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House Divided Chapter Seven The Resurrection of the Dead Amillennialist Robert B. Strimple Vs. Full Preterist David A. Green Part 11 Can Souls Be Raised?

House Divided

Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

Chapter Seven

The Resurrection of the Dead

Part 11 Can Souls Be Raised?   

 

David A. Green

Copyright 2009 and 2013 All rights reserved.  No part of this book (or article) may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher or author of this chapter/article (Vision Publishing or David A. Green), except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

Strimple Argument #11: We know that the resurrection of the

dead will be physical because there is no such thing as a non-physical

resurrection of a physically dead person (296-297, 299-300, 326).

 

Answer: The short answer to this argument is that the Bible does

not teach that there is no such thing as a non-physical resurrection of

a physically dead person. Regeneration is a non-physical resurrection,

and nowhere does the Bible exclude the old covenant dead from that

resurrection. Jesus in fact referred to the resurrection of the dead as

the regeneration” or rebirth (Matt. 19:28), and the Scriptures elsewhere

imply that the physically dead saints were “born” out of Death and Hades.

(Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:15, 18; Rev. 1:5; see answer to Strimple Argument

#6 above.)

 

Now the long answer: This answer is lengthy because Strimple’s argument

above opens up a futurist “can of worms.” I ask the reader to bear

with me as I navigate through a tangled web of futurist reasoning.

 

Strimple agrees with preterists that “resurrection” (the word and

the concept) can be used as imagery and metaphor, such as when Israel

was promised a “resurrection” to its land in Ezekiel 37:1-4. But, says

Strimple on page 326 (quoting Raymond E. Brown), when it comes to

physically dead people, there is “no other kind of resurrection” than a

physical resurrection. On page 296, Strimple quotes Murray Harris as

saying, “No one could be said to be resurrected while his corpse lay

in a tomb.” And on page 297, Strimple says that the use of the modifier

“bodily” in the term “bodily resurrection” is redundant, because a

physically dead person can only be raised physically/bodily.

 

Additionally, on pages 299 and 300, Strimple argues that the Greek

word for “resurrection” (“anastasis,” literally, “standing up” or “standing

again”), when used in reference to physically dead people, always

meant to first-century Jews and Greeks alike, the resurrection of the

physical aspect of man in contrast to the soul. Strimple supports this

claim by quoting Tertullian, who said that anastasis cannot refer to

the soul because only the physical part of man can fall down, lie down,

sleep, and “stand up.”

 

Now that we have established Strimple’s teaching on the anastasis/

resurrection of physically dead people in WSTTB let us confer with

Strimple’s refutation of premillennialism in the book, Three Views on

the Millennium and Beyond (TVMB). In that book, Strimple actually

teaches that anastasis (“standing up,” resurrection) in Revelation 20:4

refers to a non-physical soul-resurrection of physically dead people.

He defines the “resurrection” in that Scripture as the ushering in of the

disembodied (non-physical) “soul” of a believer upon biological death

into the presence of Christ to reign with Him. Strimple even goes so

far in that book as to say that physical death for the believer today is “in

truth a [non-bodily] resurrection into the very presence of the Savior

in heaven” (Emphasis added) (TVMB, 125-127, 261-262, 276).

 

If this were not confusing enough, on pages 319–320 and 337

of WSTTB Strimple says (quoting John Murray and Murdoch Dahl)

that dead believers today—even though they have been resurrected

“into the very presence of the Savior in heaven”—are actually experiencing

punishment and “condemnation” under the curse of “sin,”

“death,” and “corruption.” He says that our departed loved ones are

actually in a state of soul-and-body death (“psycho-physical death,”

as Strimple calls it). He says they are actually in a “dreadful” state

(319). Quoting Rudolf Bultmann, he teaches that they are even in

a state of “horror,” and that Jesus Himself was in the same horrific

state before He was raised from the dead (320).[1]

 

Finally, Strimple adds that our departed brothers and sisters who

are with Christ today are non-human, i.e., non-man. They are no longer

of the same human nature as Christ, and will remain sub-humans until

they are resurrected at the end of human history. (More on this below)

