Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to
When Shall These Things Be?
The Resurrection of the Dead
David A. Green
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Dr. Robert B. Strimple’s sixty-six page chapter in WSTTB can be
summed up in thirteen basic arguments that defend the doctrine
of a literal, physical resurrection of the dead. In this chapter, I will respond
to Strimple’s thirteen arguments. I will then offer a brief exposition
of 1 Corinthians 15.
Strimple’s Thirteen Arguments
Strimple Argument #1: Preterists teach that the resurrection is past.
Therefore preterists are under the condemnation of the heretics Hymenaeus
and Philetus, who said that “the resurrection is past already” (2
Tim. 2:16-18) (WSTTB, 287, 312-315).
Answer: If we read 2 Timothy 2:16-18 on the premise of futurism
(belief in a literal, physical resurrection of the dead), we will reason that
Hymenaeus and Philetus were not only wrong about the timing of the
resurrection, as Paul said they were, but that they were more importantly
wrong about the nature of the resurrection. We will reason that
the faith-overthrowing aspect of their error must have been their denial
of a biological resurrection of the dead. This would mean that the malignancy
of their doctrine had to do with the nature of the resurrection,
even though Paul condemned only their timing of the resurrection.
Futurism must, against the flow of thought in the text, smuggle its
own assumption (a biological resurrection of the dead) into 2 Timothy
2:16-18 in order to make it a preterist-anathematizing text. This means
that the only exegetical argument that is used for condemning preterists
as false brothers is based on the logical fallacy of question begging.
But if we read the passage on the premise of preterism (a non-biological
resurrection of the dead), we should reason that the error of Hymeneus
and Philetus was that they were teaching that the resurrection had
been fulfilled under the Law (1 Tim. 1:8; Titus 1:10; 3:9; Heb. 8:13). They
were teaching that “the hope of Israel” (Acts 23:6; 24:15, 21; 28:20) was
already fulfilled in the AD 60’s and that there was therefore never to be a
termination of the covenant of fleshly circumcision and animal sacrifices.
Their error implied that the kingdom was not going to be taken
from the scribes and Pharisees, as Jesus said it would be. It implied
that the final destruction of the city and sanctuary would never happen.
It implied that fleshly Israel had inherited the eschatological kingdom
with the church and that the ministration of death and condemnation,
with all of its reminders of sin, would continue forever. It implied that
believers, having already attained unto the resurrection (cf. Phil. 3:11–
12), would be forever under the yoke of the Law of Moses.
This is why the doctrine of a pre-70 resurrection was a radically anti-
gospel, anti-grace, faith-overturning blasphemy (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim.
2:18). This is why Paul condemned the timing instead of the nature of
the error, because insofar as the realization of the hope of Israel (the resurrection)
was necessarily synchronous with the eternal disinheritance
of the Christ-rejecters in Israel, timing was everything.
Perhaps we cannot know with certainty what date Hymenaeus and
Philetus assigned to the resurrection. Perhaps they taught that the Jewish
revolt against Rome in AD 66 was the fulfillment of the resurrection.
Whatever the case, the resurrection error at Ephesus was a Judaizing
heresy that served to put believers back under the slavery of the Law.
Before we go on to Strimple’s next argument, let us look briefly at
Paul’s silence in regard to Hymeneus’ and Philetus’ concept of a non-biological
resurrection of the dead. If Paul was expecting a literal, biological
resurrection, is it not odd that his only criticism of the gangrenous
resurrection-error was in regard to its timing? Could it be that Paul
agreed with Hymeneus and Philetus in regard to the nature of the resurrection,
and disagreed with them only in regard to the timing? Paul’s
words in 2 Thessalonians 2:2-8 give us the answer to this question.
In that scripture, Paul told believers how they could know, after the
fact, that the Day of the Lord had taken place. First, Paul said, “the
apostasy” or “the falling away” would take place and “the man of sin”
would be revealed (2 Thess. 2:3). This “man of sin” would take his seat
in the temple of God, thus displaying himself as being God (2 Thess.
2:4). Then he would be slain and brought to an end (2 Thess. 2:8). By
the unfolding of these events, believers would know that the Day of the
Lord had come. The man of sin was, after all, to be destroyed on the
Day of the Lord.
However, Paul had taught in his previous epistle to the Thessalonians
that on “the day of the Lord,” the dead in Christ would rise and be
“caught up” together with the living (1 Thess. 4:15-5:2). If Paul thought
those events were going to involve the literal, biological metamorphosis
and removal of the dead and of the church on Earth, then Paul would
have known that there were, inescapably, only two possible ways that
anyone could know that the day of the Lord had already come.
1. You suddenly found yourself in a new body made of “spiritual
flesh” while hovering in the clouds during a meeting with the
Lord in the air.
2. You suddenly discovered that the tombs of believers were
empty and that the church no longer existed on planet Earth
and you were left behind.
But Paul did not use either of these arguments. Paul instead told
believers simply to look for the rise and destruction of the man of sin in
order to know that the day of the Lord had come. According to Paul, if
believers perceived that the man of sin had been destroyed, then believers
could know that the day of the Lord (and therefore the resurrection
and the “catching away” of the church) had come to pass. The resurrection
of the dead and the “catching away” were not events that involved
the molecular change or disappearance of corpses or the disappearance
of the church from planet earth.
are not, strictly speaking, Strimple’s arguments, but are the standard arguments
used by futurists to defend the doctrine of a “resurrection of the flesh.”
of most or all others who anathematize preterists) by casting a haze of
uncertainty over 2 Timothy 2:17-18 and refusing to use the passage to anathematize
“hyper-preterists.” Mathison forfeits all biblical authority to anathematize
“hyper-preterists” when he implies that “the resurrection” in 2 Timothy
2:17-18 could possibly have been fulfilled in AD 70 (194-195).
and turned the temple of God into their own personal house of murder.
They were destroyed in AD 70.
Thessalonians 4:14-17 and 2 Timothy 2:17-18.