The Resurrection

by Geerhardus Vos

The First Epistle to the Thessalonians, although less informative as to the nature of the resurrection itself, furnishes many details concerning the nature of the parousia. The instantaneous conjunction between the parousia and the resurrection is pointedly affirmed: "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven … and the dead in Christ shall rise first," 4:16. It is unwarranted, however, to appeal to the mention of "the clouds," and "the air" in vs. 18 for constructing the process in this way, that the Lord's descent will be provisionally suspended at some point on high before the earth's surface is reached, then subsequently, after certain preliminary actions have been performed from that higher station, to be continued earthward. It is true that the descent is suspended, only it is not interrupted. The place "in the air" is the nearest the Descending One comes to the earth. There is nothing unnatural or suggestive of mystery in this whole representation. A position of some remoteness from the surface of the earth is after all the most natural to assume in this connection. The far reach and universal scope of the tremendous event here set in motion are in better accord with some central elevated place in the air than a standpoint occupied on the flat surface of the ground. Of course, for the raised and the saints found living at the parousia, who are at first on the earth, a subsequent movement in the air is required, to meet the Lord at the point where He has taken his station. An element of mystery is injected into the situation through a certain exegesis of the statement "to the end He may establish your hearts … at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints," 3:13. When here "the saints" with whom Jesus comes are understood of hitherto unembodied believers making together with Him this unique journey from heaven to earth, the difficulties, not to say inconceivabilities, are much increased. Various questions arise: how can these saints, who have hitherto lived in heaven without a body be suitable companions of the Lord at his embodied visible appearance? It is everywhere stressed by Paul as well as elsewhere in the New Testament (not to go back now to Dan. 7), that the feature of glorious visibility is the most outstanding feature of this supreme event. A large part of the resurrection, viz. that pertaining to the saints arrived from heaven, would then have to be anticipated, in order to endow this group with the appropriate radiant apparel in which they are to follow the Lord in his assumed further movement earthward. At the completion of this final descent the resurrection of all the believing dead would follow, and such believers as are found living would (after a change corresponding to the resurrection-change) join themselves to those having already brought the substance of the resurrection with them from the air, and thereupon this entire company would join the Lord to the place (or a place) previously selected for that purpose. With the Chiliastic associations of this construction we do not here deal; it will subsequently come under consideration in the chapter devoted to the problem of Chiliasm in Paul. For the present it may suffice to call attention to the phantastic ensemble created by such understanding of the term "saints" of men come from heaven. All this difficulty arising from accumulation of strange features disappears immediately when "saints" is taken to designate angels come with Christ from heaven. It is true, Paul does not in any passage call the angels "saints," and on the other hand, in Matt. 27:52 we do read of the bodies of the saints that were asleep appearing in the holy city at the crucifixion of Christ. Over against this, however, may be placed the words of Jesus Himself, Mk. 8:38: "the Son-of-Man also shall be ashamed of him, when He comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." From this saying it appears that the attribute "holy" could with a special fitness be given to the angels in eschatological connections. There is nothing whatever to contraindicate the angel-reference in a passage so steeped in eschatological atmosphere as 1 Thess. 3:13. From vs. 14, "those who are asleep … God shall bring (ἄξει) with Him," no argument can be drawn in favor of the joint-coming of Christ and the risen saints at the parousia. Here "to bring" (ἄγειν) refers to the introduction of the saints, jointly with Christ, into the Kingdom of God, not to God's bringing them to earth in the movement of the parousia. The statement in 4:17 can be interpreted in the same way, so as to make the meeting of believers with Christ in the air not preparatory to a further earthward descent for judgment, but introductory to an abode with Him in the supernal regions.

More explicit information as to the attending circumstances of the resurrection we obtain in 4:16. Here we learn of the "shout," the "voice of the archangel," and the "trump, of God" as accompanying the descent. The sounds thus described serve the purpose of summoning from afar, as it were, the dead to arise, in order to render them ready for their share in the event only a little later than Christ has begun his earthward movement.

The preposition used with these three descriptive phrases is ἐν. It describes the attending circumstances of the act. The following queries arise: (1) Who is the subject issuing the "shout" (κέλευσμα), and who are the objects receiving it? (2) What is the relation of the two subjoined terms, the "voice of the archangel," and the "trump of God," to the keleusma? The word keleusma is a forcible term used to describe the word of command given, for example, to soldiers, or to sailors rowing in a ship, or to dogs in the chase. Here, however, its meaning is not associated with any of these particular uses. Bringing in the military idea would represent Jesus as by a shout summoning his forces to the conflict with and final victory over the power of evil. But the power of evil remains entirely in the background in the whole representation. The shout is undoubtedly addressed to the dead as dead, that is, as in a state which would render them, figuratively speaking, deaf to every other impact of sound and require to rouse them all the authority and omnipotence of God. Both the immediateness and the irresistibleness of the power transmitted by such a sound to a sphere where otherwise no sound is able to penetrate are most strikingly expressed.

Now, who is the subject of the keleusma, the utterer of this tremendous command? Is it Christ or God? It has been urged that, since "the Lord" is the subject of the verb "shall come down," He must likewise be the subject of the act which attends his descent. But the second phrase, "with the voice of the archangel," shows that this argument has no force. If Christ can come down with the voice of the archangel, He can also descend with a keleusma proceeding from some one else, which would in this case be God. Still this, while possible, yields no more than a possibility, and falls short of convincing proof. The statement as a whole rather favors the other view, viz., that Christ is the One issuing the keleusma. Especially the emphasis thrown on the fact that Christ Himself will descend makes us expect the prominence of Christ in the whole transaction, and this would be secured through the issuing of the keleusma from Him. The direct ascription of this to Christ serves the further purpose of rendering the resurrection of believers undeniably certain: being "dead in Christ" they can not fail of participating in the effect of an act or process in which He is the princeps or center. At any rate, whether Christ be the subject of the keleusma, or not, it would yield an incongruous thought to regard Him as the object of the commanding voice. Such a loud summons to Christ who dwells in the immediate presence of God would be wholly out of place; whereas, when conceived as addressed to the dead, it is in entire harmony with the situation.

