With the publication of C.J.H. Wright’s The Mission of God (Nottingham, 2006) which, along with his Knowing the Holy Spirit through the Old Testament (Oxford, 2006) and Knowing God the Father through the Old Testament (Oxford, 2007), strongly stresses the redemption of the material creation, I have been prompted (in Jan. 2008) to reread works like Jesus and the Kingdom (London, 1966) and A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, 1974) by G.E.Ladd and Raised Immortal (Basingstoke, 1983) and From Grave to Glory (Grand Rapids, 1990) by M.J.Harris which support his belief.
As a professing if somewhat unconvincing premillennialist (see his essay in The Meaning of the Millennium ed. Clouse, Downers Grove, 1977) Ladd’s stance was predictable. Influenced strongly by the Old Testament (see espec. ch. 2 of his Jesus and the Kingdom) he inevitably supported the notion that since man was a creature he needed a new material creation on which to live his eternal life. He wrote, for example, “Man is a creature, and God created the earth to be the scene of his creaturely existence. Therefore, even as the redemption of man in the bodily aspect of his being demands the resurrection of the body, so the redemption of the very physical creation requires a new earth as the scene of his perfected existence” Theology, p.631). This speculative assertion begs a variety of questions and, other things apart, suggests a radical failure to appreciate biblical covenant theology. Further, though it runs counter to so much of what the Bible explicitly teaches, it has proved very influential. However, since I have dealt with it somewhat summarily in my essay From Here to Eternity, I propose to direct my attention here more specifically to Harris’ work even though I have alluded to some of its shortcomings in my essay The End of the World.
Harris’ views were vehemently attacked by Norman Geisler in his work The Battle for the Resurrection (Nashville, 1992). For all that, despite the validity of some of his criticisms, Geisler’s own views were in my opinion suspect in certain areas and hardly succeeded it solving many of the problems thrown up by biblical eschatology. So here I prefer to paddle my own canoe as I seek to discover the basic reasons why Harris comes to support the idea of the redemption of the material creation.
Immortality and Incorruptibility
First, we need to be aware that Harris accepts the traditional Augustinian worldview of creation, fall, curse, redemption though it does not overtly play a major role in his work on eschatology. Against this background, however, he recognizes a number of important distinctions in the NT but fails to appreciate their critical importance.
The very title, Raised Immortal, of Harris’ work raises questions. It is apparently derived from the Greek of 1 Corinthians 15:52 (quoted prior to the Table of Contents) where what Paul actually says is that the dead are raised incorruptible. Though as the highly competent Greek scholar that he is Harris is aware of the difference between immortality and incorruptibility he seems to assume throughout his work that the two words can safely be regarded as synonymous (see e.g. p. 164, cf. Grave to Glory, p.261). Here he stands in contrast with Vine who complains that the word aphthartos translated immortal in 1 Timothy 1:17 (KJV, cf. Rom. 2:7 and 2 Tim. 1:10) does not bear that significance (pp. 131,320). In the event, the point is theologically vital. Why? Because the NT makes it abundantly clear that we believers who have already gained spiritual immortality by regeneration (John 3) die and decay physically but nonetheless receive bodily or somatic incorruption by resurrection. In other words, John’s writing makes it clear that as born again believers we already have eternal life (3:16; 1 John 5:11-13) while we are still clothed in mortal and corruptible flesh. This view of the matter is clearly supported by Jesus in John 11:25f. where he tells Martha paradoxically that though we die we shall never die (cf. Luke 12:4f.). The implication must be that true believers are spiritually immortal but have to submit to physical death and corruption nonetheless (Rom. 8:10).
The Flesh Not Redeemed
This latter point is highly relevant to the issue of creation’s redemption. For it indicates that while the spirit is redeemed, the flesh is not (cf. Rom. 8:10,13; Gal. 6:8). So if the flesh, which, because it derives from the inherently corruptible dust of the ground, is not redeemed, then neither is its corollary the material creation. Failing to appreciate the natural corruptibility of creation (Rom. 8:18-25; Heb. 1:10-12), Harris says explicitly, “Death is inexorably linked with sin, so where there is sin there is death” (GG, p. 263). It can be stated categorically that this is a misunderstanding. If for man death is the wages of sin (Rom. 6:23), sin is transgression of the law (James 2:9; 1 John 3:4, etc.). But where there is no law as in the case of mortal animals there is no sin (Rom. 4:15, etc.). The biblical view is that death and corruption are inherent in the temporal material creation of which man is physically a part. But since he is made in the image of God and has a spiritual dimension he is offered escape on condition of keeping the law (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5, etc.). His problem here is that he cannot keep the law (Rom. 3:19-20; Gal. 2:16, etc.) and, since this is so, his need of Christ is absolute. Apart from him salvation is impossible (John 14:6; Acts 4:12, etc.).
