There is a serious problem with the removal of the physical resurrection from systematic theology. Christ's resurrection is expressly declared to be the paradigm of our own (1 Cor. 15:20ff). Yet we know that His was a physical, tangible resurrection (Luke 24:39), whereas ours is (supposedly) spiritual. What happens to the biblically defined analogy between Christ's resurrection and ours in the preterist position?
Before we can reasonably discuss the amount of continuity our resurrection bodies have with Christ's, we need to know what kind of resurrection body He had with which we are supposed to be in conformity. Once we define the nature of His resurrection body, then we can discuss the degree of our continuity with it. This is where most studies of the resurrection falter. Too many assume that Jesus' resurrection body was nothing more than the same kind (or quality) of pure physical body that He had before the crucifixion. Is that a valid assumption? Is it possible that the nature of His resurrection body was different? Or, was it still nothing more than a mere physical body, just like the body with which Lazarus was raised?
Jesus' post-resurrection appearances reveal that He had more than just a mere physical body. He was raised immortal. All the others who had been raised from physical death before Christ were raised mortal (still subject to death). Lazarus is a case in point. After being raised by Christ, he lived out the rest of his life and died again. He was raised with a pure physical body, nothing more.
What we see here are two extremely different kinds of appearances: one purely physical, and the other a pure spirit. Jesus' resurrection body exhibited characteristics of both. His resurrection body was not just purely physical. Nor was it a pure spirit.. How can we say that Jesus is the "firstfruit" of the resurrection if He had the same kind of resurrection body as all the others before Him who had merely been raised physically? Jesus was the first one ever to be raised with that kind of body. He was the "firstfruits" (1 Cor. 15:20) of the resurrection harvest. He was raised with an immortal body. He was the same person, but in a different kind of body. He was raised bodily, but not with the same kind of body.
Note how Paul not only clarifies the nature of the resurrection body in 1 Cor. 15, but also affirms the continuity and conformity of our bodies with Christ's resurrection body. We are supposed to get the same kind of body that Jesus had. Jesus' and our resurrection bodies are described by Paul in this text as being "spiritual," "glorious," "imperishable," "incorruptible," "immortal" and "heavenly." Jesus wasn't raised with a physical body first and then changed into a spiritual body. He wasn't raised mortal and then changed to immortal. He was "raised immortal" and "spiritual" already. As Peter said, "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit..." (1 Pet. 3:18).
Jesus was raised with a body that was suited to His life in the heavenly realm. The fact that He ascended into heaven with that same body suggests that it must have been much more than just a pure physical body. Scripture affirms numerous times that mere physical bodies cannot live in the spiritual realm. Christ was able to manifest Himself in a tangible/visible form on several occasions after His resurrection and before His ascension, but He was also able to disappear and remain in an intangible, immaterial form. This is something new. No one had ever been raised with that kind of body before. It was immortal (no longer subject to physical death).
When Jesus appeared, He ate with them, but not because His new body needed food to stay alive. He did so for evidence purposes. It was to prove that He truly had been raised and was not just a disembodied spirit (like Samuel's appearance) awaiting the final resurrection like everyone else. His resurrection with an immortal body was proof that the long-awaited defeat of Death and reign of Life had begun. His appearances were signs that the eschaton had arrived and that the full and final destruction of Death and Hades was imminent. He disappeared again to prove that He was not just a mortal body like Lazarus' resuscitated physical body. He was raised immortal. The fact that He was able to exhibit both material and immaterial qualities in His resurrection appearances was proof that He had brought true life and immortality to light. He was the firstfruit of that kind of eternal, immortal life. The fact that Christ appeared in tangible/visible form does not prove that His resurrection body was merely a physical body, nor does it prove that He even had "a physical, tangible resurrection".
When Jesus was resurrected, nobody recognized him, because his body was changed (Luke 24:15-31; 36-41, John 20:14-16; 21:4). In Luke 24:31, it says, "And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight." How could a Physical body vanish out of their site? John 20:19 says, "Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you." Notice the doors were shut! Physical bodies cannot walk through doors. The same event happened eight days later in verse 26. Scripture even says that Jesus changed the form of his body when he appeeared before others: "After that he appeared in another form unto two of them..." (Mark 16:12). And Apostle Paul says it is "sown a natural body, and raised a spiritual body" (1 Cor. 15:44). Notice he doesn't say it is sown a natural body, raised a natural body, and then later changed into a spiritual body.
