Paul reminded Timothy of Christ’s resurrection since false teachers were denying the future resurrection.
The resurrection is not a major subject in Paul’s “pastoral” letters, but he does raise the subject when dealing with the problem of false teachers at Ephesus. As he reminded Timothy, “God did not give us a spirit of fear but of a sound mind.” The theme of “sound teaching” is pivotal to the three pastoral letters, and the future resurrection is a prime example of the apostolic doctrines.
The gospel proclaimed by Paul and his coworkers is “sound” teaching and represents the “power of God who saved and called us…according to His own purpose and grace given to us in Christ Jesus before the times of the ages.” However, this salvation has only been manifested in recent times:
- (2 Timothy 1:9-10) – “God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to the peculiar purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages but has now been manifested through the appearance of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and thrown light upon life and incorruptibility, through means of the gospel.”
By “abolish death,” Paul does not mean that death no longer occurs in this life. The cessation of death will not occur until the “arrival” of Jesus at the end of the age. The author of Hebrews wrote that through his death Jesus “destroyed him that had the dominion of death, that is, the Devil; and to deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
Death still occurs for all of us, but it is incapable of holding believers at the end of the age when its sentence will be reversed by the resurrection – (1 Corinthians 15:24-28, Hebrews 2:14-18).
Jesus brought life and “immortality” to light (aphtharsia). The Greek noun does not mean “eternal” – It does NOT denote any sense of timelessness or of being without beginning or end. Immortality is the opposite of death, it is deathlessness. This is not a state that human souls possess by nature; rather, it is the new condition that Jesus inaugurated for his followers, and it certainly is not applicable to all human beings.
In the following chapter, Paul exhorted Timothy to “remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel.” Paul suffered persecution on account of this same gospel, and central to it was the proclamation that God had His son from the dead – (2 Timothy 2:8-18).
Paul suffered for preaching this gospel, but he did so that the “elect may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with everlasting glory… If we are dead with him, we shall also live with him… If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” Again, death still occurs but does not have the final word. “Salvation” and “everlasting glory” are the results of the resurrection from the dead – (“we will also live with him”).
Paul reminded Timothy of the resurrection of Jesus on which the future resurrection is based. Certain false teachers were denying the bodily resurrection of believers, or possibly they claimed it was already in the past and not applicable to believers. He labeled such denials “profane and vain babblings.” Timothy was exhorted to avoid such false claims – (1 Corinthians 15:10-20).
It is not clear what, precisely, these men were teaching. More accurately, the clause reads, “declaring that the resurrection already came to pass.” This suggests false claims that the resurrection was already a past event. In any case, to deny the resurrection, whether Christ’s past resurrection or the future one promised to believers, is to abandon the fundamentals of the gospel preached by Jesus and the Apostles.
Based on the beliefs common in Greco-Roman society, most likely, these false teachers had rejected the idea of bodily resurrection in favor of one version or another of the belief in escape from the physical creation into a disembodied state – (Acts 17:32, 1 Corinthians 15:12).
That Paul brings up the resurrection so easily when it is tangential to his larger argument shows how basic this hope was to the early Christian faith.
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