Of course, it may be replied that Paul explicitly states that the body will be redeemed (Rom. 8:23, cf. 1 Cor. 15:42-49). This, however, brings us to another flaw in the thinking of Harris. He is an anthropological monist (pp.140,239) who specifically rejects dualism (GG, p. 251) and regards man as a psychosomatic or a unified whole. Expressed thus the notion can be accepted. As Bultmann is reputed to have said, man is a body. The problem starts for Harris, in contrast with Dunn for example (Romans, p.391; Theology, p.73), when he fails to distinguish adequately between the body (soma) and the flesh (sarx) and ends up denying the dualism that exists between flesh and spirit though it is fundamental especially to Pauline theology (pp.120,170, cf. Guthrie, Theology, pp.171-176). Thus while Paul, like Jesus in John 3, can deny the flesh access to heaven to (1 Cor. 15:50), he has no hesitation in saying that the body can be redeemed (Rom. 8:23). As he says in the 1 Corinthians 15:44 there are two sorts of body: a natural and a spiritual one. And it is only the latter that is raised or put on (2 Cor. 5:2-4). (On Jesus, see below.) To contend as Harris does (cf. Ladd above) that man’s body (soma) as opposed to his flesh (sarx) is one with the material creation and so to link creation with resurrection (pp.165-171, GG, pp.245-252) is to blunder badly and to commit radical theological error. To my knowledge, the Bible overtly omits making any connection between resurrection and creation.
This problem is further complicated and exacerbated by Harris’ theological background. As intimated above, like Ladd and Wright he adheres to the clearly erroneous Augustinian worldview which assumes original perfection followed by fall, curse, ruin and redemption. As a consequence of his uncritical acceptance of this creation-fall-redemption schema he fails utterly (like Wright, Spirit, p. 32) to appreciate that the material creation is corruptible by nature. Genesis 1:1 implies this and Hebrews 1:10-12 certainly teach it. Not only is creation impermanent and provisional (it has a beginning therefore an end), it is inherently corruptible, and corruption cannot inherit incorruption (1 Cor. 15:50). Despite this, in a forlorn effort to correlate resurrection with creation (pp. 165-171), Harris appeals to Romans 8:18-25, Philippians 3:20-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:20-28. Since he himself appears to have little confidence in the latter it can safely be left out of account here.
In the Romans passage, however, Paul is pointing up the contrast between the present age of suffering and the future age of glory, yet Harris in true Augustinian fashion alludes unwarrantably to sin. (The traditional idea that Paul has Genesis 3:17-19 in mind here lacks both exegetical and theological support. See further my essays The End of the World, Romans 8, etc.) The problem is that Paul no more mentions sin here than he does in 1 Corinthians 15, where the fleshly body of the first Adam makes way for or is replaced by the spiritual body of the second Adam (v. 46), and in 2 Corinthians 4:7-5:5, where he explicitly says that our present hand-made (cheiropoietos) tent (Job 10:8; Ps. 119:73) is destroyed (like the temple, Mark 14:58) and is replaced by a house not made by hands (acheiropoietos) eternal in the heavens (5:1). (The fundamental contrast between what is hand-made and not-hand-made seems to be missed by practically all writers. See further my Manufactured or Not So.) Thus we are forced to conclude that just as the naturally corruptible material creation having served its purpose is finally destroyed (Mt. 24:35; 2 Pet. 3:7, 10-12, etc.), so is its corollary the material body of flesh. (It is well to note at this point that more and more scholars are prepared to concede that the word ‘good’ in Genesis 1 means ‘useful’ or ‘suited to its purpose’. Indeed, Paul says creation is still good, 1 Tim. 4:4, etc.) Little wonder that both Jesus in John 3:1-8 and Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:50 imply and/or insist that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.
Harris also appeals to Philippians 3:20-21 though at first blush it is difficult to understand why since he appears to be comparing apples with oranges. Here his false inferences seem to stem from his failure to understand that when Paul says that Jesus will transform our lowly bodies (of flesh) to be like his body of glory he means, as he does elsewhere, that our unredeemed flesh which has died and seen corruption (see above) will be replaced by a (spiritual) body like Christ’s in its heavenly glory. As the author of Hebrews puts it, as one of the things that have been made our body of flesh will be removed (cf. 2 Pet. 1:14) so that what cannot be shaken may remain (Heb. 12:27, cf. 10:9b).
