Christianity's Vanishing Hope?

The biblical faith is forward-looking and foundational to its doctrine of salvation is the future resurrection of the righteous dead. That event will also mark the arrival of the New Creation. The New Testament links this to two events. First, the past Resurrection of Jesus. Second, his future arrival at the end of the age. Our salvation remains incomplete without our resurrection.

This fundamental hope has been pushed into the background to make way for ideas alien to the Bible. While this is due to many factors, it is especially because of the importation of pagan beliefs and cultural perspectives into the Apostolic Tradition. All too often, popular ideas about the afterlife have more in common with Neoplatonism, paganism, and Gnosticism than with the teachings of Jesus and his Apostles.

Photo by Alexandra on Unsplash
[Photo by Alexandra on Unsplash]

Writing to the assemblies of Rome, Paul declared that if the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us, then He that “r
aised Christ Jesus from among the dead will quicken even our death-doomed bodies.” This future “quickening” of our bodies is connected to the Death and Resurrection of Jesus - (Romans 8:9-11).

We possess “death-doomed bodies,” not because they are physical, but because we are condemned to bondage, decay, and death due to sin. Because of Adam’s transgression, we remain subject to death. We are, in the truest sense, mortal.

If God is to redeem us and recover all that was lost millennia ago, our salvation must include the human body. Likewise, the creation itself was also condemned to corruption by the disobedience of Adam. It must be redeemed likewise.

Because we have the Spirit of God, it confirms we are “coheirs” with His Son. We, therefore, will be “glorified together with him.” Just as he was resurrected, we will be raised from the dead with immortal bodies. The creation is “ardently awaiting” that day since, like humanity, it has been subjected to “vanity” and death and longs for liberation.

On that day, the “creation itself will be freed from the bondage of decay into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God.” The possession of the Spirit is the “first fruits” of this future resurrection life, therefore, we also “ardently await the adoption, the redemption of our body.” Paul is speaking about the bodily resurrection of believers and the arrival of the new creation – (Romans 8:15-23).

RESURRECTION IS MANDATORY


In Corinth, some believers were denying the future resurrection. Paul responded by reminding the Corinthians of the Gospel he first delivered to them - “How that Christ died for our sins, and was buried, and that he has been raised on the third day.”

If there is no future resurrection, then “even Christ has not been raised,” and if not, then the Gospel is void, the Apostles lied, and we are all “yet in our sins,” without hope and “most to be pitied.” Again, Paul links the future resurrection of believers with the past Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ - (1 Corinthians 15:1-20).

His Resurrection was the “first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Just as death came through Adam, the “raising of the dead will come through one man, and in Christ, all will be made alive.” This will occur at the “arrival” or ‘Parousia’ of Jesus when he consummates the kingdom and subjugates all his enemies, especially, the “Last Enemy, Death.” With his arrival, death itself will cease – (1 Corinthians 15:20-28).

Resurrection does not mean the resuscitation of “death-doomed bodies,” nor does it mean living in a disembodied state. Our mortal body is “sown in corruption but will be raised in incorruption.” It will be a body fitted for life in the Spirit.

Paul did not see bodily existence as incompatible with the Spirit. The difference is the kind of body one has, whether a “body of the soul” or a “body of the spirit.” Just as we now bear the “image of the Man of the Earth,” Adam, we will “bear the image of the Man of Heaven,” Jesus.

When he does “arrive,” we who remain alive will be transformed, and those who have died will be raised from the dead. Both groups will receive “immortality…for whenever this mortal will clothe itself with immortality, then will be brought to pass the saying, DEATH HAS BEEN SWALLOWED UP VICTORIOUSLY,” for death will cease forever – (1 Corinthians 15:50-57).

When the Thessalonians expressed grief over the deaths of fellow believers, Paul reminded them that they were not without hope. If we “believe that Jesus died and rose again, so God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus.”

He will descend from Heaven and the “dead in Christ will rise first.” After that, the living and now resurrected saints together will “meet” him as he arrives from Heaven, and so, “evermore we will be with the Lord.”

Dawn Breaks - Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash
[Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash]

As in Corinth, so in Thessalonica, Paul connected the future resurrection to the past raising of Jesus from the dead, and his “
arrival” at the end of the age. He portrayed it as a collective event; meaning, all believers will be raised and transformed when he arrives.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul demonstrated just how foundational the hope of resurrection was to his faith. Having counted all things as loss for the sake of Christ, his life centered on pursuing him - “If by any means I may attain to the resurrection from among the dead.” If he did not participate in that resurrection, his salvation would remain incomplete – (Philippians 3:10-11).

The consummation of the biblical hope of salvation lies in the future. While upon repentance our sins are forgiven and we become “coheirs with Christ,” the full realization of that promise will remain incomplete until the return of Jesus. On that day, dead believers will be resurrected, and those remaining alive on the Earth will be transformed, and together, all saints will be with Jesus forever.



RELATED BOASTS:
  • Resurrection Hope - (Central to salvation in the Apostolic tradition is the bodily resurrection of the dead when Jesus arrives to gather his saints)
  • The Redemption - (Salvation includes the resurrection of the saints and the New Creation, both of which will occur when Jesus arrives from Heaven)
  • The Death of Death - (The arrival of Jesus at the end of the age will mean the end of the Last Enemy, namely, Death. Its sentence will be reversed - 1 Corinthians 15:24-28)

Comments

  1. Question 1: When did the "church" start teaching that Christians go to heaven, when they die? Question 2. When did the "church" start teaching that Christians automatically receive the Holy Spirit, when they become Christians with no evidence of speaking in tongues?

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    Replies
    1. This is from Michael Anderson, not Anonymous.

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    2. To my knowledge, none of the surviving early church writings provides sufficient information to pinpoint precisely when, where, and how the apostolic doctrine of the resurrection was corrupted. Indications are that like other doctrines the process occurred over time, most likely beginning early in the 2nd century, and this was due to numerous factors, including the mixture of pagan ideas brought into the church from sources like Plato, Gnosticism, etc. Ideas about escaping from the physical world or becoming disembodied spirits/souls were common to many non-Christian philosophies and religions and remain so today. The bigger issue is why so many churches, pastors, etc. continue to ignore a subject discussed in detail in the New Testament, especially by the Apostle Paul, or worse, import terms and doctrines into the Bible that were never there in the first place.

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