ABSTRACT: William Bell, John Watson, and Don Preston, like many other full Preterist (FP) argues that the bible never speaks of a physical bodily resurrection and makes the claim no scripture teaches a physical resurrection of the saints. The denial is based in the idea that if the resurrection of the dead took place in AD 70 at the “coming of the Lord” then because there was no witness to a literal resurrection, but it did happen, then the Resurrection of the dead is a spiritual event not to be witnessed in the physical realm. This paper will trace the Resurrection theme from the Old Testament to demonstrate from the gospels that a bodily physical resurrection is the Biblical understanding of the first century church as Paul taught in his epistles.
The claim made by many Full Preterist such as John Watson of the Highlands Church of Christ in Indianapolis, IN says there is no scripture that teaches a physical bodily resurrection. The church has held to the physical bodily resurrection of the saints for two thousand years as derived from their understanding of scriptures. The question needs to be asked; if both are reading the same scriptures how do the FP arrive at a different conclusion?
From the Old Testament
Apart from having several examples of bodily resurrection in the Old Testament (1 Kings 17:17; 2 Kings 4:32; 13:21) the most conspicuous statement made comes from Isaiah 26:19.
Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.
The “dead” that will live is those bodies that have turned to dust. How they are going to live again is by resurrection, when their body rises to “once again walk upon the earth”. This is the definition of “life” and the meaning for “living”. While the soul exists and continues to function in heaven it is never stated to be a living being, as living is life on earth in a physical body. According to James 2:26, death is when the soul leaves the body. The state of death is being separated from the body and from life upon the earth. “Life” as opposed to death, means they are alive and standing upon the face of earth. When once they were dead, the body laid in a grave and turned to dust has now come back to life. The spirit was never subject to death or cursed to die. It remains viable complete with the “psuché” which is the knowledge and memories of the person is. Revelation tells us of people who are standing before the throne and speaking, without bodies.
It is upon the definition and reality of what resurrection is, that it becomes the foundation principle used by Ezekiel as a metaphor for the resurrection of Israel. Because a dead body that has turned to dust can come back to life and walk again, Israel although dead will come back to life. This is a contrast or comparison, because the dead body can live again, Israel can live again.
Isa 26:19 is in contrast to Isa. 26:14, in which God says to the wicked rulers of the past that “they will not rise to life”. The unjust are not raised to life, which again is not where they are “standing again” upon the face of the earth and walking around and living and breathing. In context the passage speaks to the coming of judgment, “The LORD is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity.” On this day of judgment, the righteous will be raised to live again and have life, and the unjust will be resurrected to face eternal judgment in the LOF. It should be noted that a “spirit” of the man does not feel pain, pain caused by a fire can only be felt through flesh, since both the just and unjust experience a resurrection the resurrection must be identical in nature to each.
The plain language of Revelation 20:13 demonstrates a resurrection of bodies,
“And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.”
The grave and the sea are where dead bodies are. Death is the body; Hades is the place where the soul (unjust) resides awaiting judgment. Resurrection is the soul and body reuniting, the just to life and the unjust raised to everlasting judgment.
The FP applies an unsupported exegesis of the Isa 26:19 text to claim it is to be understood spiritually without providing proper exegesis for such an interpretation. Prevailing hermeneutics demands the language to be taken literally, an exegetical path cannot be established to prove the verse is to be taken spiritually. “Their bodies shall rise” cannot be taken spiritually since the body resides in the earth after death and becomes dust, and from out of the dust of the earth the body shall rise. The passage is not a metaphor for the resurrection of Israel since the context of the chapter is judgment against the wicked and blessing for the righteous, the subject of the verse is the Body, and when an analogy is used then the metaphor is often explained in the passage. For example, in Ezekiel 37:11, “Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.” This explains how the idea of a literal resurrection is being used as a metaphor.
In Daniel 12.2 it states,
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
It becomes an exegetical equivalent to the Isa 26:19 passage, “dwell or sleep in the dust, -of the earth, -shall awake” with the addition of information that both the just and unjust shall rise. This verse is then quoted by John,
Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. John 5:28, 29.
Those that are in the tombs is the dead body. In Math 27:53 similar language is used to describe a resurrection that took place after his resurrection.
