Article: Losing the Faith (4/22)
The Hope of Resurrection
The early Christian writers made efforts to reconcile the hope of resurrection with their preconceived notion about the soul. They often explained it this way: the soul at death departs to a place where it remains until the resurrection and judgment. The souls of the righteous are deemed to be resting in a state of blessedness; those of the wicked are already suffering punishment. Both are in Hades, the place of the dead. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is often cited. Typical examples are Tertullian’s comments in A Treatise on the Soul, liv, lv; On the Resurrection of the Flesh, xvii.
The importance of a clear understanding of the parables of Christ is evident as we review this rapid departure from the principles of truth. In the case of “the rich man and Lazarus,” Tertullian overlooks the fact that the account is a parable, and that it is speaking of bodies, not “souls.”
Some Right Thinking
A correct understanding of the nature of man is set forth in the writings of Theophilus of Antioch (c. AD 168).
“But some one will say to us, ‘Was man made by nature mortal?’ certainly not. Was he then immortal: Neither do we affirm this. He was by nature neither mortal nor immortal. For if He (God) had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him God. Again, if He had made him mortal, God would seem to be the cause of his death. Neither, then, immortal nor yet mortal did He make him, but as we have said above, capable of both; so that if he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as a reward from Him immortality; but if, on the other hand, he should turn to the things of death, disobeying God, he should himself be the cause of death to himself. That, then, which man brought upon himself [i.e. death] through carelessness and disobedience, this God now vouchsafes to him as a gift through His own philanthropy and pity, when men obey him. For a man, disobeying, drew death upon himself; so, obeying the will of God, he who desires is able to procure for himself life everlasting. For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and everyone who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption” (Theophilus to Autolycus, Book II, ch. xxvii).