Is 2 Timothy 2:17-18 Referencing A Spiritual Resurrection, Physical Resurrection, or Both?
2 Timothy 2:17-18 states: “And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.”
Covenant eschatologists are those who falsely teach that all prophecies have been fulfilled, including, resurrection, coming of Jesus, judgment day, heaven/hell, etc. They are guilty of teaching the same type of error as Hymenaeus and Philetus of the first century A.D. who taught that the resurrection had already past, thereby overthrowing the faith of some Christians.
The covenant eschatologists have responded with a rebuttal that if this were the case, then how was it possible for Hymenaeus and Philetus to convince those whose faith were overthrown that the resurrection had actually occurred. The covenant eschatologists then argue that the first century Christians understood the resurrection to be a spiritual resurrection that would occur along the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, not a physical bodily resurrection of the good and the evil at the consummation. Otherwise, how could Hymenaeus and Philetus have convinced other Christians of their false doctrine because all the Christians would have to do is go out to the cemeteries and show that there had not been any dead corpses rising from the grave?
What ought to be the response then?
First, it needs to be pointed out that the resurrection is in an “already-not yet” phase. It is composed of both a spiritual and physical phase. For those who have obeyed the gospel plan of salvation, they have arisen to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4). So Christians are already experiencing a spiritual resurrection in the fact that they were once dead to sin and are now alive to God spiritually (Ephesians 2:1-2; Romans 6:1-23; John 5:24-26). God is not finished yet though. He knows that our physical bodies still bear the consequences of Adam's sin (since it was Adam's sin that brought forth physical death into the world – Romans 5:12) and thus are in need of being transformed to incorruptible bodies (1 Corinthians 15:52). Because Jesus was raised from the dead and was the firstfruits (1 Corinthians 15:20,23), then it will be the case that when Jesus returns (1 Corinthians 15:24-28) He will call out to everyone to rise from the graves – faithful children of God will rise first, then the wicked afterwards (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; John 5:28,29).
Paul, throughout his letters, foretold that there would be the physical resurrection that would occur at some point in the future - and it had not happened yet (1 Corinthians 15:1-58). This is why Hymenaeus, Philetus, and the covenant eschatologists are still guilty of the charge of teaching that the resurrection has already past when, in fact, it has not. The hope of the resurrection is still alive and well.
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