Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to
When Shall These Things Be?
Excerpts From Chapter 6 (Response to Robert Strimple) & Chapter Seven (Exposition of 1 Corinthians 15)
Including an Exegesis of: Daniel 12:2, John 5:28-29, and 1 Corinthians 15
The Resurrection of the Dead Fulfilled by AD 70
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.
1). Exegesis of Daniel 12:2
Strimple Argument #5: Daniel 12:1-3 says that “many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.” This is obviously referring to a physical resurrection of the dead. Additionally, God tells us that this prophecy is to be fulfilled in “the time of the end” (Dan. 12:4), which is the end of human history (295).
Answer: Daniel’s prediction of the resurrection of the dead begins with these words: “And at that time . . . ” “That time” refers back to the end of chapter 11. Philip Mauro in his book, The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation, argues convincingly that Daniel 11 ends with a prophecy of Herod the Great.
Herod, the first enemy of the incarnate Christ, died very shortly after Christ was born. It was “at that time” that Christ (“Michael,” “the Chief Messenger”) stood up for the saints. It was at that time that Christ came into the world for His people and took on the body of sacrifice that the Father had prepared for Him (Dan. 12:1; Heb. 10:5-7; Ps. 40:6; cf. Rev. 12:7).
It was the “stand” for the elect that Christ made in His Incarnation that led to the “war in heaven” (Matt. 11:12; Rev. 12:7), which in turn led to fleshly Israel being overtaken in the death-throes of the Great Tribulation (Dan. 12:1). Jesus promised that that time of distress was going to take place within His own generation, and that it would be consummated in the destruction of the city and the sanctuary (Dan. 9:26; 12:1; Matt. 24:1-2, 21, 34). That event took place in August-September of AD 70.
According to the angel who spoke to Daniel, it was at that time that the power of the holy people would be shattered (Dan. 12:7), that the church would be delivered (Dan. 12:1), that the resurrection of the dead would take place, and that the righteous would inherit the kingdom (Dan. 12:2). Jesus, in harmony with Daniel, promised that the kingdom would be taken from the wicked and given to the righteous in the lifetime of the chief priests and Pharisees (Mat. 21:43-45). Therefore, “the time of the end” (not “the end of time,” as it is sometimes mistranslated) in Daniel 12:4, 9 was not the end of human history; it was the end of redemptive history in Christ’s generation.
It was in AD 70, therefore, that many who slept in “the earth’s dust” awoke. To “sleep in dust” is a figure of speech. The dead were not literally sleeping, nor were they literally in the dust. They were “in dust” only insofar as, in their death, they had not ascended into God’s presence in Christ. In terms of the righteousness and life of God, they were earth-bound. From a literal standpoint, they were in Sheol/Hades (the abode of the Adamic dead), and it was from out of Sheol that they were raised to stand before the heavenly throne of God (Dan. 12:1-2). Futurist James Jordan writes regarding Daniel 12:13:
What Daniel is promised is that after his rest in Abraham’s bosom, he will stand up with all God’s saints and join Michael on a throne in heaven, as described in Revelation 20, an event that came after the Great Tribulation and in the year AD 70.
Regarding the word “many” in Daniel 12:2: The word is not used in contrast to “all” (as “the many” is used to limit the term “all men” in Rom. 5:12, 15, 18-19) or in contrast to “a few.” The angel simply referred to a large number of people; to multitudes (NIV). No inference can be made from the context as to whether “many” referred to all or to only a portion of the dead. Only subsequent scriptures revealed that the “many” in Daniel 12:2 referred to the whole company of all the dead from Adam to the Last Day.
2). Exegesis of John 5:28-29
Strimple Argument #6: John 5:28-29 obviously teaches a physical resurrection of the dead in that it speaks of a time in which “all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (297).
Answer: In order to understand John 5:28 and 29, we must first look three verses above it, in John 5:25, where Jesus said that the hour “now is” when “the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” As most Reformed interpreters agree, Jesus in that verse was referring to the preaching of His death and resurrection. The preaching of that message commenced at Pentecost. “The dead” were physically living people who were spiritually dead in sin, and “the voice of the Son of God” was the gospel. Having heard the gospel, those who were spiritually “dead” were spiritually resurrected. They lived in that they received eternal life through faith in the gospel (“the voice of the Son of God”).
Then, in verses 28 and 29, Jesus expanded His teaching on the resurrection to include those who were not only spiritually dead, but who were also physically dead. He did not call them “dead” (as He had already called the living who were spiritually dead), but He referred to them through another figure of speech as “all who are in the graves.” They were not literally in their graves or tombs, of course, but were in Hades/Sheol.
What is often missed in this passage is that, like the physically living in verse 25, the physically dead in verse 28 were also going to live by means of hearing Christ’s “voice.” As we know from verse 25, that “voice” is the gospel. The physically dead therefore were going to hear the gospel (cf. 1 Pet. 4:6.) and were, as a result of hearing the gospel, going to be resurrected (regenerated, born from out of death and Hades). This means that the physically dead were, like the physically living, spiritually dead. And this inescapably means that both the physically living and the physically dead were going to be spiritually resurrected by means of the gospel-voice of the Son of God. One resurrection in two main stages: First, the last days saints; then, the Old Testament dead (“the rest of the dead” in Revelation 20:5). Note the parallels between John 4:21, 23 and John 5:25, 28:
1. . . . [T]he hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth. . . . (Jn. 4:23)
2. . . . [T]he hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. (Jn. 4:21)
1. . . . [T]he hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. (Jn. 5:25)
2. . . . [T]he hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice. . . . (Jn. 5:28)
These two sets of prophecies are parallel. They speak of the same timeframes, which were these:
Pentecost (AD 30)
1. The true worshipers would worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
1. The dead would hear the voice of the Son of God, and live.
Fall of Jerusalem (AD 70)
2. God’s worshipers would no longer worship Him in Jerusalem.
2. All who were in the graves would hear His voice.
Interjection by Michael Sullivan – “Commentators have long understood that Daniel 12:2 is the source for Jesus’ teaching on the resurrection in John 5:28-29 because the only OT passage which mentions a resurrection for both the righteous and the wicked is Daniel 12:2 and the only OT passage addressing “eternal life” is Daniel 12:2. G.K. Beale points out an additional connection – in that Jesus is following the (OG) LXX of Daniel 12:1-2, 4 when it comes to this coming resurrection “hour” of both believers and unbelievers (cf. G.K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of The Old Testament In The New (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 131132).
That being the case, note these parallels:
Pentecost (AD 30)
1. Daniel 12:1: “And at that hour…”
1. John 5:25: “…an hour is coming and now is…”
Fall of Jerusalem (AD 70)
2. Daniel 12:1: “And at that hour…”
2. John 5:28: “…for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice,”
Pentecost (AD 30)
1. Daniel 12:2: “Many of those who sleep in the width of the earth will arise [anatesontai]…some unto eternal life and others to reproach…and to eternal shame.”
1. John 5:24: “…he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”
Fall of Jerusalem (AD 70)
2. Daniel 12:2: “Many of those who sleep in the width of the earth will arise [anatesontai]…some unto eternal life and others to reproach…and to eternal shame.”
2. John 5:29: “and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection [anatasin] of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection [anatasin] of judgment.” (also related: 1 John 2:18: “Dear children it is the last hour…” and Revelation 14:7: “…the hour of His judgment has come.”).
Partial Preterists such as Kenneth Gentry have finally conceded to Full Preterism that the resurrection of Daniel 12:2 was fulfilled in AD 70 spiritually – “when the power of the holy people is/was completely shattered” (v. 7). They also affirm that the last hour of John’s eschatology in John 4, 1 John 2:17-18, and Revelation 14:7 was fulfilled in AD 70. There is obviously some arbitrary and inconsistent exegesis taking place from Mr. Gentry on the coming “hour” of judgment and resurrection in John’s writings.