The Resurrected Body of Jesus
This prompts the question as to why Harris appeals to Philippians 3:21. The answer appears to be his extremely dubious but strong conviction that when Jesus himself rose from the dead he did so in a transformed body. On this Harris is quite insistent (pp.53-57, and GG, pp.xxv, 129,142f.,153, etc.). Almost the last thing he says in From Grave to Glory is that Christ rose from the grave in a transformed body (p.446). Lacking an explicit scriptural statement to this effect, Harris suggests reasons why he thinks it is so (RI, pp. 53-57). While there is an air of plausibility about them, they fall well short of compelling conviction. And the idea that after his resurrection transformation Jesus was located primarily in heaven but made sporadic appearances to his disciples on earth to provide them with evidence that he was alive seems to contradict the NT data supporting the genuineness of the continuation of his incarnate life which Jesus had appeared to predict (John 2:19-21 and 10:17f.). The problem with Harris’ view is that Jesus after his resurrection was clearly not all he seemed to be and despite Harris’ adamant denial his thesis smacks of deceit and/or docetism. Surely the truth is that Jesus’ earthly physicality after his resurrection from death was genuine but, as with Christians later, his citizenship was in heaven (Phil. 3:20). Since he had completed his work on the cross he was spiritually seated in heaven (Eph. 2:6). If we accept with B.B.Warfield (pp. 1-21) that the entire earthly life of Jesus was imbued with the supernatural, the flimsy foundation on which Harris builds his case is betrayed by the simple fact that if it is true, then, first, Jesus never underwent a truly physical resurrection from the grave at all, and, second, he never lived a complete(d) Adamic life. And in the words of Gregory Nazianzen, what he had not assumed, he could not redeem. In explanation of the latter point I would draw the reader’s attention to the fact that if Adam had never sinned he would not have died and apart from death he could never have experienced resurrection. So, clearly, he would have gone to heaven by ascension transformation (cf. 1 Cor 15:51ff.). The same must hold true of Jesus after his vicarious death and resurrection. Since flesh, though not evil, is regarded pejoratively throughout Scripture the notion of flesh of glory as opposed to body of glory is a contradiction in terms. As even Harris admits, the two Adams are representative men who differ fundamentally by nature, and sin plays no part in that difference (1 Cor. 15:45-49).
Clearly Harris is involved in basic confusion. He (see e.g. GG, p. 239) recognizes but fails to appreciate adequately the significance of the difference between the resurrection of Jesus who did NOT experience corruption and David who did (see Acts 2:25-31 and 13:34-37). He asserts that Jesus’ resurrection is the model or paradigm of our resurrection (p.238, GG, p.275) rather than David’s where transformation is indeed involved. While the resurrection of Jesus is obviously the ground of resurrection in general since he is its first fruits (1 Cor. 15:20,23), it was initially a true restoration comparable with that of Lazarus (see further my Restoration and Resurrection). But while the latter rose to die again, Jesus did not. Harris interprets Romans 6:9 as a reference to Jesus’ attainment to immortality (pp.270, etc.). But surely Paul’s studious avoidance of expressions like “raised immortal” or “raised incorruptible” is highly significant here. His point is that since in contrast with the first Adam Jesus had kept the commandment/law and gained life and/or the Spirit (Mt. 3:13-17, etc.), his flesh though mortal and corruptible like all flesh was exempt from death in accordance with the promise of Genesis 2:17. In light of this, Scripture links Jesus’ resurrection not with transformation and creation but with his death on the cross. As Peter, like Paul (Rom. 6:9), implies in Acts 2:23f., since Jesus had freely waived his exemption from death in order to make atonement on behalf of his fellows, when that was once for all accomplished (Heb. 7:27; 9:12, etc.), death no longer had any hold over him. Having dealt definitively with sin, there was nothing else left for him to die for (cf. Heb. 9:28). Thus his spirit which he had committed to his Father on the cross returned to his mangled body in the grave (cf. Luke 8:55) and he rose again in the self-same body he had laid down (cf. John 10:17f.; 20:26-28). To posit its transformation is in effect to deny its resurrection. But it does more. On the one hand it renders his appearances ‘ghostly’ which Jesus himself specifically denies (Luke 24:39, cf. Mt. 14:26); on the other hand it reduces their evidential impact by turning them into a charade. If his appearances are not what they claim to be, they are calculated to deceive. Furthermore, they render redundant the ascension, which Harris regards merely as an acted parable or drama despite the fact that Jesus taught that he who descended was precisely the one who ascended (John 3:13, cf. Eph. 4:9f.).
