2 Sep 2021

Resurrection: It’s Worth Fighting For

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: 1 Corinthians, Acts, Alexander Campbell, Christian hope, eschatology, Faith, Gnosticism, resurrection

Today I have decided to offer a confession. There are things that are not worth fighting over and in fact should never have been fought over. A friendly chat perhaps but not fighting. Most of the things we fight over are, to quote Paul, “stupid and senseless controversies” (2 Tim 2.23).

Among these include wearing jeans, swimming, playing cards, instrumental music, colleges, orphan homes, Sunday schools … we have fought so much over stuff that, literally, does not matter. But we ignored the fact that we embraced serious false doctrine that cultivated the ground for outright heresy. I realize this is not politically correct and some will likely be offended. I do not wish to offend.

The Soil that Gave Rise to Hyperpreterism

There are things worth fighting about and the Christian hope, the foundation of Christianity, is one of them. I have seen a number promoting “AD 70ism” recently in Church of Christ Facebook groups and other social media. Here is the framework for one particular heresy that grew out of Churches of Christ, hyperpreterism.

First, our neglect of, in fact at times nearly antagonistic attitude toward, the “Old Testament.” So, when we conceive of Christian faith as the opposite, even antagonistic, of anything Jewish this creates serious problems, especially in regard to the doctrine of creation and resurrection. Closely related is the utter misunderstanding of the world spiritual where the word is defined as “non-material” or “nonphysical” (all rooted in anti-Jewish understandings of these ideas). Much of the material I have read from hyperpreterists is not far removed from blatant anti-semiticism. The New Testament means what it means in relation to the Hebrew Scriptures, words mean what they mean in the apostolic writings because of their previous history in the Hebrew Scriptures. So closely are the Testaments tied that Paul literally calls salvation, the resurrection of the dead, “the hope of Israel” (Acts 28.20; cf. 23.6; 26.5-7). The importance of this cannot be overstated.

Second, our historic, and still prevalent in some quarters, denial of the indwelling Spirit. We have failed to see how the indwelling Spirit is a divine pledge to the Christian hope.

Third, our war on R. H. Boll virtually killed any kind of “eschatology” in Churches of Christ. Eschatology became, quite literally, ecclesiology (teaching about church and mostly the “marks of the church”). But proper eschatology is not simply, or primarily, about premillennialism, postmillennialism, or amillennialism. Eschatology is about the goal, or the purpose, of God’s creation. Proper eschatology spans from the incarnation of the Christ to dwelling of God with humanity in the New Heavens and New Earth as the goal of creation.

These three things cultivated soil. And to be honest it is no surprise that hyperpreterism came out of the Churches of Christ (Max King is the “father” of the “AD 70” theory). Hyperpreterism, or AD 70ism, has many other interpretive and exegetical flaws but the core is the denial of the future and bodily resurrection of the saints. It asserts that Christ returned in AD 70. There is no future, bodily, resurrection of God’s people. Not only is this grave error, it is heresy.

Resurrection: It is Worth Fighting For

Now, I am not going to argue with you about instrumental music. God could care less. Literally. I might point out bad arguments but it will never break fellowship in a first century worldview. But Paul states quite clearly that the beginning and the end, the center and the circumference of the Christian faith is the resurrection of the body (1 Corinthians 15). But the soil for hyperpreterism has been prepared well by us in the three things above.

There are some fundamental misunderstandings that are prevalent among many simply because we have often focused on trivia rather than what Scripture declares to be the heart of our faith. So to begin with,

Resurrection is not and never shall be a synonym for life after death, eternal life or living with God.

Resurrection does not mean that when I die I go to heaven.

Paul does not chastise the Corinthians for not believing in “life after death.” This is simply paying attention to the historical context of Paul and the Corinthians. Practically every pagan in the Mediterranean world believed in some sort of “life after death.” The “immortality of the soul” is a classic Platonic doctrine that permeated the Greco-Roman world. Pagans did not reject “life after death.” The pagans rejected the resurrection of the body!

The issue of 1 Corinthians 15 is not life after death but the resurrection of the body – the physical body – that God created and is made out of the same stuff as the earth itself. For a detailed look at 1 Corinthians 15 see the linked article: What Cannot Enter the Kingdom of God? (1 Cor 15.50-51): Flesh, Blood, The Living, The Dead?

