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Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth:
The Apostolic Fathers were the Christian writers whose generation overlapped that of the apostles. Most of them lived through 70 AD, which is the time that full preterists teach the resurrection occurred, and some of them may have met or known the Apostle John. There is no evidence that any of them believed that the resurrection had occurred in 70 AD. To the contrary, all of the writings available in our language indicate that these men looked forward to a future resurrection of the flesh. If the resurrection happened in 70 AD and no one noticed it, wouldn't the apostle John, who lived
past 70 AD and died a natural death, have corrected their misunderstanding of this important matter? The early apologists, or defenders of the faith Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, sometimes referred to as the Josh McDowells of the second century, also looked forward to a future resurrection of the flesh. In fact, they vigorously defended this doctrine against the teachings of the heretics.
Recently, a friend told me that a full preterist had given him the impression that the writings of the church fathers supported the idea that the resurrection had already occurred. I didn't think that was the case, but I told him to make sure, I'd do a search to see if I could find any references in the writings of the apostolic fathers to the resurrection of the saints as a past event. Since I have the entire collection of the Ante-Nicene Fathers on CD-ROM, I did a search of Volume One for any words containing the letters "resurrect". (This included words such as resurrect, resurrection, resurrecting, etc.) Because of time constraints, this search was limited to volume one, covering the Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus only. At a later date, I may do a complete search of the later Ante-Nicene fathers.
It took hours to do, but I read EVERY SINGLE REFERENCE from the computer search (Whew!). I couldn't find a SINGLE place where the Apostolic fathers, Justin Martyr, or Irenaeus said that the resurrection had already occurred. Nor could I find any supporting the idea that our fleshly bodies will remain in the graves following the resurrection, as full preterists teach. However, I did find many references to the resurrection of the flesh as a future event. I've quoted many of them below. I also found many passages directly opposed to the teachings of full preterism, most of which are related to the resurrection. Some of these are included as well. I hope this will be sufficient to demonstrate that my friend either misunderstood his full preterist acquaintance, or the man gave him some some bad information!
Clement, writing about AD 100, wrote:
Let us consider, beloved, how the Lord continually proves to us that there shall be a future resurrection, of which He has rendered the Lord Jesus Christ the first-fruits by raising Him from the dead. (Chapter 24)
Ignatius was personally condemned by the emperor Trajan to be fed to the wild beasts in Rome. On his way there, his guards graciously permitted him to write letters to the churches. In AD 107, in his Letter to the Smyrnaens, he wrote:
"For I know that after His resurrection also He was still possessed of flesh, and I believe that He is so now." (Chapter 3)
The Author of the Epistle of Barnabus
In The Epistle of Barnabus, written in AD 100, we read:
"On this account there will be a resurrection, on this account a retribution." Justin Martyr In the first apology of Justin Martyr, written between AD 110 and 165, we read that He was looking forward to a future Resurrection: "...we expect to receive again our own bodies, though they be dead and cast into the earth, for we maintain that with God nothing is impossible." (Chapter 18)
In the Dialogue of Justin Martyr with the Jew Trypho, also written between AD 110 and 165, we read:
Since those who did that which is universally, naturally, and eternally good are pleasing to God, they shall be saved through this Christ in the resurrection equally with those righteous men who were before them... (Chapter 45)
For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians... (Chapter 81)
There Will be a Millennial Reign,
On the same page, he wrote:
But I and others, who are fight-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged, [as] the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare. For as Adam was told that in the day he ate of the tree he would die, we know that he did not complete a thousand years. We have perceived, moreover, that the expression, 'The day of the Lord is as a thousand years,' is connected with this subject. And further, there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place. Just as our Lord also said, 'They shall neither marry nor be given in marriage, but shall be equal to the angels, the children of the God of the resurrection.' For the former [Moses] gave them a temporary inheritance, seeing he was neither Christ who is God, nor the Son of God; but the latter [Jesus], after the holy resurrection, shall give us the eternal possession. (Chapter 113)
Justin Martyr also wrote an entire book concerning the resurrection. Only portions of it have survived the ravages of time. In it, he goes to great lengths to prove the resurrection of the flesh from the grave. Here are some quotes from the fragments:
They who maintain the wrong opinion say that there is no resurrection of the flesh; giving as their reason that it is impossible that what is corrupted and dissolved should be restored to the same as it had been. ...By these and such like arguments, they attempt to distract men from the faith.(Chapter 2)
And shall not God be able to collect again the decomposed members of the flesh, and make the same body as was formerly produced by Him? (Chapter 6)
But the proof of the possibility of the resurrection of the flesh I have sufficiently demonstrated, in answer to men of the world. And if the resurrection of the flesh is not found impossible on the principles even of unbelievers, how much more will it be found in accordance with the mind of believers! (Chapter 7)
