A Statement on
Unorthodox Eschatology

Will there be a resurrection of the dead on the last day? We affirm.

By Francis Turretin in Institutes of Elenctic Theology

I. The discussion of the sacraments being finished, the last labor remains, to place the capstone at length upon our work—the treatment of the last things. By these we mean what will take place at the end of the world and by which the duration of this cycle will be closed. The eternal happiness of the pious and the misery of the wicked will follow this.

Treatment of the last things necessary.

II. The necessity and utility of this discussion are of the very highest; for if from the saying of the Son of Sirach the remembrance of our last things (i.e., of death impending over us) is the greatest remedy against sin (“Whatsoever thou takest in hand, remember the end, and thou shalt never do amiss,” 7:36), how much better can this be said of the last things of the world? There is no precaution against sin and incentive to good works more efficacious than this meditation which impresses upon our minds: (1) a contempt for the world and all earthly things (1 Cor. 7:31; Heb. 13:14); (2) a desire for heaven and heavenly goods (2 Cor. 3:1, 2, 6, 8), hatred of sin and desire of holiness (1 Pet. 4:7; 2 Pet. 3:11, 12); (3) a reverence and fear of the deity, before whom we must stand (2 Cor. 5:10); (4) an alleviation and solace for all troubles, which are shortly to come to an end (Lk. 21:28; Acts 3:19) because there will be a time “of redemption” (Lk. 21:28*), of refreshing and “of the restitution of all things” (Acts 3:19, 21*).

III. Now the last times, which are called in Hebrew ’chryth hymym and in Greek eschatoi kairoior hēmerai, are taken in different senses in the Scriptures; either broadly for the end of any nation or of man—“Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days” (ep’ eschatōn tōn hēmerōn, Gen. 49:1), i.e., in the future at the end of the Jewish republic. Thus the word is taken in Dt. 4:30; 31:29. Of Babylon it is said, “Neither didst thou remember the latter end of it” (Is. 47:7), i.e., the final destruction and utter overthrow (panolethrias). So mention is often made in Daniel of the latter days (2:28, 44; 8:19). Or narrowly for the time of Messiah’s advent in the flesh, in which sense the last days are frequently taken in the prophets and in John: “Little children, it is the last time” (1 Jn. 2:18), because the time of the gospel is the last and ultimate dispensation of God, which is a certain renewing of the world and (as it were) the perfection of all things, after which no other revelation is to be looked for but eternity alone. Sometimes it is taken more strictly for the last interval of that dispensation which is to precede the end of the world. In this sense, Paul speaks of the latter times (1 Tim. 4:1). Most strictly, for the end of the world and the consummation of time (in which sense it is taken in Jn. 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 12:48; 1 Pet. 1:5). Hence the trumpet of God (which is to sound in the end of the world) is called “the last trump” (1 Cor. 15:52). And so they are now taken by us.

IV. However, these last things are reckoned variously by divines. They are commonly referred to the four comprehended in this distich:

“Thy death, the last judgment, the glory of heaven and the pain of hell, must be meditated upon by thee.”

But the resurrection of the dead and the end of the world are omitted here. Dismissing the consideration of death of which we have already treated, we refer them to four heads: (1) the resurrection of the dead; (2) the end of the world; (3) the last judgment; (4) eternal life and death.

One resurrection, metaphorical.

Another proper.

V. As to the first, the resurrection of which we treat is not metaphorical (viz., a deliverance from extreme calamities and dangers, which often come under the name of death in the Scriptures). Of this, the passages Is. 26:14; Am. 5:2, 14; Ezk. 37:1–3ff. are to be understood. Not the mystical and spiritual resurrection of the mind, which is regeneration and conversion to God, referred to in Eph. 2:5; 5:14; Col. 2:12; 3:1. This is the first resurrection spoken of in Rev. 20:6. But the proper and bodily resurrection of the flesh. Not the particular of those who were raised up either under the Old or the New Testament; but the universal of all men, the good as well as the bad, which is to take place on the last day, distinguished into the resurrection unto life and happiness (so called by way of eminence [kata exochēn] and in this sense ascribed to believers, who are called “the children of the resurrection,” Lk. 20:36), and the resurrection unto death and condemnation or eternal disgrace (Dan. 12:2*; Jn. 5:29). Of this resurrection we now treat. We will prove, first, its truth and necessity; second, its object and mode.

