23 Apr 2007

Heaven (3) Resurrection & The Belief of the Early Church

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Christian hope, Church History, Easter, eschatology, Exegesis, Heaven, Jesus, Kingdom
The resurrection is critically linked to any Christian view of the afterlife. In this particular post I share the view held by the Jewish worldview prior to and contemporary with Jesus and that of the earliest Christian writings following the New Testament. I will highlight how the early Christians attempted to separate their beliefs from the Greeks and Gnostics.

The Platonic and Gnostic View

“the body is the prison of the soul” (Plato, Phaedo, 65, see 67-68 and 91-94)

“You {Judas} will exceed all of them {twelve apostles}. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me” (Jesus in the Gospel of Judas, 56; see the Gospel of Judas edited by Kasser, Meyer and Gregor Wurst, National Geographic Society, p. 43)

“for he {Christ} put aside the world which is perishing. He transformed himself into an imperishable aeon and raised himself up, having swallowed up the visible by the invisible, and he gave us the way to immortality” (Treatise on the Resurrection, 44. The author(s) go on to insist this means shedding the flesh, cf. ch’s 47-48)

“When you strip off from yourselves what is corrupted {flesh}, then you will become illumators in the midst of mortal men” (Jesus in The Letter of Peter to Philip, 137. Nag Hammadi Library, p. 435).

“The soul answered and said, ‘What binds me has been slain, and what surrounds me has been overcome, and my desire has been ended, and ignorance has died. In a world I was released from a world and in a type from a heavenly type, and from the fetter of oblivion which is transient” (Mary revealing Jesus’ secret teachings in The Gospel of Mary, see Nag Hammadi Library, p. 526)

The Jewish/Christian View Exhibited in The Church Fathers

Before I produce a few quotes illustrative of the theme I have chosen, I need to refer to a passage in N. T. Wright’s popular level book Judas and the Gospel of Jesus (Baker 2006). Wright summarizes, correctly, I believe, the three major themes the early Church held dearly in continuity with the Hebrew Bible and its Jewish worldview: 1) the belief that the Creator God is none other than the Father of Jesus the Christ and his creation is good; 2) the belief in the ultimate justice of God and 3) a belief that is directly and intimately connected with the previous two is the conviction in the resurrection of the body as part of the restoration of all things (p. 102), this is argued in considerable detail by Wright in some hefty tomes). These beliefs are in stark contrast with Greek Platonism and Gnosticism. Indeed it evident that the Fathers rejected as Gnostic what some today long for … that “pure spiritual environment.”

Josephus, a Pharisee, offers this view of what his party believed about the resurrection,

“they who depart this life in accordance with the law of nature and repay the loan which they received from God, when He who lent is pleased to reclaim it, win eternal renown; that their houses and familes are secure; that their souls, remaining spotless and obedient, are allotted the most holy place in heaven, whence, in the revolution of the ages, they return to find in chaste bodies a new habitation” (Jewish Wars, 3.374)

There could not be a starker contrast in this statement and that made by Plato, the “Jesus” of the Gospel of Judas and the Gnostic treatise on the “resurrection.” Another text that I simply cannot reproduce for it is too long is the narrative of the martyrdom of the Seven Brothers in 2 Maccabees 7. But they freely give up their lives in belief of the bodily resurrection in a new creation along the lines in Josephus. These texts can be multiplied at length but there is no need.

One of the earliest Christian writings outside the New Testament is First Clement which actually belongs to “first century Christianity.” In 1 Clement 42, Clement says Christians are “fully assured through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ” that our faith is true. Earlier in ch. 24, Clement appeals to many life experiences to support the belief in the resurrection of the body.

If move down the line about 20 years we encounter Ignatius of Antioch. Ignatius is interesting on many levels. He is a bishop. He is a martyr. And he had the gift of prophecy, at least he so claimed and the early church believed he did. That does not make his writings canonical but it is interesting that his writings were appealed to from time to time in the early church as if they were Scripture. Just an interesting tidbit. Ignatius has opportunity to address the idea of resurrection far more than Clement did. In the period from Clement to Ignatius there arose some who started to teach that Christ and Jesus were not one and the same; that Christ was the divine nature that came upon Jesus in his baptism; that Jesus only ‘seemed’ to suffer and that Christ did not “really” become flesh. Of course anyone familiar with 1 and 2 John recognizes some of this heresy. Ignatius also has to deal with this teaching. He exhorts the Trallians for example to hold onto the faith that Christ was really crucified under Pilate, they he really suffered, that he was really raised from the dead by God who “in like fashion will so raise us who believe in Him–His Father, I say, will raise us” (Trallians 9). In the next “chapter” Ignatius warns of the “godless” who say that Christ was not really “bodily” but was a mere “semblance” (Trallians 10).

Writing the same folks at Smyrna as John did in the Revelation he comments on the nature of the resurrection of Christ in distinction of those who (he believes) teach false doctrine. He clearly rejects any notion of a mere “spiritual” resurrection …

For I am confident that even after the resurrection he {Christ} was in the flesh. And when he came to those with Peter he said to them, ‘Take, handle me, and see that I am not an incorporeal being {a ghost}.’ And they immediately touched him and believed, being mingled with his flesh and spirit. Therefore they despised death and were found to be above death. And after the resurrection he ate and drank with them as a being of flesh, though he was spiritually united with the Father” (Smyrnaens, 3)

This belief in fact fueled Ignatius own faith. He was glad to suffer martyrdom because he believed he would be raised in the flesh just as Jesus Christ was.

