Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Keys of the Kingdom

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV).

The phrase “the keys of the kingdom” appears only once in the Bible, in the above passage. A couple days ago my family and I read Wayne Grudem’s discussion of the phrase in Chapter 46, “The Power of the Church,” of his Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994). His discussion was adapted from his “The Keys of the Kingdom” article in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 1984). In preparation for our family reading of Grudem’s exposition I read articles on “keys of the kingdom” and on “bind and loose” in The International Encyclopedia of the Bible, The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, and New Bible Dictionary and comments on Matthew 16:18-19 and 18:18 in commentaries on Matthew by D. A. Carson (in The Expositor’s Commentary on the Bible), R. T. France, Donald A. Hagner, Leon Morris, and Michael J. Wilkins. Here I’ll share from my personal thoughts on the phrase.

Looking at “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” in its context, I surmised that it was related to one or both of Jesus’ promises to Peter before and after making it: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18) and “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). Thus I considered what Jesus meant by those two promises.

You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

A footnote in the Bible that I use most, ESV Study Bible, states that the Greek words for “Peter” and “rock” sound similar, suggesting that Jesus was affirming that he would build his church on Peter. Like other Protestants, I don’t accept the Roman Catholic view that Jesus was referring to the Roman Catholic church as “my church” with Peter’s being its first pope and with its inheriting the promise made to him.

Thus I reflected on what role Peter played in the early church in order to determine what Jesus meant by his promise to Peter. I recollected that in Acts 2 Peter preached on the day of Pentecost described there and considered by many to be the occasion of the birth of the church. I also recollected that in Acts 8 Peter (and John) laid his hands on Philip’s Samaritan converts so that they received the Holy Spirit, showing that they were part of the church. And I recollected that in Acts 10 Peter preached to the Gentiles gathered in the house of Cornelius with the result that the Holy Spirit fell on them, showing that they too were part of the church. Thus God used Peter in making Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles part of the church.

This suggested to me that in telling Peter “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” Jesus may have been referring to the role that Peter would play in opening the church to Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles.

Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

My ESV Study Bible gives these verses as cross-references to the passage:
– “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18).
– “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (John 20:23).
Matthew 18:15-17 indicates that, like John 20:23, Matthew 18:18 refers to forgiving of sin and withholding of forgiveness of sin. However like other Protestants, I don’t accept the Roman Catholic view that Jesus was giving Peter and the Roman Catholic Church the power to forgive or to withhold forgiveness of sin.

Thus I turned to Grudem’s discussion of “keys of the kingdom” to see how he explains “bind” and “loose.” He gives two explanations:
– They refer to placing under church discipline and releasing from church discipline. The deaths of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 and the baptizing of the Gentiles gathered in the house of Cornelius in Acts 10 are examples of Peter’s exercising this power.
– They refer to forbidding and permitting various kinds of conduct, an explanation prompted by Jewish rabbis of the time using “bind” and “loose” in that way. The decree of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 is an example of the early church’s exercising this power.
Grudem argues for the first explanation.

This suggested to me that in telling Peter “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” Jesus may have been referring to the power which Peter and, since Matthew 18:18 is addressed to all the disciples and not just to Peter, the church would have regarding discipline or regarding what is right and wrong for Christians to do. Since the scholars whose articles and comments I read on the matter don’t agree on which of the two Jesus was referring to, I’m uncertain which he was referring to. However in actual practice, as shown by the examples I gave in the preceding paragraph, the church has both exercised discipline and ruled on what is right and wrong for Christians to do.

Conclusion

Grudem concludes: “Therefore it seems that ‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven which Jesus promised to Peter in Matthew 16:19 included both (1) ability to admit people to the kingdom through preaching the gospel, and (2) authority to exercise church discipline for those who do enter” (page 390). Most scholars whose articles and comments I read on the matter reached a similar conclusion except that they were split on whether (2) should be authority to exercise discipline or to rule on what is right and wrong for Christians to do.

The Purity and Unity of the Church

In my last post I distinguished between true churches and false churches. In this post I’ll go a step further and distinguish between less pure and more pure churches among true churches. I’ll also consider the unity of the church. For both I’ll be guided by Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994), which my family and I are reading in our after-breakfast Bible reading.

The Purity of the Church

Grudem defines the purity of the church as “its degree of freedom from wrong doctrine and conduct, and its degree of conformity to God’s revealed will for the church” (page 874). He identifies some factors which make a church more pure, cites Biblical passages which command or encourage the factors, and considers how we should work towards the purity of the church.