So we see that when Strimple is refuting premillennialists, he portrays

the Bible as teaching a present-day, non-physical resurrection of

physically dead believers into the very presence of the Savior in heaven

where they are reigning with Him. But when Strimple is refuting preterists,

he portrays the Bible as teaching strictly and only a physical resurrection

of physically dead saints, and he says that disembodied saints

today are in a state of punishment where they are longing for the day

when they will no longer be sin-cursed, condemned, sub-human, and in

a dreadful state of horror.[2]

 

In 1993, in a paper he presented in Mt. Dora, Florida, Strimple suggested

that physically dead persons cannot experience a non-physical

resurrection. Then in 1999, in TVMB, Strimple taught that physically

dead persons do experience a non-physical resurrection. Then in 2004,

in WSTTB, Strimple reverted to teaching that physically dead persons

cannot experience a non-physical resurrection. It seems that some of

Strimple’s central theological convictions come and go roughly every

six years, depending on who he is refuting.

 

The incredible tension between Strimple’s positions here is not “paradox.”

It is not an expression of “already but not yet.” Strimple’s views

are none other than the consummate example of radical contradiction.

Throughout his chapter Strimple makes much of the fact that preterists

disagree with other preterists. Yet as we have seen in this book, futurists

such as Keith Mathison and Robert Strimple not only disagree with

other futurists, they disagree with their own faith-convictions.

In view of the fact that some of the authors of WSTTB have made

their own interpretations of Scripture a proverbial “nose of wax” that

can be reshaped for the sake of expedience (304), we can begin to see

why it is appropriate that their book was called a “reformed” response.

Nevertheless, Strimple deems himself a worthy judge to call into question

the doctrinal “credibility” of preterists (300, 335-336).

 

To be fair, Strimple and Mathison are not the only ones guilty of wild

self-contradiction. The guilt belongs to the futurist camp as a whole. At

funeral services, departed believers are said to be in the highest Heaven

beholding the face of the Lord. But in seminary classrooms, departed

believers are said to be in Hades waiting for the Last Day at the end of

human history, when Hades will be cast into the Lake of Fire and believers

will finally be able to behold the face of the Lord (Rev. 22:4).

 

As far as we know, a human soul cannot be in two different places,

or in two contradictory states of being, at the same time. So where do

the dead in Christ today reside? Is it in Hades or in the highest Heaven?

 

Strimple is an amillennialist. Although the anti-premillennial

Strimple (who says that Revelation 20 teaches a spiritual resurrection

of physically dead people) roundly contradicts the anti-preterist

Strimple (who says that physically dead people cannot be spiritually

resurrected), most of Strimple’s amillennialist brethren disagree with

both Strimples. They define “anastasis” in Revelation 20:4 as regeneration;

that is, not a soul-resurrection at physical death, but a here-and now

spiritual birth through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

 

Paul agrees with amillennialists that Holy Spirit rebirth, received at

the moment of faith in Christ’s sin-atoning blood, was “the first resurrection

with Christ:

 

. . . hath quickened us [made us alive] together with Christ.

(Eph. 2:5)

 

. . . you are risen with him through the faith of the operation of

God. . . . (Col. 2:12)

 

And you . . . hath he quickened [made alive] together with him,

having forgiven you all trespasses. (Col. 2:13)

 

If ye then be risen with Christ . . . . (Col. 3:1)

 

But ye are come unto . . . the . . . church of the firstborn. . . .

(Heb. 12:22-23)

 

And because Holy Spirit regeneration was the first resurrection

with Christ” (Eph. 2:5; Rev. 20:4-6), it irresistibly follows that Christ

was the beginning and “First Fruit” of that spiritual resurrection (334).

 

Strimple rightly concedes on page 334 of WSTTB that the resurrection

of Christ was “the beginning” of the resurrection of the dead.

Apparently though, according to Strimple, Christ’s resurrection was

“the beginning” of a harvest that was interrupted as soon as it began

and which will not be restarted until thousands of years after its beginning,

even though the “first fruits” (beginning) invariably signals

not merely the nearness but the commencement of the harvest.