Preterists are not removing the physical body from the Bible's systematic theology regarding the resurrection. It was never the ultimate kind of resurrection body God had planned and revealed in Scripture in the first place. Our ultimate victory over "Death" was never intended to be the abolition of physical death. Those who say the "death" God threatened in the Garden was physical are making the serpent the truth-teller and God the liar. God said they would "die" the very day they ate. The serpent said they would not die. Who told the truth? If God was talking about physical death, then the serpent was correct and God did not deliver on His death threat. God would not be immutable after all. But man was separated from God's spiritual fellowship that very day. To be outside God's fellowship and presence is Death. The body without the spirit is dead (James 2:26). There was a worse kind of death than physical death from which mankind more desperately needed deliverance. There is a better kind of life and resurrection than physical resuscitation could ever give us. We were not destined to be raised with a mere physical and mortal body. There is something much better. We were destined to be raised immortal with a spiritual body like Christ's with which to live in God's presence forever with. All of us agree that we cannot live in God's presence eternally with a mere physical body. Even those who believe we are raised with a pure physical body still understand that we have to be changed into a spiritual, glorious, immortal body before entering God's presence.
There are numerous other theological and exegetical problems with a spiritual-only resurrection. For one thing, the preterist view tends to diminish the significance of the somatic implications of sin: Adam's sin had physical effects, as well as judicial and spiritual effects; where are these taken care of in the preterist system? Death's implications are not just judicial and spiritual, but also physical (Gen. 3:14, 19; Rom. 6:23).
This is the very point where much misunderstanding of the nature of the resurrection body surfaces. Preterists are not advocating a "spiritual-only resurrection." Too many of us overly-exaggerate the importance of the physical consequences of the Fall of Adam, and fail to focus on the spiritual implications. Preterists do not deny there are physical consequences associated with man's sin. The question is whether physical death was the "Death" God judicially threatened on the day of Adam's disobedience, or whether it is merely the natural consequence of being human and made from dust.
Sin killed them spiritually in their relationship with God. It not only put them in a condemned state of "death", but also took them out of God's presence. If physical death was the "death" God threatened Adam with, then the serpent told the truth and God lied. Adam didn't die physically on that day. But he did die spiritually in his relationship to God. It is that spiritual death that is the focus of redemption. And the ultimate resurrection was to reverse whatever "death" God placed on mankind in the beginning. If that original death was spiritual, then the resurrection which reverses it must also be spiritual. It also has physical implications, but the redemptive focus is still on the spiritual relationship with God that is being restored.
Just as there was a worse kind of "death" that stalked man from Adam to Christ, so also there is a better kind of "resurrection" than mere resuscitation of the physical body. Surely God's plan of redemption focuses on the better things, not just on the physical things. Why does Paul tell us to set our minds on the things above, not on the seen things? Christ's kingdom is not of this physical realm. It is a spiritual kingdom. It requires a spiritual resurrection to get there, not a physical resuscitation. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor.15:50). It requires a different kind of body fitted for heavenly existence.
We believe spiritual death (the real curse) can be reversed without all the physical consequences being eliminated. Jesus is the only one who was ever promised that His flesh would not suffer decay, because He is the only human who never sinned, and was the only human being who was also God in the flesh and virgin-born. Sinfulness still carries some physical consequences with it, even though the judicial curse of spiritual death has been removed by Christ's atoning death and resurrection life. The seed analogy (1 Cor. 15:35ff) shows that the outer shell is not preserved or resuscitated. It dies and decays. It is still subject to that consequence of being made from dust. For the Christian now after AD 70, resurrection life is already present in us before physical death, because the inside of the seed has been given immortality. The inner man rises into God's presence with a new kind of body after the outer shell dies.
Now that we have more clearly defined the nature of Christ's resurrection body, we can discuss how much continuity and conformity our resurrection bodies will have with "His glorious body." (Phil. 3:20-21) There is a discontinuity that we must not overlook. We get the same kind of resurrection body that Jesus has, but we were never promised that our physical bodies would have the same privileges that Jesus' physical body had. Jesus was sinless. He is the only one who was ever promised that His flesh would not "see corruption" (Acts 2:24-31). Everyone else was told, "you are dust, and to dust you shall return." This means physical death is the natural consequence of being human. One thing is sure: physical death is not the "Death" that was threatened by God against Adam's disobedience, and therefore not the death that is reversed by the eschatological resurrection event. Jesus nailed the "penalties" for our sins to the cross. Physical death seems to be a planned, "natural" consequence of being human and living on earth.