Then the sculptor and painter, if they wish the works they have made to endure, that they may win glory by them, renew them when they begin to decay; but God would so neglect His own possession and work, that it becomes annihilated, and no longer exists. Should we not call this labor in vain? As if a man who has built a house should forthwith destroy it, or should neglect it, though he sees it falling into decay, and is able to repair it: we would blame him for laboring in vain; and should we not so blame God? But not such an one is the Incorruptible, - not senseless is the Intelligence of the universe. Let the unbelieving be silent, even though they themselves do not believe. But, in truth, He has even called the flesh to the resurrection, and promises to it everlasting life. For where He promises to save man, there He gives the promise to the flesh. For what is man but the reasonable animal composed of body and soul? Is the soul by itself man? No; but the soul of man. Would the body be called man? No, but it is called the body of man. If, then, neither of these is by itself man, but that which is made up of the two together is called man, and God has called man to life and resurrection, He has called not a part, but the whole, which is the soul and the body. (Chapter 7)
The Resurrection of Christ Proves the Body Rises
If He had no need of the flesh, why did He heal it? And what is most forcible of all, He raised the dead. Why? Was it not to show what the resurrection should be? How then did He raise the dead? Their souls or their bodies? Manifestly both. If the resurrection were only spiritual, it was requisite that He, in raising the dead, should show the body lying apart by itself, and the soul living apart by itself. But now He did not do so, but raised the body, confirming in it the promise of life. Why did He rise in the flesh in which He suffered, unless to show the resurrection of the flesh? And wishing to confirm this, when His disciples did not know whether to believe He had truly risen in the body, and were looking upon Him and doubting, He said to them, "Ye have not yet faith, see that it is I;" and He let them handle Him, and showed them the prints of the nails in His hands. And when they were by every kind of proof persuaded that it was Himself, and in the body, they asked Him to eat with them, that they might thus still more accurately ascertain that He had in verity risen bodily; and He did eat honey-comb and fish. And when He had thus shown them that there is truly a resurrection of the flesh, wishing to show them this also, that it is not impossible for flesh to ascend into heaven (as He had said that our dwelling-place is in heaven), "He was taken up into heaven while they beheld," as He was in the flesh. If, therefore, after all that has been said, any one demand demonstration of the resurrection, he is in no respect different from the Sadducees, since the resurrection of the flesh is the power of God, and, being above all reasoning, is established by faith, and seen in works. (Chapter 9)
The resurrection is a resurrection of the flesh which died. For the spirit dies not; the soul is in the body, and without a soul it cannot live. The body, when the soul forsakes it, is not. For the body is the house of the soul; and the soul the house of the spirit. These three, in all those who cherish a sincere hope and unquestioning faith in God, will be saved. (Chapter 10)
Irenaeus, a fighter for the faith, writing around 180 AD, stated in
And then the doctrine concerning the resurrection of bodies which we believe, will emerge true and certain since, God, when He resuscitates our mortal bodies which preserved righteousness, will render them incorruptible and immortal. (Book 3, Chapter 29)
As also David says, prophesying His birth from a virgin, and the resurrection from the dead, "Truth has sprung out of the earth."" (Book 3, Chapter 5)
...so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity. (Book 4, Chapter 18)
As a decomposing seed rises, so will the body: And just as a cutting from the vine planted in the ground fructifies in its season, or as a corn of wheat falling into the earth and becoming decomposed, rises with manifold increase by the Spirit of God, who contains all things, and then, through the wisdom of God, serves for the use of men, and having received the Word of God, becomes the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ; so also our bodies, being nourished by it, and deposited in the earth, and suffering decomposition there, shall rise at their appointed time, the Word of God granting them resurrection to the glory of God, even the Father, who freely gives to this mortal immortality, and to this corruptible incorruption, because the strength of God is made perfect in weakness, in order that we may never become puffed up, as if we had life from ourselves, and exalted against God, our minds becoming ungrateful; but learning by experience that we possess eternal duration from the excelling power of this Being, not from our own nature, we may neither undervalue that glory which surrounds God as He is, nor be ignorant of our own nature, but that we may know what God can effect, and what benefits man receives, and thus never wander from the true comprehension of things as they are, that is, both with regard to God and with regard to man. And might it not be the case, perhaps, as I have already observed, that for this purpose God permitted our resolution into the common dust of mortality, that we, being instructed by every mode, may be accurate in all things for the future, being ignorant neither of God nor of ourselves? (Book 5, Chapter 2)
For since the Creator does even here quicken our mortal bodies, and promises them resurrection by the prophets, as I have pointed out; who [in that case] is shown to be more powerful, stronger, or truly good? (Book 5, Chapter 4)
Corrupted Flesh Will Be Raised Immortal
