Simmons' Examination of the King-Frost Resurrection Errors
My apologies to Mr. Frost for the misunderstanding regarding our debate. I had approached Frost with an invitation to formally debate the King-Frost approach to the resurrection. Where he got the idea it was to be a private debate or exchange, I do not know. At one point, he had asked instead that I write a critique of his book for him to respond to, which I have done. He has now responded. I will attempt to interact in a gentlemanly way with Mr. Frost’s response the best I am able.
I. “The Body of This Death”
Frost takes great exception to my interpretation of the “body of this death” in Rom. 7:24. It is my opinion that this is a reference to Paul’s fleshly body; that the apostle describes in the adjacent verses the “motions of sin” (v. 5) which are in the flesh, and how man is brought into captivity to sin by his bodily lusts; that, although he consents to the law with his mind, he finds “another law” in his body bringing him into captivity to the “law of sin” in his flesh. (v. 23) Hence, he complains “the good that I would I do not, and the evil I would not, that I do.” (v. 19) The apostle’s inability to rise above his flesh and attain complete moral rectitude and innocence before the law leads him to exclaim “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (v. 24) Deliverance from this condition is two-fold.
First, man is freed from the debt of sin by the gospel of Christ. Christ fulfilled the law by his substitutionary death and atoning blood, gaining the man’s acquittal. This deliverance is purely legal. In Colossians Paul describes it as “blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” (Col. 2:14) The image is that of canceling a mortgage or evidence of debt, holding it up for public exhibition by nailing it to Christ’s cross. However, the forgiveness of sins purchased by Christ is not unconditional; legal acquittal is also covenantal; man must make a conscious choice to exercise his moral faculty of faith and obey the gospel if he would be freed from the bondage of sin. Freedom from the legal debt of sin does not mean that man is freed from his bodily lusts. In Galatians, Paul warns that the “flesh lusteth against the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:16) Hence, man must wrestle against the “law of sin” in his members. “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Rom. 8:13) Since legal justification does not effect a recreation of man’s physiological constitution inherited from Adam, the problem of man’s carnal nature remains. This brings us to the second part of man’s deliverance: Physical death.
Legal acquittal from sin would not mean much if we had to live forever in houses of clay, never admitted into the visible presence of God. Heaven is therefore the great aspiration of all true believers. Paul speaks to this when he states, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set you affection on things above, not on earth.” (Col. 3:1, 2) The Christian thus lives as a stranger and sojourner upon earth, looking for his heavenly reward. “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (II Cor. 5:6-8) For the Christian, physical death is advantageous. “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21) Physical death was introduced in the garden by preventing man’s access to the tree of life “lest he put forth his hand, and eat and live forever.” (Gen. 3:22) As long as man lives in this mortal body, he must wrestle to bring it into subjection. He is never freed from its corrupting influence or temptations. At every turn, we find “the good we would, we do not, and the evil we would not, that we do.” Only in death do we find rest from this contest. Paul described his life in the flesh, saying, “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast away.” (I Cor. 9:27) In physical death, man is freed from his carnal nature and the sinful passions that enslave him; he is loosed from the “law of sin” in his body and his spirit is freed to go and be with God in heaven. It is this basic truth that underlay Paul’s instruction to “deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (I Cor. 5:5)
Frost complains that this is Gnosticism and Plato. Gnosticism held that matter was evil; Plato, that the flesh was evil. We do neither. With the Bible, we hold that matter and flesh were made by God and therefore “good” in their proper order and arrangement. It is the turning of these out of God’s way that is evil. God made man and elevated him above his carnal nature, making him a partaker in the divine image and likeness by the inspiration (Heb. “neshamah”) he breathed into man when he created him. (Gen. 2:7 cf. Job 32:8) However, this divine principle was lost when Adam transgressed; he became carnal, sold under sin. (Rom. 7:14) Man’s carnal nature, without the restraint of God’s Spirit, is impressed with lusts and affections inimical to God, impelling man to covet what is evil. The apostle therefore says the “carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Rom. 8:7) The flesh Paul describes as “sinful.” (Rom. 8:3) Not in the sense that it is inherently evil, but in the sense it has been corrupted and turned out of God’s way. In the regeneration (new heavens and earth of the New Testament), man is restored to the legal condition of our first ancestor before he fell (called by theologians “original justification”). However, obedience to the gospel does not restore man to his primal physiological condition in the garden. Christians are still subject to inordinate self love, every manner of evil affection, and maliciousness, and therefore must work to mortify the deeds of the flesh. That the flesh is the source of evil in man’s breast is therefore clearly seen to be Biblical, not Platonic or Gnostic. Frost’s charge of Platonism and Gnosticism are just so much rhetoric, void of substance.
