Everlasting Glory - Resurrection Hope for Timothy

SYNOPSIS:  Paul reminds Timothy of Christ’s resurrection. False teachers were denying the resurrection or claiming that it was in the past and not applicable to believers - 2 Timothy 2:8-18. 

Photo by Verplaric Tokipukey on Unsplash
Photo by Verplaric Tokipukey on Unsplash
The resurrection is not a major subject in the “pastoral” letters of the Apostle Paul; however, he does raise the subject while dealing with the problem of 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 pastoral epistles.

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, the “Last Enemy,” will occur only at the “arrival” or Parousia of Jesus in glory (1 Corinthians 15:24-28The last enemy that shall be destroyed [katargeo] is death”).

The Author of Hebrews uses the same verb to show that 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 2:14-18).

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) – “Keep in mind Jesus Christ—raised from among the dead, of the seed of David,—according to my joyful message: In which I am suffering hardship, even unto bonds, as an evil-doer; but the word of God is not bound. For this cause, am I enduring all things for the sake of the chosen, in order that they also may obtain the salvation, which is in Christ Jesus along with glory age-abiding. Faithful the saying—for, If we have died together, we shall also live together, If we endure, we shall also reign together; If we shall deny, he also, will deny us, If we are faithless, he faithful abideth,—for deny himself he cannot! Of these things be putting [them] in remembrance, adjuring [them] before God not to be waging word-battles,—useful for nothing, occasioning a subversion of them that hearken. Give diligence thyself approved to present unto God,—a workman not to be put to shame, skillfully handling the word of truth. But the profane pratings shun; for unto more ungodliness will they force themselves on; And their discourse as a gangrene will eat its way;—of whom are Hymenaeus and Philetus, Men who, concerning the truth, have erred, affirming a resurrection already to have taken place, and are overthrowing the faith of some.” – (The Emphasized Bible).

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 the resurrection of Jesus. Certain false teachers were denying the bodily resurrection of believers or, possibly, claiming that it was already in the past and not applicable to believers. Paul labels these denials “profane and vain babblings.” Timothy must avoid such false claims (1 Corinthians15:10-20).
It is not clear what, precisely, these men taught, whether they denied the resurrection of Christ, believers, or both. The clause reads more accurately, “Declaring that resurrection already came to pass.” In any case, to deny the resurrection is to turn away from the faith of Jesus Christ.
This claim that the resurrection had already occurred suggests a repudiation of any future resurrection of the righteous, not a denial of the past resurrection of Christ. That is, they saw no connection between the resurrection of Jesus and the future fate of believers. For them, the bodily resurrection of 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.

Based on the experiences of Paul recorded elsewhere, and the beliefs common to Greco-Roman society, very likely, the false teachers rejected the idea of bodily resurrection in favor of one version or another of salvation resulting in a disembodied state (cp. Acts 17:32, 1 Corinthians 15:12).

That Paul brings up resurrection so easily when it is tangential to his larger argument shows how basic this hope was to the early Christian faith.


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