Biblical Dualism


Some religions, philosophies and ideologies are essentially monistic in their outlook denying the duality of mind and matter. Materialists, for instance, maintain that there is only one “substance” and that even thought, consciousness and will are ultimately chemical. For them, the functioning of the mind can be attributed simply to the working of the brain. Further, the mind cannot exist apart from the (physical) body. Needless to say, if this is the case, disembodied minds are impossible and God who is spirit (John 4:24) cannot exist. (How the material came into existence is another matter. For the believer Romans 1:20 points the way.)

So far as monistic or pantheistic religions are concerned, everything is God and he is identified with natural objects and the forces of nature. In light of this it is hardly surprising that various religions like that of the Canaanites in the OT or the Aztecs in Mexico were concerned to appease or pacify their angry gods by brutal acts of (child) sacrifice when things were going badly. In a pantheistic religion like Hinduism, all gods are tolerated in worship. New Age belief, which was inspired by Eastern religions, famously led one of its devotees, the film star Shirley MacClaine, to run along a beach shouting “I am God”. Christianity, of course, cannot tolerate such ideas as these.

Greek Dualism

While Christianity, like Judaism and Islam, theoretically rejects monism in its worldview, it has been powerfully affected by Greek dualism which has played a significant part in its history. (On dualism in its various manifestations, see e.g. Scaling the Secular City, J.P.Moreland, pp.78ff.; M.H.Cressey in NBD, pp.283f., H.B.Kuhn in EDT, p.334, G.E.Ladd, Jesus and the Kingdom, pp.83ff., A Theology of the New Testament, ch.17. P.E Hughes, 2 Corinthians, espec. 153ff.) One of the basic reasons for this is that Greek language and culture spread by the military triumphs of Alexander the Great made a powerful impact first on the Jews and later on Christians. The OT was translated into Greek (LXX) for the benefit of Jews of the Dispersion and some of the latter, like Philo, were heavily influenced in their interpretation of Scripture by Greek thinking. But whereas for the Jews the body as part of God’s “good” creation was respected, for the Greeks, Plato in particular, it was regarded as the prison house of the immortal soul from which it was necessary to escape. (1* See e.g. Harris, pp.284f.; Kelly, pp.303f. See also my essay The End of the World) Needless to say, modern Christians almost pathologically afraid of Greek dualism when dealing with the body hasten to dissociate themselves from Plato. Regrettably, however, labouring under influences alien to the Bible (2* Prompted by a comment by Barth, Naugle asks: “To what extent are Christian worldviews truly biblical? … For indeed, many have been deceived by failing to recognize how the purity of the faith and the Scriptures can be polluted by an alien worldview”, p.336. It will become clear to the reader that I believe that Naugle himself, who believes in the redemption of creation, has wrongly absorbed alien Augustinian views which pervert true Christianity. See below my note on Naugle.), they usually fail to appreciate the difference between Greek and biblical dualism and draw the false conclusion that both the body of flesh and its corollary, the material world, will be redeemed despite pervasive biblical testimony against it (see e.g. C.J.H. Wright, Spirit, pp.32f., etc., cf. The Mission of God, p.279,286,404, etc.).

Biblical Dualism

The Bible makes it clear from its very first verse that God the Creator is separate from his creation. Monistic pantheism is ruled out of bounds from the start. As revelation progresses it becomes increasingly clear that the pervasive sin of the heathen, idolatry or the worship of nature in some form, is to be avoided. The first and second of the ten commandments give God himself exclusive priority of place and forbid devotion to what is “made by hand” (cheiropoietos) in any form (Isa. 2:8,18,20, etc.). It is here, however, that the church has usually erred: it has failed to recognize that creation itself including man (Job 10:8; Ps. 119:73), though the work of God, is also “made by hand” (Ps. 102:25; Isa. 45:12; 48:13; 66:2, etc.) and is not to be idolized in any way. In view of this it is to be expected that Moses should have strongly condemned the worship not only of the work of men’s hands but that of God as well (Dt. 4:15-19, cf. Rom. 1:23). (See further my essay Manufactured Or Not So)

Christian Tradition

It may be asked why this is so? The answer lies in the fact that God alone is eternal, perfect, complete and lacking nothing (Ps. 50:10-12, cf. Rom. 11:34-36; James 1:4) and his creation by the very fact of its being his creation is temporal, imperfect and needs to be providentially sustained (Job 34:14f., Ps. 65:5-13, etc.). While God has neither beginning nor end (Ps. 102:27, cf. Heb. 7:3), creation has both (Gen. 1:1; Ps. 102:25f., Heb. 1:11). Once we see this, it becomes apparent that the widespread notion that creation was originally perfect is fundamentally false. When Genesis 1 refers to the goodness of creation it means that it is useful, suited like a tool (cf. Ps. 119:91; Prov. 16:4; Eccl. 3:11, see e.g. Walton, pp.91,95, etc.) to its temporal purpose as, on reflection, references like Genesis 2:9,18 and 3:6 make quite clear. If this is so, why was it hidden from our forebears? The answer is plain. Western theology in particular has been governed by the thinking of Augustine. Against his background in Manicheism and Neoplatonism he taught that creation was perfect as God made it but that it was cursed when Adam, the designated Lord of creation, fell from his own perfect righteousness and holiness. (See further my essay Cosmic Curse?) This view of the matter is, however, impossible to sustain and, as can easily be demonstrated, is the antithesis of the truth.

The Biblical View

The Bible tells us that man cannot be good or evil apart from keeping (Dt. 6:25; Rom. 2:13; 1 John 3:7) or breaking (Rom. 4:15; James 2:8-10; 1 John 3:4; 5:17) the law. When he was created, Adam, though potentially in the image of God like all his posterity (Gen. 5:1-3; Dt. 1:39), lacked knowledge of the law, or commandment. Consequently, like the animal kingdom he was morally neither good nor evil. It was not until he had broken the commandment that he was adjudged evil and cast out of the Garden of God (Gen. 3:22-24). Unfortunately, Augustine went further and taught that when Adam “fell” from perfection, all his posterity “fell” too. The consequence of this sort of thinking was that all babies are born sinful (!) despite Paul’s insistence that where there is no law there is no sin (or violation, Rom. 4:15; 5:13; 7:1-13; 1 Cor. 15:56; Gal. 5:23, cf. John 9:41; 15:22,24). (See further my essays relating to original sin.) One of the most obvious problems with this is that Jesus was one of Adam’s posterity (Luke 3:38), so logically he was born sinful too. To overcome this, Augustine theorized that Jesus avoided the taint of original sin by being born of a virgin, implying that sin is transmitted by what he called “carnal concupiscence”. In plain words, as an unredeemed Manichee he believed that the flesh and sex were sinful. (3* On this see Rist, pp.321ff.)

It is at this point, however, that an appreciation of true or biblical dualism comes to our rescue. So far as nature is concerned, even the somewhat earth-centred OT distinguishes between flesh and spirit (e.g. Ps. 106:20; 147:10f.; Isa. 31:3; 40:6-8; Mal. 2:15) as opposed to sin and grace. In plain terms, it avoids the Augustinian confusion between nature (physicality) and morals (spirituality). (4* It is interesting to note how writers apparently unaware that Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 are dealing with different subjects frequently transfer ideas from the one to the other and thus create confusion.)

