John Calvin on the Resurrection of the Living

John Calvin was an expository preacher, who preached sequentially through the scriptures, a few verses at a time, until he had commentated on almost the entire bible (baring a few books including Revelation). He had recorders who would record his lectures as he taught directly from the Hebrew and Greek, and then Calvin would compile his lectures into publish commentaries that we can all read today.

I was reading Calvin's commentary on Daniel 1-6, but took a quick digression to learn what Calvin taught on the resurrection based on a very popular and controversial passage in one of Paul's earliest letters: 1 Thessalonians.

According to Calvin, Augustine was troubled by a possible contradiction between Paul's letters: In once place, Paul writes that we must all die in order to be resurrected, but here in 1 Thess 4:50, Paul suggest that those alive at the second coming will not die, but be resurrected. How is it that that these people may be resurrected, or clothed with the imperishable body and not have died? Well, Calvin concludes that at the second coming of Christ, all who are alive will died and be raised instantly! What an interesting conclusion, because we are so quick to follow Plato and dismiss this issue as spiritual or figurative or not inclusive to resolve the contradiction, but Calvin tells Augustine not to worry, because there is no real problem at all! John Calvin is a genius of the first rank! I'm not biased either. I've included Calvin's quote directly, you may read it here:
John Calvin's Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4:50:

or it appeared to them, at first view, to be absurd to say, that all would not die, while we read elsewhere, that it is appointed unto all men once to die. (Hebrews 9:27.) Hence they altered the meaning in this way — All will not be changed, though all will rise again, or will die; and the change they interpret to mean — the glory that the sons of God alone will obtain. The true reading, however, may be judged of from the context.

Paul’s intention is to explain what he had said — that we will be conformed to Christ, because flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. A question presented itself, "Il y auoit sur ceci vne question qu’on prouuolt faire;" — "There was a question as to this, which might be proposed." what then will become of those who will be still living at the day of the Lord? His answer is, that although all will not die, yet they will be renewed, that mortality and corruption may be done away. It is to be observed, however, that he speaks exclusively of believers; for although the resurrection of the wicked will also involve change, yet as there is no mention made of them here, we must consider everything that is said, as referring exclusively to the elect. We now see, how well this statement corresponds with the preceding one, for as he had said, that we shall bear the image of Christ, he now declares, that this will take place when we shall be changed, so that mortality may be swallowed up of life, (2 Corinthians 5:4,) and that this renovation is not inconsistent with the fact, that Christ’s advent will find some still alive.

We must, however, unravel the difficulty — that it is appointed unto all men once to die; and certainly, it is not difficult to unravel it in this way — that as a change cannot take place without doing away with the previous system, that change is reckoned, with good reason, a kind of death; but, as it is not a separation of the soul from the body, it is not looked upon as an ordinary death. It will then be death, inasmuch as it will be the destruction of corruptible nature: it will not be a sleep, inasmuch as the soul will not quit the body; but there will be a sudden transition from corruptible nature into a blessed immortality.

By: Wyatt Houtz

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