<body>
Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Studies in Eschatology [15]

A Physical or Spiritual Resurrection?

I have taken up a brief exegetical study of Revelation 20:1-10. The first two posts considered the concept of recapitulation and the second one, the binding of Satan. With this post I want to consider the subject of the First Resurrection.

Is the resurrection written about by John a physical resurrection of the saints from the dead, or does the Apostle mean to convey the idea of spiritual resurrection, as in being born again at salvation?

Those who read Revelation 20 according to Augustine's hermeneutic generally interpret the "first resurrection" of 20:4, 5 as meaning a spiritual resurrection. What is also termed in the NT as regeneration or the new birth. There are a handful of NT passages that liken spiritual new life with resurrection. For example, in Romans 6:4-6, Paul uses the imagery of Christ's death, burial, and Resurrection to illustrate the spiritual new birth Christians experience at salvation. Paul also uses similar imagery in Colossians 2:12, 13 where he describes the believer's new life as having been buried with Christ in baptism and raised with Him through faith. In Ephesians 2:4-6, Paul speaks of our spiritual birth as having been made alive and raised up to sit in the heavenlies with Christ.

The difficulty with using these passages as proof-texts for interpreting the first resurrection in Revelation 20 as being spiritual, however, is that Paul merely contrasts the spiritual birth of a believer with the physical Resurrection of Christ. He does not call the spiritual regenerating experience a "resurrection." Certainly there is a picture of new spiritual life as opposed to an old spiritual life dead in sin. On account of Christ's physical Resurrection, the believer can be certain of the efficacy of spiritual regeneration and fix his hope in a future physical resurrection. However, the actual word "resurrection" is reserved to describe a real, physical event: A dead body brought back to physical life.

Yet, when we come to Revelation 20:4-6, can the concept of the "first resurrection" genuinely means a spiritual new birth? Would this be the one place where the terminology of "resurrection," a word meant to describe a physical event, be used to describe a spiritual reality? I don't believe so, and in point of fact, one strains the exegetical-grammatical boundaries of the text of scripture in order to make the first resurrection in Revelation 20:5 be a spiritual one rather than a physical one. Let me examine three key, exegetical points from John's discussion of the first resurrection that demonstrates this resurrection is physical and not spiritual.

The exclusive use of the word resurrection. The English word "resurrection" is translated from the Greek word anastasis and it basically has the idea of "raising up." Anastasis is used 42 times throughout the NT, and it is used almost exclusively to describe a raising up of the physical dead. A person dies, but then at a later point in time is fully brought back to life. Lazarus in John 11 serves as a perfect picture of the use of the word anastasis. If anastasis is meant to convey a spiritual new birth here in Revelation 20, it is the only place in the entire NT where this usage is to be found.

The near exclusive use of anastasis in the NT to describe physical resurrection ruins the Augustine view of this "first resurrection" in Revelation 20:5 as being spiritual. It is such a major grammatical point that those who utilize Augustine's hermeneutics to interpret chapter 20 have a difficult time explaining how it fits into their system. Probably the most popular explanation is the one set forth by Meredith Kline which is repeated by Kim Riddlebarger in his book on Amillennialism [Riddlebarger, 218-223].

It centers on the word protos, which is translated as "first" in the phrase, "the first resurrection." Kline argues that rather than understanding protos to mean first in a chronological, sequential manner, first, second, etc., protos should be understood as referring to "a different kind," that being something new replacing something old. In this case, the second resurrection, which is understood as the physical resurrection of the saints is different in kind to the first resurrection that was a spiritual new birth. Kline (and Riddlebarger following him) appeal to Revelation 21:1 where John states how the new heaven and new earth replace the first heaven and the first earth, which is understood as being obviously different in kind. He also appeals to the use first-second/old-new in Hebrews 8-10 and 1 Corinthians 15 and then applies them all to interpreting 20:5. However, as Steve Sullivan points out, "the chronological usage of protos is overwhelmingly used in the NT and especially in the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:17; 2:4, 5; 2:8; 4:1,7; 8:7; 13:12; 16:2)" [Sullivan, 35]. Additionally Sullivan writes,