The factors which Grudem identifies are:

1. Biblical doctrine
2. Proper use of the sacraments
3. Right use of church discipline
4. Genuine worship
5. Effective prayer
6. Effective witness
7. Effective fellowship
8. Biblical church government
9. Spiritual power in ministry
10. Personal holiness of life among members
11. Care for the poor
12. Love for Christ

If you’d like to know what passages he gives for any of the factors, ask me in a comment on this post and I’ll tell you in a reply to your comment.

Paul’s letters show that there were more pure and less pure churches in New Testament times. For example, there were no major doctrinal and moral problems in the churches to which Philippians and 1 Thessalonians were addressed, and there were serious doctrinal and moral problems in the churches to which 1 Corinthians and Galatians were addressed. Similarly there are more pure and less pure churches today and undoubtedly will be until Jesus returns. Thus Grudem suggests that Christians should “find a <i>true</i> church in which they can have effective ministry and in which they will experience Christian growth as well, and then should stay there and minister, continually working for the purity of that church” (page 875) rather than continually searching for a purer church to move on to.

The Unity of the Church

Grudem defines the unity of the church as “its degree of freedom from divisions among true Christians” (page 874). He cites New Testament passages emphasizing the unity of the church, surveys the history of organizational separation in the church, and discusses reasons for separation. In our family reading we omitted the history and thus I won’t share from it here.

Some New Testament passages emphasizing unity in the church or warning against those who cause division in the church are:
– “There will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV).
– “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them” (Romans 16:17).
– “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).
– “[Be] eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
– “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 2:2).

After identifying two wrong reasons for separation from a church (personal ambition and pride, and differences over minor doctrines or practices), Grudem discusses three reasons for separation which, depending on the circumstances, could be right reasons:
1. Doctrinal reasons — Christians should separate from a church when it deviates so much from Biblical teaching on major doctrines that it becomes a false church. Even before a church has become a false church, Christians may separate from it when serious doctrinal deviation occurs (or they may stay and pray and work for reformation).
2. Reasons of conscience — Christians should separate from a church when it becomes so dominated by unbelievers that believers don’t have freedom to act for God. Even when a believers still have freedom to act for God, they may separate from a church if staying implies approval of an unbiblical doctrine or practice (or they may stay and voice disapproval of the unbiblical doctrine or practice).
3. Practical considerations — Christians may separate from a church if it seems that staying in the church will likely result in more harm than good.

Open Theism on the Internet

I created this blog, Open Theism, in the fall of 2012 to explain open theism to my family and friends. Open theism holds that in giving us free will God limited His control over and knowledge of the future and thus the future is partly open. I wrote weekly posts about it here from October 27, 2012, to April 27, 2013, by sharing and expanding on an article that I’d written on open theism for Suite101.com in 2005.

After completing that project I began reporting on the weekly meetings of the Life group which my wife and I attended, and I continued doing so until the group disbanded about a year later, my reports running from May 3, 2013, to May 17, 2014. Also on August 24, 2013, I began a series of posts based on my family’s daily reading from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology and plan to continue to do so until we finish reading that book later this year. After that I’ll be devoting Open Theism to occasional posts on open theism and on holidays.

One of my first posts on open theism, posted on November 10, 2012, was called “Some Websites and Blogs on Open Theism. I posted a revised version of it under the same title on June 14, 1013. This is another revised version of it.

Three Reference Websites with “Open Theism” Entries

Many descriptions of open theism occur on the Internet. These three are at standard reference websites:
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy – Open Theism
Theopedia – Open Theism
Wikipedia – Open Theism

Some Websites and Blogs about Open Theism

In my first post, “An Introduction to Open Theism,” I recommended these websites on open theism, the first two supporting and the third opposing open theism:
Open Theism Information Site
ReKnew – Open Theism
Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry – Open Theism

As its name indicates, Open Theism Information Site contains information about open theism. Currently being rebuilt after having being off the Internet for a while, it has these sections: Home, What Is Open Theism?, Information, Publications, Contact Us. What Is Open Theism? features a definition and summary of open theism by John Sanders, author of The God Who Risks and overseer of the site. Information will contain several sections, the most noteworthy so far being Articles, which contains academic articles on open theism by John Sanders, Gregory Boyd, William Hasker, Clark Pinnock, and several other scholars. Publications describes several books on open theism and related topics by various authors.