VI. The doctrine of the resurrection is of the greatest utility. (1) It is the peculiar treasure (keimēlion) of the church, unknown to the heathen and revealed by the word alone, the proper faith of Christians. (2) It is the foundation of all solid consolation; hence hope and the resurrection of the dead are joined together (Acts 23:6; 24:15; 1 Cor. 15:19). For if there be no resurrection, faith is vain, we are found false witnesses, etc. Tertullian: “The resurrection of the dead is the confidence of Christians” (On the Resurrection of the Flesh 1 [ANF 3:545; PL 2.795]). (3) It is a most effectual stimulus to piety. Cyril of Jerusalem: “The resurrection is the root of every good work” (hē anastasis esti rhiza pasēs agathoergias, Catechetical Lectures 18.1 [NPNF2, 7:134; PG 33.1017]).

Necessity of the question.

VII. The necessity of the question is great to confirm this primary article of our faith against Libertines and Epicureans, who in every age (within as well as out of the church) have either denied or called in question the resurrection of the dead. To the Athenians, the resurrection was silly talk (lērōdēs logos, Acts 17:32). Pliny calls the resurrection of the dead “childish nonsense” and adds, “What madness is this, that life and death are to be repeated?” (?Natural History2.5*.17 [Loeb, 1:180–81]). Caecilius: “Christians compose old women’s fables. They say that they shall be born again after death and ashes and dust; they in turn believe in their own falsehoods I know not with what confidence” (cf. Minucius Felix, Octavius 11 [ANF 4:178; PL 3.277]). In the church, both of the Old and New Testaments, various Epicureans and heretics have denied the resurrection; such were they of Is. 22:13, “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die.” And: “In the death of a man there is no remedy, neither is there any man known to have returned from the grave,” the ungodly say. “For by mere chance [autoschediōs], we are born; and we shall be hereafter as though we had never been” (Wis. Sol. 2:1, 2). The Sadducees said there was no resurrection (Mt. 22:23; Acts. 23:6). In the Corinthian church, there were those who denied it (1 Cor. 15:12). Hymenaeus and Philetus referred all to a spiritual resurrection, and said that it was past already (2 Tim. 2:18). In the primitive church, the Simonians denied it according to Irenaeus (Against Heresies 1.23*.5 [ANF 1:348]) and Augustine (De Haeresibus 1 [PL 42.25]), whom Saturninus, Basilides, Carpocrates, the Gnostics, Marcionites, Manicheans and other heretics followed. To all of them the orthodox church opposes the shield of the Scriptures, which irrefragably demonstrate this truth.

VIII. However, here we ought above all things to distinguish between the foundation upon which the faith of the resurrection rests and the arguments by which that faith is confirmed. The sole foundation is the almighty will of God, revealed in his word; while the arguments are manifold and drawn partly from the Scriptures and partly from reason. Of these some are primary and apodictic; others secondary and probable; some proving the general resurrection of the good and bad; others bearing only upon the resurrection of the good, but necessarily drawing after it the resurrection of the wicked.

The truth of the resurrection is proved: (1) from the oracles of the Scriptures.