"It is also important to stress that the subject is resurrection (20:5) and "came to life" (vv. 4, 5) in combination of with protos. ... the concept of first (first fruits) is found with "has been raised" (having the thought of resurrection) in 1 Corinthians 15:20 and 23. We find no antithetical aspect to Paul's order of resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:20 and 23. Christ's first fruits of resurrection is followed by the same concept of resurrection for "those who are Christ's at His coming" (v. 23). " [ibid]

So rather than this being a different kind of "resurrection" in that it's another way of saying spiritual "regeneration," the clearer meaning of the text, especially when all the exegetical data is considered, tells us this is a physical resurrection that precedes another physical resurrection that is separated by a period of time, i.e., a geo-political kingdom that lasts 1,000 years.

The use of the word ezesan - "to live." The word ezesan is translated as "they lived." In other NT contexts the word can mean coming to life spiritually as in the new birth. But in the context of Revelation 20:4, 5, the subject is physically dead people who are brought back to life. There is one important detail to consider between these two verses. Ezesan is used to describe those coming to life at the first resurrection, as well as those coming to life at the second resurrection. If the first is meant to be taken as speaking of spiritual resurrection, then why are we to understand the exact same word used in the same context in an entirely different way? That being, to describe those who came to life physically during the second resurrection? If a spiritual resurrection is meant with the first (vs. 4), but a physical resurrection with the second (vs. 5), such suggests an arbitrary change in meaning that is not indicated by the text.

The presence of martyrs. One of the more glaring problems with the spiritual resurrection position is the fact of martyrs being described as those who lived again and partook in the first resurrection. These are individuals who had been beheaded for their witness of Christ and because they would not worship the beast. As Seiss notes, "Spiritual resurrection is out of the question, for they were spiritually resurrected before they became martyrs, and could not be holy martyrs without it" [Seiss, 460]. In other words, for them to actually be martyrs -- to be beheaded for their witness for Christ -- they had to have been spiritually resurrected before then. Martyrs are martyred for their faith, a faith that comes at spiritual birth.


*******
Sources:


Kim Riddlebarger, The Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End-times. (Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, MI, 2008).

J.A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation. (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI, 1973).

Steve Sullivan, Premillennialism and an Exegesis of Revelation 20. On-line paper.

Matthew Waymeyer, Revelation 20 and the Millennial Debate. (Kress Christian Publications: The Woodlands TX, 2004).

The New International Dictionary of NT Theology (Vol. 3), ed. Colin Brown. (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI, 2003).

Labels:

14 Comments:

Blogger Mike Felker said...

Fred, once these "eschatology studies" are posted, are you going to be making a PDF available? I'd like to be able to print it all out or be able to save it onto my hard drive.

6:12 AM, November 03, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

That's my goal. But you are dealing with a computer moron. I have to be hand held through everything computer related. It's a wonder I can even blog.

I will let you know when it happens.

Fred

6:50 AM, November 03, 2009  
Blogger Lynda O said...

Great post, Fred! I also like how Spurgeon said it as he denounced the non-literal method of interpretation of Revelation 20:4-6 --
http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols7-9/chs391.pdf
"For if the first resurrection here spoken of is a metaphorical, or spiritual, or typical resurrection—why the next
where it speaks of the resurrection of the dead must be spiritual and mystical and metaphorical too! Now, no one would agree with this. When you read a chapter you are not to say, “This part is a symbol and is to be read so and the next part is to be read literally.” Brethren, the Holy Spirit does not jumble metaphors and facts together. A typical book has plain indications that it is so intended and when you come upon a literal passage in a typical chapter it is always attached to something else which is distinctly literal so that you cannot, without violence to common sense, make a typical meaning out of it."