The Corrupted Body of David
In contrast with the body of Jesus which did not submit to decay, the bodies of those of us who like David die and undergo corruption require redemption or replacement with a spiritual body of glory which is clearly discontinuous with our decomposed, disintegrated and dispersed flesh. (This is why anthropological dualism involving flesh and spirit which Harris strongly denies, is so important, see GG, 251.) Like the creation from which it emanates, the flesh is corruptible by nature and cannot inherit incorruption (1 Cor. 15:50). Thus, according to Jesus we need to be born again, and according to Paul our bodies, in violent contrast with our flesh, need redemption and transformation to be like Jesus’ heavenly body of glory.
The Transformation of the Body of Jesus
It may be objected at this point that by denying the transformation of the body of Jesus at his resurrection, I have cut the ground from beneath my feet. In reply, I would insist, first, that while Jesus really died, the NT makes it indisputably plain that he did not experience corruption. It follows from this that he rose in exactly the same unchanged physical body that he had before his crucifixion. In other words, it patently lacked the glory that Harris attributes to it. It was only at his ascension that it was transformed into or replaced by a body of glory after which he sent the Spirit (John 7:39). On his return to the Father he regained the glory, majesty and splendour he shared with him before the foundation of the world (John 17:5,24, cf. Heb. 1:3). So when Harris contends that the resurrection transformation of Jesus rather than that of David is the paradigm or the model of ours, I am compelled to demur. The truth according to Paul is that resurrection transformation is confined to those who like David experience corruption; for those who do not experience corruption Jesus’ ascension transformation provides the paradigm. It models the rapture and transformation of the saints at the end of history who neither die nor experience corruption nor resurrection (1 Cor. 15:51f.).
Immortality and Incorruptibility
It is here that the distinction between immortality and incorruptibility is profoundly important. Contrary to Harris who claims that Romans 6:9 signals Jesus’ attainment to immortality, as already noted Paul significantly does not say that Jesus was raised incorruptible or even immortal. What he implies is that because Jesus was already personally immortal (by his baptismal regeneration and acknowledged sonship which are the basis of ours, cf. Rom. 8:12-17, and apart from which he could not have atoned for us) once he had died for his people he was never to die again (Rom. 6:9, cf. Rev. 1:18). Since he had kept the law and was not personally liable to death, he had dealt definitively with sin on the cross (cf. Heb. 9:28). However, his resurrection in the flesh, which was necessary to fulfil the original promise made to Adam and to obviate injustice, clearly involved his fleshly restoration which in turn clearly involved continued corruptibility. If this is the case, the problem then is that deathlessness or eternal life cannot be lived in a state of corruption and on a corruptible earth. It necessitates ascension transformation (John 20:17). As Paul says, transformation, like regeneration, is an absolute natural necessity for all flesh even that of Jesus. As I mentioned above, while regeneration brings spiritual immortality, only ascension transformation can bring incorruptibility as the end-time saints prove (1 Cor. 15:51ff.).
To express the point more succinctly, while believers like David who are already spiritually immortal see corruption and need to be raised incorruptible, Jesus, who did NOT see corruption and hence remained corruptible, needed to be changed at his ascension so as to become incorruptible.
The Argument Simply Stated
The argument can be simply and succinctly expressed as follows:
Jesus did not see corruption, therefore he was still flesh; therefore he was still corruptible; therefore he remained unchanged; therefore he still needed to be changed; therefore he was changed at his ascension; therefore he provided the paradigm of the rapture and transformation of the saints at the end of history.
Like Jesus (Rom. 6:9), the latter do not die but according to Paul they necessarily have to be changed like every other believer (1 Cor. 15:51). That change will occur at their ascension. So far as Jesus is concerned, it was only at his ascension that he entered fully into his glory, the glory he had shared with his Father before the world began (John 17:5). It was this glory certainly not evident on earth that he prayed his disciples would see in heaven (17:24).