IX. The first reason is drawn from the oracles of the Scriptures, which in the Old as well as in the New Testament prove this. The first occurs in Job 19:25–27*: “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and after the worms have destroyed this, I awaking, then in my flesh shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.” These words so clearly set forth this mystery that Jerome said, “No one spoke concerning the resurrection as openly after Christ, as Job before Christ” (To Pamachius Against John of Jerusalem 30 [NPNF2, 6:439; PL 23.398]). The Septuagint understands Christ by g’l and by standing upon the earth, the resurrection itself. The Targum translates phryqy “my Redeemer” (cf. Walton, Biblia sacra polyglotta [1657], 3:40–41 on Job 19:25). Various reasons in vindication of this passage were given in Volume II, Topic XII, Question 5, Section 19. To these we add (1) that the solemn preface of Job shows that he is speaking of a most important matter: “O that my words were written in a book with an iron pen!” (v. 23). And yet if he had intended to speak only of a restoration to health, what need was there of so magnificent a preface and of a writing so enduring for eternal remembrance? (2) His sublime style sufficiently teaches that his thoughts were raised above this visible world and any temporal advantage. He no longer mourns and complains, but as if exhilarated by a new hope, strengthened to bear up under any misfortune more than before, he speaks from a certain persuasion of resurrection—“I know,” says he (i.e., I hold as sure and indubitable). This he could not have said of a temporal restoration, of which he had so often despaired and which he could only conditionally expect. (3) From the words “He shall stand upon the earth,” which do not pertain to a bodily restoration, but are best referred to the resurrection. (4) He says that “he will see God with his eyes,” which was a remarkable act of faith with respect to the man delivered from troubles because it was such a thing that no one could have doubted concerning it. Nor is it an objection that he adds, “whom I shall behold with mine eyes, and not another,” as if he was speaking of a thing which pertained to himself alone. By attributing the vision to himself in particular, he does not deny it concerning others, but intimates that he, in his own body (which had died), and not in another, would arise and see God.

X. The second oracle is from Ps. 16:9: “My flesh shall rest in hope” (to wit, of the resurrection) “for” (it is added in v. 10) “thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption.” Now although this passage primarily and directly refers to Christ and his resurrection (as Peter proves in Acts 2:26, 27; nor can it as to its full accomplishment belong to David, who did see corruption), still there is no objection (nay, it is right) to refer it secondarily to David and the hope of a resurrection which he indulged, both on account of the resurrection of Christ (from which ours is inseparable) and because these words either do not at all pertain to David (which cannot be said) or they imply a confidence in his deliverance from death. For thus the flesh, it is said, will not see corruption, not because it would not absolutely be corrupted, but that it would be freed from corruption; as he is said not to see death who is recalled from death to life (Jn. 8:51). The third is from Ps. 17:15: “I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” David opposes himself, weak and miserable, to the powerful and rich of the world, of whom he had spoken in the preceding verse; and his own true happiness or hope of a future life to their empty happiness. However, I do not seek these transitory riches, in which to plunge myself, but I will live justly and piously in this world that in the future I may see your face and be satisfied with it, when I shall awake and be aroused from death by the resurrection.

XI. The fourth is from Is. 25:8*: “He will swallow up death in victory” (eis nikos). Paul refers this to the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:54), by which death shall be truly swallowed up in victory (i.e., for ever). Indeed, Christ by his own resurrection has already gained the victory over death (as to himself), but this will be done at length perfectly at the last day (as to us), when that last enemy will be destroyed. The fifth is from Is. 26:19, where the prophet says: “Thy dead men shall live, thy slain shall arise.” This is said by antithesis to what was said in v. 14 concerning the enemies of the church: “They are dead, they shall not rise.” These will not oppress us any longer, but eternal death awaits them. Now speaking of believers, he says another lot will be theirs (to wit, they will live and rise again after death). Although this promise might, however, be referred to a deliverance from their troubles and from captivity, it must be extended further to the best deliverance of all, which consists in the resurrection of the dead. The prophet embraces the whole kingdom of Christ from the beginning even unto the end, since the hope of overcoming leaps over this world and is born into eternity. The sixth is from Ezk. 37, where the vision of the dead and dry bones and their resurrection is set forth. There is no doubt that the Lord referred in it to the Babylonian captivity and to the future deliverance from it, as it is explained by him: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold … I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves” (vv. 11, 12). The Lord does not stop here, but proceeds further—even to the final resurrection, of which an admirable prelude and mirror is set forth in this vision. This is evident: (a) from the emphatic description, for there is scarcely another passage in the Scriptures in which the manner and form of the resurrection is so emphatically described. (b) From the amplitude of the subject, because it is said the Spirit will come from the four winds of heaven to make these bones live (v. 9). (c) From the subordination of the divine blessings, because a temporal restoration could not afford to believers solid and constant consolation unless it were connected with spiritual blessings and the final resurrection (which ought to be the crown and complement of all). Thus the prophets in their oracles embrace various blessings mutually subordinated to each other and adumbrate many things together under one symbol, which ought to happen to the church in different and even in the most remote times. Tertullian explains this fully (On the Resurrection of the Flesh 29 [ANF 3:565–66]); cf. Justin Martyr (“Quaestiones et Responsiones ad Orthodoxos,” Q. 45 Opera v. 3, Pt. 2 [ed. J.C.T. von Otto, 1881], pp. 67–69); Jerome (Commentarium in Ezechielem [PL 25.345–54] on Ezk. 37); and Augustine (The Literal Meaning of Genesis 10.5, 7 [ACW 42:102–3, 104–5]). Dan. 12:2: “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Here it is clear (whatever Porphyry may say to the contrary) that reference is made to the final resurrection, in which there shall be a separation of the good and the bad; not temporal, but eternal—as to eternal life and as to death and everlasting disgrace. Christ manifestly refers to this in Jn. 5:28, 29: “The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and they shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” See the objections of opponents answered in Volume II, Question V, Section 20. Here also belongs the passage referred to by Paul (1 Cor. 15:55) to confirm the truth of the resurrection: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction” (Hos. 13:14). For in whatever way this oracle may be explained, it cannot be denied that deliverance from death and hell is here proposed as a benefit of Christ in favor of the elect (as Paul interprets it).

