Is The Resurrection Past?

By David Embury

Consider this:

2Tim 2:16-18 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.

Paul challenges the false doctrine of Hymenaeus and Philetus that was turning some from the faith "saying the resurrection is already past." This is the same charge of 'heresy' wrongly brought by those who oppose fulfilled prophecy; failing to realise that the 'Hymenaeus and Philetus' argument rather than diminishing our approach actually strengthens it, the reasoning is simple:

If the 1st century church expected Christ's 2nd Coming to be an earth destroying, time ending, history terminating event, as many today think and await, then how was it possible for some to be deceived? All someone had to do was look around and ask "what's changed!?" physically nothing!In other words, if the resurrection [which according to Scripture is initiated by Christ's return] was to be a "physical event" it would be self evident, everything "physically" would be changed – a remade world, people popping up through open graves, and no more physical death. Yet all the living were still present and none had been raptured away. Again, had things been physically reconstituted it would have been self evident. However, there is no record of such things occurring.

Obviously, 1st century believers had a concept and belief about the nature of 'the resurrection' that is foreign to much popular present-day Christian teaching. The 'first-fruit' believers [Jas 1:18] understood that Jesus' kingdom did not come with observation [Lk 17:20], in fact His kingdom wasn't to be of this "fleshly" world [Jn 18:36] - for flesh and blood i.e., "the natural" could not enter it [1Cor 15:50]. His spiritual kingdom entered only through spiritual rebirth - looking not to the "seen" but to the "unseen" 2Cor 4:18. Yet this confusion over the nature of 'heavenly things' is nothing new, even the literalistic thinking Nicodemus could not conceive how it was possible to be "born again" except but to enter the womb a second time [Jn 3:9-12].

Paul does not challenge Hymenaeus and Philetus' concept or belief as to the 'nature' of the 2nd Coming [as they had been Christian], he does however their 'timing' of it. Hymenaeus and Philetus were causing a lot of trouble, and like most of Paul's opposition they were Judaisers [based on Paul's constant warnings against "going back" to the Law –Judaism, this is plausible]. Had Hymenaeus and Philetus been correct, then adherence to the "Law" would also have become a requirement of faith, as it was still operative [though it had no redeeming value] while the Temple stood. The writer of Hebrews declares:

Heb 9:8 the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing.

While the Temple stood the reconciliation was not yet complete; Christ's Parousia was the manifestation of Christ's completed redemption.

Christ's Coming, The Resurrection, The Judgment, and the consummation or fullness of The Kingdom were all concurrent events [2Tim 4:1; Mt 16:27-28], when one happened they all happened. For the resurrection to have occurred whilst vestiges of the Old Covenant still remained i.e., all things typifying the Law – the Temple, the Priesthood, the Sacrifices, the Worship etc… would thus have required their full inclusion in the Gospel, as indeed was the hankering of the Judaisers with regards to a required circumcision etc. However this was never to be the case, for Moses [the Law] was never to enter the Promised Land [New Covenant]. The Law served a purpose but was now in Christ fulfilled. And so this mixing of Law and Grace went completely against all Paul's teaching on the sufficiency of grace alone apart from the Law, through the faith of Christ [Gal 4:21-31].