Anthropological Dualism

According to the Bible, man as flesh was created like the animals from the dust (clay) of the earth. He differed, however, because he was also uniquely made in the image of God. As both John (1:13) and Paul (1 Cor. 15:46) imply, man is first mortal and corruptible flesh but has the capacity or potentiality, in contrast with the rest of the animal creation, to become immortal and incorruptible like God who is spirit (Rom. 2:7,10; 1 Pet. 1:7). Indeed, this is what Adam was promised at the beginning on condition of exercising dominion (Gen.1:26-28) and of obeying the commandment or law (Gen. 2:17). To clarify the issue further, man though initially flesh is destined in the course of his development to become both morally and generically like God (cf. Rom. 5:2; 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18, etc.). And thus his ultimate goal is to become the blameless child of God (Eph. 1:4f.) whose nature, since like begets like (John 3:6), he will obviously share (1 Pet. 4:6; 2 Pet. 1:4, cf. Heb. 12:23). It is thus that Paul in particular stresses man’s dualistic nature (cf. e.g. Guthrie, pp. 173ff.). In doing this he was of course following in the steps of his Master who strongly differentiated between man as flesh and man as spirit (John 3:1-8). It is a matter of regret that this has been largely hidden in the history of the church which has followed and continues to follow the pattern of thought developed by Augustine who taught that the prime purpose of the new birth was to counteract original sin. But what Jesus was clearly telling Nicodemus without even mentioning sin was that it is absolutely necessary (not imperative) for man who is flesh by nature to experience a second or spiritual birth so that he can enter the kingdom of God which involves a different (heavenly) order of existence (cf. 1 Cor. 2:9; 7:31; 1 John 2:17, etc.). Paul implies the same in 1 Corinthians 15:35-57 as do the other apostolic writers though perhaps in less dramatic terms.

Two Adams

Anthropological dualism appears very prominently in 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul distinguishes between the two Adams. In contrast with Romans 5 where he deals with sin and grace, Paul tells his readers here that there are two Adams or two representative men.
In verse 21 and 22, again without any allusion to sin, he implies that as the fleshly children of the first Adam, we all die like the animal kingdom in general (even Jesus as a son of the first was mortal, Luke 3:38), but in our relationship with the second Adam we are made alive. The ‘natural’ difference between the two Adams quite apart from sin is absolutely fundamental. Paul brings this out in verses 45-49 where again his subject is nature not morals. The natural or physical, which is composed of dust (cf. Gen. 2:7; Ps. 78:39; 103:14), is naturally corruptible; by contrast the spiritual, though mortal in the sense that God can destroy it in judgement, is naturally incorruptible (1 Cor. 15:42,50).

Old and New Man

In Ephesians 4:22 and Colossians 3:9f. Paul also distinguishes between the old man and the new man where his prime concern is morals or way of life. Like Peter and the other apostles (1 Pet. 4:2) he is fully aware that the natural or first Adamic man was ruled, contrary to the will of God (Gen. 1:26-26; 2:27), by his flesh or natural passions (Rom. 1:18-32; Eph. 2:1-3). What the flesh dictated, he did, and his character was fashioned accordingly (cf. Romans 7 and my essay on its interpretation). The new man or second Adamic man stands in contrast to the former. He is spiritual and as such is renewed in his mind (Rom. 12:2), led by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16f.) and, no longer conformed to the fleshly passions and the standards of this world (1 Pet. 1:14), he takes on the image and likeness of God in anticipation of redemption (1 Pet 1:15-18; Rom. 6:15-19; 2 Cor. 3:18, cf. Mt. 5:48).

Corporeal or Somatic Dualism

In light of this Paul would appear to be only following logic when he tells us that there are two bodies – a fleshly and a spiritual one (1 Cor. 15:44,46). They are different in kind not least because the first cannot endure in such a way as to share in the (eternal) kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50). (See my essay The Heavenly Body.) In 2 Corinthians 5:1 (cf. 1 Cor. 6:13) the apostle makes his point plain when he tells us that our earthly tent will be destroyed and give way to a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. There is a problem here, however, but one that the apostle had in essence dealt with in 1 Corinthians 15:51ff. After his death once for all on the cross, Jesus, who had personally fulfilled the law and gained life, was never to die again (Rom. 6:9) and his body did not see corruption. If we are not careful we may well draw the conclusion that he ascended into heaven in the flesh (cf. Acts 1:1-11). But this conclusion would be radically wrong and completely contrary to the drift of biblical thought. Paul makes it plain that the saints at the end of history will avoid both death and corruption but in order to do so they will have to undergo transformation, re-embodiment or corporeal replacement (cf. Rom. 8:23). They will in other words, exchange their fleshly or natural bodies for spiritual ones. (5* Dunn hits the nail on the head when he maintains that soma but not sarx can cross the boundary of the ages, Romans, p.391.) This is clearly what Jesus, their forerunner, did. His glory in heaven may be corporeal or somatic (Phil. 3:21) but it is certainly not fleshly (cf. Heb. 5:7), since the flesh is mortal by nature (cf. 2 Cor. 4:11). It is the same sort of glory that he had before the foundation of the world (John 17:5,24) prior to his incarnation. And when he comes again to rescue his people (Heb. 9:28) he will be in his glory and that of his Father (Luke 9:26; Tit. 2:13). So much for his return in the flesh to rule in Jerusalem for a thousand years! Thus an appropriate comment on which to finish this paragraph is that of Dunn’s: “A recovery of Paul’s distinction between human bodiness to be affirmed and rejoiced in, and human fleshiness, always to be guarded about and against, could be a major contribution to ongoing theological reflection in such areas” (Theology, p. 73.)

Christological Dualism

The perceptive reader of the NT can hardly be unaware that Jesus is presented to us as mortal (he died for us in the flesh) and corruptible (he got older, Cor. 4:16; Heb. 8:13, cf. 1:11) on the one hand and immortal and incorruptible on the other (2 Tim. 1:10; Heb. 7:3,16,24f.,28). How do we make sense of this paradox? The answer is that there is an inherent dualism in the person of Jesus: he was both God and man. (At his incarnation he did not cease to be God in person, only in nature, Phil. 2:5-11.) In other words, we infer that Jesus himself as the second Adam, or antitype (cf. Rom. 5:14), epitomized anthropological dualism. Though he was God (John 1:1), as a son of the first Adam by incarnation (Luke 3:38) he was truly flesh, truly human. As such, he was the only one to keep the law in the flesh (Rom. 8:3) and gain the (eternal) life (regeneration) originally promised to the first Adam (Gen. 2:17, cf. Lev. 18:5, etc.). In other words, as man he proved his divine pedigree and achieved the perfection of God. (See further my essay Perfection.) He became in fact our elder brother (cf. Rom. 8:29) who paved the way for all his sinful but believing fellows to enter the presence of God. As our representative he calls us brethren and we enter the kingdom of God (or heaven) in him (cf. Heb. 2:10-13).

In case my point has been missed, it is of paramount importance to stress that he who descended from heaven with the express intention of returning there (John 8:14; 13:3; 16:28, etc.) did so as man glorified, as he had been regenerated, in spirit (John 17:5,24; Heb. 1:3). He thus remains forever both God and man (but certainly not in the flesh). The upshot of this is that in the words of Irenaeus he became what we are so that we might become what he is.

