The Resurrection and the Heresy of Hymenaeus and Philetus
2Ti 2:17-18 KJV And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; 18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.
Paul condemned Hymenaeus and Philetus for teaching the false doctrine 'the resurrection is past', causing to ‘overthrow the faith of some’.
I will attempt to ascertain the nature and timeline of the resurrection, define the 1st century Church's understanding of Paul's teaching on the subject, and explain why Paul was so adamantly opposed to the false doctrine of Hymenaeus and Philetus.
The Timeline of the Resurrection
When Exactly Was the Resurrection to Occur According to the Scriptures?
All the New Testament writers anticipated the impending second coming of Christ and the end of the Old Covenant Age, consequently, ushering in the resurrection and the judgement. It never entered the minds of the Apostles this would take place thousands of years in the future. Since these men of God were inspired by the Holy Spirit and sat at the feet of Jesus, who are we to contradict them.
The Two Ages
The Jews had two ages in their eschatological thinking, the Mosaic Age and the Messianic Age. The Mosaic Age would end with the coming of the Messiah.
Deu 31:29 KJV For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands.
Prior to Moses' death and having faithfully fulfilled God's plan and purpose through the establishment of the Old Covenant Law and the Offerings, he prophesied the children of Israel would be judged for their apostasy in the 'latter days' of the Old Covenant Age.
- Dan 9:2 KJV In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.
- Dan 9:13 KJV As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.
Daniel interceded on behalf of his people, he was not seeking God regarding the end of the world. His desire was to understand the prophetic timeline of Jeremiah and Moses concerning Old Covenant Israel.
Lazarus and the End of the Age
Joh 11:23-24 KJV Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. 24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
We learn from Martha's discussion with Jesus that she had no doubt the resurrection would be 'at the last day'. The timeline of the resurrection was not the last day of time, but the last day of the Old Covenant Age!
Let us continue studying the resurrection timeline more closely by comparing Daniel 12 to the Gospels.
Compare Daniel 12:1-2 and Matthew 24:21
Dan 12:1-2 KJV And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Mat 24:21 KJV For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
Daniel among the Exiles
The Timeline of Daniel 12 was the AD 70 'Great Tribulation'
Daniel prophesied the resurrection would take place after ‘a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time’...Daniel 12:1. Jesus alluded to Daniel's prophecy in Matthew 24:21 when He predicted its fulfillment during His generation’s lifetime...Matthew 24:34.
'no, nor ever shall be' Some scholars conveniently teach the 'great tribulation' in Matthew 24:21 is a double fulfillment prophecy, claiming the AD 70 event will be repeated in our generation. Nevertheless, Jesus specifically said such great tribulation will never be seen again, 'no, nor ever shall be'! Therefore, it was a one-time fulfillment.
Compare Daniel 12:2-3 and Matthew 13:39-43
Daniel 12:2-3 NIV Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise[a] will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.
Matthew 13:39-43 NIV and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.
The Timeline of Daniel 12 was the AD 70 'End of the Age'
Jesus alluded to Daniel 12:2-3 during His discourse with the disciples. He described the judgement about to fall upon Old Covenant Israel...Matthew 13:39-43.
'The harvest is the end of the age' The disciples were living during the last days of the Old Covenant Age.
‘Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father' Jesus alluded to Daniel when He described the outcome of the judgement. Once again, we see the same timeline in the statements of Daniel and Jesus.
Arch of Titus Menorah
Compare Daniel 12:11 and Matthew 24:15-16
Dan 12:11 KJV And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.
Mat 24:15-16 KJV When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) 16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
The Timeline of Daniel 12 was the AD 70 'Abomination of Desolation'
It is interesting to note the Greek word 'erēmōsis' translated 'desolation' appears only three times in the New Testament...Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20.
Luke's timeline harmonises perfectly with Matthew and Mark, we can therefore rely on his additional insight into the meaning of the 'abomination of desolation'. This also refutes the concept that Luke wrote about a different event.
'Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains' The remnant seized the opportunity to flee from the abomination of desolation and found refuge in Pella; Jerusalem finally fell to the Roman Army in AD 70, thereby, fulfilling the words spoken by Jesus.
- Luk 21:20 KJV And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.
'Jerusalem compassed with armies' Some scholars suggest that 'armies' cannot refer to the Roman army in AD 70, because the plural 'armies' must mean a confederation from various nations. The Greek word 'stratopedon' translated 'armies', used once in the Scriptures, according to Thayer's Greek Definitions it means 'soldiers in camp, an army'.
It was not unusual for the Romans to conscript the armies of subjugated nations to fight their wars. On this occasion, the Roman army mainly consisted of the nations surrounding Old Covenant Israel; all had a vested interest in its destruction, hence the extent of the devastation.
The timeline of 'the abomination of desolation’ was commensurate with the resurrection. According to Jesus, it was 'when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies'...Daniel 12:1-2; Daniel 12:11-13.
Paul in Ephesus
The Resurrection and the 1st Century Church
The Hymenaeus and Philetus heresy gives insight into the resurrection beliefs of the 1st Century Church.
The Church had many false teachers who attempted to undermine Paul’s ministry. Among them were Hymenaeus and Philetus who caused confusion by teaching the resurrection was past.
Paul did not challenge Hymenaeus and Philetus as to the nature of the resurrection, whether it was physical or spiritual. However, he did refute the timing because it was not a past event.
The Nature of the Resurrection
If the nature of the resurrection were physical, surely believers would have witnessed the extraordinary event.