Corrupted Flesh will be raised immortal: For what is more ignoble than dead flesh? Or, on the other hand, what is more glorious than the same when it arises and partakes of incorruption? "It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power:" in its own weakness certainly, because since it is earth it goes to earth; but [it is quickened] by the power of God, who raises it from the dead. "It is sown an animal body, it rises a spiritual body." He has taught, beyond all doubt, that such language was not used by him, either with reference to the soul or to the spirit, but to bodies that have become corpses. (Book 5, Chapter 7)
Why the healing of the body points to and demonstrates a future resurrection: For what was His object in healing [different] portions of the flesh, and restoring them to their original condition, if those parts which had been healed by Him were not in a position to obtain salvation? For if it was [merely] a temporary benefit which He conferred, He granted nothing of importance to those who were the subjects of His healing. Or how can they maintain that the flesh is incapable of receiving the life which flows from Him, when it received healing from Him? For life is brought about through healing, and incorruption through life. He, therefore, who confers healing, the same does also confer life; and He [who gives] life, also surrounds His own handiwork with incorruption. (Book 5, Chapter 12)
All of the Nations of the World Will be Subdued at the Resurrection
Ireneaus believed that all of the nations of the world would be subdued when the elect are resurrected:
If therefore the great God showed future things by Daniel, and confirmed them by His Son; and if Christ is the stone which is cut out without hands, who shall destroy temporal kingdoms, and introduce an eternal one, which is the resurrection of the just; as he declares, "The God of heaven shall raise up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed," -- let those thus confuted come to their senses, who reject the Creator (Demiurgum), and do not agree that the prophets were sent beforehand from the same Father from whom also the Lord came, but who assert that prophecies originated from diverse powers. For those things which have been predicted by the Creator alike through all the prophets has Christ fulfilled in the end, ministering to His Father's will, and completing His dispensations with regard to the human race. Let those persons, therefore, who blaspheme the Creator, either by openly expressed words, such as the disciples of Marcion, or by a perversion of the sense [of Scripture], as those of Valentinus and all the Gnostics falsely so called, be recognized as agents of Satan by all those who worship God; through whose agency Satan now, and not before, has been seen to speak against God, even Him who has prepared eternal fire for every kind of apostasy. Proof that Irenaeas understood part of Matthew 24 to refer to a future coming of Christ: If the Father, then, does not exercise judgment, [it follows] that judgment does not belong to Him, or that He consents to all those actions which take place; and if He does not judge, all persons will be equal, and accounted in the same condition. The advent of Christ will therefore be without an object, yea, absurd, inasmuch as [in that case] He exercises no judicial power. For 'He came to divide a man against his father, and the daughter against the mother, and the daughter-in-law against the mother-in-law;' and when two are in one bed, to take the one, and to leave the other; and of two women grinding at the mill, to take one and leave the other: at the time of the end, to order the reapers to collect first the tares together, and bind them in bundles, and burn them with unquenchable fire, but to gather up the wheat into the barn; and to call the lambs into the kingdom prepared for them, but to send the goats into everlasting fire, which has been prepared by His Father for the devil and his angels. (Book 5, Chapter 27)
Those Who Deny the Bodily Resurrection Do Not Understand It
Those persons, therefore, who disallow a resurrection affecting the whole man (universam reprobant resurrectionem), and as far as in them lies remove it from the midst [of the Christian scheme], how can they be wondered at, if again they know nothing as to the plan of the resurrection? (Book 5, Chapter 31)
Why We Should Await a Future Resurrection
As our Master, therefore, did not at once depart, taking flight [to heaven], but awaited the time of His resurrection prescribed by the Father, which had been also shown forth through Jonas, and rising again after three days was taken up [to heaven]; so ought we also to await the time of our resurrection prescribed by God and foretold by the prophets, and so, rising, be taken up, as many as the Lord shall account worthy of this [privilege]. (Book 5, Chapter 31)
Regarding the Otherwise Orthodox Who Hold to Some Heretical Opinions
Inasmuch, therefore, as the opinions of certain [orthodox persons] are derived from heretical discourses, they are both ignorant of God's dispensations, and of the mystery of the resurrection of the just, and of the [earthly] kingdom which is the commencement of incorruption, by means of which kingdom those who shall be worthy are accustomed gradually to partake of the divine nature (capere Deum); and it is necessary to tell them respecting those things, that it behooves the righteous first to receive the promise of the inheritance which God promised to the fathers, and to reign in it, when they rise again to behold God in this creation which is renovated, and that the judgment should take place afterwards. (Book 5, Chapter 31)
Those Absent From the Body but Present with the Lord