Harris’ view that Jesus was changed at his resurrection is beset by other difficulties. For instance, Paul says that after being raised from the dead Jesus would no more return to corruption (Acts 13:34). (On this verse see my No Return to Corruption). But if he repeatedly returned to earth from heaven in a physical yet spiritual body as Harris contends, then he did precisely that. Again, the author of Hebrews (7:26, cf. 4:14) tells us that when Jesus was exalted above the heavens he was (spatially) separate(d) from sinners. On Harris’ thesis that he reappeared on the earth and spent time eating with and talking to his disciples, Peter in particular, he was far from being separate from them. Yet again, Paul says that what is permanent is invisible (2 Cor. 4:18) and can only be seen by faith (5:7) before we ourselves are fully redeemed and changed. So how could Jesus’ resurrection transformation body, which was his permanent spiritual body, become visible? Harris has to posit materializations for which there is only highly questionable support in the NT. Then there is the question of glorified flesh (dust). According to Paul this is a contradiction in terms (1 Cor. 15:50). Our Adamic corruptible flesh is shed and replaced by spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:45-49). And since our untransformed flesh is the product and corollary of creation, we are compelled to conclude that the earth, the footstool of God, far from being redeemed is destroyed and replaced by heaven, the throne of God (2 Cor. 5:1; 2 Pet. 3:7,10-12).
God and Man
There is another important point to make. Man in contrast with God is created both mortal and corruptible (Rom. 1:23,25). As Genesis 2:17 indicates, Adam was promised life, or escape from death, if he kept the commandment (cf. Rom.. 2:7,10). (See further my article Escape.) Unlike Jesus the second Adam he failed (cf. Ezek. 17:15) and having thus earned death as wages (cf. Rom. 6:23) he sank back into the dust from which he emanated in the first place. From this we are forced to infer that while life is a gift, death for man is penal. It has a sting that is entirely lacking in the animal creation that does not know the law (1 Cor. 15:56). Corruptibility, in other words, is natural (Heb. 1:10-12). It is the way God who subjected creation to corruption and its consequent futility made us. But he did so in hope (Rom. 8:18-25). Thus when Adam, like Paul later (cf. Rom. 7:9f.), omitted to maintain the natural life he had and attain to eternal life by obedience, the death he had earned led inexorably to his total physical corruption in the ground. Jesus on the other hand met the condition of life by keeping the law (cf. Lev. 18:5) but could only live that (eternal, immortal) life by being changed. In other words, spiritual regeneration and ascension transformation are indispensable natural necessities totally unrelated to sin (pace Augustine). The latter is surely the point at issue in John 20:17. Mary could not hang on to the still physical and hence corruptible Jesus because he had of necessity to ascend and be transformed to enter the presence of his immortal and incorruptible Father. If he had remained on the corruptible earth in corruptible flesh, he would have got progressively older. In this situation he would have wasted away (2 Cor. 4:16) and disappeared (Heb. 8:13)! The inference we must draw from this is that immortality and incorruptibility are not always synonyms but complementary concepts. (Cf. Harris, RI, p.273. In GG, pp.271-273, Harris stresses the complementary nature of resurrection and immortality. On p.415 he misleadingly comments that the incarnation was irreversible and that the glorified Jesus is still in the flesh. What is undeniably true is that Jesus is still human though corporeally perfected.) As characteristics of God they stand or fall together. So if Jesus as man is to attain to the glory of God, he must acquire both. In the event, he received immortality at his baptism, incorruptibility at his ascension.
All sinners, including believing ones, die and decay physically (cf. Rom. 5:12; 8:10). In view of this we are forced to infer that our flesh, like that of the animals (cf. Isa. 40:6-8), is not redeemed. Therefore, since all flesh is the product and corollary of the earth, we are compelled to believe that creation is not redeemed. On the other hand, since man in contrast with the animals is created in the image of God (cf. Isa. 31:3) and is a flesh/spirit dualism, he can await in eager anticipation the redemption of his spirit and a body of glory. (See further my Biblical Dualism.)
Resurrection and Creation
Clearly, there is no connection between the resurrection of Jesus and the redemption of creation. Jesus’ resurrection constituted his physical restoration in conformity with the promise made to man in the first place. If not and he underwent transformation, then the promise failed. On the other hand, if the Jesus, who was never to die again after his atonement and resurrection, had to be transformed to escape from the corruption of creation, that transformation occurred at his ascension (cf. John 20:17). What is more, it proved to be the paradigm of those who at the end of the age neither die nor experience corruption nor resurrection.
