Article: Losing the faith (3/22)
Confusion About Life After Death
The resurrection of the dead is the Christian’s trust – Tertullian.
Life After Death
Clement of Rome, at the end of the first century, wrote to the Corinthian ecclesia and speaks of the apostles Peter and Paul as having “departed to the place of glory” and “being removed from the world … into the holy place.” (Clement, First Epistle to Corinthians, iv). This bishop of the Roman ecclesia is thought to have been contemporary with the apostles; thus these sentiments, which clearly appear to support the immortality of the soul, are most disappointing.
In the same letter, however, he is eloquent when reminding his readers of the apostolic hope:
“There shall be a future resurrection, of which He has rendered the Lord Jesus Christ the first-fruits by raising him from the dead … Do we then deem it any great and wonderful thing for the Maker of all things to raise up again those that have piously served Him in the assurance of a good faith … Job says, ‘Thou shalt raise up this flesh of mine, which has suffered all these things.’ Having then this hope, let our souls be bound to Him who is faithful in His promises…” (Clement, First Epistle, xxiv, xxvi).
Polycarp (AD 65-155) writes of certain martyrs that, “they are now in their due place in the presence of the Lord” (Polycarp to the Philippians, ix.). Yet in the same epistle he affirms, “He who raised (Christ) up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments…” (To the Philippians, ii).
The soul’s inherent immortality is a concept that is obviously not compatible with the true Christian hope, which is the promise of immortality. Apostolic teaching affirms that death is a sleep and that the change in nature from mortal to immortal follows a future resurrection (I Cor. 15:42-44). It seems remarkable that this plain and simple teaching of Scripture was so quickly compromised.