Milk Or Solid Food? Part 4
© 06.13.2016 By D. Eric Williams
This article appeared in the June 17 edition of the Cottonwood Chronicle
Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation …of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment (Hebrews 6:1-2).
The fifth subject described as an "elementary principle of Christ" in the book of Hebrews is the resurrection of the dead. Although a resurrection (of one sort or another) was expected by most Jews, the party of the Sadducees denied it. Moreover, a resurrection of the dead as taught by Jesus and the apostles was ridiculed by Greek philosophers even though many less sophisticated Gentiles believes in some sort of an afterlife. Nevertheless, the resurrection of the dead as a purposeful event with eternal ramifications was a cornerstone of the teaching of Christ and his Apostles.
When we consider whether or not the modern Church is guilty of continuing the "discussion" of this elementary principle of Christ, we must remember the Bible intends more than the mere raising of the body when affirming the resurrection of the dead. In the Bible, the resurrection of the dead embraces the doctrine of eschatology. Indeed, the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is very broad, touching on a wide range of eschatological issues. For instance, when do the dead rise? What connection is there between the resurrection and the end of this age? Is there a "rapture" tied in to the resurrection? What will the resurrected in Christ do in the afterlife and so on? Thus, if belief in the resurrection of the dead is an elementary article of Christianity, are not all of these things (and more) elementary principles as well. If so, it is clear the modern Church remains mired in the elementary principle of resurrection of the dead, subsisting on milk rather than solid food. How so? Consider the widespread preoccupation with the "end times." The modern Church is fixated on questions of the rapture, the tribulation, the beast, Armageddon, the second coming and so on, even though none of these are central topics of the Bible.
It hasn’t always been this way. This elementary principle of Christ was generally understood until the mid-nineteenth century. At that time a retrograde teaching was introduced that served to unravel hundreds of years of doctrinal advance. Sad to say, an obsession with escapist eschatology has continued to this day without abatement.
One sign the modern North American Church is still searching for truth concerning this elementary principle of Christ is the difficulty it has in remaining relevant to contemporary culture. I’m old enough to remember the impact Hal Lindsey’s "The Late Great Planet Earth" had on the Church in America. Church leaders in the 1970’s solemnly advised young people to forego marriage, college education, entrepreneurial pursuits, participation in the political process or any other "frivolous" activity distracting them from their primary purpose; saving souls while waiting for the rapture. Is it any wonder our country is in the shape it’s in today? And it’s not just the past forty-five or fifty years that have contributed to the irrelevance of the Church; Scofield’s reference Bible (a dispensational standard) was first published in 1909. Hence, the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ concerning the resurrection of the dead has continued in North America for at least 107 years.
More next week.