Assuming then that the keleusma is uttered by Christ, the question next arises, What is the relation to it of the two other terms named, the "voice of the archangel" and the "trump of God"? Are these coördinated or subordinated conceptions? Do they define what the keleusma consists in, or do they name two further and separate items? In the former case the construction would more likely have been that with the genitive (φωνῆς ἀρχαγγέλου), and similarly with the other member (σάλπιγγος θεοῦ). The repetition of ἐν favors the other interpretation. This, however, is not to be so understood as though the keleusma did not take effect until after the voice of the archangel and the trump of God had produced theirs, the latter two wakening the dead, the former summoning the dead already wakened. The three serve the same purpose and their force is cumulative. Who blows the trumpet is not stated; only the voice of the archangel should not be identified with the sound of the trumpet; against this the conjunction καί speaks. It must be granted, however, that the sounding of the eschatological trumpets is elsewhere assigned to the angels, cp. Apoc. 10:7; 11:15, where, the number being seven, the seven archangels must be meant. Michael, one of the archangels, appears already significantly connected with the resurrection in Dan. 12:12. The conception of Michael as having a special task in connection with the last things is found also in the Apocalyptic writings; ancient Jewish traditions make him particularly the blower of the last trumpet.3 The figure of the trumpet, however, has its root not there but in the Old Testament. Its origin seems to lie in what the Pentateuch relates of a trumpet blown at the giving of the Law: "There were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and a voice of the trumpet exceeding loud" (Ex. 19:16). According to Isa. 28:13, a great trumpet will be blown to gather the scattered people of God from Assyria and Egypt and summon them to the holy mountain of Jerusalem, where they will worship Jehovah. From the standpoint of the Old Testament this is already eschatological. Full New Testament eschatological significance is given the words from Exodus by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, who reminds the readers that they are come "not to a mountain that might be touched and that burned with fire, and unto blackness, and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words … but unto the heavenly Jerusalem" (12:19). Here the principle of typology is applied via oppositionis: the setting and the external apparatus are the same, but the significance and effects are opposite. Our Lord, likewise, in eschatological discourse speaks of the great sound of a trumpet wherewith the angels shall gather the elect (Matt. 24:31). Here also, it will be observed, the angels are the trumpet-blowers. Apart from the trumpets in the Apocalypse, the only other reference to the trumpet is found with Paul himself (1 Cor. 15:52). Here it is called "the last trump" (ἐσχάτη σάλπιγξ): "We shall all be changed … at the last trump, for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible." The adjective "last" in this phrase is usually misunderstood. The Apostle's meaning is not that during the ages of the world's history many trumpets have in succession been blown, but that this one, as marking the close of all history, will be the last one to sound. "Last" does not here signify "final" in a chronological sense. It is a technical eschatological term, which does not indicate plurality, but duality; there is one at the beginning, and there will be another, corresponding to it at the end; and between these two trumpets lies the whole content of historical eventuation. Finally the genitive ("of God") added to "trump," does not mean that God blows it, but simply characterizes it as belonging to the eschatological order of things.

By these colorful features Paul makes for us even more grandiose and impressive what under all circumstances can not help being a scene of intense realism. They furnish practically the only material on which our imagination can draw for filling out the large frame of the canvas. It were wrong undoubtedly to reduce all the things mentioned to the rubric of figurative language, in regard to which the author is aware of painting freely, rather than of copying the solid content of prophecy given him by the Spirit. On the other hand we should not overlook the equally obvious fact, that in painting by words, even with the fullest intent of accuracy, the Apostle had to avail himself of a fixed medium of language, which left room for a margin of over-literalism, and whose interpretation by others, while seemingly in full accord with the words recorded, nevertheless may introduce an ingredient of inadequacy when compared with the actual intent of Paul. We have here before us a striking example of the possibility of over-stressing the literalness of the language and imagery used, and yet, while thus seeming to do justice to the writer's speech, missing in reality the deeper and finer qualities and objectives of his true conception. The literalistic may appear to our human vision nearer the real, and yet, owing to our pardonable craving for the concrete, be more subjective than the spiritualized.

In view of the original literal, physical association of the words forming the resurrection-terminology with the notions of "sleep" or "causing to rise, or stand up," the question is asked whether Paul's idea of the state between death and resurrection is that of sleep or unconsciousness? If God wakes the dead, or if they are roused and made to stand on their feet, what other implication can this have than that they pass out from a sleeping into a waking condition? And, what seems stronger still, the representation of the dead as those who have been put to rest (bed), and consequently now are in that condition, appears inseparable from the phenomena of physical sleep. None the less it would be rash to draw even such theological, eschatological inferences from this as might seem to lie plainly on the surface. These are all words and modes of speech of most-ancient origin. Undoubtedly at the time of their first springing into usage they had clearly associated with themselves a feeling of their etymological significance, viz., that of a state dim consciousness or unconsciousness in the dead. But, like all words, especially like all words denoting universal common processes, they were subject to attrition. While, of course, continuing capable to describe the surface facts, they could not fail to lose part of the coloring and implications of the facts, whose apprehension had once asserted itself in their coinage. Except when particular occasion arose to reflect on their original force, they were handled as so many word-signs, into whose primordial picturesqueness the average language-user no longer enquired. Such was undoubtedly the case with words that had no specific revelation-function to perform, being common to the current speech of all. The words for "sleep" (κοιμᾶν, κοιμᾶσθαι, κεκοιμᾶσθαι) are words of this sort. These may have passed through more than one stage of primitive association, but inevitably they suffered the fate of becoming blind words. It is, of course, different with the class of terms that had to serve the purposes of revelation. True, while originally subject to this same attrition-process, Christian thought and feeling could bring back some of the old coloring. But the possibility must likewise be reckoned with that κοιμᾶν and κοιμᾶσθαι had come to mean little more than to be placed in the recumbent position of the grave. At the same time it is likely that among believers a special sense of tenderness accompanied the act, reminiscent of the ordinary act of putting a child to bed, with loving hands.