11:29 AM, November 03, 2009  
Blogger mikey said...

Fred have you seen this?

http://www.the-highway.com/millennium7_Hughes.html

It is another Amill interpretation that I believe makes a better argument than the one you mentioned used by Riddlebarger in his book.

7:34 PM, November 03, 2009  
Blogger mikey said...

Mike just download a free pdf maker and then go to add a printer select the pdf one and print the page. It will output into a pdf.

7:36 PM, November 03, 2009  
Blogger P.D. Nelson said...

Fred if you want I can help you out with making this a pdf. If you are first typing this out as a word document I can take those docs and convert them into one file.

8:39 PM, November 03, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

It is another Amill interpretation that I believe makes a better argument than the one you mentioned used by Riddlebarger in his book.

A couple of things.

First, I cite from Riddlebarger because he is probably the most popular amiller apologist read by restless, young Reformed guys coming out of those dreaded dispensational fundy churches. Every time I have been in an email exchange with caged-stage Reformed young men, they ridicule my citation of Allis and Cox and even Hendrickson, because they like wrote 50 years ago. So I am told I need to look at Riddlebarger and Venema to be in the "here and now." So I accommodate my critics even though Riddlebarger reads exactly like Cox and Allis. For some reason they think I am refined.

Next,

With all do respect to Hughes (and the Lord knows he wrote a pretty good commentary on 2 Corinthians), his take on the "first resurrection" is unique. Unique is a kind way of saying it is novel as in he's sort of standing around by himself in left field.

To sum up his position for other readers, he suggests the "first resurrection" John describes is Jesus raising from the dead on the third day. To say the first resurrection of Revelation 20:4, 5 is John's reference to Christ's Resurrection produces a host of textual problems. Hughes doesn't even begin to deal with the textual problems with his article. He just states his view is correct with out any exegetical data from Revelation 20 being considered. Sure, he goes to the typical regeneration passages I brought up, but that doesn't even come close to actually dealing with Revelation 20.

Look at what John wrote: It is those individuals beheaded (ie. killed physically) for their witness of Christ and rejection of the beast's mark. It is they who live again and John calls this resurrection, the first resurrection.

Unless one has an agenda to prove a position, I can't see how anyone can get out of those verse anything other than those who died for their testimony were raised physically from the dead.

Just as a footnote, I use to frequent the Highway forum page years ago; back around the early 2000s. I enjoyed the interaction tremendously with those fellows. Jeff, the curator, did a masterful job of keeping the kooks and weirdos from taking over the place, something that is common on web discussion boards. He was a super guy, even though he dipped babies into water.

7:09 AM, November 04, 2009  
Blogger Matt Waymeyer said...

Simple question for anyone who may agree with Hughes: Where is the antecedent of pronoun "this" ("This is the first resurrection") anywhere in the immediate context?

Mikey, you say that Hughes "makes a better argument" than Riddlebarger, but Fred is right: Hughes actually makes no argument at all; he simply states his position. Which is fine if you want to find the shortest route possible from Revelation 20 to amillennialism, but not so fine if you want to deal with the text itself.

7:21 AM, November 04, 2009  
Blogger Matt Waymeyer said...

"For some reason they think I am refined."

Fred, you totally kill me.

7:23 AM, November 04, 2009  
Blogger mikey said...

Simple question for anyone who may agree with Hughes: Where is the antecedent of pronoun "this" ("This is the first resurrection") anywhere in the immediate context?

I believe John is saying the first resurrection is "they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years" Which is speaking of those martyrs who died in Christ, this would have brought hope to the audience going through persecution to whom he was writing , indicating that although they died the first death they would now be reigning in the presence of the Lord (sitting with Him on His throne. The second death i.e the lake of fire has no power over them unlike it would for the unsaved.