The next writer of critical importance is Polycarp. Polycarp was himself a disciple of the at least some of the apostles and was one of the bishops of Smyrna. Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians dates early in the second century A.D. Polycarp has even less patience with those who want to spiritualize Christ’s resurrection. He writes, pointedly:

For ‘everyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh is anti-christ’; and anyone who does not confess the testimony of the cross is ‘of devil’; and anyone who perverts the sayings of the Lord to suit ‘his own lusts’ and says there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment–that man is the first-born of Satan” (Letter to the Philippians, 7.1)

Polycarp has other thoughts on the resurrection of the body but this one is plain enough to make us take notice.

The Gospel of Judas provides a stunning example of the contrast of resurrection of the body faith vs Gnostic "spiritualism." In this small study (130pp) brings us face to face with the heart of NT Christianity and is competitors.  I recommend this book!

The Gospel of Judas provides a stunning example of the contrast of resurrection of the body faith vs Gnostic “spiritualism.” In this small study (130pp) brings us face to face with the heart of NT Christianity and is competitors. I recommend this book!

The writers we have quoted in this section are not being given canonical status by any means. But I do find it rather interesting that these early post-Apostolic teachers (some like Polycarp with apostolic connections) have such continuity with the Jewish view quoted at the head of this section and that it stands in such radical distinction of that of Plato and the Gnostics. In the comments section of Heaven Part 1 I quoted from Justin Martyr extensively and he is right in line with these thoughts quoted here. Christ came in the flesh to redeem the flesh. Christ died in the flesh and was raised in the flesh. To attempt to make the resurrection of the body somehow “spiritual” was tantamount to denying the resurrection and a denial of the Gospel.

I bring this blog to a close with a quote from Bart Erhman. Erhman is no friend of Orthodox Christianity. He is a “hostile” witness so to speak. But he understands, and clearly so, the difference between what the Jewish and early “orthodox” Christians believed and what his precious Gnostics believed. He promotes their veiw in many books but I am here quoting from his essay in The Gospel of Judas published by the National Geographic Society last year. Note how he, ironically, confirms what Wright said in the quotation above,

According to most gnostics, this material world is not our home. We are trapped here, in these bodies of flesh, and we need to learn to escape … Since the point is to allow the soul to leave this world behind and to enter into ‘that great and holy generation’ {a quote from Judas, B.V.} — that is, the divine realm that transcends this world–a resurrection body is the very last thing that Jesus, or any of his true followers, would want” (Gospel of Judas, pp. 84, 110).

The contrast between this view, identical to my opening quotations, and that in the Church Fathers could not be more stark. The faith of Christianity is this: the BODY that came down from the cross; the BODY that was laid in the borrowed tomb; the BODY that was guarded by Roman soldiers … is the same body that came out of the tomb. The body of Jesus was raised by the power of God to new life. His body was glorified (redeemed from death and was victorious) and liberated from the curse. As Ignatius pointed out, our hope in our bodily resurrection is based on the fact that Jesus is the first fruits. Jesus still exists in the flesh … we will never understand the new heavens and new earth if we do not believe what Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp held. Resurrection of the flesh, not a “pure spiritual environment,” is essential to the Christian faith.

Bobby Valentine

47 Responses to “Heaven (3) Resurrection & The Belief of the Early Church”

  1. Messianic Gentile Says:


  2. Alan Says:

    Hi Bobby,

    I would be very surprised if any of us would dispute that the resurrected Jesus in the Gospels was in his physical body when he encountered Mary, or when he ate fish with them on the shore, or when Thomas touched his wounds. There was at least one occasion, however, where he appeared “in a different form”:

    Mar 16:12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country.
    Mar 16:13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.

    Assuming this was the same event as in Luke 24, the disciples “were kept from recognizing him.”

    That suggests the possibility that he might be in a different form now, and / or when he returns again.

    Despite that, I don’t dispute the basic point that Jesus was raised from the dead in his physical body. But I’d like to see your scriptural explanation showing what that says about our resurrection. I don’t think that connection has been demonstrated clearly yet.

    A few questions to ponder:

    Will we retain the wounds from this life, as Jesus did when Thomas touched him? If some of the Va Tech victims are Christians, will they have bullet holes in their heads when they are raised from the dead? Will a person whose leg has been amputated be resurrected with or without that leg? Will an elderly person be raised with an elderly body, or a new one?

    A larger question relates as much to the new earth as to the new body. Will the earth continue to decay? Will the second law of thermodynamics still apply? Will iron rust? Will wood rot? Will we be constrained to pass through time in one direction only as we are now? Will the sun rise and set? Will there be night? Will the sun eventually run out of energy? Will there even be a sun, or will God himself literally provide the light as it says in Revelations?

