Monday, December 9, 2013

The End of Physical Death

A Full Preterist friend asked me a question today...yes, I'm still friends with some Full Preterists. The question then branched off to more questions, all of which were text messages to me. Well, it wouldn't do justice to shoot off a quick text reply so I decided to write a more detailed reply here with documentation. The original question was:

"Do you believe Jesus takes away physical death at His future coming?"
My initial texted response was: "No, nor does historic Christianity. Not until "the end" of everything is physical death (and birth for that matter) no longer active."

He followed up with some more questions: "The Last Enemy is Death is spiritual then? What is the resurrection of the death then, physical or spiritual? Also explain what you mean by no longer active versus your disagreement with taking away physical death. Both sound like the exact thing. And is Baptist Confession, Westminster Confession historic Christianity to you or Roman Catholicism?"

As you can see, this does require a more detailed response than texts back and forth.  Let's start with the last question first since it frames what I mean by "historic Christianity".

I don't want to read too much into what my friend was implying, but typically Full Preterists begin with the premise that there has been no unified historic Christian position on basic eschatology. Even so-called Partial-Preterist, Gary DeMar once said:

"... I'm willing to listen to what others say on an issue, especially on eschatology since it's been a garbled mess for centuries. It's conceivable that so-called eschatological heretics are seeing something I'm not seeing. They're willing to take the risk. Many are not." --source
Now, if this is the starting premise, it won't really matter to a Full Preterist how we define "historic Christianity" since in this mindset it is all a "garbled mess" and this may be the implication of pitting the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith against the The Westminster Confession of Faith; against Roman Catholicism.  The implication is that they differ on basic eschatology.  But do they?

Historic Christianity in the sense I'm using it includes the culmination of the basic, shared, unified beliefs across denominational lines. So, yes this includes those Christians who have adhered to the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith as well as the WCF and even those who consider themselves Roman Catholics...and even Greek/Eastern Orthodox, and even Protestants, and even Anabaptists, and even Modern Evangelicals.

All of these expressions of Christianity AGREE 100% on 4 basic eschatological points:

  1. Jesus is yet to return in the future.
  2. Collective resurrection of believers is yet to be.
  3. Judgment of the wicked and righteous is yet to be.
  4. End of sin and culmination of God's plan for earth is yet to be.

Now we need to get into the details about what historic Christianity means by these things, but I will focus on point #2 since that is the bulk of my friend's present questioning.  Most modern Christians have been taught and do believe that sometime in the future, their physical bodies will be resurrected into a glorified body and this will reside in Heaven with God. This concept is built from 1 Cor 15:35 --

  • “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” -- NIV
  • But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? -- KJV

As we can see there was even in the first-century, a question about how the Resurrection was going to happen. Paul answers:
Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. -- NKJV 1 Cor 15:36-38
Paul goes on to show how the word "body" (or Greek, soma) should not merely be understood as physical flesh, but body could be a planetary body or almost any grouping of anything such as the Church being called the Body. However, Paul continues in 1 Cor 15:44:

"It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body."
So, do we have our answer? The Resurrection is about being raised a spiritual body right? It has nothing to do with being raised physical right? Then why has all of historic Christianity concluded there is going to be a physical resurrection??

First, lets go back to John 11:23-26 where Lazarus had died and Martha is interacting with Jesus about the Resurrection. We note that Martha seems to believe the traditional Jewish view, that the Resurrection was yet future and would be physical. (See Pharisee and Essen Resurrection beliefs -- link) Remember, in Acts 23:6, Paul claimed he was teaching the same resurrection as the Pharisees. We know they were teaching a physical resurrection.  However, back to Jesus for a moment. He was telling Martha that the Resurrection wasn't merely about what happens on the Last Day, but what happens at the moment of belief. At that very moment a person is resurrected to new life, born again, becomes a new creature. But Jesus didn't deny the concept of a Last Day resurrection. I think part of the problem is like Martha, we often see the resurrection as only one thing.

Now, back to historic Christianity.  Besides borrowing from the Jewish concept, and from Paul's declaration that he was teaching the same thing as the Pharisees concerning the Resurrection, where does historic Christianity get this idea of a physical resurrection? In Philippians 3:20-21 we read:
"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself."
Note that that the body is being transformed. It is not a completely different body, but a changed body.  Further, Job 19:26-27 we read:
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
I am trying to show that historic Christianity didn't just make this up. There is scriptural support for seeing that the physical body is raised AND transformed into a spiritual body. There is no contradiction between 1 Cor 15:44 and these verses that speak about a physicality to the resurrected body.  Nor is there contradiction to say that there is more than one type of resurrection; the kind that happened when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead back into his physical body, the kind that happens at the moment of belief and the kind that will happen on the Last Day.

