I have a few preterist friends who take the resurrection as a “spiritual” resurrection and that it already has taken place. They take this view in part by viewing that Jesus already returned “spiritually” in 70ad. I do consider myself as a partial preterist though I do not suppose that I fully understand the view so in part will not address the full preterist view directly. In the discussion though I want to look at what the Bible states specifically about the “bodily” resurrection as well as look at the early church fathers view on the topic.
I start my view in Genesis.
2:15 The Lord God took the man and placed him in the orchard in Eden to care for it and to maintain it. 2:16 Then the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat fruit from every tree of the orchard, 2:17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die.”
Now as the story continues we find that Eve is deceived and both Adam and Eve eat of the fruit and their eyes are opened and they begin to know both good and evil. At this point in Chapter 3 they are cast out of Eden before they can eat of the Tree of Life and become immortal. If they had eaten of the Tree of Life, then they could not have been redeemed.
3:22 And the Lord God said, “Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not be allowed to stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”
So man who could have eaten of the fruit of the Tree of Life and live forever, now will die. Most biblical scholars will point out that though man did not die physically, there was a spiritual death and separation from the Presence of God and the relationship that once was at that point now was severed. My understanding of the Preterist view is that they point out that Adam was not the first to “die” physically and that Able was the first to die physically. This is true yet what is overlooked is that Able was made in the “image” of Adam. The mortality that was now impressed on Adam was passed on to his son Able.
4:1 Now the man had marital relations with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. Then she said, “I have created a man just as the Lord did!”
So instead of the dependence of the fact that Adam needed to die first man, does die as God states. Death does reign from Adam though he is not the first to die, death does take a human life and that being Able first born son of Adam.
Death begins its reign at Adam and Able is the first victim of death taking the mortal life of a human. To say that Adam needed to die first, misses that Death began in Adam and was passed on to Able. This does not mean that because Able died first, God was wrong in that the mortal body of man died the very day Adam ate of the fruit of good and evil.
Now as we press on, we see that in the Jewish view there is no doubt they believed in a physical resurrection of the dead. In fact it is considered one of the 13 principles of the Jewish faith.
Being that the physical resurrection was also a historical view held by the Jews should be an indicator in how we should view certain passages.
Daniel 12: 1 "At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. 2. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.
Now this is an interesting passage that directly states that those “who sleep in the dust” will awake. Some will receive everlasting life and other shame and everlasting contempt.
Now it is hard to deny that “dust” refers to the physical human body. Genesis states God made man from the “dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7) and also in reference to the death of a person, Solomon states in Ecclesiastes 12:6-7
6. Remember him—before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, 7. and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
The human body when it dies will return to dust. So Daniel in Daniel 12: 1 is clearly stating that there will be an awakening of physical bodies.
When reading the book of Job, the point many miss is at the end. Many note that Job had all restored to him, yet miss that he still lost his children at the beginning of the story. Note that in the beginning of the story:
Job 1:2 He had seven sons and three daughters, 3 and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants.
Note at the end of the story when Job had all things restored, something is missing? The bible states Job was blessed even greater at the end of his life, yet something very important is missing… his original children.
Job 42: 12 The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters.
Now if Job had been fully restored there should have been 14 sons and 6 more daughters given to him, yet, what one misses is that a major point in the story of Job, is that God does not owe man any explanation for what he does, yet, still gives us the story of Job as an explanation. In the end, Job did not lose his original sons and daughters as the underlining theme often missed is that of the Resurrection of the dead. Job would be reunited with his original sons and daughters at that time.
Carrying on with the understanding of this physical resurrection we start to notice that those living at the time of Jesus expected such a things. Some thought Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead. (Matthew 14:2) In John 11 we have the story of Lasarus being rasied physically from the dead. Jesus even refers to Lazarus as “sleeping” and the bible explains that he had died. Martha expresses her hope in the physical resurrection to Jesus who does not rebuke her.
23Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
24Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
25Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
Jesus then raises the physical body of Lazarus from the grave after he was dead four days and began to stink.