    The point of all those questions is basically this: The fundamental laws of physics and chemistry must change in order for the world to last forever–that is, in order to put an end to decay. If we admit that the laws of physics will change, then it is hard to say anything with certainty about what our bodies will be like in that world.

  3. Laymond Says:

    Bobby; I don‘t want to minimize all your hard work but, “what difference does it make?”
    That should be the question we ask of ourselves when we endeavor to accomplish a change in anything.

    Mat 18:3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

    I am reminded of this verse every time I see my son and his two sons confronted with a similar situation.
    (My son walks over to get into his old pickup, my two grandsons run to see if they can go with him, after getting permission to go they then ask where are we going sometimes he will tell them and there are times he don’t. It doesn’t matter they are just happy to be going with their dad.) Jesus said take up your cross and follow me, he doesn’t tell me exactly where he is going, but as my grandchildren follow their dad, I will follow Christ no matter where it is, it is a good place to be. As the old song says “Where he leads me I will follow” so once again I ask “what difference does it make”? are we going to refuse to go?

  4. preacherman Says:

    Great post brother.
    Just as Paul said it, “I want to know Christ and power of His ressurection and fellowship of sharing in his suffering, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain the resurrection from the dead.” Phil. 3:10-11.

  5. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:


    Beloved we are not talking about a dispute over the resurrection per se. It is quite clear that the Gnostics said they too believed in the resurrection … their claim notwithstanding the Fathers said they did not. Why is this so? Read the quotes Alan and many more. Did Jesus rise as a “spirit” or a aeon or is some other non-physical way.

    The physical bodily resurrection of Jesus is a promise and pledge of our own physical and bodily resurrection. That belief is rooted in the faith that God will redeem his world.

    Ask yourself Alan which view of resurrection do you encounter among Sunday school folks these days: the one you heard in Josephus and the Fathers or the one you heard from Plato and the Gnostics. What I hear frightens me to be honest.

    Jesus is alive and in the flesh. Bob Bliss questioned my suggestion that 2 Jonn 7 means remains but the perfect participle has continuing force. If I say “I have come to your house” that means I arrived and have not left yet … that is what “remains” means.

    The laws of physics are of no concern to me. According to the “laws” of Science Jesus should have rotted in the grave. The world and us along with it are being REDEEMED that is the good news.

    Bobby Valentine

  6. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    For those who are reading the comments on this post and have not read the latest ones on Part 1 and Part 2 let me encourage you to go and read the comments by John Mark Hicks on both.

    Bobby Valentine

  7. Laymond Says:

    After Bobby freed me to speak to his guests on this community blog I would ask a question of john mark hicks.

    Professor Hicks; quoting you.
    The term to “meet” is actually a word that entails going out to “meet” and then “usher” the person back to where you came from.

    Question; do you believe we will welcome God into our world, or God will welcome us into his?

    1Ki 8:27 But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?

  8. Alan Says:

    Hi Bobby,

    I think we are misunderstanding each other. It sounds like you are saying my belief in the resurrection is the same as that of the Gnostics. But it is not. If it were, then I would be the antichrist according to 2 John 7, and you would be prohibited from welcoming me. But that is not my belief. I believe that Jesus’ physical body rose and walked this earth after his death. Your response is a straw man argument.

    I don’t find your argument from 2 John 7 persuasive at all. At best it might suggest a possibility, but it does not prove the possibility to be fact. If that is the only scripture you have to support your belief that Jesus is currently in a physical human body, then I will have to remain unconvinced for now.

    Evidence to the contrary: Jesus told the thief on the cross that “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” The body of the thief on the cross was buried and (as far as I know) was not raised back to life. So he is in Paradise in spiritual form (separate from his body, just like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–remember our conversation about them in comments under the first post). If the spirit fo the thief on the cross is with Jesus in Paradise, then it stands to reason that Jesus is also there in spiritual form.

    Regardless of that, I still do not see the connection between the type of body Jesus currently inhabits, and the type we will inhabit after resurrection. I need to see scriptures about that also.

    The only thing that will persuade me is scripture… not quotes from other ancient sources, not analogies or metaphors.

    Sorry to be difficult. I can see you are convinced but I have not yet understood why. Just trying to get to that point.

    Your brother

  9. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:


    Second John 7 is not the only Scripture and the text is quite clear. I addressed that issue at length in the comments in part 1.

    I did not say that you were a gnostic. I do believe that many in our churches hold, unwittingly, to Platonic and Gnostic views of creation, resurrection and the afterlife. A disembodied spirit is a gnostic view. A pure spiritual environment is not the view the Fathers thought the apostles taught.

    I am delighted to hear you believe in a physical, bodily, resurrection for Christ. The same is true for you and me. Did Jesus get rid of that body? if so what basis do you have for that. Luke says he will appear in the manner in which he departed … bodily. The historic church has always held, except the gnostics, that Jesus will always be the Son of Man.

    Blessings brother. I am delighted we can talk and I hope I have not offended you for that was not my intention.

    Bobby Valentine

  10. Messianic Gentile Says:

    The prayer Jesus taught us beseeches God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in Heaven. Too often we make that out to mean: your kingdom come in Heaven as it is in heaven.