ReKnew is the website of Greg Boyd, the author of God of the Possible. Its Resources / Essays / Open Theism section contains several items, one of which I especially recommend to anyone wanting to know what open theism is, “A Brief Outline and Defense of the Open View.” The other items are more advanced.

Open Theism at Matt Slick’s Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) contains material opposing open theism. It has four sections: Introduction, describing open theism; Issues and Answers, criticising open theism; Scriptures Examined, explaining Bible passages cited by open theists as evidence that God learns; and “A Dialogue with an Open Theist.”

Since I posted “An Introduction to Open Theism,” many other websites and logs about or containing significant material about open theism have appeared or at least become known to me. I’ll note only a few here:
God Is Open
The Open View
Library of Theology – Open Theism
Revival Theology Resources – Omniscience and Openness
Jess in Process

God Is Open and The Open View are similar to but not as developed as Open Theism Information Site. They are the creations of Christopher Fisher and Kirk Johnson, respectively.

Library of Theology – Open Theism and Revival Theology Resources – Omniscience and Openness provide numerous articles and longer works on open theism by various writers of the past and the present. Their content is similar, but each contains some items not on the other. In particular, Library of Theology – Open Theism includes several articles by Jesse Morrell of Open Air Outreach.

Jess in Process focuses on Jessica Kelley’s discovery of open theism while dealing with the sickness and death of her son, Henry, to brain cancer. I especially recommend the video “Triumph by Testimony” provided on its Home page.

Websites for Discussing Open Theism

I’m a member of two Facebook groups that host discussions of open theism:
Facebook – Open View Theists
Facebook – Open Theism, Moral Government Theology, Pentecostal

I joined Facebook so that I could participate in its Open View Theists group and I do so regularly. After joining Facebook, I found that it hosts some other open theist groups. So far I’ve joined just one of them, the Open Theism, Moral Government Theology, Pentecostal group. The two groups are administered by Michael Faber and William Lance Huget, respectively. I recommend both to anyone who wishes to learn more about and/or discuss open theism.

I’d appreciate your telling me in a comment on this post of other websites or blogs about or with significant material on open theism.

The Marks and the Purposes of the Church

How can we recognize a true church? What are the purposes of the church?

For the past few days my family and I have been reading in our after-breakfast Bible reading how Wayne Grudem answers these questions in Chapter 44, “The Church: Its Nature, Its Marks, and Its Purpose,” of his Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994). Here I’ll share some of what we’ve read there.

The Marks of the Church

In the early centuries of the Christian church there was one world-wide church and naturally it was viewed as the true church. However when the Reformers rejected the Roman Catholic Church as a true church, they had to decide what were the marks of a true church. John Calvin concluded, “Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution, there, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 volumes, Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960, page 1023). Martin Luther expressed a similar view. Grudem argues, “It seems appropriate that we take Luther and Calvin’s view on the marks of a true church as correct still today” (Grudem, page 865).

Grudem claims that both Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses deviate sufficiently from the teaching of the Word of God that they must be considered false churches. However in a footnote he excuses the non-observance of the sacraments by the Salvation Army, concluding that it “has substituted other means of signifying membership and continuing participation in the church [which] provide a substitute for baptism and the Lord’s Supper in terms of ‘membership controls'” (page 866).

The Purposes of the Church

Grudem identifies three purposes of the church in terms of whom it ministers to:
1. ministry to God: worship
2. ministry to believers: nurture
3. ministry to the world: evangelism and mercy

My favourite Bible passage regarding the purpose of the church is Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV). In this “Great Commission” to the eleven Jesus suggested that the church is both to evangelize the world and to nurture those evangelized. And certainly, as Paul encouraged the Christians at Colossae, God wants the church to worship him by “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

Which of these three purposes is most important? Since all three are commanded in the Bible, all are important. Thus it is essential that the church has effective ministries in all three areas. However, as Grudem points out, since the members of a church have different gifts, it is right for individuals to emphasize the area of ministry most related to their gifts. “This is only an appropriate response to the diversity of gifts that God has given us” (page 869).

The Nature of the Church

“I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV).

“Church” is used in a variety of ways. Common meanings for it are the building where believers hold religious services, the services which they hold in such a building, the body of believers themselves, and the denomination which they are a part of. In the passage which I quoted, Jesus was referring to an even larger body of believers, the whole body of believers.