Cosmological Dualism

But Paul makes another crucial comment. For in 1 Corinthians 15:42-49 he also indicates that the first or fleshly Adam is earthly while the spiritual second Adam, a life-giving spirit, is heavenly. In other words, he is making a radical distinction between earth and heaven (cf. Gen. 2:7 and John 1:1f.) (It is important here to differentiate between the created heaven(s) which along with the earth will pass away, Mt. 24:35, and heaven which is the throne of eternal God himself, Isa. 57:15; 66:1. See also Heb. 1:10f. and 9:11,24. Witherington commenting on Hebrews says: “Our author’s dualism has more to do with the traditional Jewish idea of ‘this world’ and ‘the world to come’ than it has to do with Platonic dualism”, p.167. On Platonism, see further deSilva, pp. 283,400, 408, etc. Ladd distinguishes between the physical and metaphysical and cosmological dualism which involves two ultimate principles of good and evil, or light and darkness, in the universe at war with each other, p.83.). In doing so, he is underlining the fact that there are two worlds and/or two ages: while the one is temporary and in the process of passing away (1 Cor. 7:31; Heb. 1:10-12; 1 John 2:17) the other is eternal and as such already exists (cf. 1 John 2:8; Heb. 1:6; 2:5; 6:5, etc.). During this present or temporal age which is rapidly coming to an end (Mt. 13:49; 28:20), man exercises relative dominion under the sovereignty of God (Gen. 1:26-28; Ps. 8:5f.), in the eternal world or kingdom to come as redeemed man (cf. Heb. 2:9) he will rule forever under the sovereignty of and in (spiritual) union with Christ (1 Cor. 15:50; Rev. 3:21; Heb. 1:6; 2:5-9). While the naturally mortal children of this age or world are forced to procreate on account of universal death (cf. Heb. 7:23), (6* Those who are convinced on the basis of a desperately dubious interpretation of Romans 5:12 that all death is due to sin need to read Genesis 1 with more care. Apart from the fact that all plants and animals are created to propagate, Gen. 1:11f., Isaiah says that all flesh, like the ephemeral creation from which it emanates, Ps. 90:1-6, is grass, 40:6-8, the very symbol of death in the Bible. In the Bible two things are said to be “the way of all the earth”: death, Jos. 23:14; 1 K. 2:2, and sex or procreation, Gen 19:31. See further the paragraph on two foods below and also my essay A Double Helping, Death Before Genesis 3) the children of the resurrection are equal to the angels (who are ministering spirits, Heb. 1:7) and cannot die anymore (Luke 20:34-36).

Two Creations

The Bible begins with reference to the material creation (of which man is in physical essence a miniaturization) but its main concern is with the new or spiritual creation which is likened in certain respects to the first (2 Cor. 4:6). Paul especially dwells on the difference between the two and certainly regards the second creation as central (cf. 1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:6; 6:15). In 2 Corinthians 5:17 he tells his readers that those who are in Christ are a new creation (or new creatures) fashioned not by the flesh and the world (Eph. 4:22, cf. 1 Pet. 1:14; 4:2) but by the Spirit of Christ (cf. Eph. 2:10; 4:23f.). Clearly it is as new creatures morally and generically that we enter the kingdom of God.


If all this is true, then escape or rescue from the bondage of this age/world is vital for eternal life (pace e.g. C.J.H.Wright, Holy Spirit, pp.32f.). If Jesus escaped by keeping the law which promised life (Rev. 12:5, cf. 11:12), we follow in his steps by faith. Paul deals with this in what I believe to be one of the most misunderstood passages in Scripture, that is, Romans 8:18-25 (cf. Heb. 1:10-12; 12:25-29). Here, again without mentioning sin, the apostle contrasts the sufferings of this present impermanent age with the glory of the eternal age to come (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16-5:5). The latter, of course, already exists and Jesus who came from it returned to it as man glorified (cf. John 14:2f.; Eph. 4:10), but for us who like Adam derive from the earth it is still to come. On the assumption that ktisis means creature rather than creation, in verse 21 (KJV, cf. Heb. 12:27) Paul is implying exactly what he implied in Galatians 1:4 (cf. Heb. 2:3; 12:25) except for the fact that in the latter he mentions the added and exacerbating factor of evil. (See further my essays Escape and The End of the World.)

Two Births

I have already touched on John 3 and the new birth but since there is so much confusion about it I do so again. What Augustinian theology so abjectly obscures is the principal reason why the spiritual birth is so indispensably necessary. First, we need to note again that sin is neither mentioned nor implied. Next, Jesus, having implicitly dismissed Nicodemus’ idea of another physical birth, indicates that our second birth is spiritual. He insists that flesh gives birth to flesh and Spirit to spirit (cf. John 1:13). What he is implying is that physical birth in the flesh, which derives from the earth and hence is mortal and corruptible by nature, does not equip us for eternal life in heaven, our ultimate goal or destination. The obvious implication of this is that the body of flesh and its corollary, the temporal earth that produces it, are doomed to inevitable destruction (Zeph. 1:18; 3:8; 1 Cor. 6:13; 2 Pet. 3:7,10-12). (See further my essays on The End of the World, The Destruction of the Material Creation.) Once their mission is accomplished they have no further use and are dispensed with (2 Cor. 5:1; Heb. 6:7f.; 2 Pet. 3:7). They yield to a spiritual body in a spiritual world. The first is abolished so that the second may be established (Heb. 10:9, cf. Rev. 21:1). We need to be regenerate (born from above) to enter the regeneration (Mt. 19:28) or what Jesus elsewhere calls the resurrection (Luke 20:36). And just as our regeneration is spiritual so is our resurrection, as Paul makes plain in 1 Corinthians 15. (7* Serious theological problems arise once the normal post-mortem and post-corruption resurrection of believers is inappropriately compared with Jesus’ physical resurrection from the grave. See further below on two resurrections, the note on Licona below and my essays Restoration and Resurrection and Thoughts on the Redemption of Creation)

Two Fathers

So, while on the one hand we have an earthly father of flesh whose desire gives us physical birth, on the other hand we have a heavenly Father who by his grace gives us spiritual birth (John 1:13; 3:1-6; Heb. 12:9).

Had it not been hi-jacked by Augustine, John 3 ought to have laid to rest long ago the widespread notion that the physical (John 3:1-8; 6:63), the created (Heb. 12:27), the temporal (Gen. 1; Ps. 102:25-27), the corruptible (1 Cor. 15:50), the visible (2 Cor. 4:18) in any shape or form can be redeemed. What is manufactured (“made by hand” cheiropoietos) is essentially different from what is not manufactured (“not made by hand”, acheiropoietos). (See further my essay on Manufactured Or Not So)

Other Dualisms

Two Israels

Paul is at pains to distinguish between two Israels – in Romans 9, for example. His point is that the one is fleshly, the other spiritual. The first, Israel according to the flesh, consisted merely of the physical children of Abraham and they were not thereby, as even the old covenant prophet John the Baptist realized, the children of God (cf. Mt. 3:9); the second Israel, like Isaac with whom the covenant was made (cf. Gen. 17:19f.), were in fact the true children (cf. Rom. 4). Paul sketches the same scenario when he refers in Romans 9:10-13 to the difference between Esau and Jacob. While the portion or inheritance of the former was in this world of transience and impermanence (Ps. 17:14; Heb. 12:16), the latter’s was ultimately in the eternal heaven. Clearly it was Jesus who laid the foundation of apostolic thinking. When dealing with the Jews in John 8:31ff., he rejected the notion that those who refuse to exercise faith like Abraham are truly his (spiritual) children. In fact he goes so far as to say that they are the spiritual children of the devil (8:44) who is a murderer every time he convinces men and women to invest in this fleeting world. They inevitably die along with it (Gal. 6:8)!

