FROM AMONG THE DEAD
By D. M. PANTON, B.A.
We are now 1930 years nearer than the Church has ever been to the breaking of tombs, and the emergence of saints; and if the problems that cluster round that enormous event were always acute and urgent, ten times more acute and urgent are they now. Since the Wilderness is symbolic of our pilgrimage, and Canaan of the Holy Land, the passage of Jordan is a kindergarten of resurrection and rapture; and after three days - the Lord rose after three days - the Ark (always a symbol of the Incarnate Christ) crossed Jordan; such of Israel as did enter the Land were to follow at a commanded distance of about two thousand cubits - the dispensations two thousand years are fast slipping out; and the urgent direction of Joshua [Jesus], is SANCTIFY yourselves, for to-morrow the Lord will do wonders among you (Joshua 3: 5) - the era of miracle returns. Martin Ansteys computation, the best yet made, closes the 2,000 Christian years in 1958;* and when the unknown length of the intervening Parousia is allowed for - probably not less than seven years, and possibly many more - the command comes home with tremendous force, SANCTIFY YOURSELVES.
* Publishing in 1913 he [mistakenly] concludes thus:- Yet 45 Years, and the sixth millennium of the worlds history will be fulfilled, and the seventh millennium ushered in the Sabbatic Millennium of Heb. 4: 9. into which (says the inspired writer [of the epistle]) we must labour to enter.
For the first certainty on which we plant our feet as on rock is that Paul, when he speaks of the [out-resurrection], is not sure of sharing the resurrection of which he speaks, whatever that resurrection may be. The phrase he selects puts it beyond all dispute or doubt. If BY ANY MEANS - if possibly (H. A. W. Meyer); if somehow (Moule); if anyhow (Eadie) ; si forte (Lange); if in any way (Bengel) I may attain - [i.e., gain by effort] - unto the resurrection [out] from the dead (Phil. 3: 11): [the Greek words are] used when an end is proposed, but failure is presumed to be possible (Alford).* So Bishop Ellicott, comments:- The idea of an attempt is conveyed, which may or may not be successful. And Bishop Lightfoot:- The Apostle states not a positive assurance, but a modest hope. For Paul crams the words with studied difficulty: if it is hypothetical; by any means - it is precarious; I may attain - it is a golden possibility.
* An. instructive parallel occurs in Acts 27: 12:- if by any means they might attain to Phenice; which, in the sequel, they did not reach.
The next certainty on which we can rest negatively excludes a mistaken interpretation. Resurrection is sometimes used spiritually, to picture a rising out of the death of sin, and from a world of the dead: but this cannot be the meaning of Paul here; for spiritual resurrection, symbolized by baptism, which therefore occurs after the spiritual rising has occurred, Paul, and those to whom he wrote, had already experienced. Having been buried with Christ in baptism, wherein ye were also RAISED with Him (Col. 2: 12). He who is unrisen out of the grave of sin is no child of God at all. For Paul, now on his last lap, to hope that some day he might succeed in escaping from among the spiritually dead, or, from the deathly sleep of backsliding, were absurd. Any reference here to a merely ethical resurrection, as Bishop Ellicott says, is wholly out of the question.
The next certainty on which we plant our feet as on rock is a negative no less important and obvious. Pauls uncertainty of sharing in this resurrection necessarily excludes resurrection in general; since the most wicked man, without his choice and against his will, must rise from the dead. ALL that are in the tombs, says our Lord, shall come forth (John 5: 28): they that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to shame and everlasting contempt (Dan. 12: 2). As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall ALL be made alive (1 Cor. 15: 22). Much more is it inevitable that every believer must leave his tomb. This is the will of him that sent me, that of ALL that which he hath given me, I should raise it up at the las t day (John 6: 39). For Paul, the past-master of resurrection truth, and the chief protagonist of resurrections universality, to doubt his rising from the grave, or to leave it open to question, would be an overthrow of the Faith, and a denial of his Lord.
But Paul defines so exactly what he means as to place the truth, finally, beyond all doubt. If by any means, he says, I may attain unto the out-resurrection, that which is from among the dead: an, out-resurrection, not out of the earth (Lange), but out from among dead ones: that is, as the context suggests, the first resurrection (Ellicott). It was exactly this which puzzled the first disciples when Christ foretold His rising out of (ek) the dead, for - like Martha (John 11: 24) - they had never conceived of any emergence from the grave except the general rising of the mass of mankind:- questioning among themselves what the rising again from the dead should mean (Mark 9: 10). The first resurrection is of necessity a resurrection from among, the dead (Govett): it is a prior emergence from the tombs: it necessitates a later resurrection of those left; and the rest of the dead LIVED NOT until the thousand years should be finished (Rev. 20: 5). Thus all difficulty attending Pauls uncertainty vanishes the moment we realize that the [ out-resurrection] is one of the golden prizes for which God summons us to compete. As Dr. J. Hutchison says:- The allusion is undoubtedly not to the general resurrection of the dead. All must attain unto that. No striving is needed thereto. It stands fast in the decrees of heaven, and none can fall short of it or frustrate it. What is referred to here is that which is attained after danger and toil, and attained as a blissful reward. It is what is elsewhere called a better resurrection (Heb. 11: 35); the resurrection of the just (Luke 14: 14; Acts 4: 2); the first resurrection (Rev. 20: 5). It is the resurrection Par eminence.