This is a “shadow” of what was to come after Jesus was raised physically from the grave and ushered in the New Creation.
Which brings me into my next point. Jesus was the first fruit of the resurrection. The main point of this was expressed as the Good News. It was not the death of Jesus that surprised anyone… everyone died. It was the idea expressed by the believers that not only had Jesus died on the Cross, but that in three days had risen from the dead! This was not a spiritual resurrection, it was expressed solely as a physical resurrection. Not only do the Gospel all teach this, in the book of Acts over and over the disciples spoke of this resurrection as physical. The Gospels and the Book of Acts all speak of Jesus doing physical things with his body such as eating. Jesus even makes this very point that he was not a “spirit” or “ghost” to Thomas in Luke 24:
37They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."
40When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate it in their presence.
44He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."
Notice Jesus even states that this physical resurrection was to fulfill what was written as I already referred to in Daniel 12.
To deny that Jesus rose physically is to deny a major teaching in the New Testament.
Paul expresses the hope we have in the physical resurrection
Philippians 3: 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
John also stated that we will be like Jesus is at the resurrection.
1 John 3: 2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Paul also expresses that our bodies will be changed and glorified as Jesus was and is.
Philippians 3:21 who will transform these humble bodies of ours into the likeness of his glorious body by means of that power by which he is able to subject all things to himself.
Though I will not be so bold to state how Jesus “glorified” body is, as I think that the diescirption in the book of Revelation is more symbolic and Jesus does nto have a literal sword coming out of his mouth, I do see every indication that Jesus was raised and glorfied in a physical body and that we also will be glorified as Jesus was.
1 Corinthians is clear as to that we will have “bodies”
35But someone may ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" 36How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.
42So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.
The last phrase is of great interest when we look at the person of Jesus. “We will bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” Jesus was born not of natural human decision or of a fathers will (John 1: 12), rather Jesus was born of Heaven. Though fully human and even more so than we are now, as Jesus was the first of the New Man and was the first fully human since Adam, was the prototype of what we will be. We are “earthly man” now though we now are “born of heaven” spiritually, yet to come to the fullness of the realization of what we will be is that we will also be in the likeness of the New Man Jesus.as He was and is….having a physical body.
To state we will only rise spiritually at the resurrection misses this verse entirely. How can we be a “spirit” when we are to become as Jesus is in his glorified state?
I see also this teaching of a physical resurrection was held by the early church fathers. Here are some quotes.
Note that these quotes are after 70ad.
John Chrysostom (347-407):
"For what position can be loftier or more secure than that in which a man has only one anxiety, 'How he ought to please God?' Hast thou seen the shipwrecks, Theodore, of those who sail upon this sea? Wherefore, I beseech thee, avoid the deep water, avoid the stormy billows, and seize some lofty spot where it is not possible to be captured. There is a resurrection, there is a judgment, there is a terrible tribunal WHICH AWAITS us when we have gone out of this world; 'we must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ'" (St. Chrysostom, An Exhortation To Theodore After His Fall, Letter II, 4).
"As then if we see any one sleeping we are not disturbed or distressed, expecting that he WILL certainly get up: even so when we see any one dead, let us not be disturbed or dejected for this also is a sleep, a longer one indeed, but still a sleep. By giving it the name of slumber He comforted the mourners and overthrew the accusation of the unbelievers. If you mourn immoderately over him who has departed you will be like that unbeliever who has no hope of a resurrection. He indeed does well to mourn, inasmuch as he cannot exercise any spiritual wisdom concerning things to come: but thou who hast received such strong proofs CONCERNING THE FUTURE LIFE, why dost thou sink into the same weakness with him? Therefore it is written 'now concerning them that are asleep we would not have you ignorant that ye sorrow not even as others who have no hope'" (Chrysostom: Omily On The Paralytic Let Down Through The Roof).
"15. . . . What did He promise? Resurrection, immortality of the body, union with angels, a place in the joyful company of archangels, and as a citizen in His kingdom, immaculate life, the good things 'which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard nor have entered into the heart of man, things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.'