Fred I brought Hughes up ,not to be critical about which author you quote as it makes no difference to me, only to show it is not the only explanation.
I just read Kim's book and was not convinced on most of his points. I do agree with the two age part as well as his handling Daniels 70 week's. Do you have thoughts on those?


Are you holding to a historic pre-mil eschatology?
I do disagree with your study so far and believe you are wrong but at the same time you have some very good points to consider and your handling of the text is honest and forth right so I do appreciate the time and thought put into this.

1:53 PM, November 04, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I believe John is saying the first resurrection is "they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years" Which is speaking of those martyrs who died in Christ, this would have brought hope to the audience going through persecution to whom he was writing , indicating that although they died the first death they would now be reigning in the presence of the Lord (sitting with Him on His throne. The second death i.e the lake of fire has no power over them unlike it would for the unsaved.

(Fred) The concept of sitting with Christ in the heavenlies is one of a judicial position. By that I mean that in Christ we have eternal life. All though we are not experiencing the glories of heaven, our identification with Christ places us in that position. That is certainly what Paul has in mind in Ephesians and Colossians. What John is speaking to in Revelation is physical death of individuals who were martyred by an individual beast. A lot of Hughes interpretation depends upon identifying the beast, his time frame of reign, etc. Additionally, other factors in the text like the whole issue of recapitulation from 19 to 20, the exclusive use of anastasis for physical resurrection make that spiritualized view difficult to grasp.

I do agree with the two age part as well as his handling Daniels 70 week's. Do you have thoughts on those?

Funny you should ask. I am actually doing a exposition of Daniel for my volunteers on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Next Tuesday I will start Daniels 70 weeks. KR represents the traditional amill perspective on Daniel 9:24-27. A position that honestly doesn't take the subject matter of the prophecy of Daniel seriously. Probably one of the best refutation of the amill perspective is Robert Duncan Culver's Daniel and the Latter-days that is probably one of the best treatments defending premillennialism in print. An online version can be found HERE. Specifically to the point, Culver's treatment of Daniel's 70 weeks is HERE

I don't have a problem with KR's view of the two ages. We live in this world and look forward to the next. I will say that with in those two ages, particularly the first one of now, God has periods or epochs or dare we say, "dispensations" in which his sovereign purposes dealing with his people are being worked out. KR dismisses this out of hand.


Are you holding to a historic pre-mil eschatology?

No. I advocate more of a biblical dispensationalism. Dr. Relunctant calls it Biblical Covenantalism to the dismay of CTers.

I do disagree with your study so far and believe you are wrong but at the same time you have some very good points to consider and your handling of the text is honest and forth right so I do appreciate the time and thought put into this.

Keep reading. I am glad to offer the challenge.

7:33 AM, November 05, 2009  
Blogger threegirldad said...

I've converted most of the series to PDF, and the files are available here. The three that are missing should be online later today.

[NB: You'll need to switch the View setting from "Icons" to "Details" in order to see the number in the series.]

10:56 AM, November 07, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I appreciate you doing this. How exactly do I open them, because I am apparently doing something that makes my computer to tell me I'm an idiot, and how do I get the files to up load at my alternate website?

11:19 AM, November 07, 2009  
Blogger threegirldad said...

Sorry for the trouble. The way SkyDrive works takes a bit of getting used to, but you can't beat the price. ;-)

Here are the steps that should work:

1. Click on my link. This should open a window that displays the list of files.

2. You now have two choices: download all files in the folder as a single ZIP file (probably what you want in this case), or download individual files.

3. Use the "Download as a .zip file" option to go that route.

4. To download an individual file, click on its icon. You should then see a screen that shows an icon for that file, but without a description (I didn't take time to do that).

5. Click on that icon, and your computer should then prompt you to save the file, or open it.

If you don't have a PDF reader already installed, I recommend Foxit Reader.

What sort of error message are you getting?

Btw, I forgot to mention in my previous comment that I took some liberties with the formatting, just to simplify the process. Hope you don't mind.

11:46 AM, November 07, 2009  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home