Here are the exegetical challenges for Kenneth Gentry on the resurrection of John 5:28-29 at this point:
1. If the judgment and resurrection “hour” of Daniel 12:1-2 was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70, and…
2. If Jesus’ source for His teaching on the coming judgment and resurrection “hour” in John 5:28-29 was Daniel 12:1-2,
3. Then the judgment and resurrection “hour” of John 5:28-29 was also fulfilled spiritually in AD 70.” (end note by Michael Sullivan)
David A. Green continued – After hearing the gospel, the dead were raised out of their Adamic graves (Hades) in the end of the age. And those among them who believed the gospel received eternal life in the kingdom of God. But those who hated the gospel (those who had done evil) were raised out of Hades only to stand before God and to enter into “eternal punishment” / “the second death” (Matt. 25:46; Jn. 5:28-29; Rev. 20:14).
 . Philip Mauro, The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation (Swengel, PA: Reiner Publications [now Grace Abounding Ministries]), 135-162.
 . James B. Jordan, The Handwriting on the Wall: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Inc., 2007), 628. (Emphases added)
3). An Exposition of 1 Corinthians 15
The position I take in this exposition is often called “the collective body view” or “the corporate body view.” It is as follows:
Some at Corinth were denying that the pre-Christian saints would rise to inherit the kingdom at the Parousia. Those who were in error at Corinth were not arguing with Paul about the reality of the resurrection. They were arguing with Paul in regard to who would participate in the resurrection. They believed that believers in Christ would be resurrected but that “the dead” would not. Paul’s answer to their error was that “all”—not merely some of God’s people—would be raised. Through the Spirit-empowered dying (to Sin and to the Law) of the eschatological church on behalf of the dead (the Old Testament saints), the mortal “body” of Sin and Death (the Adamic/Mosaic saints and the eschatological church; the entire “world” of God’s people) would rise and be “changed”/“transformed” into the spiritual body of Christ in the kingdom of God.
Though this interpretation is commonly called “collective” or “corporate,” these terms are inadequate. Paul does not speak only or merely in collective terms of the resurrection body. Not even in 1 Corinthians 12 is “body” simply a reference to a collective or communal “body of believers.”
The terms “body of Christ” and “body of believers” are not synonymous. The church is not a “body” because it is a group of people who have organized and united around Christ. Nor is it a body because it is a kind of “corporation.” The church is the body of Christ because it is literally the dwelling and fullness of the individual Man, the Person, Christ Jesus (Gal. 4:19; Eph. 1:23; 4:13). “This mystery is great. . . ” (Eph. 5:32).
As we shall soon see, Paul used the word “body,” in the relevant passages, not as a term of either physicality or collectivity, or even as a term of mere anthropological wholeness. Paul used the word “body” as a term of theology, much as he used the terms “spirit,” “new man,” “the world about to come,” the “new creation,” the “kingdom of God,” and the heavenly “house/home.” All of these eschatological terms (and their opposites, “mortal body,” “flesh,” “old man,” etc.) are intimately related in their meanings, and are not easily defined with exactness.
As I will explain in more detail below, “body” describes God’s people, whether individually or as a whole, whether living or dead, in terms of their cosmic-covenantal self or identity, as they are constituted either in Sin and Death or in Christ. Thus the view I am presenting in this
self in this chapter to defining their error more generally as a denial that the dead from Adam until Christ would be raised.
chapter may more accurately be called “the cosmic-covenantal body view.”
In beginning this exposition, we must understand that reading 1 Corinthians 15 is comparable to listening to one side of one phone conversation out of a series of phone conversations. Paul and the resurrection-of-thedead deniers have a long established context with long established word usages. We on the other hand, as a third party, may have our own context and our own usages that we unwittingly apply to the conversation.
This is the problem we face in 1 Corinthians 15. We hear Paul’s refutation of the resurrection error but we do not hear many details about what he is refuting. All we know from explicit statements in the chapter is that some at Corinth denied “the resurrection of the dead” because they believed “the dead” had no “body” with which they could be rising (1 Cor. 15:35). But what does this mean? What did Paul and those who were in error at Corinth mean when they used those terms?
If we do not make correct inferences from Paul’s side of the “conversation,” we not only misunderstand the error he was refuting, we misunderstand the truth he was defending. This has been the historic failure of the futurist interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15. Futurists have resisted making necessary inferences in Paul’s arguments because those inferences do not fit the futurist paradigm.
It is widely believed that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers denied the very concept of the resurrection of dead people universally, and that they therefore denied the resurrection of Christ and of Christians. The implications of Paul’s words, however, do not support this view. As Paul argued, if the dead are not being raised, then:
- “not even Christ has been raised” (1 Cor. 15:13-17)
- the apostles are liars (1 Cor. 15:14-15)
- “those also who have fallen asleep in Christ perished” (1 Cor. 15:18)
- we are hoping in Christ “in this life only” (1 Cor. 15:19)
These four logical outcomes of the resurrection error were not doctrines that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers were teaching. These conclusions were not designed to describe the error. They were designed to overthrow it, through reductio ad absurdum. Paul was bringing the resurrection error to absurd conclusions that were antithetical to the beliefs of the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers. Paul was essentially saying:
“We all believe in the resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:13-17) and in the eschatological hope in Christ that all believers share (1 Cor. 15:19), both living and asleep (1 Cor. 15:18); but you do not realize that if there is no resurrection of the dead, as some of you are saying, then these gospel truths that we all hold so dear are nothing but falsehoods and delusions.”
We can infer from Paul’s “if . . . then” arguments that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers did not espouse those inevitable results of their teaching. Instead, they agreed with Paul that:
- Christ had been raised from the dead.
- The apostles were faithful and true witnesses of God.
- Christians who had “fallen asleep” had not “perished” (i.e., had not died in their sins).
- All Christians, both living and “asleep,” had a sure “hope” in Christ. Their hope in Him was not a pitiable delusion.
Because the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers believed in the resurrection of Christ, and because they believed that sleeping Christians had therefore not died in their sins (“perished”) but were, along with the living, looking forward to the fulfillment of the Christological “hope,” we must infer that the “hope” to which the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers looked was that of the Christological resurrection of Christians, both living and “asleep” (Acts 23:6; 24:15; 26:6-7; 28:20; Eph. 4:4). They did not believe merely in the continuation of existence after death; they looked forward to the fulfillment of the eschatological “hope” in Christ.
We can also reasonably surmise that since the resurrection-ofthe-dead deniers believed that the apostles were faithful witnesses and since they believed in the apostolic gospel of the historic resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:13-17) and in the Christian resurrection-“hope,” it is not unlikely that they also believed the apostolic testimony that Christ Himself had raised multiple people from the dead and that the apostles themselves had raised multiple people from the dead.
(We can add to this that since the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers were members of the church at Corinth, which was filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including miracles, it is not far from the realm of possibility that resurrection-miracles were performed at the Corinthian church before the very eyes of the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers.)
So from verses 13-19, we must infer that even though those who were in error at Corinth denied the resurrection of “the dead,” they nevertheless believed in the resurrected and resurrecting Christ, and in the resurrecting apostles, and in the miracle-working church at Corinth, and in the resurrection-“hope” of all Christians, living and asleep.
These inferences have been overlooked because under the assumption of futurism, they make no sense. How could someone deny the very concept and possibility of the resurrection of dead people and at the same time believe in the resurrected and resurrecting Christ, and in the resurrecting apostles, and in the Christological resurrection-“hope” of all Christians, living and asleep? With futurism as our starting point, there is no answer to this question. There are only strained theories.