Nor need we doubt that, as the correlate of physical sleep is awakening, so this latter idea, never existing or at least long since obliterated in pagan language, might, as it were, acquire a new significance. Here a negative pagan concept came to meet the different sentiment of the Christian mind. For the pagan κοιμᾶσθαι is a sleep to which no waking is joined and in this quite important respect the two words were not by any means analogues. In the case of ἐγείρειν it is not merely a single association that differentiates the Christian from the pagan, in the latter the entire idea of a supernatural, miraculous "bringing back from the dead" is lacking, because the supernaturalistic background as a whole is in paganism absent. Consequently Scriptural usage had to translate the term into a totally new circle of belief and understanding: the ordinary, physical ἐγείρειν, has received a new, redemptive, superlative sense.

All this, and more, it is necessary to remember, before venturing to draw positive inferences from certain terms, and that sometimes even without assuring ourselves that in the later times of paganism a similar drawing of inferences was still a living process. When even pre-Christian paganism does not universally ascribe to the koimomenos or the kekoimemenos a sleep or rest, in the sense of unconsciousness, we may not assume that this ancient, imaginative corollary of the term was saved out of its semi-oblivion into a new literalness for the Christian faith. Though to the pagan poet there was nothing to look forward to but "nox una longa dormienda," a sleep without end, such a prospect was certainly never present to the early Christian; and if the ideas of "una" and "longa" were wholly eliminated for him, why should the notion of sleeping in the sense of unconsciousness have persisted? Moreover we have from Paul explicit statements concerning this "intermediate state," which positively exclude its having been to his mind a state of unconsciousness, such as, apart from dreams, physical sleep ordinarily induces. In 2 Cor. 5 the whole train of Paul's reasoning is based on the thought, that there will be a differentiation in feeling (that is, a perceptible difference in the self-reflexive consciousness) in the state after death. Whether he feels clothed with a body or feels naked will be an object of perception to him. To the unconscious dead there is not and can not be any distinction between the one state and the other: all things are alike to them. Even though only the minimum of what appears desirable to Paul, i.e., to die before the parousia, is in store for him, still he expresses the assurance that to be in an "unclothed" (naked) state at home with the Lord, will be a cause of contentment, and the looking forward to this provisional minimum becomes a reason for good courage, which it could not be without the expectation of consciousness in the post-mortem state. Similarly, in Phil. 1:23 the having departed and being with Christ is estimated as "very far better." To be sure, the estimate is formed in his present mind, but the whole contrast of "worse" or "better" loses its significance, if consciousness, the only organ of difference in appraisal, be denied. The Apostle, then, continues to make use of the common language of the day in teaching about these things, and there is hardly any perceptible effort on his part to correct or modify the latter. What he does is to fill with vital substance language that had so largely become voided of meaning.

It has been alleged, it is true, that Paul abstained from the use of the word "death" with reference to departing believers, and employed "to sleep" as a euphemism useful in enabling him to do this. This avoidance, it is held, was practised by him with reference to believers only, and not with reference to Christ, where the soteric necessities of the case almost compelled the use of "death." But, even with that restriction, the theory is not borne out by the facts, for in 1 Thess. 4:16 he speaks of "the dead (νεκροί) in Christ"; and if he used "dead," he certainly could have used "death," which is no worse a term. Besides, it is one thing to prefer the use of one word to another on account of aesthetic reasons, and another thing to fill the form of a word with an entirely new content; the latter is what he would have done in forcing upon the then colorless term κοιμᾶσθαι the significance of death-sleep literally interpreted. The state of death is a state of consciousness, and, as already shown, capable of the sensation of comfort or discomfort, according to the presence or absence of the body, such as results from a garment one is accustomed to wear, and which one misses when it is not on him. It would, perhaps, be too much to assert, that, apart from this the death-state of believers is an undesirable experience. That it falls short of the acme of blessedness must be acknowledged, and it may be well to call attention to this fact as over against the error of death-sleep, for to the sleeper there is neither pain nor pleasure, a consideration which might incline minds, over-enamored with the idea of absolute quiescence, towards that erroneous theory and the erroneous exegesis on which it is based. The average terminology of burial customs is perhaps to some extent responsible for the error, though as a whole, no doubt, it is born out of a morbidly pessimistic appraisal of life, to which may be added the semi-poetic attraction of the language employed.

It has further been urged that 1 Cor. 11:30 and 1 Thess. 4:13 cast a reflection on the state of death even for believers. If this were correct it would furnish one more argument against the theory under criticism. It must remain doubtful, however, whether this is not putting too much into the words. To die is ordinarily a painful experience as such, irrespective of the state upon which it introduces. And possibly those who died in the Corinthian church died under special circumstances expressive of divine disapproval of their conduct, so that their departure was a chastisement in itself, leaving out of account altogether what their death might proximately lead them into. It should also be remembered, that, owing to the prevailing expectation of a speedy return of the Lord, Paul's teaching had not dwelt upon the intermediate state to any large extent, so that his converts in Corinth could more readily regard premature death as a chastisement than we would. In 1 Thess. 4:13 the cause for the "sorrowing" which Paul deprecates does not lie in their regarding the state of death as an evil in itself, but in their apprehension of it as an interminable state. The Thessalonians, it appears, had not yet fully assimilated the resurrection truth. Paul's statements in this passage, with which we hope to deal more fully in another connection, confine themselves strictly to the one matter on which the Thessalonians were disquieted, viz., the presence at the parousia of their fellow-Christians who had died before. On the intermediate state this throws no light whatever.

Having now the immediate precedents and the general terminology before us, we next attempt to obtain an insight into the religious and doctrinal principles underlying the resurrection. As a fact, and that a fact not lacking doctrinal explanation, it is, next to the cross, the outstanding event of redemptive history. But Paul has first made it a focus of fundamental Christian teaching and built around it the entire conception of the faith advocated and propagated by him. In order to gain an insight into how this came about, we must first call to mind, that in the Apostle's construction of Christian truth, two distinct strands show themselves. The first we may call the forensic one. It revolves around the abnormal status of man in the objective sphere of guilt, and deals with all that is to be done outside of man, in order to its reversal, so that instead of an ἄδικος he may become in legal standing a δίκαιος before God. The other, while variously denominated, may here for convenience' sake be called the transforming one. It has to do with everything that pertains to the subjective inward condition of him to whom the grace of God is imparted. The former effects justification, the latter regeneration and sanctification.