XII. However, this mystery is more clearly revealed to us in the New Testament. Christ frequently teaches it (Mt. 22:31; 25:32; Jn. 5:28, 29; 6:39, 40, 44; 11:24–26). The apostles constantly mention it (Acts 4:2; 17:18; 23:6; 24:15). Paul repeatedly recalls us to this prop of our hope and faith and professedly treats of it in the whole of the 15th chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians and in 1 Thess. 4. Revelation more than once confirms it (20:5, 6, 12, 13). Thus there is no need to delay in proving it.

2. From the resurrection of Christ.

XIII. The second reason is drawn from the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection of Christ being established, ours follows of its own accord because it is inseparable from it: “Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus” (2 Cor. 4:14). “For if we believe that Jesus … rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” (1 Thess. 4:14). “If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom. 8:11). “If Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:12). “By man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. 15:21). Hence the fathers call the resurrection of Christ “the example of our hope, the key of our sepulchers, and the pledge of our resurrection.” If a reason for this connection is asked, a manifold one can be given. (a) By reason of merit, Christ is our Redeemer, not only of the soul but also of the body; therefore he ought to raise our bodies that with our souls they may receive the life purchased by Christ. Hence “the redemption of the body” is waited for by believers (Rom. 8:23). Otherwise he could not be said to have redeemed our bodies, nor to have swallowed up death in victory. (b) By reason of efficacy, from the connection of the head and members. Christ arose as the head of the church: “God raised Christ from the dead … and gave him to be the head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:20, 22*). If, therefore, the head arose, why should he not draw the members also after him? For what kind of a body would that be whose head would be alive and the members dead? “Because I live,” said Christ, “ye shall live also” (Jn. 14:19). He is “the resurrection, and the life” (Jn. 11:25) (i.e., its foundation and principle). “As in Adam we all die” (i.e., draw the cause of death), so “in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22) (meritoriously as well as effectively). Here belongs the type of the firstfruits from which the mass was sanctified. Hence Paul says, “Christ by his resurrection is become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20). For he himself first arose by his own power and causes us also to arise. (c) By reason of dominion. On this account Christ rose, that he might be the Lord and King of his church: “For to this end Christ both died, and rose … that he might be the Lord both of the dead and living” (Rom. 14:9). However, what kind of a dominion would this be, if the subjects remained in death? Now this relation (schesis) of Lord can be considered in two ways: either with regard to believers, of whom he is so Lord as he is also Father; or with regard to the wicked, of whom he is the Lord and Judge. From this the necessity of the resurrection of both flows: of believers, indeed, from Christ as the Redeemer and head, inasmuch as he should be the Savior of his own body; but of the wicked, from Christ as the Judge, who is to render to each one his due. Hence Paul: “He has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained … having raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). (d) By reason of the mutual communion which exists between Christ and us, which makes a conformity necessary between both. So that what is done in the head may be done also in the members after his example; and what is denied concerning the members may be denied also concerning the head. Hence it is that the apostle not only deduces from the exposition of Christ’s resurrection ours also, but also from a denial of our resurrection he infers a denial of Christ’s resurrection: “If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen” (1 Cor. 15:13), because the head cannot be without its members.

