Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to
When Shall These Things Be?
The Resurrection of the Dead
Part 11 Can Souls Be Raised?
David A. Green
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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
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).
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.
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”
. . . hath quickened us [made us alive] together with Christ.
. . . 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. . . .
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.
. . . 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).
Hades and of Christ’s ‘harrowing of hell’ after his death” (293).
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.