Furthermore, Paul's seed analogy in 1 Cor. 15:35ff indicates that the outer shell of the seed dies and decays. The outer shell is not a part of the new body that rises out of the dust. The new body arises out of the inside of the seed. It is a different kind of body. The outer shell of the seed is not "the body which is to be." (1 Cor. 15:37) "But God gives it a ... body of its own." (1 Cor. 15:38) This is a crucial point, one which many exegetes have overlooked.
The seed analogy (1 Cor. 15:35ff) does not teach that the new body with which the seed sprouts has the same outer shell and form that it had before. It is the same seed. The inner part of the seed definitely has continuity with the original seed. But part of that seed stays in the ground. It is the inner man which has the spiritual life and rises with a new kind of body. It is not the outer shell of the seed that is raised and then later changed. The change occurs before it rises out of physical death. The seed's outer shell dies and stays in the ground, and a new kind of body rises out of the inner part of the seed already changed and fitted for its new existence. For Christians after AD 70, this new body rises at physical death, and we go immediately into the presence of God where we will spend eternity. For Christians before AD 70, they had to wait until the resurrection at AD 70 to be raised with that kind of body. This whole section of 1 Cor. 15:35ff is full preterist turf in the discussion about the resurrection body. It does not teach that we will have "a physical, tangible resurrection".
By over-reacting to the Gnostics' extreme spiritualizing tendencies, the creedal councils (especially in the West) took the opposite extreme of limiting the resurrection body to being purely physical. Certainly, the Gnostics were wrong in teaching a purely spiritual (non-corporeal) nature of the resurrected person, but so were those dear brothers who assigned a purely physical nature to it. Both extremes missed the point of Paul's seed analogy. Paul certainly teaches a continuity, but not an exact identity of nature. It is the same inner life of the seed (the person), but a different kind of outer body. The Gnostics eliminated the body completely. The early church kept the body and further insisted on retaining its physical nature even through the resurrection. Paul's seed analogy keeps the body there, but changes its nature at the resurrection. There is both continuity and discontinuity. The early church missed the point in Paul's analogy and went to an unfortunate and unnecessary physical extreme. Full preterists are simply trying to bring us back to the balanced Biblical position.
In regard to "Death" and "Resurrection", we must remember that these two concepts are not brought to their fullest and most final fulfillment by just the sacrificial Lamb's death on the cross, but also by His resurrection so that He (as the real High Priest) can go and present the sacrificial blood in the heavenly Holy of Holies to consummate the atonement. Not until His heavenly High Priestly duties are finished is our salvation and redemption complete and the curse of Death removed and Life restored. This is where soteriology and eschatology fit together like hand in glove. And this is the very soteriological and eschatological typology that is behind the institution of Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) in the OT temple system. It is Scripturally unorthodox to have a fulfilled soteriology (salvation, atonement, redemption) without a fulfilled eschatology, because eschatology IS soteriology. The fulfillment of the whole redemptive plan of God is not complete until all the eschatological events have taken place. Death is the Last (soteriological and eschatological) Enemy. So, it must have been conquered, or redemption is not complete.
Athanasius and many others have affirmed that "Death" has been conquered in a soteriological sense. But "Death" is not just the final soteriological enemy. In the context of 1 Cor. 15 it is the final eschatological enemy as well. This issue becomes poignant when we ask the following question: If Death has been conquered, and if that Death is speaking of physical death, then why do we still die physically? And if the final eschatological enemy was spiritual death, why isn't the resurrection (which reverses it) spiritual also? What is the worst kind of death we can die? What is the best kind of life we can have? It certainly isn't physical. Hebrews says that there was a "better resurrection." (Heb. 11:35).
What is better than a physical resurrection? A spiritual resurrection, obviously! And if the final resurrection is something "better" than a physical resuscitation, it stands to reason that the "death" it is reversing is something other than (and worse than) physical death. What did Jesus mean when He said not to fear those who could kill the body, but to rather fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell? What is our real enemy? It's not physical death.
If Christians now are fulfilling the resurrection expectation of Scripture, then the Gnostics of the early Christian centuries were correct! The physical world seems to be superfluous, in the preterist viewpoint. The anthropology of preterism is defective in this, not allowing the theological significance of the body/soul nature of man (Gen. 2:7). This can also have implications for the person of Christ and the reality of His humanity.