The peculiarity of the Pauline system of truth consists in this, that these two complexes of doctrine do not exist side by side in such form as to yield by mere addition of the one to the other the complete body of Paulinism; the situation is rather this, that furnishing along each line a continuous conspect of the gospel, each after a fashion may lay claim to relative completeness. Hence the phenomenon that in the treatment of the Pauline teaching some writers from a sense of personal preference have chosen the one line, and tracing it out, have felt contented that they were offering the student a full-orbed compass of the Apostle's religious thought. All the time they were forgetting, or perhaps with some intentional partiality ignoring, that alongside of it, there runs the other twin strand making up the other semi-cycle of the teaching. Nor was this unfortunate only because it resulted in incompleteness of rendition, the more serious fact was that even in what thus obtained reproduction the proper balance was lacking. For it stands to reason that in a mind highly doctrinal and synthetic like Paul's a loose juxtaposition of two tracks of thinking without at least an attempt at logical correlation is inconceivable. In such a matter Paul's mind as a theological thinker was far more exacting than theirs who think that with their facile leaning over to one favored side they have done justice to the genius of the greatest constructive mind ever at work on the data of Christianity.

So far this is only looking at the question from the purely human standpoint of the religious thinker. But we dare not dismiss the point without reminding ourselves that the completeness and logical coherence of the truth taught through its organs is a preëminent postulate of revelation. It is for these reasons a priori to be expected that the two strands discoverable shall not be entirely equal in rank within the system of doctrine, for that would yield a dualism hard to put up with. And so soon as the question is raised, through the principial superiority of which of the two spheres the necessary balance and symmetry is safeguarded, the solution can be hardly other than that the forensic principle is supreme and keeps in subordination to itself the transforming principle. Justification and sanctification are not the same, and an endless amount of harm has been done by the short-sighted attempt to identify them. But neither are these two independent one of the other; the one sets the goal and fixes the direction, the other follows. What has darkened the vision of some in this matter was the taking for granted that for superiority in leading position all that is needed is greater bulk and outstanding prominence on either side. It was unavoidable that in practical communications directed to the building up of disciples in the faith, such as the Epistles, the viewpoint of sanctification could easily come to overshadow the more isolated and momentary problem of justification. This would undoubtedly have happened had not the latter principle found such emphatic and ineffacable testimony borne to it, as is the case, for example, in the Epistle to the Galatians and certain sections of Romans.

Coming now specifically to the resurrection, this before aught else would seem to be exempt from displacement out of the transforming into the forensic sphere. It signifies in fact the most radical and all-inclusive transforming event within the entire range of the believer's experience of salvation. It is equivalent to "becoming a new creation," and what could be excluded from such a sweep of renewal? The one in Christ is καινὴ κτίσις. In Him the old things have passed away, all things from that point on become new. And what is true of the earthly prototype of the eschatological change must ipso facto hold true of the resurrection part of the supreme crisis at the end. There likewise in an absolutely unprecedented manner and to an unprecedented extent the idea of renewal furnishes the light in which all things are placed. And yet it were, from the point of view of Paul's teaching a mistake to confound prominence here with undivided supremacy. To his view the resurrection with all that clusters around it, has behind it a still more potential principle, a principle from which in fact it springs, and in whose depths it lies anchored. And this deeper principle is that of the acquisition of righteousness, a forensic principle through and through, and yet no less than the resurrection a transforming principle also. It is especially by considering the nexus between Christ and the believer that this can be most clearly perceived: in the justification of Christ lies the certainty and the root of the Christian's resurrection. For the supreme fruit of Christ's justification, on the basis of passive and active obedience, is nothing else but the Spirit, and in turn the Spirit bears in Himself the efficacious principle of all transformation to come, the resurrection with its entire compass included. Resurrection thus comes out of justification, and justification comes, after a manner most carefully to be defined, out of the resurrection; not, be it noted, out of the spiritual resurrection of the believer himself, but out of the resurrection of Christ. On the basis of merit this is so. Christ's resurrection was the de facto declaration of God in regard to his being just. His quickening bears in itself the testimony of his justification. God, through suspending the forces of death operating on Him, declared that the ultimate, the supreme consequence of sin had reached its termination. In other words, resurrection had annulled the sentence of condemnation.

This is the simple meaning of Rom. 4:25: "who was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification." The preposition διά occurring in each of the two clauses, must have, of course, in each the same constructional force; what this force is the first clause shows beyond all possibility of doubt: Christ was delivered up to death "on account of our trespasses." Our trespasses were the ideally efficient cause of his death (διά c. acc.). If it is to correspond to this, the second clause must mean that He was raised "on account of our justification" (διά c. acc.). Because in his completed death our justification was virtually secured, it needed only the passing of death from off Him, and the consequent substitution of life for death to declare this. Not, therefore, to render our justification more easy to apply, nor even to release in Him forces working for its application, was He raised. There was in his coming to life something far more efficacious than a mere demonstration might have been.

A passage with a similar trend of thought is Rom. 8:23. Here the technical term υἱοθεσία ("adoption") is introduced in close connection with the "redemption of the body," i.e., the eschatological resurrection. It is not merely in the grace of this present life that the believer is given to taste the fruition of his release from the forensic power of sin, the same principle works through to the very end, so long as there shall still remain something to be set right, some sequela of sin even in the sphere of the body to be removed. Here it can be plainly observed how the one thought passes over into the other: "adoption" is by parentage a forensic concept; yet it fulfills itself in the bodily transforming change of the resurrection.

It has been not unplausibly held, that this forensic aspect of the resurrection as a declarative, vindicatory, justifying act, forms a very old, if not perhaps the oldest, element in Paul's doctrine on the subject. To Judaism the belief largely bore this meaning. Paul could later truthfully say, that in preaching the resurrection he defended the Pharisaic position, not merely through insistence upon the fact, but also so far as this fact amounted to a vindication of the people of God (Acts 23:6). In 1 Cor. 15:30–32 the resurrection is viewed as a reward for the incurring of danger and the daily dying undergone. In vss. 55–57 of the same context it is pictured as the swallowing up of death in victory, and death is here pointedly named as the penalty for sin imposed by the Law, so that the resurrection is the final removal of the condemnation of sin. In vs. 58 it appears even as a recompense for the labor accomplished, hence as an incentive for the more intense prosecution of this labor: "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." After the long disquisition on the raising of the dead the "wherefore" can have no other meaning than that the motive of the exhortation lies in the sure prospect of the resurrection. The "forasmuch as ye know" relates in like manner to the unshakable assurance of this culminating event in which all rewards of the pious will be summed up.

