I gave one of the men a book by John Brine (1703-1765) entitled A Defense of the Doctrine of Eternal Justification. I've read this small book several times. It is actually a written response to a few vociferous objections by Brine's contemporaries to his views that God justifies His people from eternity. Very few Christians today have the aptitude to even consider that God's unconditional and effectual love for His people precedes our love for Him, but the question asked by the young man I mentor had nothing to do with election or justification.
He brought to my attention a quote from an even older book that Brine used in preparing his defense. Thomas Goodwin (1600- 1680) was a renowned English Puritan pastor, a theologian par excellence, Chaplain to Oliver Cromwell the Protector, and the author of Exposition of the First Chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians (1681). Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) would later call Goodwin's commentary on Ephesians "the best in the English language." John Brine gives an extraordinary quote from Goodwin's commentary in defense of his own view that justification is from eternity. It is a quote that I had not previously noticed during the dozen or so times I read Brine's book:
"Look, as God did not, in his decrees about creation, consider the body of Adam singly and apart from his soul, nor yet the soul without the body (I speak of his creation and state thereby) neither should either so much as exist, but as the one in the other, so nor Christ and His church in election, which gave the first existence to Christ as a head, and to the church as His body, which each had in God's decrees." (Thomas Goodwin)The young man I'm mentoring pointed out two short statements by Goodwin in the above quote in asking me his question:
1. "God did not... consider the body of Adam singly and apart from his soul nor yet the soul without the body."
2. "...neither should either (e.g. the soul or the body) so much as exist, but as the one in the other."
The young man expertly and correctly pointed out that Thomas Goodwin believed, and seemed to assume that all Christians believe, that God created man so that the soul never exists apart from the body, nor does the body live apart from the soul.
So the question asked of me yesterday went like this:
"From where does this common Christian belief that the soul separates from the body at death come from if the leading Christian theologians of the 17th and 18th centuries believed the Bible teaches there is never a separation of soul and body?"Great question young man.
Man and woman (Adam) is unique in that Adam is neither an angel or an animal. No, when you're loved one dies, heaven does "Not gain another angel." While mankind does share characteristics with both angels and animals, we are not angels because we have a corporeal or physical body necessary for our existence. We are not animals because we have a spiritual capacity which animals do not. You never see an animal bowing before his meal giving his Creator thanks. Animals, angels, and man do share the capacity for intelligence (contrary to plants and inanimate things), but man alone is uniquely created by God.
The world was created for man, the universe for the world, and God grants the gift of immortality to man alone (not animals and not even angels have immortality), for "God alone has immortality" (I Timothy 6:16), and the gift of God is eternal life to those in union with Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23).
When evangelicals awaken to the truth Goodwin declared, the truth that the Apostles and New Testament writers seemed to convincingly convey - that man is soul and body and never shall the two exist without the other - then the emphasis of the Christian gospel will be on "the resurrection" and the gift of "immortal life" to those in Christ. What happens to the wicked? The Scriptures seem to teach that after God raises to bodily life again the wicked, He will dispense proportional, personal and we dare say appropriate punishment. After their various sentences of isolation from God's mercies are served, the wicked will be turned over to die a second time (Revelation 20:14).
"For God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezekiel 18:23).
For indeed, the wicked do die.
But the righteous will inherit the earth and will live forever (Psalm 37:29), or as Jesus said it, "The meek will inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5).
That's the gospel, and I can't wait for the resurrection.
Those who live for the body alone will die as brutish animals die. Those who live for the intellect alone will die as pagan philosophers die without the knowledge of the one true God. But those who know the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and come to an understanding of the Person and work of the Anointed One (Jesus Christ) will be given the gift of immortal life in bodily continuity.
Union with Christ for the ages is as sure as the union of body and soul for the ages.
So says Thomas Goodwin.