    Jesus tells Pilate that his Kingdom is not FROM this world (a better translation than “of”). But it is FOR this world, there is no doubt. The Creator loves his creation. He has not turned his back on it.

    As for meeting in the air, that is Roman imperial language used to describe delegates who go out of town to escort the emperor into town with great ceremony. It does not mean flying in the air.

    And if it did mean flying in the air, that still does not change the fundamental argument about physical bodily resurrection. Wright uses a strange term to cover several possibilities: physicality. The resurrected Body Jesus has Easter Sunday can pass through closed doors etc. It has capabilities our current physical body does not have. That does not mean it is not physical, and for that matter, Jesus walked on water before his death too. It seems to me that true image bearing opens doors for physicality rather than closing them.

    Another thought I have is that John opens his Gospel with the words “In the Beginning…” which reflects Genesis purposefully and directly. He gives us access to 7 signs of Jesus (reflecting 7 days) and the Resurrection pointing his readers to the first day of New Creation when Jesus has been raised as the New Image Bearer of the New Creation.

    Again, this stuff is just the tip of the iceberg. And it CHANGES what the Bible means from our preconceived misdirection tremendously.

    Jesus is Lord!

  11. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    There was a massive gorge between the views of Plato and those who became gnostics and those of the Judaism and the Church Fathers. The Greeks knew it, the Gnostics knew it, the Jews knew it and the Fathers knew it.

    My question for us today is who closer reflects “our” view today? The hope of physical resurrection in a new creation or the shedding of flesh and becoming one with a pure spiritual environment?

    Bobby Valentine

  12. Alan Says:

    Hi Bobby,

    Perhaps the difference in our views can be distilled into one point. We both believe we will have some sort of body after the resurrection. I believe the “change” from 1 Cor 15 is dramatic and complete, resulting in an entirely different body made of entirely new substances. It seems to me that you think it is more of a minor change, maybe imperceptible.

    As for the ascension of Jesus, the scriptures say that he was lifted up into the clouds and out of sight But he was returning to the Father–so where was he going? Does God reside in the sky? In outer space? On some planet? Not at all! Jesus returned to Heaven where God resides. Heaven is outside of this creation. You can’t get there by going “up” far enough. Going “up” just takes you to another point inside this creation. I think Jesus’ physical body was taken out of sight of the disciples, and then he left this creation to be with his Father. It makes most sense to me that his physical body ceased to exist at that point, but I really don’t know. The scriptures do not tell us what happened to him after he was out of sight.

    God is giving us a glimpse of something we cannot fully understand. We will find out what it all means when it actually happens, and not before IMO.

  13. Messianic Gentile Says:

    I think Jesus is still physically here in the church. We are “in him” in a physcal sense, and he in us. Again, new posibilities open up rather than closing down. But I do not believe Jesus has “left us” or “Left Creation.”

  14. Alan Says:

    messianic gentile said:

    > I think Jesus is still
    > physically here in the
    > church.

    Wherever three or more are gathered… But that means he must be in more than one place at a time. That argues against a physical body with a physical location.

  15. John Mark Hicks Says:


    I would phrase it something like this: We meet the Son in the air as God recreates (refurbishes through cleansing, renews) his creation. It is his world–created for us to inhabit and he will dwell with us here.

    The picture of Revelation 21 is that the new Jerusalem–where God lives–is upon the new earth. It came down out of heaven. The saints–around the throne of God even now–return with the Son (and the Father as well) to earth to dwell in the world which God created and recreated for his people.

    Of course, God cannot be contained by the new earth, any more than he is contained by the heavens where he resides with departed saints or with the resurrected Jesus. But the redemptive promise is that God will dwell with his people upon the new earth in the new Jerusalem.

    Blessings, my brothers

    John Mark

  16. Messianic Gentile Says:


    Vandelia Church, where I attend, is a very physical body in a very physical place. I could produce photos if needed 😉

  17. Laymond Says:

    Thanks professor Hicks, Bobby I don’t know to what extent Jesus’ body was changed but it was evidently changed in a very radical way evidence suggest that it was removed without disturbing the linen or the head wrap.

    Jhn 19:23 Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments,
    Jhn 19:40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
    Jhn 20:6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,
    Jhn 20:7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

  18. Laymond Says:

    messianic gentile; If you can produce a picture of Vandelia with Jesus physicaly present I would certainaly try to be at your next meeting.

  19. Messianic Gentile Says:


    Jesus is enfleshed at Vandelia every Sunday (in fact, I think every day). You should come. Check him out.

  20. ben overby Says:

    Laymond asked why all of this matters. When adjusting the eschatology of soldiers at Ft. Benning I used the following illustration. Suppose you’re told that after graduation from basic training you’ll fly off to Siberia to dance in the Russian ballet. How will that vision of the future effect you in the present, especially when you’re on the 18th mile of a 20 mile march, or under the punishing sun on the rifle range? With such discontinuity between the present and the future, there’s nothing to pull from the future in order to live in the present.

    However, if you believe you’re headed to Iraq upon graduation, then you can pull lots of meaning from the future into the present, finding tremendous motivation when you need it.

    Platonic notions of the after-life sever the chord between future and present, leaving those who still believe in that eschatological myth without much fuel for the present.