For the past week my family and I have been considering what the church is in our after-breakfast Bible reading, guided by what wayne Grudem says about the nature of the church in Chapter 44, “The Church: Its Nature, Its Marks, and Its Purpose,” of his Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994). Here I’ll share some of what we’ve read there.

The Church Is Invisible and Visible

The Roman Catholic Church holds that it is the church founded by Jesus. However Protestants argue that it has departed from the teaching of Jesus and thus is not the true church. They hold that since only God can know who are genuine believers (“The Lord knows those who are his,” 2 Timothy 2:19), the true church is visible only to Him. Because it is visible only to God, we call the true church the “invisible church.”

On the other hand, the true church has a visible aspect as well. Grudem defines it thus: “The visible church is the church as Christians on earth see it” (page 856). However because they cannot know for certainty who are believers and who aren’t, the church which they see, the visible church, may include some unbelievers as well as believers. Thus Paul addressed his letters to “the church” although some of the congregations addressed included unbelievers (see, for example, 2 Timothy 2:17-18).

The church Is Local and Universal

In the New Testament “church” is used to refer to a group of believers ranging in size from a house church (“the church in their house,” Romans 16:5) to the church throughout the world (“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” Ephesians 5:25)

Biblical Metaphors for the Church

Some of the metaphors which the Bible uses to refer to the church are: a family (Matthew 12:49-50), the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:32), branches in a vine (John 15:5), agricultural plants (1 Corinthians 3:6-9), God’s temple (1 Peter 2:5), a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5), and the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Grudem suggests how each of these metaphors should affect our relationship with God and other Christians; for example, he says, “The fact that a church is like a family should increase our love and fellowship with one another” (page 859). If you’d like to know what he suggests for any of the other metaphors, ask me in a comment on this post and I’ll tell you in a reply to your comment.

The Church and the Kingdom of God

After announcing that he would build his church (Matthew 16:18, quoted above), Jesus said to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19), from which a person could infer that “church” and “kingdom of God” are synonyms. However George Ladd argues persuasively in his A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1974, pages 111-119) that the kingdom of God is the reign of God (and the sphere in which it occurs) and the church is the people belonging to that kingdom. He makes five main points about their relationship:

1. The church is not the kingdom.
2. The kingdom creates the church.
3. The church witnesses to the kingdom.
4. The church is the instrument of the kingdom.
5. The church is the custodian of the kingdom.

If you’d like to know how Ladd supports any of the five points, ask me in a comment on this post and I’ll tell you in a reply to your comment.

The Church and Israel

Many New Testament passages understand the church to be the new Israel. Among them are these passages from Romans:
– “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter” (2:28-29).
– “[Abraham was] the father of all who believe without being circumcised [as well as] the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had” (4:11-12).
– “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring….it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring” (9:6-8).
– “For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree….And in this way all Israel will be saved” (11:24,26).
Other New Testament passages suggested by Grudem as understanding the church to be the new Israel are Galatians 3:29; Ephesians 2:11-22; Philippians 3:3; Hebrews 8:8-12, applying the promise made to Israel in Jeremiah 31:31-34 to the church; and 1 Peter 2:4-10.

“To sum up, then: the church is the new Israel. It occupies the place in the new covenant that Israel occupied in the old. Whereas in the Old Testament the kingdom of God was peopled by national Israel, in the New Testament it is peopled by the church. There is a special future coming for national Israel, however, through large-scale conversion to Christ and entry into the church.” (Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, third edition, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 2013, page 966).

Union With Christ

“Abide in me, and I in you” (John 15:4, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV).

For the past couple months my family and I have been considering the steps in salvation guided by Part 5: The Doctrine of the Application of Redemption of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994) in our family’s after-breakfast Bible reading. Those steps are election, the Gospel call, conversion, regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, death, and glorification. During the past week we read its final chapter, Chapter 43: Unity With Christ. However, as Grudem points out, rather than being an additional step in salvation, unity with Christ is a comprehensive concept which includes the whole of salvation.

Grudem identifies and considers four aspects of union with Christ: 1. we are in Christ; 2. Christ is in us; 3. we are like Christ; and 4. we are with Christ. Although my family and I read his whole exposition, all that I’m going to share from it here is a little of the Biblical evidence that he gives for the two aspects referred to in the passage with which I opened this post, our being in Christ and His being in us. I’ll also list some Scriptural illustrations of the union, some characteristics of it, and some of its implications for us from other presentations on union with Christ that I have.