Resurrection always means the bringing back to life of the human body that died. Luke stresses the physicality of the resurrection.  Jesus stands with the disciples and tells them to touch him, feel him, study him.

Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have FLESH and BONES as you see that I have” (Lk 24.38).

Every time the word “resurrection” occurs in the Book of Acts it is defined by Luke 24.36-42. Peter goes out of his way to emphasize the physical, embodied, Jewish definition of resurrection,

But God raise him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. For David says concerning him … ‘my FLESH will live in hope … his FLESH did not see corruption” (Acts 2.22-26, 31).

Luke has told Theophilus what he means by that term by presenting the resurrection of Jesus as the pattern. The pagans in Acts 17.31-32 also knew what that term meant.

In the New Testament the term spiritual does not mean non-material, pious, religious, nonphysical or any such thing. Spiritual is an adjective that means of the Holy Spirit. There is no dualism in Scripture between materiality and Spirituality. Human beings are not all matter and they are not all “spirit.” They are living beings made from the earth infused with life as the gift of God. Alexander Campbell understood this as well as anyone.

“Immortality, in the sacred writings, is never applied to the spirit of man. It is not the doctrine of Plato which the resurrection of Jesus proposes. It is the immortality of the body which his resurrection is a proof and pledge. This was never developed till he became the first-born from the dead, and in a human body entered the heavens. Jesus was not a spirit when he returned to God. He is not made the head of the new creation as a Spirit, but as the Son of Man. Our nature in his person is glorified; and when he appears to our salvation, we shall be made like him … This is the Christian hope” (Christian System, p. 237, Campbell’s emphasis).

The Christian Hope: Sealed by the Resurrection & Indwelling Spirit

The Resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit are essential in the NT for our hope of eternal life in our resurrected bodies. I will close by quoting Luke Timothy Johnson a highly respected NT scholar.

“Paul’s point is simple and powerful. The transforming Spirit that God has given to humans is the pledge and portent of future life in the resurrection [my emphasis]. The resurrection, as Paul argued in 1 Cor 15.35-44, is not to be of the soul only but of “physical bodies,’ that is, the human body … The present passage [i.e. Romans 8.11ff] brings home once again the extraordinarily close connection Paul draws between the resurrection of Jesus, the gift of the Spirit, the transformation of the human spirit, and the resurrection of humans to eternal life, all of this being the ‘gift of God in Christ Jesus.'” (Reading Romans: A Literary and Theological Commentary, p. 131)

Resurrection of Jesus = the pattern for our own.

The Gift of the Spirit = is God’s promise that “I” will follow the Jesus pattern in resurrection.

Resurrection is not redefined into some nebulous paganism (Platonism) or heresy (Gnosticism which is baptized Platonism).

There are believers that have a misunderstanding, frankly because we preachers we have spent so much time arguing about nonsense and not enough time on the “basic teaching about Christ” which includes “the resurrection of the dead” (Hebrews 6.1-2). There is a difference between misunderstanding and actively promoting the heresy of AD 70/hyperpreterism, the denial of the resurrection. I will oppose it because the resurrection is worth fighting for.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised: and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain … For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile …” (1 Corinthians 15.12-17).


Of Related Interest

Unity, Diversity & Resurrection Faith: A Brief Post-Easter Meditation

Resurrection: A Medley from the Early Church

2 Responses to “Resurrection: It’s Worth Fighting For”

  1. Michael Waymon Summers Says:

    Although Max King was probably the first to advocate it in Churches of Christ (I remember my father remarking his discomfort with some things that had been preached by King in a gospel meeting where my father preached when I was preteen), preterist or A. D. 70 eschatology existed long before him outside our churches. See this Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preterism#:~:text=The%20term%20preterism%20comes%20from%20the%20Latin%20praeter%2C,discourse%20had%20come%20to%20pass%20by%20AD%2070.

  2. John Acuff Says:

    all the things I hear about souls sounds more like Aristotle if my new keyboard can spell than Jesus.; Preach on my Brother very well done.

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