    And in God’s renewed creation we are given spiritualized bodies (soma pneumatikos) rather than soulish bodies (soma psuchikos) as per 1 Co. 15.44. Paul taught that the spirit of God, who gave life to Jesus’ dead body, will also give life to our mortal bodies (Ro. 8.11). Animated by the Spirit of God rather than the soul of natural man, once again we (humans) will exercise dominion over God’s creation (reign with Him as kings as per Re. 5 & Re. 22. 5).

    ben overby

  21. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    I have added two more quotes to the “Gnostic” section of this blog. I am resisting putting more but I thought I would add the secret teaching of Mary that Jesus gave … in the Gospel of Mary and a quote from Peter’s Letter to Philip. Both of these documents are among the Nag Hammadi Library.

    Bobby Valentine

  22. Alan Says:

    Hi Bobby,

    Just curious… What is the relevance of the quotes in the Gnostic section to your overall point?


  23. Bob Bliss Says:

    Bobby, thanks for good work you’ve put in on these three posts. I am glad to know that there are some who do believe that Jesus is still in a human state in heaven reigning at the right hand of God. I have found few who would even discuss the possibility. I will do some more digging about Jesus remaining human into eternity. I will check out Marshall and others on 2John 7. I will keep coming by and look forward to more exchanges on other subjects.

  24. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Alan it seems to me that the relevance of that quote from Plato (which could be multiplied) and the Gnostics is self-evident.

    When Jesus was born there was already certain eschatological expectations and categories. The church defined her views knowing full well what those other views were. They are part of the cultural environment and historical context. Paul did not agree with the Platonists and Act 17 and 1 Cor 15 and Romans 8 and Colossians 1 all make this abundantly clear.

    The Hebrew Bible and its world view was for the most part anathema among the Platonists and gnostics. The reason was its emphasis on creation as a GOOD thing. God did not make a mistake in creating the cosmos. The gnostics and platonists thought he did. Or as the gnostics believed … it was such a screw up that the “real” god could not be responsible for it. Thus the god of the Hebrews was not the true god but a demon or lesser god. The Gospel of Judas makes this abundantly clear (go read my post on the Gospel of Judas on April 9, 2007). Other gnostic texts make the same point over and over and over.

    God will redeem his creation and that is why Jesus was and why you and I will be raised physically and bodily. that is the point made by Ignatius, Clement, Justin and Polycarp over and over and over.

    Bobby Valentine

  25. Alan Says:

    Hi Bobby,

    I think we all agree (at least I do…) that the Gnostics were wrong about the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. He was “in the flesh” at that time. Maybe I missed something, but as far as I know I’ve never heard anyone teach otherwise. That’s what I meant in asking about the relevance of those quotes.

    To me the interesting points for discussion are on other topics. For example, is Jesus currently in the same state that he was when he was taken away in Acts 1? I think it is entirely plausible that he is not–that his nature changed after he was taken out of sight. Consider this passage:

    Php 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,
    Php 3:21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

    From that passaage, we see that there are lowly bodies and there are glorious bodies. We now have lowly bodies. Prior to crucifixion, Jesus also had a lowly body (Isa 53:2). While Jesus walked on this earth, his body was no different from an ordinary person. Post-resurrection, his body still had the appearance of a human. That was the point of all the proofs that he was alive, including eating food and letting Thomas touch his wounds. The description of his body as “glorious” refers to something significantly different from that. I believe his transformation from a “lowly” body to a “glorious” body took place after he was taken out of sight in Acts 1. As John says,

    1Jn 3:2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

    Finally, when he appears again, we will see him in his glorified state. At that time “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Seeing Jesus “as he is” will cause us to be like him. But John had seen Jesus after the resurrection, so why wasn’t John already “like him?” Because he had only seen Jesus as he was, not as he is. John saw Jesus in his resurrected but not yet glorified state.

  26. Laymond Says:

    Ben you said; However, if you believe you’re headed to Iraq upon graduation, then you can pull lots of meaning from the future into the present, finding tremendous motivation when you need it.

    I understand you to say we need to know the future in order to prepare for it.
    I understand the bible to say we are not to worry about the future because it may not come. I believe God tells us to live in the here and now and he will decide the future.

  27. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Bob thanks for your kind words. It is a sad commentary, I think, that our communal Christology is so out of tune with historic Christianity if what you say is accurate.

    But all the great teachers of the church have held as an article of faith that the Incarnation is permanent. This faith is confessed in the Chaledonian Creed that was and is recited in most Christian churches for 1500 years. It is acknowledged by Roman Catholics, Greek Catholics, Protestants … even the Puritans!! Get a decent book on early Christian theology (J. N. D. Kelly or Jarselov Pelikan) or read the primary texts yourself. Read Athanasius On the Incarnation; read Augustine’s City of God last book as an entry or Athenagoras or …


    Philippians does declare our “citizenship” is in heaven. But that text does not support the view you are wanting it too. I plan on using that text as a case study for my “Text and Context” series so I won’t go into detail here. But Paul is purposefully using “colony” language because Philippi was a Roman colony. The last thing Rome wanted was for those folks whose “citizenship” was in Rome to COME TO ROME. Rather their task was to be emissaries of Roman culture in a Greek ocean. The Philippian church functions as a kingdom colony in THIS world in the same way that a Roman colony functioned in a Greek world. Philippi was to teach the Greeks what it meant to be Roman. The Philippian Christians are to teach the values of one kingdom in the middle of another. But we will come back to this.