3. From the covenant of God.

XIV. Third, from the covenant of God, which (since it implies necessarily perfect happiness and eternal life) cannot be fulfilled in us, unless with the immortality of the soul the resurrection of the body is also granted; thus the whole man may partake for ever of the blessings of the covenant. Here pertains that formula of the covenant, “I am thy God,” from which Christ argues against the Sadducees as the most effectual in stopping their mouths. “As touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Mt. 22:31*, 32). See what was said on this passage, Volume II, Topic XII, Question 2, Section 23.

4. From the justice of God.

XV. Fourth, from God’s justice, which commands rewards to be given to the good and punishments to the wicked, even in the body which sinned. However, since actions belong to the whole entire, incommunicable subsistence and its parts also belong to the organic body in both kinds of actions, it is just that the whole man and not a part of the man should be affected by a reward or by punishment. Since it is not always so in this life, where the conditions of the good and bad are often confounded, it is necessary that this should be so after this life in our raised bodies: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in the body … whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven” (2 Thess. 1:6, 7).

5. From the condition of our bodies.

XVI. Fifth, from the condition of our bodies. Since our bodies were made temples of the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19) and have already begun to be glorified by the resurrection and ascension of Christ, it cannot be that they should perish and vanish into thin air, but they must for ever remain the sanctuaries of the Holy Ghost. To this also they are consecrated by the use of the sacraments, when in baptism the symbol of burial and resurrection with Christ is given and in the Supper we are fed with heavenly food, which perishes not, but abides unto everlasting life: “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn. 6:54).

6. From examples.

XVII. Sixth, from the examples of those who have already been raised under the Old as well as the New Testament. In the Old Testament, the son of the widow of Zarephath was raised by Elijah (1 K. 17:21), the son of the Shunammite by Elisha (2 K. 4:33–35), a man was raised by touching the bones of Elisha (2 K. 13:21); in the New Testament, the daughter of Jairus lying on a bed (Mt. 9:25), the son of the widow of Nain, on his way to the tomb (Lk. 7:15), Lazarus already stinking in the sepulcher (Jn. 11:43), so that the last miracle was always more illustrious than the preceding. Now all these and other remarkable instances of the same kind were the preludes of the final resurrection.

7. From the absurdities.

XVIII. Seventh, from the absurdities, which press the contrary opinion. These Paul urges: “For if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God … your faith is also vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished” (1 Cor. 15:13–15, 17*, 18*). “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (v. 19). “If the dead rise not … why stand we in jeopardy every hour” (vv. 29*, 30). “If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die” (v. 32). Sinners could thus securely indulge their carnal appetites, since no punishments would have to be feared after this life. And since all these things are most absurd, that from which they are deduced is also absurd. In one word, the denial of the resurrection overthrows the whole of Christianity; all faith, piety and hope.

XIX. Although nature does not teach a resurrection, still she repeatedly exhibits to us various images which favor its possibility and credibility. The plants, which appear dead in the winter, are seen to gain strength and in their own way to grow alive again in the spring. A seed cast into the earth after rotting springs up and grows, a simile adduced by Paul (1 Cor. 15:36). Hence Minucius Felix says: “See then how all nature meditates upon a future resurrection for our consolation: the sun sets and rises, the stars glide away and return, flowers fall and revive, after decay vineyards put forth their leaves, seeds only when rotted sprout; thus the body in the grave, as trees in the winter hide their greenness by a deceitful dryness, the spring of our bodies must be awaited by us” (Octavius 34 [ANF 4:194; PL 3.362–63]). Tertullian: “God wished this body of the world to be a clear example of the resurrection, as a testimony to us; the light everyday interrupted shines again, and darkness returns with similar changes; the stars disappearing grow bright again, and the seasons when they are ended, begin; thou man alone, and not the Lord of the dead and dying and rising again, dost thou die that thou mayest perish?” (Apology 48 [FC 10:119–20; PL 1.592]). And: “Day dies into night and is buried in darkness. The glory of the world is wrapped in gloom, every substance becomes black; all things are mean in appearance, are silent, astonished, everywhere mourning is the rest of things. Thus the lost light is bewailed. And yet again with its worship, with its gifts, with the same and entire and whole sun it revivifies the whole world, slaying night its death, breaking through the darkness its sepulcher, until night comes on again with its own suggestion.… Winters and summers revolve, and springs and autumns with their dews, fruits” (On the Resurrection of the Flesh 12 [ANF 3:553; PL 2.810]). Various things of like kind are found in the fathers by which they maintain that the image of the resurrection is exhibited to us.

