Saturday, September 07, 2013

John Calvin on "Heaven", the Resurrection, and the Immortality of the Soul

As usual, Calvin has some helpful comments regarding the human "soul" and what happens after death. These days a number of people have high-lighted the fact that as Christians we often speak too much about heaven in a sense that is less than fully Biblical, with an emphasis on our disembodied spirits "going to heaven" immediately after we die. As Calvin reflected in his commentary on the parallel passages of Matthew 22:23-33, Mark 12:18-27 and Luke 20:27-40, we see that this concern is not just novel for our times. This is what he says:
And, indeed, if we consider properly the doctrine of Scripture, the life of the soul, apart from the hope of the resurrection, will be a mere dream; for God does not declare that, immediately after the death of the body, souls live, — as if their glory and happiness were already enjoyed by them in perfections — but delays the expectation of them till the last day. I readily acknowledge that the philosophers, who were ignorant of the resurrection of the body, have many discussions about the immortal essence of the soul; but they talk so foolishly about the state of the future life that their opinions have no weight. But since the Scriptures inform us that the spiritual life depends on the hope of the resurrection, and that souls, when separated from the bodies, look forward to it, whoever destroys the resurrection deprives souls also of their immortality.
The apostolic church was captivated with the hope of the resurrection, at Christ's return. May that also be our hope, and may we not be so short-sighted, as to merely look forward to that imperfect, temporary state, in between the death of the body and the resurrection of the body.

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