The problem for futurism thickens when we see other implications of Paul’s arguments in 1 Corinthians 15. In verses 35-37 we read:
But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what body do they come?” You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else.
We know that Paul’s argument here was aimed at those who already believed in the eschatological resurrection of Christians. We can infer then that he was not trying to convince them of the concept of resurrection. We can also infer that body-sowing and body-rising (bodyresurrection) were “givens” in the seed analogy. The only doctrines that Paul was defending and seeking to prove in his analogy were body-death (“You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies”) and body-change (“and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be”). Sowing and coming to life (resurrection) were givens. Putting the body to death and changing the body were not givens.
The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers believed in the sowing of the body and in the resurrection of the body but they denied that the body had to die and be changed. They erroneously espoused the burial and resurrection of the same, unchanged, living body. This makes no sense in the futurist framework, but we shall see below that it makes perfect sense in Paul’s preterist framework.
We see again that the resurrection body was a given, in verse 46: But the spiritual [body] was not first, but the natural [body], then the spiritual [body].
No one at Corinth needed to be convinced of the coming “spiritual body . . . that shall be” (1 Cor. 15:37), or of the “hope” of the raising up of Christians, whether dead (“asleep”) or living (1 Cor. 15:19), or of the coming kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50). They needed only to be convinced that there was a “natural body” that came first, and that it had to be put to death and “changed” into the different “spiritual body.”
Let us now look at one more inference we must make from Paul’s arguments—an inference that will begin to allow us to undo the confusion of the futurist interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15. Verse 35:
How are the dead raised? And with what body do they come?
As this verse implies, the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers could not fathom the possibility of the resurrection of the dead. They could not so much as conceive of “how” “the dead” could have a “body” with which they could be raised. The very idea was beyond their capability to believe.
As we have seen, those who were in error at Corinth believed in the historic resurrection of Christ and in the “sowing” of the “spiritual body” and the resurrection of the same “spiritual body.” They looked forward to the fulfillment of the “hope” that all Christians, living and asleep, would be raised with the spiritual body in the kingdom of God. Yet at the same time, according to verse 35, we see that those who were in error at Corinth were unable to conceive of the feasibility of the bodily resurrection of the dead.
How can this be? In the futurist paradigm, this simply “does not compute,” and the exegetical dilemma is mind-bogglingly insoluble. The blinders of futurism have thus made it impossible for interpreters to make sense of all of 1 Corinthians 15. The result has been that, through a time-honored exegetical haze, futurism has unwittingly transformed the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers into veritable madmen.
There is no doubt that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers were ignorant and foolish regarding the resurrection of the dead, but it is not reasonable to portray them as thinking in insanely contradictory propositions, i.e., believing in the reality of resurrection and at the same time being unable to conceive of the very possibility of resurrection. The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers had no rational reason to reject the believability, imaginability, thinkability, or feasibility of a biological resurrection of the flesh. Therefore, what they denied—and what Paul was defending—was something else.
Those who were in error at Corinth were denying neither the existence of, nor the futurity of, nor the somatic (bodily) character of the resurrection. They believed in the future body-resurrection of Christians. Yet at the same time, they denied the resurrection of “the dead” because they could not conceive of the possibility of the dead having a body with which they could rise. This means that the resurrection-ofthe-dead deniers were not denying the bodily resurrection of everyone, but were denying only the possibility that certain people other than Christians—“the dead”—were participating in the resurrection of the body.
“The dead” in 1 Corinthians 15 were, in contrast to dead Christians, Hadean saints (1 Cor. 15:55). They were, as Paul says, those “out from among” whom Christ had been raised (1 Cor. 15:12, 20). Christ did not rise “out from among” dead, Spirit-indwelt Christians. “The dead” were the saints who had lived and died, not in Christ, but “in Adam” (1 Cor. 15:22), before Christ. They were those who were “asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20), in contrast to those who had “fallen asleep in Christ” (1 Cor. 15:18).
Let us look again at 1 Corinthians 15:36:
. . . That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die.
As I mentioned above, Paul teaches in this verse that the body is first sown (planted, buried, or entombed), and then it dies in order that it can be raised a changed body. If Paul was teaching a biological resurrection of the dead, then we must admit that he was saying that only physical bodies that have first been buried alive and have then been put to death underground can be raised to eternal physical life on Resurrection Day.
Futurism has thus created an absurdity and a contradiction in verse 36. The absurdity is the teaching that only physical bodies that have been buried alive can be resurrected. The contradiction is the idea that physical death is a prerequisite to being resurrected. This contradicts verse 51, where Paul said that the physically living would be “made alive” (resurrected) and changed along with the physically dead (cf. verse 22).
No one believes that Paul was teaching that living physical bodies must be physically buried, and that the physically buried bodies must then physically die underground in order that the physically buried-and-dead bodies can then be physically resurrected and changed. Although that is definitely what Paul’s words say in the futurist framework, no futurist accepts this meaning. Instead, most interpreters apply themselves to Herculean efforts to making the verse make sense in the futurist framework.
Their time, however, would be better spent finding Paul’s meaning, letting him say what he says, rather than making his words conform to the futurist paradigm. To find Paul’s meaning, we need only find where in Scripture Paul elaborated on the doctrine of a human “body” that had to be sown/planted/entombed and concurrently put to death, in order that it could be made alive and changed in the resurrection of the dead. This takes us to Romans 6-8, Colossians 2, and Philippians 3.
In these Scriptures, especially in Romans 6, Paul teaches that believers had been bodily “planted,” through Spirit-baptism, into death / into the death of Christ, in order that the body that had been planted/buried (the “body of Sin,” the “mortal body,” the “body of Death,” the “body of the sins of the flesh,” the “vile body”) would be abolished / put to death, and then be made alive and changed/conformed to the image of the Son of God in the kingdom of heaven. Note the order: Burial then death.
This sequence in Romans 6 is exactly, step by step, what Paul teaches concerning the resurrection of the body in 1 Cor. 15:36-37 and its context. Romans 6-8 and 1 Corinthians 15 both speak of concurrent bodyburial and body-death, followed by consummated body-death, bodyresurrection, and body-change. Futurist assumptions notwithstanding, there is no doubt that 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 6-8 are speaking of the same burial, death, resurrection, and change—and therefore of the same body.
What then is “the body” that was being put to death in Romans 6-8 and 1 Corinthians 15? What is the meaning of the word “body” in these contexts? Essentially, or basically, the “body” is the “self” or “person/personality” or “individual,” whether that of a singular saint or of the singular church universal (the body of Christ). According to definition 1b of the word σωμα (body) in Arndt and Gingrich’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, the word “body” in Paul’s writings is sometimes “almost synonymous with the whole personality . . . σώματα [bodies] = themselves.”
Note how that “body” and “yourselves” are used interchangeably in Romans 6:12-13:
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting your members [of your mortal body] to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members [of your mortal body] as instruments of righteousness to God.
Compare also 1 Corinthians 6:15 and 12:27, where “you” and “your bodies” are synonymous:
. . . your bodies are members of Christ . . . . (1 Cor. 6:15)
. . . you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. (1 Cor. 12:27)
See also Ephesians 5:28, where a man’s body-union with his wife is equated with “himself”:
So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself.
However, the word “body,” when it is used in reference to the eschatological resurrection, means more than merely the “self.” Paul is not using the word as a common reference to “the whole person.” It does not refer to man’s anthropological wholeness (i.e., Material body+soul+spirit=the body). Paul is using the word in a theologicaleschatological sense to describe God’s people as they are defined either by the wholeness/fullness (body) of Adamic Sin and Death or the wholeness/fullness (body) of Christ. The body is either the “person” united with Sin and Death, or the “person” united with Christ, whether individually or corporately.