The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
If John 25 tells us the dead bodies come out of the tomb and stand again to life, then Mat 27:53 is an example of physical bodily resurrection, the promise of John 5 demands the resurrection will be the same according to the similar language.
The two other verses that speak to Resurrection are found in 1 Thess 4 and I Cor 15, which are exegetically proven to be “sister” verses.
About those who are asleep, … God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. … will not precede those who have fallen asleep. … And the dead in Christ will rise first.
The metaphor that was used repeatedly from the OT and Jesus himself concerning the death of Lazarus remains the definitive point of what death is being talked about in I Thess 4. Scripture hermeneutics demands that “fallen asleep” means “dead.” Physical death, not spiritual death. Secondly there is no one “spiritually dead in Christ.”
The phrase “In Christ” defines what a Christian is who has passed from death to life spiritually according to Romans 5, they are a new creation in Christ according to Paul. Therefore the “dead in Christ” are Christian who have died, or have fallen asleep, they come to life, they rise first.
In I Cor 15 we find “fallen asleep used several times.
Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. … in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. … tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
By using the phrase “fallen asleep” the death defined in I Cor 15 is again speaking of Physical death.
For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. …. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
We need to ask why people would assume that the dead in Christ have perished or would Paul state those in Christ have perished if there is no resurrection of the those who fallen asleep? Keep in mind these who have fallen asleep are those believers who have died. What is their hope?
…As we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Romans 8:23, 24.
The dead being identified in these first few passages of I Cor 15 is those who have fallen asleep. The “first fruit’ implies a harvest, the first of the harvest. Christ is the first harvest or people who are to be resurrected. Christ was resurrected from out of the grave, where he came back to life. The firstfruit also signifies one harvest of the same thing, the first of the grain, or the first of the grapes are the first fruits. One does not harvest grapes first then finish the harvest with figs. This implies that Christ is the first to rise from the dead, the people who follow are the “rest of the harvest” so they too will rise just as he did.
The chapter begins with Paul citing the evidence for the resurrection of Christ through witnesses who saw him “standing again”. In Verses 12 -19 Paul equates the “resurrection of the dead” with what is to happen with those who have fallen asleep. Paul answers two questions. The first is that there will be a resurrection of the dead. Secondly the people asked “with what kind of body, do they come, or what kind of body will they have when they are raised. This begins with the premise of speaking about dead people not a living church called the body of Christ.
Paul goes on further to ask people why do they “baptize for the dead” which is a practice of baptizing living people in place of dead people again demanding the context of the dead are physically dead people.
In the final analysis the phrase “resurrection of the dead” is literally in Greek, “Anastasis Nekron”, which means “standing again of a corpse” the FP changes nekron to mean “dead ones” to imply what is standing again is the dead ones in Hades, who are now standing in heaven. The term “anastasis nekron” was coined to describe a person who was physically dead, coming back to life. Nekron is a term used for a dead body when combined with anastasis. The phrase itself is always used of a dead body that comes back to life.
In Math 22 the Sadducees pose a problem to Jesus about seven brothers who “fell asleep or physically died, after they all married the same woman in succession. They asked, “In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be.” In order for them to be married again with one, it demands they come back to life in the realm of the living where people are married. Resurrection implied by the Sadducees was that they come back to life after being dead physically and so coming back to life is coming back to life physically. Something the Sadducees deny is possible.
When Jesus spoke to Martha about Lazarus Martha stated that she knew,
He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, … Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, … Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
Martha’s confession was concerning Lazarus so that after he died that he would “rise again” and come back to life.
In Conclusion we can trace the idea of physical resurrection from the Old Testament into the new. It can further be established in fist century Judaism they believed in a resurrection where people come back to life. In every example of biblical resurrection of a person was the standing again of the body where the spirit has returned and the person came back to life. While there is no verse that says physical or bodily resurrection takes place in those terms, in fist century Judaism “the resurrection of the dead” is the equivalent of saying, a person who has died. will come back to life, his body will rise from out of the grave.
The FP tries to entertain mental gymnastics by redefining words and meanings, conflating “soma hemwn” (((body of us) as being the body of Christ when the personal pronoun is being used hemwn refers to a people in the plural form of their own individual body and not of “His” body, as each person has a singular body yet there are many “of us”. It can rightly be said that no Greek scholar can hold to the FP paradigm and remain true to scholarship.