This comes close to accusing the full preterist view of Gnosticism in its Christology or anthropology (or both). This would indeed be a "serious problem" if this is correct. Let's make this point very clear – full preterists are not Gnostics, either in our Christology or in our anthropology. We do not believe in a secret mysterious gnosis (knowledge) that saves us, nor are we dualistic (matter is essentially evil) or docetic (Christ only seemed to come in the flesh). And we do not go to the radical spiritualizing extreme that the Gnostics went to because of their dualism and docetism.
The term "gnostic" is a very broad term with a lot of ideas associated with it. Nearly everyone's theology has a point of contact with "gnostic" hermeneutics in some sense. But that doesn't make everyone Gnostics! So, this question needs to be more specific in pointing out exactly where he sees the similarity with gnostic teaching, and then prove from the Bible that this similarity is anti-Biblical. The Gnostics had a different approach to the resurrection than traditional Christianity, but their approach is not the only other approach possible. Full preterists would repudiate the Gnostic approach as well as the overly-physical extreme reaction to it by the Western Church. We take an approach that is different from Western tradition and the Gnostics. We would be closer to the Eastern Church's position on the nature of the resurrection.
We must keep Paul's seed analogy (1 Cor. 15:35ff) clearly in focus. What does it tell us about when the seed gets its new body, and what the nature of that new body is? The seed analogy shows us that the new body does not appear until the old body dies. The seed (our body) has resurrection life within it from the moment of quickening (regeneration). But that life does not manifest itself in a new kind of body until after the outer shell dies. We have resurrection life within us now if we have been regenerated by Christ, just like the seed has life within it. But we do not get our new bodies until our outer shell dies. So, Christians physically alive today are not living in their resurrection bodies. But they do have life inside them from the moment of their regeneration. That was something new from Christ onwards. The Spirit, being poured out at Pentecost and afterwards until AD 70, was the source of a quickening, which was an "earnest" and "seal" of the fullness of resurrection life that came at AD 70. This was only an earnest, pledge or seal of the immortality and restoration of God's presence that they would receive at the consummation in AD 70. After AD 70 we have the fullness of resurrection life which results in our rising immediately at physical death into the presence of God with our new bodies that are received when the outer shell dies.
It has also been discussed whether the living saints after AD 70 already have their new resurrection body (but just don't see it clearly because of the distractions of this earthly existence), or whether the living were given immortality as a present possession (the change) which enables them to rise with their new spiritual bodies at the moment of physical death. I take this later approach based on Paul's seed analogy (1 Cor. 15:35ff) and his discussion about the heavenly dwelling (2 Cor. 5:1-10). But, the net effect is the same. After physical death, the only kind of body that remains is the new spiritual body. The former position has a Christian in possession of both kinds of bodies simultaneously (with the new spiritual body superimposed over the physical body), whereas Paul's seed analogy seems to have the heavenly body replacing the earthly body at physical death. One thing is for certain: The transition period saints before AD 70 did not have immortality in the presence of God when they died physically. But they did have "eternal life" which was the quickening of the Holy Spirit given to them as a pledge and seal of their resurrection/change (2 Cor. 5:5). So, it is a matter of determining whether the resurrection at AD 70 actually gave them their resurrection bodies to dwell in God's presence while still in their physical ones, or whether it just gave them immortality and made their resurrection bodies ready for them to rise into at physical death. I take this later view.
What was the nature of the "change" for the living saints at AD 70? (1 Cor. 15:51ff) Did it change their physical bodies and take them to heaven in a literal rapture event, or did they simply "put on" immortality which would make their spiritual body ready for them to rise with immediately at physical death? This later view is the one I prefer. Having immortality and a new body prepared for them to live in God's presence was certainly a "change" in their condition. They had none of this until Christ came and provided it. The saints before AD 70 had "eternal life," but it was not back in the presence of God yet. What is the difference between "eternal life" and "immortality"? Paul indicates (in 1 Cor. 15) that they would not have "immortality" until the Resurrection. Those transition period saints waited in the outer courts of the heavenly temple (cf. Rev. 6,7) until the High Priest finished His atonement work and appeared the second time back out of the heavenly temple to invite them into His Father's presence. Those who had "put on" Christ (Rom. 6) and were in solidarity with His death before AD 70 would share in His Resurrection Life at AD 70.
