Defeating Death

Paul raises the subject ot the resurrection of believers in 2 Timothy when dealing with false teachers who denied this essential truth. As he wrote, “God did not give us a spirit of fear but of a sound mind.” The theme of “sound teaching” is prominent, and the future resurrection was a basic element of the Church’s forward-looking hope since Jesus “abolished death” when God raised him from the dead.

In his letter to the Assembly in Corinth, Paul described the heart of the Gospel – “That Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day” – (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Cemetery Sunrise - Photo by Ayanna Johnson on Unsplash
[Photo by Ayanna Johnson on Unsplash]

The Apostolic message is “
sound” teaching and represents 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.” However, this salvation has only been manifested in recent times:

  • God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to the peculiar purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages but has now been manifested through the appearance of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and thrown light upon life and incorruptibility, through means of the gospel.” - (2 Timothy 1:9-10).

By the phrase “abolish death,” Paul does not mean that death no longer occurs. The Greek verb translated as “abolish” does not mean to “destroy” or annihilate something, but to “nullify” it, to make it ineffective, to “discharge or IDLE” it (katargeô, Strong’s - #G2673).

The cessation of Death, its reality and state, will not occur until the “arrival” or ‘Parousia’ of Jesus. As the author of Hebrews writes, through his death, Jesus “destroyed him that had the dominion of death, that is, the Devil, and delivered them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

Death still occurs for all men, including believers, but it is incapable of holding faithful disciples. When Jesus returns, he will overthrow its sentence by raising his saints from the dead - (1 Corinthians 15:24-28, Hebrews 2:14-18).

Jesus brought life and “immortality” to light (aphtharsia). The Greek noun rendered “immortality” does not mean “eternal.” It does NOT denote timelessness or that the idea of being without beginning or end.

Immortality is the opposite of death, it is deathlessness, which is what the Greek noun means, “DEATH-LESS, without death” – (Strong’s - #G861).

This is not a condition that human souls, spirits, or bodies possess by nature. Immortality was lost when Adam sinned. However, believers will be raised, transformed, and receive immortality when Jesus returns. This will not be the case for all human beings, only those men and women who have been redeemed by his death will be raised to “everlasting life” - (1 Corinthians 15:50-57).

Paul exhorted Timothy to “remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel.” The Apostle suffered persecution on account of this Gospel, and central to it was the proclamation that God raised His son from the dead - (2 Timothy 2:8-18).

Paul suffered, but he did 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.”

BODILY RESURRECTION


While death still occurs, it does not have the final word. “Salvation,” resurrection, and “everlasting glory” will be obtained when Jesus returns - (“We will also live with him”).

Paul reminded Timothy of Christ’s past resurrection, the basis of the future resurrection of the believer. He labeled denials of the resurrection as “profane and vain babblings,” which Timothy must avoid - (1 Corinthians 15:10-20).

It is not clear what, precisely, these men were teaching other than denying the reurrection. The clause reads, “declaring that the resurrection already came to pass.” Denying the future resurrection would mean abandoning the fundamental hope of the Gospel and repudiating the very foundation of salvation.

Sun - Photo by Bernd 📷 Dittrich on Unsplash
[Sunrise - Photo by Bernd 📷 Dittrich on Unsplash]

Based on beliefs common in Greco-Roman society, these false teachers probably rejected the idea of bodily resurrection in favor of one version or another of belief in escape from the physical creation to a disembodied state - (Acts 17:32, 1 Corinthians 15:12).

  • For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised. Moreover, if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable. But now has Christ been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who sleep” – (1 Corinthians 15:16-20).

That Paul brings up the resurrection so easily when it is tangential to his larger discourse shows just how foundational this truth was to the Apostolic Tradition. 

If the righteous dead are not raised bodily from the dead, they will remain forever in their graves. Resurrection was and remains non-negotiable to the faith.



RELATED POSTS:
  • The End of Death - (The Last Enemy, Death, will be overthrown when Jesus arrives at the end of the age - 1 Corinthians 15:20-25)
  • The End - (On the last day, Jesus will arrive, raise the dead, transform the living, and eliminate Death forevermore)
  • The Redemption - (Redemption means the recovery of what was lost, which will include the bodily resurrection of dead believers when Jesus arrives)

A special song celebrating the Resurrection by Orthodox Christian Chants.


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