    Jesus’ body was glorified. It was the same body though. It had been stripped of death and corruptibility. The promise of the NT in many places is that Jesus’ resurrection is representative of ours. He is the first born of many brothers … that clearly suggests a connection between Jesus’ resurrection and ours. He is the first fruits … no Jew would imagine this image of connoting anything but continuity between his resurrection and our own … else it is not a “first fruit.”

    Bobby Valentine

  28. Alan Says:

    Hi Bobby,

    I wasn’t focusing on the first phrase of Phil 3:20-21, but on the part about Jesus transforming our bodies to be like his.

    I grant that our resurrection will be like his. I don’t grant that his resurrection ended in his physical body, nor that ours will end in our physical bodies. Note that your response merely stated your view but I provided scriptures that support mine. You also did not respond to the point from 1 John 3:2, which was the main point.

    You are forcing me to study this topic more deeply than I have in the past. That is a good thing.

    Your brother,

  29. Laymond Says:

    Alan; It is very hard if not imposable to have a productive debate if there is no common platform from which to launch and to return to for conformation, if you use the bible as your conformation, and Bobby uses other religious authors, as he has mostly done here, there will be no solution possible, no opinions changed the change needs to take place in another venue of thinking in what book does the truth lie. If you can’t agree on that then agreement is not possible.

  30. ben overby Says:


    I know your dialogue is with Bobby, but I want to offer a word or two in hopes that it helps. You asked a very good question about the nature of Jesus’ body as per Ph. 3. There is a lowly body and a glorified body. But I think you make a mistake when you suggest that Jesus’ body was still lowly after the resurrection. His physicality was quite different from ours. He was able to “appear” in rooms in which the doors were locked, Jn 20.26. Also, when walking with disciples on the road to Emmaus, his identity was hidden (there eyes were kept from recognizing him, lk 24.16). Later, at the breaking of the bread, their eyes were opened and they recognized Him. Though His knew body couldn’t get sick or die, He stil ate food, could be touched, etc. And His body had been freed from the threat of death. I’ve never seen a body like that! His physicality was soma pneumatikos rather than soma psuchikos. And Paul says we’re going to get a body like His.

    Jesus became a human and will forever be a human. He’s the second Adam, the necessary response to the sin problem. God placed the first Adam on earth and gave Him dominion (Gn 128). He blew it. But God would not be defeated in His purpose to have a human at the helm even if it meant sending His own Son to do for the creation what the rest of us have failed to do–be an authentic human. And we shouldn’t be surprised that when the rest of us are glorified, creation itself will be set free from the bondage of decay and enjoy the freedom of the glory of the sons and daughters of God. I can’t wait!


  31. ben overby Says:

    Laymond, you wrote: “I understand you to say we need to know the future in order to prepare for it.”

    Yeah. That’s right. If you think you’re going to fly away to a far off spirit land singing devo songs for a zillion years, floating around like some sort of Casper the Ghost, or a toddler in diapers with soft angels wings, then that vision will no doubt have an impact on how you live in the present. If you, however, find continuity between this life and the next, longing for the new creation, new stewardship, new dominion (Ge. 1.28 and Re. 22.5), with a Spirit-developed character obtained in this life and carried into the next (1 Co. 3), then that vision will certainly impact you in the here and now. For some, it will be as simple as forcing them to rethink their attitude toward the creation. God said it’s good, so we ought to stop treating it like it’s our ash tray or strip mine. We need to take care of it (I’d recommend a few minutes in some of Wendell Berry’s essays–after you’ve swallowed Ro. 8).

    You wrote: “I understand the bible to say we are not to worry about the future because it may not come. I believe God tells us to live in the here and now and he will decide the future.”

    I’m not saying that we ought to worry about the future, but anticipate it eagerly. It’s one thing not to worry about tomorrw and an all together thing to be ignorant about how the whole story ends. I can only suggest you do a bit more reading. “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
    (Rom 8:23-25)

    You may not be eagerly waiting for the future–the redemption of your body, but I am. Some have swallowed the philosophy of Greek intellectualism, don’t even know it, and are so disconnected from the future that they simply don’t look in that direction. This is tragic. It’s rather like Neo in the Matrix, except that some have swallowed the wrong pill.

    Ben O.

  32. Laymond Says:

    Brother Ben; you wrote the following.
    “For some, it will be as simple as forcing them to rethink their attitude toward the creation. God said it’s good, so we ought to stop treating it like it’s our ash tray or strip mine. We need to take care of it (I’d recommend a few minutes in some of Wendell Berry’s essays–after you’ve swallowed Ro. 8).”

