Sam Frost is a former full preterist. He left full preterism a few years ago and returned to futurism. Since that time, he has become a self-styled champion opponent of the full preterist view.
In discussions on Facebook, we have sparred back and forth on the doctrine of the resurrection. Recently, he posted to his blog, and shared the link on Facebook in response to an argument I and perhaps others made on John 11 25 -26.
Joh 11:24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Joh 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.
Joh 11:26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
Frost begins his article by pointing out that Jesus is Life, not simply spiritual life but the source of all life, of plants, animals, birds, etc. This, no one denies. However, the “life” affirmed in John 11 25-26 has nothing to do with zoology or the botanical kingdom. It is “life” from the dead. It is the life affirmed of Christ in John 1:4, i.e. “In Him was life and the life was the light of men.
It is the light of John 8:11,12 that is the light of the world, and if which, when a man walks in it, he shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.” Neither verse has anything to do with plants or animals. While birdwatching and animal sitting are good pastimes, they are not the subject of the verse.
Secondly, Frost addresses the syntax of the statement. He affirms that “believing” means any believers past, present or future (as in post 70AD into the now time of today). We believe this is incorrect for two reasons. One, if, as Frost correctly defines the word “believing” as a present active participle,” and those who “may die” i.e. expressed by the subjunctive mood in the second clause, then it cannot be speaking of those who had already died. That eliminates, per the context, those of the past. According to A.T. Robertson’s, “A Greek Grammer of the New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, the subjunctive mood always describes potential “future” action, i.e. action that has not occurred but which may occur in the future.
The subjects of Jesus’ statement must be capable of dying at some time future to their “believing”, not before. Those who “may die” does not mean those who already are dead. Further, we suggest the time of believing for Jesus’ words point to the time of the preaching of the gospel, i.e. the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
This does not mean there were no believers in Christ prior to His words in John 11:25-26. Clearly there were. (John 4:39, 6:64; 8:31-32). However, the time for when their belief would result in life came after Jesus’ death, not before.
Joh 7:38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
Joh 7:39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
This mention of the Holy Spirit is significant because it represents a point in time for the believers when the life of Jesus through the Spirit begins to manifest. This life is clearly affirmed in the book of Romans as that which makes one free from the law of sin and death.
Rom 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death…Rom 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
Thus we see a combination of believing, living and the Spirit. Equally important, we see a result from this combination, i.e. freedom from the law of sin and death. This corresponds with the Lord’s statement in John 8:31, 32, that if those Jews continued to believe on Him, they would know the “truth” and the “truth” would make them free.
The Holy Spirit came to guide the apostles first, and subsequently through them, the church into all truth, Jn. 16:13, 14. Thus we affirm that those saints upon whom the eschatological Spirit was poured out, received provisional life through the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.
The Spirit served as the earnest of that life (eternal life), so that having the Spirit was in essence having the life because it assured the believers that they lived in Christ, i.e. were already tasting (experiencing) the powers of the age to come, (Heb. 6:5)
Further proof can be seen from Romans 8:10, 13:
And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
Rom 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Note that the Scripture says the Spirit is Life. In 2 Cor. 5:5, Paul said that God gave the Spirit to prevent “nakedness” and that “mortality might be swallowed up of life”.
2Co 5:3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.
2Co 5:4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.
2Co 5:5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
2 Cor. 5:3-5
To be naked is to be without “a” body (not the physical body) but in context the body of sin and death a result of living in the Old Covenant tabernacle. This was Paul’s “ministration of death” referred to in chapter 3. Thus to be found naked would mean to be without a “covenant home”, the first being “destroyed” kataluthe (5:1). Thus nakedness is covenantal death. See Ezekiel 16:6-8, where God found Israel “naked”, then He covered her nakedness by entering a covenant with her, saying to her “live”, i.e. the opposite of covenantal death.
In like manner, God gave the earnest of the Spirit of life to prevent covenant death in view of the last days transformation from the old covenant glory of Moses to the new covenant glory in Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).
In addition, Paul’s statement in Romans 8:13 clearly shows the believers had “life” through the Spirit. The text literally reads, “For if you live after the flesh you are about to die, “mellete aposthneskein”.