Two Seeds

Given a fleshly and a spiritual Israel and two births, it is not at all surprising that the NT alludes to two different seeds (cf. Gal. 3:16). In his first letter when referring to the new birth which is the result of the abiding word of God, Peter (1:23) distinguishes between perishable and imperishable seed (cf. 1 Cor. 15:42). James does the same in 1:18,21. And John makes the distinction even more explicit in 1 John 3:9 (cf. John 1:13; 3:1-8). Yet again the hiatus between the fleshly (physical or natural) and the spiritual can hardly be missed, and the inherent transience of the flesh (cf. Mt. 10:28), which is frequently compared with grass (James 1:10f.; 1 Pet. 1:23-25), is affirmed. (See further my essay Two Seeds)

Two Jerusalems

If there are two Israels we might well expect that there will be two Jerusalems, and our expectation is amply justified. Paul in Galatians 4:25f., John in Revelation 3:12; 21:2,10, and the author of Hebrews in 12:22 (cf. 11:10; 13:14) distinguish and dramatically differentiate between the earthly and the heavenly Jerusalems. Paul’s allusion is especially graphic for he calls attention to Abraham’s two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. The former was born according to the flesh, the latter as a child of promise was born according to the Spirit. To make his point clear the apostle takes the apparently extreme step of linking the bondage of the present Jerusalem not merely with Sinai and the Mosaic covenant of law but with Hagar and Ishmael who were Gentile slaves. Like Jesus (John 8:35) he insists that the children of those who are fleshly slaves (or the slaves of the flesh) cannot receive the inheritance (Gal. 4:30, cf. 5:21; 1 Cor. 6:9; Eph. 5:5).

Two Temples

Once we see that heaven and earth and this world and the next are essentially different and cannot be amalgamated or merged (1 Cor. 15:50), we become aware of yet other dualisms in Scripture. For example, it is sometimes said that the earth is God’s sanctuary or temple epitomized in the Promised Land and the Jerusalem temple which was the center of Jewish worship and sacrifice. But, the earthly or material temple, whether that of Solomon, Zerubbabel or Herod which was built “by hand”, is replaced in the new covenant by one that is “not built by hand” (John 2:19-21, cf. Mark 14:58 and its striking affinity with 2 Cor. 5:1). Thus on the completion of his work Jesus entered the greater and more perfect tent (Heb. 9:11, cf. 8:2), in fact into heaven itself to appear in the presence of God on our behalf (Heb. 9:24).

This leads ultimately in the book of Revelation to the “disappearance” of the temple altogether: it is replaced by the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb (21:22), reminding us of Jesus’ comments in John 2:19-21, 4:21,23 and Luke 20:38, which suggests that our true heritage is based in the being of God (cf. Bruce, p.299).

Two Priesthoods

On earth Jesus had no priestly aspirations. As a Judean and a non-Levite he could not serve in the earthly temple: he was disqualified on genealogical grounds (Heb. 8:1-4). In heaven, however, he belonged to a different order of priesthood, not that of Levi but that of Melchisedek (Heb. 7:3). The difference between the two is intrinsic, as the author of Hebrews in particular makes plain. Perhaps the greatest contrast relating to repeated and hence inadequate sacrifices is that Jesus, despite his vicarious death in the flesh (1 Pet. 3:18), had the power of indestructible life (7:16,24f.) whereas all the Levitical priests died (7:23).

Two Kingships

Though David was an earthly king, Jesus his greater Son never became one (except on the cross, Mt. 27:37). Jesus’ kingship is heavenly (John 18:36) and he sits on David’s throne in heaven (Luke 1:32f.; Acts 2:30).

Two Foods

Strong emphasis is placed in the Bible on the difference in food and drink. In the wilderness the children of Israel fed on manna or bread from heaven (John 6:31). However, as Jesus makes clear especially in John 6, it was still perishable material bread and it did not prevent physical death any more than the God-given food prevented the death of animals (Ps. 104:21; Mt. 6:26). By contrast the food (and drink for that matter, cf. Isa. 55:1; John 4:13; 6:53-56; 1 Cor. 10:4) that Jesus provides is the (spiritual, John 6:63) word of God (Mt. 4:4; 24:35; 1 Pet. 1:25), which enables the one who feeds on it to live forever (John 6:58).

Two Treasures

Jesus himself draws attention to these in Matthew 6:19-21 (cf. 19:21; Heb. 10:34). He contrasts terrestrial with celestial treasure. The former is vulnerable to wear and tear or the natural corruption of age (cf. Luke 12:32-35) as well as to evil. The latter is immune to both. Basically the same contrast re-appears in Luke 16:9. Peter in particular is aware of the difference, as the first chapter of his first letter especially makes clear. In 2 Corinthians 4:7 Paul also notes that while we live in this present world/age, our heavenly treasure is housed in clay which certainly does not go to heaven (cf. Job 15:15; 25:5)! He perhaps had in mind allusions in the book of Job, that is, in 4:19-21 and 10:8f.

Two Deaths

The Bible clearly teaches that death will be followed by judgement (Acts 17:31; Heb. 9:27). The result of this judgement, which is suspended on works done in the body, will be either resurrection to life or second death (Mt. 25:31-46; Rev. 21:8, etc.).

Two Corruptions

In the Bible there is both material and moral corruption. According to Genesis 1 and 2 Adam was promised escape or freedom from the death and corruption that characterized the temporal material creation on condition of keeping the commandment. He failed and, having become morally corrupt, lost the hope of glory and immortality/incorruptibility. As a consequence, in the words of Cardinal Newman a second Adam to the rescue came. It was he who, though flesh himself (Rom. 8:3), kept the commandment, the whole law in fact, and brought to light the immortality and incorruption that characterize God (2 Tim. 1:10). Believers achieve both through faith in him (1 Cor. 15:53-55, 57, cf. Rom. 2:7,10; 1 Pet. 1:7). (Like 2 Tim. 1:10, Rom. 2:7 should refer to ‘incorruption’ not ‘immortality’.)

Two Circumcisions

Since Abraham’s circumcision occurred after he was justified, it sealed his faith. However, when circumcision was subsumed under the law (Lev. 12:3) and applied to eight-day-old boys, it was unrelated to faith. On the other hand, it evidently looked forward to a spiritual circumcision. The prophets regularly appealed to their hearers to circumcise their hearts in repentance (Dt. 10:16; Jer. 4:4). It is not, however, until the new covenant has been inaugurated that circumcision is truly spiritualised. Paul makes much of this in Romans 2:25-29 (cf. Phil. 3:3-11). In Colossians he goes so far as to suggest that believers who have been crucified with Christ have experienced his non-manual or spiritual circumcision and have put off the claims of their flesh in order to nurture the spirit (2:11, cf. 3:5).