We can begin to see this in Colossians 3:5 (KJV), where the body parts (members) of the Sin-body are not arms and legs or other physical limbs. The members of the “earthly body” were death-producing “deeds,” such as “fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness . . . ” (cf. Rom. 8:13). Thus John Calvin wrote in his commentary on Romans 6:6: “The body of sin . . . does not mean flesh and bones, but the corrupted mass . . . of sin.” Since a body is the sum of its parts, and since the parts of the Sin-body are sins/sinful deeds, it follows that “the body of Sin” is not the physical aspect of man. Instead, the whole of the sins/deeds of the body equals the body of Sin. Or more accurately, the body of Sin was God’s people as they were identified with and defined by the Sin-reviving, Sin-increasing, Death-producing world of the Law.
When Paul said that believers were no longer walking according to “the flesh” (Rom. 8:1, 4, 9), he was saying that believers were putting to death the deeds of the “body” (Rom. 8:10-11, 13). The parts/members of the body equaled the deeds of “the body,” which equaled the walk of “the flesh.” “Flesh” and “body” in this context, therefore, describe man as he was defined by Sin, not man as he was defined by material body parts.
In Colossians 2:11, Paul said that God had buried believers with Christ, raised them up with Him, and had removed “the body of the flesh.” “The body of the flesh” was not the physical body. It was the Adamic man/self/person that had been dead in transgressions and in the spiritual uncircumcision of his “flesh” (Col. 2:13). That “body” (or as Ridderbos puts it, that “sinful mode of existence”) had been “removed” in Christ and was soon to be changed into the glorious, resurrected “body” of Christ.
As a comparison of Colossians 2:11 and Colossians 3:9 reveals, “the body” of Sin is virtually synonymous with “the old man”:
. . . the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh . . . . (Col. 2:11)
. . . having put off the old man with his practices (Col. 3:9; cf. Eph. 4:22)
Compare also 1 Corinthians 15:42 with Ephesians 4:22:
[The body] is sown in corruption . . . . (1 Cor. 15:42)
. . . the old man being corrupted . . . . (Eph. 4:22)
Compare also the references to “man” and “body” in Romans 7:24:
Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of Death?
And in Romans 6:6:
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (Rom. 6:6)
And in 1 Corinthians 15:44, 45:
. . . There is a natural body [the old man], and there is a spiritual body [the new Man]. And so it is written, the first [old] man [the natural body] Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam [the last Man, the spiritual body] a quickening spirit.
Since the natural body is nearly synonymous with the old man, we should expect that the spiritual body is nearly synonymous with “the new man,” the Lord Jesus Christ. Compare 1 Corinthians 15:53-54 with Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10 and Romans 13:14:
For this perishable [body] must put on the imperishable [body] . . . . (1 Cor. 15:53-54)
and put on the new man [the spiritual body], which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Eph. 4:24) and have put on the new man [the spiritual body] who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him. (Col. 3:10)
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ [the new man, the spiritual body], and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. (Rom. 13:14)
As most futurists agree, “the old man” and “the new man” are not expressions that describe man in terms of physicality. “The old man” was man as he was in Adam, alienated from God and dead in Sin. He was “the body of Sin.” The new Man is man as he is reconciled to God in Christ, the lifegiving Spiritual Body.
Note that in Colossians 2:11-14, believers had been bodily buried and bodily raised with Christ, but it was the “handwriting in ordinances” that God had crucified. In Romans 6:6, it was “the old man” that had been crucified. In Galatians 5:24, it was “the flesh” that had been crucified.
And in Galatians 6:14, it was “the world” that had been crucified. These verses together demonstrate the “cosmic” dimension of the Pauline, eschatological “body.” The Spirit was not merely changing hearts and lives of individuals; He was changing the “world-body” of Adam/Moses (Israel as it was defined by the earthly temple-system of Law-Sin-Death) into the world-body of Christ.
Thus it is in 2 Corinthians 5 that the soon-to-be-destroyed “mortal . . . body” is equal to the “earthly [made-with-hands] house of the tabernacle” (2 Cor. 5:1, 4, 6, 10), i.e., the old covenant world. The “house,” or world, of the man-made temple of God was “the mortal . . . body” that had been buried with Christ, and that was being put to death, and that was soon to be clothed with the heavenly/spiritual body of Christ.
Though all believers were individually “putting on Christ” in anticipation of the Last Day (Rom. 13:11-14), believers were not doing this merely as a collective of individuals. They were together, through the power of God, putting on (becoming clothed with) the Lord Jesus Christ who is Himself the Tabernacle/House/Body of God from out of heaven. They were being changed into the cosmic New Man—the “body” of God Himself.
Through the indwelling Holy Spirit,
- the mortal body of Sin and Death (The Adamic-Mosaic world),
- the old man/humanity and,
- the flesh had been sown/planted/buried and were being put to death through
the eschatological work of the Holy Spirit, and were being raised
- the body of the triune God (“that God may be All in all”),
- the new Man and
- spirit (that which is spiritual; that which is of the Spirit),
i.e., the habitation of
- the Father,
- the Son and
- the Holy Spirit
The consummated change took place when the world of the handmade city and sanctuary (the body of Sin and Death) was thrown down, and the heavenly/spiritual city and sanctuary (the body of Christ) were established “among men” in AD 70 (Heb. 9:8).
Through the indwelling of the Spirit, the church’s body of Sin and Death (its old, pre-Christ world-identity; the fleshly, Adamic “man” or self) was buried into the death of Christ. It was put to death, having been buried with Him through the without-hands baptism of the Holy Spirit into the dead-to-sin body of Christ. Believers had thus been “bodily” buried together into body-death, and their body-life was hid with the soon-to-be-revealed Savior of the Adamic world (Rom. 6:11, 13; Phil. 3:10; Col. 3:3).
The two contrasting and co-existing eschatological body–states in Paul’s epistles (the concurrent dying and rising and changing of “the body” that had been buried) depended on neither physicality nor nonphysicality. They depended on the saints’ relationship to Sin or to Christ. They depended on whether one was in Adam (under the dominion of Sin and Death) or in Christ (under grace and indwelt by the life-giving Spirit).
The elect before Christ were the body of Sin and Death in that they had been incorporated into Sin and Death in Adam. They were wholly defined, constituted, organized, systematized, and comprehended in (i.e., indwelled by and “clothed with”) Adamic Sin and Death through the curse of the commandment of God. They were both individually and collectively the embodiment (the body) of Sin and Death.
But in the new world in Christ, through faith in His shed blood, all of His saints in heaven (non-physical) and on earth (physical) are the cosmic embodiment, “fullness,” and habitation of the triune God. The fulfillment of the resurrection of “the body” in AD 70 brought into being the universal communion of all the saints (old covenant and new covenant) in the one, spiritual body (Christ Himself). This is what the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers denied would take place. They denied the death and resurrection with Christ of the natural body (the preChristian world of God’s people) and its change/transformation into the universal (Christian and pre-Christian), spiritual body of Christ.
The Universality19 of the Resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20-28)
In denying the resurrection of the pre-Christian saints, or of old covenant Israel, the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers were denying not the fact of the resurrection, but the “all-ness” of the resurrection and the “all-ness” of Christ’s atoning work. They denied that Christ had died for “all,” and therefore they denied that “all” would be raised. Though they agreed with Paul that Christ had died for “our” (the eschatological church’s) sins
(1 Cor. 15:3, 11), they denied that Christ had died for the sins of “the dead.”
