Resurrection Trumpets of Sounding Brass
The doctrine of the resurrection is of vital importance to all whether familiar with eschatology or not, whether an advocate of covenant eschatology or some form of preterism. What is disturbing to me is the persuasion of some to move the dial of the resurrection from Jesus Christ. His affirmation that He is the Resurrection and the Life, seems to bounce off the ears of some otherwise scholarly men as though it is anathema.
Some have chose to replace Christ, the resurrection and the life, Israel’s Redeemer with their own view of resurrection, i.e. with the individual body of man as the solution to the problem of death in the garden. This makes for unfortunate resurrection hermeneutics.
Resurrection Begins and Ends in Christ
It is interesting that immediately after Adam’s sinned, God offered the promise of Christ and the defeat of the Satan as the remedy for death. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Gen. 3:15)
The promise is Christ, the resurrection and the life, who defeats death by destroying Satan through his death and the New Covenant. . As N.T. Wright observes, 1 Corinthians 15 is primarily about renewal of creation and covenant through Christ, N.T. Wright, Paul pp. 28-39.
Misguided Emphasis on Physical Death and Resurrection
Levenson observes: “Genesis 3:19 is often taken as an etiology [cause] of death; people die [physically] because of Adam’s sin. It is unclear, however, whether God had ever intended Adam to be immortal. Indeed, the reason given in 3:22 for the latter’s eviction from the Garden of Eden is precisely that he might become deathless, having now acquired the knowledge of good and evil and thus the intellectual capacity to taste of the Tree of Life as well and live forever. In short it may be that Genesis 3 sees in the disobedience of the primal parents the origins not of the loss of immortality itself but of the chance to acquire immortality. In that case, v. 19 is better taken as an etiology not of death but of burial: Adam as the protypical human (adam) ends where he began, in the ground (adama) returning to the dust from which he was fashioned (2:7). Jon D. Levenson, Resurrection and Restoration, p. 32.
Levenson goes on to say that, “Of the two interpretations of Gen. 3:19, the first, which sees in the verse a punishment of death, is likelier to underlie the translation ” attested in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan. The idea that the sin of Adam (or Adam and Eve) is the cause of human mortality, arguably absent in the Hebrew Bible, became widespread in Second Temple Judaism, displacing the older biblical concept (by no means universal in the Hebrew Bible) that death was God’s preferred plan for every human being from the beginning, “the way of all the earth” (Josh 23:14). The notion that God’s last word to the human race is a death sentence however, did not sit well with certain elements of Second Temple culture (just as it had not sat well with the biblical culture that saw in progeny not simply a consolation for death but the survival and continuation of the person who has passed away).” Ibid, p. 32-33.
The Tree of Life and Physical Immortality in the Garden
It is assumed that the tree of life offered the hope of physical immortality, i.e. that Adam would physically live forever had he eaten of the tree of life before he sinned. This assumption creates insurmountable problems.
- First, Adam would never have died. (See the acknowledgement of this point by IBD resurrection advocates on #3 below)
- If Adam became physically immortal, his offspring would likewise become physically immortal for every seed must produce after its kind, (Gen. 1:11).
- Without physical death, physically immortal man would be destined to live on the earth forever in a “flesh and blood” body. He would be eternally bound to earth. This creates insurmountable problems for the IBD people since they erroneously understand “flesh and blood” in 1 Cor. 15:50 to speak of human biology. Adam and his “immortal posterity” would therefore be unable to enter the kingdom in such condition. A similar point is acknowledged in the writings of Ed Stevens commenting on Adam eating of the tree in a fallen state: “If he had stayed in the garden (after he had eaten and died spiritually) and continued to eat from the Tree of Life, he would have physically lived forever even though he was spiritually dead.” Edward Stevens, Questions About The Afterlife, p. 25. Thus, Adam’s dilemma for eating of the tree, whether spiritually dead or alive, is he could not inherit the kingdom.
- If physical immortality does not mean to be “flesh and blood” then there is no such thing as “physical immortality”, for it would be “non-physical immortality”, thus again negating the idea that the tree of life was for man’s physical immortality.
- If entering the kingdom is salvation and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:50), given the condition of #3 above, physical immortality would create the impossibility of saving those with physical immortality.
- On the other hand, if physical immortality is salvation, one would be saved without entering the kingdom, making void God’s purpose of man’s “inheriting the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world,” (Matt. 25:34)!
- Given the scenario of #3, there would be no physical death in the earth and man would quickly overpopulate the world creating problems with food supply, and spacial limitations. Can you do the math?
- This would also render the penalty of dying totally irrelevant, useless, unenforceable, thus a joke, for once man ate and became immortal, he could never become mortal. If he did become immortal and and lost his immortality or apostatized, that would contradict the IBD resurrection view that once man possesses immortality he cannot apostatize or fall from “that” grace.