If Paul taught the popular 21st century concept leading to the Day of the Lord including:
The two stage return of Jesus
The physical resurrection of the dead with open graves
Every eye beholding the physical and visible return of Christ
The end of time or the end of the world
How was it possible for false teachers to convince believers in Thessalonica, Corinth, and Ephesus the resurrection and the Day of the Lord were past events? If a physical rapture had taken place they would have noticed the disappearance of some believers at least? The rapture is supposed to happen seven years prior to the Day of the Lord! All they had to do was look around the graveyards and see nothing had changed!
In my opinion, it is reasonable to conclude the early Church believed the resurrection was spiritual.
Paul's Opposition to the False Teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus
Why was Paul opposed to Hymenaeus and Philetus, could he not simply have drawn them aside and corrected their error?
1Ti 1:19-20 KJV Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: 20 Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
These men were beyond accepting instruction from Paul; they were neither genuine students of the Word of God nor were they seeking the truth. Paul had already dealt with Hymenaeus according to his 1st Epistle to Timothy.
Act 13:45 KJV But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.
Paul constantly rebuked those who contradicted the Gospel; the most prevalent false teachers were Jewish converts who refused to leave behind Judaism, as in Antioch...Acts 13. What Judaism was unable to achieve by persecution, it sought to destroy by infiltration.
The resurrection without the second coming of Christ was heresy.
2Ti 4:1 KJV I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
Christ's return, the resurrection, the judgement, and the establishment of the New Covenant were concurrent events.
Luk 24:44 KJV And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
To teach the resurrection had occurred without the other major events surrounding the Day of the Lord was contrary to prophecy and the teachings of Christ.
The Transition Period
Heb 9:8 KJV The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:
The Hymenaeus and Philetus heresy postulated the establishment of the New Covenant while the earthly temple in Jerusalem ‘was yet standing’. Their ulterior motive was to justify the inclusion of the Law of Moses into Christianity, resulting in a mixture of Law and Grace.
The 1st century Church lived during a 'transition period', also described as the ‘already but not yet’. This period was during the passing of the Old Covenant and the establishment of the New. Believers experienced some of the blessings of the New Covenant, but until the Lord had fulfilled all His promises to Old Covenant Israel, they could not enter into its fulness.
The outward manifestation of Christ's parousia was the destruction of the temple, Jerusalem, and the dispersion of the Jews in AD 70, until that time the Law and the Prophets remained unfulfilled.
An Attempt to Vindicate Judaism
The false teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus undermined the authority of Christ's ministry. To falsely teach the resurrection was past without the second coming of Christ and the impending judgement on apostate Israel, was an attempt to vindicate Judaism and the hypocrisy of its religious leaders; thereby giving an acceptable credibility to the Gospel's greatest opposition.
The Resurrection and the Old Covenant Age
- Heb 11:13 KJV These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
The resurrection of the dead was not a biological resurrection of decayed bodies; it was the raising of the faithful from Sheol.
- Act 23:6 KJV But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.
A Quote from Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible
Acts 23:6 '.......with great propriety, therefore, he might address the Pharisees and say, “Brethren, the doctrine which has distinguished you from the Sadducees is at stake. The doctrine which is at the foundation of all our hopes - the resurrection of the dead; the doctrine of our fathers, of the Scriptures, of our sect, is in danger. Of that doctrine I have been the advocate. I have never denied it. I have everywhere defended it, and have devoted myself to the work of putting it on an imperishable basis among the Jews and the Gentiles. For my zeal in that I have been opposed. I have excited the ridicule of the Gentile and the hatred of the Sadducee. I have thus been persecuted and arraigned; and for my zeal in urging the argument in defense of it which I have deemed most irrefragable the resurrection of the Messiah - I have been arraigned, and now cast myself on your protection against the mad zeal of the enemies of the doctrine of our fathers.” Not only, therefore, was this an act of policy and prudence in Paul, but what he affirmed was strictly true, and the effect was as he had anticipated.'
Resurrection was a promise made to Old Covenant Israel. It was the 'hope of Israel', and took place at the passing away of the Old Covenant.
The Resurrection and the New Covenant Age
Since Christians have continued to physically die over the past 2000 years, it is obvious, Christ's commission was resurrection from 'spiritual death’ not physical death.
Adam did not die physically when he chose to disobey God. His expulsion from the Garden of Eden resulted in spiritual death, his wonderful relationship with the Lord ended.
God's great plan of redemption was not only the resurrection of the faithful remnant of Old Covenant Israel, but through Christ's sacrifice on the Cross, resurrection and reconciliation was offered to all nations.
- Joh 11:25-26 KJV Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
Jesus promised all born again believers they would never die!
- Joh 5:24 KJV Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
The New Covenant is synonymous with the Kingdom of God; all born again believers are spiritually resurrected from spiritual death.
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- Eph 2:5-6 KJV Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
A Quote from Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible
Ephesians 2:4-7 'Having shown that both Jews and Gentiles were spiritually dead, Paul now declares the spiritual resurrection of the saints. This lifting up from death to a new life is due to God, rich in mercy, and on account of the great love wherewith he loved us. The next verse affirms the fact.
Hath quickened us together with Christ. As he quickened Christ and raised him, so when we were dead in sins he gave us spiritual life by the gospel and lifted us to a new life. "We were planted in the likeness of his death and resurrection" (Rom_6:5).
By grace ye are saved. Not by works of the law, as he has shown so fully in the Galatian letter.
And hath raised us up together. Buried into the death of Christ, we are risen with Christ (Col_2:12). We are risen as new creatures to walk with the Risen Christ, with our minds on heavenly things (Col_3:1).
To sit in heavenly places. In our present state, to have our minds above (Col_3:2).
That in the ages to come. In all coming time.
The exceeding riches of his grace. In saving, purifying and blessing his children.'
By His death, resurrection, ascension, glorification and return, Jesus defeated 'the death' that separated 'man' from fellowship with God.
What do you think?
Because He Lives - John Starnes
© 2011 Alexander Gibb
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