Risen Saints Mingling With Men of Flesh and Blood
I have been thinking about posting the quote below for a couple years now and it finally seems that the time is right. Anyone who regularly reads this blog is probably aware that I am a dispensational premillennialist (I believe that Christ and resurrected believers will reign on earth for 1,000 years some day). Because of this I have gotten into some interesting conversations over the past five years. One of those conversations was with another Christian who holds to an amillennial view of the future (he believes that Christ will not literally reign here on earth). Probably the biggest problem he had with premillennialism was he felt, for lack of a better word, there is something unnatural with both resurrected and mortal (non-resurrected) human beings living on earth at the same time.
I suppose it depends a lot on what you believe it means to be human. To me if you are born human then you are always human whether you are in a resurrection body or not. I never have understood what the problem is. A few weeks after our conversation I found the quote below which defends the idea that “risen saints mingling with men of flesh and blood” is not creepy. If the topic ever comes up again all I have to do now is link to this article and let Dr. McClain do the talking for me.
From “The Greatness of the Kingdom” by Alva J. McClain:
One thing in this connection that seems to disturb some theologians is the thought of a kingdom in which the glorified Christ with His risen saints mingling with men of flesh and blood on the earth. To illustrate this point, I quote from Berkhof’s final paragraph in his book on The Kingdom of God. The author first states the premillennial view as follows: “Jesus Christ, the glorified Lord, will be seated upon the throne at Jerusalem. And risen and immortal saints will reign with him ‘the thousand years.’ And besides these there will also be men in the flesh, both of the Jewish and of other nations, some converted and others unconverted. They will all share in the glory of the Kingdom, and all enjoy the open vision of Jesus Christ.” Then with considerable indignation Berkhof exclaims, “With Brown we too would call out, ‘What a mongrel state of things is this! What an abhorred mixture of things totally inconsistent with each other.’ This representation is not warranted by scripture and grates upon our Christian sensibility. Beet truly says: ‘We cannot conceive mingled together on the same planet some who have yet to die and others who have passed through death and will die no more. Such confusion of the present age with the age to come is in the last degree unlikely’” (p. 176).
Here we have a prime example of the influence of philosophic dualism in Christian theology. If Plato were living today, giving a series of lectures on the millennial question, he might very well employ the exact language of Berkhof, Brown, Beet, et al. Certainly in his philosophical sensitive soul he would regard with abhorrence the idea of a spiritual kingdom having any genuine and worth-while relation to the world of sense experience. But the writers of Holy Scripture are not bound by any such philosophical prejudices. While they recognized the reality of mind and matter, of spirit and body, to them there was not only one God but also one world. And in this universe of God there is no unbridgeable chasm between that which is physical and that which is spiritual. In the Garden of Eden, God who is spirit walks and talks with man made of the dust of the ground (Gen. 3:8-10). The Lord Himself with two angels is entertained in the tent of Abraham (Gen. 18). To Moses the Lord spoke face to face, “as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exod. 33:11). But the incarnation of the eternal Son in a body of flesh and blood is the supreme demonstration that there is no inherent or necessary antagonism between matter and spirit. This is to say nothing of the risen Christ appearing over and over to men and women in the flesh, mingling with them, eating with them, and teaching them for the space of forty days.
The entire history of divine revelation bears no uncertain witness that the penetration of “spirit” into the physical realm of nature is never regarded as something strange, abnormal, or incongruous. It is true that human sin has introduced a limiting factor into the situation. Man did lose his personal fellowship with God. But sin itself at bottom is a spiritual problem. While its affects are most apparent in the physical realm, matter is not an evil in itself. The ancient error of Gnosticism has been universally rejected by orthodox theologians, yet its baneful shadow still hangs over certain areas of eschatology. The alleged abhorrence at the thought of any intermingling of the “spiritual” and the “material” in a future millennial kingdom is not necessarily a normal reaction of the human reason. It is rather what the psychologists have called a “learned reaction.” The Apostle Paul, well schooled in the philosophies of his day, solemnly warned against this danger: “Beware lest any man spoil you through [his] philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, … and not after Christ” (Col 2:8). And the next verse makes it clear that the warning had to do with false dualism, which would later develop into the historic school of Gnosticism, but which already was present in Paul’s day: “For in him [Christ] dwelleth all of the fullness of the Godhead bodily [somatikos].” The incarnate Son of God, in whose body both deity and humanity dwelt together in perfect union, is still the most complete answer to all gnostic tendencies, whether ancient or modern.
The Greatness of the Kingdom
Alva J. McClain
Chapter XXVII: The “Spirituality” of the Kingdom