We know that the resurrection event which consummated the promises of redemption occurred in AD 70, simply because 1 Cor. 15:23 connects it directly with the parousia. It was a collective and corporate resurrection of all who were a part of True Israel. It was not the time when eternal life (the quickening) became available, but rather when the presence of God was restored wherein that eternal life and immortality could be fully enjoyed. Believers living during the transition period already had eternal life, but they did not have access to the fullness of God's presence yet. They only had an earnest, pledge or seal of the good things about to come. They didn't go to Hades at physical death, but they did have to wait in the outer courts of the heavenly temple (Rev. 6,7) or at the foot of Mt. Zion (Heb. 12) until Christ finished His High Priestly Yom Kippur duties in the Holy of Holies and "appeared a second time" outside to invite them into God's presence (where no one had been since Adam). After AD 70 we not only have eternal life, but we enjoy immortality in the very Holy of Holies presence of the Almighty. As individuals, we do not enjoy the full benefits of that immortality until our outer shell dies and our inner man rises out of the dust of death in our new body fitted for life in God's heavenly presence. The full preterist view is not Gnosticism. By "physicalizing" our resurrection body, one is actually denying that Christ had a different kind of resurrection body than Lazarus. That robs Christ of His unique status as the "firstfruits" of a new kind of resurrection body. If Jesus' resurrection was merely a resuscitation of the physical body like Lazarus', then He wasn't the "firstfruits " of the resurrection.
This critique of our anthropology and Christology is based on his assumption that full preterists believe "Christians now are fulfilling the resurrection expectation of Scripture." This implies that we believe we have our resurrection bodies now while still in the flesh, and that there is nothing else to be gained at physical death. I believe this view has misunderstood our position. We have immortality now, but do not receive our resurrection bodies until physical death. That is the whole point of the seed analogy. The seed contains the life of the plant to come while still encased in the outer shell. But it doesn't have both bodies at the same time. The outer body has to die before the inner life sprouts into its new plant body. So, we have the life (immortality) now, but not our spiritual bodies yet. The saints before AD 70 had the quickening of the Holy Spirit as a pledge and seal of the immortality they would receive at AD 70.
The "change" at AD 70 was putting on (inheriting, receiving) "immortality," not their "immortal bodies." Look at the text in the Greek (1 Cor. 15:53-54). It doesn't say the living would "put on an immortal body." It says they would "put on immortality." There is a significant difference between those two concepts, which is too often overlooked or obscured in the various translations and commentaries. The "change" of the living saints at AD 70 was not giving them their new bodies, but giving them immortality. For the dead saints, it was reception of immortality, their new bodies, and full access to the presence of God. For both the dead and the living saints, it was the consummation of the change that had already begun with Christ's resurrection, and which was guaranteed (pledged, sealed) by the "eternal life" the Holy Spirit had quickened them with during the transition period. The "change" from being "dead in their trespasses and sins" to "alive in Christ Jesus" was fully consummated. That change not only signaled the completion of the High Priest's Yom Kippur work in the heavenly Holy of Holies to make atonement fully ours, but made immortality available again for the first time since Adam lost access to it in the Garden. And it made the presence of God readily available to us.
There was a tremendously significant "change" that occurred then, without which we today could not truly and rightfully "ascend to the hill of the Lord." The transition period saints only had the pledge and seal of it. If they died before AD 70, they went into the heavenly realm where Christ (the High Priest) was. But they stayed in the outer courts (Rev. 6:9-11), or at the foot of Mt. Zion (Heb. 12:18-29), until the High Priest finished His Yom Kippur duties and "appeared the second time" (Heb. 9:28) to invite them into the Holy of Holies presence of God. When the atonement was finished, the change was complete. We have immortality now. The living only have to wait until physical death to have their spiritual heavenly bodies. But even now, by faith, the living can "always be with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:17).
Some suggest that "the physical world is superfluous" for full preterists. Absolutely not so! Another misunderstanding. The physical world is still the best proving ground for God's elect. With a long-term perspective, we have even more reason to get involved in the affairs of this world to make a difference and cause God's sovereignty (the Kingdom) over all things to be more widely manifested. We really believe the physical world will be around for a long time (if not eternally), and that the healing (Rev. 22:2) is an ongoing process that we as Christians are to be inseparably involved in. What is this "healing of the nations" but a cultural, political, social, religious, spiritual, moral and ethical healing? What principles have the power to accomplish this "healing of the nations"? Only God's Holy and infallible and eternal Word.
We must wonder why we Christians still marry and are given in marriage, since Christ said in the resurrection we will not marry (Luke 20:35).