Contrary to their doctrine, the resurrection of Christ was not the begin-
ing either material or immaterial.” The Body, John A. T. Robinson (SCM Press Ltd., Bloomsbury Street London, 1966), 32. Reformed theologians Ridderbos and Holland acknowledge that some of Robinson’s exegeses are flawed, but they endorse the substance of his insights on “the body.” I cite Robinson here in the same spirit.
- When I use the terms “universal” and “universality,” I am not referring to any form of “Universalism.” I am referring to the trans-historical assembly of the saints of all generations, from Adam to AD 70, or from Adam to the present day.
ning of the resurrection of the last days church only. It was also the beginning of the resurrection of the great cloud of saints (“the dead”/“them that slept”) who had come and gone before the advent of the last days church. Christ became the “First Fruits” of the eschatological church and of the Hadean saints “out from among” whom He had been raised (1 Cor. 15:55; Rev. 1:5). His resurrection was the beginning of the resurrection of “all” the saints who were “in Adam” (1 Cor. 15:20), not merely of the eschatological church. As all the saints, Christian and pre-Christian, had been condemned and alienated from God (i.e., had died) in Adam through Sin (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 7:9), so “all” were going to be raised up in “the Christ,” the second “Man” (or the second Humanity), the Savior of “the world” (1 Cor. 15:21-22). Because Christians were “of Christ,” and because Christ was the First Fruit of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:23), Christians were, in Him, “first fruits” of the resurrection (James 1:18; Rev. 14:4), so that Christ was “the First Fruits” of “the first fruits.” The resurrection of Christians “in His Parousia,” therefore, was not to be the consummation of the life-giving reign of Christ (1 Cor. 15:22-24), as the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers supposed. The eschatological church’s resurrection in “Christ the First Fruits” was instead the beginning of the end of the resurrection-harvest, and was to be followed by “the end,” or “consummation,” which was the resurrection of the dead, i.e., the death of Death (the abolition of the alienation of God’s people from Him)—when “all” the elect became the habitation of the lifegiving Spirit through the gospel (Jn. 5:25; 1 Cor. 15:24-28; Rev. 20:5-6).
Christ, through the Holy Spirit, was not reigning in the Spirit-indwelt, eschatological church merely so that the church by itself would attain unto the resurrection and inherit the kingdom. He was reigning in the church so that the historic kingdom would, in Him, be universalized” in and brought under the rule of “the God and Father” of “all” the saints (1 Cor. 15:24). The Adamic saints were not going to be left unredeemed from the “rule,” “authority,” and “power” of Satan, Sin, Death, and Condemnation. Rather, the Father was going to place all those kingdom-enemies under the feet of Christ, and Christ was going to “abolish,” or “annul,” them all.
He was already in process of abolishing the last and greatest kingdom-enemy, Death itself, through the kingdom-transforming, kingdom-universalizing work of the Cross and the indwelling Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 15:26). “All things” (or literally, “the All Things,” the cosmic body of Sin and Death) were going to be subjected to Christ, and changed (Phil. 3:21) in the Father, by the power of the Father, and under the authority of the Father, so that all of the enemies would be done away; so that all of the Father’s elect (from Adam to AD 70) would be made alive in Christ; so that the universal church would become the habitation of the triune God, so that He would become “All Things in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).
If the Resurrection is not Universal (1 Cor. 15:12-19; 29-34)
The Son did not come to set up His own new religion that excluded the historic saints who had worshiped the Father in the Adamic ages. To the contrary, the Son was sent by the Father and under the authority of the Father for the purpose of restoring “all” the elect to the Father, to “universalize” the Father’s dominion. Unbeknownst to the resurrectionof-the-dead deniers, if Christ had come to save only the eschatological church and to exclude the pre-Christian world, this would have left only two possibilities. Either:
- Christ would be the conqueror of the God of the pre-Christian world, and the Father would be put in subjection under the feet of the Son (1 Cor. 15:27).
- Christ was not sent to accomplish the Father’s cosmos-saving work; therefore the Father had never raised Him from the dead, and the gospel was a lie, and Christianity was merely a man-made religion.
Of these two possibilities, Paul countered the first in passing (1 Cor. 15:27), but rigorously pursued the implications of the second. As we know, many at Corinth were living as though the second possibility was the truth.
As Paul reasoned: If Christ did not come to accomplish the Father’s work of restoration (Isa. 55:11), to gather and unite “all” (Christian and pre-Christian) who were chosen in the Father from before the world began, then Christ was not of the Father. Then neither the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ nor the resurrection-hope of the eschatological church was true or valid. Then Paul and the other apostolic preachers were liars, and Christ did not die for the sins of the eschatological church, and the Father never raised Him from the dead (1 Cor. 15:3-4, 11, 13-16).
Consequently, Christ was not reigning. Therefore no one had been born of the Spirit that proceeded from the Father. Then the gospel was vain, and the faith of believers was vain (1 Cor. 15:14, 17). Then no one had been saved and empowered by the grace of God either to preach the gospel or to believe it (1 Cor. 15:1-2, 5-8, 10-11).
Christians were, then, still in their sins, and those who had fallen asleep in Christ had died in their sins (1 Cor. 15:17-18). Then the resurrection-hope that believers had in Christ was false (1 Cor. 15:19). Then those Christians who were undergoing baptism (Spirit-led suffering and death) on behalf of the dead (1 Cor. 15:29; Matt. 20:23; 23:34-35; Luke 12:50; Heb. 11:40; Rev. 6:9-11) were in reality suffering for nothing more than a man-invented delusion. They were not being led by the Spirit but were instead going to a hopeless, meaningless death.
Moreover then, the apostles were fighting with “beasts” (enemies of the gospel) and were standing in jeopardy every hour, dying daily, not to change the world of God’s people, but for absolutely nothing, because
of Israel and His law) was the root error of the doctrine that would later be known as Gnosticism.
their gospel sufferings were not being wrought through the cosmosresurrecting, cosmos-changing power of the indwelling eschatological Spirit, but through the power of mere man (1 Cor. 15:30-32).
If the gospel was a lie and there was no God-ordained, worldchanging need of dying daily through the Spirit, of suffering hardships, humiliations and dangers, then the apostles should logically have lived as the arrogant, carnal Corinthians themselves were living (I Cor. 4:8). They should have rejected their humiliating sufferings for the gospel and put off dying for some other day (“tomorrow”) (1 Cor. 15:32-34).
In the end, the whole church, following the apostles and the Corinthians, would have forsaken the shame of the Cross of Christ and escaped the eschatological sufferings to which it had been called. All believers would have lived in the status quo of the old world. Though the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers did not know it, this was the practical, church-corrupting result of their dead-excluding error. This is why it was urgent for them to “awake righteously” from out of their shameful and sinful ignorance of God.
Contrary to the resurrection error, believers were being called to “die” for (on behalf of) “all” (the whole “creation”/“body” of God’s people). The church’s eschatological death and resurrection with Christ was for the purpose of bringing about the transformation of the preChrist world of the saints (“all Israel”). Though the resurrection-of-thedead deniers were unaware of it, their doctrine was implicitly opposed to the cosmic gospel-purpose of the Father.
The first-fruits church, through the indwelling Spirit of the reigning Christ, was putting to death the Adamic world-body of Death itself (alienation from the Father) through the newly-revealed gospel of God. Through the Death-destroying, Life-giving, “man”-changing power of the gospel of the death and resurrection of Christ, the fleshly, Adamic “man” or “body” or “creation”—the whole world-system of the dominion of Sin and Death—was being put to death and “abolished.” It was that body which would soon be raised up and “changed” (in AD 70) into the new, Christological, spiritual “body” in the kingdom of God (the new covenant world).