Two Rests and Two Lands

The author of Hebrews is at pains to indicate that the earthly Promised Land was (and is) inadequate (Heb. 3,4). Its basic deficiency arose from the fact that like the temple it was but a type or shadow of the reality to come (cf. 11:16). It was temporary and provisional like the old covenant itself and as such could not possibly be the final resting place of the people of God. True rest was only to be found in the very presence of God and this was gained through faith in Christ (John 14:2f.,6; Eph. 2:18; 3:12; Heb. 4:10; 10:19-23; Rev. 14:13).

Two Resurrections

I have already referred to resurrection in the paragraph on two births above. While on the one hand Scripture alludes to the resurrection of the just and the unjust (Acts 24:15, cf. John 5:29, morals), it also deals with the resurrection of the body. There is a problem, however. Since, as I indicated above, there are two bodies, which body is raised? (Some writers appear to opt for an amalgam of both!) Paul deals extensively with the issue in 1 Corinthians 15 but seems to have been extensively misunderstood. Having dealt, like Jesus (Mt. 22:29-32), with the reality of resurrection, he maintains that Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection (vv.20,23). This seems to have prompted many to assume that our resurrection will resemble his specific physical resurrection from the grave. Since both Peter and Paul differentiate between Jesus who did not see corruption and those who like David did (Acts 2 and 13), this, in view of what the apostle says, is impossible. There is another problem. Paul, and apparently Jesus who refers to the age to come, the resurrection and the sons of the resurrection (Luke 20:35f.), sometimes uses the term resurrection comprehensively to include resurrection, transformation, exaltation, glorification and heavenly session, in other words to the gaining of eternal life and the full adoption or redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23) in the world to come. So to cut a long story short, since those who have seen corruption cannot return to their mothers’ wombs (which have also suffered corruption), their resurrection, though corporeal, is spiritual and not physical (cf. 1 Cor. 15:50). As the apostle so clearly maintains, change or replacement is absolutely and universally necessary – even in the case of Jesus who did not experience corruption. This he implies when he refers to the saints at the end of the world (vv.50ff.). They like Jesus remain physical and uncorrupted (though still like all flesh corruptible) to the moment of their ascension or rapture, but necessarily have to be changed to enter heaven and the presence of God (cf. John 20:17). So Jesus’ specifically physical resurrection from the grave, like that of Lazarus, provides the wrong model. (Since he had not earned death by his own sins, his resurrection was in any case a restoration to his previous physical, Luke 24:39, etc., life or psyche, John 10:17f., cf. 2:19-21. See further my Restoration and Resurrection.) And it is not by accident that the author of Hebrews distinguishes between an earthly resurrection or restoration and a better resurrection to eternal life in heaven (11:35).

It is important at this point to challenge the widespread notion that Jesus’ resurrection from the grave constituted his glorification. If it did, then it was not a physical resurrection at all but a transformation! If as Paul avers our permanent or glorified form is invisible (2 Cor. 4:18, cf. Rom. 8:24f.) and hence, though somatic, non-physical, then Jesus was not glorified until he ascended, entered the cloud (the usual symbol of God), disappeared or became invisible (Acts 1:9) and was exalted to God’s right hand (Acts 3:13; 5:30f.; Eph. 1:20-23; Phil. 2:9; Heb. 4:14; 7:26; 1 Pet. 1:21; 3:21f.). The essential difference between the visible post-resurrection Jesus that the disciples saw, and the blinding light that Paul saw on the Damascus road after the ascension and glorification of Jesus ought to be plain to all.

Two Inheritances and/or Two Prizes

Paul makes it as clear as does experience that the only inheritance we can gain from the flesh and the world is corruption (Rom. 8:13; Gal. 6:8, cf. Ps. 49). All die and all material things are subject to age, wear, decay and corruption. Esau despised his spiritual birthright and lost all (Heb. 12:16, cf. Mark 8:36). Ishmael, the fleshly slave, inherited nothing (Gal. 4:30, cf. John 8:35). Failure to exercise control over the flesh and the world and to indulge them is ultimately to leave oneself without an inheritance (Gal. 5:19-21). In this situation, our best, though forlorn (cf. Heb. 9:27), hope is to breathe our last (Job 11:20). On the other hand, to serve the spirit/Spirit is to inherit the crown of life or glory (2 Tim. 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:10; Rev. 2:10). This is further brought out by what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:24f. Worldly wreaths are perishable, spiritual ones endure for eternity (Phil. 3:14; Heb. 12:1f.).

Two Covenants

Apart from the early chapters of Genesis, biblical theology is covenant theology. Various covenants appear in the course of revelation. (See further my articles Covenant Theology, Did God Make a Covenant with Creation?) However, it is important to recognize as was noted above that just as there is continuity of body, temple and so forth, but difference in kind, so there is continuity of covenant but discontinuity of essence. To ignore this distinction and claim that the covenants form an organic unity leads to the erosion of their differences and hence to serious misunderstanding like the redemption of creation (cf. C.J.H.Wright, Mission, p.279). The first covenant with Noah relates primarily to nature and forms the basis or background of the others. It is explicitly said to last only while the earth remains (Gen. 8:22, cf. Jer. 31:35f.; 33:19-26), that is, until God’s purpose of salvation is complete. That purpose is etched in the old and new covenants which are strongly contrasted in both testaments (e.g. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:26f.; 2 Cor. 3; Heb. 8). In brief, the old covenant relates to this present material world (cf. Heb. 7:16; 9:10) and like it, it is provisional and temporal. Once its purpose is fulfilled it is dispensed with (Mt. 5:18; 2 Cor. 3:11; Heb. 8:13, cf. Rom. 7:3). In contrast, the new covenant relates to the world to come and both it and the world to come are eternal (Mt. 24:35). The plain fact is that whereas the old covenant could not give (eternal) life (Gal. 3:21) but enshrined a ministry of death (2 Cor. 3:7), the new covenant was a covenant of life through faith in Christ (John 3:16; 2 Cor. 3:17f.).

Parallel Paradoxes and Contrasting Finales

In John 12:25 (cf. Mt. 10:39; Luke 14:26; Phil. 3:3-11) Jesus tells us that whoever loves his (earthly) life loses it while he who hates his life in this world keeps it for eternal life. This being so, though nowadays most of us balk at the issue, Scripture graphically presents us with two contrasting finales. At the last judgement the good and the evil, the righteous and the wicked arrive at different destinations. Jesus himself insists that while the good or those who respond appropriately to the revelation given them are welcomed into his presence in heaven, the wicked are cast into outer darkness in hell. Matthew 25:31-46 etches these contrasting ends with disturbing clarity. While those who have acted with compassion towards their fellows inherit the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world and eternal life, those who have selfishly exploited or ignored them will be banished into eternal punishment (cf. Mt. 8:11f.; Luke 16:28). The same result relating to immoral conduct is painted with different strokes of the brush elsewhere (e.g. Rev. 21:8; 22:15).