Of course, all this must be understood in harmony with the Apostle's principle of salvation through grace, apart from works, as must his doctrine of reward in the judgment generally. Side by side, therefore, with the resemblance between it and the Jewish doctrine, the vital difference between meritorious and non-meritorious ground of bestowal should never be overlooked. Still it remains worth observing, that the Apostle has incorporated this idea of the resurrection in his forensic scheme. It seems a pity that in the more prominent associations of our Easter observance so little place has been left to it. The Pauline remembrance of the supreme fact, so significant for redemption from sin, and the modern-Christian celebration of the feast have gradually become two quite different things. Who at the present time thinks of Easter as intended and adapted to fill the soul with a new jubilant assurance of the forgiveness of sin as the guarantee of the inheritance of eternal life?.

We hasten on, however, to outline the other, more familiar aspect of the event. That it bears such an aspect so far as the body is concerned lies on the surface. That this is a transformation effected by Christ Himself is likewise plain; and still further that the transformation is analogous to that produced in the body of Christ Himself at his own resurrection. All this is implied in the classical passage Phil. 3:21, where the expressive term μετασχηματίζειν is employed for describing it. The question, whether this transformation of the body takes place in the believing portion of the Church then living, or in all found alive at the parousia may be here left to one side. Nor can it make any difference for our present purpose, whether the change spoken of shall coincide with the raising of believers, or constitute a separate subsequent act.

A far more complicated problem is whether at the parousia this transformation will concern the somatic condition of believers only, or will include a corresponding psychical change, affecting more particularly that side of human nature where the body is most closely interrelated with the soul. A priori it seems difficult to deny this. The opposite would involve a kind of physical construction of the resurrection-principle, such as we may well hesitate to ascribe to Paul. Bodily the resurrection certainly is, and every attempt to dephysicize it, so often inspired by a dislike of the supernatural on its material side, amounts to an exegetical tour de force, so desperate as to be not worth losing many words over. Now, if there be a somatic resurrection, we can not otherwise conceive of it than as a somatic transformation. There is not a simple return of what was lost in death; the organism returned is returned endowed and equipped with new powers; it is richer, even apart from the removal of its sin-caused defects. The normal, to be sure, is restored, but to it there are added faculties and qualities which should be regarded supernormal from the standpoint of the present state of existence. To receive back a body, and to have a body at all is much (2 Cor. 5:1–9), but we may feel sure that it was not to Paul exhaustive of the grace of the resurrection, even considered from the somatic point of view. Nor do we lack information to that effect. According to 1 Cor. 15:45–49 believers shall bear after Christ the image He Himself obtained in his own resurrection. And this is not a case of mere analogy as to radiancy of appearance through externally imposed glory, it is something deeper and farther-reaching, intensely real, although we may not be able to form a concrete conception of it any more perhaps than could Paul himself. With all the difference inevitably existing between the two cases the ὁρισθῆναι ἐν δυνάμει ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν of Rom. 1:4 must have its counterpart in the resurrection of believers; in their case likewise there must take place an investment with δύναμις.

The resurrection-idea has been too much concentrated upon its somatic aspect per se; it has been taken too much for granted that the bare body is all that is needed for the sake of restoring the completeness of human nature. If we may judge of the resurrection of believers mutatis mutandis after the analogy of that of Christ, we shall have to believe that the event will mark the entrance upon a new world constructed upon a new superabundantly dynamic plane. It is for the body, no less than for the soul a new birth. The resurrection constitutes, as it were, the womb of the new aeon, out of which believers issue as, in a new, altogether unprecedented, sense, sons of God: "They are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection," therefore they neither marry, nor are given in marriage (Lk. 20:35–36). This whole idea of the ἀνάστασις as a genesis into a higher world opens up the largest conceivable perspective into a life of new structure and new potencies for the entire state of the Christian man. There exists a certain analogy at this point between the ἀνάστασις and the cosmical παλιγγενεσία of Matt. 19:28.

Thus far, however, our discussion has confined itself to the resurrection of the body. A continuity has been established between this as it took place in Jesus, and what will take place at the parousia in them that are Christ's, and the securing of this continuity has been found to be due to no one else than to Christ Himself. When desiring to construct from Paul's statements an organic bond between the entire Christian life here upon earth and the resurrection at the end, we feel perhaps that what has been said above renders us in a degree unsatisfied. The leap we had to make from Jesus' resurrection to the believer's leaves, as it were, the intermediate spaces unfilled, and thus threatens to destroy the true organic coherence. What we desire is to be able to show, that the believer's whole ethico-religious existence, the sum-total of his Christian experience and progress, all that is distinctive of his life and conduct demands being viewed as a preparation for the crowning grace of the resurrection. Only by showing this can the Apostle's teaching be fully cleared of the charge of incoherency between his religion and his eschatology. We believe it is possible to show this. The passages in which the entrance upon the Christian state is represented as a being raised with Christ come here under consideration. As shown before, they are semi-eschatological in import; they take for granted that in principle the believer has been translated into the higher world of the new aeon. Still for this very reason they establish a real, a vital relationship between what is enjoyed already, and what will be received at the end, for it is characteristic of the principle to lead on unto the final fulfilment. Thus, according to Rom. 6:5, the likeness ("the image made like") of the Saviour's resurrection is to be reproduced in the Christian. Even now believers are to reckon themselves alive unto God in Christ Jesus, the Lord (vs. 11). Those who have the vision of the glorified Christ are through it "transformed into the same image from glory to glory." 2 Cor. 3:18. Whatever may be the exact meaning of these mysterious words it is at any rate plain, that a transforming influence proceeds from Christ, such an influence as He could bring to bear upon us only in the capacity of the glorified, i.e., the risen Christ, and which has for its goal the acquisition of the same glory-image on the part of believers.