Frost urges that if the “body of this death” is the apostle’s own fleshly body he is not delivered and is still under dominion of sin and death. This is wrong. Although, like every true Christian, Paul looked upon physical death as “gain,” it was not bodily death he yearned for in Rom. 7:24. Physical death without legal acquittal is to be eternally lost. In terms of man’s salvation, the dominion of sin and death is purely legal, arising from an adjudication of guilt. Hence, it is justification that is ultimately needed and required. The apostle’s cry, “who shall deliver me from the body of this death” (Rom. 7:24) is therefore made in light of his carnal condition, but with a view to his legal justification. Thus, Paul was delivered legally from the “body of this death” and could say “There is therefore no more condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1) Paul can be in “the body of this death” and also be delivered from the guilt of sin by the blood of Christ. Indeed, that is what every Christian hopes for and what leads him to obey the gospel. Putting off the body of flesh is not necessary to be delivered from the guilt of one’s sins. That is the whole point of Christ’s death being substitutionary. Christ died for us so we don’t have to. We can be justified even while in the body. In fact, if we are not justified while in the body we will be eternally lost. Frost’s objections that to be in the body means to be under dominion of sin and death therefore are without merit.
According to King and Frost, "the body of this death" is the collective Adamic body sown in national Judaism. Paul's desire to be delivered from this body purportedly refers to the resurrection of national Israel as the spiritual body of the church. This is easily refuted. Paul says "I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." (Rom. 7:22, 23) Whose mind is here in view, the apostle's or a mere abstraction, the collective body of the church? Clearly, the apostle's. Frost all but admits as much. “Man was ruled by the sin and the death regardless of the torah he honored with his mind (7:25b)." Notice, Frost did not say “the collective body of the church was ruled by sin,” but individual men. Paul mentions the law of sin in his members, members of what, the apostle’s individual body, or the collective body of the church? Clearly, the apostle’s own body. Otherwise, Paul would be saying that the collective church is brought into bondage by sin in its individual members. Is the church collectively and vicariously under bondage because one of its members sins? Does that make sense? Paul then says, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (v. 24) Note the first personal singular in all these verses. “I see a another law at work in my members.” “I delight after the law of God.” “O wretched man that I am.” This is not the language of collective body, but the apostle personally. Paul declaims his own wretchedness, not the church’s. Surely this is obvious.
Look next at chapter eight. Paul says “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Rom. 8:9, 10) Who is the “any man” here, the collective body, or individual Christians? Who is the “you” here, individual Christians, or the collective abstraction of the church? Clearly, in both texts individual’s are in view. The word “you” is the second person plural, hence more in view than one collective body. The Spirit is present in each individual. Now verse eleven: “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken you mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” Notice the plural “mortal bodies.” No collective body here. God’s Spirit “quickens” man’s mortal body by mortifying the deeds of the flesh. (Cf. v 13) The body is thus made the instrument of righteousness unto life, whereas it had previously been an instrument of sin unto death. Quickening mortal bodies clearly speaks to individual Christians. Hence, there is no collective body being raised up in any of these passages. A careful and critical reading will confirm this for anyone who cares to look into the matter. The collective body view in these verses is a mere illusion, a phantom that vanishes into air as soon as one looks directly at it.
II. Universalism or a Continuing Dominion of Sin and Death, Which?
Frost takes exception to the notion that sin and death still have a dominion after the parousia of A.D. 70. For Frost, the fact that Rev. 21:4 states there shall be no more death means that death is now nonexistent. It is likely that he would also cite Rev. 20:14 in proof of this proposition. In both cases he would be wrong. Rev. 20:14 speaks only to hadean death when it says “death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.” Eternal death (the second death) was not destroyed, nor was physical death. (Rev. 21:8) Only hadean death was destroyed in A.D. 70. Rev. 21:4 merely says that there will be no hadean death for citizen in the new Jerusalem (the church). Believers pass from this life to the next life with out death and hades intervening as they did in the centuries leading up to the cross and second coming of Christ.
The notion that death has been abolished absolutely, rather than merely covenantally, leads to universalism. If sin and death have been absolutely destroyed, then all men are freed from its effects and salvation is universal. But if sin and death have only been destroyed covenantally for those in the church, then only alien sinners remain under the dominion of sin and death. It is a question of which jurisdiction we reside in. The territorial jurisdiction of sin and death exists outside the church; the territorial jurisdiction of justification within the church. The dominion one is under depends upon where he resides. Mr. Frost’s absolute destruction of sin and death creates one jurisdiction, placing all in a state of grace. Obviously, this is incorrect.