Other Dualisms

There are of course other dualisms to be culled from Scripture. Among them can be specified light and darkness (John 1:5), good and evil, wheat and chaff (Mt. 3:12), weeds and wheat (Mt. 13:30), good and bad trees (Mt. 7:15-20) and fish (Mt. 13:48, cf. figs, Jer. 24:2), material and spiritual and earthly and heavenly things in general, the harvest and the winepress (Rev. 14:14ff.), God and worldly wealth (Mt. 6:24), God and Satan, and so forth. It can hardly escape notice that all that is either spiritually unproductive and/or evil is ultimately dispensed with (Luke 13:9-12; Heb. 6:7f., cf. Rev. 2:11; 20:6,14; 21:8). Thus just as the earth was threatened with destruction when on account of evil men it proved unproductive before the flood (Gen. 6:11-13), so both man and his habitat will finally be destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah when man succumbs to evil (cf. 2 Tim. 3:1-5) and the earth proves largely unproductive at the end (Luke 17:26-30). As John says, both the darkness (1 John 2:8) and the world will pass away (1 John 2:17, cf. Mt. 24:35; 1 Cor. 7:31; Rev. 21:1). (See further my essay The Harvest of the Earth.)


On the basis of the evidence sketched above it has to be said that the created world implies intrinsic dualism (Gen. 1:1, cf. Heb. 11:3). Creation is not the result of spontaneous generation as atheistic or evolutionistic naturalists claim: it is the handiwork of the eternal self-existent God. It is “good” (Gen. 1:31; 1 Tim. 4:3f.), that is, useful or purposeful, like a tool and instrumental in bearing fruit. It is not a question of matter being evil as the Greeks thought but of its being naturally temporal (Heb. 1:10-12) and corruptible (Rom. 8:18-25). It was subjected to futility in hope (Rom. 8:20). As a study of the terms created “by hand” (cheiropoietos) and “not by hand” (acheiropoietos) makes clear, the difference between the material, which is inherently imperfect, and the spiritual is fundamental. And man, who is initially both to the extent that his spirit is housed in an earthly tent (2 Cor. 4:7; 5:1), is depicted as being perfected on his pilgrimage from the one to the other (1 Cor. 15:46; Heb. 11:10,16; 13:14, etc.). Since all sinned (Rom. 5:12) and continue to do so (Rom. 3:23), the Word who dwelt eternally with God and was God (John 1:1) came down from heaven to earth as man in order to rescue his fellows who fail to meet the condition of life through disobedience. Otherwise expressed, he came to liberate all who failed the test of pain and pleasure in this present (evil) age which was the unavoidable prelude of entry into the glory of the age to come (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17; Gal. 1:4). As their Leader and Elder Brother he pioneered their way to heaven (John 14:6; Heb. 2:10; 6:19f.; 10:19f.; 12:1f.). Salvation therefore involves the liberation and transformation of the sons of God, already justified from sin, from bondage to the corruption of the created world (Rom. 8:21) which will eventually be removed (Heb. 12:27; 1 Cor. 7:31; 1 John 2:17; Rev. 21:1) and their transfer (rapture) to the heavenly presence of the Father himself (cf. John 14:3,6; Eph. 2:18; 1 Pet. 3:18) whose glory (Rom. 5:2; Eph. 1:18) and generic nature (Rom. 8:29; 2 Pet. 1:4) they, as the adopted children of God, will share (cf. 1 Pet. 1:21; 5:10).

Ultimate Monism?

All the dualisms referred to above rest on the basic dualism constituted by Creator and creation, heaven and earth. Yet central to the Jewish faith was the affirmation of the unity of God: “The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Dt. 6:4), a view confirmed by Jesus himself (Mark 12:29). How do we explain this? It would appear that all that was created by God was regarded as being extraneous to him yet depended totally for its very existence on his will (cf. Heb. 1:1-4).

Most Christians, governed by Augustine, appear to base their worldview on creation, fall and redemption (see e.g. Naugle pp.284ff.). Having assumed the initial perfection of creation, they put it on a par with God and in effect obliterate the distinction between them. The logical outcome of this is pantheistic idolatry, though this conclusion is usually if inconsistently avoided. As prey to Augustinian hamartiology, especially belief in “the catastrophe of the fall” and its consequent curse, they hotly oppose dualism (see again Naugle, pp.342f.,351f.,355). In order to validate this opposition, they are forced to seek to overcome the unassailable biblical evidence for it by positing a total, comprehensive or universal redemption which includes the visible material creation. In this way, since premises determine conclusions, they again virtually destroy the distinction between the Creator and the creation, the perfect and the imperfect and the sacred and the secular assumed at the beginning and in principle become idolaters. Otherwise expressed, they collapse evident dualism into unbiblical monism. However, if what has been argued above is true and the ultimate end of the entire material universe after it has served its purpose is total destruction or annihilation (Rom. 8:24f.; 2 Cor. 4:18; Heb. 1:10-12; 12:26f.; 2 Pet. 3:7,10-13; 1 John 2:17; Rev. 21:1-5), the question arises as to the nature of ultimate reality. Will it be monistic or dualistic?

Two basic points must be made. First, though Scripture clearly points to the divine nature of the children of God (cf. John 10:34f.), that is, their moral and generic likeness to God in Christ (2 Pet. 1:4, cf. Heb. 1:3; Rev. 3:21), in contrast with pantheism it never identifies God and man: they remain forever Father and child, Creator and creature, husband and wife (cf. Eph. 5:25-32) in spiritual unity (cf. 1 Cor. 6:17) even in heaven. For man there is no Nirvana-like absorption. As embodied individuals we permanently retain our personal identity. Indeed, Paul goes so far as to suggest in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 the subordination of the (human) Son even though he shares the throne of God. Needless to say, I have long believed that Jesus’ true humanity is necessarily subordinate to his deity. After all, his humanity was not original but assumed.

Second, apparently in support of his belief that the glory of God and man’s enjoyment of it (cf. Ps. 16:11; 17:15; 23:6; 36:7f.; John 14:1-3; Rom.11:32-36) is the ultimate objective of creation (cf. The Shorter Catechism, Qu. 1), in the same passage in 1 Corinthians Paul is emphatic that God will finally be all in all (v.28, cf. Acts 3:21; Eph. 1:10; Phil. 2:9-11; Col. 1:20). God and man will be as close in their unity as Jesus and his Father (John 10:30; 17:11,22). Such dualism is almost monistic in character like the Trinity. But while distinction of persons remains, unity, harmony and reconciliation will be total and universal (cf. Acts 3:21; Eph. 1:9f.; Phil. 2:9-11; Col. 1:20). This would seem to accord with the mystery of marriage alluded to by Paul (Eph. 5:32, cf. 2 Cor. 11:2) and the vision of John in the book of Revelation (19:6-9), and two excerpts from it provide an appropriate end to this essay:

“And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elder fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created’ ” (4:11).

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (5:13, ESV).

Why is dualism so important? Because creation including the flesh is perishable and we as human beings made in the image of God seek the imperishable.

Gloria Soli Deo.