In a different form the same principle of continuity between the present spiritual life and the resurrection shows itself, where believers are exhorted to strive after sanctification with the thought and desire in mind that at the day of the Lord's coming they may be presented to Him in a sanctified condition, which will at the same time cause rejoicing in those who have labored for them and make the event objectively productive of greater grace and joy. On behalf of the Thessalonians Paul gives expression to the hope, that the Lord may make them to increase and abound to the end that He may establish their hearts unblamable in holiness at the coming of the Lord Jesus with all his saints (1 Thess. 3:13; 5:23). Further, we shall have to add to these indications the complex of ideas gathering around the phrase "to be in Christ." It is not Pauline to conceive of believers who are in Christ as enveloped by Him after a quietistic, unproductive fashion. The relation is one that has its intent determined by their destiny to share after their own degree in his glorified state. Even dead believers are in the intermediate period before the resurrection "dead in Christ" (1 Thess. 4:16). The statement is made in order to assure those then living of their certitude of being themselves changed in due time. If Christ gathers to and envelopes in Himself all his own with such comprehensiveness that even the "dead" are never separated from Him, nor He from them, then the conclusion is surely justified, that the entire activity He directs towards them aims at raising them unto likeness with Himself. Their life and lot are so inwrought with Christ's that the general law of happening in the large phases of his experience must repeat itself in them: "If so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him."

Finally, in a more un-Christological form the principle of continuity and causal nexus between the growth of the state in grace here and the inheritance of the resurrection has found striking expression in the figure of sowing and harvesting: "Whatsoever a man soweth, shall he also reap. For he that soweth unto his own flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not" (Gal. 6:7–9). A connection and proportionateness between the future life of the Christian and his conduct here are affirmed in this no less than in the foregoing passages.

The same problem thus far considered in terms of Christology admits of being studied likewise under the head of the doctrine and function of the Holy Spirit. In order to perceive this the reader should endeavor to make clear to himself how intimate a connection there exists between the Holy Spirit and Eschatology. The lack of recognition of this fact, so common among even doctrinally informed Christians is mostly due to the eclipse which the Spirit's eschatological task has suffered on account of his soteric work in the present life. The ubiquitousness and monergism of the Spirit's influence in the gracious processes we now experience have, as it were, unduly contracted our vision, so that after having emphasized the all-inclusiveness of this work, we forget that we have forgotten, or merely counted in pro forma the other hemisphere pertaining to the Spirit, that dealing with the introduction into and the abode in the life to come. Paul has not left us in uncertainty or unclearness in regard to this part of the Spirit's working. In 1 Cor. 15, and other classical contexts the subject is placed in such prominence and the light of revelation so superabundantly focussed upon it, that some have even felt, as though it outshone somewhat the Christ-glory ordinarily so inseparable from the things soteric. But soteriology so long had the priority in the Church's familiarizing herself with the Spirit, that the other part of the subject had little chance left of obtruding itself and so gaining the attention it is by nature entitled to. What makes this relative neglect all the more unexplainable, and up to a certain point inexcusable, is the fact that after all the Spirit's eschatological functions are simply the prolongation of his work in the soteriological sphere. But be this as it may, now that in more recent times the attention of Scripture students has been attracted to the facts, the intensity of occupation with them has more than made up for the shortcomings of former times.

The connection of the Spirit with Eschatology reaches back far into the Old Testament. The fundamental sense of רוח is in the Hebrew, and other Semitic languages, that of air in motion, whilst with the Greek πνεῦμα the notion of air at rest seems to have been chiefly associated. This rendered the Hebrew term fitted for describing the Spirit on his energizing, active side, which further falls in with his ultimate eschatological function of producing supernatural effects on the highest plane. Thus, the Spirit comes to be linked together with eschatology. We can observe this along several lines of thought.

There is first the idea that the Spirit through certain extraordinary manifestations of the supernatural, in certain prophetic signs, heralds the near approach of the future world. Thus in Joel 3:1 ff. the outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh is described as taking place "before the great and terrible day of Jehovah comes."14 It is not excluded by this, that the Spirit will also have his place within the new era itself, but this is not indicated here. The Spirit works these signs, not because He stands for the eschatological as such, for the latter idea has not yet been reached.

Next, the Spirit is brought within the eschatological field itself as furnishing the official equipment of the Messiah. It will be noted that in the passages where this occurs (Isa. 11:2; 28:6; 42:1; 59:21 (?); 61:1) the Messiah receives the Spirit as a permanent possession. In calling this equipment with the Spirit official we do not mean to imply that it is externally attached to the Messiah, not affecting his own subjective religious life, for He is not merely a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and might, but also a "Spirit of knowledge and fear of Jehovah." Still the prophet does not mean to describe what the Spirit is for the Messiah Himself, but what through the Messiah He comes to be for the people.

Thirdly, the Spirit appears as the source of the future new life of Israel, especially of the ethico-religious renewal, and thus first becomes suggestive of the eschatological state itself. To this head belong the following passages: Isa. 32:15–17; 44:3; 59:21 (?); Ez. 36:27; 37:14; 39:29. It will be observed that in these prophecies the sending of the Spirit is expected not from the Messiah but directly from Jehovah Himself, although the statements occur in prophecies containing the figure of the Messiah. The emphasis rests on the initial act as productive of new conditions; at the same time the terms used show that the presence and working of the Spirit are not restricted to the first introduction of the eschatological state, but characterize the latter in continuance. The land and the nation become permanent receptacles of the Spirit. The promise assumes in Ez. 36:26 an individualizing form.

Fourthly, we must take into account that in the Old Testament the word "Spirit" appears as the comprehensive formula for the transcendental, the supernatural. In all the manifestations of the Spirit a supernatural reality projects itself into the experience of man, and thus the sphere whence such manifestations come can be named after the power to which they are proximately traced. This is in harmony with the two-fold aspect of the wind, which is at the same time a concrete force, and a supernal element seeming to come from above. But the Spirit stands for the supernatural not merely in so far as the latter connotes the miraculous, but likewise in so far as it is sovereign over against the creature: it "blows where it listeth." In man the pneumatic awakes the awe pertaining to the supernatural, and exposes to the same danger. Even in his ordinary life the prophet is, on account of his pneumatic character, as it were concentrated upon a higher world, "he sits alone because of Jehovah's hand" (Jer. 15:17).