This is the story about the woman who had seven successive husbands who all died. Then the woman died. The Sadducees ask Jesus which one of the seven will have her as wife "in the resurrection."
There are a few assumptions this question makes here. The first is that the Sadducees had living people in mind when they talked about a resurrection, and secondly that living people could even be "raised" to enjoy this special status, before they had died. Jesus shows the living would not have that status until after they died in Christ.
Part of the reason this text is so confusing is because we are not aware of the various concepts of resurrection held among the Jews, and who are the ones being raised. One of the reasons the Sadducees denied a resurrection was because they just didn't see the doctrine taught by Moses in the Law. They did not accept the rest of Scripture as authoritative on the same level as the Five Books of Moses. The Jews were also aware of the Ezek. 37 promise to send a Son of David to raise Israel in the Last Days and usher in the Golden Age of Israel, and many of them (esp. the Pharisees) understood this as a regathering from all the lands where they had been scattered, and a restoration to a totally regenerated land of Israel that would be a fantasy-paradise where every physical delight imaginable would be enjoyed. Not all the Jews held this view of the "world to come" (or "age to come"), but it was a significant view. The Sadducees probably wanted to see if this was what Jesus was teaching. If so, they had an answer all ready for Him. But Jesus was more than ready for them. He not only taught a different view of the resurrection than the popular one (to answer the Pharisees), but He substantiates it from the very Law of Moses which the Sadducees held in higher regard than the other books in the Old Testament canon.
Comparing this text with its parallels in Matt. 22:23-33 and Mark 12:18-27 should help us determine who are being raised. I have reprinted the salient parts of all three accounts below:
Matthew 22:28-30, "In the resurrection therefore whose wife of the seven shall she be? For they all had her." But Jesus answered and said to them, "...in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven."
Mark 12:23-25, "In the resurrection, when they rise again, which one's wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife." Jesus said to them, "...when they rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven."
Luke 20:33-36, "In the resurrection therefore, which one's wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife." And Jesus said to them, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; for neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection."
The Sadducees told the story about the woman who had seven husbands, each of which died. Then she died as well. All eight of these folks were dead. These "dead" persons were the subject of the Sadducees' question and of Jesus' answer. If anyone doubts that, just look at all three parallel accounts above to verify it. But also, why would they be talking about a resurrection of living people? Living people can't be resurrected if they haven't died yet. So this discourse of Jesus is dealing only with the effect of the resurrection for dead saints, not for the living.
In Matthew's and Mark's accounts it is very obvious who are the subjects under discussion. These eight people were being used as a test case to determine what Jesus was teaching about the nature of the resurrection. These were dead people. The dead are the subjects of the Sadducees' question and Jesus' answer, not the living. This is not as obvious in Luke's account as it is in the other two parallels (see the quotations above). But you can still see it in Luke when you consider the phrase, "neither can they die anymore." The assumption here is that these are people who had already died. In fact, they had already died and been raised. And, they can't die again. Jesus uses this fact to explain the nature of the resurrection state they were in. Living saints were not in that state, even though they lived after the resurrection event, simply because they had not died yet and were still in their earthly bodies.
Luke's account is the only one of the three which carefully defines just who it is that will get to be a part of the resurrection from out of the dead. It would not be ALL "the sons of this age." It might not even be any of the seven husbands or the one wife. It would instead be only "those who are considered worthy." This blew away another of the current theories among the Jews that any circumcised (or law-keeping) Jew would automatically "have a share in the age to come."
Who are "the sons of this age" and what is "this age?" The only other New Testament passage which mentions the "sons of this age" is Luke 16:8 (but compare Eph. 2:2). There it is talking about a dishonest steward who exhibited shrewdness in his business dealings. Jesus challenged the "sons of light" to be as shrewd in doing good as "the sons of this age" were in doing evil. It seems like this is another example of Jesus' rebuke of the Jewish leadership who were the contemporary stewards of God's household in that age. Jesus was challenging His disciples to be as shrewd in managing God's kingdom honestly and faithfully, as the Jews had been in their dishonest management. So, the "sons of this age" were the current Jewish leadership who were doomed to dispossession of their stewardship position. Only those among them who were "considered worthy" would "attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead." The Jews were the sons of this age, and "this age" was the Old Testament Jewish age that was about to be changed into "the age to come." The resurrection was the age-changing event.