We Are in Christ

Grudem devotes almost four pages to considering how we are in Christ. He shows that “in Christ” refers to our relationship with Christ in God’s eternal plan, during Christ’s life on earth, and during our present life and views our present life in Christ from four perspectives: we have died and been raised with Christ; we have new life in Christ; all our actions can be done in Christ; and all Christians are one body in Christ (the church). In his presentation, he cites numerous Biblical passages, including these:

(In God’s Eternal Plan)
– “He [God the Father] chose us in him [Jesus Christ] before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).
(During Christ’s Life on Earth)
– “Having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).
(During Our Present Life)
– “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
– “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).

Christ Is in Us

– “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
– “If Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10).
– “[I pray that God may empower you with His Spirit] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:17).

Scriptural Illustrations of Union with Christ

– the union of a building and its foundation (Ephesians 5:20-22; Colossians 2:7; 1 Peter 2:4-5).
– the union between husband and wife (Romans 7:4; Ephesians 5:31-32; Revelation 19:7-8).
– the union between the vine and its branches (John 15:1-6).
– the union between the members and the head of the body (1 Corinthians 6:15,19; 12:12; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:15-16).
– the union of the race with the source of its life in Adam (Romans 5:12,21; 1 Corinthians 15:22,45,49).

This list is taken from Augustus H. Strong, Systematic Theology, Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1907, pages 795-97.

Characteristics of Union with Christ

– It is an organic union. Christ and the believers form one body. “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body” (Ephesians 5:29-30).
– It is a vital union. Christ indwells and animates us. “Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).
– It is a union mediated by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit originates and maintains the union. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
– It is a union that implies reciprocal action. The believer unites himself to Christ by faith, and Christ unites believers to himself by regenerating them. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).
– It is a personal union. Each believer is personally united directly to Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
– It is a transforming union. Believers are changed into the image of Christ according to his human nature. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1).

This list is taken from Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, fourth edition, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1939, pages 450-51.

Implications of Union with Christ for Us

– We are accounted righteous. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
– We live in Christ’s strength. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
– We will suffer. “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20; Jesus to the eleven).
– We have the prospect of reigning with Christ. “if we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:12).

This list is taken from Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, third edition, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 2013, pages 882-83. Those given by Strong (pages 802-09) and Berkhof (pages 452-53) are much different but also good.

Glorification

When will we receive our resurrection bodies? What will they look like? In the past few days my family and I have read Wayne Grudem’s discussion of those questions in Chapter 42: Glorification (Receiving a Resurrection Body) of his Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994) in our family’s after-breakfast Bible reading. Here I’ll share just a little of what he says about them.

Glorification is the last step in the application of redemption. The previous steps, each of which Grudem devotes a chapter to and of which I’ve made one or more posts on are election, the Gospel call, conversion, regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, and death. Glorification will occur when our bodies are raised and reunited with our souls.

When Will We Receive Our Resurrection Bodies?

The primary New Testament passage on the resurrection of the dead is 1 Corinthians 15:12-55. In verses 51-52 of it Paul says that our bodies will be raised and reunited with our souls when Jesus Christ returns: “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be changed imperishable, and we shall be changed” (ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV).

In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 Paul explains that the souls of those who had died and gone into the presence of God will return with Jesus and be reunited with their bodies before those who are alive meet him: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”

Grudem cites other New Testament passages which affirm the doctrine of glorification (pages 829-30) and several Old Testament passages which support the doctrine (pages 830-31). Please let me know in a comment on this post if you would like me to provide references to some of the passages and I’ll do so in a reply to your comment.

What Will Our Resurrection Bodies Look Like?

In the first passage referred to above (1 Corinthians 15:12-55) Paul describes our resurrection bodies thus: “What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body” (verses 42-44). Thus our resurrection bodies will remain healthy and strong forever, be attractive and perhaps surrounded by a brightness, be strong and powerful, and subject to the Holy Spirit. Paul also observes in the passage, “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust [Adam after the fall], we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven [Jesus]” (verse 49).

Grudem presents considerable Biblical evidence for continuity between our present bodies and our resurrection bodies (pages 833-35). Please let me know in a comment on this post if you would like me to provide some of the evidence and I’ll do so in a reply to your comment.

Related Topics

When we receive our resurrection bodies, the whole creation will be renewed. Paul refers to this in Romans 8:21, “The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

When we receive our resurrection bodies, unbelievers will also be raised but they will face judgment. Jesus told the Jews, “An hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his [the Son’s] voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29).