    Ben, if you are saying take care of the earth, because we will have to live here forever. Why worry it is going to be renewed isn’t it.
    I believe we should take care of what God gave mankind to have dominion over because we don’t know how many more of mankind will pass this way and we should try to leave it a livable place for others.
    I find it strange that those who believe in this renewed earth home of the saved. always recommend you read something someone else has written. If it is not deeply grounded in biblical scripture it would do no good for me to read it in connection with my salvation. I love to read and I read a lot but I don’t believe everything I read. I know it is hard to understand that a thing that would convince one might not convince another just as reasonable as the first. when we degrade a person for not believing exactly as we do, maybe just maybe we should start looking closer to home. Or closer at the scripture.
    May God Bless

  33. John Mark Hicks Says:


    I think you are mistaken if you think that Bobby quotes historical texts as his authority as a substitute for Scripture. Bobby certainly affirms Scripture as the norm for theology and has offered biblical texts in support of his position (e.g., look at his first post on this question). What the quotations from history demonstrate is that some readings of Scripture are more influenced by Platonism than the context of Scripture itself. When we read Scripture with Platonic expectations then it make it read differently than it reads.

    I think the point on “spiritual body” (which some have discussed) is important. Pneumatikos does not mean “made of spirit or consisting of spirit” but rather a body animated by the Spirit. Physicality (materiality)–what “soma” always means in Paul–will be animated by God’s life (Spirit) rather than by the fleshiness (soulishness) of materiality (“flesh and blood”).

    It seems to me that this discusion is important because it says something about the inherent goodness of creation. To say that creation (included our bodies, which are to be redeemed) is annihilated or that materiality disappears in the eschaton is to say that materiality is inferior, secondary and ultimately unimportant. This understanding of creation has historically led to negative understands of sexuality, bad stewrdship of the earth, and the devaluation of materiality as something through which God works (as water in baptism).

    BTW, call me “John Mark” rather than “Professor” 🙂


    John Mark

  34. Alan Says:

    Hi Ben,

    I just don’t see the idea of Jesus being in human form for eternity. I don’t think that follows from any scripture I’ve seen, 2 John 7 included.

    1 john 3:2 is pretty conclusive in my mind. At the time John wrote this, he had not yet seen Jesus in his glorified state.

    The idea that Jesus went up in the sky to be with the Father does not make sense. God does not live in the sky. He cannot be confined to a physical place in this creation. But Jesus left to be with him. He is “with God” in a sense that we cannot be right now. He already had the kind of presence of God that we have before he left. The sense in which Jesus is now with God required that he leave creation.

    Last Sunday thousands of congregations had a church service. Many of those were at the same time, but in different places. Yet Jesus was present wherever three or more are gathered. A physical human body cannot do that.

    Jesus is also simultaneously in heaven interceding on behalf of millions of Christians. A physical human body cannot do that–both because it cannot be in two places at once, and because it cannot communicate about millions of individual situations all at once.

    I do not think Jesus is living in a physical body at this moment, confined in space and time. He is in many places at once, and is free to roam back and forth in time wherever he wishes.

  35. Laymond Says:

    John Mark; that does sound better when one brother is speaking to another. If you were to correspond with me very much on the bible you would see I love to use the name “John”

    Now brother we are not left in the dark about the composition of our spiritual body, which our lord and savior Jesus Christ said we must have before we could enter the “Kingdom of God”

    John 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and [of] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

    John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

    John 3:7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

    John 3:8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

    Does Jesus not compare the spiritual body to the wind? or am I just interpreting this wrong also?
    I truly would like to hear your interpretation.

  36. ben overby Says:


    I didn’t recommend that you read Wendell Berry because I think Paul needs help. Paul has already clearly laid out his eschatological understanding, saying more about it than any other early writer in both Ro. 8 and 1 Co. 15. For Paul the following is true:

    1. God will glorify us.
    2. Creation longs to be set free from death and decay.
    3. Creation was subjected to this futility because of sin (see Gn. 3, thorns, sweat, etc).
    4. Creation was subjected to futility in the hope that it one day be set free and obtain the same sort of freedom humans will enjoy–freedom from death and decay.
    5. Pain and suffering in the present are just labor pains. When the new thing is born it will cause celebration.

    If you can’t see at least that much, then by all means stay away from Wendell Berry or any other author. Hang out with Paul until you come to grips with his eschatology. I’m sorry if you felt degraded by anything I wrote. That certainly wasn’t my intent.


  37. ben overby Says:


    You’re thinking as if you believe the new physicality will be identical to this one, under the same laws, etc. Obviously, Jesus’ ability to “appear” out of nowhere suggest that things will be different. It would seem things were quite different before the fall. I mean, how do you account for Adam’s ability to exercise dominion over the earth without sweating? Answer: Grace. Dynamic power. We’ve lost much of it, but as Jesus says, there’s a time coming when we will be able to say to this moutain fall into that sea. Jesus illustrates some of that ability by calming the sea and causing a fig tree to shrivel without so much as a drop of weed killer or an axe. He spoke the thing to death. That’s grace! That’s gardening without sweat.

    As to Jesus being everywhere at once, while being in a human form in the present, etc. I don’t know how God does what He does, anymore than I understand how it is that my body is presently animated by my soul. How does a physical body contain a soul? If we don’t know the answer to a question that basic and which we accept on faith, then we ought not suppose we can understand everthing about how God is able to be who He is, especially when it
    comes to Jesus (God/Man).