For if according to the flesh ye do live, ye are about to die; and if, by the Spirit, the deeds of the body ye put to death, ye shall live;
Young’s Literal Translation
For if you are living in accord with the flesh, you are ‘about to be dying. Yet if, in spirit, you are putting the practices of the body to death, you will be living.
Concordant Literal New Testament
Note that both translations are acknowledged by the comments below that “mellete apothneskein” means “to be about to do”, i.e. to be about to die or to die. This is not merely the certainty of death because it is based upon the condition of “living according to the flesh”. Only if they lived according to the flesh would they die. In like manner we have an equal opposite condition of living according to the Spirit which would result in life. The certainty in the text is that if they did the former, they were “about to die”. It is temporal. It was an imminent. It addressed a condition of the Romans, i.e. the first century church, a condition (covenant transformation) that no longer exists today.
Robertson’s Word Studies said: “Ye must die (mellete apothneskein). Present indicative of mello, to be about to do and present active infinitive of apothnesko, to die. “Ye are on the point of dying.” Eternal death.
A.T. Roberston, Word Studies in the New Testament, Romans Vol. 3
NICNT said: in order to warn his readers (note the shift to second plural—“you”) that if they continue to live [???? (zete) is a durative present.] by the dictates of the flesh they will certainly die. [??????? (mellete), lit. “about to,” focuses attention on the certainty of death and so strengthens the warning.] This death is not, of course, physical death, for it would hardly make sense to make physical death, the fate of all who do not live until the Lord’s return—believers and unbelievers alike—the penalty only for those who live according to the flesh. What is meant is death in its fullest theological sense: eternal separation from God as the penalty for sin.”
New International Commentary of the New Testament
Thirdly, only those who lived through the Spirit were “about to die”. Thus, we have a condition for believers that separated their experience from those who did not know the Christ. Frost ignores this life and opts for an interpretation of John 11:25, 26 to speak exclusively of physical death.
In the manner that a person “dies” (which is, in this case, actual death) will be the manner in which a person “will live” (will be raised from the death they died). It makes no sense to interpret “die” as physical death, but the Future “will live” as current spiritual life.
Driven to its logical conclusion, Frost argues that the death of verse 25 is physical death, and thus, the life must be physical life. However, that interpretation forces him into the unenviable position of trying to reconcile physical death with Jesus’ latter statement in v. 26. And he who lives and believes in me shall never die. Sam’s logic is, the living is physical and therefore the reference to “never dying” must be physical also. Thus, Frost has created the doctrine of physical immortality as a result of believing in Christ. His doctrine demands that no believer then or now could experience biological death. This is so obviously false that it needs no further refutation. But, let’s see how he attempts to overcome the impossible difficulty of this interpretation.
Since Lazarus was dead, he would stand again in the resurrection in the last day because he believed when he was living.
Note Sam’s glaring contradiction. Remember above he defined believing as those past, present and future? Well, that would cover Lazarus as he cites above with emphasis, “because he believed when he was living”. Why then, did Lazarus not fall under the condition of the verse 26, i.e. he who lives and believes in me shall never die physically? That is what Frost asserts in an attempt to prove. Lazarus believed when he was living. Jesus said, he who lives and believes in me shall never die.
What we find here is that Lazarus is proof that the conditions of salvation through the Spirit had not yet gone into effect as we noted above. The Holy Spirit had not yet been given. Thus, he died as did all O.T. saints, i.e. “these all died in faith, not receiving the promise” (Heb. 11:39, 40).
Fourthly, what was the meaning of Jesus’ statement and it’s relationship to the raising of Lazarus from the dead? When Martha expressed her faith that Lazarus would rise again at the last day, she was stating the only kind of resurrection she understood to be taught in Scripture. But the context reveals she did not believe Jesus would raise Lazarus from physical death. This is evident from her statement, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died”. She believed Jesus could heal the sick, but she apparently did not have the faith of Abraham that God would raise Lazarus from death. Maybe, because it had now been four days, and the body had begun to decay.