 

Though Christ our Forerunner was eternally begotten of God and

eternally God’s Son, He was the first to be “born” or “begotten” of God

when He was raised from the dead and given all authority to reign as

High Priest unto God (Acts 13:33; Heb. 5:5). He was, for our sakes,

born” out of Adamic Death (the condemnation and alienation from

God He endured on the Cross) and Hades into the Presence of the Father.

For this reason, the Son is called:

 

The “firstborn” among many brethren (Rom. 8:29)

 

The “firstborn” of every creature (Col. 1:15)

 

The “firstborn” from the dead (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5)

 

Thus, the rebirth of the Hadean (Old Testament) saints in Christ

with the body-of-Christ church in AD 70 was the regeneration of “all

things,” i.e., of the universal body of the saints:

 

Your dead men shall live; together with my dead body shall they

arise. Awake and sing, you that dwell in dust: for your dew is as

the dew of herbs, and the earth shall give birth to the dead. (Isa.

26:19)

 

. . . in the Regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the

throne of his glory, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging

the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matt. 19:28)

 

Before we move on to Strimple’s next argument, let us briefly

examine Strimple’s teaching that a man without his physical body is no

longer a man:

 

Strimple teaches the non-humanity of the dead on page 337

(through a reference to Rudolf Bultmann and through a correction of

Robert Gundry). According to Strimple, one of the reasons that Paul

defended the resurrection of the body is because a departed believer is

actually a non-human until he or she is physically resurrected.

 

R. C. Sproul Jr. makes the same mistake in his Foreword to

WSTTB where he implies that his daughter will be an incomplete

“ethereal creature” between the time of her death and the time of

Christ’s Second Coming —a span of time that according to Sproul

Jr.’s view could theoretically last a million years or more. It should go

without saying that it is an unbiblical thing to believe that our loved

ones in Christ will suffer “the ravages of . . . sin” (as R. C. Sproul Jr.

puts it) potentially for aeons after the time of their death (ix). But this

is the sad, logical necessity of futurism. If our departed loved ones already

have perfect and complete sinless blessedness today before the

face of God, then there is no scriptural justification for a yet-future

resurrection of the dead.

 

In contrast to Rudolf Bultmann and Strimple, the Bible nowhere

suggests, implies, or otherwise hints that those who die become nonhumans

until they are resurrected. The resurrection of the dead is never

characterized in Scripture as the restoration of former humans back to

their lost humanity. Jesus made reference to a man in Hades (Lk. 16:22-

23), and Paul spoke of the possibility that a “man” was caught up “out

of the body” (2 Cor. 12:2). (He would not cease to be a man outside of

his body.) In both of these instances, the “man” was the non-physical

spirit/soul of the man. Additionally, if we are to say that a departed saint

is a sub-human because he is without his physical body, then we must

also say that Jesus Himself was a sub-human for the three days and three

nights that elapsed between His death and resurrection, because He did

not have his physical body at that time. We could also say, by the same

line of reasoning, that unborn babies and people with missing limbs are

not 100% humans because they also are not “complete.”

 

Contrary to the ghastly horrors of logically consistent futurism, the

departed spirit of the believer is fully human. Whether living in the

flesh or living in the heavens after physical death, the believer today is

complete in Christ. The departed believer in the new covenant world

today is not a homeless, wraithlike phantom, like an exorcized demon.

He is not a “shade” (295). He is not a quivering, shapeless “mist” like

some kind of escaped gas.

 

In stark contrast to such wildly extra-scriptural, futurist notions,

the Bible teaches us that the saints in heaven today are “like the angels

(Matt. 22:30; Mark 12:25; Heb. 1:7; 12:22-23). And they are not “naked,”

but they are “clothed” with the everlasting righteousness of Christ, the

new Man (Rev. 6:9-11; 14:13; 15:6; 19:8, 14).



[1] Yet, oddly enough, Strimple dismisses “tales of the shadowy world of

Hades and of Christ’s ‘harrowing of hell’ after his death” (293).

[2] It is noteworthy that Jesus did not say to the thief on the cross, “Today

you will be with me in a paradise of condemnation, sin, death, corruption,

punishment, curse, dread, and sub-human horror” as the anti-preterist

Strimple would have it.

 

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