So we reach a revelation of extraordinary importance for every one of us, strangely overlooked, or even denied in our evangelical and prophetical theology. The doctrine here taught is that the blessedness of the saints at the resurrection is so great that we should be content to use any means and run any hazards to attain it (T. Manton, D.D.). Pauls eagerness to emphasize his own uncertainty is almost passionate. Not that I have already attained - attained, that is, the title to the first resurrection*; for no one would imagine that he had attained it in the Roman prison or am already made perfect: brethren, I count not myself - whatever others may think of me, or of themselves to have apprehended.** If by these words Paul means that he, and with him all believers, are sure of the resurrection of which he speaks, then words are chosen to conceal their meaning, and to express the opposite of what they say: on the contrary, Paul, guided by the [Holy] Spirit, solves the problem for us all by lodging it exclusively in himself; for it needs no arguing that if not Paul, then none of us. Paul the aged, Paul the Apostle, Paul (we had almost said) the matchless not only thought he had not attained, but says by inspiration that he had not I AM NOT already made perfect: not until the executioners block was actually in sight, on which he was to be poured out as a drink offering (2 Tim. 4: 6), did he know, as a martyr, his crown secure. Therefore, until then, all converges on a resolve of passionate intensity, in which, for all saints, and for all time, the Apostle blazes the trail. ONE THING I DO, FORGETTING THE THINGS WHICH ARE BEHIND, AND STRETCHING FORWARD TO THE THINGS WHICH ARE BEFORE, I PRESS ON TOWARD THE GOAL UNTO THE PRIZE OF THE HIGH CALLING OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS.***
* Jus ad resurrectionem beatam (Grotius).
** I, emphatic: he evidently alludes to some whom he wishes to warn by his example (Alford). So Bishop Wordsworth:- The divine Apostle himself, even at this late period of his Apostolic career, does not feel absolutely confident that he himself will attain to the glory of the Resurrection of the just; and he disavows the notion of being, supposed to have already apprehended. Cf. 1 Cor. 9: 27. It was not until on the eve of his martyrdom for Christ that he could exclaim, as he then did, Henceforth there is laid up for me the Crown. For homiletical purposes Dr. J. Lyth puts it thus:- The [ out-recurrection] is distinguished from the resurrection of the wicked (1) by its glory (Dan. 12: 2); (2) its precedence (1 Cor. 15: 23) ; (3) its results (John 5: 29). It is an object of Christian ambition - requiring (1) faith, (2) consecration, (3) eflort. It will amply repay every sacrifice of (1) self-gratification, (2) earthly advantage, (3) life.
*** The call heavenward (Lightfoot) ; the up‑call; come up hither! (Rev. 4: 1) out of an empty tomb. John when thus called, had fallen as one dead, and had been set back upon his feet by the voice of the Son of God. Believers who deny that there is any such conditional sanctity have a startling disillusiomnent ahead; nor is it harsh to believe that many prophetical teachers have a grave report to give to their Lord for a denial so dogmatic in its certitude as to mislead countless saints. False confidence is a sweet‑smelling flower which holds the worm of an unguarded walk.
THE FIRST RESURRECTION
the truth is not made to rest on this single Scripture. By two or three witnesses, the Most High has
said, shall every word be established; and our Lord and John are joined with
Paul in a consentient testimony that for the first resurrection, which is a
state, rather than an act, personal
sanctity is our bridge also across
The [Holy] Spirit, foreseeing a general lapse from the Churchs creed of this unpalatable but sharply tonic truth, closes with a gentle remonstrance and counsel. Let us therefore as many as be perfect be thus minded; and if in anything ye are otherwise minded - believing that there is no such prize in the Gospel, or that any particular believer has already won it, or that it has been received in the [free] gift of Eternal Life, or that it is won with ease and without undying effort, or that, by becoming sinless, we can be assured of it, or that our session with Christ in the heavenlies involves priority of rising* - even this shall God reveal unto you: ONLY - as a vital condition of a fuller revelation whereunto we have already attained, by that same rule let us walk. Never falter from following the highest light that you have.
* The First Resurrection is a reward for obedience rendered after the acceptance of [eternal] salvation, and Paul knew not the standard which God had fixed in His own purpose (G. H. Pember). Tertullian tells us that the Church of his age prayed for a share in the First Resurrection. Many, even of the ancients, have admitted this first resurrection. Within an age of a thousand years, says Tertullian, is concluded the resurrection of the saints, who rise again at an earlier or a later period, according to their merits (Bengel).
Bishop Lightfoot, that master of paraphrase, thus summarizes the passage:- Do not mistake me, I hold the language of hope, not of assurance. I have not yet reached the goal: I am not yet made perfect. But I press forward in the race, eager to grasp the prize, forasmuch as Christ also has grasped me. My brothers, let other men vaunt their security. Such is not my language. I do not consider that I have the prize already in my grasp. This, and this only, is my rule. Forgetting the land-marks already passed, and straining every nerve and muscle in the onward race, I press forward ever towards the goal that I may win the prize. Paul could say, There is laid up for me the crown only when he could say:- I have finished the [race] course. So Dr. A. B. Simpsons word becomes very suggestive:- In the public arena where men contended in the race it was at the home stretch, when the goal was in full view, that the greatest efforts were made both by the competitors, and those that encouraged them from the galleries, and there was a special signal set up at the point where the races turned into the home stretch, on which the letters were emblazoned, Make Speed. .