respond to this in his answer so we must conclude he cannot successfully contradict it, and our affirmation stands. Dear Christian, the law of sin and death still exists. It always has and always will. It has been defeated by Christ’s cross, yes. But it still exists with all the force and power it had since God set it in place in the garden and annexed it to the volitional disobedience of man.
Don states: “You cannot logically affirm the fulfillment of the resurrection in AD 70... and not affirm the end of whatever law it was that held the condemning power over man.” Did you catch that? The resurrection (according to Don) requires the end of the law that held the condemning power over man! Don, is there any law condemning men for sin today? If not, then all men must be in a state of justification. But if men are under condemnation today for sin, then clearly the resurrection did not require the end of law. Don, it is not the removal of law that saves us, but the ADITTION OF GRACE! (This is the single most important sentence in this article!) The condemning power of sin still exists today. Every transgression of the moral law, every violation of our conscience (whatsoever is not of faith is sin), and every disobedience to a commandment of God, brings down the sentence of death. Alien sinners are as much condemned today for their sins as men were when the Mosaic law was still in force. The difference is that today GRACE is ADDED through the gospel, not law taken away.
Don is a wonderful guy and faithful gospel preacher. I know that our friendship is strong enough to be able to discuss important issues without rancor. We all benefit when we can get issues of this sort out in the open and discuss them. We learn, we change, we grow. I know I do, and I hope I have the humility and love of truth enough to publicly admit my errors and misunderstandings as I discover them. Perhaps, what is needed is a fuller venting of this important issue. Because the very power of Christ’s cross is at stake, it is not an issue we can afford to shrug off or play down. I suggest and would welcome a written exchange or debate to explore it more fully (Don is an A#1 debater so this should appeal to him). I would suggest the follow topics:
· The law was imposed (valid, binding) until A.D. 70
· God had two equally binding covenantal systems operating between A.D. 33-70 – the gospel and the Mosaic law.
· Christians were under the law’s condemnation until A.D. 70
· Christ’s coming in A.D. 70 was to complete and perfect man’s atonement by removal of the law of Moses.
· The Mosaic law was the universal power condemning man prior to A.D. 70
· Men could not be justified or receive the atonement until the power of the Mosaic law was annulled.
· The power of the Mosaic law was annulled by Christ’s second coming in A.D. 70
· The Mosaic law no longer condemns men today
· The eschatological resurrection is restored relationship with God through removal of the Mosaic law.
· Mankind is in a restored relationship with God today through removal of the Mosaic law.
Based on Don’s statements in his article, I would expect him to affirm these basic propositions, while I would deny them. We’ll see what Don says about a more formal written debate on this topic. Until then, I think the conclusion is unavoidable: the Redeemer coming to/out of Zion to take away sin was the coming of Christ to die upon the cross, not his second coming to put the Jews and Romans beneath his feet.
 McGuiggan vs. King Debate (Warren OH), pp. 27, 28. Emphasis added.
 In his debate with Mac Deaver in Carlsbad, NM, in 2008, Don defined resurrection as “restored relationship with God.” This is one of the big differences between Don and I. The resurrection of the soul from Hades is completely away from Don’s eschatology. You never hear or read about the eschatological resurrection consisting in the souls of the dead being freed from Hades. Instead, Don spiritualizes the resurrection and makes it equate with justification and reconciliation based upon removal of the law.
 “The Mosaic Covenant was to be valid (imposed) until the time of reformation (Hebrews 9:9-10). The time of reformation is the time of Christ’s Second Coming (at the resurrection, Simmons). Therefore, the Mosaic Covenant was to be valid until the time of Christ’s Second Coming (the time of the resurrection).”
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