The Seed Analogy (1 Cor. 15:35-50)
Paul’s illustrations from nature in verses 36-41 are problematic if they are interpreted as arguments that are aimed at someone who denies the very possibility of resurrection. How does the fact that sheep differ from sparrows serve in any way to validate the doctrine of resurrection for someone who does not believe in the very concept of resurrection? How does it serve to make the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead imaginable or feasible (345)? It doesn’t.
The difficulty with Paul’s words concerning the bodies/fleshes/glories of creation vanishes only when we let it sink into our minds that Paul was reasoning with people who already believed in the eschatological, body-resurrection of Christians. The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers would have already agreed that a seed rising up to become a plant illustrates the truth of resurrection. And that is why Paul used the analogy. The fact of resurrection was common ground between Paul and the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers.
Paul therefore made reference to the universal death and change of seeds, not to demonstrate the already-agreed-upon fact of resurrection, but to demonstrate the following four things that those who were in error at Corinth were denying:
- The necessity of the death of the pre-resurrection body (1 Cor. 15:36)
- The differentness of the pre- and post-resurrection bodies (1 Cor. 15:37)
- The necessity of the change of the pre-resurrection body (1 Cor. 15:38a)
- The universality of the pre-resurrection body and the postresurrection body (1 Cor. 15:38b)
After establishing these premises through the common-ground analogy of the “resurrection” of seeds, Paul went on to reference the whole of the material universe, because insofar as it is filled with innumerable, different bodies—just like the multitudes of different kinds of seeds and plants in verse 38b—it confirms the universality of the two different bodies (the existence of which Paul established in the seed analogy itself).
The universal diversity of the Genesis creation served as an analogy of the cosmos-changing work of the gospel. As the whole Genesis creation is filled with differing bodies (fleshes, glories), so the whole “creation” (the body) of God’s chosen ones in Adam, living and dead, “from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other,” was going to put off the old “body” of Sin and Death (the Adamic, mortal, corruptible, dishonorable, weak, and natural “old man”), and was going to be “clothed” with the wholly other “body of Christ” (the immortal, incorruptible, glorious, powerful, and spiritual new Man; the Christological “new creation”) (Matt. 24:31; 1 Cor. 15:42-44).
The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers thought that the eschatological church was an altogether separate entity from the Adamic, old covenant world. They thought that the body of Christ essentially appeared out of nowhere, as it were, absolutely disconnected from the world that preceded it. They thought the eschatological church was buried the spiritual body and that it was going to be raised the same spiritual body on the Last Day.
The reality though was that the eschatological church was itself in the mortal, corruptible, dishonorable, weak, and natural “body” of the pre-Christ saints. It was still bearing “the image of the earthy” (1 Cor. 15:49), not in a biological sense, but in a cosmic-covenantal sense. God’s old covenant ministration of Death and Condemnation still stood, and God’s church was still an organic part of that world-order. It was therefore still in the body of Sin and Death, and was putting that body to death through the Spirit.
The pre-Christian, Adamic saints existed in a state of “mortality” in that they did not yet have consummated eternal life, redemption, and face-to-face union with God (Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 13:12; 1 Jn. 2:25; Rev. 22:4). They were in a state of “corruptibility” in that they did not yet have the incorruptible, “eternal righteousness” of Christ (Dan. 9:24). They were in a state of “dishonor” in that they were not yet clothed with the glory of the new covenant in Christ’s justifying blood (Rom. 4:24; 2 Cor. 3:7-18). They were in a state of “weakness” in that, as long as the condemning old covenant world remained standing, they had not yet inherited eternal life (cf. 1 Cor. 6:14; Heb. 7:6; 1 Jn. 2:25). They were “natural” in that they had not yet been made the spiritual dwelling of the triune God (Jn. 14:23).
Before Christ, the saints bore the image of Adam, the disobedient one. They were unable to attain to heavenly life (1 Cor. 15:45, 48-49). Their sins had grounded them in the mundane, the worldly, the carnal, the “corruptible.” Their worship of God consisted in earthly types, shadows, and copies of the heavenly. Their fellowship with God was not face to face, but was through the agency of sinful, earthly mediators. Their sacrifices were reminders of sin. They were separated from the Father.
They were under the reign of Sin and Death.
Through its body-burial and body-death with Christ, the church was putting to death that old, corruptible “world” or “body” or “creation” or “man” through the sin-killing Spirit on behalf of the dead. In the consummation of the Spirit’s work in the church, the body of God’s people, living and dead (“all Israel”), was going to be redeemed, changed, and gathered together into the eternal, spiritual kingdom of Christ.
This is the “knowledge of God” of which the resurrection-of-thedead deniers were woefully ignorant. Because they thought that the eschatological church, to the exclusion of “the dead,” was “the body [of Christ] that shall be,” they could not grasp “how” the saints of old could be resurrected with the church. Here is an expanded paraphrase of their objection in verse 35:
“We, the eschatological church, are the blood-bought body that has been sown (planted, buried) with Christ through the Holy Spirit in order that we might be raised with Him to inherit the kingdom of God. The saints of old lived and died before Christ arrived. They have not been sown (planted/buried) with Him, as we have. There is no resurrection outside of Christ’s body, and we are His body. Therefore, the dead have no part in the resurrection body. How then are the dead being raised with us? If your doctrine is true Paul, then answer this question: With what body are the dead being raised?”Paul’s answer (verses 36-37):
“The dead are being raised through the burial and death of the body of Sin, of which we are still a part (since the old covenant world has not yet vanished). The dead, therefore, are being raised through our (the last-days, first-fruit church’s) dying to Sin (the burial and death of the Adamic ‘body’ with Christ) on their behalf, and they will therefore be ‘changed’ with us into the resurrected, spiritual body of Christ in the new covenant world.
“Look at your own experience for confirmation of this truth. When you yourselves are planting a seed (as God has planted us with Christ) you are not planting the tree that will be. Likewise, God did not plant the ‘spiritual body’ of the age to come in order that the same ‘spiritual body’ will emerge. That is not God’s purpose. The Christological resurrection-body is not what has been sown/buried. It is not we alone who shall be raised. Rather, it is the Adamic ‘natural body’ that has been ‘sown’ with Christ, through the Spirit in us, so that the ‘natural body’ (the dead together with the last-days-of-the-Adamic-ages church—the whole Adamic ‘man’) is now being raised up and
‘changed’/‘transformed’ into the spiritual body of Christ.”
The objection of the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers was not biological; it was theological. Though they understood that the eschatological church had been “buried” with Christ through the Sin-killing work of the Holy Spirit in order that the church would be raised up on the Last Day, they erroneously thought that the church had been buried so that the church alone would be raised up on the Last Day. Thus Paul’s corrections in verse 44 (KJV):
. . . [T]here is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
That is, there was not a spiritual body only, as the resurrection-ofthe-dead deniers supposed.
And in verse 46:
Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
The spiritual body did not appear out of nowhere, as the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers imagined. Rather, the pre-existing “natural body” was being raised up and transformed into the “spiritual body.”
The reality that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers did not apprehend was that the eschatological church was in a state of Adamic bodyunion (solidarity, interdependence) with “the dead,” and it therefore stood in need of a universal body-change. The church was not merely the new man and the spiritual body. It was the dying old man; the dying body of Sin and Death.
It was not the case that the Old Testament saints would be replaced by the body of Christ. Instead, the body of Sin had to die through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and be raised, and be changed by the same Spirit (Heb. 11:40). The church could not be saved by itself. The church was bearing the image of “the first man” and was in process of being transformed, on behalf of the dead and with the dead, into the image of “the Christ” (Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:45-49; 2 Cor. 3:18).
