To deter men from crime, and to move them to “get religion” that their souls may be cured of sin, frightful pictures are painted, sometimes on canvas, sometimes on the imagination, and sometimes sculptured on stones, of the crackling and sulphurous flames, hideous devils, and horrid shapes, which fill the Tartarian habitation of the immortal ghosts of wicked men. This destiny of condemned ghosts was a part of the “vain philosophy” of the Greeks and Romans before the advent of Christ. It was introduced into the churches of the saints soon after “God granted repentance to the Gentiles”.
Acts 11:18 (ESV): 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
But, as the apostles taught the resurrection of the mortal body, the dogmatism of the Greeks was variously modified.
Romans 8:11 (ESV): 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
1 Corinthians 15:42–54 (ESV): 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
Mystery and Victory
50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
Some admitted the resurrection of the dead; but, as it interfered with their hypothesis about souls, they said it was already past; and consequently, that “there is no resurrection of the dead”.
2 Timothy 2:18 (ESV): 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.
1 Corinthians 15:12 (ESV): The Resurrection of the Dead
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
This gentilizing the hope of the gospel filled Paul with zeal, and caused him to pen the fifteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians to counteract its pernicious influence. He wrote to Timothy to put him on his guard against it; and styles the gentilisms, “profane vain babblings; and oppositions of science falsely so called”.
1 Timothy 6:20 (ESV): 20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,”
He exhorts him to shun them, and “not to strive about words to no profit”; for they “would eat as doth a canker”.
2 Timothy 2:14 (ESV): A Worker Approved by God
14 Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.
If there were no other evidence in Paul’s writings of inspiration, this prediction would be sufficient to establish it. It has come to pass exactly as he foretold it. The dogma of an immortal soul in mortal sinful flesh has eaten out the marrow and fatness, the flesh and sinew, of the doctrine of Christ; and has left behind only an ill-conditioned and ulcerated skeleton of Christianity, whose dry bones rattle in the “winds of doctrine” that are blowing around us, chopping and changing to every point of the compass. The apostles taught two resurrections of the dead; one at “the manifestation of his presence” (τῃ̂ ἐηιφανείᾳ τη̂̓ς παρουαίας αὐτου̂)—TÉ EPIPHANEIA tēs parousias autou), the other, at the delivering up of the kingdom to God at the end of the dispensation of the fulness of times.
1 Thessalonians 4:14–17 (ESV): 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
2 Thessalonians 1:7–8 (ESV): 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
But this did not suit the theory of dogmatists. They resolved the first into what they term “a glorious resurrection of spiritual life in the soul”; and the second, into a re-union of disembodied ghosts with their old mortalities to be sent back whence they came. In this way they reduce the second resurrection to a very useless and superfluous affair. Their systems send “souls” to their account as soon as death strikes the bodies down. Some torment them in purgatory, or in an intermediate state; others send them direct into unmitigated punishment; while both, after they have suffered for thousands of years before trial and conviction, reunite them to their bodies; and if it be asked for what purpose? system replies, “to be judged!” Punish souls first and judge them after! This is truly human, but it is certainly not divine justice. The truth is, that this article of the creed is brought in to defend “orthodoxy” against the imputation of denying the resurrection of the body, which would be a very inconvenient charge in the face of the testimony of God. But this will not avail; for, to believe dogmas that make the resurrection of the mortal body unnecessary and absurd is equivalent to a denial of it. In saying that there was no future resurrection, Paul charged the Corinthians with the mortal sin of repudiating the resurrection of Jesus; “for”, said he, “if the dead rise not”, as ye say, “then Christ is not raised”. Their heresy ate out this truth, which stands or falls with the reality of the “first resurrection” at his coming.
2 Thessalonians 1:7–8 (ESV) 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
– Thomas, D. J. (1990). Elpis Israel: an exposition of the Kingdom of God (electronic ed., pp. 29–30). Birmingham, UK: The Christadelphian.
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