Additional Notes

(1) Note on Naugle

Professor Naugle is obviously a fine scholar and one not to be lightly trifled with. However, a learned and potentially influential book such as his requires comment. On pp. xx, the author describes his paradigm shift from dispensational premillennialism to covenant, reformed theology. Well and good! For all that, I am persuaded that he needs to make yet another shift. Over 35 years ago in a book (unpublished) based on covenant theology as I had come to understand it, I had cause to mention that just as there are three dispensational covenants highlighted in the progressive revelation of Scripture as a whole, so they are recapitulated, first, within the experience of the individual (Gal. 4:4f.) and, secondly, within the history of Christianity which is also in the process of development (cf. Cardinal Newman’s “The Development of Christian Doctrine”, 1845). I contended that the church was first Hellenised, then Judaised, but needs finally to be properly Christianised. Speaking in very general terms and making allowances for overlaps, reversals and inconsistencies, it would seem that premillennialism or chiliasm with its obsession with the physical/material prevailed in the early church (cf. Egypt in the OT), Christian Judaism after Augustine to whom the Roman church and I regret to say Reformed theology (still only half-reformed, truly a via media) owe so much (cf. earthly Promised Land and Jerusalem), and we hope under the influence of the Spirit full-fledged Christianity in the future terminating in the heavenly Jerusalem (Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22).

Naugle’s commitment to the creation/fall/redemption schema is, as I have indicated, based not on the Bible but on Augustine’s highly suspect interpretation of it. Our emancipation from it is long overdue. (See further my essay on Augustine: Asset or Liability, etc.)

There are also other distressing features in Naugle’s theology. He not only believes in the redemption of the material creation (dust in heaven despite 1 Cor. 15:50, etc.?) but also that “The salvaging of a sin-wrecked creation is what the Bible is all about” (p.284). I was under the impression that the salvation of man made in the image of God was what the Bible was all about (John 3:16; Rom. 1:16; 2 Cor. 5:17, etc.). (Alternatively, the establishment of the kingdom of God and/or heaven.) Furthermore, he believes that Jesus “will return to earth in apocalyptic power and glory to consummate his redemptive work…”(p.285). On the contrary, I am persuaded that his work on earth was in essence finished on the cross (John 19:30, cf. 17:4) and that he made his final exodus at his ascension never to return (Acts 13:34). Having representatively overcome the world (John 16:33; John 17:4; Rom. 8:31-39; Heb. 2:9; Rev. 5:5, etc.) he has no need to repeat what he has already completed. As one who has passed through the heavens (Heb. 4:14) and is permanently separate(d) from sinners (Heb. 7:26), all that remains for him to do is to return (descend from heaven) in the glory of God (Luke 9:26; Tit. 2:13) to rescue his people who will rise to meet him in the air (1 Thes. 4:16, cf. Heb. 9:28). When that occurs, both the wicked and their habitat will be destroyed (2 Thes. 1:7f.; 2:8) as at Sodom and Gomorrah (Luke 17:28-30). Far from returning to earth, the earth itself will flee away from his presence (Rev. 6:14; 16:20; 20:11; 21:1-5).

Christian dualism answers many questions, though its study needs to be greatly extended beyond what is outlined above.

(2) Light on Licona

Since writing the above I have read with much profit and enjoyment Lee Strobel’s “The Case for the Real Jesus”. In the midst of two impressive chapters presenting the views of Michael Licona, on pages 138-141 the question of whether Jesus’ resurrection was physical or spiritual is dealt with. (On this see especially N.L.Geisler: The Battle for the Resurrection and M.J.Harris: From Grave to Glory.) Licona’s conclusions left me with big questions in my mind as they did in his book “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” co-authored with G.Habermas (see my essay Restoration and Resurrection). It seems to me that on the flimsiest of foundations Licona arrives at the conclusion that Jesus rose from the grave with a transformed physical body, which, unless he was a non-human hybrid, is a blatant contradiction in terms. First he interprets the term “flesh and blood” (1 Cor. 15:50, cf. Heb. 2:14) as “mortal being”. This would appear to be not so much wrong as inadequate, for it leaves Paul stating the obvious. He then claims that Luke’s expression “flesh and bones”(24:39, cf. 2 Sam. 5:1; 1 Chron. 11:1) cannot be equated with it. No evidence presented! Next like N.T. Wright on whom he seems to be relying to no small extent he refuses to equate the word ‘natural’ with ‘physical’ (cf. NRSV, etc.). (Wright’s views as expressed on pages 141-145 of his “The Challenge of Jesus” beg their own quota of questions. It would appear that for him the body is to be equated with physicality. In other words, in fear of Greek dualism he fails to distinguish between soma and sarx. Despite his clear recognition of the difference between biblical and Greek dualism, Ladd, pp.83f., does the same. For him physical redemption is a fact, p.179, but then he was an avowed premillennialist.) Though again I recognize a difference in nuance especially in 1 Corinthians 2:14f., (on which see again my essay Restoration and Resurrection) given the context, the natural clearly includes the physical. By referring to earth and dust in verses 47ff. Paul puts this beyond reasonable dispute. Thus Licona’s attempt to deny the distinction between the physical and the spiritual or the material and the immaterial falls flat on its face. Furthermore, his denial that we shall have immaterial or spiritual bodies in heaven is not merely to quarrel with Paul but with the entire Bible as I have sought to demonstrate above. It is a sad fact that many modern writers who stress the physical do so at the expense of the spiritual which is airily dismissed as ethereal or unreal. The emphasis in the Bible is just the opposite (see e.g. Rom. 1:20; 1 Tim. 6:19; Heb. 11:3). It is the spiritual that is real and eternal while the physical or natural is temporal (Heb. 1:10-12, etc.). The difference is that between the eternal Creator and the temporal creation.

Next, on page 140, he tells us it is clear that Paul “regards Jesus’ resurrection as a model for our future resurrection”. (In his “Knowing the Holy Spirit”, p.33, C.J.H.Wright tells us that Jesus’ resurrection body is the prototype for the redemption of our bodies. Using Philippians 3:21 for support, he fails to appreciate that verse’s reference to glory which the disciples obviously did not see on earth but Jesus prayed that they would see in heaven, John 17:5,24! Immediately after his resurrection, Jesus’ physical appearance was such that he was mistaken for a gardener, John 20:15, or went unrecognized, Luke 24:16. Some glory!) This apparently ignores Paul’s strong stress on transformation in 1 Corinthians 15:51ff. In Acts 2 and 13 both Peter and Paul distinguish sharply between those who like David have seen corruption and those who like Jesus have not! (See further my essay No Return to Corruption.) Licona then appeals to Romans 8:11 which refers to our bodies (cf. v.23) not to our flesh (cf. 2 Cor. 4:11). In other words, Paul makes a distinction between body (soma) and flesh (sarx). And it is beyond question that the apostle never dreamt that either the flesh or its corollary the earth could be immortalized (cf. Rom. 1:23,25 and 2:7,10). The plain fact is that for Paul as for the rest of the apostles the flesh in contrast with the body is always pejorative (John 6:63, cf. 2 Cor. 3:10f.) and, like the creation from which it emanates, it is temporal (Gen. 1:1; Heb. 1:10-12), corruptible (Rom. 8:18-25; James 1:10f.) and doomed by divine decree to pass away (Isa. 51:6,8; Mt. 24:35, etc.) once it has served its purpose. So I conclude that the distinction between the eternal Creator and his temporal creation, between heaven and earth, etc., is basic to Scripture. In light of this it is a fundamental fallacy for Licona and others to posit a material spiritual body inheriting the kingdom of heaven. Paul makes it indisputably clear that the corruptible cannot inherit the incorruptible (1 Cor. 15:50).