Sources of explanation.

XX. It is one thing not to rise again to life and not to stand in the judgment; another simply not to rise again. Concerning the wicked, it is well said that they will not rise again to life (Is. 26:14) or stand in the judgment (Ps. 1:5). Not that they ought not to rise again for the judgment, but because they will not stand before God, but will fall in their cause. Therefore there will be to them indeed a common resurrection (anastasis) with the pious, but not a “standing” (stasis) because they will not be able to stand before the Son of man (Lk. 21:36). Nor will they stand in the assembly of the just, but will be as chaff which the wind hurls from the face of the earth. Therefore they will not stand in the judgment, but like chaff will be driven away (Ps. 1:4).

XXI. There is not granted naturally a return from a total privation to a habit. To this Job refers saying, “But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up: So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake” (to wit, by the strength of nature) “nor be raised out of their sleep” (14:10–12). Still there is granted supernaturally the efficacy of the first cause, which can supply the causality of the others. For if God could form the body of the first Adam from the dust of the earth, why should he not be able by the same supernatural and infinite power to raise the bodies of men out of the dust of the earth?

XXII. When the preacher says that the same thing befalls men and beasts (Ecc. 3:19), he indeed shows what appears to the senses and as to the external appearance of the dead man; not, however, what is to be believed of the resurrection of the body. The necessity of death is pointed out (hanging equally over all), but the truth of the resurrection is not on that account denied.

XXIII. “Flesh and blood” either denote the nature of substance of the body, or the weakness and misery of the present life, or the state of animality which the necessity of meat, drink, sleep, rest, etc., accompanies; or they denote corruption and sin. In the former sense, it is rightly said that flesh and blood can inherit the kingdom of God because this very flesh, which has fallen, must arise and this body be made conformed to Christ’s glorious body (Phil. 3:21). But according to the two latter relations (scheseis), Paul says truly that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50); and that “God shall destroy both the belly and meats” (1 Cor. 6:13). Not that the body will no more exist with its members, but that they will not remain for that weak use, but for the ornament and integrity of the whole compound. Thus only the mortal and animal condition of the body is here said to be changed and not the very substance of the flesh, which ought to remain the same in both states.

XXIV. To the objections drawn from the scattering of the corporeal dust, the devouring of human flesh by brutes and cannibals, the words of our Savior furnish an abundantly satisfactory reply: “Ye do err not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.” For these human reasonings arise from an ignorance of the Scriptures and of the absolute and infinite power of God. For whoever is firmly persuaded of both can easily beat back such cavils. Truly if the thing was to be measured by human strength, this would end the matter. But since it is a work of God, whose knowledge nothing can escape, whose power nothing can hinder, who can suppose this to be impossible? It is as easy for God to restore to the dead their own bodies and to separate them from all other bodies (even of cannibals themselves who may have devoured others) as it was easy to form the body of the first Adam out of the dust or to bring all things out of nothing. If a careful and attentive head of a family knows well where each thing is to be found in his house however large, why should God, whose wisdom and power are infinite, not know where the matter of our bodies lies concealed, since the whole world is far smaller to him than the most contracted chest or case to any man? Therefore, he can by his almighty nod alone recall these who at any time may have either been devoured by beasts, or turned into ashes and dissolved into moisture, or sunk in the waters, or exhaled into air; nor is there any hiding place, or cave, or recess, which is either concealed from the knowledge of the Creator, or can escape his power. For as nothing vanishes into nothing and always at least a minute particle containing the seed of a new body remains; and which, wherever scattered and thrown, nature holds at least in her bosom and care—so she restores it to God asking it back. Here belongs the passage of Tertullian: “Not the soul alone is separated; the flesh also has its places of concealment, in the waters, in fires, in birds, in beasts, since it seems to be dissolved into these as if poured into vessels, if also the vessels themselves have ceased, since it has flowed out of them also, it will be absorbed as if in a roundabout way into its mother earth, that it may again be recovered from her” (On the Resurrection of the Flesh 63 [ANF 3:594; PL 2.885–86]). Besides, neither is it necessary for the essence of the same body that all its particles of dust be reckoned up and be united together in its new formation. It is sufficient that the principal and more solid parts remain. For every day some particles perish from the body, some are added to it, and still we see that the same man remains.