So, Jesus was simply saying, "Dead Jews of the old age who are worthy to attain to the resurrection from out of the dead will not be raised into a state where there is marriage and giving in marriage. Those worthy dead will receive a resurrection state wherein they "neither marry, nor are given in marriage; for neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God." Again, this is talking about the state of the worthy dead after their resurrection into the heavenly realm, not the state of the living in the visible church after the change of the ages. It was a status that the living worthies would get as soon as they died, but not while they were still living. And this was a status that was not available even to the dead OT worthies until after the resurrection at the change of the ages in AD 70.
Luke's account goes further and shows that Jesus was defining not only what the status of the resurrected worthies would be, but also exactly who would get to be a part of that resurrection. The dead who were "worthy to attain to that age" would not be raised to enjoy physical marital relations again, nor would their resurrection give them mortality again as Lazarus had after his physical resurrection. When "the resurrection of the dead" occurred, those who were worthy of it would not have to live out the rest of their resurrected life and die again like Lazarus. The dead who would be raised "in the resurrection" would never die again (unlike those in the Pharisees' schema). They would be like angels (immortal and not subject to physical death). Jesus said all the dead are conscious and are alive to God. No soul-sleep doctrine is taught here! Neither is a physical resurrection taught here. They are raised immortal, not subject to physical relations and physical death again. The physical resurrection view would play right into the hands of the Pharisees' physical paradise idea.
The reason this text seems to be a problem for preterists is that we forget who Jesus and the Sadducees are talking about (people who had already died). They were not talking about people still alive and what life on earth would be like in "the age to come" after it arrived. Jesus was talking about the effect the resurrection would have on the worthy dead. Jesus clearly repudiates the popular notion that the dead would be raised to a physical paradise with marriage and physical relationships. The thought of a physical resurrection is definitely not to be found here. Nor is the idea of a physical resurrection with an immediate change into an immortal body even hinted at. The worthy dead are raised in the unseen realm to a status which was not characterized by physical relationships and mortal limitations.
What is the resurrection of the lost? (John 5; Rev. 20) When the ultimate enemy of mankind (spiritual death) was swallowed up in victory at AD 70 by the final crushing of God's enemies, the righteous dead were rewarded with life back in the presence of God again for the first time since they lost that presence in the Garden. The lost dead were judged and cast away from the presence of God.
Paul considered Hymenaeus and Philetus as having made ship-wreck men's faith by saying the resurrection is past (2 Tim. 2:17-18). A wrong view of the resurrection is a serious matter to Paul.
What about Hymenaeus and Philetus? (2 Tim. 2:17-18). Here are a few thoughts about Hymenaeus and Philetus for us to consider:
How could people with a supposedly pure physical concept of the resurrection ever get the idea that the resurrection had already taken place? It would have been too obviously wrong. Paul could easily refute it by saying, "Look around folks, the tombs are still occupied." How could Hymenaeus and Philetus have missed such an obvious dilemma, and how could the faith of the saints be so easily upset with such irrefutable evidence readily available? It is clear that Hymenaeus and Philetus didn't conceive of the resurrection in physical resuscitation terms.
This begs the question: If they didn't hold the common physical concept of resurrection, what was their concept? Where did they get it? In what sense did they believe it was already past? Notice Paul doesn't challenge their concept of the nature of the resurrection, but rather their timing of it. It should have been obvious to Paul that they didn't have a physical concept. Why didn't he challenge their non-physical concept if he was in fact teaching a physical concept?
Why was it considered straying from the truth and upsetting to the faith of some for Hymenaeus and Philetus to say the resurrection was past before AD 70? What was at stake here? The consummation of the transition from the old fleshly sacrificial system into the spiritual temple system was threatened by those who said the resurrection was past already. This implied that they already had everything they were going to get. It implied that the sacrifices, which were still ongoing, were to continue in the New Covenant system which they thought had already fully arrived. The full and final consummation of the change of covenants was jeopardized by saying the resurrection had already happened. That would have left the church in a very confused and immature state of unfinished transition, like trying to live in a house half-finished. The plumbing is in the house, but the water and sewer pipes are not connected yet. The gas and electricity are not connected yet. Pretty primitive. Paul knew the church was still in a partial status and that the fullness had not yet arrived. And the fleshly sacrificial system was not to be a part of the new temple system. To say the resurrection had already happened was equivalent to telling the builders (the apostles) to quit working on the house, and to stay with the one they already had in Judaism. It was painting a very different picture of the finished kingdom than what God was revealing through Paul and the other apostles. Hymenaeus and Philetus were saying the transition was complete. They were looking at the "already" and assuming there was no more "not yet." They saw the "earnest," "pledge" and "seal" of their inheritance and assumed they already had "the full inheritance."