The reason there will be no more death...or birth eventually is that Christianity teaches a culmination of God's plan for the planet earth. Yes indeed there was an "end of the age" but there will be something more. In 2 Pet 3:10-13 we are told about how the elements will melt away with fervent heat. I've heard Full Preterists, like Ed Stevens, Don Preston and John Noe attempt to explain the elements as the elemental things of the Jewish Faith, but not the physical elements. (see here)  But if you follow this response, you'll see that the elements/stoicheia in classic Greek represents matter in general.  However, like as with resurrection, Full Preterists tend to shoehorn "elements" to mean only one thing all the time.

The point is, at some time after Jesus' RETURN (since He did "come" in the first-century, but in glory and vindication before the Father Dan 7:13 and Matthew 26:64), the world as we know it will cease to exist. There will be no more dying because there will be no more being born -- thus neither will either be active any longer.

My purpose with this article is not to get into everything that may be loaded into the questions I was asked. My purpose was simply to show that it is not odd or a "garbled mess" that historic Christianity has agreed 100% on the basic eschatology it believes and teaches.  Like it or not, if a person claims to be an American but instead advocates for Communism, then this person isn't advocating an American ideology anymore than a Full Preterist advocating against the 4 basic eschatological points is advocating Christianity. They are advocating something OTHER THAN Christianity.  Note, I am not saying they aren't "saved" or are "going to hell".  That is not my place. After all, a supposed natural-born, birth-certificate bearing person within America can not only advocate Communism, he or she might even be elected president of the USA and yet people will not interact ideologically that he or she is in principle, not American.  I mean not to offend my friend or any other person reading this, but a person cannot veer this far from historic Christian teaching on the basics of eschatology and still claim they are advocating a Christian eschatology.


Anonymous said...

Very Nice, All I can say is WoW!. What a scholarly Expose!. All Glory and Honory goes to God and to the Lord Jesus Christ, but also we would like to acknowledge Sir Roderick Edwards for being a vessel used by God to explain this "Eschatological Truths" which both the extremists missed (Leftist - cough!, Hyper Full Preterist - Preston, Stevens, Hibbard, King) and the (Right Wing - Premillenial Dispensationalist - LaHaye, Jenkins, Ice, Pat Robertson)

Both sides are guilty of "shoehorning" things to their favor, just like what the Sir Rod Edwards pointed out, "Elements" could mean Jewish Rudiments but they ignore first and foremost that it really means "Physical Material" elements that will be melted away. or the Resurrection which could mean "renewal of spirit" Being born again to new life in Christ but it's main meaning is resurrection of our physical mortal body being "Changed" to an Immortal "Glorified" body.

Those people have blindspots because they already have a preconceive idea or it's the belief they have grown up with. As the saying goes "You cant teach Old dogs new tricks" Preston is raised an Amilenialist and the worse thing is he came from the Cultic Restorationist "Church of Christ" which spirtualize everything just like the Gnostics. They have this "all Spiritual" filter in viewing the scriptures in contrary to Historic Christianity. On the other hand Lahaye picked the "Left Behind" Pre Trib Theory from John Darby Nelson.

This Unpreterist blog is really good!, its nice to know someone is able to wisely slice through the thin line of Truth and Heresy.

I hope you could also put an article about the dating of Revelation, was it really 95 AD or 70 AD?, both sides don't have a clear answer to that, and I think it's a great key in resolving the issue of Eschatology. Thanks and Godbless.

-Unknown Servant of Christ and also a Roderick Edwards fan-;)

Roderick_E said...

Thank you for the comments. All glory to God. These eschatological truths are not so hidden, only that men like Gary DeMar go around validating false premises by saying things like eschatology has been "a garbled mess" -- it hasn't. Eschatology is perhaps the one "ology" upon which all of the expressions of Christ's Body are MOST unified.

I will put together an article on the Dating of the book of Revelation hopefully after the first of the year, Lord willing. I want it to be a well presented article. Thanks again for all of your encouragement. May God bless and keep you in Christ.