III. Heaven Now?
Frost is most insistent that he is in heaven “now.” He states, “Heaven has been fused together with earth through Christ.” This is sorely mistaken. Man has been set in a right position with God by the blood of Jesus and therefore has been restored to a “face to face” relationship with his Maker. (Rev. 22:4; cf. II Sam. 14:24) Where man had been alienated and estranged, he is now reconciled and brought nigh. But this whole transaction is legal, not spatial. When Paul told the Colossians that they had been “translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son” (Col. 1:13), he was employing a metaphor to describe the change of legal alienation from God to one of reconciliation. No spatial change had occurred. Likewise, when he told the Ephesians that they had been “raised up together and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6), he employed a metaphor explaining their reconciliation to God. Where they had been dead in sins (under judgment of death), they were quickened (acquitted of guilt), and made to sit as princes upon minor thrones in the kingdom of God. Again, the whole transaction was legal, not spatial. I think we can all agree on that. And that is how it is in Rev. 21, 22. The city comes down out of heaven from God. (Rev. 21:10) It is not heaven; it comes down out of heaven. It is the spiritual habitation of God’s people, the church, the bride of Christ. Heaven and earth are joined legally and soteriologically in the church, but not otherwise. Outside the church, the dominion of sin and death still prevails.
Rev. 21:3 says “and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” But God is omnipresent – he is everywhere and fills all things. There is no where he is not present. “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost pats of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” (Ps. 139:7-10) There is nowhere God is not present with his people. This has always been true. Hence, when it says God will be “with them,” it is pointing to a special way which God is now present with his people that he was not before. Prior to the second coming, God was sequestered from man in the inner recesses of the temple. He was unapproachable, except through the mediation of priest and the sprinkling of blood. This symbolized man's estrangement from God by the debt of sin. The point of the image in Rev. 21:3 is that God is no longer separated from his people by sin, and may be approached directly through the blood of Christ. Thus, the Hebrew writer says “Having therefore brethren boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus…let us draw near.” (Heb. 10:19, 22) The Christian cannot spatially approach the throne of God (it is in heaven and we on earth). However, we can draw near by faith and perseverance in the gospel, having been made acceptable by the blood of Christ. Thus, we are not in heaven now in any actual sense. Our communion with God is real enough, to be sure; but we are still very much upon earth.
IV. “ In the Day Thou Eatest Thereof Dying Thou Shalt Die”
God warned Adam, saying, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) This verse has produced a lot of comment among writers and theologians. At bottom is the problem of the time and nature of death alluded to. If death here has in purview anything more than spiritual death then a time problem arises, for the text seems to suggest the death would come in the very day of the offense. This is sometimes dealt with by resort to the Hebraism “dying thou shalt die.” This is translated in our English versions “shalt surely die,” but almost invariably a note is appended in the margin producing the literal Hebrew. The marginal note reflects the translators’ awareness of the seeming contradiction of death not coming the day Adam ate. The note shows the translators discomfort with the seeming contradiction and is offered as a means of resolving it. The present participle “dying” suggests a process that would ultimately produce death, as opposed to instantaneous death the day he ate. This seems to be borne out by Ezek. 33:12-15:
“The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that the sinneth...When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that the hath committed, he shall die for it. Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die, if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right…he shall surely live, he shall not die.”
This passage is interesting for a number of reasons. First, the subjects are both alive. They are not described as being spiritually dead, under Adamic death, or otherwise. They simply described as being alive. Second, both are threatened with death. This raises the question, what death is God threatening in this passage? There are dozens of instances in the scriptures where God threatened men with death. In virtually every instance, physical and, ultimately, eternal death is understood. In most of these the phrase “in the day” is not appended, so they do not seem analogous to the warning to Adam. But here, the phrase does occur. In the day the righteous sins, he cannot live in his righteousness; he will die. Is God threatening “spiritual death?” Is he threatening banishment from the garden? Clearly not. It seems tolerably clear that physical and eternal death are in view. Take the case of the wicked. God says to the wicked, “Thou shalt surely die.” The fact that this individual is called “wicked” shows that he is already a sinner, under judgment of eternal death. Physical and eternal death loom over him. God warns him of his peril, the day of physical death shall hasten unless he turns from is ways. If he repents, the day of physical death will be postponed, eternal death avoided. He will be justified and his soul will live. Clearly, “in the day” does not necessitate immediate execution in this passage. The phrase simply marks that point in time when a man turns from a life of justification, to one of condemnation, not to the time of execution for penalties annexed to his acts. And so it was with Adam. “In the day thou eatest thereof, dying thou shalt die.” The warning encompasses far more than spiritual death. Physical and eternal death are ultimately in purview. “For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Gen. 3:19)
Maintaining the place of physical death in the fall of man is paramount because Jesus’ death upon the cross and descent to paradise was substitutionary. By pressing the phrase “in the day” too far, making death no more than spiritual corruption or banishment from the garden, we unwittingly strike at the substitutionary death of Christ. However much Mr. Frost may attempt to avoid it, physical and eternal death were in purview of the warning given to Adam by God. Let us endeavor to keep it there.
King and Frost are beloved brothers. However, there are points at which I feel they have erred and built with wood, hay, and stubble. It is hoped that this discussion has helped bring us to a closer understanding of one another.
 Samuel M. Frost, Exegetical Essays on the Resurrection, p. 155.
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