I cannot stress too highly the importance of learning the real nature of last things by going back to the first things. For these first things, when properly discerned, may serve as a key to unlocking the true import of last things. And indeed many have already figured this out. But since so many false systems of eschatology are current, concerning whose teachers the sacrifice of evidence on the altars of delusion is all too common, it does little good to investigate these matters unless one is willing to accept the facts as they stand.
Some heretics, although they have no comprehension of the first principles of Christ's salvation, are nevertheless shrewd enough to see that the validity of their eschatology relies on certain views of "first things." Thus they contend hotly over such topics as the Genetic creation, the Garden of Eden, and even the nature of the death which Adam incurred on the whole human race. These sophists, skeptics, and downright heretics, have so confused and jumbled the Gospel message, that a deal of repair is necessary, that more Christians be not carried away by their falsehoods. It is for this reason that I mentioned in my last article the importance of the term, "the restitution of all things." Because if we can find out what Adam lost, we'll be able to see what God's plan of salvation really consists of.
Now the facts are these: Adam was made a rational being compounded of both body and soul (Gen. 2: 7). He was placed in the Garden of Eden (on earth) to have communion with God and enjoy His presence, and to rule over the Creation which God had prepared for Him. When he transgressed God's law, he incurred death upon himself, and forfeited the right to eat of the Tree of Life. The ground was cursed (Gen. 3: 18), and Adam and Eve were evicted from Eden, to live in toil and hardship, while looking forward by faith in Christ to the consummation of their (and our) restoration. This will be the restoration of exactly what they lost, with the added privilege of partaking of the Tree of Life.
I must here concur with Methodius, in that death, while being the just punishment for sin, was nevertheless given as a remedy. Alluding to the parable of the potter and the marred vessel (Jer. 18: 3-6), he writes: "Now God's plan seems to me to have been the same as that which prevails among ourselves. For seeing Man, His fairest work, corrupted by envious treachery, He could not endure, with His love for man, to leave him in such a condition, lest he should be forever faulty, and bear the blame to eternity; but dissolved him again into his original materials, in order that, by remodeling, all the blemishes in him might waste away and disappear." (Discourse on the Resurrection, vi). Thus, the marred vessel (man) is melted down by death, in order that God may refashion it in glory in the resurrection. And God gave the promise to Adam and Eve that this salvation would be effected by Christ.
Of course, it is needless to say that this has not all happened yet. For the restitution is incomplete until Christ comes to establish His presence among us. That is why it is essential that we understand why in John's vision the New Jerusalem is seen descending to earth. Because as Paradise is within the New Jerusalem, access to the Tree of Life is not possible until the city descends.
At that time, there will be a renewal of the earth's pristine condition, a resurrection of the just shall take place, and Christ will commence His glorious reign over mankind. Satan shall be bound, and the nations given liberty to eschew evil and follow King Immanuel. In fine, this is what the doctrine of the Millennium is about. It involves the restitution of all things. Wherefore I have embraced Chiliasm in opposition to what is known as Preterism, or past-fulfillment. For Preterism must deny all of the above truths; and because it does so, by its tenets restoration based on the original promises of God simply isn't possible. But God's promises stand sure and immutable. "Yea, let God be true, but every man a liar" (Romans 3: 4).
That the Bible teaches a resurrection of these very bodies in which we now dwell, should be evident to anyone that reads the Scriptures. Past fulfillment systems would do away with this resurrection, making it a salvation of the soul, and not the whole man. However, we ought to know better than that. Indeed, every Christian who has been trained in sound orthodoxy will recognize any such views as the Hyper-Preterists assert as highly dangerous and subversive of the truth. "Is salvation really of the flesh?" they ask. "No, it is not of the flesh at all, but of souls." Kurt Simmons, the foremost proponent of Hyper-Preterism, has stated that resurrection consists of the soul, and not the body. He writes: "The general resurrection consisted in the release of all souls from Hades, which was then destroyed. At death, the souls of men now go directly to their respective rewards – eternal life in heaven, or destruction of the soul in Hell." Let us take a closer look at Simmons' view, to find out whether it is indeed "sound doctrine."
Simmons and the Hyper-Preterists would like us to believe, firstly, that God's salvation does not involve the whole man. But when Adam and Eve transgressed, they were in their natural bodies; the same bodies, mind you, in which we dwell today. Know that the perfect man consists of body, soul, and spirit. For, as we've said in our last article, we do not call the soul 'man,' nor do we call the body 'man.' We are accustomed to refer to the soul and the body as of man. Because man is a compound being, salvation must include all components, not one or two alone. When Adam and Eve sinned they were in their natural bodies. Thus, restoration must bring us back to Paradise in our natural bodies; except that then our bodies will be no longer subject to corruption, but rendered immortal. Perceiving these facts, it is manifest that Simmons errs when he limits the resurrection to the soul only.