So, why did Jesus respond, “I am the Resurrection and the Life”? It is because he wanted to teach Martha that resurrection life, i.e. the life with God only comes through Him. It is the same message of John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”. This sheds light on the purpose of His raising Lazarus from physical death. It was a sign to affirm Martha’s belief in the affirmation of Christ that he was the true resurrection. What better proof could he give than that of raising Lazarus from physical death? Remember, signs do not point to themselvs, but to some higher spiritual truth that God wants to convey. Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead proved to Martha that He truly was the source of “eternal life” i.e. the life that united one with the Father. This is the meaning John gives to all the signs of Christ.
Joh 20:30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;
Joh 20:31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
Fifthly, the case could also be made that “though he may die” could refer to dying with Christ in baptism. As Frost correctly pointed out, the phrase is the aorist tense, subjunctive mood. This construction indicates the participation of the subjects in the process. In other words, the believers are active participants in their dying. This is certainly true of those who chose to die with Christ. They believed and repented and allowed themselves to be baptized into Jesus death, thus they died with Him. Hence, he who believes in me, though he “may die” (a condition of future potential action), he would live in Christ.
Note in the context, Jesus is speaking to Jews. Thus, if they die to the “ministration of death” they will live. Now, let us consider Frost’s statement that the same manner in which they “may die”, i.e. death to the old covenant, they will live, i.e. experience life in the New Covenant. Thus, the believers in the Old Covenant who would receive the Spirit, i.e. a remnant from Israel, although they may die to the Old Covenant, yet would live in Christ.
With either interpretation we have offered, it does not require the insurmountable difficulty Frost has with Jesus’ words, “shall never die”. He does not believe he will never die. He does not believe that believers from the time of Lazarus to the present time never die physically. Yet, that is what he argues. He argues that one believes in Christ, dies physically, but will be raised from that death at some time in the future. Yet, he calls that never physically dying! It is absurd.
A Final Comment on the Last Day
Frost assumes the last day is a yet future time to us. But, as Romans 8:13 shows, those who lived according to the flesh were “about to die”, and those who lived according to the Spirit would correspondingly live. The context is clearly resurrection (8:10-11, 23). Therefore, the last day was “about to be”, i.e. imminent. Paul further confirms this in Rom. 13:11-12, saying that the night was far spent and that the day had drawn near thus proving in that appointed time, it was the “hour” to awake out of sleep. This is the same “hour” of John 5:28-29. Both texts have Daniel 12:1-3 as their background.
In John 12, Jesus clearly establishes the time of the last day. First, he refers to the last day in John 12:25-26. The reference to loving one’s life and losing it, and hating one’s life in this world and keeping it for eternal life echoes the synoptics of Matt. 16:24-28, Mark. 8:34-9:1, and Lk. 9:23-27. According to Mark’s gospel this event occurs within the first century generation, Mk. 8:38. It is to Jesus’ contemporary audience, i.e. “those standing here”. It is affirmed they would not die, until the had seen (perfect tense) the Son of Man coming in his kingdom (Mk. 9:1).
Jesus emphatically states that the coming in those verses was about to occur when he would judge every man according to his works saying that some who stood in his presence would not die until they saw him coming in His kingdom.
Moreover, the phrase in John 12:26 that states “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me, and where I am, there My servant will be also” is repeated again in John 14:3. It is wedding terminology related to the house of the Father, i.e. the heavenly tabernacle. This is the parousia for Jesus said, If I go, I will come again.
Note again in the context of John 12:31, Jesus speaks of the judgment of “this world” because the “prince of the world” is judged. When would Satan’s judgment occur? At the last day, 12:48. This corresponds with Rom. 16:20, that God would crush Satan under their feet shortly, a message echoed in John’s Apocalypse that Satan had but a short time and that the time of his demise was shortly to come to pass for the time was “at hand”. (Rev 1:1-3, 12:12, 22:6, 10, 12).
This is the same imminent judgment for 1 Pet. 4:5,7, 17. Thus, Frost cannot sustain a future resurrection of John 11:25-26 based on an interpretation that the last day is yet future.