Without the death and universal change of “the body” through the power of the eschatological Spirit, not so much as one Christian could be made alive in the Father. The resurrection in Christ was to be cosmos-wide, or not at all. The whole world of God’s people had to be transformed.
The eschatological church thus stood in need of the consummated world-change from the “flesh-and-blood” world-body of “corruption” (sub-divine righteousness) to the “spiritual,” Christological body of incorruptible and eternal righteousness in the new covenant world (1 Cor. 15:50). If that change did not take place when the temple fell in AD 70, then Christ was never raised from the dead, the gospel was a lie, and all Christians were and are without hope. Either the eschatological church and “the dead” were changed and God became All Things in “all,” or Christ was never raised, and the church remains in her sins, and the world-body of the hand-made temple of God maintains its standing before God today.
The Universal Change (1 Cor. 15:51-58)
The coming transformation of God’s covenant-universe (dead and living, Jew and Gentile) through the gospel of the death and resurrection of the body of Christ was the “mystery” that had been kept secret since the world began. It was the mystery that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers failed to grasp. “The dead” and the eschatological church were going to be made alive together in Christ and were going to be united in the Father. “All things . . . in the heavens and things upon the earth” were going to be summed up in Christ (Rom. 11:15, 25-26; 16:15; 1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:9-10; 3:6-10; Col. 1:26-27).
The world-change, or body-change, took place and the “mystery” was fulfilled before Paul’s generation passed away (1 Cor 15:51). The sounding of the symbolic “last trumpet” took place when the worldly city and sanctuary fell in AD 70 (Rev. 10:7; 11:2, 8; cf. Heb. 9:8). When that old “house” fell and the old Adamic “garment” was folded up and “changed,” the dead were raised and all the elect were “clothed” with the body of Christ in the new covenant world (Heb. 1:10–12). “All” put off the old man (Adamic Sin) and “put on” the new Man (the righteousness of Christ). “All” God’s people were “clothed with” the tabernacle/body of the triune God.
When the old garment was removed and the house of the old covenant was thrown down, believers were not found “naked,” nor left “unclothed” or homeless for even the indiscernible “moment” of “the twinkling of an eye,” as would have been the case if there was no resurrection of the dead and consequently no world-change (Rev. 3:17-18; 16:15; 17:16). If there was no resurrection, then the fall of the city and the sanctuary would have been the death knell for Christians just as much as it was for unbelieving Jews. Indeed, it would have been the death knell for humanity. But because the dead were raised and the cosmos of God’s people was transformed in Christ, believers were clothed in AD 70 with the Christological, new covenant house from out of heaven (Col. 2:2; Heb. 1:12; 8:13; Rev. 16:15).
Death (condemnation and alienation from God) was deprived of its sting, which was Sin, when Sin was finally sealed up, covered over, and done away in the consummation of the Adamic/Mosaic ages through the power of Christ’s death and resurrection. This happened when Christ appeared the second time in AD 70, having consummated His high-priestly work of atonement (Lev. 16). This is when He swept away the old covenant world of Sin, Death, condemnation, and alienation and changed the universal church into the completed, anointed, Most Holy Place of God Himself (Rev. 21:2, 16; Heb. 3:6, 9:6-8).
Sin was deprived of its power, which was the Law of Moses, when through the power of the Cross, the Law came to its end in AD 70. That is when the Law-covenant (the ministration of Death and Condemnation) vanished (Heb. 8:13) and “all things” in earth and in heaven (“all” the saints, living and dead) were reconciled to God (Col. 1:20).
When all these things were consummated, the corruptible and mortal Adamic body “put on” the incorruptible and immortal body of Christ (1 Cor. 15:53). The old, corruptible house (the old covenant world) fell.
The new, eternal house (the New Jerusalem) came down from out of heaven. The church and the Hadean saints were raised up and united in the one body of Christ, and were irrevocably and gloriously “changed” into the “perfect” tabernacle of God.
Thus, through the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, God gave His church the eschatological, cosmos-transforming victory of faith over Sin, Death, and the Law. Her gospel labors in Him bore world-transforming fruit. Reigning with the risen “Christ of God,” her worldburying, world-destroying, world-resurrecting, and world-changing labors were consummated in the AD-70 realization of the hope of Israel —in the universal gathering of “all” the saints, living and dead, in “the God and Father of all” (1 Cor. 15:57-58). Thus was the beginning of the Christian age, “a dispensation more divine than many are disposed to think.”
Summary and Conclusion
The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers believed the following: The eschatological church was the “spiritual body” of Christ that had been buried with Christ and which was being raised up the same spiritual body of Christ. There was no “natural body” involved in the church’s resurrection with Christ. There was no body-union between the church and the pre-Christian saints (“the dead”). The dead were not going to be included in the resurrection and the kingdom. God, through the indwelling Spirit, had “sown,” or “buried,” the spiritual body of Christ (the church) so that the church by itself (to the exclusion of the dead) would be resurrected unchanged (still the same spiritual body of Christ that it was when it was buried with Christ) in the consummation.
If there was no resurrection of the Old Testament dead, these were the undesired results:
- God did not raise Christ from the dead.
- The eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ were liars.
- The preaching of the apostles was vain.
- The faith of Christians was vain.
- Christians were still in their sins.
- Christians who had fallen asleep had died in their sins (perished).
- The persecuted apostles were to be pitied more than all men.
- Christians who were being martyred for the dead were doing so for nothing.
- Christians were battling the enemies of the gospel by merely human power.
- Christians should have forsaken their sufferings and lived mundane lives.
- Christians would not be able to inherit the kingdom of God.
- Christians would remain under the curse of Sin, Death, and the Law.
- Christians would remain clothed with corruption, mortality, dishonor, and weakness, and would remain natural.
Here is why those results necessarily followed from the denial of the resurrection of the Old Testament dead:
God raised Christ from the dead not so that the natural Adamic body (the people of God in their Adamic state of Sin and Death) would be replaced by the spiritual body of Christ (the church). The Father raised the Son from the dead so that the Adamic body would be buried, put to death, resurrected, and transformed into the universal body of Christ. The eschatological church was not in a separate body from the Adamic dead. It was part of the natural, corruptible, dishonorable, and weak Adamic body, and was putting that body to death through the Spirit on behalf of the dead.
Apart from the creation-wide “body-change” of “all” the elect from Adam to the Last Day in AD 70, there could be no resurrection-life for any Christian. The church could not inherit the kingdom of God unless the whole universe of God’s people was resurrected and changed together. This was the cosmic scope and purpose of the Cross of Christ. This is what those who were in error at Corinth did not understand.
Though futurists today do not realize it, they are, in principle, unknowing followers of the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers at Corinth. Futurists believe that the church (the body of Christ) has been spiritually resurrected and seated with Christ in the spiritual kingdom for 2,000 years now, but that the pre-Christian (Old Testament) dead have not yet been resurrected into that kingdom. Though many futurists inconsistently believe that the Old Testament saints were released from Hades between Jesus’ death and resurrection (contradicting the timeframe of Rev. 20:14), they do not hold that those saints have been “resurrected” into the kingdom. As anti-preterist Strimple teaches (in contrast to anti-premillennial Strimple), physically dead people cannot experience a resurrection and remain physically dead.
Though futurists certainly do not deny the resurrection of the dead, they unwittingly teach a “short circuit” in the cosmic gospel-purpose of the Father when they teach that God gave the spiritual kingdom to the church on Earth, but has put off “resurrecting” the Old Testament dead into the kingdom until 2,000+ years later.
This “gap” between Christians and “the [Old Testament] dead” is not a biblical option. As Paul argued, either the dead and the church would inherit the kingdom together, or no one could inherit the kingdom at all. Either all the elect, the church and the dead, were made alive (resurrected) together in Christ in the end of the old covenant age, or all the elect remained dead in Adam (cf. 1 Thess. 5:10). In other words, either all the saints were resurrected in AD 70, or none were resurrected, not even Christ. There is no other possibility.