The idea mentioned in the fourth place is the one which has undergone a somewhat further development in the Apocalyptic literature. Here at least the Spirit is explicitly described as a Spirit of eternal life (Orac. Syb. iii. 771), a Spirit of holiness pertaining to paradise, named in connection with the tree of life (Test. Levi, xviii. 11). Still further goes the Rabbinical Theology when it brings the Spirit specifically into connection with the resurrection: "Holiness leads to the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit leads to the resurrection." The impression that the period of Judaism felt itself to be an un-pneumatic period is sometimes due to an unwarranted comparison with the following Spirit-filled days of the early Christian Church. Both the wise men and the Apocalyptic writers of that period feel themselves men of a higher divine rank. Sometimes the pneumatic state vaunted of assumed the form of a translation into the heavenly sphere.

Coming back to Paul we may adopt for guidance the twofold aspect in which the eschatological function of the Spirit appears in his teaching. On the one hand the Spirit is the resurrection-source, on the other He appears as the substratum of the resurrection-life, the element, as it were, in which, as in its circumambient atmosphere the life of the coming aeon shall be lived. He produces the event and in continuance underlies the state which is the result of it. He is Creator and Sustainer at once, the Creator Spiritus and the Sustainer of the supernatural state of the future life in one. As to the first, Rom. 8:11 affirms that God διὰ τοῦ ἐνοικοῦντος αὐτοῦ πνεύματος ἐν ὑμῖν or διὰ τὸ ἐνοικοῦν πνεῦμα shall give life to the mortal bodies of the readers. Πνεῦμα is here not the human spirit, psychologically conceived, as vs. 10 at first sight might make us assume. It is the divine Pneuma that is referred to, to be sure, in its intimate union and close association with the believer's person. Hence in vs. 11 there is substituted for the simple pneuma the full definition "the Spirit of Him that raised Jesus from the dead." In this designation of God resides the force of the argument: what God did for Jesus He will do for the believer likewise. It is presupposed by the Apostle, though not expressed in so many words, that God raised Jesus through the Spirit. Hence the argument from the analogy between Jesus and the believer is further strengthened by the observation, that the instrument through whom God effected this in Jesus is already present in the readers. The idea that the Spirit works instrumentally in the resurrection is plainly implied. This is altogether apart from the interesting divergence in the construction of διά which occurs with the accusative in several important authorities. That would yield the paraphrase: If the Spirit of God who raised Jesus dwells in you, then God will create for that Spirit the same appropriate habitat as He created for Him in the resurrection-body of Jesus. This is a unique idea; it reverses the relation between Spirit and resurrection-body; usually the Spirit is for the sake of the new body, here the new body would be for the sake of adorning the Spirit. But, interesting though the thought may be, the other reading (διά cum genitivo) seems to have more textual weight in its favor. Adopting this, we paraphrase: If the Spirit of God who raised Jesus dwells in you, then God will make the indwelling Spirit accomplish for you what He accomplished for Jesus in the latter's resurrection. The idea of the "indwelling" of the Spirit in believers, occurring as it does in a train of thought prospective to the resurrection, can hardly help suggesting a process of preparation carried on with a view to that supreme eventual crisis. The Spirit is there as indwelling certainly not for assuring the Christian of his ultimate attainment to the resurrection alone. The indwelling must attest itself by activity also.

It might be said, however, that in statements of this kind the point of departure is the soteriological conception of the Spirit as a present factor in Christian life, and from there it moves forward to the future, so that the eschatological task of the Spirit would not be something peculiar, but only his general task applied to one particular situation. We therefore turn to another train of thought, which clearly starts from the eschatological end of the line, and from that looks backwards into the present life. This is the case in 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14. Here Paul derives the proof for God's having prepared him for the eternal state in a new heavenly body from the fact of God's having given him the ἀρραβὼν τοῦ πνεύματος. The "earnest" consists in the Spirit, the genitive being epexegetical, just as in Gal. 3:14 the "promise of the Spirit means the promised thing consisting in the Spirit. Now the Spirit possesses this significance of "pledge" for no other reason than that He constitutes a provisional instalment of what in its fulness will be received hereafter. The quite analogous conception of the ἀπαρχὴ τοῦ πνεύματος (Rom. 8:23) proves this. Ἀρραβών means money given in purchases as a pledge that the full amount will be subsequently paid. In this instance, therefore, the Spirit is viewed as pertaining specifically to the future life, nay as constituting the substantial make-up of this life, and the present possession of the Spirit is regarded in the light of an anticipation. The spirit's proper sphere is the future aeon; from thence He projects Himself into the present, and becomes a prophecy of Himself in his eschatological operations.

As indicated above, the Spirit is not only the author of the resurrection-act, but likewise the permanent substratum of the resurrection-life, to which He supplies the inner, basic element and the outer atmosphere. It is this second aspect of his function we must now look into. A difficulty meeting us at the outset may be briefly referred to. It concerns the two-fold aspect in which the Scriptures present to us the character of the Holy Spirit. Owing to the task He performs in the work of individual salvation, together with the other two members of the Holy Trinity, it is most familiar to us to conceive of Him as a Person, and not only this: the task has become so thoroughly personalized, as to leave almost no room for aught else in our practical contemplation of the Spirit. When, alongside of this, operations and functions are ascribed to Him, for the expression of which we need figures clothed in impersonal terms, we must not over-rashly conclude that in this matter, taken as a whole, two disjointed, differently oriented conceptions of the Spirit confront us, such as it would be absolutely impossible to reduce to common terms. We may not be able to make a construction that shall reconcile what seems to our minds incombinable in the same subject, but this does not prove that actual coexistence between these two aspects is in the Deity impossible. A Christological parallel can easily disabuse us of the necessity of such a negative conclusion. Nothing can be more personal than the intimate relation which the Christ (particularly the Risen Christ) sustains to the believer. And yet the background or underlying basis of this personal relationship is largely expressed in terms, that, did we not know better, might make us think of an elementally distributed Christ-atmosphere, in which, at least from the Saviour's side the personal is submerged, and of which the imagination fails to supply us with an adequate idea of what it consists in, inwardly considered. If to be "in Christ," and at the same time to live in conscious intercourse and fellowship with Him are not logically identical, and are yet to our common Christian faith joined in the same believing subject without endangering the recognition of the one aspect by that of the other, then why should an analogous double relation of the Holy Spirit to our persons be deemed incongruous? This parallel between the two cases, that of Christ and of the Holy Spirit is all the more convincing, since in the Pauline soteriology the two phrases ἐν πνεύματι and ἐν χριστῷ, at least so far as the latter is not meant forensically, are equivalent as to purport. The Holy Spirit is, comparatively speaking, even more elemental than the Risen Christ. Still less is there need for wondering that the Spirit plays in Eschatology this, as it were, semi-personal rôle.

