Dr. Ed Young, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, plainly denied and opposed the biblical teaching that dead Christians exist in a kind of disembodied state after their death.
I. The Biblical and Orthodox Teaching Stated
Those who die in Christ are not in their final state, but temporarily remain in a non-resurrected condition as they wait for the final resurrection where they will be raised up bodily — their selfsame body sown like a seed in death will be raised up in glory. In Christian theology, we call the time between our death and our resurrection the intermediate state (see WCF 32.1, BFM X). This is that which Dr. Ed Young denies (for ease, and with no disrespect, I will simply refer to him as Ed or Ed Young).
II. Ed Aired His Sermon on Friday, November 26th, 2010, and Called It, “The Moving Day, Part II“
All the quotes below (except those from the Bible) are from this particular radio broadcast, and they retain the common grammatical errors we all have while speaking. This sermon was an exposition of 2 Corinthians 5:1-9; in it, Ed stated:
Now others have the idea that when you, when you die, or when a loved one dies, that your body is in the grave, but your soul, spirit, whatever they believe, it goes up into heaven, and there is a waiting period there, and you put on a sort of a heavenly bathrobe while you are waiting for your resurrection body take place on the great gettin’ up morning. So, we’d say that our loved ones who have died, they are in heaven with God and they have on a bathrobe and they’re waiting until they get their resurrection body. Now a lot of people believe, a lot of Christians believe that. A lot of people take this text and try to work through that, but let me tell you what Paul is saying here. He’s not saying any of this. I don’t believe any of it. I don’t think any of it’s biblical. (Dr. Ed Young, Nov 26th, 2010)
Ed does not just deny the intermediate state, he calls it unbiblical. Though being disembodied is not an ideal condition, it is a reality; and it is the reality that Ed rejects. Alas, people have existed disembodied throughout history. Abel was not resurrected ahead of Jesus. Abel is disembodied. People can be dead and waiting for the resurrection; sad but true.
III. Ed Young Comes to the Old Hymenaeus Heresy through a Back Door
Denying the intermediate state, Ed argues that dead Christians have their resurrection bodies already. This is not a new error and Paul addressed it in 2 Timothy:
But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 17 And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, 18 who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some (NKJV; 2 Ti 2:16-18)
Ed Young’s doctrine is functionally equivalent to the Hymenaeus error; for both argue that the resurrection of sinners is a past event. For Ed, a past resurrection is true on a per-person basis, being many past events. The resurrection in his way of thinking is a private experience for each person, and is not a singular future event for all dead Christians. Based on Ed’s teaching, Paul would not be able to oppose Hymenaeus and Philetus, but would be forced to agree in some existential way that the bodily resurrection is already past for many people (even if it is future for those who still live). Yet, Paul speaks of “the resurrection” as a singular future event; this Ed cannot do.
IV. Ed Denies the Physical Bodily Resurrection of the Saints
Jesus went into the tomb, and Jesus came out — one man in, one man out. When Christ returns, the physical bodily resurrection of each saint will be like his. Our bodies go to the grave, and our bodies will come out. But Ed has it that dead Christians have been raised already, even though their bodies remain in tombs. He does not hold to a one-to-one correspondence of dead body to resurrection body (compare, WCF 32.2). And with this two-body theology, he consistently and erroneously equates the human body with our present bodies, as opposed to resurrection bodies which are some other heavenly bodies; that is, he creates a false “human vs. heavenly” dichotomy.
V. Ed Fails to Account for Other Biblical Data, Such as Lazarus and 1 Corinthians 15
Paul identifies a point in time when there will be a resurrection of the dead, and he points to the future coming of Christ:
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming (NKJV; 1 Co 15:22-23)
“At his coming” is when there will be the resurrection of the dead. But Ed has it that each person is raised when they die. And he never deals with this verse. Instead, he mocks the position he presumes to correct. And in his mocking exposition, one wonders what Ed would do with Lazarus. Lazarus was dead and Jesus called him back. For Ed, would this be like Lazarus throwing off some kind of heavenly resurrection body and then taking back the old human body?
VI. Ed Shares in the Error of the Full Preterism of Our Day
Paul is saying, as a tent maker, “all it is to die is to strike your tent, to take your tent down.” He said, “and that’s all it is.” He said, “the minute you do you have an eternal building, an eternal dwelling place, a glorified resurrected body.” (Dr. Ed Young, Nov 26th, 2010)
Preterism is not wrong only because it denies the idea of future activities of God; it is wrong because it denies biblically specified future activities — i.e., it leaves no room for a future bodily resurrection. Even if Ed allows for a future return of Christ, he has retained the essence of the Preterist error: no future resurrection for all the dead in Christ. Ed is a Full Preterist, only with a different accent — and please note: a denial is not a rebuttal; it will take more than saying, “no he is not,” to show that he is positionally different at the point of substantive error. Resisting the labeling (as if that is the essence of the case) is not to repudiate the actual error.
VII. We Have a Building from God, a House not Made with Hands, Eternal in the Heavens
When Paul speaks about buildings reserved in heaven (2 Cor 5:1), he does not necessarily mean that an individual gets his resurrection body on the day of his death. It is just as easy to understand that Paul is talking about the time when heaven comes down to earth and the two realms unite. The heavenly reservation is made, even though the time of our participation in the reality is yet future. And that future event includes the resurrection of the wicked. But Paul does not expound upon all of this in one place. There is more to the subject than 2 Corinthians 5.