To say this, however, raises the question of the nature of Jesus’ resurrection body. (See further my essay Re The Body of the Resurrected Jesus.) A true understanding of the theology involved makes it clear, first, that Jesus was truly incarnate, that is, mortal flesh; second, that he gained the (eternal) life promised to Adam by keeping the law; third, that he gave his flesh in death for others (Col. 1:21f.; 1 Pet. 3:18); and fourth, that his physical resurrection as one who had committed no sin was a divine necessity based on the promise (Acts 2:23f.). If Jesus rose from the dead it must have been in the flesh as he had himself predicted (John 2:19-21; 10:17f.) or the promise was not fulfilled. But to suggest that he rose in a glorified fleshly body (glorified dust?) not only denies his physical restoration but also reflects massive misunderstanding regarding the nature of the transformation glorification of Jesus as our God and Saviour (Phil. 3:21, cf. Luke 9:26; John 17:5,24; 2 Cor. 3:18; Tit. 2:13, etc.), and nothing Licona or others like him have said persuades me otherwise. On the other hand, had he not risen from the dead in the flesh (cf. Luke 24:39), the implication would have been that he earned the wages of sin which was death and inevitable corruption (Gen. 3:19).

I have maintained in the previous paragraph that Jesus in contrast with Adam gained (eternal) life by keeping the law (Mt. 3:13-17, cf. Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5). It therefore follows from this that after his death and resurrection in the flesh on behalf of his fellows, he still had life and was no longer liable to death (Rom. 6:9, cf. Heb. 9:28, etc.). He was not, however, incorruptible. How do we know? The answer lies in the necessity of his ascension. In order to avoid growing old like the physical creation from which he was taken through his mother and succumbing to the decay that comes with age (2 Cor. 4:16; Heb. 8:13), Jesus had to ascend and be transformed at the time set by his Father. This is clearly what is implied in John 20:17 and supported by what happens to the saints who ascend without dying and seeing corruption at the end of the world (1 Cor. 15:51ff.).

It should be noted therefore that there are two basic natural, as opposed to moral (cf. Rom. 8:30), necessities involved in the glorification process: first, regeneration signifying eternal life, and, second, ascension signifying transformation (John 20:17; Eph. 1:21; 4:10; Heb. 4:14; 7:26). (In Jesus’ case, since he had gained life while he was in the flesh, Rom. 8:3, physical resurrection after his vicarious death was a moral necessity based on the promise, Acts 2:23f.) Apart from these even Jesus as man could not enter the kingdom of heaven and regain his former glory and splendour (cf. John 17:24; Phil. 3:21; Heb. 1:3). And it is highly significant that Paul claims that it is Jesus precisely who brought life (regeneration) and incorruption (ascension transformation) to light (2 Tim. 1:10. It is to be regretted that most versions of the Bible reflecting theological myopia fail to translate this verse, and others like Rom. 2:7, correctly and turn it into a tautology.)

On the assumption that my understanding of the teaching of Scripture at this point is correct, why is it that Licona et al. have got it wrong? A brief answer is fivefold as is implied in the essay above. First, they accept the Augustinian worldview which is patently false to the Bible; second, they lack an adequate covenant theology; third, they suffer from Greek dualism phobia on the one hand and fail to appreciate true biblical dualism on the other; fourth, they are prone to docetism (cf. Strobel, pp.61f.), and, fifth, their acceptance of sin-soaked Augustinianism makes their theology cyclopean or one-eyed. In explanation of the latter point I would assert that while Augustinians think exclusively in terms of sin, the Bible emphatically includes natural physical corruption as well as sin (Mt. 6:19f.; Luke 13:1-5; Rom. 8:18-25; Heb. 1:10-12, etc.). Salvation therefore implies rescue, primarily from the mortality and corruptibility of nature necessitated by failure to keep the commandments which was the condition of life in Genesis (cf. Mt. 19:17). Otherwise expressed, sin prevents escape from the death and natural corruption that engulfed the first Adam and all his posterity who sin like him (Rom. 3:23; 5:12). In this situation only Jesus, the second Adam who kept the commandment(s) and thereby gained life and incorruption (2 Tim. 1:10), can meet our need (1 Cor. 15:53-55,57). In Christ, God is Saviour indeed (Isa. 45:22f.; Phil. 2:9-11).

For further reading see my Spiritualisation.

Note on P.E.Hughes, 2 Corinthians, pp153ff.

On p.155 he quotes Augustine who states that “both the inward and the outward part, has become old by sin and liable to the punishment of death … the outward man too shall attain the dignity of a celestial character; so that all that has been created may be created anew, and all that has been made be remade by the Creator and Maker Himself .” This is a distortion of the biblical evidence which becomes evident once we recognize that even the sinless Jesus according to the flesh grew old and was hence physically corruptible like the creation from which he emanated! On p. 163 in comment on 5:1 Hughes in mortal fear of Greek dualism somewhat oddly claims that “a house not made with hands” does not imply that our present “dwelling” (or body of flesh) is made with hands. The Bible unmistakably states that it is. It is made by hand of God, hence the frequently used potter metaphor (Gen. 2:7; Job 10:8f.; Ps. 119:73; 2 Cor. 4:7, etc.! Hughes seems to contradict his own comments on 2 Cor. 4:7, p.136. The reason for this would appear to be that he tends to understand “made with hands” as meaning “made by man” (cf. NIV.) and as an Augustinian regards man as originally perfect but fallen, rather than mortal and corruptible (prone to decay) by creation.


On dualism see Ladd in Jesus and the Kingdom, espec. 83f., 110ff., index.

On the two ages see Ladd, The Gospel and the Kingdom, pp.26ff., 41f.

Jesus and the Kingdom, pp.110ff., etc., index..



F.F.Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, London, 1964.

J.D.G.Dunn, WBC Romans, Dallas, 1988.

J.D.G.Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, London/New York, 2003, ed.

N.L.Geisler, The Challenge of the Resurrection, Nashville, 1992.

D.Guthrie, New Testament Theology, Leicester, 1981.

M.J.Harris, From Grave to Glory, Grand Rapids, 1990.

P.E.Hughes, Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians, London, 1962.

J.N.D.Kelly, A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and Jude, repr. Grand Rapids, 1981.

G.E.Ladd, Jesus and the Kingdom, London, 1966.

G.E.Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, Grand Rapids, 1974 repr. 1987.

J.P.Moreland, Scaling the Secular City, Grand Rapids, 1987.

D.K.Naugle, Worldview, Grand Rapids/Cambridge, 2002.

John Rist, Augustine, Cambridge, 1994.

D.A.deSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude, Grand Rapids, 2000.

L.Strobel, The Case for the Real Jesus, Grand Rapids, 2007.

J.H.Walton, Genesis, Grand Rapids, 2001.

Ben Witherington 111, Letters and Homilies for Jewish Christians, Downers Grove/Nottingham, 2007.

C.J.H.Wright, Knowing the Holy Spirit through the Old Testament, Oxford, 2006.

C.J.H.Wright, The Mission of God, Nottingham, 2006.

N.T.Wright, The Challenge of Jesus, Downers Grove, 1999.

NBD (New Bible Dictionary, 3rd. ed.), Leicester, 1996.

EDT (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology) ed. W.A.Elwell, Grand Rapids, 1984.