One of the main statements of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed is belief in the Resurrection of the dead, which must take place when Jesus Christ will return to our world for the Great Judgment: “And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried; and arose again on the third day according to the scriptures; and ascended into the Heavens, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father; and shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead… I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come”.
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In the texts of New Testament these ideas appear just in Christ’s Gospels, but the deepest interpretation of them can be found in the Epistles of St. Paul to Corinthians (the First) and to Thessalonians (the First and the Second). In connection, these texts describe the main features of Christian teaching about the Resurrection of the dead. It is very important part of Christian religion, especially for the first Christians, who died for their God and could only believe in some divine redemption, in Christ’s gift of a new life in lieu of this, which is lost. Paul wrote epistles not for the Bible, but for his contemporaries, who had problems with understanding of Christ’s teaching, its realization in everyday life etc. Corinthians and Thessalonians embody two types of people with different points of view, that is why St. Paul wrote them about different subjects. The comparison of the texts of his epistles can show what mistakes in understanding of Christianity his responders made.
There is one part of the First Epistle to Corinthians,which concerns the mentioned theme: it is the Chapter 15. St. Paul proclaims the Resurrection of Christ and describes its nature. “Paul’s treatment of the matter indicates that some people in the Corinthian circle were saying there is no Resurrection of the dead (human beings, not including Christ)”, said Orr and Walter. So, St. Paul needed to defend the truth: he writes that all apostles saw Christ after his death, thus, the fact of His Resurrection can not be denied. Simply speaking, St. Paul used the weight of apostle’s authority: certainly, all Christians must believe in such powerful proof. “The apostle toys with logic. An old syllogism runs: all men are mortal; Christ is a man; therefore, Christ is mortal. Though, some Corinthians are proposing a universal negative: no dead men rise from the dead. Then, the relentless syllogism follows: Christ is a dead man; therefore, Christ has not been risen. So, if Christ had risen, all men will raise, because “if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” [1 Cor. 15:19].
Then, St. Paul answers another “question” of faithless Corinthians: “how are the dead being risen? With what kind of body are they coming?” [1 Cor. 15:35]. There are many types of flesh and bodies, so the bodies of Resurrected in Christ have another nature than earthy bodies of mortal men. That immortal flesh is invisible for eyes of earthy men and there is no possible explanation of their nature. [1 Cor. 15:39-50]. Though, adds the apostle, when the trumpet of God will sound, all believers will be changed and Death will be destroyed. [1 Cor. 15:51-58].
As for the Epistles to Thessalonians, St. Paul mentions the theme of the Resurrection in the small part of the First Epistle [1 Thess. 4:13-17], where he gives the order of this great event. “On the day of presence, the living will not take precedence of the dead” [1 Thess. 4:15]. Prat regarded: “The neophytes imagined that at the coming of the supreme Judge the living would have some advantage over the dead. He destroys this illusion. At the last day the dead will not envy the living, nor will the living pity the dead. Both the dead and the living will then go to meet the Lord… If there does exist any difference between them, it is rather of the dead; for the dead shall raise first before the presence of the glorified Christ transforms the living” (1961).
The most important place of the Epistles to Thessalonians takes St. Paul’s description of different events which will take place before the Great Judgment.
Comparing the main features of St. Paul’s corresponding with Corinthians and Thessalonians one important distinction between them must be underlined: while the Corinthians had some doubts concerning the Resurrection itself, Thessalonians just estimated those who had survived more than the-dead-in-Christ. Certainly, these mistakes in understanding of the teaching of Christ determined such situation that either Corinthians, or Thessalonians did not want to die for the Lord and tried to survive in pagan world where Christians were a meat for roman lions.
Since the Corinthians did not believe in the Resurrection, St. Paul created for them the first Creed to deny any infidelity among the brothers and explained why this belief is so important for Christians. The Thessalonians believed in the Resurrection, but they thought the Presence of Christ is so close to their time that it is much better to survive and meet him. St. Paul explained that Christ will come not just now, but after some great events such as Antichrist’s reign etc. Also, the dead and the living will be equal in the New Age, so there is no need to appreciate this short life as believing in God is more important for Salvation.
Thus, these epistles were written in connection with some problems of St. Paul’s contemporaries and they help to understand what mistakes the first Christians made and the modern ones can make in attempts to understand the hard way of Christ.
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