VIII. Ed Young Falsely Equates Orthodox Pauline Theology with the Errors of Gnosticism
What is Paul saying? His fear is of being disembodied. Isn’t that it? Let’s just read it simply. He says, “I am clothed. I have my present body.” He said, “I long to be clothed again, to have an overcoat on, my permanent resurrection body, and he says I am… some are afraid — see he was dealing with Gnosticism in the church — some are afraid that in the period of which we have this human body before we get our resurrection body (our glorified body) there’ll be a long waiting period, we’ll be disembodied.” (Dr. Ed Young, Nov 26th, 2010)
Ed makes Paul’s opponents to be those who advocate the intermediate state, and then he calls that idea Gnosticism. Then he makes Paul debate that. Ed is pitting Paul against the orthodox view of the intermediate state. Disembodied humanity is not a concept that originates outside of the Bible, nor is it the invention of Gnosticism. Contrary to Ed’s basic thesis about Paul’s opponents, a disembodied human was not a Gnostic invention, but the fruit of Adam and Eve’s rebellion.
XI. Ed Calls Paul an Existentialist and Uses a Philosophy of Time as Proof for His Theory
Ed seems to know that his teaching will require some philosophical gymnastics if it is to hold:
Now you gotta think for a minute. This is gunna be a strain on most of us. But you have to think. And Paul is an existentialist. We think in terms of time; everybody here does. We think in terms of the past, the future and the present. We can’t think in any other terms. That’s all we know. And some of us have the idea that eternity is simply an extension of time, it is unending time. That is not true. Did you hear that? Eternity is not unending time. No. (Dr. Ed Young, Nov 26th, 2010)
Where does the Bible define time this way? I have written three articles on time theories and the havoc those theories cause when theologians use them to define doctrine. Ed is taking his theory of time (which he did not get from Scripture) and is using it to explain Paul, thus making Paul an existential philosopher.
No. Time is a creation of God. All that we know and all that is, is eternity. Everything in eternity is now. There’s no past or present. It’s just now. Therefore when a man or a woman in Christ dies, immediately it is… What? It is the Lord; it is the sound of the trump, it is the archangel, it is the resurrection day, right then, there is no waiting, no interim period, no soul sleeping, no floating around, no limbo-like existence, no grave-like thing. It is now, because you have, and I have, in eternity everything that we already and prepared to receive. It is already there. Your resurrection body, my resurrection body is there. Our glorified body is there. It’s already there. That’s eternity. And when death leaves this body for the Christian…BANG! ZIP! No waiting time, no interim period, we are clothed forever to be with the Lord. (Dr. Ed Young, Nov 26th, 2010)
Notice, Ed does not make the case from the Bible, but from an idea about some unfounded existential meaning of “now” that bends back on itself so that past, present and future merge. Hymenaeus and Philetus may have had a similar defense when confronted by Paul (who knows!). It all gets philosophical, and at the core of his theory is philosophy, not revelation.
Now this is very basic and very important and this is exactly what the apostle Paul is dealing with in these scriptures, and if you read any other interpretation, they’re wrong. (Dr. Ed Young, Nov 26th, 2010)
He says that any other interpretation than his is wrong. That includes the Westminster Confession of Faith, ministers of most conservative Presbyterian denominations, most of the professors at conservative evangelical seminaries, Anglican orthodoxy, evangelical Lutheran teachings, etc. The number of conservative professors and evangelical ministers that he implicates in error is staggering. And based on what? A theory of time applied strangely to 2 Corinthians 5.
This is basic. But we’ve overlooked it. We think so much in sequential kinds of ways. We know nothing but a 24 hour day. …In eternity (the Existentialists love this) is ‘now’! This is what Paul is saying. (Dr. Ed Young, Nov 26th, 2010)
It has not been overlooked; it is not there. Ed’s novelty is not believed because it is not from revelation, but from philosophy.
X. Ed Young Overstates His Case to the Point of Overlooking Basic Facts
Ed’s philosophy of time can’t integrate with scripture, and it forces our radio preacher into a corner:
In this body, Jesus can’t come put his arm around you and say, “Way to Go.” Jesus can’t come and you can’t see him literally face to face. (Dr. Ed Young, Nov 26th, 2010)
Not true. Paul saw Jesus on the road to Damascus. Thomas saw Jesus. The disciples ate with him after his resurrection. People have seen Jesus literally face to face. Jesus appeared to Peter and hundreds of other people.
XI. Doctrine Matters, and the Broadcasting of False Teaching Is Lamentable
The word “broadcast” is just that, broad, and the consequences of broadcasting are amplified when teachers transmit errors that are antithetical to Christian hope. There are a lot of people in the radio-ministry chain who could keep this kind of teaching for slipping out onto the airwaves. It really is disheartening to the majority of us who actually adhere to the historic Christian faith. False teaching is not pleasant, and I don’t respond as if to debate. Indeed, I am not writing as if I am proposing an alternative position, or waiting to be proved wrong myself — I am writing to alert Ed and his supporters that they are violating a sacred trust.