For as the Lord "went away in the midst of the shadow of death," where the souls of the dead were, yet afterwards arose in the body, and after the resurrection was taken up [into heaven], it is manifest that the souls of His disciples also, upon whose account the Lord underwent these things, shall go away into the invisible place allotted to them by God, and there remain until the resurrection, awaiting that event; then receiving their bodies, and rising in their entirety, that is bodily, just as the Lord arose, they shall come thus into the presence of God. The as yet unfulfilled promise God made to Abraham must be fulfilled in a future resurrection, when the meek will inherit the earth: If, then, God promised him the inheritance of the land, yet he did not receive it during all the time of his sojourn there, it must be, that together with his seed, that is, those who fear God and believe in Him, he shall receive it at the resurrection of the just.... Now God made promise of the earth to Abraham and his seed; yet neither Abraham nor his seed, that is, those who are justified by faith, do now receive any inheritance in it; but they shall receive it at the resurrection of the just. For God is true and faithful; and on this account He said, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Regarding the Restoration of Nature at the Resurrection
And it is right that when the creation is restored, all the animals should obey and be in subjection to man, and revert to the food originally given by God (for they had been originally subjected in obedience to Adam), that is, the productions of the earth. (Book 5, Chapter 33)
He promised to drink of the fruit of the vine with His disciples, thus indicating both these points: the inheritance of the earth in which the new fruit of the vine is drunk, and the resurrection of His disciples in the flesh. (Book 5, Chapter 33)
The OT Prophets Testify to the Resurrection of the Body
Then, too, Isaiah himself has plainly declared that there shall be joy of this nature at the resurrection of the just, when he says: "The dead shall rise again; those, too, who are in the tombs shall arise, and those who are in the earth shall rejoice. For the dew from Thee is health to them." And this again Ezekiel also says: "Behold, I will open your tombs, and will bring you forth out of your graves; when I will draw my people from the sepulchers, and I will put breath in you, and ye shall live; and I will place you on your own land, and ye shall know that I am the LORD." (Book 5, Chapter 34)
And they shall build houses, and shall inhabit them themselves: and plant vineyards, and eat of them themselves." For all these and other words were unquestionably spoken in reference to the resurrection of the just, which takes place after the coming of Antichrist, and the destruction of all nations under his rule; in [the times of] which [resurrection] the righteous shall reign in the earth, waxing stronger by the sight of the Lord: and through Him they shall become accustomed to partake in the glory of God the Father, and shall enjoy in the kingdom intercourse and communion with the holy angels, and union with spiritual beings; and [with respect to] those whom the Lord shall find in the flesh, awaiting Him from heaven, and who have suffered tribulation, as well as escaped the hands of the Wicked one.
If, however, any shall endeavor to allegorize [prophecies] of this kind, they shall not be found consistent with themselves in all points, and shall be confuted by the teaching of the very expressions [in question]. For example: "When the cities" of the Gentiles "shall be desolate, so that they be not inhabited, and the houses so that there shall be no men in them and the land shall be left desolate." "For, behold," says Isaiah, "the day of the LORD cometh past remedy, full of fury and wrath, to lay waste the city of the earth, and to root sinners out of it." And again he says, "Let him be taken away, that he behold not the glory of God." And when these things are done, he says, "God will remove men far away, and those that are left shall multiply in the earth." "And they shall build houses, and shall inhabit them themselves: and plant vineyards, and eat of them themselves." For all these and other words were unquestionably spoken in reference to the resurrection of the just, which takes place after the coming of Antichrist, and the destruction of all nations under his rule; in [the times of] which [resurrection] the righteous shall reign in the earth, waxing stronger by the sight of the Lord: and through Him they shall become accustomed to partake in the glory of God the Father, and shall enjoy in the kingdom intercourse and communion with the holy angels, and union with spiritual beings; and [with respect to] those whom the Lord shall find in the flesh, awaiting Him from heaven, and who have suffered tribulation, as well as escaped the hands of the Wicked one.
Quotes From Fragments of the Lost Writings of Irenaeus:
Again, as a bare grain is sown, and, germinating by the command of God its Creator, rises again, clothed upon and glorious, but not before it has died and suffered decomposition, and become mingled with the earth; so [it is seen from this, that] we have not entertained a vain belief in the resurrection of the body. (Chapter 8)
As a bonus to reward you for reading all of this material, I thought I'd throw in a quote from one of the most prominent post apostolic writers, St. Augustine. In his Enchridion, or "Handbook", Augustine wrote:
Yet no Christian should have the slightest doubt as to the fact that the bodies of all men, whether already or yet to be born, whether dead or still to die, will be resurrected. (Chapter 23, section 84)
All of the evidence indicates that the Apostolic Fathers looked forward to a future bodily resurrection of the flesh from the grave. If they were mistaken, we would have expected the Apostle John to have corrected this misunderstanding, but there is no evidence of this at all. The apologists Justin Martyr and Irenaeus vigorously defended the doctrine of the resurrection of the flesh as well. Undoubtably, as these men of faith died, many at the hands of executioners and wild beasts, they fell asleep with this sure and certain hope. We can, too, when our moment arrives.
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