Therefore, as with the error at Corinth, the undesired implication of the doctrine of a yet-future resurrection of the dead is that Christ has not been raised and that our faith is vain and that we are still in our sins. Futurism is not a damnable doctrine, just as the error at Corinth was not a damnable doctrine. Nevertheless, futurism, with its parousiadelay and resurrection-delay, shares implications with the Corinthian error which, if followed through logically, ultimately serve to destroy the Faith. If Paul were alive today, it is possible that he would say to futurists what he said to his Corinthian brethren, and for essentially the same reason:
. . . [S]ome have ignorance of God. I speak this to your shame.
(1 Cor. 15:34)
 . Those who hold to “the collective body view” of 1 Corinthians 15 believe that the root error at Corinth was a radical kind of “replacement theology,” i.e., a disdain for Israel and a denial that historical Israel would take part with the church in the resurrection and in the kingdom of God. While that interpretation of the error at Corinth may be entirely correct, I am not convinced that it is provable that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers had antiIsrael or anti-Semitic sentiments (though their error was certainly implicitly antagonistic to God’s historic covenant nation). For this reason, I confine my-
 . Charles Hill is therefore incorrect when he says: “It is not that the Corinthians could not comprehend what Paul was talking about; rather, one party in Corinth, comprehending all too well what Paul had in mind, did not find it to their liking and were opposing it.” (104)
 . When we consider that 1 Corinthians was written a mere twenty-five years after the beginning of Christianity, and when we consider that the eschatological, first-fruits church was already partaking of the coming resurrection, and when we consider the eager expectation in that era of the imminent fulfillment of the end of the Adamic ages and of the resurrection the dead, we should expect that believers in that historical moment would refer to the vast multitudes that had lived and died before the advent of Christ as the “dead [ones].” This is not to say that the term “the dead” in the New Testament was code for “the dead of the Old Testament in contrast to dead Christians.” It is to say only that in that eschatological generation, if reference were made to the pre-Christian dead in contrast to the relatively few dead Christians (in about AD 55), the designation “the dead” or “dead ones” sufficed.
 . There was therefore no need for Paul to say explicitly that the dead were primarily “historical Israel,” as Hill insists in his chapter (115). If “the dead” were the righteous, pre-Christian dead, then they were (with relatively few exceptions) none other than the saints of the historic, Abrahamic covenant community (i.e., Israel) along with the saints who lived before the promises given to Abraham.
 . Similarly in American law today the basic meaning of the word “body” is “a person.” “A corporalis [bodily] injuria” is “a personal injury.” We use the word “body” this way when we speak of “somebody,” “anybody,” “nobody,” or “everybody.” This usage of the word used to be more common than it is today: “The foolish bodies say in their hearts: Tush, there is no God.” (Ps. 14:1, Coverdale translation, 1535)
 . Although Reformed theologian Herman Ridderbos was a futurist and expected a literal transformation of the physical bodies of believers, he nevertheless understood that such Pauline terms as “the body of sin,” “the body of the flesh,” “the earthly members,” and “the body of this death” “are obviously not intended of the [material] body itself, but of the sinful mode of existence of man.” Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1975), 229; Cf., Tom Holland, Contours of Pauline Theology: A Radical New Survey of the Influences on Paul’s Biblical Writings, Mentor, 2004.
 . “[The spiritual body] is not in the least constituted what it is by its being physical. It fulfills its essence by being utterly subject to Spirit, not by be-
 . “All” in 1 Cor. 15:22 corresponds to “the many” in Rom. 5:15-16 and 19. When Paul says that “all” died in Adam and that “all” would be made alive in Christ, he means that all of God’s people (the whole cosmos of Gods’ elect) died in Adam and would be made alive in Christ.
 . Strimple inexplicably denies this doctrine on pages 309 and 342 of
 . In Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond, on page 62, Strimple teaches that “the end” in 1 Corinthians 15:24 is the same “end” that Jesus said would come after the gospel was “preached in the whole world” in Matthew 24:14. Thus Strimple holds that the resurrection of the dead takes place upon the completion of the preaching of the gospel “in the whole world.” But this presents a problem for Strimple, because the gospel was “preached in the whole world” almost 2,000 years ago, in Christ’s generation, shortly before the fall of the earthly house (the old covenant world) in AD 70 (Rom. 16:25-26; Col. 1:23; 2 Tim. 4:17). If we are to accept Strimple’s sequence of events, we must conclude that the resurrection of the dead happened at the fall of the temple in AD 70, as Jesus and the apostles said it would.
 . This hyper-dispensational implication of the Corinthian resurrection-error (i.e., that Christ came to wage war against and to conquer the God
 . If the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers already believed in the historic, physical resurrection of Christ, as Strimple admits (309, 333), why would Paul have needed to convince them of the “feasibility,” “imaginability,” and “thinkability” of the very concept of physical resurrection, as Strimple says elsewhere quoting Berkouwer) (341)? How could it be that the resurrectionof-the-dead deniers were unable to accept the feasibility of a concept (1 Cor.
 :35) to which they already held as the gospel truth (1 Cor. 15:11)?
 . The necessary “death” of seeds, by the way, demonstrates that physical corruption and physical death existed before Adam sinned. The earth, by God’s decree, brought forth seed-yielding plants on the third day of creation (Gen. 1:11-13), and Adam was placed in the Garden to dress and keep the plants (Gen. 2:15). Therefore the cycle of literal seed-death and seed-resurrection/ change was already in process before Sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam. In the same way, God’s decree to the animals and to man that both “be fruitful and multiply” implied the cycle of biological birth, biological reproduction, and biological death; and that cycle was instituted before Adam sinned (Gen. 1:22, 28). Biological death did not enter the world through Sin. It was already in the world. It was alienation from God and slavery to Sin (Sin-consciousness, spiritual Death) that entered the world through Sin.
 . The terms “mortal” and “corruptible” do not describe the quality or duration of Adam’s physicality or the quality or duration of his soul. They describe the quality and duration of his sub-divine righteousness and works.
 . Strimple favorably quotes Robert Gundry as saying, “Paul uses soma precisely because the physicality of the resurrection is central to his soteriology.” In reality, Paul used soma precisely because the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers used the word soma in their objection (1 Cor. 15:35). The meaning of the word cannot be deduced from the fact that Paul repeated it.
 . In Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (112), Strimple says that since the Greek word “eskatos” (“last”) is used in the term “last trumpet,” it would “seem strange” if the “last” trumpet did not signal the end of Christ’s mediatorial reign and of the resurrection of the dead. Yet in the same book, Strimple does not think it “strange” when he says that the “last” (“eskatos”) days have thus far lasted almost 2,000 years (TVMB, 64).
 . Pratt (the author of chapter three of WSTTB) speaks for perhaps most futurists when he puzzles over the mention of “the law” in First Corinthians 15:56: “The emergence of the second theme regarding the law, however, seems to have no real antecedent in this letter.” (Holman New Testament Commentary: I&II Corinthians, 272) In the futurist paradigm, there is no real connection between the condemning power of the Law of Moses and the resurrection of Christians in the end of world history. Paul though makes the connection because the resurrection of the dead was going to happen when the old covenant (the Law) vanished in his generation. The two events were simultaneous (cf. 1 Cor. 7:29, 31; 10:11; 15:51-52). Cf., Law, Sin, and Death: An Edenic Triad? An Examination with Reference to I Corinthians 15:56, by Chris Alex Vlachos (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, volume 47; June, 2004).
 0. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, book I, chapter II.