    We can’t know everything, but we can know some things.


  38. Danny Says:

    Bobby, I have been reading all of this with great interest.

    Recently this very discussion arose in a class on Romans 8 that I was teaching. Interestingly enough for me there was not any oppostion to the renewed earth idea. I don’t know if that was because it was new or if folks really connected to it.

    Now that you have delved into all things heaven, why not use that gifted mind God has blessed you with to consider hell.

    I’d like to hear what you think of F. Lagard Smith’s ideas.

    Not that you don’t have anything else to do! 🙂

  39. Steve Puckett Says:

    Great discussion, Bobby and good to see my old classmate and dorm mate, John Mark chiming in. I hope to see you both at Pepperdine.


  40. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:


    John Mark is right I believe the Bible and I think that is evident to any who hang around this blog for a while.

    Thanks John Mark for putting in the good word.

    Danny I have not read LaGard Smith’s book though I did here his lecture on the afterlife at DLU a few years back. I think I heard it with John Mark. What I recall of his take, and my memory could be faulty, was thinking he made Plato proud. But I do have Smith’s book so I will check it out and see. John Mark if I am off base in my memory feel free to put in a good word.

    Steve I read your interview with Dee earlier today and was glad to learn more about you. I will be looking for you out at Pepperdine.

    Bobby V

  41. Laymond Says:

    Bobby I didn’t even suggest that you don’t believe in the bible. I wouldn’t make that statement about anyone. What I did say was you used others to confirm your point more than you used the bible. I believe if you check back through your comments you will find my statement to hold true. May God Bless

  42. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:


    Everything and everyone has a context, i.e. a setting. This is just as true of Jesus, Paul and John as it is you and I. I clearly stated that when Jesus entered the world there were already “options” as to what kind of eschatology one believed. One option was expressed plainly and clearly by Plato. This option was believed by the vast majority of folks in the Greco-Roman world. The Gnostics stood in line with Plato … The Republic was even bound together with the codex containing The Gospel of Thomas, and the other Nag Hammadi finds.

    The other option is expressed in Jewish writings of the day — that of the resurrection of the body to a renewed world. I quoted Josephus and referred to 2 Maccabees. Second Maccabees is a work that was familiar to the NT preacher of “to the Hebrews.” I referred to the Church Fathers to demonstrate that they for some reason chose to line up with views found in Judaism rather than in Plato. That calls for some kind of explanation.

    Another text that could have been quoted because it is “close to home” for Jesus is 4Q475 from the Dead Sea Scrolls. This fragment has some clear echoes with Revelation 21. It reads in part,

    “all the world will be like Eden, and all the earth will be at peace, and …{a break} a beloved son … {break} … will inherit it all.”

    This text describes what was believed about the “end times.” It is a far cry from Plato and those who reject the material world today.

    Scripture must be understood in its context. Paul and John did not write in the Post-Enlightenment western world. They wrote in the context of Second Temple Judaism. That is why I quoted what I did. The testimony of the church does matter because it can help us recognize our own glasses we read the word through.

    Bobby Valentine

  43. Alan Says:


    We have to be careful when using extra-biblical church writings in an attempt to clarify scripture. Those writings contain error. They don’t even all agree with each other, much less with scripture. Letters attributed to Ignatius are notoriously suspect, for example. There are multiple versions with obvious tampering for many of these letters. Tertullian took some doctrinal positions I don’t think most of us would be comfortable with. And the Jews were clearly wrong about many things, not the least of which include the Messiah. They had their own internal controversies over the subject of the resurrection. etc.

    Ancient church writings are a fertile ground for finding what you want to find. I don’t think God left us relying on such a shaky foundation for understanding the Gospel.

  44. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Alan there is considerable continuity on this subject. Context is context.
    We should be cautious with everything but the Fathers are fairly unanimous on this subject. And they agree with Jewish writers. And they disagree with Plato. They are challenging aren’t they … I find them so.

    Bobby Valentine

  45. cwinwc Says:

    As always Bobby, thanks for you thoughts and insights.

  46. Falantedios Says:

    Alan writes:

    Ancient church writings are a fertile ground for finding what you want to find. I don’t think God left us relying on such a shaky foundation for understanding the Gospel.

    Nick here: The Bible is a fertile ground for finding what you want to find, Alan. Or haven’t you noticed that every splinter of this divided body claims Scriptural foundation for its own particular existence?

    God gave us words and minds. Both can be twisted and blown around if they aren’t harnessed to the WHOLE of the Scriptural story.

    Renewed Earth Eschatology has the decided bonus of harmonizing what the Hebrew and the Greek Scriptures say about God’s ultimate purpose for creation and the afterlife.

    in HIS love,

  47. John Mark Hicks Says:


    I don’t think John 3:3-7 has any relevance to this discussion. The entrance into the kingdom of God in that text is about participation in the divine community (the divine life) but it says nothing about resurrection bodies.

    However, it does validate the significance of creation that one must be born of both “water and Spirit”–materiality and Spirituality. There is a unity in Scripture. The two were created in unison and will be redeemed in unison.

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