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23 August 2019

Everlasting Glory - Resurrection Hope to Timothy

glorious sunrise Photo by Jessica Ruscello on Unsplash
The resurrection is not a major subject in Paul’s “pastoral” letters; however, he does raise the subject in the course of dealing with false teachers. In his opening comments, he reminds Timothy that God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” The theme of a “sound mind” is common in the pastorals.
The gospel is “sound” teaching and the “power of God, who saved and called us…according to His own purpose and grace given to us in Christ Jesus before the times of the ages.” But this salvation has only been manifested in recent times through the “appearance of our Savior Jesus Christ, who abolished death and enlightened life and immortality through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:7-12).
By “abolish death,” Paul does not mean that death no longer exists. The cessation of death will occur only at the “arrival” or Parousia of Jesus in glory (1 Corinthians 15:24-26, The last enemy that shall be destroyed [katargeo] is death”).
The Author of Hebrews uses the same verb to show how through death Jesus “destroyed him that had the dominion of death, that is, the Devil; and to deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Death still occurs to believers and unbelievers alike, but it is incapable of holding believers at the end of the age when its sentence is to be reversed (Hebrews 2:14).
Jesus brought life and “immortality” to light (aphtharsia). The Greek noun does not mean “eternal”; it does not denote a sense of timelessness or of being without beginning or end. Instead, it is the opposite of death; “immortality, incorruption, deathlessness.” This is not a state that human souls possess; rather, it is a new condition that Jesus Christ inaugurated for his followers and it is not applicable to all human beings.
In the next chapter, Paul exhorts Timothy to “remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel.” Paul suffered persecution on account of this same gospel (2 Timothy 2:8-18).
Paul may suffer for preaching this gospel but he does so that the “elect may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with everlasting glory…If we be dead with him, we shall also live with him…If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” Again, death may occur, but it does not have the final word. “Salvation” and “everlasting glory” are the results of resurrection from the dead (“we will also live with him”).
While he could have brought up other aspects of the gospel, Paul reminds Timothy of Christ’s resurrection. Certain false teachers were denying the resurrection or, possibly, claiming that it was already in the past and not applicable to believers (1 Corinthians 15:10-20).
Paul labels such denials “profane and vain babblings.” Timothy must avoid such false claims for, “They will proceed further in ungodliness, and their word will eat as does a gangrene: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus, who concerning the truth have swerved, saying that the resurrection is past already, and are overthrowing the faith of some.”
It is not clear what, precisely, these men taught, whether they denied the resurrection of Christ, believers or both. The clause more accurately reads, “Declaring that resurrection already came to pass.” In any case, to deny the resurrection is to turn away from the faith of Jesus Christ.
Their claim that the resurrection had already occurred suggests not a denial of Christ’s resurrection but of any subsequent resurrection of believers; that is, they saw no connection between the resurrection of Jesus and that of believers; for them, the latter did not logically follow from the former. If this was the case, it would have been a rejection of a fundamental tenet of Paul’s gospel message.
Based on Paul’s experiences recorded elsewhere, and the beliefs common to Greco-Roman society, the false teachers may have rejected the very notion of bodily resurrection in favor of one concept or another of salvation consisting of a disembodied state (cp. Acts 17:32, 1 Corinthians 15:12).
That Paul brings up resurrection so easily when it is tangential to his argument shows how basic this hope was to the early Christian faith.

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