XXV. As to cannibals, how the flesh of a dead man (which has become the flesh of another living and consuming it) can be restored to him from whom it was taken, is more difficult for us to ask than for God to do. For besides the fact that all the substance of the body is never devoured, nor passes into the substance of the devourer, why cannot God by his wisdom (whose ways are inscrutable) and by his power (which nothing, not implying a contradiction, transcends) procure again that original flesh of the cannibal that had been exhausted by hunger and exhaled into the air, and demand as a debt from the same one that which was taken as food and consumed to repair and supply the defect of that famished person and restore it to him from whom it had been as it were borrowed, and give back what had been seized by unjust robbers to its first and rightful possessors (as Augustine expresses it, CG 22.20 [FC 24:470–72]). If chemists can raise up flowers and plants from their ashes; or artificers in Corinthian brass, a precious article from a mean, and separate metals from each other; how much more easily can God separate our dust mixed with other creatures and restore it to its own body?

XXVI. Although the wicked as well as the pious will rise again, still the resurrection of each will be diverse as to cause as well as with regard to manner. The latter, indeed, will be made by Christ the Mediator, as head, by the efficacy of his quickening Spirit (Rom. 8:11), to an immortality of glory. But the former by Christ as the Son of God, the Lord and Judge, by virtue of his omnipotence and justice, to eternal punishment, in which the wicked will acquire a physical immortality and incorruptibility, but in order to greater punishment—that they may suffer for ever and thus feel that they die, so as never to die; not only by a punishment of loss, but also by the severest punishment of sense, of which there will be no end.

XXVII. Although the resurrection of the flesh, referred to in the Creed, is the resurrection of the good which conduces to our consolation and is the fruit of the communion of the saints and of remission of sins and the antecedent of eternal life, the resurrection of the bad is not on that account denied, as it depends necessarily upon the first and is included also in the article of the last judgment.

XXVIII. For the rest we so assert the universal resurrection of all men that we think they will be excepted from it who will be living at the time of Christ’s advent. On that account, we say from Paul, that they will not be raised from death (which they will not have experienced), but will only be changed: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51*). This is confirmed more clearly: “The dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:16*, 17*). On this account, those to be judged are distinguished into the dead and living (Acts 10:42). The Holy Spirit frequently exhorts to vigilance, sobriety and prayer, lest the coming of Christ may find us unprepared, as it will find the wicked (Lk. 12, 21; Mt. 24; 1 Thess. 5). This could not be said unless some would still be alive.

XXIX. Paul, saying “It is appointed unto all men once to die” (Heb. 9:27), speaks of the common condition of mortals in this life; not, however, of a particular exemption and privilege of survivors at the end of the world. And as that law of dying always remains (although some few raised by a miracle have died twice), so the change of those then living does not destroy or abolish it, especially since that change will be like death and analogous to it.

XXX. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven without a change; but this will be made either by the resurrection of the dead or by the transformation of the living. However, that change consists in the laying aside of mortality and the assumption of immortality, with the difference which ought to be observed between the good and the bad, which is usually set forth in the resurrection of each.

 Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, ed. James T. Dennison Jr., trans. George Musgrave Giger, vol. 3 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1992–1997), 561–571.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x