This is the crux of the matter. It is essential for us to recognize that but for the vicarious nature of his work Jesus would neither have died nor experienced resurrection. If he had not died for us, he could only like a sinless Adam have been changed at his ascension. Resurrection transformation would have been impossible for him for the simple reason that he would never have died. Only the dead rise as Harris himself emphasises. We are thus compelled to infer that the notion of his resurrection transformation is theologically untenable. This inference is further bolstered by the recognition that after his death he did not see corruption, and this can only mean that he remained corruptible flesh throughout his earthly career as he in fact maintained (Luke 24:39).
In light of all this, it has to be said once again that the notion that the resurrection of Jesus guarantees the redemption of creation is without foundation. Scripture plainly teaches that once it has served its purpose of nurturing the full tally of the spiritual children of God creation has no further use. (Cf. the frequent OT references to the desolation of the land without inhabitants, and note Isaiah 45:18). When the ground ceases to bear fruit (cf. Heb. 6:7f.), it will be useless. Thus it will be destroyed (Heb. 12:26-31; 2 Pet. 3:7, 10-12) and pass away (Mt. 24:35; 1 Cor. 7:31; 1 John 2:17). (See further my essays Fruitlessness and Destruction and The Destruction of the Material Creation.) Apart from (intelligent) man, creation is purposeless and meaningless. The same is true of the flesh, of course. Its infecundity and death are provisionally offset by reproduction and recapitulation (cf. Heb. 7:23). But the time will obviously come when even these will cease (cf. Luke 20:34-36).
From Grave to Glory
This section of my essay, that is, that on Harris began with a query regarding the title Raised Immortal. While the title From Grave to Glory is innocent enough in itself, in light of the views it expresses it also can be questioned. For what it implies is that Jesus went straight from the grave to heaven by-passing his physical resurrection and ascension. This I suggest is false to Scripture.
Wright on the Redemption of Creation
Wright’s claim that God’s mission is to redeem creation appears to be based almost entirely on inferences he draws from the limited revelation of the OT (cf. Ladd) and his uncritical acceptance of the clearly false Augustinian worldview. He makes his position plain when he writes: “We live as fallen humanity in a cursed earth” (p.395 and see index under curse). Wright’s failure to recognize that God did not make a covenant with creation at the beginning leads him, typologically speaking, to take us back to Egypt at the end. But God has forbidden this. (See further my essays Did God Make a Covenant with Creation? and No Going Back.)
The Importance of the Controversy
Is the controversy important? Fundamentally so. Without going into detail I would argue that while my view presents Christianity as unique and exclusive in its truth, the view expressed by Ladd, Harris and Wright lends life to premillennialism (cf. Ladd), cults like Mormonism and to world religions like Islam which posit a sensual paradise. Truth may be exclusive but it remains ever open in its appeal (Isa. 55:1; Acts 17:30f.; Rev. 3:18).
Food for Thought
How could Jesus at one and the same time (a) teach the necessity of the new birth for all who were born of the flesh himself included, and (b) epitomize the restoration of the material creation by his physical resurrection? Clearly the two are inherently contradictory.
A true (non-Augustinian) understanding of John 3 would put paid permanently to the idea that creation, which is epitomized by the flesh, is subject to redemption.
The Ascension of Jesus
If Jesus did not undergo corruption in the grave and was raised physical flesh as he claimed (Luke 24:39), he was still corruptible. This being so, he clearly had to be changed at his ascension (1 Cor. 15:51).
The Immortality of Jesus
If Jesus as man rose never to die again (Rom. 6:9) he must have been become immortal (gained eternal life) at his baptism when he received the Spirit (Mt. 3:13-17). Clearly the atonement by which his work was perfected (John 17:4;19:30) was efficacious and did not require repetition (Heb. 9:28; 10:1,14, etc.). In light of this, death had no hold on him (Acts 2:23f.; Rom. 6:9).
A False Framework
In many ways Ladd, Harris and Wright are superb scholars and exegetes, but they are trying to fit the pieces of the biblical crossword puzzle into a false theological framework. In their case, the pieces do not match the picture.
Speaking in general, Ladd’s weakness is his dubious speculation about the body’s connection with creation; Harris’ Achilles heel is his insistence on the transformation of Jesus at his resurrection and Wright’s nemesis is his unwarrantable stress on sin and curse. The chief characteristics shared by all three are (a) the traditional but erroneous, even absurd, Augustinian worldview, (b) an inadequate covenant theology and (c) failure to distinguish properly between body and flesh. So long as these continue to be accepted in the name of Scripture, the truth of Christianity is, humanly speaking, in mortal danger.
Doctrinal reformation is a paramount necessity.
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