Why isn't it just as wrong today to say the resurrection is past as it was in Paul's day? Because the house has been finished now. Christ now dwells in that spiritual house (the church, the new spiritual temple, the kingdom). The resurrection was the final act of completing it. The resurrection demonstrated that the final nail had been driven in the coffin of the last enemy, Death, and that the gates of Hades had utterly failed to prevail against the church. It signaled the fact that the Serpent's head had finally been crushed. That crushing was still future (but imminent) when Hymenaeus and Philetus were saying it was already past. (cf. Rom. 16:20) A wrong view of the resurrection is certainly a serious matter. The church needs to take a more careful look at its views to see if it has gone to an unnecessary and un-biblical extreme regarding the nature of the resurrection body, and the time and nature of fulfillment of the resurrection event.
The result of the AD 70 resurrection is that the Old Testament saints have been rescued from Sheol/Hades and are now in the presence of God with immortality and eternal life. They had to wait in Sheol/Hades at physical death. They did not get immortal bodies at their physical death, nor were they allowed into the presence of God. The sin-guilt which separated them from God had not yet been atoned for. Christ's resurrection reversed that curse of spiritual death which hung over all mankind because of Adam's sin. That spiritual death robbed us of immortality and fellowship with God in His presence. The AD 70 resurrection restored the fullness of life (immortality) and access to the fellowship and presence of God (the paradise that man had lost), but we have to wait until after this physical life is over before we enjoy the full benefits of that immortality in His presence.
These questions necessitate our explaining what the transition period (AD 30-70) saints had before AD 70, versus what those of us living after the consummation now have. They only had an "earnest, pledge or seal" of the full inheritance, whereas we have the full-course eschatological banquet. They had a partial, immature state of transition, while we have the complete fullness of the kingdom inheritance. It would be unreasonable to believe the state of transition has lasted now for 2,000 years, especially in view of the immanency time statements in those texts dealing with the transition. (Heb. 8:13; 1 Pet. 1:3-7; etc.)
The transition period saints had "eternal life," but not access to the presence of God yet. When they died physically they did not go to Sheol/Hades, but rather to be in the outer courts of the heavenly temple (cf. Rev. 6:9ff; 7:9-17). They were not allowed access to the presence of God until Christ the High Priest finished His Yom Kippur duties inside the heavenly Holy of Holies. When He completed that atonement, He came back out and "appeared the second time" to the anxiously awaiting saints gathered in heaven's outer temple courts (cf. Rev. 6:9ff; 7:9-17) at the foot of Mt. Zion (cf. Heb. 12:18-29). Christ opened the way for us, and at AD 70 He gathered the saints and brought them back into God's fellowship and presence for the first time since Adam and Eve lost it in the Garden. Paradise Restored! All God's people can be in the Holy of Holies now. There is no more separation. However, this can only be the case if the High Priest has "appeared the second time" from the Holy of Holies. If Christ has not yet returned to escort His waiting saints into His Father's presence, then we are still not in His presence, and the "salvation which was ready to be revealed" in that "last time" in connection with the High Priest's return, is still in "limbo" (cf. Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 1:3-7). This shows how important a grasp of the temple, priesthood and sacrificial typology is for understanding the flow of eschatological and soteriological events, especially in the books of Hebrews and Revelation. And it shows how inseparably intertwined redemption (soteriology) and eschatology really are.
An AD 70 resurrection means we have the fullness of our kingdom inheritance now available to us, not just the partial things that the saints of the transition period had. True, we as living believers don't enjoy the full benefits of the resurrection until our outer shell dies, but it is nice to know that we don't have to die and wait in Sheol/Hades outside the presence of God until all things are consummated. We will go immediately at death into the full presence of God with our immortal bodies. No more waiting in Hades, nor partial or limited access any longer.
Can you explain Matthew 27:52-53, "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many."
ANSWER: The earthquake broke opened the graves, and the saints that were dead rose to a mortal resurrection to bear witness about Christ to many. Many people were raised from the dead during the Old Testament era, many were raised during Christ's time on earth, many were raised when the moment he was crucified, and many were raised by the apostles after Christ ascended to His Father.
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