He that professes a principle the logical effect of which is to overthrow a gospel truth, involves himself in the same condemnation as the man who in plain words denies it .
IF we establish the truth of this thesis, we are not responsible for the fearful and startling conclusions to which it leads as it regards the "faith" of the professing world. This faith and the "One Faith" (Eph. 4:4) we have long regarded as diverse; and we are more and more confirmed in our conviction. If the proposition cannot be sustained, happy will it be for those in these days, who teach the Hymenaean heresy as a substitute for the glorious "hope of Israel" (Jer. 14:8; 17:13) for which Paul stood before the Rulers of the Synagogue in Rome a prisoner in bonds.
To maintain a principle which makes the resurrection of the dead unnecessary, is tantamount, not only to denying a future resurrection, but to denying the resurrection ofJesus, and therefore also of the saints who appeared to many in Jerusalem. This will appear from the following considerations.
Hymenaeus and Philetus affirmed that "the resurrection was past already" (2 Tim. 2:18). This was equivalent to saying that "there is no resurrection of the dead" (1 Cor.15:12). From this it would appear that Hvmenaeus and Philetus admitted that there had been a resurrection in some sense. There were in those days certain professors, of whom, perhaps, Hymenaeus and his brethren were some, who taught that Jesus Christ had not come in the flesh (2 John 7); yet they received the Apostles' doctrine that he did die, was buried, and rose again according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:1-4). These persons are styled "deceivers", and their disciples "bewitched whose minds were corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" (2 Cor. 11:3). They preached another Jesus, whom Paul had not preached; and another spirit and gospel, which the Corinthians had not originally accepted. The Apostle taught simple truths; they corrupted their "simplicity". He affirmed that "Jesus came in the flesh" ; (1 John 4:2,3; 2 John 7) that God, when he was crucified, "condemned sin in the flesh" ; (Rom. 8:3) that he was buried bodily; that his flesh was raised from death to life; and that he ascended as he rose. Hymenaeus and Philetus denied all this; and affirmed that it was mere appearance, and not reality, and that there was no flesh about him.
Why did these men affirm that Jesus Christ had not come in the flesh? We answer, that they might be the better able to blend the gnosis of the Orientals and the philosophy of the Greeks and Romans with the doctrine of the Gospel, and so popularize it as to make it more palatable to "the wise and prudent" of the age. The simple truth that Jesus was crucified and buried in the flesh, was a stumbling block in the way of the "vain" notion that "instantly when men die, their souls are received up into heaven". If they admitted that Jesus was buried, it was tantamount to saying that he did not go to heaven, when he said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" ; (Luke 23:46) but, denying that he was buried bodily, they could then teach that his "immortal soul" was received up when he made this exclamation. It is therefore evident that the thesis, or proposition, which affirms that Jesus was crucified, buried and rose again in the flesh, and the antithesis, or "opposition", that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh, are as opposed as pure truth and unmixed error; and that the antithesis was affirmed in order to make way for the heathen dogma of the immortality of the soul; which Hymenaeus and his faction sought to mix up with repentance and remission of sins by the name of Jesus.
Those, then, who embraced these fictions received another Jesus, and, another gospel than that taught by Paul. They preached Jesus crucified in appearance, and translated instantly to heaven, when his immortal soul left his body. This Jesus, they taught, did not rise in the flesh again; for being in heaven, resurrection was unnecessary: there would, therefore, be no resurrection of the dead; for as Jesus had gone to heaven without a resurrection of body, all others through all time might do the same. In the name of such a Jesus as this they preached "another gospel" , (Gal. 1:6) even repentance and baptism for remission of sin; so that their disciples were baptized for translation of soul to heaven at death, and not in hope of a resurrection from the dead as were those who believed on Jesus through the word of the Apostles!
The "immortality of the soul", then, was the principle by which Hymenaeus and Philetus subverted the gospel of life and incorruptibility by Jesus at the resurrection; so that they affirmed "the resurrection was past already" (2 Tim.2:18) because there was "no future resurrection of the dead", seeing that, upon their hypothesis, there was none needed.
The vain babblings and pseudo-scientific antitheses, or "oppositions", of these men invaded the minds of some of the church (ecclesia) in Corinth. They were the dogmas of the Nicolaitanes, whose deeds and doctrine are reprobated in Rev. 2:6,15; and essentially opposed to "the knowledge of God" ; (1 Cor. 15:2,34) of which some of the Corinthians were destitute. In his letter to them, Paul shows them the consequences of the principle they held; and tells them that they are only saved by the gospel he preached to them on condition of their retaining in their minds what he preached to them -- "by which ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you" . (1 Cor. 15:2,34) They were permitting what he taught to slip from their remembrance. He had preached that Jesus rose substantially from the dead, the first-fruits of a general resurrection of the righteous dead; but by rejecting this they were in effect denying that God had raised Jesus; and the non-resurrection of Jesus in the flesh would leave the Gospel without power, nullify their faith, convict the Apostles of falsehood, leave them in their sins under sentence of death, and leave the believers who had died in hope of a resurrection for ever in the grave. All these consequences flow from the dogma of the innate immortality of man.
But it may be objected that Jesus is risen from the dead, and therefore it matters not whether we believe the dead will rise literally or figuratively, or not at all; it will not alter the facts in the case.
True, it will not alter the facts abstractly considered; but relatively to the salvation of the individual, it is of immense importance: for, for him to hold a principle which abrogates the resurrection is virtually to deny the resurrection of Jesus: and by this heathen tradition he renders his own faith void by neutralizing the potential truth, that God did raise up Messiah from the dead. As far as the professor is concerned, to deny that Jesus rose, or to hold a principle which renders his resurrection unnecessary, absurd, superfluous, is the same to him as if he had not risen from the dead at all.
Many of the Corinthians who said that the resurrection was past already, doubtless believed that Jesus rose in the flesh; yet their denying the resurrection of the dead who fell asleep since Jesus rose was considered by Paul as equivalent to denying that Jesus had risen. Their salvation was conditional. "Ye are saved by the gospel" , said he, "if ye keep in memory what I preached to you" . (1 Cor. 15:1,2) As if he had said, "If you repudiate from your faith the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead saints, by holding any tradition of men which subverts it, there is no salvation for you by the gospel; for in forgetting this item of belief, you convert the gospel I delivered to you into 'another gospel' which cannot save".
To deny that Jesus rose in the flesh, is to deny that there will be any resurrection of the dead; and to deny that the dead will rise, is to affirm that Jesus has not risen. The propositions are inseparable, to wit, Jesus rose; therefore, the dead in him will rise: Jesus did not rise; therefore, the dead in him will not rise. The dead in Christ will not rise; therefore Jesus did not rise. The soul is immortal; therefore, there is no resurrection of the dead; therefore, Jesus did not rise; therefore, Jesus went to heaven without resurrection; therefore, "death", not resurrection, "is the beginning of immortality as Robespierre affirms. And this is essentially the doctrine of the Hymenaeans to this day.