Let us now briefly survey the evidence found for this representation in the Epistles. 1 Cor. 15:42–49 contrasts the two bodies that belong to the preëschatological and the eschatological states successively. The former is characterized as ψυχικόν, the latter as πνευματικόν. This adjective Pneumatikon expresses the quality of the body in the eschatological state. Every thought of immaterialness, or etherealness or absence of physical density ought to be kept carefully removed from the term. Whatever in regard to such qualifications may or may not be involved; it is certain that such traits, if existing, are not described here by the adjective in question. In order to keep far such misunderstandings the capitalizing of the word ought to be carefully guarded both in translation and otherwise: πνευματικόν almost certainly leads on the wrong track, whereas Πνευματικόν, not only sounds a note of warning, but in addition points in the right direction positively. Paul means to characterize the resurrection-state as the state in which the Pneuma rules. That it rules signifies more particularly, that it impresses upon the body its three-fold characteristic of ἀφθαρσία, δόξα and δύναμις (vss. 42, 43). Over against this stands the psychical body, which in order of time precedes the soma Pneumatikon. The former for its part is characterized by φθορά, ἀτιμία and ἀσθενεία. The passage is unique even in the long register of the high mysteries of the faith with Paul, in that it contrasts not the body affected by sin, not the body as it came to exist as a result of the entrance of evil into the world, with the future body, but the primordial body of Adam ("the First Adam") and the body of the consummation. The proximate reference is to the contrast between the two bodies only; but in vs. 46 the representation widens out to a far more general, indeed a cosmical one. In the all-comprehensive antithesis there established by the principle: "that is not first which is τὸ Πνευματικόν, but that is first which is τὸ ψυχικόν, then that which is τὸ Πνευματικόν", this is expressed by the contrast ἐκ γῆς and ἐξ οὐρανοῦ. When it is affirmed that the Second Man is from heaven, this has nothing to do with the original provenience of Christ from heaven; the "from heaven" does not necessarily imply a "coming from heaven," any more than the opposite "from earth" implies a coming of Adam from the earth at the first creation. To refer "from heaven" to the coming of Christ out of the state of preëxistence at his incarnation would make Paul contradict himself, for it would reverse the order insisted upon in vs. 46; not the "Pneumatic" is first, but the "psychical." Besides this it would make the Pneumatic the constituent principle of the human nature in Christ before the resurrection, of which there is no trace elsewhere with Paul. The phrase "from heaven" simply expresses that Christ after a supernatural fashion became the Second Man at the point marked by ἔπειτα. A "becoming" is affirmed of both Adams, the second as well as the first, for the verb ἐγένετο in vs. 45 belongs to both clauses. How far in either case the subject of which this is affirmed existed before in a different condition is not reflected upon. The whole tenor of the argument (for such it actually is) compels us to think of the resurrection as the moment at which τὸ Πνευματικόν entered. Christ appeared then and there in the form of a Πνευματικός and as such inaugurated the eschatological era. But, besides identifying the eschatological and the pneumatic, our passage is peculiar in that it most closely identifies the Spirit with Christ. Up to this point the Spirit, who works and sustains the future life was the Spirit of God. Here it begins to be, not so much the Spirit of Christ, but the Spirit which Christ became. And, being thus closely and subjectively identified with the Risen Christ, the Spirit imparts to Christ the life-giving power which is peculiarly the Spirit's own: the Second Adam became not only Πνεῦμα but πνεῦμα ζωοποιοῦν. This is of great importance for determining the relation to eschatology of the Christ-worked life in believers.

We have found that the Spirit is both the instrumental cause of the resurrection-act and the permanent substratum of the resurrection-life. The question here arises which of the two is the primary idea, either in order of thought or in point of chronological emergence. It might seem plausible to put the pneuma-provenience of the resurrection-act first, and to explain this feature from what the Old Testament teaches concerning the Spirit of God as the source of natural life in the world and in man, especially since in the allegory of Ezek. 37 this had already been applied to the national resurrection of Israel. If the Spirit worked physical life in its present form, what was more reasonable than to assume that He would likewise be the author of physical life restored in the resurrection. As a matter of fact, however, we find that the operation of the Spirit in connection with the natural world recedes into the background already in the inter-canonical literature, and remains so even in the New Testament writings themselves. It is more plausible to assume that the thought of the resurrection-life was the first in order, and that, in partial dependence on this at least, the idea emerges of the Spirit as the Author of the miracle of the resurrection. For the pneumatic character of the age to come there existed a solid Old Testament basis in trains of thought, which had fully held their own and even found richer development in the early New Testament period. And, quite apart from eschatological contexts, the thought that the heavenly world is the pneumatic world meets us in Paul, 1 Cor. 10:3, 4; Eph. 1:3. From this the transition is not difficult to the idea that the eschatological state is preëminently a pneumatic state, since the highest form of life known, that of the world of heaven, must impart to it its special character.

A second problem on which the eschatological evaluation of the Spirit may perhaps be expected to throw some light concerns the ubiquitousness of the Spirit in the entire Christian life on earth, his equal distribution over all its spheres and activities. In Paul first from the subjective side Christianity and the possession of and action through the Pneuma become interchangeable, and with strong emphasis the center of the Spirit's operations is found in the ethico-religious sphere. With such thoroughness and emphasis this had not been done before Paul. Gunkel has no doubt exaggerated somewhat the originality of the Apostle in this respect and underrated the preparation made for this development by the Old Testament prophetic and earlier New Testament teaching. Still a simple comparison between the Petrine speeches in Acts and the Pauline statements abundantly shows, that Paul was the first to ascribe to the Spirit that dominating place and that pervasive uniform activity, which secure to Him, alongside of the Father and the Son, a necessary divine relation to the Christian state at every point.


From The Pauline Eschatology by Geerhardus Vos

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