- If, the IBD advocates recognize they have a problem with man eating only once of the tree of life, but if eating once could not provide physical immortality, how many times would Adam have to eat to gain physical immortality? Or if man were required to keep eating to maintain physical immortality, then such implies physical immortality can be lost once received, if Adam went on a “tree of life” diet of abstinence, hence the possibility of apostasy again and thus even in the IBD resurrection view man is capable of dying physically even after eating of the tree of life!
- If man became physically immortal after eating of the tree of life, why would he need to eat anything to sustain his physical immortality? Food would be unnecessary and God would have created all those trees “good for food” to be good for nothing! Would that not mean that man only got to eat and appease his palette upon the condition that he sinned!?!
- Now we see why some IBD resurrection advocates must have a rapture. It’s because physical immortality on earth demands it since man could not die under such circumstances and thus could not escape an eternal destiny of life on earth. That means no hell and no heaven. As we raised the question for the kingdom, why did God also prepare the second death given such an interpretation, Gen. 3:15, Matt. 25:41; Rom. 16:20; Rev. 20:14?
- If Adam could eat and obtain physical immortality on earth, that contradicts the IBD resurrection view and the Hadean death only view of resurrection that man must die physically to obtain immortality. How can a physically immortal person die physically? Impossible.
- If Adam could not die before he ate of the tree and if he had obtained physical immortality by eating of the tree of life, how could Adam have received his physical immortality without being sown that he might die physically? Does that not give new meaning to sowing a live body in the ground that could not die even when buried that it may rise from death that it could not experience in the first place?
- If Adam became physically immortal by eating of the tree of life and if such is equated with the resurrection of Luke 20:35f in being as the angels of God who cannot die, would that also not mean that Adam would be neither male nor female, unable to marry and procreate and thus physical immortality on earth would violate God’s command in Genesis 1 :28 to “be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth”? Will man have sex in heaven? Do physically immortal people sexually reproduce?
- If eating of the tree would give Adam physical immortality, and since resurrection is the putting on of a spiritual body only at death per the IBD resurrection view, then would it not follow that because Adam could not die, he could never put on the spiritual body being physically immortal? But if it be argued that physical immortality is the spiritual body and/or “spiritual” immortality, then what becomes of physical immortality? Would that not mean that the tree of life was really for Adam’s “spiritual immortality” after all and not physical immortality thus he would have died physically even with becoming spiritually immortal, thus proving that spiritual immortality does not preclude physical death?
- If the tree of life represents Christ, and if the eating of the tree of life grants immortality which cannot be obtained while living in the physical body, per the IBD self-contradiction, then does that not mean that we cannot now have Christ?
- If the eating of the tree of life represents Christ and equals receiving physical immortality which can only happen after physical death which is impossible to do if one has physical immortality does that not mean we cannot have Christ period, thus, leading to the miserable conclusion Paul expressed that we of all men are most miserable because it denies the resurrection of the dead.
- Here’s one even the futurist can consider. If the tree of life is in heaven and man must receive the immortal body to enter heaven because he can’t get there in his physically mortal or physically immortal body, then why does one need to eat of the tree of life in heaven every month if it were essential to have the immortal body to get there in the first place and one cannot apostatize?
- If the IBD view accepted that Christ is the Resurrection and the life would all these problems immediately go away?
- My conclusion: I-B-D stands for Individual Body Dismantled view. It is a discordant sound to the resurrection of the Bible.
Jesus Christ is the Resurrection and the Life
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). Jesus said, he is the resurrection and the life. Just as he said, “I am the bread of life” and “I am the water of life”. Neither of those are understood by informed students of the Bible to refer to physical realities or some type of body. Yet they are all equivalent statements pointing back to Christ! Christ is the water of life = the bread of life = the resurrection and the life! Simple logic. Why complicate it?
That premise can be argued from top to bottom in 1 Corinthians 15 or 2 Corinthians 5. In fact, I’m publishing a new translation on 1 Corinthians 15 and 2 Corinthians 5, where I substitute all references to the resurrection body, immortality, kingdom or house not made with hands to Christ. Try it and see how it feels just for the fun of it. Jesus will back you up with John 11:25-26. After all, the text does say, “in Christ” all are made alive. Christ, the hope and fulfillment of Israel’s promises, is the resurrection!
Resurrection trumpets of discord reject the central theme of Israel’s hope through Christ and turn resurrection into an individual body motif. We’ve shown such resurrection concepts cannot get past the Cherubim guard of Genesis 2 and 3. Any resurrection concepts that fail to properly interpret the death, can never be the eschatological resurrection of the Bible.