He also makes another blunder when he says that the general resurrection consisted of souls being released from Hades. And where do we suppose that Simmons would have them to go? Apparently to Paradise, which he contends is for souls alone, and not bodies. But he forgets that souls were already in Paradise when this invisible and unverifiable resurrection took place. For the righteous after death were gathered unto their fathers, and were 'comforted' in Abraham's bosom (Luke 16: 25). Paul claimed that after death he would be "with Christ" (Phil. 1: 23). Where? Certainly not in the Garden of Eden, for that, even by Kurt's admission, was not yet available. But in Hades, the same state of blessedness to which Lazarus and the Fathers themselves departed after death. Whereas the wicked are described as being in torment, and that immediately after death. Simmons would assert, then, that the resurrection (which he claims to be a past event) merely consisted of souls being transferred from one Paradise to another, or from one hell to another. But this is obviously not what the Bible is talking about!
The Lord says: "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt. 10: 28). If the resurrection has already occurred, as the Hyper-Preterists contend, then we should expect to see bodies raised to judgment and removed from our midst. For if the resurrection is still ongoing, the raising of bodies must be ongoing. But if it be a past event only, then it cannot apply to us. Otherwise, if it applies to us, why do we not see bodies raised either to life, or to judgment? Concerning the general judgment, Christ says: "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation" (John 5: 28). Christ tells us that it is from the graves the dead shall arise. So, if the resurrection applies now, why are dead bodies still in the graves? Or, if it only applied at one time, why isn't there any verification that the bodies arose?
Remember, the restitution must restore exactly what Adam and Eve lost when they transgressed. Now, they had personal communion with God in their own bodies, and that communion was on earth. They had dominion over the creation, which had not yet been made subject to vanity (Rom. 8: 20). They had the right to eat of the Tree of Life, and had not known sin or death. Very well. What, then, is restoration? It must include-- 1): Communion with God in our very own bodies, and that on earth; 2): Dominion over the Creation; 3): The right to partake of the Tree of Life; and 4): freedom from death and sin.
Therefore, considering the above, it is obvious the Hyper-Preterism is fallacious. For, firstly, it denies the personal, visible presence of Jesus Christ on earth. Secondly, it denies that salvation involves our physical bodies. Thirdly, it denies that we shall have dominion over the Creation. All of this denial springs from, as stated, a misconception concerning last things, which may be traced to false notions of first things. Fix your equations, gentlemen. You cannot claim that Christ is on earth now, and in the same breath aver that Paradise is located in heaven. John has already described the New Jerusalem as coming down to earth (Rev. 21: 2-3).
Our answers regarding the resurrection will not line up, or in any way be consistent, unless we perceive that it involves the entire man. It does not appertain to the soul only, but to the body as well. In fact, it is that pre-ordained epoch when the soul will become united to the re-formed body. As sin brought the penalty of death upon us all, it is necessary that our bodies must die. But this is a remedy more than anything else. Irenaus writes: "He (God) set a bound to his state of sin, by interposing death, and thus causing sin to cease, putting an end to it by the dissolution of the flesh, which should take place in the earth, so that man, ceasing at length to live to sin, and dying to it, might begin to live to God." (Against Heresies, III. xxiii. 6).
For the body shall be refashioned anew in the resurrection, that we may enjoy communion with God in exactly the same condition in which Adam and Eve stood before they transgressed; however, with this added privilege of eating of the Tree of Life and living for ever. For when our first parents sinned, and were evicted from Eden, they did not lose spiritual communion with God, inasmuch as they were given the promise of Christ, and believed. Else, if they did not believe, how did their children learn to do sacrifice?
It is evident, however, that Adam and Eve believed, attaining the promise of eternal life through Christ. As Lightfoot once wrote, they were the first to enter the New Covenant. But if the Covenant applies to souls alone, then what did they not already have prior to their eviction from Paradise? For after death, we must conclude that they, as believers, entered the state of the blessed. And if resurrection involves the soul only, what need was there for the prophets to speak of a future resurrection? For in that case, resurrection was secured through faith in Christ, and enjoyed in the afterlife. Then, too, if resurrection doesn't pertain to the body, why were Adam and Eve barred from partaking of the Tree of Life? For their faith in Christ should have qualified them to lay hold of life then and there, and not at some future time. It is obvious that those who hold Simmons' views are not consistent on all points. In fact, they contradict themselves repeatedly, not seeing that Christ's salvation is brought to bear upon the entire man.
To be continued...