16. Understand what is said, lest ye lose it: I am labouring to enable you to perceive it. The dowry of the bride then was divided into two portions consisting of things present and things to come; things seen and things heard, things given and things taken on trust, things experienced, and things to be enjoyed hereafter; things belonging to present life, and things to come AFTER THE RESURRECTION" (Chrysostom, Homily II, After Eutropius Having Been Found Outside The Church Had Been Taken Captive).
"And Paul clearly testifies this, saying, 'For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him that subjected the same in hope: because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.' For the creation was made subject to vanity, he says, and he expects that it will be set free from such servitude, as he intends to call this world by the name of creation. For it is not what is unseen but what is seen that is subject to corruption. The creation, then, after being restored to a better and more seemly state, remains, rejoicing and exulting over the children of God AT THE RESURRECTION; for whose sake it NOW groans and travails, WAITING itself also for our redemption from the corruption of the body, that, WHEN we have risen and shaken off the mortality of the flesh, according to that which is written, 'Shake off the dust, and arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem,' and have been set free from sin, it also shall be freed from corruption and be subject no longer to vanity, but to righteousness" (Methodius, circa 311 A.D., From the Discourse on the Resurrection, Part I, VIII).
Polycarp (AD. 70-156) was a direct disciple of John. Here is his view.
"we must all appear at the judgment-seat of Christ, and must every one give an account of himself." Let us then serve Him in fear, and with all reverence, even as He Himself HAS COMMANDED US, AND AS THE APOSTLES WHO PREACHED THE GOSPEL UNTO US, and the prophets who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Lord [have alike taught us]." (Letter to Philippians CHAPTER 6)
"But He who raised Him up from the dead WILL raise up us also" (CHAPTER II.--AN EXHORTATION TO VIRTUE)
Ignatius (AD. 67-110) Also a disciple of John:
"He was also truly raised from the dead, His Father quickening Him, even as after the same manner His Father WILL SO raise up us who believe in Him by Christ Jesus" (THE EPISTLE OF IGNATIUS TO THE TRALLIANS CHAPTER IX)
Irenaeus a disciple of Polycarp:
AGAINST HERESIES, BOOK V, XXX
"But he indicates the number of the name now, that WHEN this man comes we may avoid him, being aware who he is: ..But when this Antichrist SHALL HAVE devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem; and then the Lord WILL COME from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man and those who follow him into the lake of fire; but bringing in for the righteous the times of the kingdom"
AGAINST HERESIES, BOOK V, XXVI, 1
"In a still clearer light has John, in the Apocalypse, indicated to the Lord's disciples what SHALL HAPPEN IN THE LAST TIMES, and concerning the ten kings WHO SHALL THEN arise, ... These have one mind, and give their strength and power to the beast. THESE SHALL make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb SHALL OVERCOME them, because He is the Lord of lords, and King of kings. ... And THEY SHALL lay Babylon waste, and burn her with fire, and SHALL GIVE their kingdom to the beast, and put the church to flight. AFTER THAT THEY SHALL be destroyed by the coming of our Lord."
AGAINST HERESIES, BOOK V, XXXV, 1
"For ALL these and other words were UNQUESTIONABLY SPOKEN IN REFERENCE TO THE RESURRECTION OF THE JUST, WHICH TAKES PLACE AFTER the coming of Antichrist, AND the destruction of all nations under his rule; IN [the times of] WHICH [resurrection] THE RIGHTEOUS SHALL reign on the earth, waxing stronger by the sight of the Lord: and through Him they SHALL become accustomed to partake in the glory of God the Father, and SHALL enjoy in the kingdom intercourse and communion with the holy angels, and union with spiritual beings; and those whom the Lord SHALL FIND IN THE FLESH, AWAITING HIM from heaven, and WHO HAVE suffered tribulation, as well as escaped the hands of the Wicked one."
There are many more examples of the early church fathers taking the view of the literal and physical resurrection. To state that these men were ignorant and missed that it happened “spiritually” in 70ad would seem to be an insult to them and to church history.