Paul made an interesting note to his companion Timothy in his second later. Does 2 Timothy 2:18 undermine the Christian conception of Heaven and Hell?
In church I was told of the idea of Heaven and Hell being two metaphysical realms where our souls would spend eternity. What happens to our bodies here on earth? They become mere corpses, left in the earth to decompose. However, when I proposed a proper, biblical definition of “Hell” (see the link below) and how it relates to resurrection, these concepts became nonsensical in light of Paul’s teachings on the resurrection body. And then he makes this note to his companion Timothy….
But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. (2 Timothy 2:18 ESV bold mine)
In my study of 1 Corinthians 15 last year, as part of my defense of the Resurrection of Christ, I argued for the conclusion that Paul expects our future resurrection to be physical, just as Christ’s was. Jesus the firstborn from the dead and the example of all born into that death. This image does not fit the typically understood definition of Heaven and Hell as spiritual, metaphysical realms. It simply does not support the immmortality of the soul.
Albert Barnes in his commentary notes the similarities as well,
“Saying that the resurrection is past already – It is not known in what form they held this opinion. It may have been, as Augustine supposes, that they taught that there was no resurrection but that which occurs in the soul when it is recovered from the death of sin, and made to live anew.”
Paul had to defend a physical resurrection because the earthly form was deemed ill and unpure to his audience. Completely unfit for a celestial destination. As Celsus, quoting Heraclitus, stated,
“The soul may have everlasting life, but corpses, as Heraclitus said, ‘ought to be thrown away as worse than dung.’”
New Testament professor N.T. Wright notes,
“….Neither in Plato nor in the major alternatives mentioned do we find any suggestion that resurrection, the return to bodily life of the dead person, was either desirable or possible.” Wright, N.T., The Resurrection of the Son of God, p. 53
Let’s go back to Barnes’ notes,
“Or it may be that they held that those who had died had experienced all the resurrection which they ever would, by passing into another state, and receiving at death a spiritual body fitted to their mode of being in the heavenly world. Whatever was the form of the opinion, the apostle regarded it as a most dangerous error, for just views of the resurrection undoubtedly lie at the foundation of correct apprehensions of the Christian system;”
Does this strike anyone as familiar? Am I correct in thinking that Paul was alluding to those who viewed the physical body as corrupted and cannot be resurrected, thus their present state of spiritual “renewal” was all the resurrection that existed for them? Their souls would live for eternity, their bodies would perish? That being “born again” was not an objective description of a new humanity that would be resurrected from the old, but merely a spiritual rejuvination for the select few? If this is true, then such an idea denies, in absolute terms, the work of the cross.
Link to the biblical definition of “Hell”
Link to the Cross and the New Humanity